14 days ’til Christmas–better get a wreath on the door

I’ve been thinking about making this wreath for months.  The problem is that I haven’t moved past the thinking stage.  I had all the supplies and the idea, so I just needed to DO it.

Here’s all my stuff…

Image   Now, I can tell you that I have more here than I will end up using.  I got it all out because I wasn’t sure what I would use or need.  I think that is how it often goes when you are making a wreath or flower arrangement.  And I prefer to have everything that I might need on hand rather than stopping in the middle of what I am working on to go and track down more materials.

Image  I started with placing the hydrangeas.  I knew these were “for sure” and since they were the largest items to be on the wreath they were the logical starting point.  Now, you can use floral wire or even pipe cleaners to wire your items on to your grapevine wreath.  This is especially good to do if you know that you are going to want to take things off later to reuse or repurpose.  I have no plans to reuse any of this stuff (actually most of this stuff is in the 2nd or 3rd project now) so I used hot glue.

Once I had the largest portion of the wreath in place.  I started working with the burlap.  This the second time I’ve done a project with burlap and I think it may be my last.  I love the look but it is very difficult for me to work with.  It makes a HUGE mess and it isn’t easy to manipulate.  I knew I wanted to make a bow with this but…that plan wasn’t going very well.  What I finally came up with was to fold the burlap into loops and wire the base of each loop to hold it’s shape.  ImageThen I crossed the two loops over and wired them together in the middle  That looks kind of bow-like right?ImageThen I THOUGHT I would glue it onto my wreath.  But that didn’t really work too well, so I ended up wiring the bow onto the wreath.  Image Ugly, I know.  But, I’m about to cover that up.

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Looking better.  I added in a few more sprigs of holly and pine and tucked in the ends of the bow, because I didn’t like how they looked sticking out on the sides.

Image  I wasn’t planning to use that last hydrangea bloom  that is up there on the top.  And this is the direction I had planned to hang the wreath as I was making it.  But then after I got the bow on, I felt like I needed something above the bow.  And once I put that hydrangea above the bow I started thinking that maybe I would turn it on the side to hang it.  Like this….

Image  And that is how it now looks on my front door.  Here’s a wider shot with my mini pine trees in the pic.

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I got the galvanized buckets at a yard sale in the summer and I knew I wanted to get mini trees to put in them.  These babies were on clearance for $4 at Lowes on black Friday!!! SCORE!!! I just added red and white tulle.  As you can see the snow/ice messed up my bow on the one at the edge of the porch.  Mother Nature is messing with my decor!

Blessings friends!

Linking up at From My Front Porch to Yours

It’s a SNOW day!!!

Now if you live in the northern part of the US, you are probably going to get a chuckle out of this post.  But, if you live in the south, you will relate.  Here in our part of Texas we get snow maybe once a year.  So it is a BIG deal.  Ice is a BIG deal here too.  And because we had both last night, school was cancelled today.  My kids were soooooo excited.  Truth to tell, we had maybe 1/4 of an inch of snow.  The main problem was the icy roads.  If the roads are icy the buses can’t run, and if the buses can’t run, then no school.  Woo HOO!!!

The boys and I spent the day watching movies—crazy Mr. G went to work.  We stayed home in our comfy clothes and ate grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup for lunch.  I think we had the waaaay better end of the deal!

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He reminds me of the little kid from “A Christmas Story” in these pics.  I kept folding his hat up and it kept falling back down over his eyes.  Image

This was the only snow man he could make.  As you can see, from the grass poking through the snow, there really wasn’t that much snow and it was very icy and powdery so it really didn’t “mold.”    While I had the camera out, and while I was making breakfast for supper, I took some pics of the Christmas decor in the kitchen.Image

I put these past Christmas pics in my kitchen window every year.  It makes me smile to see my babies “of Christmas past.”ImageThese are my two Jim Shore angels.  I keep them in the kitchen year round, but at Christmas they sit in the window with my pictures.ImageThis is the top of the china hutch.  The little green foil tree we got several years ago at a local florist shop.  The ornaments on it are vintage metal Christmas balls that I found at an estate sale a couple of years ago.  The scrappy garland is one that I made last year or the year before and I added the ceramic gingerbread men that I made a couple of years ago.  ImageAnother scrappy garland along with the candy train my mom gave me (it has little lights on it but they are too tiny to see in the pic) and the tree I also made a couple of years ago when I was still going to pottery class.      I forgot to take a pic of the scrappy garland over the sink window.  The gingerbread men on that one have “bites” missing from them.  LOL.  I’ll have to post a pic of those for you later.Image

Here’s the tree in our kitchen.  It is covered in “sugared” fruits, copper cookie cutters and these cute little guys

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The tree skirt is this cute little quilt that I found at a garage sale.  It is the perfect size for this tree.

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It know this looks a little blurry but it was the only way I could take it so that you cold see the lights on the tree.

And finally, since we are looking around the kitchen, look what Jack did today!

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Blessings!

Tracey

The room mom

Are you, or have you been, “the room mom?”

