Monday, December 30, 2013

A German Christmas Tradition

by AnikasArt

I grew up in northern Germany. It wasn't usually very cold there, but sometimes we had a white Christmas.
The Christmas Tradition in out family was to get up late on Christmas Eve (everybody usually was already off for the Holidays) and have breakfast together. Most of the times we had something special we didn't have every day, like fresh baked hard rolls and some cold cuts. A lot of times it was accompanied by a soft boiled egg, eaten out of an egg holder.
Then it was time to decide which color the decoration of our Christmas tree is going to have, while my dad gave our neighbor a call.
We lived right next to the forest (no, not the black forest, that is in south Germany) at a hill side.
Our neighbor had a small tree farm. Every year we would go there and pick our tree. On Christmas Eve. I know a lot of families, who got their tree much earlier than we did ours, but this was our family tradition.
So once we found all the boxes of Christmas decor, we would get in our Winter Coats and go to the Neighbor. Usually we would wander around for a little while. Our Neighbor also had birds. Not of the small kind. He had big outdoor cages with Owls and Ravens in which the birds could fly, since they were that large. Us kids spend a lot of time watching them, while our parents chatted. We then picked our tree, often a soft needle kind of tree and cut it down. My dad would then go up front and me and my sister in the back, my mom at our side and there we carried the tree through the backyard to our patio.
My dad would then set up the home-made tree stand with water reservoir and set the tree in there.
Us kids would then start to decorate with the help of our mom. Dad would help with the branches at the top of the tree. We always had real candles at our tree. Beeswax ones, that smelled great when they burned. We had to keep them off the bottom branches because of our dog. Then we set up the rest of the decoration, which included a nativity set on a carrousel, one of those that has candles on it and moves.
Then we would go into our rooms and wrap presents if we didn't do it earlier already.
In the evening we would dress up and wait for my mom to call us down with a Christmas bell. She then would proclaim that the Christ Child came and brought presents.
Then it was finally time to exchange presents.
We played for a while with new toys then sat down for dinner, which always consisted of fondue. After dinner we played board games and stayed up late.
That was our German Christmas Tradition.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A bright time at the zoo

by RobinsFlight

Our family visited Cincinnati over the Thanksgiving weekend.  It was a fun time.  On Saturday, we took advantage of the relatively warm weather- the highs were near 50*F- to go to the Cincinnati Zoo.

Each year, like many zoos around the country, the Cincinnati Zoo sets up light displays throughout the grounds.  This year, the displays included nearly 2 million lights, including 20,000 on just the large tree at the entrance!


We arrived at the zoo mid-afternoon, with time to see some of the animals before it got dark.  While some of the exhibits were empty, with the animals tucked away in their winter homes, there were still plenty of creatures to see.

My mother even surprised me by facing her fears and accompanying us into the reptile house!  (And those are the alligators we saw there, not my mother!)

I must admit, I was not as brave as she, and did not go with them into the insect exhibit.  Instead, I sat outside and watched as dust settled and the lights came on.

Soon, it was completely dark, and the lights became the main attraction, lining the paths and covering the trees.


The highlight was the "Wild Lights" show, located around a pond at the center of the zoo and featuring lights that changed to music.

Lots of other people thought it would be a fun thing to do also.  By the time we left, cars were lined up at the entrance in both directions, waiting to get in!  It's definitely a good thing we got there early.

All in all, it was quite a fun time! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Beyond online selling

by JeanieBeanHandknits

Selling your handmade wares face to face can be exciting and a bit scary, but with some pre-show preparation and planning you can be successful and take your business to a whole new level. I just participated in the largest show in my area: 380 booths in a 3 day show at a well known venue. I began creating and planning months ago to create a “boutique” setting for my 10’ by 10’ booth. I wanted to create a space that would set my booth apart and draw customers in to see more of what I had to offer.

With some advance planning you can maximize the space and make it visually appealing and inviting. I decided on a U shaped set up to maximize the space I had available using adjustable height tables at the rear of my booth to add interest and use the vertical space available. Black felt table covers purchased for less than $30 at a fabric store provided a clean, professional backdrop for my displays as well as cover for my bins, packaging, and snacks placed under the table . I added a shop banner as a backdrop so shoppers could see my shop in the sea of booths available. I added some holiday sparkle with a retro Christmas tree and a vase filled with battery operated lit branches and silver glittered branches.

Vintage suitcases and woven cases add differences in height and visual interest. They also add both storage and display appeal. I used some items from my home to display my smaller items.

A birdcage placed on a lazy susan brought some interest to my hair clippies. The hair clippies were attached to my business cards and added to the birdcage with gold painted mini clothespins.

