Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post Christmas Snowfall

In spite of all of the rain (yes, rain!) we had for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we still managed to keep our blanket of snow so we could have our white Christmas.  Albeit a sort of shiny, glazed-over-looking snow, it was still snow!  I woke up yesterday to find it looking like a snow-globe outside!  Giant new fluffy snowflakes.  And lots of them!  My son took off to go skiing in all of that new-fallen powder.  That's the best!!  It's been a long time since I've gone skiing.  Maybe one of these days, I'll surprise him and go too!  If it's like riding a bike, I'll be ok.  Otherwise, I'm sure I'll provide plenty of antics that'll certainly keep him amused for hours!

Here's the view from one of the bedrooms yesterday at mid-day.  Sorry about the slight "checkerboard effect," I shot this from the window and the screen is a little noticeable when the picture is expanded.  The weatherman called for us to get 4" and I'd say that we received more like 7.  Nonetheless, it is so pretty!  I always love the peaceful quiet of a snowfall.  Everything seems so hushed.

It didn't stop snowing till mid-day today.  Today I took a look around to see how much we finally ended up with, and here's how my gazebo looked at mid-day today.  Of special note:  there is B-L-U-E sky overhead!  Something we haven't seen in eleven days.  Whew, was it ever good to feel the sun on my face again!

And, as the sun was finally setting, another unusual sight appeared....

Do you see it there?  It's just through the branches of the spruce.  We haven't seen Mr. Man in the Moon for eleven days now either, and I gotta say, it's nice to see him again, too.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vintage Holiday Tree Attire

My mother has some wonderful vintage Christmas ornaments, and uses them each and every Christmas.  She has ever since I can remember.  She also has the most wonderful lights on her tree, complete with their original vintage reflectors.  The reflectors are actually metal.  The outer one is silver-tone, and the smaller, inner one is colored.  Her guests always complement on how pretty and unusual they are.  You just don't see the new lights sets looking like this these days!  So I thought I'd share some of her tree decorations with you.

Here's one of her little vintage snowmen.  She's got several...some have black markings, others have red.  They're all made of plastic and date back to the 40's.  Things had so much character back then didn't they?

And this is her little Rudolph.  Of all of her vintage ornaments, he's always been my favorite.  He's also made of plastic, and was hand-painted.  He does have a red nose, if you click on the picture (it's sort of hard to tell at the angle I snapped it), but you can see that it's red.  I think she told me that she bought him at Montgomery Ward back in the 40's.  Do you know the real story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?  He was actually created as a promotional gimmick by Montgomery Ward in order to drum up a little extra business.  It looks as though that turned out to be a pretty successful ad campaign didn't it?!

I truly hope everyone had a wonderful, blessed and safe Christmas....and I hope Santa was good to all of you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Crafty Little Trimmings For My Tree

Call it crafting, re-purposing, it whatever you like.  I like to think I'm kinda crafty, and I sometimes have these big streaks of creativity.  Sometimes, my ideas work out pretty good, and that's ok with me.  Sometimes they don't, and that's ok too.  I don't know what it takes to flip on my "crafty" switch (I really wish I did though!).

Several years ago, one of my crafty friends had been hanging on to wine and champagne corks, thinking that one day she'd find a use for them.  Well, I guess she never did, and eventually she asked me if I'd like to have them for a project with my preschool students, so of course they came home with me!  It wasn't long before my students and I created several crafts with them.  But I still had quite a few corks left over.  I started out with...are you ready for this...a half-filled brown paper grocery bag, so there were a lot!  Now hold on a minute.....I know what you're thinking...they weren't all from her house.  Most of them came from the church.  And they came in all shapes and sizes.  Perfect!

