Month: December 2015

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD

As usual, the whole holiday season starting way back in October with Halloween has whisked by in a blur.  Hope you all had a pleasant and peaceful holiday and were able to touch base with those you hold dear.  There are so many fun things to see and do and so many people to  see in the short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that it all seems to go by too quickly.  When children are involved the excitement is almost too much to contain but oh so joyful to be a part of it all as they experience another Christmas.  When all is said and done, I am never sure if I am excited to move to the new year, or if I want to linger a bit and enjoy the holiday decorations for a few days.  Getting holiday decorations out and up is always exciting; however, packing them away is another story.  Perhaps that is why the “lingering” seems to be a good idea…at least for a few days.

Here are a few snapshots of spots in the house that I am tempted to keep out for a while.  I did a lot more decorating with greenery and quilts this year rather than santa figures and the like, which makes it perfectly appropriate to leave displayed for a while when it is very much like winter outside.  We had a strangely mild November and December but snow arrived on Christmas night and much more to come tonight and tomorrow.

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IMG_1587I have this quilt made up in a few versions for different times of the year.  I like the simple repetition of the block and the collections of many prints.  It definitely is a nod to the spirit of an antique quilt, yet almost contemporary in its simplicity.  It definitely added a nice splash of holiday color to this corner of the room.

You might like digging into this quilt in January using many of those Thimbleberries fabric collections in your stash or for a scrap quilt with each block made of a different fabric. I always think it’s fun to go through my fabric on hand to put together a quilt. Often it does require a trip to the quilt shop for the right background fabric and backing.  Notice, this quilt does not have a border fabric, so scraps are fare game. The FREE pattern for this quilt was in one of my small project books, Easy Living Quilts called West Wind Throw.  Full instructions are given in the Reminiscing section, click here to view.

GETTING READY

It seems I have picked up a new job as a caterer this holiday season.  We have reached that point in our lives where we are going to travel to our daughter and son-in-law’s home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Taylor and Ella have reached the age where it is good to be home for the arrival of Santa on Christmas morning.   As a special treat this year, my brother-in-law, from Ohio will also be joining us.  To make it a little easier on my daughter to host all of us,  I happily volunteered for the catering job.  My master plan for organizing Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day brunch and Christmas Day dinner involves grocery bags that are labeled for each meal.  As I gather non-perishable items, I drop them in the appropriate bag. I am then making everything I can in advance and freezing, leaving very little prep necessary in Kerry’s kitchen.  Just before we leave home, I’ll load everything in the bags for each meal.  It really cuts down on the stress and mess in Kerry’s kitchen.   A few items will need last minute touches, but basically, most of the work is done.  It’s cold enough in Minnesota that the bags can stay in the back of my car until needed for each meal.  I can easily send my husband out to the car with simple instructions as…”just bring in the Christmas brunch bag”.  It saves a great deal of time, explanation and multiple trips.

IMG_1605The “Snack Sacks” are packaged in the brown paper sandwich bags and tied with a holiday cord just to dress them up a bit.  I thought the whole tray could be placed on the island or buffet and serving dishes would not be needed. Everyone can help themselves, whenever.  I’ve identified each one with a simple inventory tag. The contents were first put in cellophane bags and then slipped into the paper sandwich bags.  Our challenge the few days before the big day is to stay out of the bags! The presentation looses something when half the contents are gone when the tray of goodies is delivered.

The Snack Sacks are filled with Swedish Raspberry Shortbread, Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies, White Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Cherry Cashew Chocolate Bark, Caramel Pecan Corn, Almond Frosted Butter Cookies, and Jan Hagel (yon-hagel).  This by the way, is the easiest and tastiest little cookie treat.  I make it every holiday and often many times during the holiday. The ingredients are few and simple and I always seem to have them on hand so I can make it without a trip to the grocery store and at the spur of the moment.  This is one recipe you are going to turn to often.

Jan HagelJan Hagel Recipe

 

 

 

The following pictures show you what the dough looks like.  Sorry, I packaged them up for gifts for friends so quickly that I forgot to take a picture of them all nicely cut.

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Here they are all packed up and ready to “gift”.  Directions for these gift bags are found in the post, Double Duty Gift Wrap. They really work out well, both as a gift bag and as a major part of the gift.  My fifteen year old red pick-up truck is one of my favorite possessions.  It looks just like the truck in this towel print.

IMG_1573Find more of my favorite recipes on YUM!

