Friday, January 28, 2011

Handcrafted Christmas cards from friends

I would like to share a few of the lovely cards I received in a card exchange, plus one from a local friend. The creativity of these ladies astounds me! For the card exchange the cards did not need to be handmade, but many were. Some people also tucked in beautiful handmade bookmarks, crocheted snowflakes, etc. Enjoy a look at these lovely cards! (I scanned them, rather than taking pictures, so the quality of the pictures might not be as good this way, but it was the quickest way for me.) I'm sure you can get an idea of the amazing craftsmanship involved!
Love the vintage look of this one! Note the embossed snowflakes in the background.
Isn't this a nice design? Unusual color scheme, but lovely.
Love the cross stitch piece on this. What a wonderful idea!

Isn't this clever? Love the idea of using a Christmas carol.This interesting design had a tag covering the stamped tree. Two cards in one!

Here's a closer look at the tag.
A linoleum block nativity scene.
Love the trees -- some look as if it is snowing.

Love this one from my local friend. The designs and colors tie together beautifully.Isn't this one clever? The star at the top is a tiny sticker.

This is the inside of the above card. Love the snowflakes so just had to show them.
This one is just lovely. Again, a very unusual color scheme but beautiful!
Isn't this one meaningful? The scan doesn't do it justice. There is glitter around the heart.
Hope you have enjoyed this look at these handmade cards!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Christmas thrifting finds

When Mr. T and I went on our getaway a week or two ago, we visited a very nice thrift store with wonderful prices. In addition, all of their Christmas merchandise was 75% off. The very first thing that caught my eye was this adorable snowman mug. Maybe I'll decorate with it, or maybe some fortunate person will find it in the Christmas-themed basket I usually make for the Yankee Swap at our church ladies' Christmas fellowship!

And then I spotted a lovely glass votive holder. I just knew it would match the one Mr. T had bought me for Christmas several years ago along with a matching glass basket. I love these pieces because they look as if they are carved from ice. Here is the "new" candle holder on our dining table with the other two matching pieces.

Here is a closer look at the basket. I put white cardboard beneath it for the photo to show up the design better. Isn't it gorgeous?

I paid 50¢ each for the mug and the votive holder. What great deals!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Actual Baking/Kitchen List for Christmas 2010

It's interesting sometimes to see how plans differ from reality. Sometimes they don't differ much; other times, they differ a lot. Such was the case with my actual Christmas baking as opposed to my planned list.

Here's what I actually baked and prepared for Christmas 2010, including a few kitchen gifts.

Whipped Shortbread
Eggnog Logs
Sacher Torte Cookies
Gingerbread Men
Macaroon Kisses
Chocolate Spritz
Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

Heavenly Delight (chocolate peanut butter layered fudge)
Lemon Ice Candy
Chocolate Peppermint Bark
White Christmas Candy
Heavenly Fudge (dark chocolate, with nuts)
Pistachio Cranberry Bark
Chocolate Peanut Morsels

Other kitchen gifts:
Snowy Lemon Snack Mix
Cinnamon Pretzels
Hot Chocolate Mix
Pink Hot Cocoa Mix

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A super buy at Family Dollar!

While Mr. T and I were away this past weekend, we went in a Family Dollar store. These are not my favorite dollar stores, since many things are over $1, but they had all the Christmas things on clearance for 90% off. As you can imagine, there were not a lot of Christmas things left. But I did find these adorable chipboard stickers for only 10¢ a package! There were 2 different assortments available, but this one was my favorite. If there's a Family Dollar near you, you might want to take a look.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A wintry wall hanging

Here is a UFO [unfinished object] of long standing, which I managed to complete last evening! I have long enjoyed the art of D. Morgan, and this cross-stitch pattern is one of her designs. I loved the sentiment and the little picture and started working on this last winter. It was sort of a make-do project from the beginning. I had a country blue Aida on hand, but it wasn't exactly the blue the pattern called for. I used it anyway. I finished the stitching of this piece some months ago but hadn't decided for sure how to frame it. The long narrow design would require a custom frame, an expenditure I didn't want to make for such a casual project. A friend suggested framing it in fabric, which is something I've done with other similar pieces. I've been stalling around all this time because I didn't have the perfect fabric to frame it with. If you can't read the poem, this is what it says: 

The way is long,
The air is cold,
But -- my heart is warm
Because -- in a few moments ...
I'll be home.

