Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

All the best to you for this holiday season. Thank you for your kindness and support. May the coming year be good to you and yours.

Until next time,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Stockings Were Hung...

by the chimney with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.
 As you can see the holiday decorating is completed on Dogwood Lane both inside and out. The house is outlined in sparkling lights and the mantle is hung with stockings. Nothing makes me happier or puts me more in a holiday mood than hanging these stockings each year. It's such a powerful reminder to me of how our family has grown over the years from just Chris and me to now 15! It always makes me tearful and so grateful.
What a joy to add to the stockings this year  - an angel for baby Eve. It's her first Christmas!

My nut cracker collection is looking a little crowded on the mantle. I started this collection more than 30 years ago and it's fun to read the dates and places where I bought them as I put them up. There are two new additions this year. I don't get new ones every year but I couldn't pass up the two super sparkly ones I found in Old Town Sacramento a few months back, they just made me laugh and I had to have them join the party.
 This guys giant cupcake hat and pink beard are just too much and get a load of his purple sparkle foot wear! I'm calling him Kinky Boots!
Here's the other new addition - a tower of candy cane striped gentlemen. They certainly look festive next to their more dignified fellows.
Each year we hang giant ornaments from the ceiling in the great room using fishing line. The fishing line seems to disappear and the ornaments look like they're floating in space. It's hard to photograph but I love the effect.
This should give you the idea.

Santa and Rudolph are waiting for the kids to arrive and so am I. By Christmas Eve I'll have a happy house full so I'm off to finish up that wrapping, we'd better all get busy. Hope your preparations are right on track.

PS: If you have a blog it's not too late to sign up for the Grow Your Blog Party, the deadline for entry is January 17. This is a great event hosted by Vicki at 2 Bags Full that  brings bloggers together from all over the world and exposes your blog to a whole new audience. Go on over and read the entry rules and sign up. on the sign!
Until next time,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Candied Nuts - Great Last Minute Gifts
Here's a gourmet gift idea for you that could not be easier to make and is so delicious! Every holiday I sneak a bag of these things into my shopping basket as a treat for myself and every year I promise myself I'm going to figure out how to make them. This is the year and I'm passing my knowledge on to you. You can thank me later.

You'll need one pound of raw nuts, I like pecans and almonds, any kind you like is fine. That's about three cups if you don't have a scale. If you don't have a kitchen scale please go get one. You can find really inexpensive ones at places like Home Goods or Ross for less than $15 and they are so useful for all kinds of things. That's where I got mine and I use it for baking and crafty things often.
Whip your room temperature egg whites, vanilla and water until nice and foamy. I used my immersion blender but a wire whisk works just as well. Again, an immersion blender is a wonderful Christmas gift that is so useful. Indispensable for making creamed soups and gravy, no lumps and no messy transfers of hot liquids to the blender.
Now, dump those nuts into the egg white mixture and coat them really well. I just use my hands, a cook's best tool!
Mix up your sugars, salt and cinnamon in a Zip Loc bag.
Once the nuts are coated with egg whites pour then into the bag with the sugars and squish them all around. It looks like a complete mess at this point but do not despair!
Pour the whole thing out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Don't skip the parchment paper or you will be crying over the clean up later, don't say I didn't warn you. Spread the nuts out as best as you can but don't worry too much, you'll get a chance to break them apart after they bake. Pop them into a 250* oven and bake for 1 hour, stir them every 20 minutes or so.
Take them out of the oven stir one more time and let them cool.The smell in your kitchen is divine! Once they're cool you can package them up any way you like. I weigh them out in 1/4 pounds and put them in little cellophane gift bags as stocking stuffers and hostess gifts. See, that scale comes in handy again.

Candied Nuts
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon water
1 pound raw, unsalted  nuts (I used raw almonds and pecans but walnuts and cashews would work, whatever combination you like)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix sugar, salt and cinnamon in 1 gallon Ziploc bag. Set aside.
Place egg whites, water and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk until frothy, my immersion blender worked great for this step.
Pour the nuts into the egg white mixture and stir until well coated. In truth I use my hands for this step.
Now dump the nuts into the Ziploc bag with the sugar mixture and zip up. Mix it all around until the nuts are all coated in sugar. It will look wet but do not fear. Spread nuts evenly onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 250* for 1 hour stirring every 20 minutes to prevent sticking and break up clumps.
After 1 hour take out of oven, stir one more time and let cool. Store in air tight containers if they last that long.
NOTES: Don't forget the salt. It cuts the sweetness and brings out the flavor. I get my nuts at Costco, the best bulk buy around for price and freshness. 

