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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Comfort Food for the Holidays

Easy Comfort Food for the Holidays

 House guests waking to the scent of just baked cinnamon rolls and fresh coffee. A side board set for afternoon tea. An elegant dessert worthy of champagne flutes and candle light.
Comfort food to proudly serve your guests. . . An elegant dessert to enjoy while eating right. . . 

 Three great recipes that require minimal effort yet provide maximum pleasure. Three opportunities to make your holiday  special.

Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls: The Charm of Home
Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls
If you like Southern Living, or similar magazine's you will love The Charm of Home. Beside the high quality photography (talk about eye candy) Sherry shares wonderful recipes. She recently shared her recipe for Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls. I would say this recipe falls in the category of semi-homemade because it utilizes packaged crescent rolls and jarred apple butter. I am adding the ingredients to my shopping list and the recipe to my holiday menu.  Gooey cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven with a minimum of fuss. The heavenly scent of cinnamon, apples, and yeasty dough baking in the oven. We will be having some out of town visitors around the holidays. Can you imagine how good these will smell to my guests after a day of sight seeing? Or a morning batch for early birds hungry for a little something to tide them over until brunch?
Gingerbread Scones
This great gingerbread recipe was shared by Kitty of Kitty's Kozy Kitchen. It's a good beginner recipe because they don't have to be pretty! The golden rule for scones is don't over mix. These make a nice gift for the tea lover, or the traditionalist in your family. While you are visiting Kitty make sure you check out her recipe for Colonial Pumpkin bars!

On the Light Side - Poached Pears 
On the Light Side - Poached Pears.   My  version of poached pears - core  and peel 6 firm pears keeping stem in place.  from the bottom. set in a cooking pot deep enough that you can use the lid. Add 2 1/2 cups ginger ale, diet or regular. Add a dash of cinnamon. Cover and simmer on low for about 20 minutes.
poached pears
David Lebovitz in poached pears
 You want the pears to be soft but not falling apart. Remove from pot. Place in a sealed container and chill. Continue to simmer liquid. Reduce liquid to a consistency of a light syrup. Chill the syrup. These can be made a day ahead. I usually warm the pears and syrup before plating. I serve with a scoop of high quality vanilla bean ice cream.
I have included links to a couple versions of poached pears including pears poached in wine. It's worth reading what David Lebovitz has to say about poaching pears.

Thank you for visiting.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tea in the Craft Room #2 White & Cream Shabby Romantic Christmas Ideas

White and Cream Christmas Project Ideas
Shabby Romantic Decor

Welcome to my craft  room. Today my projects have a cream and white Shabby Romantic theme. I want to show you a few touches I made for my little sanctuary.
A pot of tea is at hand.
I am using an  ironstone tea pot by Canonburg Pottery.
The cup and saucer are yuletide, by Staffordshire Engravings.

Last year I made a wreath and luminaries from old book pages.

I also made this little tree from a scrap of old lace and decorated it with vintage pearls and rhinestone broaches.
What next?
These little shoes are darling. They make me think of Clara dreaming of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
So sweet!:
 These look they were spray painted and given a coat of iridescent sparkle. The banner could be printed out right on the computer. It looks to me like the insole has been relined with cotton batting or a heavy fuse-able coated with iridescent sparkle and the edges trimmed. There are a couple cans of white spray paint in the workshop. Since the embellishments are mostly things I have on hand in the craft room, I am going to try to make three sets, one for me, two for sale. I found children's ballet slippers on eBay for as low as 1.99USD. Shipping is about 5.00USD on the ones I checked out. New canvas were listed for as low as a couple dollars, coming from outside the USA.  I am going with the leather pre-owned, a small children's size. I put in my bid. Fingers crossed. Wish me luck!

51 Exquisite Totally White Vintage Christmas Ideas:
I am mad for bleached pine cones. (I lived on the outskirts of the Pinelands for twenty years, which made me an unofficial Piney for the duration of my residency. Since my roots are the shore, I'm still nothin' but a clam digger.) Pine cones are free! Bleach is cheap!  Gotta love cheap and free. I have lace, raffia, and burlap. By using my trifle bowl and a candle on hand this one is a done deal. I can switch it up from Shabby Romantic to Coastal by adding some shells. If I collect enough small roundish pine cones I'll make a garland by tying small bleached pine cones to a length of gardeners twine
This is pure eye candy. Isn't it terrific?

