I have received some early Christmas gifts, gifts that were cleverly and loving crafted by the giver, so I wanted to share them with you.
Coat Hanger Ornaments
The first two are some Christmas decorations that my dad made.
Both the angel body (above) and the star (below) are made from plastic coat hangers and zip ties. So creative! Since these are made with plastic they are suitable for either indoor or outdoor decorating. I added the lights since I planned on displaying them outdoors.
Incidentally, I hadn’t told my dad that I been looking for an angel ornament to hang outside but had not seen any in the stores I had visited. It is the perfect gift.
Broom Corn Ornament
The other hand crafted gift (pictured below) came from my neighbor.
This lovely decorative broom is even more special because some of the components are things that we grew on our farm.
It was one day this past fall when our neighbors Matt and Karen stopped by the farm for a visit. Karen asked if she could collect some pinecones for some crafts that she was working on. After I showed her the tree where the pinecones were most plentiful, and she collected as many as she wanted, we walked back to the barn where my husband handed her a bunch of broom corn and said, “see what you can do with this.”
What is broom corn you ask? The short answer is that it is the plant that makes up the base for the above broom decoration.
A longer explanation is that broom corn is not really corn at all. It is a variety of sorghum that has historically been grown for use in making brooms. Out of curiosity my husband picked up a couple packets at a yard sale last year and planted them along the garden fence this past spring.
Broom corn grows very tall. Some of ours reached about twelve or thirteen feet, but I have read it can grow as tall as 18 feet (5.4864 meters). Unlike corn the seed does not grow on a cob. They grow on branches at the top of the plant.
When cut and dried these branches become very stiff. It is these branches that are used for making brooms. The video below show the broom making process.
Nowadays broom corn is more commonly used as a decorative plant, put in vases or turned into decorations like the one Karen made.
Speaking of Karen’s creation I also want to point out that the flower in the arrangement, just to the left of the two pine cones, is actually made out of a portion of pinecone which was cut near the bottom then painted. How clever!
I’ll close with a thank you to Dad and Karen for these wonderful gifts and to you for taking the time to read my posts.
Despite not following some of the gardening strategies that I had mentioned earlier this year, like planting by the moon and companion planting, our gardens have produced abundant crops. For the last several weeks we have been blessed to be enjoying meals prepared with fresh home grown vegetables. We are thankful to be eating well.
Some of the meals we’ve enjoyed include:
Yesterday’s Dinner – Beef Stew (with home grown potatoes, swiss chard, celery, tomatoes and garlic)
Thursday’s Dinner – Pepper Steak over White Rice (with home grown bell peppers, tomato and garlic)
Wednesday’s Dinner – T-bone Steak, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Acorn Squash and Sautéed Swiss Chard. (with home grown potatoes, garlic, squash, and Swiss chard)
Spaghetti – with home made/ home grown sauce
Corn on the Cob
Green Beans with Garlic Butter
Banana Pepper Poppers
All this, my friends, is why we do what we do.
The Banana Pepper Poppers are one of our favorite side dishes. They are easy to make so I decided to share the recipe. (Please note that I am one of those cooks who does “a little of this and a little of that” so the amounts do not need to be exact. Feel free to put the word “about” in front of each ingredient listed.)
Banana Pepper Popper Recipe
6 – 3 to 4 inch banana peppers
4 ounces cream cheese softened
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
three strips of bacon cooked and cut into bits
a few shakes of crushed red pepper (optional)
bread crumbs (optional)
Slice peppers in half lengthwise and remove stem and seeds. Place in baking dish. Mix together the cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, bacon bits and crushed red pepper. Fill each pepper half with cheese mixture. Sprinkle each pepper with bread crumbs (optional). Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes (until peppers have softened). Enjoy! 🙂
Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator they are even good eaten cold.
Are you eating any in season vegetables?
Do you have a favorite seasonal recipe you would like to share?
Click here to learn more about my “55 Things” series and here to view previous posts in this series.
