Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays!

It's two days post Christmas.  I hope that everyone had a nice holiday.  My holiday was fantastic, though there was almost a chance that it wouldn't happen.

Woke up last Tuesday with a terrible sore throat.  I could not believe I was having the same issues I had during the Thanksgiving holiday. Still I continued to get things ready for Christmas Eve.   Wednesday I had to go out and get the remaining groceries for dinner.  I was slowly falling apart and by Wednesday night, I was feeling so bad, all I could do was lay in bed, rest and get myself together.  I dranked a hot cup of Thera-flu which soothed my throat and relaxed me.  I didn't even feel myself doze off to sleep. 

Thursday morning when I woke up I felt a little better.  I was supposed to be preparing dishes that could be made ahead of time but I ended up going out with one of my best friends to finish gift shopping.  I didn't get to do it Wednesday because I felt so bad and didn't feel like going anywhere else after marketing. 

Oooooh, I've got to tell you what I found when I walked into a Dollar Tree.  I found Santa hats that fit over the top of your chairs. 

I was just browsing through the store while my friend was grabing some things she needed, and there was one hanging on the rack.  I asked a worker if this was all they had left and she said yes.  I was so devasted, but I didn't give up.  I searched high and low through the shelves hoping to find three more.  Just when I was about to give up, I found them, hiding under a bunch of tissue paper.  I had to laugh at myself for the way I was acting.  When I got up to the register the cashier said she was surprised there were any left.  She said they knew these would go fast so they just dumped them all in a shopping cart and left it at the front of the store instead of putting them on the shelves.  When my friend saw them she wanted two so I went back and found two more.  These will be used next year.

We got home from shopping just before the evening rush hour started.  When I got in I decided to take it easy. A hot bath, warm pajamas and a cup of Thera-flu and I just layed in bed and rested.  The food prepping would have to wait until Friday.

Friday morning, I was up early with no problem.  I got in the kitchen and got busy.  Just took my time and did not stress out about all the food I had to prepare.  Know what?  It worked.  Got everything done and still had time to relax before the guests arrived.  This was the menu.

cheese/ham spirals
crab-red pepper dip
caribbean style wingettes

Pork ribs
Bourbon glazed chicken
Steak with carmelized onions

roasted potatoes
macaroni & cheese
green beans
fresh garden salad
fresh baked dinner rolls

shrimp salad
deviled eggs

variety of homemade cookies
large punch bowl of eggnog with vanilla bean icecream

The ribs were a last minute thought. Just had a taste for some. The only thing I didn't get around to making were the cupcakes but it was okay.  Noone cared.  I tend to go overboard with the menu.  I just like to make sure that I have something that everyone would like.

The evening went off without a hitch.  I even got a nice surprise.  Some relatives came in from New York whom I hadn't seen in three or four years. 

After dinner we opened presents.  Everyone was very pleased with the gifts I got for them.  Especially the one who received the Washington Redskins car mats.  He completely lossed it. After I watched everyone open their gifts I opened mine.  I got a cute bath set (rug, shower curtain, hooks, towel set), a soft hooded robe with some soft slippers, 3 piece glass candle holders, another candle holder set that has some beautiful writing on them (will go nice with the new bath set), a bottle of Moscoto (my favorite wine), perfume, a 15 inch tall nutcracker (from my neighbor), a gift card for Lane Bryant, a lovely spa set, a digital photo frame (I've always wanted one) and the nicest gift of all - a new laptop computer.

Back in the summer my mom decided to buy herself a new laptop and she would give me her old one.  Well for months I had been waiting for her to give it to me but she kept saying that she was transferring information from the old laptop to the new laptop.  So on Christmas while we were opening gifts she surprised me with a brand new laptop.  When I tore off the wrapping paper I thought it was some glassware.  It wasn't until I turned the box around to open it that I realized it was a laptop.  I was so happy - like a kid.  I couldn't open the box fast enough.  Now I can sit in bed or on the sofa and use the computer instead of being stuck at my desk.  Ooooh, it's a nice one too.  It has a built-in web cam (Now I can chat with my newphew whose in college on Skype) and something called light-scribe.  Light-scribe adds designs to your cd/dvd.  No more do I have to buy the paper and waste the ink from my printer to make labels.  I'm still learning all the programs installed.  Yep, she got me good.

