Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Reason for the Season

Check out this wonderful video... Merry Christmas to you all!

Where's the Line to See Jesus?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Darlene's Christmas Cookie Recipe Party Week 3

Darlene at Our Creative Life is hosting a Christmas Cookie Recipe party. Click here to get all the details!

Shiner Bock Chocolate Chip Cookies

This are definitely for the adults in your life!

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups room temperature Shiner Bock beer
1-12 oz. Package Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 Tbsp. Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Cut in flour, baking soda and vanilla. Blend in beer slowly to form a soft dough. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir again adding chocolate chips. Freeze batter for 15 minutes. Drop by teaspoonfuls and top with a walnut piece. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly brown. Cool one minute on cookie sheet and remove to wire rack.

I tested these cookies for Robin's Cookie Exchange Cookie Contest. While they didn't win, they were quite good!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Aren't these adorable?

It was Snack Day at the office today and one of my coworkers brought these darling snowmen in. They are powdered donuts stacked on top of each other secured with a pretzel rod. The hats are mint patties and reeses cups. The faces are drawn on with icing and the arms are pretzel sticks! They are sitting on a bed of snow (coconut). Adorable!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Not Christmas Unless...

I read a lot of blogs and on one blog there was this darling post about It's Not Christmas Unless... I wish I was better at remembering where I saw this post so I could give the author credit. If you know, leave me a post!

For us, it's not Christmas unless...

...our daughter puts the angel on top of the tree. She's 24 now and it's difficult to lift her to the top of the tree.

... we bake cookies and make candy until the cows come home! We made four cookies and six candies this year!

... we watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. I have watched this television special since the 60s. My favorite Christmas song comes from this show!

... we open stockings on Christmas morning! It is my favorite part of the day.

... I read a Christmasy novel. This year I read two by Debbie Macomber, with Mrs. Miracle being one.

... we go and see a Transiberian Orchestra concert! They rock!

... we go and see a Christmas program put on by elementary students. It is always adorable.

... we sing Christmas carols at Mass, perferrably Midnight Mass, but any will do!

... I send out Christmas cards, even if it is just a few.

... we open Santa's Sack on Christmas Eve. The bag always contains our pjs and a game and snacks for Christmas Eve fun.

... we hang the ornaments on the tree that my grandparents made. There are several crocheted ornaments and a clothespin reindeer that I must see every year.

... we pull Christmas crackers on Christmas morning! We usually do this right before we eat breakfast.

... we watch homemade family videos of prior Christmases. We LOVE doing this!

... we go around town and look at Christmas lights with our peppermint hot cocoa and pizza.

... I taste my mom's peanut butter balls and her eggnog. Delightful.

... we see our Christmas mice collection on the buffet in the family room. They are so cheerful and fun.

I'd love to hear about your traditions that you cannot do without!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Preparations for a Holiday Party

Mr. Christmas Tree Lane hosts a party for his staff every year. We have done this for about fifteen years, so we have it down to a science! This past Sunday we made the sweets for the party... tipsy cherries, oreo truffles(two kinds!), Bailey balls, pretzel rods, and crockpot candy! These are all requested items and we try to accomodate and please everyone!

Last night we cleaned house. Tonight we will make all the dips and I will set out all the trays and bowls we will use and put labels on everything. Tomorrow night we thaw the shrimp, cook up all the meats, make the veggie trays, the roll up trays and the meat and cheese trays. Thursday I will get things out and start to decorate the platters. I'll light candles and put on music and wait for the guests!! It is always so much fun!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lovely Christmas Decorations

These Christmas decorations are from my daughter's apartment... she does a beautiful job!

Tulle is her bow of choice!

The living room tree...

This black and white tree is themed after her wedding...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Darlene's Christmas Cookie Recipe Party Week 2

Darlene at Our Creative Life is hosting a Christmas Cookie Recipe party. Click here to get all the details!

Peppermint Meltaways

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 to 3 drops red food coloring, optional
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies

In a small bowl, cream butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in extract. Combine flour and cornstarch; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and no longer than an hour. Shape into 1-in. balls. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In a small bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, extract and food coloring if desired; beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies; sprinkle with crushed candies. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Home for the Holidays 2009

Rhoda is having a Christmas Homes Tour at her place! Go and check out all the lovely homes here. This will also be my entry for the Hooked on Houses home tour tomorrow!

Here are just a few photos from our house this year:

Bob surprised me with this new black tree... so I had to decorate it with our college colors: black and gold!

Our nutcracker display in our foyer...

We got a new 9 foot tree for our living room this year. I think it looks great with our 12 foot ceilings!

