Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spending Christmas in Another Country

If I could spend Christmas in another country I would choose to spend it in either Switzerland or Germany. 

I watch a lot of public television and one of my favorite programs is Rick Steve's - Travels in Europe.  One year I saw a Christmas special he did showing several countries and the traditions they share during the holiday season.  The towns he visited in these countries are not places a lot of tourists would ever think to go to.  The people were sweet and charming.  And although each country he visited was beautiful, magical places, Germany and Switzerland really stuck out from the others with me.

I like Switzerland, one because you're guaranteed a white Christmas. (at least it seems there's always snow there in winter).   Plus there's so much you can do. I would love to go sleigh riding and walking through the villages/towns looking in the shops. The scenery was so old world - quaint and cozy. One tradition I saw was in the evening they were sking down a snow-covered hill holding torches. It looked lot a lot of fun. Then afterwards, they were all gathered in a cute little cabin enjoying a lovely meal by candlelight.  A perfect way to end a day of being with family and friends.

The town Rick visited in Germany was hopping with lots of Christmas cheer. The marketplace was alive with music, lots of food, cute little stands to shop for gifts and decorations everywhere.  Germany has such a rich, strong tradition. It'as all about family and friends.  I so would love to visit one Christmas.  Who knows. Maybe one day I'll get the chance. Maybe. 

Adventurous Friday

I headed out the door at 4:45 Friday morning with shopping list and itinerary in hand.  First stop, the 24 hour Super Walmart.  I love going there after normal hours.  There's no huge crowd and when done shopping, checkout is a breeze.  They were just starting to put out there Christmas decorations.  I was like a big ol' kid.  I was in there for several hours.  Most of the things I bought were household things.  I did get a couple of the Diary of a Whimpy Kid books for my 11 year old niece.  She's really into them.  I had gotten her the movie early this month. 

After leaving Walmart I headed to Target. There I hit the Dollar Spot section where I found a lot of nice things for my niece's advent calendar.  I got her glow stick bracelets, play dough, a Santa Claus pen, holiday packs of hot chocolate, stickers, candy-filled ornaments, and a host of other stuff.  Some of the stuff was marked 1/2 price.

I also found a lot of Hello Kitty stuff to give to my bestfriend's daughter. She loves Hello Kitty.

All of the gifts will go into this Hello Kitty paper pail and wrapped up in a cello gift basket bag. 

Other stores I hit were Michael's, Kmart, TJ Maxx, JoAnn Fabrics, Five Below, a beauty supply store, another Walmart and several Dollar Trees. 

If you haven't heard me say time and again, I am a big Dollar Tree shopper.  My mom always says that I should own stock as I'm always in there. LOL  Anyway I hit the jackpot at one of them.  They were stocking the shelves so there was plenty to browse through.  I bought several packs of red feather birds for the main Christmas tree.  It's a new additon to the tree this year.  I've used the birds on the tree at the office last year and thought I would use them at home this year.  I also bought several packs of red glass ornaments, an advent calendar, a couple of gingerbread dish towels, gift boxes, gift bags, and Christmas cards.  I didn't need the cards but at least I won't have to worry about getting any for next year.  Plus they were so pretty, I couldn't resist. 

gift cards

gift bags

advent calendar

gift boxes

gingerbread dish towels

gingerbread house ornaments (for the gingerbread tree in the kitchen)

Monday during my morning break, I am going to walk over to the Kmart directly behind the job and pick up several make-up gift sets.  I noticed them last Thursday but didn't have time to look at them.  I have a friend who wants some makeup and the prices looked very reasonable.

I'm still waiting for the two dvd sets I ordered from Barnes & Noble.  I hope they arrive this week.  I also ordered Nanny McPhee on dvd for my mom.  She really likes this movie and has been looking everywhere for it. I hope that comes soon also.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Christmas Journaling - Fruitcake

Yes, please or not with a 10 foot pole!

