Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31st

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The Gate

At the end of the lane there was a gate, and that was as far as we ever went, well, except for a few steps. But it was a sort of natural boundry, a turning point. You could rest a minute, savouring the crispness of the woods, the quiet. It was a good place to stop, to turn back to the house awaiting you down the hill, to the hot pot of tea and cookies. But sometime I want to go beyond it, to explore......

And so we come to the end of the challenge! I expect many more walks await me, past gates, through chapters in my life. There is nothing like a good walk to rejuvenate the soul.

I have had a wonderful and blessed year in 2008! I look forward to seeing what is around the bends in the road of 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30th

Christmas Cookies Challenge

I'm surprising myself, but you know, I think I'm ready to put away all the Christmas decorations and start the new year. Usually I feel like dragging my feet when it comes to putting the decor away, it's so pretty and makes the house so cheerful, but this time I'm feeling a need to refocus and get rolling again.

What's up with this, bah, humbug?

(Maybe I should eat some more Christmas goodies.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The snow is disappearing and rain has been falling a bit today, but I don't know how long it will last. Whatever, it is much warmer than it has been, which raises the question of just how many layers I should put on for a walk? Really, that does seem the most difficult thing about this whole propostion.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 27th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Wow! My youngest brother's eleventh birthday is today! We're all getting so old. He shares his birth date with my grandmother, who told everyone he was going to be born on her birthday; though I don't think she believed it herself. Well, surprise, surprise!

Happy birthday Little Brother!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Quilled Ornaments

I always feel like everyone else has all the good ideas. Especially if I spend too much time browsing blogs. They can be very inspirational, but they sometimes leave me feeling an inferiority complex. "Wow, why can't I ever think of anything that creative?" God has given me creativity and talent in some areas and I need to remember to be thankful for those gifts and utilize them, while I still appreciate the talents of others.

Most of the time I don't think of myself as too creative, but every once in a while I come up with something and really impress myself. Let me share with you something that I thought was quite brilliant on my part and brought all these thoughts on creativity about. It makes me very excited to be a channel for Divine inspiration!

Here is a Partridge pattern for a pillow and ornament out of a book called Country Christmas Crafts that we've had for a long time. Several years ago I got the idea to use the pattern but transfer it to a small stocking. It turned out really cute and I made one for all my sisters, grandmother, friend, etc.

You can just see the pillow and ornament the pattern was originally made for:

And the stocking I made for myself:

And then another Christmas I made all my sisters ornaments using a pattern for quilled snowflakes from Martha Stewart as the inspiration. Only, I couldn't find quilling paper so I made do using strips of white card stock cut in narrow strips. I also improvised since I didn't have a quilling tool; I used a Q-tip and rolled the paper tightly around the stick.

I try to make all my sisters handmade ornaments each year, and the combination of those two projects was the inspiration for this year's Christmas ornaments.

Quilled Partridge:

Which led me to something else, which I made especially for my mother who loves country things, especially woolly sheep, even though her herd of "girls" is goats.

The sheep I think turned out to be my personal favorite. Again, no quilling paper, just strips of white card stock, a Q-tip and wooden toothpick for slightly tighter curves. They aren't too hard, I really should put together a tutorial for next year.

And I think the hidden moral of this post could be that we all have creativity within ourselves, but we must focus on and nurture our natural gifts and not covet the gifts and abilities of others. And I need to take more time to be creative!

December 26th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

I slept in this morning, and though I consequently accomplished almost nothing today, I'm not sorry I did. I actually awoke before my alarm clock went off and I had a slightly sore throat. After debating it for a little bit, I decided I wouldn't get up early after all and got up and turned the alarm on the clock off and went back to bed. It worked - I was fine when I finally got out of bed. Except, I always have trouble waking up when I sleep late. I'm not sure if the sore throat was because we took family pictures in the cold, cold snow yesterday or because I'm fighting something.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Images


Monochromatic fruit with shining berries:

The top of the refrigerator:

And my favourite:

Isn't he darling?

