Christmas Mantel 2012

We finally pulled out the Christmas boxes from the attic today and got busy with decorating. First on my list was to get the mantel done. I don't know about you, but I have quite a few "collections" of Christmas items and I feel compelled to pull all of them out every year. There's just something about all the memories and sweetness wrapped up in each one that makes me have the mentality of No Christmas Ornament Left Behind. I get real sappy and sentimental this time of year. Seriously, I can hardly make it through "O Holy Night" without getting choked up, or any other Christmas carol for that matter. I'd never make it as a soloist.
On my mantel, I have put my favorite snowmen. My collection has dwindled a bit over the years. It started small, then my mom decided to gift me all of hers~ some given to her and others made by her. Add in the after-Christmas sales at Target and pretty soon I had snowman dishes, silverware, and even a snowman nativity. When we moved to our current home 4 years ago, I knew I wouldn't have much storage space, so I pared down the collection to what you see here and a couple of small items too.
This little guy had some work done on him today. His hat had popped off a couple of years ago and I had used some temporary putty to hold it on. So, today, I actually pulled out the hot glue gun and fixed him right up. See the cute little sign he is holding? That actually was on another adorable snowman I had that took a tumble off the mantle last year. I decided to retire him this year, but the sign has found a new holder.

I added in a strand of white lights and my sweet snowman now have a warm glow about them at night. I haven't decided whether or not to add in greenery. I may leave the mantel as is or do a little more tweaking. I'm thinking the grapevine tree is needing a little snow or something too. I hope you'll come back to see my other collections. They'll be showing up in the form of vignettes around the house. So, tell me, do you have multiple Christmas collections or do you stick to one theme? Do you change it out each year?

I'm linking up at some of these great parties and

Chocolate Dipped Chips

We've been working like crazy around here trying to get the house ready to decorate for Christmas. I simply refuse to bring down more stuff from the attic until we've de-cluttered. Am I alone in this? Anyway, I knew we needed a quick treat to keep us going, so this afternoon I whipped up some Chocolate Dipped Chips. I remembered that my SIL in Arizona had made chocolate dipped potato chips for her kids to take to a party recently and that they were a big hit. She hasn't steered me wrong yet, so I thought I'd give them a try.
Here's what you need: potato chips with ridges, chocolate for dipping and fun sprinkles.
If using a chocolate bar, chop the desired amount. (For about 4 dozen potato chips, I used almost 8 oz. of chocolate.)
* The next time I make these...and there will be a next time... I will either use semi-sweet chocolate chips or something a little sweeter than what I used. It was wonderful chocolate, just not quite sweet enough to offset the saltiness of the chips.
Place the chocolate chunks in a double boiler to melt, or in a glass bowl set over a simmering pot of water.
Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth.
Take potato chips and dip them into the chocolate allowing excess to drip into the pan.
Place the dipped chips on waxed paper to cool.
Decorate with some holiday sprinkles while the chocolate is still wet. Cool until set.
See how easy that was? It's a fun treat that is out of the ordinary and so... gourmet. These would be great to take to a Christmas party or wrap up some in a festive plastic treat bag to give to your friends. What's your favorite EASY to whip up holiday treat?
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Glittered Felt Candle Ornament

I love how Pinterest comes through for you.  I was not quite sure what we were going to need for a craft for our third grade girls this week at our Women of Grace Wednesday group.  Our fearless leader will be sharing Isaiah 9:2-6 with the girls, as we are beginning our Advent series with them. This passage talks about God's promise of light coming into the darkness. I put 'candle ornament' into the search on Pinterest and up popped this super easy Glittered Felt Candle Ornament. I knew it would be a perfect craft to do with these great kiddos.
Here's what you need: glittered white felt, orange felt, golden yellow felt, thin ribbon or cord, skewer, hot glue (or Elmer's) and scissors (not pictured)
Start by placing the felt with the glittered side down. Position the skewer at the end of the felt and begin rolling tightly. Continue to the end of the felt.
When you reach the end of the felt, run a line of hot glue along the end. Place both ends of the cording into the line of glue and continue rolling the felt, pressing to secure the end to the body of the candle. (If using Elmer's glue, you'll need to wrap it with a rubber band to hold until dry.)
From the golden yellow felt, cut 1 large flame (elongated almond shape). From the orange felt, cut two smaller flame shapes.
 Glue the orange flames to either side of the yellow felt to make it a double-sided flame.
 Remove the skewer from the rolled up candle.
Put some hot glue into the hole and stick one end of the flame into it, using the skewer to press the flame deeper into the hole.
That's all folks! Your Glittered Felt Candle Ornament is finished. I'm so excited to share this with you and the precious girls today. I hope we will all gain a better understanding of Jesus being the Light of the World during this glorious Christmas season.
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Make Ahead Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

