Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A hand-crafted birthday banner

Here is one of the handmade gifts I made for Christmas this year. I made two of these "Happy Birthday" banners for my daughters and their families. Since they each have more than one child, it wasn't practical to add a child's name at the end of the banner as the pattern was designed. So I made a separate small banner for each child's name. These could be tied onto the end of the "Happy Birthday" banner if desired, or hung beneath it.

I found the pattern in the book Stitched in Time, by Alicia Paulson. This is a lovely book, with many interesting projects with the potential to become family heirlooms. I bought mine on Amazon with a gift card I'd received for Mother's Day.

(Note: I have just added this book to my A-Store, "My Kitchen Table Collection" which you can access with the button to the right. If you are interested, Stitched in Time can be found and/or purchased on page 6.)

I did just a couple of things differently from what the pattern directed. I used muslin to back the parts of the banner, rather than matching fabric as suggested. This saved the decorative fabric and enabled me to make a number of banners with the fabric I had purchased. I think that in most cases the banners I made will be hung against a wall or above a door, so really the back side will rarely be seen. The other thing I did was not to make hanging loops at each end of the large banner, because I wanted to leave the recipients the option of tying a separate name banner to one end. I just left 8 to 10 inches at each end of the bias tape, feeling that would be enough to tie or tack up where needed.

This was my first attempt at using a font from my computer for a fabric craft. I used Georgia at the 250-point size as recommended, and loved the way it turned out. It was also my first attempt at freezer-paper stenciling, which I undertook with fear and trembling, but it turned out fairly well.

All in all, it was a fun project which I hope will become an heirloom in my daughters' families. I gave the banners along with birthday candles, birthday napkins, and a couple of fun kids' books from Gooseberry Patch.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, from our home to yours! I hope your Christmas Day was as blessed as ours was and that you have been able to enjoy fellowship with family and friends as you rejoice in the fact that the Baby in the manger was truly "Emmanuel, God with us" (Matthew 1:23) and that He came "to save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). O come, let us adore Him!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve... how can it be already? This has been one of the most hectic Christmas seasons I can remember, though surely there were others that were even more so. Times when we were involved in Christmas plays and musicals, for example. Today was busy, but a good day. This morning I finished up some crafted gifts and did some wrapping. After lunch, my granddaughters came. The 7-year-old and I did some baking, while the 9-year-old did some errands with her dad. Actually, the baking was done, but cookies and brownies needed filling, frosting and glazing, all of which this little girl is adept at. She was a great help!

Later, Mr. T and I went out for groceries and a couple of last-minute gifts. The stores weren't as busy as I expected, which was fine with me.

For supper, we had our usual Christmas Eve Soup, basically a creamy potato and carrot soup with bacon and cheddar cheese. We had focaccia bread and a multigrain Italian bread, too. My dad joined us, as well as our son and his girls. Dessert (for those who had room; most didn't) was Christmas cookies and a mug of tea. The girls opened their gifts after supper as well. When everyone left, I headed for the kitchen to make a breakfast casserole for tomorrow and then start marinating a pork roast for Christmas dinner. Busy day, but God gave strength as well as cheerfulness. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 17-20

December 17-20

Where, oh where, is December going? I simply cannot believe that Christmas is this coming Saturday. Life has been very busy for us with a lot going on; I can hardly even think back to what we did toward Christmas the past few days, but we have definitely been busy. Let's see:

* Friday, December 17. I did some housework and a bit of decorating on this day. We had five of our grandchildren with us in the evening. A busy time! But fun. Several of the older ones decorated a miniature Christmas tree which is perched on a milk can on the landing at the top of the stairs. They had a lot of fun with that. I also had a few ornaments that had not made it onto our regular tree as yet. They are on there now. The lower branches of the tree are well decorated!

* Saturday, December 18. The less said about this day, the better. Other responsibilities kept us either busy at home or out of the house most of the day and nothing at all got done toward Christmas. Oh, except that late in the evening we made a run to Walmart to find a few necessary items, some of which were components to some gifts we were giving in the gift exchange at church. And I did wrap those items that night.

* Sunday, December 19. Busy day, but in the afternoon I did try out a recipe for a mix sort of like puppy chow, but lemon flavored. Very good. That evening we went to a Sunday School Christmas program at an area church, and it was a lot of fun and very uplifting.

Monday, December 20. Finished up another handmade gift and wrapped nearly all of our presents that are being sent out west. Baked two batches of cookies. They still need to be filled/frosted, but at least they are baked. Went online and printed postage for the priority mail parcels, and scheduled a carrier pickup for them for today.

And that's how the past few days have gone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 15-16

Once again, I'd better note down what I did toward Christmas on these days, before I forget it!

