Friday, December 31, 2010

A Couple of Recipes to Finish Out the Year

These may not be best for ringing in the New Year, but they're yummy just the same. I tried out this cookie recipe last night when I didn't have any brownie mix (that's right, I don't make homemade brownies--they all prefer a mix)and didn't have enough eggs for cupcakes. These cookies taste a lot like a brownie, so they worked great.

Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies

1 bx devil's food cake mix
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. water
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line the baking sheets with aluminum foil coated with cooking spray. Beat cake mix, butter, water, egg, and vanilla with a mixer on medium speed one minute. Stir in chips. Dough will be thick and sticky. Drop by heaping tablespoons about 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes until puffed and set. They'll sink some when they cool. Cool on pan 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Smoked Kielbasa with Rice

2 lb kielbasa, sliced
1/4 c. onion, diced
3 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 c. bbq sauce
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. horseradish
2 tsp. water
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
cooked rice

In a dutch oven or large frying pan, saute kielbasa, onion, and bacon; drain. Add bbq sauce and spices. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2-3 minutes until sauce is thick. Serve with rice.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

State of Play

What do you get when you cross a hockey stick, a nerf gun, a pair of dress-up shoes, a pop-up hunting blind and some Disney Princess doll furniture? A better idea of what my living room looks like. And a better understanding of why it's taking me longer to get around to my posts these days. With all the kids home from school, there's a lot of playing going on. At the moment, my computer desk has been invaded by pirates (that's their skeleton flag in the picture).

I've spent a good bit of the morning playing dolls. Meredith would go to her room and bring out another doll and say she'd had another baby. Finally after about six dolls she declared in a very tired voice, "My baby-making brain is broken so I'm all done havin' kids."

So sorry if I'm off my schedule, but I'm a bit busy burping babydolls, playing board games and being shot with an endless supply of Nerf darts. I know you'll understand. And I know how important it is to enjoy this time that I'm still a sought after playmate.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Soup's On

I had the sweetest moment of Christmas yesterday and I had to share it with y'all. It just goes to prove that it's not about a day, it's about an attitude.

I teach Sunday School to four and five year olds, my own included. For the month of December we've, of course, been studying about the birth of Jesus. Well yesterday we were discussing the angels bringing the news to the shepherds and their visit to the little family. The kids were sitting there listening while I was talking and putting the shepherds on the flannelgraph kneeling in front of the manger. I told them that this was one of the great things about God. He makes sure everyone knows, rich wise men with gifts of perfume or hard working shepherds who were smelly from the field. He loves us all, calls us all to come to Him. Those little kids looked intently at that picture of the shepherds and Jesus and then my sweet Meredith quietly began to sing. She sang, "Jesus, lamb of God, worthy is your name." Then we all joined in and we sang together. It was the most tender moment of pure Christmas. And it came from a five year old. If they can get it, we should be able to as well.

Today I'll also get back to my menu planning.
Monday--Chicken & Rice Soup, Brown Bread
Tuesday--Pork Roast, Mashed Potato Supreme, Garlicky Green Beans, Applesauce
Wednesday--Spaghetti, garlic bread, salad
Thursday--Chicken Divan, carrots, fruit cups, rolls
Friday--Smoked Kielbasa with Rice, Black Bean & Corn Salad
Saturday--Homemade Pizza

Chicken & Rice Soup
This was a new recipe we tried from a magazine and it was really good. I added more rice to make it a little hardier and a little more seasoning. It's definitely a keeper. The original recipe called for bone in chicken breasts. I used boneless, skinless tenderloins. That way, there's no skimming the fat and no pulling chicken off the bone. Either way works, it's just convenience or preference.

3 qt. water
4 chicken breasts
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper (I added just a bit more)
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning (I use Bell's)
2 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 c. uncooked rice
1 small onion, finely chopped

In a large pot, place water, chicken, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is tender. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken from broth. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and cut chicken in small pieces. Skim any fat from broth. Add chicken and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes until vegetables and rice are tender. Yields 10 servings.

