Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cookie Swaps

Do you participate in or host a cookie swap?  (Let my ADD take over for a bit... there are the most delightful Christmas songs being played on TV, I am so ready!)  My nieces, sister in law and daughter try to do one every Thanksgiving but now that one of my niece's lives in Nebraska and my daughter in Indiana, it hasn't been an annual event.

So it was quite the surprise to find that my daughter and two of my nieces and my sister in law were all up for a swap this year!  Our swap is always pretty simple, make 6 cookies to give to each participate and bring a dozen to share!  I always get the girls a Christmas goodie for participating and this year they are getting these cute spatulas from LTD Commodities:

Tomorrow I will post the recipes for Ashley and my cookies.  We are both trying something new for us.  We think they are going to make some cute cookies!
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christmas Traditions on Thanksgiving

Kitchen tree circa 2000
Do any of you have Christmas traditions that start on Thanksgiving?

Debbie posted that her family turns on their outdoor lights on Thanksgiving night to welcome in the holiday season! I love that! On my side of the family we will take our family Christmas card photo. My mom sends out photo cards to her friends. We love seeing how we have changed over the past ears.

My husbands side of the family spends Thanksgiving night plotting their routes for Black Friday. It is quite the logistical nightmare but they love doing it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gifts for the Neighbors

I am always on the look out for a cute gift for our neighbors.  I scored a set of Mason jars this summer and I think I am going to make this wonderful snack mix to put in them, tie them up with ribbon and a cute label.  I found this recipe from a Facebook Page by a gal named Vicki who shared it with us.


Mini Pretzels
Rice Chex
Salted dry roasted peanuts
Chocolate Cheerios
Red & Green Christmas M&M's
White Chocolate for melting
Red Chocolate for melting
White non-perils
Mini Marshmallows

Spread all your ingredients, ***EXCEPT M&M's and BUGLES***, out on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Melt your white chocolate according to package directions and drizzle over the pretzel mix. Transfer into a large bowl and carefully coat mix with chocolate.
Return to baking sheet and scatter it out to allow it to dry.

Melt your red chocolate melting chips according to package directions until melted
One at at time, Dip your bugles into melted chocolate until coated, and lay on wax paper.
Once all your bugles are coated and cooled its time to start adding the "White" to the hat.
Dip the pointed end into the melted red chocolate and push a mini marshmallow onto the tip. Let dry a few seconds
Dip wide round end of bugle into red chocolate and then into your white sprinkles. Let each each cool on the wax paper.

Once all of the chocolate is dried, add the white covered to a large bowl for serving, then add the Santa Hats in and CAREFULLY (Be gentle so you don't break the hats) mix them in, leaving some on top for decoration. ENJOY!! :)

What do you give the neighbors?  I am always looking for ideas!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fun Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions.

It just wouldn't be Christmas if.....

How would you finish that sentence?  For me, my Church's midnight mass, with all the Christmas carols sung in joyful voice is the ultimate! 

In addition, in our family, it wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't visit the

Magic Tree.  This tree used to be on personal property and was decorated by its owner all through the year but only lit at Christmas.  When we first discovered this tree, only a few people knew about it.  Now it has become a major focal point in town, even having its own lighting ceremony!

It wouldn't be Christmas if my PEO group didn't shop at our local Southbank store.  The owner is a PEO member, too, and opens up the store for one night of shopping just for us.  We see the new decorations and Christmas gifts.  It is a magical night!

It wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't have my friend Barb reading the Christmas Story to us.  Every year she reads to us and reminds us of the magic of Christmas.  Reading is something I used to do for my daughter every year until she was old enough to want to read on her own.  I still like being read to!

It wouldn't be Christmas without our annual trip to see the Plaza Lights in Kansas City.  We haven't been there for the lighting but we have to make at least one trip to see these beautiful lights!

 It wouldn't be Christmas without my mom's eggnog!  It is a cold, rich, creamy drink without the additive of alcohol but we love it all the same!  When my mom was a little girl, her mom made eggnog with alcohol and wouldn't let the kids have any.  My mom decided then and there that HER eggnog would be without alcohol so the kids could have some too, and, it always has!

I hope I got you to thinking about what is important to you about Christmas!  Make time for those special moments and if the decorating, baking or socializing doesn't get done, you will still feel like you had a wonderful Christmas!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christmas Plaid

I am a late comer to Christmas plaid.  In the last couple of years I have found myself drawn to the warm, cozy feeling of plaid.  I have owned a few things here and there but I have been finding myself drawn to plaid since I have "deformalized" my living spaces.

These pictures show a few of the plaid things I like to have around the house during the holiday season...

Cute ice bucket

Plaid ribbons and bows

Plaid blanket covering a cedar chest

Christmas plaid tablecloth

Using the same cloth, different place settings!

 I really enjoy the use of plaid during the holidays.  Do you have a favorite plaid item that you love?  What do you think it is about plaid that makes Christmas feel homey?

