Saturday, December 22, 2007

Doing the Happy Dance!

I'm finished. With everything. The Divinity was finished at 11pm last night, I wrapped the last gift shortly after that (I was waiting on a box my husband was bringing home from work, he works 2nd shift.)

What is left behind is a mess! I baked from the time I got up until the time I went to bed last night, but everything is finished, making today a putzing day. I'm planning new quilts and hopefully pulling fabrics and gathering supplies for them. When I'm feeling brave I'll tackle my kitchen in bits until it's clean and shiny and ready for the rest of the holiday food prep.
This was the last cookie to be baked, they are called Toffee Bars. They bake at a low temperature for a long time and are a bit chewy and nutty and have a marvelous flavor.

When these were baking, I made Puppy Chow. I haven't made this for years but knew it would be a fast and easy thing to add to my holiday goodies. Ruthie is often tentative about trying new things, but she tried this and loved it.

Also on the agenda for yesterday was homemade marshmallows. These are marvelous in hot chocolate and I put a couple in my coffee and they melt to a yummy skin on top, a bit coming off with each sip. Yum!

I learned a lesson making Divinity yesterday, my mixer will not hold a double batch! As a result, not all the sugar syrup was able to fit and it's just a little bit gooey...I actually like the texture better having done it wrong, but it did make it much harder to get it nicely off of the waxed paper. Is it really bad of me to feel a bit of glee that this is one recipe my mother-in-law was unable to conquer? My version has chopped soft peppermint in it...It's wonderful!

I thought that today I would be working like crazy to get everything finished, and instead I'm planning new projects and able to relax some before the busy-ness of the next few days. With my exercise finished I'm dressed for the day, I have dishes soaking in the sink and my magazines and paper ready for quilt planning so it's time to run. I hope everyone is ready (or almost anyway!) for Christmas and can squeeze in some relaxation time in the next couple of days.

Happy December 22nd!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I'm seeing it. I'm really surprised, but I guess I shouldn't be. They say if you want something done to give it to a busy person. Last week, I didn't see any way I could finish everything in time for Christmas, but I'm on the brink of it now.

These cookies are called peppernuts. They are little crunchy spice cookies that are just wonderful. I used them to fill in the holes in the cookie platter (I'll post a pic of one when I have one made up.) I like to leave them sit in my mouth for a minute so they soften up, they are so good! Last night after FINISHING my Christmas shopping, I made these Amaretto Apricot Chews. They are an oatmeal based cookie with chopped dried apricots and chopped almonds in them. These were the choice of our 13 year old. Each child gets to pick their favorite and those are made no matter what, then I add more if I'm able.

I was able to finish the machine mat for me this morning, so now I have this lovely little thing to hold the supplies I need at hand...and I have no sewing left to do! LOL. I am planning a top, though, to be started next weekend, so it will get broken in then.

I'm about to leave for a quick job with my husband and I'm babysitting for a friend's children today. Other than that I really hope to finish the cookie and candy making. Last night I wrapped all the gifts except one (my husband is getting me a box for that one.) While I can sit while things are in the oven, I'm going to go through my magazines and look for the next top I want to make. When I get magazines, I put post it notes on the front with the projects in them that I want to do, so I'm going to browse through them today and tomorrow and find THE project to inspire me after the holidays.
Now I have to run, our oldest is going camping this weekend and I told him I'd make him up a tin of cookies to bring along, then I have that job to do.

May your day be productive and relaxing (doesn't seem possible to have both, does it??)

Happy quilting (baking, cooking, shopping, wrapping....)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Really, has only a day passed??

I can't believe my last post was yesterday, it seems like several days have passed as I've squeezed so much into yesterday and now today. These are Spritz cookies that I made on Sunday. I'm on cookie number 8 of 10 now. Tomorrow I might have time to bake one kind, but the plan is to complete my shopping then. It will depend on when I get home and how much energy I have left if I'll bake at all tomorrow.
As I was looking at email yesterday afternoon, I found one telling me the only gift I ordered online was not going to be shipped as it was out of stock. This was a much wanted item from our oldest daughter's list and I had no idea where to even find one locally...and now not much time to do so.

I looked into ordering from somewhere else online, but at this late date the shipping cost as much as the item and I was hoping it wouldn't come to that. I searched the sites of some local stores and found a couple that SAID the item was in stock in the store (though the internet site had also said the item was in stock, so I was skeptical.)

I was supposed to go to a quilting bee last night and was debating whether or not to go before this. I could sew at home without having to pack up all my supplies and could bake cookies while I do it. Now with this extra shopping, the decision was made. I took our 15 year old daughter along to drive, she's got her driver's permit and needs night time driving hours.

Thankfully, I found the item at the first stop and our oldest daughter will be thrilled on Christmas morning. While out, we picked up a few other things.

We didn't get home until 9pm. I glanced around when I walked in...I didn't see Ruthie, her door was open so she wasn't in bed. I asked my sons if she was with them. No. I had a split second of panic as I asked Rebekah where she was...she pointed her finger...oh my. Our dolly was asleep among her dollies.

I decided I could still bake one kind of cookie even though it was getting late. The dough was made and chilling in the refrigerator. These are called Cream Cheese Snowcaps and have a lovely lemon flavor and a double coating of powdered sugar.

Today, thankfully, was a "home" day. After my morning exercise I started baking and am still going now. This next cookie is called Buried Cherry. It's a soft chocolate cookie with a maraschino cherry half hiding under the "frosting." This is our oldest son's favorite cookie. Each year, I ask them all which ones we have to be sure to make, this one gets chosen every year.

This next one is Lucas' favorite, they are M & M cookies.

I'm still baking, the last one for the day are chocolate chip and mixed nut, I still have at least a couple of hours of baking ahead.

As cookies baked, I worked on this for a friend for Christmas. I have one in progress for me, too, and hope to get it finished sometime tonight or tomorrow.

Tomorrow is my usual errand day so I'll be grocery shopping first thing in the morning. Once the food is home and put away, I"ll be heading out to finish my Christmas shopping (I hope, anyway.) I have a pretty detailed list so it's just a matter of going out to get things, but I'm still anticipating it taking most of the afternoon.