Brown Bread
When it was still warm from the oven, Meredith took a bite and declared it "the best thing I ever put in my mouth."

1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 c. oats
2 Tbsp. shortening
2 tsp. salt
1 pkg (1 Tbsp.) yeast
3/4 c. warm water
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. molasses
5 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. melted butter

Combine boiling water, oats, shortening, and salt. Cool to 110 degrees. (By the time you set it aside, do the next step and wait until it foams about an inch, it'll be cool enough) In a separate bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Add to oats. Add brown sugar, molasses, and 3 cups of flour. Mix well. Continue adding flour until a soft dough forms. Turn onto floured surface. Knead 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover and let rise one hour. Punch down dough and divide in half. Place each half in a greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise 30-45 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Brush with butter. Cool on wire racks. Yields 2 loaves.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Beverly with Pink Saturday has asked us to share about our Christmas traditions. We have three. Christmas Eve is finger foods with family. We also make cookies for Santa. On Christmas morning we always have a brunch which includes Finnish Braids and Presnac, dishes from my husband's family. Christmas night we roast hotdogs in the fireplace and make s'mores. These are a few of our favorite things.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas!

The World's Best Step-Dad

This year at Christmas, Joseph has stayed on my mind. Joseph often fades into the background, far behind the baby Jesus of course, but we also hear much more about Mary, the magi, even the shepherds. I think that here, on the night before Christmas, he deserves a little attention. We don't know a lot about this man from Scripture, but the few verses we do have speak volumes of his character.

The first book in the New Testament starts out with a genealogy. For whom? Our man Joseph. He may seem like a simple carpenter, but royal blood runs through his veins. It is through Joseph that Jesus can claim his right to the throne of David, through him he can rightly be called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Joseph wasn't just a nice guy in the background. He was critical to the story of Christ.

We know his bloodline from the genealogy, but we know his heart from the next passages. He was an honorable man, respecting his betrothed before marriage. The Bible calls him a righteous man, not wanting to disgrace her publicly when he found out she was pregnant and he knew it wasn't his. Here was a morally zealous man who cared enough not to want her stoned, which would have been his legal right.

He was considering quietly getting out of his marriage contract when he received a visit. An angel came bearing the news about Mary. That was all it took. Joseph was willing to listen to the angel, to believe God and to trust Mary. Keep in mind that those around them weren't saying, "What a nice guy." In a strict moral and religious culture, he would have been the subject of ridicule and shame for his choice. He knew this, but gladly took her home to be his wife just the same.

Joseph loved and cared for Mary and for the baby Jesus, presenting him in the temple as his firstborn son. He obeyed when an angel again appeared to him to flee with Mary and Jesus. He made a home for them in a foreign land until it was safe to return.

Something else struck me about Joseph. In these days where parents rush to exploit the least bit of talent they see in their children, how amazing it was that Joseph, knowing he was raising the future King of the Universe, simply allowed him to be a boy.

Joseph was special man. Good and honorable, willing to shoulder a great deal of scorn for his choices and immeasurable responsibility in rearing God's son. We may not hear much about him in the Christmas story and he fades out view altogether after Jesus' encounter at the temple as a boy. But we can see his influence on the character and actions of the son he so dearly loved.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Songs for the Season

Today I have a couple of songs for you. My little one likes to sing and make up her songs as she goes. Last night I asked her if she'd like to give us all a Christmas song. She decided we needed two. I would say they're sung to the tune of...but she also makes up her own tunes, which are apt to change from one line to the next. She's better than her mom, I can't carry a tune at all. They're a little long, but she insisted I write it out verbatim. Not bad for a five year old.

