Saturday, December 31, 2011

Delights of December Day 31 ~ A Christmas card "kissing ball" project

Wow, it is hard to believe we  have gotten through 31 days of December.  I hope that you've all enjoyed this little series of posts as much as I have.  For the final one, I want to share another project from the archives ~ a colorful Christmas card ball.  Many of my readers have seen this, but I imagine there are also many who have not.  Years ago when I was a young mom, a friend of my mother's shared this craft idea with me.  I have made many of these in the forty years or so since then.  If you like, you could even make a non-Christmas decoration out of it -- just use wintry scenes and perhaps just silver and blue Christmas balls for trim along with glitter.

It's true that a kissing ball usually incorporates mistletoe or greens of some sort. However, in our family we hang this colorful decoration made from old Christmas cards in a doorway and we call it a "kissing ball". One of the kids started calling it that, and the name stuck. My husband persists in treating it as if it were mistletoe.

This project is a tiny bit time-consuming in waiting for glue to dry, etc. but it is very easy and a lot of fun to do.

You will need:

Old Christmas cards

A compass or a 3-inch jar lid (for tracing circles)

A pencil or pen



Mucilage-type glue (the kind with the spreader top)

Paper clips

Glue stick


Miniature glass Christmas balls

Tacky glue

Heavy gold (or other) cord for hanging ball

To begin, draw a three-inch circle or two on the back of a Christmas card, and cut these out. These will be your templates. It's a good idea to have more than one, because they get a bit worn down and out of shape if you keep using the same template over and over. You need to also draw an equilateral triangle that just fits inside a 3-inch circle, and cut that out. This triangle will be your template for folding the circles later.

Next, using your circle templates, draw 20 three-inch circles on Christmas card fronts. Try and center the card's picture (or the part of the picture you are using) in the circle. You may be able to get more than one circle per card, depending upon the design. Cut out the circles.

The next part sounds tricky, but it really isn't that difficult. Once you begin, you will understand how it works.

First, make the top of the ball. This takes 5 circles. Using your triangle template, trace a triangle on the back of each circle, with the point uppermost. You will want to make sure that your design is right side up, with the triangle's point at the top. Now, fold along the lines you just made. Crease them well. What you will have is a triangular design framed by half-circle flaps on all three sides.

Now it's time to glue. Take the first two circles and place them side by side with the points of triangles next to each other at the top. Apply the mucilage-type glue to the back of two adjacent side flaps and glue them together. Secure with paper clips which will hold the flaps together until they dry. Continue until all 5 pieces are glued together. Then glue the two remaining side flaps together. You will see that this forms a cap-like piece, or maybe an upside down bowl. Paper-clip the last two glued flaps and set the piece aside to dry.

Next, make the bottom of the ball with 5 more circles. This time, trace your triangle so that the point is at the bottom of your design. Again, be sure the design is right side up, but with the triangle's point at the bottom. Fold and crease as before.

Glue as for top, but this time you glue them side by side with the points of triangles next to each other at the bottom. Paper-clip the flaps together as you glue. Finished bottom piece will resemble a bowl. Set aside to dry.

Now make the middle section, using the remaining 10 circles. This time you will trace 5 triangles with the points up (design right side up) and 5 triangles with the points down (again, with the design right side up). Fold and crease as before.

As you have probably guessed, the positioning and gluing of the middle section is different from the top and bottom. Place a point-up triangle next to a point-down one, and so on, alternating between the two. Glue and clip adjacent flaps as you go. At the end, glue and clip the remaining flap of the last piece to the unglued side flap of the first piece. Set aside to dry.

(Are you thinking this is a lot of work? It's simple work, though, and I promise the finished product will be very pretty.)

When all three pieces are dry, remove all of the paper clips. Don't put them away, though -- you'll need them again.

Now, glue the bottom flaps of your top piece to the top flaps of the middle section, paper-clipping as you go. And then glue the top flaps of the bottom piece to the bottom flaps of the middle section, again paper-clipping as you go along. Set the completed ball aside to dry.

