Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Christmas Meme

Okay, so it's after Christmas, but this is a Christmas blog so I can get away with that, right?  Susan, over at By Grace, featured this Christmas meme, written by Barbara   at  Stray Thoughts.  I thought it sounded like fun but had no time to do it then, so saved it for later.  If anyone is still interested, here are my answers!

What is your favorite Christmas song?  My favorite Christmas hymn is probably O Holy Night; I also enjoy Who Is He in Yonder Stall? , There's a Song in the Air! and many more.  For secular songs, I love White Christmas (the Bing Crosby version) and, for no particular reason, Christmas in Dixie.

Favorite Christmas special/movie? Would you believe my hubby and I just saw It's a Wonderful Life for the first time last Christmas?  I've seen a few others, but guess that would be my favorite.

What kind of special goodies do you make in December? I bake lots of different kinds of cookies; Christmas cut-out cookiesWhipped Shortbread CookiesChocolate Spritz; and many more Fun and Festive Cookies .

For candy, some of our favorites are Four-Chip Fudge;   Heavenly DelightPeanut Butter BallsChocolate Peanut MorselsChocolate-Covered Almond Brittle and many more festive recipes.  Check the label cloud on my Christmas blog for more.

Favorite Christmas beverage?  Eggnog, but I almost never drink it because it's so rich.  At our ladies' Christmas fellowship we always have a punch bowl full of it topped with real whipped cream.  Mr.T. just bought a quart of the Hood Pumpkin Eggnog and it is delicious -- but again, so rich.  Hot cider is always nice.  I also make a mulled cranberry orange drink that we enjoy.

How many Christmas parties do you usually attend?  Usually three -- a ladies' Christmas fellowship, a church gift exchange, and a Christmas party which my hubby's boss gives for those who work for him.

Do you go Christmas caroling? Does anyone come Christmas caroling to your house? Some years our church goes caroling, but we haven't gone for a few years.  This year we had planned to do a little bit of caroling, just to a few houses, but the weather wasn't conducive.  And I don't think anyone has ever come caroling to our house.

What’s on your front door at Christmas?  I have a grapevine wreath on my front door that I change the trims on with the seasons.  Right now it's wrapped with a red ribbon, has some fake mistletoe and holly tucked in and a poofy sheer ribbon bow -- cream colored with gold print.  There's a small chalkboard in the middle that says "Joy to the World."

When do you put the tree up and take it down? We put the tree up pretty early.   In years past it wasn't quite as early since we used a real tree and liked to leave it up for awhile.  Now we put it up early (this year it was the Saturday after Thanksgiving) and take it down mid-January.

Do you decorate with traditional red and green or with other colors? We use a lot of red and green because our kitchen/dining room are decorated with a strawberry theme and those colors go perfectly.  In the living room, where things are a bit more rustic and woodsy, I tend to go with more dark red and forest green, but our tree ornaments are in ALL colors.

How many Christmas trees do you put up (large and small?) Two in the house, usually; a large tree in the living room and a narrower tree in our bedroom.  Some years I put up a mini tree in other areas as well.  We have a small fir tree out by our garage with colored lights on it, too.

Are your Christmas tree decorations themed or hodgepodge? Hodgepodge; everything from vintage ornaments to elegant glass ones to items made by the kids and grandkids.

Ham, turkey, both, or something else for Christmas dinner? It used to always be roast pork, with a turkey breast sometimes as well.  The past couple years I have cooked a ham and I think that's our favorite.

Favorite ham leftovers?  Just sliced, warmed and served with other leftovers.  I will usually make a ham and bean soup with the ham bone.  For turkey leftovers, the same, and a turkey soup from the carcass.  And of course, turkey sandwiches and ham sandwiches are both yummy.

