Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

If I'm going to record the rest of this year's Christmas decorating, this seems like the day to do it!

These swags were a lot cheaper than wreathes, especially considering that I need two since we have a double door in the front, and I think I like them just as well. For us, the most important aspect of the door decoration is that it have that wonderful evergreen smell. I have allergies so our tree is artificial -- this is the place where we sneak in the real stuff. Perhaps, I'll put a bow on them next year for a bit more color.

The nativity scene has a story to go with it. My mother said for years that she was going to get a nativity set when she could afford to buy a good one. The family ignored this comment and assumed she’d get around to it one day. But my fiance (now, husband), when he heard that the first time, saw an opportunity. The next Christmas he bought her the basic pieces of a nativity set and for years after added more and more pieces until she had a very large scene. Mother died in 2005, so now it’s mine. This year is the first time since then that I’ve had the time and space to set it out.

Next year, I think I'll try putting a piece of fabric under it so it's not quite so brown on brown. And I'm still trying to decide if I like the Christmas cards around it or not. That was mostly accidental (I put the first couple of cards on the edge of the buffet and then it just grew), but visitors have paid attention to both together and the cards have certainly added some color to the mix.
Merry Christmas! And God bless us, every one!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Indoor Christmas tree

Last year at Christmas, we didn't have any furniture in the living room, so we plopped the Christmas tree in the middle and appreciated having something to fill the space for awhile.
This year, we have our furniture and there's really no room for a Christmas tree. So, Rick had the idea to put the tree in the sunroom and it's been quite wonderful. We can see it, or its reflection in windows, in nearly every room of the house.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Outdoor Christmas trees

We may never be able to replicate this year's outdoor trees, but I thought I would make record of it. There are three evergreen trees in the part of the landscape design that we're ready to implement. We bought them, potted, early in December so that we can use them as Christmas trees for the season, then plant them.

We put a thuja at the bottom of the driveway. It wasn't stable so Rick buried the pot partway.

He did the same for the one by the garage. We put multi-colored lights on both of the thujas and appreciate them when we come home after dark. We can also see the one at the bottom of the driveway from a couple of windows in the house.

The weather didn't cooperate for us to get lights on the juniper that we put near the front door. But it had pretty natural decoration after our snowstorm.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Little Wishes

This Christmas season, I'm volunteering for the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition. The Little Wishes campaign allows people to buy Christmas gifts that have been requested by children in foster care. I'm doing some of the work to make sure that those gifts arrive in time for Christmas at the homes where the children are living. There are lots of good gifts left on the site -- you could give 10 year old Andrea a membership to the Science Center, 1 year old Jeredin a Funtime Tractor, or 8 year old Rahab a gift certificate to a book store.

And, if you have some time in the next couple of weeks, I think they will still take on volunteers. Getting Christmas gifts to foster kids is a really great gig this time of year--it's a lot of fun in a busy, friendly environment. There is volunteer information at the bottom of the Little Wishes web page.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Pumpkin bread with maple syrup spread

Yogurt cheese has been my favorite "miracle" diet food for the last couple of months. I mix it half-and-half with things like peanut butter and mayo. I like my lighter spreads better than the original product--they are creamier and less oily. Yogurt cheese is also great as a potato topping, a spread on rye crackers, and an ingredient in creamy salad dressings.

Yogurt cheese is simple to make--just dump a carton of plain, nonfat yogurt into a colander lined with a coffee filter or a couple of paper towels. Let it sit in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours. The yogurt cheese will be about the texture of whipped cream cheese with a tangy flavor more like sour cream. The whey that ends up in the bowl can be used in place of water in bread or soup.

Yogurt cheese allowed me to transform a treat that I used to eat this time of year: pumpkin bagels topped with cinnamon-brown sugar cream cheese. This fall, I'm making pumpkin bread with maple syrup spread. Maple syrup spread is simply maple syrup whisked into yogurt cheese. My recipe for pumpkin bread is below.

Joy's Pumpkin Bread for the Bread Machine
makes 2lb loaf

2/3 cup warm water
1 1/2 Tbl canola oil
2 Tbl molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 Tbl vital wheat gluten
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp dry yeast

Stir the wet ingredients and salt together. Stir the dry ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients into the bread pan. Spoon the dry ingredients on top of the wet. Add the yeast to the bread pan.

Set the bread machine for Fruit and Nut bread (or whatever gives the longest rise time) and 2 lb loaf.

Check partway through the first kneading cycle to see if the dough is too wet (add flour by tablespoons) or too dry (add water by teaspoons).