Thursday, December 29, 2011

For the Sake of Auld Lang Syne

Last post for the year 2011.  I've been doing a bit of housecleaning today and listening to DIE TOTEN HOSEN's very upbeat version of the song Auld Lang Syne.  I like easing myself into the new year, no sense waiting until the last minute.

This afternoon is my calendar day. I've gathered my calendars, including my phone (hopefully the little alarm will keep me on track this year!), and now I'm transferring birthday reminders, dentist appointments, and other wild and crazy activities I've already signed up for, and I'm making plans for 2012.

The human heart may plan a course, but it is Yahweh who makes the steps secure.
Proverbs 16.9 (NJB)

If I can remember to treat each day as a gift and just enjoy and graciously accept them as they come, maybe I can make my part of the world a little better.  I plan to try new nail polishes, moisturize more often, and a thousand other things.  That's what's so great about a new year!  It's a starting point to begin again, to try new things, to remind ourselves to just live.

Also, I plan to finish projects, start new ones, and read about your adventures - which gives me a chance to see our world in hundreds of different ways.  Thanks for making life so interesting and giving me great ideas - I'll try to remember to give each of you credit when I use your creativity.  (Feel free to call me on it if I fail to do this.)  I'm looking forward to learning what's at the top of your "To Do List" for 2012.

This time of year gives us all a chance to recall the past year - good, bad and wonderful - for the sake of auld lang syne?  Or maybe it's a chance to give thanks for all we have come through and all we have been given.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful and blessed 2012.  Thanks for joining me on my adventures, see you next year!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stop Me If You've Heard This

Have you ever sat reading a blog and thought you've just read this?  This time of year it's amazing how we're all starting to sound alike.  MERRY CHRISTMAS.  Next week we'll be HAPPY NEW YEARing and I'm guessing early in January some will start to get organized, while others will work on loosing weight... I know, I know, some will attempt both and raise chickens and children.  I love blogging.

Well, have you ever sat in church and thought, "I've read this somewhere else..." ? Every so often I'll read Luke 16:19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus and I always get a funny feeling I've heard this before and not as a reading from the New Testament. 

It's a story Jesus told his followers about a rich (unnamed) man and poor Lazarus.  The rich man has everything and more and Lazarus has nothing.  They both died and the poor man ended up in the bosom of Abraham and the rich man got Hades.  From his very warm perch the rich man looks up and sees Paradise and asks for a bit of water but there is no way to give him comfort.  So he asks for someone to go and warn his brothers so they don't end up like him.  But he is told that his brothers have Moses and the prophets.  The rich man had Moses and the prophets too and he was in misery so he asked to have someone from the dead go visit his brothers.  The story ends with Abraham telling the rich man, "If they will not listen to Moses or the prophets they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead."

The first thing that jumps out at me is - wait a minute, Abraham was rich. The second thing is not all poor people are sweet and loving and good. And, finally, the thing that really gets me going is... this story sounds like Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

From my bookshelf, a Christmas present from Marylyn (1996), tree skirt by me (2010)

Well, Mr. Dickens didn't send Moses and the prophets, he sent people from Scrooge's past (that's right - a few rose from the dead). You know the story - Scrooge saw kindness, gentleness, generosity, forgiveness, joy, goodness towards his fellow man. The ghost from the future brought home Scrooge's fears and a glimpse at the evil we can do to one another when we forget we're all in this together.

You may not have time to read the book this Christmas, but in a pinch the movies will do.  My favorite version is titled "Scrooge" (here in the US it is also called "A Christmas Carol") and stars Alastair Sims from 1951. 

From IMDb

The George C. Scott version of "A Christmas Carol" from 1974 is good, too.

From IMDb

And if you're in the mood for the musical version go with 1992's "The Muppet Christmas Carol" starring Kermit the Frog and Michael Caine.

From IMDb

I haven't studied Charles Dickens' life enough to know where the inspiration for A Christmas Carol came from and I am just guessing that he sat in church one day and heard the passage from Luke.  Still, here we are reading each others blogs and thinking, how many different ways can we say "Merry Christmas?" and with each happy post we get a glimpse of the same subject with a slightly different take on it.

I hope you get a chance to experience this classic tale in some form and that you will feel there is redemption and hope for everyone and, of course, I hope you believe that mankind is your business.

