New Decorations

December 21, 2011

This year I made some changes and additions to our holiday decorations. As always, we have  a tree in the living room with my ornaments and white and pink lights, braided pearl strands and pink bunting. We have a tree in the family room with the kids’ ornaments. I also have a tree in my office with book ornaments.

This year, partly because I now do a lot of my work in the kitchen, I added a kitchen tree, with kitchen themed ornaments. It has blue and white lights. I found all sorts of cute ornaments – knife, fork, spoon, blender, pots and pants, strainer, PBJ sandwich, milk carton, pitcher, tray of gingerbread men, toaster, crate of blueberries, a ravioli, chocolate covered strawberry, and even a Hostess cupcakes – all on eBay! I must admit though I am jonesing for another ornament on eBay. It’s a little oven with cookies baking in it. It lights up AND it smells like cookies baking. It’s going for around $110 though, so I won’t be buying it any time soon. I had the most fun prowling eBay for the ornaments I did buy though!

I haven’t figured out what to put on the top of this tree yet. Some people have suggested a chef’s hat, but I’m not a chef, so I don’t like that. I was thinking maybe a little doll’s apron tied around the top, but am not sure what that would look like. Any ideas?

Teen Martha and I went to a Christmas tour of homes and I loved how some people had ornaments hung in their windows. If you look in the background of the kitchen tree photo, you can see I have my 12 days of Christmas ornaments in the windows, but I wanted to do something else. I realized I had 3 blue star ornaments that would be perfect in the big window over my sink, so Mr. MarthaAndMe hung those for me. Next year, I am going to do something on the shelf above it as well – maybe a grouping of reindeer with some that cottony stuff that looks like snow drifts.

At the tour of homes, I also loved decorations people put on the backs of their kitchen chairs. Next year I’ll be doing that too. I haven’t been able to find what I want to do it this year.

And just a note here that my kitchen walls really are not the color they look like in these photos! They are a very, very pale subtle green but somehow they look horrible and neon in these photos!

Moving on to the dining room, I’ve added to my tree collection this year with several new ones, and I also bought a white sparkly runner to put them on so they pop more.

In case you didn’t know, I don’t do red for Christmas. Pink is my Christmas color. I do cranberry in the family room. The kitchen is blue themed so I am going with decorations in blue in there.

I have had the same Christmas dining room centerpiece my entire married life. It was time for a new one. Not an easy task with my color scheme. I bought this 60% off at Michaels and had to do some work on it. It had some awful brown roses in it I pulled out. I added more pink poinsettias, some gold accents, and put it in a shiny mercury glass vase I got at TJ Maxx for $19. I am THRILLED with the results!

In the living room I have my display of tree toppers on the mantel. This collection has grown as well, so I thought I would share it with you. I also found some fabulous vintage pink curly-que garland at an antique shop, so I’ve replaced the pink bunting on the mantel with that. I also bought pre-lit garland this year because I got tired of seeing all the wires from the lights I wrapped around the garland.

Again, the colors of my walls just look horrible in these photos for some reason!

Decorating for Christmas is so much work, but I just love it so much! The hardest part for me is I spent so much time and put so much thought into and we never have a single person come over to see it (neither set of parents is interested in coming here for Christmas), so at least I get to share it with you!


I Am Not Martha

December 14, 2010

I try really hard to decorate beautifully, cook wonderful meals, and buy lovely gifts, but I don’t have a wrapping room (and how I wish I did!). The wrapping supplies live in the closet under the stairs. When I’m ready to tackle the holiday wrapping, it all comes out and takes over part of our bedroom. We set up a folding table and I sit on the edge of the bed and wrap on the table. When I’m actually wrapping, all the junk you see on the table is on the bed so I have the entire table for wrapping. It’s a horrible, ugly mess, but I live with it for a week or so while I work my way through the wrapping. I would love to have a room just for wrapping, but that’s not possible. So every year I live with this disaster, hating it. It’s so very un-Martha, yet I think I’m able to produce gifts that look lovely.

Do you have a very un-Martha area of your house this holiday season?

Iced Thumprint Cookies

December 6, 2010

Thanks to Pru at Perfecting Pru for choosing Iced Thumbprint Cookies for today’s project. Pru, I was thinking of you while I was making this because you said you chose this because you tried to make some other thumbprint cookies and they ended up in the trash. I was hoping that would not happen with mine or yours this time!

