Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Countdown is Accelerating!

Okay, so you know what they say about the best laid plans. So much for my 30-Day Countdown to Christmas - I missed two days completely! I guess it's now down to a 24-Day Countdown.

Thanksgiving Day and the Friday and Saturday afterward seemed to fly by. I barely got my thoughts together, let alone find time to write them down. We don't do the big dinner at our house. We are always invited elsewhere and only need to bring one or two dishes. This does make life easy but I often do wish we had the gang here. I've only had a crowd for Thanksgiving Day once in my own home and I loved it. I also really like the leftovers which there are none of when you eat elsewhere. To make up for it, we always do a whole Thanksgiving style meal for ourselves somewhere around the actual holiday. This year, we did it a few weeks early and did have a guest couple to share it with. As we were leaving for two weeks, we ended up freezing the last of the leftovers and had our own mini-Thanksgiving meal with those last Monday. We've already purchased another turkey for the freezer and will do our own Christmas feast soon, too.

We did enjoy our holiday meal with The Big Guy's brother and his family at their house and were glad to spend time with a niece and nephew we haven't caught up with much this year. They're at that age where they really don't "waste" a lot of time with us old folks. We had a second holiday celebration with my cousins and other family members on Friday when we attended a "Pie Party." A change from the usual full holiday meal, this year everyone was to bring a pie and some sort of finger food or appetizer. This one was fun with a wide array of desserts and a slew of creative nibbles. I intended to take a Peanut Butter Pie made from a recipe my sister has had for years and I've made a few times along the way. However, I started playing on the web looking for even more creative variations and found a better recipe.

I made a few adaptations and received rave reviews for this one. It's a keeper!

Peanut Butter Pie:

2 - 9"cookie crumb crusts (I used chocolate cookie crusts. Original recipe called for graham cracker crusts and another suggestion was to use crushed Nutter Butter cookies. All are wonderful ideas and should work just as well.)
8 oz. cream cheese (lite will work)
1 1/2 C confectioner's sugar
1 cup of milk
1 cup peanut butter
16 oz. Cool Whip (low fat or sugar free will work - although, in the case of the latter, why bother?)
10 oz. chopped peanut butter cups - divided in half

In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and sugar together. Beat in the peanut butter and milk. Fold in the Cool Whip. Stir in half of the chopped peanut butter cups. Fill both crusts with this mixture. Sprinkle the remaining pieces of peanut butter cups over the top of the pies. Chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours before serving. Original recipe called for freezing the pie which creates a more ice cream like consistency. Try one each way!!!


As for today's craft/gift idea, try a slight variation on gift baskets. I suggest aprons with pockets for a favorite cook. Spend a few minutes decorating the apron with paints, appliques or even just laundry markers. If the apron is for Grandma, try tracing each child's handprint and labeling each with their name and age. Decorations can be as simple as printing food words all over like: saute, bake, broil, fry, etc. Stuff the pockets with all the ingredients needed for a special meal - for example : pizza crust mix, a jar of tomato sauce, seasonings, a pizza cutter etc. Just before presenting the gift, add a package of shredded cheese and a pack of pepperoni. For a young cook without all the normal kitchen accessories, run through the dollar store and fill the apron with things like wooden spoons, spatulas, etc. Add some recipe cards with some simple, tried and true recipes. If the recipient isn't the apron type, try putting all the cooking accessories in an appropriate pan or even one of the reusable "green" shopping bags available in most markets.

Word to live by:

I watched Disney's Ratatouille for the first time yesterday and loved it! If you're into food or are a Food Network junkie, I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it, too. When the movie was over and they featured a few words from Walt Disney himself (Yes, I realize he died many years before this movie was ever imagined.), a phrase he used stuck with me and became my words of wisdom for the day -- "Always Move Forward!" Sounds like a great mantra!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas Countdown - 30 Days to Go!!

November 25th - one month till Christmas! Why can I never seem to be prepared. It happens at the same time every year and every year about this time, I start to panic. I made a list today of all the folks we need to get gifts together for. Some, I even have some ideas about. As usual, my goal is to make as many as possible. Which means I need to get myself in gear.

