Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  As a child of the 50's, I'd like to leave you with this photo of Charlie Brown.  I'll be taking a break next week, but will be back with plans for the 2016 year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday Wreaths

Wreaths are a part of the holiday decorating scheme for almost every home.  From my research, it appears that wreaths appeared in German Lutheran homes as early as the 1600s.  That's a while back!  My home has several wreaths and each year I like to take a little time to fluff them out and add something fresh to them.  Here are some of my favorites.

This wreath contains artifacts from when I first started teaching back in the mid 1980s.  You can see name tags from Kindercare, where I was a teacher, asst. director and then director.  From there you can see school name tags, and others all the way to the current day!  My freshly added items for this year were the cute little red bows and the new RPDC name tag!

This wreath, made from tiny toys, reminds me of times gone by.  The buttons are hot glued to the ends of the greens, with a festive plaid bow.  These little toys might have been found in someone's stocking at one time!

I searched Pinterest to find some of my favorite new wreaths.  I love the trend of using burlap for holiday items and this wreath from The Wreath Store is super cute.  What do you think?

This new look of using Rudolph's head, however, has me a bit disturbed.  :)  I'm not sure what I think of it but I do know it is cute.

Some of the most beautiful wreaths, though, contain fresh flowers, but in my neck of the woods, there isn't a flower that can withstand the cold and the wind!

Each year the botanical gardens in my city holds a Wreath Auction.  The best florists in the city get together and design wreaths that hang in the center until January 1 and are sold by silent auction.  The wreaths are to die for and the prices, whew, upwards of $1000 for the best ones.

Whatever your style, let me know in the comments whether wreaths are part of your holiday decorating. I was inspired to share my wreath ideas by BloomNation. They are a flowery delivery service that promotes local florists through their online marketplace. Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#CreativeCookieExchange: Biscotti

I participate in a Facebook group called Creative Cookie Exchange where once a month we bake cookies based on a theme and post them on our blogs.  I usually post this on my lifestyle blog called Our Good Life but this month I am posting them here.  Welcome to Creative Cookie Exchange!

This month our featured cookie is the biscotti.  I love making biscotti!  I love the crunchy texture and the fact you are supposed to dip them in your hot drink!  I do think there is a secret for making good biscotti and I'll share that with you in a minute.

Today I am making White Chocolate Dipped Gingerbread Biscotti.  This recipe was

1/2 cup  butter, softened
                                 2    eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons mild molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

White Chocolate Dip

6 ounces vanilla-flavored candy coating (almond bark), chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350°F.   Lay parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Add eggs; continue beating until well mixed. Add molasses; continue beating until well mixed. Add flour and baking powder; beat at low speed until well mixed. 

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into 12-inch log on lightly floured surface. Place logs 3 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheet. Flatten logs slightly.

Bake 22 minutes or until lightly browned and tops are slightly cracked. Remove from oven; cool 15 minutes on cookie sheet.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. (see how this is in different type setting?  It is important.)

Carefully place logs onto cutting surface. Cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices with serrated knife. (that's the secret, a serrated knife is a MUST.) Place, cut-side down, onto cookie sheets, lined with parchment.
Return to oven. Bake 9 minutes; turn slices. Continue baking 5-7 minutes or until cookies are dry and crisp. Cool completely.

Place candy coating into bowl. Microwave 1 minute; stir. Continue microwaving, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted and smooth. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
Dip cookies flat side down.  Place icing side up to dry.

I love this plate.  A gift from a parent when I was a teacher.

Biscotti (or mandelbrot or any other twice baked cookie by any other name) are one of the perfect Holiday tin cookies! They last forever, and there are so many ways to make them festive. So we’ve got you covered--sweet, savory, low fat, loaded with decadence, you name it, we’ve got it! Happy Holidays! You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Writing Christmas Cards!

Each year I spend a good amount of time wandering the halls of stores looking at Christmas cards, knowing full well I am going to order my personalized card of my family.  I love looking at holiday greetings, and I love sending Christmas cards!

