Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Time To Relax

Christmas is over and we wait for 2009 to come to an end and the new year of 2010 to begin. It always amazes me how quickly the holidays pass. The house along with Mike and I are recovering from the celebration of Christmas. No need to rush around this week. I had hoped to make it into the city at some point. I love to visit downtown and walk along Michigan Avenue during the Christmas season. The hustle and bustle is exciting for a little while and then it's nice to return to the quiet of home. There won't be time this year.

We are preparing to leave for the Northwoods of Wisconsin on Wednesday. Several family members are traveling up to Camp Nawakwa again to spend a few days amongst the beauty of the wintry woods. This area has a distinctive look during each season. The winter is can be fierce, but absolutely beautiful.

Just as the family has shared a week in August each summer up north, it has become a tradition to spend New Year's Eve there.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone

It was a quiet evening here. Everything seems to be in place for tomorrow. It will become very busy and hectic early, but tonight we are enjoying calm and quiet!

Another evening of watching Christmas movies like "White Christmas", "Holiday Inn", "Miracle on 34th St.", "It's a Wonderful Life" and of course " A Christmas Carol".

We are back from attending Midnight Mass at St. Mary's in Elgin. The church dates back to the late 1800's. It's in an area that has many beautiful old house build around that same time. It's a tradition that just before the Mass is over the lights in church are turned off, with only the soft glow of the lighted trees and nativity cast light, while the congregation and choir sings "Silent Night".

Wishing all my family and friends the Merriest Christmas. Enjoy the moments in anyway possible. It's the moments that are important not the things.

I hope to share some photos of the gathering tomorrow.

It's Almost Here!

Another quick post before off to do some last minute things. We are having a variety of weather here. First it was snow, then sleet, changing over to freezing rain and now rain.

Yesterday was a good day to be inside and I took advantage of it. Finished decorating the gingerbread train that is first a decoration and then a treat for the kids (everyone).

Wanted to share a photo of it sitting on the dining room table. The neat fluffy snow around it will be a hit with the kids (everyone). It's fun stuff, almost feels real, but doesn't melt.

More Christmas movies and music all day today! Enjoy your last minute hassle and bustle!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Work Continues

Taking time to make a post. There is still lots to take care of, but it all seems to be coming together. Cleaning starts today. Tables are up and being set for the crowd on Friday. Did I mention that there will be 35 here for dinner?

With any amount more than a dozen, you have to improvise. Thank heaven I can mix and match my dishes and extras to help make the setting fit the celebration. Mike made small versions of wooden reindeer for our table decorations, I then added pine cones and candles. When you have to mix and match everything you need to use for such a crowd, it's a challenge. Trying to stay away from paper and plastic for easy clean up is also a challenge. I purchased several yards of white muslin (while on sale at JoAnn's) for a base covering for the tables. Will do the same next year and make reusable napkins. Yards of burlap in two colors of green, were recycled for added coverings. I cut it into squares and fringed the edges.

We have tried to make our unfinished basement into a festive setting for our dinner. (My hope is that next year this section of the basement will be finished.)

I made ornaments for each, that also is a "place card". Gingerbread men for the kids, paper wreaths for the guys, and tinseled balls for the ladies.

A tree sits on an old trunk, lit up with clear lights and icicles. Various strands of Christmas lights are strung across the ceiling.

More as Christmas draws closer.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Day's A Coming ...

It's getting closer! Still working on details for the big day on Friday. It's been sometime since I have posted photos, but I will again soon. I had to finish up several projects the past two days for Beacon Adhesives. They are pieces that will be on display in their booth at the CHA trade show in January.

So now it's back to finishing up the table setting and making the place cards for each person. I made "paper clay" gingerbread men ornaments for the kids, origami wreaths for the guys and tinseled glass ball ornaments for the ladies. Mike made several small wooden reindeers for the tables. Are unfinished basement is taking on a festive look. Once everything is in place, I will be taking several photos and share the ideas with you.

Final decisions for food are being taken care of. Coordinating side dishes and more with other family members. We are looking forward to having the family here on Friday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One Week!

Christmas Day is one week from tomorrow! Yikes! What happened to all the time? Why do these weeks just seem to fly by? It only makes me glad that I did decide to decorate the house earlier than usual and try to stay ahead of the rush.

Everyday has been so busy with running here and there, helping others in a variety of ways, baking, making grocery lists, preparing for Christmas dinner, visiting with friends, listening to Christmas music, watching holiday films, and finishing up projects.