I was the room mom for C’s class when he was in kinder and 1st grade.  After that, until this year, I was a room mom helper.  But this year, I guess I was the only one in E’s class who said I was willing to do it so…ta da!!! I’m the room mom.  In 3rd grade, it really isn’t that much though.  The main tasks are setting up the Christmas and Valentine parties.  And guess what is coming up FAST?  The Christmas party!!!

If you have never been the room mom before, or just need a refresher, I have a few suggestions for you.

1st:  Send your info out early!  Don’t wait until the week of the party or field trip to contact the parents.  Most people have very full schedules and they need advance warning to be able to get off work, get a sitter for younger siblings, etc.  I sent out an email to all the parents in our class back in September.  In this email, I introduced myself and gave parents the dates for the parties (yes, the dates were already available as the whole school has their parties the same day and time.)  I told parents the dates and times and that I would follow up closer to the events with info.

2nd:  talk with your teacher.  Ask her/him what he/she wants or needs you to do.  Discuss the menu for the party.  Our class parties are only allotted 30 minutes.  This time includes the kids opening their stockings and eating so there isn’t much time left for crafts and activities.  You need to know things like this BEFORE you begin planning.  Also, find out if there are any restrictions the school has for parties (our school doesn’t allow red icing or red drinks) and if there are any food allergies in the class (one of the students in our class has a nut allergy).  This is stuff you have to know so that you can pass the info along to parents.

3rd:  PLAN your party!  Don’t try and wing this.  You are dealing with about 2 dozen kids hyped up for Christmas, no school, and loaded with sugar.  You have to know what you are doing.  This includes the menu. If you just send out a blanket request for help, you are going to end up with 6 dozen cupcakes, 8 dozen cookies, some candy, and no drinks or plates. Tell people what you need and let them help you.

4th: compose your letter/email to parents.  Tell them why you are contacting them, the date and time of the party, and EXACTLY what you need.  They need to know how many kids are in the class. Tell parents about any restrictions or special needs, i.e. food allergies, etc.  Provide a list of what is needed for the party and what specific areas you will need help for the party.  This is the letter I sent to parents:

Mrs. ___’ class Christmas party will be on Wednesday, December 18th from 2:30 to 3:00.  Parents are invited to attend.  All parties at the Intermediate school will be at the same time, so if you have more than one child on campus, you may need to split your time between classes.  Parents will be able to take their children with them when the party is over.  
We need volunteers to bring food, drinks and paper goods for the party.  The intermediate campus does NOT allow red icing or red drinks to be served at the parties.  Juice boxes with clear juice or water bottles are the preferred drinks.  There are 24 kids in the class. 
Items needed for the party are:
plates and napkins
drinks
cookies
cupcakes
goldfish crackers
cheese cubes or sticks
fruit tray
veggie tray
large ziplocs for kids to pack up any food items they are taking home
 
If you would like to send something to contribute to the party and/or if you can help set up/clean up, please let me know as soon as possible.  
 
Also, don’t forget that each child is asked to bring stocking stuffers.  Mrs. _____ makes a stocking for each child.  Instead of a gift exchange, each student brings something to put in the stockings.  Items could include: pencils, erasers, small treat bags filled with candy, gum, colored pencils, etc.  
 
Thank you for your help and participation.  I look forward to hearing from you.
I also included my email and cell phone number for parents to contact me.
5th:  I HIGHLY recommend e-mail for getting this info out.  Most often letters are written, copies made, and then sent home via kids to parents.  The problem with this is the info often gets lost in the shuffle.  I sent my email to parents this morning.  By the end of the school day, I had heard back from most of my parents.  I had someone signed up to bring every item on the list. And I had people ready to come and help with set up.
6th:  Have a plan B!  Our class party is only 30 minutes.  The kids are going to eat and open their stockings.  There really shouldn’t be time for any thing else.  But what if there is?!  What if the kids are hyped up on sugar and totally crazy and we need something to keep them busy?  I plan to have a few “minute to win it” type games ready to go to fill in any time needed. If we need/have time for the games, then I will have them ready to go.  If not, then no big deal.  There is a TON of stuff you can find on Pinterest for class parties.  I started a “room mom” board.  You can check it out here (room mom board) if you need some ideas.  If your party is longer than 30 minutes, and you are including crafts, activities, and/or games.  You need to plan out everything you need, how you are going to move the kids from one activity/group to the next, how many helpers you will need, etc.  There is no such thing as too much planning when you are dealing with kids!
7th:  plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the party to set up and plan to stay and clean up.  Many parents will be willing to help you with this.  You must get there early!! The teacher is counting on you being ready to go at the assigned start time.  Don’t leave him/her hanging by being late.  (And if you have younger kids, find a sitter.  There is no way you can efficiently manage the party and your littles).  And plan on cleaning up.  Don’t leave your teacher with the mess, not if you want her to continue to like you and your child.  🙂
8th:  One last thing, send your helpers a reminder the day before the event.  And, be sure to thank them for their help/contribution.  You’ve got another party to plan in the spring and you’ll need their help again.  🙂
I know, I know---I'm a slacker
Blessings friends,
Tracey

Jack has returned!

