November 30, 2011

Preparing for the Holidays: "Christmas is Here! Last-Minute Ideas"

A long time ago (not that long ago, but it seems that way for me) I did a series featuring the book Queen of the Castle.  I thought since baby is here (I'm scheduling these posts out) that I'd recap the holiday part of the book.  So every Wednesday you'll get some great tips on prepping your heart and home for the holidays.
*  *  *

This week's chapter in Queen of the Castle is titled "Christmas is Here! Last-Minute Ideas".  Author Lynn Bowen Walker shares a few fun stories about past gingerbread house bombs.  She lets us in on a little secret -- graham crackers!  Our family has never made gingerbread houses. I don't even go there.  I know my limits.  Instead we have a blast rolling, cutting and decorating sugar cookies.  A few years in a row we made gingerbread cookies until I wised up and realized that no one...not. a. one.  likes gingerbread. Well except me, but I really don't need to eat 4 dozen gingerbread men, women, and children.  So we decided to make sugar cookie cut-outs from scratch.  It was back-breaking mixing and rolling, etc., so I've had yet another realization that we will decorate cut-out cookies we use good 'ol Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix from now on.  It makes the process ten times easier. Yes, I love home made sugar cookies but if you want someone other than Oscar the Grouch in the kitchen then try the mix.  It's o.k., really.  *wink*

Now, if you really are planning on gingerbread houses, Lynn suggests the following essentials:  graham crackers, tubs of white frosting (you'll need glue of some sort!), and lots of decorations such as M&M's, jelly beans, chocolate chips, Tootsie Rolls, gumdrops, Life Savers, Tic Tacs, mini marshmallows.  There are a gazillion possibilities!

Lynn also suggests a cookie swap for some baking variety in your home.  I've always thought that was a great idea!  I may have to do that some time...

Lynn also suggests to start thinking about inexpensive gifts for babysitters, teachers, neighbors, etc.  Hand made gifts are great and I personally think consumable gifts are the best.  Jams, jellies, cookies, breads, treats, soaps, bath salts, etc. are great!  It's something someone will use...if not the receiver of the gift then certainly someone in their home.  Check out my soaps for sale on my etsy site HERE.

Lynn shares a few reminders of things that need to be done and soon!

*Mail Christmas packages

*Put card writing into high gear

*Wrap gifts as you purchase them. Save receipts in one place.  (I've got a lot of shopping done, but none wrapped.  I need to get on that soon!  Or I'll end up being a night owl a few days before Christmas...we don't want that!)

*Make wrapping paper.  Use brown paper bags, old Christmas cards, etc.  (Since early fall we've been asking for brown paper bags...a few rubber stamps and ink and there ya go!)

*Wrap gifts with oversized artwork your kids may have made at school.

*Start Advent wreaths or calendars.  (My tutorial is HERE and they are for sale HERE... just sayin' *wink*)

*Buy extra nylons if you're attending any dress-up holiday parties.  (Tights for your little girls, too!)

*Make sure the kiddos have appropriate clothes for whatever outings you have planned.  (If everyone but little Lucy has a Christmas shirt she'll feel a little left out...better make a list and check it twice!)

*Plan Christmas menus.  (I plan on posting my December menu here soon...and a Christmas menu post, too!)

*Get kids to help decorate.  (This year everyone helped!  This is our Thanksgiving weekend tradition!)

Enjoy the next month or so of activities...
soak it all in and enjoy it with your family like it was your 
first and your last Christmas. 

- - -

"So Jesus said to the twelve, 'You do not want to go away also, do you?' 
Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.
We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.'"  
John 6:67-69

November 29, 2011

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Christmas Kitchen Decor

Since a lot of you have begun or have already begun to decorate for Christmas this week's tip ( are several that I love!) is from Gooseberry Patch's Farmhouse Christmas Cookbook.

Homemade shortbread cookies tied with colorful ribbon look beautiful hanging in your windowpanes.

* * *
Dress up your holiday table for winter...use whimsical mittens to hold your napkins and silverware and lay woolen scarves across the table to serve as placemats.  Enamelware plates and cups add a rustic charm.

* * *

A muffin tin filled with votives, tea lights tucked into pudding molds and candles hidden inside an old-fashioned grater make a wonderful tabletop display.  Add some gingerbread men, fragrant evergreen boughs and vintage kitchen utensils.

* * *

String small nutmeg graters on a set of white lights for your kitchen garland!

Like these tips?  Click "Like" below to share with friends on Facebook.

November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Sale!

Enjoy 11% off today only at my Etsy Shop with coupon code CYBERMONDAY.  Go HERE now!!

November 25, 2011

Turkey Leftovers!

