Monday, December 31, 2018

Cozy flannel wrapped wreath

Photo by Sarah at Sadie Seasongoods
I've had my eye on this project for awhile: Flannel Wrapped Wreath from Sarah at Sadie Seasongoods.  It looks to me like a door decoration that would work all winter long.

Besides, who doesn't love plaid flannel?

I'm really thinking maybe this will be the year I can get one of these made.  I have loads of plaid flannel scraps, plus a couple of old shirts I cut up to repurpose.  I wouldn't dare say for sure, but I think that a foam wreath form might work as well as the straw base that Sarah used.  The straw would likely be less expensive, though.  I just took a quick peek at and I see that the straw wreaths are cheaper by a couple of dollars at least.  So for that reason, and for ease of pinning, the straw would be the very best choice unless you happen to have a foam one on hand.

If you visit Sadie Seasongoods, you will also see some other plaid flannel projects, including a table runner.  I really want to make one of those ... it also would be perfect all winter.  Have fun with these ideas!  I hope to!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Festive Cheese Log

This photo is of a similar cheese log and is from Taste of Home.
Here's a favorite recipe of mine that would be great for New Year's Eve or anytime you're asked to bring an appetizer.  It travels well and you only need bring along a cheese spreader and a box of crackers!

I found this recipe in Ken Haedrich's Home for the Holidays years ago and have modified it somewhat.  The little bit of jalapeno flavor is very nice, but the jalapenos can be omitted if you don't have them or don't care for them.  This takes a bit of time to put together, since you need to take time to toast the nuts, but I still consider it easy and quick.  And there is nothing like the convenience of making an appetizer ahead to pull out of the fridge when needed.  Here's the recipe:


2 cups pecan or walnut pieces
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces grated sharp Cheddar cheese
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (or use a couple tablespoons of dried parsley flakes if you must)
2 tablespoons finely minced onions (the dried will work; use 2 tsp.)
1 or 2 minced garlic cloves (optional)
1/4 cup minced pickled jalapeΓ±o peppers (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Toast the nuts: Spread them on an ungreased baking sheet and place them in a 350ΒΊ oven for 7 to 10 minutes until nicely toasted. Watch them carefully. When they’re done, transfer them onto a large plate and let them cool.

Put the three cheeses in a large mixing bowl and work them with the back of a wooden spoon until blended. Add the remaining ingredients (except the nuts), and mix them with a spoon or your hands until everything is evenly blended.

Chop the nuts with a hand chopper and work 1 cup of them into the cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

When the 15 minutes are up, put a large piece of wax paper on your work counter. Spread the nuts on the wax paper.  (If you happen to have more fresh parsley, that also looks pretty mixed in with the nuts, so you might like to chop a bit more and add to the chopped nuts.) Divide the cheese mixture into two portions and place one portion on top of the nut-covered wax paper. Using your hands, shape the cheese mixture into a log, rolling and pressing it into the nuts as you shape. Wrap it in plastic wrap and follow the same procedure to make a second cheese log from the remaining cheese mixture. (If you prefer to make a cheese ball, scoop the entire cheese mixture onto the nut-covered wax paper and shape it into a large ball, again rolling and pressing it into the chopped nuts as you shape.) Wrap the cheese ball or logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 2 cheese logs.

This recipe has been a family favorite for years, and it always goes over well at events I take it to. It's nice because you can make it well ahead of time and keep in the fridge until you're almost ready to use it. Just pick up a box or two of crackers and you're all set. I took this to a gathering in early December and took along the snowflake-shaped Ritz® crackers to accompany it. I like to make the logs rather than a cheese ball because they stay neater looking -- just slice and serve.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A fun project using old Christmas cards

Still looking for ways to repurpose some of your old Christmas cards?  Or do you need a project to keep the kids or grandkids busy or even to calm yourself? 

Here's an idea I plan to try: Mason Jar Ring Shadowbox from Kimberly at Serendipity Refined.
Photo by Kimberly at Serendipity Refined
I've made ornaments with mason jar lids before -- see the ornament at the top of the post -- but Kimberly's is several cuts (literally) above mine.  You might  say she has "refined" the basic idea.  She adds a number of delightful little extras, not the least of which is a circle of clear acetate or transparency film to hold everything in place and make it look even more shadowbox-like.  Head on over to Serendipity Refined to get the details.  This is a project which looks to me as if it could be addictive!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Microwave Eggnog Fudge

Photo by Blair at The Seasoned Mom
Okay, if you're like me, you're probably more than ready to be done with candy making of any type for the season.  But what if you're invited to a get-together for New Year's Eve and need to bring something sweet?  This easy microwave fudge uses only basic ingredients (it does not call for eggnog, but uses spices and flavorings instead) and is fast, fast, fast. 

The recipe is by Blair at The Seasoned Mom, and you can find it here: Microwave Eggnog Fudge

I would be likely to leave out the rum flavoring myself, even though it's a signature flavor of eggnog, because I just don't care for boozy flavors.  With other eggnog-flavored recipes that I have, I find that nutmeg and real vanilla work just fine.  In this case, cinnamon is also called for and I think it would be good.