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cookies

Vanille Kipferl or Vanilla Crescents is a cookie I learned to make
when we were living in Germany. 
I only saw them in the bakeries and shops during Advent
so I only make them this time of year. 

These are easy to make, they taste very good, and if you can't find ground almonds buy them whole and grind them in your food processor - or use a Salad Shooter.  This recipe makes 5 or 6 dozen cookies - lots for you and some to give away.

2 cups & 2 Tablespoons of flour
2/3 cup of sugar
3 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups of ground almonds
1 cup & 1 Tablespoon of butter
1 Tablespoon of Vanilla

Put all ingredients into your mixing bowl.

After two minutes of mixing.

  After four minutes of mixing.

After about 4 or 5 minutes of mixing you can squish the dough with you fingers and ...

...form a big ball.

Now the dough is ready to make into crescent shapes. 
Some people start with a ball, some start with a straight bit of dough. 
You can make them however you want to. 
Try to keep them all about the same size, this will help them cook evenly. 

Bake on lightly greased cookie sheets (or use parchment paper to line the cookies sheets).  Bake at 350 for 11-13 minutes.  Some of the cookies will be lightly brown just on the edges.

One minute after you take the cookies out of the oven, roll them in sugar (you'll need approximately 1/3 cup sugar to roll the cookies in, so have some extra sugar standing by).  Please note this time I used a mix of granulated sugar and "sparkling sugar" - this stuff really sparkles. 

Then put them on a rack to cool. 

I let them cool a few hours or over night before packing them away.  
These will taste better the next day and will still be good next week.  

I like to store them in tins
(Christmas tins, of course).

One more thing:  Thank you Granny Sue's News and Reviews .  I commented on one of her posts and won a lavender sachet.  How easy was that?! 

How sweet is this?! 

I hope you are having a wonderful week. 

What's your favorite Christmas cookie?


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lost in Quilting

I seriously like to quilt.  Is there anything better than creating something?  I was reading blogs a week or so back and came across Occupy Your Quilt Room.  Sounded like a great idea.  Take a day and do nothing but quilt then blog about it.  Added bonus:  Link in to Cat Patches  and you have a chance to win prizes any quilter would enjoy receiving.

I chose Wednesday, December 7th.  Husband out of town, all quiet at home.  So I worked - ironing, cutting, sewing, ironing...   BONUS!  I had my favorite old movies playing in the background.  I had a sandwich for lunch, don't remember what time that was (isn't it great when what you're doing has your complete attention?).  Around 8:30 p.m. I got hungry again and wandered into the kitchen.  I started planning my post to describe all the gifts I was making (yes, both of them) and then it dawned on me.

Extreme close up so no one will know what it is.
I can't post pictures because my friends will see what they are getting.  Maybe I'll just do a little something and show bits and pieces.  I went back to the dining room table (my quilt room these days) and realized I was still hungry. 

I walked back into the kitchen glanced at my calendar and noticed "MAKE, BAKE & CREATE @ SHERRI'S 6:30."   I had just missed out on one of my favorite parties of the year.  A gathering of friends to celebrate the season, catch up on each others' lives and have fun.  We even raise money for charity by auctioning off items we've made, baked, created or bought.  This group of friends is special, we've done it for years, it's probably our silliest night of the year and I missed it.

2012 will be my year to get more organized.  Or maybe it's the year I'll put everything on the calendar in my phone and just have it chiming away to remind me when to get up, when to go to bed and what I should be doing in between those activities.

Thanks to Barbara at Cat Patches - for encouraging and inspiring me to make more time to quilt.

And to my friends at OLC Circle - I love you all.  Sorry about missing the party, I hope to see you in May. 


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In a Jam

Saturday morning I gathered up canning jars, lids, and ten pounds of sugar, went to Cindy's house, and we made pepper jam.  We were supervised by her 12 year-old daughter, Mary Payton.  MP used the time to visit with us, study for her mid-terms, and mend a broken Santa.  Besides making pepper jam, Cindy and I used this time to visit - one of the many bonuses of working with a friend.

Beautiful Color:  Use caution when eating - it's still got a bite! 