When it's dry, now is the time to add glitter. (Remove all of the paper clips before proceeding with this step.) You can use whatever color glitter you like. I usually use gold or silver, but one time, for an elderly aunt who collected Santas, I used all Santa cards for the ball and used red glitter. Anyway, to add glitter, hold the ball over a disposable pie pan or other throwaway container. Use the glue stick to add glue to each flap of the completed ball, and then sprinkle the gluey surface with glitter. Shake off excess.

Now, for the finishing touch. You've probably noticed that there are openings where the folded circles don't quite meet. You are about to fix that! For each of these openings, dip the hanger end of a miniature Christmas ball in tacky glue. Carefully insert these glued ends into each opening except for the opening at the top of the ball.

Make a loop of cord to use as a hanging loop. Tie the cord ends in a sturdy knot. Dip the knot in tacky glue and carefully insert the knot into the opening at the top of the ball.

Set the ball aside until all the glue is dry.

Hang your new decoration in a hallway, window, or from a ceiling fixture -- and enjoy its festive sparkle!

Although the ball doesn't show up really well in this picture, you can see how nice it looks in a doorway.
I should add that you can also make these smaller, by using 1 1/2-inch circles, and hang them on the Christmas tree.  You wouldn't add the miniature ornaments to these, but probably just glitter.  If you wanted to put something in the tiny spaces where the flaps meet, you could easily use beads.  *

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sam's snowflakes

My grandson Sam learned how to make snowflakes this year.   One day he and his brother and sister came to visit us for a few hours and brought along plastic bags full of construction paper snowflakes to show us, all made by Sam except for a few made by his mom.  Later, they went home and hung them all up.   I borrowed this photo from his mom's blog to show you how nice they all look.
(Photo from Life on a Back Road)

But Sam really wanted us to see how he made the snowflakes, so his mom reminded him of how to fold a couple of sheets of construction paper while they were here, and Sam proceeded to make us two red construction paper snowflakes.  They resided on the round oak table in the living room for days.  Finally, I got around to hanging them up, one from each wagon wheel light fixture.

This picture didn't come out too well, but you get the idea.
A much better look at one of Sam's snowflakes.  Isn't it interesting?

Thank you, Sam!  They are some of the most creative snowflakes I have ever seen!

Delights of December Day 30 ~ 2 pretty projects using recycled cards and/or gift wrap

Here are two more Christmas-card projects that are quick and easy!  One is a pin, the other an ornament.

For either project, start by finding a small Victorian motif on an old Christmas card, a gift tag,  or a scrap of wrapping paper. (I have seen several wrapping papers that are basically a collage of Victorian motifs.)

Glue the motif to posterboard or thin cardboard and let dry.

Carefully cut around the edges of the motif through both paper and the board it is glued to.

To make a pin, hot-glue a pin back to the back side of the cardboard, centering it near the top.

Coat the front of the motif with mod podge at least three times, letting it dry between coats. If desired, sprinkle glitter on the motif before the last coat of mod podge dries.

When the mod podge is completely dry, glue metallic cord,  braid, or other trim around the outside edge of the glued piece to frame your motif.  Home-Sew is a wonderful source for this sort of trim, and typically sell assortments of it by the bagful.   If you join their Sample Club (which is free to join) they will send you samples to look at every few months, which are available at very good prices indeed.

I made my pin round and ran a thin metallic cord around the outer edge. I was quite pleased with the way it came out, but my son persisted in referring to it as my "panic button" so I didn't wear it too often!
I cut the design for this pin from a gift tag.

For an ornament, you would follow the same steps, only instead of a pin-back, hot-glue a loop of gold cord to the center back of the cardboard near the top.  Take a clump of tinsel or garland and hot-glue it to the center of the ornament at the bottom.  This is a great way to recycle tinsel or garland that has become too worn to use on your tree anymore.
I made my ornaments rectangular or oval, trimmed the edge with decorative cord, and glued a tassel made from tinsel to the bottom center of one ornament. I want to make more of these. The photo shows two of the oval ornaments.

