So I'm sure you're all wondering what happened to my workspace redesign. Well I keep procrastinating on assembling my fira chest and I was wanting to hold off until I'd done that. But I decided since I'm already enjoying what I've done that some pictures of a partially completed makeover are better than none.
And I had to do it before all the plants croaked. I just don't have the knack with houseplants. The fern was so unhappy even at home that I've never bothered to lug it into work. The bamboo has been getting a little yellow at the base of the stems, which I think is lack of light, but it is growing. The mystery plant seems content and has even shot up a pale green shoot of some sort.
However, despite the minor issues, some of my lack of finishing is probably because I love what I've done so far. The pictures and lamp made a massive difference and the bamboo and mystery plant do add a nice bit of lively green.
My sister and I used to make lots of paper snowflakes and I still enjoy making some every year. Last year I made some along with another friend for lainevierge's Christmas tree and this year I made some to hang off my shelf at work.
I love the winter holiday time of year. It's full of happy memories of traditions ... the same baking and decorating, and lots of time with loved ones. I now always try to make the same treats that my family always had when I was small since that's what feels "right". So it's Mom's shortbread cookies (some decorated using corn syrup as the glue for sprinkles), Grandfather's gingerbread men (some decorated with currants), and Dad's cheesies. Then there's homemade cinnamon bread and fruit bread. I might experiment with new things the other 11 months of the year, but in December, it's a necessary ritual to have the same things as always.
I made some carved rubber stamps to make cards for my friends and family far away, but my outside-work has been so busy I did not do so soon enough to also offer cards in my shop. Next year perhaps. This year I did a holly motif on the cards. Some have the stamped greeting inside and just holly on the outside, some have 3-leaf holly, some just 2-leaf holly. Some have the greeting in green instead of red. Part of the fun is making every card just a little bit different.
Peel 10 red apples (I used Empire apples since they're grown in Quebec, but you should choose whatever kind you like that's grown near you).
Put all the peels in a small pot and just barely cover with water. Add 3-4 whole star anise, 3-4 cloves, some nutmeg, and some cinnamon (probably about 1/4-1/2 tsp each, but I didn't measure). A cinnamon stick would probably be better if you have one. Add some candied citrus peel (I used probably about 1/4 c). I stopped there, but you can add any other spices you think would go nicely with these sorts of flavours (e.g. allspice, mace, lemon zest). You're basically making an apple broth in this pot, so bring it up to the boil, then turn down and simmer (uncovered, so it reduces). After about 15 minutes, the broth should be a deep red colour and the peels should be sort of faded looking.
Meanwhile, back to the apples. Roughly chop them off the cores. Don't worry about having some big pieces and some small, just do whatever's easiest and fastest for you. Toss these all in a large pot and put a bit of water in the bottom. Don't fill it enough to cover the apples or you'll have to spend forever boiling it down to reduce. Grate in some fresh ginger (about 1/2 - 1 tsp worth). Cover this pot and bring it up to the boil, then simmer. After about 10-15 minutes your apples should be nice and soft. Mash them with a potato masher and pour in the apple broth (strained through a sieve to catch all the peels and whole spices). Mix this all up, then return to boiling and reduce until it's a consistency you like. It will get slightly thicker as it cools.
This makes a delicious snack on its own (cold or re-heated), but also a yummy topping on ice cream, pancakes, mixed into porridge, and so forth.