Hot Chocolate Spoons

Chocolate Spoons Box

I am still aiming for a home-made Christmas, and who doesn’t enjoy sweet treats? Help your friends add a festive touch to a cozy cup of hot cocoa with a chocolate-dipped spoon. I made 30 of these spoons to give away to our friends in Paris, along with some good ol’ fashioned chocolate chip cookies. To the left are caramels from La Cure Gourmande.

What you need:
Disposable spoons (I considered using inexpensive metal ones, but didn’t know if the chocolate would stick, so I stuck with plastic.)
2 bars chocolate, the darker the better (in my opinion); I used 76% cocao organic chocolate bars from the grocery store)

What to do:
Break the chocolate up into chunks and put them in a non-stick sauce pan. I skipped the complicated procedures of using a bain marie (double boiler) and instead just melted the chocolate on the lowest heat setting.

1 Chocolate Spoons

When the chocolate starts to melt, be sure you are stirring fairly constantly to help all the chunks soften.

2 Chocolate Spoons

When the chocolate is melted, keep the heat on low and dip each spoon into the chocolate, using a twisting motion. I found it easiest to scoop the chocolate in the spoon and then twist the spoon around and around until the front and back were covered. Lay each spoon onto wax paper or a greased sheet of foil.

3 Chocolate Spoons

I had a lot of extra chocolate, so once the spoons were laid out, I spooned more chocolate into the scoop part of each spoon. Let the chocolate cool and harden, about one hour.

Ta da! The finished gift boxes:

4 Chocolate Spoons

5 Chocolate Spoons

Mid-Project Madness

What’s this mess all about?

Embroidered Leaves Etc

These days, every surface seems to be covered in some sort of project. Cookie tins and edible makings are in a pile near the kitchen table, balls of yarn and needles on my nightstand, beaded snowflakes hanging in the kitchen, design magazines spread all over the dresser… So when I decided to start yet another DIY holiday project, this little basket bench was my last resort.

I went to a charity sale with a friend and they had some craft supplies: namely, the white felt leaves above. They are thicker than regular felt (I’d say about 3 times as thick), and more stiff. You could probably find this sturdy felt in a craft store and then cut out your own shapes (using a cookie cutter or other design). My first thought was to turn them into ornaments. But then I realized these are just the right size to make very festive coasters for my aunt. Red and white is my preferred, cheery color combination of the moment, so I’ve just taken some red embroidery floss (from my monogrammed dishcloths), and have made a simple stitched border around each one. It’s pretty plain but I kind of think it’s cute. Perhaps they could use a tad more embellishment, like little snowflake shapes or something to make each one different (there are 10 in all).

I’ve got plenty of polka-dot ribbon (from a bootee project gone awry) that could be incorporated in some way (or not), and those little cards are French vintage holiday greetings. More of those to come. It’s all a work in progress, as you can see, and I hope to have some finished product pictures up in the next couple of days, when really, most of them should be done.

Beaded Snowflakes

Snowflakes in WindowHere’s a little project I’ve been doing for about 8 years, ever since I realized I was never going to use up all the beads I kept buying in college. Beaded snowflakes are a great way to experiment with colors while using up leftover beading materials you probably have laying around the house somewhere.

They’re quick, too, and a nice little hand-made token you can attach to a box of cookies or a Holiday card.

Materials:
Seed beads
Slightly larger beads, of any shape
Metal wire
Ribbon, for hanging

Step 1: Cut 3 pieces of metal wire: 2 of these should be the same length, which will be the diameter of the finished snowflake plus an inch. Cut the third to be one inch longer than these two, to make the wire loop for hanging.

Snowflakes Materials

Step 2: Tie the three pieces of wire into a simple knot in the middle. Spread out the 6 “legs.”

Snowflakes Knot

Step 3: Begin stringing seed beads onto one “leg” of the snowflake. I added larger beads at regular intervals, for more detail and interest. When you reach 1/2 inch from the end, string on one final, larger bead and loop the remaining wire around it. This keeps all the beads in place. Repeat for other 5 legs. On the longer leg, string on the final bead and then make a loop with the remaining wire, for hanging.

Step 4: Cut a longer piece of wire (about 2 times the diameter of the snowflake) for the connecting parts. Wrap one end about 1 inch from the end of one leg. String on beads to desired length (make sure it’s long enough to have a bend in the center) and then wrap the wire once around the next leg. Continue until to each leg and when finished, wrap the end around

Snowflakes Beading

Step 5: Make a tie out of some ribbon and attach it through the wire loop. Now you have a hanging beaded snowflake!

Snowflake Finished

I made a bunch and hung them from this chandelier:

Snowflakes Hanging

Reuse, Recycle, Reconstruct: A Card

I participated in an international Secret Santa exchange this year. With the help of the Elfster website, each participant “drew” a name and we each sent an ornament representing our country to that person.

While I don’t want to give away which ornament I sent (the exchange isn’t over yet), I will share with you this card I made to accompany it:

Paris Christmas Card

I found the image on â?? of all places â?? the side of a box of Kleenex tissues. The scene is the Place des Vosges in the Marais. I just cut out the image, cut a piece of nice resumé-style paper to size, then taped it to the back (I had misplaced my glue stick, which would have been better than tape).

