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 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 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!

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!

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 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!

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!

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!

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's ended up being a really pretty, goldish yellow. The color on the bottle is called "King's Gold"'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, 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!


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'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'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 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 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 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
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!

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!

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 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 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
Sea salt
Peppermint Essential Oil
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's that Fabulous Five Minute Fudge recipe that I've promised so long!

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

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!

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.

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!

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!

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 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

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

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!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Can you believe it? Day 15 Already!!

People, it's July 15th!! The middle of the month...five weeks until school starts (praise God!)...two weeks until my trip to Chicago...and only 163 days until Christmas! So exciting!

Today I had on my schedule to make an altered drink carrier and to make more salt dough ornaments tomorrow. I'm actually a bit ahead of that schedule...the salt doughs are made, just waiting paint and glitter. So I've decided that today I'll make a run to Sonic (when I go to the laundry mat to do some towels and underwear...washer is on the blink and won't be fixed until Friday) and get a drink carrier (or maybe two, if I'm lucky enough!) and get those done tonight or tomorrow. I have the paper cut, so it's just a matter of painting them and gluing on the paper.

Then tomorrow we'll paint and glitter, and I'll use those little masterpieces on the centerpiece for breakfast Saturday.

So, see, things ARE getting done...just on a slightly different schedule than originally planned. And, People, that is progress in this house!!

And a special thanks to my buddy Ginger for putting my little projects on the front page of MHH! Whoo hoo! I'm famous! LOL!

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

Merry, Merry!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Post it Pad project

These Post-It pad stands are the cutest little quickie project ever! If you can measure and cut paper, you can make it! I used the fabulous black and white toile and checked paper that I love so much, then snazzed it up a touch with a thin black satin ribbon. I put a bow on it, but decided I liked it better without it. I also tried it with a wider ribbon, but I really like the thinner ribbon better. You could use whichever one you like. This will be a great little stocking stuffer for almost anyone, and how perfect for teachers?? Pair this with a matching altered clipboard for a shopping list, and viola! Instant gift with a personal touch!! Make some today!!

And don't forget to cut a small rectangle of paper to slide down into the RSVP pen..they come in all colors, so you can color coordinate your entire project! Isn't this fun??
What are YOU doing to get ready for Christmas in July?
Merry, Merry!

Catching Up

I didn't do as much over the weekend as I'd seems to get in the way of our best laid plans and ideas, doesn't it? I wanted to finish up those clipboards from last week, but didn't get around to it...we had so much "regular" stuff to get done this weekend. However, that's the beauty of doing Christmas projects in have plenty of time to get back on track.

So far, the only thing I'm not really happy about is purchasing the stocking stuffers...I've had van problems and have to try to combine my trips to get the most out of a borrowed vehicle...and I've forgotten to add dollar store trips in every time. Hopefully that will be resolved soon...And, stocking stuffers are the topic of discussion this week on the boards at Magical Holiday Home! Check it out!

I need to pick up supplies for this week...actually, I think I'm going to veer slightly off track and focus on finishing up what I've started in previous weeks, and getting ready for our monthly family breakfast on Saturday. The theme is, of course, Christmas in July. I need to finish up the two clipboards I've started, and trim out those drink boxes. I have paper cut for three more, including the toile and checked paper I showed you earlier! Can't wait to make another Sonic run to get more drink boxes!! LOL!

I did get a post it note stand made...I'll show you a picture soon! Meanwhile, here's a link to the discussion on MHH. Click on the link in the first post and look at's cute. Then I'll show you mine!!

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

Merry, Merry!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Day 11-Some down time!

Day 11 already!! I'm so pleased with the progress I've made this month. I have several gifts prepared and ideas for a bunch more, as well as my lists and menus made. Plus, the boys have had a blast, too.

Today my "assignment" is to purchase 8 $1 stocking stuffers. I'll look for those when I go to the grocery store later on. I'm sort of out of sorts today-headache, stuffy nose, etc. I am taking some down time this afternoon. Tomorrow is soon enough to make another craft!

Speaking of tomorrow, one of my projects (probably the only one I'll have time to do) is to get my laundry room cleared, cleaned and organized so that I can store all these holiday treasures I've created!

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

Merry, Merry!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Day 10

See this fabric? They are two of my favorite fabrics in my entire house. The cream and red toile is my window treatment in our bedroom. For my on-going angst about it, check out the Hamlet. The black and white check is part of what I often use on my kitchen table...I have three different sized black and white checks that I use often. I love toile and checks together. As most of you know, I'm working on several paper projects that I would LOVE to use toile and checks on. But, have you ever tried to find scrapbook paper in toile and checks. I KNOW that there is some out there, but I haven't been too successful in finding it. So, I made my own!!

