Monday, December 29, 2008

December Sky

Yesterday (Sunday), I was treated to a bluebird sighting in the backyard. It was brief but it sure did make my day!
Last night the sky was spectacular in shades of pink and purple. I tried to get some pictures but it's hard to hold still long enough for the camera to capture the sunset. Santa did bring me a tripod (and a monopod - Santa is an over-achiever!) and I really will have to get them working so I don't miss any more of the "good shots". The top pic was the best. The other two were kind of artsy I thought, so I included them here. Hope you enjoy lots of lovely sunsets in the New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Handmade Christmas Cards!!!

I was the lucky recipient of some very beautiful handmade Christmas cards this year and I thought I would share them with you. It is such a treat to receive them whether in the mail or hand-delivered as I know the amount of time that goes into the creation process.

I don't know how I missed having it myself, but don't you just love the embossed background on Dana's card. There's another CB folder on my shopping list now.

The funny thing is that I was going to use that very same tree stamp for our cards this year, but after seeing such beauties come to me I thought I'd try something else. That's only a partial reason why I didn't mail ours out until (shhhh!) yesterday!

Of course I had this grandiose idea to adapt the medallion from this card into an ornament and that would be our card, but after punching out all those circles and squares, I had to opt to make two different cards and the second one didn't have any stamping and was a card I did for a Teapot Tuesday challenge a couple of weeks ago.

Here's the insert I included with my cards:
Though Christmas Day has come and gone
The season still is here.
We hope your Christmas was quite fun
And send you New Year's cheer!

The Marshmallow Project

Have you ever had a homemade marshmallow? I was lucky enough last year to have a few that a friend of mine brought to work. They are nothing at all like the store bought kind. And you can flavor them. When I looked at recipes the only initial drawback to me was that you had to beat the mixture for 8 to 10 minutes. That's a long time standing for me so I wasn't up to trying it. But here's where Costco came to the rescue. They had a Kitchen Aid mixer on sale/special in late November and I kind of talked HWNSNBP into the fact that we really needed one of them. My secret purpose was the marshmallows (don't tell), but it will also help with the pierogi dough next year and lots of other things I'm sure.

So I went about doing some research for recipes and found this one for vanilla marshmallows on a blog called Brownie Points. I followed the full recipe for the vanilla marshmallows and used the half recipe for the cinnamon ones made with 1/2 cup of pulverized red hots. Because of the size of the pan used, the vanilla ones are "taller" and I cut them larger with all intentions of dipping them in chocolate and nuts - but that will have to wait until another time.

The cinnamon half recipe used a square pan that made the marshmallows a more manageable size. In the recipe itself it says to use a clean coffee grinder to chop up your red hots and if you have one, do it that way. I did not have a coffee grinder so I decided to use my food processer which is all the way in the back of a bottom cabinet and had to be dug out for this on hands and knees. The noise that it made and the toll it took on the plastic bowl were pretty pitiful. So I will be shopping for a coffee grinder in the near future should I choose to make these again.

I had set aside some nice Martha Stewart cookie boxes with dividers that I had found on sale at AC Moore the day after Thanksgiving. Sweet red and white 8" x 8" boxes with little boxes inside so you could put a variety of things without "mixing" them together. Unfortunately I should have checked the package more carefully. The divider sections and the food safe tissue paper that was supposed to be in there wasn't, which made the boxes unusable in a pinch because without the dividers the walls of the box collapse. The packaging was clear and I should have noticed the missing pieces. I guess I was just giddy with excitement at the price!!!!

So I had to scrounge around for some other packaging and came upon these small MS boxes that I had picked up on clearance in the fall. They are a minty green (IRL it does match the snowflake) and not your typical Christmas color choice, but I thought if I paired it up with a nice pink that I could get away with a pastel version of Christmas. I used a stamp from a retired SU set called So Many Scallops and Pretty in Pink and Certainly Celery ink. The ribbon is the Pink Pirouette striped grosgrain which I stapled some pink and green snowflakes onto the ends.