My son-in-law knows his way to his mother-in-law's heart!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas Gift Thoughts

My friend Vee had a hit with a recent post of hers.  I am going to put the link here so you can see it in its original state.  However, the article she refers to I am going to post here so you can read it, too.   Maybe you have already seen it, as you can tell by the links below, it is going around the internet!

Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone, yes EVERYONE, gets his/her hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamins on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.

This is a revolution of caring about each other, and isn't that what Christmas is about?

I am with Vee, this isn't ALL that Christmas is about, but I do feel like the article is food for thought and I would love to know your thoughts!

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Quintessential Christmas Decoration

Do you have that one decoration that without it, it just wouldn't be Christmas?  The one item that you pull out of its storage container, look at it and smile a little smile while your heart warms with joy?

I have that decoration.  My mother had this decoration in her home while I was growing up.  At one point in my mom's life she decided to get creative and started doing ceramics.  Ceramics was BIG in the 70s and I remember my mom going over to do ceramics with her friends and from time to time bringing back some fun items.

Here is my special decoration:

These ceramic Mr. and Mrs. Claus have been in our home for decades now.  They have found themselves in many places in our home.  They are rather large, so they make an impression where ever they land.  One year they sat on the floor by the candy tree.  They often sit on the kitchen table, and one year they were on top of the hutch.  No matter what, these cheerful decorations find a place at our home during Christmas.

What is your decoration that you just can't wait to take out of the box?  Linking up with Mary at Mosaic Monday!
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Small Trees Everywhere!

I am a huge fan of small trees!  I like to have a tree in every room but having a full blown Christmas tree isn't practical for my house.  Years ago, I started making several themed trees of the smaller sized variety that I simply bag up when I am cleaning up from Christmas.  This makes decorating easy and fun.  I do end up tweaking the trees, rearranging ornaments or adding ribbons... but overall the decorating is quick and fun.

Here are some examples of the small trees around my home.

At my kitchen window

Where I like to display my holiday cards

A little girly tree for my daughter's room

My mom made this tree in the early 70s

A fun tree for the family room

My mother's small tree

Our vacation ornaments tree

This is a tree from my friend Ashley's laundry room.  See Santa's clothes on the tree?

Silver tree with silver bells

Our retro silver tree in our family room

The seashell tree in the bathroom
I actually have more that I didn't show!  These trees are so much fun to have around the house and create a festive focal point for the room.  Tell me about your small trees, who knows, I might need another!
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unique Gift Wrapping

My husband's family always does a themed Christmas.  The theme this year is Homemade by.... and we are required to either make something or buy something handmade.  I added another layer to it... the wrapping has to be eco friendly as well.

I suggested cleaned paint cans, pillow cases, aprons, newsprint, children's art, and towels.  What other ways can gift wrapping be eco friendly?

Here are some beautifully wrapped gifts, maybe not so eco friendly but all would be lovely to have sitting under the tree with MY name on it!

You might not believe this, but this silver paper is the inside of a potato chip bag!  I would be tempted to lick it!

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Placing the Christmas Tree

My hubs and I had a discussion about where to place the Christmas tree this year.  We did a rearrangement of our living room last year and lost our traditional place to put the tree.  It looks like it might be going into a corner by the fireplace, which it was many years ago.  Since then we have cut down some evergreens in front of a window that flanks the fireplace.  I am getting excited about being able to see the tree from the outside!

How do you decide where to put your Christmas tree?  Are you feng shui and place it in the money corner of your home?  Do you remember to avoid putting it where it might disrupt the chi in your home?  Or are you nostalgic, placing the tree in the same place year after year?

Christmas circa 2009

Christmas 2010

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reason for the Season

As we prepare for the loveliest of all the holidays, it is important for us to keep in the forefront the reasons why we celebrate this holiday.  I found this darling print at Etsy, a wonderful online store for finding homemade projects created by true artisans.  You can find this at Etsy holiday prayer

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Its A Howling Good Christmas!

My two dogs are like small, spoiled children.  Wilson and Truman are our special companions throughout the year, so you can imagine my complete joy when I saw this adorable decorating for the dogs!  I love the dog house as the prop for the tree.  I can't really tell if this is what is on this tree or not, but I think having dog biscuits tied on with cute red ribbons would be a must.

Isn't this adorable!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Easy Peasy Holiday Treats

I love making and giving these simple holiday treats.  They satisfy your sweet and salty cravings!  I have learned over the years to buy good melting chocolates and sturdy pretzel rods.  These will make your treats easy to make.

Pretzel Treats

Melt your chocolate and pour into a tall, narrow glass.  Make sure the glass is moisture free so that the chocolate won't bind on you.  Dip your rods into the chocolate.  Place them on waxed paper.  Before they become solid, sprinkle holiday sugar or drizzle icing over the top.

You can wrap these individually or put a few together and tie with a festive bow.  However you decide to give them, the recipient is going to be very happy!
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