The photo below is photocopies of the fabric! I just took it over to Office Depot, paid eight cents per copy for black and white copies and VIOLA!! Check and toile papers! I did two different versions of the toile...and I plan to take the other sized checked pieces over there and copy them, too. And, later on, I'll be copying the red in color to wrap gifts. Is that cool, or what!

Look for these little gems on a clipboard, drink box or other craft, coming soon!!
Speaking of clipboards, I haven't forgotten them...I just haven't gotten them where I want them to be, so I haven't posted pictures of them, yet. But I will. Just as soon as they are done. I promise!!
And, I haven't forgotten my salt dough pictures...just not quite done with that yet, either. Look for it soon!!
What are you doing to get ready for Christmas in July?
Merry, Merry!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cutie Pie Ornaments

Remember, we made salt dough ornaments yesterday. So, today we painted and glittered them, of course! I now have glitter on everything in my kitchen, and what's not glittered is painted. And some things are both. But, the ornaments turned out very cute! Remember, each boy cut out, painted and glittered his own ornaments. These particular ornaments will be on their own trees in their room at Christmas.

These are Jonah's ornaments. I'm not really sure what the brown rabbit has to do with Christmas, but hey-it's his tree, he can have what he wants! Check out the fabulous silver glittered shirt on the cowboy! Can you say "urban cowboy"?

And these are Benjie's ornaments. You'll notice that B (as we call him) has a little of his mom in him...his ornaments are multi-toned glittery creations-no simple one color glitter for B! I especially like the glittered trains-who wouldn't want to ride on a glitter covered train?
Tomorrow, I'll show you my salt dough creations and another little project I'm working on...see the fabrics in the above pictures? It involves both of those!
What are you doing to get ready for Christmas in July?
Merry, Merry!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Drink Carriers!

OK, here's an easy breezy idea for a gift basket. If you've ever been to a Sonic Drive-in and ordered more than two drinks, they probably asked you if you needed a drink carrier. Next time, say yes, even if you don't, and make some of these! They are very simple-if you can cut and paste, you can make these! I used scrapbook paper that I had, but you could totally do them in Christmas, fall, spring..whatever the occasion calls for! Mine have a real vintage feel, and you know how I love vintage things!

Here's a quick rundown on how to do them!
Choose your paper. I used two coordinating papers, but you could do each section different, or all the same, using only one paper. Using a pencil, open up your drink box as if you were putting drinks in it, then use a plain piece of paper to trace each section. I didn't worry with the won't show once the jars of goodies are added, but you could cover it if you wanted. I think the next ones I do I'm going to use a little craft paint and cover it first, then the "raw" edges won't make much difference. Then, using whatever kind of glue you want to use-white glue thinned with a little water and brushed on, glue stick (that's what I used) or even spray adhesive, if you are clever enough to get that stuff only on the paper-I end up spraying everything around me. Then just stick it on...I used a wide craft stick to "burnish" it and make it smooth.

I also made little gift tags to go with it, using purchased luggage type tags and gluing coordinating paper on them. These will be the "to" and "from" tags...I'll make miniatures of them to identify the contents of each item I put in the carriers.

I'm planning to use them as breakfast baskets, with jars of drink mixes, homemade apple butter, and candy and a cello wrapped loaf of quick bread. I'll put ribbon and raffia on everything, properly foofying it for giving purposes!

Well, what do you think? I have about 6 more of these to make. The uses are endless...put silverware in them for a picnic, put a jar of spaghetti sauce, a package of spaghetti, a jar of Parmesan cheese and a loaf of French bread in it for an Italian dinner gift basket. What would you do with it?

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

Merry, Merry!


Monday, July 7, 2008

Salt Dough Ornaments

Two posts in one day! A first for this blog, I think...maybe not.'s the promised recipe for salt dough ornaments. As I mentioned in the other post, rolling out dough is not big in list of fun things, but this is's kind of fun because it really doesn't matter if it's not perfect-it's going to be a homemade Christmas ornament made by 7 and 8 year old boys...I just tell them the imperfections are part of the charm. So far, they buy it!

Salt Dough Cookie Ornaments
4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1-1/2 cups hot water (from tap)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (optional)

Mix the salt and flour together, then gradually add the water until the dough becomes elastic. (Some recipes call for 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil at this point.) If your mixture turns out too sticky, simply add more flour. If it turns out too crumbly, simply add more water. Knead the dough until it’s a good consistency for rolling, roll it out on a lightly floured board, drag out the cookie cutters and let the kids have fun!

After the ornaments are cut out, use a drinking straw to make a hole at the top for hanging the ornament, place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for as long as it takes to get the dough hard and light brown, usually about an hour or so. Let them cool, paint and glitter them to your heart's content, and call them Christmas ornaments!

