It was busy, busy, busy
All the way through Christmas Day
Since then?
Deliciously quiet laziness
Our most ambitious endeavor?
Decorating cookies
Savoring these last holiday days
Wishing you a
Happy New Year!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Here’s another really good book recommended to us by our school librarian:  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.

It’s the story of what happens when six wild, neglected siblings take over the town’s annual Christmas Pageant.  It’s hilarious and sad at the same time.

There’s all the shenanigans one might expect from a group of cigar smoking, cursing, slapping, punching and thieving kids who show up to church because they think there will be snacks to eat.

And there’s also the less obvious story (to my kids, anyway) of why these children, The Herdmans, are so mean, ill-behaved and poorly taught in the first place.

We read this book on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  While my boys were in stitches over most of the story, I found myself reading with an ever increasing lump in the my throat.  Six children essentially raising themselves.  Ill groomed.  Ill mannered.  Disliked.  Barely tolerated by the town’s children and adults.  Attending church because of a lie (about food).  Hearing the Christmas Story for the very first time.  Understanding how awful it was for the pregnant Mary to be shoveled off to a barn.  Demanding child services and justice for the baby Jesus…

This funny, well written story packs a pretty powerful message.  I’m still thinking about those “rotten” Herdmans & am planning to read the sequels, The Best Halloween Ever and The Best School Year Ever to the boys just as soon as I can track down copies of the books.

Crochet Wreath

Crochet Wreath

Here’s that crochet wreath I had rolling around in my head.  The idea to make an entire wreath from crochet flowers just wouldn’t leave me alone.  As much fun as it was to twist up that last wreath from collected willow branches, I wanted to create a prettier one that would actually last more than a few weeks.

Now less than a day from Christmas, I’m finally finished with my holiday wreath.

It is now hanging between our living room and kitchen where I can enjoy it from either room.  I love displaying crochet and knit accessories about the house during the cold winter months.  There’s something extra cozy and inviting about the the look and feel of these woolly objects.

Here’s what I used to make my wreath:

  • A 14 inch embroidery hoop (I used it for 2 quilting projects over 12 years ago & it has been sitting unused in various closets ever since)
  • 2 skeins of Lion Brand Wool-Ease worsted weight yarn in “Fisherman.”  This is a particularly beautiful shade of cream.  Warm & rich looking.  Neither too white nor too yellow.
  • Yarn scraps left over from other projects.
  • US H (5 mm) crochet hook
  • Tapestry needle

To make the wreath:

  • I used over half a skein of yarn to wrap the embroidery hoop.  I secured the yarn to the hoop with a knot and then simply wrapped and wrapped and wrapped.
  • I crocheted 28 of my new favorite flowers – pattern here if you need it.
  • Each flower is just tied onto the embroidery hoop.
  • Lastly, I made and attached 7 little crocheted balls to add a splash of color to the wreath.
  • I threaded some of the Fisherman colored yarn through the balls and just tied those to the hoop as well.

Usually, we strip and store away all signs of Christmas on New Year’s Day… it’s another one of our traditions.  But this cheerful little wreath adds just the right touch of coziness to our home without screaming Christmas.  Think this one will be up as long as the cold winds blow this winter.

Snowman Snow Globe

Snowman Snow Globe

They are waterless snowman snow globes.  Festive.  Really easy to make.  And kinda cute, wouldn’t you agree?

First noticed the waterless snow globe idea floating around on pinterest.  Mostly with miniature evergreen trees glued into the jars.  Then I started seeing waterless snow globes in store displays last fall.  I really liked the look of them.

Of course I wanted to make one too.  But I didn’t want to buy the miniature trees.  Partly because I didn’t want to pay for yet more stuff and partly because I’m always trying to see what I can craft from what we’ve salvaged and from what we keep on hand. 

In the end, I decided to go with the ever popular snowman motif.  I cooked up a double batch of cornstarch-clay, brought out all the old kimchi jars I’d been saving and dug about my craft supplies for decorative bits and pieces.  The only thing I ended up purchasing was the “Ecoflurries” fake snow.

