Friday, February 15, 2019

A sweet handmade ornament


Yesterday I was thrilled when my order arrived from Marjorie at Treasures with a Twist!  Even though this is a Christmas ornament, it felt like a little Valentine gift to me!

Isn't it beautiful?  This ornament is made from a simple wood circle embellished with a beautiful print, tinsel trim and plenty of glitter.

I love not only the beautiful old red truck and the farm, but the tractor and horse in the field and even the large white farmhouse in the distance.  It reminds me of the farm that's in all my Christmas memories:
 It had a pretty red barn and a big white farmhouse, too!
Marjorie has several other designs available and her prices are very reasonable.  This is a lovely, beautifully made ornament,  and I will be ordering from Treasures with a Twist again.  Go on over and visit ... I think you will enjoy browsing through these pretty Christmas crafts.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Making a Christmas cookie cookbook


I've been thinking for awhile that I would like to utilize a free photo book offer from Shutterfly and make a Christmas cookie cookbook with a number of our family favorite recipes.  As you see above, that thought has become a reality.  For the cover photo, I utilized a photo of some of my felt Christmas cookies.  They were so colorful and fun that I thought it would brighten up the cover ... and it did.

Below is the back cover.  I used some colorful photos of various Christmas kitchen gifts, including cookies of course.

In between are 20 pages.  I used 18 of them as recipe pages with a different cookie recipe on each page.  Some of the recipes are from my childhood; others are as new as Christmas 2018.  Below I will share screenshots of a few of them.

On the first page I wrote out some of my Christmas baking memories from childhood.  I actually had written these out years ago for a Christmas memory book, so I just copied and pasted it into a text box on a page in the Shutterfly book.

Then I made a number of recipe pages (of which these are just a few):








On the last page I shared several photos of grandkids baking.  It seemed like an appropriate way to end a book that began with my childhood memories.  Sort of full circle.

And there's a look at my cookie book!  If anyone is interested in the actual nuts and bolts of how I did this, just mention it in the comments and I'll share the details, okay?

Thursday, February 07, 2019

January's Christmas Club meeting


First, I must apologize to our long-distance club members.  This meeting was scheduled, and then rescheduled for a week later due to my hesitancy about driving in what could potentially have been freezing rain.   The weather was iffy again the second week, and our vehicle was in the shop so I wasn't sure I would even make the meeting.  With all of that, I forgot to notify Vicki or any of the other ladies who had expressed interest in the Christmas Club, and I do apologize.

I think that we are not meeting again until April, and when I learn the actual date I will try and inform you ladies.

So ... as to how this club meeting went.  There were four of us present: Susan, Carrie, Rachel, and myself.  Interestingly, every one of us is in a somewhat different stage of life.  Susan and I are both empty-nesters, but her children and grandchild are not close by, while I have six local grands (plus their parents, of course).  Rachel's daughter is approaching her senior year of high school and thus the empty nest is looming scarily for her.  She wants to make Christmas 2019 just as wonderful as it can be.  And Carrie has four children at home between the ages of 4 and 14.  So Christmas looks different for all of us, and we have varying expectations for the season.

Basically, we talked a lot about how Christmas 2018 had gone for each of us and how we might plan changes or improvements for the 2019 holiday.  I was thankful that I had found time a day or two previously to do my Christmas debriefing (see previous post) and so I was able to share exactly how things had gone, along with my thoughts on what could work better next year.

We also brainstormed with Rachel a bit as to how she might make Christmas 2019 all that she hopes to.  There are great forms available at Organized Christmas that will help with every aspect of planning.  One thing Rachel mentioned was that she did very little baking this holiday, and it is something she loves to do.  The Baking Planner will be a huge help with that, as it has a place to list recipes, where they are found,  what ingredients might be needed, and so on.  I suggested also my own idea of making a list of needed holiday ingredients.  I also had Rachel make a copy of the Post-Christmas Debriefing questions I use so that she could sit down with them and sort out just why she was a bit disappointed this year and how to make some positive changes for 2019.
I also alluded to a form I'd forgotten the name of, but just now as I was browsing around on Organized Christmas I found it -- a Values Worksheet which looks at the previous Christmas to help get plans in place for the next.  I'm thinking I may go through that soon, while last Christmas is fresh in my mind.
Susan showed us her Christmas notebook and, in particular, some of the photo collages she makes from the photo cards she and her hubby receive each year.  This is really a lovely idea.  Susan says if she is feeling a bit down, all she has to do is turn to her Christmas notebook and enjoy all of those smiling faces of friends and loved ones in the photo collages.