I finally decided to use scraps from an old flannel shirt of my dad's for the "frame". It would add to the sentimental tone of the design even if the blues didn't match exactly. I had planned to embellish this with some glittery snowflakes, but evidently I had used them all up on photo ornaments a few years back. Need to get some more! But I did find 2 matching snowflake trims that I could use. I hand-sewed a length of wide bias tape to the back of this for a casing, and used a dowel from an old calendar towel, slipping white cord into each end to hang it by. I do apologize for the sort of skewed look in the photos. I took them quickly, all with the wall hanging in place on the wall. But I love the sentiment of this design. It speaks to me not only of the warmth and security of my own home on a wintry day, but also of the cold, blustery storms of life and the fact that I am on my way Home to heaven.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter decorating find -- a glittery blue church!

Just wanted to show you all this pretty church I found at Marshalls a few days after Christmas. I had actually had my eye on this before Christmas, and told myself that if it was still there and could be had for a reasonable price post-holiday, I would get it for my winter decorating. I love to add glitter and sparkle to January with things like this that say "winter" and not necessarily just "Christmas".

When we went in, there was the church still available and it was only $5! After I picked it up, I noticed that the steeple, which should have been atop the bell tower, was missing. I did inquire about that (thinking I might get it for even less) but found that only one discount could be applied -- either the discount for after Christmas, or some other (lesser) percentage for the damaged item. I still felt that $5 was a reasonable price, and I can either fabricate another steeple out of card stock or simply camouflage the large staple at the top of the bell tower with textured snow medium and glitter.

Here's the front view of the church -- you can see the little bell in the tower!

After I brought my find home and we were all admiring it, my granddaughter noticed a little switch on the underside of the church. We guessed that it must light up. Well, it not only lights up -- it is fiber optic, so the lights change color! I really like the church better unlighted, but it is pretty in pink ...

... in blue ...

... in purple ...

... and in a sort of periwinkle color as well.

Other colors also show up in the rotation, including green and yellow. The colors you see here are the ones I happened to catch with the camera.

What fun it will be to put this church out with my other winter decorations. And I really need to make time for that this week!

What winter decorations do you have? What ones are your favorites?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Christmas decorating 2010

Well, it is past time that I show some of my Christmas decorating, but life is so busy. I just haven't had the time until now. Today is a snow day and I can't go anywhere, so I thought I would take a few minutes now and file a Christmas 2010 Decorating Report. I didn't take a whole lot of pictures, as some of my decorating looks much like that of previous years, but I will share the ones I did take.

Here's our Christmas tree. For years we got a real tree off our own property; then for quite a few years we went to a nearby cut-your-own tree farm to get our tree. Several years ago, though, friends who were downsizing gave us an old but very high-quality artificial tree. It even has a wooden trunk! (It also sheds its needles.) Every year we think it will be the last year for this old tree, but then we decide it looks more realistic than other artificial ones we've seen, and so we keep it for another season. It really does look real and has fooled quite a few people.

Our Christmas tree is very eclectic, with all sorts of ornaments -- antique, vintage, humorous, reverent, homemade, child-made, etc. etc. displayed together on one tree. Themed trees are absolutely beautiful, but they are not for us. We have had them in other rooms, in fact, but for our main Christmas tree it will always be a mixture. The younger grandkids helped with some of the decorating, so you will notice the bottom branches are quite laden with ornaments.