Meredith's Christmas Song (a.k.a. "We Know That")

Jesus was born on Christmas Day, Christmas Day, Christmas Day
Christmas was special because he was born, and I know that
And it's special to me because he was born on Christmas Day
I know he was born on Christmas Day
and all of my friends know that too
Mary was his mama and we all know that
Christmas Day is very special
I love Christmas Day because Jesus was born
and everybody knows that
He laid in a bed with straw
I can remember because he was special
I know he was special
all the kids know that
Christmas is here today, we're opening presents
because we have some gifts
I said the baby's name was Jesus
Christmas is my favorite thing
Christmas is fun because it is special
and all the people say, "Merry Christmas!"


I open my eyes to peek under the tree
and I say it is Christmas
I open my presents with a big ol' tear
and a rip-rap
"Presents are fun!" I scream that out
I take a peek just right out
I saw, I saw my favorite color pink
It was pink ornaments, shiny and sparkly
Some were shaped like "M"s
and some were shaped like "K"s
and there were hearts
There were snowmen on the wrappings
I ate a gingerbread man with two eyes
made of gumdrops and
mouth made of bacon
and three buttons made of coal
All my presents were colored pink
I love my presents
I even had an Easy Bake
and then I ate a lollipop
My lollipop was shaped like a Christmas tree
Then I woke my family up
after I opened all my presents
I ate some ice cream
My family is sweet
I love you
The End

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Visit with the Vintage Blossoms

Over the river and through the woods...Well not really. It was more like, over the driveway and through a few intersections. But to Mrs. Ruth's house we went, even if the way was more city than scenic. Mrs. Ruth is one of a group of ladies we affectionately call the Vintage Blossoms. They love gardening, antiques, crafting, and yard sales. Mrs. Ruth is originally from Germany. Her home is full of wonderful treasures that she has brought from there or found in her yard sale expeditions. She is one of the most creative and crafty people you will ever meet. I don't know anything she can't make. Her favorites at the moment are making jewelry and creating cards. I thought I'd share pictures with you today of some of the Christmas decorations she had. I ran out of space on my camera long before I ran out of things to take pictures of.
A little tree that is on her buffet...and a closeup, it's covered in vintage jewelry.
One of the pretty plates she has decoupaged.
The table's all set for our luncheon.

I'm off to visit the other participants of Rednesday. You come too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Four Days, Four Recipes

On the fourth day before Christmas Kelly gave to appetizer recipe, one recipe for punch, one to have for breakfast, and one fancy dessert. Yes, I know the twelve days of Christmas song isn't actually a countdown to Christmas. And that I started way before twelve. Sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. I hope these recipes will be helpful to you this season, whether you're heading to a party or hosting one, or just planning a little something special for your family.

Italian Torta
This appetizer is good, and a little something different than the regular Christmas cheese ball. I'd serve it with a thicker whole grain cracker or one that is flavored with garlic.

1 (1 oz.) packet of ranch dressing mix
2 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 (6 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
1/3 c. roasted red peppers, chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh parsley

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and dressing mix until well blended. In a separate bowl, stir together artichokes, peppers, and parsley. In a 3 c. bowl (or mold) lined with plastic wrap, alternate layers of cream cheese and vegetables, beginning and ending with cream cheese. Chill four hours or overnight. Invert on a plate and remove plastic wrap. Serve with crackers. Serves 10-12.

Hot Apple Cider Punch
I love hot apple cider and this gives you enough to share.

1 gallon apple cider
1 qt ginger ale
3/4 c. red hots (red cinnamon candies)
1 med. orange, sliced
2 large cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp. whole cloves

The recipe calls for making this in a 30 cup percolator. If you've got one, that's great. Pour the cider and ginger ale in the percolator and put the spices in the basket. Perk through a complete cycle and it's done. For the rest of us, I just dump it all together in a big pot on the stove or in my large crock pot and heat. If you want, you can tie the spices together in a cheesecloth before adding them to the pot. Makes 1 1/4 gallon of punch.

Hearty Sausage Mini Quiches
Christmas Day breakfasts are big at my house. This makes nice individual servings. It'd be great with a sweet roll and some fruit.