I'm now in the marathon worker state of mind. I often do this when there is a lot to do...I work like crazy until it's finished so there is a day or two of downtime before the actual event. I find I can enjoy it much more if I'm not working right up until the last minute...we'll see what the next few days bring!

For now, I'm off to finish these cookies and clean up my kitchen, it looks like a tornado hit it after 10 hours of baking. Though I did do some cleaning as I go, there is still work to be done before the day is over and I can relax a bit.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's Beginning to Look (and FEEL) a Lot Like Christmas!

After a couple of days of sheer panic last week, I feel a bit more put together. The tree is purchased and decorated, the cookie baking has begun, I've done a bit of Christmas shopping and though my week is still very busy (with watching a friend's children thrown in the mix) I feel like I'll actually finish. If all goes well, I should be down to a few last minute, fairly quick to make items and Sunday will be a day of rest.....well as much of a rest as one gets with spending the morning at church, the afternoon making and cleaning up dinner for 8 and the evening at rehearsal for Christmas eve! Without having to squeeze in Christmas prep, though, that doesn't sound too bad to me!

These cookies are called Chocolate Mint Creams. The "frosting" is a mint kiss that is put on the cookie when it's almost fully baked and popped back in the oven for a couple of minutes to soften it, then when they come out it's spread like icing. Delicious! This is the second year I've bought these throwaway pans to store all my cookies. I don't have the space to store a large amount of containers through the year and these even have the pop on plastic lids, making storing (and retrieving) the cookies quite easy. I wipe out the pans and keep them for messy things like lasagna, giving me easy cleanup for a few meals post-holiday.

This next cookie is called "Cappucino Flats." They are flavored with chocolate, cinnamon and coffee and dipped in melted semi-sweet chocolate after baking. They have a shortbread consistency that is wonderful with a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

This is a picture of Ruthie's hair after being in braids all week. A combination of a french braid and french braided pigtails gave her this adorable fuzzy ponytail.

Last Saturday morning we got our Christmas tree. I prefer to get it about 3 weeks before Christmas, we usually settle for two, but this year the busy-ness of my husband and older children pushed it back another week. Some years we go cut one, others we hit a local store that is selling them and just pick one out of a lot. With time constraints and a 3 year old who doesn't like to step in (or touch or even see up close) snow, we opted to go to Home Depot and go the quick route. We were glad we did! The price was good, we easily found one we liked and they even cut off the bottom so all we had to do was pop it in the stand and decorate.

I had to run to the post office and came home to the lights already on and the ornaments in progress. Ruthie got the hang of it right away and had a nice little pile all on one branch...which I think all of our kids did around here age. She particularly liked this little elf ornament.

They all had fun decorating the tree and it was done in no time. I often look at my children in amazement. They are so kind to one another (well, most of the time!) and have had such a good time shopping for one another this year. Our four older kids all have jobs and went all out buying gifts for one another. They can hardly wait for Christmas morning to see the reaction of their siblings to the gifts they bought. I think they are far more excited about that than what they themselves get. It warms a Mother's heart!

Today is one of those days that I really need to get a lot done, but some of what needs to be done can't be done quite yet.

I have one kind of cookie in progress, step one is finished and cooling. I have another kind of dough made and chilling, it would be ideal to be able to bake both of these today. The problem is I'm going to give a sewing class to a friend's Girl Scout Troop at 3:45, will be home in enough time to quickly make dinner, then I have a quilting bee tonight. I thought about skipping it as I didn't have any Christmas related sewing to do, but now that I've decided on the sewing machine mat for a friend, I will go so I can work on that uninterrupted...with any luck I should come home with it finished...or nearly so.

My husband will be home soon and taking some laundry to the laundromat (we are still washer-less.) I'm thankful for him going but he will come home with 5 or 6 loads of laundry to be dried and then folded and put away.

I have my rehearsal CD on, so Christmas music is blaring, my cookies are ready for the next step and I'm hoping to get a bit of sewing done before tonight so there isn't quite so much to do and once I hit mid afternoon I'll have to pack it all up. Last time I forgot my power cord AND my pattern. Let's hope I'm more organized than that tonight!

Happy Christmas prep!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Evening Post

This is something I haven't done yet. Usually I post first thing in the morning because that is when I'm sitting at my computer with my cup of coffee and clearing my head for the day. I know tomorrow morning I'll be really busy so I decided to do one tonight.

As I write, I usually plan my day and often somewhere in my blog I'm listing out what I plan to do that day, or for the next few days.

Yesterday, as I tried to get handle on what was left to do before Christmas it hit me. I have too much left to do. I'm so thankful my sewing is done (well, it was, but more on that in few minutes) because I truly don't know what I'd do otherwise. As I ticked off in my head the number of things that need to be done, I was nearly in tears knowing that I would have to be really diligent with scheduling my time over the next 10 days or I would NOT be ready.

Grocery shopping, gift shopping, wrapping, baking, three 2-hour rehearsals, taking Jonathan shopping, taking Lucas shopping, pre-making potstickers and egg rolls. Tomorrow afternoon is my quilting bee lunch, little will be done tomorrow and Saturday we're having friends over in the evening for dessert, snacks and cards.

I woke up still feeling a cloud over my head. It's the 'bad' day of that time of the month and I was up a few times in the night. I felt out of sorts, tired, and completely overwhelmed before I stepped out of the house for our errands...which consisted of 8 stops today. EIGHT!

We got the groceries for the week, for Christmas dinner and for Christmas cookies bought and put away. Ok. A big job done. I needed to bake so we have something for dessert tomorrow after our lunch out. I had the foresight to buy chicken from the Meijer deli for dinner, another 'job' ticked off my list. I baked two loaves of banana bread and a pan of brownies.

I sat down with my Home Management Binder (thanks Bren!) and started figuring out what I can get done in the next few days and writing them down. A cup of coffee with dinner helped bring me out of my fog a bit and I started to think about what I can still get done today if I try.

I have a couple of gifts to wrap and a box to get ready to send out. All of that can (and will) be done tonight yet. I need to clean the dishes from dinner and I want to get the potstickers made and in the freezer for Christmas dinner.

