Oh How I love those "Smiles"! - Quick Christmas Ideas...


Do you believe it??...Christmas is almost here...  This year there were too few days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The time between the two holidays is a time when every women has to use her God given talents and organizational skills to keep everything on track.  It's definitely a juggling act for most of us.  Making lots and lots of lists; grocery lists, Christmas card lists, Christmas present lists, things to do lists, party lists, appetizer lists, food lists, and on and on and on....I'm sure you can all relate. 
Christmas Trays for Gifts
Although it's a crazy time, I try to keep my eye on the prize.  I love giving home baked items to everyone at work and either home made gifts or food items to relatives and friends.  My list is long.... but now that the kids are all grown up, it's a labor of love.  

Being a crafter in another life really helped me become an assembly line worker (LOL!). I don't think I have ever made just one thing.  It seems like the list of friends, co-workers, and family keeps growing, which is great for this assembly line worker.  It's definitely a labor of love...I'm always looking for those smiles.  I sometimes think that's what my ministry in life is.  What a wonderful ministry... making people smile!  Every smile that is received only gives me more fuel to make more things and get more smiles.
Cafe Hoffy - "Tried and True Recipes" Cookbook
Food seem to be the best smile maker. This year I made 28 loaves of Cranberry bread for gift giving. In my post Cranberry Yogurt Bread I shared the recipe for cranberry bread made with homemade yogurt.  I was lucky enough to attend the Cranberry Festival in Stone Lake WI where I purchased lots and lots of cranberries.  Along with the bread, I created a "Cafe Hoffy" tried and true recipe cookbook to also include with the bread.  Pinterest came in handy for many of the recipes I've tried, along with recipes that I have collected over the years.  I also included a few Pinterest stocking stuffers with the bread and cookbook.  They aren't huge gifts, but they are gifts that generate those wonderful smiles!

I made the cookbook with a Print Shop program.  I'm sure you could just use a word processing program also. They just create a cookbook cover and viola' you have a very nice Christmas present.

Cafe Hoffy Cookbook
I also love cake decorating.  Again, another assembly line job from a past life.  I love to make cupcakes, because they are quick and everyone loves cupcakes, as we know.  So for our maintenance crew at work, I make small trays of cupcakes, cookies, and candies. Guys seem to love those cupcakes.  I have to admit, I make a great cupcake!  My secret? After you bake your cupcakes, freeze them.  When you are ready to frost them, let them defrost for about 30 minutes and then start frosting them.  The frosting holds  the moisture in the cake.  The cupcakes will melt in your mouth.

Here are a few items I made for Christmas-giving along with links to some stocking-stuffer items that I found on Pinterest that were quick and easy to make.                               
Cookie, cupcake and candy tray...another great 
gift for the holidays.
In this picture I assembled cookies, caramels, and holly adorned cupcakes on a tray purchased at the Dollar Tree  The cost is minimal, but the smiles are priceless... I made the holly with homemade fondant.  The recipe for homemade fondant can be found HERE.  The leaves and holly can be made well in advance and stored for future use. This is a really easy recipe and a lot cheaper than store bought fondant. I always place the cupcakes in plastic cups so they are easy to transport. Once the trays are assembled, I wrap it in clear plastic wrap and add a colorful bow to finish it off.  The cupcakes stay nice and fresh because they are sealed.  I usually bake the cupcakes well in advance and then freeze them until I'm ready to decorate.
              Hershey Candy Bar Snowmen          
Hershey bars made these cute snowman candy bars for the kids. As we all know Pinterest has millions of great ideas for every holiday, birthdays and a thousand events.  I saw this Snowman Candy Bar Wrapper on Pinterest.  I purchased the snowman face clipart from HERE.  You will need Hershey bars, red fleece fabric, a few buttons, and red gingham ribbon and a glue gun.  Wrap the candy bars with the face clipart. Cut the red fleece and glue it together and shape into a tassel cap.  Clip the top to make the fringe and wrap with a piece of ribbon.  That's it... simple, but so cute!
Hershey Bar Snowman and the "BEST" easy caramels to make!
This year (2020) I finally found the best, best, best caramel candy recipe.  What a find and oh so easy.  I always had issues with all the ingredients burning.  It drove me crazy.  I came across this recipe and it changed everything.  The video I watched said make sure you use a non-stick pan.  Well my pans are pretty old, so I went out and purchased a non-stick high sided frying pan.  I needed a new one anyways.  That made the work easy and the caramels wonderful.  A great recipe from The Carefree kitchen blog.  I owe her a great big hug for sharing this basically 5 ingredient recipe! Here's her video on how these yummy caramels are made!


