Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cheerful Christmas Decorating

Around here the Christmas decorating begins shortly after the last dish of the Thanksgiving meal has been put away.  Brett's job is to bring the multitude of storage boxes down from the attic and my job is to create Christmasland from the contents of said boxes.
I will admit that I Love Christmas decorations.  Always have and I guess , at this point, it's safe to say I always will.  At least I hope so.  I just think it's so fun to see all of the different ways people festoon their homes for this glorious season.  In fact, I remember once as a teenager I was invited to a "keg party" at the house of one of the people I worked with.  It was around Christmastime and most of the kids, having recently reached the age of legal drinking , were making a beeline for the keg.  Me, I was more interested in making a beeline for the Christmas tree.  Even then I loved to see the ornaments on other people's trees.  I find it so interesting to hear the stories of the family memories attached to the various ornaments.  Now, I'm not saying I never got to the keg, but that's another story for another time. Ho Ho Ho.

Anyhow, on Friday morning Brett stuck to his end of the bargain carrying box after box down from the attic.  When it came time for my part, I took a look at all of those boxes and felt like going back to bed.  It seemed a bit overwhelming. I daresay I felt a bit of the dreaded "bah humbug" trying to take hold.  At this point I was hoping a gaggle of elves would ring the doorbell offering to deck the halls for me.

It was time for a big ole cuppa GOOD CHEER.
This cuppa came in two forms.
One ~ I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down to enjoy it as I gave my attitude an adjustment and ...
Two ~ this mug pictured above.  It was my favorite find at a recent fun day of thrifting.  This year our local Habitat Restore advertised that they would be putting their Christmas decor out On November 1st.  My sister-in-law and I met there that morning and had so much fun thrifting for vintage Christmas things (our very favorite kind).  Afterwards we enjoyed having lunch out.
Happy memories and a 50 cent mug that makes me smile every time I look at it.

While drinking my coffee and adjusting my attitude, I reminded myself that the best way to get the job done is to get started and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
This year I decided to change things up a bit in the kitchen.  Instead of filling the kitchen shelves with a gingerbread theme, I decided to aim for a bit of whimsy  ... cheerful, nostalgic whimsy. 

Sometimes the worst part is getting started.
I find that if I can get one area finished, it gives me inspiration to keep going.  So, now I'd better get back to it before I need another cuppa cheer.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Greeting the Season With Organized Seasonings

It won't be long now until the turkey will be nicely roasted and sitting on the platter tempting us with it's delicious aroma.  I love that smell and can hardly wait to sit down to enjoy the tastes of Thanksgiving... roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, ribbon jello, butternut squash ...  mmmmm ~ I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.  Something about only having this meal once a year makes it extra special and eagerly anticipated.

And then, of course, there are the pies.
Can't have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, can you?
Well,  I suppose if you're not a fan of it you could ;-).
Either way this is the time of year when my kitchen becomes a busy place.  Once the Thanksgiving pies are gone, it will soon be time to make the Christmas cookies and the soups to keep us warm on chilly days and the hot chocolate to enjoy while watching the holiday movies and we won't even think about the Christmas dinner just yet.
But something I have been thinking about is getting my kitchen cleaned and organized so that I will be all ready to face the season in a cheerful way.
Recently I have been going through all of my kitchen cupboards and drawers.  Let's just say some of them had gotten a bit hard to close thus making my cheerful kitchen disposition a bit hard to maintain.

One of the drawers that needed some attention was my spice drawer.  This drawer is right next to the stove which makes it very convenient to grab what I need as I'm cooking.  I try to keep it organized alphabetically so that I can find what I'm looking for easier.

I also write the name of the spice on the top of the jar so that I can see it at a glance.  This way I don't have to dig around pulling them all out to find one.  My system usually works well, but recently it had gotten  kinda messy in there and I couldn't find what I was looking for and ended up buying spices that I already had.  I do use herbs and spices on a daily basis, but some of them I can never finish before they have to be discarded so I don't want to double up on them.
Anyhow, the other day I took everything out of the drawer, washed out the drawer and re-organized it all once again and this time I went a step further ...

I made a list of everything in the drawer.
This way if I'm wondering whether I have a certain spice, I can consult the list (which is also kept in the drawer) instead of rummaging around looking for it.

And there you have it ... one of my simple ways to keep the holiday kitchen better organized.

We had our first frost last night and it's beginning to feel winterish around here.

Have a wonderful weekend!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Orange-Cranberry Bread

 I'm always excited to see fresh cranberries for sale in the grocery store because that means I get to bake this ...

Orange-Cranberry Bread

If you like the flavor combination of cranberries and oranges then you will LOVE this bread.  I have given this as gifts at Thanksgiving and Christmas and everybody who has received it so far has asked for the recipe or requested that next time I make it I think of them.  So today, I'm thinking of you and thinking that if this flavor combination appeals to you, you need this recipe.  With the holidays approaching it just might come in handy for you.
Without further ado ...

Orange-Cranberry Bread
(from the book:  BHG Celebrate the Season 2003)


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
2/3 cup orange juice
1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries, halved
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan or three 5-3/4x3x2 inch loaf pans.  Set aside.

IN A LARGE MIXING BOWL, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

IN A MEDIUM MIXING BOWL, beat egg; stir in orange peel and juice.  Add to flour mixture; stir just until combined.  Fold in cranberries and nuts.

SPOON THE BATTER into the prepared pan(s).  Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, allowing 60 to 70 minutes for the large loaf or 40 to 50 minutes for the small loaves.

COOL IN PAN (S) on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Wrap and store overnight before slicing (Or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).  Makes 16 servings.

Kim's Note:  If you prefer to not use real butter, I have good results with "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter".  That is what the pictured loaves were made with and between you and I ... I really can't believe it's not butter :).

I like to make the 3 small loaves.  I think they are a nice size for a hostess gift or to tuck in the freezer for a future date when you're in the mood for eating the bread without having to do the baking.

Not only does this bread taste wonderful, but it makes the kitchen smell heavenly as it is baking.

Fall is a fabulous time for baking.
Nothing like the warmth from the oven and the sweet scents filling the air to make your kitchen a cozy place to be.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Feeling Thankful in November

November has a way of turning my thoughts to the many things in my life that I am thankful for.  I think as the weather cools and we are inside more  ... as the days grow shorter ... as we prepare for the upcoming holidays ... the focus centers on making memories with those we love ... our family & friends. 

Cozying up our nests takes on new meaning as we work towards making home a warm and comfortable place to share with our loved ones.

I suppose as we go about our daily tasks moving toward our Thanksgiving holiday, it makes sense that thankful thoughts would
come to mind.

I have been enjoying the lists that some of you are making  ... one thing you are thankful for ... each day ... for the month of November. 

While I know I won't get my act together enough to make my own list, I will be enjoying yours and I will be thinking thankful thoughts as I go about my day.  In fact, today I'm feeling thankful for thrifted treasures like the placemats above and the vase with the acorns on it.

Oh, and backyard flowers that haven't been hit by frost yet. 

Thinking thankful thoughts in the month of November. :-)