Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

To all my friends - I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful, magical Christmas.

It's 5:50 a.m. on Christmas Eve. Hubby's gone off to work, the house is peaceful, and I'm just trying to wake up a bit before I head off to the kitchen to cook all day. Tonight's gifts are wrapped, the shopping is all done, the lists are all made, and everything is well in hand.

I'll be spending most of the day in the kitchen. Good thing I love it there, huh? Yesterday I made the cheesecake for tonight, and started prepping salads for tonight and appetizers for tomorrow. Today I'll make the cinnamon rolls for tomorrow's breakfast, cookies for tomorrow's dessert, tonight's salads, and continue preps for tomorrow's appetizers.

My share of tonight's menu:
- orange jello salad (of the ambrosia variety - hubby's favorite)
- broccoli salad (the kind with craisins and sunflower seeds - yum!)
- pumpkin cheesecake

My share of tomorrow's menu:
- Belgian endive stuffed with herbed cheese
- jalapeno poppers
- baby twice-baked potatoes
- bacon appetizers
- deviled eggs
- Swedish sugar cookies

I figure if I get the bulk of it done ahead of time, then tomorrow will be fairly mellow and we can lounge around most of the morning, chowing down on homemade cinnamon rolls, before we head off to visit Grandpa in his apartment (with a cracked pelvis, he's not going to get to come for Christmas this year), and then go to my parents house for the afternoon/evening.

Hope your shopping is done and your plans are well in hand. Have a wonderful holiday!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Swap Received...

The next post down you'll see what I made for the holiday swap I participated in. Here's what I received!

I got a long box filled with little wrapped gifts - seven of them in all. They all looked something like this:

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Each gift somehow related to her "tradition tutorial", and they each had a note explaining what it was about. For instance, the photo above is package number one. The tag read: This tradition started 30 years ago. On Christmas Eve, my family would go to my Grandparent's house. A wreath was always hanging on their door. Inside the package was

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a wreath ornament.

#2: My grandmother LOVED to bake! She always had trays set out for us. Inside the package were

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recipes for Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle, Rosemary Roasted Cashews, and No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars.

#3: My Grandmother would make us an ornament every year.

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and I got an awesome handmade ornament.

#4: This was the most intriguing wrapped package of all of them.

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We would all go into the kitchen and make hot chocolate.

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Inside was a tower of hot chocolate mix, with all the trimmings!

#5: I would grab a candy cane on the way out the door with my mug of hot chocolate.

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Candy cane stickers!

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We would all pile in the car with our drinks and turn on Christmas music. Inside was a homemade CD (haven't listened to it yet, but I'm sure it will be great!).

And, finally, #7, by far my favorite part of the tradition: We would drive around the city and look at all the Christmas lights. I wrote down the address of the house who really made me "feel like Christmas" and send them a thank you note after. We still do this every year, and now I'll get to have my fiance join us! Merry Christmas! (My swap partner got engaged last weekend!)

Inside was the cutest little handmade card.

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Inside, the card reads We just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to create such a magical light display for our community to enjoy!

She even included a stamped envelope so I can start the tradition, too.

What a fun swap. I just hope she enjoys mine as much as I enjoyed hers!

Holiday Traditions Swap

Well, the swap is over, I mailed my package off on Tuesday. I received my partner's package yesterday - what a wonderful gift!

We were supposed to send, at minimum, a handmade ornament, a recipe, and a tradition "tutorial".

First, here's most of what I sent to my partner.

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There are two handmade ornaments. The Santa is a punchneedle ornament. It's a nifty, easy little needlecraft that actually holds my attention because I don't have to think too much! Just fill in between the lines... I did discover while putting it together that I'm a bit glue challenged, but I think I just need more practice, LOL!

The wreath is also handmade. I found the pattern on the Martha Stewart website - it's made out of chenille sticks. Easy and it looks really cute when it's done!

I also made those coasters that I already told you about, just because I thought they were cute.

My holiday tradition is Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas. I bought her the VHS copy because, for some reason, when they produced the DVD version, they cut Kermit's introduction out of it, which is just plain wrong! I included a note with it that explained that this is the only Christmas special that I make sure not to miss each year, and that I usually watch it while decorating the tree (though not this year, because hubby decorated the tree with me, so I'll watch it while wrapping gifts).

