Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Best New Year's Punch Ever!

I originally posted this recipe a few years ago. However it is SO good, I decided to post it again!

We have this punch every New Year's eve.  It is easy to make and tastes great too! If the amount is too much for your family, you can cut the recipe in half.

Here is the recipe:

New Year's Punch
2 packets of strawberry or cherry Kool-aid (we like cherry better)
1 can pineapple juice (1 lb. 14 oz.)
2 two litter bottles of ginger ale
4 cups sugar (you can use half of this and it still tastes good)
Vanilla ice cream

My recipe says to combine all ingredients in a punch bowl and add a few scoops of vanilla ice cream.  However, after making this many, many times - I think it does make a difference in how you add the ingredients. I have found that if you add the ginger ale last, it will keep some of the fizzy bubbles in the punch much longer.

I start with the Kool-aid packet and then add the pineapple juice. Stir in the sugar and add a few scoops of vanilla ice cream (to taste). I usually add more later when these melt a bit.
Then add the ginger ale.  The whole punch bowl will fizz up! Stir a bit and serve immediately.

This recipe also works well completely sugar free. Use Splenda instead of sugar and purchase diet ginger ale & sugar free ice cream. That is what we are going to do this year.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Merry Christmas!

My most favorite music video of all time is from the Piano Guys. While all of their music is wonderful, this one tops them all!


You can go to YouTube and key in 'The Piano Guys' to listen to more of their wonderful music!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

More Christmas Blooms!

Since I have a lot of orchids, my house is full of many different blooming plants at Christmas time. Orchids are really not that hard to care for and they are so pretty to look at when they bloom! In addition to orchids, cactus is in bloom now too. (You really can't get a more easy-care plant than a cactus - anyone can grow one.)

Here are a few other blooms I have been enjoying this December.

Try your hand at some blooming houseplants! Many don't need much care are are so rewarding to display when they bloom!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

'Treating' The Poinsettia Plants - Part 3

I wanted to show you how pretty some of my Poinsettia blooms turned out to be. If you recall, I started the 'turning' process on October 1st. It really does take 60 days to get the beautiful red blooms from the plants when you are treating them at home. Here are the two super big ones. I have been 'turning' these at home for quite a few years and I didn't have any problem 'turning' them to get red blooms. (Light differences are because of the different rooms I placed them in - one gets morning sun and the other gets afternoon sun.)

For the baby ones that were only a year old, I got mixed results. One 'turned', but it took 75 days of treatment. This is entirely too long! If it doesn't turn within 60 days next year, I will toss it and get a new one to try. At this rate, it will be New Year's or beyond before it becomes a full, lovely flowering plant!

The other two.... NOTHING! These plants will be tossed in January. If they won't 'work' for their keep, they can't live at my house!

I have already purchased their replacements! I have two new poinsettia plants in small 4in (10.16 cm) pots. They will go into the bigger pots in January. These two currently are living in my bathroom.

I truly am in awe of God's wonder with this plant! (It is still one of my all time favorites - even if I can't get them all to perform for me!) I am quite happy with my work and the beauty they provide!

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Time to 'Treat' the Poinsettia Plants
'Treating' the Poinsettia Plants - Part 2

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Time To Roast The Peanuts!

This is a favorite treat for us during the Christmas season! Dry roasting peanuts is easy!. At our house, roasting is the first step to the chocolate covered peanuts I make for Christmas every year.

We roast the peanuts we grow. BTW, anyone can grow peanuts. If it is too cold for peanuts where you live, you can grow them in pots. You can also purchase raw peanuts at the grocery store and roast them. They are a great treat at Christmas parties! The scent of roasting peanuts will fill the house!

Here is how you do it:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the peanuts out on a cookie sheet.  (A cookie sheet with a rim works best.)

Roast the peanuts for 20 - 30 minutes.  If you have smaller peanuts like Spanish, roast for 20 minutes. If you have larger peanuts like Virginia Jumbo, roast for 30 minutes. At about the halfway point, stir and turn the peanuts over to prevent burning. This is why you use a cookie sheet with a rim. When stiring and turning the peanuts, they will fall off a flat cookie sheet. Ask me how I know this!  It is quite difficult to reach the peanuts that fall to the bottom of the oven without removing the oven racks! Here is a picture of my peanuts at the half way point.

When the peanuts are done, remove from the oven and turn them onto a plate or another cookie sheet. They will continue to cook while they are cooling so it is best to remove them from the hot cookie sheet so they don't overcook.

Once they are cooled, you can store them in the shell until you are ready to eat!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Make Your Own Christmas Ornaments for Just Pennies! (Victorian Style)

Middle class in Victorian times was much different than it is today. When the Victorians wanted to decorate their Christmas tree, they didn't go to the store to purchase ornaments. They had to make them!

(As a nugget of history: presents were also placed on the tree or in your stocking, not under the tree. Presents were much smaller in Victorian times because disposable income for middle class families was much less then it is today.)