The grandkids loved this miniature tree in the upstairs hallway. They decorated it themselves -- can you tell? Please ignore the water-damaged wallpaper behind it; this is a dormer niche where the ice always backs up. We'll try and replace it one of these years.

This is my hutch all decorated for Christmas. Not a lot different from other years, but a little bit.

I saw this candy cane/milk bottle idea on Sugar Pie Farmhouse and also saw it used on someone else's blog. I remembered I had a lovely Christmas milk bottle (an area dairy sold them filled with eggnog!) stashed away, so I pulled it out. So pretty! The little package of light bulbs is vintage.

Here's the chandelier over the dining room table. Not a lot different than previous Christmas seasons, but it still makes me smile.

Here's my favorite little glass cake dome gussied up for Christmas. I put in a vintage red/cream doily and a lovely little holly print teacup and teapot sent to me by a friend. The sprig of glittery red berries broke off some holiday greenery. It was perfect to set off the display.

And here is my kitchen island, decorated much as usual. The vintage Snow Drop Mints tin is a new addition this year.

Well, that is all I have to share of this year's decorating, but I hope you enjoyed this Christmasy glimpse of our home!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Pink Hot Cocoa Mix (and other beverage mixes)

I always enjoy making hot drink mixes to share as part of a gift basket or just along with some cookies, etc. It's something I do every year. The hot chocolate mix

is on both of my blogs, but I'll link to it again here for those who'd rather not take time to search for it. I've also made a spiced tea mix which is a favorite with some folks.

This year, I tried something new. It's called Holiday Hot Drink Mix but I renamed it "Pink Hot Cocoa Mix" and gave it to several girls (and a family with lots of girls) on my Christmas list.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any left over so I could taste this hot drink for myself. I had asked two of my granddaughters how they liked it, but their reply -- that they liked it, but it just wasn't their favorite -- didn't really tell me much about its flavor.

Today I decided to make up a mini-batch for myself and test it out. I divided the recipe in fourths to produce only a small amount of mix -- it made a cup or more of the dry mix. Then I boiled up some water and poured it over 1/3 cup of the mix in a mug as directed.

It's actually quite good and I would likely make it again. The only thing I thought I would change would be to up the strawberry flavor a bit. (The recipe contains strawberry-flavored Quik®. I would try enhancing the strawberry flavor by adding a bit of unsweetened strawberry Kool-Aid® powder, the type in the little envelopes.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Gift tags from 2009's Christmas cards

(A scan of an actual Christmas tag my grandmother put on a present years ago.)

As usual, I took a few minutes here and there to turn many of the previous year's Christmas cards into gift tags. Several cards were so pretty or special I saved them to display another year. And I did throw some of the cards away because they were just not suitable for making into tags. But I did make quite a number of tags.

I have some special templates from Current that I trace to make the tags. They work well because you can see the design centered (or however you want it) within the template and so you can see clearly what the tag will look like, or if you can get more than one tag from a particular card. Then I use a small hole punch to put a hole in each tag, and add a string to each one. And that's it!

This is always a fun "decompressing" project for me after the busyness of Christmas. Simple and stress-free! Below are some of my favorite tags from this batch:

Monday, January 03, 2011

Peppermint Whoopie Pies

One thing I have been thinking about doing this year is to try out various Christmas type recipes all through the year as I have opportunity. That way, my "want-to-try" recipe list may be whittled down to a manageable size -- or it may be nonexistent because I may have tried all the recipes I want to. (It seems as if there is always at least one new recipe per season that I come across during December, however.)

This year I happened upon a recipe after Christmas which I really wanted to try - Peppermint Whoopie Pies . [Now here, for readers outside the northeastern US, I guess I need to define whoopie pies. They are a soft sandwich cookie, usually (but not limited to) chocolate flavored, with a fluffy white filling between the two cookies. They can come in flavors like banana or pumpkin as well, but chocolate is the usual flavor.] These particular whoopie pies are chocolate with a hint of mint in the cookie, just a regular fluffy white filling, and then the edges of the filling are rolled in crushed peppermints. The photo was absolutely gorgeous and, although I knew it was most unlikely my whoopie pies would look like the picture, I wanted to try the recipe anyway.