Decoration, Pictures Of White Christmas Trees Decorated How To Decorate Christmas Tree: Elegant And Minimalist Style White Color Christmas Decoration Ideas

Button star. I like this. Kinda farmhouse glam with the pearly buttons and the grapevine star.  Looks like a lot of buttons...I can see the cost adding up quickly. I don't know that I want it enough to spend the money for the buttons, and I don't foresee a margin for profit. Back burner this one. Although, I'll be keeping an eye open for deals on buttons. 
52 Flea
The teapot is empty. It's a beautiful day - perfect for a little beach combing. I'm off to search for shells, drift wood, and pine cones which can be found in the same area.
For more 
Shabby Romantic White and Cream Christmas.
Check out this post at 53 Flea. So many great inspiration pictures. 
visit Karen at
Learn how to make your own Vintage Style Snowman!
She is the Queen of Cream and White Romantic decoration. 

For More Christmas Awesomeness visit 
Christmas Tour
 Debbie brings a spirit of fun to everything she does.
Her blog is like a visit to that great upbeat neighbor who always has time for a cup of tea.

Ahoy Mates!
candy corn mug rugs by Peters from USS Craftsy, featured at
USS Crafty
Visit Navy Wife Peters Aboard the USS Craft for great sewing and crochet and craft projects.
I love this adorable candy corn owl tea mug rug she created.  Isn't this the sweetest thing?

 And make sure you check out her craft/ sewing room redo.

Creating My Craft Room

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Building a Better Christmas - Dealing With Post Holiday Blues

Dealing with Post Holiday Blues

Carin, Mary, and I were back at our usual table at the coffee shop. We watched  the school buses roll by as we sipped our coffee. Carin sighed. "There is something  melancholy about Summer ending."  
"There would be if the temperature wasn't 87 degrees by noon," I replied sourly.
Carin laid a hand on the Christmas planner on the table in front of her. "Does Christmas ever leave you feeling flat?  I mean the weeks, months of preparation. And then after all that work poof! It's over in a blur of torn paper and the scramble to get places on time, and get dinner on the table.  I always feel sort of let down... Like, that's it? All that work and that's it?"

Mary and I nodded. 
"I love the preparation but lately there seemed to be less enjoyment of the actual day," Mary admitted. "Sometimes I feel disconnected from the good time." 
"You want more bang for your buck," I said.
"Exactly," Mary said. "Only the more I do, the less it seems to work. The build up is fun, like planning a production. But then it's Opening Night, and there I am, the producer, watching from the wings. Hoping the audience likes it. And the next day I feel a major sense of let down."

I quietly pulled a sheet of paper from my bag. "I wrote this list several years ago, during a time when I experienced many major life changing events in a short period of time." I laid the sheet of paper on the table. Carin read aloud.
"Christmas Is...
About people not presents  - I have a budget and I'm sticking to it."
I explained, "For a few years money was very,very tight. I stopped giving gifts except to my daughters, and one to my mom. At Christmas the girls and I agreed on a small budget. We drew an name from a hat and we were to fill a stocking for that person. Now, with just the three of us it might sound silly to be a Secret Santa but we did and it added to the fun. We were together, and thankful. As my income increased I was able to indulge the girls a bit at Christmas and I love that! It gives me great joy. But life has changed again."
"That's right, you're a newlywed," Mary smiled.
"Yes.An old newlywed. Married to someone with a small family and minimal Christmas expectations." I took a big sip of coffee."Someone who wants a more circumspect Christmas budget."
"Ouch,"Carin said.
"Ouch," Mary said.

 "Ouch. Is it disappointing that I won't be putting tickets to Broadway shows, new laptops and luggage sets under the tree for my girls? Yes. But my husbands proposed budget isn't unreasonable. I'm reminding myself that Christmas is about people, not presents."  Suddenly I choked up. "And you know, I'm thinking some of that spending was masking  some feelings of guilt, and loss. Guilt because my girls had to go through some tough times, and loss because I miss their childhood days, when I was the center of their universe." 
Mary squeezed my hand."And now with out the shopping and spending to distract you are feeling those emotions."