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. milk
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 c. frozen hash browns
1 lb sausage, cooked and drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Place foil baking cups in a muffin tin. Fill with sausage mixture. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Yields 12.

Fruit Platter Pie with Orange Sauce
Here's a dessert I've made many times for special occasions. It makes a pretty presentation and isn't as heavy as traditional Christmas desserts. Maybe you should save it for New Year's when everyone has made their resolutions.

1 pie crust
1 pint strawberries, halved
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks
1 1/2 c. green grapes
1 banana, sliced
2 Tbsp. sugar
Orange Sauce:
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 c. orange juice
1/4 c. lemon juice
3/4 c. water
1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel

Roll out crust to fit on pizza pan. Prick with a fork. Bake 8-10 minutes; cool. Arrange fruit in circles around crust, beginning and ending with the strawberries. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. sugar. For the sauce, combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Stir in liquids. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick and boiling. Boil one minute. Remove from heat. Stir in orange and lemon peel. Cool. Drizzle some of the sauce over the fruit. Cut into wedges. Serve remaining sauce on the side. Serves 12-14.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Five More Days!!!

I can't believe there are only five days left until Christmas. I am so behind this year! Things have been very hectic around here and there are a lot of things that are getting left undone. I think this year is about keeping what is important and just letting the rest go.

Here are a few of the cute ornaments that Meredith made at school this year. I thought they'd be great to pass along to all you preschool and Sunday school teachers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

HE Knows Where You Are Sleeping

I was reading my Bible, where Paul experiences his conversion, and saw something I wanted to share with you all.

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."
And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying."
Acts 9:10-11

There's more to the story, but what I want us to stop and think about were the directions that God gave to Ananias. He gave him Paul's street address! He even told him what was going on in the house.

We really do have someone who knows if we've been sleeping or knows if we're awake. It's not some vague knowledge of our existence. He knows the very street we live on, what's going on in the house.

Sometimes that's a sobering thought. Maybe if I stopped to consider it, I'd change my attitude for the day or spend a little more time on the things that are truly important.

Other times it is such a comfort. Life is spinning out of control, we're struggling. He sees that too. And we don't have to send some letter and hope it reaches the North Pole, we just have to stop and pray to the One who is already well aware of the situation.

He's dropped by the house and seen it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Dinner in a Post

Okay, here are enough recipes to make an entire Christmas (or Thanksgiving for next year) dinner. For the meat choose either a ham (Honey Baked Hams are great, and as I've said before, so are the ones from Walmart with the purple wrapping) or a turkey (I prefer to do mine by brining, makes it extra juicy). I hope this gives you some ideas and gives you a jumpstart on your grocery shopping. I'm off to spend the day helping at school.

Raspberry Tossed Salad

1 pkg salad greens
2 apples, sliced
1 c. pecans, toasted
1 c. craisins
1/2 c. red onion, sliced
3/4 c. raspberry vinigrette

Toss all but dressing. When ready to serve, add dressing. Toss, serve immediately. Serves 8.

Cranberry Salad

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 (16 oz) can whole cranberry sauce
2 c. mini marshmallows
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 (8 oz) tub whipped topping

Combine milk and lemon juice; mix well. Add pineapple, cranberry sauce, marshmallows, and pecans. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon into a 13x9 dish. Freeze 4 hours or overnight. Let thaw for 10 minutes; cut into squares. 12-16 servings.

I don't stuff my turkey. You have to be so careful about cooking it properly. I just cook it on its own and then there's no worry. This is Jon's mom's recipe. I love it. This is to make a big batch for Thanksgiving. You can cut the recipe down by 1/3 for everyday use.

