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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Ah, it’s that time of year, when the kids have a two hour delay from school and the streets are bone dry.  Is it just me, or did they only delay or cancel school when there was actual precipitation back in the olden days?  I guess that’s a side effect of a lawsuit-happy populace, but that’s a post for another day.  Today, we move on to more serious matters–the coveted Christy’s Peppermint Bark Recipe!

I know that the make-your-own theme of my recent posts (liquors and bath salts, what a combination!) may be getting old, especially if you prefer to buy it rather than make it.  I love to make things myself, but I just need to come up with the quickest and easiest way to get it done.  It has to be good, but it has to be fast, and even those of you who prefer to buy it can appreciate that!

Enter the peppermint bark recipe.  I have been making this stuff for at least five years and I’ve tweaked the original recipe to make it perfect (in my very humble opinion).  If you like milk chocolate with your peppermint, this isn’t the recipe.  I only like them together in my martinis–in my bark, I just want peppermint.

Here it is, with inappropriate editorial comments:

Christy’s Peppermint Bark

  • Wilton white candy melts (1 -14 oz. package).  I’ve experimented with all kinds of bark and white chocolate chips, and this is the best base for the bark.  I buy them at Wal-mart ($2.75 each at my store) or Hobby Lobby/Michael’s/ AC Moore (they go on sale for $2.50 around Christmas)
  • peppermint extract
  • red food coloring
  • crushed candy canes or peppermints (I prefer the candy canes; they’re more colorful, although it’s more of a pain to peel the suckers when the plastic sticks to your fingers!  Throw them in the food processor and chop them up.  Oh, and make sure you don’t buy the fruit-flavored Jolly Rancher ones by mistake.  I did that once and it tasted awful, of course.)

The first step is to keep calm and have a cocktail.  Wait, that’s not right!  The first step is to melt the candy melts (sorry for the redundancy of the word melts).

Melt the candy melts in the microwave according to the directions on the bag.  Be sure to use 50% power and stir frequently.

When they’re completely smooth, add 5-7 drops of red food coloring and 1-1/2 t. peppermint extract.  Stir to combine.

Pour into a jelly roll pan covered in aluminum foil and spread it out.  One batch covers about half of the jelly roll pan.

Now, sprinkle the crushed candy canes onto the top.  You may want to press them gently into the bark.

Let sit at room temperature for 3-4 hours until hardened, then break into small pieces and put them in the cutest box, bag, or jar that you can find.  I normally use cellophane bags and I get two finished bags out of one 14 oz. package of candy melts.  These can keep several weeks at room temperature if the bag or container they’re in is sealed.  I’ve also frozen the finished product to keep it fresh and it freezes beautifully.

I went into SERIOUS peppermint bark production this year, turning out more than 30 bags.  Of course it has to be fast when you’re making that many!

If you’re just not that into peppermint, then check out Simply Sweet Home’s Holly Bloggy Christmas linky party–there are dozens of awesome recipes to choose from.  Enjoy!

 

 

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It is already December 15th and I am just now getting around to posting about advent calendars. Better late then never, right? If you, like me, didn’t get around to creating a 25 day advent calendar this post is written just for you.

Amy and I got together after our fabulous trip to Hobby Lobby (sorry Christy) and created the “12 Days of Christmas” advent countdown.  Amy, being the paper diva she is, had some adorable white boxes on hand that were the perfect size to hide an advent treat. We folded those up, printed off the numbers 1-12 in red ink and tied them all up with an adorable red gingham sash. Amy’s mom let us borrow this amazing red vintage sled which I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! We tacked the boxes up onto the sled using double sided tape and Amy used her magic in creating the perfect “12 Days of Christmas” sign. It has such an adorable vintage Christmas feel that I just had to share it (even though I am two day’s late).


Here are some other inspiring advent calendar’s. I hope it is all the inspiration you need to begin your count down to Christmas.

Enjoy!

Special thanks to all those who inspire me:

http://julieree.blogspot.com

http://www.splitcoaststampers.com

http://medicalprepster.blogspot.com

http://themcclenahans.blogspot.com

http://sewmanyways.blogspot.com

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Amy and Terry are off on a Hobby Lobby field trip without me (not that I’m bitter or anything) and so I get to do the post today!  In all seriousness, I don’t begrudge them their trip.  They are in Virginia, after all, and I’m in North Carolina, and they have been LIVING WITHOUT A HOBBY LOBBY this whole time!  Can you believe that?  They’ve been so deprived…I assume they took the trailer to carry everything home from the new Hobby Lobby that just opened near them.