Oval Victorian ornament on the tree

Rectangular ornament on the tree

A second oval ornament on the tree

Obviously, you need not stick with a Victorian theme for these.  I can see them in a lodge/woodsy effect too, trimmed with twigs, little pine cones, greenery, etc.  Hope someone else has fun with these ideas!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Delights of December Day 29 ~ Hot Pizza Dip

With New Year's Eve coming up, I thought it would be the perfect time to share a recipe for an easy hot dip that uses basic ingredients and can be simply heated in the microwave.We sometimes celebrate  New Year's Eve at church or with friends with a simple time of fellowship, food and board games. I have often brought this dip, along with breadsticks, and a large tray of Christmas cookies from the freezer.  It doesn't get much easier!


One 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup pizza sauce OR spaghetti sauce
2 Tblsp. chopped green and/or red pepper*
2 Tblsp. thinly sliced green onions*
Breadsticks or tortilla chips for dipping

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and Italian seasoning together. Spread the mixture in an ungreased microwave-safe 9-inch pie plate.

In a bowl, combine the mozzarella and the parmesan. Sprinkle half of this mixture over the cream cheese in the pie plate. Spread the sauce over the top and then sprinkle all of the remaining cheese mixture over the sauce. Top with the chopped peppers and the green onions.

Microwave the dip uncovered on High for 3 to 4 minutes, rotating the plate a half turn several times if your microwave does not have a turntable, until the cheese is almost melted. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes before serving with breadsticks or tortilla chips.
(Photo by Taste of Home)

* You can top this dip with almost anything -- I have used finely chopped pepperoni, peppers or green onions only, a combination of the three -- or I have just simply topped it with a sprinkle of pizza spice. It doesn’t seem to matter what you use -- the dip is going to get gobbled up regardless. I very often bring this to potlucks because people enjoy it so much. I usually make two of these, and there is still never any left to bring home.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Delights of December Day 28 ~ Making little boxes from Christmas cards

Most people have probably seen those little boxes made from Christmas cards. These are the easiest directions I have ever found. Most of the instructions I've seen involve a lot of folding and drawing of complicated lines, etc. These are actually easy!

The boxes can obviously be made from any greeting card, not just Christmas ones. These make great little gift boxes or can be used to hold office or craft supplies like paper clips, tacks, push pins, beads, etc. Christmas ones can be hung on the tree or piled beneath a miniature tree, where they look adorable.  One creative person used them to decorate a wreath, as I saw in an old magazine, but obviously this would need to be an indoor wreath to protect the boxes from dampness.

As you look over your stash of old cards, it will quickly become clear to you that not every card will work for this.  It needs to be either an allover design or perhaps something floral, like the poinsettia and mistletoe cards I chose.  (If you don't have any suitable cards and want to try this anyway, then simply use any cards you like and then wrap the finished boxes in wrapping paper.)

Here's what you do:

1. Cut apart a greeting card along the fold, separating the front from the back.

2. Start with the back part of the card. Using a ruler, draw lines from corner to corner on the unprinted side of the card to form an X. The center is where the two lines of the X meet.

3. Fold up each of the four sides of the card to meet the center of the X. Crease the folds well.

4. Open the card back up to reveal the creases you've made. Now, holding the card vertically, carefully cut on the two vertical crease lines at the top and bottom of the card, just to the point where they intersect with the nearest horizontal crease.

5. Fold in the tabs you just created by following step 4. You can now see how this is going to form a box. Tape the tabs inside the box. (You may find that each end of the box -- the part between the tabs -- stands up a bit higher than the rest of the box. If this happens, it is not a problem. You can simply fold the excess down inside, over the tabs, and tape it in place. Or, if you prefer, you can simply trim off the excess card before taping.) You have just made the bottom of the box!

6. Now, repeat steps 2 through 5 with the front part of the card, which will make the top of your box.

7. Obviously, this produces a box top and bottom which are exactly the same size, which sometimes means that the cover doesn't go on too easily. Usually, if you just squeeze the sides of the box gently, the cover will go on just fine.

