Secret Santa

DAY 1 and I’m all over Secret Santa!  So my mind starts figurin’ out what I’m gonna get for my “pick” based on the little clues you’re given.  Sometimes it’s rather challenging…especially if the answers to the clues are pretty vague.  Then it’s double difficult if the spending limit is under 5- 10 bucks..really?  Have you priced stuff lately?

I was lucky to get a pretty easy “pick” that was rather detailed in her clues.  My wheels start to turn. I love playin’ this little “ta-da” game only cause I like mysterious diddles.  So here are a few ideas in case you’re trapped in the “what can I do for Secret Santa“? dilemma.

First idea…

a favorite drink and sweets…EASY PEASY!!!

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I bought a mini 6 pack of glass bottled Cokes like these,

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and lined the little crate with some cute printed scrapbook paper, filled each compartment with sweets and soda wrapped in matching tissue paper and tied the 1st clue on!  I got this…

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NEXT…let’s go nuts!

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A simple bag of peanuts for the “salty snack” with a homemade tag & the next clue.  See pretty inexpensive, creative, yet fun!

Another idea…you’ve probably seen the Pinterest pins for using a sharpie to monogram a simple coffee mug…yeah, DON’T DO IT- at least not with a sharpie, cause it will come out on the first wash!!!  I didn’t have time to go out and buy a porcelain sharpie, so what else is another form of durable paint and doesn’t wash off in the dishwasher?  Well, it so happens that I had just bought 2 bottles of L’Oreal nail polish.  Nail polish is definitely durable, won’t wash away and has a perfect sheen to it.  It’s also very forgiving when it comes to painting with.

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Get you a $1 mug from the dollar store and some assorted varieties of hot chocolate or teas.  Head to your computer and design the name or monogram with a cute font, print, cut out and tape it on the mug for your outline.  Then dip dot away to your little hearts content!  Once dry, just peel off the letters and you’re done with this very inexpensive project that they will love!

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Don’t be intimidated to play this fun little game just because you don’t or can’t think of anything fun.  Get creative!  It doesn’t have to be expensive and it’s all about the F U N.

HELPS~

Take advantage of your computer to make cute tags, pick a theme (I ♥) themes…and I chose “elves” for my tags.

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 Keep it consistent.  Cellophane wrapping is always a great wrapping to keep on hand as well as scrapbook paper in different colors and prints.  ALWAYS think outside the box!  When you look at something, try visualizing other uses for it, not just what it was meant to be used for.  Most of all…HAVE FUN!!!


Workin’ on my next gift, when I hear sirens and lots of noise out in our very quiet neighborhood.   So we rush out, only to be reminded that tonight someone special was paying the little ones a visit

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what to my wonderin’ eyes–but good ole St.Nick.  And he was gone in a flash~

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Phase 1 of holiday baking

What could be better than holiday baking?

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Well, since I needed to take something for my Monday Cookie Exchange, I decided I needed to get my rear goin’ and off the couch after my “wisdom tooth extraction ordeal weekend”!”  Yep!  That’s what I called it!  So Phase I begins…now!

Went and stocked up on my baking items, pulled out the “ole’ faithful” mixer,

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some ingredients,

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WAIT!  Eggnog?  YEP!  We are makin’ eggnog cookies!

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First I have to add that y’all know I love baking but I’m really not a big fan of sweets.  Weird, but true.  I used to love making sugar cookies when my kids were young but I didn’t care to eat them–too sweet.  So why am I telling you this? Well, these reminded me of sugar cookies but these melt in your mouth, the eggnog touch is amazing and well…you’re just gonna have to try them yourself.  AND, don’t use a cookie exchange as an excuse!  Just make ‘em!


Eggnog Cookies

(32 cookies) (adapted from Allrecipes)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, plus more for topping

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp rum extract

1/2 cup eggnog

Frosting

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

3 – 4 Tbsp eggnog

1/2 tsp rum extract

2 ½ cups powdered sugar
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon for 30 seconds, set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg yolks one at a time, blending just until combined after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract, rum extract and egg nog. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Scoop dough out by the heaping tablespoonfuls and drop onto Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 11 – 13 minutes. Allow to rest on baking sheet several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely then frost with Eggnog Frosting and sprinkle tops lightly with nutmeg.

For the Eggnog Frosting:

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter until very pale and fluffy. Add in rum extract and 3 Tbsp eggnog and mix in powdered sugar. Add additional eggnog to reach desired consistency.


They aren’t the prettiest or don’t even seem that special – but ooh la la—they are really yummy!