If you like marshmallows give the recipe a try. But remember to give yourself a day for them to set up (they need to sit for 10 hours before cutting).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday CPR 12/26 - I'm Not Your Mother/Saving Me From Myself

To view my Friday CPR post for 12/26 - I'm Not Your Mother/Saving Me From Myself....... click here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas Earrings

Today, December 23rd, is an anniversary for our family. Ten years ago today my dad died. He had developed an immune disorder after bypass surgery called ITP that came upon him rather suddenly. It all started with a bloody nose that wouldn't stop and tragically was dismissed by the doctors in the emergency room who packed his nose and sent him home. What they didn't realize was that he was bleeding elsewhere internally and by the time they did, the platelet transfusions didn't help. The loss of blood had caused stroke(s) and we were told that he would not recover. We had to make the agonizing decision to take him off life support and stood circled at his bedside as they turned the respirator off. He could not and would not ever be able to breathe on his own again, but his heart, because of the bypass surgery was strong and continued to beat for ten minutes. My mother, my sisters, my brothers and my husband all were there. My children, 17 and 15 at the time, chose not to be and part of me is very glad that they didn't stay. We left the hospital and travelled to my mom's house to begin making calls. Planning a funeral anytime is stressful, but planning a funeral this close to Christmas ..... well, what can I say other than it was difficult at best.

But somehow we managed to get everything set in place and to gather at our house for our Christmas Eve vigil. My father would have laughed to see how my daughter, a non-fish eater made $80 from her aunts and uncles that night for eating a piece of herring. I don't remember what gift we had bought for him, but I can assure you that there was a bucket of chocolate chip cookies with his name on it. You see, his usual response to "what do you want for Christmas?" was always "a bushel basket of $100 bills, but I'll settle for a bucket of chocolate chips!" And that's what he would get (bypass or no bypass).

There were good moments and bad moments that night but the most touching moment came when my mother handed my sisters and me a small wrapped box. She asked us to open the boxes together and when we did, there was a pair of cameo earrings for each of us. She told us that "daddy picked those out for you."

I don't recall any other time that my father had "picked out" a gift for us. I know that he would "pick up" what my mother told him to if he were shopping, but I cannot honestly say that he would have made any specific choice. During his recuperation from surgery he spent a lot of time watching TV and he loved watching QVC. It was during one of their jewelry programs that he spotted the earrings and he told my mother that he wanted to get the earrings for us for Christmas. And that is why I call them the Christmas earrings.

Ten years have gone by and I still miss him. Merry Christmas dad, and thank you for the earrings. They're beautiful and I will cherish them forever.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What an Honor

I got an e-mail from Nicole - the StampinLibrarian on Splitcoast Stampers to tell me that my Fabulous Flower Angel is being featured today as the Demo 3D Challenge. For those of you who are Stampin Up demos and belong to Splitcoast you can view this challenge at .

If you're not a demo you can check out my post from back in November - Fabulous Flower Angel. If you think that you would be interested in making these angels you will need the Fabulous Flower stamp set which is being retired as of January 18. I also used this set for the little tree that I had in this post and in the picture below

Thanks so much Nicole for choosing my angel.

Friday CPR - What Do You Do When.....

To view my Friday CPR post - What Do You Do When.... click here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Teapot Tuesday 25

Cindy's teapot this week is a simple, but very pretty one. The square of ivy on that white surface is just striking. You need to visit Cindy's glob to see the beautiful card that she has created, admittedly very quickly this morning. I have to say that the card that I made today based on the teapot also came together rather quickly.

There is no stamping on my card today. I thought that I had a piece of scrapbook paper that had ivy on it as I do not have an ivy stamp. This is what took the longest time tonight - going through all the scrapbook paper that I have stashed. I found some lovely papers that I had forgotten I had, but I did not come across the ivy one within a reasonable amount of time, so I opted for this embossed paper with the vine and berries. I was going to tell you that the deer ate the ivy but then I found the ribbon with the ivy in my ribbon box. Punching the squares out was another time saver.

The background is embossed with a cuttlebug embossing folder and it was by pure coincidence that the bird wound up on top of the square, so I felt it needed to be acknowledged and colored it with my SU markers. I also used my gold paint pen to highlight the edges of the embossed panel. Not sure you can see it in the picture but it plays nicely with the gold in the ribbon.

The card is not as simple as the teapot and may be a little over done, but I like the outcome and hope you do. I think that I would try this again and use a different ribbon - perhaps a thinner satin or grosgrain in red.

