Friday, December 31, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Gingerbread House and a Very Merry Christmas to all!


A Gingerbread House and a Very Merry Christmas to all!


It's still hard to believe that Christmas is right around the corner! My, my, where does the time go? There is still so much I would like to do to make this season special but there is just no time left.

I have stopped by many of your blogs and I have to say you are truly a creative and inspirational group! From your wonderful and touching spiritual posts, to your beautiful Christmas decorations and crafts, to the lovely poems you post, to your baking skills and the sharing of your favorite family recipes, to your lovely art work, and to your wonderful adventures out and about in your home towns, all of it has just been amazing, enjoyable, and heart warming to read! Thank you so much for making this Advent season special. Thank you for sharing a little part of yourself with all of us. And most of all thank you for being the truly kind, remarkable, and very special blogger's that all of you are.


Every year during the Christmas season my hubby and I have tried to do something special with our children and grandchildren. It usually entails maybe going shopping, or attending some type of Christmas event, taking in the Christmas lights, and almost always going out some where nice for lunch or dinner. This year, when I heard about the Gingerbread House at the Royal Park Hotel, in Rochester Hills, a town very close to where we live, I knew it would be the perfect place to take our grandson Ryan. I especially wanted to see this Gingerbread house because the chef and staff in the hotel built it to help support The Salvation Army, a charity that is very dear to my hubby and myself. The hotel invited the public to come in to see the gingerbread house and then placed the familiar red Salvation Army buckets at specific locations around the house in the hopes of encouraging everyone to leave a small donation. I thought this was such a wonderful idea and so true to the spirit of what Christmas is really all about.

The Gingerbread House was amazing! Ryan couldn't believe all of the ingredients that went into making it. It stood over four feet tall and actually had a fake but working fireplace and lights inside of it. The roof was made out of squares of chocolate and each square had a small gingerbread man in the center of it.



















The hotel also has a sweet shop where baked goods are made fresh daily. Here we were able to pick up some gingerbread cookies for Ryan to take home with him.
It was such a fabulous day in so many ways and one I know I will remember for many years to come.

























"I have been trying so hard to be good! I have been waiting patiently for days now but I don't think that Nick guy is coming. Oh well, I think it's time for a nap. If you see Saint Nicholas will you please tell him not to forget to stop over at our house?"
"Charli your not playing on the computer again are you?"















I will be busy getting ready for our out of town guests who will be spending the week before Christmas with us, and then with Christmas, my nieces Solstice party, and all of the activities after Christmas this will be my last post until after the New Year.
I would like to wish all of you every blessing possible this Christmas and New Year!
Best wishes for a very safe, healthy, and joy filled holiday ♥
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!
God bless all of you ♥
With warmest regards and much love,
Carol, Mike, and Charli

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas cookies and party favors.....



Christmas cookies and party favors....

First of all I would like to thank all of you for your prayers and for wishing my hubby and myself well! It turns out that I was coming down with a cold and I am feeling much better now. My hubby, on the other hand, had a virus that seems to be going around and it has taken him a little longer to feel like his self again but every day he's feeling better and better.

Though out the end of November and early December I have been busy making cookies and party favors like so many of you. I thought you might like to see and hear about some of the things I've made.
To me the advent season is the most exciting, joyful, and beautiful time of the year. It's just filled with wonder and anticipation. Little surprises seem to come every day, perhaps in the form of a song, a beautiful card, and unexpected call from a friend, a concert or party, an invitation, a visit, and sometimes even the first snowfall of the season as happened here in our area the other day.
One of my favorite things to do this time of year is bake cookies. This year I made five different kinds. I don't make a lot, just a batch, or two of each kind. I think they make great gifts and it's always nice to have some cookies around the house to serve when family or friends come to visit. I admit cookie baking can be quite expensive, but I prepare in advance, buying my ingredients a little at a time over a period of several months.
One of the cookies I always make are chocolate oatmeal but I like to add cherry infused cranberries and coconut instead of raisins to give them a more festive look.

Cutout cookies are always a hit in our family and can be used in so many different ways.
Another thing I love to do is make my own poppers. My poppers are a little larger than the ones you can find in the stores. During the year I collect little bottles of this and that to fill them with like hand lotion and perfume. Special messages can be added, candies, lip gloss, money, and sometimes even lotto tickets. You just never know what your going to get when you open one of my poppers.