The first time we did this we used red, yellow and orange bell peppers with the jalapeno peppers.  It gave the jelly a red glow.  This time we used more yellow than orange peppers and no red ones - it made the jelly light and beautiful.  

The jalapeno peppers were sooo hot!
While we were seeding them we had to quit talking
- just for a minute or two! -
 because they were making us cry
(This photo was taken by MP, thank you!).

17 medium jalapeno peppers, 1 orange bell pepper, 6 yellow bell peppers - finely chopped in the food processor.  We put them in a bowl and mixed them together until we liked the way the colors looked.  We used this for all three batches of jam.

For each batch:
2 3/4 cups finely chopped peppers
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
6 1/2 cups of sugar
1 pouch CERTO

We followed the directions that came with the CERTO, got our jars and lids ready ahead of time and in just over an hour we had our first batch of pepper jam.

We used the Sure Jell CERTO (Liquid Fruit Pectin) to make sure our peppers became jam. 
The instructions and recipes are in these little boxes.

We worked for almost 3 hours and made 3 dozen jars of jam.  Notice that a lot of them are the 4 ounce jars - just right for a little gift. 

I left Cindy and MP and went home to listen for the popping sound of all my jars sealing up.  It was a happy sound. 

This was our second time to make jelly together. It's not that hard, the results are delicious, and if you can get a friend to join in not only will you make jelly or jam, you'll make memories. 

What's cooking in your kitchen?


Friday, December 9, 2011

Good Morning Secret Santa!

Guess what was waiting for me at my front door this morning? 

That's right - Godiva Chocolates. 

What a nice surprise. 

Which one of my family or friends sent me this little treasure?  

It's from my Secret Santa!  Thank you! 

Funny thing, the only time I was away from the house yesterday was my trip to the post office to mail a package to my SSS partner.  This lovely gift was shipped by FED EX - who visits our side of town late in the day.  Yes, I am now trying to figure out who my SS is...  I feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes, or Nancy Drew, or Inspector Clouseau...

I love coincidences, in yesterday's mail I got my
Godiva's Christmas Catalog.  So just after lunch I was thinking how wonderful a chocolate would be - just to help me with my quilting projects... 

(Please note:  I am OCCUPYING MY QUILT ROOM - currently that's the dining room table. 
Godiva is here to keep me company.  Wonder how long she will stay?)

Who ever you are and where ever you are right now -
thank you. 

God bless your pre-Christmas adventures. 

Hope you are receiving a gift that makes you smile.

Merry Christmas from Texas & me...

.................. oh, please, this is just a bit of quality control...........

....... it was wonderful!

Thanks, Secret Santa!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Orange Balls

One of my favorite gifts - giving or receiving - is a little something homemade.  During the Christmas season I like to make several different types of cookies and put them on a beautiful, paper plate - it's a great gift.  Thanks are said, cookies are eaten, crumbs swept away and - TA DA - nothing to store or dust or figure out how to re-gift.

Every cookie I make has a simple or cute name and life is easy... except for ORANGE BALLS.  Christmas 1985 these were given to me by my friend, Marsha.  I got the recipe and Christmas 1986 I added them to my cookie gifts - I should have come up with a different name for them.   When asked by lucky recipients what they've got in their mouths - I've seen grown men almost choke - either to keep from laughing or because the name worries them a bit.  If you've ever seen the "Saturday Night Live" Christmas time skit with Alex Baldwin as Pete Schweddy you can imagine that this simple, no bake cookie can be complicated. 

Here, in all their glory, are my Orange Balls.

Here's the recipe I used for years.

Simple ingredients, simple recipe, unfortunately over the years companies have changed the amounts in the boxes, but I've adapted.  Here's my recipe for the last few years:

11 oz. of Vanilla Wafers - crushed
11 oz. of Powdered Sugar
5 oz. of orange juice concentrate (frozen - just let it sit on the counter a few minutes and get soft)
14 oz. shredded, sweeten coconut

Mix crushed vanilla wafers and powdered sugar, add orange juice - mix together until the mixture looks sort of like cookie dough.  You can mix with your hands, this is messy, but it can be fun.  Or you can use a spoon.

 Shape into one inch balls and roll in shredded coconut.

Place on cookie sheet covered with wax (or freezer) paper and refrigerate. Makes approximately 4 dozen.

