Monday, November 26, 2012

Pinspiration Christmas!

I'm so ready for Christmas! I've started decorating the outside of the house and a few decorations have popped up inside, as well. This year, we plan to have three trees inside the house and at least three outside! All decorated, of course. Do you do more than one tree? Have a theme? I have one tree that is just for the kids to mess with. They have their tree and mama has hers.

With my eye on Christmas, gift giving and looking ahead to my annual goal to get organized in the new year, I set out to find some awesome features in this week's party.

Second Chance to Dream gave some boring old ornaments a second chance at being beautiful for Christmas. Way to upcycle!

Growing in Grace shared a beautiful way to spruce up FAMILY. This has given me some ideas for my mantle!

The Thinking Closet puts my chalkboard wall menu planner to shame. I seriously need to do this project! Of course, the project title gave me giggles, too...I'm such a nerd.

So who's ready for another great party?

Here are the rules:

A couple of the usuals here:
♥Please follow my lovely cohosts, join up as much as you’d like, 
♥grab a button to spread the word about our party and a button if you are featured.
♥And most importantly: please, please visit lots of folks and spread some bloggy love.
♥ Turning off captcha means people are more likely to comment!

Symbols of Christmas

I love Christmas. I have to with my job as a Santa photographer. It's not a job you can do and not really love Christmas.

At the mall, people can't believe we're there taking pictures early in November. Most people want to get through Thanksgiving before even considering Christmas. Me? I could listen to Christmas music all year.

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. And it's not just about the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the music, the presents, the parties, the cookies... it's about Christ. In our modern, very secular Christmas, the Savior seems to get lost in the shuffle. And that's a shame. But it doesn't have to be that way.

It is possible to find Christ amongst the world's view of Christmas. When I was in college, I had a professor who opened my eyes to the symbolism of Christ found all around us. And that's what I want to share with you all today.

The Christmas tree... The green of the tree represents eternal life. It is held in a tree stand that supports it and provides it with water. Christ supports us and is the Living Water.

The Lights adorn our trees and remind us not to hide our lights. They shine for all the world to see.

At Christmas, we give gifts to symbolize Christ's greatest gift to us. We need to seek the best gifts, just as the Three Wise Men sought Christ.

We can even find Christ in Santa! Santa shows joy in giving. His red suit reminds us of Christ's blood. It is trimmed in white, reminding us of Christ's purity. As we get older, it becomes harder to have faith in Santa and in Christ. We need to be as little children, trusting Him.

Rudolph, with his nose shining, guides us through the night. Christ is truly our guide. Rudolph was also mocked and rejected by his peers until they realized that he was the only one who could save them.

And dear old Frosty...white and pure. He melted (died) and came back to life. And it was only the small children, full of faith who believed in him. That sounds familiar, doesn't it?

As much as we hate seeing Christmas in the stores in September and all the advertisements, remember that Christ's birth was foretold. Just think of the early advertising remind us to prepare the way for Christ.

And, I made this into a printable, I think. It's right here.   I've never done a printable yay. Let me know if it doesn't work!

Linked up at:
Show me What you Got ** take a look Tuesdays ** Open Call ** Wednesday Whatsits ** Work it Wednesday ** Mom's Library ** Whatever Goes ** Create and Share **House of Hepworths **Seven Alive ** Tater Tots and Jello **

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Broccoli & Wild Rice Soup

We have a lot of birthdays around here.

One way we celebrate is the birthday person gets to pick their favorite food for Birthday Dinner. Each year, Leelee picks the same soup. It's great timing since her birthday is after Thanksgiving and the soup is a delicious way to use leftovers.

Today, Leelee turned 14. I can hardly believe it. She's very much in to Doctor Who and had a huge wish list of assorted Doctor Who items.

I swear she was just in first grade with her favorite teacher...

And seriously check out her STRAIGHT hair!

Now look at her...

 Taller than I am and all sorts of curls! It takes four HOURS for her hair to dry.  When she grows up, she wants to be a food scientist and upon retirement (yeah, she has retirement plans already!) she hopes to open a bakery.

