Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cheesecake Filled Strawberries - Fabulous for New Year's Eve

Do you love cheesecake?   Strawberries?  Cheesecake with strawberry topping?  Then here is the perfect recipe for you that is SO much easier than baking a cheesecake.  Really, these are so simple and absolutely divine.  These would be perfect for New Year's Eve or a football Sunday or for dessert or just because.

Our youngest son has spent the last year living in California.  He made these one night for a backyard movie night and said they disappeared almost instantly.  I suggested he make some for Christmas Eve and let me tell you - they are as good as he said, maybe even better.

These cheesecake filled strawberries are really easy to make and here is what you need.

About 28 strawberries (we used 2 boxes)
1 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
4 TBSP powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cut the tops off the strawberries, wash and dry them,  and hollow them out with a pairing knife.  

To make the filling, beat the softened cream cheese with a mixer until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla.  Mix until well incorporated.  Take a small zip lock bag and make a small cut to remove the corner.  We used a piping tip in the bag, but you don't have too.  It just makes it a little fancier.  Fill the bag with the cheesecake filling and pipe some filling int each strawberry.  Do your very best not to eat them all while you are making them.  That, my friend, will be a challenge!


That's it.  How much easier is that than making a cheesecake?  You can also crush some graham crackers and dip the filled berries if you want.  We didn't want.  Your choice.

Not only are these beautiful to look at, they are amazingly delicious and easy to make.  What could be better?  Easy.  Delicious.  Beautiful.  Everyone will think you slaved for hours and hours making these.  Just don't give away the secret that you didn't.

While looking on Pinterest, I saw several variations on this theme and the one idea I might try next time is to dip the berries in chocolate after you fill them.  Chocolate covered cheesecake filled strawberries?  Oh my, oh my, oh my.  That would be somewhat like gastronomical heaven I think.

New Year's Eve is just around the corner and you might really want to consider these.  They are fruit after all and everyone needs fruit.  Right?  And, some cheesecake.  Right?  And, maybe some chocolate.  Right?  In these you get all three in one delicious bite.

Give these a try.  You are going to be SO glad you did and if you have to eat gluten free, these are right up your alley.  Just make sure your vanilla is gluten free.  Make.  Eat.  Enjoy.   It will make ringing in the New Year that much more enjoyable.  Thanks Tyler!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

It's time to ring out the old and ring in the new.   May we increase in wisdom, love, and compassion and decrease our fears and judgements.  donna

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Next, It's New Years Eve - Try Some Spinach Parmesan Dip

Hello everyone!  We survived December 21, 2012, to celebrate a joyous Christmas.  Thankfully, the Mayan calendar just repeats.  Here's hoping your Christmas was wonderful as well.  Now that the hooplah has died down a bit (just a bit, there is more to come on Saturday), it's time to kick back and think about New Year's Eve.

Do you go out?  Do you have plans?  Do you share the evening with friends, family or just your special someone?  Do you have a potluck or prepare everything for a party yourself?  Whew, there is always so much to think about and plan.

I thought today I would start you with some New Year's Eve ideas for delicious snacks that we have been enjoying for years.  For Christmas Eve, I made our favorite spinach dip.  Our youngest son Tyler and I are BIG fans of spinach dip.  Since he was just a little fellow, he and I have always shared spinach dip as an appetizer when we go out to eat.  Actually, we have eaten spinach dip for our dinner on several occasions.  Why?  Because it is SOOOOO good.

This recipe comes from my St. Louis Days, St. Louis Nights cookbook that is one of my favorites.  The copyright in the book is 1994, so I have been making this delicious dip since then and it never fails to please.  Here is what you need:

1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
1 1/3 cups grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 jar drained artichoke hearts (optional - we love them)
salt and pepper
thinly sliced jalapeno peppers, optional

Defrost and squeeze excess water out of spinach.  Mix together spinach, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, onion, garlic, cream cheese, and mayonnaise.  Season mixture with a little salt and pepper to taste.  (I actually don't add any).  Place in a greased casserole dish.  Top with thinly sliced jalapenos, if desired, and remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.  MMMM, MMMM, delicious!!

