Thursday, December 24, 2009

All is Peace, All is Calm.............

Over eternal tranquilityImage via Wikipedia

I almost feel guilty sitting here enjoying a 3rd cup of coffee and listening to Christmas carols. Yes, all is calm, at our house today. It just worked out that way for us this year. My Dad and his wife will join Hubby and me for lunch at 1:00. Lunch will consist of grilled steak, roasted potatoes, salad and rolls. Not exactly "Christmasey" but none the less, it's what we decided to have. Later, we will attend a Candlelight Service together and then return to exchange our gifts with them. No, not a lot of "hustle and bustle" at our home today.

But, that will change tomorrow evening. The excitement will begin with the arrival of our daughter and her family. On Sunday we'll celebrate our Christmas with our children and grandchildren and makes lots of wonderful memories celebrating our Savior's birth and exchanging gits. We'll begin the celebration with a big pot of Shrimp and Crayfish Etouffee. I know, that's not very Christmasy either, but again, it's what they want and I'm glad to fix it.

I am so thankful that throughout this past year the Lord has been so faithful to restore my soul from the grief I've experience through my Mom's death a year ago. I had so many days that I just did not know if I could make it, but the Lord was always there to bring me through. I will celebrate Christmas with an even more thankful heart this year because of that restoration and for His many blessings that I certainly do not deserve.

May your Christmas be filled with precious memories as we celebrate the ONE who made it all possible.

Candle (Barcelona, Catalonia)Image via Wikipedia

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Countdown has Begun

Christmas decoration at a shopping mall in BrazilImage via Wikipedia

Gourmet Turtle Fudge (Chocolate with Pecans & ...Image via Wikipedia

Yes, it's 5 days until the excitement begins at our house this holiday season. Our daughter and her family will arrive either Christmas evening or the following morning. We will have our family Christmas next Sunday afternoon. Between now and the time that they arrive, I have lots I would like to accomplish.

I have a grocery list a mile long and I plan to take care of that in the morning. I've been busy thinking through meals, looking at recipes and making sure I get all the ingredients and food items I need tomorrow. I do not want to have to go back to the grocery store if I can help it. I have plans to make a couple of cakes and will buy the Pecan Pie. Mrs. Smith does a good job with hers and my family will never know the difference. Thank goodness!!! ~smile~

I packaged up all my fudge this afternoon and prepared it to be delivered to the "chosen" recipients. Hubby and I will have fun delivering it in the next few days.

Christmas tree with presentsImage via Wikipedia

I still have a couple of gifts to bag up and a few to bring from Hubby's office to the house.

Last, but not least, I want to spend time in preparing my heart for our celebration. Preparing to remain calm in the midst of confusion, preparing to enjoy my family to the fullest extent, and most of all remembering how different my life would be if Jesus Christ had not been born in that lowly manager.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Organizing and the New Year.

New Year's fireworks in HelsinkiImage by taivasalla via Flickr

When a New Year is approaching it is just natural for me to begin thinking about getting things in order for a New Year to begin. Now, certainly, whether I have things in order or not, the New Year is going to arrive. But, there are just some things that I always do in January that I thought I would share with you. Of course, most of my blog readers know that I strive to be very organized. And, as I've said before, both of my parents were highly organized people, so I really just came by it quite naturally.

I'm always eager to learn new tips in organizing and perhaps something that I share in this blog will be a "new organizational tip" that you have not thought to do.

One of the first things that I do in January is get all of our financial records filed away. I keep them in a filing cabinet throughout the year under the different categories, but in January they all go into a Rubbermaid container and I make a label and place it in a designated place for
storage. Because hubby is self-employed, it is even more important that we keep very good financial records for tax purposes. And, since "they" say that we should keep financial records for seven years, then that is what we do. Now, I just really do not see the sense in that, but hubby has always abided by that rule, thus that is what we do. ~smile~ Personally, I just see it as clutter! Surely 3-5 years worth of records is enough!!

"Bebbisagg", the official Garbage ba...Image via Wikipedia

A wooden Filing Cabinet with drawer openImage via Wikipedia

Once I get all of the financial "stuff" in order, I begin cleaning out the desk and cabinet in our home office. It is so amazing to me what all can gather in these over a year's time. I usually sit down in the floor with a big garbage bag nearby and begin throwing away. If I run across something that is useful,but not to me, then I make a stack to take to our local thrift store.