I'm feeling a bit less frantic. I still have a lot to do, but I can do it. Does anyone know how much caffeine it will take to stay up from now until the 26th??

And of course, in my usual manner, I've decided that I do have one more gift to make after all. I wanted to make myself a pad for under my sewing machine after seeing Bren's and realized I still needed something for a friend. I can make two almost as quickly as one. I've printed triangle paper, written out a plan, pulled most of the fabric and will begin sewing tomorrow, I hope.

This is on my table and there is something calming about seeing it. It's so large I have to clear my table off to use it, so my table is staying neater and it's reminding me that staying organized will help me through this next busy week.

Here is a closeup view of it. Somehow those white quilting lines really show up in the pictures, in spite of them being rather hard to see while quilting!

I've also started a Happy New Year runner, I'm getting the applique pieces ready now. I'm hoping that while cookies bake or when my feet and body just need a few minutes rest, I can sneak in a bit of applique.

I was telling my daughter about the "message" runners and trying to come up with some more to make for other times of year. Bren's idea was "He is Risen", which I'll do for Easter. I can figure out something for Valentine's day for sure. My daughter suggested "Happy Birthday." Well duh, I should have thought of that! With 8 of us, that will get a LOT of use!

I'll close with pics of my little dolly as I really need to get to work. She really needs some dress up clothes for Christmas. She was wearing the "santa" top and the green pants and decided she needed to add the red vest and the "skirt" which is actually a dress from when she was a baby that she has pulled up around her waist, the "slip" part is what is showing. It's dark so you can barely see it. She wore this all day long, as pleased as punch. She loves to get dressed every morning and I found the most adorable pajamas today while out shopping. I hope they are still there when I go Christmas shopping, they are pink with shiny silver on them and she will love them. We've learned not to show her anything she can't put on right away!

Ruthie is loving the lights of Christmas. We haven't yet put up our tree, but the rest of the decorations are up. She points at the stairway railing lights and the fiber optic Christmas tree every morning and says "mom!" if I haven't turned them on yet. Here she is, getting a closeup view of the lights. She will sometimes get really close to them and blow on them, I'm not sure what she thinks will happen!

Somehow, in spite of several things still on my "to do" list for tonight I'm feeling a little more in control and less overwhelmed by the very long lists of the days ahead.

I'm reminding myself how much I love the Christmas season and if not all the cookies get baked it won't be the end of the world. What does matter is my family is healthy and happy and will all be here with me on Christmas. It doesn't get any better than that!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Sewing is DONE!

Whew! While I may make a few more dishcloths, what I need for Christmas is finished. I also finished the final seams on the Humbug bags yesterday, 12 in all.

The three middle ones are the sizes that the pattern makes, the two end ones, the "XL" and "XS" I experimented with as I had zippers both bigger and smaller than the ones the pattern called for in my supplies. The extra large one is 15" x 10" and will be used as a project bag, the extra small one is 4 1/2" by 3" and will be used for my thimbles and other small objects so they aren't just loose in the bag. The rest of them will be given for gifts this Christmas.

It's an unusual weekday here today as our daughter's school cancelled because of an ice storm. Right now it's not bad out so our son went to his job here in town, but we're to get another wave later on today that's supposed to leave 1/4" to 1/2" of ice. Yikes. I can't even imagine.

My husband cancelled his job for this morning as it was in the next town over, so he's here, too. He doesn't know yet if he will have to go to his school job later...while school has been cancelled here, usually the janitorial staff has to still go.

With a houseful today, it's not likely I'll get much done. I'll see what the day brings.

For now, the plan is to finish the outer border on my Christmas table runner and get the binding on it. I have a few chores on today's list that I should be able to finish even with extra bodies in the house. I hope to get my New Year's table runner started and maybe jot down some plans for a few more for during the course of the year.

I hope everyone in the path of this storm stays safe and warm...and I'll see you on the flipside!

Monday, December 10, 2007

An Early Start

I woke up early this morning. I'm not sure why as I was up late last night. It does feel good to get up and going while the house is still relatively quiet, two left before I got up and came down, two more left without much fanfare. Now there are 3 kids still in bed and they will probably be there for a while yet.

My coffee is here hot and I have bacon in the microwave as I stop to make a quick post before the business of the day.

I've been knitting like crazy since last Tuesday and now have a stack of dishcloths again. These will be stuffed into Humbug bags as gifts for a few friends this Christmas.

I made my food shopping lists for making cookies and for the holiday food and I'm hoping to get most of those ingredients this week. Christmas cookie baking will begin next Monday and will likely take all week to finish.

Our Christmas menu is rather ecclectic. For years growing up, we had turkey on Christmas, which I just loved. I remember being keenly disappointed the first year I was told we were having something different. I remember when my Grandma used to make the Christmas dinner and we all went to her house, but as the years went by it became too much for her and she would buy the food and my Mom (alternating years with my Aunt) would fix it all.

So one year, they decided they were all tired of eating turkey at Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas a few weeks later, so they made standing rib roast instead. As a kid, I missed my turkey! But it wasn't too many years later I realized what we were having was even better.

Over the years, Mom would make whatever struck her fancy for Christmas dinner. Delicious prime rib, juicy pork loin roasts, whatever sounded good to them was what we had...and it was wonderful.

Fast forward to ME having to make Christmas inlaws all live out of state, my parents moved to Arizona and here we were, with nowhere to go for Christmas and no one to invite over. What we were used to was opening gifts, having a big breakfast and then getting ready and going to my Mom's house. I whined to my husband "all I'll be doing is cooking and doing dishes!" First there will be breakfast, then dishes and by the time that is all done I'd have to start making dinner...then more dishes. I was feeling decidedly Scrooge-ish.

So he said he'd make breakfast...and clean it up. Hmmm. That might help. So while he made breakfast and then cleaned it up (with lots of asking where everything was, LOL, and then where it went to put it away) I sat in my jammies reading the book he had gotten me for Christmas.

Also about that time, our kids were getting bigger. We usually get together with another family for New Year's Eve and play games and eat...and eat...and eat. We would make a simpler dinner for the kids, then eat a big fancy meal (usually steak and crab or some other combination of surf and turf) while they were occupied. Our friends' kids didn't really like the fancier food anyway, but ours did!