Yesterday Mike and I helped out at my brother's parish for a few hours. The parish runs a food pantry, but at this time of year when the people come, they can also pick up gifts for their children. We helped with the sorting of toys and other goodies for the kids. It was overwhelming to see the donations from people. In this time of hardship for so many, it is so wonderful to see the giving nature of others. Seeing the people waiting outside as we left to run more errands left me with a variety of emotions. As Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, everyone!"

We hope that in this new year we can offer to help out at the food pantry from time to time.
At this special time of year I can't help but realize how lucky our family is.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cookies And More Cookies

Because of some unexpected situations and schedules, the usual process for baking had to be adapted this year. Though we were thrown a curve, we prevailed and accomplished quite a bit.

With Amy baking several varieties of cookies at home and with the varieties that I made on my own, we ended up with a good assortment to get us through the holiday. We have divided them among Ali, Amy and myself.

Let's list the varieties we made: Butter Cut-Outs, Spritz Trees, Chocolate Shot, Pecan Logs, Chocolate Spice Drops, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Mint Brownie Squares, Coconut Patties, Raspberry Thumbprints, White Chocolate Drops, Christmas Candy Stacks, Dipped Pretzels Rods, Sweet & Spicy Pecans.

Not as many as past years, but still not bad! Now to put the finishing touches on the Gingerbread Train that I'm making for the centerpiece.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


It's come to my attention that people are having trouble posting comments.
I will be trying to find out why this is happening. Now that my blog posts
will be showing on facebook, those who are facebook friends, please post
your comments there. I would love to hear what you have to say. I'm open
to any suggestions. Those who just check out the blog from time to time, but
are not on facebook, till I find out the answer to this problem, post using
"anonymous", but also leave your name.

I really want to hear from you!

Day 12 - Deck the Halls

The house has been decked out for a few weeks now. With an early start, the house is looking truly festive for Christmas, indoors and out. There are still some things to do before the big day. I will continue to share photos and information of others things that are planned.

The list of family for dinner on Christmas day is continuing to grow. Getting ready for this group has already begun. Work has started on getting the basement in order for the crowd. I'll be sharing the set-up, table settings and decorations. Getting the menu set for this group, is also in the works and would like to share some of the offerings. Something is being made for each of the children as part of the table settings.

Hope you will continue to check out the blog to see what else is happening. It's truly a busy time.

"There's no place like home for the holiday..."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 11 - Oh Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree is usually the focal piece in every home during this season. What type of tree is your favorite, how do you decorate it, what kind of lights do you use? Many questions to contemplate concerning this one Christmas symbol.

Up until this year we have always had a "live" tree, except for our very first Christmas that we were married. Getting married a little more than a month before Christmas and living in a small apartment, with not much furniture, we borrowed an "aluminum tree" from relatives. It was decorated with red glass ball ornaments. Every year after that, the tree was green and fresh!
I must admit that I would love to have one of those retro tree now.

For several years we would travel to a tree farm and cut our own tree. With two young children it became easier to purchase one closer to home. As the children grew, they became involved with Indian Guides and Princesses. During that time trees were purchased through the "Y program" as a fund raiser. As they grew older, we found another organization that sold trees, with profits going to a good cause. As the family started to grow with new members, we once again would travel as a family to a tree farm and cut our own trees. As you can see, finding a Christmas tree was something special.

We have come to a point in our lives that we feel (with much apprehension) that we need to go the "artificial" route. So we purchased one that we felt looked as real as possible. Decorating it became the next decision. "Simple" was my main goal. Red poinsettias, white berry sprays, pinecones and glittery snowflakes were chosen, topped off with a handmade angel.

Our favorite tree was a balsam fir. We loved its shape and its scent. We would fill it with ornaments collected and made over the years.

There are other trees around the house for decorations. They come in all sizes and varieties.
"Oh Christmas Tree ... how lovely are your branches."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 10 - Nativity Sets

Christmas has many symbols. The one that is truly the reason for this special day is a simply three figures, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus.

Nativity sets come in an amazing array of styles and sizes. Last year we visited a display of Nativities at small Art studio in downtown Chicago. It was a private collection of sets from around the world and different areas of our country. Each set was very unique to the area of the artist that created them.

During this season we have several different version on display. Photos show four; a simple outside set, a traditional manger with a shepherd and kings, a collectable set and a small hand-carved wooden piece.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 9 - Santa

The bearded guy with the red suit is definitely been a Christmas holiday symbol. A variety of Santa's can be found in our decorations.

I don't like to overdue one symbol over another. A nice blend of Christmas themes are on display. During these last few days of ideas I will be sharing them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 8 - Fun Stuff

Since I'm in the process of baking cookies and making other treats, I will be showing some things in my kitchen and even share a recipe. Yesterday I spent most of the day baking three different batches of cookies. In the past few years cookie making has been done with my daughter and daughter-in-law. This year because of schedules we are doing things a little different.