And then I also shared with the group a Shutterfly photo book which I have just put together featuring some of our best-loved Christmas cookies.  I will write a separate post about that, as others might like to learn how I did this.  It's a project I've had in mind for awhile and I am so thankful to have finally been able to put it together.  Now I can just tweak it a bit and make copies for family and friends.  It will be nice to have most of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes all in one place.

We all felt as if our Christmas Club meeting had been time well-spent.  Maybe some of our thoughts will encourage you, as well!


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Debriefing for Christmas 2018


So I promised to share my thoughts from the post-Christmas debriefing I completed on Rudolph Day.  I use a form (which I've had for awhile) from Organized Christmas.  Before I share, though, take a look at the Christmas room above.  Isn't it lovely?  I especially love the coffee pot and cups on the little round table.  And the tree is so pretty also, not to mention that absolutely gorgeous fireplace!

I always like to look back on the Christmas just past and see how well everything worked, or where improvement is needed.  As mentioned, I use the five simple questions from a form available at Organized Christmas.  It looks like this:

1.  What worked this holiday season?  What changes did you make to create simpler, less stressful holidays?  

There were a lot of decorations that I did not take time to put up.  I didn't get any of our own ornaments out of the attic, but used vintage ones found in clearing out my childhood home.  It was actually enjoyable to use those old ornaments; it made for a very pretty tree and it kept things much simpler.

I also worked to get all of our Nevada packages sent out relatively early in the month, and did them all using Click'n'Ship and carrier pickup.  That in itself reduces so much stress!

2.  What was the worst aspect of preparing for the holidays this year?  How can you avoid this problem in the future?

* I committed myself to an activity that, in retrospect, I should not have done.  I ended up getting way too stressed over something I should not have taken on.  Next year I won't get involved.

* I didn't plan carefully enough with gifts for several of the local grands, and ended up doing some very last-minute shopping.  It all worked out well, but obviously I must plan much better next year.

3.  Were you satisfied with your family's level of giving and/or spiritual observances?  How could next year's holidays more closely reflect your family's values?

I was quite satisfied with our family's level of giving, and satisfied too with the spiritual aspect of our Christmas celebrating.  There are certain activities I'm  not sure about for next year, though.

4.  How well did your household function this year?  Were you calm and cozy, or stressed and strung out?  What improvements could be made next year?

In general I felt pretty calm and cozy.  I did get just a bit stressed when I saw that I wasn't going to make the December 1 deadline for handmade gifts, but when my sweet husband saw how much it meant to me to craft a few simple gifts, he relaxed the customary deadline and told me to take all the time I needed.  I finished these mid-month, by the way.  The problem was that I hadn't even begun to plan these gifts until November.  So obviously, improvements would include starting to plan for any handmade gifts much earlier.
A scarf for grandson Nathan

5.  Honesty time: how did your holidays go?  Did you experience the magic, the expectancy, and the sparkle of the season?  If not, what changes could you make to recapture the joy?

In general, we had a wonderful season!  I took great joy in making a few gifts.  I tried several new recipes and enjoyed every moment.  I loved decorating the tree, even though I did it mostly by myself, with vintage memories from my childhood.  I posted in both of my blogs every day in December -- partly as a gift to my readers, but as a gift to myself as well.  I managed to get out and walk many days in November and December, which I'm sure lifted my spirits and lowered my stress level a great deal.  I even sewed a new tree skirt out of some wonderful fabric our daughter had gifted me with!

So ... there you have it:  my debriefing for Christmas 2018.  Have you done an exercise like this?  It can only help with planning for next year! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

With my Christmas notebook on Rudolph Day


Yes, I actually did something Christmas-related on January's Rudolph Day!  Well, not on the actual day which would have been Friday -- that was way too busy of a day.  I did this work on Thursday.

But before I talk about that -- isn't this the niftiest vintage scene featuring an old coal stove?  I found it in some old Christmas cards I am going through to list and sell on Etsy.  This pretty scene just caught my eye.

The sheer curtains, the sleeping kitten, the sprigs of holly decorating the finial atop the stove, the candles and ornament in the window, the braided rug and wooden bucket filled with berries -- oh, I just love it all!  Even those little oval silhouettes on the wall remind me of my grandmother's front room.