Christmas day for me was a day of rest.  I layed in bed most of the day and watched holiday movies.  My poor feet were hurting so bad.  I could barely stand when I got up to get something to drink.  Usually I am in a coma after partying with the family the night before, but I think because I made sure to get proper rest all week, I was feeling okay.

Well, let me stop boring you guys.  It's almost 8 in the evening and my Monday night line-up of shows are about to begin.  More tomorrow. Good night!

Monday, December 20, 2010


I spent some time today reading the blogs of my friends at MHH .  One of the ladies Leann was quite busy baking all kinds of goodies.  She had made 19 different kinds of cookies and 4 kinds of homemade candies.  Everything looked so scrumptous.  I know the receivers of those sweet treats are very happy campers.  And I thought the 10 I did was an achievement.   My hat goes off to Ms. Leann.

Last weekend I spent time in the kitchen baking away. I love baking.  I've only been doing it for about 4 years or so.  I think I'm getting better every year.  I hope to one day try some real fancy baking, especially decorating.  I filled 3 large cookie tins, handed out two at the office and one to my neighbor and her son.  They were well received which made me very happy. 

I have several cookie recipe books I've collected from BHG over the years.  I think I will take a look through them for some ideas for next year.

It's December 20th

Can you believe that in 5 days it will be Christmas.  I am starting to feel the excitement once again.  There have been a few moments when I felt let-down or lost.  Especially with the death of my uncle. 

Now I'm so gitty, I can barely contain myself.  I have made a to-do list of things to complete by Friday. 

Today I cleared the holiday dishes off the dining table and changed the table cloth from white to red and green checked pattern.  The only thing on the table is my candle centerpiece.  The dining table is where the food will be beautifully displayed on Christmas Eve. That's one less thing I will have to worry about. 

Also today I will clean off the balcony.  The heavy winds blew what looks like millions of pineneedles all over my deck.  Plus a bird  took the liberty of doing his business on one of the seat cushions.  Yuck!

Tuesday will be laundry day.  I have a few bags I need to get done plus some comforters.  Also I need to make room in the coat closet for guests.

Wednesday is grocery day.  I need to purchase the remaining items for Friday's dinner party.  While I'm out I have a couple of gifts to pick up (I completely missed) as well as a few gift cards.  Then that will definately be it as far as gifts go.  Whew!!!

Thursday is get cooking day.  From sunrise to sunset, that is all I will be doing.  Anything that can be prepared ahead of time will be done on this day.

Friday is party time.  I have my outfit all planned out:  red & white stripe knee-hi socks with the fur around the edge, red sweater, black skirt and tights, and a red fedora hat. 

I found these socks in my all-time favorite store, Dollar Tree.  I was walking up to the cash register to pay for my items and BAM!, there they were. I just couldn't resist picking them up.   I'm so silly. LOL  Wait til the family sees me Christmas Eve. 

Also Friday I need to cook the remaining dishes: the bird, the rolls, the mac & cheese.  If I can keep on this schedule (which I'm sure I will), I will have a chance to rest up before guests start to arrive.  It's going to be a good time had by all.

6 Days to Christmas

For me I have 5 days until my little palace is filled with all of my loved ones.  Yes, the long awaited Christmas Eve Family Dinner will soon be here.  People have been calling me for weeks checking to see if I'm getting everything ready for the party.  My response is always a resounding YES! I think they are more excited than I am.