Oh, and the little red bird is a hint as to what might be coming up next week.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dickens Tea and Glass Studio Tour

Last weekend I managed to bookend to events. On Friday night my cousin Barbara and I went to a Dickens Tea at Teaberry's Tea Room in Flemington. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. We had a six course tea with the most delicious food starting with Wassail and Pumpkin Ginger Soup. Then came a tasty salad of Roasted Pear/Gorgonzola with Honey Currant Vinaigrette. The entree was Steak, Mushroom and Ale Pie, Potatoe, Cheese and Onion Pie, Ham and Swiss Pasty, Dilled Shrimp Tea Sandwich, and a Curried Chicken Tea Sandwich.

Then we had cream scones with clotted cream, lemon curd, and raspberry jam. (I could not finish mine and asked for a take home container). This was followed by the desserts. Yes, that's right - desserts, of which I took home almost all. We had Gingerbread Trifle, Lemon Cake, Orange Brownie, Mincemeat Square, and a slice of Fruitcake. And finally, Pomegranate Sorbet. This was all accompanied by a pot of tea of our choice.

While we were eating, an actress playing the part of Ebeneezer Scrooge's sister, performed "A Christmas Carol". She was very engaging and a pleasure to watch and listen to.

The tea room was decorated for the holidays with trees in every room, flowers of the season, and candlelight on the tables. It was a wonderful evening.

On Sunday afternoon, my friend Joan and I took a little excursion over to the Vandermark Merritt Glass Studio right here in Branchburg. Twice a year they hold an open house and the public is invited to watch them at work and then browse their studio. They have displays of their work that they put on sale at this time.

These pictures on the right are from the glass working that we were able to observe. It was all quite interesting and I'm glad I had a chance to learn about another art form and see it all up close.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bitten by the Humbug Part II

I am my own worst enemy. How many times have you heard that said about someone? I try not to make a habit of opening my mouth and expressing an opinion without giving it considerable thought. In the case of my original Humbug post I should have let my anger pass and not have hit the publish post button. Instead, I made a feeble attempt at trying to make a trying situation to me humorous and in the process wound up hurting someone else. I should have known enough about blogs to know that my words would reach friends as well as strangers. It's easy to be anonymous with strangers, but friends and coworkers were given a view of our homelife that should have been kept private. I hope those of you who read the first post will read this and realize how unkind I was and know that I will try not to be so negative in the future. I will reiterate that I am very lucky to have a family and more specifically a husband who puts up with all my foibles and still loves me in spite of them. I know that he will do whatever he can to pull me out of the darkness that overtakes me at this time of year because he loves me.

Quick and Easy Recipe Books

We have an event at work called a Cookie Walk. Traditionally this has taken place on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception. We had eleven participants who each brought in a batch of 6 dozen or more cookies and an empty container. We meet in the faculty room after school and walk around the table taking 3 cookies at a time from each tray until the cookies are gone (we do wear gloves!). It gives us either an extra dessert for Thanksgiving or something to freeze and save for Christmas or holiday of choice.

I have put together the recipe booklet for the event for the last two years and I thought I'd share the current one.

It very simply began with a couple of packages of $1 notecards that I found at Michael's. I just added some embellishments to the front cover, typed the recipes up and stapled them into the card to make a little book.

I tried a new recipe this year which came out pretty good -

Oatmeal Coconut Crisps

1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. butter or margarine (softened)
1 2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. uncooked oats
1 c. flaked coconut

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt and soda - set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light. Beat in one egg at a time. Stir in flour mixture, vanilla, oats, then coconut. Drop by teaspoonful 3" apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in preheated 375° oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on rack.

Teapot Tuesday 24

A little teapot for one with it's own cup is what Cindy shared with us this week. I love the snowpeople with their twig arms. And the little bird resting on the twig arm is so cute. Cindy said that there are some bird houses on the back of this ensemble. Please visit her glob so you can see the great (and I mean that more than one way!) card that she has come up with this week for her Teapot Tuesday Challenge.
I have a few snowman stamps but when I saw that there were two together on the teapot this week I was reminded of the two snowpeople in the hostess set Window Dressing. I haven't used that set nearly as much as I should have so I decided to give it some love this week. The little red bird is also from that set. I tore a piece of white paper to add the snow in front of the snowmen. I don't think you can see from the picture but I added some sparkle to that snow giving it that crusty look. My background color is a little lighter than the original pot just so I could add some interest to it with the snowflake stamp from Season of Friendship stamped in both craft white and VersaMark ink.
The ribbon was added under the large snowflake to mimic the scarves from the snowmen and thinking about it now, if I had some darker blue floss I would have added a stripe or two to the ribbon to make it coordinate better. I didn't want to stamp the sentiment (from Best Yet) on the ribbon (tried that before here and it wasn't too readable) so I added it on a strip of Baja Breeze paper and sponged the edges with the Pacific Point Blue.

