Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Blessings and good wishes to you and yours, today and every day in 2011 and beyond!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Are you making resolutions?

While I don't make New Year's resolutions, I am ready to make some changes. It is time to get the house and my life back in order. I used to think that the house looked empty after the decorations came down. Now I think it looks peaceful and clean. Don't get me wrong, I love decorating for the holidays, but from the end of September through now, there have been decorations here, there and everywhere. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are wonderful and fun, but I am ready for simple again.

For the past few years, January has brought out the urge to purge in me. This year is no different except that it began a month ago. I couldn't really go through things in the midst of holiday prep, but I did set things aside as they got in my way, things that will be donated or possibly put up for sale. I hope I can get my husband to do the same. He has a habit of receiving new items as gifts but still using the old. I bet I could find two new wallets in his drawers and he hasn't been given one for at least three years now. The phrase "Use it or lose it" doesn't have to apply only to mental and physical agility. I've made a point of telling my kids and nieces that except for heirlooms (do we have any?) they should not worry that they'll hurt my feelings if they decline a hand me down, rid themselves of a no longer useful or wanted item or exchange a current gift.

I began this post a few days ago and saved it when interrupted. Since then, the tree has been taken down and put out for yesterday's trash pickup. All the indoor decorations have been packed away. Only the outdoor lights are still up and in use. Bill and I talked about getting rid of some of the unused stuff and he was all for it. Let's hope he still feels that way when I actually have the stuff gathered and ready to go. Photobucket
The house looks clean and I slept soundly last night. I am ready to start the New Year, how about you?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Anyone need a sugar fix?

On the 15th of December I doubted shopping would be completed in time for Christmas, much less anything else being done. Somehow the shopping and wrapping came together in record time, leaving me time to bake a little. And a little more. And then some more on top of that.
I made sugar cookies. I made Snickerdoodles. I made peanut butter cookies. I made cranberry biscotti. I made chocolate-peanut butter bars. I made candy cane cookies. I made a devil's food pound cake. I made a pumpkin roll. And then I made Toll House cookies, three times.

What was I thinking????

I'll skip commenting about the items most are familiar with and talk about the new recipes (new to me and my relatives anyway) that were such hits. The best part is that they were all easy to make.

Here is the devil's food pound cake recipe. It uses a boxed cake mix and instant pudding mix. I used Duncan Hines glaze on it. Not bad, but I think I prefer making my own. It was convenient though.

The pumpkin roll recipe is from my good friend and fellow blogger Kelli. If you've never made a rolled cake because they intimidated you, try this. It is easy and delicious.

The chewy chocolate-peanut butter bars are a Pillsbury recipe.  Sinful. Lip smacking. Not at all low fat. Yum!

Pillsbury was also the recipe source for the cranberry biscotti. The recipe was on the box of cranberry quick bread. The back of the box directions called for melting additional white chocolate chips and drizzling them over the completed and cooled biscotti. Another yum, for sure. I'm wondering if other quick bread mixes couldn't become biscotti too?

Why did I make Toll House cookies three times? It began with an internet discussion on butter. Has butter changed recently? Several of my friends have had unsatisfactory baking results and have wondered if the butter is at fault. Land o' Lakes brand was mentioned several times but not exclusively. My Toll House cookies haven't been right by me for the last year or so. I had stopped using margarine and was using butter. Hmmmm, maybe something is going on. Kelli mentioned having good luck with butter flavored Crisco in place of the butter called for in the Toll House recipe.
The batch made with butter flavored Crisco was definitely better than the batches I've made this past year, but it wasn't quite what I remember as being like my mom's. Thinking back to what mom used, she used half Crisco and half margarine, Blue Bonnet to be exact. I made a second batch with one stick of Blue Bonnet and 1/2 cup of butter flavored Crisco. Almost perfect! The third batch was made this way also but had chopped pecans added.

The next time I make them I will use regular Crisco and Blue Bonnet and see if the result is what I am remembering. If not, I will try again with 3/4 Crisco and 1/4 Blue Bonnet. This might not happen any time soon since we have so many cookies here right now.

Two other goodies that I didn't mention were intended for my nieces' kids, again super simple ideas that I've seen repeatedly online. One is made from Pillsbury refrigerated cookie dough decorated for the holidays, baked with a layer of canned frosting between two cookies to create a sandwich; the other is marshmallows on a lollipop stick. The face is done with edible markers, the hat is an mini-Oreo and a Rolo candy with frosting holding them onto the snowman's head.

The 5-8 year olds loved them. I can't wait for Colton to be old enough to enjoy some of these creations!

You'll have to excuse me now as I have someone coming over to help me get rid of eat the cookies and cakes that I didn't pawn off give to my relatives yesterday. He's big, blue and has the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know.
Feel free to stop by for a cookie or two or maybe six. Even Cookie Monster can't eat all of these in one afternoon!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Click here for an animated greeting by Jacquie Lawson.

Best wishes to everyone in blog-land!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Digital Story of the Nativity

I enjoyed this clip, I hope you do too.

In case we all get to busy to write and blog the rest of this week, best wishes from my blog to yours!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Five views of your home

 A little humor for Friday:

Here is your home as seen by yourself
 As seen by your buyer
As seen by your lender
As seen by your appraiser
And lastly, by your county tax assessor

Can you tell I've just written a check for our winter taxes? Ho, ho, ho and a happy weekend to all!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future...

Steve Miller, anyone? No, I'm not trying to fly like an eagle, and that sure isn't a Christmas song, but I bet many of us feel like time is slipping away right now.
I think I finished Christmas shopping yesterday, including an online order that hopefully will arrive in time. I hadn't been home an hour when Bill asked me at dinner if son #2 or I had bought him a certain tool for Christmas. Before I could protest his questioning, he said he was going to need it this Friday to help son #1 with a basement project. 