Blair gives a basic 3-ingredient recipe with specifics for the eggnog fudge, but also details how this can be made with varying kinds of chips and mix-ins to create other fudge flavors. 

Although I have not yet tried her recipe, I have tried a chocolate variation of a similar recipe: Arlene’s Easy Fudge, and it is absolutely fantastic.  So if you are more of a chocolate mood, go for that one.

Even if you aren't in need of a fast fudge recipe right now, you will want to file these away for next year!  Pinterest might make a good repository if you don't quite trust your memory.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Thinking about putting away your Christmas wrappings?

I'm thinking about it.  Only thinking, at this point.  I may do just a bit of after-Christmas shopping if I find something I need in the clearance at the supermarket or other stores.  And then, of course, I will add any gift-wrapping supplies to my stash and will attempt to get it organized before storing.  Tags are something I often need, as I prefer not to use the stick-on ones.  Sometimes I can't resist, though -- there are such pretty ones out there!

In sifting through my saved ideas for my December Daily posts  here in the Christmas kitchen, I found some wonderful free printable gift tags.

This post: Ultimate guide to free printable gift tags from Melissa at The Inspired Room, is definitely the ultimate.  It is a 2016 post so I went through it to see if all of the links still work.  I found only a few which did not, and most of those can still be accessed by going to the home page of the particular blogger and searching the freebies. 

In one such search I discovered these Printable gift tags from The DIY Mommy,  in some of the most luscious colors imaginable.  If you need tags for next year, you will want to check out these ideas.

Or, you could just do as I have done and make tags out of Christmas cards (like the ones illustrating this post) from previous years.  I'm finding that these tags are handy to tuck into a Christmas card or an Etsy order as a little added gift.  Over on my other blog, I'm going to be reminding people about how to make these, not that it needs a lot of explanation.

Have fun with these tag ideas!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The day after Christmas

... and I'm still in the kitchen! 

These Almond Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies were on my baking list, but I hadn't gotten them baked.  I was actually just going to skip it when I remembered a cookie tray I planned to make for a friend who'll have a houseful of 20-somethings starting tomorrow.  The house was chilly and I thought baking was not a bad way to warm it up.

One thing I was reminded of about these cookies, though -- my usual trick of replacing all-purpose flour with the Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour just doesn't work well with this recipe.  They spread out too much -- a fact that I would have known if I had followed my grandmother's good advice of baking a test cookie.  Be that as it may, these cookies will still go on the cookie tray even though imperfect.

I also made a crockpot full of chicken soup for friends who had planned to drop by today, but they ended up rescheduling to tomorrow.  The soup will go in the fridge until then.

So, I also promised to give a bit of an update on our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day doings.  Let's see.

Christmas Eve -- Mr. T worked that day.  I took a cookie tray to our neighbors across the street, and another to my walking partner and her hubby.  She was unable to get away for a walk that day but we took time for a cup of tea and a half-hour visit. 

On Christmas Eve, we usually have two of our local granddaughters over for supper (our traditional Christmas Eve Soup) and have our Christmas with them at that time.  This year, all that changed because of some travel plans and so we have rescheduled to early January.  That meant our own Christmas Eve looked different, and that's okay.  We had leftovers for supper, actually! 

After supper, we took time to open some of the lovely cards I received in a swap with my friends at the Christmas Friends craft forum.  It was my hubby's idea to brew some Candy Cane Lane to sip while I opened the cards and we both admired them.  The creativity of some people is downright amazing!  I had also received a link to a Cracker Barrel YouTube video featuring their gorgeous fireplace.  We admired the cards and sipped our tea in front of a snapping, crackling fire as seen on my tablet.  Just plain fun!

Christmas Day -- we began with this delicious Hearty Breakfast Egg Bake along with sourdough rye bread (from our neighbor Walter) and some clementines. 

Then Mr. T headed out to drop off some cookies and a card for his mother, and a large gift basket for his boss and family.  I accomplished a lot of gift wrapping while he was gone.  Upon his return, we delivered another neighborhood cookie tray and I finished the wrapping.

Around 3 pm we headed over to our daughter's (about 15 minutes away) for a delicious Christmas dinner of roast beef, ham, mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans, tossed salad with apples, craisins and homemade cranberry vinaigrette, and some amazing Parker House rolls.

After dinner the men and kids played games or tried out Christmas gifts while Carrie and I cleaned up the kitchen.  Then we opened gifts and just had such an enjoyable time together.  After awhile we brought out dessert, which was (you guessed it) a cookie tray, plus Eggnog Logs and Chocolate Spritz made by 14-year-old Sam, and Buckeyes made by 10-year-old Josiah.  Julia (12) helped Sam with the Eggnog Logs by imprinting the frosting with fork lines for "bark".  We enjoyed eggnog along with the cookies.

Then Mr. T and I returned home and watched the "Christmas Story" episode from Season 1 of the Andy Griffith Show.  We didn't have time for a movie, but this TV show episode gave the same flavor in less time. 