I for one do not like fruitcake.  Actually I've never tried it.  I'm not a fan of desserts with fruits baked in to them or filled with fruits (with the exception of apple pies or apple danish).  I can remember as a little girl, my grandmother always had fruitcake in her house.  I don't know if she made it herself or if she bought it from the store.  It just looks gross to me.  (Sorry to those who like fruitcake).

A Personal Rudy Day.

Did not get much accomplished at the office today due to the fact that my computer would not work.  It had been acting crazy since Wednesday.  They tried to fix it from their office.  I tell you, today's technology.  They can access your computer without even having to be physically in the office. Unfortunately the problem was worse than they thought so a technician had to come out.  It appears my hard drive bit the bullet and had to be replaced.  Since I was unable to do much I walked over to the shopping center to look around.  Big mistake (evil grin). 

I came back to the office with three shopping bags of stuff all for me.  I bought 3 jackets, 2 cardigans, several sweaters, a blouse and a few screen print tees to wear with jeans or jogging suits on weekends.  I didn't plan to buy any gifts for myself until next month.  Right now I'm supposed to be shopping for others, but I couldn't resist. Well what's done is done. Heehee.

I'm off tomorrow so I will focus my attention on shopping only for others. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Christmas Journaling - Favorite Holiday Dishes

Special dishes made only at Christmas

My menu changes every year so I don't have too many dishes that are only made at Christmas.  Last year's main course was saucey beef ribs and ham.  The year before that was turkey lasagna and pork shoulder.  I always make several kinds of meats and sides (way too much).  But I rather have too much than not enough. 

This year's menu will be a little more traditional- Bourbon-glazed chicken, steak with carmelized onions, roasted potatoes, crab stuffing, maccaroni & cheese, collard greens, rolls, garden salad, deviled eggs, several dips, and a host of desserts and beverages.

A must have at Christmas for my family is hot dinner rolls.  They love them and Christmas is the only time (well sometimes for Thanksgiving too) I make them.  Are they homemade you ask?  Indeed not!  Haven't attempted making breads from scratch yet.  I've always known how to cook, thanks to my grandma.  But I've only been making homemade desserts for a few years -when I joined Organized Christmas.   Anyway, back to the rolls.

I buy the rolls from the local supermarket in the freezer section.  My favorite dough to use is Parker House.  They are easy to handle.  Just place the rolls on a lightly greased cookie sheet, cover the dough with a little oil as well (I use a cooking spray), cover the rolls with a clean dishtowel and let the rolls rise for about two hours.  I like to let them rise for about 3 hours so they get really big.  If you prefer, you can use a muffin pan instead of the cookie sheet.  Make sure you put them in a place where there is no cool air blowing.  I like to sit them on the stovetop because the oven is nice and warm from being used all day.  Then just stick them in the oven. When the rolls are done I use this basket (I have 3), lined with a clean dish towel and cover with another towel to keep the rolls warm.

I do not know why my family thinks they way I make these rolls are so special.  I tell them all the time they can do them too, but they always say that when they try it doesn't come out the same.  I guess I just have that magic touch (wink).

Another dish that's done only for Christmas is seafood salad.  I use lump crab, jumbo shrimp and lobster. 

2 lb lump crab meat
2 lb shrimp
1 lb lobster meat
celery, chopped
green onions, chopped
a little mustard
Old Bay seasoning
black pepper

After cleaning the shrimp I put them in the top part of a double boiler/steamer and sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning.  In the bottom pot I mix water and vinegar together.  I let the shrimp steam until they turn pink.  While the shrimp is steaming I clean the crabmeat, picking out shells.  Once the shrimp are ready I let them cool a few minutes, then dump them in to a bowl along with the crab and lobster. Next (a little a time) I add the celery, green onions, black pepper, mayonnaise and mustard and mix well.  It's pretty much freestyle how I add my ingredients so I'm sure what it would be in measurements.  If necessary I may add a little more Old Bay.  Then chill in the fridge.  I make this the night before the big dinner.  Tastes much better.