My friend Don's son got married a few years ago and I made a huge pan of this for his wedding shower.  It was a major hit - there wasn't any left.  Everyone wanted the recipe and so I gladly shared.  It is not only easy to make, it is easy to eat waaaaay too much of it.  I just keep telling myself it's spinach and spinach is good for you, right?  That's my story and I'm sticking too it.

This recipe is easy to multiply.  For Christmas Eve, I doubled the recipe for our family.  For Don's son's wedding shower, I made a roasting pan full and it tasted just as good as the original recipe.  Just make sure your pan is big enough to hold whatever you make.

Give this fabulous recipe a try, you are going to like it!!  Hopefully, we won't be buried in snow or ice come New Year's Eve and everyone will get to have a good time.  Here's hoping 2013 is a wonderful year for all of us!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.  ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Yellow squash, Onions, Rotel and Baby Spinach Satuee'

It turned cold today with really gusty winds blowing.  A few times I thought I might have to get out my ruby red slippers.  At least the cooler weather makes it seem a bit more like Christmas.  It's hard to get in the spirit when the temperature is 70 degrees.

Grandma has been working her fingers to the bone, let me tell you.  My goal was to hand make as many Christmas gifts as possible this year.  That means I have spent a lot of time at the sewing machine making puppet theaters, seat belt pillows, super hero capes and hooded towels just to name a few things - all for the grandsons.  We also made giant bubble blowers and beautiful beaded hand held bubble blowers that will be given with really cute buckets to hold the bubbles and a bubble recipe for making giant bubble solution.  Let me just say, I will be making myself a seat belt pillow (they are awesome) and a giant bubble blower.  Who doesn't love bubbles?  There will be tutorials coming for these things, but probably not before Christmas.  I am just frantically trying to get it all done.  The boys will be receiving a few things from the store, but the majority of things are one of a kind, hand made originals.

While sewing away this afternoon, I had to think about dinner.  What we were going to have?   I decided fish sounded really, really good.  So, I put some that I had frozen in a bowl of cold water to thaw.  You can find my recipe for fried fish on my blog post of January 12, 2012.  Then there is the proverbial question of what to serve with it.

Do you stand in front of your refrigerator and look and look, trying to figure out what to fix?  Then, you close the door, walk away, come back, open the door and stand there looking and looking, like there is going to be something totally different in there?  Hopefully,  I'm not the only one who does this.  While looking in the refrigerator for the second time, I had to get serious.  Hmmmmm, there was some yellow squash, zucchini squash, a bag of baby spinach, onions, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.  Decisions, decisions.  I chose the yellow squash and spinach and dedicated the zucchini for zucchini bread which I will be making later - recipe to follow.  Now what?

I diced up an onion and minced a clove of garlic.  I put the big sautee' pan on the stove and put a couple of rounds of extra virgin olive oil in the pan and turned the heat on.  This is one of those "wing and  a prayer" dishes which means I am making it up as I go.

I put the diced onion in to sautee' and cut the three large yellow squash into 1 inch pieces.  When the onion was nearly translucent, I tossed in the garlic and squash.  I let the squash cook until tender.  Now, how to flavor it?  I used a little salt and fresh cracked black pepper, a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar and dusted everything with grated parmesan cheese.  It was looking good and smelling really good.  Now what?  I opened a can of Rotel, drained it and added the contents of the can.  After letting that heat through, I added a bag of baby spinach and let it wilt down.  Not only was this dish colorful, it was delicious!  What a quick and easy side dish.  We all know that colorful food is good for you, full of antioxidants and vitamins.  Even better!

Here is what you will need to make this dish:

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 large yellow squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
Grated parmesan cheese to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Dinner was quick and easy tonight which is exactly what I needed.  There is one more sewing project to be finished and then hopefully I am done with that.  There are still a few other projects that need finishing, but I am finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel.  Hip hip, hooray!

