Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Pistachio Cranberry Bark Posted by Picasa

We have been snacking on this bark for the past few days. I have been sneaking chunks out of the freezer. It is full of color with the green pistachios, red cranberries, and the white chocolate. I have discovered Bark -what ever the variety- can be made in just a few minutes if allowed to chill in the freezer. This recipe comes from the Dec/Jan issue of Taste of Home.

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
5 ounces white cany coating, chopped
1 cup chopped pistachios, toasted, divided
3/4 cup dried cranberries, divided

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips, stir until smooth. Repeat with candy coating. Stir 3/4 cup pistachios and half of the cranberries into semisweet chocolate. Thinly spread onto a waxed paperlined baking sheet. ( I use an inverted baking sheet with a sheet of silpat placed on top)
Drizzle with candy coating. Cut through with a knife to swirl. Sprinkle with remaining pistachios and cranberries. chill until firm. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yield: 1 pound.

Quinn's Gingerbread House Making Party

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Quinn had a wonderful and special Birthday. With a birthday so close to Christmas, some years it is difficult to find time to celebrate his big day. He was very excited to have a party with some of his friends and preschool classemates. Each family decorated a gingerbread house to take home. With a large selection of materials( candy, cookies, cereal, and crackers)to embellish the houses, the kids used their creativity to make their house unique. I really enjoyed seeing how everyone's house turned out.


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Packed in jars that are decorated with red ribbon and candy canes, this sweet makes a festive gift. To crush the peppermints coarsely, tap the wrapped candies firmly with the bottom edge of any unopened 15- to 16-ounce can.

17 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Baker's), finely chopped
30 red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies, coarsely crushed (about 6 ounces)
7 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint oil
Turn large baking sheet bottom side up. Place a silpat on top of baking sheet or use foil.
Melt bittersweet chocolate in microwave on medium power. Add cream and peppermint extract to the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture onto silpat in a rectangle shape 12x9 inches. Using icing spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate in even layer. place in freezer until very cold and firm, about 10-25 minutes.
Melt white chocolate in microwave on medium power. Stir in 1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies into the melted white chocolate. Spread the white chocolate onto the chilled chocolate layer. Sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Lift silpat or foil with bark onto work surface; trim edges. Cut bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto work surface. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections and each section diagonally into 2 triangles. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Chill in airtight container.) Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Makes 36 pieces.
I adapted and simplified the recipe from:
Bon App├ętit
Cooking Class
December 1998

Gingerbread House  Posted by Picasa

MAKING:Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) KITS

Paperwhite Narcissus  Posted by Picasa

Paperwhites are beautiful, fragrant, and elegant indoor winter-blooming flowers. They are one of the easiest bulbs to force. We force these bulbs every winter. The Kids and I put together Paperwhite kits for teacher gifts this Christmas. We purchase small tin buckets, polished white rocks, and the bulbs. We gathered twine, ribbon, and faux flowers, and card stock from around the house. I found and downloaded a picture of the stages of growith of a Narcissus bulb and printed it on photo paper to make a card and printed instructions for growing the bulbs on the back. We wrapped the tin bucket of rocks and bulbs with white toile and tied them with a green bow and faux paperwhite flowers and attached the instructions with twine. I sewed bags out of a natural colored material to place the tissue paper wrapped gift inside.

The Instructions:

These bulbs are Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta). They are easily potted in shallow containers of gravel. Place the bulbs on a gravel layer, and add enough gravel to hold the bulbs in place without covering them.
Add water to the container, just up to the base of the bulb, without touching it. Place the container in a sunny spot, and in a couple of days, you’ll see roots. In one to five weeks, you’ll have beautiful flowers.
Paperwhites grow a very tall (12" or so) stalk at the top of which are clusters of small white flowers. The plants can become top heavy and may tip over, so you may want to stake them.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Smell of Christmas in the Air

Christmas Home Fragrance Oil

* 2 drops of each Cinnamon and Clove oil
* 1 drop of Neroli oil
* 1 drop of Juniper Berry oil
* 2 drops each frankincense and Myrrh oil.

