Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And now, the actual 2009 baking list...



I thought I would take a minute to share what I actually baked for the Christmas season, and a little bit about each recipe. Quite a few of these items are still in my freezer awaiting a family Christmas party this weekend.

Cookies:

Pepparkakor -- Crisp spicy cut-out cookies. I made them in the shape of hearts and Christmas trees and sprinkled the tops with red sugar. Still have some of this dough left to bake, in fact.

Whipped Shortbread*-- round little molded cookies, perfectly white with tops dipped in sparkly red or green sugar. Easy to make and a great favorite. These are the cookies in the photo above.

Eggnog Logs* -- nutmeg-flavored cookies shaped like little logs. Frosted with an eggnog-flavored frosting with "bark" markings made by fork tines, and then sprinkled with nutmeg.

Sacher Torte Cookies* -- round chocolate cookies filled with raspberry or apricot jam and then the tops drizzled with melted chocolate.

Peppermint Tree Spritz -- pressed chocolate cookies in a Christmas tree shape, sandwiched together with green-tinted, mint-flavored confection coating and then half of each cookie dipped in the same. I only made these for old time's sake, but I probably won't be making them again. They turned out to be a LOT of work, much more than I bargained for. Delicious, though.

Almond Raspberry Thumbprints -- almond-flavored thumbprint cookies filled with raspberry jam and drizzled with almond-flavored icing. These are pretty and delicious and are fast becoming a must-make cookie. Would be good with apricot jam, too, but the raspberry is so pretty! (From Cook & Tell, my favorite recipe newsletter.)

Dipped Cherry Cookies -- round molded cookies filled with chopped cherries and white chocolate. Each cookie is dipped halfway in melted white chocolate and then in red or sparkly white sugar. From Country Woman magazine. This was my first time trying this recipe, but it won't be the last! Pretty and delicious.

Double Drizzle Pecan Cookies -- a molded brown sugar cookie topped with pecans and drizzled with penuche and chocolate. Easy, yummy and impressive with the two drizzles. From Country Woman magazine and fast becoming a must-make.

Hazelnut Shortbread -- super easy shortbread with toasted hazelnuts added. Made in a square pan and cut into tiny squares. Recipe (from Cook & Tell) suggested a confectioners sugar frosting drizzle. I had some of the penuche glaze left from the above recipe, so used that. Excellent choice!

Chocolate Mint Crisps -- easy chocolate molded cookies with a melted Andes mint swirled on top of each one. Delicious and easy -- the dough is made in a saucepan! Fast becoming a must-make cookie. From a special Country Woman Christmas magazine.

Fruity Lime and Raspberry Spritz -- used this recipe to test out a borrowed cookie press. These easy and colorful spritz cookies are made with fruit-flavored gelatin. Nice flavor! Recipe found on the internet. Nice fast way to make a whole bunch of festive-looking cookies.


Candies:


Heavenly Delight* -- our family's favorite layered chocolate and peanut butter fudge. Made 2 batches of this and may need to make another when family visits in January.

Four-Chip Fudge -- made with butterscotch, peanut butter, milk chocolate, and semisweet chocolate baking chips. No real cooking, as it's made with sweetened condensed milk; just heating and melting the chips, basically. Easy, yummy and makes a huge batch. From Taste of Home.

Chocolate Mint Candies -- I've been wanting to try these for awhile, but won't bother with them again. The photo (in a Country Woman Christmas magazine) showed lovely squares of milk chocolate candy with minty white chocolate sandwiched between. Mine turned out more like bark, or even shards. Not worth the price of the confection coating and chocolate chips used to make them.

I had also intended to make some little mini-loaves of bread and fruitcake for gifts. The first batch I tried failed so miserably that I scrapped the entire notion.

So there is my Christmas baking report! We'll have a houseful of family for several weeks in mid-January, so no doubt I will be doing plenty more baking.

* Recipes marked with a * are "must-makes" for the Christmas season.

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's snowing...

... and has been snowing most of the day here! Although I don't have time to post much today, I did want to share another card from my collection of vintage Christmas cards. A report from my Christmas kitchen will follow soon, I promise!

