Monday, November 28, 2016

2016 Christmas Cookie Exchange

The Fourth Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange was held at my house on Sunday afternoon with ten guests including me!  I love hosting this event and my small dining room and kitchen were filled to bursting with people who love baking and Christmas as much as I do!

My friends at Oriental Trading were gracious to send me my paper products for the event.  I chose my all time favorite Christmas characters, The Peanuts Gang, to help me with the decorations.  Cute napkins, plates, cookie containers and key chains for door prizes all set the tone for the fun afternoon.

Each guest brings one dozen cookies for each of the guests invited.  Each dozen is packaged for easy trading.  My cute little Snoopy boxes held one dozen Hugs and Kisses Christmas Cookies easily.

For drinks there was lemonade and water, and a vodka punch made with pineapple juice and citrus vodka.  The punch is served over ice and is a light drink.  These adorable glasses (check naughty or nice) hold a nice amount of drink.

I always serve a light lunch with our cookie exchange and this time I made a Pasta e Fagioli Soup and a Quick Italian Salad.  With good bread and our cookies, we were set for food.  There was a hot chocolate station for those who wanted it with peppermint spoons to stir with.  Yum.

Here are the cookies that our guests brought:

Chocolate Chip

Smores Cookies

Grandma's Monster Cookies

No Bake Fudge and Coconut Cookies 
Fudge Drops

Mini Chocolate Chip Snowballs

Chocolate Caramel Blossoms

Lace Cookies and Molasses Sugar Cookies

And the darling sack they came in!
Hugs and Kisses Christmas Cookies
Which do you think you want to try?  I can promise you that they are all delicious!

Here is the recipe for my Hugs and Kisses Christmas Cookies.

1 stick of butter, softened
1 c white granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 t vanilla
2 c flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 T milk
24 Hershey's Hugs, unwrapped
24 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped
1/2 c colored sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  Cover a cookie sheet with parchment.  Beat butter, sugar, egg and vanilla together until smooth and creamy.  Stir flour, baking soda and salt together.  Alternate scoops of flour and milk into the butter mixture until dough forms.  Make 1 inch balls and roll in colored sugar, powdered sugar or granulated sugar.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until set with a light brown bottom. Remove from oven and let rest 2-3 minutes.  Gently push a Hug or a Kiss into the center of the cookie.  Remove from cookie sheet and completely cool.  Chocolate kiss or hug should be firm.

Our Cookie Exchange was fantastic and so much fun!  I can't wait to do it again next year!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Outdoor Decorating 2016

My husband and I were talking about outdoor decorating this morning when we were out searching for the pine garland we love for the outside of our house.  We both agreed that while it is ok to do the decorating for the outside of the house before Thanksgiving, it is not ok to turn your lights on.  So when we came home tonight after dinner and saw all the lights that were on in our neighborhood, we were aghast. (secretly though, I was thrilled!)

2015 Outside House Decorations

Where do you stand on this question:  Is it ok to have your Christmas outside lights on before Thanksgiving?

We plan for two scenes:  The nighttime scene, where there are lights and candles on the porch or in windows and the daytime scene, where you can enjoy a charming porch of beautiful decorations.

Theme or no theme?  We do not use a theme but we always enjoy those clever people who can make a Santa's workshop on their front lawn!  We have collected a number of decorations over time and the best I do is to mix up where they go and maybe add a new decoration or two each year, and "retire" those decorations who have lived out their Christmas life.

Working lights?  We check each set of lights before adding them on the columns, fence or doorway. NO ONE wants to have to take down the lights after they have been put up!  We also check for extension cords and timers, too.

Wreaths?  Check your wreaths to see if they are fluffy and ready to sparkle on your porch.  I usually remake the bows each year, but if the bows just need a little fluffing after being stored all year, that's a great time savings!

Outdoor miscellaneous?  Make sure your decorations are anchored if you live in a windy area like we do.  You will want to make sure that your decorations are heavy enough to withstand some winter winds!  We have chased down enough pillows to last a lifetime!  We love using the hooks that stay on strong but can be taken off easily.  We use the clear ones and leave them up all year.

Enough help?  We've learned that it is ok to ask for help with decorating.  Our son-in-law helps with the roping around the columns and we hire a high school kid to help us bring trees and crates up the stairs.  We'll do the same when it is time to take it all down, too.

