Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Here is an ornament from our oldest son's second Christmas. His theme is snowmen and this has always been a favorite given that it is made from a jingle bell. Around here, anything that makes noise is a favorite. I hope you've been enjoying seeing some of Christmas at our house, only a few more days until Christmas now. I'm off to sew, almost done with a dress-up dress!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Candy making has been a part of Christmas in my family since the very beginning. Pecan Pralines and my mom's Chocolate Fudge are just about as important as the Christmas tree. Every year I try out a few new recipes, so far I have whipped up Nutella Fudge, Peppermint Bark and Peanut Butter Bars. I highly recommend them all.
When I was young, we were always at my Mamaw's house. They had some dear friends named Mr. Dick and Mrs. Norma. Among other talents like quilting and sewing and training award winning bird dogs, they were unbelievable candy makers. For the 55 years of their marriage, they made at least a dozen kinds of homemade candies together every Christmas. Their Peanut Butter Balls were known throughout the land, legendary I tell you. So whenever I stir up a batch of Pecan Pralines like I did last week, I always think of Mrs. Norma and Mr. Dick. Then I eat an extra piece in honor of them. Sweet memories!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

This cowboy santa is part of my middle son's ornament collection. I do believe it's my favorite of the santas. Do you notice anything strange about it? Well, it made it through two Christmases before part of it bit the dust. And around here, that's kind of a record!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Today I want to show you one of my favorite ornaments. Every year I give my four year old daughter an angel ornament. This one was actually given to me but she immediately requisitioned it for herself since it was, after all, an angel. It's an unusual ornament, I think that's what I like so much about it. Simple and rustic but elegant at the same time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I put this together yesterday using a thrifted tin box and tray, glass ornaments my mother-in-law gave me years ago, pine branches from my neighbor's tree and holly from my yard. What do you have around your house and yard that can be made into new Christmas decorations? Be creative!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Every day from now until Christmas I want to show you a little Christmas something from my house. I am going to start off with this simple ornament. It belongs to my middle daughter, every year I give each of my children a themed ornament and her theme is stars. Quite fitting for her calm bright personality. This soft, cream colored, wool felt star was her ornament last year and I love the contrast between it and the green texture of the tree. Just lovely!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Photo

A recent thrifting venture yielded two bags of vintage buttons. Which in turn have yielded hours of fun for little treasure seekers. Oh what fun to be had in a jumble of buttons!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


When cold wind whips around our little house and I find myself wearing my old sweater and wool socks all day, it's time for a little something hot to sip. I love a good hot cup of tea, somedays it's hot cocoa, others call for steaming coffee with a generous pour of cream. Only last year did I discover chai. Yummy creamy hot milk in exotic spiced hot tea. It's so very easy to make and if you can find a source of bulk spices, it's very inexpensive.
Last week as I was herding the chickadees to bed, I stopped and filled a pan with two cups of fresh water. Into that I dropped a cinnamon stick, two cardamom pods, five cloves and five black peppercorns. While I tucked everyone in, it simmered fragrantly on the back burner. Twenty minutes later I took a break from sewing the lining of Cubbie's new diaper bag to turn off the heat and drop in two tea bags to steep. By the time I finished sewing the name tag onto the top of the bag, it was ready. All I had to do was strain it into my waiting mug and stir in some raw sugar and warm whole milk. Perfect! Want to come over? I'll make you some.

Mom's Famous Christmas Fudge

In our family, it's not Christmas without Mom's famous Christmas fudge. An old-fashioned (no marshmallow fluff here, folks) chocolate fudge full of pecans. Throughout the month of December, we will cook up and devour several pans of the sweet chocolatety confection. Just for you, I made a batch and photographed the process. Sweet of me, wasn't it? Well, I try!

In an iron skillet (the old splattered cookbook page says iron skillet and we have never tested fate by using anything else), combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 8 tablespoons of cocoa.

Add 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons of corn syrup or 1/8 tsp cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons of butter.