This is a card that didn't make the cut.  It was super cute, though!
How about you?  Do you love sending cards?

There is a dedicated group of women with whom I have sent Christmas cards for over 15 years.  Some of these ladies handmake their cards and like sending them to an audience who appreciates the artform.  I do.  I love those cards!  Next to them, I love the photo cards I get of my friends and their families.  These greetings are so special to me!

I have found that I like using a photograph that has been taken by a photographer better than anything I can do for myself.  I don't know why, but I am also the same person who sees all her mistakes when she paints a room.  Seems to be a connection here!

This year, I chose Vistaprint for my cards.  I think they were my choice last year, too.  I like simple designs, good paper, quick service and seeing my cards before I buy them.  Vistaprint offers all this.  You'd think this would be a paid promotion, but it's not.  It's just me telling you where I get good service.

This year I didn't order any new address labels.  I decided to use up all the leftovers from the last two years.  I needed to get rid of a few piles!  I chose the Charlie Brown stamps this year, too.  So cute!

I played around with some hand lettering for a few cards and the others will be written in my regular cursive handwriting.  I am going to get them out this week.

I'd love to hear if you have any traditions around card writing.  I like to play holiday music and have a nice cup of cocoa nearby.  That, and my pretty cards, stamps and pens, and I am ready to go!

Merry Christmas, all!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Gift Giver, a book review

~sponsored post~

You all know I love to do Christmas book reviews but typically I am writing about books written for adults.  Those books discuss the decorations of the home, falling in love and getting married in a Christmas wedding. This time, I am going to write about a lovely book written for all called The Gift Giver.

Two thousand years ago, unto us a child was born. Unto us a son was given. Out of the manger a child would grow into a man. A man would become the promised Savior, and would send a message in all that he would do. That message would fill the world… with hope, with peace, with Joy. On that day, a gift for all men was given, and because of all that He did, and what He became, another would be given the task to remind as many as would believe of the greatest gift the Father ever gave…..

When I read these words, I knew this would be a book I would read to my family each year at Christmas time.  This lovely story reminds us of what one Father did for us all.  This book helps us remember the true meaning of Christmas without giving up the magic that goes along with it.  I love that we can remember what the "reason for the season" is without trashing our customs.  The authors, Jacob Haslem and Nicolas Allen have done a beautiful job weaving the true meaning of Christmas with the beloved custom of Santa into a tale worth telling year after year.  Elissa Weaver, the illustrator, creates images of the unfolding tale that show the depth of each of the characters by her use of line and color.  Her work brings the story to life.

At the beginning of the story, a little boy sees Santa at his home and expresses his disappointment in only receiving three gifts.  He believes he's been very good and deserves better.  I hope that when other children hear this part of the story, and the rest that follows, that we can go back to appreciating what we have, and what we get, on a truly joyous level.

The book is a bit long, and for younger children it may have to be broken up into shorter parts.  Nothing like a great book, continued, for deep and prolonged thinking about what the book is sharing with you! However, there isn't one word I would leave out, or words I would rearrange.  The book is lovely, just as it is.

Enjoy this clip about the book:

Proceeds from the book go to support The Nazarene Fund by Mercury One.  If you want to order the book, you can order it here.

Peanuts 50th Anniversary

I'm of the generation where part of our annual Christmas events was to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas on our TV.  Mom would make popcorn, we'd take our baths early and get into our striped PJs and be so excited to see the show!

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the first animated television special based on the popular newspaper comic strip, Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz, and the first Christmas special for the franchise. This December will mark the 50th anniversary of the Emmy-winning special, which first premiered in 1965. It was produced and directed by Bill Melendez, who also supplied the voice of Snoopy; and Executive Producer Lee Mendelson. The synopsis: ‘Tis the season to be jolly, but Charlie Brown, feeling that Christmas message is lost amid all the seasonal glitter, has the blues. Psychiatrist Lucy suggests a cure: get involved with the Christmas play! When our hapless hero sets out to find a Christmas tree to use as a stage prop, he unknowingly takes a step toward discovering the holiday’s true meaning. The scraggly tree that thrives on a “little love” and a timely assist from Linus make the message of the season come shining through. The TV specials air on the ABC network leading up to the Christmas holiday.

