December 22, 2009

A Sneak Peek

Here's a sneak peak into some of our Christmas decorations, I didn't go all out this year. We are leaving shortly after Christmas and want to get things put away before we go. So missing from my usual decorations are the "kid's tree" in the basement, my little Christmas village, most of my snowmen, and almost all of my kitchen decorations. Okay, enough about what I didn't get out! Here's what I did!!
I have had this wreath for several years. It was a hand-me-down from my mom. Speaking of my mom, this wreath looks much better this year than it did last year thanks to her. She bought some new balls for it and and gave it a mini-makeover for me. Thanks Mom! It looks great!
Below the wreath and above the fireplace are the stockings I was frantically sewing last year at this time. They are one of my new favorite decorations.
Right as you come in the front door, on the front hall closet door, I have a ribbon hanging where I pin all the Christmas cards we receive. I've added quite a few cards since I took this photo. How do you display your Christmas cards? What do you do with them when Christmas is over. I put the photos and letters into a Christmas "binder" to keep them. If I scrapbooked I would do something a bit fancier but this works nicely for me. It's fun to go back and look at how much everyone's kids have grown.
Here's our Jesse Tree. Only 4 ornaments left to hang! Hard to believe. If the tree looks a little lopsided that's because it's been knocked off the small table I have it on in the kitchen a few times. I did take time to laminate the ornaments this year hoping that will help them last a bit longer. I have new Jesse Tree ornaments on my "to do" list but I haven't decided if I want to cross stitch them or make salt dough or something else.
A few years ago I got rid of almost all of our Santa related decorations. I want our Christmas decorations to reflect more of what we are celebrating, that's is why I like decorations like this table runner. My mom found it for me and I put it as the centerpiece on the kitchen table with the advent wreath. The kids request that we light the candles more often, but flames, hot wax, and little boys don't mix real well, in my opinion, so we've only lit it a few times.
This little pillow sits on the wooden bench by the front door year round. Almost each month, but sometimes just seasonally, I change the slip cover. I sewed all the various holiday fabric covers several years ago. I have two covers for Christmas that I alternate. This year it is the Nativity fabric. The other fabric is more of a "country" Christmas with various decorated trees.
I made this wreath (sorry this photo is so dark) with a dollar store wreath and an ornament I got on clearance. After gluing the ornament in place I just added a few cinnamon sticks, buttons, and tied fabric scraps to finish it off.
These little light jars have been around for a long time. They make a great gift! I keep one in each of my bathrooms during the Christmas season. They are great little night lights and the potpourri smells so nice.
Here is this years Christmas tree. My oldest helped put it up when she was home from college a few weeks ago. The boys helped so the ornaments are all over the place. Some of the ornaments that should be in the back of the tree (you have those type of ornaments too, don't you?) are in the front this year. I swear the ornaments get moved around daily by all my little helpers, so this is what the tree looked like today. No promises this is what it will look like tomorrow, but at least it's still standing and for that I am truly thankful.

Just for fun I thought I'd share a "Christmas" cookie recipe. I don't know why I only make them at Christmas time. They are so easy to make, I should really make them more often!

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
1 stick margarine
2 cups sugar

1/2 cup milk

6 T. cocoa powder

2/3 cup chunky peanut butter

3 cups oats

1 t. vanilla

Melt margarine in a large pot. Add sugar, milk, and cocoa then bring to a boil.
Boil for 3 full minutes, stirring frequently. Take off heat and
add peanut butter, oats, and vanilla. Mix well.
Spoon "cookies" onto wax paper.
Let set and enjoy!

Did you write a post about your Christmas decorations? I'd love to see it if you did! (Leave me a link.)

Merry Christmas!!

Gratituesday: A Heartfelt Gift

I am in the middle of a marathon baking day! I decided I needed a break for a minute. While I've been making a mess of my kitchen, I was thinking of the year I didn't do any baking. My 5th child was born 4 days before Thanksgiving in 2005 (he wasn't due until the end of January). My twins had been early, but our others hadn't been, so at that point we didn't really expect the latest addition to be early. (Now we know better!)

The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas that is normally filled with shopping, decorating, and baking was instead filled with daily trips to the NICU and prayers that our little guy would be home in time for Christmas. He struggled with eating more than expected and just barely made it home in time on the evening of the 23rd. That was the best Christmas gift!

