Tuesday, December 31

2013 in review

If you're like me, you're having trouble believing that today is the last day of 2013.  Wow!  The year flew by, didn't it?

It's fun to take a quick look back.  Here are some of my top posts from 2013.

I started the year getting ready mentally and physically for the fact that I was turning 50!  My kind readers helped me choose a new profile photo for this momentous year.

My oldest son graduated from college in May, and I spent a lot of time reflecting on that.  I wrote about the ways we are perfect:

And I thought about my 22 years of parenting and realized there's one thing parents really need to remember.

My summer was challenging in many ways, including a couple of instances of identity theft.  I learned that what you don't know can hurt you!

On a happier note, I did a lot of work in the house this year, including projects big and small.  I completely a much-needed re-do of my laundry room.

 My biggest project was completely re-doing my living room.

I had lots of fun showing you around my house in my Fall Home Tour:
And of course I loved sharing all my Christmas decor in my Christmas Home Tour:

Thanks so much for taking a look back at 2013 with you.  Here's hoping that your new year is full of God's richest blessings!

I'm joining Rhoda at Southern Hospitality for her Top Projects of 2013 link party.

Tuesday, December 24

Merry Christmas

Dear friends, I wish I could have invited you all to our Christmas party this week.

Most of all, though I wish that we would all respond to the invitation to accept the greatest gift of all this Christmas--the gift of Immanuel, God with us.

In the first light of a new day
No one knew He had arrived.
Things continued as they had been
While a newborn softly cried.
But the heavens, wrapped in wonder,
Knew the meaning of His birth--
In the weakness of a baby,
They knew God had come to earth.

As His mother held Him closely,
It was hard to understand
That her baby, not yet speaking,
Was the Word of God to man.
He would tell them of His kingdom,
But their hearts would not believe.
They would hate Him and in anger
They would nail Him to a tree.

But the sadness would be broken
As the song of life arose,
And the firstborn of Creation
Would ascend and take His throne.
He had left it to redeem us,
But before His life began,
He knew He'd come back, not as a baby,
But as the Lord of every man.

Hear the angels as they're singing
On the morning of His birth,
But how much greater will their song be
When He comes again to earth!

                                    --Bob Kauflin

Merry Christmas and much love to you this Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18

World's Best Peanut Butter Fudge

Of all our Christmas traditions, one of my favorites is making fudge.  Every year we make at least 12 pounds of fudge!

My chocolate fudge recipe (click here for that recipe) is awesome.  It was given to me by my mother, who got it from an old church cookbook.  Aren't those the best?

To be honest, although I like peanut butter, I'm not a big fan of most peanut butter fudge.  But this peanut butter fudge recipe is different.  Why?  Because there's no peanut butter in it.  Want to know what IS in it?

That's right!  Reese's Peanut Butter Chips!  A secret ingredient for a spectacular batch of peanut butter fudge.

Peanut Butter Fudge

4 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons butter
12 ounce can evaporated milk
24 ounces Reese's peanut butter chips (4 cups, which is about 2 1/2 packages)
2 7-ounce jars marshmallow creme
2 cups chopped nuts (optional--I use pecans)

Butter a pan for the fudge. A 9 x 13 pan works well for thick fudge; a small sheet pan is good for slightly thinner fudge.

Place peanut butter chips, marshmallow creme, and chopped nuts into bowl. Set aside.

Combine sugar, salt, butter, and milk in heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, set a timer for six minutes. Boil, continuing to stir, for exactly six minutes. Remove from heat and pour immediately over other ingredients. Stir until all the peanut butter chips are dissolved.

Pour into buttered pan. If you can bear to wait, let stand one hour before cutting.
This recipe makes six pounds of fudge, so you'll have plenty to eat and plenty to share. And believe me, the people you share with will be very, very grateful. 

Do you make Christmas candy?  Have any special recipes you'd like to share?

I'm joining Karianne at Thistlewood Farms for a Holiday Recipe Link-Up Party.