I love a turkey dinner left over once in a while, but after a day or so it gets a little old.  Am I right?  Here's a lovely way (and reposted recipe by the way) to use up some left over turkey that won't make your family groan when they come to the table.

Turkey and Rice Soup

16 cups turkey or chicken stock *
3-4 cups chopped turkey (or chicken)
4 carrots, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups brown rice (uncooked)
1/2 cup dried parsley
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
a sprinkling of rosemary (about 1/2 tsp)
a sprinkling of thyme  (about 1/2 tsp)

Combine ingredients in a very large crock pot (I use a 6.5 Qt.) and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 5-6.

*If I don't have stock on hand I'll use a few cans of chicken broth and then either chicken bouillon granules (follow the directions on the jar for adequate measurement) or chicken base (usually 1 tsp. per 1 cup of hot water) to make up the difference.  Chicken base comes in a jar, is thick and creamy in texture and is cheaper per ounce than bouillon granules.  I'm not a big fan of the cubes.  All that unwrapping puts a cramp on my cooking time.  The downside is that the chicken base makes a greasier soup.

photo credit

November 23, 2011

Preparing for the Holidays: "Thanksgiving, Part 2"

A long time ago (not that long ago, but it seems that way for me) I did a series featuring the book Queen of the Castle.  I thought since baby is here (I'm scheduling these posts out) that I'd recap the holiday part of the book.  So every Wednesday you'll get some great tips on prepping your heart and home for the holidays.

*  *  *
 "Thanksgiving, Part 2" from Queen of the Castle is today's title.  Lynn shares the following story..."One year in an attempt to make Thanksgiving more meaningful, we asked dinner guests to write on a piece of paper what they were most thankful for.  Later, sitting around the table, we read the slips aloud.  "One more year," read the shaky script of my husband's elderly grandmother."  Wow.  What a wonderful reminder to be thankful for all things!  "God has given us so many blessings.  All that we have is from Him.  One more year.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Lynn shares a few ideas to promote thankfulness:

*Find Bible verses that focus on praise and promises from Jesus.  Write the verses on small slips of paper, roll them into tiny scrolls, and insert them into homemade rolls before baking.  At Thanksgiving dinner, have each person break into the roll and read his "thankfulness fortune" out loud before the blessing. (From Meg Cox's The Heart of a Family: Searching America for New Traditions That Fulfill Us)

*Listen to a praise CD at breakfast.  A Classic Thanksgiving: Songs of Praise  is a peaceful, uplifting CD that includes some wonderful hymns and classical pieces.

*Read aloud a favorite psalm before dinner.

*Go around the table and have each person share something they're thankful for using the letters T-H-A-N-K-S-G-I-V-I-N-G.

- - -

"Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!  Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.  Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations."  Psalm 100:1-5

November 22, 2011

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Turkey Broth Tip

Put a slow cooker to work turning the leftovers of the holiday bird into flavorful broth for soup. 

Place the bones in a large slow cooker; breaking to fit if necessary. Add onion, celery, carrots and enough water to fill 2/3 full. Cover and cook on low for about 10 hours. Strain broth with a colander and refrigerate or freeze. It'll be the best-tasting broth ever! 

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November 21, 2011

Old House Kitchen Christmas Favorites: Cinnamon Rolls

With a new baby in our midst we are trying to soak up as much cuddling time as we can so I thought it would be fun to share our family's favorite Christmas recipes!  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Rolls

1 T. dry yeast
1 C. warm milk
1/3 C. white sugar
1/2 C. melted butter
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
4 C. flour
Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Knead into a ball. Let rise until double in size. When ready, roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Spread with filling.

1/4 C. butter, softened
1 C. brown sugar
3 T. cinnamon

Spread butter on dough evenly. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over dough evenly. Roll dough up. Slice roll into 1 inch slices. Place on a greased pan. Let rise again until doubled. bake 10 min. at 400 degrees.

1/2 C. butter, softened
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
1 oz. cream cheese
2 T. whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Beat until fluffy. When rolls are hot, spread lots of icing on them.

If baking in the morning make the dough, let rise, then make the rolls.  Instead of letting them rise again, just wrap them up and put in the fridge.  The next morning put them in the oven while it's preheating.  When the oven is preheated start the timer.   Makes a 9x13 pan...about 16-18 scrumptious rolls!    


November 18, 2011


With a new baby in our midst we are trying to soak up as much cuddling time as we can so I thought it would be fun to share our family's favorite Christmas recipes!  Enjoy!

