Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Christmas Trees!

Decorating Christmas trees is one of my favorite things to do in the world. If I could get a job dreaming up themes and decorating trees with those themes, I'd be so happy. If you have such a job available and would like to hire me, I'm willing to relocate. LOL!

We have at least one tree in every room of our home each year, and most of them are some kind of theme. Sometimes it's a loose theme, maybe based on the room, but a theme, none the less.

In Jacob's room, we do a Coca-Cola theme. It's very simple, but that's all he'll allow me to do in there. He is 16, you know. He has a tiny little tabletop tree, about 3' high. It sits in a burlap bag, tied with a red velvet bow. It has a string of white lights on it..and empty Coke cans, tied on with red curling ribbon. Very simple, but really cute.

This tree was in our bathroom. It is decorated in all gold and pearls. The lights are even little pearls. I just use one string of lights on it, so that it's just a soft glow. The ribbon is from the craft section and the pearls are from our wedding reception. I used them on the tables along with oil lamps on each table.

This is a wall tree, hung over our bed in the master bedroom. The "bow" on the bottom is a piece of gold tulle, tied in a bow. The poinsettias are silk with gold centers and all the ornaments are simple gold glass balls. This is one of my favorite trees. I used to do this same theme on a 6' tree in our bedroom, but the addition of some furniture has made the space very limited, so now I use the wall tree.

This is a tree I decorated for fall. I saw a magazine picture of a fall themed tree used for Christmas...and made a fall themed tree for fall. But you could use it for Christmas if you wanted...the "crackers" are homemade and really cute. You'll see these again in another post.

This is my jingle bell tree. All of the decorations on it are jingle bells. The ribbon looped on it has the words to the song...you guessed it..."Jingle Bells" written on it.
We also have a snowman tree, which was in Benjie and Jonah's room last year. It has multicolored lights and all sorts of snowmen on it...6" stuffed ones to tiny little crystal ones. I also add snowballs (Styrofoam balls covered in clear glitter), icicles (glass and acrylic), and a beaded garland that looks like little mini snowballs. I thought I had uploaded a picture of it but I can't find it. I'll post it later if I do.
We also have a tree in the laundry room. Seriously. It's just a little bitty thing, about 2' tall, with a clothesline that has Santa's laundry hanging on it. Very cute. Last fall I made a "witch's clothesline" and put it in the laundry room for our Halloween party, the Boo!Bash! I cut out a witches dress, hat and boots from felt and used little mini clothes pins to hang them on a piece of rope. This year, I'm going to spray paint a mini tree black and hang the clothes line on it.
I also have a rooster tree in my kitchen. It sits on top of the fridge and has all kinds of rooster/chicken ornaments on it to match the kitchen decor. It's a favorite of mine, also.
Another favorite is my redbird tree. I use a white tree, red birds and berries and red and white checked bows. I will post pictures of it later, as well.
Basically, anything that interests you can become a theme for a Christmas tree. Try a birdhouse tree, using little wooden birdhouses from the Dollar Tree or a craft store. Paint and glitter them to your heart's content, then hang them on a tree. Fill in with little faux birds, birds nests and bare tree branches-either plain, painted or glittered!
How about a tea party tree? The dollar stores are just full of little mini tea sets, and they look precious tied to a tree branch with satin ribbon. You could also use crocheted doilies, teaspoons, or even little tea pots to add to the tree.
Don't be afraid to start small, using a little tree then moving up to bigger ones as your collection grows. My snowman collection was originally displayed on a 4' tree, now it's moved to an 8' one!
Use whatever you like to decorate a themed tree, but try to have at least one unifying factor-either by color or by item...all white trees are beautiful with different shaped ornaments, or have a hodge-podge of colors but all one type object-such as snowmen, Santas or even seashells!
Have fun this year with your trees...and if you have a unique idea for a themed tree, by all means leave me a message telling me about it!!
Remember, everything you do to prepare for Christmas in July is one less thing you must do in December!!

Merry, Merry!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Fun Christmas Party...a Ladies' Brunch

One of the local churches here host a yearly Ladies' Christmas Brunch. I was lucky enough to be invited one year, and even got to decorate the table. The concept is simple and fun. Each lady who chooses to host a table is responsible for the entire table...guests, centerpieces, flatware, glassware, tableware and table cloth. Each hostess brings a potluck dish to share with the group. We had quiche, hashbrown casserole, fruit, a chocolate fountain with fresh fruit and cake squares to dunk, several other desserts, juice, milk and coffee. It was such a nice morning. There was special music and a guest speaker. Each table was unique and charming in it's own way.