Last week I mixed up four different cookie recipes. We are baking large batches of cookies on our own. Over this coming week-end we will be having our own cookie swap, with each of us ending up with enough cookies for sharing.

The forecast is for snow showers during the day and more wintry weather tonight into morning. Hope that a few more treats can be completed today.

There is one easy candy that we make each year and will share it with you. It's been around for some time. To make them look a bit more special, the mixture will be placed into little decorative paper cups. We have adapted this recipe to increase the amount of candy.
Christmas Candy - Makes 2 dozen( if dropped by teaspoon full)
1 (12 oz.) package Chocolate Chips (semi-sweet)
1 (12 oz.) package Butterscotch Chips
Combine both chips and melt in double boiler. (They can be melted in a microwave.)
1 (3 oz.) can Chow Mein Noodles
1 (12 oz.) can peanuts ( I chop the peanuts a little.)
Add Chow Mein noodles and peanuts to melted mixture and stir well. Drop by
teaspoon onto a buttered cookie sheet. Refrigerate until firm. (I use a small spoon to
drop the mixture into the paper cups and the chill till firm.)
Photos are some of the fun things I have on display in the kitchen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 7 - Fabric & Stitches

Pillows, blankets, quilts, rugs and any other item that uses fabric, threads or yarns can speak "Christmas", so add them where you can.

Pillows made from "silhouette" designed fabric that I have had for years, became two decorative pillows. A quilted, appliqued wall quilt replaces another framed piece during the holidays. Cross-stitched holiday greetings (made by my mother many years ago) hang in place both for their messages and remembrance.

One of the first fabric decoration that I made the first year of marriage was a tissue cover that looks like a gingerbread house. There are some patterns out there for simple covers. Simple placemats made of holiday prints can be made even without sewing. Try layering two fabrics with a product called "Heat n Bond", then cut with decorative scissors.

There are also felted table runners or squares that adorn some tables. Felt a design on squares of felt and hand stitch two pieces together and stuff ... special pillows.

I'm hoping to have time to finish up a "Log Cabin" quilt that I made just for this season to have on display by Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 6 - Stockings Are Hung...

(Should have had this post ready last night for publishing, but we attended a wedding. So it was a late night and too tired.)

Today is December 6th, which is the feast of St. Nicholas. Growing up, the night before, we would hang up a stocking before going to sleep. The next morning we would find a small treat in our stocking. I'm not sure if this tradition still goes on today, but our stockings are up. We now have a fireplace where we can hang stockings. Though our family is grown and no longer living with us, we still hang stockings for each of us and the family pets.

Our first stockings were large ones that I made from fabric. I used "green" fabric for the guys and "red" fabric for the girls. Each stocking had a top cuff from white fabric with a eyelet lace trim. I then embroidered each name in the appropriate color. As the family grew with marriages and grandchildren another stocking was added. Our family golden retriever had his own "bone" stocking. It was funny how he would sniff out the treats that we would place inside.
In our old home, we had a wood burning Franklin stove, so we had to hang our stocking along the stair case each year. With a garland of greens, wrapped with lights, framing the stairs, the stockings became a holiday decoration that would stand out in our family room.

We now have stockings that I made from wool felt. The larger stockings represented the members living in our new home. (At the time of our move.) The smaller ones for the rest of the family and two "bones" for the family dogs.

I designed my own patterns on brown grocery bags. (Making the pattern about a 1/4" larger than the finished size.) Cut shape from felt with good sharp scissors. Using felt glue from Beacon, run a bead of glue around the edges of the stockings, DO NOT glue the top closed. Let the stockings dry. Before embellishing, cut around the edge using pinking shears. Glue rick rack around the top edge. Made bows, add a jingle bell and tags with names. Sew or glue these on. Add a jute hanger to each and hang along the mantle. Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 5 - Ribbons & Bows

A simple idea to dress up several things around the house during the holidays is ... Ribbon.
Ribbons can be recycled from year to year for
either the same places or new ones.

I do like to use a variety of different designs, sizes and colors. The wired ribbons are easy to work with and are easy to shape. There is no need to make big, fancy, loopy bows, but at some point it's good to learn how to make them. Simple bows tied on, with long tails look great on most things. Tie ribbons on the handles of baskets or around the lampshades to dress them up a little bit. I have tied bows around the bed posts in both our guest room and on the end posts of our poster bed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 4 - Greens & More

So what would Christmas be without evergreens, holly, pinecones and pointsettas?