I had a long talk with a close friend today. They’ll probably be coming to visit for a few days a week or two before Christmas. I’d love to have the house and, specifically, the guest room all decked out for the holidays by then. Unfortunately, that only leaves a couple of weeks. Who am I fooling? They know I’ve never been ready ahead of time. (We’re such close friends because neither has she!)

I started out strong this morning but then I lost steam and, now, I’m way behind my goals for the day. It’s not looking promising for the week either. If I stay up till 3 or 4 in the morning tonight, I might catch up but then I’ll be too tired to keep up tomorrow.

Thought for the day -

** Don’t forget to say “I love you.” Be sure to kiss your man goodnight every night.**
I’m one of those women who usually sort of vaguely waves goodnight most of the time and I’m trying real hard to overcome that urge. I’m not sure he has really noticed!


Okay, I promised a craft idea each day of the Christmas Countdown -

***Painted Placemats: PICTURED ABOVE

No matter how craft challenged you are, you can make a nice personalized set of placemats.

If you don’t sew, or just don’t have time to make your own, buy some inexpensive cotton placemats in your local discount store. I’ve often found appropriate ones in Big Lots, Kmart and Walmart for $1 - $1.50 each. At that price, it’s not worth making my own.

If you are going to sew your own, choose a sturdy washable solid color for one side and a matching or coordinating fabric for the back. Cut appropriate sized rectangles from both fabrics. (For a set of 4, you will need four rectangles of each.) You will then turn these face sides together, and stitch around the edges, leaving a gap for turning. Whipstitch that space closed and press flat. ***I suggest decorating before stitching the layers together.

My decorating method of choice is painting with fabric paints. There are several types of fabric paint available at your local craft store and all are easy to use. Some come in a tube with a writing point to them (one brand name is Scribbles), some come in jars to be brushed on with a paint brush. You can even buy paint pens designed for use on fabric.

You don’t need to be an artist to paint something of interest. You can copy a basic picture from a coloring book or a card you like. Trace it onto each placemat and simply paint as if coloring in the coloring book. Be sure to stay in the lines. Stencils and iron-on designs are also available at your local craft store. In fact, you can simply buy an iron-on design and iron it on. The less work required of you, the more money it will cost you.

Still too complicated? Simply use the Scribbles or paint pens and write holiday greetings on the placemat - “Merry Christmas”, “Joyeux Noel”, “Felix Navidad”, etc. Do a decorative squiggle here and there and call it done.

You can turn out several sets of these in just a few hours.

Newsflash: Missing blogger finds her way back!!

O.K., so I’ve been MIA for awhile. I missed most of September, all of October and now 4/5 of November. I had originally planned to blog a little each day but life has gotten in the way. When it comes to the important things in life, family and their needs, home duties and flesh and blood friends need to come first. So, while I found a few minutes here and there to jot down some thoughts in my journal, I really didn’t find time to settle in at the keyboard and blog for all. I hope to be on track again now and hope to really get this blog in shape.

I’d like to do a 30-days to Christmas countdown with a craft or decorating idea each day. By doing so, maybe I’ll get my act together on time this year. Is there anybody out there who really is completely ready and has done everything they wanted for the holiday by the time they break out the wine on Christmas Eve? Or do many of us simply take a deep breath and say, “It is what it is.”

Ultimately, I’d like to share a thought or commentary, the craft of the day, maybe share a laugh or an “Ahh” moment, maybe even a recipe on a daily basis. I’m still not too technically savvy so this may not come across as polished as I’d like. I need to learn how to post pics on the blog. I think it’s possible but I need to find a preteen who can give me step-by-step instructions.

The Big Guy is finally returning to work tomorrow. He’s been off with his knee surgery for 15 weeks. (Now, you know why my schedule was way off!) We’ve done some major maintenance work on the house over the last few weeks. Followed by two weeks on the road to visit The Big Guy’s family in the Midwest. His mom is struggling but hanging in there. His sister is doing her best to maintain her own sanity and she and her hubby took a much needed break, leaving us to Mom-Sit for a few days. Unfortunately, the 1200 miles in between make it difficult for us to do this more than twice a year. Now that I’m home, it’s time to settle in and get busy making those Christmas gifts.

My online shop, is really slow at the moment so I don’t have a lot of holiday orders to handle there. I wish I did but it has been slow to catch on. The few orders I’m working on have been from family and friends, not the website. It’s one of those to do things for the winter. I really need to learn to promote the site.