Here is the ball wreath I made with Rhoda's help!

A tiny peek at our kitchen...

Enjoy the tours!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pay it Forward

I joined a Pay it Forward event sponsored by Pea at Pea's Corner.

Here is how it works:

"If you want to join in the fun, just leave a comment saying you'd like to be included. The first 3 people to do so will receive a gift from me sometime during the next year. In turn, you are to post a Pay It Forward post on your blog and send a gift to three people who agree to participate."

If you are interested in doing this, I plan to send out a Valentine craft to you in time for Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cookie Cutter Swap

I participated in a fun swap this year sponsored by Sue at Country Pleasures.

My partner was from Oklahoma. I was so tempted to send her a Missouri shaped cookie cutter but I restrained myself from doing so!

I received the cutest box! Inside were four antique cookie cutters decorated with bells and bows, a darling box of cookie cutters wrapped in old pattern paper (totally adorable) and a sweet towel!

I believe Sue has done this swap before and so I would definitely follow her site for a chance to participate next year!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Victorian Christmas

One of the local colleges puts on a Victorian Christmas every year. We have never attended it but this year the timing was right and so we did!

The walkway was lined with luminaries. It was lightly snowing so it was definitely the right atmosphere! The students met us at the door with Victorian dress and spoke in lovely English accents. We were seated at a table for four that was festively decorated with a red candle and teacups.

The night was one of music: there were choirs singing, duets of the violin and flute, solos and even we sang a few Christmas carols.

We were served wassail and figgy pudding! I have always wanted to try figgy pudding!

Do you make an effort to attend the local holiday events? I think it would be worth your while!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Outdoor Decorations

For me, the decorating of the outside of the house is like giving a little gift to our neighbors and friends who come to visit during the holiday season. This year we decided to do something new and I am pleased with the results!

We used lighted wreaths on the windows, garland on the columns and doors, and a wooden Santa that a friend made me years ago. I added a little garland on the bench that is outside along with a cute little lantern I found at Walmart. I added bows to the rusty fence outside and some garland and bows to the mailbox. The red is such a festive color and really stands out.

What is your outside decor for Christmas like this year?

A Little Puppy Holiday Cheer

Christmas 2009

We put out stockings for our two dogs and our cat. We love to watch them play with their gifts on Christmas! They usually love the ribbons and papers, too. Do you special things with your pets as well?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Newsletters

I LOVE getting those Christmas newsletters that most people seem to find annoying. I love to read about my friends and their lives, especially when they are not around me often. I love to hear about their children's accomplishments. I am not one of those people who feel they are braggy or rude. I love to celebrate life's gifts!

This year I wrote a blog and am giving all my friends the address to view it. I have copied it for my Christmas notebook and for all my friends who do not use the internet.

You can see it here:

Our Christmas Newsletter

Friday, December 4, 2009

Darlene's Christmas Cookie Recipe Party Week 1

Darlene at Our Creative Life is hosting a Christmas Cookie Recipe party. Click here to get all the details!

Gumdrop Cookies

3/4 c shortening
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t almond flavoring
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 c chopped gumdrops

Cream shortening and sugar, add in flavoring. Beat well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add slowly to the creamed mixture. Stir in gumdrops.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rockefeller Center Christmas Special

Is there anything better than watching the Christmas special and drinking peppermint hot cocoa? What Christmas specials are you watching this year?

Hot Chocolate on a Stick

Look at this neat idea!

Hot Chocolate on a Stick Recipe

I know a secretary or two who will be getting these for Christmas in a pretty Christmas mug!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cookie Swap 2009

A table full of goodies!

Cookies to share with all, including children and the guys!

Collecting our treats...

What great fun we had! We had great cookies and a fun time exchanging cookies and recipes. Can't wait until next year's swap!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cookie Recipe Exchange!

Please join the fun in sharing Christmas Cookie Recipes with Darlene at Our Creative Life. Click here to get all the details. We will be participating for sure!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A little peek...

Our third annual Christmas Cookie Exchange is this Thursday. Here is a sneak peek at the cookies and gifts. Each participant gets a little "thank you" from me! I will share the recipe later!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sometimes things don't go as planned...

I love Christmas and I consider myself a Christmas die hard. By now the upstairs would have three trees decorated and the foyer upstairs would have three wreaths and the sideboard would be decorated.


This year, I won't get to decorate upstairs. And, downstairs may not have but one tree and the family room but one tree.

