Saturday, December 29, 2007

winding down the holiday

Well, I'm being gently prodded to please put up a new post! What a busy couple weeks this has been, but I am very ready to get back to blogging. I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday. Ours was very, very nice.

Remember the cute card my niece sent us - with the clothespins and mittens? We received this one from her sister a few days later. Their mom is very creative, and I'm thinking the apples didn't fall far from the tree! Thanks, Anni, I love this card!
We had a white Christmas - like a little bit of snow every single day!! But it's very pretty, so no complaints here. I took this one afternoon just before the entire sky turned orange. I loved the way the sun was highlighting some of the trees with a beautiful glow.

I never did get a photo of our tree with presents underneath. I told you it was a little different this year!! I've had a very nice artificial tree for the last 10-12 years. This year when I pulled it out, it looked pretty tuckered. I was planning to replace it at an after-Christmas sale, but now I'm thinking this little sheet metal tree is perfect! It just feels like the perfect "Charlie Brown" tree to me.
Everyone was saying I should at least hang a few ornaments on it - but to me, the holes and stars look like ornaments. I really totally love it. We'll see how I feel next year. :)

Last, but certainly not least, we have some news to share. In mid-April, Mark and I will be grandparents for the first time!!!! We are soooooooo excited. Sara looked wonderful while they were here - and Ryan is going to be a wonderful daddy. This is a small teddy bear that we put under the tree for this much anticipated baby boy. You will be hearing tons about him, for sure!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

ice candles

We hosted a small dinner party last night - 4 friends came over and shared a casual meal and wonderful conversation with us. They were nice enough to ooh and aah over my decorating and the food I fixed. Unfortunately, I didn't take photos of the table or the food - what was I thinking??!! However, the hit of the evening was the decorating on the patio. I had made ice candles and had them sitting on a snow-covered table with the icicle-lighted fence in the background. They did look quite festive.

They were easy to make. I bought a plastic mold and filled it with water (I used different amounts of water to get different height candles) - and let them freeze for about 12 hours. The Minneapolis Strib did an article on the ice candles a week or so ago and showed how to decorate them - with evergreen pieces, cranberries, coloring, etc. They were beautiful, but with the white fairy lights and snow on the patio, these were exquisite. The daytime temps all of this week are supposed to be near 30, so I don't know if these will last until Christmas. But I have a long winter ahead to make more!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mother Nature does her own decorating for the season

This is what I woke up to today (and, yes, the sun was fully up before I even opened my eyes this morning!). Seriously, Mother Nature is the Queen of Outdoor Decorating!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

it looks like Christmas

Think this is the last post I'll put up showing Christmas decorations. There are a few little corners that I haven't posted, but I'm sure by now you have a good idea what our Christmas will look like. I really love the way the fireplace area came out - it looks very pretty both during the day and at night. Oh, I may have to show you the tree once I get presents wrapped - it's a little different this year. I feel like I still have a zillion and one things left to do, but really everything is coming together pretty well. I'm hoping to get around to visit everyone before Christmas - but if those plans don't work out, I hope you all have a very happy Christmas and merry New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2007

a little more Christmas

The sun is shining - bright blue skies - sparkly snow on the ground. I love days like this!! Over the weekend a small fishing village popped up on the lake in front of our house. Only one house was left out overnight, but the next time they congregate, I'll snap a photo for you to see. Today more photos of Christmas decorations. These are on a sideboard I have behind the sofa - the front of it faces the dining room and fireplace room. The pinecones in the iron basket smell like cinnamon and cloves.

This one I took one day last week when the sun was shining in the window.

And, of course, one more snowman!!!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

(snow)men in trees

I had a very fun day yesterday. My niece, Jess, and her fiance came to the cities to visit Steve's sister for the weekend. Mark & I were planning to meet Jess & Steve and my sister and her SO (Mary & Jim) for lunch today. Mary is babysitting with her granddaughter, Kajia, this weekend - so that was going to be very special! But I got a little bonus - my other sister (Jess' mom, Patti), came up with them and stayed at Mary's for the weekend. So I went over there yesterday and had some major sister bonding time PLUS baby girl time. What a perfect day!! And I get to see everyone for lunch in a couple hours. Lovely weekend!

