Thursday, December 24, 2009

On my tree

I am fortunate to have many special ornaments on my tree. The ones featured are all from My Big Martha, Mom2 and Grandma O. Enjoy!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Baking blitz

And the girl in the back said "Everyone attack!" and it turned into a baking blitz...baking blitz...

Okay, that's not exactly how the song goes, but that's what I was singing this past weekend.  The Big Guy and I made hundreds of cookies--it really was a baking blitz!

We made cookies for the Big Guy's coworkers:

We made cookies for the neighbors:

We made a cookie platter for the lovely ladies at the Little Guy's daycare:

And I made cranberry-white chocolate-almond cookies for my work's cookie exchange: 

It was electric, so frightfully TMI we had a baking blitz!  Baking blitz!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Craft project--painted glass ornaments

Here's a super easy and super cute Christmas craft project--painted glass ornaments.  I made these a few years ago so there are no pictures of the process, but I'll go through it step-by-step.

For this project, you'll need hollow glass ornaments with removeable tops (found at any craft store), an empty egg carton and several small bottles of acrylic paint in various colors (also found at any craft store). 

1. Remove the ornament top and squeeze in a few drops of paint.
2. Rotate the ornament and put in a few drops of another color of paint.
3. Rotate the ornament once again and put in a few more drops of another color of paint.
4. Being careful not to tip the ornament over so paint runs out, rotate the ornament all around to get the paint to cover the entire interior surface. 
5. Once the inside is covered with swirls of paint, put the ornament upside down in the egg carton so the excess paint can drip out.
6.  Let the ornaments dry for a day or two, then put the tops on. 

That's really all there is to it.  Aren't they gorgeous?  I remember making these as a Girl Scout--shout out to my troop leader, My Own Big Martha!  Hi, Mom!

I think a set of these would make a lovely gift.  And this is a great craft project for kids.

When the Little Guy is older, we'll be making these for all the relatives. Until then, I'll just have to enjoy my own set.  Happy crafting!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Martha Monday--Christmas Menu

Are you hosting Christmas?  I've never hosted Christmas before...until this year.  To plan a menu, I naturally turned to Martha.  She has an entire spread of holiday menu ideas here

As a first-time Christmas hostess, I will NOT be making this:

Quite frankly, I'm not even sure what animal this comes from. 

My menu is a bit more down-to-earth:

Turkey breast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Scalloped potatoes
Corn bread casserole
Green bean casserole
Glazed carrots OR broccoli/cauliflower

...and possibly this for dessert:

It's Martha's chocolate-peppermint cake.  YUM!
What are your plans for Christmas?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wrapping party

I recently had some friends over for a "wrapping party."  I've done this in holiday seasons past:  we simply get together, eat, laugh, wrap gifts and work on various Christmas projects.  It's a good time.

It's also a great way for me to share my abudance of bows, wrapping paper, ribbon, gift bags, etc. that I stock up on every year after Christmas. 

The Big Guy thinks I have problem.  "Honey," I say, "if loving gift wrap and owning 30 or so rolls is wrong, then I don't want to be right."

To start, I put bows, tape, scissors and gift tags on dining room table.    The buffett held the tissue paper, ribbon and gift bags. 

If you do this, be sure to provide a large variety of gift bag's a good thing.

I provided about 25 rolls of paper for my wrapping crew.  We went through several rolls.

I wish I could show you pictures of the happy little elves at work, but I was too busy laughing, talking, eating and wrapping gifts to pick up the camera.  But trust me, we had a fun and productive time.  Special shout-out to Anita for wrapping some gifts for me.  Thanks for a wonderful evening, ladies!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Super easy throw pillows

Readers, meet my Christmas throw pillows.  Aren't they gorgeous?  I just love them.  And I made them.  All by myself.  With my own two hands.

And it might be the easiest craft project I've ever done. 


You can make these easy throw pillows, too.  Here's the secret:  they're placemats. 

That's right, folks...these pillows were once Crate & Barrel placemats.  I got them on clearance, used a seam ripper to open a corner, and filled them with that pillow stuffing fluff that's found at any fabric store.

These things are a cinch to make.  I probably have 12 or so different pillows for different rooms and seasons that I've made this way.  Try it!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Martha Monday--Christmas Quiz

Martha's latest fun quiz is "Which North Pole Character Are You?"

My result was Mrs. Claus:  Friends and family flock to you because you're cheerful, patient, and always ready with a platter of freshly baked treats to feed the masses. You reside in the North Pole, but your home is always filled with visitors.

I don't know about the cheerful and patient part, but the part about fresh treats and a full house is spot on.  Which reminds me, I need to check out Martha's segment about traditional holiday cookies before I start my Christmas baking blitz.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cranberries, almonds, white chocolate...oh my!

I made a batch of cookies this past weekend and surprised myself with the results.  I started with the recipe for "Apricot Almond White Chocolate Chip Cookies" from Dede Wilson's A Baker's Field Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies

The bad news?  I was fresh out of apricots.  The good news?  I had plenty of dried cranberries on hand.

And the result?  Delicious!  The cranberries were a nice change of pace and the tartness was easily balanced by the white chocolate.  The red cranberries were quite festive. 

If you're looking to kick your cookie recipes up a notch this holiday season, try throwing some cranberries in there.  Use them in place of raisins for oatmeal raisin cookies, or add them to a blondie recipe.  Be creative, and enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Martha Monday--Grandin Road Giveaway

Each day in December, Martha Stewart .com is giving away a prize from her Grandin Road collection.  Click here to see all the prizes and to enter. 

Today's giveaway is a 3' pre-lit window box tree, valued at $59.00 (pictured below). 