I'm off to finish up the decorating and dreaded house cleaning. A week from today my house will be filled with grown children and grand children, chaos will reign and I can hardly wait for the excitement to start! 
Until next time,

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Took Your Advise

I know I've been pretty quiet on this blog lately and I'm sure most of you can guess why. The holiday season sneaks up on me every year and suddenly the mad dash is on to sew, bake, clean and decorate. How many of you can relate, show of hands? 
 I did manage to finish my little red birds quilt. I took the advise of blog readers and went with the simple red and white print for the border. I also kept the quilting to a minimum since I wanted it to look very old fashioned and the person it's going to loves all things vintage. The quilting doesn't show up very well but there is crosshatching in the red and white blocks and borders.
Remember the less than perfect embroidered block that I was complaining about? I decided to clean it up and use it for my label. Didn't it turn out sweet?  Since my exchange partner hasn't received this yet I've covered up her name I hope she likes it when she opens her gift.
The Needle Nellies had our annual Christmas party party last week and one of the more computer savvy among us created a Smile Box video of the festivities. If your interested in seeing a Smile Box video of the beautiful quilty things gifted at the party just click on the link. You won't want to miss the decorations at my friend Diane's home - spectacular! I couldn't figure out how to insert the video itself. If you know how to do that give me a shout out.

This will be my last Design Wall Monday link up of 2014 as I'm winding up my sewing and cleaning up the sewing space to make room for family visitors. I'll be posting some recipes this week and giving you a peek at the Dogwood Lane Farm decor.

Until next time,

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yes, We Are Thankful!
I hope your Thanksgiving was half as wonderful as mine. We were blessed by family which is the best part of the day and we celebrated with our new food tradition - a Whole Foods Thanksgiving. There are so many dietary issues in our family that a trip to Whole Foods with each family member given a food budget and 20 minutes to shop is the way we handle it. It's a win/win and very little clean up.
It just wouldn't have been a real Thanksgiving without the traditional loaf of bread as big as your head and this year I had help baking from my grown grandsons Jed and Josiah. They really wanted to know how to bake this loaf from the beginning and it was great to have them in my kitchen again. Jed was home from college for a week and Jos (a high school senior) received his early admission letter to the university he was hoping for. See what I mean about thankful? If you want to know how to make this delicious Sheepherder's Bread you'll find the How To Post here.
We had another celebration of thanksgiving when we traveled to San Diego for our precious grand daughter's Baptism. What a wonderful day!
Our dear friend Deacon Al officiated. Al is in fact my oldest friend. He and I have known each other since second grade and we received our First Communion together! AL introduced me to Chris nearly 50 years ago and has been a constant blessing in my life. His wife is God Mother to my children and I to hers and our children stand as God Parents for each others families.
My son & DIL with Baby Eve
Big sister Paige

So thankful for grandsons almost grown and on their way. For tiny grand daughters and new beginnings. For old and dear friends. For family near and far.
Until next time,