I nodded. "I am reminding myself that setting a reasonable Christmas budget doesn't mean I can't buy something for my kids at other times. I don't need a holiday to do that. And another thing, a reasonable Christmas budget money allows us to set some money aside for a vacation and to bump up our retirement fund."

Carin looked back at the paper,"Don't Confuse the Selling Season with the Christmas Season."

"Stores and advertisers have a selling season. It ends Christmas Eve. Don't let the selling season dictate Christmas. And I stopped rushing back out to the stores the day after Christmas.Christmas has to be about more than catching a great sale. I may still choose to do some bargain shopping, but shopping is no longer the focus of my Christmas season.
   Something that has helped me tone down my shopping frenzy is focusing on a more religious Advent. I light the Advent candle. I read my devotions. 
And just because the stores and advertisers aren't pushing Christmas it doesn't mean it's over. It's actually just arrived! I  think of Christmas Eve and Day are sort of the jewels in the crown. From Boxing Day to Epiphany,the 12 days of Christmas, I listen to Christmas music and watch favorite Christmas movies. I take advantage of quiet time to enjoy my home. I read a holiday book.  I plan visitors for during that period. I take the time to enjoy the holiday season before I get caught up in what comes next."
"Life Goes on-  Christmas  is a Lay Over , Not a Final Destination"

"Think beyond Christmas. Have something beyond Christmas to look forward to. I tweak my to-do list, plan a Super Bowl party, and  treat myself to some pretty organizational products for my own personal holiday, Make My Closet Beautiful Day."
"Make My Closet Beautiful Day?" Carin asked. She sounded doubtful. 
"On a day I'm feeling down and out of sorts, I clean out my closet and drawers, treat myself  to some nice hangers,  a pretty bin or some drawer dividers. Usually the day after New Year's some times the day after the Super Bowl.  I find that by focusing on a specific task, and accomplishing something  replace some of my sadness with a feeling of accomplishment. I drink lots of lemon water, have some fresh fruit to nibble on, put on some music and dig in."
"I like it," Mary said. "Make My Closet Beautiful Day." 
"Don't Get To Far Off Track"

"From Late November through January I tend to let myself slide. I forgo the gym, walks, sleep, water intake.  I drink too much booze, eat too many sweets and rich foods. I always regret it. I can't let myself get to far off track physically or emotionally.  If the blues last more than two weeks, it's time to see the doctor and get help getting back on tract."
"By Lifting Up Others We Lift Ourselves Up"

"There is so much genuine need in the world. Focusing on meeting the needs of others puts my wants in perspective. The past few years I've been involved in a few helping projects. One is making quilting with a church group. Mission Quilts .The quilts go to those in need around the world.  When I feel myself getting into a funk, I turn my thoughts to helping others. I can sit and brood, or I can cut fabric squares which will be turned into a quilt that will keep a child warm."
"Practice Positive Thoughts"

"Very Simply, when I find myself dwelling on negative thoughts I purposely redirect my thoughts to something positive. Negative thoughts are a habit which can be changed.It takes some time and discipline but it can be done."  
 "Christmas the Holiday vs Christmas the Hobby"
"This year I am building a better Christmas by separating Christmas the holiday  from Christmas the hobby. Christmas the holiday is about me and my family. It is how we worship, and celebrate. It is about people, and those things which fill our hearts with warmth. Christmas the hobby can be a thousand pins on Pinterest, boxes of collectibles, a hundred cookie recipes. By separating them I am allowing myself to have a simpler holiday, while still giving myself permission to enjoy as much Christmas as I want with no seasonal restriction. I don't have to cram everything into a few weeks time."

Mary said,"You are so right about thinking of Christmas as a season and not a race to Christmas Day like it's the finish line. I am going print out January and February calendar months and start filling those in. You know, when I was a child my family went to my grandparents for Epiphany -Three Kings Day. My grandmother always made a special cake. We only had it that one time per year. It was a lovely day. I think I'm going to revive the tradition."