The clear ice brads are from the pretties kit. I added those and used a glitter gel pen to add some sparkle to the card. Boy was that hard to photograph. I hope you can see it.
The felt snowflakes are from SU and they come in three colors, white, red, and blue. I thought the white would look best here.

I know that I've probably said this before but I hope you all are enjoying the Teapot Tuesday Challenges as much as I have. I hope Cindy doesn't run out of pots too soon!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bitten By the Humbug

In an attempt to make myself feel better about my negative feelings for the holidays I wrote a post about it. Unfortunately it did not involve only me. It was not kind of me to include my family, afterall they have to deal with my negative feelings on a more personal basis. So I have removed the post.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Help Choose a Tree

I have this stamp set called Scandinavian Season and I have used the mitten image here , the star image here and there is also a much smaller snowflake image I have not yet used. The tree image is very versatile and I am thinking that I would like to make ornaments for (shhh, don't tell) the staff at work but I need some opinions.

The first picture has the tree in blue. The left one (don't mind the cut-off bottom) has been bleached, the right one has an added white motif.

The next picture is of a white tree inked in blue
and a blue tree with some coloration and white added.

The last picture is a red tree with darker red accents and a green tree with a red flower.

I plan on mounting them on another piece of cardstock and giving it a 1/8-1/4" frame which will enable me to add a ribbon or decorative thread hanger.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. You should be able to click on the image to make it larger. Oh, and I will be also doing the stars or a snowflake for the staff that does not celebrate Christmas.

The Great NJ Lighthouse Challenge - (8) Tucker's Island, (9) Barnegat Light and (10) Barnegat Lighthouse Museum

Onward with the Challenge - to Tucker's Island Light. This is actually a reproduction of the original lighthouse that "fell into the sea in 1927 after years of pounding surf and beach erosion." It is part of the Tuckerton Seaport which has a museum and eateries and is expanding as a maritime village. (There's also a great Tea Room in Tuckerton - the Lizzie Rose) This is a quick stop for us usually as our goal is to get to the next stop before they close and with the added addition of the museum at Barnegat we needed to press on.

Barnegat Lighthouse or "Old Barney" as it is affectionately called, is probably the one lighthouse that we have had the most exposure to. We have been lucky to enjoy our vacations for the last many years at my friend's condo which lies across the bay from the lighthouse in the town of Barnegat. The lighthouse itself is at the northern end of Long Beach Island, and we usuallly drive out there once or twice while we are there. The drive during the challenge however is much quicker as it is "off-season" and not as many vacationers in mid-October.
I have climbed this lighthouse a couple of times in the past. I can tell you that there are 217 steps, with some well-placed, catch-your-breath landings and a take-your-breath-away view at the top, which when you stand on the north side, makes it appear that you are right over the water. Spectacular!! This January 1st, Old Barney will be lighted again in commemoration of it's 150 yr. anniversay. It will be outfitted with a pencil-beam which will help the local community to avoid "light pollution" from the tower.
The Barnegat Lighthouse Museum was sort of a well-kept secret for us as we had never really known about it until the challenge brochure was published this year. It is only a block or two away from the lighthouse itself but we had never ventured over there before. Upon visiting it during the challenge, we decided that we will definitely have to come back while on vacation next year because they not only have a lovely museum - a converted old schoolhouse - but there is a wonderful little garden area behind that was past it's peak blooming season but lovely nonetheless.