That year, of course, stands out a bit in my mind as quite different from the rest. It was more simple. The fun extras were just extras, not necessities. The tree went up late, I didn't get out every decoration, and I didn't have time for baking that year. And you know what? We survived! :) Because I'm sure you all know that Christmas isn't about cookies and gifts and decorating. It isn't even about friends and family. It's about the One who came to save the world. But here is the part I wanted to share, the part that I thought of this morning as I made my sugar cookie dough...

Knowing there wasn't going to be much baking going on a with a baby in the NICU, one sweet lady from church offered to take my daughter to her house for a baking day. Sure, of course! Then she asked that my daughter bring my cut out cookie recipe along with the frosting recipe and my cookie cutters. I said okay and wondered why in the world they would want my recipe when I was sure they had a perfectly good recipe and cutters of their own.

My daughter was picked up. She baked, decorated, and had a great time. She was dropped back at home with a pile of cookies. Our cookies. My cookies. They tasted and looked exactly like they always do, made with the same recipe in the familiar shapes. This wasn't just a gift of cookies! It was an unexpected gift of service, of time, of tradition; a modern day foot washing. Those cookies were my second favorite gift that year and probably one of the most thoughtful, Christ-like gifts I've ever received!
*Want to read more about what other are grateful for? Head over to Heavenly Homemakers!

December 20, 2009

Breakfast Recipes

This is what we had for breakfast this weekend:
Saturday-Egg & Sausage on Biscuits

No recipe for these really. Just cook up some sausage patties and eggs. Stack them on homemade biscuits with a slice of cheddar cheese. I cook the eggs kind of omelet style then cut them into round shapes with the biscuit cutter. If you want a great biscuit recipe here's the one I use:

Light and Flaky Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt

1 T. baking powder

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter or margarine

3/4 cup milk (+ 1 or 2 T. more)

Mix flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter. Add milk and stir with a fork until ball forms. Knead lightly into a ball but don't knead long. Pat out on a floured surface and cut with biscuit cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400 until golden brown (about 10-12 minutes).

Sunday-Continental Breakfast Potluck at Church (I brought Poppy Seed bread)

If you need something yummy to serve at a Christmas brunch or even a quick baked gift? Try this. I got this recipe several years ago from a friend I went to nursing school with. I hadn't made it in a long time and revived it a few weeks ago. My whole family loves this bread. In fact, my hubby got after me because I've "had this recipe for 15 years and only made it a few times?". What's wrong with me! It is really easy to make too, so I don't have a good excuse.

Poppy Seed Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons butter flavored extract

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

2 1/4 cups white sugar

Mix all of the above well. Put into two greased 9 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 for about an hour (until golden and tests done). Cool a few minutes in the pan then poke holes in the top and pour on the glaze (below).

1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon butter flavored extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 (approx.) cups confectioners' sugar

To make glaze: Mix liquids and then add enough confectioners' sugar to make glaze.

December 18, 2009

Sew Cute Part Two: Fold Up Fabric Kitchen

Here is the final piece of my little guy's Christmas gift. I'm really kicking myself that we sold the little plastic kitchen a few years ago. But we had boys... and I didn't think they'd want to play with it all that much. Stereotypical? Yes. I know.

Well, this will solve the problem of where he can "cook" his play food and yet doesn't take up any space. I could seriously fit this in a manila envelope and mail it to you! One of my other boys kept asking me if I thought the little guy would share with him. I assured him it will be more fun if everyone plays together!

I'm calling it a Fold-Up Fabric Kitchen. I saw the original idea here but modified it a bit and made it my own. Here are the details for those of you who are interested...
The entire thing is made of fabric. It measures about 30 inches by 15 inches. The main fabric pieces are flannel, yellow on one side and blue stars (not pictured) on the other--for most of it I just used what I had. The details are all felt. Again I just used the cheap felt sheets you can get at Wal-Mart or any craft store. Most of the details were blanket stitched on by hand but I used the machine for some of the work too.

On the far left are two "burners" with the controls and a clock. I made it so the fabric kind of folds over and will hang off the edge of a table to make it more dimensional.

