Merry Monday: The Countdown Begins

December 18…just 7 days until Christmas
What’s left on your to do list?
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Already checked off:
MOST of the shopping
    just a few more little gifts
Sweets made
    no sugarplums dancing in my head though
Packages mailed
    That in itself is a feat!
Gifts wrapped
    I love wrapping gifts!
Cards mailed out
    I love mailing out Christmas cards, a tradition many people don’t do anymore
Tree put up and decorated
    Outside lights hung
What’s left?
Find those stockings
    and a chimney to hang them on
Hang lighting in the bedroom
    My tradition on Christmas Eve is to leave all the Christmas lights on all night
    Watch Polar Express
Have fun!!
This year I am far away from my kiddos and grandbabies, I miss them dearly, but know I am where I need to be right now. I will see them soon and I will hug them dearly!
 “I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Charles Dickens
DK
**these photos and recipes are not all mine, no copy write infringement meant**
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Try it Thursday: Gingerbread Loaf

One of the things I remember about my childhood was when my momma would make a gingerbread cake with fresh whipped cream, it was a treat for sure. Every year, I promise myself I would try to make a gingerbread house: that hasn’t happened yet. In fact, they intimidate me. So I decided I wanted to make some gingerbread. Didn’t want to do cookies, too much like the houses. A decorated cake, nah…too much work; not enough energy. A loaf!! That’s it! So off to Pinterest I went! They have to have at least one easy gingerbread loaf.
Found one! A gingerbread loaf with cream cheese frosting, OK I can live with that. Gathered and shopped for my ingredients then  found I had forgotten applesauce at the store. Not a fan of the less calorie thing anyway: so…back to Pinterest I went. New recipe should include; No applesauce, no long list of ingredients and some yummy frosting. I came up with a Spiced Gingerbread Loaf; it had a different frosting, but I think I will stick to the cream cheese frosting.
 done
yield: 1 LOAF prep time: 10 MINUTES total time: 1 HOUR, 10 MINUTES (PLUS COOLING)
Ingredients:
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup (180ml) unsulphured or dark molasses
3/4 cup (180ml) hot water (about 100°F (38°C))
1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup (67g) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Orange Icing (I didn’t use this one)
1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted 
2-3 Tablespoons (30-45ml) orange juice
Frosting
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (I used fresh orange juice and a touch of orange peel)
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk
Directions:
1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper together until combined. Set aside. In a separate bowl or dish, whisk the molasses and hot water together.
3. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on high speed for 1 minute until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, beat in the egg and vanilla extract until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the hot water/molasses and mixing each addition just until incorporated.
Avoid over-mixing. Batter will be thin. Whisk out any big lumps. 
4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for around 50-60 minutes or until the gingerbread loaf is baked through. All ovens are different and your loaf could take a little more or less time. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the gingerbread loaf. If it comes out clean with only a couple moist (not wet) crumbs, it is done. Allow to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack before removing from pan.
5a. Make the icing: Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice together. Drizzle over cooled loaf. 
5b. For the frosting, in a medium bowl cream together butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth and spreadable. Spread over cooled gingerbread loaf. Allow to set up for 1 hour (or if you can’t wait you can serve it immediately, but I like it best when the frosting has a chance to set up a bit!). Store in airtight container
Finished Gingerbread Loaf
6. Leftover loaf keeps well covered tightly in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The flavor gets even better after a day or two!
Make ahead tip: The loaf can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Loaf can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving
Recipe says it takes 10 minutes to prepare, it took me a bit longer. Didn’t help that I flung the water and molasses all over the kitchen floor. I really enjoyed baking this, really miss my baking days. The smell of this loaf is just amazing!! Little bit stuck to the bottom of the pan and I had three people fighting for the crumbs!
Well. That’s helpful. We’ll put an APB out on the Gingerbread Man. I’m not hopeful it’ll do us much good, though. Word on the street is you can’t catch him.
Joe Hill
DK
**this recipe is not all mine, no copy write infringement meant**

Merry Monday: December Bucket List

Have you heard of something called a “bucket list”? Man, I have and I have tons of things on it.
Travel the world
Swim with the dolphins
Travel first class
See the northern lights
But what if… you take your bucket list and tweak it to each month?
How fun would that be?
I came up with a December Bucket list, hope you enjoy!
pizap
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decemberGingerbread Houses for Kids
Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Dr. Seuss
DK