If you are visiting Long Beach Island I would recommend these stops during your stay there. There is a concrete walkway along the jetty by the light and you can walk from there to the beach right past the bird sanctuary. The fishermen love this area and it is a great photo opportunity.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Watercolored Cardinal

Our USPS mail lady at work will be celebrating her birthday on Saturday. We have become friends over the years, mainly because she has to get out of her mail truck to come in to the school to deliver the mail. I think most people don't realize how much our mailpeople have to deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes she really needs to take a break from either the cold, heat, or wet weather. They have to deliver packages that can weigh up to 80 lbs. and have to deal with not only dogs or other animals like deer or birds, but also wasps and spiders in mailboxes.
So to show her a little appreciation I made her this framed watercolored cardinal. I used the SU stamp from A Cardinal Christmas and stamped it in Basic Gray on watercolor paper. Then, using my aquapainter, I watercolored with Riding Hood Red, Bravo Burgundy, More Mustard, Old Olive, Always Artichoke, and Chocolate Chip Ink (with a little bit of Basic Black for the eye).

The frame holder is something that I picked up at the Christmas Tree Shop last year and now I wish that I had picked up more as they were only $1. (Oh yes, I have tons of $1 alterable items here in the house which has me worried sometimes that if I bring one more thing into the house the floors will collapse from the weight. So you will be seeing a lot of these $1 items being altered into gifts for the holidays!)

The finishing touch was the addition of the bow in the lower left corner. She likes birds so I'm pretty sure that she'll like it. What do you think?

$ Store Makeover

Take one $ Store Photo Frame Pencil Holder

Add some stamped panels, flowers, and ribbon

And this is what you get.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Teapot Tuesday 23

If you've been following along with the Teapot Tuesday challenges that I have been doing you will know that I skipped last week. Not because I wanted to, mind you. Last week just got to be too hectic. Sorry Cindy that I missed last week's tea party. If you want to see the teapot from last week please click here. It's a cute little Santa teapot and Cindy's card is gorgeous.

This week she featured another Christmas/winter teapot - this lovely tree pot (ha!). You just have to see the fabulous card that she made so do make sure to visit her glob. She is such a paper genius!!!

I had been wanting to show off (yes I said it!) my Fabulous Flower Christmas Tree Ornament and this worked out almost perfectly. I think it resembles the top of the pot lid - what do you think? The colors are very subtle as I used VersaMark ink on Very Vanilla cardstock and then got out my pastels and just dabbed a little Creamy Caramel on the petal edges. Please believe me when I say that it truly is prettier IRL!

The tree is made very similarly to my Fabulous Flower Angel which I posted here. The difference in this tree is that I used all four of the pattern pieces and instead of threading the cord through all the layers, I only threaded the cord through the topmost layer and used a toothpick for the trunk. Once I had the layers on the trunk (toothpick), I used a little Crystal Effects on the underside of each to keep the layers in place. If I were to do the tree in green - which I will in the next couple of days, I will use ink on the toothpick in either brown or green.

So once, again I thank Cindy for having such a fun tea party and letting me play.

Pierogi Day and the Card

The day after Thanksgiving, when other people are out doing their Christmas shopping, my husband and I prepare for our annual pierogi making day. This is when our family gets together to make the pierogi for our Christmas Eve vigil. We have been doing this at my house for the last 15 years or so.

Yes, we did manage to get a little shopping done in the morning but not at the Christmas sales. They were just quick trips to Michaels and Costco to pick up a few things. The shopping for the pierogis had been done by HWNSNBP much earlier in the morning before I even woke up. (He does lists well!) So all that was left was to prepare the kitchen. Now given the amount of "stuff" that I have in the kitchen this could take 1/2 hour or so. And that stuff has to have a place to go - which is all over the house, wherever there is space. With that done, I washed down the counters and covered the table with a plastic tablecloth and waited for the rest of the ingredients and the workers (my mother, sister, and brother) to arrive.

While we were sitting collecting our thoughts before we each took our assigned positions, HWNSNBP went and got the mail. When he brought it in the kitchen he announced that I had a letter or something from Kentucky. My mother says "who do you know in Kentucky?" To which he adds "oh she has friends all over the place because of her blog." My sister's head spins around and she says "You have a blog? You aren't blogging about the family are you?"

No, I'm not and have not. Yet. At least not about that side of the family!

So let me tell you, or rather show you what I did get from Kentucky...... this beautiful card from my blogging friend Dana over at Life is Good. I don't remember how I found Dana, or maybe she found me, but I do enjoy visiting her every day through her blog. I'm sure if we ever do meet in person we would be fast friends.

To Dana, I say thank you for the beautiful handmade card. It means a lot to me! To my family, just know that I'm keeping good notes!