It’s a Wrap!

I wish! Oh, how I’d like to say that I have everything done and am anxiously awaiting our Christmas celebration. Not so, this year. But, I’m getting there, and, due to this lingering cold, I have had to be somewhat resourceful.
Since much of our time is spent shopping for that perfect gift, wrapping, and cooking, I thought I’d share a few helpful tips. Now, I can’t help with that perfect gift. If any of you have tips for that, please share come do my shopping!

But, for wrapping, I am using whatever I can find. I admit to going to the Dollar Tree for some wrapping paper, though. Now, I love the Dollar Tree, but there are some things that are better not purchased there. Wrapping paper is one of them! Talk about cheap paper. It ripped when I plopped placed the gift on it. I had some better quality paper left over from last year, so I am making do. So, at the end of the cheap paper, you get a tube, but at the end of the more expensive paper, you get this.

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It’s a really nice, heavy piece of paper. I decided it would make a cute “wrapper” of some sort. I folded the ends down like a little pocket and tied it with some leftover ribbon. I added a Dollar Tree embellishment, also left over from last year, and it turned out surprisingly cute.

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And I’ll bet you would never guess what is wrapped up in there. I would tell you, but it’s a secret.

Another thing I have had left over for six years are the wine glass tags I made for our daughter’s wedding. (In an earlier post I mentioned that I was so busy I forgot to have the tags handed out.) Welllll, perfect for a Christmas tag. I made them by printing out a photo in sepia tones and using Golden Gel Medium to transfer the image onto a manilla tag.

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So, here it is attached to the package.

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And I always have jute twine. I saw some really cute twine flowers on Pinterest. You can find the tutorial here.http://www.thebugbytes.com/2012/02/twine-flowers.html. I didn’t have the right kind of needles, and anyway, I don’t sew much, you know. So I just looped, gathered, and tied.

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I could embellish with an antique brooch. But, I just pinned this one to a Kraft paper bag with jute handles.

Who says Christmas paper must be red, green, or gold? Look in your leftovers for birthday paper. Here, and excuse the lighting, I used a Tiffany blue patterned paper. Don’t have a bow? Roll your own using a strip of leftover paper. If the paper is not double sided, just fold the strip over and secure it together before you make the roll. Look through fabric scraps and vintage lace. I found this crocheted doily, gathered into a snowflake like form and taped it to the wrapping paper. The monogrammed tag was a freebie from http://www.weddingchicks.com/freebies/custom-monograms/mini-antique-monogram/
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And now, for the cooking time-saver. My “go to” appetizer has gone from cheese ball to roll-ups. You can make them as simple or festive as you wish. Our favorite is the dried beef roll up, but we also love the chili-olive ones. The staple is cream cheese and the wraps are tortillas. I’m making both of them this year, along with this variation that is a bit more festive.

Dried Beef Roll-ups
2 8oz cream cheese (softened)
1 small container French Onion Dip (I like Hiland brand)
1 jar dried beef-cut into small shreds
Garlic salt to taste (I like lots-1/2 tsp, but taste as you go)
Mix all together and spread on tortillas. Roll up and refrigerate at least an hour before slicing.

Chili-olive Roll-ups
1 8oz cream cheese
1 small can green chilis (I use the already chopped ones)
1/4 cup sliced green olives
1/4 cup sliced ripe olives
1/4 tsp seasoning salt
Follow same directions as dried beef ones.

Cranberry Feta pinwheels.
1 small package dried sweetened cranberries
1 8 oz container cream cheese
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onion
4 large flour tortillas or 4 large wheat flour tortillas

Read more at: http://www.food.com/recipe/cranberry-feta-pinwheels-16213?oc=linkback
I toasted half a cup of pecans and chopped them into the mixture. That makes it a bit harder to spread, but oh, so worth it.
Since we are celebrating Christmas this weekend, I made these spreads today and stored them in zip lock bags. I’ll take them out in a couple of days, spread them, roll them up, and slice them. Easy peasy! Enjoy!