And that was our very nice Christmas!  I'm still savoring the season, though, even though the big day is over.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Mr. T and I had a very merry Christmas and we hope that all of my readers and our friends did also.  We have much to celebrate in the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I will be back here tomorrow to report in more detail about our Christmas Day and evening.  But tomorrow is a work day for my hubby, so we are headed off to bed.

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Lemon Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Photo from Redbook Magazine
I promised that I would share the recipe for these lemon thumbprint cookies, new to our cookie trays this year.  I had seen a photo of these fabulous-looking cookies on Instagram, posted by @rachelmaebakes.  I messaged Rachel (who has a home baking business) and asked if she would be willing to share the recipe.

Rachel kindly sent me the link to the recipe, and I will share it with all of you: Lemon Thumbprint Cookies.  Mr. T baked a batch on Friday and oh, are these delicious!  Rachel makes her own homemade lemon curd for these and I'm sure it is fantastic, but I used the purchased lemon curd.  I got the Bonne Maman brand at Wal*Mart, and it was only 3.99 (or less; I can't remember) for a good-sized jar that will fill 2 batches of cookies, I think.  I used 1/2 teaspoon of lemon curd in each cookie, which doesn't sound like much but really, it is just the right amount. 

These are much easier than they look, so I hope you will try baking a batch!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Just 2 more days. How's it going at your house?

Here's what's been happening here.  Friday, Mr. T had part of the day off and spent time baking cookies.  He baked some delicious lemon thumbprint cookies -- maybe I can share the recipe tomorrow.  He also baked sacher torte cookies but did not fill them with jam or top them with chocolate due to time constraints as we were having guests that night.  On Friday I made a batch of Heavenly Delight (chocolate peanut butter fudge).
 Saturday found Mr. T too busy with other concerns to do much that was Christmasy during the day.  I, however, sent off the last of the Christmas cards and filled and glazed the sacher torte cookies.  In the late afternoon, a rat-a-tat-tat at the door announced the arrival of our neighbor Walter, bearing a fresh round loaf of his famous sourdough rye bread, plus a dish full of cookies and candies made by his wife Nancy.  That evening, we wrapped our gifts for the church gift exchange the next day.

Today, Sunday, has been a flurry of Christmasy activity.  And the day's not over yet!

This morning we prepared a cookie tray and some hearty appetizer snacks for an early lunch at church.  Then there was church, complete with a mini Christmas play (well done by the kids), nice music and singing and a wonderful message from Luke 2.  After our snack time we enjoyed our gift exchange (we had previously drawn names).  Then we all went out for a time of Christmas caroling to older folks in the community.  On the way home, Mr. T and I stopped at Marshalls, on the trail of a last minute gift or two.  We found a couple of things but need just a bit more.
He is now off on a work errand and when he gets back, we will try and track down a last elusive couple of gifts.  After supper, we plan to enjoy some Candy Cane Lane tea and I will open my Christmas cards from a card exchange I participated in.  He enjoys seeing the creativity of the various ladies in the cards that they made.  If there's any time left, we will likely wrap a few gifts.

How are preparations coming at your house?

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Festive little loaves of quick breads or fruitcake

 The very first kitchen gifts I ever gave, even before I had a kitchen of my own, were little loaves of a holiday gift cake.  Ever since, I've always loved giving little loaves of bread or cake as kitchen gifts and have tried many recipes over the years.   At one point I discovered a formula to know how many little loaves could be made from a recipe that makes a standard 9x5x3-inch loaf.  It's so comforting to have that information so as not to grease more pans than will be needed, or to realize at the last minute that there aren't enough pans and have to find a substitute. 

So I wrote it down in one of my handwritten cookbooks: "To make small nut breads from a recipe that makes a 9x5x3-inch loaf, you can use six 4x2x1 1/2-inch pans.  Bake the little loaves for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean." 

I just now realized that another place I should put this information is my Christmas notebook, the place where most of my kitchen gift recipes reside.

I thought I would share with you links to some of the good recipes I've used for gift loaves over the years.
Little Apricot Fruitcakes have been a favorite of many people.

Christmas Fruit Bread and Last Minute Fruitcakes, which use  homemade candied cherries and pineapple, are other ideas.  I will look on my other blog and see what else I can add.

And then there are fun ideas for packaging gift breads.  Happy baking and gifting!

Friday, December 21, 2018

A vintage poem -- "A Little Bit of Christmas"

I recently found this poem, by Garnett Ann Schultz, in a 1957 Christmas Ideals magazine.  I was sure my readers would enjoy it, also.

A Little Bit of Christmas

Just a little bit of Christmas 
and the whole world seems to glow
With a special sort of laughter
that we love and treasure so --
Nothing more than just some holly
or a wreath upon the door
And it fills our hearts with Christmas 
and the season we adore.

Just a little bit of giving
and we know a warmth and pride,
There's a feeling of contentment,
ever growing deep inside --
It is such a pleasant custom
as we tie each package bright
And, however small the present,
it's the thought that brings delight.

