At the North Pole Animal Day Care, the children and their teacher, Rudolpha the reindeer, stretch their limbs after a strenuous game of tag. Suddenly, Jack the elf-of-all-trades barges in.
“The Star Fairy,” he says in a panic, “she tripped on her new dress because it’s too long, and she fell on her wand and broke it in half!” the handy-elf exclaims.
“Will she be able to fix it?” asks Bianca the rabbit, her nose twitching with worry.
“Yes, if she gathers stardust from the North Star. But Santa’s gone with his sleigh and he won’t be home for two days. If the wand isn’t fixed by sunrise tomorrow, she’ll lose all her magic!” Jack tells them.
Frost the owl gasps in horror as Jack continues.
“There’s a broken sleigh in the workshop that I can fix,” he says, “but without your help, I’ll never finish it in time.”
Rudolpha gathers the children and they follow Jack to the workshop, where he starts giving them instructions.
“Frost, you hold this flashlight up high so I can see what I’m doing. Snowflake,” he says to the polar bear, “look in that mirrored cabinet to find four silver bells.”
“Why do you need those?” asks Storm the fox.
“Silver bells allow the sleigh to pick up speed,” Jack explains. “Storm, you can help your friend with that cabinet over there. It’s a mess.
“Mistral,” Jack says, turning to the penguin, “find a pot of wax with a drawing of sleigh runners on it.”
“What about me?” asks Bianca, eager to help.
“You and Rudolpha can look for bumps and holes that need to be fixed.”
The animals and the handy-elf get to work. Jack declares the sleigh ready to take flight just as the Star Fairy arrives.
“Hurry!” Jack says to the fairy as she climbs into the seat. A team of reindeer is harnessed to the sleigh and is ready to fly.
“If we leave quickly, we’ll make it to the North Star before dawn,” the Star Fairy says.
“Good luck,” shout the children as the fairy and the reindeer take off.
Once the sleigh it out of sight, Rudolpha leads the children back to the daycare, where their parents are waiting to pick them up.
The next morning, a jar filled to the brim with a sparkly substance is waiting for them.
“What’s that?” asks Mistral.
“It’s North Stardust,” the teacher answers. “The Star Fairy brought it here early this morning to thank us for our help.”
“So was she able to fix her wand?” Snowflake asks.
“Yes, her magic is saved. And thanks to her gift, we’re going to have a beautiful Christmas tree this year!”
Written by Johannie Dufour and Sarah Beauregard
Translated by Cyan Caruso-Comas
On the 12th day of Christmas: Much less fun.
One of the most fun stories of the Christmas season is that of the Three Kings visiting the baby Jesus, bringing him gifts.
That gift-giving day is on the calendar as the 12th day after Christmas, Jan. 6, just about the time when most of us are packing away the gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the year.
Some people undecorate on January 1. If decorations have been up since before Thanksgiving, removing them right after New Year’s Day is recommended. The neighbors are probably tired of your lighted Santa, reindeer, and trees. The real Christmas tree and wreaths are getting pretty dry by that time.
Still, many people are sad to see their outdoor and indoor decorations go and wait until the unofficial undecorating day of January 6.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that undecorating day is prime time for falls. The CDC urges using steady step stools and ladders when taking down outdoor and indoor decorations. Take your time. Use the same amount of care as when putting them up.
Here are a few tips from professional decorators:
* Take photos of inside decorations and groupings you especially like so you will have a guide for next year. Box the groupings together.
* Discard broken pieces and donate redundant pieces to a charity. If you have ample storage space, save the giveaways until next October before donating.
* Clean decorations before storing them. Dust shiny tree ornaments. Clean white cotton objects, like white lambs, with a toothbrush and then coat with cornstarch. Toss artificial poinsettias in a bag with a half cup of salt to move the dust.
* Store decorations thematically or in their original boxes. For tree ornaments, it can be convenient to store according to color. Next year it will be easier to choose colors for the tree.
* Put artificial trees in their original boxes to protect them for future use and for convenient storage.
* Store outdoor decorations together in the garage, basement, or attic.
6 clever tips for storing Christmas decorations
Are you tired of untangling Christmas lights and trying to salvage squashed ornaments when you decorate for the holidays? Here are six storage tips that can make things easier.
1. Insert strands of Christmas tree beads into separate plastic bottles
2. Wrap string lights around pieces of cardboard or empty wrapping paper rolls
3. Thread rolls of ribbon onto a paper towel holder
4. Place small Christmas tree ornaments in egg cartons
5. Bundle wrapping paper rolls in a garment bag
6. Hang wreaths on hangers in a closet
Once your decorations are organized, stow them in clear plastic bins so you can easily see what’s inside. Also, remember to label each container.
Red velvet bites
This bite-sized version of red velvet cake will allow your guests to sample all the desserts at your next holiday spread. You can count on these to be a crowd-pleaser.
Start to finish: 3 hours (1 hour active)
Servings: 40 bites
• 3 cups flour
• 1/2 cup cornstarch
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
• 4 large eggs
• 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
• 1-1/4 cups warm water
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon white vinegar
• 2 tablespoons red food dye
• 4.5 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
• 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
• 2 cups icing sugar
• 28 ounces white chocolate
• 1/4 cup red decorative sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 7 by 11-inch baking dish. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, use a whisk or hand beater to mix the sugar, flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, buttermilk, warm water, vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, vinegar, and food dye. Blend until the mixture is uniform.
3. Pour the mixture into the baking dish, and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
4. In a large bowl, blend the cream cheese, butter, and the rest of the vanilla. Slowly incorporate the icing sugar by blending at low speed until the mixture has a smooth, even texture. Set aside.