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Candy Bar Truffles

This is my own original recipe. I just made it up today. You see, I am really trying to get into the Christmas spirit, this year. It finally turned cold. Very cold. But that didn’t help. I finalized some sort of a plan for our celebration on the weekend before Christmas, but it still doesn’t feel like Christmas. I can’t get motivated to shop. Yikes! I have less than two weeks, and I have a winter cold. In a panic, I thought the only thing I can do inside, today, is cook. I made muffins, scones, and Biscotti for our Christmas breakfast and put them in the freezer. I’m a make ahead kind of cook. So, I thought maybe a little candy making would put me in a more festive mood.

Truffles are such an easy thing to do, and there are so many variations that I decided to throw together some of my favorite ingredients to come up with my recipe. I used cream cheese, of course. I can hardly make anything without that. Then I added some brown sugar, some powdered sugar, and some graham cracker crumbs. Next, the magic ingredient…Butterfingers!

I could have used the food processor, but I would have had to clean it up, afterward. Zip lock baggies and a wooden rolling pin worked just fine.

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I mixed them all together and rolled them into little balls.

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I put the balls on parchment paper and placed them in the freezer for awhile. In the meantime, I melted 10 oz of dark semi-sweet baking chocolate with about 1/4 teaspoon of Crisco in the microwave. I melted in 40 second intervals, stirring between times. I removed the candy balls from the freezer, few at a time and dipped them in the chocolate.

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I sprinkled a few tiny crystals of sea salt over them.

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One amazing thing about this recipe is that, for once in my life, the coating chocolate came out exactly right.

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You know how, sometimes, the milk and the Oreos don’t come out even, and you keep having to go back and get more. This was great, because, what do you do with that leftover chocolate? Usually, it just gets pitched at our house, but here’s a link to an idea of what to do if yours doesn’t come out even.http://media-cache5.pinterest.com/upload/150307706283009363_SiJPxwee_f.jpg

And here’s another helpful hint. Instead of putting the bowl in the sink and filling it with water, wipe it out with a paper towel, first. Most of the oily chocolate will come off on the towel and you can rinse the bowl out easily without the mess in your sink and drain. Oh, if you’re a bowl licker, that problem solves itself, doesn’t it?

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Here is the finished product after I refrigerated for an hour or so, I put them in this pretty vintage milk glass candy dish and tied it up with some pretty ribbon and greenery.

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These turned out very yummy, I don’t think I would change a thing. I’ll freeze them and share them with the family. And, no, I’m not out of the Grinch woods, yet. Any suggestions?

Candy Bar Truffles

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup Graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

10 oz. pkg Butterfinger Bites (crushed)

10 oz. dark, semi sweet chocolate

1/4 tsp. shortening

Sea salt (optional)

Mix first 5 ingredients. Form balls and place on parchment paper to freeze for at least an hour. Melt chocolate and shortening in microwave. Dip frozen candy balls into chocolate and return to parchement paper. Refrigerate until chocolate covering hardens. May be frozen for a few weeks. Remove at least 15 mins. before serving.

If, by some ridiculous weirdness, you don’t like Butterfingers, I’m sure you could substitute malted milk balls, Snickers, Paydays, etc.

If you have any brilliant ideas for the leftover chocolate, feel free to comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Keep and What to Pitch

The older I get, the harder it is to make even the simplest choices. My Christmas decoration closet runneth over, and that’s a problem because it is also the safest place to go when a tornado comes through. Looking at it, you would think one already did. Every year, I drag out plastic storage tub after tub, decide what I want to use, and organize carefully place cram the rest back in the closet. Since I have started the flea market booth, it is easier to downsize because I have a place to go and a purpose.

Of course, I would have kept all the kid’s first ornaments, precious handmade ornaments from them and students I had in the past, heirloom decorations, but we lost those one rainy year when our basement flooded. All the ornaments in the storage room were in cardboard boxes at the time; we had never experienced flooding before. Sad, but we move on. Thank goodness our pictures were stored in the attic! Since then, I have managed to hoard collect a lot of other stuff. So, these are some of the things I kept and used in decorating for Christmas this year.

