Holiday Traditions: The Christmas Tree

Every family has a their own holiday traditions.  As the month of December gets started around our home, these traditions roll in with the Christmas tree.

When my husband and I began our lives together, we didn’t have much.  Both of us agreed we didn’t want a Christmas tree covered in random ornaments bought at the local department store.  I had a few glass balls from my Great Grandmother, and a few from my childhood.  That first year, we went and each chose one ornament we felt was significant to us that year.  Our tree was not one that was picture perfect for a magazine, but each ornament on there had a story and we loved it.

Each year since, our family has continued the tradition of adding an ornament for each family member.  We each choose one that has meaning to us that year.  Our Christmas tree has filled up over the years. Now it is splendidly full of all the personality our family brings.

Another holiday tradition for our family is making our own ornaments.  Each year when my children were growing up, we would make a set of ornaments.  We made clay candy canes, yarn weaving on toothpicks, paper chains and snowflakes, and so many others.  One of my favorites was the decoupage ornaments that we made a few years ago.  I went to the local second hand store and purchased a few glass ball ornaments that had seen better years.  The color was chipped and coming off.  Most of them were missing their tops.  More than a few of them had cracks and chips in the glass.  Paintbrushes in hand with Modge Podge and Christmas fabric, my children and I recycled the old ornaments into something new and beautiful.

Every holiday season, I love hearing my children dig through the ornament bins to find the ones they picked or made.  Each ornament hung in just the right place for them.  When they are ready to have their own Christmas trees, I will go through and pack up their own decoration set to start them off.  Passing on the tradition of a Christmas tree decorated not just in pretty ornaments, but in memories too.

If you are interested in trying out the decoupage ornaments, I wrote up a DIY tutorial over on DIY Craftz recently.  They are super fun to make!  Just enough messy for the kids to really have fun, pretty enough to enjoy for years to come, and easy enough for the whole family to make their own.

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Knitting Necessities: Notions Boxes

Over the last decade I have knitted my way across the western United States.  Every road trip, weekend get away, and even just a drive for the day my knitting goes along.  My knitting notions boxes make it so I can knit everywhere while on the go without worry I’m missing a vital tool.  When you knit so many different projects like I do, you never know when you will need an extra stitch marker or a cable needle.  Finishing a project while out and about without a tapestry needle is pure torture for me because I can’t stitch in the loose ends.  Don’t even ask how many times I have been caught without a notions box and in need of scissors.  I have chewed my way through yarn more times than I can count.

I keep all my projects separated in large plastic zipper bags.  These bags have the yarn, needles (or hooks), and the paper pattern (or name of pattern on my kindle) in them.  Basically, my project is all packed and ready for me.  When I am ready to work on one of the projects, I simply grab the project that catches my attention, drop a notions box in the bag, and I am ready to craft on the go.

A notions box is a small container that holds all those little tools that make knitting or crocheting easier.  I have a couple of notions boxes that I thought I would share with you in this post.  One I put together myself with bits and pieces out of my collection.  One I purchased pre-made on Etsy.

knitting necessities blue notions box

My blue notions box was put together out of my own supplies.  It has a flexible measuring tape, fold-able scissors, three different tapestry needles, a handful of stitch markers, and a stubby little pencil for paper pattern notes.  This is my go to notions box when I am working on a simple project that will not have need of cables, row counting, or held stitches.

knitting necessities alpaca notions box

I recently purchased this little notions box on Etsy.  The seller is The Sexy Knitter ,she has a whole slew of different designs for these little notions boxes in her store.  You can purchase just the tin, a partially stocked tin, or the fully stocked notions box.  I purchased the fully stocked notions box.  It came with a cable needle, an adorable retractable sheep measuring tape, a wooden needle gauge, a tiny double ended crochet hook, a stitch holder, tiny scissors, a row counter, three tapestry needles, five paper origami star stitch markers, and five plastic safety pin stitch markers. The lid also has a surprisingly strong magnet in the lid to hold the needles.  I was so impressed with this little notions box!  I really didn’t have much faith for those tiny green scissors.  I honestly expected them to not be able to cut very well.  Boy was I wrong!!  Those little things are amazing!