Because sometimes life throws you major curve balls. That's ok, though, because I am learning that even though the house may not sparkle from head to toe with Christmas cheer, I am personally sparkling from head to toe with Christmas cheer. I am streamlining and making each decoration count. Everything that is being put out will have a personal and family connection and I am going to document those connections in a book for Ashley. Then when life throws a curve ball that ends in a strike out, she will know which items are precious, and which ones are just for fun.

This Christmas will be a time of joy and celebration as I was able to hit the curve ball and get safely to base. All my pathology reports say I am cancer free! Now, to just get past recovery from surgery, being able to use my arm and to stoop down and reach up, will be my next goals.

Enjoy the season everyone!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October Rudolph Day

I totally love cake mixes! They are so versatile!

Photo taken from Taste of Home Cake Mix Creations.

These cupcakes are simple and delightful for the young and not-so-young at your holiday affairs. Simply make a white cupcake, decorate with white icing and then tint white food coloring with red. Cover 1/3 of the cupcake with red icing. Roll the bottom third in white shredded coconut to represent the beard. Pipe on a white cord across the cupcake to make a fluffy trim to the Santa cap. Place a mini marshmallow to represent the cotton ball end! Use chocolate chips for eyes and a red hot candie for the nose. And there you go! Santa Claus!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Frugal and Fun Gift Ideas

Now is the time to be thinking about some frugal ways to enchant your family at Christmas. The blog Storybook Woods has come up with a goodly number of fun and frugal ideas. Go here to see them:

Storybook Woods

Read the comments, too, as there are some fabulous ideas there too!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Christmas Preview!

Rhoda at Southern Hospitality has a two part special about the newest things in Christmas decorating... check it out!

Part one

Part two


Friday, October 2, 2009

September Rudolph Day!

Meet Wilson! He's dressed for Christmas in 2008.

What are you doing now to prepare for Christmas?

I am in the throes of cleaning. I learned I will be having some major surgery at the end of October so I am trying to get things ready a bit early.

I typically decorate nearly every square inch of the house! I have trees in every room. This year I plan to concentrate on only my favorite trees. We will have trees in the living room, kitchen and family room. The fashion tree, the vacation tree, the snowman tree, the gilded fruit tree, the aluminum tree and the nature tree will all remained pack up for this year. It really bums me because this is possibly the last year we will host the office party for Mr. Christmas Tree Lane's staff.

So, I am concentrating on cleaning the kitchen, living room, dining room and family room this year. I have to say, I like that my cleaning schedule is easier! I will clean carpets and woodwork, windows and window treatments will be cleaned, drawers are being reorganized and furniture is being cleaned. I may have to buy a new love seat for the living room, too, the one we have is nearly shot!

I have consigned an artist to do our Christmas card this year. Have you met Fifi? She has a blog that is soooo much fun. Check her out here! Have you thought about your Christmas cards? If you are doing a photo card, it is time to start thinking about what you might be interested in doing and hiring a photographer or setting the date to get the photo done. I love photo cards!

I hope your September has been lovely and that you are getting excited about the 2009 Chrismtas season!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cookie Experiments

Today I am trying out an experiment for a cookie idea I have had for awhile. I am making these with the idea of using them in our annual cookie exchange my family has on Thanksgiving. I love the ease of cake mix cookies, so I started with that basic idea in mind.

1 devil's food cake mix
1 stick of butter, softened
2 eggs
1 T milk
1 c quick cooking oatmeal
2 c white chocolate chips or 2 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Beat together until all ingredients are well mixed. Add 1 c quick cooking oatmeal and mix in. At this point I divided the batter and mixed in 1 cup of white chocolate chips into the first half and then 1 cup of Godiva dark chocolate chips in the second half. Scoop teaspoonfuls of batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes.

The white chocolate chip cookies baked into a brownie like cookie. The Godiva cookie was flatter but richer. My choice: the Godiva cookie!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's Rudolph Day in August!

The 25th of every month is Rudolph Day for those who follow the OC site. I haven't done much with Rudolph Day throughout this year but since it is soooo close to Christmas I am excited about it!

I have decided to give all handmade gifts this Christmas to my extended family and friends. Most of these will be food type baskets full of the things I like to make, hot fudge sauce, salsa, cornbread mix and bean soup. If you supply the tortilla chips and ice cream, you can have a meal on me! I will start looking for appropriate baskets at garage sales, or start looking for inexpensive containers at Dollar General or the Dollar Store.

For my immediate family, I am at a loss. Part of me wants to do something different, like a trip, but I could not bear seeing lots of gifts under the tree. So I am going to have to weigh that decision carefully!

I did decide that we are going to do a breakfast BBQ for our Christmas breakfast. I am going to talk Bob into grilling sausages while I make scrambled eggs and country hashbrowns on the grill and making biscuits and gravy. Won't that be fun, even in the middle of a midwest winter?