Here's today's card:
I love the lightly falling snow and the carolers gathered around the lighted tree! Hope someone else is enjoying these old cards too...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to All!


Mr. T and I would like to wish all of my wonderful readers the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years. God bless you all!

And here is today's vintage card... Enjoy, and
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Another vintage card...


This skating scene is another vintage card from my collection. I love how the snow is falling on the twirling skaters, and the scene is framed in snowy evergreen branches. I could get lost in a lovely scene like this one, couldn't you?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Here again at last...


Oh, how much I wanted to post in each of my blogs regularly throughout the Christmas season!! I love Christmas so dearly, and want to share my thoughts about it with others. But this season, for whatever reason, there just hasn't been the time to post the way I wanted to.

I've been in the Christmas kitchen a lot, and hope to post about my adventures there after the big day. But for the next few days, I'm going to post some scans of my favorite vintage Christmas cards from my collection. I will post a different card on each blog, hoping that these will inspire and delight my readers as Christmas draws ever nearer.

I love, love, love this card. It just evokes Christmas in days gone by, with all of the cards and packages piled on the mailboxes, ready to go off to family and friends. This is how it was in my childhood. How I wish my grandchildren could know this simpler way of life! I try to convey it to them the best that I can.

Hope someone else enjoys this card today!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Just for fun


I do realize that angels don't actually look like these delightful little sprites. But I couldn't resist sharing this completely whimsical vintage card from my collection. This one is recently acquired and I think it is too cute not to share.

Here's the inside:

Hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season so far!

Christmas angels... and shepherds too!


Last weekend was our hometown Christmas parade. The evening was snowy... just a perfect setting for the parade and really added to the festivity. Here are some of the little angels and shepherds from our church float. Notice how snow-covered they already are (and how bundled up under their costumes!) and the parade hadn't even started yet!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another gift finished


Here is another finished gift. I actually have finished quite a bit of Christmas crafting, but am not posting photos yet because they are gifts for family who may see my blogs.

This is a set of pillowcases for dear friends. As you see they are plain brown pillowcases, embroidered very simply with Queen Anne's Lace in ecru. I have lost the web address where I found the design, but they are designed by Alicia Paulson and if you simply google Queen Anne's Lace embroidered pillowcases, you should be able to access them quite quickly.

Now... back to laundry, turkey-soup making and crafting!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Some serious Christmas crafting


Thanksgiving is over, and our granddaughters (6 and 8) were here for the weekend. With Thanksgiving Day behind us, these little girls are getting into the Christmas spirit already!

They made:

A stand-up angel

A spiffy snowman

And a candle decoration!

Oh, and a flurry of paper snowflakes!

I must add that the candle decoration is from an old Christmas activity book from my own childhood. I had everything on hand that Sarah needed to create this project.

What fun!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Baking List for Christmas 2009


While we were away I also made out a tentative baking list for the Christmas season. Something on it is sure to change -- I may leave something out or try some different recipes -- but I thought it was a good idea to make a tentative list so I would have more of an idea as to what ingredients to buy. Incidentally, Walmart has been having a good price on Gold Medal all-purpose flour -- the 5 lb. bags are $1.50. Their butter is $2. So we have been stocking up somewhat. Here's the list:

Cookies:
Pepparkakor
Whipped Shortbread*
Eggnog Logs*
Sacher Torte Cookies*
Peppermint Cookie Wands (or possibly Peppermint Tree Spritz)
Almond Raspberry Thumbprints
Chocolate Dipped Maple Logs
Double Drizzle Pecan Cookies

Breads/Cakes (to be made in mini loaves for gift giving):
Golden Apricot Cakes*
Cranberry Lemon Bread
Chocolate Fruitcakes


Candies:
Heavenly Delight*
Snowflake Fudge
Pistachio Cranberry Bark

* Recipes marked with a * are "must-makes" for our family during the Christmas season.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time to tweak the Christmas list and timeline...