Friday, December 13

Christmas Home Tour

Christmas is coming, and I'm so happy to welcome you to my home!

You'll have to forgive me for the black pickup truck in the photo of our house.  I'm happy it's there, because it means that my 20-year-old son Preston is home from college.

Come on up to the porch.  Last week, it was so warm that you could have lingered here!

But today it's cold, so come on in.

You'll find that our home this year is a celebration of all things traditional.  This will be the first Christmas in 23 years that our oldest son, Will, is not with us at Christmastime.  He's working in East Asia this year, so I'm feeling nostalgic for all things that remind me of Will at Christmastime.

This year the foyer is the spot for our Christmas village.  It's a small collection of the Dickens village by Department 56.  When my boys were small, I put the village under the Christmas tree with a Lionel train circling it.  How the boys loved that train!  The village is special now mostly because it brings back memories of those Christmases past.

The village is magical at night when it's all lit up.  Of course, lighted houses means lots of electrical cords, so I massed poinsettias under the table to hide most of the mess.

Off the foyer is Jack's library, which this year holds just a few Christmas touches.  My favorite thing here is the Christmas cactus.  Isn't it lovely?  Hard to beat the work of the Master Designer!  The reading chair in the corner holds one of my super-easy DIY Christmas pillows.

The foyer also leads to a hallway connecting to the powder room and master bathroom.  The powder room gets used a lot, so I like to add some Christmas cheer in this tiny room:

My favorite things in this room are the antique Santa mugs.  My grandmother had a huge collection of these mugs.  20 years ago, my mom suggested that she give one mug to each of her great-grandchildren.  My boys called my mom "Grandmother" and my grandmother "Great."  My mom and my grandmother both died in 1999, so I really treasure the fact that my mom wrote the boys' names, the date, and "Great" on the bottom of the mugs.

On the other side of the foyer is the blue dining room, which is lovely at Christmastime.  On the sideboard are three plates from Lenox's "Trees Around the World" series--one from each of the years my boys were born.

My centerpiece this year is a boxwood wreath around a silver bowl of ornaments.  Simple but festive!  The windows in this room are untreated, so it's fun to hang ornaments in them.

Both the dining room and the foyer connect to the living room.  We re-did our living room this year, so this is the first Christmas with the new decor.

The far corner of the room is where we always put our big tree.  On the other side of the room, I hung some illuminated sheet music that I framed myself.

On the chest beside the tree is one of our Nativity scenes.  It's just an inexpensive porcelain set, but it's special to us because this is its 20th Christmas in our house.

Our tree is not fancy--it's a live North Carolina Frasier fir, and it holds ornaments we've collected over the years.

This is the fireplace where we'll gather on Christmas morning, so here's where our stockings are hung.  I kept the mantel really simple this year, allowing the stockings to take center stage.  Will's stocking is in the middle.  His was the first one I bought, back in 1991.  We'll have to Skype him in on Christmas morning!

The living room and dining room both lead to the kitchen, which is enjoying a Christmas look, too.

Every year I remove the DIY faux Roman shade from my kitchen window and put up a garland.  I also hang my DIY "Noel" sign in the kitchen window.  I see from this photo that my bow is a bit crooked!

The island holds a couple of fun antique store finds: a vintage wrapping paper roll from a general store and an antique scale.  At Christmastime I put a bag of candy on the scale.  Jack added a tin of his childhood favorite, King Leo peppermint sticks.

The wrapping paper cutter really works!  It had Christmas wrapping paper in it when I found it an antique store.

Our eating table is 11 feet long, and it gets used daily for everything from eating to homework to Lego-building.  A fancy centerpiece here would be in the way.  I simply draped a buffalo plaid blanket across the table and created an arrangement of small Christmas trees on a tray.  This is easy to scoot aside when necessary.  Above the table, I wrapped garland around the chandelier for a woodsy Christmas touch.