Do you have any Christmas traditions that are unusual, out of the ordinary? Not that I can think of.  When my daughter was younger and still at home (she's married now with 5 kids and lives far away) we always had a separate "birthday tree" for her to put her gifts under -- her birthday is Dec. 27 -- so that made 2 trees in the living room.  She put her own ornaments on her tree.

Do you display Christmas cards in particular way? Some years -- most years, actually -- I tape them up around a doorway between the hall and living room and also on the hallway walls (which are covered in wood shingles, so the tape isn't an issue). 
I also display my collection of vintage Christmas cards on a ribbon board in this hallway. 
The past couple years I haven't found time to tape up the new cards that come in, so they've just been in a stack on the living room table.

What do you do with the Christmas cards you received after the holidays are over? I keep them in a wooden basket until next Christmas, when they get turned into gift cards or other projects.  This "kissing ball" is one of the projects I've made.  Check the label "paper crafts" for more.

My thought is always that we will pick a card from the basket daily or weekly and pray for the sender.  But we've rarely remembered to do that.  Maybe this year!

Christmas newsletters: Love ‘em or hate ‘em? Both!  There are some that I love reading, but others are, as my mother always termed it, "brag letters".  I wouldn't say I hate such letters, but I don't like them very much.

There you have it!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The actual 2013 baking list

Here's what actually got made in my Christmas kitchen this season:

Sacher Torte Cookies
Whipped Shortbread (both regular and gluten free)
Gingersnaps (both regular and gluten free)
Chocolate Spritz
Eggnog Logs
Multicolored cookie press Spritz
Chocolate no-bake cookies with Christmas sprinkles

Heavenly Delight Fudge (sadly, this failed and must be eaten in the frozen state)
Four-Chip Fudge
White Christmas Bark
"Moose Munch" chocolate peanut butter bark

And kitchen gifts:
Hot Chocolate mix
Bran Muffins
"Pail Full of Muffins" muffin batter
Cinnamon Pretzels

And I think that is about it.  I should note that nearly all of this baking was done by Mr. T, and some of it by our granddaughters.  That freed me up to craft and decorate.  A true gift of time!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Mr. T and I would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to all of our friends!  May you enjoy the blessings spoken of in this poem by the beloved writer Edgar Guest:

God bless you all
This Christmas Day;
May Bethlehem's star
Still light the way,
And guide thee to
The perfect peace
When every fear
And doubt shall cease,
And may thy home
Such glory know
As did the stable
Long ago.

Edgar A. Guest

Have a wonderful Christmas week and a happy, healthy year in 2014!

Friday, December 20, 2013

December 20 ~ A few older Christmas cards

There's just something about cards featuring mailboxes -- I love them!  I was thrilled to find another one.
 These cards I'm showing today are not super old -- most of the ones I have in my collection are from the 1940s and 1950s, some even from the 1930s, I believe.  The few I'm showing here today are from the 70s and 80s, but when I came across them in a box of old cards (saved for craft purposes)  I just had to scan them.
I remember designing and painting dough ornaments to look like these two little girls.

Anyone who knows me knows I detest cats.  Still, I designed a dough ornament to look like this kitten in a stocking.

And wouldn't it be fun to stitch a sampler just like this one?  It doesn't look that difficult.
 Hope you have enjoyed seeing these as much as I did!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 18 ~ Sweet & Salty Bark

Scraping the bowl was an important way to help!
As mentioned previously, my daughter Carrie and I spent a Friday afternoon in early December crafting together.  Mr. T ended up with some time off and made this fun treat with the grandkids: Sweet and Salty Bark.  This served the dual purpose of keeping the kids busy and happy while their mom and I worked, and producing a yummy candy to share with others.  They made a double batch so they could take some home.  Follow the Pinterest link above to get to the recipe if you are interested.  It involves a layer of melted peanut butter chips, then a layer of melted chocolate chips, which are then sprinkled with broken pretzels, chopped peanut butter cups, and caramel corn, then drizzled with melted white chocolate.  Sounds decadent?  It is!