On Wednesday, which is always a very busy day for me, about all I got done was to finish a handcrafted gift, but it was a time-consuming project that I'm thankful to be finished with. I'm working on a second one just like it.

On Thursday, a lot more got done. I did a bit more decorating, plus put together a gift basket for a Yankee swap. It came out so nice, I wish I had thought to take a picture of it, but I didn't. Basically, it was a recycled Christmas basket filled with fun goodies -- 2 vintage-looking holly mugs (bought at Walmart after Christmas a few years back), with chocolate-dipped spoons in one and peppermint bark in the other; a tin of homemade hot cocoa mix; a small jar candle in a vanilla gingerbread scent; a packet of mulling spices for hot cider; and a couple of candy canes. I wrapped it all up in one of those clear cellophane gift basket bags (2/$1 at Dollar Tree; what a deal!) with a scrap of glittery red and gold wired ribbon and a glitzy red snowflake ornament. It was a big hit at the swap -- got traded several times.

I also wrapped a couple of other small gifts during the day and spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I made homemade hot cocoa mix; cranberry pistachio bark; chocolate dipped spoons with various goodies sprinkled on (crushed candy canes, toffee chips, mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows); and also made some homemade Italian wedding soup for supper.

The ladies' Christmas fellowship (where the Yankee swap was held) was a very nice time and I was especially blessed by the fellowship and by the devotional thoughts shared by one of the ladies. She spoke of childhood Christmases and one in particular where she received a special gift she could hardly believe was intended for her. She drew the parallel between that blue bicycle of long ago and God's "unspeakable gift" of His Son for the salvation of all who will trust Him as Savior. Many, many people in our world have no idea that this marvelous gift is intended for them! I pray that at this time of year we will take the time to share this gift with our friends and loved ones.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 13-14

Yesterday and today, I didn't get a lot done toward Christmas, but a few things got done. I finished one handmade gift yesterday and started another, and we also did a bit of Christmas shopping -- both for gifts and also for necessary components to complete more handmade gifts.

Today Mr. T unexpectedly had the afternoon off, so we went Christmas shopping again! En route, I was able to work on handmade gifts for a bit. We went to Cracker Barrel, a place I dearly love to visit at Christmas time, and thoroughly enjoyed a late lunch and the wonderful ambiance. Fire crackling in the big fireplace, the country store just brimming with Christmas delights... what a treat! And we found some marvelous gifts. Later we went to the Christmas Tree Shop and found some other gift components, containers, etc. What a fun day!

Anniversary giveaway at Green Twig!

I'm posting about this Christmasy giveaway on both of my blogs, because I know that not all of my readers visit both of them regularly.

This giveaway is over at Green Twig, the blog of my real-life friend Mrs.D. She is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Green Twig with this special event.

She is giving away a gorgeous Christmas-themed market tote and also a sweet set of wintry-looking teacups and saucers with little pine branches on them. Mrs. D is an incredible seamstress and quilter, and made the bag herself. It is so cute and looks as if it would hold a lot of groceries.

So head on over to Green Twig and leave a comment. If you have a blog of your own, Mrs. T also asks that you post about her giveaway there. Two fortunate readers will win either the bag or the teacups, so check out the giveaway now!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 11-12

Oops, missed a couple of days in reporting on our Christmas preparations! I'd better post now while I can still recall what we did...

December 11 -- spent the morning in the kitchen. Made White Christmas candy (peppermint bark), another batch of Heavenly Delight fudge, and chocolate peanut morsels. Did a bit more decorating. In the afternoon we went to a small Christmas party for Mr. T's work -- a festive fun time with congenial friends and lots of yummy food. Spent time working on a handmade gift, too.

December 12 -- went to church, of course, as well as Sunday School and our usual potluck lunch. Drew names for our church gift exchange. Spent a very few minutes working on a handmade gift. In the evening, we went to a Sunday School Christmas program which three of our grandchildren were participating in.

Nothing like a Sunday School program to get one into the true spirit of Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 10

Yesterday was busy, but a lot got done toward Christmas!

I spent some good quality crafting time, and at least one more handcrafted gift is nearing completion. It was fun listening to the radio's continuous Christmas music as I worked.

Time in the kitchen produced hot cocoa mix, fudge, and a cinnamon pretzel snack mix.

In the late afternoon, Mr. T and I went to Walmart and the dollar store for the makings and containers for more kitchen gifts. After supper, we drove to a nearby town to one of our favorite bookstores. An evening visit to this shopping center, in an old mill with a gorgeous ice-rimmed waterfall, is one of our own special Christmastime traditions. It was a quick visit this time due to time constraints, but we hope to go again and maybe get some pictures. It was a fruitful trip, though, as we did find several Christmas gifts.