Me Monday: Holiday Traditions

Ah Christmas, the most “wonderful time of year”.
Are you a “traditional” family? Mom, dad, kids and fur babies?
Or a blended family? Step parent, parent, step siblings?
How about a single parent family?
A huge family with in laws, outlaws, steps this way and that way?
The holidays have sure changed from the time of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. Now we have The Santa Claus and Bad Santa. Cartoons aren’t like the classics; Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Frosty or The Grinch. Now we have The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Polar Express and Prep & Landing. We need to fit in everyone’s holiday schedules. Who works what? When will we have the kids? When do we need to be at the in laws?
Many years ago, it came from a letter from my father: He knew I was growing and now with husband and child, things wouldn’t be the same. He “gave me permission” to have my own family traditions. By giving me permission, it made it easier to not feel guilty about not being somewhere. We scheduled our Christmas’s earlier or many times on New Years Eve, that way we got to have time to be together instead of HI!!! blah blah blah, gobble gobble gobble, open presents, thank you and off to the next stop. As the four of us girls grew up, got married (and divorced) and had kids (and step kids), the holidays became overwhelming again.
We got to the point where we had the kids write down their Christmas wishes and to make sure the wishes weren’t on anyone else’s lists. Then we had to decide which grandparent got what wish. We had family traditions that were over ruled by other’s traditions. Our kids were tired and over stimulated at the end of the day and when they got bigger, they just got bored.
When our kids grew up and out of the house, got jobs, married and had kids, we made some changes. I gave the kids the same “permission” my father had many years ago and we didn’t want to be the cause of crying kids, tired parents or over worked grandparents (B and I). We have our Christmas (usually) the weekend before the actual day. We get to have them relaxed; we get to feed them; we get to see the smiles on the kids faces instead of the tears from being over tired (OK, we sometimes get the tears too). We talk, play games (Nerf guns were the best until we broke out the silly string), we make memories instead of minutes of just saying hi!!
Does it bother me we are unable to celebrate on the actual holiday? Not as much as it bothers me I don’t get to see my kids and grandkids enough throughout the year. I have been able to work in days with my son where all we do is make cookies…That kid can rock out Ting a Lings, Rice Krispie treats and chocolate chip cookies! I have had days were mom and I have take a weekend to bake cookies…way too many cookies! Those are the memories I love.
Kiddo
Making Cake Bite Snowmen
The one tradition I truly miss is with my grandma. When my son was very little she and I would get in the car about 9 am, take off to the mall to shop, eat and then go look at Christmas lights. My kiddo would sleep most of the day; it was like a 10 hour day some times. And my grandma was just 5 ft and 125 lbs…but such a trooper! When she and the kiddo got older, we would tour the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. I haven’t had a Christmas tree in about three years, but I always always always have Christmas lights.
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What are your family traditions? Would you like to share?
Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.
Thomas S. Monson
DK

Try it Thursday: Christmas in July

OK, I know it’s not July still, but I thought about doing Christmas in July too late. So, I will be doing some more random ones through the rest of the holiday season.
Today we do another tree. I already had the form so I was saving money. Right?
I found several different instructions and since I am working with a budget, I found I really liked the one with buttons. I LOVE to collect buttons, I have some of my grandfathers, some new ones, some from the store, but I had to purchase some gold(ish) ones for the look I wanted. I didn’t use any of the fancy buttons of my grandfathers, saving those for something else.
Off to the hobby store to find some gold or Christmasy buttons. B was in the car with me, in fact he was driving, so he also got the pleasure of taking me to the hobby store. I have to say, he is not one for the hobby stores, but he does make times fun. I’ve learned  to play WITH the shenanigans instead of against them. Usually we end up with lots of people laughing with us, which is better than laughing AT us…which that happens too.
Bruce
Yes, I LOVE going to the hobby store
Anywho Back on track.
I had my tree form, buttons, stick pins and glue gun.
Glue gun wasn’t in the project, however, when I got to pinning, there were gaps and instead of the pin heads on the teeny tiny buttons, I just glued them on.
Start from the bottom of the form and work your way up, I found it easier to use bigger buttons on the bottom and then different sizes on the way up. Make sure you secure the button with a stick pin (and maybe even a splash of hot glue). I choose the pin heads with a white pearl color instead of just a white; I wanted red, but didn’t find any. I found a small box of the pins for just $4.99 for 150, my buttons were on sale for 50% off (regular price was $5.99 for 32) for just $3.00; the cost of the tree, just about $10.
Randomly add your buttons all the way up, took me about 45 minutes to complete. May have taken just a little less if I hadn’t decided to hot glue a button to my finger. Yes, it stuck, yes it burned and yes, it blistered. I know, I know, I gave the PSA about using HOT glue guns, which makes this even worse to tell. Once I started, I thought of all kinds of other things I could do to this, but I just didn’t have the buttons I really wanted.
Since I had a Christmas back drop, I took a “family” photo of the trees
the three.png
Hope you enjoyed the Tree Series. Next week, Peaches!!! It’s harvest time!
“The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort towards wholeness.”
― Madeleine L’Engle,
DK

