Tag Archives: christmas

Mini Cheesecakes with Mincemeat

17 Dec

Today I have a little re-post from last Christmas.  My lovely friend Judith from the amazing blog Joelix wrote this guest post for me after I had hand surgery a few days before Christmas and was unable to do anything for close to six weeks.  These Mini Mincemeat Cheesecakes have been a big hit here on Jillian In Italy (and Pinterest) and I’ve heard from several readers that they are absolutely delicious. I have them on my to-do list for this coming week-end.  Click on photo for last year’s post and free downloadable recipe.

joelix-mincemeatpies1Many thanks again and gros bisous to you Judith!
(check out Judith’s ABOUT page on her blog…by far the best and most creative photo of any blogger around)



18 Dec

So here I am typing this blog post with my left pointer finger. It’s slow and torturous to say the least.  Just capitalizing letters makes me sweat at the moment.  Yesterday I had surgery on my right hand due to an apparent unknown fracture from my snowboarding days years ago.  The operation went surprisingly smoothly and I was even able to watch it on a monitor while they were doing it.  Fascinating and slightly repulsive at the same time.  They even gave me a copy of the operation which I made my entire family watch yesterday evening.  As you can imagine they were all extremely thrilled and enthusiastic.

Now I’m supposed to not use my right hand/arm for a minimum of six weeks.  We’ll see how that goes.  Being a mom of three very active kids who do tons of activities will make it a huge challenge.  And don’t get me started on not being able to cook, bake, sew, paint etc for that long!  Wish me luck.

I have a few blog posts prepared for the coming days but I also asked some of my favorite bloggers to help me out with some posts to keep things interesting on this blog in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned because there are some great ones.

Today I wanted to share some of my favorite kid gift ideas.  I’ve bought all these products as gifts for various people this holiday season and some have already been opened and loved (remember that our kids receive their presents on December 6th for Sinterklaas).

In our family we like to keep the whole gift side of the holidays quite low-key and simple.  We try and buy gifts that are unique and usable and we try and support small businesses/designers whenever we can.

So far we’ve made some lovely purchases.  Here are a few:

I bought my daughters these dainty little Louisa Misha bracelets.  They are made with a gold chain and embellished with ceramic beads and cotton tassels.  They come with a chain fastening that can fit the tiniest of wrists and up to when they are teenagers.  I bought them from a great online website called Mini-Mei that has a vast selection of Scandinavian clothing and accessories for kids up to 6 years old.

housse-de-guitare-titus-listrasFor my daughter who is learning to play the classical guitar I bought this guitar case from French designer Lale.  It’s so pretty with the yellow stripes and turquoise edging.  I ordered it online from smallable.

Yellow Boy

Another great gift for the little kids in the family are these Ellie Bellie Kids robots.  These absolutely adorable and soft little robots come in boy and girl versions and in seven colours (and are delivered in a funky carrying case).  An added bonus is that they are made with renewable plant based materials and are constructed ethically with a minimal carbon footprint.  What more could you want in a gift?

mala clothes Mala   Sunny clothing for happy days

Since my children were wee little ones I’ve been dressing them in the Danish kid’s clothing line Mala.  Mala clothing is always so unique, colourful and such good quality.  My kids look forward to their new Mala Christmas clothing every year.  It’s a bit on the pricey side but well worth it!

For my son we couldn’t get away from buying him Lego.  Lego is his life.  He spends hours in his little “Lego corner” in our living room and is so ecstatic when he receives a new box.  We decided that we’d buy him his Lego but from a local family-owned store and not from one of those online mega-stores (even if it was cheaper!).  We bought him this Volkswagen Camper Van for Sinterklaas and he was over the moon about it.  He spent days building it and was so proud when he had finally finished (especially since the age on the box was 16+).

Have you made any unique gift purchases this holiday season?  Do you support small, local businesses and designers as well?

Edible Home-Made Gifts

14 Dec

It’s that time of year to start making little gifts to give your teachers, postman, hairdresser and kid’s bus driver.  The last few days I’ve been busy roasting nuts, melting chocolate and writing out thank you notes.  Here are a few of the home-made gifts on my list this year.  They’re easy, delicious and perfect to show someone your gratitude for all they’ve done the past year.


