A beautiful, wonderful, no stress Christmas (almost)

Nice as it was, I'm glad it's in the rear window.  We had some new traditions this year and some really nice moments in the kitchen laughing and talking.  Everyone was happy with their gifts.  Then there were naps and the dishwasher was run several times and then it was over.  And, all that's left is a big pile of pots, pans and dishes that live in hard to reach places.  I refused to crawl around on the floor or climb a step stool to put them away.  

I worked a full day on Monday...sort of.  Mostly I unpacked my stuff at my new desk.  I brought home two large boxes of personal stuff that there is no room for.  The team had lunch and I got home around the same time Rob did and called it a day.  I worked half days Tuesday and Wednesday and spent every spare minute working on the quilts for the greenhouse, which were finished on time and I believe have kept the greenhouse warm during this hard freeze.  Thursday, we finished our freeze prep and Friday, we went out for a last minute shopping jaunt that we both enjoyed very much.  Saturday we took a quick trip to the grocery and I did as much cooking as I could and yesterday, we had a nice relaxed day.  

It started with pull-apart, or monkey, or bubble bread, depending on where you are.  

And, then lunch

And, cake.  

And, that's why we needed naps.  I was blessed by the cooking gods and everything came out right, nothing burned, nothing under done, and most important, it all came out of the oven at the right time.  Relatively speaking.  Because lunch was an hour late.  But, they should be used to that as it happens almost every big meal.  

Unfortunately, the cake (4 layers of orange sponge with an orange curd filling and slightly orange flavored American buttercream frosting) was dry.  As Rob said, it wouldn't get me sent home, but I wouldn't be star baker.  Still a lot to learn about baking.  Every year I set a bigger challenge for the Christmas cake and see how close I can get to it.  I'm pretty happy with what I'm learning about frosting, but have to get back to the basics of baking a moist cake.  

This is what the greenhouses look like with their covers on.  The small one on the left is completely enclosed in four basted quilts made from old fabrics and batting scraps.  There was not time to get them quilted before this freeze, but I'll be doing that and will hopefully have them finished for the next hard freeze.  I believe they worked but I'll be opening it up today to make sure.  

I'm only working two half days this week.  The rest of the time will be spent relaxing, enjoying myself, and eating leftovers.  Sydney brought back the shirt I made her not long ago.  The cuffs are too tight, so I'll replace them.  I bought an online shirt making class a couple weeks ago and it will give me a chance to watch it with a shirt in my hands.  Or maybe I'll cut a new one out.  Or maybe I'll just sit on my behind and knit the week away.  Rob gave me some new wool yarn for Christmas that's itching to be a hat and scarf.  

I hope that your Christmas was happy and relaxing and that your food was good and you were surrounded by laughter and fun.  And, I hope you're getting some time to feel peaceful and relaxed now it's over.  In a week, it will be a new year and we will see what challenges and joys it brings.  

Be happy.  Lane


The big week

 It's a big week because of the holidays, of course, but it's also a big week because we're having our first freeze.  Rob and I both spent time working hard and we're both a little achy this morning.  Not too bad, but it's one of those days I'm reminded I'm 60 years old.  

I finished the Christmas cookies.   Just in time to give them away.  If we can stop eating them long enough.  I love having them to give away, but I need to remember they take a lot of time.  But ain't they cute?  Now, we're just eating the ugly ones and while they do have calories, they're 'good deed' calories.  If we eat the ugly ones, we save the neighbors from having to look at their horror.  Good deed calories wash away in the shower.  

I think I've shown you most of our decorations, except the Santas

And, the quilts.  This was a block of the month from a few years ago.

I made this one when I was into the tiny detailed quilting.  It's truly one of my favorites.  

The designs in the corners aren't a print.  They're the quilting.  

And, my very first Christmas quilt.  I'm reminded how long ago I made this and how far above my skill level it was at the time.  But, I love the end result.  

Yesterday, we packed all the plants in the greenhouses.  We have a forecasted 15* night, so the greenhouses will get their covers.  I'm making what Rob has come to call a greenhouse cozy for the small greenhouse.  With a light inside for heat, it should keep the plants inside nice and warm.  I'm using all the old fabrics from our bedroom; the roman shades, bedskirt and bed spread.  There will be four quilts (two sides, front and back).  They have to be small enough to launder.  Eventually, there will be button holes so I can lash them together along the edges, but for this year, I"m going to be lucky to get them finished, so they'll be sewn together around the edges with large hand stitches and a heavy thread, because I didn't start this project early enough either.  The batting is old poly batting scraps and leftovers and a couple of twin size cheap battings I bought.  The backs are lightweight curtains and sheets that were on the way to being drop cloths.  The edges are serged together instead of bound.  We're going to see how that goes and if it doesn't work, I'll bind them.  

Here's the inside of the big greenhouse.  Lots of plants packed into a small space.  This greenhouse is easier to warm, so it only needs a tarp for a cover...I'd hate to be making quilts big enough for it!

And, my thought for the day.  

Everybody have a wonderful holiday.  I know there are several this time of year.  If you're celebrating Christmas, may Santa be kind and your family be nice and whatever you're baking, roasting or deep frying come out perfect and delicious.  Most of all, may you be surrounded by people you love and who love you back. 

Peace, Love and Joy to you this season.  



The Christmas village

There are a lot of meanings of "village" at this time of year.  There are the neighbors and the friends I've made online, my work team and then there are Rob's Christmas villages, where nothing ever goes wrong and they sing carols into the night with wassail and fruitcake to sustain them.  

He built this stand this year so he could display his victorian village better.  It looks WONDERFUL and I know he's very proud of it.  