Jan Hagel

This is the easiest and tastiest little cookie treat.  I make it every holiday and often many times during the holiday.  The ingredients are few and simple and I always seem to have them on hand, so I can make it without a trip to the grocery store and at the spur of the moment.  I think you’re going to love having this cookie treat in your recipe box. (more…)

BUSY LITTLE ARTISTS

Our grandchildren, Taylor age 6 and Ella age 4, had a sleep over last weekend at our house. As all children, they love doing art and craft projects.  The more glue, pom pons, glitter and markers, the better.  The dining room table is consumed by our mess when the three of us get going.  Sometimes this kind of thing goes all day off and on and we have to clear once in a while for meals.  They love doing the crafts in the main dining area because they are in the middle of all the action and conversation.  They also love not getting dressed until late in the day.  Sometimes Ella doesn’t get out of her nightgown and slippers until bath/bedtime when a new set is chosen.

One of the main craft projects involved large paper bags with handles that I had cut apart so they were working with a single sheet of paper that had a handle on the top just perfect for hanging when the artwork was finished.    We called it ‘bag art” and they were all “gung-ho” to get started. IMG_1560We decided that a snowman shape and cotton balls would be a good place to start.  I put glue on a paper plate so they could dip the cotton balls in the glue.  Then I stepped out of the picture and let them go to town, creating their little masterpieces.   I collect items for our “art jar” as I see things that would interest them.  I try to have plenty of markers, paper, colored pencils, and crayons at their disposal at all times.  I was excited when I thought of the paper bag foundation piece of the project.  Too often regular paper is too small and also too thin to support all paint, glue and goodies they like to use to embellish their artwork.

IMG_1565Taylor got going immediately filling in the body after putting the face details on his snowman.

IMG_1563Ella is obviously contemplating some serious design decisions making sure she takes a different direction than Taylor’s composition.

After the glue was dry, the pictures hung on doorknobs around the house, moving around often during the day.  Because of the handles on the bag, they could easily hang them in many places.  When it was time to return home, the pictures went with and found a great place to hang in the front hall of their house.

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Project of the Month

IMG_1579I have been working with the editors of Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting, to develop the Thimbleberries Project of the Month they are now taking registrations for with planned delivery of the first kit starting in January 2016.  Here are pictures of the first 3 projects for January, February and March.  In each kit you will receive a pattern for the main project as well as a pattern for a small scrap project and a personal note from me all bundled up in one package. All the kit projects are small in nature and will have seasonal themes throughout the year The projects will be featuring my new fabric lines for 2016, specifically, Home Again, Autumn Landscape and Christmas Remembered.  As the fabrics become available we will be getting the samples made for you to view well in advance to order for the months to come in 2016.  Check out FonsandPorter.com/Thimbleberries and watch for ads in Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting, Fons and Porter’s Easy Quilts, and Keepsake Quilting catalogs for all the details and ordering information. If your family is looking for the perfect gift for you this holiday, this just might make their shopping very, very easy.

January’s project….Flower House

IMG_1578February’s project…Love Triangle Runner

IMG_1585March’s project…Birdhouse Log Cabin

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YULETIDE CHEER

I hope you have a chance to check out the new Winter 2015 Fons and Porter’s Easy Quilts issue that has just come out.  My wool and flannel appliquéd pillows are featured in the issue. I like to combine these two fabrics in projects.  They have the same warm, soft properties and really complement each other.  Using flannel for the foundation makes the construction of the pillow very easy.  Using the wool for the applique shapes makes them more dimensional and the stitching nestles in nicely. I did mine using a hand blanket stitch and pearl cotton which is always one of my favorite hand stitches. It is such a joy to do when working with wools and flannels. However, for those that do not like to do hand work, they can also be machine appliquéd. If doing so, test the stitches you want to use to make sure the length and width work well with the fabrics you have chosen.  I would also suggest that you hand baste your images on so that they stay securely in place when machine stitching.  Pick up the issue where magazines are sold in your area, and visit your quilt shop for a lovely selection of wools and flannels for your pillows and make some fun Yuletide accessories for your home or for gifts.  You can still get them done in time to enjoy this season.