So I suggested we do that for Christmas dinner. Delicious and quick to fix, our seafood feast ended up being a big hit. I think the kids look forward to dinner even more than opening gifts in the morning. Steamed crablegs make an appearance every year, with some sort of shrimp dish. Usually there is venison roast, or steak of some sort also.

This year, our menu includes homemade potstickers and eggrolls. These can be made ahead and frozen, so just the actual cooking will be done on Christmas day. I'll be making these over the weekend, before the cookie baking begins.

On today's list is some chores in Lucas and Ruthie's room along with my regular work of the day. I'm also going to get my machine out and finish up the Humbug bags. I have the machine quilting done and all I have to do is sew up four seams on each and they are finished. Two of the four seams are the zipper, which I dread and why they aren't finished yet, but I need two of them on Friday and am determined NOT to leave them until the last minute. I'm hoping to do them all today.

I had to tack on a picture of Ruthie and her big girl hairdo. Big sister Rebekah is in cosmetology school and so far has permed, colored, cut and highlighted Rachel's hair...not all at the same time, she's cut, permed and highlighted my hair and has done various things to friend's, friend's moms, etc.

Saturday night she trimmed Ruthie's bangs for me and we were talking about how she and Rachel used to fix Ruthie's hair every morning when she was small to keep it out of her face (she was 5 months old when we started having to fuss with it daily!) The last few times we tried anything other than a pony tail or pigtails she didn't want to sit still. I don't know if she was tired or what, but she let Rebekah french braid her hair, then she fell asleep. She let her redo it in the morning for church. Her hair is not quite long enough and the sides started to slip out, but we took a picture anyway.

Whew! So there it all is, I guess I felt chatty this morning. Ruthie just got up, I've had my breakfast so it's time to get to work. I hope you all have a happy, productive day!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

'Tis the Season

For the next couple of weeks, I'll have Christmas on the brain. There isn't much that I'll be doing that won't have something to do with Christmas, whether it be the cleaning so I can enjoy the holiday in my clean, organized house or the baking that will make my family and friends smile. The quilting, sewing, knitting, wrapping, baking, cooking, planning, list making... I love it all.

On today's agenda is designing and printing weekly calendar sheets. I had one week per sheet but I think that doesn't give me enough room to write, so I'm going to split the week in half and try that. I have a pretty good idea what I want to do, I'm hoping that means this won't take very long.

What I really want to do is knit. A lot. Above is a stack of knitted dishcloths that haven't been joined yet. Below is the yarn I have left to knit up. It doesn't all have to be done before Christmas, but I'm on a knitting roll so they may all be done by then.

I'm making smoked sausage and sauerkraut for dinner, it's fairly easy, can be done in steps (I sautee it all afternoon), it is done in one large pan and overall will take very little time.

More time for knitting.

My microwave needs to be cleaned out. It's small and doesn't take very long.

More time for knitting.

Saturdays are generally busy for our older kids and the younger ones and I hang out at home. I don't have to leave the house guessed it....

More time for knitting.

You get the idea.

Right now our 13 year old is outside with a friend, running around our snow covered yard. It's 9 degrees out. NINE. I could hear my younger ones giggling, I went in search of them to find this.

and then this. Knocking on the window to get their attention. She also knocks on the inside of doors when she wants to go out. For being speech delayed, between words, signs, sounds and pointing she can always seem to get across what she wants.

I've had some requests for my marshmallow recipe, so I've included that in this post.

Homemade Marshmallows
1/4 cup powdered gelatin (5 envelopes)
1 cup cold water
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting pan and marshmallows
Butter, for greasing pan

~In a medium sized saucepan, soak the gelatin in the water. After the gelatin has softened, approximately 10 minutes, add the regular sugar and then gently dissolve over low heat, approcimately 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

~In a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks and then fold in the sifted confectioners sugar. While the mixer is on low, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin mixture. Increase the speed and beat until white and thick. The volume should double in size.

~Line an 8 by 8 inch baking dish with high sides with foil, grease slightly with butter, and coat with confectioners sugar. Alternative, you can use a baking sheet, but the marshmallows will not be as tall. Pour marshmallow mixture in and top with more sifted confectioners sugar. Leave out overnight or for at least 3 hours to set. The marshmallow should be light and spongy when set. (I make a double batch and put it in a 9 x 13 pan.)

~Loosen marshmallow from edges of tray and invert onto a large cutting board. Peel off foil and use a large knife to cut teh marshmallows into cubes. Dredge each piece in sugar and store in airtight container or bags.

So now I'm off, to see how much I can get done today. My husband has to work this evening and it's likely our older kids will all be out, I hope to park in front of a couple of movies with my feet up and a cup of flavored coffee and knit the evening away!

Happy quilting and ho ho ho!

Friday, December 7, 2007

So.....Did You Know Christmas is Coming??

How could you possibly not! Signs of it are everywhere and frankly, I LOVE it! Yesterday I made my Christmas cookie list....double batches of 13 different kinds plus homemade marshmallows (for hot chocolate and coffee), divinity, and puppy chow. I'll be shopping for the ingredients next week and baking will begin shortly after. A concentrated week or so of baking should get it all finished.

We've put up all of our decorations except the tree, we're getting that next weekend. Until then, this small fiber optic tree will do, it sits on my entry table. I bought it on clearance last year for only $5.00 and am thinking of making pretty beaded earrings to be hung on it at Christmas time (and worn during the year.) I'll also bead some sparkly garlands for it.

This is the "catch all" table and there looks to be only a couple of things ditched there at the moment. In my attempt to get uber organized (thanks Bren!) I fuss a bit when they all start leaving too much there. It's become more of a temporary stop these days rather than things being dropped there and left.

Today I have a short job with my husband and then am going to a friend and neighbor's house to help her start a Home Manangement Binder...and to do some of my laundry. We are still washer-less. My husband has been making weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) trips to the laundromat. He just washes the clothing and brings it home for me to dry, fold and put away. It works for me, I don't want to have to go to the laundromat and hand washing the clothing has been tearing my hands apart. With a week gone by since having my hands in laundry soap, they are finally mostly healed now. I was supposed to bring laundry to Bren's house (she generously told me to bring it all when I visited her) but I FORGOT it. ugh. It was ready to go, too.