Do you have all your shopping done?  Gifts wrapped?  Cookies baked?  If you do, lucky you.  Me, not so much, but we are getting there - one gift at a time.  Saturday is cookie baking day with the grandsons.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

When things are hectic, you can still take time to make a delicious meal.  They don't have to be elaborate meals, just flavorful, delicious and nutritious.  Due to all the stress this time of year, it's very important to eat healthy food.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

 Happy holidays one and all.  One week from today is Christmas day.  Where has the time gone?  Where has the year gone?  Tempus fugit is the Latin phrase.  Time flies - that is my only explanation.  As I get older, it really seems to be the only explanation.  Remember waiting breathlessly, eagerly?  Counting the days until Christmas?  I'm counting the days all right, just hoping I get everything done in time.

In the midst of all my projects for our grandsons, I had one in mind for myself that I had been trying to get done to fill in that big blank space on top of our entertainment cabinet.  I had seen this on Pinterest and fell absolutely in love with it.  This is exactly what needed to go in that big blank space.  The idea came from a blog called Beyond The Picket Fence.  Her's is stunning, made on old barn wood.  Unfortunately I was fresh out of old barn wood.  We spent some time looking in antique shops and even the Habitat ReStore where I have found some great things for projects in the past.   No luck this time.

Dan had made me some 2' x 2' pieces of MDF on frames for another project that had not come to fruition, so I decided to use one of those.  The big problem with MDF is it is so smooth, it has absolutely no grain to work with.  What to do, what to do?
Dan had made a simple frame on the back by nailing pieces of 1 1/4" trim to the MDF to give it support  and made it look more finished from the sides.  To make the wood look old, he used a screw driver and made gouges all over the wood.  He tried using a hammer to make dents in the wood.  MDF does NOT dent.  So, I took a power sander and some really rough sandpaper and roughed up the top of the wood, then used a wood rasp to rough up the edges of the board.  It's not ideal, but really looked great when finished.

Next, I used some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in graphite and dry brushed in on the MDF for a base coat. I did not want a solid, finished painted piece of wood.  It needed to look distressed and old.  The next layer of paint was some flat black that I applied using a rag.  Then a layer of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Chateau Grey which has a greenish tint to it applied with a sock.  Final layer was some more flat black lightly applied with the inside of a tube sock which was sort of like terry cloth.  These paints all dry very quickly so I was able to do the layers between working on another project.  For the final step, I used some sand paper and lightly sanded over the wood so different colors of paint showed through.  This is how the finished piece looked at this point.  This took about an hour and a half total.
To make the star, I drew a 5 pointed star in the center of the board with chalk and Dan put a long screw in the wood at the tip of each point.  Using double sided satin ribbon, I started at the top and followed the star  to finish at the top and tied a knot and cut the ends in inverted points.  The original had a big shoe lace type bow at the top, but I didn't have enough ribbon.  Oops.  That's what happens when  you are winging a project.   I like this just fine though.  If you want a big bow, get at least 4 yards of ribbon.

This is absolutely gorgeous and so easy to make.  It took about an hour and a half from start to finish.  Not bad for a beautiful one-of-a-kind art project.
Ack, look at that crooked candle.  Should have double checked before taking this picture.  Perfectionism is my enemy.
If you know my love of all things stars, you will understand how happy simple projects like this make me feel.  This will live on our entertainment center even after the Christmas decorations are all removed.  The picture doesn't show how pretty the sheen of the ribbon is against the black wood.  Simply lovely.

This would be a great gift for anyone.  You could do the star in any color ribbon, I just happen to love red.  If you had old wood, even better.  I will continue to look for old wood whenever I have the chance, because now I have a lot of other ideas for it!

It's time for Grandma to get back to the workshop.  There is so much to do and so little time left.  Tempus Fugit.  The sewing machine sings a siren's song.  Really!   Have you never heard it?  I hear it in my sleep.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School reminds us that time is precious.  Use it wisely.  Be kind and loving to all those around you.  Cherish each moment, spend time with those you love.  Be grateful.  Share what you have.  Be good to yourself.  You will not pass this way again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Mayans Grew Cocoa - Celebrate 12.12.12 With A Chocolate Pie

Happy 12.12.12 to you one and all.  Not only did the Mayans give us a calendar, but they also were growers and consumers of chocolate.  So what better thing to give you today than a wonderful and easy recipe for chocolate cream pie made with cocoa powder.  Yum.  Yum.  Yummmy.  Yum.  Yum.