Bread Stuffing

12 c. prepared bread crumbs
1 c. melted butter
3/4 c. chopped onion
1 1/2 c. chopped celery
1 Tbsp. Lawry's season salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. Bell's seasoning (comes in a little yellow box with a turkey on it, spice aisle)

Day old bread is best. You can buy 2 packages of that thin Pepperidge Farm bread. One and one-half packages will give you just what you need. Pull the bread apart into about 1/2" pieces. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet. Add onion and cook until tender. Stir in about 1/3 of the crumbs, stirring and heating through. Put this in a deep bowl and add celery and spices, stirring to coat. Add remaining crumbs and stir well. You can bake it for 30 minutes in the oven at the same temp as the turkey if you want. I don't. It's good just like it is to us. You can make it early (day before if you want) and heat it up before serving.

Here are four different vegetable dishes. Yes, I know there are two potato dishes. The sweet potato is an absolute must. The spinach sounds weird but is so worth it, even if you think you don't like spinach. And it's not like quiche, I hate anything that tastes eggy and I still love it. And green bean casserole always goes with the holidays. The Potatoes Supreme are Jon's favorite, so we have to have them.

Sweet Potato Souffle

2 (40 oz.) cans sweet potatoes, drained and mashed
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/4 c. butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 c. chopped pecans

Stir butter into potatoes. Beat together remaining ingredients; add to potatoes. Pour into 13x9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

Spinach Ricotta Pie

1 lb ricotta cheese
2 pkgs chopped spinach, drained (takes a while to thaw, wring it out hard, get it as dry as possible)
1/2 lb mozarella, grated, plus more (get a pound)
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 c. parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
salt & white pepper to taste (a little white pepper goes a long way)
dash of tobasco
1 clove garlic, minced
2 slightly cooked pie crusts (just enough so they won't get soggy)

Mix all together and pour into pie crusts. Top with more mozarella and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hr. This doesn't have to be served straight from the oven. Bake it when you first put your turkey or ham in, remove and cover with foil. Cover with towels or place in one those pyrex warmers until ready to serve. It'll be fine at almost room temperature. It'll even be good next day cold for breakfast.

Green Bean Casserole

3/4 c. milk
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cans green beans, drained
1 1/3 c. french onions, divided
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Combine milk, pepper, soup, beans, Worcestershire sauce, and 2/3 c. onions. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with 2/3 c. onions. Bake 5 minutes more.

Potatoes Supreme

1 c. sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 c. melted butter
1/3 c. sliced green onions
1 1/2 c. swiss cheese, shredded, divided
10-12 c. cubed, cooked potatoes (cook about 14 fist sized potatoes)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. cracker (Ritz usually, but others will do) crumbs

Mix 1 c. of cheese with sour cream, soup, butter, onions, salt, and pepper. Fold into cooked potatoes. Mix 1/2 c. cheese with cracker crumbs. Sprinkle over potatoes. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Dessert is a good thing to ask others to bring. But if you want to do it all, here are a couple of make ahead options. I like the balance of something chocolate and something else.

Pumpkin Pie (Jon's mom's recipe)

3 c. pumpkin
1 tsp. salt
1 can evaporated milk plus regular milk to equal 2 1/2 c.
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cloves
2 pre-baked pie shells

Beat all ingredients together. Pour into pie shells. Bake in the bottom of the oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Brownie Delight

1 brownie mix
2 boxes vanilla pudding
1 (16 oz) tub Cool Whip
1 Skor candy bar, grated

Bake brownies as directed. Cool completely. Mix pudding as directed. In a trifle bowl, layer 1/2 of each--brownies, pudding, cool whip, skor. Repeat layers. Keep refrigerated.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Spots

These are a few little spots around the house that brighten up the season. I don't normally buy things with Santa on them, but this little fella was my exception. I love him. I don't know if it's because he's made of pottery (one of my weaknesses) or he's small (those books he's standing on are pocket-size) or he's so happy and round. Whatever the reason, he called my name on year at a Hobby Lobby sale.

Our stockings are hung by the chimney with care...

We've got a constant supply of candy canes in the kitchen. The girls in the family love peppermint.

And here's something else done by my neighbor Brenda. It's one of my favorites, more vintage than crafty.