After those things, I should finally get to knit for a while. I'm making more dishcloths and, once I get a few more finished, I will finish off my table runner. Once the machine is out for the binding of that, I will also sew the final few seams on the humbug bags, making all my Christmas sewing complete.

Now is the time I can start thinking about my post-Christmas quilting....which I can begin to plan for as soon as the aforementioned things are finished. I know I want to finish the applique quilt and get it on the frame. And I think the blue and white will come back out also. I'll be planning some more "message" table runners for my sewing table and dining table and also want to plan out some new tops to make this next year. Last year I concentrated on finishing projects and finished a lot of them (see my sidebar) but I made hardly any tops. This year I still hope to finish quite a few quilts, but to get the creative juices flowing with color and designs as well.

So there it is. My day, month and weeks ahead in a not so small nutshell. Do something to prepare for Christmas today...ho ho ho!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pay It Forward

If you read this earlier, yes! It's changed. Thanks to Bren, I have the graphic for this, the rules remain the same.
Be one of the first 3 to comment on this post and you will get a handmade item from me. The only "catch" is you have to do the same on your blog. What a great way to meet some new friends! Wanna play? Come on, it will be fun!

My Favorite Kind of Day

We have a snowstorm moving in. I LOVE the snow. We have all the curtains wide open so we can watch the snow. It seems that in the last few years most of the really big snowstorms happened during the night, so I missed the pleasure of watching the snow.

I have a movie on my DVD player, the quilting on the table runner well under way and I'm baking cookies because of a 'challenge' on the bulletin board I frequent. Here is the finished product. I'll be baking these for another hour or two and I might have bananas that need to be made into banana bread, so that will get done today, too.

It's looking like we will all be home for dinner today (a rarity these days) and one of the kids' friends might be here, too. I'm making barbequed chicken wings, which is an afternoon project as I have 8 pounds of wings to fry. I cook them in small batches, but can quilt while each batch is in. I'll add to that oven fries and salad, and perhaps either corn cakes or homemade rolls and the meal will be complete.

My men are out hunting today, so far they haven't gotten anything. They've seen quite a few, but our oldest hasn't even gotten a shot. My husband and middle son have seen many, and even took a few shots but my husband thinks that his scope is off...the deer didn't even look up so he had to have missed by a lot!

With the storm coming in, there is often a lot of movement as the deer feed and prepare to hunker down for the storm. It's supposed to be all over by late tonight, and much warmer and sunny tomorrow which bodes well for them if they don't get anything today as deer often move around after a storm as well.

As for me, I'll quilt as much as possible between batches of cookies and chicken wings. This table runner should be finished in the next couple of days and I'll be onto the next one. I may just finish my humbug bags first so they are not left until the last minute.

Happy Quilting!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Another Hunting Weekend

This time they aren't out of town, but it's almost as if they are. Knowing my husband needed to get right to sleep when he got home from work last night (he works 2nd shift) I didn't go to bed at the same time, I knew we'd talk too much and keep him up too long. I stayed up until 3am, watching a movie, putting borders on my table runner and beginning the marking and playing on the computer. I LOVE those kind of nights. When we first bought this house, my husband worked 3rd shift and I didn't work so I'd stay up until the wee hours every night.

My men (husband along with 20 and 13 year old sons) left early this morning to go sit in a cold, blustery field for the day. This will be repeated for the next 3 days or until they fill their tags (2 each) whichever comes first.

I look at these days rather like the ones when they are away. I do the things that need to be done, but spend as much time quilting as I can. I finished the topper for my sewing room, now I'm working on a table runner for our dining room table. I'm marking it now and will baste it right away so I can begin the quilting. I'm hoping to get a really good jump on it this weekend. This one has "Merry Christmas" appliqued on it and I'm having so much fun with these "message" toppers that I think I'll do a Happy New Year one and maybe even figure out one for each season. Right now a series of smaller projects sounds like fun, though I'll also be pulling out another bigger quilt to work on. I have one in mind, I just have to figure out what box it's in!

Ruthie received birthday money from her grandma, so I took her shopping while Rachel got her hair cut. Here she is with the set of wooden puzzles I found for her. We're always on the lookout for things that are fun but will help teach her, since she will need more help along the way. She also loves anything with buttons and noise, so it will be a noisy Christmas in our house!

Since I had to move the TV out of my sewing room and back to the family room, I've been rearranging a few things, keeping in mind that soon our Christmas decorations will be coming out. My little DVD player is once again set up so I can watch/listen to movies while I sew and I moved the little fountain that I bought with birthday money into the dining room, it now sits atop my treadle and it's actually a really nice spot for it. I think that the lights show up better than any place I've had it before.Also on today's agenda is making soup and possibly homemade rolls. I love to make soup and today is a day when everyone will be eating at different times, so it's a perfect meal for that. I can take my time and putter with it this afternoon so it won't really feel like I've spent much time cooking at all. I think I'll make a batch of cookie dough, too, we are out of chocolate chip cookies and they will be good to put in the lunches that my husband and sons are taking out with them.

I'm ready to mark the outer border of my table runner, so I'd better get to it if I want much quilting to be done today. I'll need to go to bed at a decent time tonight as tomorrow afternoon is my quilting bee and I need to do a short job with my husband before that (he's leaving his hunting spot for a few hours to do a couple of jobs he couldn't cover) so I don't want to feel too tired tomorrow. I'm hoping for another late night tomorrow night and know that even if they fill their tags early that my men will be very busy processing their gain.

Happy Quilting!

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Mixed Bag

I've had a busy, productive couple of days. Today will be busy, but not likely as productive.

I'm a food channel junkie. I get lots of ideas from it, from techniques to recipes to how to tweak things to make them work for me.

I've seen them make empanadas on several different shows with several different types of filling. Mine were more "Hot Pocket" size but they came out great. It took me all afternoon to make them, I used the dinner roll recipe for my bread machine and made two batches of dough. The filling for these is a mixture of Thanksgiving leftovers which include some turkey, dressing, green bean casserole and creamed corn.
These were a big hit with my family. I had quite a few left, which were heated up for lunch on Sunday. These will be making regular appearances in my house, with a variety of fillings. In fact, I've already decided that it will take 3 batches of dough to make as many as I'd like since my husband and our oldest daughter take box lunches with them and our oldest son gets home from work about 1:00 or so and is usually looking for lunch then.

