Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Organizing Can Be Fun... Yes It Can!

Howdy Doo everyone! In yet another attempt at organizing an area of my home I found that I needed something. If you are at all like me then sometimes you find yourself searching online for recipes and new twists on old recipes. When I find what I need I'll print it out and take it home with me to try out. If it's a keeper it gets put into the stack of eight and a half by eleven sheets of paper all containing tried out recipes in my cookbook pantry.

I have known for quite a while that something needed to be done. So I found an old three ring binder at work that I knew was not likely to be used again mostly because I have worked here for over three years and haven't touched it because it had printing on it. So with permission I brought it home and decided to paste pictures of food, tips and recipes from a food magazine that I had lying around. On Sunday I had the ole migraine trying to set in so I got out my project, sat at the table and put it all together.

Modge Podge is a wonderful product that I have always had a lot of fun with. At my table I cut out beautiful pictures and using a paint brush, pasted them all over my new kitchen cookbook. I sprayed a slight layer of finishing glossy spray all over the notebook. This keeps anything from thinking about being sticky from the glue. Now all I have to do is punch holes in my papers containing fabulous recipes and presto... my cookbook pantry is organized! Needless to say it was already in order except for all the stray paper stacked and stuffed in there!

Did I mention a glass of wine goes well with this project?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Now That That's Over

Happy Monday-After-Christmas to you all! If you're like me, you are back at work... thankfully and happily. Saturday evening my thinking cap was seriously screwed on tight and I got to thinking about New Year's stuff. I get a little antsy when a new year is almost here. I like for things to be cleaned out, put away and freshly organized before a new year begins. I feel as if it's bad luck to drag unnecessary things like clutter , dust and dirt into a new year.

Yesterday I found myself cleaning out an re-organizing things like my pantry and spice rack and it all led me to come up with ten things to help you get organized and ready for a new year. Even if you get one of them done I promise you'll feel much better. Don't be afraid to throw away, recycle and/or donate un-needed items. Try and make your New Year as easy as possible.

10 Easy Things To Organize For The New Year

1. Your Tupperware cabinet. If you haven't stored anything in it at some point during the last year... recycle it. Arrange lids in a bin or basket from smallest to largest.

2. Clean out your medicine cabinet. Get rid of old prescriptions and expired cough syrup. Keeping things "just in case" you need them can hurt you if they are old and maybe not even serve their intended purpose anymore. Rubber band band-aids together and seriously.. do you need all those medicine measuring cups?

3. Clean out your area that houses half-used lotions and shampoos that you didn't like. Pour them out and recycle the bottles. No one truly wants to smell like leaves and peppermint. If you're going to use that self-tanner you bought two springs ago I want to see the results!

4. De-clutter your house. Find five items in your home that you really don't need that are just sitting around. Seriously.. do you need those figurines? Donate the items or box them up to sell.

5. Books - look over your already read books and get rid of the ones that you didn't like or are most likely to never read again. Donate the books or find a bookstore that will buy them or take them in on trade for books that you haven't read. Used book stores are wonderful! We have a new one here on the hill if you haven't already been there.

6. Plan now for a spring or summer yard sale. Dedicate an area or box in your storage space or attic and label it "garage sale" or "to donate". Add to this box or area as you de-clutter.

7. Re-arrange your linen closet. This can be as easy as refolding the items there. If not choose towels and sheets that you no longer use and take them out for more space. Place all like items folded neatly together. Donate unwanted towels, sheets and blankets to a local humane shelter. They will be happy to have them.

8. Invest in new bed pillows. I really don't want to get into what can collect in pillows but they can be replaced now a days pretty cheap.

9. Clean out from under the bed. Personally I believe that a good night's sleep comes when there's nothing stored under the bed. If you have to use this space you can get thin boxes to keep your items in.

10. Replace make-up brushes and applicators. You can get a decent new blush brush from Wal-Mart for around $5. Keep in mind that it is recommended (somewhere) that you need to change your mascara every six weeks to prevent eye irritation.

