Monday, December 29, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Start by slicing apples and oranges about 1/4" thick and drying the slices. This can be done in a dehydrator, which is the method of choice, or on cookie racks placed on cookie sheets and put in the oven on the lowest temperature, usually about 150 -200 degrees. Turn them at two or three times a day until dry. How long this take will depend on a few things, but shouldn't take longer than 2 or 3 days. If you do this in the oven, you need to leave the door open a crack so the moisture can escape.
While the fruits are drying, you can be getting the rest of the material together. You will need large, wooden macrame type beads and little wooden thread spools, both of which you can get at a craft store like Michaels. Mine has a combination of the two, and I used approximately 40 pieces. You might use more or less, depending on how you space them. You will need 2 or three fabrics (or more, if you like), complimentary to one another, torn into 1" wide strips and cut into 5" lengths. You will also need a piece of jute or heavy cotton string, about 8 ft. long.
Start by a sliding all your beads, spools and fruit slices onto the jute, in any order you like. (For ease of instruction, I will call the spools beads from now on. You will slide whichever one you have on your jute.) Its good to have a bead on either side of a fruit slice to hold it in place. Fold down about 5" at one end and tie an overhand knot to form a loop. Take one of your fabric strips and tie it over the knot. (You can just tie this once, it doesn't have to be tied in a knot. It's not going anywhere and has no stress on it.) This will keep your bead, etc. from sliding off the end. Tie another 2 strips on, then slide a bead over next to them. Then tie 2 or 3 more strips, and slide a bead or fruit slice, whichever you have strung next. You are going to just keep tying strips between beads and fruit slices until you have filled all but the last 12" of the jute. Make a loop at the last end and tie an overhand knot, tying strips over the knot, as before. Hopefully you can see from the photo and the drawing what I mean. This garland has a cozy, homespun look and feel, and it makes me feel right at home when I look at it. I hope you enjoy it, too.
Now...the fruit of apple and orange are used to make Wassail. If you have never tried it, you don't know what you're missing. Here's a really simple recipe. Take 1 gallon apple juice, 1 qt. cranberry juice, 7 sticks of cinnamon, 15 whole cloves and 1 sliced orange. Put all together in a large pan and heat on medium heat until warm. You can turn it down and simmer it all day to make your house smell good, too. It's a wonderful drink to get you warm on a cold winter's day. Enjoy!
Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves of green.
Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen,
Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too.
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year!
And God send you a Happy New Year.
I hope you are enjoying the last few days before Christmas as much as I am. I finally got my gifts taken care of, as much as I can on a VERY limited budget. My husband will be losing his job any day now, so we really have to watch what we spend. But I'm used to doing a lot with just a little, so I know we'll get through this one way or another. "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." Anne Bradstreet.
'Night all. Gramma G.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Now it's time to give him a face. I have included the pattern that was used on mine, but you can give him any face you like. Acrylic paints are good for this and so are paints pens. Spray him with a little crystal glitter spray and then a clear acrylic and let him dry. When he is good and dry, put his hat on his head and tie his scarf around the bottom of the pipe. and you have a very easy, very cute little snowman!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Now, let it dry according to the instructions on the package. When dry, paint with green paint, and a little yellow for some highlights. Glue two small black beads in the eye indentations and tie a ribbon through the hanging loop. I like to tie a piece of curly curling ribbon on the hook, too, to add a little decoration. Spray with clear acrylic spray, and your pickle is ready be hidden in your tree. I also like to make a little bag to keep it in so it stays nice. I put a little paper crinkle in the bottom for cushion, and this all makes the pickle seem really special. Whether its a German tradition, an American tradition, or no real tradition at all, it has surely become one to a lot of folks, who play I Spy on Christmas morning so they can be the one who finds that pickle! If you would like to see a cute video about Christmas pickles, go to :
I hope you will add the Christmas pickle to your family's traditions. Whether real or not, its fun.