A couple of weeks ago, Mr. T and I were so blessed to be able to take a little getaway to a lake way up in the northern part of our state. It was a great time to relax, reconnect, and renew. I brought plenty of crafts along and spent the Monday afternoon (which was a gorgeous day) on the dock soaking up the late fall sunshine and working on projects.

Another thing I did was to bring along a couple of Gooseberry Patch Christmas books. For each, I made a list of projects and recipes I want to try and posted a list in the front of the book.

I had also brought my Christmas notebook along on our getaway and spent a good bit of time looking through that and refining my thoughts and plans for Christmas 2009. I majorly tweaked my Christmas list and decided to postpone one large project until next Christmas. I could just tell it was going to turn into one of those broken-record projects that takes forever, although it is fun to work on and is coming out quite well. I decided to spare myself the aggravation and stress of trying to finish it for this year.

I also tweaked my Christmas crafting timeline in a big way. I think I finally faced reality about what I can accomplish and what would be best not tried for this year.

You may not have time to get away as we did, but maybe you could spare an hour or two here and there for some Christmas planning. It really does help ease the stress so one can focus on the true meaning of the season.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

One project completed!


I planned to make five embroidered pillowcases for Christmas gifts for various people -- two sets of two pillowcases, and then one single case. It was neat how the Lord provided that single pillowcase. Many years ago, an elderly friend who loved embroidery and other needlework passed away. Her husband gave me her embroidery supplies and several unfinished projects. This pillowcase was one of them.

The only problem was that there was no floss included with this case. By going through some of the other items, I found the pinks that she had used, but no green. By painstakingly matching what she had done with a DMC color card that I have, I managed to come pretty close.

The finished project came out really well, and I know the recipient will be pleased!

Shiny icicles



Here's a simple, fast project that kids can do. It's similar to the "tin" icicles which I think are in the archives here on my blog, but much safer for kids. These shiny icicles started out as the giant twist ties that come around bunches of leaf lettuce. I have seen some in shiny metallic green as well as the red.

I had two ties, and cut each one in half. Then, I simply wound each tie around a pencil to curl it, and slipped the pencil out.

These icicles can be simply bent to fit over a tree limb, but I used a tiny hole punch to put a hole in the tip of each one and threaded through a piece of gold cord, then tied the ends to form a hanger. You could also put an ornament hanger through the small punched hole.

These are so simple and easy, but they look pretty and colorful on the tree as they catch the lights.

Yo-yo Christmas ornaments


Recently we had a rainy Saturday, and I needed something easy but absorbing for my granddaughters to do. I suggested making yo-yos out of Christmas fabric, with the idea of making them into ornaments. They thought that sounded like fun, so we quickly headed to my bin of Christmas fabric. They both enjoyed the yo-yo making project, but I was surprised at how the 6-year-old stuck with it.

Here is Mackenzie's yo-yo candy cane.

Basically, you make yo-yos starting with 3 1/4-inch circles of fabric, and just before pulling the gathering threads, you center a 1 1/2-inch poster board circle in each one. This stiffens the yo-yos and makes them suitable to work as ornaments. In the candy cane, there are 4 red and 4 white print yo-yos. You hot-glue them together to form the ornament, then hot-glue a loop of ribbon to the back to serve as a hanger.

The candy cane would have gone together better if Mackenzie had not glued a button to each yo-yo beforehand, but it worked out fine and she is pleased with the result. (The pattern I have suggests adding buttons and other embellishments after the ornament is glued together.) The other ornament possibilities are wreaths and Christmas trees. Sarah has started on a wreath, so there are still yo-yos in my living room!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Christmas crafting timeline


Finally I have some progress to report on my Christmas crafting timeline. Last week I sat down and figured out just what I want to finish making for handcrafted gifts, and how much time I theoretically have left to work on them. I would like to have all of the handmade gifts finished by November 30, except for certain food gifts which may need to be done closer to the time. I would then have December to do fun crafting like ornaments and decorations.

So I divided the remaining time into 15-day increments, with "due dates" of September 30, October 15, October 30, November 15, and November 30. Then I divided up my projects, making most of the quicker, easier ones due sooner, and the long-term ones (which are already in progress) due near the end. Life is hugely stressful right now and I really have no idea how much, if any, crafting I will actually be able to accomplish. But I felt I needed to have a plan in place.

