The Art of Tea and Downton Abbey

Today I have sworn myself to the task of making natural powder foundation.

But this afternoon, I indulged in a little guilty pleasure of mine: The Downton Abbey premier paired with a kettle of tea and a handful of truffles.

Over the past year I have become increasingly obsessed with the art of tea. It’s like magic in a cup. Not only does it give me a wonderfully romantic nostalgic feeling, but it’s also incredibly healthy. I always get excited when I discover that something I already like is actually good for me!

There are so many types of tea and so many benefits it’s hard to understand why some people “just aren’t tea drinkers”. It seems that Tea Drinkers and Coffee Drinkers are pitted against each other, as if you can’t appreciate both. Well, I do.

But today is about tea. My hope is to teach you something you didn’t already know and make a Tea Drinker out of you  yet.

The number one reason you should drink tea? The health benefits. If you suffer from anything from headaches to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you should be drinking tea. I found a handy list of teas that help with specific ailments that I’m sure you’ll find helpful:

Chamomile

click the pic to flip through a gallery complete with brewing instructions

If you’re not convinced by the health benefits, think about the fun.

I received a ton of fun, cute tea things for Christmas including this kettle

with this accessory that keeps your tea warm

this beautiful tea-infusing travel cup from Kati

and these adorable tea infusers

(infusers are little mesh baskets that hold your tea leaves so that they aren’t floating around in your cup)

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Besides all that, tea tastes amazing and don’t think you have to give up your caffeine boost. Black teas and several others contain caffeine. Although if you’re trying to kick the habit, there are also tons of teas that have little or no caffeine and you can always get decaffeinated (small caveat, some decaffeinating processes use harmful chemicals. If you’re drinking anything decaf, check if a chemical process was used or if the Swiss water method was used)

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So have I convinced you?

If you’re looking for something relaxing for this frigid evening (the wind chill is -10 here in Indiana!) put on a kettle (or warm up a mug of water in the micro) and settle in with a cuppa and the Downton Abbey season premier, which you can find at PBS.org.

And if you need something sweet with your tea check out this amazing recipe:

Caramel Stuffed Snickerdoodles

Caramel Stuffed Snickerdoodles. So quick and simple.

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Are you as obsessed with Downton Abbey as I am? The fashion alone makes the show worth watching not to mention the addictive drama and the oh-so quotable Lady Violet.

Tell me your favorite thing about the show in the comments and let’s get a conversation going.

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Now, if all that doesn’t put a little wonder in your week, I don’t know what will 🙂

Stay tuned for that powder foundation tutorial!

Love always,

-Tara

Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Christmas is less than a week away and I’m still buying/making gifts.

I’ve found all sorts of tutorials and lists of ideas for you so you can hopefully fit in those last minute gifts before Christmas Eve.

Luckily for me, we don’t celebrate Christmas with my dad’s side of the family until New Year’s Eve, so I get a whole extra week for those guys.

Alright, let’s get started:

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1. First up, something pretty; diy rings

10 DIY rings!  Oh the lovely things: 60 DIY Accessories- Last Minute Gifts For Fashionistas

From Oh the Lovely Things

2. Next, remember these washi tape tea lights?

Washi Tea Lights t www.thebensonstreet.com

From The Benson Street

3. For the kids

From Little Crunchy Mama with super simple instructions and only 2 ingredients

(scroll down a bit once on her page)

4. For him

This huge list of fun diy gifts

From Everything Etsy

5. Not feeling Do-it-Yourself-y? Any of the gadgets from this list will thrill him:

From Imgur

(I got my husband this “grenade”)

6. How about your neighbor or mail person?

Free Printable Holiday Gift Tags

Here are 101 ideas from The Dating Divas

7. Everyone loves food

Double Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Stuffed Pretzels

From Baker By Nature

No-bake chocolate chip cookie dough truffles made with no eggs

From I Heart Naptime

(Planning on making some of these myself. And yes, they’re egg-free)

Sour Cream Cookies

Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies Recipe #BringtheCOOKIES

From Java Cupcake via In Katrina’s Kitchen.

(My sister’s getting these; she’s obsessed)

Check out my Pin Board for more delicious recipes.

8. One more (or 75) for the kiddos:

75+ INEXPENSIVE Handmade Gifts for Kids - so many great tutorials for great gift ideas! { lilluna.com }

From Lil’ Luna

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Hopefully that will get you started. Have any great tutorials or ideas to share?

Link us up in the comments. I’d love to hear from you or check out your blog.

Until then, happy gifting.

-Tara

P.S. Next week I’m sharing pretty gift wrap ideas and inspiration so stay tuned.

Last Minute Christmas Bucket List

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Christmas is in 10 days. How did this happen?!

We’ve been talking a lot about Advent and making the most of this season. Today I’m going to share my Advent activity list. Hopefully you (and I!) can squeeze a few of these in and make the season a little more wonderful.