Ok, enough gushing on my kid...

Here's her favorite soup. It's quick and favorite kind!

Turkey Broccoli & Wild Rice Soup

6 oz pkg Wild Rice mix (Uncle Ben's or Rice a Roni)
5 C water
10 oz frozen chopped broccoli
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz cream cheese
1 C shredded leftover turkey'

Combine rice, seasoning mix and water in a large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring once. Add in broccoli and turkey. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in soup and cream cheese. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.

Linked up at: Busy Mondays **Marvelous Mondays ** Creative Me** Debbie Doos ** The Gunny Sack   **Martha Monday ** Show me what you got ** Tuesday To Do ** Tuesday Confessional ** Open Call ** Wednesday Whatsits **  
Work It Wednesday **House of Hepworths **Wildly Original ** Creative Juice ** Tater Tots and Jello **

Monday, November 19, 2012

Iron Chef Mom: Cranberries!

OK, who's up for some more Iron Chef Mom action?

This week's featured ingredient is CRANBERRIES! Just in time for Thanksgiving.

My contribution is some Cranberry Pepper Jelly... a perfect appetizer for Thanksgiving. Just the right mix of sweet and savory.

Before we get to ♥YOUR♥ Cranberry recipes, let's take a look at the winner of Iron Chef Mom: Sweet Potatoes!

Axiom at Home's Sweet Potato Bake

Our runner ups are:

The Ease of Freeze's Cranberry Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole (tho I think she should have waited to enter that one for this week ☺)

Heather's French Press' Sweet Potato Tater Tots

Congratulations on being named an Iron Chef Mom! Grab a button and brag about it!

 Iron Chef Weekly Linkup Guidelines:
1. Follow the weekly host (Confessions of an ADD Housewife) on Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Pinterest  ~  Google +
2. Link up only recipes that include CRANBERRIESAny cranberry recipes you have – past or present! (Cranberries do not have to be the main ingredient!)
3.  Vote! The link up will end Saturday morning and voting will run from Saturday-Sunday evening! Be sure to stop by this weekend to vote, vote, vote!
4. Grab a party button!
(Iron Chef Mom link party will be live from Monday evening until the following Saturday morning. Feel free to link up recipes all week long, then stop by and vote on the weekend. You are welcome to encourage your readers to vote for your recipes as well!)
Have more questions on how Iron Chef Mom-traveling link party works? Read more

Be sure to VOTE this weekend (Saturday and Sunday) for the Iron Chef Mom CRANBERRY recipe! Stop by next week to see who will be named Iron Chef Mom as well as our top four runner-ups. All top recipes will be pinned on our Iron Chef Mom Pinboard on Pinterest!
Ready, Set, Cook!
Grab a Button and Tell Your Friends to Join Us to

Cranberry Pepper Jelly

There's a story in my husband's family lore that goes something like this:

One Thanksgiving many years ago, a can of cranberry sauce was purchased. The can was opened and placed on the table in all it's round jiggly goodness. It sat in the center of the table and no one asked for it. The next year, the same thing happened.

After many years of this, my mother-in-law had enough of the wasted cranberry sauce. But, Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce. Being a creative and resourceful woman, the next Thanksgiving she purchased the can of cranberry sauce and did not open it. Instead, it sat unopened on the table. The next Thanksgiving, the same can came out of the food storage and, like a much love centerpiece, graced the middle of the table.

Legend has it, that same can of cranberry sauce still makes it way to the center of the table each year.

The moral of the story? Friends (and family) don't let others eat canned cranberry sauce.

I'm really the only one in my family that likes it. I make a nice batch of homemade sauce each year. Just enough for the big day and for leftover turkey sandwiches.

So for this round of Iron Chef Mom, I selected CRANBERRIES as my inspiration ingredient. BTW: I'm hosting this round and you can link up YOUR recipes HERE.

Image courtesy of James Barker

And my recipe? It's a little bit off the beaten path.

During the last part of summer, I visited a local farmer's market and a woman was selling jams and jellies, including a cranberry jalapeno jelly.  This was my first taste of the sweet and savory jelly that's best served over cream cheese on a cracker. It's one of my favorite late night snacks.

