Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmas Basket

The Christmas Basket has become a holiday must have at our home.  It has been around for about 6 years and provides a much needed service.  Because of my husband's work and church calling we have many people that stop by our home with little gifts of Christmas love. We love it!...but find ourselves unprepared with a little something in return.  That's where the Christmas Basket saves the day.  
Each person or family that drops by is encouraged to come in, stay awhile, chat and when ready to leave invited to take a little something special from our Christmas basket.

As the season progresses (and as I have more time) the basket grows in it's contents.  Christmas books, sparkling cider and dollar store candy cane filled tubes have always been a hit.  Our school principal dropped by one year and said, "Kate told me all about this basket...I needed to come check it out for myself!"  He did and of course went home with a little extra something.  

Our smart neighborhood children caught on to our idea rather quickly and seem to visit us often during the holidays.  Well...we've got something new for them this year!

Rudolph Treats!  It was getting a bit expensive to stock the basket so our little neighbors now get to choose from the framed Reindeer/Santa/Frosty treats.
This idea came from here
The treat container tutorial is here
Pebbles in my Pocket sell the complete packets to make 6 reindeer.  Or you can make your own...very easy and quick. 

Visit our blog tomorrow for some last minute gift ideas.  Jen's Christmas kitchen has been pumping out neighbor gift goodies all day!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Candy Cane Brownies and The Christmas Train

Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies and a book titled The Christmas Train, by Thomas S. Monson have become two of our newest 2012 family Christmas traditions.  
We have a fondness for trains at our house during the holidays.  When our first child was born we excitedly purchased a train set to decorate the space at the base of our Christmas tree.  We loved the old fashioned idea of a Christmas train.  Every year since we carefully (cause it's very old) set up the tracks and coax the train around the tree.  Over the years many children have stopped by our home during the holidays to eat a cookie or two and run the train around the track.  We turn on the little train whistle as each child breathlessly takes the controls in hand for a brief ride.  
One year the baby Jesus from our ceramic manger scene went missing.  We looked everywhere and could not find him.  When we asked our 4 year old son if he knew where the little baby was he said proudly, "Yes!  I thought baby Jesus might like a ride on the train!"  He led us to the decorated tree and we found the baby carefully placed in the boxcar of the old Christmas train.

We love the idea of reading our favorite Christmas stories with a warm cup of cocoa and a little sweet treat.  At the beginning of the season we search for a new Christmas cookie recipe to try.  This year I found a scrumptious one!  Best Bite's Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies.  So GOOD!  A favorite family tradition in the making!
Find the recipe here

We hope that trains, candy cane brownies and especially the spirit of Christmas is in your heart and home this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Boutique

Hi everyone! It's almost December. We broke down at our house and have already decorated for Christmas.
Christmas Lights up on the House...check ,
Christmas Tree...check,
10 Boxes of Christmas decorations...check!
(10 boxes may sound like a lot, but I happen to know someone who has 45 boxes just for her amazing Christmas Village! I am in awe!)
I really do love this time of year. There is something magical about it! People seem to be just a little nicer at Christmas time (except when you are at the mall). It's a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends and most of all to remember our Savior's Birth.
I'd love to invite you to a special event this Friday and Saturday-
Come get a jump start on your Holiday Shopping!!!
My friends and I are having a Holiday Boutique. If you live in the area I'd love it if you could make it. There will be lots of fun things!
I'm including some of the items I will be selling in this post but there will be LOTS more - so if you have time, we would love for you to drop by!
Many styles of single Apothecary Jars


Set of 3 Apothecary Jars filled with Peppermint Sticks
 Candy Cane Dessert Pedestal
Dashing Through the Snow Dessert Pedestal
Mini Apothecary Trio
Set of 3 "JOY" Apothecary Jars filled with Gumballs or Peppermints
Dessert Pedestal
Dessert Pedestal
3 Tiered Dessert Pedestal made from upcycled real silver bowls
And MUCH more!
Hope to see you Friday or Saturday!
If you can't make the Boutique this weekend and you want to stop by the house or if you have questions you can e-mail me at chocolates4bfast@gmail.com or call at 916-342-4425

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Over the River and through the Woods...

Happy Thanksgiving Day!  We're thankful the big day is finally here and all of our planning and preparations are complete.  We're so grateful for the times that bring family and friends together.
Our family has MANY traditions associated with holidays.  One of these traditions happens to follow the big turkey dinner.  The Dessert Trolley.  Not just a few pies but tradition calls for a dessert BUFFET...a trolley full of choices.  Derby Pie is one of the favorites.  
One of our family members moved to Kentucky for Law School and while there became acquainted with Derby Pie.  She shared the pie and then the recipe with all of us and now our pie trolley is not complete without Derby Pie.

It's been said that DERBY-PIE was born nearly a half century ago as the specialty pastry of the Melrose Inn, at Prospect, KY.  Derby-Pie has become the signature Kentucky Derby dessert. 

