Article: How to Create a Happy, Relaxed Homemade Christmas (Part 2)

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This is the second part of our article How to Create a Happy, Relaxed Homemade Christmas (Part 1). In the first part, we discussed how to simplify making cards and presents. Part 2 covers how to simplify homemade Christmas decorating, gift wrapping and Christmas gatherings.

1. Christmas Decorating

If you have already brainstormed as suggested in the first part of this article you will already have some ideas as to what you would like in your home.
Thankfully, Christmas decorating has a finite number of elements. These may include Christmas tree, Advent Calendar, Lighting, Other decorations, Garlands, Wreaths. For ideas, Pinterest is always a great starting point.
Let’s tackle each element separately. But before we do here are some tips on simplifying Christmas decorating as a whole:
• Start and continue Christmas decorating traditions in your home. For example, in our home we have wreaths which are beautifully homemade and are carefully packed away and brought out at the beginning of each holiday season. Children especially love the continuity, while we feel very nostalgic on opening them up.
• Visit your local Christmas markets and buy these things, supporting other artisans in your area. This is great if you are time-poor but still want a homemade holiday. Or, you could browse Etsy, there are always thousands of options for exquisitely made one-off decorations, generally at affordable prices.
• Throw out the idea of a colour scheme. In the past I have fastidiously chosen a new colour scheme for Christmas each year. But this is harder to do when you are working, running a business, raising a child, running a home, travelling etc. I find that the colours I have been drawn to over the years haven’t changed really. And so my colour scheme is eclectic and somehow it all just works. It tends to be dominated by blues and ocean colours which really work well with the rest of the décor in my home. Reusing ornaments also helps to keep costs down.
• Organise a crafternoon with girlfriends to make wreaths, ornaments or garlands.
• Keep your decorating minimal. This is my trick. I am a minimalist by nature anyway, and not drawn to fussy things. A few carefully chosen decorations well hung, always looks more chic than a lot of stuff.

Now let’s look at some of the elements of Christmas decorating in more detail:

Christmas Trees

• Invest in a beautiful tree that can be used year after year. This is a much more sustainable solution. There are a lot of gorgeous tree available on the Internet. We have had the same tree for the past ten years.
• Lights look fabulous on the tree. We use the same lights each year.
• If you do not have enough decorations, paper decorations are easy to make and look incredible. Why not make geometric shapes from card, or stitched paper decorations.
• Keep it light. A few garlands of pompoms, hearts, even small bunting look beautiful and not too over the top.
Advent Calendar
• Simplify your Advent Calendar. A lot of the Calendars on the Internet are huge, containing a mountain of lollies each day for children and adults to devour. This isn’t necessary. Make a simple Advent Calendar with one lolly each day and everyone can take turns. The anticipation of waiting for their day actually makes this more exciting for children, not less. An Advent Calendar can be as simple as a beautiful piece of drift wood, hung from the wall, 24 candy canes strung from it with fishing wire.  Try our simple Star + Cane Advent Calendar or our Little Birdie Advent Calendar.
• Reuse last year’s calendar. If you do make a fancy calendar, then make it so that you will be able to use for the next few years at least. Then take the time to wrap it in tissue paper. It is like Christmas for children when they open these boxes at the beginning of Advent.

2. Gift Wrapping

Gift wrapping makes a present. One of my greatest pleasures at Christmas is to see all the gifts wrapped and under the tree (before our gorgeous Ragdoll cat tries to pull them all apart). Homemade wrapping doesn’t need to be fancy or over the top. Here are some tips to make it simpler.
• Wrap all of your presents at the same time. Once again, get together the whole family or friends also, to help.
• Brown paper is a really good starting point for wrapping presents. Or choose another neutral colour, then add a gift tag and a ribbon.
• Your presents don’t need to be overly decorated. Adding lace, extra hessian strips, this and that, takes a lot of time. Keep it simple with beautiful wrapping and a bow or Baker’s twine.  For a simple, chic wrap try Perfect Wrapping Tutorial.
• Gift tags are easier to make than cards.