These directions look far more complicated than the process actually is. I've made loads of these boxes with kids over the years, and it really is easy enough for even a 5-year-old to do with some guidance and maybe a bit of help with the creasing. So have fun with these cute little boxes!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Delights of December Day 27 ~ Making gift tags out of used Christmas cards

One of the most obvious and easy ways to use your old Christmas cards is to make gift tags from them. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Sometimes you can use the entire front of a card as a tag, if it has enough blank space to write the to/from information. These are especially nice for family members -- for example, you might have a card front that says "Merry Christmas to a Dear Granddaughter." This is a natural to paste to the top of your granddaughter's Christmas present. These can add a real decorative element to a package wrapped in a solid color like red, green, blue, silver, etc.

The other way is to cut shapes from your old cards to make tags. You can make simple shapes like rectangles, squares or circles. Current, Inc. sells a set of tag templates which work very nicely and has quite an assortment of shapes. A book of children's Christmas stencils would also work well. Once you have cut your shapes you can punch a hole in each one and add some red, green or metallic string to make a hanging tag.  
What if your family doesn't receive a lot of cards but you'd still like to do this project?  Easy -- just let friends or relatives know you would be happy to take used cards off their hands.  I promise you will have all the cards you will ever need!
Some of my favorite tags from last year
This simple project is a fun way to keep your kids busy during Christmas break -- and I personally find that doing a project like this, even all by myself, is very relaxing and a great stress reliever.

Have fun with this idea!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Delights of December Day 26 ~ Some ideas for using Christmas cards

Each year I like to display the cards we receive in our front hallway as they arrive. Once I've sent a card in return, I roll up masking tape and tape the cards around the frame of the doorway to the living room. I also tape them to the adjacent wall of the hallway. They pretty much take up the space available and make a very festive display. I keep them up until a couple of weeks after Christmas.
A festive doorway

When the cards come down, they go into a pretty wooden basket. They will reside there until the next year's cards take their place. We like to pull out a card a day and pray for the family or person who sent the card. Ideally, we keep rotating through them. We don't always stick with this, but every year we aim at it!

I should hasten to add that this year, for the first time in a very long time, the card display didn't happen.  The cards never got taped up.  I was so consumed with some handcrafted gifts I was making that I just didn't find time.  I sort of liked the less cluttered look, just for a change, but I'm sure next year I will be back to taping them up.  But for this year, the cards will be going directly into the prayer basket.

So what do we do with the previous year's cards when the present year's cards replace them? Well, we don't throw them all away! Some are so beautiful that I save them to display at future Christmases. For the others, I have several projects for which I like to use old Christmas cards -- gift tags, little boxes, and even what we call in our family a "kissing ball". In the next few days, I'll be sharing instructions for these projects, so stay tuned!

Delights of December Day 25 ~ Red Satin Ribbon

I grew up in the 1950s, and I find myself growing ever more nostalgic for the Christmases of those days gone by. One thing that just seems to say "old-fashioned Christmas" to me is red satin ribbon. It seemed to be used so often in those days to lend a festive holiday touch. I inherited many of my grandmother's Christmas wrappings, so I've been able to use some of her old ribbon.
Some of the vintage cards in my collection are embellished with real satin ribbon!
 Imagine my delight when I discovered that this beautiful ribbon is still available, for a reasonable price. (I purchase mine through Home-Sew, a mail-order and online sewing supply catalog.) The one-half inch or three-quarter inch sizes are most versatile. I use them to wrap packages, to tie bows on the handles of gift bags, to trim crafts, tie up bunches of greenery, and for decorating in many other ways. Using luxurious, vintage-looking satin ribbons to decorate my home and gifts is one way of helping to re-create those happy Christmases of my childhood.
On my Gram's tree, these white reindeer were hung by red satin ribbons.  I used red string on this one.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Mr. T and I hope that all of you have had a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful time of celebrating our Savior's birth!

