Thursday, December 17, 2009

Riding the wave that is leading up to the holidays

So much going on.

So much to do.

I'll be scarce for a few days, as there isn't enough of me to get everywhere I need to go and be all sharing on the blog at the same time.

I'll return on Monday.

Have a lovely weekend!

Christmas Angels

My Christmas Angel is the one with the brown hair. She did a great job singing with her angel friends. What a lovely smile for my day!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

WFMW: Christmas cookie recipes and gift wrap tips

Good Christmas countdown week! This week, I'll be updating my cookie recipe list with the new things that I tried this year. I'll also include this post, which was last year's cookie post and this one on wrapping tips. I've worked at art galleries for nearly 12 years, doing anything from flat wrap with bows to nesting in tissue and tying bows onto packages. Let me share my tips with you! In the meantime, shall we bake?

Ginger Kisses
(called Chocolate-Kissed Gingerbread, but I like my name better!)
3 c flour
2 t ground ginger
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t baking soda
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t salt
3/4 c butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c molasses (I used full flavor)
1 egg
1 bag Hershey Hug candies

Beat butter, egg and sugar. Add molasses. Add spices, salt and baking soda, mixing well. Add flour little by little until well incorporated. REFRIGERATE FOR 4 HOURS OR OVERNIGHT. I did overnight, as I figured that they probably didn't suggest it for nothing.

Shape dough into 1" balls (a Pampered Chef small scoop is perfect for this), roll in granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 8-10 minutes or until edges of cookies just begin to brown. Immediately press an unwrapped Hershey Hug into the center of each cookie. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Made about 4 1/2 dozen.

Butter Crisp Cookies
(recipe from Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer)

One box yellow cake mix (I used French Vanilla, because that is what I had)
1 egg
3/4 butter, melted
1 cup Rice Krispies

Blend all ingredients together. Dough will be crumbly. Form into tight 1 inch balls and flatten slightly. Bake in 350 F oven for 10-12 minutes. Mmmm. Delicious.

Made about 4 - 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

Red Hot Sugar Cookies
2 3/4 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 c butter, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla (I always use more, so I think I did 1 1/2 t.)
Box of red cinnamon candies

Heat oven to 350 F. (They called for 375 F, but I found that 350 F was a bit more better tuned to my oven.) Mix butter, sugar, egg and vanilla together. Add baking powder and soda. Mix flour in little by little until well incorporated. Pour red hot candies in and allow to mix in well.

-- This recipe calls for rolling and cutting. I'm not a happy roll and cut kind of girl. Cut-out's drive me batty. I decided to bake these using my Pampered Chef Small scoop and they turned out beautifully. Just make sure that after you've placed your scoop of dough on the cookie sheet, give it a little pat to smoosh it down slightly. It'll be happier that way. So will you. You've just saved yourself the hassle of dirtying the kitchen table with flour and whatnot for cut-out's.--

Follow my adjusted directions just above, baking the cookies for 8-10 minutes (I lean on 8, as I don't like crispy sugar cookies) and allowing to cool on a wire rack.

Made 5 dozen.

My friend, Rachael, did a rockin' step-by-step post on making fondant. She makes the fondant that you eat like candy. This isn't the slick stuff that goes on cakes. Just check out her post here. You'll see that she has quite a helpful assistant!

On tour:
I'm on tour with the Christmas Tour of Homes. (Or in my case, work and home.) Come on by for a visit!

Smiles in my day:
- Meeting with K-'s teacher this AM to talk about the Christmas party. She was so excited that I bought plates and napkins, instead of using the generic yucky white stuff from the PTA. She was so funny! :)
- I switched shampoo and my hair seems to be behaving better.
- Hubs got up and got rolling at 5:00 AM this morning. He called at 7:11 AM to make certain that we were up. (We were, but it was nice to have him remember us!) He had a conference to attend today.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tales from the Trenches: Publicly ill children

Gonna make it a quick one. Hubs needs to go to bed early, as he has a conference tomorrow. I have a nifty story, though.

Sunday School was replaced this week with the children's Christmas play. It was a lovely performance. One of the children started yawning when he sat down on stage. A few minutes later, he walked off stage and went to his mother. (He's 6.) His mother snuggled him up in her lap, covering him up with her coat. A few minutes after that, she was slowly walking with him like she was carrying a sack of potatoes.