And remember what Albert Einstein said; "I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Inspiration is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." Use your imagination a create a pickle for your tree. 'Night, Gramma G.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Now take your puzzle pieces and your cardboard and paint them all green, both sides. I prefer spray paint, because its faster, but you can use acrylics and a sponge brush, too. When they are dry, start hot-gluing the first layer of puzzle pieces onto the wreath. The next layer should cover the joints and spaces of the first layer. I usually do just two layers, but sometimes a third layer is needed to fill all the gaps. When you have it all glued together, take a little white paint and a stenciling brush, or a very stiff-bristled brush, and dab a little white (snow) around the edges. Not too much, just a dusting.
The next step is to put some berries on it. You can use little red buttons, or jingle bells, or beads. Whatever you like that will add that little bit of red. Glue a red bow at the top, and you can either glue a ribbon loop to hang it on the tree or a pin back so you can wear it. If you have used small puzzle pieces, you can use two of the extra ones to make earrings. Put a dusting of snow on one edge, glue a little red button (or whatever you used) onto it, glue earring posts to the back and Voila! Your have earrings to match your pin. These make cute gifts, too.
I apologize for such a terrible photo. My camera died and I borrowed my daughter's and her doesn't work either! I am trying to find one that I can afford, and I am using the camera on my cell phone until then. I hope you can visualize what it is, but if you have any problems, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to help. Thanks for your patience.
"Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la."
Friday, December 19, 2008
Find a small, vine wreath, or make one if you have vines in your area. If you are making it, you will need more vines than you think to make a nice, full wreath. Take 5 or six vines about 18" long and form a circle a little smaller than you want your nest to be. Now take another long vine and start twining it around the circular vines, going in and out and around, so that the wreath becomes sturdy and holds together. When it's the size you want, simply weave the end into the other vines and you're done!
Now you need some moss. Spanish moss is the best because it's kind of straggley. (Not really, but that's the best word I can come up with.) Use the moss to fill in the whole in the wreath and to pad the nest. Hot glue it in place, but be careful, because it's thin and the glue will come right through to you! (I always keep a cold drink next to me when I craft, and I can dunk a hot-glued finger in it and stop the burning immediately.) Your little nest is done. Add a little bird or some tiny plastic eggs and put it in the branches of your tree. I don't know if the legend holds true for homemade nests, but I like to think so.
"And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests...." Luke 9:58
"Another parable he put forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches." Matthew 13:31,32
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Myrrh is also a resin from a tree, this time the Commiphora Myrrha tree. It is a reddish-brown color, and is also used in perfumes and incense. It was the main ingredient the Lord told Moses to use in making the annointing oil. It was also used as an embalming ointment, and as a penitential incense for funerals and cremations.
Now, what does this have to do with anything? Well, I love potpourri, and those earthy smells. I love watching the flames in a fireplace when they change colors because of the different ingredients in whatever you put in there. So today's project is potpourri that smells good, and pine cones that will make the flames turn colors.
For the potpourri, you will need the following: cranberries or holly berries, cinnamon sticks, small pine cones sprinkled with ginger, sweet gum balls or other seedpods, dried bay leaves, dried holly leaves, glycerin-preserved evergreens, whole cloves, and cinnamon oil. Dry the cranberries by making a small hole in each berry and letting them air dry. You can also put them in a dehydrator, which will do the trick a lot faster. Break up some of the cinnamon sticks and leave some whole. Mix all the ingredients together and sprinkle with a few drops of cinnamon oil. To make the mixture smell even nicer and look good, too, bake some little gingerbread men and over cook them until they are dry, and add to the mixture. This is a very pretty potpourri that will make your whole house smell like Christmas. It makes a nice gift, too.
The pine cones are even easier to do. You need some craft glue, some sodium chloride, which is table salt, some potassium chloride, which is no-salt substitute, and some copper sulfate, which you will have to have your pharmacist order for you. You will also need 3 gallon-size ziplock bags and a paint brush. Put each chemical into a seperate bag and set aside. Using the paint brush, paint craft glue onto the pine cones, one at a time, and immediately put them into one of the bags with the chemicals. Shake well and remove from bag. Place pine cones on waxed paper or foil to dry. To use them, just toss them into the fire. The sodium chloride will turn the flames a bright yellow, the potassium chloride will make violet colors, and the copper sulfate will turn the flames a pretty turquoise. Keep your pine cones in a basket by the fireplace, and give some away.