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Here’s to hoping that my phase 1 of holiday baking pays off.  I will keep you posted on how they rate at tomorrow’s exchange~

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Vintage Christmas House Tour

But before I begin…
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A friend and I came across this guy this week and I found myself thinking,

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See, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a chat with Santa.  So naturally I found myself trying to think back on this year and what I’d done when he asked me the BIG question.  “Have you been good this year?”  Well guess what kids?  My answer was yes!  Each year is an attempt to be better than the last, so I try to be kinder (always #1 on my list), more giving, more considerate and more caring.  However, I did tell Santa that I got a speeding ticket that I wasn’t happy about (even though of course it was my fault), how it put it a cramp in my super record! DANG it!!!  He laughed and said he too sometimes finds himself in a hurry – especially on that very special night!

Since I was a child and I learned that you had to be good or Santa wouldn’t bring us anything, I have practiced being good.  It’s a precursor to the New Year when it’s time to make our yearly resolutions and being good just automatically starts at #1 for me.  I know I fail at times, we wouldn’t be human if we were perfect but nonetheless I start anew each year in hopes that by the time I’m 70 I will literally be “golden” in the “good” department!  I want a halo (it would top the rest of my accessories) and I wouldn’t be able to stand the heat in purgatory! Lol

So let’s be good for goodness sake!


Now that my letter to Santa is done (see?),

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and the house is decorated, I hope you enjoy a few of the personal holiday touches around our GCC Texas Vintage Christmas House Tour.  So come on in…

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Our little reminder of how many Christmases Boo n I have celebrated together

Our little reminder of how many Christmases Boo n I have celebrated together

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arriving

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the kitchen Christmas tree

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the over-70 year old elves that don’t age

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Now,to get Boo to deliver the invites for our annual, (& first one here), Christmas Brunch!

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In the meantime I will continue to recover from my wisdom tooth extraction and have cuddle time with my little partner,

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all while planning the menu for the brunch!

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Hope you love your holiday prepping and festivity planning as much as I do.  I would love to hear and see what you do~

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creamy & light coconut cream pie

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Let’s say you have someone over that you want to make a special dessert for their birthday but they don’t handle dairy well.  What to make??? That’s what I was trying to decide on when my son and his girlfriend were coming over to visit. I had just come back from visiting my daughter and she has a friend in town that makes some pretty amazing coconut cream pie.  I had that rattlin’ around in my brain.

So in comes my can of coconut milk (that sat in my pantry), to replace the traditional milk ingredient.  What do you have now but some pretty amazing creamy & light coconut cream pie!  Once I started making it, I chose to do mini ones cause I thought they’d look prettier—-I was right!  The result:  a very light & fluffy pie with a smooth and coco-nutty filling.  YUM!


Coconut Cream Pie

crust~

  • 1 pillsbury refrigerated crust

Using a glass – cut small circles to fit in muffin pan. (Makes 12 mini’s).  Bake according to directions on box and allow to cool before filling.

creamy filling~

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  • 1 1/2 c. coconut milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 4 1/2 T. cornstarch
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2/3 c. shredded coconut

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Heat coconut milk to a boil (small saucepan).  Remove from heat and set aside.  Whisk together the yolks and sugar in mixing bowl, til fluffy and yellow. Whisk in the cornstarch and continue mixing until there are no lumps.  Gently whisk in a small amount of  coconut milk into the egg mixture, mixing completely.  Slowly pour the rest of the milk into the egg mixture blending well.  Return to stove and cook over medium heat, stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into a container and allow to cool on counter until cooled completely.  Next add the coconut and bled well.

meringue~

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 t. cream of tartar
  • 1 t. vanilla

Using a stainless bowl, mix the egg whites with the sugar, salt and cream of tartar.  (If you have a double boiler you can use this), if not, place the bowl in a pan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Beat until stiff and glossy (about 7 minutes).

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Remove from heat and add the vanilla and continue to beat until cool to the touch (around 8 more minutes).  Use immediately.

toasted coconut for topping~

  • 1 T. coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. shredded coconut

Heat oil in a small saucepan and add the coconut.  Toast for about 3 minutes on medium heat.  Set aside and allow to cool before using.

Assembly:  Gently fill each mini pie crust cup and get ready for the meringue fun!  I filled a pastry bag and decorated each mini pie…

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to get this…

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Then I gently sprinkled each with the toasted coconut.  Place in fridge until you are ready to serve & devour!

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Fabulously creamy & light coconut pies that are sure to please your taste buds~

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weekend haps

Busy – FUN – tired- totally worth it TEXAS SIZED weekend haps here folks!!!