Today has been a day of pampering and relaxation.  For Rudy Day today I listened to my Christmas music then started watching Christmas movies.  Right now Home Alone is in the dvd.  I've been eating Hershey Kiss chocolates.  These are my favorite things to eat during the holidays.  I washed my hair and touched-up my eyebrows.  Had a cup of hot chocolate and leftover pizza from last night.  Just enjoying myself.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Funny Story

My best friend called me the other day and told me the funniest story. She and her husband have been coming to my house on Christmas Eve since the tradition started years ago. Well my best friend, her husband, her mom and several other people were sitting in the house just talking and my name came up. The husband started going on and on about coming to my house. How he couldn't wait and how he really enjoys and looks forward to the food, exchanging gifts, talking and laughing. Someone then called the house and my friend said she heard her husband telling the caller that he wouldn't be able to make it to wherever he was invited to because he was coming to my house. My friend said that after he hung up with the caller he was still talking as if the caller was on the phone saying, "You got the game wrong. I'm going to Ms. Claus (that's what they call me) house." She said he had a straight attitude and was just a fussing.

Things settled down and my friend said probably 20 - 25 minutes later her husband had started up again. She said all anyone in the room could do was laugh because they couldn't believe how he literally got upset. My best friend said she laughed so hard that she was intears.  My friend's mother told her, "Leave him be." I was so tickled and happy that he enjoys coming my house for the holidays.

I know when I see him Christmas Eve he's going to make sure I hear about it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Decorated the Office

Been gone for a minute.  Family matters, you know.

I wanted to tell you what I did to the office this year.  I decorated my office in a gingerbread theme:

Snow at Christmas

Essential? A nice touch? or A pipe dream?

Funny I should post this today.  I just looked out the window and it is snowing.  We're not expected to get much, (only a couple of inches) but it is a nice touch. 

I love having snow at Christmas.  Not too much where it's difficult for folks to get around.  Just enough to make everything look pretty.  Last year my wish finally came true.  We got a lot of snow early in December and it stayed well into the holidays. It didn't melt  before Christmas as it normally does.  Usually we don't see much snow until January or February - sometimes March.   

If we could get a nice dusting like today for Christmas, I would be a very happy camper.


On Thursday, December 9, 2010 my family suffered a loss.  My aunt loss her husband to cancer.  They were such a close couple.  My aunt and uncle had such a great relationship.  They were like bossum buddies.  Wherever you saw on, you saw the other.    I hope the man I marry and I will have a relationship like that.  I only know of one other couple who has a relationship like that, my bestfriend's since childhood parents.

It has hit me in a way I didn't think it would.  I guess it was when I last saw him two weeks ago, lying in bed.  He looked so frail.  I had just been there two weeks prior and he had came downstaris to the kitchen where my aunt, my mom and I were, frying chicken and just chit-chatting.  He looked good.  But seeing him in bed,thoughts of my dad immediately came to mind (I loss my dad to cancer in 1995).  The scenerios were almost exact. 

My aunt for the most part is holding up quite well. It also helps that she has her sons and other family members and friends by her side for support.

Rest in Peace Uncle Jones.  You will truly be missed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Dinnerware

One of the things I look forward to during the Christmas season is pulling out my dishes. 

I bought my dishes from Dollar Tree about 7 or 8 years ago.  They are white with a holly design and gold ban around the edge. 

I had seen similar dish sets in department stores but did not want to pay those prices. Plus I did not want or need the saucers and cups. They wouldn't get used. Then one year I was in, of all places, Dollar Tree, and there these were.  I tell you I just can't stay out of that store.  And if you go there on the right day you can hit the jackpot, big

I originally bought 8, plus the matching spoon rest, napkin holder and salt & pepper shakers.  I wanted to get more but I really did not have the money.  I thought I would never find those dishes in Dollar Tree again.  Boy was I surprised when the following year I walks in to Dollar Tree and again, there they were. My money was a little better this time so I grabbed more.  I was so happy and I needed the dishes because my yearly Christmas Eve family dinner was growing in numbers.  They come out on the table as well as my pretty gold flatware. I treated myself to the flatware about 6 years ago.