I placed a room screen on the edge of my booth and filled it with my scarves. People were drawn to the array of colors and textures and the screen took up very little room.

Small colorful boxes and a thread storage system kept my smaller items organized and visually appealing. A simple dress form place behind the table adds some vertical visual interest and a porcelain hand displayed my fingerless mittens.

Setting up a “boutique” to sell your wares is both exhausting and exciting but with some planning and creativity you can give your business a boost and build a personal connections with your customers.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Great Recipes for the Holidays - The Sequel

The Hearts and Hands United etsy team is made up of sellers from around the world. So you will find a varied group of recipes.
Here are some more great recipes for the holiday season.  We are trying to mix them up so you have a selection to choose from.                                                                                                                                            

Here are several recipes from Jeanie who runs:

She says this is great for a crowd and can be served in a crock pot.

Calico Beans - makes 5 quarts

Brown 1 lb. ground beef, 1/2 c. chopped onion and 1/2 lb of crumbled, cooked bacon. Cook and drain.
1/2 c. ketchup
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. dry mustard
2 t. vinegar
Mix well.

Add 1 can each of:
great northern beans
butter beans
kidney beans
2 cans pork and beans

Cover and bake at 350 for 40 minutes or in the crockpot for a few hours on low.

Freezes and microwaves well.

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. butter softened
3/4 c. seedless raspberry jam - warm this before attempting to spread over crust.

Preheat oven to 350 (175 C). Grease 8" square pan lined with foil or parchment paper. I prefer parchment for this recipe.
Combine brown sugar, flour, soda, salt and oats. Blend in the butter using your hands or a pastry blender until crumbly. 
Press 2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread the warmed jam within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over the top and gently press into the jam.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned.
Allow to cool before cutting.

Cookie Bark

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
saltine crackers

Preheat oven to 375

Line a 15" by 10" jelly roll pan with parchment paper (foil also works) and cover the bottom of the pan with saltine crackers.

In a small sauce pan, add 1 c. butter and 1 c. sugar - bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add 1 tsp. of vanilla
Pour mixture over the saltines and bake for 8 minute.
Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top. Pop the whole pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Remove from the freezer and break into pieces.

This recipe comes from one of our members who lives  in Morocco. 

Orange, cardamom, and date m’hanncha 

M’hanncha is Arabic for snake and this is a snake shaped pastry- ideal for dessert or at teatime. Traditionally it is just made with almond but it is nice with dates too. This is eaten at festive occasions in Morocco and is a very popular traditional family sweet. You can make mini individual ones but usually a large one is made and people cut or break a piece of the snake coil off.


Filo pastry- about 8 large sheets
375g/13oz butter
375g/13oz icing sugar
3 free-range eggs
375g/13oz finely ground almonds
3 cardamom pods, crushed
2 unwaxed oranges, zest and 2 tbsp juice
50g/1¾oz dates, stones removed, chopped
50g/1¾oz flaked almonds

To serve
• icing sugar, for dusting
• flaked almonds
• 5-6 pistachios, crushed- optional

1. For the filling, cream the butter and icing sugar together. Mix in the eggs in one at a time, making sure they are combined before adding the next. Add the ground almonds and mix well.

2. In a small pan, heat the cardamom pods and orange juice to infuse. Simmer for a few minutes, then allow to cool.

3. When cool, remove the cardamom pods and add the juice to the butter and egg mixture along with the three-quarters of the orange zest and the flaked almonds and dates. Mix well.

4. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

5. Put the filo sheets on a long table (about 6ft long) side by side with the edges slightly overlapping each other to form a very long rectangle approximately 2m/6ft long. Cover any unused filo sheets with a damp clean tea towel whilst you are working to stop it drying out.

6. Spoon the filling in a straight line near the edge of a long side of the pastry. Then, just like a Swiss roll, begin to roll up the pastry until you have a very long, thin roll of pastry. Wrap up into a swirl, to resemble a coiled snake. Brush with a little melted butter. If any of your pastry breaks patch with another piece with a dab of melted butter

7. Place on a large baking tray dusted with flour brush with a little melted butter and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown and crisp.

8. To serve, dust with icing sugar and scatter with flaked almonds. Finish with the reserved orange zest and some crushed pistachios look pretty but are not essential. 
Serve with vanilla ice cream or eat at tea time with a cup of tea. Here in Morocco M'hanncha eaten with very sweet mint tea.

