Friday, June 16, 2017

From the May/June archives

Well, I never did get here to the Christmas kitchen to post any links to the May archives, as was my goal.  So I think I will put May and June links together in one post.  I haven't typically posted a lot in those months.  Recently I seem to have been saving most of my writing energy for Christmas in July posts. 

From the June 2010 archives, the following dish towel gift idea was fun to put together.

I simply love dish towels myself, and I love making them and embellishing them in various ways.  This is a nice gift for any time of year.

Same with this one from May 2013 -- Lego Sacks which are a very practical yet fun gift for kids and would be wonderful for a birthday or anytime.
Lego sack closed for storage
Lego sack opened for a play surface.  Just add Legos!
I've made quite a number of these, and they are so helpful for putting away the Legos when one is done playing with them for the moment.  Just pull the drawstrings to safely enclose the Legos, and hang it from a peg, doorknob or bedpost.  One of my granddaughters didn't think she needed a Lego sack, but when she saw how useful her brothers' sacks were, she changed her mind.

From May 2014, I chose Peppermint Brownies.  I said these were going on my tentative baking list for the coming Christmas, but of course I forgot. Hopefully for Christmas 2017!
Photo from Taste of Home
These look so good!

And lastly, from May 2016, Snowflakes on a Warm Day pictures some very unique vintage Christmas cards I recently found.
There are several more designs and they really are worth a look if you haven't seen them.

And that's it for this month's archive post!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

From the April archives

I'm hoping to do a post every month this year looking back at the archives of my Christmas kitchen.  I started in March and anticipate that it will be as much fun for me going through my own archives, as I hope it will be for you, my readers.

Mrs. T's Christmas Kitchen began publishing in 2007, so here is a post from that very first April, concerning kitchen gifts remembered.  
When I was growing up, we both gave and received wonderful kitchen gifts at Christmas time.  This post tells about some of them and may inspire you for your own kitchen gifting this year.

As I look back over the archived posts, I see that April seems to be a pretty lean month for me as far as posting.  No April posts in 2008, 2009, or 2010.  In 2011, I had just two.  One was a Rudolph Day post and the other a quote.   Rather than send you to the archives for the quote, I will just share it here:

"No matter what the calendar tells us, somehow in a crafter's heart and hands it is ever 'a little bit of Christmas'."
~ Crafts'n' Things magazine, April 1993

Inspiring, don't you think?  And so true.  I made the above bow at another season entirely, in response to a "junk bow" challenge on a crafting forum, to use up bits and pieces of craft material leftovers.

For April 2012 I had only one post, another quote.  This one is from Cook & Tell, December 1982:

"Food, love, and remembrance are stars in the Christmas constellation.  In order of magnitude, love is star number one.  Without it, remembrance is only ritual, and food is mere sustenance."  -- Karyl Bannister

An important thought.  I have lost contact with Karyl, and wish I knew what has become of her.  She had a great deal of insight and wisdom as well as wonderful recipes and delightful wit.  I chose the photo below to illustrate that post because it pretty much says it all: a dear little cookbooklet with the title Best Loved Foods of Christmas.  I recall my mother bringing this out every year!
In 2013, I failed to post in April.  2014's lone post was this delightful Almond Chocolate Biscotti.

photo from Taste of Home
 I had intended to add this recipe to my 2014 baking list, but apparently that didn't get done.  Maybe I can add it to 2017's tentative list, as this festive biscotti recipe does look good.  It's made with a chocolate cake mix.

My only other April post was Best Wishes -- another vintage card,
which featured another card from the bundle sent me by my friend Ann in New Zealand.  See the linked post for exterior views of the card.

And thus ends my April archives post.  Methinks I need to do better about posting in April from here on out!  I do have many, many ideas for posts.  Just not enough time!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Anne of Green Gables Christmas fabric!

Wow!  I stumbled upon this amazing, wonderful Christmas fabric, due to become available in May 2017.  Isn't it delightful?  There are many coordinating fabrics.  The link is here: Anne of Green Gables Christmas cottons.

I will show only a few of the options, and all photos are from Riley Blake Designs.  I want to be sure and give credit where credit is due.

There's a panel.  The square in the top left corner depicts Marilla sitting by the fire.

There's even a tea towel!

Also on the page for Anne of Green Gables Christmas cottons, you can download a pdf showing all of the fabrics full size.  The pdf also features a throw-sized quilt using this fabric.  It is beautiful!

At least one reader wondered if this fabric would be widely available.  I know it seems like somewhat of a specialty fabric, but my guess is that it will be.  If you check the links above, you will find a drop down menu for Where to Buy.   There is a Store Locator where you can easily search by state.  And then there is also a page full of links to online retailers.

Image from the Christmas Cloth Store
I checked one of my favorite online sources for Christmas fabric, the Christmas Cloth Store, and sure enough, they will have the yardage as well as pre-cuts.  Check it out here: Anne of Green Gables Christmas fabrics.

Remember, this fabric should be available in May.  Have fun with it!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Some March posts from the Christmas Kitchen archives

 I've done a couple of posts like this on my regular blog, and thought it might be fun to do the same here on my Christmas blog.  Most of these are crafts, with a couple of other topics thrown in.  Enjoy!

 I'll start with the non-crafting topic -- a gorgeous vintage Christmas card.
 Read the story behind it here: Of berries red, of candles’ mellow light.

Of course the card at the top of the post is vintage also -- I found a set of these snowflake cards in an old box in a closet.

 If, like me, you enjoy crafting ornaments, and if you have access to hemlock cones (those are the teeny tiny ones) you might like to try these Snowy hemlock cone ornaments.  In the post you will read about my expensive inspiration for this project.
 Speaking of inspiration, this post: Inspiration for your handmade gifts, with ideas gleaned from other bloggers, will inspire you as it did me, I'm sure.

