Friday, December 21, 2007

A Jolly Good Apron!

Look what arrived from Arizona, just in time for Christmas baking!

This is the cutest Christmas apron ever! Hand-made by my mother who also made one for my sisters too. She even had my name embroidered on the top. Thanks Mom! I love it!

Snow Art

Last weekend we received the first snow of the season and it was wonderful. It kept us home, all cozy in the house, and allowed us much needed time to finish up our last minute Christmas baking and projects.

We only had about 3 inches of accumulation, and unfortunately it's all gone now, but we sure enjoyed it while it lasted. The boys spent several hours outside playing in it, building snow forts and snow slides.

One neighborhood over, my friend Lisa's very creative daughter, Michelle was making this adorable snowman. Notice that his arms are made out of bobby pins....that should give you an idea of how tiny he is. So cute!

Deck The Halls.....

Tree during daylight.

Tree at night.

This post is for Mom who asked to see the Christmas tree decorated. I haven't quite figured out how to photograph Christmas trees as they're not very photogenic. Or maybe it's the photographer that has the problem.

I thought I'd highlight some of my favorite ornaments. To me the ornaments are the best part of the Christmas Tree. I don't particularly like putting up the Christmas tree every year. It's a lot of work, it clutters my house and drops pine needles all over the floor. However, there's certainly something special about taking the ornaments out one by one, and seeing the kids' faces light up as they find their favorite, and reminisce about when they received it.

My mom started a tradition when I was just a little girl, each year she would buy a new ornament for my sisters and me. When we married, we received the boxed ornament collection as a shower gift. It's hard to believe that some of the ornaments on my tree are almost as old as I am.

This one came in a set of three, all hand painted, from my Aunt Mary.

This turtle came from the "shower gift" collection and is 30+ years old.

This is a clay ornament that I made in 2nd grade

This teapot puzzle ornament is one of my favorites. It was locally hand crafted and given to me by a friend who knows how much I love tea.

And of course the boys would never let a Christmas go by without wanting me to take out their favorite Christmas decoration, this cute little Christmas village that was a hand-made gift (given many years ago) from my Aunt Linda. The boys love this village that, although you can't see, is very personalized with buildings such as "Kim's Soy Farm," and "Kim and Keith's Tree Lot."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Patchwork Tablecloth & Napkins

I found this patchwork tablecloth and napkins in my Martha Stewart Living magazine and I fell in love with it. I just knew I had to make one and I had the perfect recipient in mind. I went to the fabric store and picked out several fabrics in the shades of lavender and purple. (you can see my first tablecloth on my Thanksgiving post)

Although I sew quite a bit, I still found the instructions a little confusing so I took my fabric and magazine with me to Phoenix in hopes that my mom, who is a wonderful seamstress, would be able to help. And sure enough, it became our weekend project. We were able to complete the tablecloth in the short time that I was there, my mom giving me several helpful pointers along the way, such as showing me how to sew French hems and how to get the fabric to be the perfect measurements by ripping it. Yes, you heard right, ripping it. It works great and has saved me so much time in all my recent projects. My mom and I really liked the finished product, despite my dad's aversion. He thought it would be better suited placed on a bed versus a table.

I have since made three patchwork tablecloths, all Christmas gifts, and each one was a pleasure to make. I'm not sure what I enjoy more, picking out all the fabric or seeing them put together in the finished project.
One of the downfalls to making this tablecloth is that you need a lot, and I mean A LOT, of rickrack. So if you live in a small town like I do, you might not be able to get all that you need. Two of the tablecloths that I've made, have been altered to fit bigger tables than what the pattern calls for. In the magazine it calls for 21 yards and I used about 35 yards for the two bigger tablecloths. If you can find it on the reel you have a better chance of having enough yardage but if you have to buy the little packages.... good luck. There's only 2.5 yards per package.

Some day I'll have time to make one for myself but in the mean time, I'm hoping the people receiving these will enjoy using them as much as I did making them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!

Stafford Tree Farm

Last Saturday we headed out in search of the perfect Christmas tree. We drove out to Brown County, about 15 minutes away, to Stafford Tree Farm. This is the last year for Stafford to sell Christmas trees as they are trying to get out of the tree farm business. Their trees were a great bargain at $20 for any size if you cut and load it yourself.
Measuring Pole

We enjoyed our walk around the farm; the grounds were beautiful and the owners were very helpful. We were given a measuring pole, basically a white PVC pipe with duct tape marking each foot. It was a nice little tool to have until the boys started fighting over who was going to carry it. So back it went and we all had to figure out the the tree height on our own. The tree sizes can really be deceiving when your walking among many! We settled for a nice little Blue Spruce and Keith did the honor of cutting it down and loading it onto the car. His one and only contribution to the Christmas decorating, and one job I was glad not to have!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Do You Know The Gingerbread Man?

Run, run as fast as you can.
You can't catch me,
I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Cupcake #2

Gingerbread Cupcakes

I am a big fan of gingerbread, and I find that most people either like it or they don't. For me the distinct ingredient of gingerbread, is not the ginger but the molasses. Maybe that's why I like it so much. It takes me back to my childhood, and Grandma Smith's molasses cookies. Whenever we went to Grandma's house she would always have a big Tupperware container of cookies on top of her refrigerator. And sometimes inside the container would be her molasses cookies. Big, soft cookies with creamy vanilla icing spread on top. Yum. I still have my grandma's recipe, although I haven't made it in a long time. One of the ingredients that my grandma swore by is lard. Yes, that's right, lard. She always told me you couldn't substitute anything else for it. Well, needless to say, every time I've ever made her recipe, I've always substituted shortening for the lard and they still turned out great. Sorry Grandma.

Which brings me back to my gingerbread cupcakes, no lard in these, only butter.

For the cupcake, I wanted a gingerbread cake but also wanted it to be a little more mild than the typical gingerbread recipe. So I left out some of the molasses and added a couple tablespoons of cocoa which really helped to take out the sharpness. I'm very pleased how well all the flavors blended together.

Next, because you can never have too much chocolate, I spread on a layer of chocolate ganache which is a very nice compliment to gingerbread. On top of the ganache comes a ginger butter cream icing. I made my regular butter cream icing but instead of using white sugar, I used brown sugar and then added just a tad of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. It is delicious and the combination of all three flavors, the gingerbread cake, chocolate ganache, and ginger butter cream, turned out very well.

Oh, and I must not forget the cute gingerbread boy cookie on top, surrounded by gingerbread boy candies.
And by the way, to L. and M. who I know are reading this, yes, you will get to sample one in the a.m.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

North Pole Cupcake

I'm currently working on a cupcake order for Friday. These cupcakes are for a Christmas party so in addition to experimenting with seasonal flavors, I'm also doing seasonal decorations.

Cupcake #1

Chocolate-Mint Cupcakes

For these I wanted to use a chocolate cake and a peppermint icing. I was hesitant to make the cupcake itself chocolate-mint for fear that it might be too overpowering. So I went with a chocolate cupcake iced with a subtle peppermint butter cream. I decorated with white sanding sugar and candy snowflakes, stuck in a peppermint stick and a fondant snowman for the top. I must say the fondant snowmen were a little time consuming, but overall I'm happy with the end result. We'll see if my customer agrees.

Check back tomorrow for Cupcake #2 - Gingerbread