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HOLIDAY SCRAP BAG PROJECTS

A few years back I developed a pattern for Tomato Pincushions.  You know, the iconic tomato pincushion we all remember from our childhood.  I don’t think there is a seamstress who didn’t have one of these in her sewing box at one time in their sewing life.  I decided to make a few to decorate a small tree that could then be given to friends for a small Christmas favor. I used the tree on the island in my kitchen and thought the tomato ornaments were appropriate for that spot.  Then, as my holiday lunch guests were leaving, I gave them each a pincushion ornament.  Of course, your scrap stash is perfect for this project and a bit of green wool makes the perfect and easy leaf top. I even used left over quilt batting for filler which saved me a trip to the store to purchase a separate bag of polyester fiberfil.  When you use left over batting, pull small amounts apart so you are not working with a “sheet” of batting.  I love making these small projects, they satisfy my need to do something creative and I can get them done in short order.Here is another quick gift item you can still make for gift giving this year.  The Pine Sachet Bundles are a perfect scrap project. I’m sure you have many favorite holiday prints in your stash that would be perfect for this project. Note the embroidered gross grain ribbon I used to tie three bundles together. I simply used some of my favorite decorative stitches on my machine and experimented a bit to see what width and length were the most pleasing.  I use dried balsam needles in these bundles and put them in my mitten and scarf drawers, and also our coat closet.  Of course, other spices like cloves, lavender etc. can be use.  There are so many dried spice mixtures to choose from that you could customize these to your liking.  I happen to love the smell of pine, especially this time of the year.  The pine needles are available at VermontTradewinds.com.

Scrap Project How-To’s – Enjoy more FREE PATTERNS on Reminiscing

Tomato PincushionTomato Pincushions

 

 

 

Pine Sachet BundlesPine Sachet Bundles

WINNING ICE BOX COOKIES

Winning Ice Box CookiesJust before Thanksgiving I mentioned that I liked to get a few cookies made before the crowd arrives and especially like to have a make-ahead cookie dough that freezes well. This one is the best.  It is not overly sweet but great with coffee and of course a tall glass of cold milk.  They are also good cookies for the basis of homemade ice cream sandwiches.  When needed I can take the roll of cookie dough out of the freezer, slice and bake and instantly have warm, fresh cookies without any prep mess.  This is a recipe I clipped from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune newspaper many years ago.  It has become one of those yellowed newspaper clippings taped to a recipe card that is so comforting to pull out knowing an old- fashioned cookie is soon to appear.  I split off a small portion of the dough before adding the chopped walnuts and make a smaller size roll to slice and bake so my granddaughter Ella and I have little cookies to frost.  She does love frosting and these cookies are nice and sturdy and do not crumble while she is adding the magic touch.  Who knows, there may also be sprinkles involved.  Did you know, when baking cookies the oven temperature and baking time is only dependable if the cookie sheets used are always room temperature for each sheet of cookies.  So if you are baking dozens of cookies, either let the pans cool between batches or watch the timing.

Winning Ice Box CookiesWinning Ice Box Cookies

 

Winning Ice Box Cookies

This cookie recipe is the best.  It is not overly sweet but great with coffee and of course a tall glass of cold milk. I split off a small portion of the dough before adding the chopped walnuts and make a smaller size roll to slice and bake so my granddaughter Ella and I have little cookies to frost.  She does love frosting and these cookies are nice and sturdy and do not crumble while she is adding the magic touch.  Who knows, there may also be sprinkles involved. (more…)

DOUBLE DUTY GIFT WRAP

In the next few weeks chances are you’ll be heading to someone elses house for a meal, celebration, party, or event and chances are you’ll be bringing a goodie of some sort – whether it be a sweet treat, wine, or bubbly. Try this simple approach to packaging up your token of appreciation or party contribution, which doubles as another gift for the host after opened. These also make great gifts for friends and co-workers. More detailed directions are below, but basically it’s securing two sides of a tea towel with a simple stitch that can easily be removed so that the recipient then has the towel to enjoy. If you are packaging up food items as Caramel Corn, cookies or nut breads, package those in plastic bags before putting in the tea towel bag.  I just made 7 more of these this morning to have ready for my holiday give-away treats from my kitchenGoodie bagThese are holiday themed, but this idea can be used at any time throughout the year. There seems to be no end to good looking tea towels available everywhere in so many cute prints, plaids and stripes.goodie bag 1goodie bag 2Fold the towel in half with the printed side of the towel together and sew one side and the bottom along the hem line of the towel. This way the stitch will be in the inside of the
bag when you pull it back through so the correct side of the towel is showing. The top opening is already finished with the towel’s hem. Use the largest basting stitch on the machine so the stitches can easily be taken out to make tea towel fully functional after the treats are gone. Gather the top of the bag and secure with a ribbon. As an added touch, include the handwritten recipe for the goodie packed inside.DSC_2764_edited-1