Need an easy breakfast meal? All the prep for this is done the day before and just requires baking while presents are being opened on Christmas morning. This comes from Alyce of

Breakfast Casserole
serves 6-8

1 lb loose breakfast sausage
1 1/2 grated cheese - I use cheddar
3 slices of white bread - crust removed and cubed
8 eggs
2 cups milk
pinch of dry mustard
Mrs. Dash seasoning to taste

Brown sausage. Drain. Put in 13 x 9 baking dish. Layer cheese on top, Add bread cubes.
Mix well remaining ingredients and pour over sausage/cheese/bread. Cover with foil. Refrigerate over night or longer. Put into cold oven @350*. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake additional 15 minutes. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Great Recipes for the Holidays

Below are some great recipes that members of the Friends of HHU Team use for holiday entertaining, gift giving and/or enjoying themselves. Hope that you find them yummy and add them to your recipe file.

The first comes from Kathy of

She found this on and says it is wonderful and easy.

Crockpot Hot Fudge Cake

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed and divided
1/4 c. plus 3 Tbl. baking cocoa, divided
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 Tbl. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. hot water
vanilla ice cream

Combine flour, one cup brown sugar, 3 Tablespoons cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk in milk, butter and vanilla.  Spread evenly in a 3 1/2-quart crockpot.  Mix together remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa; sprinkle evenly over top of batter.  Pour in hot water; DO NOT STIR.  Cover and cook on high setting for 2 hours, or until a toothpick inserted one-inch deep comes out clean.  Spoon warm cake into bowls; top with vanilla ice cream.  Serves 4-6. 

Evidently the secret to this cake is NOT TO STIR

The next one comes from Robin of

Mock Thin Mints

Ritz Crackers
Semi sweet chocolate
Peppermint extract
Crushed candy canes (opt)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir in a few drops of peppermint extract to desired minty-ness. Dip crackers into chocolate so both sides are covered, lay on waxed paper. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes, if desired. Allow to cool/dry completely. Store in a tightly sealed container, if they last more than a day.

This wonderful appetizer comes from Nancy

1 package frozen chopped spinach
1 pk. 8 oz. Cream cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 c mayo
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 tsp. Garlic powder
14 oz. Artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
7 oz. Roasted red peppers

In large bowl mix all ingredients, spoon into microwave dish and heat in microwave for 3 minutes.
Serve with crackers or pretzels.

Another appetizer from Alyce of

Soft Tortilla Pinwheels

1 package of soft tortillas- can be small or large
8oz block of cream cheese - softened
ONE of the following:
chopped black or green olives
chopped hot peppers
jar of red pepper relish
tub of cream cheese spread - salmon or garden veggie
tub of pimento cheese

Mix plain cream cheese with accompaniment of your choice. Spread a layer on each tortilla leaving 1/2" uncovered on one edge. Starting with the uncovered edge, roll into a log. Wrap tightly in clear wrap and refrigerate overnight. Slice into 3/4" slices and serve. Make as many or as few as you need. Can substitute other fillings such as hummus or pesto.

This next recipe comes to us from Wales by way of Morocco. It is offered by Sewsouk.
She runs

Bara Brith

This is a Welsh teabread. It literally means speckled bread in Welsh.
When I think of British winter cakes I always think of fruit cakes or tea breads and this is a good mix of both. It can be served warm, sliced and spread with butter but also as a cake. It is wonderfully moist and easy to make .
Sometimes it is made with yeast but this version is simpler.

You will need one 2lb loaf tin
Preheat oven at 170 degrees C, 350F or Mark 4


12 oz (or 300g) mixed dried fruit eg sultanas (dried white grapes), raisons , currents- whatever you have to hand

10floz (300ml) strong hot black tea (no milk)

8 oz (or 225g) soft brown sugar

grated rind of 1 lemon

10 oz (or 275g) self raising plain or wholemeal flour- if you don’t have flour with the baking agent mixed in add a teaspoon of baking powder to plain flour.

1 teaspoon mixed spice
or 1/3 tsp ginger
1 /3 tsp cinnamon
1/.3 tsp of allspice

1 large egg beaten

Soak the dried fruit and sugar over night or for a few hours in the black tea. This is the secret to a wonderfully moist tea bread.

The fruit should soak up a lot of the liquid and be plump .
Add the flour, spice and lemon zest.and egg to the mixture - it should be a consistency that slowly drops from the spoon.

Line the bottom of a 2lb loaf tin with grease proof paper and grease. Place the mixture in the tin and level.

Bake for about 1 1/2 hours in a preheated oven- check with a skewer that t tea bread it is done- the skewer should come out clean . The tea bread should have risen and be a lovely golden brown . Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and turn out and cool on a wire rack. It is easy to slice when cold. Serve sliced and spread with butter or sliced as a cake

And if you are in need of an easy meal, this comes from Kathy

Honey Garlic Chicken Recipe

2-4 chicken breast
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup honey

Place into crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours. I had rice and vegetables with ours.