Wrap presents

Decorate the house

DIY Christmas pallet sign

Watch a Christmas special

Make hot cocoa and popcorn

Learn Christmas songs on guitar

Eat caramel corn and do a puzzle

Drive around and look at lights

Make Christmas card holder

Take a walk In the snow

Indoor s’mores

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As you can see I haven’t made much leeway with it yet. I made a prettier copy that maybe you want to save and print:

Advent List

There are lots of other activities that I left off that’d be especially great for kids (i.e., sledding!)

Never heard of Indoor S’mores? You are missing out. I love to make “gourmet” s’mores and add all kinds of different chocolate-y toppings, like replacing the chocolate bar with a Reese’s Cup or dunking the thing in melted chocolate (seriously making myself hungry right now).

It’s really simple, especially if you have a toaster oven.

Line your toaster oven rack or a baking sheet in foil

Lay down a graham cracker square for each person

Top with a marshmallow (you can also add chocolate now if you like it really melt-y)

Broil carefully for just a minute or so (keep an eye on those suckers!)

OR

Toast on high for a couple of minutes keeping an eye on the marshmallows

Quickly add the chocolate/peanut butter cup/Carmello bar/what-have-you

Allow to melt and add top graham cracker

That’s it. You’re five minutes away from delicious s’mores, no camp fire required.

If you’re having a holiday party or family gathering, have a s’mores bar with lots of toppings. Here are my suggestions (graham crackers and marshmallows go without saying):

Sprinkles

Peanut butter

Chocolate Jimmies

Regular size Reese’s Cups

Andes Mints or mint chocolate chips

Thinly sliced strawberries, bananas or kiwis

Candy melts or baking chocolate (for drizzling/dipping)

Chocolate coins for a Christmas twist on the regular chocolate

Redi Wip

Mini Crunch Bars

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Here’s a fun menu I found to give you some ideas for mixing up your s’mores ingredients

You could have a competition for who can create the tastiest gourmet s’more!

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Have any more suggestions for me?

What other Advent activities do you and yours do every year?

Are you going to a Christmas Eve service?

Let me know in the comments.

Check back later this week for some last minute gift ideas!

Until then, Love always,

-Tara

Even More Advent

So how is your St. Lucia’s Day going? Did you get up early and make a breakfast feast? Are you having a big brunch?

Luke and I chose to sleep in a bit, then made breakfast burritos and THIS delicious cranberry orange bread, only I replaced all the orange ingredients with lemon and doubled the glaze 🙂

Cranberry Orange Pound Cake from chef-in-training.com ...This Pound Cake is so moist and is perfect for the winter and holiday season!

Maybe not a traditional St. Lucia’s Day breakfast but it was yummy.

I’m going to keep this short today as we have a busy day planned, but I wanted to check in and ask about your holiday and talk a bit more about Advent.

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Let’s start with the Advent wreath and candles. I mentioned in my previous post on Advent that there are five candles (4 surrounding the fifth in the middle) and that each one represents something. You light one each Sunday in the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and the fifth one on Christmas Eve. Here’s a list of what each Advent candle represents:

Candle 1: (Sun Nov 30) Hope

Candle 2: (Sun Dec 7) Love

Candle 3: (Sun Dec 14) Joy

Candle 4: (Sun Dec 21) Peace

Candle 5: (Christmas Eve) The Christ Candle

Each candle represents a virtue that Christ brings to our lives, and finally Christ coming as a light to our dark world. We look ahead as well to Christ’s Second Coming in the days ahead. If your church doesn’t do this, or if you’d like to reinforce the idea with your family at home, I encourage you to buy a simple, small greenery wreath, four tapered candles and one pillar candle and make your own Advent wreath. I suggest having a Sunday dinner with your family, reading the appropriate verses, and lighting the candles each week. You can then pray a prayer based around that week’s candle and finally enjoy a meal with your family.

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This is a great way to forget the busyness of the holidays and spend some quality time with your loved ones. HERE is a link describing the colors of candles  to use (scroll to the ‘What you need’ section) and the verses to read each week (this one had a verse for every day, which is a great idea, or you could just read the ones listed for Sundays).

This website has a lot of other tips and ideas for celebrating Advent with your family. And remember, it’s not too late! You can catch up this weekend and finish the last two candles on their appropriate days.

You could also use this cute coloring page or one similar to help your kids remember what each candle represents.

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I’d love to hear from you about how your Advent celebrations are going. Let me know in the comments and photos are always encouraged.

Check back Monday and later next week for a Last Minute Christmas Bucket List and Last Minute Gift Ideas. Until then, Happy Advent!

-Tara

paper pyramids :: DIY advent calendar by Julie Ree

P.S. I LOVE this Paper Pyramid Garland from Julie Ree via At Home with Kim Vallee. There is a lot of cutting and folding with this template but those pyramids look identical to these Tea Forte boxes. You could simply cover up the two sides that are printed, or turn one to the back and just cover one side! Much simpler if you’re a tea lover like me. Start stocking up now and by next Advent you’ll have plenty of boxes to make your own calendar.

P.P.S! Don’t forget to make a gift bag or basket and deliver some goodies to someone who would appreciate it in honor of St. Lucia’s Day.

Ok, that’s it, really.

Celebrate St. Lucia’s Day

How is your Tuesday? My Monday got away from me.

