BLOGMAS 2016 ~ DAY 19 ~ pictures from PREVIOUS years

I thought about this category a lot and decided that since we were still in transition in the HOUSE FROM HELL our pictures from last year were less than stellar. So I decided to share the pictures from 2014 with you.

These pictures from the  Festival of Lights we used to do each year is now over 20 years old and a great way to kick off the holiday season. It’s ALL Volunteer and NON-Profit.  It began as a fundraiser sponsored by the Rotary Club to help get the city out of debt and then took on a life of its own and now helps with scholarships and special projects. The festival runs every night from Thanksgiving to New Years.  You can drive your own car or take a horse drawn carriage ride through the displays.  They have also coordinated a local radio station to listen to as you view the displays.  The night we went through the fog was moving in early so a few of the pictures look a bit “smoky”.

As of 2014 they had the world’s tallest (41 feet, 16,000 pounds with  working jaw) nutcracker built by a local company, 500,00 lights, 90 animated displays, 3D displays, horse drawn carriage rides through the displays and a Holiday Village with Santa, hot cider with a bake sale and a synchronized light show in the courtyard.  The displays depict fairy tales, the military, patriotism, the local logging industry, local vineyards, local fishing and the traditional Christmas songs and scenes.  People come from all over to see it. Unfortunately for locals, it doesn’t change much, but is still fun every few years.

Three of my favorite munchkins from next door were coincidentally there the same night we were so had to snap a few pictures of the discussions with Santa.

Even the lights with errors turned out cute.  It was difficult to get great pictures or continuous pictures of the animated scenes since there were so many cars behind us.

This snowman is on a corner in our neighborhood hugging a light standard.

LIFE AS IT HAPPENS – BLOGMAS 2014 – DAY 22

WOW seems like we just started this journey through BLOGMAS 2014 and here we are 3 days until Christmas.  Today and tomorrow are my BIG days for preparing for Christmas.  These are the days that I’m mostly in the kitchen or cleaning the house, wrapping last minute packages or running last minutes errands for ingredients for the BIG DAY.  The only thing on my list that I didn’t accomplish was the cleaning so will spend all day tomorrow doing laundry, vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms.

Remember when I told you I was a list girl?  Well, these help – A LOT!  I couldn’t get very good pictures, but those little presents are battery operated lights that change colors (red, blue and green) that I’m going to include on the plate when I deliver the goodies to the neighbors.  The purple list is accomplished and half the green list is done and will be finished up tomorrow and Wednesday.

This is Cinnamon Roll day too – YUMMY! One of my favorite days of the year.  The recipe originally came from one of my favorite aunts who taught me a lot about art, cooking and just plain being creative.  I have made a few minor updates to suit our tastes, but this recipe was ALL her and a secret that my cousin and I kept until the day she died.

ROLLS OF SHARON aka CINNAMON RAISIN BUNS
ROLLS
2 packages Fleischman’s Rapid Rise Yeast
1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup WARM water
1 cup scalded milk (2 minutes in the microwave)
1/2 cup Crisco stick
5 cups flour, divided
2 large eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon salt

  • In a small bowl combine the warm water, 2 teaspoons of sugar and both packages of yeast until well blended. Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the scalded milk, Crisco stick, 1/2 cup sugar and salt. Blend well.
  • Add yeast mixture and blend well.
  • Add the well beaten eggs and half the flour. Mix until well blended.
  • Add the remaining flour (a little more if too sticky) and mix well until dough leaves the sides of the bowl and is elastic.
  • With vegetable oil, wipe the inside of another bowl.
  • Place dough in bowl and turn once.
  • Cover with wax paper and a towel.
  • Let rest in a warm place until double in size.
  • Punch down and divide into 2 balls.
  • Put one on the pastry board and one back in the bowl.
  • Let rest 10 minutes.
  • While resting prepare the filling ingredients.
  • Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness in a rectangle about 18×24 inches.
  • Spread half the melted butter over the dough and sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar.
  • Spread half the raisins over that.
  • Roll tightly jelly roll style and cut into 18 rolls.
  • Place rolls in greased pans 1/4 to 1/2 inches apart.
  • Cover with wax paper and a towel.
  • Let rise again until double in size.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • While baking prepare the icing.
  • When rolls come out the oven, put globs of icing on each one. Return to the oven for a minute or two to melt icing all over the rolls.

FILLING
1 stick melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon Pumpkin pie spice
1 cup golden raisins

  • Whisk together the sugar and cinnamon until well blended.

ICING
1 stick butter, softened
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon powdered vanilla
4-6 tablespoons milk

  • Mix all together until smooth.

When re-heating rolls, put a pad of butter on top of roll before microwaving.
These freeze really well.

As we get to the end of our countdown I have remembered a few more fun anecdotes.