According to my research, cocoa has been used forever in middle America by the Mayans and Aztecs.  It was actually used as currency it was so highly valued.  (Smart people!)  Here is some information I found on Wikipedia.

Mesoamerica history

A Mayan chief forbids a person to touch a jar of chocolate
Chocolate has been used as a drink for nearly all of its history. The earliest record of using chocolate dates back before the Olmec. In November 2007, archaeologists reported finding evidence of the oldest known cultivation and use of cacao at a site in Puerto Escondido, Honduras, dating from about 1100 to 1400 BC.[9] The residues found and the kind of vessel they were found in indicate the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink.[9] The Maya civilization grew cacao trees in their backyards,[10] and used the cacao seeds it produced to make a frothy, bitter drink.[11] Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life.[12] The chocolate residue found in an early ancient Maya pot in Río Azul, Guatemala, suggests the Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 AD.

 Not only were the Mayans mathematical geniuses, the knew a really good thing when it came to what we call chocolate!  What would our world be like today without chocolate?  I can't even conceive of such a world, can you?

Now I really, really like chocolate, but I would classify Dan as a chocoholic.  Do you know any of those?  I checked to see if there is a dictionary definition of such a thing and there actually is!


  [chaw-kuh-haw-lik, -hol-ik, chok-uh-]  Show IPA
a person who is excessively fond of chocolate.

This really made me laugh - who knew?  I thought it was mostly just a crazy word we used to describe someone who REALLY loved chocolate.  Like Dan.  Like how he keeps going to the cabinet and eating chocolate covered raisins as I type this.  Yes, that kind of chocoholic.  He even eats my chocolate chips if there is nothing else here that is chocolate.  How many times have I gone to the cabinet to get out the chips to make cookies and there may be one or two lonely little chips in the bottom of an otherwise empty bag?  I can't even count the number of times.  It could be worse, I know. Chocolate does raise those endorphin levels and maybe that's why Dan is such a happy guy.  Guess I should eat more chocolate.

Today, I thought I would share this easy and fabulous chocolate cream pie recipe with you that I have been making for years and years.  Just looking at the picture made me want to jump up and run to the stove and make one.  Maybe I will still do that.  It is 12.12.12 after all.

Here is what you need:

1 9 inch DEEP dish crust  (if you make your own crust, makes sure and use a deep pie pan) 

Using a fork, poke holes all over the bottom and sides of the crust to keep it from forming big bubbles while baking.   Bake in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  

For the Filling:

1 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks beaten  (save the whites if you are making a meringue to top the pie)
a pinch of salt
2 TBSP cornstarch (or 4 TBSP AP flour)  I use cornstarch so the pie is gluten free
6 TBSP cocoa powder
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the sugar and egg yolks in a deep saucepan.  Add the salt, cornstarch, cocoa and milk.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly so it doesn't stick.  Cook until thickened.  

If you have never made your own cream pie filling before, it takes a while so don't get frustrated with all the stirring.  It can take up to a half hour for the filling to thicken.  You may ask how you will know when it is thickened.  It's really cool how "all of a sudden" the pudding mixture will tighten up and it will be hard to stir.  At this point, remove it from the heat and add the vanilla.  Mix it well.

Pour the filling into the baked pie crust.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap all over the pie filling to the edge of the crust.  Remove any air bubbles in the plastic with your fingers.  This keeps a film from forming on the top of the filling.

Put in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Add Cool Whip or fresh whipped cream.  You can also make a meringue and bake it in the oven.  If you do this, do not cover the filling with plastic wrap.  Just sayin'.

Just look at that beautiful chocolate filling.  Doesn't it make you wish you had a piece to eat right now?

If you want to make a gluten free pie crust, here is what you need.