I wanted to do another post on quick and easy gift ideas.  If the Christmas cheer in a bottle (a.k.a. homemade liquor) post wasn’t your style, here’s one on easy, homemade ginger and lavender bath salts.  These are great teacher gifts or stocking stuffers, and you can use them throughout the year as a simple birthday gift, too.  They’re inexpensive–always a plus–and easy to dress up with packaging ideas (more on that later).

Let’s get started: simply mix in large bowl 2 cups of baking soda, 1 cup of Epsom salts (buy these in the pharmacy section), and 2 tablespoons of ground ginger.  If you want lavender, then omit the ginger and add about 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil.  Mix thoroughly and package it up–that’s it!  Some people add colored dye, but I’m not into adding artificial coloring unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Of course, you could substitute any essential oil that you prefer.  The possibilities are endless!  This makes one batch, and of course you can double, triple, quadruple it, etc etc.

Presentation is everything, so have fun packaging it up.  Pour it into cellophane bags, like the Wilton treat bags that you buy in the cake decorating section of the hobby store, or put it in a mason jar.  Tie it off with some ribbon or raffia, and use these Ginger Soak Printables if you’d like.  I print them on white card stock or whole sheet sticker paper, and cut them with a 3″ circle or scalloped punch.  If you find any old silver spoons at a flea markets or a yard sale, tie one to the jar (or bag) with the ribbon and it’s even cuter!

When it’s time to soak, the lucky recipient can throw in a few spoonfuls or the whole bag (depending on how bad her day was) and wash her troubles away.  Come to think of it, why not keep some in a cute vintage jar by your tub?

This seemed like a great idea to share on The Shabby Nest’s Frugal Friday linky party…wow, there are some awesome ideas over there, so take a look!

 

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I love to decorate especially when the holidays are upon us. I try to add something new to my collection each year to ensure a fresh and exciting look.
This year I purchased a few red cardinal ornaments and lots of fake snow to create a red, white and green winter mantel. I also recycled the bottom branches off my Christmas tree which added a natural woodland feel. I really love how my mantle turned out this year. The red birds tie into my existing decor and the fake snow sparkles when the fireplace is burning. I enjoy bringing outdoor elements inside and my snowy woodland mantel ensure that we will enjoy a white Christmas no matter what occurs outside.

Enjoy!

My grandmother made the poinsettia stockings along with a tree skirt for my husband and I as a wedding gift.  I always thought that it was such a great homemade gift idea as most newly weds don’t have matching holiday decor.  We have used those stockings for the past 13 years and they are a treasure because my grandmother hand-made them for us.  My mom made the green plaid stockings for my two boys and I love the contrast of the green plaid and the floral poinsettia print.

I have mixed white glitter branches with the greenery from my Christmas tree to give it a whimsy outdoor feel.

This has always reminded me a bit of a Cuckoo clock It fits in perfectly with all the red cardinals and white snow.

 

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We’ve been partying it up here in North Carolina, and Friday morning was no exception.  My dear friend, Megan, had a Christmas open house at her new house (she moved a few months ago and has been hard at work redoing much of it), and she was kind enough to allow me to bring my camera and show the world her awesome Christmas decor.   Megan is my partner in crime at the Cameron (NC) Antique Fair twice a year, and hopefully she’ll allow me to show you some of her great decorating ideas after the holidays, too, but today I wanted to concentrate on her Christmas decorations.

Here’s her front door wreath–you know it’s going to be good with such an awesome wreath.  OF COURSE she made it herself!

 

LOVE the firescreen wrapped up as a present–that’s from our Junior League’s Holly Day Fair last year.  The magnolia leaves on the mantel are from my tree.  She came over and cut magnolia and cypress boughs and I went to her house and cut pyracantha berries.  They turn red instead of orange this time of year and are a great stand-in for holly (our holly bushes have been pillaged in the name of decorating for Christmas!).  It’s a great idea to swap greenery with a friend, so you can have a nice variety on your mantel, and everywhere else.

Here’s the dining room, and the table is loaded with awesome food (I could do a post just on her recipe ideas).   Meg and her family have lived all over the US, courtesy of the Army, and did a stint in Germany, too, so she’s got some great pieces in her home.

I just love the use of natural elements–the clove-studded oranges (courtesy of her husband and kids), the cranberries in the hurricanes, the cypress boughs, and of course the berries on the chandelier.

 

Megan has a great collection of transferware, and the red and white pattern is perfect for the holidays.  I also love the old mason jars filled with greenery–she’s got them scattered throughout the house.

 

It’s hard not to be jealous of this stained glass window–she’s got a couple–one day I’ll find one I can afford at a flea market!

