Thursday, May 06, 2021

Book review: Christmas Comfort Classics


If you've spent much time at either of my blogs, you know that I'm a great fan of Gooseberry Patch cookbooks.  I've received many of them for free in return for submitting a recipe.  I've purchased others on sale or used from Thriftbooks.  Christmas Comfort Classics is one such cookbook that I used this past year, and it was one that I really enjoyed.  The subtitle for this book is "A festive collection of warm and cozy comfort foods, plus sweet ideas for sharing with family & friends."  Sounds, really, like the perfect recipe for a cozy Christmas in the midst of a very uncertain and frightened world.  Maybe that's why I was so drawn to this book and the wonderful recipes it contains.

The first chapter is Frosty Morning Breakfasts.  There are some great ideas for egg bakes, breakfast sides, pancakes and French toast, coffee cakes, and other wonderful-sounding breakfast dishes.  Nearly every recipe sounds like one that I would love to try.  There are also quotes, recipes, and other fun ideas sprinkled on the pages of this section.

The second chapter is Tree Trimming Open House.  This one has loads of great appetizer and beverage recipes.  I'd love to try the Roasted Red Pepper Spread, the Hot Clam Dip,.and the Chicken Salad Mini-Wiches for a Crowd.  I did try the Festive Cranberry Cheese Spread and it was enjoyed at the event I took it to.

Next is Snowy Day Soups and Breads, just as cozy as it sounds!  This may be the chapter from which I've tried the most recipes.  We just love soup in winter, fall and spring!  Homemade bread, too.  I've tried the Creamy Chicken Rice Soup, Beckie's Down-Home Potato Soup, Cincinnati Chicken Corn Chowder, and more.  The Cranberry Yeast Rolls is a recipe I want to try for next Christmas. 

The fourth chapter is Cozy Meals for Busy Days.  That's always my aim in December -- to have cozy meals for those super busy days and evenings.  Recipes I've tried include Mom's Pasta, Chicken, Trees & Cheese, Best Spanish Rice, Smoked Sausage & Potatoes.  I'd love to try Connecticut Supper and Quick One-Pot Burrito Bowl.

Merry Christmas Feasts is the next chapter, filled with festive recipes for the big dinner -- including main courses, side dishes, salads, pickles and more.  I've not tried recipes from this chapter yet, but my want-to-trys include Italian Sausage & White Beans, Mimie's Homestyle Meatballs, and Pineapple Beets.      
And lastly, Sweets of the Season contains all sorts of sweet treats from cookies to pies to snacks to beverages, just for the sweet tooth members of the family.  (I have such great memories of my dad, asking after dinner if there might be "a little something for the sweet tooth".)   
   I'd love to try Cranberry-Walnut Fudge, Blizzard Party Mix, Anginetti, and Elf Thumbprints.  This past Christmas I did try the Gingerbread Brownies from this chapter -- and oh, were they good.  They'll be on my cookie trays again in 2021 for sure.

As you might guess, I highly recommend this Christmas cookbook!                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Friday, March 05, 2021

February Christmas Club meeting


 Appropriately enough,  it was Rudolph Day (the 25th) when the Christmas Club gathered for its February meeting.  Susan, Carrie, and I gathered around Susan's dining room table specifically to work on making gift tags out of our used Christmas cards.  I think that Carrie and Susan were working with last year's cards, while mine were a much older batch.  We shared a tag punch, templates, hole punches and so on -- passing them around by means of the "lazy Susan" that's built into the round table.  Very handy!

Susan served us some lovely holiday tea in Christmas teacups and with the festive napkins above alongside.  (I snatched up my napkin as I left, so that I would have something to illustrate this post!)

I didn't take time to scan my completed tags, so will share some from a previous year.  I think I completed maybe 8 or so at the meeting.

For next month, Carrie is planning to print out a December calendar for each of us.  We will use these to begin planning for some Christmas events.  Sounds like fun, and it will be good to have some things pre-planned.  Then, closer to the time, as other events come along, we can fill those in.

Hope your Rudolph Day included some festive fun also!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A little snow globe inspiration

 On Monday, it snowed steadily all afternoon and into the evening ... it felt a bit like living in a snow globe!  

 And also on Monday,  I came across a couple of fun snow globe ideas that I thought I'd share with all of you. 

 The above is a piece of 6" scrapbook paper from a set called Snow Globes.

I blogged about this set back in 2015 when I purchased it, as you will see if you click the link above.  Back in late November, I took some paper from this set and the other one I got at the same time, over to our camp for grandkids to craft with.  The other day, I was putting some things away and came upon the remaining papers from this set.  Oh, this one is so sweet!  It's really inspiring me to make some simple snow globes (minus the water) from jars,  just to use in winter decorating.

I did a bit of a search to see if I could find any of this paper still on Etsy or eBay, but struck out with that.  I did, however, find these adorable paper snowglobe kits:


They are out of stock, but maybe can still be found somewhere.  A kit makes 12.  They are so cute!