Here are a few more photos of Christmas decorations. My piano sits in this little nook of the fireplace room - next to the stairway. This is a photo taken at night with the tree and garland lit. The tree is rustic and small - and I put only snowmen ornaments on it. After I started, I realized I don't really have that many snowmen ornaments (LOL), so I cut up some snowman ribbon and put that on the tree. It looks kind of like banners - a little weird!! But it's supposed to be a fun tree, so it's okay! (Look closely at the guy in the red hat - he has a snowball in his hand ready to throw!)

I have a wooden train on the piano - it's one that my sons had when they were little.

Oops - guess I took this photo before I added the ribbon to the garland. :) But you get the idea at least.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

more snow people

BRRRRRRRR!!!!!!! I had to take Kobie to the vet early this morning - we were on the road before 7am - and it was minus 4 degrees out. Felt toasty in my car, but a little chilly outside. I did get to see the most gorgeous sunrise, but, of course, didn't have my camera with me. (Kobers is fine - he gets ear infections really easily and is now under the care of a doggie dermatologist. How special is that?!)

Here's another display with my snowmen (and women). I put a short string of icicle lights on the snow which provides some interesting night light. Of course our trusty clock and thermometer are always present on the entertainment center. The thermometer says 10 degrees at 10am yesterday - I think that's supposed to be our high today. (66 inside????? Excuse me, I have to go turn up the thermostat!)

Some of my snowpeople remind me of other things. This guy looks like Chilly Willy - remember the cartoon penguin who was always shivering?

He makes me think "scarecrow."

This poor guy used to have twig arms and a nose that matched his black buttons. With the big nose and the hat, he reminded me of W.C.Fields. He still looks pretty happy, but I hope his next caretaker takes better care of him!

Here's the iron sleigh I bought this fall. I had several ideas for displays, but Tuesday Nadine (French teacher) gave me a bag of French candy and it seemed perfect for the sleigh. Soon it was joined by other bags of holiday candies, and, voila, a sleigh full of presents.

This little snow family is so cheery. I love their picket fence and mailbox. And they even have a cardinal visiting.

The name on their mailbox says "The Flakes" - I laugh every time I see it. Perfect!

Here's sort of what it looks like at night without the living room lights on. The light is actually a little more golden, but you get the idea. From my favorite chair the bulbs look like luminaria lighting up their winter wonderland.

Friday, December 7, 2007

season of the snowmen

Many years ago I bought a couple of snowmen at a boutique. I thought they were cute and had personality - and that I could display them longer than just through the Christmas season. Well, turns out by the end of January I'm more than ready to dispense with anything snow related, but I do enjoy the snowmen over the holidays. I don't buy them anymore, but I receive them as gifts from time to time. This year they are the star of my decorating scheme.

This cutie has a board for a bottom - so he can sit on a shelf (or bookcase) and dangle his feet over the edge. Behind him I have a display of children's Christmas stories. I guess I'm starting a collection of "The Night Before Christmas" - I have two and just ordered the version that is illustrated by Tasha Tudor. I love the illustrations in childrens' books - whether they're childlike and fun or beautiful art.

This guy sits on the bookcase on the other side of the fireplace. This display is kind of so-so - I may be fiddling with it in the coming days.

Our son and daughter-in-law gave us these adorable mugs and matching spoons for Christmas one year. Hot chocolate and cookies, anyone?

The detail on the mugs is too cute - look at her - she has a bright red purse and stylish hat. Each one is different - 3 guys and 3 gals.

The cups and plate are sitting on top of my old wooden ice box in the dining room. This was an estate sale find almost 30 years ago. If we had a fire, I'd probably try and get it out the door!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

a cozy mystery and a cookbook

I just finished a delightful book that Nan at "Letters from a Hill Farm" ( ) recommended awhile ago. "Still Life" by Louise Penny is a cozy mystery. describes cozy mysteries as:

"Traditionally, the cozy was a British novel featuring sweet elderly women and other harmless protagonists. Now, however, cozies take place in every place and time. The genre is gradually broadening as popularity increases. Most cozies are written for women and are a series, probably appealing to women who once thrived on Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. "

There's more if you want to read it. But this could be an apt description for why I like them. This book is set in a small town outside Montreal, Quebec. It's picturesque, the characters are wonderfully quirky and likeable, and the book has just enough French interspersed to make me feel like my French lessons are paying off. (Don't worry, if you read the book, you'll understand the French whether you have studied it or not!) This is book one of a trilogy - I just requested book two at the library - can't wait to see what happens next!