The little Eiffel Tower pendant is a key chain I picked up for 50 centimes from a tacky souvenir shop on the Ile de la Cité. I love it! I just poked two holes in the card (before attaching the paper backing), and looped some ribbon through.

I’m sure to be able to make many more, since the cold season has only just begun!

Latkes!

Latkes

It’s a messy project, but worth it! Because the story of Hanukkah is a commemoration of the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight, the traditional food is fried in oil. We used plain vegetable oil because it can withstand higher heat than olive oil, which would be the more authentic choice.

I watched Seth make these and he just eyeballs the proportions. Basically, you need a huge mixing bowl, into which you’ll put shredded potatoes, minced onions, eggs, salt, and some flour (many recipes call for matzo meal, but I don’t know why, since it’s not a “Sabbath-like” holiday, where you should refrain from certain practices, but I’m far from an expert!)

Seth mixed up the latke “dough” with his bare (clean!) hands and then shaped them into rounds about 4 or 5 inches wide. He fried them for a few minutes on each side. Add applesauce and sour cream and call it a meal!

I didn’t realize I had so few pictures. We must have eaten them too fast. We’ll just have to make more before this holiday is over.

The New York Times has a wonderful page about Hanukkah recipes. Check it out here.

Festival of Lights

Concorde Ferris WheelI know I promised mouth-watering latke photos today, but I have something perhaps even more exciting to share: a Parisian festival of lights! Seth still has the latke pics on his computer, so we’ll get to those, but we had so much fun during our impromptu tour of Paris lights I just had to post this first…

Yesterday at dusk I met Seth in front of his office (which is conveniently located on Place de la Concorde) and walked over to the huge Ferris wheel (grande roue, or “big wheel” in French). For the low price of just 8â?¬ a person (sarcasm), you can ride the Ferris wheel around about four times (that’s 2â?¬ per rotation…hmmm…).

But it is worth it! The 360-degree views were spectacular. I couldn’t look down, but looking out was wonderful. I highly recommend going once the sun is down. Had we been there just a little before 5pm instead of after, we would have caught the Eiffel Tower glittering (which happens every hour on the hour). We weren’t disappointed, though.

Concorde Ferris Wheel Below
The Ferris Wheel from Below

View from Concorde Ferris Wheel
The View from the Ferris Wheel: Eiffel Tower, Concorde Obelisk, and the Avenue des Champs-Elysées

Ferris Wheel Seth and Rachel
Note the Eiffel Tower in the background with its strange search light.

You’d think it’d be fun to operate a giant Ferris wheel, but apparently not:

Ferris Wheel Worker

We decided to walk all the way back home to the Latin Quarter, enjoying many lights on the way:

Christmas Lights near Madeleine
A festive street near the Madeleine church

Vendome Lights
Street decorations and the Place Vendôme

Vendome Chandeliers
Chandeliers lined the street leading from the Place Vendôme

Ice Skaters at Hotel de Ville
Watching the Ice Skaters in front of Hôtel de Ville

Notre Dame Christmas Tree
The Christmas Tree in front of Notre Dame

Once we got home, we lit the menorah (a gift from Seth’s parents), which I think looks very pretty:

Menorah Night 1

Homemade Applesauce for Hanukkah Latkes

ApplesTomorrow Hanukkah begins at sundown. Did you make your homemade applesauce yet? That’s weird, you didn’t? This is our first holiday as a married couple so we’re going all out, at least in terms of the most delicious snack ever: potato latkes. I’ll admit that it’s probably my love of all things potato-based that has me so excited about this project and by extension, holiday. What will we be doing? Shredding potatoes and deep frying them in oil? Onions and salt will be involved? I’m in.

Because latkes are served with applesauce and sour cream (or crème fraîche if you live in France), I decided to make my own applesauce, since it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for years anyway. I bought a bargain-sized one-kilo bag of apples and used about half of them. Many of them were bruised and not so pretty-looking, so applesauce (or compote de pommes) was an appropriate use for them. There’s really nothing to it!

What you need:
1 pound of apples (I used gala because they are sweet and soft)
2 tablespoons sugar (I used brown sugar)
cinnamon (optional – we kept it out this time)
1 big pot

What to do:
Cut the apples into quarters, seed and peel them. Eat the peels throughout the process for less waste and more vitamins! Cut apples into 1-inch cubes and put them in the big pot. Add just a tad of water, until it is up to about 1/2 inch in the pot. Add sugar. Turn on the heat to high.

Apple Sauce 1

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until the apples are soft.

Apple Sauce 2

Using a hand-held mixer (much easier than a blender), purée the apple mixture.
Apple Sauce 3

Put the applesauce into clean glass jars (it will still be hot!), cover, and leave at room temperature until cool. Keep refrigerated. See? Nothing to it.

I’ll post tomorrow about the latkes!

Cavity-Free Gingerbread House

Interactive Gingerbread House

What do you think about my gingerbread house? I made it with allsort‘s “Home Sweet Home” interactive gingerbread house program. It’s a fun way to participate in the age-old Christmas tradition without the guilt of eating it all up (or letting all that candy go to waste)! Designed for kids, but surprisingly addictive for adults, too.

Check it out here.