It's hard to believe that 2012 is just a few days away.  I'd like to say I'm ready to dive in head first, but I'm more the type of person to test the water with one toe. For me, easing into the new year means no high pressure resolutions. It's more fun to make up a few that are easy to keep.  For example, this year I resolve to...
  • Eat birthday cake without feeling guilty.
  • Put sprinkles on everything.
  • Sleep late whenever possible.
  • Watch movies on rainy days.
  • Tell more corny jokes.

For this year's NYE gathering, I whipped up a batch of champagne mousse. In spite of its light texture, it is completely decadent and full of champagne flavor.  I decided to mold mine in a fancy pan, but you can use a regular loaf pan or just pipe it into champagne flutes.  It's very versatile.  The chocolate ganache was a last minute addition, and I'm including the recipe, but it can be enjoyed with or without.

And of course, it had to be decorated with sugar pearls, shiny dragees... all types of edible baubles.

Gingerbread houses: I would move into one if humanly possible.  Cookie walls, chocolate fondant roof, and a nonpareil walkway...  yep.  Those are all the amenities I'm looking for in life.

Tiny mistletoe  hangs above the entry.  
If you don't have a gingerbread recipe for building purposes - no worries. I've got you covered!  This dough slices easily with a knife, so it is ideal for cutting around templates.  It bakes up sturdy but not too hard, so you can also use the dough for cut-out cookies if that is your preference.

I hope you'll pardon my digression from the merry-making of Christmas goodies in order to celebrate a beloved literary figure.  Happy Birthday Jane Austen!  Jane captured my heart long ago with her sharp satire and humor. And with the handsome Mr. Darcy, of course.

True, this is Jane's birthday cake, but I made it especially for I Heart Classics, my publisher's Tumblr site that celebrates all things pertaining to classic literature.  If you are a Janeite, or any-sort-of-classic-literature-ite, then you'll enjoy browsing IHC.

To celebrate this birthday properly, I chose a Regency era cake called Twelfth Night Cake.  The cake's meaning has changed over the years, but essentially Twelfth Night was a celebration that marked the end of the Christmas season in Jane's time.  This cake was always present at the occasion.  It is an English fruitcake with dried cranberries, orange zest and pecans. That sounds delicious, and not at all scary like American fruitcakes studded with neon red and green cherries. It also gets a dose of Cointreau simple syrup. No dry fruitcake on my watch!

Perhaps the neatest thing about this cake - the bean.  A dried bean gets baked into the cake.  If you find the bean in your slice of cake then you are the Queen (or King) of the celebration.  Doesn't that sound like fun?  I may have to bring this (and a paper crown) to our Christmas Eve party this year.

I think we can all use a little extra get-up-and-go when the holidays arrive. There are gifts to buy, crowds to wade through,  long check-out lines to endure, gifts to wrap, and parties to attend. I don't know about you, but having a little caffeine in my system gives me an extra ounce of energy and patience to get through it all with a pleasant demeanor.

I can remember when chocolate covered coffee beans were a specialty item that could only be found in coffee houses. These days, you can find them at most grocery stores - I've even seen them at Target.  If you can't find them at your regular grocers, try local coffee houses or places like Earth Fare, World Market, or Whole Foods.

A few weeks ago I was invited to be part of the "12 Waverly Bloggers of Christmas". This month-long event features unique ideas from 12 of Waverly's favorite bloggers.  Our mission?  To share easy and useful holiday projects using Waverly materials.

Waverly is also giving you the chance to win two $100 gift cards, one for JoAnn's Fabrics and another for Michael's Arts & Crafts store.  Just hop over to their Facebook page to enter.

As far as holiday gifts go, I can't think of anything better to get than a loaf of freshly baked Maple-Walnut Bread. Or maybe Homemade Caramel Corn. Okay, Sea Salted Caramels are pretty high on my wishlist too. Sounds good, you say?  You love all those treats too?!  Then you'll be happy to know that I have recipes for all of the above and easy ways to package them up for gift giving!

Christmas cones are so easy to make and they are reminiscent of Victorian paper cone ornaments, only larger.  You can fill them with cookies and candies - and they are reusable, too!  For complete instructions check out the how-to video below.  (Email subscribers, please visit the site to view).

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