Christmas Potpourri

* 5 cinnamon sticks
* 2 whole allspice
* 6 bay leaves
* 1/4 c. whole cloves
* 1/2 lemon cut in two pieces (unpeeled)
* 1/2 orange in two or three pieces (unpeeled)
* 2 quarts water

Combine all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer as long as desired. Be sure to check often and add water as needed. Mixture may be stored in refrigerator several days and reused.
Christmas Potpourri Ornaments

* 1 quart of fir needles
* 1 cup dried mixed citrus peels; grapefruit, lemon, orange, lime, coarsely broken (whirl in blender);
* 1 cup whole rosemary
* 1/2 cup dried whole basil
* 2 to 4 whole bay leaves coarsely crumbled
* 2 cups coarse kosher salt.

Mix all ingredients together and use to stuff fabric tree ornaments. Warmth brings out the fragrance. If fir needles are not available, the potpourri will be deliciously fragrant without them, just double the other ingredients to make up for lost volume.

To prepare citrus peels, remove membrane, cut into strips, dry in a warm place till very crisp and brittle.. Break into small pieces and store in plastic bags tightly sealed. Coarse salt is a fixative to help hold fragrance.

Use cookie cutters or pictures printed from coloring books to cut pairs of matching shapes (stockings, santa hats, stars, pine trees, gingerbread men, etc.) out of fabric remnants or felt. I used an old red corduroy shirt last time I did this. Either sew the halves together or use a glue gun leaving a small opening about an inch wide. To make filling the shapes easier, I use a tube I make with a little cardboard and tape, but a spoon works just as well. These are great drawer sachets or you can add a litle loop of ribbon and hang them on the tree.
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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Northern Flicker

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I took a small break from Christmas stuff and took some pictures of this woodpecker visiting our back yard. He was looking for food in the home of squirrels and skating on the icy pond to get a drink.
Here is some information from the Internet about these beautiful birds.

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
Colaptes auratus
Family: Picidae (Woodpeckers)

The Northern Flicker (or Yellow-shafted Flicker) measures 12 1/2"-14" with a wingspan of 18 1/2"-21". The flickers feet are short with two toes in front and two toes behind. The bill is slightly arched that is strong and nearly as long as the head. Upper part of the head and hind neck light purplish-grey. Both sexes have a red crescent on the back of the head. The upper parts are brown, barred with black, a black crescent across the upper breast with numerous round black spots on on the sides, lower breast and belly. The rest of the breast is a reddish-white color spotted with black. The male has a black streak along each side of the throat. Under surface of the wings and tail are a rich yellow.

The female lacks the black streaks on the throat and the black crescent on the breast is smaller. She is somewhat duller and is nearly the same size as the male.

The flight of this species is strong and performed in a straighter manner than that of any other woodpeckers. Their migrations, although partial, many remain even in the severest winters, are performed at night

When passing from one tree to another on wing, they also fly in a straight line, until within a few yards of the spot on which they intend to land, they suddenly raise themselves a few feet, and fasten themselves to the bark of the trunk by their claws and tail. The Northern Flicker easily moves sideways on a small branch, keeping itself erect, head upwards and tail pressed against the bard for support. On the ground, where is lands frequently, it hops.


The song of the Northern Flicker is a loud wick wick wick wick or a squeaky flick-a, flick-a as in it's name. Spring arrival is announced by a loud, far-reaching sound with the long continuous roll of the flicker's drumming in the early morning, a preliminary of the courtship.


Generally distributed in the United States. Eastern bases of Rocky Mountains. Extremely common. Resident in the Southern States.


Courtship of the Northern Flicker is noisy and lively as three or more birds of both sexes perform a comical dancing, nodding and bowing or chase each other around or through branches of a tree. The male and female face each other on a branch and spread their tails jerking their heads in a weaving motion and frequently uttering a wick-up or wake-up call.

The nest site is a cavity (an existing one or newly excavated) in a tree or stump. Both male and female work anywhere from 1-3 weeks excavating. Tell-tell signs are usually chips at the base of the tree or at some small distance from the nest tree. The nest is anywhere from 2-60 feet above ground and the nest has no nesting materials but the chips are left at the bottom of the hole to make a soft bed.

The average number of eggs consists of 5-7 and are a glossy white color, translucent shell giving it a delicate pinkish glow. They size and shape vary, but normally are ovate. Incubation is performed by both sexes and lasts anywhere from 12-13 days with young leaving nest 25-28 days after hatching.