I sent two recipes. One was for pork tenderloin with balsamic-cranberry sauce. I included this one because this is the entree I made the year I cooked the entire Christmas dinner by myself. I also included my favorite recipe for caramel corn.

To go with the caramel corn recipe, I included a package of Moose Munch (that's Harry and David's caramel and chocolate-covered popcorn, for those of you who don't know).

All in all, it was a very fun swap and I might even do another one in the future!

Friday, December 14, 2007

8:20 p.m. ...

One dozen gifts 3/4 of the way finished. Can't finish them tonight, they have to sit and cure for a while. They'll be done by the end of the weekend. Phew! That wasn't nearly as grueling as I thought it would be. I even got into a rhythm there for a while. And, I watched some great DVDs! In addition to Strawberry Shortcake and Miracle on 34th Street, I also watched The Polar Express and four episodes of The Closer (ok, I can't watch Christmas shows ALL the time!).

Oh! Oh! And, my swap package arrived today! It is SO COOL - I took pictures - I'll post about it later!

Hubby and I went to see The Golden Compass after dinner. Pretty good movie. Little slow in spots, but overall I liked it!

8:30 a.m....

One down, 11 to go!

Strawberry Shortcake, well, that might be going in the White Elephant at work next year! I've moved on to Miracle on 34th Street - the original, and still the best!

Crafting Day - December 14

Well, I finally have a whole day off of work with NO MEETINGS. I'm finally going to work on my friends' Christmas gifts! With any luck, I'll get most of them done today.

I've decided to blog my progress, for a little accountability (not that I'm actually going to say what I'm making - no sense ruining the surprise!

It's 7:10 a.m. I've had my breakfast and coffee, caught up on my email, hooked up the portable DVD player in the spare room, cleared off my work table, and pulled out the Christmas DVDs. My first viewing selection? Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Merry Christmas. Yes, that's right, Strawberry Shortcake. You wanna make something of it??? LOL!

Actually, I got this DVD from my mom two years ago (I think it was somewhat of a gag gift, and I sure hope she didn't pay the $11.99 it said on the price tag!). The sticker on the overwrap advertised a "strawberry scented package!" I tore off the plastic and, sure enough, it's that plastic-undertoned strawberry scent I remember from my childhood. Ah, the memories...

I'm off - wish me luck!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Traditions and Memories, Part 3 - Christmas Morning

Christmas morning. To a kid, that's the best day of the whole dang year. Even better than the first day of summer! To my Dad and I, who are still perpetual children and refuse to grow up at Christmas time, it's still a time of wonder, joy, and obnoxiousness, much to my Mom's (and hubby's) dismay.

As a child, we were Santa's last stop on the route. Because of that, we were strictly forbidden from getting up before 7:00 on Christmas morning. Santa and my parents had a deal worked out so that he only brought our stockings - everything else came from him. So we'd already have seen all the gifts under the tree, it was just our stockings that were new. They were the only things we were allowed to look at before breakfast, so that was great!

One year, I woke up VERY excited, somehow convinced that it was 8:00 and we'd all overslept. I do that sometimes - wake up all confused about the time. Once in college I was up and in the shower, thinking I was late for a test, before I realized it was only 2 a.m. But I digress...

There I was, thinking it was 8:00, VERY concerned that we were missing Christmas. So I woke up my brothers, and we all raced upstairs. We were making all kinds of racket (and fortunately Santa had come early that year) when my parents came out and informed us it was 4:00 in the morning and we'd better get our butts back to bed or Santa was coming to take everything away! Oh, my brothers were mad at me that year!

My stockings held similar things every year. There was always an orange in the toe. In my earlier years, there was always a coloring book and crayons or markers. When I was a teenager, there was always a kid's toy of some sort, but also Wet 'N' Wild lipstick and nail polish in matching shades. And then there was candy, and other assorted goodies.

