Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Life Happened!

I am so sorry about the lack of pictures, posts and participation over the past three weeks...my computer is down. Not the internet, which would be easy enough to fix, but the computer itself. So...until I can access my photos, no pictures of the decorated Hamlet! I'm using my mom's computer to post this, just in case anyone has wondered where I've been!!

Hopefully...I'll see you later!

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Monday, December 15, 2008

Change of Plans...

...due to a dead camera battery! I was waiting until today to finish up a few little things in the bedroom then take pictures, but I didn't account for a dead camera battery! So, I'm postponing today's tour until tomorrow, tomorrow's tour until Thursday...you get the picture.

But, please, do come back! I do have a decorated bedroom, just very few pictures of it!

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

You could Even Say it Glows!

Add Leann to your list of homes to visit and check out her collections! So pretty!

Two new additions!

Here's a couple of late additions! Glad they could join us!

Deckr8ter has a pretty slideshow of her home.

And Minnieco has hers up on Photobucket, as well!

Enjoy!

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Holiday Tour of Homes!

Welcome to our first Holiday Tour of Homes! Most participants are members at Magical Holiday Home and "meet" frequently on the message board. We decided this summer to do this tour and everyone has been feverishly working to get their homes and blogs ready, so let's not waste any more time and get right to it!



First off, let's visit Tricia's home and see what Possiblitlies she has in store for us!



Next, Jessica has invited us into her holiday dressed home for a little Christmas Whimsey!



Now on to some Memorable Holidays at Brittany's home.



And our fearless leader, Ginger, has some Rudolph Day Ramblings to share with us!



Now Lisa has invited us to visit her Little Corner of the World to see her treasures.



We have another Tricia who is Celebrating Seasons with us....



And for a sweet treat, Candy Cane News is full of sweet yumminess!



Next, my sweet friend Aggy, also known as Adrienne, shares her Love of Christmas!



Tiffani is expecting a Jolly Christmas in Bama and wants us to join her!



Leah knows that Love Grows Best at Christmas!



SnowAngel has some Holiday Memories to show us...



Dancing Elf's home a t 358 Red Oak Drive holds some pretty treasures...



And we have another Cathi, who is celebrating A Quilter's Christmas with us.



Jana is sharing her lovely home also...

Here's a new blog that looks wonderful already! Printersdevil has some pretty things ready to view!

Jinglemom is our final participant! Hmm...seems like I've forgotten someone...oh, yeah, Me!!



If you check the post below, you can see my humble offerings!



Thanks to everyone who has A. Participated, and B. Viewed!!



Come back all week...I'll be showing my decorations all week long!



Merry, Merry!

Cathy

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Welcome to the Magical Holiday Tour of Magical Holiday Homes!

Welcome to Christmas at the Hamlet! We are not totally decorated, but we are almost done. I planned to do the front porch Sunday, but it was raining and I'm not that dedicated! But I'll get it done, and when I do, you'll be among the first to see it!

So, here's a brief tour of some of my decorations. Check back every day this week and you'll get the complete tour!

Let's start in the master bedroom. Our bedroom is decorated in creamy ivory and cranberry red, so Christmas decorations just look natural in there! I added some soft gold and silver. Here's the tree over the bed:



It has white lights, ivory poinsettias trimmed in gold glitter and the gold glass balls. That's a piece of tulle that I tied around the bottom in a sort of abstract bow....I love the colors with the red and white quilt, which you'll see more of tomorrow.

Both windows have these berry wreaths hanging in the center of them. I love the toile and checks together. My mom and I collaborated on these curtains this summer. I'm still wanting to add some fringe or beaded trim or something to jazz them up. Maybe after Christmas I'll get around to that.

Now, on to the kitchen! This is the wire planter that I showed you yesterday. It's sitting on the antique desk that matches my bedroom furniture. My mom and dad bought it for me brand spanking new when I was about...um....well, a long time ago. It's now antique. That's all you really need to know. I have plans of refinishing it in the same colors, but we haven't quite gotten to that yet.

And this is the south end of the house. I normally have black and white toile curtains up, but we had to move the denim couch into the kitchen to make room for the tree in the living room, so I took the toile down. I actually used to have this couch in the living room all the time and had slipcovers in toile, but they are buried way back in the storage building, and it truly wasn't that important to me to find them. So I just used this paper banner I made that says "Joyeux Noel" and lighted garland for a valance for the holidays! See the red "gems" hanging from the light?

This little vignette is in the corner of the kitchen, by the fridge. I love the simplicity of it.



By the way, those are jingle bells in the jar. I have the jingle bell tree in the kitchen, so be looking for that later in the week!
This is the top of the fridge, with a small collection of white pitchers and red berries. You can see the snow village behind the pitchers.


More kitchen later! Now let's move to the living/family room. It's the room you walk into when you open the front door. I love the cranberry red of the walls.

This is the opening into the hallway. I made this banner too. The pictures are favorites of ours at Christmas.


You'll see more of this clock later this week-it was Lynn's father's clock, and we have placed it in a spot that you can see from the living room.

And this is the mantle that I struggled with all week. I like the little bitty houses-I collected them many years ago from Dillard's and bought one per week for something like 6 weeks each year. I added some glitter to them this year.



You'll be seeing more of all of the house as the week progresses. Keep checking back, because I have a little give away planned at the end of the week!
And don't forget to check out all of the other houses on the tour, too, by clicking on the links in the post above this one.
Thanks for dropping by! Be sure to check back tomorrow!!
Merry, Merry!
Cathy







Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tree Trimming update and a little sneak peek!

We got our tree yesterday! We picked the kids up as planned and headed out to the tree farm. We went to a tree farm where we know the owner...and it payed off big! Because this is his last year in business (he's retiring), he let me HAVE, free and for no charge, an additional tree to cut up and use for decorating. How SWEET is that?? Yay! Plus, he was very generous handing out free hot chocolate and candy canes!

So, here's the tree BEFORE:




And here it is AFTER:

The boys did a good job spreading out the red and gold...it really looks pretty in the corner of our living room. Totally worth all the moving of furniture and cleaning of floors it required!
And, here's a little sneak peek at the upcoming Holiday Tour of Homes.

This is a wire planter that I bought on the 70% off shelf at Hobby Lobby last spring...I spray painted it copper and it normally lives on the top of the corner china cabinet with faux eggs and feathers in it. All fall it had a small pumpkin in it...now it has glass bulbs and berries! The "runner" is a paper napkin that I unfolded (unfortunately I didn't get all the wrinkles out...can you iron paper?) and spread on the white French Provincial style desk that I use in the kitchen as a buffet.

And, since I've griped so much about it, I thought I'd go ahead and show you my mantle:


I'm loving it!
I will be showing my house all week long, starting Monday morning with the Holiday Home Tour! I'll do an overview of the entire house, then each day we'll focus on one room at a time. Tuesday, it'll be my favorite room! Can you guess what it is?
Hope to see you Monday!
Merry, Merry,
Cathy


Friday, December 12, 2008

Celebrating Christmas

Have you ever seen the ezine Celebrating Christmas? It's a pretty good resource to have. I always download it (it's free) and then just print out whatever I decide I want to put in my Christmas notebook. Some years I've printed the whole thing, but recently I've just saved it to a flashdrive (bright red, of course) and keep it in the notebook. Then if I want to browse it or use it as a reference for something, it's right there.

Are you ready for the home tour Monday? I've very excited. If you need some inspiration or just want a jumpstart to home touring, check out Tracey's blog and scroll down to the past two days, then follow the links. So much glittery, blingy, Christmasy inspiration you may need two days to get through it. I can't believe how many talented folks there are out there.

Speaking of talented folks, wait until you see my friend Phyllis's house all done up for the holidays. It is nothing short of spectacular. I truly mean that. It is unbelievable, and she does it all herself. She hosted our Bunco Christmas gathering last night (where I scored some sweet prizes...) and she agreed to let me post some pictures of her home. I forgot my camera (duh!) so she loaned me hers, and even agreed to email the pics to me. So as soon as I get them, I'll post them. You honestly won't believe it. It makes my feeble attempts look like a kindergartner's attempts!

Are you still looking for some inspiration for Christmas breakfast or brunch? I got some yummy sounding recipes in my inbox today, so I'll share!! Hope you find something delicious to prepare for your own "Delightful Christmas Brunch"!

What's going on in your world today? We'll be doing that Christmas Tree cutting expedition today, and then tomorrow, it's Finish Up day...what ever is not decorated by tomorrow is not getting decorated! I have to get some photos made to post on the home tour Monday!!