Carin grinned. "My husband has been wanting to host a Superbowl party for years. What if I gave him a Superbowl Party for Christmas?"
"How would you do that," Mary asked.
"Let's see," she said. "What if I got a big box and filled it with football themed party goods?Paper plates, decorations, you know, and a gift certificate for the local deli to cater the party, a coupon entitling him to have me make a beer run. Does that sound silly?"
"I think it sounds awesome." I admitted. "Wish I'd thought of it." 
"I'm feeling very good," Mary said. "I feel happy to be thinking about doing something that has meaning to me after Christmas Day. I made a note about Clean My Closet Day,   I like that idea too. And I'm writing some affirmations on my calendar to remind me to think positive."

 "I feel great," Carin exclaimed. "Not only do I have a post-Christmas project planned, I have an idea for my husbands Christmas gift that I'm actually excited about. I think the kids will like it too."
"I'm feeling better about the Christmas budget. I'm seeing it in a more positive light." I admitted. "and talking it out with you guys has  reminded me of another important way to deal with the post holiday blues."
 "Stay in touch with people."

"These building a better Christmas talks we've been having  have been a real help to me." Mary admitted. Carin and I nodded in agreement. 
"So far we have discussed  make ahead meals,  shopping and organizing , dealing with difficult family members and now dealing with the post holiday blues.What's next?"
We looked at one another. 
"What about something practical." I said. "What if we do a little show and tell? We each bring a couple  gift giving,  time saving, or organizational tips to share with each other?"
"I like that," Mary said. Carin agreed.  
"Good." I smiled and reached into my bag for my tablet."Before we go I have one I'd like to share with you now."
At your house does everyone get new Jammies on Christmas Eve?
 Susan at OhMy! Creative has kicked the tradition up a notch
Check it out.
Start a new family tradition on Christmas Eve with this Night Before Christmas Box with Free Printable Label Fun for the whole family  |  OHMY-CREATIVE.COM

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Building a Better Christmas - Make Ahead Meals

Organized Christmas
Make Ahead Meals

The mid morning rush at the coffee shop was just slowing down when Mary dropped her huge handbag on the floor next to the table and melted into the seat across from me. "Carin can't make it." She held a large iced coffee against her forehead. "There should be a law against heat waves in September."
lo carb sheperd's pie
lo carb sheperd's pie 
Why I like it: Clean eating comfort food. Recipe easily tweaked to family's taste.

 I nodded. "Hard to think about Christmas when it's 90 degrees plus."
Why I like it: It's very close to my mom's award winning recipe. (Seriously. The woman chili has won awards. What? My mom share her recipes?! Hahahaha!

"I can't believe we closed the pool the day after Labor Day. All I want to do is stand in the kitchen with my head in the freezer."
I set my coffee cup aside and pulled a some folded sheets of paper from my purse. I handed them to Mary. "Funny you should mention the freezer. I spent some time thinking about food and time management this week."

Why I like It: A great vegetarian soup.  Read the post.You will understand. Mangia!  I ladle out the soup I'm going to freeze then add al dente pasta to it just before freezing. 

 "Time management? This looks like a shopping list."
"There is a list of make ahead meals, a calendar, and a shopping list." I pointed at the top of the list. "These are the four  foods I like to keep in the freezer.  They allow me to make a breakfast, lunch or dinner  with minimal prep.  Then there are seven freezer to oven recipes that I know everyone in our family will eat, and are dinner guest tested and approved. "

Here's the Best Recipe for Chicken Enchilada Casserole!  It's a great hit with my family!:
 Chicken enchilada Casserole
Why I like it: Easy prep, freezes great. Fun and festive.
"Some of these things are available already made. I assume you make them at home to keep the fat and sodium down?"
"I try to avoid the store bought prepared food. Yes, for quality and portion control." I sipped my coffee. "And it's nice to cut down on the kitchen clean up some nights. Not just that. Having some meals made ahead means spending less time in busy restaurants. Less opportunities to catch the latest bug. Not to mention the extra calories."

 Freezable Chicken Pot Pie | | @mealplanmom
Chicken Pot Pie
Why I like it: A healthier version of a favorite comfort food.