3. Christmas Gatherings

The most daunting has been left til last.
Christmas gatherings can be really stressful. Sometimes just the number of them can be overwhelming. Often there are extended family dos, office parties, friends’ drinks, family meals, school events, drop in visits to loved ones, bbqs etc. Here are some tips to make them simpler.
• Take out your Iphone or calendar with your partner and coordinate the dates for your gatherings. If you put these into your Iphone, in the notes section write down what you will be required to bring with you. Also write these onto a list so that you will know when they are and what is required of you.
• Be willing to say ‘No’ when required. Attending too many functions is just exhausting and leaves no time for just enjoying the season. Cancel one evening out and spend some time on the couch snuggling, watching the lights on the tree, listening to the Elvis Presley Christmas album and sipping on a gorgeous cocktail. You will thank yourself.
• Focus on being hospitable, and not on entertaining. The difference is huge. Being hospitable means opening up your home and your hearts to people, making them feel welcome and looking after them. Entertaining is about impressing and really doesn’t take into account others. It tends to be me-centred, nitpicky and perfectionistic. Remember that friends and family will only take away the way you made them feel from your function. Food and décor will be forgotten.
• For big dinners such as Christmas lunch there are several ways to simplify and still keep it homemade and gorgeous. In our family, each couple brings something different for the meal. Someone brings the ham, another the turkey, another a few salads, another brings dessert. It is delicious as everyone puts a lot of effort into their part. Everyone brings wine, drinks and extras such as bonbons, chocolate, sunscreen (our Christmas is normally around a backyard pool). It is like a gourmet potluck.  For a wonderful dessert try our Peach Flan.
• If you are going to a gathering and are required to bring nothing, always bring something. A small gift for the hostess is all that is needed. This can be a small package of little sugar cookies, a small loaf or even a bottle of homemade lime and ginger cordial. This is always appreciated and makes people much more willing to put in the time and effort to host great functions.
• Set aside some time and make some hostess gifts. If you make a few batches of cookies and carefully package them, you will be ready to go for the last-minute get-togethers that often happen around this time.  Our Lime + Pistachio Meltaways or our Gluten-Free Chocolate + Peanut Butter Cookies are delicious recipes.

Wishing you a wonderful time preparing for a Homemade Christmas.  We have more Christmas tutorials coming in the next few days.

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How To: Homemade Tagliatelle with Tomato + Bacon

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At OHC we love homemade pasta.  Today’s pasta is a great one because it doesn’t require a pasta maker and it is one of the easiest to make.  Pasta is really easy to make and tastes delicious when made from scratch.  Homemade pasta can either be thrown into a boiling saucepan of water, and cooked straight away, or it can be folded and stored in shoebox, with baking paper neatly wrapped between each layer.

Making pasta is a great way to include the whole family in the kitchen and provides an entry point for introducing children to the joys of cooking whole foods, made from delicious fresh ingredients.  This recipe was not gluten-free but we will follow in the future with more gluten-free pasta recipes.

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Ingredients

300g Tipo ’00′ flour

3 large free-range eggs

Pinch salt

Method

1. Measure out the flour and pour it into a mound on the table.  Use a closed fist to make a well in the centre of the flour.

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2. Crack open the three eggs into the centre of the flour well.

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3. Starting from the outside of the flour, begin to push it towards the centre, mixing it with the eggs.  Work your way around the outside of flour, doing this.

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4. Once the flour and egg are mixed into a ball, begin to knead the dough ball.  To knead, hold your hands together and push your palms into the dough.  The dough ball will turn as you go.  Knead the dough until it begins to feel smooth and silky, no longer rough and floury.

5. Divide the dough into four balls.  Put flour onto the table and using a rolling pin or your pasta maker, roll the pasta into four long pieces.

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6. Take a length of pasta and starting from one end, dust it in a little extra flour, then roll it.  Do this to all four rolls.

7. Using a sharp knife chop the pasta rolls into small slices.

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8. To cook your pasta, place it in boiling water with a pinch of salt.  Fresh pasta will only take a few minutes to cook.

This pasta was served with tomato and bacon.   This will take a few minutes to cook up.  Take about three tomatoes, cut them in half, seed them and then dice them.  Finely chop half an onion.  Cut the fat from three rashers of bacon and dice them.  Fry these three ingredients together in a frying pan with oil for a few minutes until they have mixed and are softened and fragrant.

Toss the tomato and bacon into the pasta and serve this dish with fresh basil.

Enjoy!  and if you like this, pin it.

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