With the holidays upon us, time is at a premium. Whether going to a potluck, or just wanting to have a delicious side dish for that family gathering, these Make Ahead Cheesy Mashed Potatoes will win hearts and save you time. This was the dish I brought to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house last week. I was thankful I could prepare it at my house and bake it the next day at theirs.
Here's what you need:
baking potatoes, butter, Parmesan cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, salt and pepper.
Here's how you make it:
Start by boiling your cubed potatoes until done. Drain potatoes and mash them up a bit. (Sorry, I didn't get pics of this process.) Coat a 13 x 9 pan with 2 tablespoons of softened butter.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese in the pan, distributing evenly.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, 2 Tbsp. butter, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, sour cream and cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper. With an electric mixer, beat the potato mixture until smooth.
Transfer to prepared pan and spread out evenly.
Dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan cheese. At this point, you can cool, cover and refrigerate until later or place in a preheated 350ºF oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden.

Make Ahead Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

8-10 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
Salt and Pepper to taste
chopped chives (optional)

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender and then drain. Rub a 13 x 9 pan or a 3-quart soufflé dish with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese into the dish, making sure to distribute it evenly. If making right away, preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, use a masher to break up the potatoes a bit, then add sour cream, cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Using an electric mixer, beat the potatoes until smooth. Transfer to the prepared pan and dot with remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

** You can cover, cool and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or freeze for up to one month. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Bake the potatoes in a preheated 350ºF oven until golden, about 25-30 minutes.

{These can also be prepared in a 4-quart slow cooker with removable ceramic insert. Butter the insert and sprinkle with cheese. Follow the recipe through transferring to prepared pan. You can cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before cooking. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 3 to 4 hours until heated through. Add the remaining butter and Parmesan Cheese toward the end of cooking.}

These potatoes were loaded with flavor. The fact that I didn't have to mess up a pile of dishes to prepare them on the big day scored points for this recipe too.
I'm linking up at some of these great parties and

Burlap Bird Ornaments

Is there anything you can't make with burlap? It is such a versatile material to craft with. Getting inspired for Christmas decorating, I started playing around with some burlap and came up with these sweet Burlap Bird Ornaments. They were so simple to make...let me show you how.
Here's what you need:
burlap, jute, bird template, glue gun, embroidery floss, needle, scissors and polyester fiberfill
For the body, start by tracing out the template onto two layers of the burlap or just cut around it free-hand.
Using a strand of white embroidery floss, run a stitch around the shape of the bird, leaving a small opening for stuffing.
Insert a small amount of fiberfill to give the bird dimension.
Continue the running stitch the rest of the way around.
For the wings, cut 3 lengths of jute (5, 4 and 3 inch segments)to make 3 loops for the wing. Apply a dollop of hot glue on the body.
Press two ends of one of the jute lengths into it.

Repeat with the other 2 lengths of jute.
With another length of jute (about 7 inches?) create a spiral by tightly winding the jute around itself. (Please forgive this picture of giant hands...they are actually not that large.)
Put a large dollop of hot glue right over the ends of the 3 loops and place the spiral on top of that, pressing to adhere. (More giant hands.)
Apply a bit more glue to the underside of the spiraled jute to secure the end of the spiral.
With embroidery floss, create a loop for hanging the ornament.
Although I included lots of pictures of the process, I assure you these little burlap birdies were easy to create. I am making up several of these today. I'm not sure if they will be used to decorate Christmas gifts, or if they will be used in my decor somewhere. I'm still working that out ;-) What are you doing to fluff your nest this week? Do you have your tree up yet? It's on my to do list for the early part of this week.
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Food for the Soul - Psalm 100

I know of no better way to wrap up this week of Thanksgiving than to share with you this beautiful passage from the Psalms. We recited this chapter before our meal on Thursday and it was so moving to hear our kids say it from memory. My prayer is that they will always know the goodness of the Lord and follow Him with all their heart. Have a wonderful, joy-filled week, my friends!
Blessings to you!