With Valentines Day just around the corner I thought I would share my secret candy recipe with you. Up until this point it is only a secret because I have not told it to anyone so now my secret will be out.
If you are a chocolate lover like me then you probably get excited when you hear or read reports about the health benefits of chocolate (cocoa) – right up to the point that they add something like “but all that sugar (and potentially other ingredients) in that candy bar are still bad for you so be sure not to eat too much”. 😦 What a let down!
So I decided to make my own chocolates using what I believed to be better ingredients.
Here’s my recipe:
1/2 cup dark cocoa
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup cold processed coconut oil
Since coconut oil has a melting point of 76 degrees F (24 C) I put the whole jar in a bowl of hot tap water to melt. I then measure the amount of liquid oil I need and pour it into a bowl. I add the cocoa and honey and stir until they are combined. The mixture will be smooth and as the coconut oil cools it will become firmer. I line a pan or plate with wax paper and drop by teaspoon on the wax paper. I then pop them in the frig or freezer for a while. Once they are set I remove them from the wax paper and store them in a dish with a lid in the frig (because coconut oil melts at 76 degrees room temperature might be too warm for them).
To change it up a bit raisins, dried cranberries, coconut or chopped nut can be mixed in.
I won’t make any claims about these being healthy but if you research the ingredients you can draw your own conclusions. I will tell you that they are rich in flavor and have a creamy texture that melts in your mouth. Yum!!! I also find that just one is enough to give me my chocolate fix.
I haven’t really given them a name but the first time I made them my husband told me they looked like turds so I told him they would be “the best s**t he ever ate”. 🙂
It seems so long ago that I wrote about buying a loom to make hairpin lace. It was certainly before all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and it wasn’t until after Christmas that I figured out how to use the loom.
For my first project I chose this infinity scarf. The link to the pattern has a detailed video which includes both making the hairpin lace and constructing the scarf. I used a different type of yarn so my results are different from the one created in the video. I took a few photos during the process to give you an idea of how this works.
To create hairpin lace the yarn is looped around the pegs of the loom and each loop is secured in place by a crochet stitch. On this loom both the top and bottom cross bars are removable and there are holes at various distances so the hairpin lace can be made different widths.
At first I found it quite awkward using both the loom and the crochet hook but after a while I was able to get into a rhythm and it went quite quickly from there.
To remove the lace from the loom I only had to remove the bottom cross bar then slide the lace off of the pegs. While this piece has about 30 loops on each side, the scarf I made had four strips like this each with 240 loops on each side.
After I had all four strips made, I joined them together by slipping five loops of one strip though five loops of a second strip then slipping the next five loops of the first strip though those five loops. This process was repeated though the entire length of the strips and created the braided or rope-like appearance. I didn’t get any photos of that process but it can be viewed in the above video. The edges were finished by slipping five loops of the strip over the next five loops of the same strip and repeating the process along the entire edge.
This is the finished scarf. I like the braided effect and can see this process being used to make an afghan, poncho or ear warmer. In fact I have decided to make an ear warmer using this design.
This design is one of many ways that hairpin lace can be used, and from the beautiful, intricate items I am seeing made with it, I would guess this is probably one the easier method of using it.
Now for a couple of bonus photos.
My sister KC, the one that has been teaching me how to sew, made me this really cute hat for my birthday.
She also made matching bandanas for the dogs. LOL. Her fabric choices were perfect.
If you look closely you can see the white fabric has red barns, windmills, chickens and sunflowers – it’s like this fabric was made for me. The yellow print is filled with honey bees. She knows me well!
What do you think of pets dressed to match their people?
Welcome friends! I thought I would give you fair warning that this post turned out to be quite lengthy, so you might want to grab a cup, glass or bottle of your favorite beverage to enjoy as you share in our pre-Christmas and Christmas activities.
O Christmas Tree
I had intended to include several photos documenting the cutting of our 2019 Christmas tree as I have done in past years. Regrettably, it was not meant to be. Although I snapped many pictures as we ventured out to the farm and cut our tree, it seems they are trapped on my cameras SD card. When I put the card in the computer the photo program seems to search for them but then freezes up and refuses to retrieve any photos. Fortunately upon buying a new SD card I am able to once again take pictures and load them onto my computer, so it is only those few that I will not be able to share.