Merry, Merry!!
Cathy

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Getting there...

This is a picture from last year...I used my vintage Santa and a mercury glass one we got for our Christmas wedding shower (yes, I had a Christmas themed wedding shower in September before our October 98 wedding!! How totally cool is that?), along with some books and snowflakes. I loved the way it looked....



This year? Not happening. The mantle is just not coming together as well as I would have hoped. In fact, none of the decorating is coming together. I'm struggling....but it's finally falling into place, piece by piece.
I'm almost done with the kitchen, and they boys' room just needs a snow flurry or two to finish it...their bathroom is done (except for the cleaning...will that stench ever go away? Maybe when the boys move out?? That's only 10 or 12 more years...), our room is about half done and the outside is almost done. No more details, but I promise it'll be ready by Monday, for the MHH Holiday Tour of Homes! If you want to participate, sign up here! Or, if you'd prefer, just leave me a message here on this post. Either way, check back Monday and take the tour of several beautiful homes!!
We are going Friday to get the tree. The plan is to pick the boys up from school and head to the Christmas tree farm...we'll cut our tree, stop by Starbucks for hot chocolate, then head home. Benjie already dug out the big tree stand, and has it ready and waiting, and I've been sorting ornaments and lights in preparation of the decorating party! It'll be a party of 5, with more hot chocolate, chili and cornbread, cookies, candy, and carols! Hopefully, I'll remember to get the camera out and take pictures!
What are you doing to get ready for Christmas? Leave me a message and tell me.
By the way, I'm working on a little give away for next week...we'll be touring my home all week, and I am planning a giveaway at the end of it! Stay tuned...
Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Friday, December 5, 2008

Breakfast Sandwich

This is a good recipe for anytime you want a quick and easy breakfast, but I think it's especially good on Christmas morning. This is one of those "methods" rather than recipes-once you get the basics down, you can switch it up any way you'd like.

Breakfast Sandwich
1 loaf French bread, sliced in half lengthwise (this sandwich is best if you buy the bread a couple of days ahead and freeze it, or use day-old French bread)
1 pound breakfast sausage, browned and drained
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
12 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1 small can chopped green chilies, drained
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterrey Jack or pepper jack)

Hollow out the center of the French bread. Layer the sausage, onion and bell pepper into the bottom of the bread shell. Add the salt, pepper and mustard to the eggs and mix well. Pour the eggs over the sausage mixture and sprinkle with the chopped green chilies. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the chilies and top with the bread top. Wrap the sandwich tightly with foil, place in a 350 degree oven on a cookie sheet, and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until eggs are set and cheese is melted. Unwrap the sandwich and let it cool slightly, then cut into slices and serve.

You could substitute a smoked sausage (I like turkey) and cut it up and brown the slices, then sprinkle them over the bread and proceed as above. Ham and Swiss would be yummy, too. You could even crumble cooked bacon in it.

I usually serve this with fresh fruit and coffee. Add a flute of juice and you've got a party!

What are you up to today?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yikes! 22 Days!

I'm having the hardest time getting my decorating done this year. Most of my decorations are in the storage shed in the back yard, and it's a mess. I mean a mess. So I need lots of help to get all the boxes and totes out and into the house. I did go out there yesterday and pulled out a few boxes, sifted through them, took out what I wanted and put the boxes back.

I know exactly how I want the house to look, so I'm trying to only bring those things into the house. I put the Snow Village on top of the cabinets yesterday, but I neglected to bring in the extention cords and didn't buy any "snow", so it's pretty dark and bare up there.

I did get a tree up in the boys' bathroom (a tiny little one with white lights and red glass balls) and a tree up in our room (no details-you'll see it on the 15th, but I'm VERY HAPPY with it!), but that's about it. The kitchen is a total wreck and will be until I get finished.

Lynn and I are both off Friday afternoon, so he's agreed to help me get the stuff out of the shed, sort it and get it in the house. And get the outside done. I'm not sure he realizes that part yet...shhh...don't tell him!

I'm looking forward to the Virtual Holiday Home Tour on December 15. My Magical Holiday Home friends are planning to participate. If you want to also, just leave me a message on this post and give me your link and blog name...and a short description of your decorating style, if you'd like. I hope you join us.

I hope I'm ready!

Merry, Merry!

Cathy

Monday, December 1, 2008

Downtown Christmas parade!

Isn't that one of the three sweetest faces ever? That's Benjie at the Christmas parade last year. And he's not making a political statement with the election literature...he just liked the candy cane it was attached to!

The parade is tonight. The courthouse and downtown area will be lit around 6:10 or so on Channel 7's weather, then the parade will start. It's a fun night! We even let homework slide for that night (Side note-for the little boys. Their homework is not due until the end of the week. Jacob still has to do his, which is due the next day!)

We love going to our hometown parade. I may have told you about it before, but let me just reminisce a little.


We live in a small city, population under 30,000. Recently, the downtown area has been renovated, making it really pretty and quite picturesque. I would dearly love to see the downtown area become the hub of the city again, as it was when I was a child. Most retail businesses are not located in downtown any more, but spread out down the "main drag", which is Military Road, or on the interstate service roads. But, on the first Monday in December, downtown comes alive. Our courthouse is so gorgeous, very historic looking, and the county employees work very hard to get it decorated. A local family donated a whole bunch of animated life sized decorations. I just love them! It is so festive and so fun!

We always take a bag of popcorn and a couple of thermoses of hot chocolate and coffee to have during the parade. Then, we walk to the courthouse lawn and wait for Santa to appear, fresh from the fire truck at the end of the parade. He will visit with kids that night and several more nights during the holidays. There's always a choir singing, some music playing and free cookies and cocoa after the parade. Everyone is in such a good mood, and it's so pretty with all the lights. Our courthouse is on the Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights. If you are in the area, stop by...it's worth the drive!

After we get home, we usually have a bowl of homemade soup, and then try to find something on tv that is Christmasy. No one wants the feeling to go away, it's so festive and jolly.

I can't wait until tonight!

What are you doing today that is fun and Christmasy?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not even December and I'm already feeling behind..

I'm a little behind on my posting, and I apologize for that. I've been busy...two Thanksgiving celebrations took more out of me than usual. Could age have anything to do with that? Shut up, Michael.

So much for my carefully laid decorating plans. If you remember, I'd planned to get all the decorations at least stacked in their bins on the back porch for easy access, and the Snow Village (Dept 56 Original Snow Village mostly, but with a few dollar store and other discount store pieces thrown in for good measure!) put up, but I didn't feel up to it today, so I'm resting, instead. This is one busy week coming up, and I don't need to start it feeling out of sorts, so...the decorating will wait until tomorrow!

Are you cutting back on your Christmas gifting or celebrating this year? We are. We have set a budget for the boys' stuff, with "big stuff" getting the bulk of the money and each one getting one "big" thing, a few small things, and a stuffed stocking. Lynn and I are debating on how much we'll spend on each other...I'm thinking that will stay close to what we normally spend, because we don't spend a whole lot on each other anyway. But we'll have stuffed stockings, because that's our favorite part!

With my family, we draw names and then fill that person's stocking (are we sensing a theme here?). We've set a dollar limit this year for the first time. And on Lynn's side, we've decided not to exchange gifts with his extended family (cousins, aunts and uncles) due to several of us having financial issues. And, we may just do small gifts or no gifts with his sisters-still debating that one. I don't want anyone to have to struggle so that they can give my children or Lynn and me a gift. And we're not exchanging with our best friends, Eddie and Melissa this year either. Melissa and I decided that we'll get together to eat and watch a Christmas movie and have good movie snacks together and call it Christmas! I'm going to see if she and I can work in a girls' day out shopping/lunch trip too! We never get to do that, so it would be a gift to me if we could!

I hope this post is not a downer in any way, because honestly, my intent is for this to be good news. It takes a whole lot of pressure off, and makes the real meaning of Christmas to be more obvious and hopefully, celebrated.

After all, He is the Reason for the Season!

Next post: Christmas parade details! Oh I love this stuff!!!

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I will be celebrating with my family. Tomorrow I will be cooking. Saturday I'll be celebrating with my other family. Sunday....I'll be decorating!!!

I hope you have a wonderful, healthy, happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

29 Days-a tiny sneak peek and a schedule, of sorts!

Little sneak peek...this is the top of the tree in the master bedroom....this is from last year, but it's going to be very similar this year! For the whole tree, look at the post below! I plan to do the same basic tree, but I have a few little sparkily additions that I think will be so pretty!!




After tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, the holidays will be officially here! I have had a few questions about when I'm going to start putting up trees...when you have at least one in every room, it's necessary to start a little early. But I have an absolute rule about not decorating one tiny thing for Christmas until Thanksgiving is over. For us, that will be Saturday afternoon, after the Miller clan assembles, eats and then disassembles. I have a plan for getting it all done before the Virtual Holiday Home Tour on December 15! Here's a rough time table:

Sunday, November 30-pull out the Snow Village pieces and put them on top of the kitchen cabinets, arranged in their assigned areas-city, country or ski resort. Can't wait to get this done...it will stay there until I get tired of it..which may even be after NEXT Christmas! And, I'm asking the boys-all four of them-to bring the decorations from the storage building in the backyard and stack them on the back porch, so that when I get a chance to get into decorating mode, it's easy to get to!

Monday, December 1-our town's Christmas parade is this night...there will be a post on this later! I love it. Before work, my goal is to get the tree up and the lights on it in the boys' room. Then they can put the snowmen on it later this day or the next day.

Tuesday, December 2-finish the boys' room

Wednesday, December 3-decorate the boys' bathroom.

Thursday, December 4-through Friday, December 5-decorate the kitchen. This is going to be fun this year! I can't wait to show you pictures!

Saturday, December 6-decorate outside

That's the first week...we'll see how that goes, then re-evaluate and see what needs to be done next.

What's going on with you? Are you decorating yet? I'm excited to see everyone's pretty decorations!

Merry, Merry!!

Cathy










Tuesday, November 25, 2008

30 Day Countdown...and we're off!


I am planning to post something on this blog every day for the next 30 days, right down to Christmas Day! Here's hoping I can keep the creativity flowing!


This is Thanksgiving week, so I'm still busy with all those preparations. Check out Scarecrow Soup for those autumny details!


Today I thought I'd just share a few little tidbits to start getting you in the holiday spirit. I stay in the holiday spirit most of the time, but since it's finally time for everyone else to catch up, I'll give you a few little ideas to start you off.


*If you don't have Christmas dishes, don't worry...you can make any table look festive and Christmasy with just a few inexpensive touches. The Internet is full of ideas, but one of my favorites is so easy and simple. Just use a solid color plate-I prefer all white, but use any color you'd like, then sprinkle Christmas confetti on the plate. Now top it with a clear glass plate-Wal-Mart sells these for about a dollar and a half, or sometimes you can find them at dollar stores or even Garden Ridge for a dollar. Use a solid color tablecloth and sprinkle the confetti and individually wrapped peppermints and Hershey's kisses across your table. Find a pretty glass or crystal bowl (a trifle bowl is really pretty for this) and fill it with glass ornaments to match your table colors and plop it into the center of your table! Viola! Instant holiday cheer and not much money or effort!


*Check the local dollar stores and flea markets for inexpensive stemware. I found some beautiful goblets that everyone thinks are expensive crystal at the Dollar Tree for $1 each. They really look pretty on the table.


*If you can't find cloth napkins that match your decor, make your own. Holiday fabric is usually available for a couple of dollars per yard, and you can get at least 4 from a yard. Use pinking shears and cut out 18" squares of fabric for a country Christmas look. If you like things a little more tailored and elegant, hem the edges. Napkin rings don't have to be expensive, either. Use satin ribbon (sold by the roll and comes in a huge variety of widths and colors) to tie around the napkins. You could add some jingle bells, or a small ornament or a name tag for a cute place card idea.


*Hang stockings on the backs of your dining room chairs. Easy, inexpensive and festive!


Check back regularly for more tips, ideas, pictures and recipes! And don't forget the virtual Holiday Tour of Homes on December 15! If you want to participate, just leave me a message!


Merry, Merry!

Cathy

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Spy Elves!


Have you seen a SpyElf yet? What? You don't know what SpyElves are? Well, I'll tell you about them.


SpyElves are what keeps little children behaving around here, from the middle of October until Christmas Eve Eve (that would be December 23 for you mathematically challenged readers). Then they have to high tail it back to the North Pole to give the big man their final report before he packs up and heads south to deliver gifts.


SpyElves are not dressed in the typical costumes associated with elves, although they do possess those and may at times don them, but only when actually in the presence of Santa. No, they are usually dressed just like you or me...but they are a little smaller and a little quicker than most of us. There are two distinctive characteristics of SpyElves, though, that even their contemporary clothing can't hide-they wear pointy toe shoes and they have pointy ears. Sometimes their shoes are disguised as in cowboy boots or women's pointy toed high heels...and you'll rarely see a SpyElf with super short hair or a pony tail, unless it covers their ears.


SpyElves will often look just like people you actually know in real life, and you really don't know if the SpyElf has taken on your friend's looks or if your friend is actually a SpyElf. See how tricky that can be? An example of this is when Jacob was little. He and I lived with my Mom and Dad, and my brother Mark and his family lived next door. We were in the kitchen one afternoon, sometime just before Christmas and just a little before dark, and Jacob was not acting very nice. We saw someone peeking in the kitchen door window that we THOUGHT was my niece, Sarah (who, co-incidentally, had long hair and never, ever showed her ears...hmmm...). But then just seconds later, Sarah disappeared. Then, just seconds after THAT, the phone rang and it was Sarah-calling from her house. Very curious.


Another example is my cousin Susan. Jacob was convinced that he never, ever saw her except around the holidays, she often wore pointy toed cowboy boots and, try as he might, he never saw her ears. He would sneak up on her and try to move her hair so that he could see her ears, but she was always too quick for that. And, she's very small, as is Sarah...hmm...very curious indeed.


One year all the young children I knew did get letters from Santa on the weekend after Thanksgiving, and in the letter he mentioned that he had the reports for October and November from his southern region SpyElves...more evidence that they exist.


We have only seen one "person" this year that we believe might be a SpyElf, but that's the other tricky thing about them...we don't really know who they are or when they might me looking in the window...so good behavior at all times is a must for small children.


See how nicely that works out?

Monday, November 17, 2008

38 days!

38 days until Christmas! Will YOU be ready?

I think I will. I'm not as far along as I'd hoped to be, but closer than I would be if I hadn't worked on Christmas in July.

Today, Debbie over at Ribbonwood Cottage has some organizing tips for the holidays. She is going to be offering them each day this week...check out her fabulous blog! She is one creative lady!

Here's a few tips of my own to offer:

*Start early. Even if you start right now, you are still starting earlier than most people. When I say that everything you do today to prepare for Christmas is one less thing that you have to do in December, I'm not kidding. I love to have everything done ahead that I possibly can, so that on December 1, all that's left is having FUN for the entire month of December!

*Start by getting organized. Really. OK, this is also what Debbie says to do, but it is so true. Over at Magical Holiday Home there are tons of threads on getting organized. This group of girls and guys are so creative and have so many fabulous ideas. And don't forget Cynthia Townley Ewer's site Organized Christmas is the mac daddy of organizing ideas. (Does anyone still say "mac daddy" or did I just date myself again? Sorry, Jake!)

*Make a list. Make several lists-gifts to buy, gifts to make, food, party plans-whatever. Check it twice, three times...and don't forget to check stuff off when you get it done! Very satisfying!

Very basic tips, but very valuable for getting it all done!

Remember, everything you do today to prepare for Christmas is one less thing you have to do in December, when you could be having lots of Christmas fun!!

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wrapping up Christmas

I finally found the paper I've been looking for to wrap my Christmas gifts in this year. I know it's not really traditional, but it is some of my favorite colors...and see the quilt it's lying on? That's my inspiration piece for my decorating color scheme this Christmas. It was a birthday gift from my BFFAE (best friend forever and ever) Melissa. It lives on the back of the cream colored leather sofa we bought from Melissa and Eddie a few years ago! How's that for serendipity?



The lighter color paper is called "kraft paper" on the label, but it's not at all stiff like a lot of kraft paper is. And the green is actually a sage color. The gold ribbon is a satin ribbon, and I'll be adding in red and green satin ribbon to go with the straw colored raffia and the red raffia. I'll be sure to show you a picture of the finished product after I get something wrapped.

And the best part? I already had the raffia and the paper was only $2 or $3 each roll-it's the first time I've had to buy wrapping paper in a while!!

Remember, anything you do today to prepare for Christmas is that much less you have to do in December!

Will YOU be ready?

Merry, Merry,

Cathy

Monday, November 10, 2008

Christmas Goodies

Do you like to make candy? Some of my favorite holiday memories are of Mom and Dad in the kitchen, making candy. Well, actually Mom was making it...Dad was most likely the "sampler" to ensure quality control!

