Once again it’s the season of giving and this time of year is when Jack and I do most of our giving. Usually, we pick a few charities that are close to our hearts and that we have verified will do the most good. Sadly this year we had so many of our family and friends that were hit by tragedies that we decided to give close to home. Some had lost loved ones, houses were damaged by the hurricanes or had to evacuate their homes because of the Southern California fires. In the severity of their tragedies, what we were able to give didn't seem like much; but their gratitude meant the world to us. Most charities provide a generic thank you care or email with the immediate request for more donation. They don't even seem grateful for what was donated and that can be disconcerting to some givers. If you are unsure of what charities that you would like to donate to this holiday season, look around you. Is there someone in your life that could use a little helping hand, a kid working hard to save up for a car or college, a single mom that could use a little extra money during the holidays? Look around you and see where you can spread good will towards men.
This is the first year of having Christmas at our house and we were all really excited. Normally our tradition was to have it at my mom's house in the late morning, we would rush to set everything up, finish cooking, hurry up and eat the enormous amount of food, and be home no later than 2 to 3 hours. I started to feel this wasn't the purpose of this holiday; so when it was decided I finally got to host, I decided to change a few things. First was the time, I changed the time from 11:30am to 5pm. I hated rushing time with Jack and Duffey to only feel rushed at my mom's house, by changing the time to a the evening we were able to sleep in, enjoy a nice brunch, and slowly open gifts. I also didn't feel rushed at all preparing the food, which was the second thing I changed. No more enormous amounts of food that can feed a small country. We kept the menu small and simple, throwing in our favorite items and leaving the things meh items out. After eating none of us felt like we needed to be rolled to the couch and we still had plenty of leftovers. The last thing I changed was our table setting. I wanted our meal to feel special, so I wanted our table to set the tone.
I was unsuccessful in finding an affordable Christmas China set, so I opted for nice paper plates with our everyday clear plates on top. We already had enough wine glasses and silverware. I used the white tablecloths, napkins and burlap table runner from the Marriage Blessing; and used small older vases and filled them with sugar to look like snow. The only thing I ended up buying was the small stockings, 4 for $.98 at Walmart, to hold the silverware and napkin, the cranberry garland, and the little Christmas foliage for the vases. I already had the candles and I used evergreen sprigs from our yard. I absolutely loved how our Christmas table came out this year and I love how I only ended up spending $20!
I hope your Christmas was Merry and Bright!
Whatcha Makin'? Fruit Cake. Does anyone know that song by The Superions? They play it every year on the local radio station and every time I say the fruitcake, it instantly pops into my head. But yes today I made a fruitcake and no it will not last the end of the world. Heck I don't even know if it will last the end of the day, because it is that good! Seriously! I have never made a fruitcake before and I know it is my Dad's favorite holiday treat, so I thought it would be a great gift basket item. I used an adaptation of Alton Brown's Good Eat Recipe, I use a lot of his recipes because they call for best quality ingredients. I dear you to try this recipe and tell me that fruitcake is horrible and can only be used as a door stop!
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sun dried cranberries
1/2 cup sun dried blueberries
1/2 cup sun dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 cup gold rum
1 cup sugar
5 Tbsp butter
1 cup unfiltered apple juice
4 whole cloves, ground
6 allspice berries, ground
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 chopped pecans
Brandy for basting and/or spritzing
I love the Christmas Season, I feel calmer this time of year. I try plan ahead and be realistic of what I can and cannot accomplish. I make a lot of my gifts and try to have most, if not all of my gift shopping completed by the first weekend of December. This allows me to focus on what is really important this time of year, spending time with loved ones. One of our favorite traditions is getting with Amber and Aaron and going to our local museum for the Holiday Lamp Tour. Tour guides dress in Victorian style and open up all of the old buildings and homes for us to tour. The old Hotel even has mulled wine, real eggnog with brandy, and hot chocolate. It's fun to sit in the old dining hall listening to the pianist play old fashion Christmas Carols; it's like going back in time. We look forward to doing this every year because it is one of the few events that isn't focused on spending tons of money or celebrating the commercialism of Christmas. It's just old fashioned fun, with loved ones, enjoying traditional Christmas treats. I hope everyone can find something similar in their own communities.
You're a Mean One Mister Grinch....tonight we hosted our annual Christmas party and this year we made it a Grinchmas Party. It was so much fun! We all dressed up with Whoville in mind and we even had a Grinch! Our entertainment was the original Grinch cartoon (sorry Jim Carrey just not a fan of your version) and a few other Christmas classics. I wanted to do something fun and simple for the menu so we had a red and green veggie and fruit trays, homemade salsa and chips, chicken white chili, country toffee, and the perfect cupcakes for dessert. Oh and don't forget about the Grinch Popcorn! There was even champagne, cider, and a hot chocolate bar too!