The past two years, Jack has returned from the North Pole on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Which has resulted in about an extra week of his visit.  Since Thanksgiving is late this year, and because he got held up at the North Pole, he didn’t arrive at our house until this morning.  He brought breakfast.  What a model house guest!

E is THRILLED that Jack has returned.  Tonight he has left a note for Jack to deliver to Santa.  

“Dear Santa,

I want a Yugioh tin or a new Ninjago Lego set.  But early.  Love, E”  

How unfortunate for E that Santa doesn’t deliver early gifts.  

Blessings friends,

Tracey

The edge of insanity

Saturday morning Mr. G and C hauled all of the Christmas storage tubs out of the attic.  And stacked them in the middle of my living room, and kitchen, and family room.  It made my brain hurt.  Then I walked thru the living room to the laundry room and found MORE tubs stacked behind the sofa.  That was when I wanted to cry.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas and I love all the decorations but the pre-decorating and post decorating chaos makes me feel anxious and crazy.  Adding to the anxiety is that Mr. G and I have completely different approaches to projects like this.  I want to do one room at a time, get that room completed before moving on to the next, clean up as we go, etc.  That is not his approach.  I will leave the details to your imagination—-we’ll just say that it is different from mine.

To add to this insanity holiday fun, E had asked very sweetly if we could PLEASE have two Thanksgivings, i.e. one this weekend at home and then the “regular one.” So in between unpacking storage tubs I was cooking for Thanksgiving #1.  It is possible that these were contributing factors when, Sunday morning, I treated my children to a  10 5 minute lecture on how they could be more helpful around the house, and have a better attitude when asked to do something, and until they became helpful and cheerful their allowance was suspended until further notice.  I’m just saying that it is POSSIBLE that there were other things going on, besides their behavior, that prompted me to have this discussion with them.  You know, MAYBE….

On a more positive note, my turkey was FABULOUS!!! My father in law does NOT like turkey and he said that “this was a really good tasting turkey!”  He asked me what I did different to make it taste good.  Well, here is my secret….brine.  Now, if you have never done, or heard of, this before it may sound crazy.  That’s what I thought the first time I heard about it.  But I promise you the meat will be tender, juicy and flavorful.  Try it, just once, and I think you will taste the difference.  We did this for the first time about 10 years ago and we have brined every turkey we have cooked ever since.

If you look online, you will probably find lots of recipes for brine for your turkey.  I use the original recipe I used 10 years ago.  I got it from Alton Brown, I saw him do this on his show “Good Eats” that used to come on Food Network.

Here is the recipe….

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

You can click on the link to read the full directions but this is what I do.  I put the salt, brown sugar, stock, pepper, and allspice in a LARGE stock pot.  (I leave out the ginger just because I never have that on hand and I’m not going to buy it just to use it once a year.)  I also added in an onion and large orange,both cut in half, and the top halves of a bunch of celery.  (I guess a “group” of celery is called a “bunch”, buy one “thing” of celery cut the stalks in half and throw the top halves–with the leaves in the pot).  Bring it all to a boil, turn it down to simmer, and just let it go for a few hours.  Check on it every once in a while and give it a stir.  You want all the flavors from the stuff you added to come out into the stock.  I probably let mine hang out on the stove at a low temp for 3 hours or so.  Turn it off and let it cool completely.

Now you need a CLEAN 5 gallon bucket.  Go to Lowes or Home Depot and buy a brand new one.  Don’t recycle and use the one that your pool chlorine or laundry detergent came in!  Make this brand new bucket your “turkey brining bucket” and don’t use it for anything else.  Rinse your turkey off, remove the giblets and put Tom into your bucket.  Pour the cooled stock, with all the celery and stuff, into the bucket with the turkey.  If you live some place warm, fill the remaining space in the bucket with ice and add some water to bring the level of the broth up so that it covers the turkey, put the lid on it and set it out of the way for the next 12 hours or so.  If you live some place cold, fill the bucket with water to cover the turkey, put the lid on it, and set it out in the garage for the next 12 hours.  Our garage this past weekend was in the low 30’s so I felt pretty confident that the turkey was going to be cool and I didn’t need to add ice. 🙂

The next morning, when you are ready to roast your turkey, take it out of the bucket and give the skin a little rinse off.  Put it breast up in your roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a LITTLE sage (a little sage goes a long way!). I also cut a lemon and an apple into quarters and put the pieces into the cavity.  Cover with foil and put in the oven at 375.  About an hour before the turkey is finished, (a 13 lb turkey in my oven took about 4 hours) take the foil off so that the skin can get that pretty crispy, brown look that you see in the pictures.  Now my turkey had the implanted pop up thermometer, but you can use a regular meat thermometer to check for doneness.  When it is done, remove it from the oven and put the foil back on the turkey.  Let it sit for about 30-45 minutes before you carve it.  This is important!!! If you carve it as soon as it comes out of the oven all those yummy juices are going to run right out and then your turkey just lost all the moisture and yumminess you spent the last 24 hours working to achieve.  Use that time to finish your gravy, mash your potatoes, etc.  After that you can slice it up and accept the compliments!

Blessings friends,

Tracey