I hope you had a wonderful, Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

December 24th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Looking at my task list, which includes quite a bit of baking, it is in competition with Santa's Christmas list! It's actually not going too badly, but I'll hold judgement on my diligence till later. I sometimes find that I start really well, but get lacks with confidence and then, Oh well!

I'm off then to give all due diligence to my work!

Happy Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 23th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

We have yet more snow falling - it is wonderful! I've thought ever since we moved here that I would like to look across the valley and just see a blanket of rolling white, dotted here and there with the farms. And it actually is covered in snow! I don't know if that happens very often.

My neck does feel much better today, and I think I would like to go for a walk, if someone else will walk Miss Ish. I think that would be too much under the circumstances.

Well, I have great plans for the day, but days have a way of having great plans for themselves. We shall see what happens.

Monday, December 22, 2008

December 22nd

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The Joyful Morn is Breaking

The joyful morn is breaking, the brightest morn on earth,Through all creation waking the joy of Jesus’ birth.His star above is glistening, where Jesus cradled lies,And all the earth is listening, the carol of the skies.

High strains of praise are swelling, from angel hosts on high,And one soft voice is telling glad tidings from the sky;Tidings of free salvation, of peace on earth below,Through every land and nation, the blessèd word shall go.

His children’s songs shall name Him in many a tongue today;His Church shall yet proclaim Him to people far away;Till idols fall before Him, till strife and wrong shall cease,Till all the earth adore Him, th’eternal Prince of Peace.

Lyrics from CyberHymnal.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Authentic Shortbread

The recipe is one my grandmother makes and is from an old English Cookbook that she brought to the states with her. Here are the ingredients for real shortbread, but the key really is in the baking. Long and slow. America is a wonderful country, but they rush their shortbread. And that just won't do.

1/2 lbs. flour (1 cup)
1/4 lbs. butter (1/2 cup)
2 oz. sugar (1/4 cup)

Beat sugar and butter to cream. Using a pastry blender or knives, cut flour in until mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Press into a 7" tin and bake for 50 minutes at 3oo degrees. I've adjusted the oven temperature slightly from what my grandmother uses, but she likes her shortbread more brown. She bakes it at 325 degrees, but I don't know if she cooks it quite as long. The lower temperature gives you good flavor and a lovely light color. While still warm, sprinkle with granulated sugar, and cut. Cool in tin (pan). Store cookies in an airtight container to keep them fresh.

We usually triple or quadruple the recipe and cook in a large pan with the crumb mixture pressed to about 1/2" thick.

For my brother's wedding I pressed the crumb mixture into mini muffin cups and adjusted the baking time accordingly. It made for a nice presentation on the tea buffet. A little time consuming though, so fortunately my sisters finished up the project.

These cookies are perfect for a four o'clock cuppa'.

December 20th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Friday, December 19, 2008

December 19th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

I got a holiday note in my statement from the bank the other day. It read: May you enjoy health, happiness and prosperity throughout the new year.

Are they trying to tell me something?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rose Hip Swags

Every once in a while I have brilliantly creative ideas and here is one of them:

Beautiful strands of cranberries hanging in swags round the tree, adding a deep richness to your Christmas tree. I've always liked the idea, but with the price of cranberries, not to mention I don't like the idea of wasting food, it never happened.

But, I was doing something at the kitchen sink not long ago and I spotted a bowl of rose hips my little brother had gathered for me when I was trying to dose up on vitamin C. They had dried into the most beautiful jewel red color and it hit me; gather rose hips froum the mountainside and string them for the Christmas tree!

These could go very rustic country, but they dress up nicely with our ornaments for a perfect fit to our elegant country style of decor.

And I must say, thanks to help from two of my little sisters, we got them all strung. Thank you girls, don't they look pretty?

