At the first hint of chill in the air, my thoughts turn to Christmas. My mind and heart begin to fill with visions of sugar plums indeed. My weekly menu turns decidedly toward comfort food and I begin rummaging in my brain for homemade Christmas gift ideas for my loved ones. I begin hauling out first the autumn decorations and later the Christmas, decking my halls and every other available surface. I take delight in the season, the magic, wonder and glory of it all. This blog was born from that delight. Here you will find dinner ideas, crafts, decor, stories, memories, and music. Some ideas will be entirely mine, but I will also include anything cute I come across that I think you might like to see, credit given to the creator or source. Please leave me your ideas in the comments and any other feedback you'd like to give.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Cute Stuff

Ok, a couple more things from Crate and Barrel. I love the Scandinavian look to these stockings. They have a very traditional look, while also carrying off a clean, crisp, modern edge. The very essence of Scandinavian design.

Purty Things

Today's line-up is plates I love from Crate and Barrel.
Imagine all the fun combinations of layering you could do with these beauties. I must confess that I enjoy all the fun color combos and trendy color schemes in holiday decorating right now, but when it comes right down to what I like to have in my home for holiday decor, it usually comes back to red, white, and green. What can I say? I'm a traditionalist!

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Well, the outdoor lights are up. I didn't do the idea I posted about because I felt like I needed to get the lights with the bigger bulbs and I was feeling too cheap. Maybe I'll change my mind later on. It was a long process, what with the temperamental lights being fickle about whether to all light or leave sections of icicles in darkness. One last challenge is to figure out how to get the tree on the porch plugged in. I guess I need to go get one of those converters that will give me multiple outlets. (Update: I did get a converter outlet, the tree is lit. Now what to do about the one foot section of icicle lights that refuse to light?) I LOVE to see the house all decked out in holiday lights. It is worth every minute of each of the six hours spent fighting with lights and running around town collecting items I needed but hadn't planned for. I love the look of the white lights, though I'm just now coming around to accepting the icicle lights and not hating them for their faddiness, or fad-y-ness or something. But I've got to say that I sure get a warm feeling inside when I see multi-colored lights, too. Our neighbors across the hill have colored lights up and it really struck me this year (after I had already spent 6 hours putting up white icicle lights), how much I really love them for the sentimental value. I'm looking forward to putting up the tree in our family room, bedecked with colored lights and a mish-mash of ornaments from my childhood, our early married years, right on through to the kids school projects. In all my efforts to create a "magazine layout" look for my Christmas decor, I've come to realize that all I really care about and truly love, is a look that doesn't make it to the pages of decorating magazines. It is created over time, built with memories and traditions. How it looks is not the measure of its beauty, but how it feels. Seeing the popsicle-stick sled ornament I made in the fourth grade makes me feel happy, nostalgic, though it's not much to look at. The tinsel ball has all the stylish appeal of yard flamingos, but the memory of each of my siblings and myself each throwing one of the tinsel balls onto the tree at the very end of decorating it each year, brings a smile and contentment knowing that we all have our tinsel ball on our own tree now, a little something that connects us together though distance separates us. Each year I have a little laugh and thank once again the well-meaning teacher who thought my child needed to make an ornament out of a 4x6 picture of herself and a popsicle-stick frame. I don't forget to send up a laugh and a thank you to the primary teacher who thought the letter-size envelope mangers were a good idea, either. We have ornaments that were wedding gifts and some that were gifts from dear ones no longer with us. We have an array of ornaments we've made together as a family as a family night activity and ornaments that have been selected one at a time from a special time or a special place. None of these ornaments have a common color scheme or obvious theme, but what binds them together and makes a beautiful tree is love. And isn't that what the season is all about? God's all-encompassing love and the trickle-down effect: Our love for our fellow men, the reflection of God's love for us.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Brown Bread Squash Stuffing

I'm not a big lover of stuffing. Soggy bread, onions, and celery cooked together totally grossed me out as a kid and it has taken me a long time to get past that. You know that instant stove top stuff? That's my speed- with nothing added to it. But as I've grown up and matured, I've been coming around. A few years ago I copied down this recipe for Brown Bread Squash Stuffing, (I don't remember the source), because I thought it sounded like a nice variation on traditional stuffing. Plus, Brown bread is so quirky and reminds me of my childhood. Most people of my generation don't even know what brown bread is. (When I asked at a certain superstore if they carried canned brown bread the lady started heading toward the bread isle and said, "I'm assuming "Canned" is the brand name?") In fact, brown bread is bread in a can. Mom used to put it in our 72 hour emergency kits. She would rotate it out when it was time for it to be used and we would slide it out of the can, slice it up, and toast it for breakfast.

So when I saw a recipe that called for brown bread, I thought, "I haven't seen that stuff in years! I have to try this recipe!" As it turns out, brown bread can be a little difficult to find. I have yet to make this. BUT, it is on the Thanksgiving menu this year. I found brown bread at the local Piggly Wiggly and I have already cut it into cubes along with the honey wheat bread to be toasted and made into stuffing in a few days. Anybody want to try it with me? I can't recommend the recipe yet because I haven't tried it, but I think it sounds good. If you want to give it a try, here is the recipe. Let me know if you make it and how it turns out.