Whether you put a notions box together out of the supplies in your knitting stash, or purchase a pre-made one, a notions box is definitely a knitting necessity!

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Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Our family Thanksgiving dinner is small by comparison to some.  We usually have less than ten people total.  I still love all the cooking and togetherness that comes during this time of year.  Because most of the people that attend live in our house, I am always the host.  That means most of the cooking falls to me.

One secret to a successful holiday meal, big or small, is proper planning.  A couple of weeks ahead of time I sit down and plan the menu, grocery lists, and cleaning that need to happen.

This year our menu will consist of:

  • Turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Candied Yams
  • Mashed Potatoes With Gravy
  • Cheesecake
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Ginger Cookies

Given our busy schedule this year, we chose to purchase our pumpkin pie and cheesecake at Costco while grocery shopping the weekend before the holiday.  The turkey is lounging in the refrigerator to thaw since early Monday morning.  The yams, stuffing and potatoes will be cooked on Thursday.  The cranberry sauce will be made Tuesday while I cook dinner.  The ginger cookies will be made on Wednesday while we clean the house.

Today I would love to share my super easy recipe for Homemade Cranberry Sauce with you.

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Are you ready?

Here it is….

Homemade Cranberry Sauce:

Ingredients:
‎1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
4 Cups Fresh Cranberries.

cranberry sauce ingredients

Directions:Put in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool. It will thicken as it cools.

cranberry sauce cooking

Yep.  It really is that easy.  Just three ingredients and ten minutes gives you beautiful, delicious, fresh cranberry sauce.  Once you try this, you will never want to eat the factory canned stuff again!  You can make it a couple days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.  Another option is to home can it.  You can water bath can this sauce just like a jam or jelly.  Ten minutes of processing in the water bath canner makes it shelf stable.

What is your favorite recipe to cook for the holidays?  Comment below and let’s start a conversation!

Don’t forget to follow me over on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest for more pictures, stories, and ideas!

Butter Biscuits Recipe

My family really enjoys warm buttery biscuits. They are delicious with roast and vegetables, or you can drown them in hot sausage gravy. Or you can go the traditional route, and just top it with some lovely homemade jelly.
This is my favorite recipe for biscuits. One batch makes nine good sized biscuits. I usually do a double batch, just because we all love them so much. What makes these biscuits different than most is how they are baked!  Not only is there butter in the dough, but a good helping of butter in the pan for them to soak up as they bake.  So tasty!

First you need to preheat the oven to 350*f and get the pan ready. If you are doing a single batch, you will need an 8×8 pan. (If you are doing a double batch, you will need a 9×13 pan.  The 9×13 pan makes 24 biscuits.) Put a half a stick of butter in your baking dish and slide it in the oven to melt while you make the dough. (A whole stick if doing a double batch.)
Ingredients for the dough:
2 cups Flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup milk (approximately)

Time to get your hands dirty!
Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Start to work your butter in.  Just squish the butter in with your hands.  Work the butter in until it is all crumbly and you don’t see any large chunks of butter.

Butter Biscuits Dry Ingredients

Now it’s time to mix in the milk.  You want just enough that the dough holds together, but isn’t sticky.  Just add a bit of milk at a time.  Mix and knead.  If you still have dry bits, add a bit more milk.
Once you have made your dough, it’s time to make the biscuits. Take your hot pan out of the oven. Your butter should be melted, but not burnt.

Butter Biscuits Butter
Grab chunks of dough slightly larger than a golf ball. Roll it into a ball in your hand, and then give it a bit of a squish. You want it to be about half an inch thick. Put the biscuit in the butter, then roll it over and place where you want it. Each side of the biscuit should have melted butter on it. Don’t leave space in between the biscuits. You want them to push against each other as they bake.

Butter Biscuits in pan
Bake at 350*f for 15 to 20 minutes or until a nice golden brown. Remove from pan as soon as they come out of the oven. You should be able to just dump the whole pan out onto your cutting board.

Butter Biscuits Done
Then it’s time to enjoy the buttery goodness that is a butter biscuit.