All in all, a wonderful day!

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 9

Yesterday was a super busy day with lots to do both at home and out of the house. I found perhaps an hour or so for crafting on handmade Christmas gifts, and was thankful to have that much time.

And as I sat at my crafting desk working on these projects, I gave thanks to God for the blessing of being able to sit in my warm, lovely home and make things for loved ones. I find so much joy in just sitting at my glass-topped desk with all of the beautiful Christmas cards beneath the glass, tucked into a cozy upstairs dormer nook, and working on special craft projects. I don't take it lightly -- it's a huge blessing from God!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

December 8

Wednesdays are always super busy for me, so I wasn't expecting to accomplish much in the way of Christmas preparations on this day. I was thankful to find time for a little bit of crafting on handmade gifts (sorry I can't show photos of any of these top secret gifts yet!). And I also made a batch of hot chocolate mix and got that packaged into gift jars. That was it, but I was happy to get that much accomplished.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

December 7

Today I devoted the afternoon to Christmas pursuits, first putting a hamburger soup in the crockpot and some dough for focaccia bread in the bread machine.

I got a small amount of crafting done, but nowhere near as much as I hoped.

However, lots of baking and candy making was accomplished! I made a double batch of Chocolate Spritz, and a batch of Whipped Shortbread. (You should be able to find these recipes here on my blog by typing them into the search box at the top left.) I also made Lemon Ice Candy (just crushed lemon candy mixed into melted white almond bark and spread on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet -- chill until firm, then break into pieces) and some Chocolate Peppermint Bark. I won't have time for baking tomorrow, so I'm thankful for what was accomplished today.

Monday, December 06, 2010

December 6

Today was a perfect day to bake in the Christmas kitchen. Snow fell lightly and softly all day long and the wind gusted from time to time. In the midst of the usual Monday tasks of laundry and other housework, I took time to bake 2 kinds of Christmas cookies -- macaroon kisses and gingerbread men. Both are now stored in tins in the freezer, awaiting gift-giving time.

After supper -- a beef pot pie, mashed winter squash, and coleslaw -- I spent some time working on a handcrafted gift and working a bit in my Christmas notebook. There are still a few items I need to buy for further Christmas baking!

December 5

Didn't find time to post this yesterday, so will write it up now. Saturday was a very productive day as far as getting things done toward Christmas and also for getting in the Christmas spirit.

Mr. T and I were both busy with other projects in the morning, but after lunch we went downtown for a bit and browsed in one of our favorite shops which features books, toys, and art supplies. I picked up a few items to complete some Christmas gifts for some of the grandkids. Then we went and visited our town's Festival of Trees and saw some very interesting ones. The chocolate lover's tree was our favorite! After that we made a quick stop at the dollar store where we picked up some Christmas jars to use for gifts of hot chocolate mix. We also got a couple of Christmas tins to use to package candy gifts in.

When we got home, I washed all the jars and tins so they are ready to use when I'm ready to fill them.

Then Mr. T suggested we put up the Christmas tree. We both have colds, but we decided we had enough energy to do this. Our tree is a very old artificial one given us by friends who were downsizing. Although it's old, it's the most real-looking artificial tree I've ever seen. (It even loses its needles when you bump against it!) We got the tree up and the lights in place and then decided we still had enough energy left to add the ornaments.

We had a simple supper of fried egg sandwiches and home fries and applesauce, and then after supper I pressed the tree skirt and put it in place under the tree. I also added the snowflakes and icicles to the garland over the picture window.

Later, I worked on a couple of handmade gifts. Indeed, a very productive day!

Sunday was a busy day and we were out of the house until 3:30 or so. But I did manage to complete one embroidered gift and start another -- transferring the design and actually starting the embroidery.

All in all, I'm pleased with our progress in preparing for Christmas!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

December 4

Let's see, what did I accomplish yesterday toward Christmas (or otherwise)?

Well, for one thing, I made tortilla enchilada soup in the crockpot. And the crockpot just happens to be one of my secrets for finding more time for Christmas crafting, baking, decorating, or whatever. Supper prepares itself while I spend time on other pursuits. If there is bread baking in the bread machine at the same time, or if one prepares a cornbread mix or some purchased bakery bread, you have a meal. Fortunately, my husband never tires of soup, and I have a good variety of crockpot soup recipes in my file.

I spent some time working on Christmas crafts -- that is, projects I'm making for gifts. I can't really get specific, as some of the recipients read my blogs. But I did some sewing, some embroidery, and some cutting of stencils.