You may notice on the photo above I have different dinnerware on the table.  My table is set in all red.  I have red charger plates, glass dinner plates and glass dessert plates. 

Guess where I found the dinner plates.  If you guessed Dollar Tree, you are correct.  That's why I love that store. (heeheehee)  The dessert plates I found on clearance in Target for 75 cents each.  I don't know if you can see but they both have a pretty pattern on the underside. 

Also on the table I have red wine glasses and holly drinking glasses.  More Dollar Tree finds.

I use to switch up the glasses each year but I really wanted to see them both on the table so that's what I've done.

When company stops buy and we sit down to eat they always look for the paper plates. I tell them, "We are using these plates." I wash them and put them on the table.   That's the purpose of having them. Huh, these dishes are not just for show. They are for eating off of.  I don't care if we are having pizza and salad.  We're going to sit at the table and have an enjoyable meal together.  That's my main purpose, being together - talking, laughing, having a good time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are You an Easy or Difficult Person To Buy Gifts For

I think I am the easiest person in the whole world to please.  I don't care what I get, I appreciate everything that I receive because for me, it's the thought that counts. 

Over the years my family and friends have come to know several sure things about me.  One is I love to decorate.  Two, I love to entertain and three, I am a big Dollar Tree and Walmart shopper.  I'm in those stores so much, they say I should have stock in the companies.  I do have a few other favorites, but they are definately #1 and #2 on the list. 

As a result of my hobbies/interest, I receive gifts that are very useful to me.  Serving pieces which I use quite often, home accessories, appliances, things of that nature.  I have collected so much from my love ones that now I have no more storage for anything.  So a few years ago I asked that if they choose to get me a gift that it be a gift card to my favorite stores.  I can always use them when I need to stock up on supplies for the house or something. 

Although with my microwave going up on me this year.  I wouldn't mind if someone got me a replacement. [ wink  ;-)  ]

Let The Baking Begin

As soon as I got home from work today, I chaned into something comfortable, then headed to the kitchen.  I have been trying to get my baking started for weeks but I was either too lazy or too sick.  Now that I'm feeling better and time is now of the essence, I needed to get started and this is the last week I can get them done. 

I am making several types of cookies:

  1. Christmas tree shaped butter cookies
  2. Chocolate gingerbread people cookies
  3. Old-fashioned Snickerdoodle cookies (a recipe I got from a friend, Jessica at Organized Christmas)
  4. Peanut butter cookies
  5. Cocolate chip cookies
  6. Oatmeal Raisin cookies
  7. Eggnog Sparkle Cookies (another recipe from a friend, Snowangel00)
  8. Santa's Thumbprint cookies
  9. Pecan shortbread cookies
  10. and finally, Candy cane sugar cookies
I'm only making up the dough.  I will bake everything this weekend. This weekend we are expecting snow.  Not a lot but enough to keep me in and to make the mood perfect for baking. As of tonight I have three kinds done (the first three listed above).  Tomorrow I will continue with the next group, and so on until they are all done. 

By the end of the weekend, everything will be baked, wrapped and ready to hand out as gifts. I always take treats to several of the departments on the job and give a tin full to my nice neighbor and her son who lives in my building.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Decorations are up.

Yes.  I feel much, much better and now all of my decorating is done.

Countdown Calendar

I don't know if you all remember this but last summer for CIJ I made a countdown calendar for my 11 year old niece.  This was year two and I stuffed it with lots of neat gifts.  Well she called me the other day to say that the dog got to it and you can guess what happened....

Here's what it looked like before the dog got to it.

  I can only imagine how it looks now.

What is Cloud Picker

I have been trying to upload my holiday pictures but I keep getting this message that I need to sign in to Google Cloud Picker.  Does anyone knows what this is and why it's not working.  I hate change without forwarning.  (Mad As Heck!!!!!!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Black Friday

Love it or hate it?