Last night I was able to cross one project off my list, this cross-stitched Christmas hand towel.

I am thrilled to have something else completed!

This morning I got out a couple of the kits for other items on my list and began getting my materials organized for those projects. It's good to see even a little progress.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Completed sampler ornaments


Here, at long last, are the completed cross-stitch sampler ornaments. I have covered up the family names so the recipients won't see their gifts ahead of time! As you can see, two of the ornaments are a bit larger than the middle one.

This middle one is made with Basic Cloth in the cornmeal color. The pattern didn't call for this, it was just evenweave I had on hand and I liked the look of it. But it was hard to stitch on. I am not sure of the thread count; it's probably 18.

And the other two are made with Fiddler's Cloth, 14-count.

They were much easier to do. Even though I prefer the look of the Basic Cloth, I preferred the ease of working on this. I had some difficulty finding twigs of the right diameter and in fitting them around the stitchery, but in general I am pleased with the way these ornaments came out. I was aiming for a rustic effect and achieved it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The third little angel


Here is the third and final felt angel. As I mentioned before, I made the first of five angels from this kit over 20 years ago -- 1988 to be exact! I evidently made some changes in those first two and of course, all these years later, I wouldn't have remembered what I did. The parts and pieces that were left in the kit for this last angel were quite an assortment! This particular angel was supposed to have yarn hair (sewed to a felt backing) and be holding a lamb. The backing for the hair, I inadvertently messed up while making the fourth angel, so I had to do something different with this one. There were also hearts to make into a garland which were supposed to go with one of the other angels. (I have no idea why they hadn't gotten used before.) I decided I wanted this last angel to hold a garland of hearts rather than a lamb. This meant I had to redesign the top part of her dress (which wouldn't have showed if she was holding the lamb) and do her hands differently. All of that worked out fairly well. In the end I decided to stitch up the little lamb too, just because it is so cute.

And this next photo shows all three of the finished angels and the lamb. I just need to add a gold thread for hanging to each one of them. I am glad to have these UFOs out of my stash and ready to be used.


Now, on to finishing the cross-stitch sampler ornaments...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Another little angel


Here is the second little felt angel (out of three). I started the third one last night. Because I made the first two angels in the kit many years ago, I can't remember what I did, but I evidently changed some things around on those two. The leftover components that I have to work with for this fifth and last angel are going to mean some changes in her appearance... but she will still be cute and festive!

Friday, August 07, 2009

One little angel


Last night, I finished the first of three felt angels. This one is holding a duck. I'm not sure how I like the abundance of green ribbon on the angel's braids and around the duck's neck, but that's what the directions specified and the ribbon was included in the kit, so I went for it.

Two more angels to go...

Another gift idea


Today I was glancing through a Gooseberry Patch Christmas in July booklet. I came across a quote which a friend of mine would absolutely love. Two ideas merged into one as I thought about the little journal I mentioned yesterday.

Wouldn't it be a lovely idea to fill a journal with inspiring quotes and verses, to share with a dear friend or someone who needs encouragement? One could use fancy lettering, one's best handwriting or printing, or even calligraphy, to write the quotes, and then embellish the pages with simple drawings or leafy, vine-y stickers. I am definitely going back to the dollar store and buy several more of these!

Here are a couple of quotes to get you started in your thinking. These came from a calendar and no author was given for them.

"Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending."

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow."


Once you get started on this project, I guarantee you will see wonderful quotes everywhere you look. There are whole books of quotes available. You will find quotes in the things you read. You may have special quotes from people in your family. Bible verses are good to include, too.

Hope someone else has as much fun with this idea as I'm already having!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Found at the dollar store!


Last week I found some neat things in the dollar store (Dollar Tree) that would make wonderful additions to a gift basket.

Soaps are always a fun item to add to a "pampering basket" or to include with a crocheted washcloth or pretty hand towels. Our local Dollar Tree had many, many of these nice Yardley soaps (which can sell for much higher prices elsewhere!). I picked up two of the English Lavender ones and one Oatmeal and Almond. There was a third variety at the store -- think it was Lemon Verbena with shea butter.