I loved this, so much that it is still an annual event in my home.  We were so excited for The Peanuts Movie and when we saw it, we were not disappointed.  A Peanuts show for the new generation, we said!

Teleflora has created some holiday bouquets in honor of the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas.  What a perfect gift to send to your friends this holiday!  Here are two of my favorites:

Snoopy’s Cookie Jar by Teleflora (Available on for $59.95) Snoopy! He’s the Flying Ace, Joe Cool and Charlie Brown’s beloved beagle and confidante. An ode to his decorated doghouse from the TV special, this holiday bouquet is a collector’s dream. Featuring the frisky beagle himself asleep atop his iconic red doghouse, the FDA-approved container doubles as a cookie jar for storing Christmas (or canine) cookies for seasons to come. Rich red and white blooms complete with greens, pinecones, and holiday ornaments make the perfect gift for your most cherished and loyal friends and family.

“Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer.” Who can forget the magical opening of the TV special with the adorable Peanuts gang singing and ice skating on a frozen pond? This hand-painted ceramic mug capturing Charlie Brown joyfully ice skating with his best furry friend, Snoopy, comes overflowing with rich red and white blooms, holiday greens, and red ornament balls. Topped off with candy cane striped ribbon, this over-sized mug is FDA-approved, microwave and dishwasher safe. Everyone on your list will appreciate this nostalgic gift that can be filled with your favorite hot cocoa to enjoy by a warm fire long after Santa and the flowers have been enjoyed.

Surprise someone of my generation with a Snoopy floral display for Christmas this year.  Those fond memories will be enjoyed year after year with the mug or the cookie jar and the flowers will brighten any home with holiday love.  Merry Christmas!

Order from and be sure to follow Teleflora on Facebook!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap- Red Velvet Chocolate Chip!

I am happy to participate in the 4th annual Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap!   In this recipe swap, we are given a partner who emails you a recipe that you have to make!  My partner, Stephanie from Newman's Corner, sent me this Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  Super simple and so delicious and I love anything that starts with a cake mix!

This recipe swap is hosted by these marvelous blogs!  You should definitely go and check them out for other delicious cookies!

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies
by Terri Steffes
  • 1 box Red Velvet cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare cookie sheet with cooking spray or parchment paper. Mix cake mix, eggs, oil and vanilla together. Stir in chocolate tahips. Scoop into balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, until desired doneness, remove from oven, let cool for one minute. Transfer to a wire cookie rack to cool completely. Store in air tight container.
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These cookies are so delicious.  I love their red velvet coloring!  These cookies freeze well, too.  I hope you enjoyed these delicious cookies and will be giving them a try, soon!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bringing Christmas Home Room by Room~Dining Room

Welcome back to Day 3 of Bringing Christmas Home Room by Room Tour.  You've seen my front porch, my living room and today you will see my Dining Room area.  Our kitchen and dining room are a combination room.  We love to entertain and we were so sure that we wanted to make this area a socialable spot in our home.  

The dining area overlooks the backyard, which makes a beautiful spot in the spring and summer.  Here we are set up for the first cocktail party of the season.  Our Supper Club did a progressive dinner with the group and we were the first stop!

Standing in my kitchen, you can see the island, which serves as our drink station for parties.

The chandelier gets in on the action at Christmas.  there are tiny lights embedded in the greens which look beautiful at night.

Here is the dining room table all covered with foodie delights for our guests!  The front is showing the brie cranberry tarts, the endive with smoked salmon, caviar and creme fraiche, you can see the pumpkin soup shooters and across from that bacon wrapped dates stuffed with bleu cheese.  Yum!