Our basement is a bit more rustic than our traditional rooms upstairs, so this rusty candle jar, purchased from a little shop in West Virginia, fits in perfectly. It came from our daughter, and reminds me of the tears and joy when she landed her first job as a TV reporter at WBOY. It is surrounded by some collectible Boyd’s bear figures I acquired from teacher friends and some old baskets and wooden cheese boxes.
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This antique table belonged to my parents, the scarf was crocheted by a family member, and the very old basket containing pinecones was given to me by my dad…it belonged to a great aunt.
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This creche wreath was given to us by my SIL. Her mother made one for each of the sibblings, and I have treasured it and display it every year since. It is sitting on the ledge of the stairwell along with two kings that our son had special-made at a local shop. Keepers.
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This vintage Santa has been around for many years and is very versatile. He sometimes sits on the porch to welcome guests. At other times he appears in various rooms of our house.
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My mother and I made this arrangement when we moved into our new home some 18 years ago. I change out the ribbon, candle, and globe occasionally, but the basket and greenery remain.
DSC00041 I have it on the dining table this year, and the antique secretary that belonged to Saint’s great grandmother holds a newer mirrored nativity scene I picked out for my birthday on a visit to Uncle Franklin and Aunt Jane’s. I like the juxtaposition of the metal trees I picked up just this year from a flea market in Dexter during our girl’s weekend.
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I’m keeping this Pinterest project that I did last year. I made the garland from twine and old book pages, the balls from rag strips, and the bow from burlap, of course.
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I used to decorate every room in the house. I still couldn’t resist adding this handmade snowman box from a vacation with friends in Wisconsin to the guest bathroom.
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This is the mantel, this year. It contains two angels, a gift my BFF gave me a few years ago, and, if you look carefully, you will see the antique oval frame I upcycled in the fall. I love it so much, I incorporated into the Christmas. It’s a keeper, I think.
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The glass collection of snowmen and trees get a place on the coffee table this year. I love the little ones inside the cloche.
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And finally, I have very few sentimental ornaments left, so…I like gaudy trees and I cannot lie!
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I know. You’re wondering what I possibly could have pitched<del sold, but trust me, I have receipts to prove it. Sales have been pretty good at the flea market this month!

For the Love of Christmas Stockings Part II

DSC00031Whew! Finally, I finished the stockings. Did I mention that stitching was the easy part? After threading the needle, which I had to do on my machine at least three times during the trimming segment and at least two times during hand stitching, the hardest part was choosing the embellishments. For Saint, who loves to hunt and fish, I cut a cuff out of an old, already re-purposed camouflage tarp. At JoAnn’s fabric, I found some 3-D scrapbooking trinkets including a bow and arrow and a born to hunt sign. I had cut off some roping from an old summer purse (I told you I have become a major hoarder, lately) and I hot glued that as a frame. I think the stocking represents Saint pretty well.

Kris was an easy subject…give him a pair of jeans, a guitar, and his dogs, and he is happy. Add a girlfriend and he’s even happier. Finding things to represent those wasn’t as easy. I cut up a pair of old Levis to get the pocket and tag for the cuff. I found the dog bone at a craft fair and they personalized it with his dogs’ names for free. The guitar finished it up. I have an idea about the girlfriend, but I’ll add that later. Drum roll, please.
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Our son-in-law, Lance, loves to raft, canoe, camp, and cook out. When he is out of uniform, he can almost always be found in a Razorback tee shirt. I found an old red pullover to use for the cuff and added a twig snowflake with some pine to go along with the 3-D canoe, campfire, and sleeping bag.
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I had the most difficult time with our bonus Grand Daughter’s. Carley is such a beauty, very social, not the outdoor type. I made her this “diva” stocking with a bit of sophisticated bling, but I have stockings left over in case I decide to do something else. What do you think?
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Here they are, in the basement, hung by the chimney with care propped up for the picture.
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In reality, we fill our stockings with heavy stuff junk treasures and usually have to lay them on the hearth. Anyway, I have had fun making and personalizing stockings, and I hope I might have inspired someone else to give it a try. Even if you can’t sew a stitch.