Seven Things on Saturday ~ Week 4

Well, it's the last weekend of November and so my series of Thankful posts will come to an end. That doesn't mean you won't still get snippets of my thankful heart sometimes though. I have enjoyed jotting down things that make me overflow with gratitude. It's helped me to become more thankful for the things in my life that may have been taken for granted before or simply overlooked.
1. I'm thankful for time with my family this Thanksgiving. We had lots of laughs, a fun time bouncing blogging ideas off each other and sweet cousin time. I'm thankful my nephew is feeling better too...he had a stomach bug on Thanksgiving day.

2. I'm thankful for life lessons that seem hard at the time, both for my kids and myself. These challenging times cause us to grow in ways we might not have done otherwise.

3. I'm thankful for the beautiful "music" of the Canadian geese migrating and I'm in awe when I see their v-formation pattern of flight.

4. I'm thankful I found the perfect Christmas gift for my sweet mom. It was one of those moments when you see something and you just know it's perfect for them. I showed it to her in the store and her eyes teared up. Yep...I had to get it. It's the Little Shepherdess set up above from Willow Tree. If you follow her blog, she recently posted about her small, but precious collection of sheep.

5. I'm thankful that my kids still enjoy spending time with their grandparents and learning valuable lessons from how to make homemade hashbrowns and how to set the table.

6. I'm thankful that this year we have a few extra days between Thanksgiving and Christmas to decorate, bake and craft. I can hardly wait to get started.

7. I'm thankful for this season of celebrating Thanksgiving and then the Birth of Christ, Christmas. It's as though our hearts are prepared to truly worship the King of Kings after having acknowledged His goodness and provision in our lives and thanked Him for it.

Thanks for following along with me this month. I truly am thankful for you too. I am so blessed by your words of encouragement and your creativity. Have a wonderful weekend!

Muddy Buddies

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? We had a great time hanging out with family, eating delicious foods, scouring the Black Friday ads, and having lots of blogging conversations. Between my mom, Moni of Zu Haus at Home, and SIL, Aimee of It's Overflowing, we had quite the lively discussions.
Since my parents had the pies covered for desserts, I was supposed to bring something chocolaty. "Muddy Buddies!" was the cry from my family. Several years ago I started making them as a fun treat. They quickly became a favorite in our house and a staple around the holidays.  Any excuse to make them will do.
Here's what you need:
Corn/Rice cereal, butter, peanut butter, chocolate chips, vanilla, and powdered sugar
Here's how you make them:
Measure out 9 cups of cereal and put in a large bowl. Set aside. In microwave safe bowl, combine butter, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. Cook on high for 1 minute. Stir and continue cooking for 30 seconds more.

Stir until the mixture is smooth and add in the vanilla and stir again.

Pour chocolate mixture over the cereal.

Gently stir to coat all pieces of cereal then transfer the chocolaty cereal mixture to a 2 gallon plastic bag.

Pour in the powdered sugar. Seal and shake the bag to coat all the cereal pieces with powdered sugar.
Spread on waxed paper to cool. Then, watch it like a hawk to keep little hands from sneaking some pieces. :-) Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Muddy Buddies

9 cups of Corn or Rice cereal (I used Crispix and some Rice Chex)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar.

Begin by measuring out your cereal into a large bowl. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. Cook on high power for 1 minute. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds longer. Stir, add vanilla and stir again until incorporated. Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal and carefully stir to coat each piece of cereal. Transfer to a 2 gallon zip top bag and add in the powdered sugar. Seal and shake the bag to cover all the pieces of cereal with powdered sugar. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in air tight container in the refrigerator.
I hope you had a fabulous time with your loved ones and enjoyed lots of yummy treats too. If you didn't get your fill and need a little chocolate fix, whip up a batch of these. You'll have lots of powdered sugar smiles to thank you.
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