Another shot of the island.  Those wine glasses were a gift from my friends when I moved to another city.  The drinks were lemonade, and a cranberry mimosa.

Last, but not least, is the bannister decorated with gingerbread stars and gingerbread men.  So cute in the kitchen!  

The tour continues the rest of the week.  Come by and visit often!  Check out these bloggers for their beautiful home tours, too!

Poofy Cheeks
Christmas Tree Lane
New House New Home
One More Time
The Small Stuff Counts
My Life From Home
Life on Kaydeross Creek
Love My Simple Home
Roots North and South

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bringing Christmas Home Room by Room~Living Rooms

Bringing Christmas Home Room by Room is back for another round.  This time inviting you into our Living Rooms!  I hope you had fun seeing all the Front Porches that were featured yesterday.  If you missed, you can hit the link above and check them out!

Come into my living room!  Our house was built in 2013 by McBride and Sons, a St. Louis home builder.  We live in St. Charles, MO, in an area known as New Town. New Town is a New Urbanist lifestyle, walkable neighborhoods with local restaurants, bars, stores, churches, all within blocks of your home. The houses here are designed with large front porches, close to the sidewalks, to encourage interaction with the walkers and neighbors.

So come on in!

Welcome to the living room!

The barrister cabinet to the left was made by my grandfather.  My grandmother kept her beautiful Nativity set in it all year round.

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus were painted by my mother in the 1970s.  The cabinet was my mom and dad's first piece of furniture ever purchased.  The mirror adds sparkle to the room!

The Merry Christmas banner was purchased at Target last year.  I love the plaids!  The plaid stockings were also part of Target's collection last year.

The velvet Santa has been a part of my Christmas for most of my life.  My mom has the original one, but when we were married my mom gave me this look alike for my own home!

We designed the built ins after we moved into the house.  We love them!  The small collection of nutcrackers happened over the years.  Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus in the window were made by a dear friend of mine.

We love holiday photos and frames.  You'll see those all over the house.  The little display of christmas houses and Santa in a plaid coat are so much brighter than what they appear here!  I think the light from the lamp really washed out the colors!

We attended this ballet for years while our daughter was growing up.  The nutcracker countdown calendar was one of her favorites, too!

I hope you enjoyed the tour!  I was sure happy you came to visit!  Join us tomorrow and the rest of the week to see all different rooms in the house!

Check out all these fine blogs for tours of their homes throughout the week!  I'll be posting again tomorrow, featuring our dining area!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Bringing Christmas Home Christmas Home Tour 2015

I am so excited to be a part of the Bringing Christmas Home Room by Room Home Tour for this year!  Several of us will be showing you our homes throughout this week.  Today we are showing you our front porches.  I love porches, and decorating them is the best!

This is the front of my house.  We have a side wrap around porch.  The house was built in 2013 and we love its Craftsman style.  My husband's dad used live greens on his house so my husband loves to wrap our pillars in live greens, too.  He says it reminds him of good times with his dad.

This cutie Santa has been with us for 10 years now!  

My husband adds the greens and lights. Gorgeous at night!

We love these automated candles.  With simple red pillows, we get very festive!

The nutcracker was made by a close friend's husband.  The Countdown to Christmas was new last year!

The other side of the porch.

Our porch gets a lot of wind.  This is my husband's clever way of keeping the trees on the porch!

Simple lighting out front, 
You can see other lovely porches by visiting these blogs today:

Kelsey at Poofy Cheeks

Susan at Momcrieff

Heather at New House New Home

Terri at Christmas Tree Lane

Tomorrow you can see living rooms and I am on the tour again, so stop by here to peek into our living rooms, all ready for Christmas!

Join these lovelies on their home tours this week!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas in Missouri

I love learning what Christmas is like in other parts of the country, so I thought I would share with you what happens around the Show Me State with regards to the holiday season.  I'll share with you activities from our cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, fun events in our smaller towns, like Marceline, and events in our touristy places, like Branson.  Maybe someday you will want to come and spend some time in Missouri during the holiday season!