Pie Filling Recipes

Baking a pie is pretty easy, really. You have to have the right crust recipe (Sour Cream Pie Crust from Monday's post!) and a great filling. We have a cherry tree in our yard so cherry pie is easy to come by at our house. We package several quart bags for the freezer for cherry crisp, cherry pie, etc. We go blueberry picking each summer to stock our freezer with yummy local grown blueberries. We purchase peaches from a local Amish stand or if the prices at the grocer are really good, then we go there. Point being that making your own fruit pie filling is pretty easy and good for you, too!

Combine together the following ingredients for each kind of pie:

Apple Pie Filling = 6 cups apples (peeled, cored, and thinly sliced), 3/4 cup sugar, 1 T flour

Blueberry Pie Filling = 4 cups blueberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 3 T flour

Cherry Pie Filling = 4 cups cherries (tart and pitted), 1 1/4 cups sugar, 1/4 cup flour

Peach Pie Filling = 6 cups peaches (peeled, pitted and thinly sliced), 3/4 cup sugar, 3 T flour

Apples 1 medium = 1 cup sliced
Peaches 1 medium = 1/2 cup sliced

November 17, 2011

Samuel Thomas -- 2 weeks

This post isn't a recipe by any means, but equally scrumptious (in my opinion, anyway!).  My mom and I had fun snapping a few pictures the other day.  Enjoy!

 My dear friend Kelly made this lovely little pumpkin hat for him.
 Isn't he cute?!
I love this one!

Scrumptious, I tell ya!

November 16, 2011

Preparing for the Holidays: "Thanksgiving, Part 1"

A long time ago (not that long ago, but it seems that way for me) I did a series featuring the book Queen of the Castle.  I thought since baby is here (I'm scheduling these posts out) that I'd recap the holiday part of the book.  So every Wednesday you'll get some great tips on prepping your heart and home for the holidays.
*  *  *

This week is simply titled "Thanksgiving, Part 1".   Lynn begins by sharing advice from Julia Child..."If you are not an old campaigner, do not plan more than one long or complicated recipe for a meal or you will wear yourself out and derive no pleasure from your efforts."  Great advice!  I posted my Thanksgiving menu plan (last year) HERE and it is definitely more simple than not.

Lynn shares a great reminder that "Thanksgiving is not a competition.  It's a time to gather with family we love and give thanks to our Father, who is the giver of all good gifts.  A Father who loves me no matter what -- even if I use store-bought pie crust."  (I don't use store-bought (I share my recipe HERE) but that doesn't mean you can't...whatever works for your family!  Remember I told you in the menu plan post that I'll probably make Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for breakfast?  That works for us...)

We're not hosting anyone in particular for Thanksgiving.  It'll be just my husband, my mom, our kiddos and myself.  Of course we always make room for any last minute guests.  We may have the kiddos' piano teacher over since he just lost his sister and I'm not sure he'll be going anywhere.  Be flexible...that's my point.  Either way get the china out a day or two before and make sure it's all clean and your serving bowls and relish trays are ready.  Our kiddos think it's fun that even though it's just the ten of us we still make it a special day.

Lynn shares three quick ideas to fancy up your table:

*Look for chocolate turkey lollipops or something else that's fun to place next to each person's silverware

*Hand your kids a packet of photograph "doubles", have them cut out the heads of the guests who are coming for dinner, then glue the heads onto cardboard to make holiday place cards.  If they're feeling especially silly (and if family members are silly enough to appreciate it), have them attach heads to bodies of people and animals cut from old magazines -- the wilder, the better. (From Sarah Ban Breathnach's Mrs. Sharp's Traditions)

*Try folding napkins.  Martha has three easy napkin folds HERE and a cute but more advanced turkey napkin fold HERE.  (We will be using fun paper ones that day, however.  I know my limits!  *smile*)

- - -

"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks through Him to God the Father."  Colossians 3:17

November 15, 2011

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: One Dish Meals

A while back a dear friend had just had her fourth baby and requested I share some one dish meals with her. I posted this then and thought it was appropriate for our family with the arrival of blessing number eight. I thought you all might be able to use the recommendations as well.  A lot of my meals can be made into one dish meals.  I'll list the link with the name so just click on the name of the dish to take you to the recipe.  I'll also share any ideas that I have to go with those recipes.

Simple Roast  To go along with this you can put some red potatoes and green beans in the crock pot with it.

Creamy Chicken and Stuffing  Add some raw green beans to the crock pot in with the chicken.  Make some of these (Smashed Potatoes) to go along with it.  Use this tip for the potatoes.

Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes  Like it says in the post, add chopped up ham or chicken to make it a main dish.  Steam some veggies and you have a meal!

Easy Cheesy Bean Dip  Stir in some ground beef and serve with Mexican rice, beans, sour cream and salsa (use some good veggie filled salsa!) and you have a meal!