I usually make my way through the rest of the house, checking out the closets, cabinets and drawers and getting rid of unnecessary "stuff." I do not spend hours and hours on this project, just a hour here and an hour there until it's done. Just seems to make me feel better when I do this at the first of the year.

Since I'm on the subject of cleaning out and organizing, I'll share a few little "tips" that have served me well over the years. Again, perhaps I'll mention something that might be helpful to you.

* I always open our mail by the trash can. Rather than lay it somewhere to throw away, I just throw it away immediately. And, believe you me, we get more trash than anything else in the mail. If we get bills, then they are put in a special file in our office. I have always thought it was easier to put it in it's place at that time than pile it up for later.

* I use Ziploc bags like they grew on trees! No joke! Hubby says that if I can find one big enough for him that I would put him in one. ~smile~ I use the gigantic ones for storage in the attic. I can see through them and I love that. I don't have to wonder what is in them when the time comes to find something. I organize my jewelry in them. (You know the little ones that you can find at Wal-Mart or craft stores that crafty folks use to store their beads in.) I put earrings, necklaces, bracelets (whatever I have in a set) all in a bag and then I don't have to dig around hunting for it. I use the little plastic crates that you can find at Wal-Mart or the $$$ store to organize it in. I organize them according to color. Yes, I know, this is almost too much information, but we all have our "quirks!" ~smile~ Then all of this goes in a designated drawer. No such thing as a jewelry box in this house. And, I know that very few women wear hose these days, but this woman still does. So, guess what, I put my hose in ziploc bags for storage .

* I love the plastic shoe boxes to store my shoes. The best thing about them is that you can
see thru them and they stack great and I put them up on the shelve in my closet and can easily find the pair I'm looking for. Of course, the slippers and tennis shoes usually just stay on the
floor in the closet. I wear them too much to worry with putting them up.

* The little plastic crates I referred to earlier are just one my all time favorite organizing tools. They usually come 2-3 to a package and are very, very inexpensive. I think they will be in colors at certain times of the year, but usually they are just basic white. I use them in all of our bathroom drawers to organize first aid supplies, medicines, tolietries, etc. I also use a lot of them in my kitchen drawers. They are just dandy items for anyone wanting to organize.

Well, think this is enough about organizing for one blog. Perhaps I've said something that you will find helpful as you head into this New Year more organized. By the way, if you've never Googled "organizational tips" you should. There are only about 10 bazillion tips out there and some are just amazing. I'm always learning a new tip and always wondering why I didn't come up with that on my own. ~smile~

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Fun

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, New York Ci...Image via Wikipedia

One of my "blogging buddies" did this on her blog and I decided it might be fun to do the same on mine. Hope you enjoy!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot Chocolate, definitely!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Not only does he wrap or bag them, HE has them all color co-ordinated. I mean, isn't that the way it's suppose to be done?

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White! There's just something about white lights! They remind me of little stars shining brightly and they make me very happy when I look at them.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? I use to hang a mistletoe ball in our foyer and when it began to show it's "wear and tear" I never replaced it and haven't thought about it in years.

5. When do you put your decorations up? A few days following Thanksgiving and have been known to take them down Christmas afternoon. I'm always as ready to get them down as I was to get them up.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? I have several but Sweet Potato Casserole would be at the top.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? I have a lot of great holiday memories, but one that comes to mind is when my youngest brother (he's 12 years younger than me) turned about 3 years old, he would always sleep with me on Christmas Eve. We did that until he was 6 years old and I got married. It was so much fun to share that excitement with him as a small child.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? It's funny but I was never told there was a Santa or there wasn't a Santa. We talked about him, but my parents just let us think what we wanted to and to this day, I still think that Santa plays a "fun role" in Christmas.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? It is usually when we have our Christmas when possible. But, since the kids have married, sometimes it is necessary to do it at another time and that's okay too. I just enjoy it when we can all be together and open our gifts to each other.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Over the years we have had traditional trees, fancy trees and everything in between. Now, I have what I like to refer to as a "fun tree." A lot of fun ornaments in lime green and red. I came up with this look when I thought about what our Grandchildren might enjoy.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? It's just fine as long as life goes on in normal fashion. Don't think I would ever enjoy being a "snow bunny."

