Sunday, December 30, 2012

Catching Up With All of You!

Hello dear friends!  I took a few days off to truly enjoy R&R and time celebrating Christmas with my family but I have missed connecting with all of you and I have so much to share with you!  I don't have all my pictures cleaned up yet but there is much more to come - I promise!  I found this little serving tray and I think it sums up my feelings about the holidays this year quite well.  We were blessed with a white Christmas just in the nick of time here in Michigan and everyone was so excited to see the snow arrive.  We are snowmobilers in this family and are excited to hit the trails in the upcoming weeks - you'll hear and see much more on that very soon.

The kids were really into the magic of Christmas this year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

The excitement is certainly building around here! Today is the first of our Christmas parties and we'll get to see Santa this evening. The kids have been really good about staying out of the presents and they'll finally get to open some today at my in-law's. When we come home they will open a new set of PJs to snuggle in by the fireplace tonight while we read Christmas stories, including the story of Jesus' birth.treats & chocolate milk for Santa and carrots or apple slices for the reindeer. The critters in the barn will be snuggled in with a little extra feed and a few treats of their own. Then the hubby and I will snuggle up with mugs of hot toddy by the light of the fireplace and Christmas tree before bed. Merry Christmas and many blessings to you all!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Make Your Own AG Doll Purse/Tote

My great-grandma was a sewing queen.  Having lived through the Depression, she could make fabric scraps into the most fabulous and unique doll clothes.  We never felt like we had less because we couldn't afford the "real" doll clothes from the store, we thought we were cool because we had things that no one else could even get.  She didn't leave the boys out either - she made my brother a boy doll and made baseball hats and accessories like a little faux leather jacket and silver glove like Michael Jackson.  This little purse/tote was inspired by her.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree has long been a very important part of Christmas for me.  I remember going at a young age to scout just the perfect tree.  
My parents didn't always have much money for such frivolities and so a few years they made arrangements with friends who had property with some pines old Christmas tree farms that were long overgrown to go find a "wild" tree that we could trim down to size.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Make Your Own AG Doll Sleeping Bag

Least you think I have not been very busy, I'll let you in on some Christmas presents I have been working on for my daughter.  At 9, she is in the full swing American Girl doll obsession.  It isn't often that I splurge on such extravagant purchases for my children as a real American Girl doll but when she was 7 it was an unexpected good year and Santa took matters into his own hands and brought the doll of her dreams that looked just like her, including glasses.  This was important because she had gotten glasses and really was beginning to enter that phase of self-consciousness and insecurity that she had never had before.  The doll has provided her with an image of her own beauty and she loves all the hours fussing over the doll and taking her places.  While she understands we can't really afford the things in the catalog to go with her doll, we have been very successful in finding things to go with the 18" doll that she loves including handmade outfits and accessories.  So this year as she is between that little girl and tween stage, I decided some fun new things for the American Girl doll were in order.  I started with this easy sleeping bag that she can use for the doll's bed or when we travel with her.  
This piece of felt is 24" wide and 20" long.  I folded it in half so it is 20"x12" and pinned the bottom and side seam together.  
Then I sewed it with my machine on a zigzag stitch leaving a 6" opening on the long side.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Mug Swap & Candied Nuts

Want to see what I got?  Check out this adorable Santa mug!  Robyn over at Robyn's View sent me this jolly old elf as part of the Christmas Mug Swap hosted by Heather at Heatherly Loves and he couldn't be more perfect.  In fact, I had to sneak him off to work with me the very next day so my daughter didn't try to lay claim.  :)
 This view makes me smile and chuckle every time.
 Be sure to check out both blogs as these ladies are very sweet and talented!  Robyn has awesome recipes like this Crockpot French Dip sandwich - yum!  And Heather has everything from crafts, recipes and tips on how to hem your jeans to tasty treats for your favorite pooch!
Here's a crunchy sweet little snack to go with that mug full of coffee.  Just melt a stick of butter in a skillet, add about 2 cups of almonds and 2 cups of pecans (walnuts are also very tasty!).  Add a few dashes each of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Then add about 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  Continue to saute until the sugar/butter mixture is bubbly and caramelized.  Spread on a foil lined baking sheet and cool.  This works great packaged in the snack-size zip baggies for holiday goody bags and treats for the mailman, teachers and co-workers!