I store these in the fridge and drop a few on my cookie plates - usually they are eaten before I have a chance to tell friends to keep them refrigerated until they are ready to eat them.  They've got orange juice in them, call me crazy but I just think orange juice should be cold.  Besides, the coconut makes me think of snow and snow should be cold.

The days are speeding by, help slow them down.  Stop for a minute think about something that made you happy and just let yourself smile.  No one will see - it's only for a minute.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tag or Label

A quarter of a century ago, I started collecting (keeping - refusing to throw away - hoarding) the beautiful Christmas cards sent to me.  They have followed me everywhere in my Christmas decorations boxes.  This year I've decided to purge them.  Only I couldn't just dump them in the recycle bin.  They are beautiful.  A few I've saved - and written on the back of each why I chose to save it, that way in years to come my children won't look at all my junk and talk about how they hope insanity isn't hereditary.  The ones I can let go of are about to become functional art in the form of labels.  Or do you call them gift tags?

One of the many blogs I follow, A Spot on Cedar Pond by KathyB, has inspired me with her post Messiest Room in the House Re-Do (Craft Room) - no, I'm not back hard at work on my sewing/craft room, that will have to wait.  What caught my eye was her clever use of cute tags.  KathyB used tags to mark some of the folders and boxes in her craft room.  And while I just don't see myself making fuzzy sheep, I like what she's done with her space and her tags/labels. 

Today I visited my local Michael's Craft Store and purchased a JUMBO Lever Punch that punches out a tag/label shape.  I've been watching their weekly sales and it was almost half price (hello new toy!). 

Pick a card, any card...

I'll start with this one, I have two - from the same Christmas - that's why I originally kept them -
the two people who sent the same card are as different as night & day --
 must have been a big seller a few years back.  Found another one!  I have three of these... 

You can take a few minutes and neatly figure out which part you want on your tags/labels or you can just cut out a tag/label and take what ever comes.  If you turn the punch over you can see exactly what you're about to punch out - makes fussy cuts easier.

You simply stick paper in, punch, and out slides a label or a tag - you can call it whatever you want to call it. 

Then I used a little heart shaped hole punch near the top and added a piece of ribbon.  Now I'm making labels and tags out of everything. A little more practice, and a some glue, and bits and pieces of sweet nothings will make my tags/labels even cuter.  I like the fact that this craft can be as simple or as complicated as I want to make it. It gives me a chance to create a little something, a quick craft project and then I'm done. 

For years I have bought the little stick-on "To & From" tags. Now I can make my own, with things I already have around the house. The few I've made this evening look better than most of the the labels I've purchased in the past - and I haven't 'jazzed them up' yet. It makes me happy that I'm creating a little something using what I have on hand.   

I figure if I can do this anyone can.

PLEASE NOTE:  I'm just telling you about a product I like and how I've used it.  The only money that changed hands was at Michael's this morning (they took my money, I got their Lever Punch).

Because this is so easy I'm going to take the rest of the night off and watch a Christmas movie and (maybe) get the lights on the tree. 


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Under the Influence of a Blog

Christmas Day
long ago and far away...

I am no where near putting up the tree,
but be of good cheer - don't worry about me,
I've spent the day cleaning with the songs of the season,
And after hours of 'Jingle Bells' my mind can not reason.

I leave you now to sleep, dream, and snore,
Tomorrow I hope to finish housework and chores.
Then I will decorate, gifts I will wrap,
and I promise
this post sounds like crap.


This feeble attempt at poetry was caused by 
Suzanne, COLORADOLADY, who mentioned
and I watched and can tell you honestly, 
Dr. Seuss and blogging is a dangerous combination. 

 For Vintage Thingy Thursday I'm going with
vintage Christmas Music.

I could listen to Christmas music all year long.  I sang Christmas carols and songs to my babies when I got tired of lullabies  - I could only remember the first verse of most lullabies and my babies never were asleep after one verse... or one song.  

These days I try to wait and only listen during Advent (maybe a week or so before) until about the first week of January.  With the events of the last  few weeks I'm off to a slow start and just started listening on Tuesday. 

Once the music starts I get in the mood to clean the house and decorate for Christmas. I figure anything that can make me want to clean house is truly amazing and (maybe) even a miracle...