Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from My House to Yours

I had my house painted just in time for my
Christmas cookie exchange last weekend. 

From our house to yours, we wish you a Christmas filled with joy, peace, and cheer!!!

Today, I am celebrating the greatest gift of all, that God came down to meet us right where we are: "And they shall call his name Immanuel, which translated means 'God with us.'" ~Matthew 1:23


Couldn't resist taking out the snow globe collection . . .

Gettin' cozy by the fire

Jaspers says "Baa Humbug."
(We tried to get her into the holiday
spirit, but she detests the scarf.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Our Family Famous Christmas Lemon Bread Recipe

Mom made this lemon bread recipe every year at Christmas, and while she has moved on to other recipes, now my sis and I carry on the lemon bread tradition. We make it at Christmastime for friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers as it makes a unique gift. I've even been known to triple the recipe during holiday baking sprees!!! 

Our Family Famous Lemon Bread

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons lemon extract
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
The recipe will also make 2 small loaves or 3 mini loaves. 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease standard 9x5x2 loaf pan and line with wax paper.
  3. Mix sugar, butter, and extract.
  4. Beat in eggs.
  5. Sift dry ingredients together. 
  6. Add alternately with milk and beat just enough to blend.
  7. Fold in rind and walnuts.
  8. Transfer to loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  9. Fork several holes in bread while still warm.
  10. Combine juice of lemon and 1/2 cup of sugar to drizzle over bread. 
  11. Do not cut for 24 hours. 
 Can't wait to bite into this on Christmas morning!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Coffee and Tea Station for Holiday Guests

'Tis the season for hosting holiday parties and having out-of-town family and friends stay over, but that doesn't mean you need to be a short order cook. People don't mind serving themselves, especially if all the coffee and tea goods are set out for them in an organized fashion--and they have some yummy hot drink choices. Use forgotten items around the house to arrange cups and spoons. I saved a necklace holder from going to a thrift store and instead used it to hold my vintage cherry cups in an easily accessible spot where I set up my coffee and tea station. All it takes is 5 minutes to put together your own coffee and tea station so guests can serve themselves while you are freed up for mingling and merry making. Cheers!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yummy Baked Treats {a sweet and easy Christmas gift!}

Here's another great Christmas gift idea you still have plenty of time for . . . and if you were wondering, NO, you do not have to be a pro to bake yummy Christmas treats. (Moms, give yourselves a break!) In fact, you don't even need to do your baking from scratch. Last night, Reina and I made these mini pumpkin breads in Christmas colored ceramic loaf pans for all of her teachers from my favorite mix of pumpkin spice bread. Then she wrapped them up in cute snowman bags and tied them with red ribbons. The nifty thing is that her teachers can keep the mini loaf pans for reuse. Even better, Reina is learning to express her appreciation for other people who make such a positive influence on her life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Creative & Crafty Gifts Ideas {Just in Time for Christmas!!!}

Maple Walnut Coffeehouse Scones

If you are not yet finished with your Christmas shopping, and you tell yourself every year that you will be done sooner next Christmas, there's no need to beat yourself down or hang your head in shame. Waiting until the last minute for purchases often pays off because of holiday sales currently in stores everywhere with some items now going for up to 60% off. Besides, the school year is winding down and you are getting ready for some time off work, so you can focus on wrapping up your Christmas shopping (in more ways than one) with these creative and frugal ideas!

* Shop at dollar and discount stores for gift wrap, tags, bags, tin cookie canisters, and Christmas cards.

* For baking supplies, shop at warehouse stores and split the costs with another mom. I love the bulk sized Krusteaux pumpkin bread mix available at Costco, which is perfect for pumpkin bread, muffins, cookies, AND waffles.

Grandma's Ginger Snaps

* Bake for neighbors and co-workers as well as your hairdresser and your gardener or handyman. Or put together a basket of inexpensive items you can find at grocery stories like a variety of teas in a nice basket. Click here for two yummy cookie recipes (vegan peanut butter and Grandma's ginger snaps) and coffeehouse scones that are perfect for gifts: Quick and Easy Cookies for Gifts and Maple Walnut Coffeehouse Scones.

