Christmas Preparations

The last couple weeks have been busy with Christmas preparations, including a visit from my youngest son, aka the Artist. He and I have been making treats to send to the family in Colorado. One of our family's favorite holiday treats is Candied Orange Peel. This recipe was passed down to us by a dear lady who was an adopted grandmother of mine when I was growing up. Here is the recipe.


Yield: varies

Carefully cut and collect peel from thick-skinned oranges, grapefruit or lemons.
Place collected peel in a large saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Drain. Repeat 3 to 5 times to remove bitterness from peel.

Slice cooked peel into ¼” wide strips. Measure peel.

For each cup of cooked peel, prepare a syrup of:
¼ c water
½ c sugar
Heat gently until sugar is dissolved. Add cooked peel.
Boil gently until syrup is absorbed and peel is translucent.

In a small bowl place:
1 c granulated sugar
Roll each slice of peel in sugar, and then place it on a cooling rack to dry overnight. When dry, store in a cool dry place.

Roll in powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar.
Dip dried candied peel in melted chocolate.

Tips for success:
Score fruit into quarters before removing peel to maintain peel in large pieces for initial boiling.
Stir cooking peel minimally to prevent strips from breaking.

In addition to Holiday baking, we put up my small tree with favorite small ornaments, mostly pinecones, acorns, tiny glass balls and little woodland animals. It sits on my Great Grandmother's treadle sewing machine in front of my favorite Tasha Tudor print. The little gnome lamp was made around 1910 by the same adopted Grandmother that passed along the candied orange peel recipe! The embroiderd cloth with holly leaves is one of two matching doilies I found antiquing.

Crafting Christmas Cards has been another of our preparations. Lots of cutting and pasting! They came out beautifully!


Coasters for Christmas

After putting so much effort into downsizing my belongings and making the commitment to spend less money, I'm not doing much Christmas shopping this year. So far, all the gifts I have for my family are things I've made. I've found it gratifying to put time, effort and love into their gifts. Only a few left to finish up.

Today, I took a break from gift making and instead made some Christmasy coasters for the apartment. I'd seen some lovely ones made from wool felt that Molly Chicken had posted from the Japanese crafing magazine, Cotton Time. Pure wool felt isn't available here but I did find some nice deep heathery green wool and rayon felt with a nice feel to it. I was at a loss for a nice creamy ivory colored felt. Then I spied my needle book with needle pages made of a heavy creamy flannel that I made several years ago. With pinked edges, the pages were still in great shape despite much use, so I thought I'd try using the flannel. Luck was with me as I still had some of the flannel in my fabric stash! A little bit of Ecru pearl cotton embroidery and voila! Christmas coasters that go with my green and white decorating!


Decorating and Sore Throat remedies

A few branches of boxwood decorated with glass teardrops bring the perfect finishing touch to the Christmas decorations on my china cabinet. Also a lovely old looking glass ball whose patina I love.

The high counter between my kitchen and living room is a perfect spot for more Christmas decorating. At one end, I put square glass containers filled with candles for keeping the dark days of winter bright. There are pots of white amaryllis and a cluster of small wooden houses and church I made a few years ago based on a feature in a Martha Stewart Living magazine. Inspired by many similar candle still-lifes I have seen on various Scandinavian blogs, I made my own. I started with a 12" diameter glass plate, covered it with moss that I then sprayed lightly with water to liven it up, placed a tall pillar candle, a small pot of ivy and white cup with a paperwhite bulb. Finishing touches are a couple of tiny alder cones and a small ponderosa pinecone. Looks pleasantly woodsy and Christmasy without being over the top.

Now I'm off to make a cup of hot tea with lemon and honey for the sore throat that I am fighting at the moment. Lunch was a steaming bowl of Korean style Ramen. Guaranteed to clear the sinuses! I crave this once the weather cools off. In the past, I found that when I eat it daily, I rarely get a cold or sorethroat! All that hot pepper in the kim-chee and bean paste must do a great job of keeping those bugs in check!

Korean Style Ramen
  • 1 package of regular chicken ramen in
  • 1 1/4 c water (instead of the 2 the package calls for).
When the noodles are done, add:
  • seasoning/broth packet
  • 1 tsp Sesame oil

Stir together. In a large soup bowl, place:

  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped into 3/8" chunks and
  • 1/2 cup Kim Chee (available in the produce section cooler) that has been chopped into bite size pieces.
  • 1/2 tsp. Korean Hot Bean Paste (available from oriental markets). If I don't have the hot bean paste, I don't worry about it, but it does add a nice bit of additional spicy flavor).
  • cooked noodles and broth

Mix it all together. Serve hot and enjoy!



My apartment is in dire need of a good cleaning. Between the boxes of stuff that I am attempting to downsize and the remnants of yesterday's grocery shopping and the normal accumulation of stuff that daily life brings, things are looking chaotic. It gets to be overwhelming for me and that is when I need a good list to keep me on track. Especially since I need to accomplish a lot in the 8 hours before I go to work tonight.