With the cold weather setting in, we've been pulling out winter coats. I was very excited to find one of my daughter's coats fits me. She hardly wears this one any more as she has one she likes better. I also found 2 more that will fit me later on in the winter. Last year, I bought Ruthie a really sweet pink furry coat...but it's still WAY too big for her! In searching through coats I found this one, which has been worn by all six of my kids. It's getting a little dingy, but is otherwise in good shape. I found it at the Carter's Outlet store when our oldest was a toddler. It even came with red snowpants and the set was twelve dollars! We sure have gotten our use out of that over the years. This one fits Ruthie much better, so her pretty pink coat will likely be waiting one more winter. I forget how tiny my girl is until I buy her clothing in a size that I think she should be wearing! With her in this picture is Lucas, who is happy to snuggle up to his sister for a picture any time.

My big project of the weekend was to finish my table topper. This was really fun to work on, it was a 'wing it' project. I saw something similar in a catalog and made my own version of it. I started this last Monday, finding the letters on a banner program on my computer. The letters are hand appliqued and it's hand quilted. I'm really please with how this came out. I think the blue almost looks like the sky does when it's heavy with snow.

I'm nearly done with the baby quilt that I pulled out so I'd have something to hand quilt on. I've also started a new project. This one will be a table runner for our dining room table and will have "Merry Christmas" lettered on it. I'm working on prepping the letters now.

Also on the agenda is pulling out some patterns to see what other odds and ends I might be able to make for this year. I'm finding myself in the unusual position of having spare time during December, I figured this was a good year to make some new decorations for our own house! I'm also hoping to make a few small beaded ornaments and a beaded, sparkly garland to go on the table top fiber optic tree I bought at the end of the season last year.

So while our decorations aren't out yet (though some neighbors lights are put up...and turned on every night!) my thoughts are with Christmas. It feels a little surreal so far...maybe some Christmas music and a plan on when to decorate will help!

It won't likely be today, though, as I will be spending the afternoon on the run. My oldest is in cosmetology school and Monday is "model" day. They have to have someone come in so they can cut or color their hair. Two weeks ago Rachel (daughter number 2) went to get her hair colored and today she's going back to get it cut. The school is 25 minutes away and with gas prices they way they are it's foolish to come home. I'm going to take Ruthie to spend her birthday money from Grandma, but that won't take the 2 hours that we need to fill. Once we've wandered around the store for a while, we'll head back to the school and wait in the waiting room...I'm hoping to have the applique ready for the next project to take along, but I think I'm being overly optimistic!

So off I go, it will never be ready if I don't get off here! Have a great day everyone...happy quilting!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Lovely Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving day is quiet for us. My husband's Mom and siblings all live in different states and my parents live in Arizona. I do have siblings here, but we are not close and after years of trying to get them to come for holidays I decided that it was causing me way too much stress.

We've occasionally had friends over for Thanksgiving, sometimes for dinner, sometimes for dessert and cards later. This year, it was "just us" and it was a lovely day.

Our oldest went to play football at 8am and came home with a slightly sprained ankle a few hours later. I spent the day chopping and simmering and cooking while my husband played cards with the kids.

As we neared dinner time, I realized they were still playing their card game when I was ready to set the table. We don't have an eat-in kitchen, we have an open area floor plan in that our main level is "L" shaped and each room is open to the other. The dining area is more formal than a kitchen eat-in area, but not as formal as a dining room. The kitchen and what was the living room (now my sewing room) are off of the dining room.

My sewing room has a nice oak table in the middle to work on and it doubles as an extra dining area when we have company. I put in the extra leaf, added a table cloth and set the table and voila! a nice dining room. The food was laid out on our dining room table and it really felt more festive to be eating at a different table than we usually do. As soon as the cloth went on, Ruthie claimed a seat and sat there until dinner was served. She sat in a 'big chair' (no booster) and quite enjoyed the special meal. After dinner, we quickly did the dishes and then watched movies and talked and just enjoyed the restful day. Dessert was put out at about 7:00 and we sat around the kitchen table for that.

Yesterday evening we had friends over for cards and dessert. Mostly I quilted, though, which was really nice after the previous three very busy days. I hope to finish my table topper today.

It appears as if the nice TV that I got from my grandma has stopped working, so we're a little sad about that. We never thought we would have such a nice one, it's a little disappointing that it lasted such a short time. I'll probably have to move the one in my sewing room back downstairs, which is also a bit disappointing, I've so enjoyed it being there.

So now I'm feeling a little out of it and hope to pop myself back into gear. We seem to be in this cycle where things are falling apart around our ears, hopefully the coming new year will bring some better things!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mission Accomplished!

I quilted my poor fingers off this weekend and I'm sad to say my weekend was more successful than that of my husband and sons. They were hunting this weekend, my husband did get a small one, and their group (9 total) got two more. They share what they get, so 3 deer among 9 hunters won't yield very much.

They are still hunting this morning in hopes of some last minute success. In spite of the disappointment of not getting much, I'm sure they still had a wonderful time and these 4 days away for my very hard-working husband will have done him a lot of good regardless.

My weekend was decidedly more productive. I finished my brother-in-law's quilt last evening, binding and all. I had hoped to be finished by Thankgiving, but know that I often get distracted a few days before a holiday so wasn't sure if I could really make that goal.

Once it was finished, I pulled out an old baby quilt that was nearly finished, I'll soon be quilting the border on that one and should have it finished in the next couple of weeks. It will share my time with a new project for Christmas, a table runner for the table by our front door. I played around with a program on my computer to make some nice letters to applique, so last night I got those printed off. Today I will pull fabrics and prepare my applique and perhaps even begin the sewing if time permits. That will be a good project to bring to my bee tomorrow night. I won't stay for it all this time as my husband will be home. He takes Thanksgiving week off from his 2nd job each year and with the days of for hunting this gives him a really nice break at this time of year.