Just a little bit of praying
and how very sure we are
That we've found God ever loving,
 and we've seen that wondrous star.
There are angel voices singing
and their music fills the air
With a little bit of Christmas
being scattered everywhere.

Just a little bit of knowing
of the meaning of this day
And a little real believing
in the words we kneel and pray,
Just a little bit of sharing,
all the faith it might impart
Just a little bit of Christmas 
puts a peace in every heart.
~ Garnett Ann Schultz

Lovely, I thought.  Hope you enjoy it too.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

How to make your own breakfast sausage, quickly and easily

I mentioned in the recipe for the breakfast cups a few days ago that I had made my own bulk turkey breakfast sausage. In case some are interested, I thought I would share how I did it.  I've been using this recipe for years with pork, and decided to try it with turkey.


2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1 pound either ground turkey or ground pork

In a bowl, combine water and seasonings.  Add ground meat and mix very well. 

This can be formed into patties and cooked immediately, for 5 to 6 minutes per side, or it may be crumbled and used in any recipe that calls for bulk breakfast sausage. 

I hope you'll enjoy this yummy breakfast sausage as much as we do!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

An easy reversible Christmas tree skirt

A few years ago, my Nevada daughter sent me the gorgeous fabric you see above.  You can read about this fabulous gift, and why I was so thrilled with it,  here: A gift with possibilities.  I knew that whatever I chose to use it for, it should be a project that would showcase the beautiful illustrations.

Last year after Christmas I decided that I would like to make a Christmas tree skirt from this fabric.  As is typical with me, however, I forgot all about it until it was time to put the Christmas tree up this December.

I wanted to make the skirt reversible as I thought a double layer of fabric would look nicer and hold its shape better, though I doubt I will ever use the other side.  Here is the fabric I chose for the reverse side:                       ⬅

I looked a bit in some Christmas books and online and sort of cobbled together an easy technique for making the tree skirt.

First, I obviously had to make my fabrics into large circles.  I had just done something fairly similar when cutting a circle for the top part of a chef's hat, so it was familiar.  I folded my first fabric from top to bottom, then from left to right to form a square, and pressed it well.  I measured from the corner to one edge of the folded square (where the arrow is pointing above).  This measurement was just over 18 inches, so I decided to work with 18 inches. 

I worked my way around the square with a yardstick, measuring and marking 18 inches from the right corner all around the square, using a water-soluble marker.  Then I connected the dots to form a curved line, and cut on that line.

(There are other ways this measuring can be done; Gooseberry Patch suggests using a string of your desired length and tacking it to the folded corner with a thumbtack to hold it taut while you move the other end of the string along and make your markings.  Sort of like a compass you used to make curved lines in Geometry class back in the day.)

I then unfolded the resulting large circle and used the folds that I'd pressed in to help me eyeball the center of the circle.  I then used the lid of a large glitter container -- 2 inches or more -- any round object of similar size would do -- to draw a circle in the very center.  This would be the hole for the tree trunk.  Then I cut along one of the folds to this circle and cut out the circle.

I placed my cut fabric circle face down on the backing fabric, which I had laid out face up -- so that the right sides of the two fabrics faced one another.  Then I used the cut circle as a pattern to cut a matching shape from the backing fabric.

Putting the skirt together was easy.  I pinned the two circles together well and stitched all the way around the cut edges using a 1/2 inch seam allowance and leaving a 6-inch opening to turn the tree skirt right side out.   I trimmed the seam allowance of the small circle down a bit and carefully clipped into the curved edge, not going through the stitching.  I also snipped off the corners of the tree skirt where the curved and straight edges of the bottom formed right angles.

Then I turned the tree skirt right side out (making sure to poke out the corners to make them nice and square) and carefully pressed it, then hand-stitched the 6-inch opening closed.  I had actually planned to topstitch around the entire tree skirt, stitching up the opening in the process, but I decided that topstitching might detract from the fabric design, and I just didn't want to do that. 

So I pressed it well one last time and arranged it around the base of the Christmas tree, covering the stand and just overlapping the edges as desired.  It actually took far longer to write about making the skirt than it did to do the project.  I would say it took maybe an hour and a half from start to finish.

And there you have it -- my Holly Pond Hill Christmas tree skirt.  I love it!


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

An idea to consider for Christmas breakfast

Photo from Taste of Home
As I mentioned yesterday, most of the ladies brought food to the Christmas brunch this past Saturday.  I decided early on to take a cranberry coffeecake, but had been uncertain what to bring for an egg dish -- we were keeping it to easy-to-eat foods that might require only the use of fingers or a fork.

One day while walking with my friend, we were talking about Christmas breakfast,  and she mentioned a recipe she had tried and liked, made in a 13x9 pan.  When she brought me a copy of the recipe the next day, she had also clipped to it this recipe: Amazing Muffin Cups.

Instantly I knew what I would bring to the brunch.  These are so good!  There's a hash brown crust and then an egg filling made with sausage, cheese and chopped red pepper.  I left out the chives because I didn't have any, but it certainly would help to add a Christmasy touch.   Using some red and some green pepper would achieve the same effect.