Monday, December 17, 2012

How They Will be Greeted in Heaven

Today again, I had long planned a light-hearted post about the Christmas mug swap, but all I can think about is those families in Connecticut who are suffering the loss of their loved ones.  

A friend recently read this poem at her mother's funeral and it is something that I try to remember as those innocent little ones, and those brave women who did their best to protect them, make their journey to be held in the arms of the Lord.

I am standing by the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch
until at last she hangs like a peck of white cloud
just where the sun and sky come down to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says, 'There she goes!'
Gone where?  Gone from my sight - that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the places of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
'There she goes!',
there are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
'Here she comes!"

I can picture them crossing into Heaven together holding hands and looking about in wonder.  And I can see the crowd of angels there to greet them.  I can see my great-grandma there with a platter of bright green finger jello and my great-grandpa saying "Now there's my friends!" and encouraging them all to join a game of wiffle ball or croquet.  I see my Grandpa D showing them all a sweet little chickadee eating calmly out of the palm of his hand.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Life is Hard

I had a different kind of post planned today.  
A fluffy one about Christmas 
and baking 
and all that is light 
and cheery about this time of year...  
And then that other side of life hit today 
and just kept coming...

My thoughts and prayers are with the families in Connecticut.
I simply can't imagine.  
My heart breaks for those whose children were taken.  
I am eager to hug and hold my babies 
and perhaps not so eager to find out if my 9-year-old has already heard.  
No doubt we will all sleep together tonight.  
Since our house was broken into over a year ago, 
our talks about personal safety and what to do in various crisis scenarios 
has increased by a lot and the questions she asks have grown more serious.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Projects Sneak Peek...

Hope you are all having a joyous time with your holiday preparations!  Here's a sneak peek at one of the many projects I've been working on.  This cute little football shirt is for my little football fan since he will only wear sports shirts right now and I made a couple for the cousins as well.  I saw this idea on Pinterest and it was originally posted by Shirley at The Ribbon Retreat - I did make a couple tweaks.  

Also underway in the sewing area, American Girl doll accessories for my daughter including a sleeping bag, a felt quilt and a skirt.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Recipe Roundup - Easy Christmas

I don't know about all of you, but by Christmas Day I am frazzled.  I've already been to several gatherings full of rich food, I've been baking and crafting and wrapping and shopping...  We have the big gathering with my husband's family on Christmas Eve so the kids are tired and grumpy not long after the 6 a.m. (or earlier!) gift unwrapping.  And all we really want to do is hang around in our sweats and jammies and play with our new goodies and snack.  It doesn't always work out that way, but when we are able, we get a fire going in the fireplace, turn on the parades and football and old Christmas movies, and play and nap and its wonderful.
The first year, we felt guilty saying no to all the other offers.  The next year, my parents and youngest brother joined us in sweats and bedhead hair and all and we had a blast.  This year will be busier because my brother will be home visiting from out of state so we will be having a big gathering at my mom's - well worth it to have him home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cran-Apple-Orange Relish

This bright little dish is from our Thanksgiving table but would make a great carry-over to Christmas as well. It gives a wonderful aroma as it simmers and has that little acidic punch to break up the richness of all the other dishes.  It also freezes or cans well so it would be great for a food gift as well.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Godiva Spirits Party

Do you host a cookie swap or holiday open house and want to add a fun little twist?  Or are you looking for a great mid-winter party to help break up the monotony of the long cold months? This Godiva Spirits party could be just the thing!  It would also be a lot of fun as a Valentine's party or unique retirement or anniversary party.