Mary raised an eyebrow. "Smart. I hadn't thought about that. The holiday season can be rough on those with lowered immune systems. The Calendar?"

Why I like It: Great taste. The recipe was right there on the box!
"Keeping track of plans and events on the calendar will let me judge how many fast or ready made meals to have on hand.  This is something I do in general. I am just going to step up my game."
"You know, I could see some real savings," Mary said. "by avoiding those unplanned take out and restaurant meals that seem to get out of hand around the holidays."

Southwest roll ups
Southwest roll ups 
Why I like it: When I make these I make some as per recipe, and some with a cooked saffron rice, black bean, corn, diced red and green pepper, and onion mixture. 

" I've been reading that the bread machine cinnamon rolls my family likes can be prepped and frozen unbaked. Having a couple trays of  those I could just pull out of the freeze and bake would be a wonderful thing."
"The giant goopy ones like in the mall? Oh, I looove those!" Mary moaned.
"With the left overs I make bread pudding with the  William Sonoma recipe.

Brioche Bread Pudding
WS Bread Pudding
"I'll look that up too. I like your top four make ahead list."
"I spared you the tofu quiche recipe,"
 "Thank you! These easily lend themselves to double batching - eat one, freeze one. I feel like an idiot that it hasn't occurred to me before now."
"Habit," I shrugged. "My mom never froze ahead. She would be horrified at the idea.  However, she did keep a well stocked pantry.  I followed her example which has evolved over the years to something more clean eating.  One of my favorite pantry lists is The Pioneer Woman pantry list. "

My Top Four Make Ahead  Foods 

1. Eggs & Bacon.  French Toast and a side of bacon. 2 slices of French toast, two rashers of cooked bacon per sandwich sized baggie. I pop the French toast in the toaster to reheat, and warm the bacon in the microwave for a few seconds checking for doneness. There are lots of great looking egg casseroles but I've never tried them so I can't comment.

2. Ground Beef  or turkey- I cook and freeze a sliced meatloaf and 2 dozen oven baked meatballs for Meatball Parmigiana sandwiches or spaghetti and meatballs 
3. Chicken  - Parmesan & Parmesan Chicken - I oven baked breaded chicken cutlets  instead of frying (eggplant is good also)  - I do Parmesan Crusted Chicken at the same time. The recipe is right on the Hellman's Mayo jar . (I use a light version, and a skinnier schmearrrr than the recipe.) 
 Cooked thin sliced chicken breast. - Easy to heat and sear in the griddle pan for sandwiches or slice and serve cold on a salad.
4. Ham salad.  Cut a Lite Spam into chucks. Drop into food processor. Pulse processor until mostly shredded and 2 peeled quartered hard boiled eggs. Add a couple tablespoons of mayonnaise. I use a 1/2 to 1/2 cup but you can adjust to taste. Add some onion, or a tablespoon of India relish. Whatever you like in your ham salad. Pulse until you are happy with the texture. I freeze it in single serve containers. Add some crackers, some fresh veg for dipping = yummy lunch.
Image result for cornucopia
"Most of this organizing Christmas business is stuff we know." Mary set aside the sheaf of paper. She rested her chin on her fist. "I feel like I should have been doing a better job all along."
"For me it's a matter of making a plan  then a conscious effort to follow it. Without a plan I just slide back into habit."
"That's so true. I am thinking there are about ten weekends from Halloween through New Years Day. I am going to take a week end and cook, cook, cook! Stock that freezer now. Life would be much simpler if I could cut down on kitchen time during the weekends in November and December."
"I'm starting small. My present system is a flexible menu plan. I spend one afternoon a week  prepping several meals which reduces the time and work needed at meal time. My goal is to add one freezer to oven dish to that afternoon of cooking. I'm already in the kitchen, and if I can follow through until Halloween, that's eight made ahead meals." I checked the time and gathered my things. "I've got to get going. Keep cool. See you next week."

DO you have any make ahead favorites? How much prep work do you do before the holidays?
Thanks for visiting. See you soon!

Due to technical difficulties I could not share my personal food shopping check list but there are many  decent versions available online. Here is one.
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