After we opened our stockings, we had to eat breakfast before we could open our gifts. Breakfast was always something sweet. Mom made the best cinnamon rolls and butterhorns around (Mom's butterhorns were basically cinnamon rolls without the cinnamon), and would make dozens of them in the days leading up to Christmas. She'd give some to the neighbors and other friends in town, and most years, we'd have them for Christmas breakfast. My brothers and I would fight over who got the piece with the most icing. As a kid, I could never figure out why Mom didn't just put extra icing out to prevent the arguments. As an adult, I completely understand the need to not add extra sugar to an already hyped-up situation!

Once in a while, for whatever reason, we didn't have cinnamon rolls. Then mom would make coffeecake, which was just as good. Love Mom's coffee cake! It was just a basic recipe, out of the Betty Crocker cookbook. It didn't have anything fancy, no yeast, no sour cream, just flour, sugar, butter, and that streuselly topping. But it was ambrosia to us!

After breakfast, it was time to open presents. We have a tradition in my family that I absolutely love - we open gifts one at a time, so that everyone can see what everyone else is getting. We never had tons of presents, everyone probably got four or five, so this made the giving celebration last much longer. In hubby's family, everyone opens things all at once, and it's just not the same.

After gifts, the wrapping paper was put away for recycling, ribbons and bows were straightened and tucked away for next Christmas (Mom's a saver!), and then it was time to play with our new gifts until dinner time.

As an adult, of course, things are a little different. Hubby and I wake up Christmas morning and, if we've bought gifts for each other, we open them (this year we did one huge gift that covered the whole year). I make us a nice breakfast, and we have a quiet morning. Then in the early afternoon we head over to Mom and Dad's (having been with hubby's family on Christmas Eve), where Dad and I run around like the little brats that we are and continually ask Mom "can we open our gifts yet? When's it time to open presents? Moooooooooooom! I want to open my presents NOOOOOOOOW!" Wouldn't want Mom to mistakenly think that we'd matured during the year or anything!

Then the rest of our family shows up and it's on with the gift giving!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It begins...

...the Christmas crafting season. Should have started this months ago, but I'm nothing if not a procrastinator! Made some coasters -

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They were TOTALLY EASY. Cutting them took longer than sewing them! I used this tutorial, which was so simple and well laid out. I made one set for my swap partner and one set for hubby's aunt, whom I drew in the gift exchange. I have one more set to make, not in these colors, for my sister-in-law, whom I drew in my family's gift exchange. Fun stuff!

Oh, and the gifts I'm making for my friends? Well, I made the first one. They're not looking so good. Hopefully I'll get better with practice. Otherwise, if you are one of the lucky recipients, you can just tell people that a five-year-old made them...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Batten Down the Hatches!

I think we're all ready for the windstorm tomorrow. I just checked, and it looks like we'll be having 25 to 30 mile an hour winds tomorrow, and 30 to 35 on Monday. Of course they don't say if that's gusts or sustained winds. Either way, it'll be better than the 90 mile an hour gusts and 40 foot swells they were predicting for the coast this weekend!

The garbage cans are in the garage and there's not much else that can blow away. If the power goes out, we have plenty of firewood, oil for the lamps, and propane and white gas to cook with, so we'll be ok. The pantry is stocked so we don't have to open the fridge or freezer if that happens. I'm doing as much laundry as I can tonight (as much as I can since I didn't think about it till 8:00!), since Sunday is laundry day. So I think we're ready to take whatever comes.

In the meantime, I'm getting ready to get started on my next bit of crafting - Christmas coasters for my swap partner. I have two patterns I'm thinking about, so stay tuned for details. Here's the fabric I picked out -

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Hard to see the detail, I'm sure, but it's a navy with stars, a cream color with holly sprigs, a green with a tiny leafy pattern, red with a tiny white leafy/floral kind of pattern, and the big holly fabric.

Picking out the fabric took me 45 minutes. Yes, 45 minutes, for five pieces of fabric. And now I remember why I don't do this - I SUCK at colors and prints! So if anybody leaves me a comment and says "ewwwwwwwwwwww - those fabrics don't go together at all!", well, you and I are going to have a little problem... :-) The big holly print is definitely going to be the back, regardless of which coaster pattern I use.

I sewed the edges today and they're in the laundry pile. So tomorrow I'll break out that rotary cutter and mat that I haven't opened since I received them last Christmas, and try to figure out how to cut a straight square!

Hope you all are having a great weekend, and don't blow away if it's stormy where you are!