For storage purposes, I would not store them in extreme conditions, such as in our storage building outside. They need to be wrapped in tissue and placed in an uncrushable storage box, such as those plastic lidded shoe boxes that Wal-Mart sells. Then keep them in the top of your closet or someplace else relatively warm/cool when you are not proudly displaying them.

I have to run now, but I'll be sharing more gift ideas, especially gift in a jar ideas, and I still have that Fabulous Five Minute Fudge recipe for you...

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

Merry, Merry!


If you're a baker, then you know the importance of having all your ingredients at hand before you begin your project. I'm not much of a baker...rolling out dough is right up there with getting a tetnus shot, in my opinion. I can manage the slice and bakes, but truthfully, I like the new separate from the others and bake much better. What I like best is to have someone else, like my mom or Melissa, bake them and bring them to me. But, again, I digress (that seems to be an on-going problem with me!). I do like to make quick breads, usually starting in early October and going all through the winter. I like to include them in little gifty baskets-sometimes in breakfast or tea baskets, other times just by themselves. I am making plans to present them in unique ways this Christmas.

My friend ChristmasCreations over at MHH has hit upon an ingenious idea-the woman is GOOD at this kind of stuff! Her idea is to create what she calls DIBS-Dry Ingredient Bag Setups. It's just what it sounds like-bags of dry ingredients, measured and prepped and stored for adding fresh ingredients when you are ready. It's like homemade cake mixes, in quick bread variety. I am going to do these for banana bread, pumpkin bread and Cheery Cherry Christmas Bread. I plan to vacuum seal mine and put them in the freezer, properly labeled and ready to roll when I am! Isn't this an ingenius idea? It's one of those "why didn't I think of that" kind of things. Thanks, CC!!

Cheery Cherry Christmas Bread

1 cup sugar

1/2 c. margarine

2 eggs

1 teaspoon soda

3 tablespoons hot water

3 bananas, mashed

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 6 oz. package chocolate chips

1 6 oz. jar maraschino cherries, chopped

1 cup chopped nuts

Cream sugar, margarine and eggs in bowl until light and fluffy. Add mixture of soda and water; mix well. Stir in bananas, flour and salt; mix well. Add chocolate chips, cherries and nuts. Pour into two 5x9 inch greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bread tests done. Yield: 24 servings

So good and so festive!

For some gifts, I'm going to wrap each loaf, whether big or mini, tightly in plastic wrap, then use cellophane to overwrap that and tie each end with curling ribbon, making it look like a big piece of candy! Others will be wrapped in plastic wrap then slipped into a cello bag and tied off with curling ribbon and raffia. I'm also making handmade tags to attach to the gift to identify the giver, receiver and contents.

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

Merry, Merry!


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Day 6!

Today is officially day 6 of Christmas in July, and I actually feel like I've accomplished some things. I didn't get to shop for 8 stocking stuffers this weekend as I'd planned-we're having van trouble and I hated to borrow Mom's truck again or ask Lynn to tote me around in his truck-which I DO NOT I'll try to do that tomorrow or sometime this week.

On tap for this week are clipboards, drink carriers and salt dough ornaments. I'm going to make at least one clipboard as a countdown calender, and the other a hugs and kisses-minus the picture. I'll have to add it later, because I want to do a Christmas photo, and I can't talk Lynn and the kids into putting on sweaters and Santa hats in July for a photo. I can make the rest and leave the picture for last.

The salt dough ornaments are going to be gifts and for our trees. I'm planning on doing cowboys and cowboy hats for the little boys' cowboy themed room (and let them paint their own ornaments), and some heart shaped ones for our tree in our room, as well as some other trees. My theme this year is "The Heart of Christmas" and I want to use at least one or two hearts on each tree in the house. I also have a star cookie cutter, so I was thinking they would make good teacher and neighbor gifts...painted a bright color and glittered to high heaven!

Tomorrow I'll share the recipe for salt-dough ornaments and also some more gift ideas!!

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

Merry, Merry!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Days 4 & 5

We had a fun filled fourth yesterday, starting with a gathering at my Mom's house with about 40 people, and ending with fireworks in the park! I think it was the best fireworks display our town has ever had..but I think I say that every year.

I completed two altered drink carriers, so I'm not too badly behind. We have plans to go to some friends' house in a little while to swim, have dinner and dessert, then swim some more. However, it's pouring buckets of rain right now, so we might not get to go. The boys are going to be terribly disappointed if we don't. Here's hoping!!

I'll try to post pictures soon of the drink carriers..they are pretty cute, if I do say so myself. They still need a little dressing up...some raw edges are showing where my pattern was not exactly accurate...I'm not sure how I'll cover that up yet.

When we get back from Eddie and Melissa's, I plan to paint two clipboards to get ready for tomorrow. I still haven't decided on what format I'm going to use on them...probably a Christmas countdown for at least one of them.

