Saturday, November 28, 2015

Holiday Crafting

A quick craft I made today*
A few weeks ago I decided that for next Christmas (yes, that would be in 2016), I wanted to try to have completely handmade decorations.

I know. I know.

I can buy stuff at lots of stores. I can even get a lot of it discounted. It's not that we need more things. It's that I like making things. And to be surrounded by lots of decorations during the holidays that I or the kids made? That would be a wonderful treat!

Even though I want this next year - after all I do need to sleep between now and December 25 of this year, I wanted to start making things this year as I was able to.

So. Early this morning (which is code for not really even that early for most of the rest of the world but early for me!) I woke up, got my daughter, got my not-daughter-who-is-here-so-often-she's-like-another-child and we headed over to Jo-Ann's.

I'll admit, I was kind of scared. I didn't know what sort of crowd we'd be facing. I wasn't sure how many people there would be. And I didn't know how well the store would handle all the millions of people I envisioned would be there.

Thankfully, it wasn't as busy as I thought it would be - thought definitely a lot busier than normal! And apparently, the store has done this before, because they were ready.

Before we went in the store, we joked around and made a "game plan". Our game plan was basically grab a ticket for the fabric cutting counter pretty quickly to walking in, then shop. That way if the line was really long, we wouldn't wait as long! Then we did a team hand stack and we were ready to head into the store. Right when the doors opened.

But it wasn't that bad. People seemed to be in good moods. Most everyone seemed to expect there would be lines and waiting and lots of people, so no one was getting upset that it wasn't going faster. Most people seemed to know exactly what they want and there didn't seem to be a lot of just wandering around and seeing what there was (which is how I usually spend half my time in any craft store!). Despite lots of people, it seemed good to me. None of those images I've seen on tv of crazy crowds pushing and shoving and running and grabbing things out of people's carts!

I saved quite a bit of money between coupons and sales. And I've come home with many, many items so I can (hopefully) make lots and lots of fun things to decorate the house with. 

I'm excited about this. I don't know how far I'll get or how much I'll actually make. Or what I'll do with the things we already own.

But I do like making things. And I don't make hardly anything for our home, so I'm glad I will finally get a chance to do something crafty for our house!

*I saw this on pinterest. It was made slightly differently because they cut the letters out of vinyl and put it on the glass. I printed the words on a white paper ( a script font at size 100). I taped that to the back of a shadow box and put in three different sized silver bells inside the shadow box. It literally took me about 5 minutes! If I did it again, I'd move the words up higher so I could get more bells in. I'm also looking at that black frame and wondering if there's some way I can jazz it up. But I think what I will do is try to layer in decorations around it and leave the frame alone!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Computer Woes

Oh, I was going to end this year's NaBloPoMo with a bang!

This was, as we headed into this week, probably my best NaBloPoMo yet - which made me feel really good and really proud about my writing and sticking to the challenge!

But. But. But.

Those darn buts.

For the second time in a very short time, a credit card of mine has been "stolen."

Not physically removed from my purse. Not taken out of the house. But the numbers stolen and used by someone else to make purchases.

Not even 6 weeks ago, this happened. We caught it on the first charge they made (thanks credit card fraud department!). This time, they made a charge a few days ago, yesterday, and then the big one today.


We can only imagine, that there is something on my computer - keystroke logger, something - because twice in such a short time? I mean, it could be coincidence, but I feel like probably not.

So I'm frantically removing files I want to an external hard drive. And at some point tomorrow, my husband will wipe the computer clean and we will start over as if it's day one. Because we've scanned, checked, looked for, and we can't find anything.

Maybe. Just maybe, that means nothing is there.

However, I'm not a big fan of coincidences so I'm trusting my gut which says my laptop is the heart of the problem.

To say that I'm frustrated by this would be a huge understatement.

I love technology. But I also dislike it at moments like this.

Also I wonder what problems could we solve if people who did things like this, used their powers for good and to help people.


Alas, all the things I wanted to say, all the things swirling around in my head just went right out of it.

So here you go. I'm off to continue moving files. And hoping this doesn't happen a third time.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Another Thanksgiving is in the books. It was a good one indeed for us.

But, before the day passed, I wanted to stop by and say thank you to you. Yes! You!

Thank you for visiting my blog! Thank you for reading - whether this is your first post or you've read them all, thank you!

For every comment you've left, thank you!

For every retweet on twitter. For every like on facebook. For ever plus on google plus. Thank you.

I really do appreciate it.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Pumpkin Pie and Not Pumpkin Pie!
Today, in preparation for Thanksgiving, I've done some baking.

I'm going to my mom's tomorrow and I am in charge of desserts.

I love baking. Completely love baking. I could bake all the time - cupcakes, brownies, cakes, breads ... all of it, I love.

So today, sometimes with rotating help from the kiddos, we made pumpkin pie, rice krispie treats (in the shape of a pumpkin pie), and some of the cookies Natasha shared Monday!

We also made some brownies and chocolate pudding/mousse for a trifle we'll put together tomorrow.