Here's one I really liked...black, white and silver. It was a beautiful, elegant table...and even the chairs were dressed with a black chair cover, tied up with a huge bow. Beautiful.

This one was very pretty, also...the red and gold popped on the white tablecloth...notice the gold rims on the goblets...

This white on white offering was beautiful, also...and the red and green was just the right amount of seasonal color...

And here's our table. We used a deep green tablecloth, then put my Nikko Christmas dishes and the "crystal" stemmed glasses I bought at Dollar Tree. We tied the cloth napkins with a sheer white ribbon and tied on glittery snowflakes.

The centerpiece is a pedestaled cake plate with my Original Snow Village Wedding Chapel as the focal point. We placed a faux green wreath on the table and topped it with a red berry wreath. Then we used icy white beads to drape over the wreaths and spinkled in more glittery snowflakes. Just for some color and a sweet treat...Hershey's kisses wrapped in red, silver and green foil were sprinkled over the entire table.
This was not hosted at my church, but a friend who also attended this party and I have talked for the past two years about doing this at our church (her grandfather is the pastor at the church where it was held). I'm thinking this is our year!
How are your Christmas in July plans coming? Although I haven't done any crafts this year, I've made a lot of plans for food gifts and know what everyone is getting..for the most part. We just need to draw names on my side of the family so I'll know who's stockings we're filling!
Remember, everything you do to prepare for Christmas in July is one less thing you have to do in December!!
Merry, Merry!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Song of Mary

Luke 1:46-56

And Mary said

My soul magnifies the Lord.
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy.
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fun Food Gifts

If you haven't noticed, I like to give food gifts. It seems to me that almost everyone likes good food, and it's fun for me to give them things that they might not have on a regular basis. I've not had any complaints yet...

I made these a few years ago. They were soooo good, they make store bought caramels hang their heads in shame! Wrap each caramel in a little piece of wax paper and pile them into a painted clay flowerpot...just use some craft paint and a few stencils or rubber stamps to jazz up a terra cotta pot and saucer, pile in these caramels and wrap the whole thing in cellophane or tulle...tie a big foofie bow on top and VIOLA! A Fun Food Gift!

Ooey-Gooey Homemade Caramels

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. margarine
3 c. brown sugar, packed
2 c. corn syrup
1/4 t. vanilla extract

Combine first 4 ingredients in a heavy saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat until mixture reaches the soft-ball stage or 234-243 degrees on a candy thermometer (I highly recommend investing in one of these..they are inexpensive and very, very handy to have!). Stir in vanilla and heat for 2-3 additional minutes. Pour mixture into a buttered jelly roll pan and let set. Cut into one-inch squares; wrap each in wax paper. Makes 4-5 dozen.

Biscotti is a traditional Italian cookie...known for it's crispness and yumminess! They are just right for dunking into a cup of coffee or tea...don't tell me you don't dunk. Seriously..if you don't dunk, don't tell me. I think it's wrong not to, and I don't want to think badly of you!

This is nice to give with a baking sheet and holiday pot holders, as suggested by Ellie Brandel of Clackamas, OR, who contributed this recipe to Gooseberry Patch for their Merry Christmas cookbook!

Christmas Biscotti Mix

3/4 c. dried cranberries or cherries
3/4 c. shelled green pistachios
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. cardamom
2 t. baking powder
*2/3 c. vanilla sugar

Layer all ingredients in a one-quart wide-mouth canning jar, packing down tightly after each addition. Secure lid and attach a gift tag with baking instructions.

Beat 1/3 cup butter in a large mixing bowl on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add 2 eggs and beat on medium until well combined. Stir in jar mix until well blended. Form dough into two 9"x12" loaves on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes; cool on sheet for one hour. Cut each loaf into slices 1/2 inch thick. Arrange slices on baking sheets and bake at 325 degrees for 8 minutes; turn each over and bake 8-10 minutes or until dry and crisp. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 2-3 dozen.

