Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas to All...

     Most of you know that I am celebrating Christmas with my daughter in Orlando. I have been in hotel with very poor internet service, so I haven't been able to keep up with posting and reading. As of yesterday, I'm at my daughter's home and my computer works again! I thought I would share a few of our pictures from an evening at the Magic Kingdom. The castle at night is still one of the prettiest sights I've ever seen.

     I also loved the new evening show on the castle, "Celebrate the Magic". I really can't describe or explain it, but the castle is transformed into many things as the music plays.

The castle goes dark and then it
starts changing so quickly that
I couldn't begin to take enough pictures.

Look closely, Mickey is on the castle.

A bit of Alice in Wonderland...

...and Brave.

The Lion King...

...and stunning Chinese Lanterns floating up to the sky.

Rainbow gorgeous!

Covered with poinsettias.

Holiday colors...

...and transformed into a huge Gingerbread Castle.
I am wishing a Merry and Blessed
Christmas to each and every one of you.
Thank you for reading my blog, for becoming
my friends and for sharing your lives with me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cookie Time!

     Back in the days of children at home, neighbors that exchanged gifts and a busy social calendar around the holidays, cookie baking was a big deal at my house. It was not unusual for me to make 10 or 12 different kinds of cookies and dozens of each kind. These days, the house is quiet around the holidays, neighbors don't "neighbor" the way they did in our old home town and the kids aren't here. My husband would rather eat Little Debbie Oatmeal things (fake-icky) than homemade and I would be in big trouble, eating my way through everything! I still make sugar cookies that my husband likes and a candy that is my daughter's favorite (recipe coming in a later post).
     I made these cookies last year and simply linked the recipe. This year, I thought I would actually show you the process. I have made several sugar cookie recipes over the years and we have decided these are our favorite. The recipe makes a huge batch and while this year I actually rolled them out and used cookie cutters, last year I rolled them into balls and slightly flattened them before baking. It is much faster that way. If you have ever had Cheryl's Cookies (mail-order), these taste very similar. They are soft, not overly sweet and have an excellent flavor.
NOTE-One batch of frosting doesn't quite make enough for all the cookies. We don't mind having a few without frosting, so I just make one batch. If you want to frost all the cookies...double the frosting recipe.
6 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
2 cups real butter (soften to room temperature)
2 1/2 cups sugar
7 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter (soften to room temperature)
1-2 T. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.
     I like to put my eggs (the 6 yolks and the 4 whole eggs) into a glass or measuring cup before I start the mixing process. It makes it easy to add them to the butter/sugar mixture. After the butter and sugar are smooth, add in the eggs, one at a time and blend until smooth.

     In a separate bowl, place the flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly stir (first by hand and then with mixer) the dry ingredients into the sugar/butter/egg mixture. You can see above how yellow the wet ingredients are from all those egg yolks.

     You will end up with a large bowl of slightly stiff batter which you should chill for one hour before forming into cookies.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
     After an hour, take part of the batter and form into a ball. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thick and cut your shapes with cookie cutters. You can also just take the chilled dough and roll it into tablespoon sized balls at this stage and flatten them before baking. Bake on greased cookie sheets (I lightly ran the butter wrappers over my cookie sheets) for 8-10 minutes. You do not want them to brown around the edges. Allow to cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes before moving to racks to cool completely.
     For the frosting; blend softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk with a mixer until smooth. You want the frosting to be smooth and spreadable, but still somewhat thick. Add milk very slowly until you get the texture you want. At this point, you can separate the frosting into small bowls if you want to color it a variety of colors. I wanted most of the cookies to be simple since I have to transport them to Florida. I cut most of mine with a biscuit cutter and frosted them with white frosting and added sugar/sprinkles.

     I tinted a little bit of the icing blue and cut out a few large snowflake cookies, topped with snowflake sprinkles. They really looked like snowflakes before I frosted, they look a little bit like crabs!

Nothing says Christmas like the smell of cookies baking. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Homespun Christmas

     In keeping with my homespun red and green Christmas, I am using a tablescape as an every day decoration this year. I am leaving the table set because I love this quilt and I'm so excited to be able to use it again. The twig ball hanging from the light fixture was found at TJMaxx. I thought it was a perfect match for the twig garland my husband made for me (see earlier post).

     The centerpiece is a old wooden bowl that belonged to my husband's mother filled with pinecones and of course, another cardinal.
You can see that we still haven't found someone to
change out our patio door. It is still on the to do list.

     When I decided to pull out what I consider my Christmas quilt (it belonged to my grandmother), I knew that I also wanted to use my cardinal plates since the rest of the house is filled with them this year. It got dark so early yesterday that I had to have a light on to take the pictures. Please ignore the glare.

     The stemware was an after Christmas purchase at Z Gallerie. I love them, but they are so fragile that I just know I will break one!
Don't you just love the mercury glass tree on the stem?
My flatware from Bass Pro Shop works
very well with my outdoor theme.