December 18th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

It has been a long time since I had coffee early in the morning, but I decided I just might need to the extra caffeine this morning. I'm not sure it worked. Well, at any rate, I have to make a pot of tea here soon for the family and I can have some of that. It probably won't wake me up any more, but I'll feel better about being tired.

And welcome to my brother and sister-in-law who just moved to the area! They really didn't have the best weather for their move, but they are here safely. In fact, the only real trouble they had might have been on our hill trying to get the trailer up in the snow! We get to have them here until they find a place in town.

I really think that even if they find a place before Christmas they better spend Christmas Eve up here because I have announced that we are opening gifts early this Christmas morning. We'll see what happens. Even though I had lots of support for my proclamation, most importantly from Father and Mother, old habits are hard to break. You know, I just thought of something, we haven't done it for twenty-eight Christmases, so we should be okay.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December 17th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The girls stayed up very late last night talking. You can only imagine the subjects we encompassed, but let's just say it started out with bad habits. Apparently if you do something for twenty-eight days it becomes a habit. My question is this, if you don't do a bad habit for twenty-eight days, do you break it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 16th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The city with the closest weather to our place in the country says its -2 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrr, I can believe it!

The Christmas tree is up, the lights are illuminating the room softly and I'm drinking my morning's hot water from a Christmas mug. I've learned to drink my water hot because I was drinking too much tea and coffee, and cold water makes me freeze!

My sister has a friend out from town spending the night and I need to go finish making the Pumpkin and Oatmeal muffins for breakfast. I ground the flour last night and mixed up the dry ingredients. When you grind your own flour, you have to plan ahead so you don't have to run the grinder early in the morning when people would really like to be sleeping!

Monday, December 15, 2008

December 15th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Finally! The tree is up and there are some cedar boughs decorating the house! Even though there is a thick layer of snow outside, I think I should go collect a little more greenery. Today perhaps. We'll see, the task list is a bit long and that just might not make it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 13th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

It is going to be a white walk today. The winter weather has finally arrived and we have a few inches of snow.

Apparently, Miss Ish really likes snow. She is refusing to go inside and prefers romping in the cold, white fluff. She reminds me of a child.

Friday, December 12, 2008

December 12th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

What to prioritize, that is the question.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 11th

I picked up several cooking videos at the library and yesterday I started watching the Jacques Pépin Fast Food My Way. I love the inspiration of watching a professional chef. Mother and my siblings are watching it with me and our favorite part is when he dices the garlic. Watching that knife fly across the smashed garlic dicing it is incredible. And the butter roses, I really need to give those a try.

The one thing is, he uses a lot of olive oil and when he says a "little bit" he uses what seems like overkill to me. After all, that would be a lot of walking!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 10th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Oh, do I like this keyboard! I'm up at the cabin at the moment and this is spiffy. Hmm, I've been thinking about trying to do my writing up here and now that my "little" brother will be in the cabin, he'll probably keep it warmer and make it a very viable option. Very nice.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December 9th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

I think I really would like to start decorating for Christmas. You shouldn't decorate too early, but it's not too early anymore. I want to start feeling the season; the smell of greenery, tiny lights that make you think dreamy thoughts on a quiet evening, baking, Christmas carols. I'm ready to savor the season.

Which means I ought to do some more cleaning today. Which means I had better go draw up a task list. Which means I need to get myself a nice hot cup of tea.

Monday, December 8, 2008

December 8th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

If our little piece of earth was a cookie, we got dusted with sugar this morning. Much to the disappoinment of my brothers it wasn't a blizzard.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

December 6th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

It is already the 6th and my mental "I want to have it done early in the month" is still woefully unaccomplished.

Today seems like a good day to have a nice hot beverage (I'm not sure what yet) and do some planning. And hopefully I can just tick a few things off the list as well, without procrastinating.

And, I have to fit that walk in somewhere. Maybe a nice long one all the way to the gate to really invigorate me.