There's never any left at the end of dinner so before guests arrive I scoop a little on to a small plate and place it in the fridge for later.  After all the prepping and cooking I don't have much of an appetite.  My family usually have to force me to eat a little something, especially if I'm going to have a glass of wine or two.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Photo Cards

So this year I'm sending out holiday photo cards to my family and closest friends.  Here are the cards I'll be using.  I bought them last year at Dollar Tree but never got to use them.

Now I just need to print out my photos, insert them into the cards and they will be ready for mailing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In Honor of Rudy Day

For dessert tonight I baked an apple pie. 

To make the piecrust is really easy:

In a bowl mix 2 1/2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Then in another small bowl mix together 1/2 cup of vegetable oil with 1/3 cup of milk.  Add the oil/milk mixture to the flour mixture and with a fork, stir until ingredients come together.  I divided the dough into 3 balls, using two to make the bottom crust for the pie dish and the last ball to make the top.  I placed the doughs between two sheets of wax paper and with a rolling pin flattened it out.  This made it easy to lay in the pie dish, plus it kept my hands fairly clean.

Next, in goes the apple mixture: McIntosh apples (about 5), 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I prefer Gala apples as they are sweeter (to me) than the McIntosh, but the grocery store was all out of the Galas.

While working with the piecrust, I decided to make it look a little Christmassy. So with a cookie cutter, I cut out a snowflake in the center, then rearranged the cutout on top of the piecrust.

Here's the final result. A little piece of the snowflake broke. It's okay, it will still get eaten.

Mmmm... I love apple pie.  This is the second time I made this pie.   Quite sure I'll be making it again.  Never thought I would ever be able to make a crust.  I've always used store bought.  Me thinks I'll take this to work tomorrow and share with my coworkers.

Christmas Countdown

Hiya folks!  It's been a lovely Sunday here in ole Maryland. 

Today begins the Christmas Countdown for me and all of my friends over at Magical Holiday Home.  So all this week I will spend time getting organized.  I'll be checking lists, then checking them twice. Making sure that this Christmas will be merry and bright. 

Then tomorrow is October Rudy Day.  I've been having a Rudy Day here for  few weeks.  Most of my Christmas cards have been signed and addressed.  I made my own holiday address labels using my computer and printer. Bought half of the gifts on my list.  My dinner menu and dessert menus are typed up along with the shopping list.  My Christmas activity center is set-up. I even wrapped a couple of gifts today.  So far so good. 

Today I scheduled a photo session in my livingroom.  I picked out a nice outfit from the closet that had a holiday look and got my boyfriend to take a few pictures of me with the digital camera.  He knows how I am about the holidays so he didn't say a word.  He just shook his head, took the pictures then went to go watch his football game (Go Ravens!).  I'll pick which one I like best to use as a photocard that I'm sending out this year to family and closest friends.

My 10 year old niece has been texting me since last night about what she wants for Christmas.  I asked her what does her other siblings want, she just keeps telling me about what she wants. lol 

I need to get some ink for my printer.  I found this cute iron-on design that I want to put on a white cotton shirt.  I hope to wear it Christmas Eve at the family dinner with a pair of jeans or a nice pair of black pants.  I'll post a picture when I have it done. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Christmas Journaling - Holiday Scents

 What smells remind you of Christmas or mean Christmas to you?