Every year our niece has a Solstice party in lieu of a Christmas party just before the holiday. This year I made the party favors. They are very simply done but I think they look pretty. I found the snowflakes, four of them for a dollar, at the party store. They can be used later as a Christmas ornament. I have always loved to use ribbons and so I pick them up when ever I see them on sale through out the year. I think I may have mentioned before that my hubby built me a rod for one of my closets and I hang the spools of ribbon there until I'm ready to use them. I think these Solstice party favors would make great little Christmas gifts too.


This year I found a new cookie recipe that I thought I would share with all of you. Not only are these little cookies darling but they taste delicious too!
The recipe comes from the 'Land O Lakes Holiday Cookies' magazine. This is a seasonal magizine and one that I absolutely love! It's always full of wonderful ideas and delicous recipes.
SUGAR AND SPICE REINDEERS
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teasppon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Land O lakes butter softened.
1 egg
1 tablespoon cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup Land O Lakes butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
3 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
Decorations:
Mini chocolate covered pretzels
Brown candy-coated chocolate peices or in my case raisins.
Red gumdrops, cut in half or red coated candy peices.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. set aside.
Combine sugar and 1/2 cup butter in a large bowl and beat at medium speed until creamy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Add flour gradually beating after each addition. Divide dough in half, cover, and chill until firm.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough, one half at a time, onto a lightly floured surface. Cut with a heart shaped cookie cutter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 5 to 8 minutes or until edges are lightly brown and the center is set. Cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet and then transfer to cooling rack. Cool completely.
Combine powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a large bowl and beat at low speed adding enough milk for desired consistency. Reserve 1/3 cup frosting. Add melted chocolate to remaining frosting beating until well mixed.
Frost the cooled cookies. Set 2 pretzels on top of heart to form antlers. Create two eyes with reserved white frosting and top with raisin or candy coated candy. Place red gumdrop onto frosting cut side down to form nose.

I think these little guys would look adorable on any Christmas inspired table. I hope my little grands like them! My hubby sure does :>)
These sweet reindeer's would also make great gifts to add to lunch boxes or to give to someone special as a nice little treat. Wouldn't they make cute party favors for a children's Christmas luncheon or even a ladies Christmas tea party?










Of course, even though I know I shouldn't, I always give Charli a little treat when ever I'm baking. No chocolate or raisins for dogs though! Charli always waits patiently at my side in the kitchen to see what I'm going to give her. I do not give her candy but I do give her a little taste of the plain white frosting and sugar cookie.
Well, that's what I've been up to the last several weeks. I can't wait to come around and visit all of you!
I hope all of you are having a wonderful and blessed Advent season.
With warmest regards, Carol

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Jesse Tree......


A Jesse Tree....

First, and for most, I would like to thank all of you who have left comments here. I deeply appreciate all of your comments and I don't want you to think I've been a bad blogger. The truth of the matter is that my husband has been sick for over a week. In between the decorating, shopping, baking, and etc, I have been busy taking care of him. He is finally on the mend but now I'm not feeling well myself. As you can imagine this is not a good time of the year to be sick. Not that any time of the year is good but this month is especially hectic for everyone.

I have so many posts I wanted to share with you but now it seems I'm not going to be able to do it.

I did want to write something here about Elizabeth Edwards. I have always admired her courage, intellect, determination, class, and integrity. To lose a child has to be one of the most devastating experience in life. Then to have to take on the battle of your life, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and face the public humiliation of your husbands affair is just inconceivable to me. Elizabeth could have easily given up so many times but instead she used all of these negative experiences to reach out and help others. She was an inspiration to us all! My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to her children. Elizabeth Edwards may you rest in peace. You were a truly remarkable woman....


I have been wanting to make a Jesse Tree for sometime now. I have been looking around the Internet to find some down loads to use but I didn't really find any that I liked. That was until I found these downloads at http://www.catholicartworks.com/catechist/the_jesse_tree.htm
I was referred to this site by another great site I recently found called Catholic Icing http://catholicicing.blogspot.com/ It is a blog with many wonderful holidays ideas. I hope you will stop by for a visit some time.



I like these downloads because they are large and you are given two choices as to how to use them. One of the down loads gives you a picture with the name of the person, or persons, and the other one gives a little blip about who they were, or why they were significant. I also like them because they are very colorful. I decided to down load both sheets on to card stock paper and then laminate them together so I can use either side. I lamented these a month ago and set them aside not really sure how I would use them. Then, when my hubby got down our Christmas tree, he decided to go through some things in our attic and found an old Christmas tree we had long forgotten about. It was perfect to use as my Jesse Tree!
I have always like the biblical story 'Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors' so I used it as my inspiration. I punched holes in each of the down loads and tied them with a different colored ribbon thus turning them each into an ornament. I used colored lights and stars on the tree as fillers. I also tied different colors of ribbon together and used it as garland.

