I really need to work on my embroidery skills. I can't stitch words (or numbers!) very well at all. In the center is the "sink". I have a little droplet of water that I have yet to sew on by the "faucet". Below the sink is a handy little towel rack with a removable towel!
On the right is a "cutting board" which could also double as a dish drainer if needed.
The whole thing would cost around $5 to make even if you have to buy fabric. Assembly took just a few hours. I did most of the blanket stitching while on the phone with a friend (Hi Theresa!). If you are going to do that, let me suggest using speaker phone. My neck is still kind of sore from holding the phone under my chin. :)

If you are lucky enough to have a blanket stitch on your sewing machine assembly will go much faster. Or you could even skip the blanket stitch and just sew it on with the machine, but I liked the look of the blanket stitching.

Now I just have to finish the little stocking ornaments I am crocheting for the kids and I'll be done with my Christmas crafts for this year. Four down, two to go. They don't take much time at all to make so I shouldn't have any trouble finishing them. Did you make any crafts this Christmas??

December 16, 2009

Sew Cute: Felt Food!

Since my youngest doesn't read this blog I think it'll be okay to show you what I've been making him for Christmas. Shhh! Don't tell him about it!

Several weeks ago the boys and I went to the library while my hubby went to a political meet and greet. My little guy played almost the whole time with some little dishes and play food. We haven't had play dishes since my daughter was little! We have had plastic play food before, but it has slowly gotten smashed or turned into outside toys, so when I saw some felt food on a blog not too long ago I knew I had found a new project!

That little felt food was just so cute! So I looked around and found a free pattern for a sandwich. I didn't have much luck finding free patterns for any of the other foods but there were plenty of pictures and it's not rocket science so I winged it!

Everything came out even cuter than I expected. I just used the cheap felt you find in the craft section of any craft store. I used the sewing machine for most of the stitching but enjoyed a little hand stitching on some of the pieces too! I already had the embroidery floss and the felt costs a mere 20 cents so basically this cost me next to nothing... except for my time, of course, which is almost more precious than money these days. Almost.

So, are you hungry? How about a bologna and cheese sandwich on white?

Or would you rather have peanut butter and jelly?

Need something a bit more sweet? How about some milk and cookies? Or donuts?
No. You like more healthy food. Okay, how about some fruit?

Skipped breakfast? Here's a hearty breakfast for you...

Need a protein boost...

This food is all that and a bag of chips...

Here's a shot of everything:

I didn't get a picture of the swiss cheese or the sesame seed hamburger bun which were still being worked on when I took these photos. Too late to take a picture now though, I already packaged up the whole set and wrapped it.

We got him a little set of plates and pots to serve up his food. To top it all off I'm making a little fabric stove top similar to the one shown here so he can "cook" something if he feels like but we don't have to worry about a real play kitchen. I hope my little guy enjoys it and if he doesn't... well, I'll play with it myself!

December 7, 2009

Google Voice

This post will fall into the "good stewardship" category. Using the money my husband works so hard to earn wisely is one of my main goals in life. If you make any long distance phone calls and are paying for them on your (landline) phone plan, I highly recommend that you get a Google Voice number. GV has a lot of features that I think are worth having but the best in my opinion is free long distance. Calls anytime, anywhere in the US won't cost you a penny.

I don't make too many long distance calls but for the few I do the fees ad up quickly. Several years ago I started asking for calling cards for birthday and Christmas gifts, so except for the few times I forgot to use the calling cards, I haven't paid for long distance. But now that we have free long distance I find I am more willing to pick up the phone and call our family/friends in Arizona for little things. It's been a lot of fun!

Using GV for long distance is a lot like using a calling card. There are a few extra buttons to push but I'm more than willing to do that to save the money. Once you have a Google Voice number set up it is easy to make a long distance call. You simply call your GV number (which is a local number) and enter a PIN. From there you can dial the number and GV will connect you.

If you have a blog you can put a widget on your blog for others to call you for free. They just enter their number in the widget box and GV will call them first and then you!

There is a lot more to Google Voice than free long distance. With a GV number you get:
  • One number: a single phone number that rings all your phones
  • Free SMS: send, receive & store text messages online
  • Block calls: send unwanted callers straight to voicemail
  • Record calls: record phone calls and store them online
  • Conference calls: join several people into a single call
  • Screen callers: hear who is calling before you pick up
If you want to know more here's a short video:

Google Voice is free. You can request an invite here. If you request one from Google I'm not sure how long it is currently taking... maybe a week or two. Or if you know someone with a GV number already they can "invite" you.

How about you? Do you have Google Voice? Do you use it? Like it? Ever heard of it?