Thankfully, I was able to spread out the baking over the course of the day - I'm still having trouble with my back and neck. This means, even when I'm doing something I enjoy, I have to take it easy and not overdo it. Which is a shame because I'm quite talented at overdoing it!

Between working, I've been binge watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. I'm not sure why I have watched this show before now. I've heard others mention it. I know our local PBS aired it, and yet, it's new to me. And not surprisingly, I'm in love with it.

My son told me that I should be on a show like this myself. I'm flattered by his compliment, and while I don't think I'm a bad baker, I'm certainly not tv-show-competition-ready.

Which is just fine by me! I'm okay with baking for friends and family and watching tv shows from the couch, in comfy jammies, with my knitting!

How about you? Do you love baking? Any favorite recipes you can share with me? =)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

12 Days of Cookies: Cut-out Cookie Tree

A bit ago, my friend Natasha of Houseful of Nicholes asked who wanted to participate in the 12 Days of Cookies, and inside I was like oh yes I do want to join in because how fun is this, but on-line I was like yeah, if you need someone I'll do it. Because I'm all casual like that!

Instantly, I knew what I was going to make: a Christmas Tree.

I did this quite a few years ago and thought it was really pretty cute and it looks harder to make than it is. And if you can make yummy cookies that impress people, well, why not?

Last time I made the cookies, I printed a star graphic and then enlarged it a few sizes and shrunk it a few sizes. I carefully cut out all the stars, placed them on the rolled out cut-out cookie dough, and used a knife to cut them out. It is truly how I planned to do it this time as well. But as luck would have it, on Friday I accidentally came across a holiday sale and I found a set of 10 star cookie cutters on sale for one whole dollar. Yep I snapped those cookie cutters up and thought the universe must be looking out for me! (though if you don't have a set, you try the print, shrink/enlarge, cut method too).

I told the kids what I was planning to do and instantly I had quite a few helpers - in my house, the kids love to roll out dough and decorate cookies. The mixing, baking, cooling part? That's not much fun so it gets left for me, which I don't mind at all!

So I mixed the best cut-out cookie dough I know. The recipe came from my friend Melodee and ever since she shared it with me, I've never used another! After mixing, I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge. This dough, I've found, works best when it's just slightly cold. If it's too cold, it cracks and if it's too warm it's too sticky. I find just under an hour in the fridge is perfect and if it has to stay in longer, I just let it sit at room temperature until it softens.

Anyway, I pulled it out of the fridge and had some kids very eager to roll it out! I handed them some dough, a rolling pin, and a stack of cookie cutters. Be careful cutting them out, I warned, we need two cookie of each size so you have to pay attention!

So we carefully cut them out, placed on the cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and I was in charge of baking them. Which is good, because these cookies go from done to burned very quickly. I don't even leave them on the pan when I take them out of the oven - I move them to cooling racks right away!

Somehow, we managed to get two of all sizes (and three of one, but we'll call the extra a test cookie to make sure they were yummy!)

Now truthfully, this is where I stop for the day. After the cookies are cooled, I put them in a storage container and stop for the day. Yes, a two day cookie - not because they need to be, but because it's better for me to do it that way! If you don't have two days, do it in one. If you only have smaller chunks of time, split it up!

Day two of cookies is frosting day! Another thing the kids like to do. I whip up the frosting, fill bags, and let them go. We used a royal icing and outline the cookie and then fill it in. The kids do a great job at this because even if they don't, we just spread the frosting out a little bit with a spatula and call it a day!

Then it's time to let the cookies sit so the frosting gets hard. Alright, another confession, we never wait quite long enough because we are eager to move on to the next step, and it's okay! Because the next step is the most fun.

Starting withe largest size cookie, put a dollop of frosting in the middle, and stack on the cookie that is the same size. Turn it so that the points of the star are not right on top of each other. Put a dollop of frosting and place the next larges cookie on top. Dollop of frosting, cookie, lather, rinse, repeat, until all the cookies are placed.

Now step back. You have a gorgeous cut-out cookie Christmas tree. That isn't any more wok than traditional cut-out cookies. In fact, it's probably a bit of less work because you don't need to decorate them fancy - just top with green icing and you are good to go!

We also made one extra of the tiniest star and decorated it with sprinkles so it could be our tree topper! It looks lovely I think. And every one will be oohing and aahing over your cookies!

Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cream of tartar
1/2 t salt

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix in rest of ingredients.
Flatten into a disc and chill for at least one hour.
Bake 6-8 minutes at 400 degrees.

*You'll need to double the recipe to make a tree the size of mine

Royal Icing
2 pounds powdered sugar
5 Tablespoon meringue powder
1/2-3/4 cups water
2-3 teaspoon of vanilla
Food coloring (if desired)

Mix the vanilla into half the water.
Put the sugar and meringue powder into a mixing bowl and mix it at low speed.
Slowly add the water/vanilla mix.
Then add as much of the water as you need to get the frosting to a honey-like consistency.
Add food coloring (if desired).
Continue to mix for a few minutes, until it can form soft peaks.

I find this is a bit thinner than other recipes, but I like it that way much better! I even sometimes add a bit more water to thin it out just a bit more.

Bake. Frost. Eat. Enjoy =)