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Holiday Cakes & Buns

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I saw a recipe online that I couldn’t resist trying out this year. Adorably called “Holiday Gift Cakes” and even more adorably baked in soup cans, how could I not try it out? I thought they would indeed be great gift cakes for teachers.  Tabby and I mixed it all up and made three can shapes and two little loaves.
Cherry Pecan Cakes
Fortunately this left us with one loaf to try out and I can now attest that this recipe is delicious.
Cherry Pecan Cakes
Basically like a cream cheese pound cake. The cherries and pecans are just right. I think whether you use a mini loaf pan or a soup can, they both look so cute with a nice glaze and a cherry on top. I predict I’ll be making these again in the future. (Check out the recipe at LiveLaughRowe)

 

I also made the annual big batch of sticky buns for Christmas morning breakfast. I always make them ahead of time and then pop them in the freezer.
The Buns.
I messed with tradition and made one of the pans have a different filling-almonds, white sugar, orange zest, and golden raisins. We’ll see how that goes over. We were able to try two of them that I baked separately. They were pretty darn delicious, especially with a little glaze leftover from the cakes.
The Buns.

The kids are demented with excitement, there’s only 1/2 day left of school, and pretty much all the wrapping left to be done. I’m looking forward to finishing watching Holiday Inn while we wrap up our gifts tonight and then tomorrow begins the Christmas fun with friends as our good friends join us for Christmas Eve Eve games, pizza, and meatballs. Hurrah!

Making our own snow

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Looks like it won’t be a white Christmas next week, but we’ve gone ahead and made our own beautiful snowflakes. I saw this in a book and it’s a very easy, satisfying, project that probably you once did as a science project. Basically you are growing crystals using Borax, and when you use lovely fluffy pipe cleaners twisted into snowflake shapes, the result is glittery gorgeous snowflakes to decorate with.
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Making the snowflake shapes proved to be a little difficult for the kids, but they came up with some nice things. And even though I originally said Clark’s looked like asterisks, not snowflakes, once crystallized they looked great. (Sorry, Clark.)
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After we made our shapes we mixed up the solution-3 T Borax to 1 c water. The hardest part about this was finding a vessel big enough to dangle the snowflakes into without them lying down or touching each other. Consequently I was mixing up several batches of 4 cups of water (my biggest measuring cup) at a time. Dangle the snowflake in the solution by tying one end to a string and the other end around a chopstick or pencil to rest across the top. Then leave it overnight. In the morning we came down and pulled them out and voila! We need to do another batch (I don’t think I can reuse the solution since it is now filled with crystals). I’ve hung them from the ledge over the big window. Aren’t they pretty?
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Oh, and we used all pastel colors, but you could go all blue or white, or whatever you fancy.

I’ve also been holiday baking for us-ginger squares and thumbprints. The Martha Stewart recipe I use comes out perfectly. They are a bit tedious to make, which makes them perfect for once a year special baking. The balls of dough are dipped into egg white and then into a combination of ground up almonds and sugar. When baked it turns into a crispy, sugary, nutty exterior that is heavenly.
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I used raspberry and apricot jams.
IMG_0899A terrible calamity happened in the sewing room two days ago. Just as I was about to finish machine quilting the Wee Wander quilt my machine seized up and wouldn’t work anymore!! I’m so eager to finish this by Christmas, along with maybe a couple other things, but it’s out of my hands now. I left it at the repair shop and we’ll just have to wait and see what they say. So I’ve turned to making yet another sequin ornament to satisfying my Christmas creativity needs.
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I also took the same idea and stitched two circles together with a big snowflake sequin in the middle, added a bobby pin sleeve to the back and voila! a pretty winter hairclip for Tabby.
Christmas is one week from today!
Santa through the glass

‘Tis the Season

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Despite a decided lack of snow we’re certainly feeling Christmassy now, having attended parties, done some baking, watched the Christmas pageant, and watched Elf as a family while eating Christmas cookies. In very happy news I got a new lens for my camera, which had not been working and out of commission for over a month. I was so happy to get it back this week. Here are a few scenes of Christmas around the house these days..
Naughty cat!

