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My Green Velvet Life

Where everything sticks.

Month

December 2010

BY-THE-WAYS: A Little Holiday Help (If You Need It)

Well, you’d think I’d be busy baking and wrapping.  Nope.  Plenty of time for that later. You know why?  Because I’m off tomorrow!  No alarm clock!  So here I am playing Holiday Fairy (aka, Goofer-Offer in Web Land).  But I have a good excuse: Readers who might need me!   

Here’s a fun surprise for any of you who are chiding yourselves for forgetting to buy fun gift tags for Christmas: http://bethleintz.typepad.com/gathering_dust/2010/12/last-minute-gift-tags-recycled-crafts.html.  I love Beth Leintz’s idea of using vintage Christmas packaging.  You can even print a pdf copy for your own personal use.  And her naughty gift tag (don’t worry it’s not that naughty) will give you a St. Nick chuckle.  I know a few sassy-mouth family members who would be appropriate receivers of this tag!  Thank you Beth!

This next one is a swooner.  If you love houses, and especially if you love movies, TV and celebrities, you are in for a treat at http://hookedonhouses.net.  I took a peek at Iris’s cottage.  Iris lives in a fairy tale English cottage in the movie The Holiday, a lovely romantic comedy that’s also just a bit about Christmas, which makes it the perfect choice for a quiet night over the holidays.

I’m also including a link to http://www.netflix.com.  Even if you aren’t a member, it’s an excellent place to read about movies.  Start with The Holiday!

And one more for tonight because you last minute shoppers might still have time:  You can find the most beautiful and personal gifts at etsy.com, a marketplace for sellers of everything vintage and hand-made.  Many of you are well acquainted with it, but if you’re not, I promise it is a treasure.  You will be impressed with the amazing array of hand-made and vintage items, and prices for every budget.  At least do a little window shopping!

Yep.  I waved my wand so all of these links would also appear in my list to the right.  Now I’m waving my fairy wand and wishing you all a blessed Christmas!

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By-the-Ways: Random Souvenirs of Crazy Internet Road Trips

I’m jumping on the blog bandwagon and adding a new feature of random links you might enjoy.  Being a compulsive organizer, I can’t simply throw them out to you without giving them a named category:

By-the-Ways.  Just little places on the Internet I have found interesting, helpful or simply enjoyable.

I’m still learning how to make neat, nice-looking links so you might have to put up with a few messy ones at first.  Sorry!  Sometimes I’ll link to a simple post and sometimes a full blog or other site.  And if the site is Green Velvet worthy it will even show up my list of links to the right, like this one, for instance:

I discovered a magical place today.  Visit http://thetoymaker.com/ and be prepared to smile with sheer enchantment.  The Toymaker is a lovely hostess who will send you on your way with precious little toys to make for someone special.  Click Free Toys at the top of her page.  Come on.  You could use a smile . . .

If your inner elf is a bit burnt out on toys at the moment, you could at least take a nice stroll (via snowboard!) around beautiful Montmartre in Paris: http://littlebrownpen.blogspot.com/2010/12/snow-in-montmartre.html.  Remember this little gem the next time you’re walking about in your own neighborhood and think it’s not very exciting.  Imagine a little foreigner on your shoulder who would tell you otherwise.  And you guessed it, Little Brown Pen is now on my list to the right.  So now you can visit Paris every time you visit me.  Blatant bribing!

That’s it for me on this (thankfully) quiet winter’s night.  Now that I’ve decided on my By-the-Ways name, you’ll be hearing more from me in between my regular posts.  I’m always out here exploring and hunting for surprises, but I promise I don’t really let my grandkids drive . . .

What’s on Your Christmas List?

Are you feeling it? That longing for simplicity and joy in the midst of running around like mad trying to keep up with the season? What is on your wish list? I have a feeling it’s not something from a department store. Most everyone is feeling the pressure of producing lovely Christmas memories on an increasingly smaller budget, while of course the dollars we get hold less and less value. Time to take a deep breath and think about all the things that make you smile at Christmas time.  Here are some of my favorites. (Cliche warning!  If you venture beyond this paragraph don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Enjoying the views of Wisconsin winter from our house on the hill.