1 cup gluten free Bisquick
5 TBSP cold butter
3 TBSP  cold water

Put the Bisquick in a deep bowl.  Cut the cold butter into small cubes and put in in the bowl with the Bisquick.  If you don't have a pastry cutter, use your hands to squeeze the butter into the Bisquick until it forms small pea like clumps.  Otherwise, cut the butter in with your pastry cutter until you have small pea sized pieces.  Add the cold water a tablespoon at a time.  Mix with a fork until the dough forms a ball.  You may need a tad more water.  Just add a few drops at a time until you have a nice ball.


Place the ball of dough in the bottom of a deep pie pan.  Using your hands, press the dough down, out and up the sides of the pie pan until you have a smooth crust covering the entire pan.  Crimp the top edges like a regular pie crust.  Don't roll this dough, it won't work.  Gluten is what makes dough stretchy and this dough doesn't work that way.  Using a fork, punch holes all over the bottom and sides of the crust.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.

This is actually easier than trying to roll a crust and place it in the pie pan.  Who knew?


If you want to make a meringue, use the three egg whites that have been brought to room temperature.  Beat them with a mixer or whisk until soft peaks form.  At this point, add 6 Tablespoons of sugar, 2 at a time and beat until stiff peaks form.  A stiff peak will stand on it's own like a small mountain.  Using a spatula, spread the meringue over the pie filling and place the pie in a 350 degree oven.  Watch closely and remove when the meringue has turned a light brown on the top.

Now, I have a hankering for chocolate pie.  Guess I better fire the oven up and get busy.  Happy 12.12.12 everyone.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

We won't see 12.12.12 again until 2112, which means most of us won't see it.  Celebrate today!  Make a chocolate pie.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Time's A Coming - 2012

 Oh the best laid plans of mice and men - and Grandma.   Today was going to be the big push to start work on special projects for the grandsons for Christmas.  But it did not happen, because one daughter had a writing deadline to meet and the other daughter's nanny called in sick.  Know what that means?  Right! Grandma and Pawpaw combined forces and did some babysitting to help out said daughters.  But, that is all right.  We will just begin the project tomorrow.  (I hope)

Tonight, I wanted to show you our sunroom, or what I can photograph of it.  It is a long, somewhat narrow room and I can't find a way to get a good photo of it, so I will just show you the highlights.  Pictured is my pencil tree.  It reminds me of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree and there was something about it that spoke to me and I just had to bring it to our house to live.  It is decorated with my favorite Christmas memory from childhood, bubble lights.  They are not easy to find, so I keep a good supply of replacement bulbs in case any of them burn out, which they do from time to time.  Did you ever have bubble lights on  your tree?  It is totally mesmerizing to sit and watch the different colored lights as they bubble away.  It is one of my most favorite things to do at Christmas time.  Most of the ornaments on the tree have been handmade by yours truly through the years and it just makes my heart happy to look at this tree.

We have a large entertainment center that holds our dinosaur of a television and all the other things that go with a television - DVR, Wii, DVD player,  and a wireless printer for the computer - so much stuff, so many wires.  Ugh.  Anyway, it serves somewhat as the "mantel" in this room and it has always been decorated.   Yes, I have a thing for birdcages.  Don't ask why, I don't really know.  They just intrigue me.  The birdcage always sits on the entertainment center along with the big red candleholder our youngest son gave me for Christmas years ago.  You see, I love red glass.  Did you know it takes gold dust to make red glass?  There's a bit of trivia for you.  The red goblets are used as tea light holders (have had them for many years), along with red glass candlesticks and red mosaic candles holders.  Throw in some large red and gold ornaments, glittered stars, greenery and lights and you have a beautifully decorated entertainment center.  If you look really close, you can also see the red jeweled garland that is intertwined with the greenery.

See that big blank space on the wall behind the candles sticks?  I am working on a project to go there and will share the DIY with you when its complete.  I can't wait to get it finished.

Our sun room is our tv/family room.  All of our movies and games are stored in bookcases, there are cabinets holding overflow of china and casserole dishes that won't fit in the kitchen cabinets, my telescope is housed in this room, and there is  a play space for the grandsons.