Mom used to make all kinds of fudge-chocolate and buttermilk stand out in my memory. She also made what we called Bon-Bons, but I've discovered that they are actually called "Martha Washingtons" for some reason...they are little yummy balls of sugar and nuts, dipped into melted chocolate. Back then, you had to melt paraffin with the chocolate to make it harden correctly...now they make chocolate that does it by itself.

She also made huge amounts of peanut brittle and divinity. I didn't like the divinity but the brittle was good. I remember she couldn't make it when it was too humid or raining...

I have to admit that my candy making is not the caliber hers is...I just melt chocolate and mix in stuff or dip stuff in or whatever...but it's not too bad, if I do say so myself!

Here's a quick, easy and good peanut butter fudge that I make every year.

Peanut Butter Fudge
1 package white almond bark coating (comes in a big block)
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup chopped peanuts

Melt the almond bark coating (follow package directions-I do it in the microwave), stir in the peanut butter and the peanuts and pour into a buttered 8x8 baking pan. Let it harden. Slice it up and eat it. That's it.

And...Peppermint Bark

1 package white almond bark coating
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
crushed peppermint candies or candy canes

Melt the almond bark coating, stir in the extract and crushed candy, spread out on a buttered (or spray it with non-stick cooking spray) waxed paper and let it harden. Break it into pieces.

You can make all kinds of barks using that coating. I like to make almond bark (substitute almond extract and sliced, toasted almonds for the peppermints in the above recipe) or pecan bark (use vanilla extract and finely chopped pecans).

I like to get the chocolate flavored bark and dip things in it..fruit, nuts, cookies, potato chips-yes, potato chips. The sweet/salty thing makes this so good.

I also have a fudge recipe that is easy and good, and I'll share it soon.

Remember, anything you do today to prepare for Christmas is one less thing you have to do in December!

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Sunday, November 9, 2008

46 Days and Counting!

I am starting to get a little excited about decorating for the holidays! I love my house all decked out for Christmas. Usually I do way too much and then I have it all to take down and put away, which depresses me greatly, so this year I am taking a new approach. I am scaling down. No, really, I am. Stop laughing.

Out of necessity (have I mentioned that big honking "bargain" tv Lynn couldn't turn down? Have I mentioned that it takes up a lot of room? 55 inches of viewing glory. Have I mentioned that it's where I normally put the Christmas tree? Have I mentioned that I'm a tad aggravated?)we will be moving furniture around to put up the main tree (see post below if you are wondering why I said "main tree"!). We will be moving the big denim sofa into the kitchen again. I know that sounds weird, but it used to live in there, as extra seating at the table, and we all loved it. So, it's going back. I have slipcovers for the back cushions that match the curtains in my kitchen, but they are waaaaayyyy at the back of the storage shed, so that ain't happenin this year. I'm going to leave the cushions that match the living room drapes on there, and just make some new valances for the kitchen to coordinate with the cushions. The living room colors and the kitchen colors blend well..so it should be ok. So now instead of using the black, white, red and silver I'd planned in the kitchen, it'll be a soft gold, red and sagey green. I have big ideas...and you can see them all right here on December 15 when we have the virtual Holiday Home Tour on Magical Holiday Home, hosted by yours truly on that date.

If you want to join the tour, just leave me a message with your link and I'll add you. Should be fun-the fall tour was small but pretty. I am hoping several join in this year!

Remember, anything you do today to get ready for Christmas is one less thing you have to do in December!

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Peanut Butter Cup Bars and 47 Days!

Wow-is time flying for you as quickly as it is for me? Are you scared or excited or both?


Here's that recipe I promised. It's an oldie but a goodie. I make it in a 9x13 cake pan, in muffin cups or even in mini muffin cups for mini peanut butter cups. It really does taste a lot like Reece's Cups...


Peanut Butter Cup Bars
1 cup margarine
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup peanut butter (either smooth or chunky-I use smooth because that's what we eat on sandwiches)
2 cups chocolate chips, melted


Melt margarine in saucepan. Add crumbs, confectioners' sugar and peanut butter. Mix well. Spread evenly in buttered 9x12 baking pan. Spread melted chocolate over top. Chill until firm. Cut into bars. Yield: 2 dozen.


These babies freeze like a dream, and to tell you the truth, I like to eat them while still slightly frozen. Or thawed...which ever way I can get them!! I think I'm going to make these for gifts this year, put them in the mini muffin cup papers and package them a dozen to a box. I am going to pick up candy boxes at Hobby Lobby and and tie it all up with a sparkly (of course) ribbon...who wants to be on MY gift list this year??


Whatever you do today to get ready for Christmas is that much less you have to do in December!


Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Friday, November 7, 2008

Decking the Halls-48 days left!

We met Santa in Branson!

The picture is actually from last summer, but it's cute and I like it, so I'm posting it again! This Santa works at a place called "Kringles" in Branson, MO. If you haven't ever visited there, you really, really have to go. It is so wonderful!!
If you've ever been to my house during the holidays, you know that I am a deck-the-entire-house-not-just-the-halls kind of girl. I put a tree in every room, on both porches-front and back-and even several in some rooms. Our trees range from 2' to 9'. Last year we had 16 trees, including the ones outside. Not a typo. Uh, huh, 16. No, the house is about 1500 square feet, not big at all. In fact, quite small. But, at Christmas time, I think it looks a little like a Christmas cottage..and since it's not really a cottage at all but I'd like it to be, that's my little treat to myself!
Here's a few little ideas for decking your halls, living rooms and kitchens!
*Use lots, lots and lots of candles. Although you can go to the department stores and boutiques and spend a ton of money on some scented wax that is going to melt anyway, I suggest you go to the dollar store and get them. Or, go to Wal-Mart and get the ones in the Christmas department-they are really cheap and they smell good. Bring them home and put them everywhere...using caution when they are lit, of course. I know that you know not to leave a burning candle unattended and not to let ribbons or greenery or anything else really get close to the flame, but I'm obligated to tell you in writing not to do that. So don't do that. But do this: take a pretty ribbon and tie it around the candle. Or use a wide, wire-edged one and cut it to fit around the candle and doublestick tape the ends to the back of the candle. Gorgeous.
Or, if you're like me and like things a little sparkly for Christmas, thin down a little Elmer's glue with water and brush it on the candle. Then pour some glitter in a bowl and get a spoon and spoon the glitter over the candle, covering the entire thing. Shake off the excess glitter, let it dry a minute and VIOLA! a gorgeous glittered candle to nestle into some pine or other evergreens. Or place three of them on a pedastal cake plate, place some greenery pieces around it and you have a pretty, simple but elegant centerpiece.
*Use quart jars to make outdoor luminaries. I like them just plain, with some rock salt in the bottom, and a ribbon or raffia bow around the neck, and a little tea light nestled down into the icy looking salt. Very pretty and simple. They look great on front porch steps, if you have those.
*And, continuing the candle theme, how about floating candles in the bathtub during a party at your house? I do this often and it never fails to get enthusiastic responses from everyone! Just buy holiday shaped floating candles, run the tub about 2/3 full, light the candles and set them afloat! If you have one, you can even float a fresh wreath with the candles, or get some of those clear Christmas ball ornaments and float them to look like bubbles! Cute!!
I hope you are excited about the 48 days left until Christmas. 48, people!!

Tomorrow-a recipe!
Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Thursday, November 6, 2008

49 Days of Christmas Fun!


Only 49 days until Christmas. 49. Days. Until. Christmas. Hello...can you hear the beginnings of a little panic in my voice?


Not to worry...we still have 49 whole days to get ready! And if you've been getting ready for several months, it's not so bad!