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

Merry, Merry

PS To Becki: Rising prices is one of the main reasons I'm doing this as seriously this year as I am. I am scared of how much things will cost by's bad enough right now. Good for you...let me know how things are going for you! C-

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Day 3 and 4!

I had some computer problems yesterday, so I didn't get to post what I'd planned. Rest assured, though, that I did some Christmas work...I started the grocery lists for all the parties and gatherings coming up this fall and holiday season. I didn't get it finished, but I started it!!

Today I'm planning to work on an altered clipboard for a gift. I'll pick up the supplies in a little while when I go to the grocery store, and make it tonight. I'm debating on whether to do it as a Christmas countdown or like the others I did with the boys' pictures on it. I'll let you know tomorrow what I decide.

In the meantime, here's some more gift ideas from the Celebrating-Christmas 2004 magazine. These are all for gift mixes in a of my favorite things to make for gifts!

*Muffin Mix
2 c. self-rising flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. chopped dried apple

Combine and store in an airtight container. Attach the following recipe to the jar:

Apple Muffins
Contents of jar
1 egg
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour jar contents into medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

*Rum Balls in a Jar
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped almonds
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 instant coffee crystals
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, optional

Layer ingredients into a one quart jar, tamping down layers to eliminate air gaps. Attach the following recipe to the jar:

Place contents of jar into a bowl. Add 4-5 tablespoons rum (I would think a few drops of rum extract would work, also) expresso and/or coffee. Form into small balls. Roll in powdered sugar. Place on a cookie sheet to dry. Store in airtight container.

*Spice Cake Mix
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup nuts, chopped

Combine and store in an airtight container. Attach the following recipe to the jar:

Pour jar contents into a mixing bowl. Add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup applesauce, and 1 tsp. vanilla and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.
(Note: I make a cake I call a "Harvest Cake" using this same recipe, with the addition of a can of pumpkin, a handful of raisins, a handful of dried cranberries and about a half cup or so of chopped nuts. Then I frost it with a cream cheese icing...yummy!!)

*Christmas Soup Mix
1/2 cup split peas
1/3 cup beef bouillion granules
1/4 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup lentils
1/4 cup dried minced onions
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning mix
1 cup raw long grain white rice

In a quart jar, layer the ingredients in the order listed. Seal the jar tightly.

Gift tag directions:
In a large soup pot, brown 1 pound of ground beef or 1 pound cubed chicken breast; drain. Add 3 quarts water, a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes with their liquid and the soup mix. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer about 1 hour.

Doesn't that soup sound good?? I love soup, eat it all year long-yes, even in the summer!

More goodies tomorrow, God and the computer willing!

Merry, Merry!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Day 2 of the 31 Days of Rudolph

I spent a little time yesterday working on my calendar for the holidays. Of course, it's hard to know what will pop up between now and then, but there are a few "written in stone" things that I can plan, and still be flexible enough for the pop-ups! Some things I am relatively certain that we'll be doing are:

*In September, we'll be hosting our monthly family breakfast on September 20 and I have Bunco here on September 11. We'll need menus for both of those events

*In October, we have breakfast on the 11th (moved from the 18th because of the NEXT BIG WEDDING on the 18th), our Halloween party, Boo!Bash2! on the 25th and then Halloween itself on the 31st. We always have friends over for dinner and trick or treating, so I'll need to plan that dinner. Additionally in October, we have our anniversary-#10!! on October 2 and my birthday is the 16th. We are planning a little anniversary trip the weekend of the 3rd, so we'll see how that goes.

*November brings breakfast on the 15th, Thanksgiving at my Mom's on the 27th (I'll be doing a few dishes for this), Holiday Open House for my business on Black Friday (November 28), and then Lynn's family Thanksgiving on the 29th. Then, it's on to:

*December, which, of course, is a busy, busy month! It starts in early December, the first in fact, with our local Christmas parade. This has become a big deal with our family, because that's when the big jolly elf in red velvet makes his first appearance around here. I'm not sure how much longer we'll have little believers in our house, so I want to make the most of this. The picture above is from last year's can see the excitement on Jacob's face! We usually have a soup supper that night, then I make popcorn and hot chocolate to tote with us to watch the parade. After, we hit the courthouse lawn for choirs singing, decoration looking and cookie munching! How fun!! December marches on with a brunch I'm planning at church (more on this later), family breakfast, Jacob's birthday, Mom's birthday, Christmas Eve at our house, Christmas day and New Year's Eve meals to be planned.

So, my chore today is to plan the menus for all the above!! But first, we're off to the movie for the $1 matinee, then I'll settle down and get this done! Well, that's the plan anyway!!

What are YOU doing in July to get ready for Christmas?
Merry, Merry!'

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!!