The same day, in sorting through some things I had saved for scrapbook journaling, I came upon this:

Oh, aren't those snow globe cookies the cutest?   This was from a King Arthur Flour catalog, but maybe not a very recent one, for I couldn't find them in the online store just now.

The closest I came was these Falling Snowflake cookie stamps.  


They are on clearance right now, $14.95 for a set of 3, which is still a little pricey for me. 

And all of this reminded me of these felt ornaments

which I've been wanting to make for years: Felt Snowglobe Ornaments.  Maybe this will be my year!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Repairing and refurbishing


 Does this happen at your house?  It invariably does at ours.  Whether we are decorating the Christmas tree in December, or taking it down in January, we seem to always find an ornament or two that needs repair.  This year I decided that before I made any new Christmas ornaments or projects, I would refurbish the old ones that I just tend to forget about fixing.  Above you see the damaged ones.  We also had several ornaments that didn't have adequate hangers, so I just didn't use them.  I decided to take care of those at this time also.  

The above ornament is a little tree I made using an idea from Gooseberry Patch.  I wound embroidery floss around mini spools, added button "ornaments" and a star charm at the top.   This year I found that one of the green spools had become detached,  as you can see in the top photo.
The ornament below is one I had purchased from an Etsy shop in a previous year.  The silver chenille stem that edges it had become separated from the ornament.  Hot glue quickly fixed that, but I'm not sure it will last.
The patchwork ornament you see below was made with a styrofoam ball, fabric scraps, and lace.  One pokes the fabric scraps into the foam ball using a nail file.  This ball was missing its hanger and also one scrap of fabric.  It was a pretty simple matter to find a new scrap and add it in, along with a ribbon hanger.

The ornament below has great sentimental value for me.  I can remember sitting on the floor, taking time to create this while a toddler and baby played around me.  If I was doing this now, I would not make it pink, but probably shades of green.  However, the pattern called for pink and I had pink, so I went with it.  

The hanging loop had come out of this one.  I had to just create another loop at the end, because the thread that forms the hanging loop is what holds the ornament together.  As this ornament hangs on the tree, air currents will move the bell clapper and the bell itself.  Even though I'm no longer crazy about the color, I love this ornament and want to commemorate the time and trouble I took to make it.

The Hallmark ornament below is one I bought in Idaho on a clearance sale.  I love it but needed to add a hanger.  This will be perfect at our camp this coming Christmas as we go to great lengths to keep mice out!
A better view of the interior of the "cookie cutter" is below.
The three ornaments below were freebies from Country magazine back in the 1990s, I think.  They just needed hangers, so I added thin red ribbon.  These are pewter-like and quite heavy.  The one below is from 1999 and features a tree in a pickup truck.
A festive horn is below.

The last one is very hard to see.  I took two photos but couldn't get a good one.  It's a rural mailbox (my favorite!) with a cardinal atop and fields, farm and houses in the background.

It feels great having this little project taken care of.  In reality, it was just a few minutes with a glue gun and a few other simple supplies,  but it was so encouraging to me!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Christmasy crafting plans for 2021


 I have no idea where this will go, but I made a crafting list for 2021.  Some of these things are UFOs and others are things I haven't even started.  

I thought that here on my Christmas blog, I would list Christmasy and winter projects I hope to complete or at least work on.

 Christmas coasters (many already cut out -- they resemble the one above)
Christmas mug rugs (I have been longing to make some of these for years!)
A simple winter tablecloth
Figure out a finish for the Snow Angels cross stitch


Figure out a finish for the winter fun crewel embroidery

Finish February Sampler -- this would be from the same series as the December sampler below.  I spotted the finished December design on the wall of a needlework shop years ago and purchased the chart.  A few years back I finally finished it, but this clipboard would lend itself nicely to a January and February sampler as well, so I splurged and bought both charts in 2021.

Stitch January Sampler
Make gift tags out of 2018’s cards
Make Christmas tags out of a Dutch Blitz set and a Uno card set


Make fabric teabag holders like one I got from an Etsy shop

And most importantly, 

Try and do some Christmas crafting every week … just because I love it!

I have an entire folder on my computer desktop of Christmas projects I want to make, and a huge stash of Christmas fabrics and scraps, so really -- I just need to do this.  It didn't really happen in January, but hopefully the other eleven months will include happy times of Christmas crafting.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Sorting through a Christmas tote


When we were getting out our Christmas decorations, I was looking for a specific item and Mr. T handed down a large plastic tote out of the attic, labeled "Christmas and Snowmen/Winter".  As I hunted through the contents quickly (not finding the item I was looking for either!), I voiced the thought that probably almost all of this could go to the thrift store.  Most of the items were very nice, many of them things we'd been gifted with over time.  Some, like the candle below, were things I'd made myself but just would not be using.  He agreed, but noted that this was not the time to go through the tote.

So a month or so after Christmas, when we were packing most of the Christmas things away, I asked my hubby to bring that huge tote down again.  It took me a week or so, but I got through it.

Here is how it all shook out when I finished going through the tote.