Next to their little table is a chalkboard that Dan and I made for them to do art on.  We used a piece of 1/4 inch masonite that we found precut at Lowe's.  It is 4' high x 2' wide.  Dan cut the trim from a piece of 1 1/4 inch trim.  We painted the entire thing with black chalkboard paint that you can get at any hardware or paint store.  We put an anchor chord on the top and anchored it to the wall with a cup hook.  The little ones like to throw some elbows when drawing on the board and we didn't want it falling on them.
Grandma drew them a little Christmas message.  Guess who's coming to town?

This little shabby chic hutch is one of my favorite furniture pieces in the house, have had it for years.   It is decorated with some of the Santa Belly candles I wrote about in my post of November 12, 2012.

There are 6 windows across the back of the room and last year I put garland and lights over them.  It was a major chore and I decided not to do it this year since we had to move all the furniture to hang the garland, so I used some of my Dollar Tree snow flake garland and I made some 10 " snowflakes from the Martha Stewart paper my daughter gave me.  They look very pretty hanging above the windows.

 Here is the last decorated cabinet in the room.  My favorite piece is the little frame that holds  an antiqued piece of fabric that was hand embroidered and says "Dear Santa, I can explain".  Makes me laugh every time I look at it.  The oil lamp on the right belonged to Dan's grandmother and is one of my prized possessions.
Every room in our house is decorated for Christmas.  The bedrooms have trees and small decorations, even the bathrooms.  I know it's a lot of work, but I love it.  Some day we will be unable to do it, until then bring it on!

Thanks for joining me on our tour of the little yellow cottage for Christmas, 2012.  I so appreciate your reading my blog and hope that it inspires you in some way.  Now, it's time for Grandma's workshop to get really busy!  I will let you know what we are making - so many fun things for the grandsons!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Memories are but a journey we take in our minds, but relive in our hearts.  unknown

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Christmas Dining Room At The LIttle Yellow Cottage, 2012

We are counting down the days until Christmas - only 15 to go.  Whew.  Putting that in print kind of gives me an edgy, anxious feeling because I still have so many projects to finish before the 25th.  On top of that, two of our children have birthday's on the 17th (3 years apart - how did we do that?) and one of our grandson's has his birthday on Christmas Eve.  As you can see, December is a very busy month for us.

Today, I thought I would continue with our house tour by showing you our dining area and kitchen. We don't have an official "dining room", it is an area next to the kitchen that is separate, but quite cozy and can be very crowded when the whole family is here for dinner.  But that's quite okay, crowded is fine,  because it's all about being together.

Last year I made a lovely table runner that was ecru in color and it did not survive the season without getting some kind of spot that won't come out.  Surprise!  So, this year I found this beautiful black table runner at TJMaxx for $12.00.  Yay!  It has beautiful holly leaves and berries embroidered on it in red and green and is just perfect for the holiday season.  I put a piece of red deco mesh under it to give it a little oomph and hopefully it won't show stains like last year's.  We will see how it goes.

Texture plays an important part in any centerpiece, so I started by cutting some fresh cedar off a tree in our yard and laying it on the table runner.  In the center, I added a large glass vase that I  already had.  I put a candle in the vase that I glittered by putting Mod Podge on it and rolling it in crystal glitter.  The sparkles don't show very well in the picture, but it is so pretty and easy to do.  They would made beautiful gifts!  I surrounded the candle with fresh cranberries for some holiday color and texture.
There are sequined trees I made on either side of the candle in the vase.  They are very simple but add so much sparkle and glam to the setting.  Simply start with a green styrofoam cone.
I used silver schlung sequins to cover the cone.  Schlung sequins are the flat ones that are attached by thick thread and can be bought by the yard instead of individual sequins.  This makes covering the cone much faster and easier.  I simply used sequin pins every so often to hold the rows in place.
Start at the bottom and place pins every few sequins to make sure they don't slide off the bottom of the cone.  Wrap tightly as you go around the cone and place a pin every few sequins continuing to the top.  Spiral the sequins and pin until you have the entire top covered.  That's it.  Pretty simple isn't it?