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I had a beautiful weekend and I hope you did too!  It was jam-packed with lots of fun, sightseeing and time with dear (new) friends!  It was also double date night weekend.  Then finishing off the weekend with a Sunday holiday lights tour.


the haps~

  • Friday night movie/dinner night at the new theatre (Hunger Games)
  • Saturday: Wimberley shopping with a friend, did some Christmas shopping and had an awesome lunch! Then home for a quick nap and shower to head out for Date night #2 for hubster and I.  I surprised him with going to this little Texas town (Coupland), for dinner, dancin’ (in one of the cutest honky tonk dance halls), and a concert with one of my favorite Texas country artists.  Johnny Rodriguez was fantastic!  (I listened to him in the 70’s and continue to love his music).  I had always wanted to see him perform live and finally had the opportunity.
  • Sunday: worked around the home front (holiday fun)…(I can report that all that remains are holiday touches on our front porch!)  Then it was off to dinner (Hopdoddy’s), and the holiday lights tour with our dear neighbors.

the pics~

Wimberley shopping fun with my friend…

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Coupland Dance Hall…

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Johnny Rodriguez…

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Johnson City…

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Sillys…

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Told you we had fun!  Now to some more serious work…getting our annual Christmas brunch invites out and touches on the front porch.

Chop – chop~
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Herb-ed chicken pot pie

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Want a splendiferous herb filled chicken pot pie?  You’ve come to the right place!

Y’all know I love to cook—and my husband loves my cooking… but he often mentions that I should use more spices.  I have to say that this girl doesn’t like too much of anything!!!  Gravy, ketchup, sweets, and even spices.  However I do use them a lot and have quite the collection of spices (I’m a crazy secret Penzey addict).  So it’s not for a lack of!  But I decided to put a twist to my traditional chicken pot pie this evening and BOY H-O-W-D-Y!

You’re just gonna have to try it for yourself because words can’t describe and it’s ridiculously delicious.

It screams and tastes amazing!

So here’s what the prep looks like…

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leftovers!


Herb Chicken Pot Pie

  • 1 ½ c. cooked and diced chicken breast
  • 1 c. frozen mixed veges
  • 2 T. butter
  • ¼ c. chopped onion
  • 1 T. fresh minced garlic
  • 3 T. cornstarch
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. pepper
  • 1 t. (Penzey) Mural of Flavor spice
  • ½ – ¾ c. chicken stock
  • ¼ c. shredded cheese
  • 1 (10 ct) canned/refrigerated biscuits
  • 1 T. melted butter
  • 1 T. (Penzey) Mural of Flavor spice

In a large pot, melt your 2 T. of butter on medium heat then add the onion and garlic. Cook til clear and tender. In a separate dish combine the cornstarch with the seasonings and mix well. Quickly add these dry ingredients to the hot pan and mix rapidly, stirring well. Still stirring, add the chicken stock until you have a thick gravy consistency, with no lumps. After simmering for 2 minutes, add the diced chicken and frozen veges. Mix well and continue to stir and cook for another 3-5 minutes on low heat.

Pour mixture into a square baking pan & sprinkle with cheese. Top with the biscuits and bake for 25 minutes in 350°. Remove from oven to top with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining spice. Return to bake for another 10 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

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A robust- flavor-filled, yummy herb chicken pot pie that’s perfect for this wintry weather!!!

(Thanks honey for your constant suggestion to spice it up!)  This time it paid off.  Now back to decorating for Christmas!  If anyone wants to know what to get me for Christmas (cause I’ve been good this past year month week)…Penzey spices are always a good bet~

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home again, home again, jiggity jig

Made it back to Texas Saturday evening, after a beautiful time with our daughter and son-in-law!  And after sadly leaving them & the cooler weather—we came home to 71 temp and traffic…that we didn’t miss!

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But what a wonderful time we had.  Here are some pics from the week.

The boys doing their thing…

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(not sure what they’re discussing here, but it looks pretty intense!)

Installing a new backsplash…

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The finished look!

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The Thanksgiving meal prep…

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(our SIL had started a new job, so we didn’t get to see his folks this time around, but we’re sure to see them when the baby arrives soon)

Decorating for Christmas…

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and the dog…well, she was also in the holiday spirit!

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I just love the twinkling lights on Christmas trees!

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Wonderful memories in Iowa!


home again, home again, jiggity jig…

Once back home, we got to have our son and his girlfriend over for a visit, her birthday meal, and to celebrate.

This is what the sweet guy greeted me with…

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Dinner was black bean chalupas & Mexican rice PLUS a great visit!  Then for the birthday dessert…homemade mini coconut cream pies!

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Here’s adorable Jackie (the birthday girl), blowing out the candle!

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I love my kids and love the time we get to share with them!!!  I hope your holiday was just as wonderful.


PS–I have to add that we have the very best BEST neighbors!  GOD has ALWAYS blessed us with wonderful people that we grow very fond of.  These new peeps are no exception!  Beautiful Jessica was so sweet and insisted on keeping Dosee Doh so we wouldn’t have to board her the entire time we were gone.  She is terribly spoiled by them and enjoys hanging with her and Eli.  Check out the photos I got of her…

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They’re the best!  It’s peace of mind more than anything to know that you have great people looking out for you.

Now on to decorate the GCC hacienda!

p.s.—the snow is back~

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