Chicken Pot Pie is great all by itself!  It takes a bit of work, but if you make a few at one time, eat one and freeze the rest you are all set for a few more meals!

Easy Peasy Chops This dish is a another one where you can do the smashed potatoes (see above) and steam some veggies and you're all set.

Creamy Chicken and Noodle Casserole  Add some cooked mixed veggies to this and you have a one meal dish!  Serve with some yummy rolls!

Chicken Burritoes You can make a few batches of these, bake them and then freeze the leftovers for another meal!  Serve with rice, beans, salsa and sour cream.

Rigatoni Casserole This dish has meat, veggies (assuming you use a good sauce), carbs (*smile*)...the total package!  Pop some garlic bread in the oven and you're all set!

Chili Serve with crackers and corn bread!

Chicken Tetrazzini Again, like the chicken and noodles...add veggies!  Serve with bread!

Duggar's Taco Soup

Easy Beef and Noodles  Serve with rolls!

Pioneer Beef Stew  Serve with rolls!  (Do you see a bread trend here? LOL!)

I hope those help!  I'm searching for some more great crock-pot one dish meals for our family since we have a few more busy days this fall.  I have a Gooseberry Patch cookbook that I'm perusing now!

Like these one-dish ideas?  Click the "Like" button below to share them with friends on Facebook!

November 14, 2011

Old House Kitchen Christmas Favorites: Sour Cream Pie Crust

With a new baby in our midst we are trying to soak up as much cuddling time as we can so I thought it would be fun to share our family's favorite Christmas recipes!  Enjoy!
This is the best pie crust ever!  You can mix this crust by hand or blitz it in the food processor!

Sour Cream Pie Crust

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 3/4 cups cold unsalted butter, cut up
2/3 cups ice cold water
2 T. sour cream
1 tsp. vinegar

In a very large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.  Cut in butter leaving pea sized chunks.

In a 2 cup glass measuring cup whisk water, sour cream, and vinegar; pour, all at once into flour mixture, and quickly distribute then Stop!!  (that's what it says...Stop!)

Make sure dough is slightly crumbly.  Divide dough mixture into 3 equal portions (about 12-13 oz. each).  Refrigerate for 2 hours. (You can keep it in the fridge over night if you like.)  DO NOT OVERMIX.  You're going to finish the dough by hand.  The finished dough should break, not stretch.

Gently knead the dough in a bag to bring dough together.  Form into discs.  (This makes three single pie crusts.)

Use at once or wrap and store in the fridge for a few days or freeze for up to 1 month.  Thaw overnight in the fridge if you froze it.

Coming Friday...pie filling recipes!

November 13, 2011

Gooseberry Patch Giveaway Winner!

Congrats to "Life, Family, and Food" who won the Gooseberry Patch Christmas Planner and Merry Mixes book giveaway!   I have sent you an email with details.

* * *

Thanks so much for all who entered! 
Be on the lookout for another giveaway soon!  And don't forget when we get to 1000 Facebook fans by Christmas we'll have a really nice giveaway!

November 11, 2011

Old House Kitchen Christmas Favorites: Ollie Kookins

With a new baby in our midst we are trying to soak up as much cuddling time as we can so I thought it would be fun to share our family's favorite Christmas recipes!  Enjoy!

"Ollie what?" you say? Well you'd have to have known my grandma. She and grandpa owned a cottage on a lake in northern Michigan. Whenever we'd go there Grandma had some of her famous (well, famous with our family, anyway!) Ollie Kookins (pronounced oh-lee kook-ens) ready and waiting for me --er, I mean us! I kick myself for not writing this recipe down anywhere...grr!! But when you're young and enjoying life, you don't think about grandma not being there anymore to bake for you. So this is the closest I could find to a recipe (with a few tweaks).

We enjoy this fried up treat this time of year as well as all year long.  We'll probably be whipping some up this weekend!

Ollie Kookins

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. warm water
2 1/4 c. flour (I use unbleached all purpose)
1 1/2 c. raisins
1 c. warm milk (100-110 degrees)
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
oil (in a deep fryer)
1 c. powdered sugar

Dissolve yeast with one teaspoon sugar and water -- let it sit for about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the next 8 ingredients until well blended; add yeast mixture. Cover and let rise for one hour. Drop 2 tablespoonfuls of dough into hot oil in a deep fryer; fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Roll in powdered sugar. Serve immediately for the best of yummyness! Microwave to reheat. Makes about 2 dozen.

* * *
Don't forget to enter the Gooseberry Patch 
Christmas Organizer and Merry Mixes Giveaway!
Ends tomorrow at midnight (EST)!

