Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy 2011!!!!

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given;
While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth.
~Martin Luther

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Wrap-Up

Here we are a couple of days after Christmas. It just flew on by, didn't it?? We got socked with our first major snowstorm of the season on the day after Christmas. I wonder if that is a foreshadowing of things to come? Last year, we got over 50" of snow, most of it during the month of February, which meant daughter's school was closed a lot. This time at least it fell on Christmas break, so no days missed.... yet. My family was supposed to come over on the 26th but couldn't make due to the weather, so we moved it to the 27th- and I think we should have postponed it even more because it was pretty treacherous. But, happy to report, everyone got here safely. I have not been out of the house for a few days... and I haven't minded one bit. The kids and hubby have been playing with their new Wii games and reading books they got for Christmas, I am actually catching up on the magazines that have piled up- too bad I finally got to read the Christmas issues on the 26th- I guess I will just have to file away some of those ideas and recipes for next year! And I finally got back into the studio today after several days off. Because, you see, when hubby and/or the kids have off, I do too- because I'm so easily distracted, I keep wandering out of my studio to see what is going on, and I get nothing done.

Some photos of the kids and nieces and nephews on Christmas....

The week before Christmas, youngest daughter and her dad went to the Father Daughter Dinner Dance at her school:

Of course we have been stuffing ourselves silly... and I didn't even bake cookies this year! The kids made one batch of our favorite sugar cookies. I did, however make this cake for company one night.... it is a Spiced Pear Upside-Cake with Ginger Cream Sauce....
A moment of silence, please..... Wow- It is probably in the top 5 desserts I've ever made. You will be able to find the recipe in my book which will be coming out in July.....

Oldest daughter got a very nice cookbook for Christmas, she is working on her second recipe from it for dinner tonight- some kind of Almond Chicken. Last night she made carrots with a balsamic maple syrup glaze. I love having someone else in the family who can cook! Both of my kids are getting pretty good at it.

Oh, and since Christmas morning, I have been trying to figure out how to use not this:
 but this:
 I was just figuring out how to use my old phone, which was 4 years old. So old, in fact, that they waived the upgrade fee. Sad, isn't it? I'm still not sure I'm ready for the 21st century, but I am trying. I am wondering if hubby should have gotten me the Jitterbug instead of the Blackberry- this may be a little too much for me..... will let you know my progress!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas In Our Hearts, All Year 'Round


It’s Christmas night. The house is quiet. Even the crackle is gone from the fireplace. Warm coals issue a lighthouse glow in the darkened den. Stockings hang empty on the mantle. The tree stands naked in the corner. Christmas cards, tinsel, and memories remind Christmas night of Christmas day.

It’s Christmas night. What a day it has been! Spiced tea. Santa Claus. Cranberry sauce. “Thank you, so much.” “You shouldn’t have!” “Grandma is on the phone.” Knee-deep wrapping paper. “It just fits.” Flashing cameras.

It’s Christmas night. The girls are in bed. Jenna dreams of her talking Big Bird and clutches her new purse. Andrea sleeps in her new Santa pajamas.

It’s Christmas night. The tree that only yesterday grew from soil made of gifts, again grows from the Christmas tree stand. Presents are now possessions. Wrapping paper is bagged and in the dumpsite. The dishes are washed and leftover turkey awaits next week’s sandwiches.

It’s Christmas night. The last of the carolers appeared on the ten o’clock news. The last of the apple pie was eaten by my brother-in-law. And the last of the Christmas albums have been stored away having dutifully performed their annual rendition of chestnuts, white Christmases, and red-nosed reindeer.

It’s Christmas night.

The midnight hour has chimed and I should be asleep, but I’m awake. I’m kept awake by one stunning thought. The world was different this week. It was temporarily transformed.

The magical dust of Christmas glittered on the cheeks of humanity ever so briefly, reminding us of what is worth having and what we were intended to be. We forgot our compulsion with winning, wooing, and warring. We put away our ladders and ledgers, we hung up our stop watches and weapons. We stepped off our racetracks and roller coasters and looked outward toward the star of Bethlehem.

It’s the season to be jolly because, more than at any other time, we think of Him. More than in any other season, His name is on our lips.

And the result? For a few precious hours our heavenly yearnings intermesh and we become a chorus. A ragtag chorus of longshoremen, Boston lawyers, illegal immigrants, housewives, and a thousand other peculiar persons who are banking that Bethlehem’s mystery is in reality, a reality. “Come and behold Him” we sing, stirring even the sleepiest of shepherds and pointing them toward the Christ-child.