The recipe calls for link sausages, cut up, but I made my own bulk sausage using ground turkey and then cooked it prior to using in the egg filling.

I doubled the batch to make 24 muffin cups for the brunch, though in retrospect 12 would have been plenty.  There was SO much food there.  So many choices!

This is a delicious recipe that I'm likely to make again and again.  If you're looking for something a little different for Christmas breakfast, may I suggest Amazing Muffin Cups?

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ladies' Christmas brunch at church

This past Saturday we enjoyed a ladies' Christmas brunch at church.  We invited ladies from another area church as well as friends, coworkers, etc. and we had about 25 who gathered at 10 a.m. for brunch.  Everybody brought something so we had a lovely variety of brunch foods -- along with a nice fruit punch, lots of coffee, and the options of tea or hot chocolate as well.
The pretty plaid "tablecloth" is actually wrapping paper!
Even a chocolate fountain with lots and lots of fruit!
My friend Ruth had offered to head up this entire event, which was just wonderful.  In a small church, with no pastor at the moment (and hence, no pastor's wife to take the lead in things like this), it often falls to the same people to take on ladies' events.  So when Ruth volunteered to orchestrate the brunch, it was a great relief.  She did invitations, planned a devotional, provided music, decorated, and much more.
A few ladies during the song time.  Ruth is in the red.
When I asked on Wednesday night how she would like the chairs and tables arranged in the fellowship hall, she simply replied that she planned to spend most of Thursday (her day off!) at the church and would take care of it herself.   What a servant's heart she has!  She did say, though, that she was not planning on bringing any of the food, just the drinks.  And there was certainly more than enough food!  People shared so generously with what they brought.

Above you see one more of Ruth's contributions to this special event -- a faux fireplace that she designed, constructed and decorated.  It really came out so nicely -- the photo does not do it justice -- and added a cozy Christmas ambiance to our fellowship hall.  Her hubby actually sneaked over to the church on Friday and added the birch logs for an added touch of realism.

Ruth's devotional centered around Psalm 90:12 -- "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." -- and the necessity of using our time for the glory of God every day, but paying special attention to this during the busy Christmas season when so many events vie for our attention.  It was a wonderful reminder and a lovely event.  Thank you, Ruth!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A fun idea for rustic Christmas decorating ... or gifting!

Image by Twigg Studios
This project reminds me of a lovely gift we received one year from our future son-in-law when he was in college.  He made a very pretty gift out of a decorative glass bottle filled with greenery and berries, water and, I think, some oil.  A floating wick was then placed on top and the wick could be lit to serve as a sort of candle or oil lamp.  Some people made these without oil or a wick and simply placed a round floating candle on top.

When I saw this Rustic Holiday Mason Jar Diffuser by Mary Beth at The How-To Home, I immediately thought of that long-ago gift -- they have been married for 18 years now!  I went looking to see if I could find a photo with the lamp in it.  (No digital camera in those days!)  In the only photo I could find, the lamp was on a table with other decorative items and it was just too dark to show up well.  Eventually the greenery molded (though that took a long time) and had to be discarded.

I'm sure that you can get an idea of how it looked when you see Mary Beth's photo, below:
Photo by Mary Beth at The How-To Home (formerly Cupcakes and Crinoline)
Her diffuser is an even more practical idea in that it requires no water, is not flammable, and the greenery will not mold.  Who knew diffuser lids were available for Mason jars?  Certainly not me!

Have fun with this idea!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Homemade jellied cranberry sauce

Photo from
Have you ever made your own cranberry sauce?  I've made whole berry sauce and all sorts of cranberry relishes, but up until this past Thanksgiving I had never tried making the jellied type of cranberry sauce.

It all started when my daughter mentioned she was having trouble finding the organic canned cranberry sauce she usually buys.  Everything else, even good brands, contains high fructose corn syrup, and her kids like jellied cranberry sauce so much, she wants it to be somewhat healthier.   I said I would try making some to bring to Thanksgiving dinner at their home.  There was a recipe on the cranberry bag.

Well, that recipe didn't work out so well.  I prepared and refrigerated it on Wednesday night, but by Thursday morning it had still not set.  I would have caved and simply brought a can of regular jellied sauce from my pantry, but I only had whole berry.  Not wishing to disappoint anyone, my sweet husband pleaded with me to let him try making some, as we had plenty of cranberries.  So I looked online and found this recipe: Jellied Cranberry Sauce via Chowhound.  The recipe said it would need to chill for at least 2 hours, but we had started our Thanksgiving morning early and had plenty of time for that to happen.

 I was surprised how quickly the recipe came together.  Before I knew it, the sauce was cooked and strained and ready to add the unflavored gelatin.  (We opted not to use the cinnamon stick and orange zest, although I'm sure those would have been yummy additions, because we wanted it to taste more like the canned jellied sauce.)

It came out delicious and the kids raved over it: "Good job, Grampa!"

My daughter asked for the recipe and said she would never have to buy the canned sauce again.