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."  ~ John 1:14

Our day has been busy but good, and I hope that you have all had a nice day with family, friends and church family too!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Delights of December Day 24 ~ an icicle and snowflake garland

I have a gorgeous evergreen garland (which I got for free) with attached pinecones and berries. I have woven a string of white lights into the garland. I keep it above my multi-paned picture window and change its decor with the seasons. For Christmas, I trim it with glittery iridescent snowflakes and icicles, both plastic. The snowflakes are glitter-coated as well. The lights glimmering against the snowflakes and icicles give a truly magical effect. The nicest thing is that I can keep these trims in place all winter!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Delights of December Day 23 ~ Mulled Cider Mixes

Mulled Cider Mix

It's fun and easy to make little packets of mulling spices for gifts. They produce some very yummy cider and make wonderful small gifts. I often include them in gift baskets for our neighbors or in care packages to faraway family and friends. Here's what you'll need to make these:

* Cinnamon sticks

* Whole cloves

* Allspice berries

* Coffee filters

* Plain white string

Break the cinnamon sticks in 1-inch pieces. For each packet of spices, place 1 tsp. of cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp. of whole cloves and 1 tsp. of allspice berries in the center of a coffee filter. Gather the filter up into a little bundle and tie securely with string.

To package these, I use an idea I found in a Gooseberry Patch book -- Place each bundle of spices in a small brown paper bag. Fold the top of the bag down securely. Make a tag on card stock or half of a file card with these instructions: "Mulled Cider Mix. Place spice bag in large saucepan with 1 quart to 1 gallon of cider. Heat through and enjoy." Then position the tag at the top of the bag and use your sewing machine, threaded with red thread, to sew the tag to the bag, sewing the bag closed in the process. These look so cute and festive!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Delights of December Day 22 ~ Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Homemade hot chocolate mix was something my grandmother would always stir up for Christmas gifts for her children, grandkids, and their families. I have also found that it makes a wonderful gift. Here's a gift idea for that hard-to-buy for older person : A jar of hot chocolate mix, a container of refrigerator muffin batter, and a box of clementines. We've done this for the past few years for my mother-in-law (the first year we also included a six-cup silicone muffin pan) and she looks forward to it. We have the agreement that I will refill the muffin batter and the hot chocolate as many times as she wants me to.

My hot chocolate mix is one I developed myself by combining my grandmother's recipe with another one and adding in some ideas of my own. I really like the touch of malted milk flavor in this. Here's the recipe:

5 cups instant nonfat dry milk
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups instant chocolate drink powder (like Quik)
1 cup malted milk powder, chocolate flavor
1 cup malted milk powder, malt flavor
1 cup non-dairy powdered creamer
1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and store in an airtight container. Include these directions with mix:
* Place 1/3 cup of mix in a large mug. Fill mug with hot water and stir to dissolve. *

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Delights of December Day 21 ~ Old-Timey Tin Icicles

Old-Timey Tin Icicles

Years ago, my sister-in-law told me about an easy, fun tree decoration. You can actually make these all year whenever you finish a roll of foil, wax paper, etc. Basically, they are icicles which you make from the metal cutting strip on the boxes of these wraps. (As you might guess, this is not a craft small children should help with.)

Nowadays not all wraps come with these metal cutting strips; some are now plastic.  But I've noticed that a surprising number of them still have the metal edges.

Here's what you do: When you finish up a roll of foil or whatever, very carefully remove the metal cutting strip from the box. Once you get the end started, it will come off quite easily. Then take a pencil and, again working very carefully, wrap the metal strip around the pencil in a spiral pattern. Once the icicle looks the way you want it to, slip it off the pencil. There is your tin icicle! These metal strips often have holes spaced along them, and you can slip an ornament hook through the topmost hole. If your metal strip has no holes, you can simply bend the top of the icicle a bit to stay on a tree branch.