12. Can you ice skate? That is something I have never tried, but use to want to as a child.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? There have been many, but hubby gave me a Cuckcoo Clock about 15 years ago and I absolutely loved it and still do. My Grandmother always had one and I was so fascinated by it and Tommy remember how much I loved my Grandmother's and decided he would give me one. I was shocked beyond belief that he came up with the idea all by himself and it was a total surprise to me.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? I try to always keep the Birth of Christ in the forefront of the season and I also find great pleasure in the gathering of family and friends.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Icebox Fruitcake rates real high and the funny thing about that is that I CANNOT stand traditional fruitcake.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? We always read the Christmas story as a family before opening our gifts. When the children were growing up we always had a Birthday party for Jesus and we will begin that tradition again in about a year when our Grandchildren will be old enough to enjoy it and begin learning the true meaning of Christmas.

17. What tops your tree? Glittery red and green sticks surrounded by large red and lime green bows.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? At this point in my life, I mostly enjoy the giving. Of course, I do enjoy receiving, but not like when I was younger.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I have so many, but in recent years I have grown to love Mary Did You Know.

20. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum? I can take 'em or leave 'em. I love the peppermint taste, but don't care much for hard candy. Could be because of so much dental work over that years that hard candy just does not agree with. :o)

21 Favorite Christmas Show? "White Christmas" the single greatest Christmas movie of all time!!!!

22. Saddest Christmas Song? Just not sure about this one, but there is one that I've heard on the radio the past 4-5 years that I think is called "Mother's Shoes" or something like that and it is just terribly sad. But, I don't normally think of Christmas songs as being sad.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fudge Making & Sharing

I am just sure that all of my faithful blog readers are most interested in my "Fudge Making." ~big smile~ Since it is a big part of my holiday I felt like it would make a good blog post. So, bear with me and hopefully you will be entertained as you read about what has become a tradition of mine, making and sharing fudge for almost 20 years.

First, I will share the recipe with you. It is called Five Pound Fudge and it is in the Cotton Country Cookbook that was put out by the Junior League of Monroe, LA. about 30 years ago. I've made so much of the fudge that folks often think it is some "secret recipe" that I will not share. But, that's sure not the case. I was at a party about 25 years ago and someone had made this fudge and poured it into a bundt pan and I was so impressed with the look that I had to see what I could do with it. I've been making this fudge ever since.

Five Pound Fudge
2 cups of sugar
1 stick of butter (the real stuff)
1 tall can evaporated milk
Pinch of salt
Jar of marshmallow cream
18 ounce semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 cups chopped pecans or walnuts

Place, sugar, butter, milk and salt in heavy pan ( I always spray the bottom with Pam). Bring to a boil while stirring. Continue to stir, as it will burn very easily and turn on med to low heat to maintain boil for 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour marshmallow cream (I microwave mine for 20 seconds so that it will be easy to remove), chocolate chips and nuts. Mix well, making sure it all is mixed. Either drop by spoonfuls on to waxed paper or pour into pans or molds. Freezes beautifully!

First, is gathering the ingredients, sugar, marshmellow cream, evaporatesd milk, chocolate chips, and butter. And, a dash of salt is included, but I completely forgot to add that to the picture. :o)

Having everything ready is of utmost important in the fudge making process. Once the process is started, there's no time to stop and chop the nuts, or spray the pans. So, either buy the nuts already chopped or chop them yourself and I prefer walnuts but pecans are just fine. It's your choice. Always, always, always, did you hear me, ALWAYS spray your pans with Pam. It makes removal from the pan a much easier process. The fudge can be dropped out on waxed paper if that's what someone prefers. I have never done that. I prefer to make my fudge in molds or pans. I use bundt pans, seasonal pans, aluminum pans, and at Christmas I like to use the Christmas tree pan best of all. (I pick them up at the $$ store and seldom can they be used more than once) And, you must have a timer to make this fudge. Of course, my children tell me that I live my life by a timer and they are about right. Anyway, a timer is a necessity so that you do not overcook the fudge. Overcooked fudge will not be smooth and creamy but rather grainy and crumbly (not what you want).

Once the butter, milk, and salt are in the pan, it's time to begin stirring. I never turn the heat on high because it's just too easy to scorch the mixture. I turn it half way between medium and high and let it get to a boil. I always have my chips, marshmallow cream and nuts sitting nearby so that I can easily grab them when it's time for them to go in. I remove the pan from the stove when it is cooked (6 - 7 minutes) and begin adding the ingredients. It is a beautiful milk chocolate color (see picture) and you can even see the shine in the picture.

