Gingerbread 101 (giveaway: Decorating Cookies)

There’s only one time in the year that I break out the royal icing, the piping bag, and decorative dragées: Christmas-time, when homemade gingerbread cookies are a requirement, preferably available by the dozens. Stars, snowflakes, trees, and the essential gingerbread boy – all are shapes I have been making since I was a girl, and now create with my children.

Every step of baking gingerbread is special, from the grinding and measuring of the spices for the dough, to the rolling and cutting of playful Christmas shapes, and perhaps the most fun of all, the detailed icing work. Sometimes we’ll throw a cookie decorating party, where we ice ten dozen cookies, and coat my floor in sugar in the process; other times I’ll put on some Christmas tunes after the kids are in bed and lose myself for an hour or so creating a drift of pretty white snowflakes.

Both ways to decorate are fun, and you should definitely break out the spices and a rolling pin sometime in the weeks leading up to the holidays. This post will give you enough information to get started. Be sure to stick around for a fun giveaway at the bottom to ensure you are well equipped for the task.

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Cranberry Pear Conserve with Ginger recipe and a canning swap

I can think of fewer places I would rather be on a chilly November afternoon than sipping tea and chatting with girls who have gathered together to swap jam, jellies and preserves.

That was how I spent part of my Sunday past, enjoying the warm hospitality of my good friend Melanie, while the boys stayed home to rake leaves. Clara came too, sitting primly on the sofa in her party dress and nibbling crackers so neatly that my heart swelled with emotion at the thought of all the tea parties we have ahead of us.

It was delightful to be a guest for once, and the practical aspect of the swap made it a not-to-be-missed event on my calendar. Read on for a few photos from the swap and a recipe for Cranberry Pear Conserve with Ginger, my contribution to the table.

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