To the trash:
A decorative hanging ball covered with gilded pinecones, suspended by jute twine — pinecones are falling off it and it’s just not pretty anymore

To the thrift store:
A stuffed bear holding a velvety gift box
A bagful of silk holly, some of it “snow covered”, and a few pine cones
A Christmas table runner that’s not my style
A snowman lamp that’s not really my style anymore
A wall hanging, same
Several pewter-look ornaments
2 square hand-decorated Christmas candles
2 partial sets of iron-on letters for personalizing Christmas stockings
A decorative wooden box with Christmas theme
A lighted folk-art type wooden reindeer
A few bits and pieces of handmade ornaments and some ribbon
Several Christmas ornaments (from the homestead) that we just won't use

To our camp:
A lighted evergreen garland
Two silk holly garlands
A woven rug in a quilt pattern design of red and green
A Christmas wall hanging I think would look good there
A gallon ziplock bag of assorted ornaments that could work for a camp Christmas tree

Let me explain that last section: to our camp.

 When I pulled that lighted evergreen garland (something I didn't even remember having!) out of the tote, my first thought was that we could use it at the camp.  We have a lighted evergreen garland over our picture window here at home, and it looks nice in all seasons.  The camp is not yet winterized (no insulation, though we have purchased the insulation for it), and I didn't really think of having Christmas there, just of using the garland there all year round.

But when I told Mr. T of my thought for the garland, he immediately noted that if we got things insulated as well as we hoped to, it just might be possible to plan for Christmas at our camp next year!  So as I continued sorting, I set aside a few more things we could use for a camp Christmas.  We will see what happens and how it all plays out, but for now it's something fun to think about and plan for.

I'm so glad I decided to sort through that Christmas tote!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

January 2021 Christmas Club meeting!


So on Monday, January 25, we actually did something very appropriate for Rudolph Day -- we held our first Christmas Club meeting for 2021!  Three of us gathered at Susan's home for  a cup of tea and an hour or more of purposefully catching up on our Christmases and our plans for the coming year.  It surely did feel as if we were starting the New Year off right.  

We began by discussing how our Christmases had gone in 2020, especially considering that some things had to be different due to the virus.  We all felt that they went quite well.  Carrie felt good about keeping things more organized, and shared that her family did nearly all of their usual Christmas activities.  She had also asked the kids about any activities they might like to incorporate, and only one thing on their list did not happen.  Susan shared that their family time with their granddaughter was truly wonderful, at times actually feeling like a Hallmark movie as they shared memories and old family photos.  Wow!  It's hard to imagine much better than that.  As for Mr. T and myself, we felt that things were much as usual and we made some great memories with the local grands.

The one negative thing we all experienced in common was the unusually slow postal service.  Yes, we were warned about all that -- but for a package to take a week to get from the middle of New Hampshire to the lower end of it is slow indeed.  And then it still had to cross the country to its destination.  Though mailed in plenty of time, the gifts sent to Nevada were all late.  (Other than those sent directly from Amazon, which went through just fine! 😀)

We went over a list called "January Assignments" that I had saved from a previous year.  Most of this came from Organized Christmas originally, I think. 

 The first point -- tie up loose ends -- was mostly covered by our opening discussion of our Christmases.  In thinking about this, I know that both I and Carrie still have some Christmas things up in our houses, as we do decorate for winter.  In fact, at my house the tree is still up.  We did take the manger scene down and replaced it with a lighted log cabin.  I am also in the process of winnowing through a tote of Christmas and winter decor, and most of it is headed for the thrift store.

The second point concerns gift closets, and both Susan and I did go through ours this year.  I threw some things away and sent some to the thrift store.  I also found a couple of gifts in an area where gifts had previously been stored.  One went to the gift closet and the other to the thrift store.

 I do need to print and fill out a gift closet inventory form to really make the best use of this storage space.

The third point involves making a Rudy Day tote to have a way to stay ready to celebrate each month.  It's a lovely idea, but probably something none of us will make time to do.

The fourth point is a fun project: recycling Christmas cards.  We are going to do that at our February meeting, but I still have 2018's and 2019's cards, so hopefully I will turn a number of these into gift tags before that time.  The tags pictured below are from a previous year.

 Susan has placed a number of reminders on her phone for the various months, and for February 1 she has a note to herself regarding Valentine's Day: to plan, make, send Valentines or Valentine gifts, or to plan a special meal or activity for Valentine's Day.  

Susan likes to send Valentine cards and maybe gifts; Carrie usually makes a special meal or dessert for her family.  When my kids were in college (a long time ago now) I sent Valentine care packages.  Now that it's just Mr. T and myself, I might make a special meal or dessert, or we might go out.  We don't usually exchange Valentine cards or gifts, preferring to save the money we would have spent on these things and use it on getaways instead.

 Above you see my to-do list to accomplish before the next Christmas Club meeting.  It includes making gift tags from 2018's Christmas cards; printing out and filling in a gift closet inventory form; and going through cookbooks to identify new recipes to try for kitchen gifts.  (For example, I am planning to retire my bran muffin recipe as I just don't like it anymore, and so am looking for something different to replace it.) 

 We will see how well I do.  But it does feel great to have met for Christmas Club -- and on Rudolph Day, to boot!