December 6, 2009

Easy Christmas Potpourri Recipe

This will make your house smell like Christmas and it's super easy! Let me know what you think if you give it a try...

One orange, cut up
1-2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. whole cloves
If you have a potpourri simmering pot just put the above in it with water to cover. If you don't have a potpourri pot you can
just put it in a small pot (with about 2-3 cups of water)
on the stove burner set to low.
Keep an eye one it and refill the water as needed.

December 4, 2009

Crochet Edge Around a Fleece Blanket Instructions

This is one of my favorite gifts to give as a new baby gift or at a baby shower. But this blanket is not limited to baby gifts! Fleece comes in an amazing number of patterns these days. You could make one of these blankets for anyone!

If you know how to crochet it's very easy to make and works up quickly. I am by no means a crochet expert. I taught myself out of book a few years ago. I still have trouble reading patterns so I hope these instructions make sense! If you make one of these blankets I'd love to see it! (Send me a picture at nolongerconforming*at*

If you don't know how to crochet and would like to learn there are some great instructional videos on YouTube. Just borrow or buy a crochet hook and some yarn and sit by your computer for an hour or two learning a few basic stitches. If you can chain, single, and double crochet you can make this blanket!!

  1. Find some fleece that you would like to make into a blanket. I like to get enough to make the blanket square but you can make it any size or shape you would like. I make my blankets with only one piece of fleece, but you could use two pieces sandwiched together (similar to making the fleece blankets that you tie).
  2. Buy yarn that compliments your fleece. When I make a baby blanket it ends up being about 58 inches square and one skein is more than enough.
  3. Prepare the fleece. There are several ways you can do this. You can blanket stitch around the entire piece of fleece. You can use a serger to serge around the piece and then crochet in the serger stitching. Or you can go through and make holes around the edge of the fleece. This is the method I use. I use a ruler/tape measure of some kind and washable marker to make marks 1/4 inch apart about 1/4 inch in from the edge around the entire blanket. If you have a small (1/16) hole punch you could use that to make the holes. I use a seam ripper and just poke it through the fleece at every mark. With this method as you are crocheting you'll occasionally come to a hole that has closed up (or that you skipped) and you'll have to punch it again. I don't know why this happens, but it does, so just keep the seam ripper handy so you don't have to wander off to go find it and realize you have dishes to wash or something! :)
  4. Now comes the fun part!! Once all the holes are ready. Single crochet into each hole all the way around the fleece rounding the corners by putting 3 single stitches in each corner. There is no need to count and when it comes to the second round you'll be fudging the numbers a little to get it to come out even. Chain three when you get to the end to get up to the next row.
  5. The second row will be: double crochet, double crochet, chain one (repeat). Your chain will count as the first double, then double crochet again into the single crochet below it. When you chain, skip a stitch on the single crochet row so you get a little space between the two doubles. (Is this making sense?) For corners: 2dc, ch3, 2dc. These spaces make a great place to weave in a ribbon for an extra special touch. Chain one to get up to the next row after you've gone around.
  6. The third row is the hardest. This row makes a cute, little bumped edging. Single crochet in the first double below then in the "hole" or space you created in the second row make one single crochet, chain two, and another single crochet. Repeat. So it will be *sc, sc, ch2, sc, sc* repeat around the outside edge. For the corners: sc, ch2, sc, sc, ch 2, sc. When you get all the way around finish it off. If you have to add a few stitches or skip a few to make it come out even it won't matter. Just play around with it a bit until it looks right.
Fold up your blanket, tie a ribbon around it, and give it as a gift. Who wouldn't want a cuddly, made with love, blanket?!

[Click any of the picture above to enlarge if you need to see better. If you have questions feel free to leave a comment or email me.]

December 2, 2009

Snow Cocoa

If you are doing any holiday entertaining I highly recommend this very easy but very delicious beverage! I always bring it to our annual Mother's of Multiples Christmas party. I think I might get kicked out of the club if I didn't bring it. It has become a tradition! It's a white hot chocolate...

Snow Cocoa
2 cups whipping cream
6 cups milk (I use 2%)
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 oz. white chocolate chips

Put in crockpot and heat on low for 2 hours. Stir well to blend.
Garnish with marshmallows if desired.

The hardest part about making it is getting it to the party. Carrying a crockpot full of hot liquid is always an adventure but this year at least I won't be walking over any ice! The high Thursday is supposed to be a balmy 34 degrees!