Christmas Crack

Christmas Cookie

Hurrah! My camera's back!

An indoor visit

Hurrah! My camera's back!

The Annual Christmas Cookie Party

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It’s been a whirlwind of various Scout meetings, Christmas prep, and Christmas parties, including our very own annual Christmas cookie party.  We tried to figure out how many we’ve had and I believe it was the 8th time we’ve had this event.  There were many delicious entries this year:
Almond Crescents-I made these and they are one of my very favorite Christmas cookies.
Almond crescents with new pipe cleaner tree

Cookie Canes-Paul won with these last year. They are addictive. It’s just the dough of chocolate chip cookies with ground up candy canes in them. And so they melt and get very flat and he slices them into strips with a pizza cutter.
Thumbprints-one of my favorites! I haven’t made mine yet, so I was very happy that our friend Betty did. A delicious classic.
Chocolate Candy Cane something or other-these were gorgeous, made by Melissa. A recipe from last week’s NYT. It was a chocolate cookie, completely enrobed in chocolate, sprinkled with candy cane crumbles.

the prettiest cookie

Chocolate Peanut Butter sandwich cookies by Mary Lynn. Described by her as “they are like hamburgers they are so big” Indeed they were quite large and hearty.
Pumpkin Caramel Thumbprints-Carrie made these and they were heavenly. I could have eaten them all day long.
Pistachio Kisses-I LOVED these. the cookie had pistachio and walnuts in it, was pale green and a nice flat circle, with a chocolate kiss in the middle and some red sprinkles. Far superior to those peanut blossom cookies.
Peppermint Kisses-a chocolate cookie with a peppermint kiss in the middle
Spice Cookies- It was like a drop cookie with “spice chips” in the dough. I have not seen these chips before– like chocolate chips, but orange colored.
String up the Lights-our friend Stephanie said she knew she wouldn’t win on taste, so she went for presentation. Indeed the presentation was spectacular!

"Stringing Up the Lights"

The overall winner were the thumbprints, with the award for Most Christmassy going to Melissa’s chocolatey minty cookies, and Best Looking going to Stephanie’s colored lights cookies.  Prizes were a sequined ornament and the Christmas oven towels for all.
I like to put out some savory things, too, especially a cheese ball.
The blessed Cheese Ball
I also really wanted to finally use the hot pepper jelly I made last year. I mixed it up with cream cheese and…it looked disgusting. Apparently you don’t mix them up together, you pour the jelly on top. Paul described the cottage cheesey looking dip as “unsettling”.  It did taste pretty good, though. Oh, and of course I made hot candied walnuts.
It was lots of fun and immediately afterward we headed out to a holiday parade that our Cub Scouts were in (on a float!)
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In the (Christmas) Sewing Room

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This weekend I decided to make a felt ornament based on the classic vintage glass ornaments that, well, you’ll know the ones I mean when I show you the picture.
Sequined Felt Ornament
I used my good wool felt and just freehand cut out the shape. I doodle stitched with embroidery thread, used metallic silver thread to stitch the top of the ornament, and then got crazy with the sequins. I have a big jar of them and just picked through to find the colors I wanted.
Another Felt & Sequined Ornament
The first one was blue and green, and I gave that one away. So then I had to make another one for myself. This one is pink/coral, so I used pink and orange sequins.  At one point I found myself thinking, “Hm..does this need more sequins?” and then I thought, “The answer to that is always YES.” So I just put sequins all over it.
Sequined Felt Ornament
Anyway, I’m delighted with how these came out and it was rather relaxing to sew on the sequins with the tiny seed beads.
Another Felt & Sequined Ornament

 

When we unpacked the Christmas decorations I came across a piece of fabric that I’d started embroidering a couple of years ago. I used an iron on transfer of ornaments.  I’ve been in a very productive efficient sewing frame of mind the past couple of weeks, so when I found it I grabbed some red and green fabric, stitched on a border and back, and stuck in a pillow form. Voila! Christmas cheer.
Christmas Stitching
Also, as predicted (promised!) I’ve been making a big batch of little towels that button over the oven door handle (I don’t know what to call these-oven towels?). I’m looking forward to making these in other fabrics, too, but for now it’s all Christmas fabrics. (and for the record, I’ve apparently been making things from the same Christmas fabrics for the past several years. I’m sure everyone is getting tired of them.) Don’t they look cute all lined up?
A whole batchAnd today I went to Joann’s and picked up some things to finish up the THREE quilts in progress I’ve got going. Which is, frankly, nuts. Especially because none of them are a Christmas quilt..

