The Giving Tree


A Country Christmas

Christmas and Hanukkah season seems to begin the day after thanksgiving. The weather is cool ; everyone is fresh and ready to get into the " Holiday Spirit ". This year, before I rush out to the stores, I'm going to savor this weekend. I will try to do something special with my family, before we get pulled in so many directions. We're going to decorate an outside tree for our fine feathered and furry friends. We'll not only have fun making the goodies [ we can even do some of the projects watching football] , as we will enjoy watching the animals visit our tree. This is a perfect project forgiving and receiving during the holidays .

The outside giving tree functions as a winter wildlife arbor that is both festive and functional. Garlands of corn , millet and apples attract squirrel and deer as well as the birds. The main goal is to feed the birds, so we will hang large pinecones, laden with peanut butter and bird seeds. Many bird varieties will flock to this arbor daily; a warm sight for cold days that never loses its spectator appeal. Keep the tree in an open area, perhaps outside the breakfast window. Place small binoculars and a bird book by the window . The kids will love trying to identify their feathered visitors.



German Christmas Carol
Making Decorations

Everyone can shop for the goodies, pop popcorn and trim the tree. The children are turned into foragers, as they search for the pinecones which will be gilded with birdseed. Choosing the tree is a great ceremony in itself. And then there is the fun of making all the ornaments to decorate the tree. We'll make dozens of bows to add the final touch. Keep it festive, warm, welcoming and cozy, but simple- All that a gathering of family and friends should be. This even makes a great holiday birthday event! Youth groups, boy scouts and girl scouts can design a community tree at a local park. The decorations can be made and tree trimming can be done all in the same day, or over a few weeks period ,in different sessions, and then trim the tree. For a small group, in numbers of kids or in age, don't use such a large tree. The bigger the tree, the more ornaments you have to make. You don't want the children to tire after a while and lose their spunk and interest. These marvelous scented feasts will keep everyone entertained for hours.

It's a lark to make these bird treats. Bring your feathered friends winging in with pinecones slathered with peanut butter and rolled in seed. To make colorful fruit baskets, halve oranges, scoop out some pulp, and fill with seed and cranberries. Then form a handle by piercing opposite sides of the fruit with an 8- inch wire, looping and twisting each end to secure.

There will be cheery chirps when the birds discover the luscious grape wreaths. Simply slide six green grapes onto a 10-inch wire and twist ends together to shape a wreath. The grapes can be "glued" with royal icing, to gingerbread boys and hung with ribbon. To make shish kabobs for the birds, spike cranberries on a wooden stick and tuck into bows along with millet. Even the garland is good to the last nibble when you string popcorn and cranberries onto heavy- duty string. Adorn the top of the tree with a cranberry and popcorn starburst. Florist wire is twisted together, spread out and threaded with popcorn and cranberries. Knot the wire at the ends. I think the birds will look like they are an ornament themselves, perched atop the tree, enjoying their feast.

Another tasty ornament for people visitors to enjoy are the peppermint candy canes hung on the tree. They are very decorative and they can be used as tea stirrers for holiday tea. Several dozen canes are placed on the tree, left in their original wrapping, along with a sprig of lemon balm or lemon grass, tied to each cane with a small red ribbon. Each child can select his or her own cane from the tree, drop the lemon herb into the cup of hot water, unwrap the cane and stir the infusion with the candy. The lemon balm gives the water a tea -like flavor and the peppermint adds the sweetness kids enjoy. Hot apple cider or cranberry juice works well, also. Keep a pot of tea on hand while making these ornaments. Don't forget holiday music is an essential element to put everyone in the mood. Constant chatter, singing ,good conversation and laughter, will outlast the ornaments and the season. This is family memories in the making.

Popcorn balls will adorn our tree, looking like large snowballs. Their not only finger-licking good , but fun to make. Even the smallest little friend can participate.