Green colored vanilla cupcakes
A ring of white buttercream to create the base of the Santa Hat
Swirled red buttercream to create the Santa Hat
Topped with a white sixet for the puff ball
Santa suit cupcake wrappers
I am the supervisor for nine, really awesome ladies. They work so hard and I thought I would throw them a little Christmas party during our weekly staff meeting. I brought cider, eggnog, cookies, and scones. I even surprised them with a personalized stocking with their name on it and filled with homemade: lotion, lip gloss, coffee soap; and each with a custom bird's nest necklace. I was actually surprised how easy these were to make and I already had all of the supplies! To make them I used either gold or silver jewelry wire and wrapped it around two fingers until I got the thickness that I wanted. I then would wrap the wire between the hole and the outside and added a bead or several as desired and ending it with another wrap to hold in place. I would add a loop for the chain to connect to before cutting the wire and tightening it in place. I used jewelry rings to attach the loop to the chain and added the clasp. To make all nine of them it took under two hours, and that was only because I was watching The Santa Claus, one of my favorite Holiday movies. Each of the ladies loved their homemade gifts and was totally surprised with the team Christmas party. I hope your Holiday Season is full of fun surprises!
I was really honored when I was asked to make this 1st birthday cake by cousin's wife. I had the previlege of doing her first son's first birthday cake. Her first baby shower was even my very first cake I ever did for someone! It's so funny to see how far I have came when looking at the three cakes.
The cake was rather easy to do with a solid ice blue cake and added white fondant to look like a blanket of snow for the top layer. The candycane stripes were used by cutting inch strips of red fondant and placed diagonally. I used a folded piece of paper to cut the shape for his name and simply made the letters out of red buttercream.The snowflakes were piped on and sprinkled with clear sprinkles. The number one was a wooden dowel that I twisted with ropes of red and white fondant. For the final touch sprinkled a little more clear sprinkles along the base of each cake.
This cake makes me want to go play in the snow and have a peppermint hot chocolate!
I wanted to make this super cute apron for years and I am finally that I took the time to make it! I actually made it a few months ago so I could enter it into the fair. I purchased the bright red and white towels at Target, the gold buttons and gold belt buckle at a fabric store along with the black ribbons (one five inches the other one inch). I didn't use a pattern for the red part of the apron, but cut the towel in half then cut the top into the sweetheart neckline that I wanted. Next I gathered and pinned the rectangle piece to the sweetheart piece and sewed. I cut the white towel into two 6 inch strips, long ways, and then folded in half and sewed them to the top and bottom of the red apron. I sewed the 5 inch ribbon from the center to the side only on one side then looped the gold buckle and sewed the other side of the black ribbon, securing the buckle in place. I sewed the one inch ribbon in place for the neck strap and sewed on the gold button. It was really easy to make and only took two hours; however, because the fabric was towel it was very messy, but totally worth it! I think it is really cute and look forward to wearing it this Christmas time.
This is the time of year that a lot of us gives just a little more. It's the time of good will and cheer. A big motivating factor for Jack and I to pay off all of our debt earlier this is was so we could give more. We allocated a specific amount on our monthly family budget on what we wanted to give additionally to our Tithe. After deciding the amount, we needed to decide on the charity. I know according to tax law only 5% of money collected needs to go to the actual charity that is 95% that goes to overhead cost! That's insanity. I also wanted to make sure the donations were going to stay as local as possible. I used the Charity navigator website to help make a well informed charity. Jack and I picked several charities that were meaningful for us and where we felt we could help. I hope everyone feels the spirit of Christmas and is able to donate a little more than usual this year, but remember to do your research and give wisely and realistically.
The first holiday party of the year is always my work's Winter Warmer. It is a meeting/luncheon that I help put together, after all, I am great at planning a fun party! The committee have been working on this month and today was the final pay off! It was so much fun, there was music, raffles, great food, and amazing cupcakes made by your's truly! That's 254 cupcakes in fact. Making that many cupcakes really isn't that big of a deal, I've done it several times in the past, so all I need to do is turn on a good movie or two and get to work. The color scheme this year was red and silver, so I went with a red grease proof cupcake liner, white buttercream frosting and silver dragees. I displaced them on my white cupcake stand and they were simple, classic, festive, and delicious!