One of my family's favorite events is in Kansas City, when the Plaza lights are lit on Thanksgiving Day.  The Plaza is a gorgeous shopping venue, with wonderful restaurants, and a cheerful, holiday mega Hallmark store (which is head quartered in KC).  We love staying at the The Raphael, not because of its close proximity to the Plaza, but because of its warm ambience and outdoor fire pits which are delightful after an afternoon of outdoor shopping.  My family loves to eat at The Melting Pot but my favorite is the Plaza III Steakhouse. Ultimate service, a dressy event and fabulous food!

Our family trip in 2012

I know it's blurry, but I love the round balls of light!
I grew up in Marceline, a small town with connections to Walt Disney, who spent part of his boyhood here.  We love our celebrations and one of them, Peanut Night, is the kickoff to the holidays in this small town.  At Peanut Night, Santa arrives at his small hut to hear Christmas wishes from boys and girls, and during that time, the local Lions' Club sells bags of peanuts with prizes in the bags, all the way from door prizes from local stores to cash!  The stores are open and residents and visitors shop, and at the appointed time, the city officials turn on the lights, Santa arrives, and peanut sales begin!

Santa's house, photo by City of Marceline
Downtown Marceline, photo by City of Marceline
Some of my family spent time during Thanksgiving in Branson.  They loved going to Silver Dollar City and report it as being "magical" during this time of the year due to the hundreds of thousands of lights.

In Columbia, where the University of Missouri is located, you will find The Magic Tree.  The Magic Tree was started in 1995 as a single person's act of beauty for the holiday season.  In 2004, the word had spread to the general public and thousands flocked to see the 40 year old crab apple tree adorned in over 80,000 lights, all hand applied (about 100 hours of work). The growing amount of traffic required the owner/designer to move the magic tree to Cherry Hill in 2010.  The new tree is a cherry tree and with the use of LED lighting, there are about 40,000 lights on the tree.  Each year the tree is completely redesigned with new lighting.  It continues to be a tradition in the Columbia area.

My photo of the Magic Tree in 2008.
In St. Louis there are a lot of different activities that happen during the holiday season.  The Busch Company has its annual light display at the Visitors Center. You can roast marshmallows, take a carriage ride or get your photo taken in a snowglobe.  The Missouri Botanical Gardens has an amazing light show called Garden Glow that is worth a trip to St. Louis all on its own!  If you like home tours, the Lafayette Homes Christmas Tour is not to be missed.  Called the "Painted Ladies" these beautiful homes are open for your viewing pleasure.  The St. Louis Zoo offers an opportunity to visit the zoo at night and see Wild Lights.  There are hot cocoa stations, over 500,000 lights, and a carousel ride featured at the zoo.  The St. Louis Symphony, the Fox, and Powell Hall all offer holiday selections as well.

One of the beautiful displays at the 2014 Garden Glow

Busch Visitor Center lights.
We live in St. Charles, where we are fortunate to have a month long holiday celebration called Christmas Traditions in Old Town.  Santas from all over the world and Christmas figures such as Jack Frost all come together on Main Street.  Kids like to collect the trading cards the different Santas and figures have that explain where they are from and how Christmas is celebrated where they are from.  These darling Santas stay in character, use the accent most likely to be from their region and create an atmosphere of magic.  Shops are open, there are hot chocolate stations, gingerbread contests, a kissing ball, music from all over the state, special events such as the Santa parade happens throughout the month.

A page from the Christmas Traditions brochure
Throughout the month, I will be adding other articles to this post about Christmas opportunities in the state of Missouri.  I love my home state and would love to share it with you!  If you have other places in Missouri that you love to celebrate Christmas, please add them to the comments!  Thank you!

9 Must See Light Displays in the St. Louis area

21 Best Light Displays in Springfield

Where to Find Santa