Black Friday? The day after Thanksgiving (in the USA) where you can find fantastic bargins?  What's not to love?

I have gone out on Black Friday for years. Thursday mornings I go buy a newspaper.  which is packed with sales papers from all the stores advertising special deals on everything - from toys and electronics, to clothes and jewlery, to tires and home appliances. 

When I go out for Black Friday shopping, I am shopping only for myself.  I am usually done shopping for everyone else by then.  Call it Christmas gift-buying for "me."  Last year I bought a vacuum cleaner (the old one finally died), a portable dvd player, 19" flatscreen tv (for the guest room/office), blu-ray disc player, a small electric food chopper to replace the one I broke last year and a couple of dvds.  Total cost, $325.00 plus change.  Not bad eh?

Usually my experiences shopping on Black Friday are always good. This year was a dissappointing one.  I wanted a new flatscreen tv for the livingroom but when I got to the store at 4:00 a.m. there was already a line for the tv and all of the tickets were given out meaning they were sold out.  Wal-mart had a 32" on sale for $198.00.   I was so heart-broken. That was all I wanted this year (other than a new Gucci handbag).  So I was back home and back in bed before 5:00.  Usually after leaving Walmart my mom and I would go have breakfast at IHOP, then hit a few other stores before heading home.  I just wasn't in the mood for it this time.

Wal-mart is the first store I always hit first on Black Friday.  Don't know why but it is.  We have a lot of Walmarts but there are only three I frequently go to and one is a super Wal-mart.  I especially love the super Wal-mart because it is open 24 hours. 

Last year the store was well orchestrated. They taped off certain isles and formed lines throughout the entire store for the different major products.  For instance, the line for the blu-ray players was set up in the hardware section and the line for laptops was in the pharmacy section.  I thought this was a great idea, keeping the electronic section a little less hectic and overcrowding with people.  For items that they had a few in quantity they handed out numbered tickets to customers, so it was first come, first serve.

To keep the flow of traffic moving throughout the store, they set up cones and taped down the center of walkways to keep customers flowing in one direction.  The sales people had maps on hand to help direct customers looking for particular items. Plus they either had walkie talkies or headsets so that they could to talk to other staff.

Though I was dissappointed that I didn't get what I wanted the experience was still pleasant.  Dispite the crowds, it was very calm throughout the store.  It was almost like a normal trip to the store.  Plus the fact that county police were everywhere. 

Maybe next year I'll shop online.  It depends if it's a big ticket item I'm trying to get. Then again I'm sure I'll be back out there next year. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm Back

Sorry I've been away so long.  I am recovering from a Broncitis (sp?).  My mini vacation started last Wednesday, however the night before my vacation starts I come down with something.  I wasn't sure what was going on because I didn't feel sick really.  I just couldn't talk.  As the week progressed I started having trouble breathing, no voice and some other gross stuff I won't bother you with. 
So I'm on antibiotics and drinking lots of tea.  I can go back to work Wednesday.  My voice still hasn't come back yet but I feel 90% better.

Despite being home, sick, I still managed to put up Christmas decorations.  I'm usually done decorating the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, but with this cold I took a lot of breaks inbetween.  I still have to finish the kitchen, guest room and balcony.  I hope to be done by tomorrow evening. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gift Giving

Are you a practical or creative gift giver?

I'm mostly practical but sometimes I can get a little creative.  I like to give out the basics like clothing, gift certificates/cards, and toys for the kids.  But I also make various baskets and baked goods for gifts as well. 

For instance I like to make bedtime baskets for the smaller kiddies.  In the basket I put a pair of pajamas, a children's dvd,  bedtime bubble bath and lotion, a couple of toys & a few pieces of candy and other things like toothbrushes, puppet washcloths, bedroom slippers - that sort of thing.  I even put in some snowman soup for the little older kids who can handle drinking it.  Other baskets I've done were filled with lots of crafts, various games and treats - like making candies/chocolates.