Also on my agenda today is a walk to the bank. We have money that needs to be deposited, but there isn't a vehicle here that will fit me and my two younger children, everyone else is out. Thankfully it won't be too cold today and it looks like the rain is over, too, so I'm trying to be thankful for the nice weather and exercise I'll get rather than fret over the loss of sewing time!

My quiet, relaxing long weekend is nearly over and heading me into a few days that will be very busy. Come Saturday, though, I can take a deep breath and plan some fun projects for the next few weeks as well as plan my menus, decorate for Christmas and generally just enjoy the holiday season.

My next chance to post will be Friday or Saturday, so I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy Thanksgiving. Take a deep breath and enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Three years ago right now, I was sitting in my hospital room, recovering from my first c-section, wondering what the future held in store for our little girl. Instead of in my arms, she was in the Special Care Nursery, hooked up to wires and tubes and monitors. We had delivered in the middle of the night as she wasn't doing well inside. I was put out for surgery because the spinal didn't take right and I woke up asking where my baby was. The nurse wouldn't tell me, she said she didn't know. I'd delivered my previous 5 children there, the hospital is small, I knew she had to know and I thought the baby had died and she was waiting for the doctor to come tell me.

My husband came in and said "It's a girl and she has Down Syndrome." I said "ok" and was my mind was racing. "Down Syndrome isn't dead, we'll deal with it," I thought.

"dealing" has been a pleasure. I thank God every day for bringing this special little girl into our lives. We've always been a close family, but we're even closer with the addition of Ruthie, she's captured everyone's heart and I can't imagine life without her.

She had the misfortune of being born during hunting season in a house full of hunters. Since my husband and two older sons were leaving very early this morning for a long weekend up north, we celebrated her birthday a day early. Here she is with her new dolly, it hasn't left her side since she got it yesterday afternoon. She also got a little shopping cart, which is wearing a path from our front door to our kitchen and some refrigerator magnets that have a special holder that will tell her the letter names and sounds. Every time she passes by it, she has to stop and play a couple of letters.

Here she is enjoying her birthday cake. I made 3 cakes, one to cut last night, one to send with my husband (they have a group of 9 guys who are hunting together this weekend) for the men to enjoy on Ruthie's birthday and a third just to have treats around. With our guys gone, I told our girls that they could have people over as much as they wanted this weekend and one can't have a stream of teens in and out without some goodies around!

And here she is all tuckered out from her day. I peeked in on her to find she had slid off the side of her bed...whether in her sleep or having woke up and decided she was too tired to walk, I don't know but this is so characteristic of her. Once she's tired, she's out and there's not a thing to be done about it!

I LOVE hunting weekend. For me, hunting weekend is QUILTING weekend. I usually put aside some special projects and spend as much time as I can muster quilting. With Ruthie more independent and happily playing a lot of the time, I should have more time than I've had the last few years. I've already started the movie marathon and my only real distration will be the computer. With our older girls also busy for much of the weekend, I won't have to share it so much! Still, I hope to do far more quilting than playing on the internet.

My big goal is to finish my Brother-in-law's quilt this weekend. I have just the final border to go, so I'll work on that and get the binding on the front. My quilting bee meets Tuesday night, so I hope to bring it there and hand sew to the back. I also hope to knit a few more dishcloths, applique a block or two and plan out a couple of table runners for ME that I plan to make and quilt as soon as my Christmas work is finished.

Even our meals are easy on hunting weekend. I got some fried chicken from a local deli for dinner, tomorrow night we're making homemade pizza with pre-made crusts and Sunday after church we'll head out to the local Chinese buffet (Lucas has been SO wanting to go there.) Sunday night we'll just have appetizers for supper since we'll have a big lunch and Monday will be cheeseburgers. I have a stack of paper plates so there will be minimal dishes. I can stay up late and sleep late and streatch out in the bed. This is as close as I get to a vacation and I'm going to enjoy every minute!

So off I go, to finish up a few things on here and then to get going on that last border. Once I see how much I can finish today, I'll have a better idea if I can actually finish it this weekend. Keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What to do.....

After about a week of not spending all that much time on my quilting/sewing/knitting, I'm starting to feel more motivated again. This weekend I have 3 different things I'd really like to work on.

The first is my brother-in-law's quilt. I have only a couple of blocks before the borders and am determined to have those blocks done today. It's already off of the frame as I have been watching movies down on our big TV with our 7 year old and really wanted to be quilting.

The frame itself may actually get a break for a while, I'm liking the idea of being able to move around with my quilting for a while, I have nice spots to sit in my sewing room, our family room and a chaise in our bedroom.

I'm also knitting dishcloths again, I bought another cone of yarn and will add to my stash as they are being given to several friends and family members. I'd like to give them in 6-packs and have some extra ones for here.

I'm also getting back to my applique for the quilt I hope to quilt next. I still have about a dozen blocks to applique. I don't know if I'll get to that today or not, but I'm keeping it in mind trying to muster up some motivation for it.

I've been up earlier since the time change as the morning sun comes right at our bedroom window. This is both good and bad. On a day like today, where the house should be rather quiet and I should have a fair amount of time for "me" things, it's quite nice. My husband and oldest are already out working, my oldest daughter and middle son have just left to go help some people rake leaves and the other children (plus a friend) are all still asleep. As soon as I finish here, I'll make some bacon and eggs and a cup of coffee, have breakfast and go to it.

I think the first "it" will be quilting. Though I was knitting until late last night, I really want to meet my goal of finishing my bil's quilt by Thanksgiving and that's not going to happen if I keep picking up other things.

Also on today's agenda is finalizing my grocery list for the week. It's a different list than it is normally because next weekend my husband and two oldest sons will be gone on a hunting trip. This means food for them to take along (a meal enough to feed 9 hungry hunters and lunches for themselves) and a little different menu for those of us remaining at home.

Bren has asked me to share some shopping tips and how we eat on a budget in my blog so I'll be trying to talk a bit about what I do and how we eat to keep on a food budget. While I will have some extra money to spend this week and next (Thankgiving) on food, I want to keep this to a minimum as things are really tight right now. With some careful planning, it can be done.