Wish I were a better food photographer!

Cranberry Jalapeno Jelly
4 Jalapeno peppers, whole
  2 cups whole cranberries
  1 cup white vinegar
  5 cups sugar
  1 bottle liquid Pectin (3 oz)
  Rinse whole cranberries and drain to remove excess water.
  Trim Jalapeno pepper caps and tops, then slice lengthwise and remove all seeds and inner membranes. Discard tops, seeds, and membranes. Chop pepper halves.
Grind whole cranberries to a pulp with the food processor or grinder. Add 1/8 cup water to moisten the pulp slightly. Add chopped peppers and pulse or grind. (I used the coarse chopping blade of a food processor.) 

Spoon the cranberry and Jalapeno pulp into a stainless pot. Add vinegar and blend. Slowly cook mixture for 10 minutes to blend flavors, then add sugar all at once, stir until dissolved.

Cook the jam mixture, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved and boils. Once the jelly mixture bubbles and the top foams, rising significantly, add the liquid pectin. Boil hard for 1 minute, no longer.

Remove pot from heat. Ladle jam into sterilized half-pint jars, to within 1/2-inch of top. Add sterilized caps and screw rings on. Process in water-bath canner for 10 minutes.
  Yield: 6 half-pints.

linked up at:

Iron Chef Mom ** Cowgirl Up **  Tuesdays Treasures ** Open Call Tuesdays ** Take A Look Tuesday **Show Me What You Got **Whimsy Wednesday ** Wow Us Wednesday ** The Creative Spark ** Your Whims Wednesday **Spotlight Saturday ** Create and Inspire **
Overflowing with Creativity ** cheerios and lattes **

Friday, November 16, 2012

My secret ingredient

I'm about to share my favorite secret ingredient ...

It's one you probably have sitting in your refrigerator right now.

And you probably use it most days. I don't use it at all for what it was intended for...because I don't drink coffee.

My secret?

Flavored coffee creamers.

When a recipe calls for milk, I add in the creamers instead. It gives it a nice little flavor twist. The great part is, these go on sale enough that I can keep a stockpile for just pennies. I picked up the Bailey's Creamers two weeks ago  for 15 cents EACH!

It's absolutely dreamy in hot chocolate. It's like being able to get all those fancy schmancy hot chocolate flavors without having to buy the expensive hot chocolates or the expensive syrups.

Powdered Sugar Icing. Yeah...just a bit of extra flavor right into that powdered sugar, butter and milk coffee creamer icing.

Oatmeal. I love to have a bit of milk in my oatmeal. And let's face it, plain stove top cooked oatmeal is quite a bit cheaper than the instant stuff.

French Toast. This has to be my personal favorite. Just replace the milk in the french toast with the creamer. The extra flavoring isn't overpowering, really just a hint of sweet.

PS...Be sure to come back Tuesday for the next round of Iron Chef Mom...hosted RIGHT HERE! The secret ingredient is CRANBERRIES! Just in time for Thanksgiving! Friends don't let friends serve canned cranberry sauce ;)

linked up at:
tater tots and jello ** Create and inspire ** cheerios and lattes **Busy Mondays **Debbie Doos ** Mop it Up Mondays **Marvelous Mondays **Saturday Spotlight **Open Call **Whimsy Wednesday ** Wow Us Wednesday ** The Creative Spark **

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lighted fabric garland

Some of my favorite holiday projects are ones that take normal holiday decorations and take them up a notch.

Like your standard strand of Christmas lights...boring and ugly wire. Who wants that displayed on the mantle?

This is one of those holiday crafts that make my home just feel ready for Christmas. It's simple and there's no sewing involved. Just a few basic supplies and should cost less than $5. And it gives your strand of lights on the mantle a real WOW when it's all lit up...

Mine, not all lit up...but hey it was my first attempt at a holiday mantle

And here it is up close...all pretty and sparkly...


minimum 50 light strand (if you do 100, fold it in half)
Scrap fabric in 3 holiday colors/patterns (about a fat quarter of each)

Cut the fabric scraps in to strips approximately 1.5 inches wide by 5 inches long. You can do this as you go or cut them out ahead of time.