My Christmas prep has slowed way down, what with the new job and all, but now it's time to get cracking. So, in a flurry of Christmas spirit, I've decided to do my very, very best to post everyday on this blog between now and Christmas. But don't get mad at me if I miss a day or two here and there! And, hopefully, I'll be posting useful things, like recipes, craft tips and ideas and of course, lots of pictures!
So, for today, here's a quick little craft that I found in a Susan Branch book called Autumn from the Heart of the Home. It's a "Cookie Man"!
First, measure all the dry ingredients for Ginger Crisps (recipe below). Combine sugars in one reclosable plastic bag and the rest of the dry ingredients in another. Set aside. With pinking shears, cut out a gingerbread shaped cookie man from 2 layers of heavy brown paper, like a paper sack. On one ("the front"), sew on buttons and draw on mouth with a red crayon. On the "back", write out the cookie recipe. Include baking instructions. On a sewing machine with red thread, sew the two sides together, leaving the head open. Place flattened bags of dry ingredients inside Cookie Man. Sew head closed. Punch a hole in his hand and tie on a cookie cutter. Sign and date the back.
I am going to try to make one of these today, while I'm home with a sick little one (it's Benjie, and really, I think he just needed a "mental health" day, because the upset stomach of early this morning appears to be MUCH BETTER, as he is lying on the loveseat, wrapped in our favorite quilt, the one we all fight over, and enjoying one of his favorite intellectual, educational tv programs, "Scooby Doo in Where's My Mummy?"). But since I don't sew I'm going to make it big enough to glue the edges, then use a red Sharpie marker to "stitch" around the edges. If I get it done-I do have a few other things I want to do, too-I'll take a photo and post it later.
Ginger Crisps:
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. molasses
2/3 c. light corn syrup
4 1/2 c. sifted flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars until light. Add molasses and corn syrup and stir well. Add in the rest of ingredients and knead until smooth. Chill well. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to less than 1/8" thick. Cut with floured cutter. Bake on greased cookie sheet for 8 minutes. Cool and store in airtight container, or freeze them (they thaw in just moments, per: Susan Branch).
Don't those sound yummy? I imagine it would be ok to use any cookie recipe that you choose...a gingerbread mix would be good, and so would a sugar cookie mix.
Whatever you do today, have a good time doing it. Put on a little Christmas music, or pop "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" into the dvd player and have a blast!
Tomorrow-a few little decorating tips to make things merry!!
Merry, Merry!
Cathy!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

August Rudolph Day

No, I didn't forget Rudolph Day yesterday...I did work on some stuff! I just haven't quite finished it yet...but that's not totally my fault-Wal-Mart didn't have the silver ribbon I needed to finish it. I plan to check tomorrow and then I'll post a picture of my finished project.

I have been focusing on Halloween and fall crafts lately, but I do have some ideas for Christmas crafts and more gifts. I still need to finish the countdown clipboard, but I can't ever remember to pick up the little velcro pieces I need to complete it. Sigh.

Only 121 days until the big day! Whoo hoo!

Will YOU be ready??

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Sunday, August 24, 2008

August Rudolph Day


This is a table setting at a ladies' brunch I went to last Christmas...isn't it pretty?

Tomorrow is Rudolph Day. I plan to finish a vintage paper banner that I'm working on, and maybe work on some recipes for various events.


I did buy a Christmas gift Friday, but I can't share details yet. I am afraid that the recipient will read this! It's a goodie, very cool. Can't wait to wrap it and put it under the Christmas tree.


I'll be back tomorrow to post some Rudy Day stuff...stay tuned!


Merry, Merry!

Cathy

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Gem of a Website!

Did you notice that the faces on my Santas are similar...look at the mugs and punchbowl in the last post, then look at the face of the antique Santa in the picture in the sidebar....must be the real Santa!!

While doing a search today for gift in a jar ideas (you know, those nifty little gifties that you put in gift baskets, stockings, whatever that are jars of homemade mixes-cookies, brownies, soups, whatever...I've done these in the past and they are well received..) I found this link that I think you might enjoy. Lots of good stuff there!

One of the things that I love on this site (and others) are the gifts in a mug...same principle, but in a single sized serving. With single people and college students suddenly on my gift list, it makes sense to make some of these. I'll be looking at this closely in the next few weeks...if you store them correctly, as in an airtight container, they should be fine to make in the middle of September or so...that's what I'm thinking now. I'll add this to my Holiday Grand Plan schedule.

I hope you get some ideas from this gem of a website! Check it out!!

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

135 Days to go!

Don't you just love the vintage look of this charming punchbowl and cups? I got it for Christmas a few years ago, and I think it is so cute. I love to put what I call Christmas Punch in it...I'll share the "recipe' later! This photo was from last Christmas Eve.




Only 135 days to go until Christmas! Wow-as any good early Christmas planner worth their salt knows, once you hit that 100 day mark, things really kick into high gear...

I can't wait! I love the fall and holiday season build up...almost more than the day itself...so much fun!

I am thinking about Christmas more and more every day, and with the start of the Holiday Grand Plan coming soon...I'm really getting excited!

Here's the "recipe" I promised...it's really more a method than a recipe...you can use any kind of sherbet you'd like, according to the color and flavor you desire!


1 quart sherbet (I like pineapple, but lime or raspberry would be very festive, too)
2 ltr. bottle of ginger ale

Put the sherbet in the punchbowl and pour the ginger ale over it, smooshing up the sherbet until it's all melty and blended with ginger ale...yummy!!!

Ok, that's not much of a recipe, but it's good! And so Christmasy!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Christmas Planning Center

Our original fearless leader in the early holiday planning game, Cynthia Townly Ewer, affectionately known as CEO to her many readers over at Organized Christmas, has a good article on setting up a Christmas Planning Center. Read more here about her ideas!

I have my own version of a Christmas planning center. My base station is my kitchen table, which is where I'm sitting right now! I love, love, love my kitchen, and have worked really hard to decorate it in a style that suits us, as well as being functional. I'm still working on it...but I do love it! My kitchen is decorated in a loose French Country design, with golden yellow walls and my 28 year old chicken/rooster collection scattered all over the whole area. I was a rooster fan before roosters were cool!! LOL.

My kitchen table was a wedding gift from my (stay with me here-it's complicated) ex-but-still-dear-Sister-in-law's grandfather. He made it, stained it and even delivered it! He put legs on it, but when our family started growing they weren't functioning as well as we needed, so I bought an old table from a flea market and Lynn put the pedestal from it under our current table-viola! leg room! So now, it's my favorite work space in the house!

I can sit at the end of the table with my laptop and still have easy access to the bookshelf, the coffeepot and the laundry room, where my craft items are stored. I like the big double windows by the table, and the fact that I can look into the living room and see the fireplace. It's wonderful when the house is decorated for a holiday (any holiday, really) with a lighted garland of some sort on the mantle, and a fire in the fireplace. I usually put some spices-cinnamon and apple peels or cloves and orange peels are my favorites-in some water to simmer on the stove while I work. I used to be able to see the tv from there, but since Lynn bought his newest toy (55", people. It's a big*** tv!) it's in a place where I can't see it. But, due to the multi-room tv shift that the new one caused, I now have a small tv with a dvd player in the kitchen...perfect for watching "It's a Wonderful Life" or "The Santa Clause" movies....or just listening to Christmas cd's.

My current projects are in a lidded picnic basket, pretty enough to leave out but still have the "clutter" hidden. My Gooseberry Patch books and my Christmas notebook are easy to get to from my Center, and are in fact often stacked on the end of the table while I'm dreaming and scheming...I mean working!

I also can use it write cards, wrap gifts or just read Christmas books.

Consider creating one of these little organizing gems, if you don't already have a designated space!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wrapping Up Christmas in July!

Wow! This has been a fast month! I can't believe it's Day 31 of Christmas in July. I thought I'd finish up the month by showing you my Christmas notebook. It's a work in progress...I tweak it, declutter it and add to it on a regular basis. I made the divider pages myself...as if you can't tell that! I used construction paper, stickers and old holiday cards to make them. I uploaded these pictures in no particular order, but not on purpose! I'm too congested and thick headed today to think clearly, so I decided to leave them as they are and just explain each one!



This is the divider for the "Food Gifts" section. I have recipes, ideas and magazine clippings here. I even have a few pages from catalogs of food gifts that I think I could duplicate for much less than they are asking for them. An example is a "Snowman Pop" that is just a few marshmallows in a stick, dipped in white chocolate and give mini chocolate chip eyes and an icing smile! I can do that! And, they are charging $15 or so for 6...now I know I can make them cheaper than that, and what a cute stocking stuffer!


This is the Gift Idea section. Same theory as the food gift section. I love that card!


Decorating Ideas Section...

Rudolph Club section, with monthly dividers for projects and print outs from Organized Christmas!



Calendar section..for the Christmas Countdown and Houseworks Holiday Plan or

Holiday Grand Plan.


Craft section...


and the Family Tradition section. I like to put notes from what we've done each year in this section, along with notes on what we wanted to do and didn't get around to, so that we can try to plan that for the next year.
Each person's notebook is personal to them, and what works for me might not work for you. However, I do believe that having a notebook is very helpful in planning an organized holiday. Even the kids know not to bother Mom's Christmas Notebook!!
I hope that over the course of this month you've gotten some tips and ideas that you can use, or just inspiration to start your own holiday planning!
I'll be checking in here a few times each month for August and September, then along about the 100 day mark, I'll be here several times weekly to update! Thanks for reading my ramblings!
What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?
Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 30!