To me they all shout "Christmas time is here!" Whether they be real plants or artificial, they add a festive touch anywhere in the home. Add them anywhere and everywhere. I have many artificial stems that I can reuse every year. Place them into containers that are already filled with dried naturals. Baskets are filled with holly or pointsetta's .

Try some sprays of live evergreen boughs or holly sprigs in fun containers. Fill the containers with green floral foam and fill with water, then arrange the sprays. Add water daily as needed.
Buy some small pots of pointsetta's and mass the pots onto a tray that is covered with "snow-like" batting or in a deep container like a wire basket or enamel washpan.

Day 3 - Sweet Stuff

Today's post will be a bit shorter only because most of today is was spent at my son's house, babysitting my granddaughter while he and his father are painting their HUGE family room/kitchen in their new home.

I wanted to get this post ready for publishing late last night, but I was pretty tired after babysitting and getting some more cookie dough made in advance for baking this week-end.

Now onto some more ideas for decorating.

I have always liked gingerbread houses. I have made many forms of "gingerbread" houses. Not being a huge fan of ginger cookies I made my buildings using other edible items. In most cases I started with a heavy cardboard frame. Once the frame was made it would be frosted and then the construction would begin. Several times graham crackers were used as the base, others were constructed using pretzel rods for a more rustic appearence. The pre-made houses that are available cannot be over looked. I have used them several times in recent years, but added extra embellished to them myself. They are fun to do and they don't have to become a big project. Every time we have had one, they were enjoyed by all.

The posted photo is of a "gingerbread" dollhouse that I built a number of years ago. It started with a basic small kit that I then designed for a permanent holiday decoration that everyone loves to look at. The fireplace, chair and couch were all handmade pieces, as well as many of the small items.

Whether edible or "faux", gingerbread is a nice extra in the holiday decor. This year I will be making a gingerbread train because we will have many little ones here on Christmas and I think they will enjoy a train covered and filled with goodies!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 2 Idea - Music & Movies

A big part of the holiday in this house is Christmas music and Christmas movies. They are on display at our house every Christmas season. We keep them close at hand for listening and viewing. I have recycled an old dollhouse to hold CD's and movie DVD's and tapes. At this time of year it is filled with seasonal items.

The music started playing over a week ago. We have played about half of our collection. I have at least 9 hours of Christmas music downloaded on our Mac and the collection continues to grow. I never get tired of hearing holiday music and each year I look forward to listening for new releases of different versions. I do try to add at least one new CD each year. The library has a very wide selection of holiday music that can be checked out. This year's new CD is Andrea Bocelli's "My Christmas". His voice is just amazing and the songs he sings are an interesting variety. Last years selection was Josh Groban's "Noel". It is still available and it's a great one.

Next comes our collection of movies. Again, each year there is usually some type of Christmas movie released, but my favorites are the "classic" holiday movies. Nothing is better than "Holiday Inn", "Miracle on 34th Street", "White Christmas", "The Bells of St. Mary's", "Christmas in Connecticut", "A Christmas Carol" and of course, " It's a Wonderful Life". I would have to add modern holiday tales like "Christmas Vacation", "Polar Express", "Santa Clause" (One, Two and Three), "Home Alone" (One & Two) and the "Muppets Christmas Carol".

So if you haven't seen any of the movies I listed, try renting one or check one out at the library or order one from Netflix. Then curl up on your couch with a nice mug of hot chocolate and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Let The Decorating Begin

Tis the season for holiday decorations! For the next twelve days I will be posting a photo or more of decorations throughout our house. Each day I will focus on one idea or theme. I hope to include as much information, to help with some fun ideas, to bring simple ideas to your own homes.

After the first twelve days of December pass, I will continue to post ideas and photos of my preparations for Christmas Day's family gathering at our home. These posts will probably include cookie baking, candy making, easy gift making, table setting ideas and whatever else I can share with you.

So today, before entering through the front door, I will share some decorations that visitors will see.

The one thing I love about our new house is the front porch. It's appearance changes during the seasons, just like the weather. At this time of year it shows signs of the season. We love the use of lights at this time, but try not to overdo it. Our preference is "clear" miniature lights. Garland lights outline the porch and garage area, in a scalloped fashion. A white wire tree stands near the front door with wrapped packages under it. On the red bench sits a worn enamel wash pan with a pointsetta plant (silk) and over-sized ornaments. An assortment of jars are filled with white batting and artificial snow, battery operated tealights are placed inside to flicker like candles. Near the door are old wooden sleds and pairs of ice skates and wooden skis.

The entrance door is embellished with an extra large bow. It is attached to our steel door by using several strong magnets.

So come on in, get warm and enjoy your visit!