A holiday house tour

By this afternoon, we will be officially on holidays. Danny will have tidied his desk, picked up an excited Noah from school, and we’ll have welcomed them home with hugs and back thumps.  Two whole weeks of vacation begins!

We have snow on the ground and the Christmas cards are in the mail. Apparently a major snowstorm is on it’s way, but we have enough tourtiere and cookies in the freezer to weather the weather, whatever the weather. My refrigerator is packed with cream for eggnog, fresh apple cider for hot spiced cider and other staples as we’re hosting my sister, my brother in law, and their three dogs for the holidays and I like to be prepared!

For a little change, today’s post is a mini tour of our main floor and a few of my favorite holiday decorations. I tend to keep things very simple, and use a lot of natural elements when I decorate. I don’t like to buy a lot of things and prefer to work with what I have on hand, like my centerpiece of candles in used jam jars.

It’s rustic and homey, and suits our homestead just fine.

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From the kitchen: a simple centerpiece of tea lights in jam jars

Last weekend I hosted my annual holiday cookie swap where ten of my friends descended into my kitchen laden with over a thousand cookies. There’s a reason they call it the most wonderful time of the year – cookie parties, right?

Anyway, I’m not planning to share the details of the event as I have in the past,  however, I wanted to quickly show you my simple centerpiece for the table. I’m all about natural decorating for the holidays, using items already around the house or found in nature, and this centerpiece fit the bill perfectly.

I raided my jar cupboard and set out nearly every empty jar I had on a (homemade) burlap runner. I set tea light into the jars, tossed a few pine cones around them, and in a few minutes, my centerpiece was finished.

Hit the jump for more images and a short list of items needed to make your own warm, festive centerpiece.

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My cookbook gift guide & Bite this Book 2012 recap

In my opinion, the gift of a cookbook – to yourself or anyone – is about the best present to unwrap on Christmas morning. Today’s recommended gift guide is a collection of cookbooks that were all featured in my monthly Bite this Book feature.

This is not a ‘best of’ list, by any means, but these are the ones I can vouch for, believe in, and cook from. I have cracked their covers and spilled flour on them. I’ve left them stacked up on the kitchen counter, within arms reach because of recipes between their pages that are calling me.

These are the books I am gifting to a bunch of my girlfriends – the vegetarian, the novice home canner, the new mom, the dessert queen, and the gluten-free girls. Ready to see my picks? Pour yourself a coffee and hit the jump.

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Pure Charity or how to make your shopping count

Today’s post is a little different than my usual content, but I’m sharing with you something I am so excited about, it is keeping me awake at night.

Most of you pop in and out for a recipe and may not even be aware that Simple Bites is part of a bigger network of sister sites. Well, Simple Living Media is our umbrella and we’re fortunate to collectively receive over one million visits every month. Yippee!

We recently decided it was high time we started to use our impact for good. As rewarding as it is to be a pro blogger, what is the significance of it all if you don’t give back at some point?

So…as Tsh shared on Wednesday, SLM is partnering with Compassion to sponsor a Child Survival Program in Ethiopia! Yes, all of us as a community, passionate about living simply, are helping mamas in Africa so their children can simply live.

My friends, some things are more important than Christmas cookies, and this new project makes my heart swell with happiness.

Read on to hear how my online shopping helps to fund our CSP through an amazing program called Pure Charity. Then, find out how you can join in. Please, please do.

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My 20 favorite edible gifts (Recipe: Maple Spice Candied Nuts)

Today we interrupt our Home for the Holidays week of giveaways to bring you some personal favorites. We the editors of the six SLM channels are dishing on everything we love about Christmas – songs, books, handmade gifts and more.

It’s probably no surprise that I love to bake, package, and give away edible gifts, and so in this post I’m highlighting a handful of my favorites for your inspiration!

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