Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks?

Doesn't that look eerie?  It looks like some spooky Halloween picture taken a couple months ago that I am just now revealing.

Actually, it is a picture of the window in the bedroom where one of the three-candle lights are situated in our Christmas decor.  It looks a good deal different inside than it does outside.  I'm just waiting for the ghost of Christmas past to come visit when I look at this!!!! 

Tenth Street and New York Avenue, NW at City Center

On my walk last night I came upon this beautifully decorated Christmas tree at City Center in downtown DC.

Isn't that just magnificent.  This picture does not give you the proper perspective of the size.  It is HUGE!  It must be eighty feet in height.  It is just massive.  I was wondering how on earth they assembled it.  With a crane?  Maybe.

And in the plaza beside the tree are all of these beautifully lit trees.  It is a magical time in the city.

The Christmas Pickle Ornament. A Myth?

I'm certain many of you have heard the legend of the Christmas Pickle ornament. Supposedly, this was a German tradition.  As the story goes, in Germany, after the Christmas tree was fully decorated and the children sent off to bed, mother and father would hang one last ornament in the shape of a pickle, deep inside the branches of the tree.  On Christmas morning, the child who found the pickle-shaped ornament got an extra gift and was blessed with good luck for the coming year.  I am of German descent, both on my mother and father's side of the family.  We never carried on this tradition.  But that is not to say that I am opposed to hanging a pickle shaped ornament on my tree.

So, I bought one.  "The Christmas Pickle."

Here is the story on the label of the jar containing the Christmas pickle.

The Christmas pickle safely tucked away in raffia.

And finally, the ornament.

Like I said, I'm happy to hang a pickle shaped ornament on my tree.  I think it's cute.  And if it brings me good luck for 2015, all the better.  I would also like to get an extra gift.  So if I hang two pickles on the tree, do I get two extra gifts.  Of course, I'm making fun.  I think maybe somebody was trying to come up with a way to sell Christmas ornaments in the shape of pickles.  Who knows.  But it does make me want to do a small tree in the kitchen trimmed with ornaments in the shape of fruits and vegetables.  I'll have to work on that for next year.

Is the German Pickle Ornament legend real or a myth?  I think a myth.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Little Christmas Here and There

Christmas is popping up all over.  We continued with the indoor Christmas decoration last week and over the weekend.  I like a little Christmas throughout the house.  It doesn't have to be turned into a Winter Wonderland or to feel like you are living inside a Gingerbread house.  But a few touches here and there is festive.

This beautiful Santa has been a part of the Christmas decor for many years.  He is as regal today as he was the day I bought him.

Some strands of glistening berries and leaves wrapped around a couple white pillar candles and a glass bowl with silver ornaments.  A serene corner.

Ho Ho Ho!  Just another in the inventory of Christmas decor.  I like the glitter and sparkle of the season.  Why not?  We need to enjoy life to the fullest and if glitter and sparkle bring you joy, then you should put it out for this festive season.  We are living in most difficult times.  Be certain to take some time away from the daily news which can be depressing at any time of year, but especially now. Do not let the actions and discontent of others affect you and your family.

We will continue our tour tomorrow of more Christmas decor we have put out in honor of this special time of year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

More Tree Talk

I have been building my Christmas tree collection over the past several years.  This year I decided to do a mini Christmas tree forest on the ledge in the kitchen just above the stairs leading down to the basement. This post will be more about the pictures and less about the narrative.  Just scroll down and enjoy the various shots I got early one morning.

I love these German feather trees.  They have been with me for several years.  You must be very careful when you store them after the holidays.  They cannot lie flat or be pushed hastily into a box or container.  And never stored in the attic.  I store them on shelving in the basement and place a single cardboard box over them to keep them dust free.  I do not store them in closed plastic bags because moisture can accumulate and you could end up with a moldy feather tree.  Nobody wants that.

Our bottle brush trees on the pedestal made it in the arrangement.

This wreath.  How do I describe this wreath?  I do not know what type of twigs were used to form this.  Whatever they are, they have held up quite well over the years.  The twigs were heavily shellacked and then thousands of little crystals were glued on.

Here is a close up view.  I thought it fit in with the woodland scene just perfectly.  It does not photograph well, but in the real world it really is a stunning look on the wall.