 And here are a few pictures of the project:
There was a job for everyone.
Mr. T melts white chocolate under Sam's watchful eye
Julia chops peanut butter cups
Sam measures chocolate chips
The finished product

Hope your family enjoys this recipe if you try it!

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16 ~ A festively full weekend

From my collection of vintage cards
Last week was crazy in all its busyness.  And the weekend was even more full -- festively full.  Here's what we did:
* On Friday, Mr. T got out of work early, so he made a batch of  Heavenly Delight</a> , our family favorite peanut butter and chocolate layered fudge.
* Friday night we attended a fantastic musical production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol at Dublin Christian Academy.  It was very well done and we (along with the 10-year-old granddaughter who accompanied us) enjoyed it very much.  A long trip, but worth it.

We were way in the back.  This is Scrooge meeting the Spirit of Christmas Past
* On Saturday we picked up 3 of our grandkids and took them out for lunch at McDonalds, then did a little shopping and took them  here for make-your-own ice cream sundaes.  So much fun!  This place was always a favorite of our kids at Christmas time, and, although much has changed, much has remained the same.

This is one of last year's sundaes; we forgot to take the camera this time!
* Saturday night, we went to a Christmas party at Mr. T's boss's home.  A nice time and great food!  We took along a gift for his boss -- a shadow box frame filled with mini Snickers bars surrounding  this little sign:

His boss likes Snickers.  A lot.
I also finished making a crocheted scarf -- a Christmas gift -- while we were there.
* Sunday, our  church services were canceled due to a big snowstorm here in New England.  Thankfully, it was a light, fluffy snow which made things a bit slippery underfoot but did not affect our power at all.  I managed to finish 3 handmade gifts yesterday (top secret) and Mr. T and our older granddaughters did some decorating and baked batch after batch of cookie-press  cookies.  I also ordered a couple of Christmas gifts online.  I also reorganized my sewing table for better storage and efficiency and started work on another handmade gift.
Photo from Taste of Home
So, it was a fun, festive, and even productive weekend!  I hope yours was as nice!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A quick peek at our mini "Pinterest party"!

From my collection of vintage cards
Last Friday, we had a impromptu and very mini [6 people] "Pinterest party" at our house. My daughter and I had planned to get together to make these Snow Globe Terrariums using jars I found in my dad's basement. 

Then Mr. T unexpectedly had the day off, and so he proposed doing some Christmas baking with the grandkids while their mom and I were occupied.  They actually ended up not baking as such, but making two batches of this Sweet and Salty Bark.  There were plenty of tasks for everyone to do in this recipe!

Both projects turned out great, but for now I will just show the above photos of the projects in progress.  No time today to do more than this!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December 11 ~ Simple Christmas card banner

Photo by bhg.com
As I mentioned yesterday, my granddaughter and I worked together on banners for our dining room windows.  We made the individual "pennants" together and I sewed them to ribbon a few days later to create the banners.  Here is the link to this project on my Crafting for Christmas Pinterest board: Christmas Card Banner.  If you click the "website" link at the top, you'll be taken to bhg.com, where you can access the specific directions.

I actually found this project in a magazine -- BHG's Holiday Crafts for 2011, a magazine worth owning  if you see a copy somewhere.  Don't be put off by all of the Halloween stuff; there are far more Christmas projects and I can see easily a dozen or more that I want to try.  This is a magazine that my sweet daughter had placed on my pillow when we arrived for our last fall visit with them.

As I mentioned, we adapted the pattern quite freely.  It called for the cards to be attached to fabric pennants.  I priced the fabric at Jo-Ann's out there and even bought a small piece of it, but it was pricey so I only got enough for one banner.  So, for our project, we used red card stock rather than red fabric.  It's neat because you don't use just fronts of cards, but the messages from inside as well, which can be fun because some of the messages are really neat and some of the handwriting of friends and loved ones can be preserved as well.