I hosted this party as a date-night party for my friends last winter.  I had a couple of pregnant friends and those who gave up liquor for lent so I adjusted a couple of the recipes to non-alcoholic versions and you'll find both below.  The non-alcoholic are also kid-safe recipes but make sure you either personally serve everyone or have them all well-labeled so there are no mix-ups.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Lights!

The exuberant shouts of "Christmas Lights!" fill my truck these days morning and night since it is dark commuting both ways.  
It was a favorite part of the year for me as a child.  My parents were great at coming up with free entertainment for us as kids and one of those traditions was to take a drive to look for Christmas lights.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#GivingTuesday - Another Man's Treasure

World Homeless Day

There are opportunities for giving right there in front of you.  You don't have to spend a penny either.  

You may think you have nothing extra to give this time of year.  But what about that clutter you've been wanting to clear?  What about the clothes it seems the kids are outgrowing every day?  What about those extra old pots and pans you stashed in the back of the cabinet after your latest upgrade?

Every few months I find its time to wade through another stash of clutter - toys, papers, crafting supplies, clothes, kids artwork, etc.  This is a great time of year to do it - I find things that were never used and craft projects that were never finished that I can easily turn into gifts (beats any sale!).  The kids find toys and books and movies that they stopped playing with long ago.  I find clothes they (or I) have outgrown or just plain refuse to wear.  That saying about "one man's junk is another man's treasure" - its really true!

So who is looking for what?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Homemade Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This dense, moist cake is an awesome treat for dessert or breakfast with your coffee.  The cream cheese frosting hits just the right spot - serve slightly warmed if you can.  This recipe will make more frosting than you need for one sheet cake but you can refrigerate (up to 2 weeks) or freeze it and it would be great on cinnamon rolls.

Cake Mix:
3 medium overripe bananas
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup chunky applesauce (see my recipe here)
3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tablespoon lemon juice then add enough milk to get to 3/4 cup and let sit 5 minutes before using)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups flour

Beat the bananas until smooth.  Add the shortening and applesauce and beat until mixed well.  Slowly add the buttermilk, beating as you add it.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.  Pour into a greased 13x9x2 or a 1-inch deep cookie sheet.  This recipe will not rise much so you can fill your pan fairly full without worries of it running over the edge.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until it is golden and the edges have pulled away from the pan.
1 block cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 large bag powdered sugar

Whip together cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Add vanilla and milk and blend until smooth.  Gradually, add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

If serving right away, frost individual servings and let the rest of the cake cool completely before frosting.  Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Baked Brie

This blog is a roller coaster sometimes, isn't it?  Well, such is the story of my life, haha!  While I want to delve into the deeper topics when the opportunity arises, I realize many of you come for other reasons like projects and party ideas and stories about our country life and the kids.  And a whole lot of you come here for tasty recipes!  So to reward your patience with my preaching from the soapbox, here is a tasty appetizer that will serve you well for any crowd and impress without a lot of money or effort.

My mom originated baked brie in our family.  Let's just say that her side of the family tends not to be very adventurous when it comes to food.  While my grandmother always cooked and canned, there is a standard menu that is not very often deviated from and odd cheeses like brie are not on it.  My mom, however, always likes to try new things and I remember being a little girl and my mom's group of lady friends from church and work and school all getting together for the most fabulous brunches in the dining room or on the front porch if the weather was nice.  
The great part about hosting a brunch like this is that it can be done on a very small budget and still be impressive to your guests.  For much of my childhood, my mom worked two jobs while my dad was starting his own business so money was tight and small pleasures were hard earned.  This brie recipe is one of the little splurges she would make to elevate the menu to impressive status.  She would surround it with fresh fruit and crackers for serving on all the good china and then provide an egg/bread brunch casserole, some sort of potato hash, orange juice with a splash of lemon-lime soda pop for a kid-safe mimosa, and her homemade cinnamon rolls.