Natural Feeding Habits:

On the ground, where it frequently lands, it hops with great ease. The flicker does this to pick up beetles, caterpillars, or to examine the dead roots of trees, or the side of a log, from which it procures ants and other small insects. The Northern Flicker is also fond of various fruits and berries such as apples, grapes, persimmons and dogwood berries, pokeberries and huckleberries. During winter it frequents suet feeders.

Other Names:

Golden-winged Woodpecker, Yellowhammer, Southern Flicker, Yellow-shafted Woodpecker and Gaffer Woodpecker.

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Friday, December 16, 2005


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I made a few batches of soap this morning using my new soap molds. I used an oatmeal melt-and-pour base and a white Goat's milk base. The Oatmeal base smells great on its on but I added essential oils to it. I added a few drops of a Christmas Tree blend that I made a few weeks ago that I have been using all over the house. I used this blend in the Pinecone soaps.

5 drops Fir Needle Essential oil
5 drops Spruce essential oil
5 drops Cedarwood essential oil
5 drops Juniper essential oil

For the Angel soaps, I used Lily of the Valley fragrance oil, Lavender essential oil, and Peppermint essential oil. This Blend gives a very clean smell. I used twenty drops of each oil to 24 ounces of soap base. I love this Gold mica powder that I used on the angel and the center of the poinsetta soap. It really gives the soaps a shimmery look.

Pinecone Soap Posted by Picasa

Angel Soap Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Please Do NOT Eat

My Traditional Gift of Gingerbread Man Soap Posted by Picasa

I gave these Gingerman soaps for small gifts at a cookie exchange today.

I have a soap mold to make these very simple-to-make Soaps. This year I used a honey melt-n-pour base and added a dash of ground cinnamon for color and Ginger, bay, and Sweet Orange essential oils for the scent. But most importantly, This year I added a tag that read "Gingerbread Soap" and on the Back "Do Not Eat". Last year when I made a batch of these and gave them as gifts, I did not make a tag, and a few people found out the hard way that they are not cookies or candy but SOAPs.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005



I found both of these recipes in the current Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cookie booklet.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp marchino cherry liquid
1/4 tsp almond extract ( i used a little more)
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped marachino cherries
Granulated sugar- I used a mixture of granulated sugar and red/white decorating sugar.
48 chocolate kisses

1. Preheat oven to 325F. In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on med to high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar and salt; beat until combined. Beat in cherry juice and almond extract. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour and the cherries.

2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2-inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten until 1/2 inch thick with bottom of a glass dipped in granulated sugar. ( I rolled 1 inch balls of dough in the sugar before placing them on the cookie sheet and flattening them) Bake 14 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove from oven; press chocolate kiss into each cookie. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


1 cup butter softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp finely shredded lime peel
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup flour
1 recipe royal icing ( I used my usually cookie icing)
Green paste food coloring
( I iced the base green and the tops black. When icing was set, I brushed silver luste dust on tops and added a line of green icing coated with green sugar for a 'shining light')

1. I large bowl, beat butter with mixer on med to hi speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until combined. Beat in lime peel, lime juice, and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with a mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick. Using a lightbulb-shaped cookie cutters, cut out dough. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. poke holes in tops if planning on hanging cookies. Bake 8 to 10 minutes of until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire rack; cool.

3 decorate as desired.

Royal Icing

In small bowl, combine 3 cups powdered sugar, 1/3 cup warm water, 2 T meringue powder, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar. Beat with electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on high speed about 7 minutes or until spreading consistency.

In the Meadow We Can Build a Snowman

First ever "made all by ourselves" Snowman! Posted by Picasa

Cade and Quinn spent hours outside the other day making a snowman together. They were very proud of the fact that they did it without any help from mom or dad.


Chocolate Ginger Cookies

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

From Martha Stewart Cookie Magazine, I used a holly leaf cutter to make these cookies and iced them with green icing and added red hots for the holly berries. I used these cookies to add to place cards. Cade thought that they were Mistletoe. While I was making them he said "Not Mistletoe,Please not Mistletoe, Why Mistletoe?" He must have learned about mistletoe recently and being a 7 year old boy- he thinks Mistletoe is really yucky.

Makes 4 dozen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

1 tablespoon peeled grated fresh ginger

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl.

2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg, molasses, and grated ginger; mix until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.