A word about the “clay.”  Usually, I prefer to work with my homemade playdough.  It has a cleaner feel to it and doesn’t leave as much residual bits on the hands and workspace.  But I wanted something brighter and a little more sparkly for our snowman snow globes.  So I went with the cornstarch recipe I’d first seen in the December 2010 Disney Family Fun magazine.

My boys and I were so impatient to start our crafting that we didn’t wait for the cornstarch-clay to fully cool down.  The bad part of that decision was that the clay was very messy to work with and kept “melting” out of shape.  The good part was that we didn’t have to use glue to attach our sculpted pieces to the plastic jar lids.  We simply shaped our pieces directly onto the lids and then left everything to dry.  The pieces seemed pretty firmly fixed to the lids.  But I’m not sure how things will hold up if the jars are tipped upside down too many times or shaken.

We used pipe cleaners for form trees, candy canes and hats.  Beads for eyes and buttons.  Simon used his soda pop tabs as hands and feet.  I even made mini presents by tying a little golden elastic string to small colored blocks.

Once the clay pieces were completely dry, I simply added a smattering of the fake snow to the jar and then tipped it over the lid and screwed the pieces together.

We displayed our snow globes at home for a few days.  Then it was time say “good-bye” to them.  Each boy carried his globe and a tin of butter toffee to school to wish his teacher a joyful holiday.

While I don’t have toffees or snow globes to give to you, I can at least wish you a wonderfully merry, happy, restful, fun and festive holiday too!

Butter Toffee

Butter Toffee

I am smack dab in the middle of my Christmas week treat making frenzy.  Brownies.  Peanut butter cookies.  Chocolate-chocolate cherry cookies.  Toffee.  Done, done and done.  Boxing and handing out fresh batches of goodies each day to friends, teachers and anyone else who could use a little holiday cheer.  Still need to make my favorite ginger molasses crinkles.  Promised Ethan we would make sugar cookies and decorate them.  But before I can continue with the cookie baking, I need to make another batch of butter toffee.

The butter toffee has been, by far, the big favorite this week.  Every person I’ve offered it to has raved about how yummy and addicting it is… well, every person that is, except Jin.   He won’t touch the stuff.  I believe I’m married to the one person in the world who hates butter.  Hates the smell.  Hates the taste.  Is completely grossed out by the texture.  Gets upset when he has to help the kids butter their toast…

But everyone else couldn’t get enough of this deliciously crunchy, buttery sweet holiday treat and have been asking for the recipe…

Wish I could give you a link to it, but I acquired this recipe 15 years ago & have no idea where it originated.  My slip of paper is labeled “Butter Toffee by Aubergine.”  I assume this came out of a cookbook.  So… how does this work on a blog?  Am I allowed to write this person’s recipe verbatim?

Since I futzed with the ingredient portions a little, let me give you my slightly edited version of the original recipe.  And thank you to “Aubergine” (?) – the butter toffee I’ve been handing out this week has made me real popular around here… well, except for with Jin…

Butter Toffee Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 – 1 pound pecans or cashews – chopped & toasted a little (I use close to a full pound of nuts)
  • 1/3-1/2 pound dark chocolate (I used unsweetened) – chopped
  • 1/3-1/2 pound white chocolate – chopped

Making the Toffee:

  • Line 2 large jelly rolls with parchment paper.
  • Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly on the paper.
  • Using a large pot, melt butter.  Then stir sugar and salt in.  Add water.
  • Cook over high heat until mixture reaches @ 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.  The original recipe says to go until the candy thermometer reads 290 degrees.  But I got impatient & pulled it off the stove at 260 degrees & it worked out fine.
  • Pour the caramelized mixture over the nuts evenly.  Let this sit for 4-5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle chocolates over the toffee.  Let it melt for another 5-10 minutes.
  • Use toothpick (or fork) to swirl the melted chocolates about.
  • Let the toffee cool completely in the refrigerator.
  • Break into pieces.  I do this laying wax paper over the toffee, lifting the edges and then tapping it into pieces with a little rubber mallet.

And now, I’m off to cook up another batch of this tasty candy!