Instead of napkin rings, I simply wrapped
 a sprig of greens around the napkin.
I am joining Susan @ Between Naps on the Porch
for Tablescape Thursday. Please stop by and
see all the beautiful tables this week.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Red, Green and Zoe

     It has been a while since I've used good old red and green for Christmas and I'm really enjoying it this year. Maybe I was just in the mood for something more traditional, since nothing about my holiday or life is traditional anymore! Today, I'm sharing another one of my library tables. As you can see, Zoe slipped into the picture...but, I thought you might like to see how grown up she is. She is 20 pounds and shouldn't be any larger than she is now. She is less of a wild child than she used to be, housebroken and still likes to eat all things food and not food.

     The "tablecloth" is actually a tree skirt. I simply used the snowballs and basket to cover the hole in the middle.

     My little fox friend is sitting on the spool cabinet this year. Zoe spent the first day thinking it was a playmate for her, but she seems to have gotten bored with him now.

I am joining Marty @ A Stroll Thru Life for Table Top Tuesday.
Please stop in to say hello!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Oh What A Weekend-Luke Update-Kenny Loggins

     It was quite a weekend in our little town. On Saturday morning there was a big event in honor of our friend's son Luke. Luke, for those of you who don't know, is preparing for a bone marrow transplant after his leukemia came back several weeks ago. He is just in kindergarten and he is the bravest little boy I have ever met. Some of his mother's friends decided to organize a 5k run in his honor and raise money for both the family and for children's cancer research. I cannot tell you what a remarkable job they did with this project. The town turned out in mass to support this family. Businesses made donations of food, cash and from the local and neighboring schools showed up to volunteer or run...rivals in their own sports, all working for one cause. There was a children's run and each child got a balloon and they released them all at once. It brought me to tears.

Luke, his brother and his mom

     Our local fire department has made Luke and honorary fireman. His picture hangs on the wall with the other firemen. Fire departments from around Illinois and Missouri have sent him hats from their departments...well over 150 different hats. It was only fitting that Luke arrived on the fire engine to cheers from the crowd. It was even more moving to see the firemen, complete in fire gear, walking at the end of the racers on the 5k. Santa was also on the fire truck and a generous sponsor arranged for Fredbird (the St. Louis Cardinal's mascot) to be in attendance all morning. Luke is a big fan and when he is in the hospital in St. Louis, some of the players have come to visit him.

     In this time in our world where there is so much sadness, political bickering and hate...this was a town filled with only love on Saturday morning. Some of the runners came from other towns and didn't even know the family, but they wanted to help. The Champaign-Urbana news station sent someone to do a feature about Luke and it was also handled with such love and care. Today, Luke is in St. Louis having tests to see if his numbers are high enough to have the very strong chemo dose he is supposed to get this week to prepare for the transplant. If all goes well, he will be having the transplant in early January. Please continue to pray for this wonderful family and this special little boy. There is a long road ahead for them, but they certainly are not walking it alone.
     On a much less serious note, we were very fortunate to see Kenny Loggins in concert at our local Performance Center on Friday night. I grew up listening to Loggins and Messina, and have enjoyed Kenny since he has been a solo act. He was so good. At 64, his voice sounds exactly as it did when he was younger...maybe even better. He had people dancing in the aisles when he sang "I'm Alright" from Caddyshack and I was certainly out of my seat and moving to "Footloose". His Christmas song, "On Christmas Morning" gave me goosebumps. He did 3 encores and I would go see him again in a heartbeat. My only complaint is that my voice is still not back and I couldn't sing along. Click on the links above for a little bit of Kenny!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Christmas Tree...2012

     In keeping with my "keep it simple" outdoor theme this year, my tree topper took only a few minutes to make. My tree toppers seem to be what I am most known for, at least according to, I will share the simple steps that I went through to make this one.
I started with a few "frosted" branches...

...and two sprigs of airy evergreen.

On top of the twigs and evergreen, I centered
this large pick that had a hint of red and a single pinecone.

I wired them all together
(it is so hard to see the twigs, but they are there).
     I wired the topper to the top of the tree and then fluffed it a bit to get the look I wanted and added a single red cardinal. What really makes this topper special is the bow "crown" under it. Because my tree has no real ornaments this year, I wanted to feature the plaid ribbon. I made four large bows and simply wired them one at a time to all four sides of the tree, fluffing the loops to make it look like one continuous bow. I think a tree should always have a front and back bow on the topper, it adds fullness. In this case, four bows make a statement.

     I bought the bird ornaments after Christmas at Cracker Barrel a couple of years ago. I loved the rustic look and the large size.

I found more red cardinals at the dollar store 2 for $1
 and they are scattered throughout the tree.

I placed red berries and frosted twigs all over the tree.

I found a tree skirt that pulls it all together.

I've just started wrapping a few packages in rustic kraft paper
with just a hint of red and more plaid in the bows.

     I love the look of the packages under the tree, of course so does my 1-year-old beagle. I'm not sure they are going to get to stay there this year. I think this is worse than having a toddler. At least my kids didn't try to eat the packages!

     My husband took this picture this morning in the early hours. I sort of like how the lights played some tricks with the photography...a little haunted looking!
     I am joining Tammigirl at If You Could See What I See for Show Me Your Tree. Please take a moment to visit her!