"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." Matthew 2: 11
As with the wise men, we should remember that gratitude is the sign of noble souls. 'Night, Gramma G.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
You start with a box of some sort. Not too big, not too small. An oatmeal box works well, or I have discovered a garbage bag box works great! I use a Hefty Tall Kitchen, 13 gallon size bag that comes in a box of 40 or 45 bags. The box has the opening on the top and makes a perfect slot for our purposes. Cover whatever box you choose with pretty paper, or have your children draw pictures of things they are thankful for and use them to cover the box. If you use an oatmeal box, cut a slot in the lid. If you use a different box, such as the garbage bag box, be sure to put glue around the edge of the opening and cut the paper to the shape of the opening. If your box doesn't have an opening already, cut one.
Now cut some brightly colored paper strips and put them in a baggie by the box. Each day, maybe right before you bless the evening meal, have each family member write on one of the strips something they are thankful for, and drop it into the box. Maybe you want to do this only with the Sunday meal. It's all up to you and your family, of course. (If you have a large family, you may only want to do this once a week, or you will have too may strips.) On Thanksgiving day, read all the strips and then staple them into a paper chain to use for decorating for Christmas! And start all over! Decorate a new box every year, and this will be a wonderful family tradition that will help you all to remember what you are truly thankful for.
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
Here's a thought from Oprah: "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." So true. 'Night, Gramma G.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
First, you need to find a Christmas carol that you really like, or use the one mentioned above. Make a photo copy of the sheet music, maybe from a hymnbook or sing-along book. You will need a wooden plaque to put the music on. You can stain the wood or paint it, or leave it it's natural color. Your choice. You can size the music so the whole thing fits on the plaque, or you can just use a part of it. I like just using a part of it, and I tear the edges so that it looks like I once had the whole piece, (which I really did!) and decoupage it onto the plaque. You can use a commercial decoupage medium, like Royal Coat, or you can make your own from 2 parts white glue and 1 part water.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The story I like the best is only part fact and part fiction, but I still like it. It says that a priest in Cologne Cathedral about 1670 invented the candy cane to help keep the little children in the live nativity quiet through the evening. Now, we know he didn't "invent" it, but he probably did have the canes made in the shape of the shepherd's crook to entertain the children. It was still all white, though.
The candy was originally straight, too. It was made as a decoration for the Christmas tree soon after Europeans adopted the custom of having Christmas trees in their homes. The bent shape made it easier to hang on the tree, too. Christmas cards from before 1900 show all white canes, and those printed in the early 20th century show stripes on them.
Whichever story you subscribe to, the candy cane is a great thing! It represents the embodiment of the season, because you see them everywhere, whether in a secular setting such as with a department store Santa, or in a religious context, representing Christ as the good shepherd who saved us all. (If you turn it upside down, it's a "J" for Jesus, too!) I love candy canes, so today's project is two candy cane recipes. One for the actual candy, and one for a scrumptious bread in the shape of a candy cane. Take your pick.
Mom's Recipe For Candy Canes
3 c Sugar
1 ts Peppermint flavoring
1/2 c Water
3/4 c Lt. corn syrup
3/4 ts Red food coloring
1/4 ts Cream of tartar
Combine the sugar, water, syrup, and cream of tartar in a large sauce pan and heat till the sugar is dissolved well. Divide equally into two saucepans, and bring to a boil, but DON'T stir until each is 280 degrees. Add 1/2 tsp. peppermint to each pan and add the coloring to one, leaving the other plain. Pour onto an enamel or marble table to cool. Oil the table first, so the candy won't stick. Now, like taffy, you have to stretch and pull the candy and form it it into ropes of red and white. Put one rope of each color together and twist them around each other to form your candy canes. Leave them on the oiled surface to harden. Voila! You have real candy canes. Give them to your family and friends (and don't forget the neighbors), with a little card attached sharing the story you like the best about it's origins or meanings.