Butter Biscuit Recipe

Loaded Potato Soup

This is my absolute FAVORITE soup. I am only allowed to make it once or twice a month because I will eat myself sick. I just cannot control myself. Be warned, not a low calorie recipe!

loaded potato soup recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups bacon cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 32 oz box of chicken broth
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups instant mashed potatoes (apx)
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream

 

Toppings

  • Green onions sliced
  • Sour cream
  • Cheddar cheese shredded
  • Bacon crumbles


Directions

1.Start the bacon pieces frying in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic with the bacon until the bacon is cooked through.

2.Stir in the potatoes and just cover with chicken broth, bring to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are tender (apx 10 minutes). Add the cheese, stir until melted.

3.Pour cream and instant potatoes into the soup stirring constantly, until soup has thickened. Add more instant potatoes if it isn’t thick enough.

4.Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, and bacon crumbles on top.

Finish or Frog In 2017

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How many unfinished projects do you have hiding around your home?  While cleaning my craft area, I decided to gather all my unfinished projects together.

In no particular order, I have:

  • purple / Teal headband and fingerless glove set
  • alpaca shawl
  • blue nutmeg sweater
  • purple bamboo cabled gloves
  • shell stitch baby blanket
  • flower hexagon blanket
  • granny square blanket
  • grocery bag holder
  • bamboo sweater
  • crochet blue / brown basket
  • pop tart phone cozy
  • rainbow novelty scarf
  • suede bottom slippers
  • black / white cotton fingerless mitts
  • alpaca cowl
  • striped sock yarn bag
  • purple / mint cable headband
  • silk slippers
  • pink i-chord
  • blue cowl (hat?)
  • purple cable cup cozy
  • outline wrap
  • sundance beach bag
  • 2 color hot pad set
  • dark green hot pad set
  • pencil scarf (pillow?)
  • radiant circle throw
  • traveling cable handwarmers
  • lazy weekend socks
  • grey / green hat
  • family mittens sparkly blue / mint

I’m setting a goal for myself to Finish or Frog (rrrriiiiiipppp-it apart) at least 17 of my unfinished non-blanket or shawl projects in 2017. I am not including the blankets or shawls because I know I can’t finish that much in just three months. Plus, the granny square blanket is my scrap project, it will take years to get it finished.

I would love to have you join me in my challenge!  Head over to Instagram, post pictures of your unfinished projects, and use the hashtag #finishorfrogit2017 ! Check in on our Facebook page with pictures of your progress!  I’m even on Twitter to share and celebrate finishing our neglected projects. Let’s see how many projects we can get finished together!

Fall is a time for crafts!

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Every season has a focus for me.  Summer is all about family road trips and camping.  Winter is storm season here, so we hunker down and spend time together at home.  Spring is a time of renewal, I’m ready to clean and declutter my house and start planning for summer.

Fall is all about crafting.  It is this time of year that I start organizing my craft room and thinking of projects to do.  Last week I posted about organizing my yarn stash.  This week I’ve been looking at my unfinished projects.

There is a sweater, that just needs one sleeve.  A pencil scarf that is only half done.  A shawl that has just a few rows.  A couple of sets of hot pads begun and set down.  At least two headbands and four hats.  The never ending granny square afghan I started for using up my scraps.  And another crochet afghan that was given to me in pieces that just needs a few center blocks, then it will be ready to put together.

I tend to be a bit ADHD when it comes to my projects.  I love to start new projects!  The thrill of a new pattern and excitement of a new item get me going.  Then my interest wanes as my attention is distracted by another shiny new project.

I have set a goal to finish all of my started projects, except the granny square blanket, before the new year.  How do you manage all your unfinished projects?  Are you one that finishes each one before beginning another?  Do you limit how many you have going at once?  Or, are you like me, and you realize just how many projects you have started only when you clean your craft room?

Follow me over on Instagram to watch my progress!

 

Organizing My Yarn Stash

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This weekend I decided it was time to try and organize my yarn stash.  As an avid knitter and crocheter, I have my fair share of yarn.  Some new and soft still in it’s lovely paper wrapper.  Some old and vintage of questionable ingredients.  Some still in tight skeins, some random small hand wound balls, some half used falling apart skeins.

craft roomMy craft area isn’t very large, and lacks storage.  Most of my yarn stash lives in totes stacked against the wall.  As I use my yarn in projects, I tend to leave the remains all around my house.  Stuffing them into one over full dresser drawer in the craft room when I clean up.