Off to the woods to cut down our tree.  Okay, the woods aren’t ours.  They belong to the Christmas tree farms.  We’re lucky to have so many beautiful places here in Wisconsin.  This year we got ours extra early so no snow . . .

Our tree filled with memories of a lifetime.

Christmas carols.  We all have our favorites.  Here are some of mine:

That Spirit of Christmas by Ray Charles
Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
December Child by Cyndi Lauper
A Baby Just Like You by John Denver
Christmas Canon by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Music Box Blues by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (anything by these amazing people!)
Bluegrass, White Snow by Patty Loveless
Santa Train by Patty Loveless
Suzy Snowflake by Rosemary Clooney
Frosty the Snowman by Fiona Apple
Face of Love by Jewel
Here was a Man by Johnny Cash
Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong
Winter Song by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson
Winter Light by Linda Rondstadt
Mary Had a Little Lamb by Garth Brooks
Beautiful Star of Bethlehem by Patty Loveless
Go, Tell It On the Mountain by BarlowGirl
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Jimmy Boyd
What Child is This by Tanya Tucker
While Roving on a Winter’s Night by Darol Anger
 

Making cookies with the kids.  It’s always a mess and there’s usually yelling at some point.  This is actually an old Easter picture but you’ll get the idea of the craziness.  Don’t worry.  No human mouths touched his finished cookies.

Christmas cards, a dying tradition I just can’t let go.  I save all of my favorite cards and dream over them during the season.  What a sap I know.  But don’t knock it.  It’s a great way to relax and simply enjoy beauty–no standing around in an expensive art museum, plus you can drink hot cocoa if you promise not to spill.

Handmade gifts.  When we were young newlyweds, we made most of our presents for family members.  Nowadays I try to at least make ornaments for all of our kids and grandkids each Christmas.  Here is one I made in 2008 using an old greeting card and painted cardboard.

Finding gifts in unexpected places.  My daughters and I love to spend the entire year keeping our eyes open for presents at rummage sales, Goodwill, St. Vinny’s  and small thrift shops.  No amount of mall shopping could have unearthed this little treasure.  Does anybody know more about these beautiful containers?  I’m picturing a little granny with her crochet hook . . . The cards all have a similar look.  I’d love to know who the artist is.

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Attempts to get all the grandkids in front of the tree and smiling at the same time.  We came close in 2006!

Remembering the excitement of getting ready for Christmas when my girls were little.   I can still smell their little shampooed heads.  My doll babies.

Wishing all the hurt away.  Let us remember the beauty of Christmas can be a source of great pain for many people.  But don’t stop celebrating because we have sadness and worry.  Just add a little compassion and gentleness to your gift list.  It’s the ultimate gift you can afford to give everybody, even yourself.  It’s free and personal.  It’s the original Christmas gift, recycled for over 2000 years.

DISH DARTS: Peppermint Patty Cake Box Cookies

Cake Box Cookies are your friend.  They are so quick and delicious.  There are many recipes, all very similar, and the combinations are endless.  Just pick a cake flavor and add your own flair (raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.).   I recently used a chocolate cake mix and added white chocolate chips and crushed soft peppermint.  It’s my new favorite!  Easy and fun for everybody.  And pretty enough to leave for Santa himself.

Here is the recipe I use.  But first . . . the most important step:

Stock up on Bob’s Sweet Stripes Soft Peppermint Candy.  This old-fashioned treat is much softer than most peppermint candy.  In a cookie it’s heavenly!  I find it at Walmart every year at Christmas time where you must snatch it up immediately.  It disappears fast.  You can also order it from this fun candy site:  http://www.oldtimecandy.com

Soft Peppermint Patty Cakes
chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
6+ crushed soft peppermint sticks (I recommend Bob’s)
white chocolate chips
 
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together cake mix, oil & eggs.
Stir in crushed peppermint sticks & white chocolate chips.
Place by large spoonfuls on greased cookie sheet and bake approximate 10 minutes.
 
Now patty yourself on the back and eat some!  Makes about 2 dozen. 
 

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