Now for recipe number two. This is a candy cane coffee cake that is really yummy. I got the recipe from "A Taste of Home" magazine.
Candy Cane Coffee Cake
1 TBS active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
2 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
1 TBS confectioner's sugar
1 jar (12 oz.) cherry jam
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, sour cream, eggs, sugar and salt. Add the yeast mixture and flour. Beat until smooth, but do not knead. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top, and cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the filling, mix the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla until blended. Now punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll out each half out into a rectangle16"x10" and place on a baking sheet. On each long side, cut 1 1/2" wide strips about 3" into the center. This will leave about 4" in the middle uncut. Spread the filling down the center of each rectangle, and starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across the filling. (I hope you can see from the picture what this is supposed to look like.) Pinch ends to seal and curve one end, forming a candy cane. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Carefully remove from baking sheets to wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Stir the jam and then spoon over the tops of the loaves, creating stripes. (Be sure to refrigerate your leftovers because of the eggs.) Do the same as above, with a little card telling the story you like best.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I plan to keep these ideas simple and easy, so that you actually have the time to do them, without too much prep time or money spent. I hope you like them.
"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7
Remember what this season and this celebration are all about as you go about the daily job of living, and hold Him in your heart, for this will bring you peace. 'Night, Gramma G.
Friday, December 12, 2008
The library pocket books are almost finished, and they are looking really cute. I hope the library ladies will like them as much as I do. Sometimes I wonder why I do this? I could just make fudge and cookies, and call it good, and don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that, but I always seem to feel the need to do something more personal. And that something is never quick to make. I always swear that I'm going to start in January for the next Christmas, but I never seem to do it, except for last year. By last December, I had almost everything made but the last-minute stuff, and it sure was nice. I will be trying to do it again next year. I am going to try to simplify my life, and that will help.
I've been talking to some of my children, trying to convince them that they need to down-size Christmas for their kids. They need to teach their children what Christmas is REALLY about, and it's not presents and parties and stuff. In fact, they have too much stuff. I was talking to a young mother last week who says that she and her husband started a family tradition a few years back that has simplified their Christmas and given them a lot more time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and on giving service. She has three children, and they each get 6 presents for Christmas. One from mom and dad, one from each set of grandparents, one fron Santa, and one from each of their siblings. That's all. No more. No going into debt for huge amounts of money, no trying to make sure that all the kids have the same number of presents, no lo-o-o-o-ong lists for Santa.....just 6 simple gifts. I thought about that for a week, and I think its one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time. By the time her children get to be teenagers, they will know that they are not going to get a mountain of presents and they won't expect it! I wish I had had such an idea when my kids were little. We have always made our gifts, but I really like the simplicity of her plan. I just wish my children would embrace that idea.
Well, I really got off on a tangent there, didn't I. But I guess what really bothers me is that I've got grandchildren that don't even know what the true meaning of Christmas is! They know nothing about the Savior, his birth, death and sacrifice. To them, Christmas is Santa and presents, and the more the better. This makes my heart hurt. I'm just not sure what I can do to change it. I am going to think on it.
I wanted to do a "12 Days of Christmas Series" for you with ideas for gifts and for service, but I don't know if I have it all together. I will start tomorrow, which really is the 1st Day of Christmas, and we'll see how it goes. I may skip a day here and there and let you come up with your own ideas. So here's to you and your good ideas. If you do something and it works out well, let me know. Post it in the comments for me (and others) to read. Or you could tell me about something that may not have worked out like you wanted it to, too, and maybe we can figure out a way to make it better next time. All will be welcomed.
Oh, by the way...I am 54 today! I am never sure I will make it to see another birthday, but I did this year. My husband turned 54 two days ago, and we are quickly approaching honest-to-goodness old age. We feel old now, but I know there's worse to come. I tell myself that every day that I wake up is a good day! Both of my parents died at the age of 59, so I have a few years left to go. I'll try to make them good ones.
For now, I must bid you adieu, and remember.....time with you is better than ice cream! 'Night, Gramma G.