The performance went on and I leaned over to tell K- that I thought maybe David had become ill and she said, "No he didn't mom. He is right in the back." He was. His mom was sitting in the last pew. He was standing in the aisle watching.

After the pastor was done with his sermon and the mass exodus began, I saw the mother and her son making their way up the center aisle like salmon swimming the wrong way. I said, "Oh, were we keeping David awake?" in kind of a kidding way. "No, he vomited all over me, himself, the pew and the carpet. I'm just going to get our coats."

Hmm. Really? So, her child was ill and she remained with him in the general public? Ewww. His father was there. Her other son was in the performance, though. She didn't want to miss it.

Maybe her car keys were in her coat pocket, but did they need to remain with the general public?

I'm a germaphobe. Puke freaks me out. Public vomiting really freaks me out. So, I did as any germaphobe in my condition would. I ran to K-'s classroom, pulled her aside, confirmed David's puking episode and told her that if she ate anything at all, she was to thoroughly wash her hands.

"Okay, Mommy." She knows. Oh, she knows.

So, how do you handle such a situation? This is what we do. And because it has happened to us definitely more than once, here is another "what we do."

Smiles in my day:
- Paul, the massage therapist, was back! Our bosses hire him for 10 minute massages for us for the next two weeks. Generally, I can get a good 4 visits in with Paul in a year. Delightful!

Have a great day!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Tour 2009

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

Hey! Thanks for stopping in. Since I participated in Boo Mama's Christmas Tour last year and am still rockin' the same decorations, I thought that I might share a bit of what I do for my job. You see, I'm part of the display staff at an art gallery. A large part of my job is decorating for the holidays. Y'all, I'm the tree decorator. So, though I will show you my home tree and some goodies that way, I thought I would share my display handiwork with you.

Now for a request:
If you can tell where I work by the photos that I've posted, please o' pretty please with sugar on top, cherries and fake diamonds, please do not leave in the comments the name of the place where I do work. You see, though I love the internet, I also love being a little private about my life specifics. I'm sure you understand! Thank you!

Now on with the show! :)

Back in November, I did a demonstration on decorating with natural elements. A few of the photos are here, but you can find the full selection of nature demo pictures here. I just didn't want to bore my regulars with the same photos.

The tree is sitting a little crooked here just because of the ground on a slant. Rest assured that it was moved after this to be a little more upright!

The Sock Monkey tree that I did in our toy room. The tree is at an angle, point down and hung from some really thick monofilament. When hanging your tree, always make sure to wire it together first. You don't want it shifting apart after you get it up there.

The Red and Green Tree. The photo isn't that great, but when you have a caffeinated woman flying through and taking pictures, that will sometimes happen. I didn't have a tree topper for this one, so I made one up out of some leaded glass stars that we have. I made the tree reach out and touch people with the green glitter feathers.

My indoor nature tree. This little tree is such a Charlie Brown. It takes me a day to tie all the picks in. All of the picks are tied in with clear fishing line. The tree is also about 5' tall, but I give it height by creating a floral design at the top. Again, sorry for the photo quality. The light shining in the window doesn't make it an easy job to take really nice photos.

This is a display that I had that didn't have nearly the amount of work that I thought it would. I had to do a split display, which I've had to do before. One half of the corner was acrylic and blue. The other half was a pink/burgundy and black tree with Ne'Qua ornaments in between. (They are painted from the inside and are gorgeous. I was trying to carry the color burgundy boxes along into the display.)

My big, fat, foofy topper on the pink/burgundy and black tree.

The acrylic tree. And before you ask-- every year they suggest that I use the rod tree, I cringe. I feel like I'm decorating the Festivus tree from Seinfeld.

This is the Gold and Silver tree. This is a very important display, as it is the one that you see right when you come in the door. I always do this one last.

Oh look! It's my people! This is the day after Thanksgiving and when I came home from my second round of shopping, this is what I saw.

K- putting the top on the tree in her new Star Wars sweatshirt.

The tree has been lit, picked and partially filled with the hum-drum filler ornaments.

The not hum-drum filler ornaments. Yes, I do lay all the ornaments out by theme, then work from there. Hubs thought I was insane. He also thought that they wouldn't fit.

Look! They all fit. Then Hubs laughed a couple of evenings later when he asked if I realized that my tree had a very pronounced lean. He ended up having to tie the tree to the wall to be certain that it didn't fall over. That would have made me very sad.