If you have more ideas please feel free to leave a comment. I have only lived in my new home since last March. It is amazing how fast clutter and just stuff can build up. You can outgrow a home pretty fast especially if you don't stay on top of things. Going in to a new year gives me inspiration to not take excess baggage with me. In my world there is no excuse for excessive clutter. Now... go organize! :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't Forget The Kippies

Howdy Doo Everybody! I truly hope that Christmas is all a'glow in every one's hearts and in the hearts of those around you. I sure could see it in my hubby this morning when he saw the gifts I stayed up wrapping last night tucked under the tree. His first words were "Dang.. somebody's been to the Wal-Mart!" I then proceeded to have the twelve days of Christmas by Jeff Foxworthy stuck in my head for the next hour. It beats "Walkin round in women's underwear" tho.. thanks Katety. That one is stuck a lot. My blog today is going to be a double whammy. One recipe and one Christmas craft. Let's do the recipe first.

It comes from my Grandmother's recipe book that my sister Mary Evelyn and I put together for our family members last Christmas. Boy that was a chore!

Butterscotch Haystacks

1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup salted peanuts
2 cups chow mien noodles

Microwave butterscotch chips and peanut butter together on 50% power for 3-5 minutes - until stirs together nice and smooth. Add peanuts and chow mien noodles and blend to coat nicely. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper and allow to cool.
*Note: I make this recipe twice (not doubled). It takes a long time to harden - works best if you put it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

And please don't forget the Kippies.. meaning your pets! My pups usually get smoked pig ears and tennis balls for Christmas and for Tommy I make cat nip pillows and he might get a treaty too if he's been good :). Here's how I make the cat nip pillows.

Sew together 2 - 4 inch squares of material like a normal pillow, leaving an opening for stuffing. Insert regular stuffing and add a teaspoon of cat nip that can be homegrown and dried or bought at a pet store for around two bucks. Stitch the opening together and try to get them to the stocking without being followed. My Tommy knew what I was doing when I sat down!

Even if you don't have presents for your pups please remember them over the cold winter days and nights. Make sure to have hay or something warm for them to bed down on while the temperatures are low. If you don't have any straw call me.. I'll find you some and get it to you. Maybe you can even sneak a piece of Christmas ham out to them. Somehow I think my dogs have always known when Christmas was here. Maybe they actually remember me telling them about Jesus when they were little. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Feeding The Masses

WOW have I got a smirk on my face this morning! A smile that I just can't wipe off.. and don't want to! Good morning everybody! Welcome to a very short and exciting work week! Christmas is this week and I'm as happy as a kid on Christmas morning. Not so much for the presents, if I was good enough all year to get any, but more so for spending time with family, a warm home lit with tiny Christmas lights, full bellies and the downhill slide to Spring!!! I've got Spring on the brain all winter long!

I wanted to bring up a fantastic recipe that I have found this year and made Sunday evening. I initially made it for a present for a hard to buy for fella on my Christmas list, but it wound up making enough to put into 14 little bags for the boys here at work. I always like to bring a little something special for work peeps and this recipe is the perfect fit this year!

I have to add the link because I cannot and will not take credit for this recipe but I will pass it on for sure!

My Amish Friend's Caramel Corn


Matter of fact, I think I'll just let you go on and print her copy. The only things I have to add is the use of my sister, the expert popcorn popper! She stepped at just the right time. I cannot remember the last time I popped popcorn and she is an avid, almost daily popcorn popper and eater! This recipe was fun, tastes fantastic and goes a long way!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tis The Season For Giving

Morning All! Here's a thought.. if you are having trouble coming up with a good deed or maybe with something that you can do to help someone out this Christmas listen up. I'm listing a few ideas for you. Please feel free to leave a comment on how you have made someone else's hectic Christmas time a little bit easier or comment with more suggestions.

1. Offer to pick up last minute items for some one elderly that you know.

2. Take a box filled with apples, oranges, tangerines or candy to your office and write "stocking stuffers" on it. Just in case there's someone you work with that's having trouble and can't afford for themselves or their kids. Sit the box where you can't see who takes what.. like in a breakroom or lobby area.

3. Offer to wrap gifts. That's what I have done for the fellas here at work. I know that guys sometimes aren't the best or maybe hate to wrap presents. Last year I bought after Christmas, 75% off boxes and paper so it's truly not costing me much to help them.

4. Offer to help an elderly person fill out their Christmas cards and even take them to the post office for them. Or help a child send Christmas cards to a few of their friends.

5. Donate $15.82 for seven meals or more or less to help feed the homeless in your area. In Nashville you go can right to http://www.nashvillerescuemission.org/page.asp?SID=1&Page=14 and donate online. They also have a wish list on the website of items you can donate.

