Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I'm still wishing and hoping for snow but it's not looking good here in Chicago  . . .  .

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday and a very 
Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Cheer

I love Christmas. I love the message, the planning, the shopping, the giving, the craziness, the decorating, the cooking, and most of all the snow if we're lucky. 

For a few years now I've vowed to cut back on excess and also on spending excessive time stressed out about cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping. I make it easier to enjoy the holiday by finding time for myself to relax and share and visit with friends and family instead of rushing around too much. 

I promised I would share my favorite Christmas appetizer recipes again. Appetizers are always a big hit at my house around the holidays. Every year I  like to add a few new ones to the mix. I already shared some pf these on the blog last year but here they are again in case you missed them. 

These bacon-wrapped apples are absolutely scrumptious.
  • Peel and cut apple slices. Wrap in 1/2 piece of bacon. Place on oven tray (or cookie sheet with sides)
  • Dust with cinnamon & sugar and bake at 400 for 10 min or so.
The recipe said to turn and bake another 10 min. My bacon did not cook very fast so I turned the oven to broil and that worked better for me. You might want to try it first to see how long it takes for your bacon to cook. I used the toaster oven because the regular oven was full so maybe that's why. Also, don't cut the apple slices too thin.


How about some Mini cheese bites ?

                                                    Mini Cheese Ball Bites ~ easy appetizers featuring dried cranberries, blue cheese, toasted pecans, and pretzel skewers | {Five Heart Home}

Another appetizer that goes over well is Zucchini pizzas.

  • Slice zucchini into thin rounds. Place on oiled cookie sheet
  • Top with pizza sauce (or tomato sauce mixed with garlic powder and oregano) and shredded cheese and bake at 350 until cheese is bubbly.  

Here's one from the Food Network for Spinach artichoke dip - 

                                   Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

A few years ago I made these Black Forest Ham Rollups. Also good.


Some years I make a broccoli-red pepper dip, one of my favorite quick standbys.

Mix a container of Greek yogurt (or sour cream if you prefer) with finely chopped broccoli and half a red pepper. Add garlic powder and salt (or a bit of Ranch dressing mix) and you're done. Do not blend the yogurt in blender; it gets runny. Ask me how I know . . . . Fold the vegetables into the yogurt or sour cream.  The sad thing is I cannot find these crackers anywhere anymore. The perfect crispness. This year I will probably serve it with Pretzel Thins.

Speaking of Pretzel Thins - Since I can no longer find these peppermint candy-coated chips at Trader Joe's I decided to make my own with melted white chocolate chips mixed with crushed peppermint candies. Dip the pretzel thins into the warmed chocolate mixture and cool on wax paper.

Here's a great Cranberry-Brie appetizer.

                                                  Cranberry Brie Bites

Sounds like all I do is eat around the holidays but I really love to cook and, anyway, shopping in the cold weather really works up an appetite, you know?

Another favorite treat I only indulge in at the holidays is peppermint bark candy. I'm sure there are places you can buy it all year long but, trust me, it's a good thing  that I don't see it much at other times of the year. I recently bought some Peppermint Bark and when it was finished decided maybe I'd look into a recipe to make my own. How hard could it be? There are all sorts of recipes if you do a search, and you can certainly take your pick, but basically it's layers of dark chocolate, white chocolate and crushed peppermint candy cut into squares. Very simple.

First, melt some dark chocolate chips (or use better quality chocolate if you care to) in the microwave in a glass bowl. Stir after about 30-40 seconds and again if needed. If you have a moderately powerful microwave, don't let it go for too long or the chocolate will burn and you'll have to trash that batch and start over. Ask me how I know. When it's all  melted, pour into a small square baking dish lined with wax paper up the sides. Smooth the chocolate with a spatula. Place in freezer for 20 minutes. Crush the peppermints or candy canes. Then, melt the white chocolate and smooth it over the hardened layer of dark chocolate. Top the soft chocolate with the crushed candy, pressing it into the layer a bit. Place in freezer for another 10 minutes. When it hardens, lift the wax paper out of the dish and break into pieces or let it soften a little and then cut with a knife into squares. Yum!