Here's the top of our tree. It's craziness.

The original strand of bubble lights from Hubs' childhood. I'm sure that we've replaced all the bulbs at this point and we only have one strand, but we put it up every year.

One of my new ornaments. He was in the reject pile this summer. The receivers have to fill out discrepancy reports for all damaged items, then it sits to wait to see if the company/artist will claim them. No claim? Then the items are taken over to our lunch table and we get to shop through the rejects. I liked him. I don't know what was wrong with him.

The sled riding guys that I purchased for Hubs last year. In the background, you'll see a fishing Santa. Hubs' sister bought that for him years ago.

The Elmer's glue melting snowman that K- made last year in preschool. I thought he was a pretty good idea for a kid craft.

Another reject. I do know why this one was in the reject pile. It used to have eyelashes, but came with eyelashes on only one eye. Yes, I was cruel. I pulled them off the one eye so that they would match. He's pretty cute, though!

More new ornaments. Again, freebie pile rejects. I love the freebie pile!

One of the ornaments that K- made at a Secret Santa Workshop at Pat Catan's about a week ago. It is very easy to make.

This one was not a reject, but when he came in I loved him and had to have him.

One of K-'s ornaments. This one came from my friend, Irina. Sadly, she has moved to Montreal and I don't get to work with her. She was one crazy Russian who, by the time she left, I could understand fairly large chunks of the Russian that she would belt out. My Russian has gotten rusty without Irina. Come back, Irina! Come back!

A handcrafted penguin that we gave K- last year with her stocking. Each year, we buy a few ornaments for her. We write the year and occasion on the back. This year, I was able to share with her that all of the ornaments that we've purchased for her will be hers when she gets married and has a home of her own. "But Mommy, [insert swirling hands] I would like it all." I informed her that she won't be able to take all of my ornaments, or I'll have nothing left to decorate with!

A nativity addition for K-. One laser cut nativity was given to each of the preschool children last year by one of the couples in our church. They make these and sell them, but for some reason, they felt the need to make them and give them to all of our school kids. How wonderful! (And yes, I wrote down who made it and when she got it. It'll be like walking through history when she gets the boxes and boxes of things we've accumulated for her.)

This years gingerbread house. It was a Willy Wonka house that my aunt bought us. You know what? She paid $10.00 for it and I told her that it was well worth every cent she paid. It was easy to put together, everything was included and plenty of all materials. Hooray!

You must be exhausted. Would you like to join us for a cup of tea?

We've been waiting for you. The cookies haven't arrived yet, I'm afraid. They'll be here soon, though.

I've set you a place. While you wait, go ahead and look through your goodie bag.

Ahhh! See! I promised cookies! They just arrived and are fresh. The lady locks? Oh, those are wonderful. The foiled wrapped cookies are oatmeal with frosting in the middle. My nieces have given great reports on the peaches.

Well, I'm flat out tired. Thank you for stopping by!

Smiles in my weekend:
- K- was WONDERFUL at the tea, even despite of the lovely speaker that went on and on and on. She started when we normally eat and talked about her nativity, each piece of her nativity (there were a lot of additional pieces like a pregnant woman, a soldier, a dog . . . ) and she prayed over each and every one. K- was hungry and tired. My nieces were the same. You didn't hear a peep out of any one of them.
- Hubs' work Christmas party is over. K- had a nice time hanging out with Miss Laurie and her family while I drove 40 minutes to the party. The drive was long, but the food was good.
- The children's performance this AM at church.
- Our choir director seemed happy with our performance this morning.
- Going out as a woman on a mission and accomplishing my goal of picking up makings for goodie bags for K-'s school Christmas party on Thursday.
- Though I went to two party stores and got there a half hour after each one closed (one closed at 3 PM and one closed at 4 PM. It's not like we live on the back 9, so I don't know what was up with that.) I was able to find the Hallmark two-piece Star Wars ornament that I tried to get a few weeks ago. Remember? An irresponsible shopper crammed their cart into my car door instead. (Yes, the two dents still hurt.)
- The passenger window has remained where it needs to be.
- My in-law's feeding me their leftover pork chop and potatoes as I ran through this afternoon. Yum.
- I assembled 22 goodie bags for school, 25 treat bags for K-'s birthday this coming Sunday, purchased the snacks needed and have plans for the other food to be obtained. (6 pizzas and a veggie tray.)

Have a great week!