A trend toward embellishing traditional greenery with lots of ribbon, in puffy bows and streamers, helps fill in the empty spaces on the tree, while looking as "pretty as a package" among the natural elements. For outdoor use, there is plastic ribbon. It can withstand rain and snow, without drooping or losing its shape or color. The key to success with these fancy trims- Don't skimp on the ribbon. Buy plenty of yardage so that the bows and streamers can overlap. A ribbon of 4-inches wide will make a proportioned bow. This will be the only nonedible ornament on the tree. Stick sprigs of millet, berries and wheat into the knot of the bow. If you prefer a more quiet statement and natural fibre, decorate the tree with raffia paper ribbon. Using equal lengths of ribbon will result in bows of approximately the same size. Shape the bows once they are attached to the tree. 50 bows are needed for a large tree, maybe more.

I WILL PRE-SHOP FOR ALL THE INGREDIENTS [supply list and recipes follow ] so when the spontaneous family moment arises- No car pooling, no appointments, no phone calls, no shopping- Seize the moment ! Gather your crew and go select a balled tree. Your tree can grow with your family and be used, yearly. Cut trees are fine, just remember to stake the tree well.

I WILL MAKE A BATCH OF HOMEMADE COOKIES, in advance, wrap them well, and freeze them in anticipation of this fun event. Slice and bakes in the freezer are handy ,also. Brew up some tea, turn on the music and let the fun begin! A picture perfect moment! Oh ! Don't forget the film and batteries; capturing lots of natural smiles.

I WILL REMEMBER our special day all through the holiday, as I sip my morning coffee and enjoy my outside "giving tree".... Warm fuzzies for a cold day!

Linda Franzo
Passionate Platter
Cooking Classes for Everyone


A Family Project


Green grapes, popcorn, cranberries, peanut butter, small bird seed , millet from pet shop, oranges, candy canes , lemon herbs- balm or lemon grass, wooden sticks, florist wire, string and large sewing needle with big eye, 4-inch ribbon, 1/4 inch ribbon for hanging ornaments


Candy canes with lemon herb- Garland of popcorn and cranberries-- popcorn tree topper--- bows with cranberry shish kabobs and millet sprigs---pinecones with peanut butter and bird seed --- grape wreath--"glued" grape gingerbread boys-- orange baskets-- popcorn balls



3 cups water , 3 lemon zinger tea bags, 3 cups cranberry juice , peppermint stirring canes. This tea looks very festive in a clear glass mug. Makes 6 cups


4 Tbs. [1/2 stick] butter
1- 10 oz. bag marshmallows
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 quarts popped corn
1 cup sunflower seeds
In a large pot, melt butter, add marshmallows and sugar. Remove from heat. Place corn in large bowl and pour mix, toss well. Butter hands and shape balls to desired size. Stick ribbon into center of ball, for hanging on tree. Set on parchment paper to cool.


6 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs, beaten
Place all dry ingredients in a bowl, melt shortening, Add sugar to shortening, Then add molasses and eggs. With mixer on add wet ingredient to dry. Wrap dough in plastic bag and chill. Keeps for months. Roll dough to 1/8 thick , cut out shapes Bake 350* 10 min- light brown Remove off pan immediately to cookie rack.


3 Tbs. meringue powder [find can in cake decorating section at hobby, craft store]
cup warm water
1 lb. confectioners sugar[ 10x]
tsp. cream of tartar
Combine all ingredients ,slowly, beat for 7 minutes- For piping -add light corn syrup-1 tsp. Keep covered! Store left -over icing covered in refrigerator. Re-beat when using again.


tsp. salt , tsp. baking soda
1 cup dark brown sugar
cup sugar
1 cup salted butter, soft
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups mini chocolate chops
Preheat oven 300 F, cream butter, sugars, add eggs and vanilla. Don't over mix Add dry mix and chips drop by round Tbs. on ungreased sheet, 2-inches apart Bake 20 min or golden brown Transfer to cool surface---- 3 dozen

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