Here is our family recipe:
Derby Pie
1 stick butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten light and fluffy
¾ cup chocolate chips
1 cup nuts, chopped

Mix all ingredients together.  Pour into unbaked 9” pie shell.  Bake at 350 deg. For 30-35 min. or until golden brown and doesn’t shake in center when moved.  Freezes well.  If frozen, thaw slightly and warm slightly before serving with topping of Dream whip, Cool Whip, or whipped cream.
(Best when warmed after being out of the oven overnight.)

Another family tradition comes after dinner and dessert...the family hike up our mountain!
Happy Thanksgiving


Friday, November 16, 2012

Alice in Wonderland Themed Baby Shower

Another Baby shower? For some reason Kellie and I have been giving quite a few baby showers this year. Both our kids are older so it's been a while since we have done one. It started with my friend Candice having her first baby. Candice is a lot younger then I am. Let me put it this way, when I was in middle school she had just been born. It's funny how as you get older age doesn't matter. Anyhoo...I gave Candice this penguin Baby Shower a few years ago. This time around she was having a girl so it was time for some girly stuff.
She named her daughter Alice so we decided on an Alice in Wonderland Theme!
I had a great time collecting fun Alice in Wonderland Themed Objects.
In the foyer of my house we had an advice book. Guests wrote their best advice on having a GIRL. If you have boys and girls, you know that girl advice is very helpful!
I made pinwheels out of black and white diamond scrapbook paper and printed a clock I found on-line.
Next we had the Hair Bow station. I had seen this on a website a while back and I thought it was a great idea. How fun for the mommy-to-be to leave the shower with a whole bunch of new hair bows made by her friends.

I used the homework caddy  that I had made a few months earlier and put all the items needed to make the bows. That way it was less messy and easy to see what was available. I also printed out some instructions in case some of the guests weren't sure how to make them.
The shower guests had a great time making the bows.
 Here are some of the finished hair bows:
The Dining Room was the place for all the food and goodies.
Because I was in a time crunch I purchased the Banner & food and drink tags from this and this ETSY store and just printed them at home. Esty is a great resource for that kind of thing. It was pretty inexpensive too. I usually make my own at home but in some circumstances it's easier to just buy them and print.  
The food for this party was really fun. I had lots of friends helping also which helped out SOOOO much. We had:
Cookie Dough Truffles
Mini Fruit Pizza's
 Veggies & Dip, Cucumber Sandwiches & Russian Creme (recipe here)
Pasta Salad - here is the recipe - it was amazing!
 For drinks we used my cute jars with these fun Drink Me tags.

The take home gift were these cute sour cream containers filled with candy
Congrats Candice and little Alice!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving on the banks of the Whangpoo River

I was standing duty on board our ship when it was anchored in the Whangpoo River (the river that flows through or near Shanghai).  I was watching the people who lived, worked, and slept in their little boats on the river.  They never left the boats, which meant that they used the river as a source for their culinary water and also as a bathroom.

The water in the river was terribly polluted.  One time, the sailors on my ship had been given ‘liberty’ to go ashore.  They piled into a lifeboat and headed for the city.  On the way, another boat crossed in front of them, and the water in the wake of the other boat splashed into the boat that I and my shipmates were in.  The officer in charge of the boat made us turn around and go back to the ship.  The sailors had to burn their clothing and take showers and get shots.  That lets you know how awfully dirty that water was.
The Chinese people had just come out of a brutal war with Japan, and had no resources for providing for themselves.  One of the ways they tried to provide for themselves was to construct a piece of wood and some nails and a rope to make a dragline to drag the river.  (Papa Kels never said so, but we think that the people were after the things that the wasteful Americans threw away--things like construction materials, clothing, and food.)
One time, I noticed that the youngest member of the family on one boat had found something on the bottom of the river and brought it up into the boat.  I thought it was a piece of coal.  The boy tried to hide the thing under his clothing.  I watched as the grandmother boxed the boy on the ears and took the item from him.  A fight ensued, and the biggest and strongest man on board won (of course).  He grabbed the item from the young boy.   
At this point in the story Papa Kels would pass the box around and ask us to quietly look inside—after all had seen the contents of the wooden box he would continue his story—
The man took a bite of it, I realized that it wasn't a piece of coal--it was a potato.  The man had eaten the potato that had been soaking in that dirty river water.

At this point in the story Papa Kels would express his deep gratitude for the abundance of blessings we as a family shared.  He would express his heartfelt gratitude to our Father in Heaven for the life he had been given.

He would then remind anyone listening to think of that dirty, diseased yet coveted potato when we saw the big bowl of beautiful, white mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving Day.
During the holiday season may we take many opportunities to be thankful—to express our thanks to our family, friends, neighbors and especially to our Heavenly Father.  
Happy Thanksgiving!