Friday, December 30, 2011

Gifts at the Circus

I have felt a week behind since Thanksgiving.

I'm not sure whether I slept through an entire week and missed it, or just zoned out and drifted through a week in a fog. Either way, all of my activities were behind schedule: selecting & purchasing gifts, getting & decorating the tree, baking treats, and wrapping gifts. Since I've been incorporating more "green" living in my life over the past 10 years, I planned some of my gifts to be consumable or to be made from re-purposed items.

The first task was baking treats. I love to bake, and the holidays give me an excuse to bake lots of treats and give them as gifts and not eat them all myself. So I spent one weekend doing a lot of baking.
These treats are yummy! From my oven to your tummy!
Starting at "noon" on the plate the treats are: Hazelnut Thumbprints, Cinnamon Almond Brittle, Triple Chocolate Peppermint Brownies, Pecan Bars, Peppermint Drops, Stripes, and Sugarplums (in the center of the plate). The bread is Bananas Foster with a Rum Glaze. Delicious!! One of my treat gift recipients dove right in to the bag of treats and started with a brownie; he proceeded to make sounds that I am sure only his wife should hear!!!! Perhaps the brownies need a new title... If you would like any of the recipes, just leave me a comment and your email :)

Anyway, the next task was an item for the Book Club Gift Exchange. The guidelines: the gift cannot cost more that $5 and should contain something made by the giver. Since the Club is a Recipe Club (we cook/bake something inspired by the book to bring to the meeting and we share the recipe), I ruled out my treats. Instead, I remembered a crafty thing I really enjoyed a few years ago: Stained Glass.

I searched my arts & crafts bins to see if I still had any of my supplies. I was pretty shocked by how much I had stashed away:

I purchased glasses from the thrift store for a total of $1.88.

I decided to do a geometric design for the glasses, using straight lines for the 2 similar glasses and circles for the different glass. I painted the lines free-hand using the black leading paint.

After allowing time for the leading to dry, I began adding color in the shapes created by the intersecting leading lines. The paint is somewhat opaque and cloudy when wet but then dries to a much more "clear" finish.

I included 3 tea lights and my gift was complete!! Since we planned a "Dirty Santa" gift exchange, I had no idea who would receive my gift. The recipient seemed very pleased and I'm hoping her reaction was legit and not just a way to cover her plan to hide them on a closet shelf once she got home.

I was so pleased with these glasses that I painted empty jars (from salad dressing) for 2 friends. They were also pleased, and a bit amazed that I painted them. Seriously, it is incredibly easy!

Now to turn my sights to 2012. I have learned to expect the unexpected (especially in my house!!), so I look forward to whatever the future may hold.

I am not one to make resolutions just because of the date on the calendar. Every day is a good day for making a change, whether to better yourself, better your community, or better the world!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pumpkins & Turkeys

Per usual, life has been a bit busy. It has been almost 2 months since I have posted! I fully intended to post about pumpkin carving and Halloween... then the calendar said it was November. So I decided to post about Thanksgiving instead... now the calendar says December. Seriously?!? Where is my "universal" remote that will allow me to pause time?

So this post will be a bit of a rewind into October and November.


I went through 4 pumpkins this year in efforts to get 2 jack-o-lanterns. No, I didn't mess them up. 

The boys brought home the first jack-o-lantern from daycare on Columbus Day. Of course, that meant that within 2 weeks, the poor thing was rotting and decaying. Bye-bye, Jack #1.

In the meantime, I had purchased another pumpkin to carve and keep Jack #1 company. My oldest, CT, wanted to be completely in charge of Jack #2... this meant it took a week for him to finish carving the darn thing. Of course, Jack #2 became rotted and decaying. Bye-bye Jack #2.

So my youngest, IG, and I purchased to more pumpkins the week before Halloween. I waited until the weekend to carve them and knocked out some quick knife-work in 10 minutes. I think Jack #3 and Jack #4 turned out very nice :)


This year was my turn to host Thanksgiving. My mother and alternate: one of us hosts Thanksgiving while the other hosts Christmas. It's not that huge of a deal: it's just the 4 of my immediate family plus my mother. The most difficult part is not making TOO MUCH food!

This was my menu:

     Brown Butter & Sage mashed potatoes
     Herb Biscuits
     Cider-Glazed Turkey
     Sausage & Apple Stuffing
     Cranberry Pineapple Sauce
     Caramelized Butternut Squash

I love to cook, and getting the opportunity to experiment with willing victims taste-testers is great.

The biscuits are missing from the picture? What? I didn't notice... okay, maybe I did. I over-baked the biscuits and they came out a little lot dry. So they were shunned from the photo. Every great chef makes mistakes. Right? Right??

So I hope to remember to photograph my next few projects. I am going to be crafty this month for my book club and for my friends. I am also going to be baking cookies and items to give as gifts. I seem to remember after I make something that I wanted to take pictures for my blog. Such as the delicious batch of applesauce I made 2 weeks ago. I love having an apple orchard 1/2 mile from my house! I want to make more applesauce to freeze so maybe I will remember to grab the camera then. We'll see.