It's almost over. Christmas in July has been a blast!

I didn't get to a lot of Christmas again yesterday, but I did work on the clipboard again! I had an inspiration and got the numbers done for the Christmas countdown clipboard. I'm hoping to finish it and the drink carrier today.

I made the boys pinky-promise me that they would help me clean their closet floor tomorrow...check out the Hamlet for details on why! It's in the Thank you section of the post! Necessity calls!

But, tomorrow it's supposed to rain, and I love a good rainy day for crafting and planning! If we work hard today, we can play tomorrow!!

So, today's agenda, Christmas wise:
*finish countdown clip board
*paint and embellish drink carrier
*work on notebook, if time allows

Tomorrow is the day I have scheduled to make Magic Reindeer Dust...I have a jar of red and green glitter reserved just for this project! And an empty pickle jar to store it in!

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 29

Yesterday I was "supposed" to work on a clipboard, but you already know that I've been struggling with those, so I didn't! I worked on the laundry room, and if you read Holiday Hamlet you know that I've got big plans for this room. I did manage to get it cleared out and cleaned out, and even a bit organized. Painting will have to wait, but Lynn did say he'd help me, especially with the cabinets and shelves. He's really really picky about cabinets and any other wood work. Me, I'd just slap a layer of craft paint on it and be done, but not my professional perfectionist...er..painter husband! Details of that project will be on Hamlet. The reason I brought it up is because I managed to get a lot of Christmas stuff gathered up, sorted out and stashed in the storage building out back. I know that in 130 days or so I'll be saying "why did I do that? Now I just have to drag them back out" but it's worth it for a cleaner, less cluttered, more organized laundry room!!

So, that's what I did yesterday for Christmas in July. Not fun, but necessary. I feel good about it, because I did a little inventory of Christmas things along the way, and now have a clue what's what.

Today's Christmas agenda includes working on another drink carrier (I found one in the laundry room! Yay!!) and decluttering my Christmas notebook, as well as making a schedule for buying gifts and Christmas menu items. If I portion it out over several weeks, it's much easier to get done than if I just haphazardly pick things up. Obsessive? Probably, but it works for me. Well...mostly. LOL!

As July is winding down, obviously so is Christmas in July. I doubt that I'll post here daily after this week, at least until after Thanksgiving, any way, but I'll be popping in here and there, so keep an eye on it for tips, ideas and pictures. But, this week, we'll have a Big Finish to the month, so hang on!!

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 28, 150 Days to go!

Only 150 days until Christmas! Wow! I usually start to get really excited about now, but the truth of the matter is I've been excited all month. I feel like I've accomplished quite a lot...and that's good for me! I didn't set big goals, but tried to do just a little every day, and it's working like a charm. Again, I've fallen short on only one area, and that's the stocking stuffer buying. I either forget when I'm at the store or I've been in a hurry and couldn't look. Plus, I've been vehicle impaired for a month, so that didn't help much. Additionally, I didn't' really know who's stockings we're stuffing this year, because we haven't drawn names yet. Lots of coming and going, but no name drawing. Soon, though, because THERE IS ONLY 150 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!

At Day 100, I really kick it into high gear, trying to get things done so that I can get done! LOL!!

I have a lot of unfun regular stuff to do today, like cleaning and laundry, so I'll have to check in later and tell you what I've done Christmas wise. Honestly, I don't even remember what's on the calender for today...but I will look, do it and report back either this evening or tomorrow!

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Christmas in July party

Today we hosted our monthly family breakfast with a Christmas in July party. It also doubled as Jonah's birthday party. We had 20 for a breakfast of hash brown casserole, breakfast casserole, fresh fruit, bacon, pancakes and biscuits. We also had coffee, tea, assorted juices and chocolate milk! It was fun.

Jonah had a big time at his birthday party...and got loaded....with cash! He thinks he's rich-he has $6o! Not bad for a 7 year old boy!

We had a good time and everyone sat around and talked all afternoon.

Tomorrow I think I'm going to take a break from Christmas in July, then back at it Monday for the last few days. My trip to Chicago is off, due to circumstances beyond my control, so I'll try to think of something fun to do on the 31st so I won't think too much about what I COULD be doing!

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy Rudolph Day



This is what my Christmas in July tree should look like, if I ever get to it!!

It's July 25! It's not only Rudolph Day, it's five short, fun, sweet, exciting months until Christmas!!! I can't wait!


Today is shopping day again. I'm working on Jonah's Christmas in July/Red Power Ranger birthday breakfast/party (what a combo) and getting the house ready.


I did manage to get another drink carrier painted...it's ended up being a really pretty, goldish yellow. The color on the bottle is called "King's Gold" ..it's a very country color, and I love anything country. Sorry I didn't get it finished in time to post a picture today, but if you hop over to Holiday Hamlet you'll see what I've been up to the last two days! I'm so happy with that progress and direction of that project!


Today during the Virtual Crop time (7-10 pm tonight!) that Ginger has going on I'll be working on favors for the party tomorrow...I'm thinking Christmas crackers...I have a TON of toilet paper rolls! I plan to do these for Christmas Eve breakfast with Lynn's sisters and families and then again for Christmas Eve dinner (see below for details on that!!). But, I have enough to do all of these, and some Thanksgiving ones, too...plus in 5 months, believe me, we'll have plenty more!! Check here for details on the crop!


And, don't forget the chat at My Merry Christmas today and tonight about Magic Elves. Be there or be square!


What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?


Merry, Merry!


Cathy

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 24, or Rudolph Day Eve!

I cannot believe that it's July 24 already. This has been such a fun month. I feel like I've accomplished lots more than I would have normally, if Ginger hadn't introduced the idea of Christmas in July all month long! It's so satisfying to know that I at least have a few things done for Christmas, and plans for the rest. As I've mentioned before, I'm a great planner, but doing is another issue entirely for me. This month, I've not only planned, I've done!! I still have a few loose ends...those clipboards, for one, but I'm getting there!

Speaking of those clipboards...they are just not looking like I wanted them to. I had a vision for both of them, but not the supplies I needed...and Wal-Mart has recently totally changed their scrapbooking department, so I can't find what I had in mind. They've added the Martha Stewart line, and it's got some wonderful stuff, just not what I had in mind. Right now, I've got the elements for a Christmas countdown, all except the numbers. I used stickers for the letters, and can't find any numbers to match. I guess I'll drag out my rubber stamps and just make number tags...probably no one else will care if they match or not, but you know that I do!!

The drink carriers, on the other hand, are going well. I have three made now, and the materials for the fourth one..it'll be yellow and red stripes and big polka dots, very country/vintage looking. I really like the papers for it..I think I'll paint it red...or yellow. LOL! I hope to have it done in time to post a picture tomorrow...if not, soon!

Yesterday I made those menu plans, today I'll be working on shopping lists for the non-perishable items for those meals.

Speaking of menus, I thought that since this is Rudolph Day Eve and Christmas Eve is only 5 sweet months away, I'd share a little of my thoughts for Christmas Eve dinner. I am absolutely goofy about Christmas Eve...it's the best part of the holiday, in my opinion!! Up until my grandmother died, we always went to her house for Christmas Eve. Some of my favorite holiday memories center around those gatherings...it all seemed so magical. I'd walk down to my grandparents' house early on Christmas Eve morning and the tree would look so pretty, but bare-just a few gifts underneath. We'd do whatever Mama Lody (my grandmother) needed done that a chubby little girl could do, then I'd go home. When we got back there later that evening (we were always the first ones there!) I'd immediately check the tree...it was just inside the front door in the living room. It would have a few more gifts than earlier, but still not as many as I knew were coming...then, after everyone got there-viola!! Piles and piles of gifts...something for everyone from everyone back in those days!! We had to wait until the adults finished eating before we opened gifts, and it seemed like it took FOREVER!! Finally my Dad would take matters into his own hands and start handing out gifts! It was so much fun and so exciting to see what we got!

The menu was almost always the same...turkey and dressing, ham, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, black eyed peas, green beans, several other side dishes that varied from year to year, and lots and lots of desserts!!

After Mama Lody died, we started hosting Christmas Eve at our home. We don't have the crowd she had...that was our whole extended family, 30 or 40 people. We have a much quieter party. I love having our best friends join us most years, and my Mom and whoever else wants to drop by. I haven't really had a hard and fast traditional meal since I started hosting...one year we had London Broil and baked potatoes, one year chili and cheese dip! Here's what we're likely going to have this year:

Anti pasto tray
Spaghetti
Lasagna
Green salad
Herbed bread
Dessert buffet

Hot cider, eggnog and Christmas Eve Punch


I usually try to have a Christmas movie ready in the DVD player for the boys to watch while the adults finish eating. We exchange gifts after we eat, and my kids get to open one gift from us...which is always pajamas and slippers...or footie pjs for the little ones! They love those things..I'd smother to death if I had to wear them!