Ingredients
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar (white, granulated)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated mile)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
salt flake for the op of the caramel (optional)

Directions:
  1. Prepare your baking dish.  Grease a 9 by 13 baking dish with butter.  Do not use non-stick cooking spray for this or it will give your caramel a strange flavor.  Set it aside until the caramel is done cooking.
  2. In a non-stick pan, add the butter, sugar, brown sugar, Karo syrup, sweetened condensed milk and salt.
  3. Cook in a deep saucepan (I used a high sided frying pan and it worked fine) over medium heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted.
  4. Stirring constantly, cook the caramel mixture until it comes up to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. If you don't have a candy thermometer, use the cold water method. (Pus a couple of cups of cold water in a cereal bow. Drop a tablespoon of caramel into the cold water.  Move the caramel mixture around with your fingertips.  If the caramel forms a "softball" it's ready.  If the caramel dissolves or runs through your fingers, keep cooking it.)
  5. Take the caramel off the heat immediately to stop the cooking.
  6. Pour the caramel into the greased, prepared, 9x13 baking dish.  Let the caramel cool before cuttings...about 3 hours.
  7. Sprinkle with salt flakes if desired...enjoy!
A quick, easy Christmas gift...add a tray of cookies and viola' something special for a neighbor or friend! The website this came from has 15 ideas for small Christmas gifts for under $2. I filled them with Tootsie Rolls and Hershey Kisses and then wrapped them in cellophane wrap purchased at where else but the Dollar Tree and added ribbon and label. A simple, cute idea!
Add the kitchen whisk to a tray of cookies and caramels...an instant gift!
Wine Slushes
I love wine...and I especially love wine slushes.  We went to a craft show in November and they were selling the mix for $8.00 each.  I knew that you could probably make the mix a lot cheaper. So the hunt was on....I found a recipe on the internet on how to make a "slush" mix.  It's very easy, only two ingredients, sugar and citric acid.  For detailed information on making different types of wine slushes, just click on the "Homemade Wine Slush Mix picture...
You mix 1 3/4 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid.  I was able to make lots and lots of slush mix.  I packed plastic bags with the mix and made a label on the computer and added it to the goodie bags I was going to give.  I made the mix first to make sure it was good...and it was great! So another gift to give that was inexpensive, but made lots of smiles.
Well... there you go... a few creative ideas from Pinterest and Cafe' Hoffy.  I do hope these items stir your imagination and give you fuel to get those "smiles" that are so very important to everyone...especially these days!
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Here are a few Cafe' Hoffy posts that you might be interested in. Also, the links below will take you to all of Cafe' Hoffy posts. Just click the category that you are interested in..."Crafts" or "Recipes"
   Personal Family Calendars                     Knitted Sweater Vest 
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Time for a little fun with Pinterest...my favorite website. I like to incorporate some pins from Pinterest that relate to my post. I have many posts on holidays. Visit my "Holiday Boards" for more great pins. Also, I have over 15,000 pins on just about everything. You can check them out by visiting my "Other Boards" by clicking on my picture below and you will be redirected to my saved boards...
Well, another day, another post...so much fun to sit down and write about things everyone loves...food, gifts, family, friends and everything else!
Aways remember..."Life's short, eat dessert first!...Words to live by!

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