Tag Archives: winter

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Everything Bright With Winter White

During the winter months it’s easy to find ourselves seeking refuge from cold and dreary days. With a bright pop of white you can turn any space into a cozy, bright, and inviting environment. There’s a trend in decorating that is transitioning to more neutral tones of beige, grays, and soft colors. Who’s to say that same transition can’t be made with a few simple steps and without robbing the bank?

Cozy and Bright Mantels
Candles, candles, and candles! If you do not utilize a wood burning fireplace there’s still no reason you can’t enjoy the relaxing firescape canvas of burning flames. Maybe you don’t enjoy the labor of building a fire, but with a variety of pillar candles you can add a little heat and enjoy the winter glow. Simply add 15-25 candles inside your fireplace and light. Grouping candles on the mantle is always a wonderful addition. Keep the colors of the pillar candles neutral. Whites, off whites, and even silver are excellent color options to brighten up dark mantel spaces.

Pleasant Pine Cones
We all have plenty of pine cones around our homes to choose from. Grab a few of them from the yard and bring them inside. To dry out the cones, place them on a cookie tray for 10-20 minutes on 200 degrees and they will fill your home with the woody aroma of pine as they dry. Once the pine cones are dry, take them into a nice open area and spray with white spray paint. Adding them to a bowl or around a decorative votive will brighten dark corners and fill any space for pennies.

Mirror Art
Take an old mirror or an affordable one you’ve found at a retail store in the size of your choosing. You’ll also need vinyl lettering, initial letters, or a vinyl decal that you like for your space. Get 1-2 spray cans of flat white paint or a quart size container of traditional paint, plus painters’ tape for masking. Laying the mirror on a flat surface, apply the vinyl lettering or decals to the mirror. If you want to preserve the mirror’s frame, cover it completely with masking tape to avoid paint from adhering to it.

In a well ventilated area, lightly spray the mirror with spray paint, leaving a light coat. It will take several coats to get to the desired color background, but keep the coats light and let dry completely between coats. Once the paint has dried fully (be sure allow 24 hours drying time), carefully remove the decal lettering or vinyl graphic from the mirror. The vinyl can be easier to remove if you use tweezers, but be careful not to scratch the paint outside of the vinyl area. Place the mirror on the mantel or in another decorated space, then toss in a few other decorative white items and you’re done!

Popsicle Snowflakes
This is a great activity that can get the kids involved. Grab a pack of regular size Popsicle sticks from the local craft store plus a hot glue gun and some spray paint in the desired color for your snowflakes. Think outside of the box with the colors. You might want to try silver, gold, or even blue as your snowflake colors. To start the project, line up your Popsicle sticks, crossing over each stick end to end until you have the snowflake pattern in the size you desire. Once you like your pattern, start hot gluing end to end with a small dot of hot glue.

Once the Popsicle snowflakes are completely glued together let them dry and lay them flat on a surface covered with newspaper or craft paper. Lightly spray the Popsicles snowflakes until you reach your desired color. Once they are completely dry, find the perfect place for your Popsicle snowflakes and enjoy your winter wonderland. These decorations make for great place settings at a holiday table or, for larger pieces, enjoy them as wall décor!

Keep it White with Fur
Decorative fur letters are a great addition to any space. Simply buy either foam letters or wooden letters from the local craft store. You can buy them as initials for your name or spell out holiday or winter words. Joy, Season, Snow, Twinkle, Cold, Brrr! are all great ideas for this project. All you need is some furry white fabric of your choice. White feathers will also work. Simply glue fabric or feathers to the letters to create a unique and cozy decoration this season.
Rustic Bleached Nature Elements
Pine cones and sticks are a cost effective way to turn natural outdoor elements into beautiful whitewashed colors for your tablescapes, mantels, or side tables this year. All you need are a few pinecones, cleaned up sticks (remove any hanging bark or leaves), and a vase or container to use as the display holder.

Place the sticks in a glass container (like a baking dish), laying each stick flat and not allowing them to overlap. Carefully pour bleach over the sticks until all parts are completely submerged. Relax and watch the bleach turn them into a beautiful whitewashed color. Leave submerged until your desired color is reached. Once you are satisfied with the whitewash, simply remove the sticks and set aside. Depending on the type of wood you’ve chosen, you may wish to remove the bleach smell. To do this, mix one-half cup baking soda to three cups water and wash the sticks. Lay them flat until dry, and then place them in your decorative container. Follow these same instructions for pine cones, acorns, and branches. Enjoy!

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Timeless Traditions Continue

Timeless Traditions Continue

Christmas comes but once a year and each year in Lexington is a special year. Did you know that the one real Santa Claus visits Lexington every year for the Uptown Lexington Christmas Open House? Santa has many helpers all over the world to help him finish all of toys and goodies for Christmas morning, but according to Mrs. Claus, “The real Santa gets to visit one special town every year, and Lexington is that special place.”

If you’ve been a part of the Uptown Christmas Open House, you know the important role that Santa and Mrs. Claus play. The streets are filled with children and families picking up specials Christmas gifts for all their families and friends. The unique presence of having the true Guest of Honor roaming our streets makes you feel like a kid again.

It all started back in 2002 when Mrs. Claus joined Santa on this special annual visit. Since then she’s been helping throughout the holidays around Davidson County. It wouldn’t be unusual to see her reading special holiday children’s books in the schools, or stopping by to add cheer in area hospitals, or even attending the hospital’s employee Christmas party.

Whether you’re young or young at heart, Mrs. Claus and Santa bring something special to our town every year. “Many times the children are so excited to see Santa, but they’re nervous, so I always tell them they can talk to me about what they want for Christmas and I’ll make sure to tell Santa just for them,” says Mrs. Claus.