As our guests are leaving, we go out on the porch and sprinkle the Magic Reindeer Dust (oats and glitter) and then the boys happily go off to bed. Probably not to sleep, but to bed! We allow them to put a DVD in to go to sleep by...usually The Santa Clause!


I can't wait!!

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Second Post of the day...

It's a two post day!

I just wanted to report that I got the menus done! Yay! And the master bathroom is "done"! Yay! And the master bedroom is almost done! Yay!

Merry, Merry!

Day 23

Man, this month is flying! I can't believe it's almost time for another Rudolph Day!!

Today is going to be rather laid back, as far as Christmas planning..I will make the December daily menus, but I need to wait on the DIBS until I get more sugar. So, I'm thinking I'll put together the ones I need for Jonah's birthday party/family breakfast on Saturday, then do the rest for Christmas on either Saturday or Sunday.

I picked up another drink carrier yesterday...this one will be red and yellow-my two favorite colors!!

I'm watching "The Holiday" on tv right now..very cute! It's set at Christmas time, but it's not really a "Christmas" movie. Very cute.

Ok, I'm off to make some menus.

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 22

Yesterday I got a lot of clearing and decluttering done in the master bedroom, but not much Christmas prep...but that's ok. I did make another drink carrier, out of the black and white check and toile paper. I like it so much, I might keep it in my kitchen!

Today I'd planned to work on DIBS, but we ended up going to the library and some other errands, then when we got home, it started raining...and you know how I love a rainy day and new books! So, no DIBS.

Tomorrow-DIBS and menus for the entire month of December.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 20

Today I worked on some ideas to add to my gift stash, using the Internet and some small GP booklets that I've collected over the years. Such good information in such a small little book!

Today I thought I'd share my plans for Black Friday this year...you know, the day after Thanksgiving here in the US, the day all the retailers hope we'll be out at the crack of dawn with our travel cups of coffee and sale flyers in hand, acting like maniacs trying to get the best deals in town. I'm not criticizing anyone-I've been there, done that, bought the t shirt and will likely do it again sometime! But there is a certain craziness to that day that just isn't much fun for me. So, this year, I plan to get in on the craziness in a more sane way...I'll be hosting a Black Friday Brunch for my customers to come by, shop my sale, and have a little breakfast on their way to the Next Big Sale.

I am a fashion director with Jewels by Park Lane, a home party plan line of fabulous designer jewelry. I'll be hosting the first annual Black Friday Park Lane Customer Appreciation Sale of my career! Here's a few little plans I thought I'd share with you. Details will be shared at a later date!

The menu is simple:
mini quiches (so good...actually a South Beach Diet recipe..little tiny crustless egg pies filled with fresh veggies, bits of bacon, ham and cheese. Yummy!)
fresh fruit cups (little totable cups of fruit)
ham and biscuits
muffins-blueberry, strawberry and banana nut is the plan
slices of coffeecake
a selection of juices, coffee and tea

I'll have my jewelry table set up in the living room and the food in the eat-in kitchen on the table and island. The house will still be decorated in it's fall finery, because we'll be hosting the Miller family Thanksgiving on Saturday (you're coming, right, Becki?)

I'll have some door prizes, bonus gifts for booking holiday parties with me and a fun drawing for a grand prize...to be named later!

I also will have some take home favors for everyone! Here's one I'm considering.

Shopper's Tired Tootsie Peppermint Foot Scrub
Ingredients:
Sea salt
Peppermint Essential Oil
Directions:
Mix 1/4 cup sea salt with 3 drops peppermint oil. Rub on feet, then soak in warm water.

Doesn't that sound lovely after a day of chasing bargains?

I'm planning on packaging this in little tiny jelly jars, with a cute little label on each and an instruction tag to go along with it. I might get really creative and add some food coloring to tint it...or I might just end up putting it in little snack sized ziplocks, depending on how my time/money/energy go! And, I use Epsom salts instead of sea salt when I can't find sea salt.

And, before I forget again..here's that Fabulous Five Minute Fudge recipe that I've promised so long!

Ingredients:
1 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate pieces ( 2 cups) (I use milk chocolate chips instead)
2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk (one half of a 14 oz. can)
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, if desired (I use pecans or cashews...not a walnut fan)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper; set aside. In a medium microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate pieces, sweetened condensed milk, and water.

Microwave, uncovered, on 100% power (high) for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 1 minute more, or until chocolate is meted and mixture is smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Pour mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and spread it into a 9x6 inch rectangle, or drop mixture by rounded teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet.

Chill fudge about 30 minutes or until firm. Cut fudge into 1 1/2 inch squares. Makes 24 pieces.

This freezes like a dream. I've frozen a double batch in October, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, then wrapped in foil, and it was very good at Christmas!

Cut it into squares and place them in candy papers (like mini cupcake liners, but made for candy. You can get them at Michael's and Hobby Lobby and probably lots of other places), then put them in a gold candy box (same sources), and wrap it all up with a foofy sheer gold ribbon. It looks fabulous and elegant, and tastes even better!

Hope you got some gems to use today!

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day 19

Today is extremely hot again. I just spend two hours and $248.76 at the grocery store, and I'm honestly not in the Christmas spirit too much! But, that's not an acceptable attitude for Christmas in July, so I'm going to post a few little goodies for you, and maybe I'll get cheerier!

By the way...we postponed our family breakfast, due to the heat and the high cost of EVERYTHING. We are going to combine breakfast with Jonah's birthday party next weekend...a little breakfast, a little swimming, a little Christmas, a little birthday cake...sounds good to me! This way, everyone only has to drive here once...and with gasoline at $3.89 a gallon (and I know that's a lot less than some folks are paying), we have to conserve where we can!

Today's Christmas pearls are from another one of the Gooseberry Patch Christmas books, #8 this time. I'm so looking forward to picking up the new #10 as soon as I can find it in paperback!

*For a reminder that Santa's on his way, wire a length of sleigh bells to a fresh greenery wreath...a jolly jingle every time the door opens. (If you have little kids or if my kids visit your house, you might not want to do this one!)

*What's more cozy than gathering 'round the fireplace for hot cocoa and a chat? Stencil pine trees and stars on a large, galvanized tub. Fill the tub with wood and set by the fire to save trips out into the blustery evening. (I do this with a flat basket...decorative and functional! I also have a galvanized bucket that I keep pine cones and fire starters in, tied up with a red bow and some cinnamon sticks peeking out!)

*Write the lyrics to a favorite Christmas carol on a solid color mug using glass paint and then tuck in a package of Marshmallow Cocoa Mix...a simple, one of a kind gift!

Marshmallow Cocoa Mix
25 oz. package powdered milk
1 1/2 c. powdered non-dairy creamer
3 c. hot cocoa mix
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 c. mini marshmallows

Combine all ingredients; equally divide into four, one-quart jars. Attach gift tag with instructions to each jar. Makes 4 jars.

Instructions: Combine 1/2 cup mix with one cup boiling water. Makes one serving.

And here's a recipe that just screams Christmas!

Chocolate Covered Cherries

16 oz. package powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 T. evaporated milk
2 t. vanilla extract
2 10 oz each jars maraschino cherries with or without stems, drained
12 oz. chocolate flavored candy coating
6 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Blend together sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Wrap each cherry in about 1 teaspoon sugar mixture. Arrange on waxed paper in a baking pan and chill overnight. Melt together the candy coating and chocolate chips in a double boiler. Stir until melted and blended. Use a candy dipper to dip cherries in chocolate, tapping off excess. Place on waxed paper to cool. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.

And, finally, a great recipe for a mix in a jar gift, or for serving guests!

Creamy Potato Soup Mix

3 1/2 c. instant mashed potato flakes
3 c. powdered milk
1/4 c. chicken bouillon granules
.09 oz. pkg. vegetable soup mix
2 T. dried parsley
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container until ready to give. Attach instructions. Makes about 6 3/4 cups soup mix.

Instructions:
Place one cup soup mix in 2 1/2 cups boiling water. Stir until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Makes one serving.

I like this with oyster crackers, but plain old saltines are good with it, too! Served with a grilled cheese sandwich, it's a hearty, filling lunch on a cold, wintery day!!