A few years later, I started to think about all of those wine corks.  What could I use them for?  Then one came to me!  I thought I'd try to make little ornaments with them.  So I got out my paints and crafty supplies, and what follows are my results.  I made dozens of each, and sold them at craft fairs.   My crafty friend and I used to go in together on booths.  All of my ornaments had their own personalities because it was impossible to make them exactly identical!  Some of my Frosty's had little stranded wire arms that I bent into "twig" shapes and spray painted dark brown.  Some of my Santa's had bigger beards than others for a little variety.  But I had to hang on to these two guys though...they were the first two I ever made.



My little Santa was made from a standard wine cork.  First, I painted his suit red. Then I added Snow-Tex for his beard, and painted his face with twinkling blue eyes.  Well, they're about as twinkling as I could make them!  I used scraps of felt for his hat, and added a tiny pom-pom to embellish it.  For the hanger, I cut a paper clip in half, dabbed a bit of glue on it, and pressed it into the top of his hat.

Frosty was made using a champagne cork for his body, and a wine cork that had a plastic "rim" for his hat.  (I don't know what kind of wine comes with this cork/plastic top...if you do, please, please tell me!)  I painted his hat black, turned it upside down and glued it to the champagne cork.  Then I applied a nice coat of Snow-Tex to his entire body.  I added the black buttons, eyes, smile, and his carrot nose with a bit of glue.  To make his nose I used the clipped end of a round toothpick that I had painted orange.  The hardest part was waiting for the Snow-Tex to dry.  I tied a narrow tartan ribbon around his neck for a scarf, and added a black pipe cleaner with a tiny sprig of plastic holly to the brim of his hat.  The little black bits that look like coal are actually plastic aquarium gravel.  I used the cut paper clip for Frosty's hanger, and added a tiny little red satin ribbon to hang him with.

It's just weird how I stumbled upon that idea to use the aquarium gravel!  I happened to make a stop at the local pet shop for dog food while I was in the middle of this project.  It's my habit to always look at all of the animals whenever I'm there (I can't help myself!).  When I got to the fish dept. I noticed the gravel in their tanks...and I had a brainstorm!  (cue the big streak of creativity!)  It looked as if it would be absolutely perfect for Frosty!  They didn't actually sell this gravel there, but the guy at the counter was happy to scoop out a bunch from one of their tanks for me.  He asked me what I needed it for.  So I told him.  He was quite amused!  So was Frosty.  It worked out perfectly.  And don't worry, the gravel received a good scrubbing before I used it!!

I've been seeing the beautiful ornaments that so many of you have been creating, and I just had to contribute.  And I barely made it!  I've been so busy and ohmigosh time is quickly running out for any last minute preparations!  But I have written up all of my Christmas cards, embossed the envelopes, and sent them out last week.

Christmas is now just around the corner - - someone please tell me how this happened?!?!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our Dilly of a Tradition!

We have a family tradition that we enjoy every Christmas.  I haven't met many other families who partake in this, but I never thought it was unusual or anything.  Maybe it's more popular in certain regions than it is in others.  I don't know.  But it's something we look forward to, it makes us laugh, guys are so competitive, and it's fun!

So, what is this tradition you ask?

We have a Christmas Pickle!  We don't have any little ones around here anymore, but it doesn't matter to us, and we still have fun with it.  It's a life-sized, blown glass ornament that I hide deep in the boughs of our tree.  It's always the last ornament I hang, usually the night soon as nobody is looking!  It's green, so it blends in with the tree pretty well, especially once all of the other ornaments and lights are in place.  When we sit down to exchange gifts, the first person who finds The Pickle receives a special "Pickle Finder" gift.  Over the years some of those special little gifts have been a Chia Pet (yes really!), a box of chocolates, or a tin of homemade cookies.  It's a goofy little gift that everyone can have fun with.  I've got it all dialed in for this year, but I can't tell you what's in store for The Finder this year.  All I can say is it's something that's never been given to any Pickle Finder before.  I'd hate to spoil their surprise!