November 10, 2011

Advent Garland Giveaway!

This is a repost with a twist!  Brandy, over at Love to Learn is hosting a giveaway!  The prize?  One of my Advent Garland sets!  Read on for directions but be sure to stop by Brandy's and enter!  Giveaway ends at noon on Nov. 16th.

I'm so excited to share this craft with ya'll! I made this a week or so ago when we were all a little under the weather. I had lots of little helpers in the dining room...they were stamping their own goodies while I was making this. It was (as a good friend says) "Big Fun"! If you aren't feeling super crafty I have a set for sale over at my etsy site.

I bought two packs of small brown kraft bags at Michael's coupon!).

I cut the top of 25 bags with scalloped decorative scissors.

(I know some families start Advent right after Thanksgiving but we start

Dec. 1st...that's just the way we've done it. If you want to start the last Sunday of November then adjust accordingly but if you purchase my set it will be with numbers 1 to 25.)

Then I punched 25 1 1/2 " red circles. And 25 1 3/8" kraft cardstock circles.

Using four different types of background Christmas paper I cut 25 2" squares.

I stamped the numbers 1 through 25 in red ink on the kraft circles. I mounted those in the center of the red circles. Then I mounted those in the center of the squares. Make sure you alternate the background colors.

Then I folded the top scallop down about 3/4".

Next I put seven of the same treats in each bag...but different treats for each day. (For us Dec. 1st might have seven Smarties, Dec. 2nd might have seven Hershey's Kisses, etc..)

(We have eight children...if you have two kiddos then use two treats.)

Place a Scripture reading slip in each bag (make sure you put the right number in the proper bag).

You can download mine and print below.

Advent Scripture Reading

Then hang a line of yarn or jute twine on windows. I used my living room and office room windows. (They are connected rooms so I felt it flowed fine that way.) That way they are out of reach of little hands but can still be seen! Use clothes pins to hang the bags. I used regular clothespins for this picture but I'll use mini clothespins when I can get to the store to get them. They're much cuter that way. If you buy my set you'll get mini clothespins.

There you go! A fun and inexpensive way to celebrate the Advent!

Make this yourself or purchase it HERE!

November 9, 2011

Preparing for the Holidays: "Company's Coming! Hospitality"

A long time ago (not that long ago, but it seems that way for me) I did a series featuring the book Queen of the Castle.  I thought since baby is here (I'm scheduling these posts out ahead of time) that I'd recap the holiday part of the book.  So every Wednesday you'll get some great tips on prepping your heart and home for the holidays.

*  *  *

Week 46 is titled "Company's Coming! Hospitality".  Lynn, the author, shares an excerpt from a book Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner.  "Well, now.  I probably shouldn't have curdling milk in the fridge if I'm inviting someone over for tea, and it might be nice if I emptied the kitchen trash can and didn't leave dirty clothes all over the bathroom floor.  But to be a hostess, I'm going to have to surrender my notions of "Good Housekeeping" domestic perfection.  I will have to set down my pride and invite people over even if I have not dusted.  This is tough:  My mother set a high standard.  Her house is always immaculate, most especially if she's expecting company.  But if I wait for immaculate, I will never have a guest."

Is it worth fussing and fitting with your kiddos to get the house perfect?  Can we just tidy up a bit and call it a day?  "Hospitality is not about trying to impress or compete to see who's the best housekeeper or the best cook.  It's simply about opening the home God has given us, grand or humble, and welcoming others in."

Lynn reminds us of the story in I Kings 17, "...where a widow in the midst of a drought, down to her last bit of oil and flour, reluctantly opens her home to a hungry house guest.  "I can't feed you," she tells Elijah at first.  "In fact, my son and I are about to eat the last of our own food, and then we're ready to die."  "Don't be afraid," Elijah answers.  "God says your bowl of flour and jar of oil won't ever be empty until we have rain again."  The widow did as Elijah directed, making him a bread cake and then asking one for herself and her son.  And "the bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah" (I Kings 17:16)."

Whether we enjoy hot dogs and macaroni and cheese or a roast and all the fixings the attitude makes all the difference.  We need to pray and ask God to show us how to have a servant's heart.

With Thanksgiving near I thought I'd share with you some easy ways to make your guests feel welcome.

*It's a great idea to have a basket of toys that little ones can play with.  Some books and board games for different ages are a great idea, too.

*Make sure you have a place to put coats and such...squeezing them in a coat closet can be cumbersome.  We have a mudroom but not a lot of extra hooks.  Hubby's to do list now has this suggestion.  We often us the master bed as a place to throw coats if there's a large crowd.