A Christmas place mat finished shows you the first installment on something that took me a long time to finish.  
But I now have a set of ten!

 Lastly, here are three different craft projects that make fantastic gifts for kids.  I featured two of these in the "March archive" post on my regular blog, but I know that not everyone reads both blogs, so I am featuring them here as well.
Chefs' hats are a surefire gift for any child who enjoys cooking or dressing up.  As you can see, this birthday boy decided his gift made a great party hat!

This Crocheted chocolate doughnut is a simple and fun project to make for kids who like playing with felt food.  You wouldn't let a baby or toddler play with it because of the beads, but older kids would be fine with it.

I  showed these on my regular blog today also, but these Felt Play Mats are so cute.
 The only problem is that the hot glue on these did not hold up well at all.  After putting so much work into these and trying to make them sort of personalized for each family, it was disappointing to have pieces begin to fall off as the kids played with them.  Even though it would be a lot more work, if I ever made any of these another time I would sew the pieces in place.

If you missed these posts the first time around, I hope you have enjoyed reading them this time!

Friday, February 24, 2017

2016 Christmas Debriefing

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

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

One of the biggest changes I made was the decision to have all handmade gifts finished by December 1,  There were a couple of exceptions -- things I needed to print out that were not available until after that date -- but in general, I finished the gifts by then.  It made a big difference in being able to enjoy all the fun and meaningful December activities.

Christmas being on a Sunday this year meant a change in the way we celebrated, and my dad being in a nursing home made a difference too.  We kept Christmas dinner (actually supper) very simple and low-key, but it was still festive.  Another thing done differently was that our ladies' Christmas fellowship at church was a Saturday brunch rather than an evening or afternoon event.  This actually worked out much better for many of us.
2.  What was the worst aspect of preparing for the holidays this year?  How can you avoid this problem in the future?

I found that wrapping gifts,  shipping gifts, and writing cards were the most stressful aspects of Christmas for me this year.  I had many Amazon and Thriftbooks gifts shipped directly to our Nevada family and will plan to do that even more, hopefully earlier, next year.  I need to check the grandkids' wish lists much earlier next year, too.

With cards, I have a system where I send a card upon receiving one, but I wanted to get the cards out of the way sooner, so that left me doing more of them at once.  It felt like a chore.

With wrapping, I tried to wait until we had our tree up so there would be a good place to stack the wrapped gifts.  That didn't work out very well since we were very late getting our tree up this year.  I need to plan another place to stash the completed gifts in case that happens again 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.

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?

Our household functioned well, but I did still have some stress.  Next year I would hope to have my homemaking routines more firmly in place, and to use the slow cooker even more for meals.

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, our holiday went very well.  There were magical moments here and there throughout the month.  Next year I would love to do an Advent Bible study again, and would like to take the grandkids to a Living Nativity I learned about too late this year.

So ... there you have it:  my debriefing for Christmas 2016.  Have you done an exercise like this?  It can only help with planning for next year!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A belated report on January's Christmas Club meeting

I'm behind the times!  Our local Christmas Club, headed up by my friend Susan, a local librarian,  is meeting tonight.  I'm not going to get there; Mr. T's work hours dictate a very early bedtime and I'm already exhausted, so will have to miss this meeting.  But at the very least I can report on last month's club meeting.

We began our meeting by talking about the Christmas just past and what some of our most memorable moments were.  We talked about traditions old and new that we might have.  We also  talked about what worked out well and what didn't.  For me, the decision to have all handcrafted gifts finished by December 1 was a game-changer.  It really helped me to enjoy December.

We next talked about setting up a gift closet.  Of course it need not be a closet; it can even be an under bed storage tote.  I personally have gifts stashed in several different areas and would really like to streamline that storage.

Organized Christmas even has a great inventory form for your Christmas notebook to keep track of what you have on hand in the gift closet.

Susan had a great idea to make Rudy Day totes ... special tote bags or containers to keep our special Rudy Day items in ... Christmas CDs, tea and coffee, and so on. 

She thought it would be nice if we made them matching, so each club member would have the same.  We could also use them to bring items to Christmas Club meetings.  As far as I know, nothing has been decided about this yet, but it's a fun idea for sure.  Lots of possibilities out there!

Lastly, we talked about recycling our Christmas cards.  Susan showed us a photo collage she had made for her Christmas notebook.  The collage was made with photos and wording from the various Christmas photo cards she and her husband had received.  It was great!

We finished up our meeting by sipping tea and making gift tags out of our old Christmas cards.  We all brought cards, and I had brought tag templates, hole punches, silver cord, and bakers twine. 

A most enjoyable evening was had by all!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Quick cookie mix -- a recipe to try for next Christmas!

Photo from Taste of Home
I was browsing through a Country Woman Christmas issue from a couple of years ago and came upon this Quick Cookie Mix to keep in the fridge for Christmas baking.  Four different cookies can be made from one mix: Peanut Blossoms, Toffee Triangles, Apricot Thumbprints, and Butter Almond cookies.  Such mixes seldom tempt me, but I am seriously thinking of trying this one soon, for a couple of reasons.

 For one, these cookies are all somewhat distinctive.  You could never tell they all came from the same basic mix.  For another thing, other than the red and green sugar on the peanut blossom variation, these cookies are not overly Christmasy at all, but merely festive.  They would be good anytime one had to make a lot of pretty cookies rather quickly.  For yet another, the mix does not use shortening as many cookie mixes do, but uses real butter.  Much nicer, more flavorful, and better for you.  I think that the next time I need cookies for an occasion, I'll give this mix a try!