These are 6 inch cones and I wanted the trees to have some height so I sat them on some silver flower pots I found at Michael's.  Simply turn the pots upside down and sit your trees on them.  These could be made in any color sequins you wanted.  Another great gift idea!  If you give these as a gift, glue the cone to the pot.
For more candlelight, I added two small mercury glass fish bowl-type candle holders I found at Michael's for $3.99 each.  I had seen the identical holders at West Elm for $12.00 each.  Yes for a major bargain!!

Next I use 2 silver snowflake garlands that I got at "you know where" for $1.00 each (Dollar Tree).  They add some more glitz to the setting.  Simply swirl them around everything in the centerpiece.
For the final texture and contrast, I added a bunch of small pinecones randomly placed.  Ta da!  Done.  It looks very beautiful in the center of the table, especially when the candles are lit and the lights are down low.

By the way, did you see the beautiful mercury glass ornaments hanging from our light over the table?  These were another major find at Big Lots.  They were 6 in a package for $6.99  I simply put some red velvet ribbon through the hanger and tied them over the arms of the light fixture.  I LOVE mercury glass and these were just the added touch I wanted to finish the centerpiece.  Hanging them at varying heights adds more interest.
The corner cupboard holds a collection of glass pieces that are from my grandmother and aunt.  To jazz it up a bit, I added some of the fresh green cedar, some of the mercury glass ornaments and red velvet ribbon which I randomly threaded through the glassware.
It looks so festive and ties everything in with the decor in the dining area.

The finishing touch is the red velvet bows tied on the backs of the chairs with silver glittered snowflakes .  Just that one final touch.  It's all in the details as they say.

When the table is set for dinner, there will be red chargers and gold napkins to finish the setting.  Because we use our table every day, I have not put them out yet.  Just use a little imagination if you will.

This is off the track, but I am telling you this for a purpose.  There is a little restaurant here in Nashville called Taco Mamacita.  It is one of our favorite places to go and the decor is divine.  I would LOVE a house interior that was decorated in such a way.  They have a huge assortment of colored mercury glass balls than hang from the ceiling in one area.  There is another area with lots of tin stars hanging from the ceiling at various heights and then there are all the huge copper bells hanging from the ceiling in another area.  There are old doors with light fixtures hanging from them which makes the dark interior have so much ambiance.  I wish you could see it.  All this to say, the mercury glass balls inspired me to do this.
Our kitchen has a vaulted ceiling with a ledge that runs across it.  That is the perfect place to hang some of those large mercury glass balls.  I was so excited to find these last year at TJMaxx Homegoods.  I tied them with velvet ribbon and teetered on a ladder to nail the ribbon into the top of the ledge.  They are hanging at different heights and I LOVE THEM!  The biggest one is about the size of a bowling ball to give you a little perspective on their size.  They make a nice separation between the dining area and the kitchen.

I do have white lights on top of the cabinets which add a lot of effective "glow" when they are on in the evening.  (These lights are there all year round).  They are just plain old white Christmas lights that lay on top of the cabinets, wound through the decorative baskets.  And, there is just a little decoration over the sink.  I could decorate the tops of the cabinets, but Grandma just plain old gave out.  Maybe next year.
To hang over the sink, I made some of the snowflakes that I wrote about in my post of November 8, 2012.  My daughter gave me some beautiful Martha Stewart  Christmas paper she had left over from a project, so I made some of these snowflakes and a paper chain to hang them from.
 These were easy and didn't cost anything other than time.   These are so much fun to make, check out my post with instructions if you want to make some.

Thanks for touring with us once again.  Things are busy here at the little yellow cottage this time of year.  I hope there are things here to inspire you for the coming holiday season and Christmas' to come.  Remember, it's about making memories.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store.
Dr. Seuss 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Make A Paper Cone Tree - Make A Memory

Greetings friends.  It is supposed to be a gloomy, rainy weekend so I thought I would leave you with a fun project that is really beautiful and inexpensive.  Back when I decided to make a wreath from old book pages, we made a trip to a huge used book store here in Nashville called McKay's.  If you know me,  you know how I love book stores.  I mean LOVE them.  McKay's is huge and has every kind of book imaginable,  games, DVD's and CD's.  It is housed in a two story warehouse that would blow your mind.  Not only did I load up on lovely old books that cost very little (I'm not reading them, just using the pages this time), they also have a huge section of music books, sheet music and hymnals.  I could not pass those by either, so I purchased a large piano book that had tons of music pages for $5.00 and an old hymnal for $.75.  That was a real coup.