So there is my Christmas woodland scene for this year.  I have other Christmas trees throughout the house and we will talk about those in the upcoming days and weeks.  This weekend the main tree goes up in the living room beside the fireplace.  We made room for it last weekend.  Such fun that will be to decorate.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bottle Brush Trees

Are you familiar with bottle brush trees.

These are made by trimming old-fashioned, wire-handled bottle brushes to resemble a Christmas tree shape and then trimming the wire bottle brush handle and inserting it into a solid base.

These trees we are going to talk about today are of this variety, although we did not actually form them from bottle brushes.  If you go back to our posts around the July Fourth weekend, you will read where we visited Merrifield Garden Center (www.merrifieldgardencenter.com) in Merrifield, VA. They were having a Christmas in July sale and we got some great deals.  These trees came from that sale.  We wanted to do something special with them and I think we came up with a great idea.  Read on.

First, we found this cute little pedestal stand in our inventory.  I didn't know at first what we would do, but I knew it would come to me.

I was originally looking for blue and while M&M's, but I could not find a mixed bag of blue and white.  So, when I found these bags of red and white, I decided to go with that.

First things first, ... I emptied all the bags and then separated the M&M's into two categories.  One pile of red and one pile of white.  The red's all ended up in this glass mason jar to be enjoyed at a later date.

Then I set about placing the bottle brush trees atop the pedestal.

I adjusted them as I saw fit until I had them in the perfect alignment.  You will know when they are to your liking when you get them at exactly the right place for your eye.  No two people will want them in the exact same alignment.

A little different alignment.

A little more.  There.  Perfect!

 Then we started adding white M&M's.

And we added some more; 

And we added some more.

Until we had just the amount we wanted and needed on the pedestal.  Now, could you cover the base of the pedestal using a bag of fake snow?  Certainly.  Could you cut a round of fake snow from a sheet and place it in the bottom of the pedestal?  Surely.  But I thought the idea of using the white M&M's was just too clever.

Just a quick idea if you are looking to do something a little different this year when attempting to replicate snow in your Christmas decorating.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Detox Drink

I have gotten this recipe on my Facebook page numerous times.  I do not know if this works.  I have not tried it yet.  But it does not seem to have any ingredients that are bad for the body.  So I am intent on giving it a try and to see what kind of results I get.  We will talk more about this in the future and hopefully I will have good news to report.

Rice with Artichokes

Continuing with another of our recent dishes, I wanted to share with you my recipe for Rice with Artichokes.  This could not be easier to make and it is really incredibly delicious.  And pretty!!

Here you see we have all the ingredients in the pot, simmering away.  So we have 1-1/2 cups uncooked instant rice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 green onions (with tops), chopped, 1 can (16 ounce) stewed tomatoes, 1 can (14 ounce) artichoke hearts, undrained.  Remember that last word, "undrained" on the artichokes.  It is natural to open artichokes and drain them for most any dish in which they are used.  Do not drain them for this dish.

Mix all ingredients in 10-inch skillet.  Heat to boiling, stirring frequently; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 10 minutes.  5 servings; 150 calories per serving.

Watch the pot carefully on this recipe.  If you find that all the liquid has been absorbed at 8 minutes or 9 minutes, remove it from the heat.  It all depends on how much liquid is in the tomatoes or artichoke heart cans.  Sometimes you will go the full 10 minutes, sometimes not.

Once it was done, I transferred it to this wonder crock and added two tablespoons of butter on top.

Place the lid on the crock and let it set for awhile until the butter has completely melted.

I removed the lid and what was before my eyes?  This beautiful rice and artichoke (and tomato) medley.

A hearty helping in a little glass-footed bowl with some pecorino romano on top.  Magnificent!!!

A quick and easy and delicious treat anytime.

Turkey Salad

We are going to stay in the kitchen today.  I have shared my chicken salad recipe with you in the past. Well, with Thanksgiving just behind us, we are going to make Turkey Salad.  We all have turkey left over from the feast.  If you have run out of ideas, give this a try.

So, to the bowl we added 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, 2 cups cut-up cooked turkey, 1/3 cup chopped pecans or chopped nut of your choice, and 2 medium stalks of celery, diced.

Directions:  Mix mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper; toss with chicken, pecans and celery. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Serve on salad greens garnished with avocado slices or in cantaloupe halves if desired.  4 servings (3/4 cup each); 400 calories.

This time around I did not serve it with avocadoes on salad greens nor in cantaloupe halves. Although, both of those that would have been delicious.