Try it Thursday: Christmas in July

I know, I know. It’s too early to start thinking about Christmas. Evidently, Michaels and Walmart thought so too. Hobby Lobby had my number though, they realize it takes crafters more than just a week or two to craft items. B was not at all happy about this, so he just dropped me off and went to the hardware store, it’s easier on us both if he doesn’t craft shop with me.
My shopping list:
Styrofoam/floral styrofoam cones (I got different sizes)
Glue (just plain old white glue, I did opt for the clear though)
Spray Glue
Decorations
Glue gun/sticks
What I didn’t have on the list, but needed:
Yarn
Embroidery thread
saran wrap
Starch (I used what I had on hand for ironing)
Christmas Trees 
I found these instructions when I was madly pinning one night, so I tucked them in one of my boards, at the time, I just glanced over them. You will find, I do this a lot and sometimes, not always, it comes back to bite me in the rear. This time, I went back to the ones I had saved on my Pinterest boards and they were all in Spanish. Don’t worry, I studied the pictures, however, that may have lost something in translation, but it’s all I had to go on.
The instructions had pictures of both with either yarn or embroidery thread. I liked the thread idea as it wasn’t as bulking as the yarn, did I make a good choice? Stay tuned. Mom and I have stashes of both the thread and the yarn, so there was no need to purchase anymore as we have our own little craft shop in the closets…hiding… Next was to decide, thread or yarn, or both! I chose both. I had two forms, let’s try them out at the same time.
I found the colors closest to Christmas (soon found this would be great for any holiday really). What was in my arsenal were reds, blues, greens, whites and greys; so I choose greys and white for the first tree of thread and in my yarn stash, I chose light green and white.
I set up my table with my forms (I chose two sizes) newspaper, my choices of thread, a small Tupperware bowl and my glue.
Step 1: Untangle the thread, put it in the bowl, then poured glue on top of it. Remember when you were a kid and you put glue on your hands and peeled it off? Best thing EVER! You will get to do that again!
I didn’t remove the plastic wrap on the forms as it’s in experimental stages right now, I’m trying everything. If you wanted to, this would be when you would wrap your form in plastic.
Step 2a: Take the end of the thread (I didn’t separate the thread, it’s your choice if you want the fuller or skinnier effect), make sure it has plenty of school glue on it then stick it to the lowest part of the form. Wrap the thread around a few times to make sure it has a sturdy support system, then wrap the thread up and around the form, making sure you always have plenty of glue on the thread. I did two skeins of the lighter grey and two skeins of the white.  Once I had it all wrapped like I wanted, I had to find my fingers in all the glue, so a quick trip to the sink to wash off my hands.
Step 2b: I did the same thing on the larger form, except, I used the spray glue. I lightly sprayed the form still in the plastic wrap, then wrapped some of the yarn up the form, making sure I had a nice foundation on the bottom of the forms so it would be able to stand. When I got about half way up the form, I lightly sprayed the already wrapped yarn and repeated wrapping and spraying until I had the coverage how I wanted.
***Note: you should do this outside for better ventilation. Also, I held the form as I sprayed it, it may have worked better if I had it sitting on some newspaper. Why? I glued my feet to the porch from the falling glue. Just sayin…
Part 3: Patience is a virtue~ Let the form set overnight or at least a couple of hours just to make sure it’s good and dry.
Part 4: Now, it’s time to remove them.
With the regular school glue, I went around the form and kind of squeezed it lightly and twisted to loosen it from the plastic wrap. Just another note, if you use the plastic wrap on the form, take off the sticker of identification, the glue loves to stick to that and I ended up with a weak area where the sticker was. Took some time to get it loose, but I also didn’t want to compromise it’s structural integrity, after all I was building a forest.   Time was not my friend on this one, after a few hours,  it started to droop a bit, so I went and found the starch and I sprayed that on the starch the tree. I did just a little bit at a time just to make sure it was evenly coated and because I didn’t want it too stiff, but no longer sagging.
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Thread tree
The form with the spray glue and yarn didn’t work out so well. It wanted to stick to that plastic and forget about getting it off of the sticker. I ended up cutting off the plastic wrap and removing the form that way, instead of just sliding it like I had done with the thread. After I removed the yarn from the plastic wrap (it was very sticky, but still usable), I used yarn and thread to make a new one, I did the school glue method again and I wrapped first with thread and then with yarn.
Adding decorations:
 
Even though the craft store had it’s Christmas crafting goodies out, they didn’t have any tiny decorations I was looking for, so I improvised. I purchased some of the berry sticks from the floral department and then snipped them off the branch to use. I used the glue gun, please remember, they can be a HOT glue gun and the glue does get HOT!
The white one is the thread one. I think if I had used more thread, it may have stood up better. And yes, the white one is leaning.
If one takes pride in one’s craft, you won’t let a good thing die. Risking it through not pushing hard enough is not a humility.
Paul Keating
DK