Friday, December 5, 2008

December 5th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Oops - look at the time! School is early this morning and I need to rouse the troops. We are supposed to be starting a spelling test and I need to brew a pot of tea real quick. Aren't I kind to provide a fresh pot of hot tea when I wake them up early on a cold, cold morning?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

December 4th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Brrr. What a brisk morning! It is one of those times that even though I like getting up early, I miss the warmth of my snug bed. Hot water, hot tea and just grin and brrrr it.

My mother and I were in the kitchen yesterday when Twiglet turns and asks me, "Are parents expensive?" She gave me pause, of course she hadn't just asked that, but she had to have. My mind couldn't figure any other word for parents and I was certain about the other two words. Where was she going with this? I repeated the question back to her, "Are parents expensive?"

"No, are parrots expensive?"

Mum and I answered her first question with a laugh, "yes, very."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

December 3rd

Christmas Cookie Challenge

My grandmother left yesterday to return home. She has to make shortbread for a ladies tea my aunt is putting on for her church. Real shortbread, that is. They had shortbread last year, but my grandmother asked my aunt, "where's the shortbread?" When it was pointed out to her she replied, "that's not shortbread." Well, my aunt said, "it's not the recipe you taught me." And my grandmother simply said, "It's not shortbread."

I really ought to share the recipe for real shortbread with you one of these days. I love the old English cookbook it came out of, with faded cover, worn pages, the love of many recipes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December 2nd

Christmas Cookie Challenge

It is one of my brothers birthday's today! A very reasonably excuse for cake, even though he isn't currently living in the area. We can think of him, can't we?

As darkness fades, the rain is pitter pattering on the roof. Unless it clears up a little, it might be a dance with the sisters day.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Denim Skirt

Of course, and I think just about all of us did it. We’re madly rushing to finish ball gowns before a trip, and just as we’re pretty much done, we decide to squeeze one more project in before we leave. Here’s my squeezed in project:

I love this fabric called Baby Roses on Cream. It makes a sweet waistband lining.

The denim was extra from a skirt Retro Girl made and I washed it in black dye to give it a very slightly darker color. I had just enough fabric, but then I forgot I had to turn the pattern pieces over to cut out the second pieces. Oops. Fortunately I was making the hips straighter and I was able to work the pieces to fit anyways. I used Simplicity 9825 and depending on how you look at it, I either lengthened View C, or shortened View D.

And an action shot with sister's Aussie. Don't you just love those gloves? Authentic vintage from my grandmother.

Christmas Cookie Challenge

This is not the sort of challenge I think you are expecting. Not how many cookies you can bake, not how many you can eat, not the best recipe, but very disappointingly; how can you enjoy them without having to try a new fad diet in January.

It seems like every year people talk about going on diets when the new year rolls around after all their holiday indulgences. I was thinking about this since my weight is just about where I want it and I don't want to have to lose holiday pounds come 2009. I also have wanted to work on getting in better shape (no pun intended).

My goal for December is going to be to try and get a good walk in every day, except for Sunday. I'll probably stick to walking, but if you would like to join the challenge, you can do whatever works best for you: running, dancing, ice skating, snowball fights, skiing, etc. And you don't have to do the same thing each day. The idea is to get in some good exercise each day and bump up the calories you'll be burning.

I don't suppose that means you can eat whatever you want, but let's face it, this is a feast time and there are just more calories to be consumed, even if you partake judiciously. (I'm sorry about using that word, it does rather throw a damper on things.)

I'll post each day and you can leave a comment reporting in on your status. Let's try not to turn it into an excuses column, but keep each other motivated. "I couldn't walk today because the weather was awful, and I had to run into town - but I was determined to keep up so I danced with my sister for ten minutes. I'm sure it added to my enjoyment of those cream puffs." See what I mean?

I thought it would be extra fun if I did it with others. You can set your own pace, and do what works for you. Would you like to join?