I'm sharing this recipe now so you will have plenty of time to buy cranberries and unflavored gelatin, which not everyone has in their pantry, if you would like to try this.  I do definitely recommend purchasing Ocean Spray cranberries.

Hope your family enjoys this delicious homemade sauce if you try it!

Friday, December 14, 2018

A fun craft project -- glittery little trees!

Photo by Diana at Adirondack Girl at Heart
Here's a project I've been wanting to try for quite some time now: Glittery little trees made from toilet paper tubes!  This is another design by the ever-creative Diana at Adirondack Girl at Heart.

Back when I first saw this idea (2015) I started saving toilet paper tubes to use for these little trees.  (Don't worry; I haven't been saving them ever since!)  I think I saved about a dozen.  I split them up the side, which is what needs to happen to turn them into cones, and stashed them in a ziptop bag with my crafting supplies.  I think I have everything else on hand that I might need to make some of these adorable trees. 

Can't you just picture these displayed with bottle brush trees and glittery little houses like those above to make an enchanted village?

With my handmade gifts completed, I may find time to tackle some simple Christmas crafts like this one.  We will see!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Inspiring handmade gift idea for friends

Delightful graphic by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
 Here's an idea from Karen Ehman that I came across quite awhile ago and saved to use here in my Christmas kitchen: Give her God’s Word in your handwriting.  Karen shares how a dear friend gave her these tags, simply cut from manila file folders and backed with scrapbooking paper.  Karen chose to keep the tags in a jar by her sink and chooses one per week to meditate on as she washes dishes. 

I have given handwritten scripture cards to friends before, and this simple gift never fails to be a huge blessing to people.  But Karen's friend Kelly took the idea a step farther in creating these lovely tags.

Following the post, Kelly left her instructions for making these tags in a comment.  It took me a long time to work my way through the comments to find the instructions, so I have taken the liberty of copying and pasting Kelly's instructions here:

"Here are the supplies and instructions. There really is no one way to do this but this is what I had on hand.

manila file folders

scrapbooking paper ( about 3-4 coordinated designs with print on front and back)

white cotton yarn (mine was purchased on a cone and I use it for several things around the home)

White reinforcement hole labels

glue stick (one for crafts,  not kids’ glue)

hole puncher

The size of my tag is 3 3/4″ by 1 3/4″. Cut out a rectangle this size from the manila folders. At about the 3″ mark cut away up to the middle of the top of the rectangle on both sides to make the point. (See photo below.)  Now use this as a pattern to cut as many rectangles as verse cards you will need. I made about thirty for a set. Next, cut out 3 1/4″ by 2 1/4″ rectangles from the scrapbooking papers. Glue these papers onto the tags. This should leave a small border around the tag. (See photo) Use a hole puncher to punch a hole in the arrow portion of the tag. Reinforce with a hole label. Then, cut a piece of yarn 12″. Fold in half. Tie a knot at the bottom, then loop in through the hole. The knot should be the part that is hanging.
Now the fun part. Choose scripture verses to write on the tags. I choose verses from Psalms, but you could choose verses with a theme (love, blessings, comfort, contentment, joy). Choose verses that will encourage the person you are giving them to for whatever circumstances they are in . You could give them in a jar or basket, or just wrap them up and let them choose from a container they have that works for them. You could also make a tag with the verse from Ps. 119:105 and attach it to the gift. They could then attach it to their jar or basket.
I hope these directions are clear enough. You can make whatever size of tag you would like to use. And remember, they don’t have to be perfect. But they will know it was given from the heart."
Photo from Karen Ehman
Isn't this a fabulous idea?  I hope that some of my readers will give this project a try.  I know that I intend to!  (Incidentally, the 25 Days of God-Given Gifts series by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings would be a fun alternative to making one's own Scripture cards for this project.  Just punch a hole in each one and add a string!  But if you have the time, writing out God's Word in your very own handwriting certainly makes your gift even more precious.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A fabulous scone recipe to try

Photo from Buns in My Oven
I recently came across this recipe for Maple Glazed Cinnamon Scones from Buns in My Oven.  They look scrumptious, don't they?

When I spotted this recipe, I immediately saved it to use during December in my Christmas Kitchen posts.  Scones make a wonderful kitchen gift.  You can tuck them into a basket with packets of tea or hot cocoa mix, or with a bag of coffee.  These scones in particular, with their festive flavors of maple and cinnamon and their lovely thick glaze, would make a perfect gift.

These would also be absolutely perfect for Christmas breakfast, or for any potluck brunch event you might be invited to.  I'll let you decide.  But I encourage you to give this recipe a try.  I'm going to!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fabric gift tags!

Here's a fun idea!  I know that many people nowadays don't use this type of a tie-on gift tag; they just slap on a self-stick one.  But I still like the type with string and I make a bunch every year from the previous year's Christmas cards.  The quick projects I'm sharing today are nicer still.

Actually, "fabric gift tags" is a bit of a misnomer, as the tags themselves are not actually made of fabric.  "Fabric-trimmed gift tags" would be more accurate.