We have a few people on our list that aren’t super keen on sweets so I thought I’d make some spiced nuts for them.  I found this recipe in an old Martha Stewart magazine from eons ago and they’re absolutely tasty.  A little sweet, a little spicy and a little salty.  Perfection.


Here’s how to make them:

Spicy Almonds

1 tsp course salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp white vinegar
2 cups whole blanched almonds, toasted

-First of all toast the almonds in a 350 (180) degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.
-In a large bowl combine salt, sugar and spices.
-In a large skillet over medium heat bring butter, molasses and vinegar to a boil.  Add toasted almonds and stir to evenly coat.
-Add nut mixture to spice mixture, toss to coat.
-Transfer to a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake but mixture for 4 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.
-Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


Next we made some orangettes which are chocolate covered candied orange peel.  My daughter made them for her papa’s birthday last week and I realised how easy it is to make them.  Perfect to take as a hostess gift or give anyone who loves the orange/chocolate combo.


There are only four ingredients to make these professional looking sweets.  Here’s how to make them:


100 g Chocolate (good quality, preferably Belgian of course)
2 oranges
300 g sugar
3 ml water

-Cut the oranges in quarters and cut away everything to leave only the peel.
-Slice into skinny slivers (like above).  Wash under cold water.
-Put sugar and water in pot and bring to a boil.  Add orange peels and cook for approximately 60-80 minutes (or until you see they have become candied).
-Let candied peels cool on parchment paper.
-Melt chocolate and dip candied peels in to completely cover.
-Put peels in fridge so that chocolate hardens.  Store peels in container for up to 2 weeks.


And last but not least I decided to make yet another edible gift that involves chocolate.  I found some lovely little chocolate liners so I decided to try my hand at chocolate/truffle making.

I put some chopped chocolate in a double boiler and melted it.  I then added some heavy cream and a few drops of mint extract.  I did a bit of guessing at the measurements but at the end I had a thick smooth and pour-able mixture.  I then filled the little chocolate wrappers and sprinkled crushed candy cane on top.  From what the family says they are quite rich but very delicious.

You can also check out my Belgian Chocolate Spread which I made for everyone last year.  It was a huge hit and quick to make with only 3 ingredients.

Do you have any favorite recipes or homemade goods that you give away at Christmas?

Fabric Scrap Christmas Balls

7 Dec

This year I haven’t had so much time to make lots of new Christmas decorations but I have made some of these little fabric-scrap Christmas balls for our tree (I also sold some at the Swedish Christmas Market).  They are super easy to do and a perfect holiday craft for kids.  And they’re beautiful!  Mine might not be in the traditional Christmas colours but they do brighten up any tree or room.  And what a great way to use up all those fabric scraps you’ve been saving for years (or is that just me who does that?).


First of all you need to get your hands on some Styrofoam balls (of any size).  Take a long wooden skewer and gently make a hole that goes all the way through the ball from the top to the bottom.  It might take a few stabs to get it through.

Now take a piece of ribbon and gently push it through the hole with the help of the wooden skewer so that it comes out the other end.  Tie a knot so that it doesn’t slip back through the hole (I also added some wooden beads on both sides of the ball).


Combine white glue in a bowl with some water (it should be quite liquid-y) and grab a small paintbrush.


Go through your material scraps and pick out a selection of your favorite materials.  Cut them into small pieces of different shapes.


Now you just have to glue the tiny fabric scraps on the ball.  I brush a bit of the watered down glue directly on the ball then as well on top of the material.  You can overlap the scraps so that no white shows from the ball.  Be a bit careful not to get too much glue on the ribbon (or else it will turn stiff).  Let hang to dry overnight.


We’ve made over a dozen so far and they look really lovely on our tree.


Freddo e Felice

4 Dec

It has officially turned winter here.  We woke up on Sunday to below zero temperatures.  Okay, it was only -1 but it felt like -100 to me.  The cold permeates my body to the core of my bones.  I can’t seem to get warm from about mid-November until about mid-March.  I’m a sorry excuse for a Canadian.  The Italians can’t believe it when they hear me talking about how cold it is here.  They imagine all Canadians to be hardy, sturdy, cold-loving people.  Not me.  Nope, not in the least.