Bring it to a boil. The smell of boiling fudge is embedded in my memory as Christmas. That and fresh pine and tangerines.
You have to cook it to soft-ball stage. Now, of course you can use a candy thermometer, they all have soft-ball stage marked on it. I don't have too much luck with them. For one thing, you can't clip it onto the side of an iron skillet, it only will clip on to a deep pan. Another thing is that they often measure inaccurately and have to be tested in boiling water and adjusted to show the correct temperature. A bit too much for me to mess with when I need a pan of fudge. So I will now show you the simple and fail-proof cold water method. You will thank me. You're welcome!

Above you can see the lovely fudge boiling away and a cup of water with a drizzle of fudge in it. The water must be cold, not iced, but cold tap water. After about 5 minutes of boiling, drop a good teaspoonful of the hot fudge into the water. It will be liquidy and kind of dissolve. You have to keep boiling.

A few minutes later, the teaspoonful of fudge will make a squishy ball in the water but it will by almost too soft to pick up out of the water. In another minute or two, the fudge will make a soft ball that you can easily pick up. It should form into a ball but slightly flatten as it sits in your hand. When that happens, pull the pan off the burner. You did it! Now wasn't that easy? Just be sure to change our the water between tests and it's very important to sample the "tests" each time to be sure you got the recipe right. When the kids catch onto what you are doing then you have to share with them. Set the fudge aside to cool for 10 minutes without disturbing.

Now, roll up your sleeves and beat the dickens out of it with a wooden spoon. You have to beat it until you are sure your arm is about to fall off. As soon as it starts to get glossy and thick, stir in 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans. Stir them in quickly or it will set up in the skillet. Then as fast as you can, spread the fudge in a buttered 8 inch cake pan and let it cool. When you can't stand it anymore, turn it out onto a platter and cut it into pieces.

The final product will be determined by how close you get it to soft-ball stage. A little under, it will be creamy and soft, a little over and it will be firm. However it turns out it is delicious, even a "flop" will be devoured. Anyway you do it, it's part of our Christmas. I hope you try it, it might just become part of yours! Oh, don't forget to let any kid who happens to be around "clean" the pan with a spoon. They will love you forever.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Photo

There is some Christmas doll making going on over here. This doll is from a fun little book about making dolls from fleece. So very soft and cuddly. She and her sister are soon to be shipped off to my two little nieces. I think they will be well received!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Glamorous Tightwad

I have long been addicted to being a tightwad. You know it's bad when your mother-in-law stages an intervention. Part of my therapy has been to force myself to buy bread and salad dressing even though it cost considerably more than making it yourself. My progress has been inspiring, at least to myself it has.

Well, my new venture with buying stuff instead of making it myself like the proverbial Little Red Hen has taken a serious hit. A slam into a brick wall hit in the form of this book. Do It Gorgeously by Sophie Uliano, also author of Gorgeously Green and the website and blog, www. Gorgeously Green .com, has undermined all my progress. Her focus is on making your own products (think Pine Sol and insect repellent) to save money, be more "green", and reduce the toxins in our homes. I am hooked! So far I have made:

Green Goddess Washing Powder. Super easy to make and use.

Gentle Facial Exfoliating Scrub. Oatmeal and lavender, can't stop using it!

and All Purpose Cleaner. Makes cleaning the stove and counter easy and quick. I also tried her recipe for Best Ever Cough Syrup, Rinseless Car Wash,
and Gorgeously Green Purifying Green Clay Mask.

Up next is Chamomile and Aloe Cleansing Cream to go with Geranium and Apricot Moisturizer, Regenerative Floral Beauty Balm, Vanilla Body Cream, Whitening Peppermint Toothpaste,
Cough Drops and Citrus Furniture Polish. There's a bit of everything in here.

There is an initial cost on some of the recipes, especially the beauty products, since they use essential oils but they last for a long time. I have my list and will be purchasing things as the budget allows. So, here's to my new venture as a glamorous tightwad. I like the sound of that already!