* Wash sheets, make bed with added quilt
* put away suitcase from Thanksgiving weekend trip
* Vacumn
* Dust surfaces, put away clutter (translation: shelve the stacks of books and magazines I read before going to bed)
* Get rid of extra boxes from downsizing and moving.

Living Room
* Pick up clutter
* Wash living room window and sliding door
* Clear off surfaces in preparation for Christmas decorating
* Remove boxes from entry area (back to storage locker for the holiday?)
* Vacumn floor
* Dust

* Put remainder of groceries away
* Wipe down inside of refrigerator, counters, and stove with light bleach solution.
* Mop floor
* Clean sink

Bathrooms (2)
* Wash all towels, washcloths and rugs
* Put away accumulated clutter, discard old makeup/toothbrushes
* Clean fixtures, countertops and mirrors
* Mop floors

* Reshelve books
* Clean desk, wash table cover
* Wash window
* Organize closet
* Vacumn
* Dust

This list is more than I can get done in one day, but it will carry over the next few days. I'm looking forward to a nice clean home once again!


Decorating for Christmas

Once Thanksgiving is past, the box of Christmas decorations comes out. I used to put all the decorations out in one day, but this year, I will take my time and savor the joy of bringing Christmas to each corner of my home.

Lately I've been inspired by the beautifully simple and elegant decorating I've seen on some of the Finnish, Danish and other Scandinavian blogs such as Modern Country, Min Lilla Veranda and In My Carport. So today, I decorated the top of my china cabinet in similar fashion using things I already had. I love the look and hope to carry it throughout my home!


Getting Ready for Winter

Now that mid-November is here, the sun dips behind the hill by 3:30 p.m. There is about one hour of sunshine through my living room sliding door. I moved the furniture so that I have a nice chair to sit and read in the sunshine. Instead, I usually find myself sitting on the floor in the sun with the kitties, a handwork project in my lap. The light and warmth go all too quickly. The the purple shadows of evening overtake us and the air cools and I reach for my sweater.

The view out my windows is peaceful and gives me joy, yet I yearn for the time I can have a small house that faces the sun again. I long to see the bright morning sun as it rises, to have sunlight that travels through all the rooms in the course of a day. But for now I live in an apartment on the west side of the building that sits on the east side of a hill. I'll enjoy the purple shadows and the birds that come to the feeders on the patio and the chipmunk that comes to drink out of the birdbath. I'll take joy in the gray fox that visits from time to time and the raccoons and even the skunk that I see every now and then. But I still miss the light.

As winter approaches, I crave green and growing things. For the last several years, I have been forcing bulbs. This year I have a multitude of bulbs tucked in pots and hyacinth glasses protected from freezing in my storage shed by brown paper and bubble wrap. On the window shelf in the living room there is a pot of paperwhites just starting to grow. Another spot of joy on a dark winter day!

A new blog!

Having a new blog is a bit like moving into a new home ~ so many decisions to make! What will I write about? What colors and fonts should I choose? How often will I post?

I’ve kept blogs to keep family and friends up-to-date and blogs to showcase my artwork. (See the sidebar links) This blog will have a greater focus on creating and keeping home, whether that is in decorating, downsizing and simplifying, losing weight, crafting, cooking, maintaining and growing my faith or getting out of debt. I hope to post about what inspires me and comment on what discourages me.

Here are some of the goals that I am working towards.
· My living space since 2000 has been of a Shabby Chic genre. While I do like that style, I’m looking for something less fussy, more serene. I still like the white, the rustic, but now I want to shift the focus to a more natural look. Natural linen, warm and dark woods, with lots of white, lots of light.

· Confession: I am a packrat. I am a collector even when I don’t mean to be. Hence, my home is filled with clutter (and so is my LARGE 10’x30’ storage locker). I aim to downsize so that all my possessions fit within my two-bedroom apartment. I want to live in an almost “spare” environment.

· My debt load has gotten such that though I make a good salary, I’m living on the edge. I want to be debt free by December 2008.

· I want to spend more time doing the things I love. Painting in oils and watercolors. Spinning and Knitting. Sewing and crafting things for the home (and family members and friends too). Cooking good meals, baking bread, making food from scratch and eating healthy.

· Confession: I am FAT! No lie ~ I really am. A whole 247 lbs as of this morning. I’ve lost 25 lbs since October 2006. I actually lost more, but have gained some back. Short term goal ~ to weigh less than 220lbs. Long term goal ~ to weigh between 140 and 160lbs.

· Faith has been a big part of my life. I want my faith remain active, to grow.

In this journey, I pledge:
~ To use what I have. (and I have a lot of stuff!)
~ To make what I need as far as I am able or buy handmade.
~ To buy natural products of renewable resources and to eschew synthetics and plastics within reason.
~ To walk gently on the earth
~ To re-use, re-new, re-cycle.
~ To budget
~ To eat healthy and get daily exercise for at least 30 minutes daily.