I was scolded because I took the pictures before the peppermint bark made it onto the table (sorry!!), but it still looks great.  I never get tired of the apothecary jars filled with ornaments, and take a look at the antique goblet filled with peppermint straws.

A collection of vintage European Santas…

 

…and a tabletop vignette of clove-studded oranges and berries.  It smelled heavenly!

What better time to bring out the heirloom silver and demitasse spoons?

Thanks for opening your home to us, Megan!

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Every December my neighbor hosts an amazing cookie exchange. I typically scramble to come up with an easy, but tasty treat to share as baking just isn’t my thing. Since we have to bake 8 dozen cookies, (yes, I said 8 dozen cookies), I am always searching for a baking shortcut. I found this cookie recipe on the Picky Palate (http://picky-palate.com) and since I LOVE cinnamon rolls, how could I go wrong with a cinnamon roll inspired sugar cookie. I will admit that I took a major shortcut as I bough pre-made sugar cookie dough- Bah! Humbug!!  I personally cannot tell the difference as they turned out pretty darn tasty in my opinion. I hope this quick and easy recipe helps you get to your next cookie exchange on time with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Cinnamon Roll Sugar Cookies

2 Cups sugar
1 Cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup sour cream
6 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

-OR-

Pre-packaged sugar cookie dough like I did:)

12 tablespoons softened butter, (slice 2 Tablespoons 6 times totaling 12 tablespoons)
1 1/2 Cups packed light brown sugar, divided into 1/4 Cups
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon, divided

Frosting
8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 Cup powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk, to thin icing

1. In an electric or stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter. Add eggs, vanilla and sour cream until well combined. Slowly add in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt until well combined.

2. In 2 batches, place in plastic wrap in a disc shape and chill for at least 2 hours for best results -Or- just roll out the store-bought dough and skip all the fuss.

3. Once chilled, cut each disc into thirds and roll into a 1/8 inch thick oval, about 12 inches X 5 inches.  Spread each rolled pieces of dough with 2 Tablespoons softened butter, 1/4 Cup packed brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Start rolling from the long end closest to you, rolling into a log shape.  Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2 inch pieces of dough then placing onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before removing from baking sheet.

4.  To prepare frosting, beat the cream cheese until softened and smooth, slowly add powdered sugar and milk until desired consistency.  Frost cookies then place in refrigerator until ready to serve.  These are 100 times better chilled, trust me!!

Makes at least 6 dozen

This recipe is courtesy of: Picky Palate (http://picky-palate.com)

Roll out the dough into a large oval shape

I cannot believe I am typing this part as I always try to eat healthy but it is the holidays,  right?

Spread softened butter on top of dough

Cover the top with brown sugar, cinnamon,  and a bit of sugar (Yum!)

Roll the dough up in Parchment or wax paper, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours

Slice them evenly and place on a lined cookie sheet

Baking in the oven (the entire house smells like cinnamon rolls)

Umm ,Umm, Good~

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What’s the saying, if you are lucky enough to live in a small town, you are lucky enough? (OK, maybe that’s a liberal interpretation). We really are lucky enough because we live in a small town outside of a very big city, so we get the best of both worlds. But, no time do I appreciate where I live the more then at Christmastime.

The first week of every December, our Town has an annual celebration called “Gumdrop” Square. Folks from the town and surrounding areas bundle up and parade down Main Street  trailing behind Santa’s magnificent horse-drawn carriage accompanied by local children dressed up as Elves. Santa is transported down the spectator lined street to his special seat at Gumdrop Square where children can visit him and his kid-friendly “Secret Shop” throughout the month of December.  That night, Main Street is lined vendors offering wonderful goodies like hot chocolate and baked goods, and local musical groups perform carols along the way. It’s a truly magical night, one that I hope my children remember fondly for the rest of their lives.  This year was all the more magical because it started snowing shortly after Santa’s festive arrival! A rarity in Virginia early in December.

Despite the cold, the crowds and the millions of holiday “to-do’s” on the list, it’s a night that ushers in the Christmas season like no other.  It was truly a night to for all of us to treasure.

Local Children's Choirs Perform

Santa's Elves

 

Gumdrop Square

The Town was even more beautiful this year as our store owners are participating in a Window Decorating contest, I wanted to share a few of my favorites. It’s so nice to have local retailers who not only carry lovely things, but are also so nice to shop with.

Definitely a contender to win the decorating contest!

A gorgeous and creative window

A stop in the Wine Bar would cap off the night perfectly...(if only)

Yes... I would like one of everything here please...

Hope your holidays are also off to a magical start!


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