*Vanilla sugar is easy to make, and makes a great Fun Food Gift all on it's own. Just pour 4 cups sugar into a one-quart jar. Slice one vanilla bean in half lengthwise and add both halves to the sugar. Secure jar lid and allow to sit for 2-3 weeks. Makes 4 cups.

For giving vanilla sugar: Pour desired amount into a pretty crystal sugar bowl, picked up at a flea market or yard sale for a song; place the sugar bowl in the center of a square of tulle, pull the corners up and tie a bow with a satin ribbon. Pretty and elegant. For a more casual gift, or to include in a basket or bag with other Fun Food Gifts, pour the sugar into an old fashioned sugar shaker jar. Wal-Mart carries them for a couple of bucks. Fun!!

And, for a Really Fun Food Gift, how about

Rudolph's Popcorn Balls

12-14 quarts of popped popcorn
1/2 c. butter
16 oz. bag mini marshmallows
red food coloring

Place popcorn in a large roaster pan; set aside. Melt butter and marshmallows in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in red food coloring to desired shade. Pour mixture over popcorn, stir well. Coat hands with butter and shape mixture into softball sized balls. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Makes 4-5 dozen.

For giving, pile popcorn balls into a basket and give the whole batch to a family with a bunch of kids...make sure they have a good dental policy first!

You could use any color of food coloring for these, of course...can't you just see a big bowl of orange popcorn balls at a Halloween party? Or how about a basket of pastel colored ones on an Easter dessert buffet? Cute, yes?

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

Merry, Merry!

A Basket for a Baker

Making themed baskets has always been something that I've enjoyed doing. I used to belong to a social sorority where we had secret sisters, exchanging gifts from time to time. I almost always did a themed basket for holidays and birthdays, and before long it was no secret who the sister was when a basket was the gift. However, everyone seemed to really like them.

More recently, I've prepared "goodie baskets" for relatives for their Christmas gifts, several years in a row. One year I gave a gift card to the brother in law who'd received banana bread and soup mixes several times. I thought he'd be tired of the goodies and would like a gift card to Bass Pro Shop. I think he did, but he requested a goodie basket for the next year! What a compliment!!

So, here's a quick and easy little basket (or big basket) that you can put together for someone. Even if they don't normally bake, this mix is so easy that anyone can become a baker!

Make a big batch of this baking mix, package it any way you like...I personally like quart canning jars...because I can make it ahead and it stays fresh. But other ideas could be a plastic zipper bag full of mix tucked into a cloth bag that you can make from remnants, or a big stocking, or another kind of jar...whatever suits your fancy, nancy! Make it festive...tie a ribbon around the jar or add a handmade gift tag and label...anything to cute it up and make it personal.

Then, add the recipes for using the mix on pretty recipe cards. It's super easy to make these yourself...just go to Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store and purchase a pack of unlined index cards-any size you like. I usually get the 3x5 ones, but they come in a variety of sizes. Then find some fabric you like and that coordinates with your basket's color, and cut out a cute shape from the fabric..a star is always cute and easy to draw by hand...a mitten shape is really cute, too. You can find lots of inspiration on the Internet or in books and magazines...if you're artistic, draw your own and make it your trademark..so that when anyone sees the cute little hand drawn snowman (or whatever) on a gift, they know it's from you. You could also use pretty or fun stickers on the cards. Hand write the recipes-that's the important part, which makes it personal. Then, tuck the jars or bags into a container...

These are Sonic Drive in drink carriers that I covered last year and presented last Christmas...they are just painted with craft paint, then covered with scrapbook paper, cut to fit. Easy, peasy...