At top you see a sample of some tags I made years ago.  This is the only one remaining from that tag-making binge.  I think I originally found the idea in a Gooseberry Patch Christmas book.

If you would like to make some, here is what I did.  You will need:  blank 3 x 5-inch index cards, scraps of Christmas fabric, pencil, scissors, fusible web, cookie cutters or other templates for designs, hole punch, crochet cotton, fine point permanent marker, buttons and hot glue.  Fold the index card in half and crease it.  Punch a hole in the corner, going through both layers.  Fuse fabric to web and trace desired designs  on the paper side; then fuse the fabric shape to the front of the tag.  Hot glue a button to the center of the design if you like.  Use the permanent marker to make little "stitch marks" around the outer edge of the fabric shape.  Cut a short length of crochet cotton and thread it through the holes in the corner of the tag.  You are finished!

And recently I found another fun idea which I am definitely going to try: fabric gift tags from Live Laugh Rowe.
Photo by Live Laugh Rowe
I think I have everything on hand that I need to make up some of these.   They are so cute! 

Monday, December 10, 2018

A sweet Christmas quote

I came upon this quote in an unusual way -- browsing through the "Warming Winter Dishes" section of Gooseberry Patch's Slow Cooking All Year Round. as I was looking for a recipe to serve to company one evening last week.

 I've been unable to find any information about the named author of the quote, A.M. Hopkins, but love the quote so I am sharing it regardless.

Here it is:

"I plead for memories of olden times, and simple pleasures, and the making of the most delightful music in the world, the laughter of happy children.  God bless us all and make us contented.  Merry Christmas!"  -- A.M. Hopkins

There could hardly be a better Christmas card illustration to illustrate this quote than the one at top, painted so beautifully by artist Kathy Lawrence.   There you have the "memories of olden times" -- for this family is wearing old-fashioned (yet lovely!) clothing, and the table is lit by an oil lamp.  You have "simple pleasures" as the children delight in stringing popcorn while one reads aloud to the rest.  Unmistakably,  there is "the laughter of happy children."

I love this painting and this quote and the memories they bring of Christmases in a simpler time.  And yet my heart is also stirred as I am reminded that not all children are in circumstances where they can laugh easily.  How we need to be praying for those children involved in such atrocities as human trafficking and labor camps, not to mention more mundane and "usual" situations where kids don't have the blessing of living in a happy or even an intact family.  How we need to ask God to show us what we can to do to help!

And yes, let's be sure we are sharing simple pleasures and making memories with our own loved ones as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  We are indeed blessed!

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Some fun new ideas for kitchen gifts

If you've read here for long, you already know that I just love making and giving kitchen gifts at Christmas time!  You can click "kitchen gifts" in the label cloud to see some of the foods that I like to prepare and gift. 

Today I have some fresh inspiration to share with you all regarding kitchen gifts.  Snow Day Drinks and Treats gift sets, from Courtney at Pizzazzerie will give you some great ideas for your kitchen gifting.

This post includes recipes and free printables -- so sweet.  There are printable labels for the coffee bags in which the drink mixes would be packaged, and tags for the bags you'd package the sweet accompanying treats in.

You can choose from three beverage mix recipes:

πŸŽ„"Bundle Up Blend" -- a cinnamon spice ground coffee
πŸŽ„"Cuddle Up Cocoa" -- a homemade hot cocoa mix
πŸŽ„ Quiet Time Tea -- a spiced chai instant tea mix

And then you can choose from the following treats (recipes provided!)

πŸŽ„ "Candy Cane" Homemade Marshmallows
πŸŽ„ Winter Spice Tea Cookies
πŸŽ„ Vanilla Almond Biscotti

Obviously, the biscotti is intended to be paired with the coffee; the cookies with the chai tea mix; and the marshmallows with the hot cocoa.

Or, you could gift any of these separately.  But the sets are just so cute!  I'll show one example, below.  You will want to head over to Pizzazzerie to see the rest.
Photo from Pizzazzerie
What lovely kitchen gifts these would be for the friends and neighbors on your list!  These ideas have certainly inspired me.  How about you?

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Before you delve too deeply into Christmas baking, check that pantry!

How do I happen to be giving this advice?  It's the voice of experience talking!

I hadn't started my Christmas baking this year until I impulsively decided to stir up a double batch of Chocolate Spritz on December 4.  I had about an hour before my weekly phone call with my Nevada daughter, and thought I could easily get the dough mixed and maybe even finish baking most of the cookies before our chat.

I got the flour into the sifter and got out the can of baking cocoa.  Oops, only a few tablespoons left.  I went to the storage and discovered the baking cocoa was all gone.  My sweet husband went to the store and replenished our supply, but by the time he returned I needed to call our daughter.  He went ahead and mixed the cookie dough, and all was well until he hit another roadblock -- none of the colored sprinkles we usually dip our chocolate spritz into!

So I handed the phone to him and let him visit with Joanna while I searched for sprinkles.  I found some holly berry ones he could use (but they sure don't look like our traditional cookies!) and he proceeded.