Stay tuned to see pictures of our neighborhood in both the night time and day time scenes.  We have a lot of  homes who do both very well!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Festive DIY Christmas Tree Ornaments

So many ornaments, so little time!  I really wanted to make each of these ornaments this season and time is just getting away from me.  I did want to share these with you, so that if you need an ornament for a special occasion, you would have a great list to choose from.

I did make dried orange slices two years ago and boy, they made the house smell delicious all through the season.  I combined them with a darling gingerbread tree and that got a lot of compliments!  Have you tried the cinnamon dough ornaments?  I made a bunch of cinnamon stars for the gingerbread tree and between the stars and oranges, it sure smelled fantastic!

Do you hang all your ornaments from trees?  My next investigation is going to be unique ways to display ornaments.  If you have an idea to contribute, leave me a message in the comments!

Polyfoam Tree Ornaments – by Craft Passion
Dried Citrus Ornaments – by a Beautiful Mess
Tissue Pom Pom Ornaments – by Lia Griffith
Wooden Spool Tree Ornaments – by Shaken Together Life
Rustic Twig Tree Ornament – by Funky Junk Interiors
Mini Tree Ornaments – by Cupcakes and Crinoline
Vintage Map Ornament – by Chic California
DIY Christmas Baubles – by Craft Ideas
Winter Hat Ornaments – by Landee See Landee Do
Plaid Ornaments – by Country Chic Cottage
Night Light Bulb Ornaments – by Modge Podge Rocks
Scented Beeswax Ornaments – by Soap Queen

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Two Month Countdown!

While I plan for the Christmas holiday all year around, looking for cute ornament crafts, or recipes to try, or movies and books I want to see and read, the last two months are really about the events and people. My preparation helps me to be able to enjoy all that is around me in a calm and peaceful way.

Ok, maybe not so much.

But, mostly that is true.  There is always a last minute something that unweaves the best plans, but that is life, deal with it and move along!

One of the things I love to do at this time is to create my calendar.  I have a wonderful Christmas Notebook that has been with me since 1977 when I was married.  The notebook looks quite a bit different, but I love looking through it at things I did in the past.  Things have surely changed.

I print a two month calendar from a Google Extension and have a ball decorating it with my washi tapes and stickers.  I don't go over board, as this is a working calendar.  I just like it to be festive. Here it is before I add in all our family's dates!  I have emailed my children and have them looking into possible dates, since I have to share them now.

I grab all the city's advertisements on dates for open houses, light displays, and church services so we can schedule them all in.  It never fails, two of the season's most fun events will land on the same night, but we make a decision and don't regret the rest!

What do you do to stay organized for Christmas?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Cash For Christmas Giveaway!

Christmas is fast approaching, in fact, there are only 43 days left until the Big Day!  If you haven't visited Christmas Tree Lane before, this is a site full of fun ideas for Christmas, including decorating, recipes, crafts, homemade gifts and much, much more!

Are you in need of a quick recipe to take to a few holiday parties?  This easy-to-make but oh-so-elegant POM BARK is the perfect treat.   You can find the full recipe for Pomegranate Bark here!  Check us out when you have some time!

Are you getting geared up for the shopping season? Do you need extra cash for Christmas?? Don't we all!

We are so excited to be giving away $330 in cash prizes for you to use starting Thanksgiving weekend. Here are the prizes:

1 - $100 Amazon Gift Card
1 - $75 Target Gift Card
2 - $25 Walmart Gift Card
1 - $25 Kohls Gift Card
3- $10 Starbucks Gift Card

There will be 8 winners in this giveaway. Each winner will receive a gift card code to use on the online store or in the actual store.

Now its time to meet our wonderful co-hosts who have made this giveaway possible.

Cash for Christmas
Starting at the top row we have:
Terri - Christmas Tree Lane, Melissa - The Farm Girl Gabs, Christine - Your Strong Tower, Audrey - That Recipe & Munofore, Dana - Goods Giving Back, Tammy - Creative K Kids, Trish - Creative Simplicity by Trish Sutton, Kim - Shopping Kim and Enter Online Sweeps, Ali - Home Crafts by Ali and Ali's Book Nook, Kelly - Typically Simple, Kim - The Resourceful Mom, Katie - The Ramblings of an Overtired Mama, Angie - God's Growing Garden, Sarah - Devastate Boredom, Karen - Raising Little Superheroes, Gina - Money Savvy Living, Beverly - Eclectic Red Barn, Melissa - Deliciously Savvy, Beth - Our Pretty Little Girls, Meredith - The Mom of the Year, Laura - Michigan Saving and More, Debbie - Heartbeats ~Soul Stains, Carol - The Red Painted Cottage, Tiffany - A Wandering Vine, Monica - Mommy & Love, Holly - Keeping Life Sane, Sinea - Ducks 'n a Row, Cindy - Simple Steps for Living Life, Tammy - My Life Abundant, Kari - Keep It Simple DIY, Danielle - Dancing with My Daughter

Please stop by and say hi to these wonderful ladies and their blogs.