Or you could use a basket. Don't be afraid to look at the flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales for cool gift baskets. This big blue darling one, which is now off white and on the back porch holding back porch things, was only $4 at a flea market! It's a big one, but you can find smaller ones for good prices.
You can keep your Baker's Basket as simple as you want, with just the mixes and recipes, or you can add things like mixing bowls, baking sheets and utensils such as wire whisks and measuring cups...tea towels make a cute filler and are inexpensive...Dollar Tree has some darling ones for-oddly enough-a dollar. Make the basket as full or as simple as you choose.
Here's a great recipe for a generic baking mix, as well as some ways to use it. Recipes are from the 20th Anniversary edition of The Spirit of Christmas by Leisure Arts (which is a good ol' Arkansas company!). Enjoy!
Quick Baking Mix
10 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 cups shortening
Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir with a wire whisk.
Cut shortening into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until mixture is crumbly. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 6 weeks. Give mix with the following recipes.
Quick Mix Biscuits
2 cups Quick Mix Baking Mix
1/2 cup milk
Combine baking mix and milk, stirring with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface, knead lightly 3-4 times.
Roll or pat dough to 1/2 inch thickness; cut out biscuits with a floured 2 inch biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Quick Mix Banana Nut Muffins
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups Quick Mix Baking Mix
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Beat cream cheese at high speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, beat well. Add banana and vanilla, beat well. Stir in Quick Baking Mix and pecans. Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin pans, filling 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes, or until golden. Remove from pans immediately. Makes 20 muffins.
and finally...
Quick Mix Pancakes
3 cups Quick Baking Mix
1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Combine all ingredients, beat with a wire whisk until smooth. For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle. Cook pancakes until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked; turn and cook other sides. Yield: 16 pancakes
Doesn't that sound good?
Coming up: other Fun Food Gifts!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hang on...

I'll have a post up soon...busy day...but I'll be back!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Christmas 08

I thought today I'd show you some of my decorations from last year...since my computer problems prevented me from showing them during the Tour of Homes...which, by the way, I'm planning on hosting again this December! Make plans to participate or at least check in....details will be coming a little closer to the actual date!

So, here's a little mini tour from last year...

This was on the kitchen counter, in the corner by the fridge. Don't you just adore that baker snowman? Isn't he the cutest thing? Lynn actually won him in a door prize drawing at a Christmas party one time..a long time ago. He's one of my favorites, and always has a place on the counter from Thanksgiving until spring.

Someone gave me this Santa face when I married..I had a Christmas shower and got lots of wonderful gifts...this one included. Isn't he sweet? His beard is glittered..

This cowboy snowman was in the boys' bedroom, which is decorated year round with cowboy stuff and was home to the snowman tree last Christmas. My BFF Melissa gave him to me for my birthday! Love him!!

This is a little vignette in the hallway, with a small part of my Santa collection on it. The clock was Lynn's dad's. The Mercury glass Santa on the left was from that Christmas wedding shower, and the old guy standing at the back is an antique...he's the one that is as old as me and came from the dollar store my first Christmas. The horse was a gift a couple of years ago from Lynn's sister Linda and her husband, Jimmy. He has Santa faces painted all over him. The photograph in the center is a picture of my three boys and Jacob's best friend, Tyler, with Santa. It was Jonah's first Christmas-he was 4 1/2 months old!

Here's a shot of some of the white pitchers I've started collecting, holding faux red berry stems. I'm a nut over red berries and white dishes, so this pairing seemed natural! Notice the Snow Village pieces on top of the cabinets...they are still there. Once I put them up there-it takes all day to get the village set up-I leave it for at least two Christmases. I thought about taking it down this summer, but decided to leave it for Christmas in July. I'll probably leave it until next spring...adding summer flowers, then fall leaves to make it seasonal.
I will have more pictures later to show you from last year. I was especially fond of how our bedroom and bathroom decorations turned out, and I want you to see them!
Coming this week:
*a post on a cute gift basket idea for someone who likes to bake
*a couple of craft ideas, as featured on Magical Holiday Home
*some yummy fun food gift ideas and recipes including Rudolph's Popcorn balls and homemade caramels, along with some side dish suggestions for our weekly special, building an entire menu course by course
*ideas for Christmas tree themes
*a theme party plan, including menu and decorating ideas
*and on Sunday we'll continue the marvelous Christmas story, as told by Dr. Luke!
Stay tuned...the best is yet to come!!
Merry, Merry!

Side note: Sorry the spacing is so crazy and the posting is so sporadic...for some reason I'm having some problems with those issues, but I'm working on it!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Luke 1: 26-38

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her "rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.

Then Mary said to the angel "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now, indeed Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age and this now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible."

Then Mary said "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word". And the angel departed from her.

Merry, Merry!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, America and an Unusual Christmas Party Idea!

Edited to add: this post is being linked to Playing Dishes, for Printersdevil's Christmas in July tablescape party!!

Happy Fourth of July! Are you celebrating America's birthday today with family and friends? As you read this, we are at the lake, doing just that!