Tie the fabrics on to the strand of lights, either as a knot or folding the fabric in to a U shape looping the two loose ends through the closed end of the U.

Use a repeating pattern or random, it's really up to you.

I love the project so much, I've done it in many different colors to suit my holiday palette for the year. Enough of these that I took it another direction this year...I'll share that project later :)

Linked up at:

House of Hepworths ** Wildly Original ** Creative Juice ** Crafty Blog Stalker ** Your Creative Time Out ** Link it Up Thursday **Creative Thursday **I freaking did it ** fabulous fridays ** Fly on By Friday ** keep calm and link up ** Frugal Friday ** frugalicious Friday ** kitchen fun with my 3 sons **create and inspire ** cheerios and lattes **Busy Mondays **Debbie Doos ** Cowgirl Up ** Take a look Tuesdays** 
Whatever Goes ** Handy Man Crafty Woman ** Home Decor & Organizing **//

Organizing Homelife

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Yep, Jane is totally in Christmas mode. And is bringing us her Pin Spiring picks from the party last week.
This year I am determined to get everything done SUPER early
I made my Christmas cake this weekend-no really you'll like this one. It is totally yummy-just look.
Seriously, it involves dried fruit and a LOT of brandy.
I digress however because one of the things that has put me in the spirit is all the fab projects you folks pinned last week.
Love, love, love.
How could you not be pin'inspired?

Who wouldn't be thrilled with these awesome socks?
Etcetorize even has an amazing video on her site to show you how.
Can you imagine how cozy you would feel having a bowl of this lovely after Christmas shopping?
Thanks to Jazzy Gourmet for the lovely post!
And a gift that I can do up that is totally unique and matches my crafting prowess...

Thanks, Just us Four for solving my last Christmas dilemma C:
So how did you make out this week? Can't wait to see.
A couple of the usuals here:
Please follow my lovely cohosts, join up as much as you'd like, grab a button to spread the word about our party and a button if you are featured.
And most importantly: please, please visit lots of folks and spread some bloggy love.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Frugal Friday: Holiday Grocery Shopping

I started holiday shopping this week. A few Christmas presents. Lots of groceries.

This is the best time of year to stock up on items like chocolate chips, cookie mix, and assorted baking items. And that means I'm buying a  lot. Like an embarrassing amount of baking items. Hopefully it will be enough to hold me through for a few months.

I started off at Publix and because of limits and other items being out of stock, I still need to make another trip! On this first run, I managed to save more than $ 82 percent overall savings!

 My total before taxes was just $27.

That's pretty darn awesome considering I had EIGHT boxes of cereal! If you consider just the cereal purchased at full retail, it's like i got everything else for free...This includes

6 boxes of potatoes
4 boxes stove top
10 bags cookie mix
4 bags of chocolate chips

and a lot of other items....

Next, I took a trip to Winn Dixie. I'm enjoying the fuel perks because it means I can get bonuses for stocking up on their clearance items and markdown meats. That's a huge check in the WIN column for me.

My savings at Winn Dixie weren't nearly as impressive, but I still managed to rack up $43 in savings for just about 60 percent off. And that includes buying ground beef AND a nearly 18 lbs turkey! Plus, I got 15 cents in fuel perks.

Not pictured are the SWEET POTATOES I picked up for the next round of Iron Chef Mom! The voting begins for the Cinnamon recipes tomorrow over at Growing up Gabel. I hope you'll vote then be ready to link up Your SWEET POTATO recipes Tuesday over at Semi Homemade Mom!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

5 Tips for Happy Santa Pictures

Today, I'm putting on my photographer elf hat. Yes, Elf hat. You see, during the holiday season I work at the mall as one of Santa's helpers, taking photos of children with Santa. I love it. Absolutely love it.

I love the fantastic pictures as well as the ones that end up in books like Scared of Santa or on one of the websites that will pop up closer to Christmas where you can upload your very own creepy Santa photos.