Every few months, I take the time to pull out my totes and try to make some semblance of the yarn stash and WIPs (Works In Process).

yarn stash

This year I discovered a wonderful new tool for organizing my yarn stash!  The YazyCraft Ball Winder turned out to be a real lifesaver!  For under $15 with my prime membership, I had an amazing little tool to help me organize my yarn stash.

Not only was it super easy to use, it quickly made yarn cakes that stored nicely and didn’t make my hand cramp from rolling all the yarn balls!

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I had a couple of complete skeins that had been damaged in storage that needed to be rewound.  Before the ball winder, I would have spent a good amount of time hand winding the yarn into manageable yarn balls.  With the ball winder, I was able to wind an entire skein into four lovely cakes in less than ten minutes.

yazy one skein

A gallon zipper baggy holds the cakes nice and neat with their band so I know what I have and can match if needed.  Larger batches of yarn or in progress projects fit nicely in 2 gallon zipper bags.

Have you seen the multi-color yarn cakes in the stores?  Such pretty combinations just ready to go for a crafty project.  With my ball winder and my scrap yarns, I can make my own multi-color cakes.  I was so excited to see how this one came out!

multicolor yarn ball

I am excited to use all those tiny balls of scrap yarn to make my own multi-color yarn cakes.    Nothing goes to waste!

Plus, is there anything prettier than a freshly wound yarn cake?

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*This post contains sponsored links from www.amazon.com.  I was not paid to do this post or review of the YazyCraft Ball Winder .  However, if you use the link to purchase I will receive a small compensation.  Thanks for checking it out and helping to support my bloggy habits!*

Family Cleaning Day

Each weekend, our family goes in a lot of different different directions.  Sometimes we are rushing to get the trailer loaded for a weekend trip.   Sometimes it’s all about grocery shopping and errands out of town.  One thing that doesn’t usually get skipped is a family cleaning session.

The beauty of having teenagers is that I can assign each person a room or area and have the whole house clean in less than an hour.  Even on weeks when we don’t do much more than the minimum all week, I know we can have the house clean in a morning.

What weekend event do you do each weekend?

family cleaning

Lessons Learned: Packing for the trip.

Five lessons I have learned when packing for an extended camping trip in the trailer.

  1. Teen boys do not do a good job packing clothes.  At least, not mine.  This often means they have too little underwear and too many hoodies.  I have two choices for this, I can micromanage them and go through their clothes before we leave (frustrating for all).  Or, I can let them deal with the consequences, and see them wear the same outfit for more than they should.  I most often choose the latter.
  2. Dogs are not helpful when packing the trailer.  Two of our dogs love camping.  When they see me start putting things in the trailer, they often plant themselves on the couch in the trailer.  They refuse to move or leave for fear of being left behind.  This is especially frustrating when we aren’t leaving until the next day.
  3. We always forget something important.  It doesn’t matter how many lists I make and check.  It doesn’t matter if I start packing a week in advance, or we decide on a whim to go.  We will forget something.  Examples over the years have included: pillows (often), cast iron pan, towels, clothes (see number 1), hatchet, lighter, medications, camp chairs, etc.  We are getting better about this, but every trip, at least one thing will be forgotten.  Usually, we just deal without it.  Sometimes we decide it is worth purchasing on the way.
  4. Cell phones are great when parking the trailer; until you don’t have any service.  When parking the trailer, hubby is in the truck with is cell on speaker.  I am behind the trailer watching for obstacles and helping to line it up.  This works pretty well.  No yelling across the campground, very little “what did you say?”.  We have yet to camp in a spot without any service.  I’m sure this is coming, and it is going to be frustrating.  I’ve already added “walkie talkies” to our wish list for the trailer.
  5. You can never have enough water and food.  I tend to over pack for food and water.  Chalk it up to paranoia of being without services and trapped by some unforeseen event.  I always over pack food and water.  I have never regretted this decision.

What are some lessons you have learned when packing for a trip?

Marco packing