Lemonade Sugar Scrub
DYI Ornaments to Make as Gifts

* Make quick and easy gifts with items around the house such as floral hair accessories, ornaments, or sugar scrubs. Check out these links for easy instructions: DYI Floral Hair AccessoriesBeautiful Homemade Ornaments You Can Make in 15 MinutesThe Easiest Ever DYI Sugar Scrub.

Dollar Floral Clips

* Do a secret Santa exchange with friends or family members to reduce costs to only one gift purchase rather than buying separate gifts for everyone.

* Use department store coupons for Christmas shopping, especially stores where you earn points or gain store bucks.

* Compare gift prices online before making sale purchases in the store for more expensive items to ensure you are getting a good deal.

* Hunt for unique gifts at vintage and thrift stores (like the lovely cherry cups my dad bought for me a few Christmases ago). For ideas, see Vintage Cherry Cups and Saucers.

Vintage items create one-of-a kind gifts that your loved ones will cherish for years. 
Linking to: One Project at a TimeTip Me TuesdayThursday Favorite Things Last Minute Christmas Ideas Link PartyWeekend Retreat Link Party

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Finding Balance for Yourself During the Hectic Holiday Season

I recently had a bite to eat with a fellow single mom of a teenager, and we commiserated about our collective stress levels and how we feel the weight of the world is literally on our shoulders (our massage therapists might agree!). Simply conversing unplugged with my friend among all the frazzled shoppers was a huge relief as we shared about our stress management solutions and what we do these days for some daily relaxation in order to stay sane. We ended our chat with future plans to do a post-Christmas detox treatment followed by sushi, and I left feeling more thankful for our few hours of peace rather than the Black Friday sales I missed out on.

While the “go, go, go” of the holidays can be thrilling, eventually we get worn down and need to take a time-out to regain balance. This holiday season, look for ways you can weave these easy self-care activities into the holiday countdown.
  • Schedule a massage, facial, or pedicure in between Christmas shopping and errands.
  • Sneak out for an eggnog latte to sip and enjoy distraction-free.
  • Play your favorite relaxing music while you cook, bake, and wrap presents.
  • Slow down with a mug of spiced cider in front of the fireplace or near a scented candle.
  • Take a walk outside at dusk to enjoy the neighborhood Christmas lights.
  • Make a cup of hot tea and meditate for 5 minutes, coupled with deep breathing exercises.
  • Take a hot bath with festive peppermint oil or salts.
  • Read your favorite book as a mini-escape from all of the holiday chaos while waiting in line or for an appointment.
  • Journal away your stress at the end of the day (to the warm glow of the Christmas tree lights) by writing out your worries, anxieties, and problems.
  • Sleep in on a Saturday or Sunday and linger over a holiday breakfast before rushing out to run errands.
  • Take time to pray and meditate on uplifting Bible Scriptures. It's not too late to follow this easy Advent plan: 25 Days of Christmas Scriptures for Advent

Linking to:   

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Homemade Ornaments {Inexpensive and Thoughtful Christmas Gifts!}

Be creative with what
you already have!
This Christmas, how about making a homemade ornament for a special family member or good friend? Let yourself be creative and look around the house for some craft items you could use to make your one-of-a-kind ornament. The gift recipient will truly appreciate the time and thoughtfulness you put into the ornament. For as little as $1, you can buy a plastic or glass ball ornament to fill with colorful items like beads, glittery ribbon, or lacy fabric. If you are feeling especially adventurous, you can string beads together for an ornament hanger. Tie with a shimmery ribbon, and you have a beautiful gift that will be admired for years to come. In fact, you might be so impressed, you will want to keep it for yourself. Hehehe.

For my ornament, I found pink, purple, and clear beads in my craft bins and placed those on the bottom of the ornament. Next, I added pink glitzy fabric scraps to cover the beads. Since I was so inspired, I beaded a loop to create an ornament hanger. Don't be intimidated by the time it might take you to create an ornament because this only took me 15 minutes!
Linking to: Cherished Bliss Ornament Party LinkupCaffeinated Crafters Link PartyKatherine's CornerMoonlight and Mason Jars Link PartyOne Project at a TimeTip Me TuesdayPink Saturday


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