Wishing you a Happy Rednesday, a home sprinkled with Christmas cheer, and a heart that remembers the reason we celebrate.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No, I Wasn't Kidnapped by Elves

I got a couple of worried phone calls yesterday when I hadn't done my blog. I am okay. No, I'm not deathly ill. I was up all Sunday night with a stomach ache and then laid back down after everyone was off to school. Apparently a little nap makes a lot of disruption in my day and I never did find a minute to squeeze a blog in. All is well today and I'm back to my usual routine.

I have been blessed with a very creative neighbor. She can paint or craft anything. Today I thought I'd share just a few of the Christmas things she has painted for me. Brenda never ceases to amaze me, whether it's her talents (she can also sing) or her strength and determination (she was in a car accident as a young adult and paralyzed from the waist down). I have learned many things living next door to her through the years.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Special Delivery

Look what the mailman (oh excuse me, letter carrier) broght me. It's my package of goodies that I won from Leslie at Brookhollow Lane. She even decorated the box with striped packing tape and hand drawn cherries.

It was filled with all sorts of great things--a canister set, a coaster set nested in a teapot, a pretty crocheted doilie, (my personal favorite) the handmade doll on the box. There were even cherry shaped gummy candies. Riley, who I'd had to get from school, especially loved those.

There was red polka dot tissue paper (I dearly love polka dots) and things were tied in ribbons with little cherries on it. After the morning I'd had, God (and Leslie) knew exactly what I needed. I needed a cheery little box full of cherries to set it all right again. And it was a good day...soggy fruit loop bottom and all.

Hope your weekend is filled with unexpected surprises as well. Just watch out for the cereal, it has a mind of its own.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kiddie Christmas Tree

It's been one of those mornings. I started to take the pictures for my post and the camera battery died. I spilled an entire bowl of cereal in my lap and got milk in my underwear and a Fruit Loop stuck to the rear of my pants. I accidentally threw the silverware in the trash. One little person forgot their bookbag and we had to turn around and go back for it. All before 7:30 a.m. Things can only get better...right? It's Thankful Thursday and you'd better believe the thing I'm most thankful for is a change of clothes.

Today I thought I'd share a few pictures from the kids' tree. I found a small tree, four feet, at a yard sale for $5 last fall. It has colored lights, our big tree has white ones. This tree is totally theirs. The get to decorate it any way they want. They take the ornaments on and off and rearrange at least once a day. It's full of things they've made or ornaments they like. I'll show you a few of the crafty ones they've done at school or church. The one above is Santa made from a popsicle stick. My cousin Sharon actually did this with her kindergarten class. I like his little beard.

This angel looks like she's having my kind of day. Her hair is on crooked and her poor star is upside down. Maybe she's just from the future...5002.

This is a very old one that somehow survives each year. That's me when I was a toddler. See the overalls? I was a farmgirl even then. And notice the curlers in my hair. I've always had my own "special" style.

A reindeer made from a clothespin.

And here's my personal favorite. I did this with Riley's preschool class. Write the child's name on a round blue plastic ornament with a paint pen. Brush white paint on their hands (a thicker paint will give more texture). Place the ornament in the palm of their hands and have them grasp it with their fingers. The palm will form the snow on the ground and the fingers will form the snowmen. You may need to give their fingers a little wiggle or you'll end up with some very skinny snowmen. When the ornaments are dry, go back and draw on scarves, hats, buttons, etc. with permanent markers. You can see the handprint when you hold it upside down.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bathroom Santa

I thought about showing you some of the cute things off the kids' tree or some of the pretty things my neighbor has painted. Then I thought...nah, let's talk potty talk--Santa in the potty.

My kids like it every year when this decoration comes out and guests like to go in the bathroom and see the surprise. This clever little contraption was made by my Aunt Betty.

You can make them two different ways. The first is totally by hand, cutting felt to create each of the stockings and then connecting them with a wide red velvet ribbon. The other way, shown in this picture, is to buy two Santa stockings. That way, you only have to make some little mittens out of black felt and connect the two with ribbon. You've got a five minute craft that makes going to the bathroom a Christmas treat. Well, sort of.

