Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fun festive find at the Dollar Tree!

The Dollar Tree has some of the nicest Christmas things this year!  Last evening we hurried in on the way home from church just to get a couple of strings of multicolored lights to finish up our tree.  (Emergency situation -- don't ask!😟)

It took me a few minutes to find the lights while my hubby was searching for nighttime cold medicine.  And as I did I passed a display of Christmas doilies.  I just had to purchase these red doilies with white snowflakes ... so pretty!  There are 16 of them in this package.  That's a lot of vintage-style enjoyment for only $1!

There were a number of other designs as well.  I didn't look at all of them,   but some were white with red poinsettias.  There were a couple of different sizes also.  These red ones are 8.5 inches across.  They would be perfect on a plate of cookies.

Back in the day, my grandmother always bought Christmas doilies.  I ended up with some of them and hoarded them for years because they weren't easy to find in stores any more.  The one below was from my grandmother's stash.  Click to enlarge and see the glorious details.

But now similar doilies may be purchased at the Dollar Tree!  If some are left after Christmas, I will buy more when they go on clearance!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The slow cooker is our friend this time of year

Forgotten Jambalaya from Taste of Home
Yes, indeed it is!

I  frequently use the slow cooker to prepare supper during the busy month of December.   I rely on my slow cooker so much during any busy season, but I find it invaluable in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  I can put supper in the cooker on any busy day, even if I plan to be home all day.  I can then spend my day crafting, cleaning, decorating, card-writing, gift wrapping, or whatever happens to be on my agenda, while supper cooks all by itself.

One of my favorite strategies in the past was to bake a loaf of bread in the bread machine at the same time I had a soup going in the crockpot.  What a time-saver!  Sadly, my bread machine stopped working -- well, it would still work for dough but would no longer bake bread properly -- so I threw it away.  With trying to eat less gluten, not to mention less bread, I made the decision not to replace it.  But it's a strategy that might still work for you and your family.  There are loads of soup recipes on my Kitchen Table blog (link in sidebar) and lots of bread machine recipes too.

Lately, I am more likely to make slow cooker dishes that are a meal in one, including vegetables.

Here are a few favorites:

Rosemary Chicken with White Beans

Tex-Mex Quinoa Casserole -- a very flavorful meatless recipe.

Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Pork.  We seldom eat pork anymore, but this was a favorite.  The photo, obviously, is just a generic one of Chinese take-out.

Forgotten Jambalaya - pictured at top of post.
Sunday Chicken Supper, pictured below.  You can certainly use boneless chicken if preferred.

If you would like more slow cooker recipes, there are many of them on my Kitchen Table blog.  Just head over there (link is in the sidebar) and click on "slow cooker recipes" in the label cloud.  You will find a large variety to choose from, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much of a friend your slow cooker will be during this busy time of year.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"Greetings" -- another lovely Christmas poem

Here's another special Christmas poem from the 1955 Ideals Greetings at Christmas.  This one is by Lucile Naylor and captures the feeling of my childhood Christmases perfectly.


There's mistletoe; there's holly; 
And whispering, and smiles; 
There are parcels needing wrapping,
To be sent across the miles.

There are snowflakes lightly falling;
The Christmas season's here --
I hear Santa loudly calling
To his spirited reindeer.

There are candles to be lighted; 
I hear sleigh bells from afar;
Then there comes to mind a wee Babe,
And a brilliant, guiding star.

Let our hearts be filled with gladness,
And our spirits lifted high;
Let us breathe a prayer of joy and peace
As Christmas Day draws nigh.
-- Lucile Naylor

So many talented writers have written Christmas poems.  I have so enjoyed browsing through the old Ideals that I loved so much as a child and appreciating them even more as an adult.  Hope these are a blessing to someone else as well.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Off to a slow start

I seem to be off to a bit of a slow start this morning as far as blogging is concerned.  Usually I try to write and schedule my December posts ahead of time, but this year I've not done as well with that.  Today I thought I would simply pop in and mention my progress with Christmas preparations and some of what we've been up to.

The first few Christmas cards have arrived, so I need to get cards in the mail to those folks.  I've sent out maybe a dozen cards already.

On Saturday Mr. T and I found time for a little coffee date.  Always fun. 

I'm slowly working my way through the Christmas baking list.  So also on Saturday, I baked Whipped Shortbread Cookies  (pictured above).  This is one cookie that I must admit does not turn out as well with the Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten free baking flour.  My cookies were very fragile and crumbly, although they do look pretty.  I'm going to keep them on hand for gluten-free friends, but I'm also going to bake another batch with regular flour.  If you prefer gluten free, I recommend you turn to this recipe instead: Gluten Free Whipped Shortbread
I pulled out the ingredients to make a batch of fudge, but that hasn't happened yet.

Am also considering what I will serve for hearty appetizers at a cookie swap later this week.  A cheese log and crackers for sure, and maybe something else also.  Need to decide what cookie recipe to try, also.  I have one in mind but am not sure yet.  I'll keep you posted!

 Saturday evening we went to Mr. T's company Christmas party, which was doubling as his retirement party.  Lots of scrumptious food, good company, and kind words and gifts for my hard-working hubby. 