Despite the cold temps we decided to go out for a walk in the local woods on Sunday morning.  None of us were really in the mood to change out of our pajamas and venture outside but the promise of buying a Christmas tree at the end of the walk was motivation enough to get us out.  The day was clear and sunny and absolutely gorgeous.


This was the view from our walk in the woods.  Castle, lake, medievil church and mountains in the background.  Even after living here for over a decade I’m still in awe at the scenery that surrounds us.


Those kids who whined and complained about leaving the house ended up happily exploring the forest and lakeside for hours.


After carefully picking out our Christmas tree we headed home and started to decorate it in front of the fire.


And since we were in the Christmas decorating mood I decided to pull out my newly purchased felted acorns.  A talented friend of mine makes them and I love them so so much.  The kids found some branches in the woods which we spray painted white.  We then just simply put them in a vase and hung the little acorns.  Very simple but so lovely.


Slowly we’re getting into the swing of the holidays.  Lots of baking and sewing in the weeks ahead!

1-IMG_4240And to top off our first winter-y day we enjoyed our first melograno of the season.  Delicious.


26 Nov

This past week-end I participated in a Swedish Christmas Market in Milan.  I’ve been busy sewing and crafting for the last few months getting ready for this famous market that happens every two years.  I may not be Swedish (although I apparently look it)  but I really loved being in the middle of this fantastic market filled with Scandinavians of every kind and interested locals.

File:Parco palazzina liberty 021.JPG

Photo source

The market was located in a beautiful old palazzo called Palazzina Liberty which is situated in the middle of a park not too far from the centre of the city. From what I hear a few thousand people made their way to the Julmarknad to take a look at the Swedish food stalls, crafts and watch some typical Swedish Christmas traditions.

I made children’s smocks, camera straps, felt garlands, button earrings, button hair elastics, button magnets, reversable head bands and Christmas balls (Jill style).  It was colourful to say the least.

Surprisingly enough the camera straps were a hit!  At first nobody understood what they were for because I had written the sign in English (anyone know how to say camera strap cover in Italian?).  By the end of the day I saw a few ladies proudly walking around wearing their new straps.  I was proud!

My new goal is to bring the smock back into fashion.   I know they are a little old-school but there is nothing cuter than a little girl in a pretty smock.  Join the movement to bring the smock back (I take personal orders!).

Overall a very fun day where I got to meet some great new people, buy some lovely Christmas gifts (more about those in a few days) and share my passion for colourful handmade goods with the people of Milan.  Can’t wait for the next one in 2014.

Oh and this extremely tall and talented accordion player is reason enough to visit.  This guy is amazing.  And he’s wearing knickerbockers.  What more could you want?


Christmas Eve Day Passeggiata

24 Dec

It is such a gorgeous day here in Italy.  Beautiful clear sky.  A warm foehn wind.  And breathtaking views over the mountains.  We set off this morning on a little walk through our town and local forest.

I have a feeling someone likes polka dots.

Abandoned villa down the street.

Is there anything sweeter than a Papa and his daughter holding hands?

Auguroni a tutti!

Creepy Pointsetta

22 Dec

Last night I was experimenting with my camera in the dark.  I put my camera on a tripod and got a little flashlight and put my time setting on 30 seconds.  This is one of the photos.  Kind of eery and Christmasy at the same time.  In any case I like it.


26 Nov

One of the many advantages of living in such an international environment is that you become friends with people from all over the world.  This past week a Danish friend came over to give the girls and I a “Danish Christmas Star” tutorial.  It’s made from a glossy paper in which you braid.  It’s a bit fussy to do but the girl’s little fingers did a wonderful job.

I Felt it

20 Nov

I don’t think I can see another piece of felt in my life.  I have spent the last weeks cutting out little round pieces of felt and sewing them into garlands.  Originally I wanted to sew a few for our tree.  In the end I have enough to decorate the entire town where I live.  I have a burning pain that resonates up my right arm from all the scissoring I’ve been doing.  But I’d say it was worth it.

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