And speaking of my Aunt Betty, I do believe the woman is a genius. We have a very nice, very large artificial Christmas tree that is our main Christmas tree. It is covered in white lights. Should say was covered in white lights, because most had burned out. We've thought about replacing it, but hadn't found the right tree (or the right price) and hated to chunk a really good tree. I just hated the thought of stringing all those lights. All my trees are pre-lit and I've become lazy in that department. My Aunt Betty had a suggestion. Use net lights, like go on your bushes outside.

Hmmm, would that work? How would it look? When we got to looking, the lights on our pre-lit tree would come off easily. They came off easily when we were looking, not so 'easily' when I was doing. I finally got the lights done on the bottom third of the tree (it comes apart in three sections). I threw my net over and held my breath as I plugged it in. It looked great. The wires blend in easily and tuck behind branches. It did take two nets for the bottom because it's a really wide tree. But now, instead of weaving strand after strand in and out, year after year, I simply cast my net! Let their be light!

Don't forget the other great posts for Rednesdday that you can see when you visit Sue over at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...

LeeRoy (remember him?) asked me to be a "deer" and fetch him a quick and tasty holiday recipe that he could share with you all. I ran right to the kitchen and brought this one back. With only two ingredients, it doesn't get any simpler. It's for when you've had a busy day and completely forgotten that you're supposed to be taking food to a Christmas party you remembered you're supposed to be at 30 minutes before it starts. They'll think you worked so hard.

This recipe is so versatile. You can vary the candy you put inside. You can use different types of cookie dough. For the holidays, I'd use a sugar cookie dough and roll it in green and red sugar. If it's a day when you have extra time on your hands, you could pipe a little design in the middle once it was completely cooled.

Candy Cookie Cups

1 (18 oz) pkg individually portioned refrigerated cookie dough
24 mini Reese's cups

Grease mini muffin pan. Half each cookie. Place each half in a muffin cup. Bake at 325 degrees for 11-13 minutes. Immediately place a Reese's cup in each cookie. Press gently. Cool completely. Yields 2 dozen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

Oh no, the countdown to Christmas has reached the teens and I still don't remotely have my shopping done. I'm normally a very organized person when it comes to these things. Not this year. I still have no list from my oldest, or my husband. I finally started one for myself last night.

What I do have is some good news to share. I won a giveaway!!! I'm getting a whole package of wonderful goodies from Brookhollow Lane. She has a website that I love to look at. You should really check out her dining room redo. You can visit her at Not since Enos from 'The Dukes of Hazzard' came to our house and installed a water filtration system have I won a prize. That was at least 20 years ago.

I also wanted to share a picture of what I made this weekend. It's a Buche de Noel. It's all edible--milk chocolate leaves, meringue mushrooms, white chocolate branches. A nearby Chamber of Commerce used it as a presentation piece to the lodge that hosted their Christmas dance. The picture shows it before I added the surrounding "dirt", so it looks kind of bare.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Little Pink Christmas Tree

Here's another Christmas tree we have. This is Meredith's. It's mostly pink and I thought it'd be fun to share it on Pink Saturday. It's a little tabletop tree, only about 2 feet tall, and it sits on her dresser. I used a small pink yo-yo quilt for the tree skirt. If you are looking for pink ideas for Christmas, be sure to visit all the posts at

This is the button garland I made last year. I love the way it turned out, but if I did it again, I'd be sure to use ribbon with flexible wire to make it easier to position (the buttons are heavy and have a mind of their own).

Bubbles and balls and stars, oh my. The pretty stars are handbeaded by my friend Melitta. Each one takes her about two hours.

She also made this little angel I'm using for a topper. It's actually a pin to wear, but I thought she belonged on the tree.

And here's a little bird perched on the tree, a gift from my sweet friend Joey.

Have a wonderful PINK Christmas!

Friday, December 3, 2010

On the Third Day of Christmas...