Mmmm... The smell of a fresh Christmas tree, wreath or garland. Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves...  Candles and fruit.  There's so many scents that reminds me of the holidays. But my absolute favorite smell of all has to be pine.
I absolutely, positively, love the smell of pine.  We have a lot of pine trees where I live and some days, when the wind blows, the smell of the pine fills the air. Especially in the spring after a rain shower. In the fall I like to go out and pick up the pinecones that fall to the ground and bring them in the house.  I put them in baskets and even decorate with them. 
I remember as a little girl - me, my brother and my parents going out a week before Christmas to buy a fresh Christmas tree.  The whole apartment would smell like pine.  My brother and I would get so excited decorating.  My parents always let my brother and I to decorate the tree. It was a lot of fun.  Years later, when we moved into our house, my parents started using an artificial tree and the pine scent was no more.
I too put up an artificial tree every year.  So to obtain that evergreen, pine scent throughout my little palace, I use candles, room air fresheners (like plug-ins) and clippings of fresh pine.  Home supply stores like Home Depot and Lowes take the cuttings from their trees and put them in a large box marked free. I use them everywhere - on the mantle, in my artificial tree, around a grouping of candles.
In addition to the pine I like to incorporate other scents in to my home.  One thing I do is take cinnamon, nutmeg, giner, clove spices and orange slices.  Add them to a pot of water and let the pot simmer on the stove under a low flame (Never leave stove unattended). Oh what a heavenly scent.  I got that idea from the ladies at the old Organized Christmas forum.
Baking cookies, pies and cakes also are smells that put me in the holiday mood.  Which reminds me, I need to double check my shopping list of ingredients.  I am going to be doing a lot of baking.

Christmas Journaling - Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Admirable or Irritating?

For me, seeing the Salvation Army bell ringers is a sure sign (along with Eggnog and Christmas store displays) that the holiday season is in full effect.  I always look forward to seeing the bell ringer standing outside my local grocery store.  Unfortunately they haven't been there in the last couple of years.  With the economy being the way it's been lately, not many people (including myself) are able to make generous donations, therefore not many volunteers are need.  Wherever I go, if there's a worker outside with their bell and bucket, I try to drop in a couple of dollars.  I feel bad when I pass one and don't have any money to make a contribution.  I especially love seeing little kids asking for change from their parents/grandparents so that they can put money in to the bucket.  They just look so darn adorable.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Christmas Journaling - Gift Bags

Reuse? or Never use?

I love using gift bags.  They come in handy for that last minute gift you fogot to wrap, and it's Christmas Eve, and you have a house full of guests.  And there's so many pretty ones to choose from.  I use them all the time for birthday gifts.  9 times out of 10 I don't shop for a birthday gift until the day of the party.  I know what gift I'm giving. It's just that I procrastinate sometimes going to get it.   Then while I'm picking up the gift I also grab a bag and some tissue paper (oh and a card).  It's terrible I know, but what am I gonna do?  (wink)

As far as Christmas, the last few years I've resorted back to gift boxes.  I think it's because you can get them now already decorated so there's no need for wrapping paper.  I was never any good at wrapping gift boxes, but I loved trying.  I still use gift bags for those items that cannot go into a box.  I like to coordinate the colors so it doesn't look too busy under the Christmas tree.  The really small gift bags are great for things like gift cards, jewelry, snowman soup, baked goods - things like that.  Whatsmore, gift bags are easier to transport when your arms are full and they're reusabled if you manage not to rip them.  I guess the same can be said about giftboxes (being reusable) but they take up more space than a gift bag will.

Behind These Closet Doors

Is a massive amount of Christmas decorations. 

Over a period of 11 years (that's how long I've lived in my little palace), I have accumulated all of this stuff. 

So today I was thinking.  Since next Sunday is Rudy Day, what better way to celebrate than to invite my girlfriends over and let them have whatever they want (except for my trees).  I have a lot of ornaments that I won't be using this year because I'm getting new ones.  And I don't think I'll be hanging the lighted garland around the entire livingroom, diningroom and hall.  Why not let them take it.  A couple of them could really use the decorations as these economic times have been harder for them than for me.  Plus I know they will be used and my friends will really appreciate it.

So now I need to go through everything and seperate what I'm keeping and what I'm giving away.  But not today.  The sun is setting and I must start getting myself ready for work tomorrow.  I will do a little bit each day. 