The biggest money saver for me is shopping the sales. I can't make my list without my Meijer flyer, they have the best sales on meat and I take advantage of them every week. They often have buy one get one free sales....and fairly often have buy one get TWO free sales...that is a particular favorite of mine.

To the left is my little shopping buddy. Ruthie LOVES to go out. If she sees anyone with their shoes or coat, she's wanting to go with them, though often that's not possible, so I take her with me as much as possible. They know her in all the stores we frequent and ask where she is when she stays home. In this picture, she decided she was going out. She put on her shoes, found her purse, picked up a toy cell phone and those towels (I have no idea what the reasoning on the towels was!) and walked to the door saying "bye" and waving. The funniest part is she's always fully expecting someone to open the door and let her out. She's sometimes quite put out when that doesn't happen.

To the right is Ruthie's penguin. We found this and many other musical Christmas decorations at the store last weekend and she loved them so much we will find a way to get a few of them. After so many years, a lot of our Christmas decorations are getting pretty shabby, so we're weeding out some old things and trying to pick up some new ones.
So that's it for now. In coming blogs, I'll talk more about holiday food, how to shop for it, how to save on it and also more about my family. Lucas is now awake and would like a cheese omelette for breakfast, then it will be time for quilting. Happy Saturday!

Monday, November 5, 2007

OK, I'll Admit It....

Halloween has barely ended and I have Christmas fever. It's November 6th and I'm playing Christmas music.

I have a lot to do today. With the comings and goings in my house on the weekends and my husband having more time at home, we tend to do less housework on the weekend and just enjoy each others company. It makes for a nice weekend, but a busy Monday and sometimes Tuesday depending on what's going on here.

So today, I have dishes soaking in the sink, laundry to do, I want to do some organizing in our bedroom which ends up being the catch-all space and I'm baking my usual triple batch of chocolate chip cookies.

I need to straighten up in my sewing room, too. Hopefully somewhere in all that I'll find some quilting time. Lately I'm not meeting my 3 hour goal, in fact, I haven't met it 6 of the last 7 days. In spite of that, I'm on block 17 of 25 on the frame quilt, making my goal to be finished by Thanksgiving pretty realistic. I think knowing that I don't have to rush around like a crazy person this December is making it hard for me to focus sometimes. I'm easily distracted by the computer especially and will have to crack down on myself if I don't want to find myself in a crunch in spite of my easy 'schedule.'

Soon the list making will start. The Thanksgiving menu on one sheet, Christmas dinner on another, the Christmas Cookie list on a third. A few different shopping lists so I'm not missing any key ingredients when the days come.

One of the things this big jump on my Christmas sewing/crafts will do is enable me to make a few new things for OUR house. So many times I would love to have some new, homemade things for my own home, but after the holidays I can't muster up the enthusiasm and by the time I can it's time to work on things for other people.

This year, I may have the time to do some special things for here and I'm very excited. Our front table has a fall look now, if I make a new table topper for it I can put some special Christmas things there, it will be seen not only as one first comes in the door, but it's in my sewing area as well, so I'll get to really enjoy it. I have a small fiber optic tree that I bought on clearance after Christmas with the intention of making tiny beaded ornaments and garlands for it. I think I'll try to make the garland this year, we'll see if I have time for ornaments, too.

I was at the store with my two younger kids yesterday and found the cutest Christmas decorations, they are musical and move and Ruthie especially just loved them. She loves anything with music and she was just tickled when she saw them so I'm hoping to be able to get a couple of them this year. Those will go on the front table, also, where Ruthie can easily see them, but access can be supervised. I have a feeling we'll have to stock up on batteries, though we may be glad for a dead battery break after a couple of weeks!

So I'd better get to it. While waiting for pictures to load I got most of my dishes done, so one task in nearly completed. I've learned to go go go and get as much done as I can, but once the motivation/desire is gone to move onto something else (unless there are things that NEED to be done, in which case I push on through.) I was SO tired last night that everything seemed overwhelming, but God is good and today I feel full of energy and ready to go. We'll see how far that takes me!

Ho ho ho!! (I know, don't you want to slap me?)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Busy-ness Thwarted

Saturday my day was to be spent baking cookies with other little chores and some quilting done while each batch was baking. With my cookie dough all mixed, I went for the chocolate chips....only to find I didn't have any. Huh. I was sure I had some, but no, I was remembering from the week before. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and we picked some up Sunday after church. Baking cookies became my Sunday job, after my dinner roast had finished cooking.

Also on Sunday, my husband went out and pulled the last of the produce from our garden. Our 13 year old is very into gardening and project type things, so the garden was his pet project with lots of help and advice from his Dad.

Yesterday, I had planned to spend a fair amount of time quilting while the laundry was washing, then drying. I ran out to pick up a friend who needed a ride and came home to hear "Mom, something is smoking." It was my washing machine!! My 22 year old faithful friend had frozen up and is gone.

I took out the load and hand wrung out as much of the water as I could and put it in the dryer. I had other laundry to do so I hauled a couple of loads up to the tub, put in laundry soap and hand agitated it, then rinsed it and hand-wrung it for it's turn in the dryer.

This left my whole body aching, especially my hands, and finally by evening I was able to sit a bit and quilt. I didn't get anywhere near the 3 hours I try for, but I did have good fellowship with my 15 year old as we sat and played on the computer, listening to ringtones.

Today, I'm watching a friend's children for a good part of the day. Tonight our kids will carve up some of the pumpkins and we'll roast the seeds. I hope to squeeze in some quilting, too, I'm on block 11 of 25 on my brother-in-law's quilt and am feeling quite confident that I can finish it by Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow will be much of the same. The same friend's children will be here so she can participate in Halloween parties at school. Our 7 year old will Trick or Treat for a little while, but then has Awanas, our two oldest are leaders in that. Our 13 year old will have a friend here to walk with him when he takes Lucas out and Ruthie and I will hold down the fort and hand out candy.

I'll leave you with a picture of Ruthie, who insisted that she had to have her jacket on. For the first time in quite a while I was able to get a picture of her smiling with her beautiful eyes opened. Her smile lights my heart every time I see it.

I'm off, to corral little ones and hopefully squeeze in a stitch or two. Happy Quilting!