I owe you fine people a cookie recipe and while I’m at it I thought I’d get a jump on St. Lucia’s Day.

Monster Cookies Recipe

The Monster Cookie recipe can be found here from Raining Hot Coupons.

I added extra chocolate chips and Peanut Butter M&M’s to mine because duh.

If you love stay-soft, chewy, melt-y cookies I recommend plopping mounds of dough onto a parchment-covered baking sheet and not flattening them out much. Then bump down the temp to 325 and bake a little longer. They stay much softer the thicker they are (That being said, don’t get too carried away or make them gigantic- they’ll never get done in the middle).

I made mine about a tblsp-tblsp and a half, and just squished them down a tiny bit, and they took closer to ten minutes for the middle to set up. Take care not to burn the edges.

If you like crispy, crunchy cookies leave the heat and time the same and flatten them out more when you put them on the cookie sheet.

Or you could do a batch of each. Simple as that.

And now St. Lucia’s Day.

I first learned of St. Lucia’s Day from the Kirsten American Girl books. It sounded like so much fun and such a good cause that I talked my mom into starting up the tradition in our family, although we have no Swedish or Scandinavian background whatsoever.

Here’s a brief history of St. Lucia’s Day as told by WhyChristmas.com:

“Around Christmas time in Sweden, one of the biggest celebrations is St. Lucia’s Day (or St. Lucy’s Day) on December 13th. The celebration comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.

St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304AD. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name.

December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, in the old ‘Julian’ Calendar and a pagan festival of lights in Sweden was turned into St. Lucia’s Day.

St. Lucia’s Day is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash round her waist and a crown of candles on her head. Small children use electric candles but from about 12 years old, real candles are used!”

Isn’t that an amazing story? There are so many beautiful and fun activities to try on St. Lucia’s Day.

Ways to Celebrate St. Lucia’s Day:

1. Breakfast Traditionally, the family would choose one girl to represent St. Lucia. The girl chosen would then get up early on St. Lucia’s Day and make breakfast for everyone. She would then load up a tray of  the goodies and go from room to room serving breakfast, dressed as St. Lucia. Obviously there are many ways to alter this to suit your family.

If you don’t have any girls, boys are always encouraged to dress as ‘Stjärngossar’ (star boys), or you could just have a family breakfast without anyone dressing up.

If you have multiple girls all vying to be St. Lucia, you could always have multiple Lucias, or the other girls could be ‘tärnor’ (like Lucia but without the candles). Remember you can always take turns each year.

More than likely you’ll want to help your children with the cooking and serving. And remember you can implement the use of flameless candles to decrease further risk of burns on the Holy Day (nobody needs that).

2. Dressing Up This one goes hand-in-hand with breakfast but I’ll go a little more in depth on how to dress up.

St. Lucia- You’ll need:

* a white nightgown (or cleverly draped bed sheet)

* a red sash (any long piece of red fabric can be made into a sash)

* a small greenery wreath for crown

* candles or flameless candles for crown

Star Boy- You’ll need:

* a white gown or sheet

* a felt or paper pointed white hat

* paper or felt gold stars to decorate hat

* a dowel rod for wand

* a foil or card stock star for end of wand

You can also find pre-made wands or get creative and use other materials you have.

Tärnor- You’ll need:

* a white gown just like Lucia’s

* a red sash just like Lucia’s

* a small greenery wreath or silver tinsel for crown

The costumes don’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to be a seamstress (I’ve hardly sewn a button on in my life). Let your kids help and make preparing the costume part of the fun.

3. Baking There are lots of different kinds of food normally eaten on St. Lucia’s Day. Here are a few I’ve gathered that you and your family might enjoy:

St. Lucia’s Day Kringler

St. Lucia Buns

St. Lucia’s Crown

Chokladbollar (Chocolate Balls)

Occhi di Santa Lucia

We’re just getting started on St. Lucia’s Day. One of the most important parts is delivering gifts to others. Check back later for ideas on how and what to give and other fun activities for your family on St. Lucia’s Day.

Love always,

-Tara

Haven’t Had Enough Cocoa? Try This.

Best Simple Hot Cocoa

It’s the second day of the new month and I love this time of year. I love celebrating advent and trying to fit something fun and seasonal into each day. Yesterday was baking Monster Cookies and listening to Christmas music. Today I wanted to share my simple hot cocoa recipe. I don’t know about where you live but in my town it’s 23 degrees! Hopefully this recipe will warm you up and help get you into the holiday spirit.

Recipe:

2 tbls EACH of

* Cocoa powder

* Sugar

1 cup of milk, separated

Optional:

Mini marshmallows

Reddi Wip

Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Jimmies

Mix cocoa, sugar and 2 tblsp milk over medium heat  and whisk until cocoa is dissolved. Add the rest of the milk, more if you prefer a little less cocoa-y cocoa. Continue to stir over heat until cocoa is hot. Do not boil!

Pour cocoa over a handful of chocolate chips in your favorite mug. Stir to melt. Add a few mini marshmallows and Reddi Wip. Top with chocolate jimmies. Enjoy!

*Makes 1 large mug. Duplicate as needed for more servings.