This time I put it all into a sealed container and placed it into the refrigerator in preparation for use as sandwich filling.  It is extraordinarily delicious on an english muffin.

Here served with a side of veggie crisps which, for those who are interested, are considerably lower in carbohydrates and sugar than traditional potato chips.

I use the glass Snapware containers to carry lunch.  They are wonderful.

Just an idea for you to consider when trying to finish up the last of the bird from Thanksgiving.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Quick Pasta Primer

So today we are going to quickly talk about pasta.  I recently found a box of linguine in the pantry that needed to be cooked.  I didn't want to do anything fancy.  I did not want to spend all day making meat sauce or preparing some sort of casserole.  I just wanted to cook it in a vessel of boiling water and put it away in the refrigerator.  So that is exactly what I did.  It's linguine. You put it in a pot of boiling water for 12 minutes, drain it, rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking and you are done. Sometimes I like to just eat it warmed up with a little butter and parmesan cheese. Fond childhood memories of that.  I thought, what can I do to "umph-up" the flavor.  So I went searching in the pantry.  And what did I find.

A bottle of Spanish Olive Oil.  Organic, Extra Virgin Spanish Olive Oil.

So, I gave the linguine a healthy drizzle.

Placed it in a storage container.

Snapped on the lid and put it in the refrigerator.  A day or so later, I removed it, took a portion and heated it in the microwave, then added a little butter and a sprinkle of parmesan.  Magnifico!!!!

Just a quick post with an idea you can use to add a little flavor the next time you make linguine or any pasta.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Has Anybody Seen Diddy

Last night when we arrived home, we found this note from one of our neighbors.

Apparently, Diddy the cat decided to go out on a venture and not come back home.  Of course, they have no way of knowing how frantic we become when they take off like this.  I can only imagine their angst as they search for Diddy.  We will hope for a note in the mailbox tonight telling us of the return of Diddy.  Meanwhile, we will be on the outlook.  

Christmas Cards - Done

We still send Christmas cards.  I know that is hopelessly old-fashioned, but I cannot help it.  I don't think I will ever stop sending Christmas cards through the mail.  I know it's mostly all done online these days with e-cards.  Or possibly the whole tradition of sending any kind of holiday greeting has become passe.  Who knows.  All I know is that it is not passe at Crest Avenue.  I will admit that I do not hand address the envelopes anymore.  I use Avery Laser Labels.  Avery has a wide selection of labels in white and clear.  The word processing software on all computers offer an array of different fonts, so it is fun to play around with that and to get your mailing labels printed to your own specific satisfaction.

I chose these elegant gold-tone cards from Hallmark this year.  I thought they were particularly beautiful.  I think everyone enjoys receiving and opening a beautiful greeting card.  I know I do.  And these fit that bill perfectly.

A very nice Christmas greeting inside.

There are many on our Christmas card list.  Some celebrate Christmas.  Some celebrate other traditions, so just one card will not do.  These beautiful cards with a rain deer and festive trees were perfect for our friends who celebrate a different religious holiday at this time of year.

And another perfect greeting inside this card.

Specialty cards are always nice.  For those in your life with whom you are particularly close or to whom you wish to send an extra special greeting, pick up a specific card with a special message to show your love and affection.

The card can be blank inside, leaving you to ponder and create your very own special message.  Or, it can have a message to which you may want to hand-write something additional.  Let your time writing and addressing and mailing your Christmas cards be a fun time and not a time filled with stress and angst.  If you start early, at least two weeks before Thanksgiving, it will not be drudgery. You will have allowed yourself plenty of time to get them done and to get the stamps ordered.  I order my holiday stamps directly from www.usps.com.  This alleviates standing in line at the post office only to find that they are out of the stamps you want when you reach the window.  Order early and order enough so that you may have some left over.  Better to have too many than too few.  You can use the leftover stamps during the year or keep them until next year.  The "Forever" stamps are good for just that - forever.  Also, cards like the one above with the gold wreath require additional postage, so you will want to allow for two stamps on this envelope.


I start getting to work on the Christmas cards several weeks before Thanksgiving each year.  First we print the mailing labels from the previous year on plain paper.  Then we go through with a pencil and make notations where necessary, updating addresses, removing names and adding names.  I always enjoy adding names because that means we have met someone special along the way during the year with whom we want to share a kind thought at this happy time.

My advice - send Christmas cards if you can fit it into your schedule.  It is such a satisfying feeling when you are done.