I immediately pour it into the pans that I have prepared. It is important to move rather quickly at this time. The mixture is only pourable for a short time.

Once the fudge has cooled to room temperature, I place the pans in the refrigerator for overnight. This makes the removal process easier. After it is removed from the pan(s) I either prepare it for giving or place it in a freezer bag until I'm ready to give it.

I make cute labels (using Print Shop) for my fudge, after all, isn't presentation what it's all about? ~smile~
I pick up seasonal plates and such from the $$$ store, put it in a cello bag, tie it up with raffia and tulle and then I'm ready to deliver it. As you can tell from one of the photos, I left the fudge in the little small rectangular aluminum pans. They come with lids and once tied, it looks very nice. I usually can get 3 of those out of one batch of fudge and that's pouring them almost full.

I have some folks that I've been sharing my fudge with since I first started making it, but then I always have new and different folks each Christmas that I share it with. I can only hope that they enjoy eating it as much as I enjoy making it and preparing it for giving. I usually make about 35 - 40 lbs. of fudge each Christmas. I begin making it in Oct. and freeze it.

I figured up what it actually cost me to make it and it was somewhere between $10 and $12. Now, if it didn't have nuts, it would be about $4 a recipe. But, I can't imagine making it without nuts, but it's certainly one's choice. I always get at least two pans out of a recipe and sometimes I get three, depends on the size of the pan. So, that makes it even less per gift because I certainly don't count my time, because that's a part of the gift too.

When my daughter was at home, she always enjoyed sharing in the "fudge making." We have some very special memories and shared a lot of laughs in the process. Perhaps in a few years it will be something that my grandchildren will enjoy doing with their CiCi. If nothing else, they will likely enjoy licking the pan. There's just nothing like that warm fudge straight out of the pan that cooked it!

Monday, December 7, 2009

'Tis the Season

Yes, it is "the season" and such a fun time of year. That is unless you are caught up in the "hussel and bussel" of everything and stressed to get it all done. It has always been my goal to not let that happen. Of course, sometimes we simply cannot help it, but with advance planning and learning to say "no" we can help matters. There's presents to buy and wrap, the house to decorate, gatherings to attend, cards to send, baking to do and on and on the list goes.

In recent years I have really scaled down on my decorating. For years almost every inch of our home was decorated in some "shape, form or fashion." I suppose the "empty nest" is where it started. The kids were gone and although they were home at Christmas, it definitely was not the same. AND, it was getting to be more and more work and I had no one available to help me haul the "bazillion" boxes of decorations down the stairs. Hubby is not good help when it comes to that. ~smile~ So, one year I just decided that the time had come for "less to be more."

I got a smaller tree, one of the slim-line trees that took up less space and took less time to decorate. Instead of the mantle being totally "decked out" we now only have our stockings hung.

I use my mirrored runner on the dining table with the fantastic clear cylinders that I found at TJ Maxx for less than $5 each. It takes less than 10 minutes to put this out and it looks "plum" good. Whenever we use the dining table during the holidays, I will add some small vases of red roses to the mix and that really "tops" it off.

I finish off my decorating by added a touch of "something festive" to the kitchen island. I was real proud of my "touch" this year. I used red and green M & M's with a candle sitting in the middle of them in my clear cylinder on a wrought iron base. I've decided that clear cylinders are just "dandy" to own. You can use them all year long and all you need to do is change what inside them. I used candy corn at Halloween, dried corn at Thanksgiving and will use red heart candy for Valentines and jelly beans at Easter. And, you can always just use potpourri.

Perhaps something I've shared in word and photos has given you an idea of a way to make your decorating easier and less time consuming. Just think, that will give you time for something else that is perhaps far more important.

We look forward to this Christmas with Clancy. He is 14 months old now and will definitely be into the celebration. Our 2 mo. old little Granddaughter will not quite know what is really going on, but next year we'll have both of them to enjoy the celebration. And, next year we will begin having Jesus' Birthday celebration with a cake and candle and my Dad made me a small manager and we will use that too. I'll definitely post a blog about this next year. We always read the Christmas story and reflect on what Christmas is all about, but there's just nothing like the "birthday celebration" to make it even more special for we adults as well.

I hope the season has gotten off to a good start for each of you. And, remember, don't take on anything extra, it's okay to say "no" to some things, and always take the time to just "be still and know."

"The Savior - yes, the Messiah, the Lord - has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
Luke 2:11