The following tips are geared toward those having overnight guests:

*If you have overnight company make sure the room they are staying in has proper window treatments.  Especially if you have a yard light outside the window.  They may prefer total darkness.

*Then again, they may like a little night light. Have one plugged in and on.  If they want it off they can turn it off.

*Make sure they have proper bedding and some extra blankets in case they get chilly.  An extra set of sheets on hand is nice, too, in case little ones have accidents at night.

*Have a snack basket in the room if the kitchen is far away.  Fill it with granola bars, pretzels, crackers, and a few chocolate treats.  If you like you can add a small cooler with bottled water and juice.  That way if they get up early they can snack and not starve until breakfast.

*Make sure their room has a place for clothes storage.  Even if they are living out of their bags they are probably going to need to hang up some shirts.  An over the door hook might be a nice addition.

*Have towels and washcloths handy so they don't need to search for them.

*Also make sure the bathroom is fully stocked with toilet paper, soap, shampoo, and other toiletries you think they might need.  They would feel embarrassed if they had to wake you in the middle of the night because they had no toilet paper. And I'm sure you wouldn't want to be wakened for a TP call at 3 a.m.. *wink*

For more on hospitality Rhonda has great advice over at Raising Homemakers  HERE and HERE.

- - -

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, 
for by so doing some people have 
entertained angels without knowing it."  
Hebrews 13:2 

November 8, 2011

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Little Helpers

 (This is a repost from earlier this year and I thought it was so appropriate with our new baby in the house and with the holidays coming up!)

Let the kiddos help out in the kitchen!* 

Little ones (ages 2-5) can scrub veggies, pass out napkins, help set the table.  

Older kiddos (ages 6-9) can help measure, shred (carefully!), stir, crack eggs, and oversee the littlest ones in their preparations.  

The oldest ones (ages 10 and up) can chop, read a recipe, prepare a dish by themselves, help with meal planning and even help with grocery shopping.  Help the older ones see the importance of unit pricing, buying in bulk, shopping sales and using coupons.  

It may be difficult and even stressful at first but after a while it will be such a blessing!  Meals and memories will be made.

The kitchen is the heart of the home!

*These are all guidelines and should be to the parent's discretion. 

November 7, 2011

Old House Kitchen Christmas Favorites: Baked Mushrooms

With a new baby in our midst we are trying to soak up as much cuddling time as we can so I thought it would be fun to share our family's favorite Christmas recipes!  I'll kick it off with one of our favorite side dishes!  Enjoy!

 Baked Mushrooms

1/2 stick butter
1 lb. container mushrooms (sliced)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 block cream cheese (softened)
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese

Melt butter in a skillet. Saute mushrooms with salt and pepper until tender. Stir in cream cheese until melted and carefully blended well with the mushrooms. Pour into a small baking dish. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until melted, bubbly and slightly browned. Enjoy!

November 5, 2011

Welcome Little Man!

Samuel  Thomas
November 1, 2011
5:46 p.m.
8 lbs. 4 oz.
21 inches long

Still cooking!  *smile*

Proud Papa!

Proud Mama!

So happy to finally meet our newest little bundle of blessings!

* * *

And I'd also like to say "Congrats!" to...

Rhonda ( who guessed that our little blessing would arrive on Nov. 1st.

Shoot me an email and I'll get your cookbook off to you in the mail.  Well, I won't, because...well...I'm otherwise occupied with this little one, but Amazon will be happy to do it for me.  *wink*

Preparing for the Holidays: "Keeping Christ in Christmas"

A long time ago (not that long ago, but it seems that way for me) I did a series featuring the book Queen of the Castle.  I thought since baby is here (or will be here soon...I'm scheduling these posts out) that I'd recap the holiday part of the book.  So every Wednesday you'll get some great tips on prepping your heart and home for the holidays.
(I know this isn't Wednesday, but I wanted to stick this in the mix because it's very important!)

*  *  *

For those of you playing along...(if you've just joined us you can get caught up a bit here) we are on week 45 of the book Queen of the Castle: 52 weeks of encouragement for the uninspired, domestically challenged or just plain tired homemaker.

This week's chapter is "Keeping Christ in Christmas".  Decorating, gifts, visiting with family and friends is how most of us spend our Christmas celebration time.   It's fun but we don't want to squeeze Christ right out of Christmas. Author Lynn writes "I will have enough time to meditate on Jesus and His coming if I begin early, before the season creeps up on me like a stealthy teenager ready to pounce from a darkened laundry room with a heart-stopping "BOO!".  These weeks really are a time of preparing our hearts..."