I'd be interested in hearing if anyone else has a Christmas Pickle, or has heard of them.  Maybe in fact, it is a regional thing.  Whatever the case may be, I have noticed them more often in the last several years, so maybe their popularity is on the upswing?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

Well, it looks as though Mother Nature has plans for us!  And from what I'm hearing, I think we're in good company.  We're in the midst of getting our first measurable snowfall of the season.  I always think Christmas lights look so much prettier with a blanket of snow.  So far, it looks like we only have a 2-inch blanket, but more is expected!  I just had to run out and snap a quick picture of some of our decorations.  I left the flash on so the falling snowflakes would show up.  If you look closely at the lower right-hand side of the picture, you'll see that we had a little four-legged visitor hop across the yard not too long ago.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Guess Who Came to Town Last Night??

Last night we took a little drive for a once-a-year event.  The Canadian Pacific Railway has a Holiday Train that makes stops around various northern US and southern Canadian locations.  This is the first year that we've gone to see it, and we weren't disappointed.  It was absolutely worth braving the cold!  The local radio station was there, along with a group of a-Capella singers.  The train was decorated with hundreds of moving and flashing lights for Christmas, and was truly a sight to behold.  There were hundreds of people there, and such an energy in the air!  The train pulled into town nice and slow so you could have a good look.  It was a great photo op, and it looked to me as if everyone had a camera.  I know I did!


Once they stopped, one of the boxcars was opened up to reveal a stage.  There was a really great band (The Odds and Shaun Verreault) that performed for half an hour, and Santa Claus even opened up the show!  They played a mix of songs with a very interactive round of Jingle Bells that all of the children loved!  At the end of the show, Santa came around the crowd and handed out candy canes to the children.  It was a wonderful experience.  If you're in the north central part of the US and you can possibly make it to this event, I would recommend that you do!

One of the main purposes of this event is to raise monetary and non-perishable food donations for food banks.  Canadian Pacific then delivers, and donates this to the Second Harvest Heartland, and Emergency Food Shelf Network charities here in the States.  The donations they pick up in Canada go to Food Banks Canada.  At this time of year, it is especially rewarding to remember those who are struggling during these particularly challenging times.  What a wonderful way to keep the Christmas spirit alive!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Quick Little Dinner

Ok, we decided that we've had just about enough turkey for a little while.  Well...actually it was my idea, and I really love turkey, but...well, it's time for something else!  So last night I whipped up a little home made Chinese!  Mm-mmm.

It's my Pork Fried Rice, and my guys really love pigging out on it, so I have to make a huge batch for them.  Well, alright, I'll be honest here...all three of us love pigging out!  This is easy to make, goes together pretty fast, and it's to die for!

Sometimes I cook a bunch of pork chops on the grill and freeze them so I can use that meat for future meals. When I cook ahead like this, I usually cook the pork until there is just a tiny bit of pink left in the center; that way it won't be over-cooked or dried out when I use in the future.  It's a great time-saver and adds a wonderful flavor to your dishes.  That's what I used here.

Pork Fried Rice
4 tbsp. oil (peanut, sesame, or your choice)
3/4 lb. pork, diced
6 c. cooked rice
5 scallions, chopped
1/2 lb. baby carrots split into fourths
1/2 lb. tiny broccoli florets OR 1/2 lb. snow peas
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
crushed peppercorns
4 tbsp. soy sauce
sesame seeds
3 eggs, beaten (optional)

Get all of your ingredients prepared, within reach of your stove.  Heat the oil until it's nearly sizzling and add the diced pork.  Cook until no longer pink.  Stir the rice, scallions, carrots, and broccoli into the wok until well heated.  Add ginger, pepper and soy sauce.  If using eggs, make an indentation in the top of your mixture and pour the eggs into it.

Stir fry 4 minutes in a hot wok, or until it's cooked to your preference.  Serve immediately with a sprinkling of sesame seeds over the top.

Really, you can use so many different types of vegetables in this meal.  The ones I listed are what I almost always tend to have on hand, so I chose these ingredients for supper last night.  You could certainly use bean sprouts, celery, or peppers.  Just be creative and have fun with it!

And remember...
only 24 shopping days till Christmas!