Don't ask why the plate is not fullIf you've ever had peppermint bark, you already know. Besides, someone had to eat all the broken pieces. Clearly, I'll have to make more before Santa gets here.

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Have a fun time as you celebrate and remember to try to stay stress free. I know it's easy to get dragged down around the holidays for various reasons. We've all got our unique stresses. If you start to feel Grinchy and grumpy around this time of year, make a conscious decision to at last try to be as joyful as you can, choose to do some things that focus on the goodness and beauty of the season, focus on others, visit with family or friends and see if you can't turn that attitude around. Put on some Christmas music, decorate a little, watch a favorite holiday movie (Prancer, anyone??) or make some cookies. It's difficult to stay down for very long if you're making cookies. Everything is a choice - even joy. I really believe we're only as happy as we choose to be. Whether your holiday is happy ultimately depends upon you and how you choose to relate to others. Hope it's a good one! 


Friday, December 11, 2015

Necessary Needle Cases

In my last post I mentioned how I am always amazed by all of the sewing women had to do in the nineteenth century. With all this hand sewing going on, a needle case was a necessity. A pretty one to carry your supplies sure helps make your hand sewing adventures more enjoyable.

Every quilter needs a pretty needle case. The pattern for this "huswife" needle case is in my Adelia book. These are quick and easy to stitch up and make great gifts for sewing friends. Or, you can omit the bottom pockets and measure to make it a little longer and wider to fit an electronic device so you have a pretty case for your tablet or Kindle. (If you prefer, add interfacing between the layers to make it a little stiffer.)

A girl can never have too many needle cases! Don't you agree? (Mine are beginning to multiply like pincushions . . . .) You can even keep one in your purse and store gift cards in them. I sort of enjoy the funny looks I get when I'm out shopping and I pull out this seriously old-fashioned (but oh so cute!) case and have to untie the ribbon before I dig out my card . . . . Time stops still for a minute.

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Don't forget - There's still time to make a little quilt for our small quilt group challenge. The revealing of all the little red & white quilts begins on Tuesday, Dec 15. I'll post pictures of some of them here after next week. Hope you can still find time to join us.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sewing in the 19th Century

I'm working on hand quilting a few small quilts. It's very enjoyable for me but the going is slow and I was reminded of the exhibit on Civil War dresses I saw last summer. When I pick up my needle, I cannot help but think about the amount of hand sewing that went on during that era. How in the world did they do so much of it?


Most of the dresses on display were sewn with exquisite stitches. By hand. Including the fancy trim, piping, pleating.

Sewing, Needlework, and Other Textiles in Art

Look at those pleats!

By the mid-nineteenth century, some households had treadle sewing machines, but not all families could afford one. In my book Remembering Adelia, Adelia Thomas noted in her 1861 diary that her family was lucky enough to have a treadle machine. At times. some of the local women would come over for the day to sew on it. 

                                                      How to prepare a chicken. 1915:

Oops - couldn't find a photo of several women sewing on a treadle. If the machine was busy I guess they'd go into the kitchen  and "baste" a chicken while they waited their turn . . . .

*   *   *

Here are a few more entries from Adelia's diary -

July 29, 1861

The anniversary of my nineteenth birthday! Worked all the day till three o'clock then sewed on my basque—seems as though I should never get it done. [A basque was a form-fitting jacket or bodice perhaps worn over a hoop skirt. Some references I found say it was a corset. Imagine having to make your own corset!]

Aug 5, 1861

Emma's seventeenth birthday. Anna and I did quite a large washing. Mother helped to wash the colored clothes. Cut the little girls some purple calico dresses.

 Aug 8, 1861

Washed three calico dresses for myself and one for Em. Got dinner and after the work was done sewed on some embroidery. Finished the girls' dresses and cut out two night dresses for Mother and myself.

Aug 20

Sewed on Mother's dress. 

Aug 24

Slept until eight o'clock then sewed on Mother's dress and almost finished it.