A little goes a long way when it comes from your heart.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Handmade Christmas Cards

Hello All! Merry Christmas! It's not too late to get Christmas cards in the mail to your most favorite people! Why not save money this year by limiting the number of cards you send out and making the cards yourself? That is what I chose to do and plain as they may be they represent more to me than buying cards. Even your kiddos can help! Here's what I did:

Handmade Christmas Cards

20 pieces of card stock - whatever color you have
20 envelopes to fit whatever size your cards are
1 potato
craft paint - whatever color you have
a paring knife a paper plate
glitter - if you have it

Cut and fold each piece of card stock to fit the envelopes that you have on hand. Slice the potato in half and gently mark whatever shape you choose. Carve around the shape that you marked so that the shape is raised like a stamp. I chose an easy shape... a star. Squirt some craft paint onto a paper plate. Dip the potato shape into the craft paint and stamp it onto the front of your cards. Sprinkle glitter onto the shape while the paint is still wet. Allow the paint to dry and write your greeting on the inside. See there... handmade Christmas cards... ready to mail.

After I made my cards I thought of a meaning. The front of my cards have only one star. The wording "only one star.. that's all it took" has been stuck in my head ever since. It only took one star to lead rich men and poor men on a long journey through the night in search of the same thing...our Savior. Can you imagine doing that today? Hearing the word that the One that was sent to save us all had been born and following just one star all night to see Him for yourself. That this didn't exist before. That there was no hope for our souls. The word of Jesus' birth has been instilled in my life since I was born... the reason we celebrate the holidays every year... all these years. Only one star... that's all it took.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brandy Cherries

Hiya! Now if you know me... well then you know me! But you will also know that I love to tweak recipes. While I was thumbing through recipes and cookbooks last week I came across a recipe for Chocolate Covered Cherries that looked delish on it's own. It got me to thinking about soaking the cherries in liquor, like some soak in moonshine or whiskey. The only problem in my mind was the clash of whiskey and chocolate. It didn't sound good to me. So I took a little trip to the liquor store and started looking around for something that wouldn't knock you down when you ate it. I wanted the punch to perfectly accent the sweetness.

So with the help of a friendly neighborhood liquor store worker I found what I was looking for... Cherry Brandy. I went home and immediately popped open two jars of cherries, poured out the liquid and filled them with the brandy. Let me tell you, they are lovely on their own because they still taste like cherries, they just have a tiny twang to them... perfect!

So here's the rest of the recipe using brandy soaked cherries or not they are still YUM!

Spiked Chocolate Covered Cherries

30 - cherries with stems, drained (which is 1 small jar)
1 Tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, softened
1 Tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
5 squares chocolate candy coating

Combine sugar, butter, corn syrup and powdered sugar in a bowl until it forms dough. I formed a dough ball, wrapped it in plastic wrap and refrigerated for about 30 minutes. Wrap each cherry with about a teaspoon of dough. I patted out the dough using powdered sugar so it wouldn't stick to my hands. Chill on wax paper until firm.

Melt candy coating in microwaveable bowl on low temp, stirring until melted. Dip each cherry into chocolate and place on wax paper to dry. Store in an airtight container.

There are really good! And if you're going to the Stidham's Christmas Party don't take these because I am :) Or maybe we could just have a competition! Have fun!

Good Guide, Good Gift

Hey there! To all you bird watchers out there, I know I'm not the only one, I've got a guide I'd like to recommend. If you're not a bird watcher, maybe you would like to get this as a gift for someone else that may enjoy feeding and/or bird watching.

It is a book by Stan Tekiela who has field guides to birds in different states as well as other books I'm sure. But this one is called "Birds of Tennessee". Since I have owned this guide I haven't ran across a species that I could not identify. The book is filled with accurate descriptions, what seasons to look for which birds, nesting and even special notes about each bird. It has great color pictures of each bird that are actual photos instead of drawings.

You can order one online or any bookstore should have it. Even if you aren't an avid bird watcher it's a nice book to have. I think you'll be surprised at the different kinds of birds that are all right in you own back yard.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Place To Hang Your Cards

Hey Y'all! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. It sure was a cold one here in Tennessee! Miss Pepper and I took a walk in the woods bird watching yesterday and I got a tad chilled. I did get to see two birds that I haven't seen before. One of them is a winter resident in Tennessee which explains partially why I haven't seen them before. The other is a year-round resident that I just haven't seen. I wish I had brought the types that they were with me today... maybe tomorrow. I do want to share a new section of my blog on the right hand side that is a log of birds spotted at my feeders along with links to a website that will show you what they look like. Just a note, the link will direct you away from my blog.