Today is a day traditionally thought of as a grill out kind of day...hot weather, fireworks, lots of folks gathering to celebrate...but you probably don't think of doing a grill out for Christmas...but really, why not? If you live in the south, like we do, late autumn-early winter weather is typically mild...chilly but not too cold..crisp and cool. Many of us have outdoor fireplaces or fire pits now, which would help keep the cold at bay. Why not have a gathering outside?

If you have a covered or screened porch you could easily have this gathering there. If not, the deck or patio will work just fine, or just as spot on the lawn, as long as you take the time to make it festive and cozy. Lots of little twinkle lights in trees just say holiday to me, and so do candles and other luminaries. Use white twinkle lights to line your porch roof, or to go on the rafters of your porch if they are exposed. It's just the right amount of light and gives everything a fairy like glow...very festive! A beautifully decorated Christmas tree would be really cute, too.

Be sure to have some inexpensive fleece throws or quilts lying around in case guests get chilly as the evening wears on. I buy these throws at dollar stores in the fall to use at our annual Halloween party, but they work just as well at Christmas!

Greet your guests with a smile and a warm drink...

How about some apple cider? There's lots of recipes available for this traditonal warmer, but my favorite is still to use a cup of brown sugar, a tablespoon of ground cinnamon or a half dozen cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and a few allspice berries added to a gallon of apple cider, and let it warm on the stove or in a slow cooker. You can garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sticks, if you choose.

If your guests prefer something cold to start off, how about a cup of Christmas punch in a jolly old Saint Nick cup, served from a matching punch bowl!

A simple but yummy and colorful punch is to mix together a jug of red Hawaiian punch, a can of pineapple juice, and a can of orange juice concentrate, thawed. Stir together in a punch bowl, then pour a bottle of ginger ale over it, add some orange slices, pineapple slices and marachino cherries and you've got an easy, pretty and delicious punch!

A good appetizer for this meal might be a warm cup of cream of tomato soup, with crackers and cheese and mini cheddar garlic biscuits. There are lots of recipes on line for tomato soups, and you could always jazz up a can of Campbells by preparing it with milk instead of water, sprinkling in some lemon pepper seasoning and adding a celery stick stirrer...sort of a take off on a Bloody Mary. Have some shredded cheese, croutons and oyster crackers available for those who want a little more volume in their soup!

Bisquick makes a packaged mix for cheddar garlic biscuits that is really good for a base for mini biscuits. I add a little more garlic and some shredded cheddar to mine, then pat the dough out into a large rectangle and cut out mini biscuits with a cookie or biscuit cutter, or a small drinking glass. Then I brush the tops with a little garlic butter (garlic powder sprinkled into melted butter) and bake for about 10-12 minutes on 400 degrees, or until the tops of the biscuits are brown.

The main course could be a grilled pork butt. I use these all the time in the summer for wonderful barbeque, but they are equally good just sliced and served. I rub the pork with a packaged barbeque seasoning rub-I like Emerill's brand pretty well, but my favorite is packaged by the Rendezvous barbeque joint in Memphis. It's available at Wal-Mart in the seasoning aisle. I'm sure other stores carry it too, that's just where I buy mine! Then I put the pork on a preheated grill on indirect heat and let it cook for about an hour and a half (depending on the size of the butt). I let it cool slightly then slice it very thinly and serve it with barbeque sauce.

A good side dish for this meal might be grilled root veggies. You could do skewers of potatoes, onion, carrots, sweet potatoes and whatever else strikes your fancy...just brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay on the grill...mmm...good stuff!!

Add a loaf of garlic French bread (wrapped in foil, it'll warm on the top rack of the grill while the meat and veggies cook), a bagged salad with your favorite dressing and you've got a great, unexpected meal for a Christmas get together!

Dessert can be equally simple...just buy a Mrs. Smith's apple cobbler, bake it in the oven while everything else is cooking and top it with ice cream and caramel sauce. Call it Caramel Apple Cobbler and your guests will think you're a genius!! Just be sure to hide the Mrs. Smith's box.

Dress your outdoor table as you would inside with a beautiful, festive table cloth and fabric napkins, your Christmas dishes or other pretty dishes and a lovely centerpiece...and be sure to pass around the coffee with dessert. If you'd like to serve a fancy coffee drink, there's a recipe at the bottom of this post.

This was my Christmas Eve table a couple of years ago...the kids sit at the bar...

And the adults sit here...

