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!

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 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!!


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 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!


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 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!

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,


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 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!

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 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!

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!

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!

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!

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!!