Anyway, for Rudolph Day I was able to spend some good quality time with my Christmas notebook.  The first thing I did is a given for me after Christmas: I took a fresh sheet of Christmas-themed computer paper and listed down everything that we gave for Christmas gifts.  Of course, I had already made a list,  on plain notebook paper, but some things changed with the actual gift-giving:   I couldn't locate a source for a particular gift, I changed my mind, etc. etc.  I had started this list the previous  January, and inevitably in the intervening months, my list had been scribbled on, crossed out, and so on.  So that there will be no confusion next year and I don't give someone a duplicate book, game or whatever, I make a nice, neat list.  It gets filed in the back of my notebook in a section titled Christmas past.

Then I take a fresh piece of lined notebook paper and start a new list for the coming Christmas.  Some things are going to stay the same, pretty much.  We always give my husband's boss and his family a big gift basket full of treats, for example.  We usually give my mother-in-law a jar of homemade hot cocoa mix, some homemade bran muffins, and a bag of clementines. Other gifts, like a science center membership for one family, a gift card for another, etc. will be the same again next year, so I've made sure to write those down.   I have already purchased a couple of items for next Christmas, so I've written those down as well.

I also took a fresh sheet of notebook paper and started listing ideas for 2019 birthdays.  I just jot down each person's birthday and their name, and I do this in order of where the months fall in the year.  We don't have any birthdays (other than my own) until March, so I start there.  I already have a few birthday ideas, having seen how certain Christmas gifts were received. 

Elsewhere in the notebook, I also like to note any new recipes we tried and how we liked them.  And I make a note of any new decorations we added, where we put them, and where I will be storing them. So I've done that.

Then later on in the day, I sat down with my Christmas debriefing form from Organized Christmas.  I like to use this each year to evaluate how the holiday season went and what needs to change in the coming year.   I don't always find the time for this exercise, but this year I did, and the results will be a blog post for another day!

How was your Rudolph Day?  Did you observe it in any way?

Friday, January 11, 2019

The actual 2018 baking list


 Back again to give an update as to what baking and kitchen-gift-making actually got done for Christmas 2018.    Mr. T made several batches of cookies, as he always enjoys helping out!

🎄 A double batch of Whipped Shortbread Cookies (pictured at top of post)

🎄 A double batch of Chocolate Mint Crisps


🎄 A double batch of Sacher Torte Cookies


🎄  A double batch of Secret Spice Cookies


🎄  A double batch of Eggnog Log Cookies

🎄 A double batch of Chocolate Spritz


and then single batches of

🎄 Almond Shortbread Thumbprints -- some with apricot and some with raspberry

🎄  Lemon Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

🎄 No-Bake Cookies


For candy, I made:

🎄 Arlene’s Easy Fudge (I used peanut butter chips instead of the butterscotch along with the chocolate -- and wow!)

🎄  Heavenly Delight

🎄  Special Holiday Fudge


🎄  Chocolate-Dipped Orange Slices



And for other kitchen gifts:

🎄 Christmas Granola

🎄  Cinnamon Pretzels

That is pretty much it.  I didn't do all the baking or make all of the kitchen gifts that I had planned, but I was very pleased with what did get done.  Baking in my Christmas kitchen is such a delight for me!


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Next year's Christmas stamps -- check!



Yes, you read that right -- I have that item all checked off!

December is over, and I'm popping back into the Christmas kitchen this week.  I have lots to share, but for today I just want to share something I've done for the second year now: ordered my Christmas stamps online for the coming holiday.

Last year, I ordered the Christmas Carols stamps and so that's what I used for 2018's cards.  There are only a few of them left now.
 As cards arrived from others, though, I kept seeing these bird stamps that I liked even more.  I decided that I would order some for Christmas 2019.

So I did.  Just a short time ago I ordered 3 sets of the Birds in Winter stamps and one set of the Global Mail Poinsettia stamps, which I like even better than the Succulents I bought for international mail last year.
Aren't they pretty?
The stamps arrived today.  What a relief to know that my Christmas stamps are all bought and paid for and that I have designs I truly like rather than settling for what the post office has available in December. 

If you've never tried doing this, I highly recommend it.  Just go to usps.com and take a look at what's available.  I'm so happy to have this task off my list already!