Even though I cannot access those photos, I felt it was important to document this event since part of the purpose of this blog is to journal our activities. This is our fourth year of cutting a Christmas Tree from our farm. The trees we have been cutting are either Norway Spruce or Blue Spruce that we planted as when they were 12 – 18 inch seedlings in 2012. When we planted the young trees it was not our intention to grow our own Christmas Trees but this has since become our tradition.
It was Sunday, December 15, when we headed out to the farm to cut our preselected Christmas Tree. The temperature was hovering around freezing, and though the sun was shining bright as we walked out the door, the clouds quickly moved in and produced a brief snow squall. By the time we got to the farm, about 5 minutes later, there was a thin layer of snow blanketing the driveway, and setting the Christmas-like mood. The snow subsided as quickly as it had appeared and eventually the sun reappeared and melted the snow away.
After going to the barn to retrieve a saw we headed to the south-west corner of the property. The tree we had chosen was in a line of trees that were planted near the west property line to separate our property from the neighbors to the west. It is a lovey blue spruce that is slightly over four feet tall. We will plant a tree to replace this one in the spring.
I won’t bore you with the details of setting up the tree and decorating it since it all went smoothly and within a couple of hours the task was complete.
Made With Love
As in past years, I spent the month before Christmas making gifts. Since I have been working on increasing my sewing skills lately I decided to make aprons for the girls. This may seem an odd gift since only one out of four of them likes to cook, but I decided to personalize them.
The first two were made from a pattern that I bought several years ago and have never used. The second two were made out of worn out blue jeans, using this tutorial. I learned new sewing skills while making each of the patterns – the first involved hand basting a seam before sewing it in place and top stitching (that actually turned out pretty well). The second pattern involved making a ruffle and bias tape. On the last one I got very bold and changed the design from a ruffle and bias tape trim to a cut flannel, rag-type, trim. I was very pleased with the way they all turned out.
It was then time to personalize them – I wanted to capture each of the girls attitude for cooking.
The first was Tina who simply does not like cooking. She laughed when she saw it and agreed that described her.
This one was for Kara, who doesn’t like to cook, but calls me often with cooking questions. I’m always happy to get those calls. She too laughed when she saw the words and realized it was an apron.
The third one was for Hanna. While she may cook occasionally she is more likely to spend time painting, so I decided to make hers a painters apron. The old blue jeans that I used already had some paint stains on them and I added some more splotches with fabric paint.
The last one was for Lindell. She is the only one that seems to enjoy cooking and has recently told me about some of the meals she has made. When she tried on her apron she smiled and said “I love that it has pockets!”
The other big project that I made as a gift was a afghan that I crocheted. This was one of those situations where you might think “everything happens for a reason” or as I prefer to think “God was working behind the scenes”.
I started crocheting this afghan around Thanksgiving time simply because I found a stitch pattern that I wanted to try. I really had no plan for what I was making or what I would do with it. I began with alternating rows of red and blue yarn but when I ran out of the blue yarn the piece was not really big enough to be anything. I went to my yarn stash and found that I had enough of the gray and green yarn to at least double the size of this project. When I finished the gray and green section the afghan would have been a good size for a child, but since I didn’t much care for the color pattern and I didn’t have any children in mind to give it too, I decided to add a third section to make it large enough for an adult. I again went to my yarn stash and found that I had enough black and orange yarn to make a third section.
It was about this time that my husband asked me who I was making it for. “I don’t know,” was my answer, but I began to think about what to do with it. I realized that in the past I have made blankets for all of my daughters except Tina, so I thought I would give it to her. I wasn’t sure if she would like the colors but I was sure she would like wrapping herself in it as she tends to be chilly a lot.