One of the best stories that Mrs. Claus shared with us was about a time she was reading a children’s story to a group of school children. In the middle of the story her cell phone rang and she stepped aside to take the call. Lo and behold, the elves were calling to let her know they had run out of paint and there were many toys left to be finished. She kindly ended the call and a young boy raised his hand. “Mrs. Claus, I promise you as soon as you finish our story, my mom and dad will drive you to Lanier’s so you can buy some paint for the elves!”

We all know that Mrs. Claus is the glue that keeps all of Santa’s helpers together for the big day. Every year her role is just as important as all the hard work that Santa does. This year renew this timeless tradition or make a new family tradition by visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Uptown Open House on November 22 from 1-5 p.m.

You never know. You might hear the sleigh bells ring and the see the reindeer fly!

freezer-food

Time to Freeze!

It’s Time to Freeze!

It’s that time of year when we’re all like hermit crabs hiding inside our shells. The days are short and sunlight is minimal. When the short or long days of winter — depending on your preference — are upon us, I like to hibernate in my kitchen. Aside from the holidays, I like to do a lot of preparation of hearty and homey meals that my entire family can enjoy for months down the road. Not to mention that it’s super easy to pop a meal into the oven on a busy day and still have a good wholesome meal for my kids to enjoy.

I used to make meals and put them in our outdoor freezer for a later time, but how much time? I usually caught myself spending a moment with the freezer door propped open to think about how long ago I put that lovely dish into the deep freeze. But, is it still okay? It’s been a few months and maybe I shouldn’t feature this on my table tonight.

I’m sure you’ve been down this road as well. Many times those meals that I spent so much of my hibernation time fixing for a later date end up in the bottom of the garbage. Not only is that a waste of time, but it’s a huge waste of money!

After doing a little research, I realized that those bundles of joy that I put into the freezer might not last as long as I once thought. So I changed my philosophy! In the past, I would put the date on the dish when I put it into the freezer. Now, I put the expiration date on the food instead. This way I know what needs to be eaten and what has a little more resting time in the climate controlled dungeon.

Here are a few great ideas that I use in my kitchen that will keep things simple and help make dinner a breeze.

Flash Freeze Protein

Instead of tossing leftover, uncooked chicken breasts or other pieces of protein in a freezer bag, place them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour. Then grab them up and toss them in one big freezer bag. This way you can use as many pieces as you need without having to thaw out the entire bag, and you’ll know exactly what you have left. This simple trick is great for chicken breasts, fish and pork chops.

Go On and Brown

Brown your ground turkey, chicken, beef, or pork and then drain. Once it’s fully drained and has cooled, put it in a freezer-safe container and set it in the freezer to use at a later date. This way you have saved one step already in the preparation of your meals and you’ll be ready for dinner in a flash.

Breakfast Right Out of Bed

Mornings can be tough in my house, but preparing breakfast muffins on a weekend allows me to get ready for weekday breakfast meals for everyone. Simply pull out what you want to eat that day, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds, and a perfect and healthy meal will await you.

Skip The Bulk

Large plastic containers can be troublesome for many modern day freezers. Try replacing your large plastic containers with plastic freezer bags instead. Chili, sauces, and stews are all great to add to plastic bags. Remove all the air and lay them flat. They’ll store well and cleanup is a breeze.

Deconstruction At Its Best

We’ve all heard of deconstructed “X, Y, Z” on the restaurant menu. Now it’s time to take that philosophy home. Want Sloppy Joes for supper? Put your Sloppy Joe mixture in a plastic bag, freeze the buns alongside the meat mixture and you’ve got a great meal without an extra stop at the grocery store. You can also break down recipes with raw ingredients into bags, and then place them in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook you have an entire meal prepped and ready for dinner in a flash.

Cool It

For the best freezer results and to get the greatest shelf life out of your freezer meals, make sure to cool the food first. When you cool your food it reduces the size as cold items retract. This is the key to keeping those sauces, stews, and soups nice and flat in bags. It also reduces condensation on containers.

Throw It Out

You know the rule, “When in Doubt, Throw It Out.” If something is already questionable in your fridge, don’t toss it in the freezer. The likelihood of your getting sick is just as possible after it’s frozen as it was in the fridge.

Did You Know?

You can freeze some very non-conventional items. Check out a few of these that you might not know about. You can freeze:

  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Bread – Perfect for small households where it’s impossible to consume an entire loaf of bread before it goes bad.
  • Fruit – If it’s too ripe, just toss it in the freezer and don’t let it go to waste. It’s great for smoothies or cobblers.
  • Stock, Juices, and Flavored Liquids – If you need to preserve that chicken stock before it goes bad, put it in an ice tray and freeze it. Once it’s good and frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a baggie for later use.

Thaw It Out

It’s frozen. Now what? Safely thawing your frozen items is just as important as proper freezing techniques. These suggestions are the safest way to thaw foods before consumption.

  • In the Refrigerator – Although it’s not always the fastest, it’s the safest because it slowly brings the food back to a cool temperature for consumption. With a little bit of pre-planning, this is the safest way to enjoy your freezer meals.
  • In Cold Water – Yes, COLD, not hot. Place frozen items in a bowl or pot of cold water for 30 minutes and then replace with more cold water, if necessary. Again, this keeps the food at a safe temperature during the thawing process.
  • Microwave – This method can actually lead to uneven thawing, but in some cases it is a sure, fast way to get your frozen items thawed quickly. Uneven thawing can cause bacteria growth, so when thawing fruits and vegetables using this method, consume them immediately.
  • Room Temperature – Breads, pastries, and muffins are the only items that should be considered when using this method to prevent the growth and development of bacteria.

By using these tips, you’ll be ready for the cold winter days ahead and on the path to easy meal preparation for your family. To share your tips or suggestions on great freezer meals visit us at dcfocusmagazine.com.