  • Every year we received a box of See’s candy and I was ALWAYS on the search for the sprinkle coated ones a.k.a. Milk Bordeauxs YUMMY!
  • One year my dad got my mom diamond earrings.  He wrapped them in their original box and then with my brother’s and my help we proceeded to nest these in other boxes (wrapping each box as we went) culminating with a Dishwasher box full of bricks in the bottom – Boy was she surprised and it made for chaotic family fun on Christmas Eve.
  • Another year we built an elaborate scavenger hunt all through the house to lead my dad to his ultimate gift in the garage.

THE TABLECLOTH – BLOGMAS 2014 – DAY 21

This story originally came across my email and I was reminded that it is a beautiful way to celebrate Christmas Holiday spirit so I thought I’d share. This is such a beautiful story that makes you understand that things truly do happen for a reason. Don’t forget to grab the tissue box.

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.

They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc… and on December 18th they were ahead of schedule and just about finished.

On December 19th a terrible tempest – a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.

On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.

The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.

By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc… to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.

Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet.. ‘Pastor,’ she asked, ‘where did you get that tablecloth?’ The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.

The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the Tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and she never saw her husband or her home again.

The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth, but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a house cleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.

The man asked him where he got the Tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike.

He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between.

The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.

He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.

This true Story was submitted by Pastor Rob Reid.

More entries over at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom’s BLOGMAS.

LAST MINUTE GIFT IDEAS – BLOGMAS 2014 – DAY 20

I’m a Virgo and as such tend to make lists and be over-prepared. So, the only last minute gifts I tend to need are a couple extras for those surprises that come up like a surprise gift from a neighbor.

A few of the “things” I keep on hand (with a festive ribbon already tied to them) for those occasions are:

  • Dutch Brothers coffee gift cards
  • Homemade applesauce
  • Homemade jam
  • And closer to the actual day a plate full of homemade goodies

Here are a couple of recipes I made yesterday that are great to have around and NEVER EVER go to waste.

CARAMEL BUTTERSCOTCH FUDGE
1 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup Kraft caramel bits
1 can Eagle-Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup Fisher’s Cinnamon Pecans

  • Line a 9×9 pan with heavy duty foil leaving enough foil overhanging the edges to use as handle to lift the foil out of the pan after the fudge has set.
  • Using a double boiler over medium heat melt the chips, caramel bits and condensed milk together until smooth.
  • Immediately pour into the foil lined pan.
  • Top with pecans using a piece of wax paper to press the pecans slightly into the fudge.

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 can Eagle-Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup Crushed Honey Roasted Peanuts

  • Line a 9×9 pan with heavy duty foil leaving enough foil overhanging the edges to use as handle to lift the foil out of the pan after the fudge has set.
  • Using a double boiler over medium heat melt the chips and condensed milk together until smooth.
  • Immediately pour into the foil lined pan.
  • Top with peanut pieces using a piece of wax paper to press the pecans slightly into the fudge.

PREPARING FOR CHRISTMAS – BLOGMAS 2014 – DAY 19

The packages are all wrapped and those that need to be shipped are on their way.  So, now it’s time to turn to the kitchen and start preparing the plates for the neighbors.

This is truly my favorite holiday to cook for.  I try to add a few new goodies each year that I bake for “Neighbor” plates.

This year I’m adding (I’ll post the recipes as soon as I can after I get pictures):

  • Lemon Oatmeal Bars
  • 4 Layer caramel crunch nougat brownies
  • Chunky Monkeys
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with chocolate.

Here are a few of our favorites from year’s past:

This recipe is sooooooooooooooooo simple, but messy! Have fun making them. They are quite rich though – be forewarned!  The centers will turn to a clear sugary liquid in a day or so.

CHOCOLATE COVERED CHERRIES
1 cup butter, melted
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 pounds confectioners sugar (about 8 cups)
3-10 ounce jars maraschino cherries(about 120 cherries), really well drained
1-2 pounds milk chocolate candy coating, chopped (I used almond bark)

  • Combine butter and milk until smooth.
  • Gradually add in confectioner’s sugar until a soft dough forms.
  • Roll into 1 inch balls and flatten into 2 inch circles.
  • Place a cherry in the center of each one.
  • Wrap sides around cherry until cherry is completely covered and roll into a smooth ball.
  • Melt chocolate until smooth and dip each ball into the chocolate.
  • Place on wax paper until cool and sprinkle with sprinkles.
  • Cool well.
2008 Neighbor Plates

OREO CHEESECAKE BALLSYUM YUM GOOD!
1 regular package Oreos
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
Almond Bark
Candy Decorations

  • Crush Oreos in food processor
  • With hand mixer, mix together the Oreo crumbs and cream cheese
  • Roll into small balls.
  • Put balls into freezer for 5 minutes.
  • Melt Almond bark in small batches.
  • Coat each ball in almond bark.
  • Immediately decorate.
  • Let harden.

BUTTERFINGER COOKIES
Ritz crackers
creamy peanut butter
almond bark
sprinkles

  • Spread peanut butter on ritz crackers and top with another cracker. 
  • Melt almond bark in the microwave. 
  • Dip each cookie in the almond bark and set onto wax paper to harden. 
  • If you’re using sprinkles do so before the almond bark hardens.