Kelly Mac shared with me...her favorite Christmas memory.

Twas nowhere near Christmas
when all through the store,
with fussing and whining
on a tantrum he tore...

I think it was actually summer, and I was picking up a few things I needed for Vacation Bible School. Well, Riley apparently wasn't in the mood for shopping at Hobby Lobby, unless it involved getting a toy. So, all the way to the back of the store there was crying and whining for having to come. All the way back to the register there was crying and whining for not getting the little coloring poster that he wanted. Not one of our better moments.

We stood in line, he with a sniff and a pout and me with a "just you wait 'til we get to the car" glare. Of course there was a long line. As we stood there I noticed the man who was a couple of shoppers behind me. He noticed us too. He looked at Riley and told him to come to him. Riley looked at me for permission and we all traipsed back there. After all, this was a rather scruffy looking old man. He was sitting in his wheelchair being pushed by a lady. I wasn't sure if it was his wife or daughter.

I did start to get a little concerned when he looked at Riley and said, "I want to show you something" and proceeded to dig around in his pants. Maybe being polite to elderly strangers wasn't such a good idea this time. To my relief, he produced a wallet.

This whole time, he's never cracked a smile. There was no, "Hi, how are you" chitchat. He leaned over, got almost nose to nose with my little troublemaker and asked,
"Do you know who I am?"
Riley shook his head slowly back and forth. "No sir."
The lady behind the chair smiles at me.
The old gentleman whips open the wallet.
Riley's eyes grow very big.
His brother, who has been standing quietly behind him, also has eyes as big as saucers.
Complete silence.
There, in that wallet, was a beautiful photo of the man, handsome and dressed up in his red suit. The lady who pushed the wheelchair was dressed in a matching outfit. They were surrounded by many other people dressed in elf outfits. It was a family picture.
He gave them a few minutes for it to sink in.
They stared and stared.
They were face-to-face with Santa Claus.
Then he leans back over to my speechless son and says, in a still stern voice,
"Now you better not pout...and you better not cry."

You can bet I didn't have any trouble out of my kids for a VERY long time. You'd best be on your best manners when you're out shopping. You never know who you might run into, especially at Hobby Lobby.

What about you, what's your favorite Christmas memory?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On the Second Day of Christmas...

...Kelly gave to me, some Christmas pics and a mint chocolate cookie recipe. Sing it with me now. Okay, I guess you don't really have to sing. I'll share anyway.

Look who paid a visit to my house yesterday. It was Santa Jr. We were getting out our Christmas decorations and I guess he was in the holiday mood. He ran to the bedroom and came up with this outfit on his own. The top is his t-shirt turned backwards, there's a cowboy belt (apparently Sant's into rodeo), and all the cottonballs I have piled around his face. He had to keep his shoulders hunched up to stop the cottonballs from falling.

Here's Santa Jr. taking Christmas requests. I think he got an order for an Easy Bake Oven.

One of my small Christmas trees that sits on my kitchen island. I've got big trees, small trees, metal trees, tinsel trees. I'll share others on days to come.

And here's a little display I made for the table out of hedge apples we gathered from the side of the road in Maryland. (Note I have not gotten around to ironing the Christmas tablecloth.)

Today is Thursday, so I need to write out what I'm thankful for. 1.)I'm thankful you all can't see what a mess my house is right now. 2.) I'm glad the fella that's coming to install the closet doors is running late so I can finish my post in the quiet.

Finally today, I thought I'd share a new cookie recipe I tried yesterday. They were good a little different from the usual fare. I'd picked up the bag of mint chocolate chips a while back when they were on sale and stuck them in the freezer. Mint chocolate just seemed appropriate for Christmas time baking.

Mint Chocolate Delights
2 c. all purpose flour
2/3 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 (10 oz.) pkg mint & chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. In a mixer, beat butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in chips. (Batter will be sticky.) Drop by spoonfulls onto baking sheets. Bake 11-13 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Yields approx. 4 dozen.