My Jesse Tree is very simply done but I think it's beautiful! Traditions can be old but sometimes they can also be new. My Jesse Tree is a new tradition, that God willing, I plan to use year after year.
With my hubby so sick, and now me not feeling well, Charli has been left to her own devices. She has not been happy about it at all and has been getting into so much trouble! I keep telling her if she isn't good St. Nicholas is not going to leave her anything on Christmas Eve. She just looks at me as if to say "ha!" Then she goes about her merry way.
It's hard to believe that Christmas is almost here!
I hope all of you are doing well and are having a wonderful week ♥
With warmest regards, Carol.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The town of Holly Dickens Festival........


The town of Holly Dickens Festival...


Just a little ways north of where I live is the quaint little town of Holly. The town was named Holly because of the numerous holly plants that grow in the area. It is a very small town but it's a town with a big heart. Every year, since 1975, the town has hosted an annual Dickens Festival. If you are looking for an over done and commercialized extravaganza then this Dickens festival is not for you but if you would like to step back in time for just a little while and enjoy the sites and sounds of an old fashioned Christmas then this is the place to be.

The historical Holly Hotel is reason enough to visit here. It's a place where you can have lunch, or dinner, and perhaps even tea. The hotel is host to many events and is famous for it's in resident ghost.

The Dickens Festival runs from the last week of November through December 18Th. Each week is a little different with this or that event taking place. http://www.dickensfestivalholly.org/
On festival days you an participate in some old fashioned games in front of the Holly Hotel if you wish.

The town also has a warming tent in place as some weekends it can get extremely cold. There is usually some type of entertainment in the tent and sometimes they even sell plum pudding.

Many of the local merchants get into the spirit of the festival. They wear costumes and put up displays like the one seen here.



Most of the shops are open on festival days and sell an array of interesting items.








One of the shops has a Santa where children can stop by to visit and have they're picture taken.





If you like you can even take a carriage ride.
On all of the main street corners fire pits have been set up so that visitors can warm they're hands. There are stacks of logs along side of these pits and everyone is invited to toss a log in if the fire starts to get low.

Periodically throughout the day performances are scheduled. This booth indicates what time the next show is set to begin.



Sometimes vendors come to sell they're wares.



















The day my hubby and I went to the festival we saw a rendition of 'A Christmas Carol.'

















Sometimes there are Christmas Carolers singing on the street corners. Other times, perhaps a Punch and Judy show, face painting, a cookie contest, and almost always roasted chestnuts are sold on the street. All of the people in the town are very warm and friendly. It's a nice place to spend an afternoon.
"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the past, the present, and the future. The Spirits of all Three strive within me. I will not shut out the lesson that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone."
-A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens-
I hope all of you are having a good week!
With warmest regards, Carol

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yes, there really was a Santa Claus but his name was Saint Nicholas!



Yes, there really was a Santa Claus but his name was Saint Nicholas!

Who doesn't love Santa Claus! He is associated with laughter, joy, and holiday cheer, but what is the difference between Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas?
"Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas"
Santa Claus belongs to childhood;
Saint Nicholas models for all of life.
Santa Claus, as we know him, developed to boost Christmas sales-the commercial Christmas message;
Saint Nicholas told the story of Christ and peace, good will towards all-the hope-filled Christmas message.
Santa Claus encourages consumption;
Saint Nicholas encourages compassion.
Santa Claus appears each year to be seen and heard for a short time;
Saint Nicholas is part of the communion of saints surrounding us always with prayer and example.
Santa Claus flies through the air-from the North Pole;
Saint Nicholas walked the earth-caring for those in need.
Santa Claus, for some, replaces the Babe of Bethlehem;
Saint Nicholas, for all, points to the Babe of Bethlehem.
Santa Claus isn't bad;
Saint Nicholas is just better."
-J. Rosenthal & C. Myers-

To me the Internet is such an amazing source of information! I just wish it was available when my children were growing up. If you would like to learn more about Saint Nicholas or find some wonderful activities you can do with your children just click on the following link....
http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=38

Happy Saint Nicholas Day everyone!
With warmest regards, Carol
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