Another thing I did was to try a couple of new recipes. One was a recipe for Cinnamon Chip Bread. It came out quite well, although I had a few issues with it. The other recipe was for Heavenly Fudge. I found this recipe in Gooseberry Patch Christmas book #4, I believe. It's a relatively standard fudge recipe using 12 ounces of chocolate chips and a can of sweetened condensed milk, but includes a half cup of butterscotch morsels as well. This turned out well, and will be among the treats we share with others this Christmas season!

Friday, December 03, 2010

December 3

Yesterday was another slow day with this cold. I felt as if I accomplished very little toward Christmas.

But I did manage to get all of the fall decorations put away, and to get a few Christmas things in place. (I must note that all photos in this post are from previous years.)

On our front door is a grapevine wreath twined with silk ivy. I just change out the trims seasonally. So I pulled off the fall leaves and added a string of cranberry red wooden beads and a red plaid bow. Centered in the wreath is a small blackboard. I erased "Give Thanks" and printed "Christmas is Coming."

In the front hallway I took down the fall ribbon board and replaced it with the green and red Christmas ribbon board. Before the day was done, I had filled it with vintage cards.

I emptied my hutch of the gorgeous fall items. But since most of my Christmas things are in the attic, I simply filled the hutch shelves temporarily with some of my favorite Christmas books, mugs, etc. Later, those things can easily be moved when I get out some of my treasures.

The kitchen table now has red and white plaid placemats and a pretty Christmas runner down the center. In the middle, I placed my small clear cake dome with a small red and white doily inside and a small holly print teacup and teapot atop the doily. Sorry -- I was too lazy to take a picture.

For the kitchen island, for now I put down a simple red and white striped dishtowel on top and set my large Mitford teacup in the center -- minus the cookie cutters you see in this pic from last year.
Again, my island decor will change, but for now this puts me in the Christmas spirit!

The Christmas spoon rest is on the stove.

These sparkly, jingly heart ornaments are dangling from kitchen cupboard knobs.

In the living room, I took the fall leaves off the pine cone and evergreen garland over the picture window. I will add sparkly snowflakes and icicles once the trims come down from the attic. For now, I have just hung this family photo ornament at the center.

Lastly, I turned and refolded my simple flannel throw on the couch so that the Christmas print side (seen below) is visible. The rest of the year, the plain dark green side is uppermost.

And that's the extent of my simple Christmas decorating so far!

I also spent some time working on crafts for Christmas gifts, but it's awful how this cold has sapped my energy. I'm hoping for more energy today!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

December 2

I wanted December 1 to be a day when I sort of prepared for Christmas -- took the fall decor down, got out some of the Christmas decor, hunted up some Christmas recipes to add ingredients to my shopping list, etc. It just didn't work out that way yesterday.

I changed all of the calendars in the house to December -- that's something, right?

It had looked as if Mr. T would have yesterday free (too much rain to work in the woods) but he ended up doing other things like working on our vehicles, etc. If he had been home, he would have been able to help with getting items out of the attic. I had to be out of the house most of the afternoon as well, so it just wasn't to be yesterday. It's probably just as well, since I came down with a truly awful head cold yesterday morning and I don't have a whole lot of energy anyhow.

So not not a lot of Christmasy preparations got done. I did spend quite a bit of time working on handcrafted gifts, though I can't share specifics since many of the recipients read my blogs.

Supper was the usual Wednesday night pizza (I leave the dough in the bread machine while I deal with my afternoon commitments out of the house). I also made this wonderful Creamy Turkey Soup, which I highly recommend. I'm hoping it cures colds!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

December 1

December 1! Where, oh where, did November go? It seemed as if November had barely started before it was time for Thanksgiving!

I'd like to post here every day through December (as well as in my Christmas blog, Mrs.T's Christmas Kitchen -- see link in sidebar) but we'll see! When I post here, I will probably share some favorite images of Christmas cards old and new from my collection.

Do be sure to check out the archives in my Christmas blog as well as the Christmas link in the word cloud of labels here at my kitchen table. You are sure to find some recipes, craft or decorating ideas you can use.

Yesterday was a busy day mostly spent out of the house as I helped my daughter with some household tasks at her home. When I got back, I set the turkey bones to simmering with some onion, celery, bay leaf, pepper, and cloves, to make turkey broth.

Supper was gingerbread waffles (a yummy recipe from the Gooseberry Patch book Christmas Pantry), homemade applesauce, and sausage patties.

After supper I took the remaining turkey meat from the bones and strained the broth. All ready to make turkey soup today!

I also spent an hour or two last evening working on some top secret Christmas craft projects! They are coming along pretty well, but I have many more such items on my crafting for Christmas list.

Wednesdays are always busy for me, but I'm hoping to get some crafting done today and also start my Christmas decorating. Maybe even make some easy Christmas cookies!