3. Halve dough; shape into disks.Wrap each disk in plastic; refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4 inch thick. (If dough becomes too soft at any time, freeze until firm.) Cut out shapes with cookie cutter and place on silpat lined baking sheets.

4. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until firm, 11 to 13 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

place Cards for a Progressive Dinner Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 11, 2005



The tradition of kissing underneath the mistletoe began with a Scandinavian goddess called Frigga and her son Balder, the god of the summer sun. Vikings dating back to the eighth century believed that mistletoe had the power to raise humans from the dead, relating to Balder's resurrection.

Balder had a dream that he was going to die. His mother, Frigga, Odin's wife and the goddess of love and beauty, was frantic about his dream and said that if he died, everything on Earth would die. To ensure her son's safety, Frigga went to all of the elements -- air, fire, water and earth, as well as to all of the animals and plants -- and asked them not to kill Balder. Because of his mother's overprotection, Balder was teased and had things thrown at him. It was thought that, because of his mother's power, he was immune to harm.

Balder's only enemy, Loki, found a loophole in Frigga's request for her son's safety -- mistletoe. Mistletoe grows on the tree it attaches itself to, and therefore has no roots of its own and could not be affected by Frigga's request. Loki made a poisoned dart with mistletoe, and tricked the blind brother of Balder, Hoder, into shooting the arrow that killed Balder.

For three days, all the elements tried their hardest to bring Balder back to life, but failed. Finally, the tears that Frigga cried for her dead son changed the red mistletoe berries to white, raising Balder from the dead. Frigga then reversed mistletoe's bad reputation, and kissed everyone who walked underneath it out of gratitude for getting her son back.


Correct mistletoe etiquette is for the man to remove one berry when he kisses a woman. When all the berries are gone, there is no more kissing underneath that plant. It is believed that an unmarried woman not kissed under the mistletoe will remain single for another year.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


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Earl Grey Tea Cookies
Recipe as seen in Real Simple magazine, May 2005
Total Prep Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes (includes chilling time)
Makes 6 dozen cookies

I have experimented the last 2 days with a couple of different Earl Grey Tea cookie recipes and I like this one the best. I ended up rolling and cutting the dough out verses slicing it. Next time, I think I will try using a scalloped biscuit cutter. I also found that the cookies turn out more crisp when baking them on baking sheets lined with parchment rather than using silpat. These tea speckled cookies have a rich butter taste and a very delicious fragrance.

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea leaves, from approximately 6 tea bags
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. Pulse together all the dry ingredients in a food processor until the tea leaves are pulverized.
3. Add the vanilla, water, and the butter. Pulse together until a dough forms.
4. Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a 12-inch log, about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
(I rolled dough a 1/4 inch thick, then chilled the dough between parchment paper. Then I cut the dough out using a glass into 2 inch rounds.) The rolled and cut cookies were more uniform than the ones I sliced and baked. However, it would be convienient to make a log of dough and freeze it for future use.

5. When ready to bake, slice each log into disks, about 1/3 inch thick. Place on parchment or foil-lined baking sheets, roughly 2 inches apart.
6. Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

These cookies are quite easy to make and they are delicious in a very simple way. There’s a subtle elegance about the Earl Grey flavor they possess.

If you would like to have these at the ready for future use, I’d recommend making the dough then storing the dough logs in the freezer until you are ready to bake them. Just wrap them very well in plastic wrap and they should hold up fine until you are ready to take them out, slice them up, and bake.


I love this method of making a very healthy and homemade chicken soup. The broth is made while the whole chicken and vegetables are cooked in water. I make it a little different each time, but it always turns out great.

2 pounds carrots, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
5 stalks of celery, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 4 pound chicken, rinsed
course salt
whole peppercorns
6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
3 bay leaves
dried herbs- sage, thyme, rosemary

1 batch of homemade pasta- roughly cut into large noodles

1. In a large pot, combine carrots, onion, celery, garlic,peppercorns, bay leaves, and chicken, breast-side down. Add enough water just to cover ( season with salt). Place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes. Skim any foam that rises to the top and discard.

2. Remove chicken from pot, and let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones, discarding skin and bones. Tear meat into bite-size pieces, and return to pot. Add desired amount of dried herbs. Cook unitl heated through and adjust for seasoning.

3. Cook homemade noodles in boiling soup.

Christmas Trees on Display at the Capitol Posted by Picasa

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