It's Christmas time again and it's time for us to pick out our annual Christmas Ornament. We started this tradition during our first Christmas together, each year we pick out an ornament that represented that year. This year's we spent a lot of time and energy paying off our debt, so it was only fitting that our ornament represented that. We are so proud of the hard work it took to achieve being debt free, so this little piggy bank going front and center on our tree!
I hope you start special Christmas traditions that make the Holidays all the more fun and memorable!
Christmas time is here and that means it’s time for Christmas gifts. I know when it comes to the perfect gift to my mom I just need to do something that involves her dogs! I decided to make her a special shash for her Prima Miche bag. I am a Miche representative and all of the ladies in my family carry these great bags so I have made my own sashes for certain shells. I picked 30 favorite pictures of all her dogs and printed them on fabric paper that I found at the local craft store. I simply created the print out in Word and made them about two inches height and closely next to each other. I cut the rows of pictures in small strips and sewed them all together to create a long ribbon. I then sewed on a cute dog print fabric to the other side of the picture ribbon. Lastly I ironed the sash and put it on a new Prima shell. I have no doubt that she is going to love her personalized gift. I hope you take the time to make a unique gift this Christmas for someone special.
Around this time of year I like to make a lot of sugar cookies for work and gifts. Plus who doesn't love to leave Santa a fresh plate of homemade sugar cookies?! Last year Amber and I started a new tradition of getting together and making some of our favorite sugar cookies. In the past if I was in a lazy mood I would just grab a bag sugar cookies mix you can buy at any grocery store, but since this year I have been trying hard to buy less processed foods I decided to make my own bags of sugar cookie mix! They were so easy to put together and I had about 8 bags ready to go for the holiday season in only a few minutes! An extra bonus was it was a lot cheaper per bag to make too!
Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix $1.99
My Pre-Made Sugar Cookie Mix Breakdown:
Pantry Ingredients $0.40 each mix, $3.20 for 8 Cookie Mixes
Compare to Real Betty Crocker Cookie Mixes $15.92
Total Savings: $12.72
Sugar Cookie Cutouts
1 1/2 cups + 1 tbsp Flour
3/4 cup White Sugar
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
Mix together and store in a quart size baggie.
Write instructions on the bag to add:
1/3 Stick Softened Butter
1 Large Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
Mix & Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes.
I hope you spend a few minutes making your own Sugar Cookie Mix Bags. It will save you time and money when you're ready to bake some cookies for Santa!
Who doesn't love homemade Christmas treats?! I love to do a little something for all of my coworkers, but since there is so many I need to keep it simple and cheap! I got the idea for the Spoonful of Sugar from seeing those honey dipped spoons you see in little gift shops when on road trips. Since I don't know too many people who drink tea I decided to dip my spoons into chocolate to mix coffee with. Yum!
I melted my chocolate melts in a double boiler until it was smooth and running.
I dipped each spoon into the melted chocolate and immediately sprinkled with sugar sprinkles. I used two small jars to sprinkle the spoons over. I let the spoons cool on wax paper. Once they were dried I covered them in cellophane wrappers and tied a ribbon and a Spoonful of Sugar tag.
Everyone loved the spoons and look forward to using them in their coffee.
Every year Amber and I get together and watch the local Christmas parade. After the rough couple of weeks I have had, we decided to watch it from my house so we could work on our ugly sweaters for our up coming party. We found sweaters and our favorite thrift stores, but they just weren't ugly enough! I found a Santa pom pom kit at a craft store and put them together and glued them on Jack's sweater. For my sweater I added sparkly pom poms, fuzzy trim, jewels and plaid bows. Amber added pom pom, trim, and bows as well. Needless to say by the time the parade was over we had a couple of ugly sweaters to party in!
Today was our Winter Warmer at work. Each division in the department was asked to submit a raffle basket to help raise funds for the next event, so we decided to make a Lottery Tree. Since I'm the crafty one of the group I got to put it together. It took a little maneuvering, but I think it turned out great and was a big hit at the luncheon!!
I started with a craft store cardboard tree and painted it a metallic emerald green. Also at the craft store I found a round wooden base that I painted gold and a gold star to top it all off.
Once the tree is glued to the base and the star glued to the top, start taping the largest lottery tickets to the bottom of the tree. Only tape the top of the tickets and if needed the sides so the bottom can curve out to look like branches. Moving up use the smaller tickets and spacing them accordingly.
Once all the tickets have been taped in place decorate it with some garland and presents!
I created this blog to share my creations with hopes that it will inspire others to show their creative side. I love to show case my friend's photography so a lot of the photos are from her. I hope you get inspired.