For a few precious hours, He is beheld. Christ the Lord. Those who pass the year without seeing Him, suddenly see Him. People who have been accustomed to using His name in vain, pause to use it in praise. Eyes, now free of the blinders of self, marvel at His majesty. All of a sudden He’s everywhere.

In the grin of the policeman as he drives his paddy wagon full of presents to the orphanage.

In the twinkle in the eyes of the Taiwanese waiter as he tells of his upcoming Christmas trip to see his children.

In the emotion of the father who is too thankful to finish the dinner table prayer.

He’s in the tears of the mother as she welcomes home her son from overseas.

He’s in the heart of the man who spent Christmas morning on skid row giving away cold baloney sandwiches and warm wishes.

And He’s in the solemn silence of the crowd of shopping mall shoppers as the elementary school chorus sings “Away in a Manger.”

Emmanuel. He is with us. God came near.

It’s Christmas night. In a few hours the cleanup will begin—lights will come down, trees will be thrown out. Size 36 will be exchanged for size 40, eggnog will be on sale for half-price. Soon life will be normal again. December’s generosity will become January’s payments and the magic will begin to fade.

But for the moment, the magic is still in the air. Maybe that’s why I’m still awake. I want to savor the spirit just a bit more. I want to pray that those who beheld Him today will look for Him next August. And I can’t help but linger on one fanciful thought: if He can do so much with such timid prayers lamely offered in December, how much more could He do if we thought of Him every day?

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

One of my favorite ways to decorate for the holidays is to bring in fresh greenery. Floral arrangements are very expensive, but I get the same kind of look for almost free.
Choose a container- it can be anything you like. In the photos below, I have used my pottery basket and some inexpensive glass and resin containers from the craft store.
 You can use household items such as pitchers, bowls of different sizes, even tea cups. Or it would look really cool to use some tin cans in different sizes. If your container is not waterproof, find a plastic container (such as a deli container) that fits inside. Cut a piece of floral foam to fit inside the container (use the "wet" kind that holds water for fresh floral arrangements). Place the floral foam in the container and add water, the foam will absorb the water, then add more water.

Now here is the fun part- gather your greens. Scavenge the yard and garden for whatever you can find, you may be surprised at what you can use. I grab stuff where ever I can find it- sprigs and branches from the trees and bushes, plants in the herb garden that frost has not totally killed yet, even dried up rose hips from the flower beds. Look for different sizes, colors, and textures.

If at all possible, I try to do my arranging right outside- just take the containers and scissors out with me, put everything together, and leave the mess outside. If the weather is bad, though, I bring everything inside and do my arranging at the kitchen sink.
 In this photo, spruce branches from a tree in the back yard, rosemary from the herb garden (adds great fragrance, too), and rose hips.

 I also found some sage in the herb garden, which adds pretty color and more fragrance. Arbor vitae from a large bush in the front flower beds is light and feathery.
Holly adds a classic holiday touch (we are lucky to have 2 different varieties in our yard- a dark green one and a variegated one.)

While choosing some rose hips for my arrangements, I was pleased to find several buds still on my rose bushes (kind of crazy considering how cold it's been here). The reddish foliage also adds some nice contrast to all the greens.

You could even use some bare twigs to add height and drama to the center of your arrangement. Use what you have- you will be surprised at the results.
I also like these ideas from the Better Homes and Gardens website:
Try this if you have a lot of ivy in the yard.

(Don't you love the artichoke in this arrangement- see you can use anything.)

I think this is even prettier than a potted poinsettia wrapped up in metallic paper...

Happy Monday!!!
(Is it really only 5 days till Christmas???)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hello, Cupcake! & Happy Friday

Just found the Hello, Cupcake! site, and the ideas are AMAZING (I don't use that word lightly, btw.)
Wouldn't you love to serve these for the holidays:

Now look at this: Mini Cupcake Cocktails
 We actually have the Hello, Cupcake! book in our cookbook library here at home:
Tons of cute ideas for year round delicious fun....

In the studio this week, I have been working on this:
And this:
And this:
(Finally finished sewing the vine on this border, it seemed to take forever....)

And I am "living with" a carpet of fabric strike-off's on my studio floor for a while, to see how I like them...