Here are some close-ups.  The neighbors came over the other day and saw it and he told them stories about what the characters were up to.  

And, here is his Retroville village.  With the availability of cars, these folks really get around.  

Let it be said that no one likes a diorama like my husband does.  We go all out for holiday decorating.  

Rob's been out of town this weekend, so I decided it was a good time to bake Christmas cookies.  What a maroon I am.  Not only did I have all the regular chores and the weekend chores, and paying attention to the animals so they wouldn't feel abandoned, but I was trying to make 10 dozen cookies.  Even taking Friday off, there was not time.  This was as far as I got.  I spread a clean table cloth over the whole thing and walked away.  Everything is outlined so just needs to be filled in and I need to come up with a brown food coloring for the gingerbread men.  Then, it's just details, like buttons and eyes and striping the candy canes.  I've got one more night to see how much progress I can make and how much table I can clear off before he gets home.  

A friend has been posting pictures of the most delicious looking small pizzas and I wanted to give it a try.  I made veggie pizza two nights in a row.  The second night looked much better than the first, but both were delicious.  And, the crust was perfect!!  That's always our complaint about take out pizza.  

He shared his dough recipe and said it made a great bread and sometimes he adds cheese.  Well, that was too tempting, so I made it yesterday afternoon.  I let it rise twice and should only have let it go once (doesn't follow directions well) so it's not very big and pretty, but it was so good that I ate half the loaf last night.  I love bread.

The camellias are in bloom.  They're so beautiful, especially on these grey cloudy days.  They remind me of the camellias that bloomed in front of my Grandparent's house.  I do enjoy having something in bloom almost year round.  

And, there was this late rose, which I cut and brought inside to enjoy.  

We've got neighbors that decorate as much as we do.  Maybe more.  This is just their front yard.  Who knows what's inside.  

I had to go to the office on Thursday to pack up my desk to move to our new location.  I'll have half the space at the office, which means half the incentive to go there.  And, since there was almost no incentive before...  I packed up what was at my old desk and carried a box of personal stuff to the new desk.  Needless to say, it's not going to fit, so next time I go up there, it will be to unpack a few things and re-pack all the stuff I'll need to bring home.  Anyway, I hope the lady that complained about where we sat is happy.  Very, very happy.  

Everybody have a great week!  I hope you're enjoying the build up to the holidays.  And, next year, right around Thanksgiving, can someone please remind me that I DON'T NEED TO MAKE 10 DOZEN COOKIES EVER AGAIN!!  And, if I do, the broken ones are not really calorie free?




Holiday prep

 This was shopping weekend.  We did our usual trek out together to shop.  We didn't buy many Christmas presents, but we sure did have a lot of fun.  Just the two of us, relaxed and happy and enjoying ourselves.  We managed to buy things for one another without the other one seeing.  That kind of secrecy is always fun.  There weren't many shoppers out and we think that's a combination of less shopping this year and the fact we were out early in the day.  It was also cloudy and cool and that might have kept some people home.  Always glad when it's cool enough to Christmas shop in long pants.  It just doesn't seem like the holidays when we're shopping in shorts.  

I promised more pics of the house.  Here are the Christmas trees.

The big tree.  We have an ornament collection...several in fact.  We have ornaments from my Grandparent's tree, my parent's tree, a collection that my Mom started for me when I was about 3, and our friend Linda's collection.  I would say we have everything but the kitchen sink, except there's an ornament made from a dollhouse kitchen sink.  

Every year, the tree looks the same, but every year it's different because I place the ornaments I'm interested in that year where they can be seen the best.  This year, the ornaments from my Grandparent's tree are at eye level, even though they're not as bright and shiny anymore, they still mean so much to me.  

This is the LiBien tree.  These are all hand painted ornaments.  Pier 1 used to sell them and now World Market does.  We have at least one from every year since 1997.  We've filled the tree and added ornaments to the center and still bought more ornaments this year that we'll have to find a place to hang.  They hang in order by year, oldest at the top because yes, we are those people.  

without the lights so you can see the ornaments.  

And, the ceramic tree.  Everybody probably remembers one of these.  They seem to be making a comeback.  My Mom's was solid white, but I can't remember whether the bulbs were white or multicolor.  I think multicolor.   Anyway, Rob shopped and shopped for one, but they were very expensive.  We happened to stop at a garage sale one summer day and they had one for like $10.  He paid them more and explained that it was worth so much more than what they were asking, it would have felt like taking advantage of them.  

I decided I wanted a fruitcake this year.  Without a recipe, I bought dried fruit in the grocery; cherries, pineapple, apricots, dates, raisins, black currants.  Rob can't eat nuts, so I left those out.  To me, the problem with fruitcake is it's so heavy and dense so I spent about an hour reading fruitcake recipes and about what makes fruitcake dense (not enough liquid in the batter).  I found the recipe I wanted to try.  It seemed like it would make a very light cake, but when I put the batter together, it was heavy and thick.  I added buttermilk to interact with the baking powder and help it rise, and a half cup of rum.  I didn't realize that there weren't any spices in the recipe until I was started making it, so I added some Christmas flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon and clove.  It came out perfect, so I wrote down the recipe!  We couldn't resist, so we cut the smallest one last night.  Light, moist and even though the flavors haven't combined, it was delicious!  I'll wrap the other two and give them a drink now and then and these will be perfect by Christmas week.  

We are getting great fall color in the yard.  We don't always.  Sometimes, the leaves all fall in one day and it's over before you know it.  


Just one thought today.  

Everybody have a great week.  Remember that the holidays are about the fun you have, not the number of presents under the tree or the size of the feast.