IMPORTANT:  note that the form they give you to enter the contest automatically signs you up for a subscription to Martha Stewart Living.  However, they do provide you with a form that does not lead to a subscription, and the link to that form is contained in the paragraph above the entry form.  Read carefully!

I am all about tomorrow's prize:  a cedar wreath with glittered birds (value $79.00). 

Of course, those $100 gift cards would be very nice, too. Wouldn't that be a wonderful holiday surprise? 

Friday, December 4, 2009

O Christmas Tree!

Background:  our family room has an 18 foot ceiling.  Last year, our 7 foot tree looked a bit strange in there. 

We got a new tree.  I'll let the pictures tell the story.

That's right.  We now have a full 12 foot pre-lit tree. Woohoo!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas organization

For many, myself included, the holidays can be a stressful time.  There is so much I want to do and enjoy, and just a few short weeks in which to accomplish it all.  Sometimes it's hard to pack it all in before the actual holiday, you know?

Staying organized is key.  By setting priorities and sticking to a time frame and budget, it is possible to have a fun and relaxed holiday season.  Martha has several tips and tricks for staying organized during the holidays.  She even has a handy-dandy holiday checklist here

In addition to Martha's tips for staying organized and sane for the holidays, let me add my own:

Priorities--This is the biggest and best tip I can give anyone planning for the best holiday ever:  only do the holiday activities that bring you joy and happiness, and let the rest go.  Do you feel like you have to send out Christmas cards, but truly hate to do it?  Then don't do it!  Does your fantasy Christmas involve a house bedecked with lights, but you don't have the time or energy to get it done?  You can always ask for help, or just decide that this is one task that can wait for next year.  There can be a big difference between what you think Christmas should be (and based on magazines, store displays, etc. there's a lot we absolutely must have) and what you actually want.  Go with what makes you happy and disregard the rest of the hoopla. 

Gift giving--I make a spreadsheet in Excel of who, what, where and how much.  This list is king and really helps me stick to my budget.  When a person's name is ready to be checked off, I simply highlight their name so I know I'm done with them.

Cards--My holiday mailing list is another Excel spreadsheet.  From there, I can print off labels for cards and it's easy to keep everyone's address up-to-date.

Timing--Don't break your back trying to get every Christmas decoration up.  Spread the task out over a few days, and give yourself time to enjoy the process.

Spread the cheer--get family involved whenever possible.  Let the hubs put up the tree, let the kids help with the cookies, and if you are hosting, let everyone bring a dish to share. 

Cheer yourself--do something for yourself this holiday season to make it especially enjoyable.  I indulge in those Peppermint White Chocolate Mochas from Starbucks, I use peppermint body wash and lotion, and I listen to Christmas music whenever possible.  Those things do wonders to lift my spirits if I happen to get the holiday blahs. 

Enjoy the season!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I love this time of year, and the decorations play a large part in that.  And as you can imagine, I have a ton of Christmas decorations.  More decorations than I have room to place them, actually.  However, I'm going to do my best and get as many decorations out of boxes and on display as possible. 

Since lifting heavy boxes is a big no-no for me right now, the Big Guy has been bringing a few up from the basement at a time so I can go through them in the dining room.  For the next week or so, my dining room is Christmas Central.

The kitchen is perhaps the easiest room to do:  the Santa oven mitt is hanging on the fridge, and my baking-themed Christmas tree is on top of the fridge. 

This tree went up so quickly because it is quite small, and because I store it with all the decorations on.  How easy is that?

The tree in the living room is not so easy to get up.  It took us a while to get the lights just right on this one.

Not that the Little Guy needs any additional excitement about Christmas ("Lights, Mom! LIGHTS!"), I filled the book basket in the living room with Christmas-themed children's books.  And headbands featuring reindeer and moose antlers for adding reading enjoyment. 

Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the TMI household.  Now, time to set up the other two Christmas trees...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Martha Monday--Christmas Workshop

Like her Thanksgiving Workshop, Martha has a Christmas Workshop filled with fun ideas for the holiday.  You can even sign up for weekly emails with craft projects, gift ideas, recipes and more to help you plan the best Christmas celebration yet. 

The workshop segments actually began two weeks ago, but I'm loathe to bust out with Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving. 

Martha also has an entire array of tips and strategies to make it through the season with your sanity intact.

I'll be using some of Martha's tips and sharing some of my own over the course of the season.  This is a wonderful time of year and I intend to enjoy every single minute!  And with all the parties and family gatherings, I'm sure I will. 

But first, I need to get my house ready for Christmas.  Happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Table ready

I set the table for Thanksgiving dinner.  Last night. Over four days before my family is due here for turkey dinner.  Can you tell I'm over the moon about hosting Thanksgiving?

The empty spaces on each side will be filled with the kids' seats.  I layered a smaller fall-theme tablecloth over the red tablecloth for visual interest.  How Martha is that?!

And before anyone criticizes my table-setting skills, let me share with you my standards:  each dish and utensil must be clean, and everyone must have a complete set with which to dine.  So, according to my standards, this place setting is an A+.

The china pattern is Noritake's Crestwood Platinum.  I always enjoy any occasion to get the china out.  Best part:  it's dishwasher-safe.  Awesome!

The silver is Lenox Kirkstieff Frosted (I think). 

The paper napkins are Jewel.  10 for $10.00.  Woohoo!

As with all of my Thanksgiving decorations, the centerpieces are courtesy of Diana. 

The gravy boat is at the ready.  I just love that this one specific menu item has its very own dish.  I wonder if the other food stuffs get jealous. 

Finally, the butter will be in a turkey dish.  Because, you know, it's Thanksgiving!

And with that, I think I'm ready. All that's missing is the food and family, and those won't arrive until Friday.