One thing we did find to be a bit of a problem was finding cards with the right format to fit the pennant templates (triangles) we had made.  If I had it to do again, I would use a sort of reverse template, kind of like a stencil, whereby I would cut the triangle out of a larger piece of cardboard and use the empty triangle space to place over the Christmas card so I could position it better and make sure it would look good and fit the design well. 
Banner 1
Banner 2
Banner 3
The ribbon I used was some I had purchased from Home-Sew back in the 1970s or early 1980s.   It is red and velvety on one side and red & white checked on the other side.  I thought that since there were so many varying shades of red in the project, that the checked side would look nicer.

So that is our card project.  As I mentioned, I adapted it pretty freely from the pattern, so if you have questions about what we did, just ask them in the comments and I will answer as soon as I can.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December 10 ~ A small bit of Christmas crafting

Over the past little while I have accomplished a small bit of crafting.  Yesterday I wanted to try a pattern I had seen for snow globe coasters.  They are made of felt and adorable but instead, I went for something simpler.  In my Christmas fabric stash, I found some snow globe fabric.   I had used the individual snow globes once on a sweatshirt for one of my daughters.  So I first tried making one of these into a coaster.  It came out cute, as you see above, but a little on the small side.

So I went a different route and made mug mats.  I was quite pleased with how they came out.

Sorry it is askew here.  I scanned these rather than taking pictures.
This one stayed a little straighter in the scanner.
A week or two ago I made some banners using old Christmas cards, paper crafting supplies and ribbon.  I will show only one of these for now, as my time is limited today, but later on I will tell more about the project, including a link to the pattern, and showing more pictures.
The others are pretty similar, and I think this one may have come out the best.

That's all the crafting news for now!

Monday, December 09, 2013

December 9 ~ Buy yourself some Christmas time

From my collection of vintage cards
... by using your slow cooker for preparing meals during this busy season.  If you are a busy mom or work outside the home, you probably already do this.  But a nifty little secret is that even if you are home all day, putting supper in the slow cooker is a fantastic way to buy yourself some extra time.  With a one dish meal in the slow cooker and some muffins, biscuits, or even bread from the Walmart reduced bakery rack, you are all set.  Supper cooks itself and you can bake, craft, decorate, or whatever you like for an extra hour or more. 

You can check out the slow cooker recipes at my regular blog, Across My Kitchen Table .  Just click on "slow cooker recipes" in the label word cloud in the sidebar. 

For more ideas, take a look at my Slow Cooker Inspiration board on Pinterest.

Happy slow cooking!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

December 8 ~ A quick update on our Christmas preparations so far

 * 1 Christmas card came in the mail yesterday; a second one hand-delivered by friends at church today.  Many more -- about a half dozen -- have arrived from my Christmas craft forum friends from near and far.  Closest -- Minnesota.  Farthest away -- New Zealand.

* 2 trees are up,  one pre-lit with colored lights; one with white lights.  No ornaments yet.  The trees are starting to look pretty good to us with just the lights ... We are debating just how few ornaments we can get away with!

* 3 batches of Christmas cookies made -- Chocolate Spritz; Whipped Shortbread; and Gingersnaps.

Plus a double batch of decadent Moose Munch bark [link to follow later]; 3 Christmas banners made and put up over the dining room windows; a sweet lighted terrarium display made, and arranged on a table on the front porch;  a basket of woodland greenery gathered ... and probably more that I can't think of now.  It's late.

Snow is predicted for tomorrow ...

Saturday, December 07, 2013

December 7 ~ Shoeboxes

This sweet graphic is by Little Birdie Blessings
This year was the first time I have participated in filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  My daughter and her kids have filled boxes a couple of times and have so thoroughly enjoyed and been blessed by this opportunity to share with those less fortunate.  It has been a great experience, especially for the children. 