5. Once the cake has completely cooled, place it in a large bowl and use your hands to crumble it until it has the consistency of wet sand. Add about a 1/2 cup of the cream cheese icing to the cake at a time and mix well. The final texture should allow you to form balls that keep their shape.
6. With your hands, form 40 cake balls and squish them slightly to create a disc shape. Place the balls on a baking sheet, and put them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
7. In the meantime, melt the white chocolate using a double boiler or water bath. Let the chocolate cool slightly while ensuring it remains a liquid. Using a fork, dip each cake ball into the chocolate, so they’re completely coated. Place the balls on a baking sheet and immediately sprinkle the decorative sugar. Put the balls in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.
Does a high-spirited holiday season leave you feeling exhausted? This vibrant and refreshing drink is packed with vitamins that will give you the energy boost you need to continue celebrating.
Start to finish: 1 hour 30 minutes
(30 minutes active)
Servings: 8 small portions
For the gazpacho
• 1 cup croutons
• 2 large ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and cubed
• 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
• 1 red pepper, seeded
• 1/2 red onion, cubed
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
• 2 cups tomato juice
• 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• Salt and pepper, to taste
For the garnish
• 1 small tomato, seeded and cubed
• 1 Lebanese cucumber, seeded and cubed
• 1/2 red pepper, seeded and cubed
• Sea salt, to taste
• 16 fresh basil leaves
1. In a small bowl, place the croutons and add 1/2 cup of room temperature water. Set aside.
2. In a blender, purée the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and garlic. Drain the croutons and add them along with the tomato juice, vinegar, oil, and spices. Continue to blend until the mixture has a smooth, uniform texture. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
3. To serve, pour the gazpacho into shooters or small verrine-style glasses. In a small bowl, mix the chopped tomato, cucumber, and pepper. Top each glass with about 1 tablespoon of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over each and garnish with 2 basil leaves.
Santa Claus brownies
Are you looking for the perfect holiday dessert? Children and adults alike will enjoy this playful and seasonal twist on traditional brownies.
Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)
Servings: 24 brownies
• 1 cup butter, room temperature
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 4 eggs
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the icing
• 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2 cups icing sugar
• 3 tablespoons milk
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 24 strawberries, hulled
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
2. Using a whisk or hand beater, blend the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the eggs and mix well. Incorporate the rest of the brownie ingredients and blend until the mixture is uniform.
3. Pour the brownie mixture into the baking dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
4. In the meantime, whisk the butter, cocoa powder, honey, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a large bowl. Slowly add the icing sugar and milk while blending the mixture at low speed until it reaches the desired texture. Set aside.
5. In another bowl, mix the heavy cream, sugar, and the rest of the vanilla. Blend at high speed until the whipped cream is firm.
6. Once the brownies are completely cool, spread a thin layer of the chocolate icing on top. Cut the brownies into 24 equal portions. Place 1 strawberry upside down on each piece of brownie. Using a piping bag, create a circle of whipped cream around the base of each strawberry and top the fruit with a dot of whipped cream.
The fabulous tales of Mount Christmas: A reveal at the restaurant
Once upon a time, in the town of Mount Christmas, the Ombazi family was celebrating Christmas Eve in a private dining room at the Joyous Delights restaurant. The nearly 50 guests had just finished a delicious feast, and they were all having a great time. Kids and grandparents danced along to a silly song about a family of sharks. Teams of relatives faced off in a lively card game. Cousins played charades, while aunts and uncles told hilarious stories.
However, one beloved member of the family was absent. Jaëlle, who was a famous pop singer, had spent the last few years performing all around the world. The downside of her fame was that she regularly missed important family events, such as the wedding of her cousin, Tatiana.
The Ombazis were very proud of Jaëlle, but they missed her terribly. The young woman always knew how to liven up a party. She could turn even the dullest basement karaoke party into a dynamic performance where every singer felt like a star.
As midnight approached, eager guests of all ages gathered around the Christmas tree to await the arrival of Santa Claus. It was tradition for the jolly old elf to hand out presents. As they waited, a few older relatives relived fond memories of holidays past.
That’s when Octave appeared. Every year, the town’s magical cardinal would visit every holiday party to wish the families of Mount Christmas health and happiness. Often, people would ask the bird to sing a song with his incredible voice. According to legend, he never sings out of tune.
“Please sing something for us, Octave,” the Ombazis requested.
“Gladly,” the bird replied, approaching the microphone. “I’d like to perform a lovely piece that I’m sure you’ve heard.”
As Octave sang the first few notes, the crowd immediately recognized the song. It was Jaëlle’s latest hit, Family is Sacred. Soon, everyone was snapping their fingers, clapping their hands and stomping their feet to the catchy tune. For the final chorus, the group sang along together. It was a heartwarming moment that brought tears to many people’s eyes.
Suddenly, the front door swung open. It was Santa Claus!
“Ho, ho, ho,” he exclaimed. “Good evening, Ombazi family. Are you ready for your gifts?”
“Yes,” they replied with applause.
“Excellent,” Santa said. “But since there are so many of you, I’ll need my assistant Star Fairy to help me. Oh, Star Fairy!”
Everyone turned to watch the arrival of Santa’s assistant. It was Jaëlle! What a wonderful surprise.
The pop star ran over to Tatiana and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“You know,” Jaëlle said, “when I sing Family is Sacred, I really mean it.”
All the guests were cheering and jumping with joy. Octave, who had planned the whole surprise, watched from above with a smile.
By Sarah Beauregard and Johannie Dufour / Translated by Katya Teague