I remember the first year I started doing baskets I gave a family member- who had just moved into their new place - a kitchen basket with pots, kitchen towels, pot holders, etc.  She was very excited when she opened to see what all was inside.  I used a large pot as the basket to hold everything. 

I've also done popcorn baskets, pampering baskets, sports baskets and pizza making baskets, to name a few. 

I start my gift list immediately after the holidays because I already have some ideas of what to get a person next Christmas. Everytime I get a gift idea, I right it down in my trusty notebook which I carry in my purse 365 days of the year.  Then transfer my notes to my holiday planner when I get home.

I like to think that I do very well when selecting gifts for people.  Many of the ideas come from knowing the person's interest and what they like.  For instance I have a few family members and friends (who are just like family) that are real sports fanatics.  One person in particular eats and breaths Washington Redskins.  I look for gifts that I know they don't have that is Redskins related.  This year I got them a set of car mats with the Redskins logo on them.  They are truly going to lose their mind when they open this gift.  This may even top the scarf.

Sometimes people will tell me what they want.   At a memorial Day cookout I attended this year one of my closets friends told me she would like more make-up as the ones I bought her a couple of years ago are almost gone.  This is what I found for her.

This set is really nice.  I wouldn't mind receiving this myself.  But I already have way too much make-up as it is and don't need any more.

Other ways I come up with gift ideas are by being observant and picking up on certain things through everyday conversations with people.  Like one day back in the spring my cousin, her 9 year old daughter and I were out shopping. I don't remember what store we were in but the daughter noticed a Hello kitty clock.  She really liked it but knew her mom wasn't going to buy it.  Her mother began telling me how the daughter loves and wants a Hello Kitty room.  Unbeknowns to them, I made a note in my little notebook that her favorite character was Hello Kitty and maybe I would get her the clock or something else. 

And remember the person who loves Redskins?  A couple of years ago I had an oversized scarf made for them.  They were watching a game on tv and saw a woman in the stands wearing a really nice Redskins scarf and they just could not stop talking about it.  Every so often they would bring it up so I thought it would be really nice if I could get one for them.  After doing a lot of searching on the internet, I found out someone on my job is a very great knitter and I had her make me one.  Plus the price couldn't be beat.

Sometimes if I'm not sure what to get the kids in my family, I ask their parents.  I always have my nieces and nephews write me a list.  Since I myself don't have kids, I never really know what kids are in to and I know their fascination about things change over the year.  What was popular in February is no longer popular in September.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Workout Saturday

What a day!  From 7:30 this morning until about 45 minutes ago, I have been going non-stop.  First I did some checking on my Christmas decorations, checking what I have and what I need.  Then I updated my holiday budget - staying on track with this (very good).  I also updated my gift and master shopping lists - checking off and crossing out people who are finished and items that have been purchased.  The lists are getting shorter and shorter.  My master shopping list is now down from three pages to half a page.  Whoohoo!  "I'm so excited! And I just can't hide it!" (singing and snapping my fingers)

Next, I held my own personal wrapping party. I put on some Christmas music, sat in the middle of the floor of the guest bedroom and wrapped gifts until I couldn't wrap anymore. I just finished grouping the gifts by families for easy tracking.  I still have a few more to wrap but that will wait until tomorrow. 

There are a few pajama sets I need to exchange.  I don't know what I was thinking when I bought them.  After taking a second look, I realized that they are way too big for the recipients.  So back they go Monday.  I hope I can find the right sizes. 

Tommorow, after wrapping the remaining gifts, I hope to get started on making the cookie doughs to freeze.  I would like to get that done so when I'm ready to bake all I will have to do is pull the dough from the freezer and into the oven.

Right now I am going to jump in the bath, put on some warm pj's as it has gotten very chilly after having such beautiful warm days since Thursday.  Pop a big bowl of popcorn, lie on the sofa and watch some Christmas movies.

Happy trails!!!!