Happy Friday.....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More Favorite Things (aka Stuff I Like)

Every year, hubby and I try to find a day to go Christmas shopping, just the two of us. Last Friday we went to a local mall. We did a little shopping, then went to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch. Cheesecake Factory is one of our favorite places, but the closest one was about an hour away.... until they put a new one in, just 20 minutes from us, about 6 months ago. Dangerous having it so close and convenient!!
I had the Bang Bang Chicken and Shrimp, which was a Thai thing, really yummy. And huge- I ate 1/3, then brought it home and got 2 more meals out of it.
Hubby got a creole pasta thing, also very good. Of course, at the Cheesecake Factory, you have to get cheesecake. It's the law. I got Chris's Outrageous Chocolate Cake (or something like that)- brownie base, chocolate cake, coconut cheesecake in the middle, topped with chocolate ganache. Heaven.
Hubby got Pineapple Upside Down cheesecake, which, as you can probably guess, was pineapple upside cake with cheesecake layer in the middle. Oh my....
For our last "date," a few weeks ago, we went to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for the day. We happened upon an artists' studio tour, one of the artists was PJ Rankin Hults. I have admired her work for a long time- and then I got to actually see her studio and talk with her! PJ (Pam) cuts out paper by hand and then paints with watercolors, and her husband John makes the frames. If you like colonial style, or Pennsylvania German fraktur style, you will enjoy their work. Visit their website to see more of their work.
 Also, we went to the Central Market in downtown Lancaster. I had to get a few of these springerle cookies:
They are made in springerle molds- aren't they incredible?? Visit the website here to find out more about them.

We also visited Eldreth Pottery, which I have been collecting for years. I saw this basket and had to have it (hubby was so kind to oblige/humor me):
I filled the basket with an arrangement of greenery found in our yard and garden- more photos in a future post.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Tree-mendous Day

 One of our family traditions is to go to a local tree farm, where they give you a hayride out to the field, you pick your tree, they cut it down for you, and throw it on the tractor to take back up to the front. Then while you wait for the tree to get bundled by one of those cool machines, they have free coffee and hot chocolate and cookies. (Let's be honest- we can get the tree anywhere. We're really just there for the cookies....)
 Oldest daughter's boyfriend came along this year:

It was really, really cold. One year, we had snow, which was really pretty. This year, though, just cold. And very windy.

(Jacquelynne Steves or Unibomber?? You decide.)

 I think oldest daughter is giving him her opinion on how the tree should be decorated... she is a little bossy... I wonder where she gets that from....

It amazes me how much water a tree will take in for the first several days after it's been cut. I find myself under the tree twice a day refilling it. An Olympic event, really. (OK OK so it's really more like the Senior Olympics... but none of us are getting any younger, are we?)

PS The grand prize winner of the Henry Glass Designers Blog Hop is....... Erica C. from  Sweet Grass, MT! (that sounds like a really nice place to live!) Congratulations, Erica- your prize is on the way.

Friday, December 10, 2010

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things....

I know, it's not quite the same as when Oprah names her favorite things. But here are a few things that I have found lately that make me happy....
 These come out only at the holidays at Trader Joe's (my favorite, favorite grocery store... ever....) They are like Oreos but with a peppermint filling. I know Oreo does a mint version, but I prefer these. It's probably good they only come out once a year- generally once we open the box, our family devours the whole thing in one sitting. (Do you like the snowman table runner in the foreground? I made it about 8 or 9 years ago, and it still makes an appearance on our family room table every year. Another one of my favorite things.)

This is also from Trader Joe's. It's called a Spice Nog Cake and it smells heavenly. The label says "A spicy, moist cake with an egg-noggin', groggin' kick, topped with candied ginger." Need I say more?

Normally I wouldn't buy cookies AND cake in one trip to the store, but you know what they say about shopping on an empty stomach? It's true- don't do it! I was starved the day I went. We are currently in the process of completing the paperwork for our second mortgage, to pay off the grocery bill for that one little shopping trip.

And who doesn't love a cup of hot tea when the temperatures drop.... I got the Lemon Ginger tea in England this past summer. I found the Pumpkin Spice tea at Target. It has become my daughter's favorite.

I just realized that all of these things are food. So now you know a little more about me....

I have a special place in my heart for sheep.... real and otherwise...

 (Look at him smiling!)

(Sadly, I had the same perm in high school in the 80's.)

  I collect Santa's, this is just part of my collection:
 I know some people don't like Santa, because they think he symbolizes materialism. But for me, I think of the original St. Nicholas, the embodiment of generosity and giving.

 I also like the way embroidery looks when it's done with hand-dyed threads.
This is from a quilt I am working on for my upcoming book.

I like doing machine applique because it is fast and I am an impatient person.

I really like drawing and painting with watercolors.

Last, but certainly not least, these guys are my favorite Favorites:


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