Better send out some text messages. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Christmas Journaling - Christmas Carols

Keep the traditional or please write some new one?

What's wrong with the traditional songs?  Nothing!  To me the traditional Christmas songs are an important part of the holiday season.  They tell us stories of how and why we celebrate such a joyous ocassion.

Now that being said, I want to also say that I like the new, more hip Christmas songs as well.  I thought I had heard every Christmas song there was, and am always amazed when I hear something new or different.  For a long time I only knew of the songs my parents, aunts and uncles used to play regularly when I was a kid and the songs sung in church.  It wasn't until I got older I began find out about other kinds of Christmas music. 

I start playing Christmas tunes the day after Thanksgiving. I consider myself to be well rounded and will listen to any kind of holiday tunes. It depends on what mood I'm in.  Like when I'm enjoying a nice evening at home just lying around on the sofa, gazing at the Christmas tree and all the decorations, I usually play instrumental tunes.  If I'm sipping on a glass of wine I'll spice up the music with some holiday jazz.  That get's my fingers snapping. 

When I'm cleaning and getting the house ready for decorating, I put on the old R&B Christmas classics: The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Nat King Cole, etc.  Those songs always remind me of when my family would all gather at my grandma's house.  She lived in a little apartment and one of my uncles and his family lived directly under her in their apartment. Somehow we all fitted in there nice and snugged (counting 8 siblings, their spouses/friends and us kids).  One uncle and one aunt are no longer here, and the family has grown over the years with great grandkids and great-great grandkids.  And now the family gathers at my little apartment. :-)

Now when I'm sitting at the computer (like now) I tune into Merry Christmas Radio and when I'm wrapping gifts, baking cookies or taking a drive around the neighborhood looking at the lights, I usually turn on the radio where the local station plays Christmas music nonstop til New Year's Day.  The radio is where I heard 'Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer' and Porky Pig's version of 'Blue Christmas'.  That Porky Pig song always crack me up.  I remember the first time I heard it. It was about 2:00 in the morning during the holidays.  I was on the highway on my way home from my second job (it was parttime) when it came on the radio.  I was in tears by the time the song ended. I had never heard such a crazy song before.
Then there's a couple that I tear-up a little whenever they come on the radio.  One is "Christmas Shoes".  The other is actually a narration, when Santa meets a soldier during a war. I don't know the name of it, but everytime I hear it, I just sigh and begin to think about all those soldiers fighting in wars, not being home with their families for the holidays. 

I have quite a few favorite holiday songs: "Let It Snow," by Boys II Men; "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," by Burl Ives; "Winter Wonderland," by The Eurythmics - to name a few.  "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas", by James Taylor, has become one of my favorite Christmas songs (I like Taylor anyway and have several of his cd's).  His version of the song gives me a warm feeling inside and I especially love the video.  It makes me think about my family coming altogether Christmas Eve. A new tradition I started about 7 or 8 years ago. It's the only time everyone gets to see everyone all at once.  A few months ago I finally broke down and downloaded the entire album  and have been playing it ever since.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Fun Rudy Day

On Dasher, on Dancer, on...  Oh darn, my mind just went blank. - Hahahaha.  

Sitting at the computer listening to Merry Christmas Radio on  RadioJonD's show is now playing.

Wednesday I decided to have an impromptu Rudy Day.  It turned out to be a very productive day.  First I signed and address Christmas cards.  These cards will be given out to my office associates.  After signing what seemed my life away, I went on line and ordered some dvd's for two uncles at Barnes & Noble.  I know they are going to really love these movies.  I ordered the first season of Hogan's Heros and the first season of Gomer Pyle.  I used to love watching these shows with my dad when I was a little girl.  And I know that my uncles used to watch them also.  (Woohoo, just received an email that my movies have been shipped).  Can you say "Excitement".  Now, I've lost my train of thought.  Better end it here. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Christmas Is Coming

Know how I know?  I saw it with my own eyes.  Heehee.