Sunday afternoon, we got the Christmas tree inside and got the lights on it.  This was once a pre-lit tree, but bit by bit the lights have stopped working.  This year we didn't even bother with them, just strung it with regular white lights.  Below you see the tree last year.  Looking at this, I see we really need more lights on the tree.  Wonder if Mr. T can be talked into this ...

I've been working on some Felt Pancakes for a December birthday gift, and need to get those finished today so I can pack the birthday box and schedule a delivery to get it on its way to Nevada.  I bought a plaid melamine plate to send with the pancakes as a serving platter.

Guess I need to go and get busy, but that's where I am at in Christmasy preparations as of December 9.  How about you?

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Welcoming doorways (as depicted on vintage Christmas cards)

Many of the vintage Christmas cards in my collection picture front doors that are open or slightly ajar, hinting at the warmth and light to be found in the festively decorated home within.  I love these!  I so want for my own home to be a place from which warmth and light spill and invite others in.  I'm sharing a few of these lovely images today:
 How this radiates warmth in contrast to the snowy outdoors!
 This one too ... it's been blustery outdoors from the look of those snow-covered branches!
 Light spilling out into a snowy landscape. 
 You can even see the Christmas tree in this doorway.
More glowing light from lantern, window and doorway.  So snowy outside!

What do you think?  Aren't these beautiful?  Are you as inspired as I am to make your home warm and welcoming this Christmas season?

Saturday, December 07, 2019

A wonderful little gift for friends

For the past several years, I've been making these sweet little gifts for my women friends, as well as for teenage and college-age girls.  Read on for an explanation:

Every year for the last I-don't-know-how-many, Ashley at Under the Sycamore has offered a free download of these  "Best of My Days" cards. Briefly, they are pages for each month with a line for each day. They serve as mini-journals for each month.  Ashley's idea is that at the end of each day, one thinks through the day and notes down the best thing that happened.  I keep mine on my nightstand and write a few words at the end of each day.  It has really helped me with keeping track of things I am grateful for, and provides blog fodder for my "Friday five" posts.

When I give these as gifts,  the recipients seem to really like them.   Even busy young moms who could never find time to journal can often find a moment to jot down a phrase or sentence.

When I first started making these I was having trouble finding the looseleaf rings to use in the corner, to hold the pages together and make it easy to turn from month to month.  So I used a smallish carabiner clip instead, which I actually find more fun because they come in all different colors which can then be coordinated with the wrappings.  I'm still using those!

As you will see when you go to Ashley's blog, the fun of gifting these is in the decorating and embellishing of wrapping them up.  Ashley gets really, really creative with her wrappings, so you will want to check out her ideas for inspiration.  

I tend to take the easy way and use gift wrap or other paper items (the wrapper at the top of the post is from the front of a church bulletin).  Fabric, calendar pages, pages from magazines or catalogs, are other ideas -- and if you have something like a vintage magazine or other paper treasure that you don't want to cut up, simply scan the item.   I actually keep a "Best of my Days" manila folder and keep ideas and items for wrapping,  in it from year to year.  Below are a few of the wrappings I have put together:
This was from a Vermont Country Store catalog cover.  I embellished it with snowflake buttons and bakers twine.
Another made from a Vermont Country Store catalog.  This one has some jingle bells and a plaid ribbon.
Another from a church bulletin.  Snowflake button and Christmas bulb beads.
Another from a Vermont Country Store catalog cover.  This one has an embellishment I made from a round paper tag and a snowflake bead, plus a wintry tag cut from an old Christmas card.
Same as above but with a blue handmade tag from a friend tied on.
You've seen this one before too but the embellishments and tag are different.

Here is the link to download the files for this year: Best of My Days 2020.

I haven't printed mine out yet.  This is one of those projects you can do at (almost) the last minute, yet still feels so creative and festive because you are having so much fun with the wrappings. 

On Instagram, someone asked Ashley if she saves her own completed "Best of my Days" from year to year.  (I tend to throw mine away.)  She replied that she keeps them in a box and then she has a mini record of things that happened in the various years.  So that's a thought!

Hope some of you will try this fun and ingenious idea!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Friday five for December 6

In need of a post for my Christmas blog today, I decided to go with a Friday five.  Here goes:

1.  Some shopping for fabrics last Friday -- materials that I need to make a few handmade gifts for grandchildren.  I spent more than I intended, but some of the fabrics were just perfect.  Below you see a hint (from years gone by) of what I am going to make.

2.  Supper and Bible study last Saturday with our dear young friends Sam and Jennifer.  I made this soup and it was a tremendous success: Hearty Butternut Squash Soup.

3.  A wonderful day on Sunday with our old friends Syd and Cyndy.  What a joy to reconnect with them this past fall at the couples' retreat at The Wilds of New England, after not seeing them for years.  Syd has done some pulpit supply for other churches in the past and agreed to come and speak at our services December 1.  They came over for lunch afterward and it was such a sweet time.

4.  The opportunity this week to change out my fall decor to Christmas.  Not all of my Christmas decorating is done and the tree's not up, but I have a great start. 

5.  Starting on my Christmas baking!  Two kinds of cookies done so far.

And a bonus:

6.  Mild weather and (cloudy) sunshine so my walking partner and I could go for two nice long walks this week!  That felt good.

That's it for this week.  Happy Friday, everyone!