Brown Bread Squash Stuffing

7 C honey wheat bread cut into 1/2" cubes (7-9 slices)
(1) 16 0z can brown bread with raisins, 1/2" cubes (5 C) (Look for brown bread in the grocery store next to the baked beans)
6 T butter
4C peeled and seeded squash 3/4" cubes (butternut or acorn)
1 1/2 C coarsely chopped celery with tops
1 large red onion, thin wedges
2 1/4-2 3/4 C chicken broth
1/4 C snipped fresh sage {OR} 2 tsp dried sage, crushed
2 T fresh parsley
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

*Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread wheat bread and brown bread cubes in 2 shallow baking pans. Melt 4 T of butter and drizzle evenly over bread cubes. Toss to coat. Bake, uncovered, 15-20 minutes, until lightly toasted, stirring once. Transfer to a very large mixing bowl.

*In a very large skillet, melt 2 T butter over medium heat. Add squash. Cook, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery and onion; cover and cook 10 minutes more. Stir in 1/4 C broth. Cover and cook 5 minutes more, until squash is just tender. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in sage, parsley, nutmeg, salt, pepper.

*Add squash mixture to bread in bowl. Add 2 C of broth; toss to coat. Add enough broth for desired moistness.

*Transfer stuffing mixture to a greased 3 quart casserole dish. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until heated through.

~TIP: Bread crumbs can be toasted and kept dry in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Prep: 35 min
Yield: 10-12 serv.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Outdoor Lighting...Any Ideas?

What do you think of this look, courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens?

I'd like to do something a little different with my outdoor lighting this year. Not that I do much anyway, but I thought a little twist on the traditional might be nice. I really like the look and it sounds really easy. I wish I had a beautiful fence to put it on, but I'm picturing it on my front porch railing, and maybe even my deck railing too. Of course, it also makes me want to splurge for real greenery, but I'll refrain and use my fake stuff!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Searching for the Christmas Spirit

(Spirit of Christmas by Thomas Kinkade buy it here.)

Oddly enough, this year I'm really working to get in the mood for Christmas. It's not that I'm NOT looking forward to Christmas or that I'm grumpy or depressed, it just hasn't overcome me yet. Which is OK, it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but each year I feel like the Christmas season is shorter and shorter and I want to start celebrating a little earlier. So I guess I feel like not being overcome by eager anticipation yet is wasting my time!

I have a theory about the lack of Christmas Spirit. I think it has something to do with the messed up weather this fall. It has thrown off my groove. We got summer in September, colder than normal weather in October, cheating me out of October's bright blue weather, then a warm November but of course with the leaves gone by and no brilliant blue sky. The natural progression of my favorite time of year has been completely obliterated and I just don't know how to settle into this craziness!

But never fear! I am feeling the first twinges. Last week I cut open a grapefruit and the tangy-sweet aroma wrapped me in Christmas. I also bought a bag of Cuties, those easy to peel seedless little tangelos or tangerines or oranges or whatever they are, and each day I've had one or two with the same effect. I think I have mentioned on here that my parents always bought a bushel of oranges and a bushel of grapefruit around this time of year. Oranges and Christmas go hand in hand for me. We would sit by the tree eating oranges, citrus and evergreen mingling in delicious holiday perfection.

I am also getting excited about some Christmas present projects that are cooking in my mind and beginning to develop into reality. I wish I could talk about them on here, but a certain daughter of mine reads this blog and I don't want her to know what everyone is getting. (Hi Kennedy! Love you!)

What puts you in the Christmas Spirit? Decorating? Projects? Food? Music?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Christmas Cozy

I desperately want my bedroom to look like this for the holiday season:

I love this so very much. I've always wanted to have holiday bed linens, but I'm just so cheap. I don't even like to spend the money on everyday bed linens, say nothing of linens I would use only 2 months out of the year. But, BUT, take away the snowflake pillow and throw, and I COULD use this at other times. Hmmmmm....

Buy it here, from Plow and Hearth.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cranberry Squares

I happen to love cranberries. I love the look of them, I love the taste of them, I even love the smell of them. (Have you tried the cranberries and frost Febreze? I love it!) As a result of this love affair, I have lots of delicious recipes featuring these beautiful, tart, berries.
Today's recipe is one I've had for a while. I think I may have gotten it from Better Homes and Gardens, but I'm not positive. And it's actually 2 recipes, because you need a batch of one recipe to put in the other.
So first up is

Brandied Cranberry Sauce Yield: 3 cups
4 C fresh or frozen cranberries
2 C sugar
1/3 C orange juice
Place 4 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries in a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with 2 cups of sugar. Cover and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Stir carefully, then stir in orange juice. Pour into jars or serving dishes. Store in fridge.

You can serve this as a Thanksgiving or Christmas side or garnish, or use it to make

Cranberry Squares
1 1/2 C each of Oats, flour, brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Mix the above ingredients together, then blend in
1 C butter
until mixture is crumbly.

Press 2/3 of mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch square pan. Top with 1 C. of Brandied Cranberry Sauce. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over cranberries.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Now, I've tweaked that basic recipe a bit for my own tastes, and you can do the same. For example, I always add some cinnamon to the oat mixture, probably a teaspoon. You can add coconut (I am guessing coconut lovers would like that. I can't stand the stuff, so I'm not a good judge of this!), walnuts or other nuts, and the one I always add, chocolate chips. These are great to whip up for a holiday party. If you make a batch of Brandied Cranberry Sauce to have on hand all season, these whip up pretty quickly.
I don't have a picture right now, but maybe I can add one later in the season. I know I'll be making these!