So this year when Carrie mentioned making some dolls for the shoeboxes she and the kids would be filling, I decided to get my two oldest granddaughters (ages 10 and 12) involved.  Kids that age love to help others!  They jumped at the chance to fill a shoebox apiece for girls in their age range.

  The only downside was that I waited until nearly the last minute, so we didn't have time to make a lot of homemade items for the boxes.  We went to the dollar store on a Friday night,  and each girl filled up a plastic shoe box with school supplies, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, hair stuff, and so on.  The next day, we worked on a simple sewing project -- these purse size tissue holders  to add to the boxes. 
These ares some tissue holders we had made previously.

For the shoebox ones, we used Christmasy colors and prints.
This one has a bluebird button on it.
After that, the girls decorated the tops of the plastic shoeboxes with washi tape, stickers, and so on.  They each wrote a nice note in a Christmas card to tuck into the box.  (Sadly, I did not get pictures of any of this.  I'm having a few computer issues and am hesitant to put any new pictures on the computer.)

At the appropriate time, Carrie dropped off our shoeboxes along with those she and her kids had filled.   This was a wonderful experience for the older girls, and we will definitely be doing it again next year.  We are already planning to include a lot more handmade items and have been thinking of things we can make for the boxes.  It will be something very special to look forward to!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Oh, those Christmas magazines!

When I was growing up, no matter how tight money happened to be or how little extra she might have to spend on frivolities, my mother would always, always buy the Christmas issues of Woman's Day and Family Circle magazines.  She found great recipes and nice gift ideas in them.  My parents also subscribed to Farm Journal, which had a nice women's  section that in the December issue would be loaded with fantastic recipes and ideas for decorating and handmade gifts.  My mother not only read these  magazines; she saved every one.

So I guess it's not surprising that when I got married I would always eke out enough extra from the grocery money to buy those Christmas issues, too.  Like her, I saved every one.  And I saved others, like Taste of Home, Country Handcrafts, Crafting Traditions, Better Homes and Gardens, and more.  Every year I would get them out and pore over them for ideas for ornaments, handcrafted gifts, recipes, decorating, and all the rest.

Another neat thing is that for a number of years, when we have visited our faraway daughter (first in the South and now in the West) in the fall, she would always have a special Christmas issue of some magazine awaiting on my pillow as a sweet welcome gift.  Of course I have saved all those as well, and have made many projects and recipes from them.

Some years ago, my mother passed her stash of Christmas magazines (whittled down by then, but still impressive!) to me, so I have more than I will ever completely get through.  I no longer buy the Christmas magazines, but I still enjoy looking at the many on my shelves and finding new ideas to try.  Stay tuned in the coming days for a post about one of my magazine-inspired projects!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

December 5 ~ a nice side dish for Christmas dinner

Photo from Taste of Home
Maybe it's a little early to be planning your Christmas dinner.  But I tried this potato side dish for Thanksgiving: Grandpa's Party Potatoes</>, and thought I would share it now, before I forgot.

Ordinarily, for Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving, or any other gathering where large numbers of people will be eating mashed potatoes, I make this: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes.  It's very good and I still highly recommend it. 

But I think Grandpa's Party Potatoes</> is just a tiny bit easier, and the flavor and convenience are equally good.  Mine came out lumpy, but that was my fault.  I finished boiling the potatoes long before I was ready to combine them with the other ingredients.  It would have been much better if they were warm.  

The two recipes are essentially the same; it's just that in the Party Potatoes, a container of French onion dip is used instead of sour cream.  It's nice because it adds flavor without having to add onion powder.   One reviewer on the Taste of Home site said that she substituted ranch dip for the French onion, and I imagine that would add fantastic flavor as well.  Either of these recipes has the virtue of being able to be prepared the day before (or even earlier -- you can freeze them, too!).  So if you are planning food for Christmas, you may want to try one of these yummy potato side dishes.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

December 4 ~ Quote for the day

From my collection of vintage cards ~ I'd never cut these up for a project!  To me, this one speaks of a simpler, more innocent time when no one would dream of taking anyone else's mail.
 On Saturday, my 12-year-old granddaughter and I started a little craft project with old Christmas cards -- banners for over our dining room windows.  I will post pictures later, but briefly, it involves cutting old cards and some of their inside messages into pennant shapes, backing them with scrapbooking paper and fabric (we are using card stock instead) and sewing them together along ribbon for hanging.  I adapted the idea pretty freely from the pattern.