Mine did not go spectacularly well, I have to admit! First of all, the dough was just crumbs. I tried to make it into a disk and it just wouldn’t. I refrigerated it and tried again. I gave up on that and then tried to make the balls. I had some success. But when I pushed in the middle with my thumb, some of them just fell apart. Yikes. I put them in the oven and then pushed the spoon handle in them and that went ok.

These are iced with just milk and powdered sugar (and food coloring). I’ve never had thumbprints that didn’t have jelly/jam or a cherry in the middle, so this was sort of weird. Everyone agreed they were pretty, but we missed the center filling we’re used to. I liked the taste of the cookie itself, so if I made these again, I would put jelly in the middle – probably strawberry.

Thank you Pru for getting me started on my holiday baking. I have so much to do and only 2 weekends left before Christmas. Yikes! I will be baking chocolate chip, sugar cookie cut-outs, gingerbread men, Russian teacakes (which most people call Mexican wedding cakes), fruitcake (there is a secret family recipe for this and I make one to give to my in-laws and one for us), and I need to make and freeze our Christmas morning donuts. I’ve got a giant index to get done before Christmas and I haven’t wrapped a thing. The shopping is mostly done though at least! How are you doing with your holiday baking and preparations?

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Roasted Chickpeas

December 3, 2010

The holidays are coming and I appreciated all the ideas for party snacks in December Everyday Food. Fried chickpeas are a hot item currently and Martha has a recipe for making them in the oven. This was quite easy. Preheat the oven to 450. Pour 1/4 cup of veg oil on a baking sheet and heat up in the oven. Drain, rinse and dry two cans of chickpeas then dump onto the hot baking sheet and bake 10-12 min.

As you can see, some of mine got too brown. Some did not cook enough. And some were just right. They need to become dark and crunchy to be any good and it was really hard to know when that was. But it’s definitely easier than pan frying them. You’re supposed to sprinkle them with cayenne. I just salted them. The ones that were cooked perfectly were absolutely delicious.

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Holiday Homekeeping

December 21, 2008

Martha has a variety of homekeeping tips on page 136 of December Living.

She suggests we use fabric instead of wrapping paper and recommends making sacks. They’re reusable and can be tied with ribbon. I don’t really like this idea. It’s too homey and country looking for my taste. Somehow handing someone a cloth sack doesn’t feel as nice as handing them a wrapped gift or even a pretty gift bag.

She recommends we get kids involved in decorating, making cookies and drawing pictures. I agree with this. Our kids are definitely involved.  They are each responsible for wrapping the gifts that are from them. They do the cookie decorating and gingerbread house decorating. We also have a tree in the family room that is just theirs and they put their own ornaments on it each year. When they were younger, they would decorate the outsides of envelopes or draw pictures to give people.

Martha suggests looking for alternatives to store bought gift wrap and lists all the tired suggestions of using the comics, a map, sewing patterns, etc. I’m tired of people suggesting this and really I don’t want to get a gift wrapped in newspaper. I think it’s boring and tacky.

A green suggestion in this section is to shred the wrapping paper after the holidays and use it for packing. I like that idea a lot.

The section recommends keeping universal gifts on hand for an unexpected gift situation. I don’t do this. All of our holiday gatherings are planned in advance and I don’t have to worry about someone coming over unexpectedly.

Offering your time instead of a gift is another suggestion here. I like this, but I think it has to be something the person really will use. It’s easy to say you’ll babysit or take your grandmother on an outing, but a lot of times I think the recipients feel awkward about actually redeeming these gifts.

Another tip suggests planning ahead for holiday parties by moving coats around and making space in the fridge. Not a concern here since it looks like we won’t be hosting a single thing at our house this year. A good tip though.

Creative gift cards are another Martha suggestion. She says to buy them from unusual places like bakeries, golf courses, hair salons, etc. I usually give one uncle a gift certificate to a bakery and in the past we’ve given my mother-in-law a hair salon certificate (which I don’t think she liked by the way).  These can be good gifts, but I think you have to really know the person well enough to know what they would be interested in.

The last suggestion is to start a giving folder, where you keep a running list of ideas for gifts. I have a word document on my computer where I do this. It’s a great way to jot down things that come to you through the year which you might forget by December.

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