Well! I'm feeling cheerier already!

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Friday, July 18, 2008

Day-can you believe it? 18!

Half over. Already. Time is flying by. Check out the banner above this post if you don't believe me. That tells you exactly when Christmas will be here. And don't fool yourself, it will be here before you know it!

Although it may seem a little nutty, July really is a great time to get things done for Christmas. For one thing, and for me the main thing, is that it's easier on the budget to spread spending out over a few months rather than a few weeks, or in the case of my brothers and other men I know, a few days. Now that's nutty! Anywho...if you know what you want to get someone, you can be watching for sales, and sometimes you stumble upon a stellar Christmas gift that you hadn't even thought of. It can be purchased, wrapped and tagged and safely tucked away in your closet for giving at the Yuletide. How cool is that!

My goal this year is to be done with all my shopping for gifts by November 1. This has been my goal for several years now, and I've never actually accomplished that goal, but here's hoping that this is the year! I usually wait until fall to get the boys' big stuff, simply because they change their minds about a dozen times and I want the "latest updated list" when I start shopping. If I've done the bulk of my shopping early, when they throw a ringer in-like when the visit Santa at the mall a week before Christmas and tell him they really, really, really only want XXX or YYY, and this is the first you've heard of it-you still have a little jingle in your pocket to get it. Hopefully!

Also, by having menus made out for holiday meals and making a "non-perishables" shopping list, I can pick things up as I'm doing my regular shopping. I set aside a big laundry basket in the pantry for these things, with little sticky notes all over them saying things like "for Thanksgiving at Mom's" or "Christmas Eve dinner" or "Halloween chili makings" or things like that. I keep a running list of what I've purchased so that I know, the week before Halloween for example, I need to pick up the ground beef for the chili and the candy for the trick or treaters, but everything else is done, in the bag...well, basket. See how that works!

Another great reason to plan ahead is so that if you have an unexpected emergency just before Christmas, you are still ok. One year I had surgery on both feet, two weeks apart. By the way, I highly DON'T recommend that. Anyway I had shopped early and was prepared with gifts for everyone, and didn't have to brave the crowds with casts on both feet. Another year I had a baby on December 19, but we won't go into that! I was unprepared for lots of things that year! LOL! But, it taught me to be ready for those little unexpected happenings. (Yes, I knew that the baby, who turned out to be Jacob, was coming. I just thought he was coming AFTER Christmas....turned out he wanted to celebrate, too!)

So, hopefully, that explains a little of this Christmas craziness in the middle of July!

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry!
Cathy

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 17

It's supposed to be 95 degrees today. I have no desire to step out of my house. I need to clean for our family breakfast on Saturday, and get some decorating done. So, that's my focus today. Not very exciting, but necessary.

Since no sane person wants to read about house cleaning, today I've decided to share more pearls of wisdom from my collection of Christmas books. This recipe comes from Gooseberry Patch Christmas book #2. I keep this made up, in a small jar in the spice cabinet. It is wonderful on French bread, but I've used it on biscuits to make them savory, then served them with spaghetti or lasagna. I also like to package it in those cute little 4 oz. jelly jars, put a spiffy little label on it and give it as a gift. If I have them, I use herbs from my garden, dried, for this mix. So, here goes:

Garden Herb Bread Blend

1/3 c. dried parsley flakes
1/3 c. dried minced onions (I use onion powder, due to the "is there anything weird in this" factor at my house)
2 1/2 T. dried basil
2 1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
2 1/2 t. dried oregano leaves
1 1/4 t. garlic powder

Blend herbs together in bowl. Package in airtight container or bag. Makes one cup or enough for 6 loaves of bread.

The recipe actually calls for putting the mix right into the bread dough, and I will share that recipe with you. However, I usually just brush melted butter or drizzle olive oil on my bread slices, then sprinkle with the mix. Bake in a 350 degree oven, serve with additional oil for dipping, if desired.

Bread Recipe:
3-4 t. Garden Bread Herb Blend
1 pkg. hot roll mix
4 T. margarine, divided
1 egg

Add Garden Herb blend to dry hot roll mix. Follow the instructions on hot roll mix box for mixing, kneading and resting. Shape dough into regular size or mini loaves or follow instructions on box for rolls. Allow dough to rise. Bake regular sized bread loaves in greased loaf pans for 35-40 minutes at 375 degrees. Bake mini loaves about 10 minutes less, 25-30 minutes. Brush tops with remaining 2T margarine.

Reading this recipe, it's not clear what you do with the egg or the first 2 T. margarine...I guess you need them for the bread recipe.

I might try this as a bread this weekend..it sounds really good.

Now, some ideas from GP#2, as I refer to the books in my notes!

*A fire in the fireplace says "welcome". Keep several dry logs nearby as well as a bucketful of cinnamon pine cones for a quick country fire. The heat from the fire will scent the entire room with cinnamon.

*Don't throw away those beautiful cards. Use them to create your own ornaments and package tie-ons. Cut off the back of the card and trim around the picture, if you wish. Punch a small hole at the top. Lightly coat with spray adhesive and dust with glitter for all-over sparkle, or use a glue stick to highlight certain areas. Sprinkle on the glitter, then shake the excess onto a newspaper. Thread a piece of raffia, twine or ribbon through the hole and you have a wonderful ornament or darling package tie-on!

*Make snow days extra special for the kids....tell stories, go sledding, make cocoa, sing Christmas carols, watch Christmas movies, wrap presents... (ok, this one is wishful thinking on my part...snow in Arkansas is an exception, rather than a rule. However, in the 10 Christmases we've been married, we've had at least 3 white Christmases. Not too bad!)

*Freshly baked coffee cake makes a welcome gift! Tuck it into a round basket lined with a cheery red fabric. Trim the edge of the basket with greenery, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and sprigs of berries. Tie your gift card to the handle with several strands of raffia.

And, here's a yummy coffee cake to go in that festive basket!

Jean's Coffee Cake
Coffee Cake:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. sour cream
2 c. fresh raspberries, or frozen, thawed and drained

Topping:
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. all-purpose flour

For coffee cake, cream butter and sugar; add eggs, baking powder and baking soda. Alternately add flour and sour cream to mixture and fold in raspberries. Pour into a well-buttered Bundt pan. For topping, combine brown sugar and butter, mixing well. Add flour; mixture will be lumpy. Spread on coffee cake batter; bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

I think I'll make this for our breakfast Saturday, but I'm going to sub strawberries for raspberries. Try this and let me know if you like it!

What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?

Merry, Merry
Cathy

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day 16

Glittering and painting is the order of the day today at the Hamlet. We plan to use these ornaments for the centerpiece for our family breakfast on Saturday, as well as on the year-round tree in the living room.


I need to get that tree decorated today...then tomorrow and Friday I'll clean the house...maybe. Maybe not. We'll see....


I got a new cookbook yesterday-except that it's new only in the sense that I just acquired it. I bought it off of Amazon for $1.89 with $3 shipping. It's an older book and it's used, but very gently! It's Susan Branch's Vineyard Seasons...More from the Heart of the Home. I have her autumn, Christmas and summer books from the Heart of the Home, so I needed this one to fill out the collection-right, Becki??




The ever lovely Ms. Branch is very talented with her writing and her art...her watercolors dot the book, and are as fun to look at as the recipes. Amazon has a large selection in the used section of her books...they are worth the price. She also has a cool web site...check it out!


She addresses each season in this book...not as much fall and winter as I'd like, but then I do have whole books she's written devoted to those subjects. So, from Susan Branch's Vineyard Seasons' book, here's a wonderful sounding recipe...light, but sweet and oh, so simple..


Nut Bread

325 degrees, makes 1 loaf


2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 c. sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 c. milk

1/2 c. walnuts, chopped (I'll substitute pecans or almonds here...don't care for walnuts!)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together with a fork. Beat the egg, mix it with milk and pour into dry ingredients. Mix well, stir in nuts. Pour into buttered bread pan; bake 35 minutes til toothpick comes out dry. Serve with softened butter.


Doesn't that sound simple and yummy? Wouldn't that make a great bread to make in bulk for gifts...if you used the mini pans you could get 2 or 3 loaves out of it...oh, I know...I have a cool little mini bundt pan that would make great little individual gifts...I'm off to add this to my gift list!!


What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?


Merry, Merry!


Cathy

About Me

I love to cook, decorate, entertain and plan the holidays. I'm wife to one handsome man and mom to three handsome boys, I love God, my family and my country. I'm the one at the small town parade waving the American flag!! Almost all the holidays are celebrated at our house, and we like it that way!!