If you really want to do all you can to get the best Santa picture possible, there are a few things you can do to help your friendly Santa photographer.

1. Pictures before Thanksgiving. In some malls, Santa has already arrived! He's there as early as the first full week in November. Crazy, right? You're thinking Thanksgiving Turkey not Santa. That's exactly why this is the BEST time to get your picture. The lines are much shorter. Shorter line, happier kids, happier parent. Done and over with.

2.Frequent visits. Prime fear age is 12- 36 months. Unless of course, you're my daughter who finally would speak to Santa last year...She was 13. Bring a timid child by often just for a visit. Let her get used to Santa. Make Santa a familiar face. Some kids are going to scream no matter what. Once a little one starts crying, odds are, they aren't going to stop until they are completely away from Santa. And you need to decide what kind of perfect Santa photo you want: completely posed or completely natural.

3. Nap time. Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not bring your child in just before nap. Bring your child in just after nap time. Awake and happy. Not cranky. Cranky is not good.  Even better, make Santa your very first stop. Don't do any other shopping. Get the photo done before everyone is cranky, including Mom, Dad, Grandma and the elves.

4. No candy in line. Sticky fingers. Sticky faces. Sticky Santa.

5. If you wait until the lines get long, bring a friend to hold your spot so you can escape for potty breaks. We've all been there when you get just to the front of the line and "I need to pee!"  And then you're forcing the picture with a kid who needs to be elsewhere. Best case scenario, the potty dance doesn't interfere with the pictures. Worst case scenario, Santa has to change his suit.

 A special note for babies: let them sleep. Some of the sweetest Santa photos I've seen are Santa snuggled up with a sleeping newborn. Melt your heart, stick that on a Christmas card kind of photo. The same rule you use at home of Never Wake a Sleeping Baby also applies to Santa photos.

We're still working out the details on our photo this year. I mean, it's hard to top that awesome photo from last year!

PS...don't forget to link your Cinnamon recipes with Iron Chef Mom this week at Growing up Gabel. Next week, our secret ingredient is Sweet Potato, so get your thinking caps on!

Linked up at:
Fabulous Friday **  Keep Calm & Link Up ** Frugalicious Friday ** Fantabulous Friday ** House of Hepworths **tater tots & jello **weekend wonders ** cheerios & lattes **fly on by friday **Debbie Doos ** Busy Mondays //Throwback thursday **

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pin Inspiration Thursday!

Thanks to all who stopped in and linked last week! 
SO much to see! We *Appreciate * YOU! 

This week Marilyn is hosting a Christmas Ornament Swap. I LOVE a good swap. So much fun!
Before I jump into all the inspiring featured that rocked and blew us away last 
week, I wanted to quickly share a little project with you coming up this winter!
A Christmas Ornament Swap

Sign ups start asap, so don't miss out on a fun chance to spread some 

Christmas cheer with a bloggy bff. You can spring ahead and 
join ahead by filling out this lovely form HERE.. 
"Oh Jolly Heart~ Santa's Sleigh Is Close Ahead"
Here are some favorites!
Oh My - This Simply INSPIRES me VOLUMES!
How GORG is this Glass Bottle Lamp?!?! So creative and simply chic!
From The Lovely Blog The Concrete Cottage
Totally digging this jar art.. It's amazing how easily you can turn a simple jar to
an artwork worth volumes.. This is simply beautiful.. 
Love Birds & Ornaments = Perfect Inspirational Picture
I am in love with the beautiful idea featured via 
The Thinking Closet in creating this sentimental 
ornament with so many prescious held moments.. L oV e!
Hope you are all as inspired
as we are by these wonderful and creative links.. 
So much was shared and SO much more to come today.. 
Before we link up the party, please follow the hosts:  Marilyn, Jane, and Micki.
♥ Please visit at least two other links and leave some comment love! 
♥If you love comments, make sure you have captcha/word verification turned off!
♥Please don't link up your etsy store or giveaway.
♥Spread the word about the party! The more the merrier!
That means link up the party via our button or a text link.

LETS  P A R T A A A A A A Y!!!