You can see that sewing was pretty much a daily chore among all the other household chores that needed to be finished. My goodness. How lucky we are today. The little bit of hand sewing I do is so pleasurable. I would be very stressed if I had to make clothes for myself and the family too - wouldn't you?

Here's an interesting link if you'd like to read more on this topic. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Irrepressible Anxiety and Hope

It's difficult to watch the news these days. My heart goes out to everyone in San Bernardino, along with prayers.

August 24, 1861 

"August 24, 1861 - I should have been cheerful in my solitude had it not been for my irrepressible anxiety about public affairs. I made, and quilted on my lap, the prettiest little crib quilt you ever saw. . . I sent it to my dear friend Mrs S., in honor of her first granddaughter. It was really a relief to my mind to be doing something for an innocent little baby in these dreadful times." 

I love this quote on page 34 of my book The Civil War Sewing Circle. Hard to believe it was not written today. I don't know anyone who is not feeling anxious these days. Yes, so many years later, these are still dreadful times. Thank goodness for quilting - it does help keep one focused and calm at times.

I don't feel much like Christmas shopping anymore. We're getting our Christmas tree tomorrow and I will decorate it this weekend. put up the lights to help dispel some of the darkness and find joy and hope as we begin to celebrate the season. 

When the kids were young we'd drive by a certain neighborhood in Chicago to see the houses decorated with lights. I think it might be fun to do that again this year. 

Happy holidays to all of you. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Winter's Here

Yep, it's definitely winter. This may have been a horrible, horrible day for some but not for me. It snowed overnight. My husband woke me up before he left for work at 6:30 a.m. with the good news. At first I thought he was waking me because he was eager to tell me it snowed! Perhaps he's learned to love it as much as I do! But, no, he was just afraid I might need more time getting myself going this morning because of it. Such a worrier. Wasn't that nice of him? So I woke up a little earlier than I needed to since I already had my alarm set for 7:00 a.m. Thanks, dear . . . . More early morning minutes to spend outside playing with the dog. 

I still had to go out early but the roads really were not too bad. Everyone else seemed to be driving around in a crabby mood even though it was only a sprinkling of snow but I still had a stupid grin on my face. Even the tiniest bit of snow does that to me. 

I like showing you my little corner of the world . . . .

It's so pretty. What I really wanted to do was go Christmas shopping! But I was on my way to a doctor's appointment instead. Ugh. 

On the way back home I drove past the park to see if the path looked icy. Decided it might be a little too slippery (for me) to walk the dog today. 

So we stayed inside and sewed instead. The little Christmas tree block below was for last year's challenge in the Yahoo Small Quilt group and if you don't remember you can find it in the group files for 2014. I think mine's going to turn into a coaster soon. 

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Yahoo and Facebook group people - If you're still thinking of participating in the red & white small quilt challenge, do not delay. Time's a wasting. The showing of little quilts in the groups will be on December 15. You still have almost two weeks to make something. Let's see your red & white quilts! I honestly almost wasn't going to make one because of all the things I have to do instead but the Christmas spirit got the better of me. Last night I picked out a pattern and then sewed up the top this snowy morning. Took me all of 2 hours. Sure, it's small and needs to be quilted but I think I'll be able to finish it by Dec 15. Hope to see some of yours too. If I can do it, you can too. It really does not take that long to make something small and, come the holidays, you'll be so glad you made even a little something.

Now that that top's done maybe I'll also have time to make a couple of cross-stitched pretties. Never did get around to making that Christmas Village from oh so many years ago . . . . That pattern's got to be 20 years old by now.   

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Primitive Craft Sale

One of my favorite places to visit every year on Black Friday is my friend Karen's primitive craft sale at her home in Elgin, Illinois.  Today also happens to be Small Business Saturday. A perfect day to support your local quilter and crafter.

Tons of great gift items. They make everything they sell.

I know I'm a little late with this info but there's still time to get over there if you live in the Chicago area. The sale is on today (Saturday) from 10 - 4:00.

Bill & Karen Schultz' Primitive and Holiday Sale
November 28
1024 Duncan Ave. 
Elgin IL

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There's also a link on my website for info on buying Bill and Karen's doll beds and cradles.