It was two days before Christmas that we learned that we would be having an unexpected guest for Christmas. My father-in-law accepted my husbands invitation to join us for the day. That evening as I finished crocheting and began weaving in the ends I decided to give him the afghan.
Food and Family
Our guests would start arriving around noon so I spent most of Christmas morning in the kitchen preparing our meal. The turkey went into the oven at 8:00 am, then potatoes were peeled, celery and onions were sautéed for the stuffing and frosting was made then the cake was frosted. Meanwhile my husband vacuumed and tidied things up, started a fire in the fireplace and asked if there was anything he could do to help me.
Lindell and Brycen were the first to arrive, so I recruited Brycen to decorate the birthday cake for Jesus. Despite never having decorated a cake before he was eager to help. He completed this task with enthusiasm and I was grateful for the help. I didn’t get any pictures of the cake but I will say – Great job Brycen!
Other guests arrived shortly after. Another picture I didn’t get was Aunt Donna in her Christmas Tree tiara, but in the background of the picture below you can see the comfy-looking elf slippers she put on after removing her shoes. She brought two trays of mini cheese cakes announcing that one tray was made with amaretto. My first thought was “Oh, I’ll have to try that.” My second thought was “that explains the tiara”. LOL! I’m just kidding Aunt Donna doesn’t need to be under the influence of alcohol to do fun and crazy things.
Even before we ate we got Jackson and Addy busy opening gifts. I didn’t make anything for them this year, instead my husband and I spent a few hours perusing toy isles to pick out some gifts.
For Jackson, who has a mechanical mind and is always trying to figure out how things work, we bought this truck/racetrack set. The truck has a horn that blows and a key, that when turned, makes the sound of an engine starting and the headlights come on. It also came with race cars and tools to take the truck part. Once the truck is taken apart the race track is stored inside but we didn’t get it taken apart to see the race track while they were here.
For Addy I picked out a stuffed kitty. I remembered how much she loved Peanut the cat when she met him at our Halloween party, and since her mom said I could not get her a real kitty a stuffed on would have to do.
By far the best gift we received was having the family all together. When the girls were growing up we spent so much time together and never realized how much we would miss each other when they went their separate ways. Nowadays though they keep in close contact through a “sister chat” having them all together happens but once or twice a year.
I am not sure which one of them mentioned having a “sister photo” taken but when they were ready to pose I was ready with my camera. I snapped several photos and when I looked at this picture I wondered what they were all looking at to my left. Then I remembered that Brycen was standing next to me and after I took several photos he said. “now it’s my turn.” Apparently they all looked at him while I stole another photo.
I had the girls put on their aprons and pose again.
Then I handed over my camera and joined the girls. After this picture was taken I said, “now that you are all dressed for doing dishes…” and we all had a good laugh. Actually by this time my husband had many of the dishes already washed up.
Having both of our fathers there was such a blessing. Just like with the girls, the time spent with my dad has become less as the years go by, and the time the girls get to spend with their grandfather is even more rare. Isn’t it true that the more rare something is the more we value it? This was a day to cherish!
Having my Father-In-Law with us to celebrate was truely an amazing gift. This is the first time since we have been together that we have spent a Christmas with him, and I felt honored that at 86 years old he would make the two and a half hour drive from Ohio to celebrate this day with the family.
It had been many years since he had seen the girls and this was the first time he met Jackson and Addy.
When I gave dad his Christmas gift he told me I didn’t have to give him anything. “I wanted to,” I replied. When he said he would open it later, I had to insist that he open it now. He was pleased when he realized that it was an afghan and said he would use it to cover up with in his easy chair. I could relate to this as I have an afghan, that my mom made for me about 30 years ago, that I use to cover up with when I kick back in my recliner for a nap. Dad also marveled that I had made the afghan and asked how long it took. As he was leaving our house to travel home he told me “I can’t wait to use it.” 🙂
Christmas 2019 was a blessed day. As we celebrated the gift of the Christ Child our home was fill with laughter and love.
If you have stayed with me to the end of this very wordy post I thank you, and we wish you many blessings in the New Year.