By Mary Heyl
Now that the turkey leftovers are all gone and the Thanksgiving decorations are put away, the countdown to the holiday season has officially begun. Get ready for the most wonderful (and the busiest!) time of year with some decorating tips, a new recipe and easy DIY gifts that everyone on your list will enjoy, especially if they enjoy bacon!
If 2017 has brought you a new little member of the family, such as a baby or a new pet, holiday decorating has become a bit more complicated! Whether these little ones are part of your immediate family or you are expecting grandkids or “grandpets” to visit, make sure to keep a few safety tips in mind.
As you’re hanging the ornaments on the tree, move the fragile glass ornaments toward the top of the tree or consider skipping them this year (especially if you’ve got a toddler or two on the move!). Shatter-proof ornaments are a great, inexpensive alternative that will add bling to your tree but won’t break if they’re pulled or knocked off the branches.
It’s a good idea to replace your traditional ornament hooks with ribbon hangers (available at craft stores). They can’t be easily removed from an ornament, like the typical small metal hooks, and aren’t nearly as dangerous to little eyes or mouths. You may consider adding a few ornaments to your tree this year—for a very good reason. Jingle bell-type ornaments are a great addition to the tree because you’ll only be able to hear them if someone is touching the tree, whether curious paws or eager little hands!
If you have young children and/or an expensive ornament collection, the worst scenario imaginable is for the tree to come toppling forward. To prevent this from happening, put the tree up in the corner, if possible, and use removable picture-hanging hooks or small cup hooks on either side of the tree at different levels. Run fishing line across the tree at various heights and secure it to the hooks. You may lose a few ornaments if the tree tips over, but everyone will be much safer.
For a fun, shatterproof ornament and a great kids’ activity, make your own reindeer ornaments. Visit the bulk food section of the grocery store, and get a bag of unshelled walnuts. First, split the walnut in half and clean it out (enjoy this tasty, healthy treat!). Using brown paper or felt, cut out small reindeer antlers and get a piece of red hanging ribbon ready. Go around the rim of the walnut halves with craft glue and position your antlers and hanging ribbon. Bring the halves together and hold tight, smoothing any excess glue with your finger. Glue on a mini red pompom for a nose and draw on the eyes or use googly eyes. Let dry and hang on the tree!
Add a homemade touch to your holiday gifts by including a jar of this tasty, easy caramelized onion and bacon jam. In a deep 12-inch skillet, cook 1 ½ pounds of finely chopped bacon on medium heat for 30 minutes or until crisp and the fat has rendered, stirring occasionally. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate. Remove and discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the skillet.
To the fat in the skillet, add 3 large finely chopped onions, 1 medium finely chopped leek, 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook on medium heat for 50 minutes or until caramelized and soft, stirring occasionally. Add ½ cup of balsamic vinegar, ½ cup of packed brown sugar, ½ teaspoon of dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, bacon and ½ teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper. Cook for 15 minutes or until the onions are very soft.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to 4 small jars (makes about 3 cups of jam); refrigerate until cold. Jam may be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Serve on baguette slices or enjoy with pretzels for a savory treat!