Looking forward to hearing your plans for making your holiday unique and special!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Christmas Traditions Part 8

Christmas Trees!

I have a thing for Christmas trees... in fact, one year I had thirteen trees in my house! No kidding.

I love themed trees: I have a Christmas card tree, a fashion tree, a snowman tree, a candy/cookie tree, a vacation/travel tree, a nature tree, a "decorator" tree with silver and gold ornaments, an aluminum tree, and an old fashioned tree that I do each year. I have several small trees that I use in bathrooms: a shell tree, a ceramic tree and an earring tree. This year I plan to add a small tree in our laundry room. I found Santa's clothes in the recent Gooseberry Patch catalog and plan to hang them on a small tree with clothespins. Isn't that a cute idea? I stole it from my friend, Ashley!
The mosaic above was put together about four years ago. The tree in the middle and the solid red tree were trees I used at school. I usually decorate four different trees in our office and hallway!

Tell me about your trees....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Christmas Traditions Part 7


Many of my friends and some of my family, do weekend trips to go shopping. Several go to the cities and make a weekend of it, spending the night at a hotel and eating out! What fun! I have never done this but I do think it sounds like a lot of fun.

I have some friends who wait anxiously for the Black Friday ads. They are glued to the internet trying to find out what sales are happening the day after Thanksgiving.

I tend to shop all year, which means that by early November, I am generally done and so if I shop, it is for the pure fun of getting something extra for my family.

Which type are you? Do you save your shopping for a big weekend or do you do a little all year?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Winner for the Drawing!!

Due to some unforeseen health issues, I totally forgot about the drawing! The winner, using a random drawing is....


Kari, send me your snail mail address so I can get your delightful prizes out to you! Kari had the most entries, too, proving that it pays to advertise! My email is to the right, or if you have my other one, send it there!

Congratulations, Kari!

A New, Fun Recipe

I heard about this recipe from the Mixing Bowl, have you been to that site? Anyway, this bread sounds delightful and so easy.

3 Eggs
1 cup Oil
2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Cinnamon Optional
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
3 Cups Flour

Beat eggs: add oil and sugar. Cream well.

Add 2 cups of the following in any combination (you get to be creative!) Grated Carrots, Cherries, Pitted and Chopped, Grated Zucchini, Peaches Canned or Fresh, Grated Apples, Canned Pumpkin, Applesauce, Raisins, Mashed Bananas, Raspberries, Chopped Apricots, Fresh Strawberries, Chopped dates, Crushed and drained Pineapple, Coconut, Chopped Rhubarb.

Stir in dry ingredients: mix well and add 1 cut of nuts if desired. Spoon into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake 1 hour at 350 oven.

You could bake these in mini loaf pans, too.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Christmas Traditions Part 6

The Magic Tree

Going to see the Lights!!

We LOVE going around town and looking at Christmas lights! Our city hosts a light contest, so after it is complete and the newspaper prints the winners, we all pile into my mini SUV and trot around town looking at lights. Mr. CTL puts together an organized and detailed map and with the GPS, we find each and everyone! Last year we found this amazing tree!

We dip into our hords of Christmas cookies, make up hot cocoa and then drive for hours looking at houses and oooohing and ahhhhhing.

One year our house took second place in "Elegance" in our ward. It was so exciting to see people come to see our house!

What traditions do you have concerning Christmas Lights?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Christmas Traditions Part 5

As a child there weren't many traditions that I am aware of. We went to Grammy and Grandpa Oliver's house and to Grandpa and Grandma Holt's house, and we opened gifts at our house on Christmas Day.

But one tradition that did manage to hang on year after year was the making of the egg nog. My mom makes one good and creamy and cold eggnog (nonalcoholic) that is so good that it is a treat all by itself. You can see it in the punch bowl in the back of the table.

Here's my mom's recipe:(all ingredients should be cold!)
1 gallon of whole milk (hey, it's Christmas!)
6 (or more) pasteurized eggs
3 (or more) cups of sugar
3 T good vanilla
Central Dairy vanilla or egg nog ice cream, semi softened
freshly grated nutmeg

Beat the eggs until frothy. Add in sugar, one cup at a time. Slowly pour in milk and beat until well combined. Taste. Add more eggs and sugar until it meets this year's taste buds. Add 3 T of good vanilla. Taste. Add more if needed.Pour into a punch bowl. Add round scoops of ice all around the punch bowl. Grated nutmeg on top of egg nog. Beat off little kids and get the first cup.

What would you dreadfully miss if it did not appear on your Christmas table?