Some of the cards are from the 1960s or so, others from the 1970s through the 1990s.  The quote I want to share is a message from one of the older cards.  I was just now sitting at the sewing machine, about to attach this pennant to the ribbon, when I read the message again.  Such a lovely thought, I had to pause in my sewing and share it with you all.  It reads like this:

Whatever else is lost
 with the years --
whatever the changes,
Christmas remains --
a time of happy
recollections -- a time
for remembering
treasured friends --

Isn't that lovely?  (Picture it, if you will in a red 1950s script not unlike that on the old Betty Crocker cookbooks.)  A lot has changed over time, and much has been lost,  not only in our lives personally but in our society.  I was just thinking yesterday how increasingly vulgar our society has become.  But my happy recollections of Christmas in the 1950s and early 1960s are still with me, precious and warm.  And most important of all, the whole reason for Christmas remains -- celebrating the birth of our Savior, who is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

December 3 ~ Worth the read!

This sweet graphic is from Little Birdie Blessings.
As we approach this blessed Christmas season, we need to be so sure that we are focusing on the real reason we're celebrating.  It's so easy, even as believers, to get sidetracked by decorations, gifts, crafts -- almost anything.  I read two very helpful blog posts this week and wanted to share the links with all of you.

The first is from Gina at Home Joys. Her thoughtful post is titled What makes a meaningful Christmas?. This would be especially helpful for families with young children.  In the post, Gina also links to other helpful posts she's shared on this topic in previous years.

The second link is for the first in a series of posts by Sarah at Joy-Filled Days. She is doing a series of One-Minute Christmas Devotionals and this is the first one: One-Minute Christmas Devotional #1. You will want to visit Joy-Filled Days daily for as long as the series runs.  It's been a great blessing to me already!

Monday, December 02, 2013

December 2 ~ a fabulous resource for Christmas recipe cards!

Photo from Shabby Princess
Late yesterday afternoon, I was doing a quick search for printable, free Christmas recipe cards for a project I was preparing to work on.  I found the most fabulous free collection I have ever seen, and just want to share this resource with all of you.  The site is  Shabby Princess and the specific recipe card collection is this one: Shabby Princess holiday recipe collection.

I made up some of the recipe cards (adding my own recipe) and was so pleased with how they turned out.  (I chose the images I liked, pasted them into a drawing document and added the text using the font, size, and color of my choice.  So much fun.)   Several years later, I used some of these for other projects as well. 

If you could use some pretty and unique Christmas recipe cards for yourself or for gifts, check out this resource.  You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

December 1 ~ Beginning to decorate for Christmas 2013

From a previous year
 I actually began last week.  I've been attempting a "back-on-track homemaking challenge" on my regular blog, and was doing some work in the master bedroom.  That's where I keep my little glass-topped crafting desk.  This is a desk that, if I remember right, belonged to my grandmother, then ended up in my sister's apartment.  When my sister passed away I acquired the desk.  Since it had a glass top, I began displaying seasonal paper treasures under the glass.  So last week, the desk needed dusting and I decided to change out the decor to Christmas cards, tags, and other treasures.

Some of the most joyous times in my December days are spent sitting at that little desk creating gifts or decorations, or simply writing Christmas cards.  I love to look at the various cards and tags and just enjoy the lovely atmosphere of Christmases gone by.  And if snow happens to be falling outside the cozy dormer window where my desk is snuggled, so much the better.  Let it snow!
From last year