So, in honor of our ancestors, I am going to show you some of the easiest (and inexpensive) ways you can decorate your tree this year.

The first one is quite simple. Get some ribbon that you like (this is a great thing to do at the after Christmas sales - then you can save it for next year) and tie it on the tree in a bow.  It is just that simple and very Victorian!  

Here is a picture of one of my bows.

The next idea involves aluminum foil. 

Victorian children spent the entire year saving aluminum foil to decorate their trees. Aluminum foil was not available in the stores like it is now. Aluminum was use by florists, wrapped around cakes of chocolate, cream cheese, large packages of tea and inside the paper used to wrap tobacco. Now, this foil was quite thin. I can just imagine how many pieces were torn as they tried to make the ornaments! I can certainly understand why it took all year to save enough to decorate the tree!

For my ornaments, I used heavy duty aluminum foil and I still scraped many of them because they tore as I handled them! However I imagine in Victorian times, if you started making these as a child, I bet you got to be really good at it by the time you were a teenager!

I saw this idea on a Craft blog a few years ago. You can see the original post here. To make an ornament, start with a piece of foil. I like the look of smooth foil, but they shine in the lights at night just a much if the foil is crinkly.

I like mine small, but if you are making these with children, bigger is better so they don't tear. I used a piece of foil about 1 inch by 4 inches (2.54 cm to 10.16 cm).

Fold it in half and cut it with scissors as described in the original post. Basically it says to cut on opposites sides of the foil for the entire length. I spaced mine about 1/8 of an inch apart (.20 cm). Here is a picture of mine.

Open the folded foil carefully! Once completely open and laying flat, gently pull at each end of the foil.

What the original post does not tell you is that this technique steps the decoration like stairs. So it is either coming towards you or going back away from you. For best results, don't make them too long. You can either hang with string or ornament hooks. Here is one of mine on the tree.

If you want to make them longer, I recommend a different technique. Fold over the foil, but make the cuts all on one side (similar to making fringe). When you unfold the foil, use a stick, handle of a toothbrush or something similar to open the ornament for you. (Pulling on this one won't work.) I used a barbecue skewer because that is the first thing I thought of.

When cut this way, the ornament hangs straight down and looks much nicer as a long piece. Here is one of mine on my tree.

The last idea is also super simple. Decorate your tree with cookies! I have made gingerbread men in past years and placed them on the tree. If you have dogs, this can be tricky. I remember one year I had a beagle that tried to climb the tree to reach a cookie! (My cat was never interested.)

All of these ideas were used by your grandparents and great-grandparents to decorate their trees! They don't cost much and the whole family can do it together! And, I bet it will also be something your kids never forget!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Five Dollars and 20 minutes to update the Christmas Door Wreath!

As you can see in the picture on the left, the ribbon on my Christmas Door Wreath was in very poor condition when I pulled it out of storage last month. I created this wreath about 10 years ago, and for the most part, it withstood the harsh weather conditions I put it through for 10 years!  (I put my Christmas wreath up on November 1st and keep it there until about May 1st every year. It gets hot afternoon sun.)

I tried to bend the ribbon back into some form of shape and it looked OK for a few weeks. However, I looked at it Saturday morning and it just looked pitiful. The ribbon ends were all torn and falling apart.

It was time for an update! Just because it caught my eye, I purchased some new silk flowers a few weeks ago at the big box store the last time I was there. I got one bunch and it cost five dollars. I really liked the contrast between the gold and red.

The new ribbon came from my leftover stash. These three were the best matches. I chose the one in front because it too had gold and red in the ribbon and matched the silk flowers. Of course the one I wanted only had about 18 inches (45 cm) left on the roll! I wanted to use it like I did in the old wreath but 18 inches was not enough to go around the entire wreath! I had to make a smaller bow.

Step one was to remove the old items. The ribbon was attached with floral wire so I needed to cut that off and then I just pulled out the old flowers.

Now, start adding new pieces.  There isn't any 'special' way to do it. Decorate it to please you. The only 'rule of thumb' I can give you is that an odd number of items looks better then an even number. For example, using three poinsettia flowers/ using one pine cone, etc.

Start with the first piece. I placed a flower on the wreath and pulled the stem through to the back. 

Sorry for the blurry picture. I needed three hands for that one!

Now, just wrap the stem around the base of the wreath. No wire or glue needed. I usually wrap it a few times so it won't fall off. The only piece I attached with wire was the ribbon.

Continue adding pieces until you like the way it looks!  It took all of 20 minutes (from start to finish) to make mine! Once I put it on the door, I adjusted it a bit more so the ribbon showed up better. This is what it looks like now.

Pretty to look at, quick to do, and very frugal!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Light The World This Christmas Season!

This message was shared with us in Church this past Sunday: To help the world be a better place, you must serve others!

What a beautiful message this Christmas season!

Serve 25 ways in 25 days!