I'd purchased some things for Christmas baking -- like orange and lemon and maple extracts, like peppermint baking chips and allspice berries and a few other things.  But I just wasn't fully prepared.

All this reminded me that yes, believe it or not, right in my Christmas notebook I have a list titled "Long-Term Holiday Shopping List".  I think it was an idea from FlyLady some years back.  It includes not just baking ingredients, but also groceries for our traditional Christmas Eve meal, ingredients for a few freezer meals and kitchen gifts, and more. It's such a great idea to check this list against your pantry contents before beginning to bake or cook for Christmas, to find out what will be needed.

I'm sharing my list, but really it will differ for everyone.  In fact, as I looked it over I saw that there were a number of things I needed to add.  So I added them in, and have now actually printed out the revised list and placed it in my notebook.


Extra flour -- regular and gluten free
Extra sugar -- brown, white, confectioners
Corn syrup and molasses
Extra cornstarch
Extra butter
Lemons and oranges
Walnuts, pecans, sliced almonds
Raspberry and apricot jam
Baking chips -- white, semisweet, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and peanut butter
Marshmallow fluff
Evaporated milk
Sweetened condensed milk
Baking chocolate -- unsweetened squares and cocoa
Extracts -- almond, orange, lemon, maple, vanilla
Whole spices -- cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice berries
Ground spices -- cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves
Almond bark -- white and chocolate
Candy -- Hershey kisses, Andes mints, candy canes, M&Ms
Colored sprinkles
Red and green colored sugar
Stretch-tite plastic wrap (best for wrapping cookie trays)
Extra foil, waxed paper, parchment paper
Cheeses -- shredded cheddar, blue cheese, ricotta, Neufchatel, mozzarella
Half-and-half cream
Extra eggs
Frozen chopped broccoli, spinach, pureed squash
Lasagna noodles
Sour cream

So make up your own list, making note of specific ingredients required by your own favorite family recipes for the holiday.  Then check it against what's in your pantry.  Hope this idea saves someone a trip to the store!

Friday, December 07, 2018

Worth the read: an exhortation to be still this Christmas season

Four of my grandkids doing their annual Christmas cookie baking in 2017
I read this last Christmas and think it's something we should reread every year: Be Still: Resist  the Christmas Urgency, by Sarah Beals at Joy-Filled Days.

It can be oh-so-tempting to feel as if we have to do all the Christmas things.  We want to make everything so special for our families.  Sarah relates how she asked her kids what made the Christmas season special to them -- what they saw as the parts of the season that they considered important family traditions.  To her surprise, their list was nothing like hers and included very simple things done together as a family.

Sarah shares a list of ten things we might want to do with our families this season to help us be still and truly savor Christmas.

She concludes with these wise words: "Tis the season to slow down and savor, to be thankful for what’s in front of you. These days that will pass so quickly and be gone forever. Days so full that we might just miss them if we don’t purposefully stop and notice. This is the day–the moment–the Lord has made. It’s up to us to rejoice and be glad in it right now. Joy comes in the present. It’s not found in the chase for more, or in the memory of the good old days. It’s found now."

I love this advice!  Head on over and read the entire post.  You will be blessed, I guarantee it!

Thursday, December 06, 2018

A Christmas shop worth visiting

In yesterday's post I promised to come back and share more about Kellerhaus, the shop where we traditionally take several of our grandkids for ice cream after our Christmas shopping trip with them.

We often brought our own kids here during the Christmas times of long ago.  Now it's fun to share this with our grandkids too.  Back in the day, there were a lot more animated figures, like elves in a workshop, or a Bavarian band (if I remember right).  But there is still plenty of enchantment.

Some of these photos are from previous years.  The decor varies quite a bit from year to year, as do the items being offered for sale.
Kids love the player piano that plays Christmas tunes for 25¢.
They were very disappointed that it was out of order.
Such a magical place to enjoy an ice cream sundae!

And I mean REALLY enjoy an ice cream sundae!
Santa is "sleeping" at his workshop.  Turn that dial beside the red and green stocking and you can see him breathe and hear him snore!
 The view of lake and mountains is lovely this time of year.  This is the view from the ice cream parlor area.
Pretty Christmas trees are everywhere!
These felt trees from this year are gorgeous in person!  I hope to try making some trees like these.
Josiah liked these tiny bird dishes and put his hand in the photo so you can get an idea of just how tiny these little plates are.
"Lake life."  Need we say more?
These lake-themed plates and mugs are beautiful too. 
These dimensional winter scenes hold flameless candles.
Last year, Josiah posed with an elf in the "Pictures with Santa" area
This was a fun display from last year.  That is a cookie jar front and center!
Kellerhaus is a candy shop too!  The chocolates and other candies are made in the room in back of this display.
I always enjoy seeing the beautifully decorated fireplaces.  There are many!
There's even a pretty lighted wreath on the chimney!
Hope you've enjoyed browsing through one of our favorite Lakes Region shops!  If you are ever in New Hampshire, Kellerhaus  is well worth a visit.