These icicles look charmingly old-fashioned on your tree, and they catch the glimmer of the tree lights beautifully. Have fun with this idea!
From a favorite Christmas card by Kathy Lawrence

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Delights of December Day 20 ~ ideas for Christmas breakfast

Even though Christmas is a few days away, I thought this might be a good time to share our Christmas breakfast traditions with you. If you decide to try this recipe, you will want to be shopping for ingredients soon. So here are my thoughts on

For Christmas breakfast when the kids were growing up, I always liked to have something easy but hearty. I knew they would be having a lot of sweets and excitement that day, not to mention a lack of sleep. So it made sense to me to be sure that breakfast included some good food, especially protein and fruit. I would plan some sort of egg dish -- usually one that could be made the night before and refrigerated, then baked in the morning. Along with this, we would have muffins or coffeecake, and either leftover ambrosia, fruit salad, or the oranges from the stockings. Here is my favorite egg dish.

2 cups seasoned croutons
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
Pepper to taste
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Place the croutons and cheese in a lightly greased 9-inch square pan. combine milk, salt, mustard, onion powder and pepper. Pour this over the croutons and cheese in the pan. Sprinkle bacon on top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, bake at 350°, uncovered, for l hour. Recipe may be doubled for a 13X9-inch pan.

Yield: 4 servings

This is my standby breakfast recipe when we have overnight guests. I also served it to the wedding party at 2 pre-wedding brunches. So easy, but delicious!

If you click the label for "muffins" in the label cloud to the right, you will bring up some of my favorite muffin recipes.  Enjoy!
Almond Joy Muffins -- photo by Taste of Home

Monday, December 19, 2011

Delights of December Day 19 ~ Christmas Eve Soup

I've been making this soup for probably 30 years or more. It all started years ago when I decided we needed some simple traditions for our own family -- not just going to Grandma's on the big day, but something especially our own. We decided to have a simple meal on Christmas Eve -- when we started, we invited grandparents and other close family, but now it is down to just us, sometimes my dad, and any available children and grandchildren. The menu I chose that first year was this soup, muffins or biscuits, and, for dessert, ambrosia with Christmas cookies. Over the years, many things have changed -- the past couple of years I've eliminated the ambrosia in favor of ice cream, and some years we have cheese pizza instead of bread -- but this soup is a constant. I thought I would share the recipe a few days early in case anyone else would like to try this for Christmas Eve. So here it is:

6 cups sliced potatoes
1 cup sliced carrots
6 slices bacon
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup sliced celery
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
2 cups half & half cream
Finely shredded cheddar cheese
Parsley sprigs

Cook potatoes and carrots in boiling water until tender; drain. Saute bacon until crisp in skillet. Drain on paper towels; crumble. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. Saute the onion and celery in the reserved bacon fat until tender but not brown.
Combine potatoes, carrots, onion mixture, salt, pepper, and cream in a large kettle or Dutch oven. Simmer for 30 minutes; do not boil.

Garnish with shredded cheddar , parsley sprigs and the crumbled bacon.

Serves 4 to 6.

(Note:  Sometimes I just saute the onion and celery in canola oil, butter, or bacon fat, then add the potatoes, carrots and water and cook till the vegetables are done.  Then I add the cream ~ fat-free half & half works fine ~ and just sprinkle purchased bacon bits over the soup when serving.  The taste is pretty much the same, and it's quite a bit easier.)

Delights of December Day 18 ~ Christmas Heirlooms

Sorry I am a day late in posting this!  Yesterday was a very busy day.


I was extremely fortunate to have some special Christmas things handed down to me. Oh, they weren’t big, expensive, valuable items. Some would probably call them “trinkets” or even “junk”. But to me they are very precious -- part of my heritage.
I have 2 of these vintage felt snowmen.  See how they resemble snowflakes?  Love the "holly berry" hands & feet, too.
Many years ago my great-aunt gave me some old glass ornaments that had belonged to her and her late husband. Even though the ornaments are faded now and some are chipped, I continue to put them on the tree each year, along with some antique felt snowmen and elves. There were also some of those colored heavy foil reflectors for use with the old-time Christmas lights. On years when we put colored lights on our tree, I still use the reflectors even though our modern lights are much smaller and they have to be put on just so to make them fit.