Now for the topic and craft of the day. A place to hang your Christmas Cards. I made my version a couple of years ago and thought that I had lost it during my move this year. Luckily enough I found it! Here's what you need.

Christmas Card Wreath

45 clothespins
45 medium sized jingle bells
1 wire clothes hanger
1 can green spray paint
pretty ribbon

First lay the clothespins on a few pieces of newspaper in a well ventilated area (like outside). Spray paint one side of all of the clothespins and allow to dry (refer to paint can on drying time). When dry, flip the pins over and spray the opposite side. Be sure to spray the actual sides of the pins during this and allow them to dry. Next unhook the twisted part of the coat hanger and mold wire hanger into a circle. I cut the actual hook part off of mine but you can leave it on. Now alternately thread clothespins and jingle bells onto wire hanger. Twist the closure at the top back together once wreath is complete. Tie a nice bow at the top to hide the closure and hang it anywhere.

I have found this is better for me than taping my Christmas cards up or just laying them around. It makes a nice display. If you want to get a little fancier you could use a different color spray paint. Like maybe red paint with a silver ribbon or white paint with a blue ribbon. I hope you enjoy it if you make one and please let me know if you do or if you have any questions!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Beginning To Smell A Lot Like Christmas!

Hiya All! Well we are now two days into December and I think some one told the weather to act like it's December! It's cold and rainy today. For the first day of December we had our first big, heavy frost up here on the hill. We have had a couple of light ones but this one put the quietus on some summer plants still trying to survive. I'm glad I remembered to bring my orchid in.

Today I have a continuation of homemade decorations for a kitchen Christmas tree. I should have said on Monday when I started this that one year I didn't have an actual tree in my kitchen so I made these ornaments and hung them on a wreath for my kitchen door. So the smells and cheer were still there although I didn't need many for the wreath.

This is a recipe for cinnamon ornaments. It's cheap, simple and smells deliciously of Christmas time. Although I am not a huge fan of cinnamon scented things like candles and brooms these ornaments aren't too strong once they are made but do put a hint of spice in the air. Here's what you need and what to do:

Cinnamon Ornaments

2 bottles cinnamon (fifty cents each at the dollar store)
1/2 cup applesauce (I worked up to about this amount, start small and get to what you can work with)
cookie cutters
a tad of flour

Mix cinnamon and applesauce together in a bowl. Spoon out onto a lightly floured surface. This can be a little messy on your hands so flour yourself. Roll dough out with a rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. At this point you have two options. You can put your shapes onto wax paper and let them dry 24 hours or place them on a parchment paper* lined cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 200 for 20 minutes. Allow them to cool. However you choose to let them dry you need to make a hole for the hanger using a toothpick and going around in a circle before baking or drying. Make it far enough down into the shape so the ornament won't break. I made stars and had a couple of tips break off.

I hope you like them!

*Note: I wouldn't grease the pan. You can try baking them without parchment paper if you don't have it but only try a couple at first. I don't know if they will stick to the pan or not.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Bit Of Understanding

Sometimes, while at work and especially during the holiday seasons, when things are hectic, there are places that you would rather be, try to think of this.

Try to put yourself in to the customer's shoes. They've gotten out of bed with you on their mind, for whatever reason, in my case.. they are cold because their heat has gone out. Maybe it's the call they have been meaning to make and now have to make. Maybe even with the hesitation of financial issues in their minds with "can we afford this now?" or "We cannot afford this but we have to." They may dread making the call just as much as you, with your busy work day, dread answering another call.

Sometimes it can be hard to think of sounding pleasant to the person on the other end of the phone line. Good customer service comes when caring steps in front of repetitiveness. Just because you sound good on the phone doesn't mean that you truly care about their problem, even if it is only having to listen to them for a few minutes.

Think of the questions that have been rolling around in their head all morning or all weekend, just waiting to ask you. Provide a service of listening to their problem and knowing that they trust in you and your company to take care of the needs of themselves and their family. Without them there would be no need for you to work there.

This year, give a gift to each person that you talk to by lending them a listening ear and a caring heart.