STOCKING STUFFERS – BLOGMAS 2014 – DAY 18 – STOCKING STUFFERS

Stuffing stockings is one of my favorite things to do.  I’m always on the look out for special little items that I tuck away all year long waiting for just this day. Since the kids are grown hubby gets my full attention and he hates it (sort of) because he isn’t as good at it, but he tries hard and is getting better every year.

Shhhh don’t tell him, but I can tell you this because I know he doesn’t read my blog. This year so far, he’s getting:

  • 2 new Wii U games (Amazon had an awesome Black Friday sale I could do from home in my PJ’s)
  • fun snacks – M&Ms, cashews, pistachios and DILL peanuts.
  • some camo carbiners
  • some camo notepads
  • an Army magnet
  • new winter gloves
  • Mason jar shot glasses so he’ll quit using my REAL mason jars
  • a couple of additional watchband choices to accessorize one of his gifts from mom
  • .50 caliber pocket knife
  • lottery tickets

FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS – BLOGMAS 2014 – DAY 17

I thought about this category a lot and decided that since we are still in transition our “local” traditions are still fluid so instead I am going to tell you about a holiday tradition of the locals.

The Festival of Lights is now 20 years old and a great way to kick off the holiday season. It’s ALL Volunteer and NON-Profit.  It began as a fundraiser sponsored by the Rotary Club to help get the city out of debt and then took on a life of its own and now helps with scholarships and special projects. The festival runs every night from Thanksgiving to New Years.  You can drive your own car or take a horse drawn carriage ride through the displays.  They have also coordinated a local radio station to listen to as you view the displays.  The night we went through the fog was moving in early so a few of the pictures look a bit “smoky”.

As of this year they have the world’s tallest (41 feet, 16,000 pounds with  working jaw) nutcracker built by a local company, 500,00 lights, 90 animated displays, 3D displays, horse drawn carriage rides through the displays and a Holiday Village with Santa, hot cider with a bake sale and a synchronized light show in the courtyard.  The displays depict fairy tales, the military, patriotism, the local logging industry, local vineyards, local fishing and the traditional Christmas songs and scenes.  People come from all over to see it. Unfortunately for locals, it doesn’t change much, but is still fun every few years.

Three of my favorite munchkins from next door were coincidentally there the same night we were so had to snap a few pictures of the discussions with Santa.

Even the lights with errors turned out cute.  It was difficult to get great pictures or continuous pictures of the animated scenes since there were so many cars behind us.

This snowman is on a corner in our neighborhood hugging a light standard.

THE RIGHT WAY AND THE WRONG WAY TO DO CHRISTMAS TREES – BLOGMAS 2014 – CHRISTMAS TREE REVEAL DAY 16

Before I show you my tree, let me just say

A neighboring town always does their tree right in the middle of main street.

 Our tree this year – not our best, but it is homey and growing on us.

One of these years I REALLY want to try this:

I’ve been wondering about the upside down Christmas trees and decided to search and see what I could find out. I found several places offering background on the upside down tree. One was, ChristmasCarnivals.com which also has many other links for Christmas history to check out too.
“Christmas is associated with many traditions, of which the Christmas Tree is an inherent part. The history of the upside down Christmas Tree has its roots in the 7th century. It is during this period that St Bonafice journeyed from Devonshire, England to Germany to preach the message of God. He engaged himself in religious as well as social work and spent a lot of his time in Thuringia, a town located in Germany itself, which is the birthplace of the industry dealing with Christmas Decorations.
It is believed that St Boniface, while staying in Thuringia, took the help of the triangular fir tree to represent the Holy Trinity made up of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. As a result, the converted people started to [consider] the Fir tree as God’s Tree. Then St Bonafice, using this triangular shaped tree tried to introduce to the pagan tribes the paragons of Trinity.
By the 12th century, it became a custom, especially in Europe to hang the Fir trees upside down from the ceilings to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The Upside down Christmas Trees was also considered the symbol of Christianity. However, the real history behind the hanging of the upside down Trees remains vague. Presently the trend of hanging a Christmas Tree has changed, because nowadays the tip of the Christmas Tree is made to point towards Heaven, as many think that an upside down Christmas tree is a sign of contempt.”

CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS – BLOGMAS 2014 – DAY 15

How I decorate each year changes based on my mood, weather, etc… so it will never be the same twice!

Snowman Family then
Snowman Family now

We made the candle yule logs for Advent craft night at church one year and they were a HUGE success and soooooooo easy to do.


These are a few of my new favorites from 2014.

My cousin passed away recently.  She made this ornament for me.  From now it will always be hung by my shooting stars in her honor.

And our new handmade ornament by the Design Chick.  I can show you this now that both DIL’s have received theirs in the mail.

And of course the Christmas cacti decorate themselves.