Both of these tablecloths are twin sized sheets! You can get lots of colors, they iron up nicely and wash in the washing machine...and they are cheap!! The fancy "crystal" goblets are from the Dollar Tree, and the centerpiece is just a crystal bowl filled with red and gold glass ornaments...cheap, easy but oh! so pretty and elegant!

A party, inside or out, doesn't have to be expensive or labor intensive! The most important part is making sure your guests are comfortable, well fed and feel welcome!!

Here's that coffee drink I promised you. This is from the 20th anniversay edition of "The Spirit of Christmas".

Fireside Coffee

2 cups half and half

2 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped

2 cups hot brewed coffee

3/4 cup bourbon (tastes good without the bourbon, too!)

1/2 to 1 cup sugar

2/3 cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream to serve

Microwave half and half in a 2 cup glass measuring cup on HIGH 1-2 minutes, or until steamy. Pour over the chocolate, let stand 1 minute and whisk until combined. Stir in coffee and next 4 ingredients; pour into cups and serve with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Serve immediately.

Note: recipe can be multiplied as desired to serve more.

Remember-everything you do for Christmas in July is one less thing you have to do in December!

Merry, Merry!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Come Home to Comfort!

What does coming home to comfort mean to you? Especially at the holidays, it's important to have comfortable and comforting things to welcome us home. Is it a sweet little holiday vignette, representing the innocence and joy of childhood?

Or is it the anticipation of the arrival of Santa, with all his good tidings and joy?

Or, is it a little deeper than all that? If you have asked Jesus into your heart and are a Christian, then it has to be the joy of celebrating the birth of our precious Saviour, Jesus Christ. I have several nativity sets and love to scatter them around the house during the holidays. I even have one that stays up all year round, just to remind me that, although coming home to comfort is important on this Earth, the home that I'm going to in Eternity is more than comfortable..it's with Jesus!

I like to have a theme for my Christmas celebrations, and this year it is "Come Home to Comfort". I borrowed this from the cover of the July issue of Country Living magazine. Having a theme for a holiday may seem a little silly or over the top to you, but honestly, it makes me a little more focused and actually makes shopping easier-everything needs to fit into the theme! Some past themes I've used include "An old fashioned country Christmas" and one similar in spirit to this year's theme "Comfort and Joy".
Think about what Christmas is to you and consider using a theme for your decorations, menus and gifts. It makes the holidays cohesive and gives you a goal to work for!
Remember, everything you do to prepare for Christmas in July is one less thing you have to do in December!
Merry, Merry!
PS-I'm not sure why the middle picture is so blurry...it isn't in real life! Sorry about the quality!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Just so you know...

I'm not a complete idiot..well, not yet anyway. When I created my posts, the comments under the pictures were centered and were supposed to be cut lines for the picture. However, they way they posted, it just looks like I randomly plunked a picture in the middle of my post, veered off the subject and wrote about the picture, then went back to my subject. That is NOT the way it's supposed to be...I'm working on correcting the rest of them, but in the meantime...just know that I'm not a complete idiot...yet!

Merry, Merry!

Day 2! Yummy Drink Recipes!

Today's offering is a few recipes that you can use to make some drink mixes, either to share as gifts with others, to serve at a gathering, or just to comfort yourself when you need a warm, yummy drink. And really, who doesn't occasionally need something warm and comforting, even during the dog days of summer. Did you know that drinking a warm drink on a hot day can actually make you feel cooler? Yep. It's true...something about making your body sweat more, which in turn cools you ...I don't know. I just know that I love me a warm yummy drink any time of the year!

My favorite centerpiece ever! And so very easy...just a
pedestal cake plate, a crystal bowl (given to me by a close
friend on my very first Mother's Day) and some gold and
red glass balls, all plunked down in a pair of weaths-a faux
evergreen and a red berry one. Easy, peasy!! But soo pretty!

So, here's a few drink recipes that you might enjoy!

Christmas Morning Cappuccino Mix

2/3 c. instant coffee granules
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. powdered non-dairy creamer
1 c. chocolate drink mix
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 t. cinnamon
3/8 t. nutmeg
2 12 oz jars and lids

Blend coffee granules until fine. Place in a large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir until well mixed. Divide mixture between the 2 jars; secure lids and attach instructions. Makes 2 jars.