What could I do?  Photobucket  One less package to wrap, right?

I could be wrapping other gifts today, but Colton is here and where I normally wrap presents becomes his changing station when he is around. He is very interested in paper, especially trying to eat it, so this project is best left for another time. Same with cookie baking, not that I go all out anymore. Having dozens of each of several varieties is too much, especially when the baker is most likely to the number one consumer.
I don't really make New Year's resolutions, but I am hoping to keep one resolution in mind for next Christmas shopping season. I plan to stress less and buy or make what I want to give to recipients. Do you find that you've put pressure on yourself that each gift has to be 'perfect' and have a real 'wow' factor? When and why did we buy into this?

My loved ones aren't demanding or ungracious, and I am not offended if they use the gift receipt to exchange something that isn't their size, style or perhaps a duplicate.  Nobody has created my stress but me. When something isn't working (and therefore stressful) we need to stop and evaluate what we truly need; what we'd like to do, buy, make, etc if time and money and allow; and what we've been doing because we've listened to too many commercials or allowed someone to dictate to us what we should do for a holiday or any other event.

Being with loved ones at the holidays should never be a contest about the biggest gifts or who bakes the most cookies, etc. And even if it were a contest, the prize wouldn't be ego gratifying recognition, the prize would simply be being together for one more holiday. We won't always be all together.

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Little known Christmas story

When four of Santa's elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the Pre-Christmas pressure.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where.

Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered.

Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drunk all the cider and hidden the liquor.. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.

Just then the doorbell rang, and an irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree.
The angel said very cheerfully, 'Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?'

And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.
Not a lot of people know this.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another stocking done, finally

I have used the basic pattern for this Christmas stocking many, many times over the past 20 years. The only thing different this time was the chart for the design which worked down into the foot of the stocking. Until this design, the charted pattern always ended above the heel and instep. Whether it was a mental block on my part of poorly written directions, I still haven't decided. At least two other knitters in my group were confused so I took comfort in not feeling alone. 
Photobucket  Photobucket
Colton's name will be added above the snowman's hat on the front and then the stocking will be steamed to smooth out the lumps and bumps.

Now if only the shopping, wrapping and some baking were done....

Friday, December 3, 2010

Two gifts are done!

Once upon a time I would have had my Christmas shopping and crafting done by now. I think shopping has become harder because most of us treat ourselves to things throughout the year and we replace items when they wear out. I have few people to shop for, but the search isn't easier. Do you find this to be true too?

Two long time friends and I go out to dinner once per month. Although we all live on the same street, Our families' activities and our returns to the work force put a stop to the casual chats on the street. Sometimes we go from one dinner to the next without ever spotting each other except for a car passing by.

December dinner dates always include a special activity. In the past we have seen a stage production of A Christmas Carol, comedic Christmas reviews, The Nutcracker, performances by the Rockettes and shopping at Canterbury Village. Next week we are going to Michigan's most famous Christmas shopping area, Frankenmuth and will be enjoying a dinner show at Zehnder's, a place famous for chicken dinners. If you've ever seen a catalog or shopped online at Bronner's, they are in Frankenmuth too and a must see if you're ever in the area.

The three of us don't exchange birthday gifts, but we do exchange gifts in December. We try to keep it simple both in size and expense. After many years of gifting, sometimes an idea for these dear ladies is difficult too. This year I made reversible aprons for them. We all cook for our families and even if they already have one holiday apron, they both have daughters, daughters-in-law and one has grown granddaughters helping out in the kitchen.

The aprons are from a Mary Mulari pattern that has a band in back instead of ties, and closes with a strip of Velcro. Because of size, I lengthened that band from the original pattern and used more Velcro than called for in the pattern, and I omitted pockets. The pattern used one yard each of two prints and called for 6 inches of Velcro.
 Here is the back closure
Photobucket  Photobucket
How are you coming with your shopping and crafting?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are you a Walmart shopper?

I know that Wal-Mart is a hot topic for some people. I don't feel the way many naysayers do, but I also don't shop at the store nearest me because it often feels messy to me and I hate the parking lot. Other locations are ok, but I don't visit them often, I tend to shop within the same loop of stores near me. The facts that follow came to me as part of an email. I did attempt to verify these facts at Snopes and found that they are mostly accurate.

I present this not as any kind of political commentary (the email included this line: You may think that I am complaining, but I am really laying the ground work for suggesting that MAYBE we should hire the guys who run Wal-Mart to fix the economy), I post the facts here simply because they amaze me.

1. Americans spend $36,000,000 at Wal-Mart Every hour of every day.

2. This works out to $20,928 profit every minute!

3. Wal-Mart will sell more from January 1 to St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) than Target sells all year.

4. Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target +Sears + Costco + K-Mart combined.

5. Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people, is the world's largest private employer, and most speak English.

6. Wal-Mart is the largest company in the history of the world.

7. Wal-Mart now sells more food than Kroger and Safeway combined,and keep in mind they did this in only fifteen years.

8. During this same period, 31 big supermarket chains sought bankruptcy.

9. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other store in the world.

10. Wal-Mart has approx 3,900 stores in the USA of which 1,906 are Super Centers; this is 1,000 more than it had five years ago.

11. This year 7.2 billion different purchasing experiences will occur at Wal-Mart stores. (Earth's population is approximately 6.5 Billion.)

12. 90% of all Americans live within fifteen miles of a Wal-Mart.

For the record, I personally do my best to boost Target's sales figures  Photobucket Photobucket and I try to support local businesses because I know how hard it is for independents to survive in today's economy.

The numbers and rate of growth is staggering, isn't it?