Here you can see several vintage glass ornaments, plus a felt elf lady and one of the heavy foil reflectors in blue.
The same great-aunt also gave me some wonderful vintage Christmas fabric and a box full of Christmas candles. There were carolers and a lamp post, angels, and other things. I always loved seeing such candles around when I was a child, but it’s hard to imagine actually lighting one of them. (Incidentally, the Vermont Country Store carries such candles, so they’re still available if you know where to look.)
One of my favorites from childhood
My grandmother was a real lover of Christmas, and she kept a good stock of whatever was needed to make the holiday special. She gave me a whole box once of things she was getting rid of -- mostly paper goods -- and in it were some real treasures. I had always marveled that there were actually such things as paper doilies done in Christmas prints. Gram had lots of them -- with holly, poinsettias, and so on. I felt extremely fortunate to find some of those -- several different sizes and prints -- in that box, and for years I used them very sparingly. In the past few years I have found some lovely Christmas paper doilies in the dollar stores and at Target, so they’re still out there.
Gram also gave me a box full of wrapping paper, ribbon, and tags. I have had a wonderful time using these things over the years. I still have some of the ribbon and tags, and included some of the tags and a few snippets of ribbon in the Christmas memory books I’ve made for family members.

What about you? What are your Christmas heirlooms? If you don’t have any, you might like to consider making some special things to hand down to your family.
The plastic reindeer is from my childhood.  Bottle brush tree and glittery house are newer treasures from Gooseberry Patch.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Delights of December Day 17 ~ Two nutty confections

At Christmastime, all types of snack mixes are popular as gifts and just to have around the house for family and friends to nibble on. These two nutty treats have been particular favorites with us and with those we've shared them with.

The first is a treat for coffee lovers.

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook to the soft-ball stage.
Remove from heat and toss in: 3 cups broken walnuts.  Spread on wax-paper-lined cookie sheets to dry. The nuts should be fairly separate, not in large clumps.

Next, we have

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
2 cups pecan halves
In small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and evaporated milk. Cook over medium heat to 234° (soft-ball stage), stirring occasionally. Add butter and orange peel; stir to blend. Add pecan halves; stir until all are coated. Spread the pecans on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. When candy coating is firm, gently break pecans apart. Store in covered containers.

The first nut recipe is from Cook & Tell. The second is from a Taste of the Country cookbook. Both of these nut recipes make wonderful gifts. You can buy tins or jars to put them in, or, for a vintage look, save cans through the year from peanuts, mixed nuts or cashews and cover them with Christmas wrapping paper. That’s the old-timey way!

Christmas 1950

Friday, December 16, 2011

Delights of December Day 16 ~ My simple Christmas-card system

My simple Christmas-Card system...

So many people struggle with trying to get their Christmas cards sent out. For years I watched my mother labor with a list, checking off cards received, listing cards sent out... and when I started sending my own Christmas cards, I did the same. Then came a couple of very busy years when cards just didn't get sent. Finally I decided to try a different way of handling this... something that would make it a blessing rather that a chore, that would keep the enjoyment in this special way of keeping in touch with friends and family.

I decided that when we received a card from someone, then I would send that person a card. It keeps the task very manageable. Writing only a few cards a day keeps it enjoyable and gives me time to add a little note to the card if I like. This system is almost foolproof. The only thing that keeps it from being ideal is that invariably we receive some cards from people at the very last minute, like the day before or the day after Christmas. I noticed this the first year, so the next year I bought a couple of nice New Year's cards to use for those people. (If you are trying this for the first time, I suggest buying a couple of New Year's cards right now, to have on hand for this inevitable happening.) By now, I have it pretty much figured out who is going to be late with their cards -- in our case, it's only two people -- and I just send their cards now before we receive one from them.

This system works beautifully for us. Is it perfect? Of course not. But it sure beats struggling to get your cards sent out or just giving up on sending cards entirely, as many people have done. Give it a try and see what you think!