 

Birdhouse in my Soul

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Finished! I’m so excited this quilt is complete. Last night I finished stitching the binding on and I think it looks beautiful.  I do still need to sign it (I’ll embroider my name and the year on the back), but let’s just call it done. Here is the front:
Birdhouse in my Soul-complete!!
and back:
Birdhouse in my Soul-complete!!
and beautifully folded so you can see the binding.
Birdhouse in my Soul-complete!!
I think I shall never tire of this lovely Tanya Whelan Sugar Hill fabric.
Birdhouse in my Soul-complete!!

Birdhouse in my Soul-complete!!
Next up-I need to make some matching pillowcases with the leftover fabric. If I was a go-getter I’d do that right now, but I have a lot of other sewing/Christmas demands on my time at the moment, so it might have to wait. According to my flickr photos, I posted a photo of the pieces I cut for this quilt in June of 2012. 2012!! It’s taken me over 2 years to finally put this quilt together. And, I’ll point out, this is a very simple pattern, not even complicated, nor did I hand quilt it. No matter, it was worth the wait and I can’t wait to sleep underneath it tonight.

Haul Out the Holly…

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Before we get to the Christmas stuff it wouldn’t do to pass over Thanksgiving. We kicked off the holiday weekend on Wednesday afternoon with the first snow.  It was so nice to have the kids home early, and we cozied up by the fire, watched a movie and ate homemade kettle corn.  It was the perfect start to this festive season.
Thanksgiving Eve/First Snow!
This year we spent a lovely afternoon with my aunt and uncle and cousins.  Pumpkin and apple pies were already accounted for, so I decided to go non-autumnal and I made a coconut cream pie with meringue.  Would you believe I’ve never made a meringue pie before? I think it came out pretty well and I loved how creamy and coconutty it was.
Coconut Cream Angel Pie
I also made a new roll recipe-a Lemon Rosemary Potato roll.  I think these came out well, too, and as they were biscuitty in texture they were especially nice toasted the next day.
Lemon Rosemary Potato Rolls
Some people take nice family portraits on holidays. This year this is what I’ve got:

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We all enjoyed the very long weekend very much.  I always feel like when you wake up on Thanksgiving it’s like you’re at the top of a long slide and Christmas is at the bottom. You launch and off you go into a never ending whirlwind of decorating, making merry, celebrating, and so on. So, we’ve launched and began the Christmas decorating right away.  I went shopping with friends, made my first batch of cookies for a Cookie Swap (Cranberry Pistachio Shortbreads-they are delicious.) We’ve gotten out our massive music collection and begun listening, as well as reading our old favorite Christmas stories.

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And speaking of stories, in case you missed it last year or wanted a review, last year I did a 25 Days of Christmas Books series, which you can read here.  As usual, we’ve loved seeing our familiar ornaments, including things the children have made in the past.  There are new additions to the scenery.  My mother made us this beautiful quilt:

2014-12-02 13.44.29And my Christmas with the Mousekins stitching is now hanging up

Christmas MagicAs for other Christmas stitching, I finished a top-secret project, am about to finally finish off a little Christmas project I started a couple years ago and forgot about, and am also busy making little seasonal hand towels to hang on an oven door. I made one for me, and one for my aunt so far.
my new sewing project pleasure
They are a nice way to use a little bit of cheerful fabric. I’ve also been helping my friend and faithful reader, Shannon, with a quilting project of her own. She’s new to sewing (though remembers an awful lot from home ec, I have to say) and is putting together a quilt form her kids’ baby clothes. All those stretchy knits have been a challenge but she is ending up with a very nice keepsake.
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Wishing you a wonderful start to the merriest season of the year!
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