Lynn shared that she went through a Bible study on Luke during Christmas.  Might I suggest Beth Moore's Jesus, the One and Only to prepare your hearts for this time of year and to focus on why He came.  Lynn suggests reading a chapter of Luke each day of December, ending with the last chapter, chapter 24, on Christmas Eve.

Here are a few more suggestions:

*Purchase an Advent calendar.  Look for one that has the Nativity scene with Scripture readings behind each window.  Or you can do something super simple like I have on my etsy site HERE.

*Read about Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), a perfect story for this time of year when our preoccupation with to-do lists can crowd out time with God.  Like Mary, we need to listen at his feet...even if it means not getting all the cards out in the mail.

*Consider how your Christmas tree decorations can point to Christ.  Select symbols that tell the Christmas story or are a reminder of Christ's life: angels, bells, candy canes, lambs, hearts, doves, candles, stars.  Top it off with a crown of thorns to really emphasize the meaning of Christmas.

*Play Christmas carols that tell the story of Christ.  Focus on the words.  (Last year we listened a lot to one of the radio stations that played all sorts of Christmas...some good, some I remember from my child hood, and some just plain silly.  I don't think I'll be doing that this year.  For our family it seemed to take away the focus on Christ.)

*Start praying now for your family to focus on the real reason behind this season; not the gifts, the decor, the yummy treats.  Focus on Him.

I'll end this post with a message from Lynn...
If you've never asked God into your life, to forgive you of your sins and make you His child, you can do it right now.  It doesn't take special, fancy words.  All it takes is a humble heart that's willing to admit that you miss the mark, that you are not perfect, that you are a sinner.  You recognize that He is holy, that you cannot live up to His standard of holiness, and that you need Him.  You recognize that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment that should have been yours, for your sin.  And you want His forgiveness.  You want Him to be in charge of your life from now on.  You accept the gift of eternal life He offers you through Jesus Christ.  That's it.  It's as simple as that.  

- - -

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, 
and all these things will be added to you."  Matthew 6:33

November 2, 2011

Preparing for the Holidays: "Planning Ahead for a More Relaxed Christmas"

A long time ago (not that long ago, but it seems that way for me) I did a series featuring the book Queen of the Castle.  I thought since baby is here (or will be here soon...I'm scheduling these posts out) that I'd recap the holiday part of the book.  So every Wednesday you'll get some great tips on prepping your heart and home for the holidays.

*  *  *

For those of you playing along...(if you've just joined us you can get caught up a bit here) we are on week 44 of the book Queen of the Castle: 52 weeks of encouragement for the uninspired, domestically challenged or just plain tired homemaker.

This week's chapter is titled "Planning Ahead for a More-Relaxed Christmas".  We've all had crazy harried Christmas seasons I'm sure.  I have had plenty to last me a lifetime.  I started visiting Organized Christmas several years ago.  (I'll explain the program in a minute.)  The last few years, however, I didn't.  Boy was my season busy...crazy busy.  Like wrapping presents until 2 a.m. the day before Christmas Eve kind of crazy busy.   Lynn, the author, suggests getting started ahead of time.  Organized Christmas (a free online planner program) has several "programs" to get you organized....four to be exact.  I chose the one that started in September.  That's what I've done in the past and it's a great way to get started.  Don't fret if you're just thinking about Christmas now...there's something for you, too!

Lynn has several tips for a happy and peaceful holiday season.  I'll share a few here with you along with several of my own.

*Send out packages early and when choosing gifts to send make sure they are light ones and unbreakable. Think CDs, books, calendars (I like to make a picture calendar for our parents and hubby's grandma who lives far away.  I also include some recent pics of the kiddos for her picture frames, too.

*Don't fret over the Christmas cards.  Remember most people throw them away after the season is over so if you make card should not take you an hour to complete.  The point is to wish them a Merry Christmas.  Maybe you'd like to throw in a letter letting folks know what's going on around your house?  Maybe a picture?  Remember KISS...Keep It Simple Sweeties!  Oh, and Christmas stamps went on sale a few weeks ago. 

 *Make homemade gifts in advance.  As yummy as they are DO NOT make chocolates and cookies a few days before Christmas!  Besides being short on time, you have all sorts of little sweets beckoning you.    Instead make jams or jellies in the summer when produce is ripe.  Make bread or cookies and bake them ahead of time and freeze.  Make gift mixes.  Seasoning mixes, coffee mixes, or cookies mixes (you get the idea) can be made a month or so ahead and stored in a dry, cool closet or cupboard.  Your hips will thank you!

*Make a list of gift recipients and a budget to go along with it and stick to it.  Make sure to make extra gifts for unexpected people stopping by to bring you gifts as well.   Oh...and don't forget your mail carrier, news carrier, and sanitation workers.