Trailhead at "Mountain Time" ( ) requested the recipe for the pot pie I had in my last post. It's from "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook." I bought this cookbook about 3 years ago, and I love it! It has homey, everyday recipes - that always seem to turn out perfect. Everything I've made from it so far has turned into one of our favorites.
Serves 6 to 8
Total time 1 hour 10 minutes
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 ribs celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
or 1/2 tsp dried
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c dry sherry
3 c low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 c heavy cream
2 bay leaves
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts,
trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (uncooked)
1 c frozen peas
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
Pie dough or Cream Biscuit dough

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and 1/4 tsp salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes.
Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Stir in flour. Slowly whisk in the sherry. Stir in the broth, cream and bay leaves.
Simmer until the mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir the chicken into the sauce and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Discard bay leaves and stir in the peas and parsley.
Pour the mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish.
If using pie dough, roll it out into a 15x13 inch rectangle and drape over the dish and trim.
If using biscuit dough, cut the dough into eight 3-inch biscuits and lay over the filling.
(Note: the filling must be hot when you put the pastry or biscuits on top or the topping will be gummy.)
Bake until the topping is a golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8
2 c all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c heavy cream
Heat oven to 450 degrees (if just making biscuits).
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
Stir in the cream with a wooden spoon until the dough forms, about 30 seconds. (Do not overmix)
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gather into a ball. Knead the dough briefly until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Pat dough into a 3/4-inch-thick circle. Cut the biscuits into rounds or wedges.
If making biscuits (not pot pie), bake until golden brown - about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

warm wishes

We received this card in the mail from my niece today. It's handmade. Isn't it adorable? Little wooden clothespins holding up paper mittens - I love it!!! I like it so much, I've decided to forgive her for spelling my name wrong on the envelope! :)

We had snow all day yesterday again, so decided chicken pot pie would taste good for dinner last night. I made it with a cream biscuit topping instead of pie crust. We're talking biscuits made from flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and HEAVY CREAM. I cannot tell you how good it was!!! The filling needed more gravy - something to make a note of for next time - but it disappeared almost like it was perfect!

I'm still putting finishing touches on my decorations. I have most surfaces partially done. When I finish this, I'll be heading out to get the little touches I neglected to pick up when we were running errands Monday. Tis the season.
But thought I should start showing you some of the stuff.

We have a barrister bookcase in the living room. I've used it for books, knick-knacks, crystal - and now my Spo*de Christmas china. It makes a nice display and was much easier than emptying out my hutch in the dining room for 6 weeks!! Sorry about all the reflection - small house with tons of windows, means I never get great photos inside!

I have wine glasses in the top section, behind the leaded glass. The second section has glassware, cups & saucers and a crystal cream & sugar. The third section has specialty plates - cookie and candy dishes - and dessert plates.

The fourth section is dinner plates. After deciding to do this, I realized the plates are wider than the shelves in the barrister. So Mark went out to the garage and made me a plate rack so they could stand up. They look a ton better this way. Thanks, Mark!!

The bottom shelf has serving pieces from Christopher Rad*ko. I'm way too cheap to buy more Spo*de and they have similar designs, so...
Many years ago, I had opportunities to buy at Day*ton's (which then became Mar*shall Fie*ld's and now Ma*cy's) with an employee discount. (I volunteered my time every so often - I got an employee discount and a local school was paid cash for the hours I worked - great program for me and the schools! And the store actually - I spent WAY more money than I would have without the discount!!) Anyway, with the discount and sales, I bought 8 place settings and some specialty dishes. I love them, but I doubt I would have ever paid full price for any of it.

Here's a closer look at the plate rack - he did a really super job - and there's room for 12 plates in case I ever use different china or other pieces. It comes out, so still very useful for displaying other pieces too. Really, what a talented guy - and sweetheart!!