Monday, November 24, 2014

Little Red Birds

My design wall is crowded these days with projects in all stages. I've already shown you the Alaskan inspired wall hangings I have on the go. I've also been working on a Christmas gift that's turning out so cute I had to share.
Just look at how sweet this little red work bird is. Embroidering a semi-dense design with cotton thread on WHITE fabric has presented it's own set of challenges. My biggest concern was stabilizer show through but I think I've worked out a pretty good solution. I backed each piece of fabric with iron on, light weight fusible stabilizer before hooping. The kind of stabilizer I might use if I were sew a knit fabric. Then I used a light weight tear-away stabilizer under the hoop to further support the stitches. Once the stitching is done I can carefully tear the paper stabilizer away, the fusible stays but doesn't add significant weight and no show through.
This picture shows the other problem I had on the project - embroidering with 40 weight cotton thread created a crazy amount of fuzz! See all of that stuff around the needle and on the fabric? I used a 90/14 needle and cotton thread in the bobbin as well so I was constantly cleaning out everything. 
The stitch out itself came out great but you can see the fuzz left on the fabric. I blew it off with canned air. Four out of five birds stitched without a problem and then the last one gave me fits! Constant hang-ups in the bobbin no matter how many times I cleaned it out. It took me two hours to figure out the problem. I needed a NEW NEEDLE! Do yourself a favor and learn from my stubborn stupidity, when all else fails change the needle!
Stitch-out with dull needle. Note ragged edges, this is not crisp and pretty at all. Some skipped stitches as well.
Same stitch out with new needle. This is what I was going for!
The difference between these two is much more apparent in person. Trying to save money by using a dull needle is just not worth your time.
My five little birdies ready to go.
Which border fabric do you like. I'm going for a retro vibe here. The friend I'm gifting likes all things old fashioned and sweet.
The embroidery designs are from Embroidery Library, Toile Backyard Birds design pack.

Linking to Patchwork Times Design Wall Monday. Go on over to Judy's and see what other quilters are doing this week.

Until next time,

Friday, November 21, 2014

I Love the Smell of Cinnamon in the Morning

Isn't that the greatest, most delicious aroma? If you don't have cinnamon rolls to greet you in the A.M. then cinnamon toast is a wonderful substitute and that's what I'm enjoying this morning. I made it from a loaf of bread I baked in my bread machine yesterday afternoon.
My bread machine version of Honey Egg Spice Bread
We were having soup for dinner and I wanted something to go with. I could tell from the ingredients that this would be a little sweet and it turned out to be too sweet for dinner but oh my is it ever perfect as a base for cinnamon toast! The spices in the recipe only enhance the cinnamon toast goodness.
I found the recipe at one of the blogs I visited in my blog roll this week. Fresh Eggs Daily is the name of the blog and Lisa is the talented blogger. Her recipe for Honey Egg Spice Bread can be found by clicking on the link. Her pictures are MUCH better than mine and there's lots of stuff on her blog so do jump over and tell her I sent you.

MY RECIPE NOTES:  I cut the spices in half because I was making this for a dinner course and I didn't want the spices to dominate. Next time I'll use the full amount because I'll be going for the breakfast goodness. I used the Quick Cook Option on my bread machine and it worked just great and cooked in 1 hour instead of 3 1/2. My bread looks like it's a bit denser than Lisa's because it only had one rise.

I don't use my bread machine very often so I'm no expert on it's uses and applications. I consider breads from the bread machine utilitarian loaves for quick and easy consumption. They're not pretty and certainly not gourmet. That being said they do need to taste good and this fills the bill.
I leave you with a picture of this little cutie. This is my sugar bowl. I've had this little mug for over 40 years. It was part of a set of animal mugs I purchased when my boys were small. They loved to have their hot cocoa in those monkey, giraffe, elephant and lion mugs. These were only brought out on rainy days and this is the lone survivor. I consider it a real treasure which makes me smile each day and reminds me that too much sugar will make me as big as an elephant!

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Autumn Splendor & A Giant Chicken

We managed to squeeze in our annual visit to Apple Hill amongst all the other things going on around Dogwood Lane and picked up at least a bushel of glorious apples. Along the way we saw some peculiar sights and some beautiful fall flowers.
The attack of the giant chicken! Run for your lives!!
I kinda want to take this guy home. I think he would be amazing bear protection. One look and any self respecting bear would head back into the hills! Conversely, my dogs might have heart attacks on the spot so I guess he'll have to stay where he is.
Not exactly certified organic
These are the type of farm animals to have - no upkeep and no by products if you get my drift. And, so decorative!
Now, on to the splendor part. 
This is Fall color!
The deer had eaten all the mums and all that were left were marigolds putting on a wonderful show.
The weather turned cold enough to freeze these out right after these pictures were taken so they're only a memory now just as they are in most of the rest of the country. Stay warm and sip some hot apple cider along with me.

Until next time,