Mix 3 Tablespoons cappuccino mix with 3/4 cup hot water or milk. Makes one serving.

Note: I made this a few years ago for my Bunco friends as part of as small gift basket. It got rave reviews. I believe you could use any flavored non-dairy creamer you choose to change up the flavors some. This is nice paired with a mini loaf of quick bread or a small bag of muffins.

And here's another one!

Chocolate Coffee
1/2 c. instant coffee
1 1/2 c. powdered creamer
1/2 c. chocolate flavored powdered drink mix
1/4 c. sugar
dash of salt
1/2 t. nutmeg

Mix ingredients together in a blender. Add to cup of hot water according to taste.

And one more...

Mocha Nog
1 T. hot water
1 qt. dairy eggnog or 32 oz. can
1/2 c. chocolate flavored syrup
2 t. instant coffee
1/2 pt. whipping cream
ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, stir hot water and instant coffee together until dissolved. Stir in eggnog and chocolate syrup until well blended. Chill at least 2 hours. To blend flavors, just before serving whip the cream and fold into mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Serves 6.

Now doesn't that make you feel better already?

I am planning on sharing ideas and recipes for an entire meal, one course at a time. Today's offering: Appetizers!

Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs

2 lbs. ground beef
3 eggs
1 1/2 oz. pkg. onion soup mix
1 c. bread crumbs
1 1/2 c. chili sauce
1 1/2 c. water
2 c. sauerkraut
2 c. cranberry sauce
1 c. brown sugar, packed

Mix together ground beef, eggs, soup mix and bread crumbs. Form mixture into one inch balls; arrange in an ungreased shallow baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through; drain well. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl; pour over meatballs and continue to cook at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Makes 5 dozen.

And you gotta have a good dip! Here's two you might enjoy!

Hot Reuben Dip

14 oz. can saurkraut, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1 c. corned beef, chopped
1 c. mayonnaise

Pat saurkraut with paper towels to absorb extra moisture. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Spread in an ungreased 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with sliced rye or baguette bread. Serves 15-20.

Cheesy Artichoke Dip

2 15 oz. cans artichoke hearts
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. Parmesan cheese
2 t. garlic powder
8 oz. pkg, shredded mozzarella cheese
Garnish: paprika

Drain artichoke hearts and squeeze between paper towels to remove excess moisture. Chop artichokes and blend with remaining ingredients. Spread mixture in a greased 9" round baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Sprinkle paprika over top. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips. Makes 10-12 servings

Note: All recipes are from Gooseberry Patch Merry Christmas and Old Fashioned Country Christmas cookbooks. Love those books!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A shout out and a blog giveaway!

My friend Printersdevil from Magical Holiday Home is sponsoring a giveaway on her sweet Christmas blog Christmas Memories in My Heart. Go see what she's got cooking for Christmas in July!!
Merry, Merry!

Why Christmas in July?

According to Wikipedia, Christmas in July was started in the Southern hemisphere because they wanted to enjoy a winter Christmas theme, and July is the coldest month. In the Northern hemisphere it is to sort of a way to take a break from the heat, even if it's just mentally, and try to invoke some holiday spirit so often seen in December at Christmas time. Makes sense to me. After all that is part of why I personally started celebrating Christmas in July several years ago.

A few years ago I bought a booklet from Gooseberry Patch that is, appropriately enough, titled "Christmas in July". It suggests that folks could use the too hot to move days of July to prepare for Christmas, making homemade or handmade gifts and even throwing a party for others to craft Christmas gifts. I like that!

This is from our Christmas tree last year...

However, last year was the first time I really worked at. Did I get everything for the holidays done? No. Was I still trying to finish up in December? Yes, a few things. Did it help considerably to have completed a few projects and have an idea of what else needed to be done? Absolutely. Was it fun? OH, MY, YES!!

So, this year, I'm planning on at least getting a few little things out of the way in July. I'll be sharing some of the menus and recipes that I'm planning to use, as well as showing you some pictures from our previous holidays and also giving you a few crafty ideas. I hope you check in often!! And even if you choose not to participate yourself, I hope you'll join in the fun with the rest of the Christmas Crazies that make up the message board at Magical Holiday Home and see what's up! Ginger has some great things planned and already has a couple of crafts listed. Give it a try!

And, like I always say, everything you do today to get ready for Christmas is one less thing you have to do in December!

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!!