The breakfast area leads out to the screened porch, which is great fun to decorate for Christmas:

This table holds the world's simplest table runner: three lengths of red ribbon.  I just use my staple gun to attach the ribbon to the underside of the table.  This year I added a bit of garland and a couple of red candles in glass hurricanes.

The seating area gets some Christmas cheer, too--just a few things that don't mind being outside.

Now all we need is some snow!

Thank you so much for visiting my Christmas home.  I hope you'll agree with me that "traditional" doesn't have to mean "boring"!

How are the holiday decorations going at your house?

I'm joining the Colorful Christmas party at Inspired by Charm, Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style and the Christmas home tour parties at Jennifer RizzoKelly's Korner, and Nesting Place.

I'd love to connect with you--you can find me in these places:

facebook facebook facebookPINTEREST

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11

DIY Christmas wall art

I recently revealed my new living room, and I'm having fun decorating the new room for Christmas!

One thing that remains unfinished about the new room is the lack of art for the back wall.  Placing the Christmas tree on that wall takes care of one side of the mirror, but the other side looked awfully blank. So I created some art for the other side of the mirror.

I've had this Christmas magazine for many years--I think I paid $5.00 for it at an antique store 20 years ago.  This edition was published in 1942.

I have always loved the beautiful images in it.

I simply cut out two pages from the magazine--a beautiful illuminated image of the Christmas carol "The Friendly Beasts."  I purchased two frames off the shelf at a craft store for a few dollars, then I had mats custom-cut to fit the magazine pages.

I did the framing myself.  When I placed the images into the frame, I could see the print from the back of the page through the paper--so I taped black paper to the back of the image.  Now the print from the back doesn't show through!

Here's a shot of one of the images in the frame:

The custom-cut mats make all the difference in the world--for just a few dollars, you can have the perfect frame for any size art.

Here are the two pieces side by side.  (Sorry about the glare--the inexpensive frames come with regular glass.)

Here you can see them in their place of honor opposite the Christmas tree.

And on a brighter day.  Notice the beagle is in the same chair!

I'm thinking you could create the same kind of art with vintage Christmas advertisements or sheet music.  Karen at The Graphics Fairy features lots of beautiful images that you can download and print out for free.

I've just about finished my Christmas decorating and will be sharing it all in the next few days.  How's yours coming along?

I'm linking to these fun parties:

Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style

Monday, December 9

Easy DIY Christmas candles

One of my favorite parts of Christmastime is all the lights.  I especially love candlelight, so I'm tickled to show you a simple way to create beautiful pillar candles.


These beautiful candles are simple and very inexpensive to make from plain pillar candles and--guess what? Christmas napkins!

Most napkins are 2-ply, so you simply separate the decorative outer layer from the inner layer,

cut a piece of decorative outer layer to fit around the candle, and ModPodge the napkin to the candle. Of course you could use a piece of tissue paper from your Christmas wrapping supplies as well, but for this look it's important to use tissue paper rather than regular paper.

My method is to use a disposable foam brush to coat the entire side of the candle in ModPodge (not the top or bottom) and gently press the tissue into place, folding the tissue under a bit on the bottom.  Once the tissue-covered candles are dry, I apply another layer of ModPodge.  I'm very careful not to get paper or ModPodge onto the top of the candle.  If any ModPodge accidentally gets onto the top of the candle, I simply wipe it away while it's still wet.

Please note that decoupaging with tissue paper is not an exact science, especially when applying to a cylindrical surface.  Mostly likely you won't be able to get every single wrinkle out, and if you try, you'll tear the fragile tissue.  That's okay.  Remember it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful!

See how the flame makes the candle glow from within?  I love that!  I'm using these candles in my dining room, but I may make some more for gifts.

I'm so glad to finally be getting my Christmas decorating done!  How's your decorating going?

I'm joining these lovely parties:
Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life
One Project at a Time at A Bowl Full of Lemons
Christmas Extravaganza at Sand and Sisal