I had Columbus day off so I decided to do some Christmas shopping.  I started my day at 5:00 a.m. First I took my boyfriend to work (his car is in the shop), then headed to the 24-hour Super Walmart. I love shopping in Walmart in the wee hours of the morning. So quiet and peaceful. You can take your time and really look around. Also it's when the workers are stocking the shelves with all the new goodies. I was in there for hours.  I was looking for Christmas decorations but nothing has been put up yet. They do have boxes of Christmas trees stacked on high shelves in the garden center section, but that's all. I was also hunting for the new holiday scented candles by Air Wick. No such luck on that either.

After leaving Walmart I stopped in Kmart and what should mine eyes see?....  An assortment of Christmas trees.  Not just trees - outdoor decorations, gift wrap, lights, ornaments, pretty bows, Santas and snowmen.  Tableware..... Oh I could just go on and on. 

I was scared to take more pictures.  I didn't want the people thinking I was a competitor from another store.  (wink)

Shopping for Christmas Gifts

Yesterday was Columbus Day here in the USA and all government offices were closed.  I took advantage of the time off by having a Rudy Day and went shopping for Christmas gifts.  I'm happy to say that after months of putting off this task, I have about half of my list done. Woohoo! 

I got my step-dad a new MP3 player with FM radio so he can listen to his music when he does his exercises at the VA gym.  I got my mom a couple pairs of pajamas (something she mentioned last year).  My mom is the only person each year, I have difficulty shopping for.  I'm still not done with her though.  I bought my 11 yr old niece Diary of a Whimpy kid movie. I'm doing a craft basket for her and will put the movie with everything.   For my two old high-school friends I'm putting together  "white" theme baskets for them.  So far I got them cute robes with hoods and a pair of slippers. Just a few more bath items (bubble bath, body lotion, etc.) and they will be done.

For the guys/boys in my family I bought a Dallas Cowboy shirt, a sweater, a polo shirt,  2 crew-neck thermal henley shirts, a graphic t-shirt and graphic hoody, 2 race track sets, a sweat suit, and a cute toddler outfit.  For the ladies/girls I bought a fleece vest with coordinate pants, 2 'Down' quilted vests, satin pajamas, fleece pajamas, 4 hat/scarf/glove sets, a bath robe, 2 sweaters and a pair of jeans.

By the time I got home I was exhausted, tired and hungry - but happy. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I haven't had a Rudy Day moment in quite some time.  I'm changing that starting tomorrow. I have the day off  for Columbus Day and I am finally going to start my Christmas shopping.  I have my list printed and in my purse ready to go.  Just set the alarm clock to get up early in the morning.

Butter Pecan Cookies

Earlier this week the ladies and I at MHH were just talking about our day when my friend Lana  mentioned that she and her husband were picking pecans. There's a picture of the pecan tree  on her blog.  I have never seen an actual pecan tree myself.  I like to use pecans when I bake "butter pecan cookies". I only make them at Christmastime. 

Here's how I do mine.

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecan

In a medium bowl mix flour and salt together. Set aside.  In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, vanilla and egg. Mix until well blended.

Slowly add the flour and salt. Mix well.   Add chopped pecans. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll dough in to 1" balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Flatten balls with the bottom of a glass dipped in flour.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes until lightly colored.
I get my pecans from the grocery store - already chopped.   If you have fresh pecans, like my friend Lana, toast them in the oven for a few minutes first. Then proceed with baking.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Christmas Journaling - Candy Canes

Like? Chew? or Throw Away?

I don't eat candy canes like I did when I was a kid and every year I continue to buy them - mainly for the kids.  I used to put them on the tree but got tired of that so I just keep them in a decorative container.  Last year I bought the fruity flavored candy canes by Life Savors (in addition to buying the peppermint ones).  I really enjoyed the Life Savors and will buy more this year.  The kids didn't even touch the peppermint ones.  As a matter of fact, back in August I finally threw them out.