The giveaway will end midnight on Wednesday, November 24th, the night before Thanksgiving. You will have 48 hours to respond to the email claiming the prize. If you respond right away, we will get you the gift card code promptly so that you can shop with it on Black Friday! If we don't hear in 48 hours, we will choose another winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pinterventures 2016 Ornament Exchange

Welcome to the 2016 Ornament Exchange & Blog Hop! This year, there are 11 pairs of partners or 22 talented ladies participating in the exchange. The rules of the challenge were simple - create a handmade ornament for under $15 to exchange with a partner and create a tutorial to share on the blog hop!

Last year I had so much fun doing this ornament exchange, that I asked to be included again!  I was fortunate to be paired up with the Ornament Exchange's founder, Erlene, from Pinterventures!  That's really awesome and scary at the same time.  I really wanted to come up with something really wonderful for her tree, something that met her color scheme of deep red, gold and white.  She sent me a photo of her gorgeous tree from last year.  I knew I had my work cut out for me!

Shirley · Intelligent Domesticatons Michelle · Our Crafty Mom
Nicki · Sweet Parrish Place Sherry · Savvy Apron Megan · C'mon Get Crafty
Jelica · A Pretty Fix Emily · Two Purple Couches Christene · Keys to Inspiration
Pamela · Home On The Corner

I had purchased some of the clear plastic ornaments early from the Dollar Tree and I knew I wanted to incorporate them somehow.  I looked up every known project on Pinterest for clear ornament balls and NOTHING was suitable for what I wanted.  I wanted something elegant, yet simple enough not to take away from the special ornaments Erlene has on her tree.

Then I saw the mirrored spray paint.


My mind raced with the possibilities.

I knew I needed to play around with the paint and the plastic.  I carefully cleaned the ornaments with a little alcohol and let them dry, and then put one coat of mirror spray paint on the ornament.  When it dried, I had this:

So, from here, it was simple.  I gathered some pretty vinyl and some patterns and with the help of my friend, Shannon, we decided on this pretty patterns which we cut out, applied and then attached some pretty ribbon for the finishing touch.

The second ornament was made from a clear plastic ball.  I removed the top hanger and poured floor wax in it.  I swished it all around and then emptied the glass.  I used a funnel to pour gold glitter into the ornament.  When it dried, I reinserted the ornament top and applied a vinyl cutout to it.

The third ornament I simply removed the top, filled it with tiny styrofoam pieces, replaced the cap and applied one of the vinyl cutouts.  I love it!

What I love:  plastic ornaments, pretty spray paint, lovely cutouts, simple to make.
What I didn't love: messy glitter

Overall cost:  spray paint was $10 (for both) ornaments were 50 cents each, cutout were $2 each and the ribbon was part of my stash.  $1 for the glitter and $5 for the floor wax.  So for less than $5 an ornament, we made all these beautiful ornaments!


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Homemade Christmas-Teen Emergency Kits

For a year my daughter and I gave each other the Birch Box subscriptions.  We loved seeing the beautiful boxes that would come each month and I refused to throw mine away because they are works of art.  But what to do with 12 boxes that are taking up space?

For this DIY gift, I made an emergency box for my nieces and nephews for their lockers at school.  I didn't do anything special to the box itself, except to add this adorable label:

Inside the box I added these items:

Protein bar, slim jims, $2 in quarters for the vending machine, sample deodorants, mascara (for the girls), breath freshener mints, travel toothbrush and paste, hair grooming supplies, Tide to Go, earbuds and a couple of positive, uplifting messages just in case it is one of those days!

This personal gift can be just that: personalized to meet the needs of your teen/tween.  These are inexpensive and fun to assemble, and uses up all my beautiful Birch boxes!

I love this little DIY because it is easy enough for everyone who wants to make their Christmas gifts, it is fairly inexpensive (I made 6 for under $40) and it is personal!

Happy Kit Making!