I enlisted two of my granddaughters to help me make the recipe for a potluck at church. The 7-year-old crushed the peppermints

while the 9-year-old made the cookie batter

and I dropped it onto the cookie sheets. (I detest making drop cookies, but my cookie scoop didn't work with this batter, so doing it myself was the only way to get relatively uniform cookies.) When the cookies were cooled, the 7-year-old made the filling and filled the cookies, while I trimmed the edges with the crushed candy.

Then we refrigerated them overnight and took them to church the next day.

People did enjoy the whoopie pies -- they really were very tasty -- and we got lots of compliments on them. I'm just not sure I would go to all the trouble of making them again. I definitely wouldn't do so unless I had helpers as I did this time. (And if you are inclined to try the recipe yourself, be advised that it doesn't make "3 dozen sandwich cookies" as specified. I made them small -- dropped by teaspoon rather than tablespoon -- and still only got around 2 dozen or so.) But that's one really great reason for trying out Christmas recipes well ahead of time!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Cinnamon Pretzels

It seems as if every year I have quite a list of new recipes that I want to try for Christmas. Usually -- and this year was no exception -- I also run across one or more new recipes at the last minute that I also want to try. This year my last-minute recipes seemed to tend toward either snack mixes or candy.

I want to share with you one such recipe which was so easy that I was able to try making it on a day when I really didn't have much extra time. I found it at my favorite Christmas site, where it was shared in the recipe database section by my friend HolidayElf. It's a simple cinnamon pretzel mix which is a fantastic blend of salty and sweet flavors. Here it is in HolidayElf's own words:

"They are super fast and simple and have been a major hit with everyone who has tried them. If you like salty/sweet together...this is it. I'm going to make them for friends and co-workers this year for the holidays. (I also bought the pretzels at Dollar Tree, so they cost next to nothing to make.)


Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 30 minutes

Makes 12 (I cup) servings

2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 16 oz. bag small pretzel twists (not sticks)

1. In a large baking pan, stir together the oil, sugar and cinnamon until mixed. Add the pretzels and toss well to coat with cinnamon mixture.

2. Bake, uncovered, in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring twice.

3. Spread out on waxed or parchment paper to cool. Store in airtight container.

I just used a large cookie sheet with sides on it for the baking pan.

Microwave directions below but I didn't try them.

Microwave directions:

1. In a very large bowl, stir together vegetable oil, sugar and cinnamon. Add pretzels, toss well to coat.

2. Place half the pretzel mixture in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 100% power for 3 minutes, stirring every minute. Spread on waxed/parchment paper to cool.

3. Repeat with remaining pretzel mixture."

Now, the first time I made these (and I did not use the microwave directions either), I did just as HolidayElf directed in preparing the pretzels for the oven. And they turned out very well. But it seemed to me I could make the preparation even easier -- as well as perhaps make the cinnamon sugar adhere to the pretzels better -- if I shook the pretzels in a ziptop bag with the oil first, then added the combined cinnamon and sugar to the same bag and shook them again. I think this did work quite well and it was definitely easier.

Oh, and I should add that I used less oil -- more like a half cup -- both times I made these, and it seemed to work out fine.

Everyone who has tried these has enjoyed them. I gave some to my son-in-law in a plastic bag inside a small metal Christmas bucket. It was a cute presentation and he really liked the pretzels. I had also given him a root beer sampler. I don't know if he happened to try the cinnamon pretzels and the root beer together, but it occurs to me now that might be a very nice combination.

And now I'm wondering how these would be using pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice in place of the cinnamon...

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!

I want to take just a minute this morning and wish all of my readers and friends a very happy new year! I hope that 2011 will be a year of health, happiness and spiritual prosperity for each one of you.