I also found this sweet little journal labeled "Thoughts" which would be a wonderful addition to many different types of gift baskets. This dear little book is about five inches square.

As you can see, it has pretty endpapers.

And even the pages are faintly printed with roses. A nice little find for $1.

I want to go back and get more of these. It's fun to think of different ways I might use them in gift baskets. No one would ever guess they were found at a dollar store!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A find in my needlework stash


The other evening I noticed this partially finished ornament in with my needlework stuff.

I had purchased this kit years ago and evidently had made up two of the five ornaments. I know I gave one as a gift, so probably did that with the second one as well. The third one was left in progress, as you see above. And the last two are not even cut out.

Here is what the completed ornaments are intended to look like. I've taken the kit out of storage with the intent of finishing the ornaments this summer. They really are cute and will make a lightweight, portable project. They might make nice package tie-ons for my granddaughters' gifts... except that I have 4 granddaughters and only 3 ornaments. We will see!

Maybe this will inspire someone else to glance through their needlework stash. What do you have already started (no matter how long ago you may have started it) that you could work on right now with an eye to Christmas?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Christmas in July crafting...


It certainly is high time I got back to posting here! I don't have anything great to share today, but did want to post a photo of the progress on some cross-stitched Christmas ornaments. This pattern came from an old Country Handcrafts magazine. I made one of these ornaments as a gift back when the magazine was new, probably in the 1980s or 1990s. Ever since then, I have planned to make a few more, and am finally getting around to it.

The top ornament is stitched on what is called Basic Cloth. It's something I've had around for years. I believe the color is called cornmeal. I love the way it looks -- sort of like miniature burlap -- but I don't love stitching on it. Because I'm not that pleased with how this one came out, I'll keep it for our own tree.

The second ornament is stitched on Fiddler's Cloth, and I like that much better. You can see that I didn't use exactly the same colors on each ornament -- I'm just using what I have and like the looks of. At the bottom of each ornament I've backstitched a family name, such as "The Smiths".

As you can see, I have a third one started. When the stitching is completed, I'll cut them out, glue to cardboard with a hanging loop in between, and frame them with twigs. I am hoping to find some birch twigs to use.

And that's my Christmas in July crafting so far!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Some more crafting for Christmas...


Here are a couple of things I've made lately. First of all, two more hot pads. One of them -- the one with the cows and the wintry scenes -- is just "winter" while the second one is much more Christmasy. I loved that fabric and bought it with no clear idea of how I would use it. I just liked the motifs. But it works well as a hot pad, I think.

This is the "Silver Skate" ornament I've been working on. I apologize for the blurriness of the picture. This ornament is from a pattern in a 1968 McCall's Christmas Make-It Ideas magazine. It is supposed to be made from red corduroy, but I decided to try making it up in red felt first. This whole ornament is just an experiment. I didn't enlarge the pattern as much as specified, because that would have produced a larger skate than I wanted. I think I will make subsequent ones a bit larger than this, however. I do have some corduroy I want to use, and think that sewing and turning the skate will be easier if it's made somewhat larger. (I have some red/black corduroy in a tiny windowpane check which is from a vest my dad always wore at Christmas time, and I have some blue corduroy from an old robe of my mother's. I thought those might be nice to use to make each grandchild an ornament.)

The cuff is supposed to be fake fur. I couldn't find the stuff I thought I had, so used some jumbo loopy chenille I had on hand. The lacing is supposed to be white yarn. Again, I didn't have any so used some silver-gray cord from my stash. (It would have worked fine if my fingers were less rough and my fingernails not split.) I'm not sure, for the future skates I make, if I'll use yarn or decorative cording. The blade was to be white felt with silver glitter glued on (remember, this was a 1968 pattern. 40 years ago they didn't have all of the wonderful craft products we have now). I just brushed on some slightly diluted silver glitter paint. Glitter glue would work, too. All in all it was a fun project and I think the experiment was a success. It definitely showed me what I would change next time to come up with a better result.