*Think about the season and traditions.  Do you want to spend a lot of time at home with family?  Do you want to entertain?  Do you want to experience more of the peace of Christmas and how will you do that?  Do you want to have a Ms. Stewart sense of decorating style this season or do you want to lay low and put up a tree and village instead? have to set your priorities before going crazy with the busyness of the season.

*Take a family vote.  What is important to the immediate family to experience?  Do they really like to go look at lights or do they find it boring?  Maybe a few of you could go and the rest stay home and enjoy something else that light-lookers don't enjoy.   What kind of holiday treats are a must?  Our kiddos love baking and decorating Christmas cookies.  I really don't care for making cutout cookie dough and then rolling, cutting and decorating so I buy a tube of the ready made dough to cut the time down.  It's a win win for all!

*Check the holiday wardrobe.  Make sure you and everyone else in the family are going to be fully clothed in holiday goodness for Aunt Sue's party way in advance.  You don't want to show up in a sweater and black pants with white tennis shoes, do you?

*Stay focused on the reason for the season

- - -

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, 
glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."  John 1:14

Can I get an Amen?!

November 1, 2011

Say It Isn't Sew!

I have been stumbling across some blogs lately.  Quilting blogs.  Oh they are so lovely, intricate, and dangerous all at the same time.  You see, I had this idea in my head when we first got married that I was going to learn how to quilt.  Hubby bought me a Singer sewing machine for our first anniversary gift. Don't worry.  I asked for the sewing machine.  So I totally didn't see it like a blender on Father of the Bride?  *wink*  That Singer has since been replaced by an awesome Janome HD1000!!  Yes, another gift requested by moi...Christmas a few years ago from my hubby and my mom.  Love it!!!  Anywho...back to my first quilting idea...

I thought I would start quilting so I put down a chunk of change for a quilting hoop, fabric scissors, rotary cutter, self-healing mat, quilting thread, needles, fabric galore, patterns...need I say more?  I worked away at tracing and cutting out my pieces for four of the many blocks of this queen size quilt that I could just imagine draped across our bed.  Well...after putting together the first few blocks its was um...obvious...quilting was not my thing.  *sigh*  So all of those quilting notions either sat and collected dust, got used over the years, or sold at a garage sale.  Fast forward 16+ years and I have to say that this crafty mama has come a long way.  That quilting fiasco was just enough to guide me into my crafting life.  I am now a stamper, scrapbooker, stitcher, crafter of all things miscellaneous (there's not much I won't try at least...well, except for knitting.  Can you say NOT happening?!).  I now know how to handle my sewing machine.  I know how to sew clothing...not that I find it very exciting (more like stressful)...but I know how to do it. Properly. Kinda.   A-hem.

I've come a long way, but not long enough. Thinking about quilting again makes my palms sweat.  Makes me weak in the knees.  Makes me start biting my lip.  Yes I do that.  A lot.  But.  I have come across some blogs recently that are just begging me to give it a try.  Again.  Luring me to come back to that part of the crafting world.  Calling my name in colors so beautiful that I just don't know how long I can resist.  (There should be a self-help group for this, you know.)  These fabrics and designs are just so beautiful that I have to share them with you!  Ready?  Hold on to your sewing machines! 

I first came across Sweetwater and their lovely patterns about a month ago.  I love their patterns, the fabrics, the style.  Well, be prepared.  I'm going to say that about all these ladies.  *smile*

Isn't this bunting gorgeous?!

Then I came across Camille and her lovely fabrics and quilt designs...
 She has a book out, too!
Simplify with Camille Roskelley: Quilts for the Modern Home
I need this one, too! If for nothing, but to drool over the fabrics and patterns.

Some gorgeous patterns by Camille.

 This pattern is for a sewing machine cover.  I think I'm going to have to make one some day, but in black, tan, and know the colors of my craft room. 

How can you deny all these lovely fabrics?!  **drool**
(Maybe what I need is just a few pretty shelves of fabric to stare at and I'll be o.k.?  Naaaah.)

I also happened upon Figs Tree Quilts.
I love the color combinations!
(Sorry for such a small picture.)  

And lastly, because I think some of you might have eyes glazing over in pure boredom here.  This is a quilt I really need to make.  Super cute!

All the ruffles!  The colors!  Love it!

O.K.  I know I said "Lastly" but more.  Kimberly has some lovely things at

She makes lots of lovelies like this...
and this...

Beautiful, huh?  I can only dream of being so crafty! 

O.K....ya'll can resume your normal lives now.  Go on.  Look for a recipe for dinner.  Make some spiced chai.  Peruse my menu plans.  I'm done talking about it.  For now.  I think.  *wink*
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