My original idea was for a wreath made of book pages that you can find on my blog dated Tuesday, August 21, 2012.  Although I will be making more of the wreaths for Christmas gifts, I have a LOT of books and music available.  I had an idea to make a Christmas tree from some of the music pages - somehow.  You know me, on a wing and a prayer.   So through a little trial and error, I came up with this method.

I had a styrofoam cone from last year's Christmas projects to use as my base.  It's 12 inches tall.  But, you could make a cone from cardboard, maybe from a cereal box, if you wanted to save some money.  The biggest music page cones were made from tracing a 4 inch square on pieces of sheet music and cutting them out.   Since I don't know what size base cone you will use, I suggest making lots of cones.  I simply cut and rolled them and stapled them on the bottom.
You need a way to attach the cones to the styrofoam, so I used sequin pins which you can get at craft stores.
You could use hot glue to attach them, BUT you cannot move them if you don't get them placed exactly where you want.  Just giving you a heads up on that.  This tree was my second attempt.  I took the first tree apart because I didn't like the way it looked.  Glad I used pins.  If the cones had been glued, that would have been it.

Start at the bottom of the cone and work to the top.  Simply place the cones facing the same direction each time and as close together as you can get them.  Put one sequin pin near the base of the cone, pushing it through the styrofoam.
Here you can see the staples (which are only in the paper cones), and if you look even closer, the little pin heads.  First round done.  Looks like a little tutu doesn't it?

For the next round, place the bottom of the cone so it comes about half way down the cones in the first row, and pin around like the first row.  Keep repeating until you are near the top.  At this point, I shortened the cones for a couple of rows so you would have the appearance of a tree as it tapers to the top.  You will need about 2 rows of the 3 inch cones.  The very top was another story.
I sat and looked at this tree for a bit trying to figure out the best way to finish it.  Here is what I did.  Make small cones about an inch high.  Pin 4 or 5 of them pointing straight up like in the picture.  Now, go back and pin several rows of the 1 inch cones over the cones pointing up.  It takes a little time and patience and you may have to adjust here and there.  Otherwise, you are finished except for the star on top if you want one and some glitter of course.

Set the tree in a cake pan or something to catch falling glitter.  Lightly brush the cones with Mod Podge or Elmer's glue and sprinkle with glitter.  Easy.  Peasy.
You could use a small snowflake, a button, or a star of some kind for your topper.  I had two small acrylic stars that I glued back to back, put a little hot glue on the bottom and placed it in the top of the tree.  The most time consuming part of the project is making the cones.  I have to say, I am very happy with the finished product.

The little tree next to this one is really easy.  Cut out a piece of cardboard from a box, something with some thickness, not a cereal box.  Use a wooden skewer like you make kabobs with and push the flat end in the cardboard, pointy end on top.  I deleted these pictures accidently, so I hope you can follow me.  This will be the spindle/trunk of your tree.

Now, using book pages or music pages, cut out at least 10 squares for each size needed.  Reduce each set of squares by at least 1/4 inch so you will have a graduated tree effect when finished.  My base was 4 inches square.  To make sure my first set of squares covered the cardboard,  I made my paper squares 4.5 inches - just a little bigger than the base.  I used pinking shears to give the edges a little pizzaz.   Plain scissors would be fine.  If you make a tree with a big base, it will take more squares and a taller "trunk".

To make the tree,  place a piece of paper so the spindle is in the center and push is all the way to the bottom of the tree.  As you place the squares, turn them slightly so you get a "tree" effect. Every 20 or so squares, place a thin piece of cardboard (like from a cereal box) the size of the smallest square so you don't see it.  Put the cardboard so the center of the spindle is in the center of the cardboard and push it down, same as for the paper squares.  This helps give the tree body and keeps the paper squares from collapsing.  Work your way to the top using smaller and smaller squares, leaving just a tiny piece of the spindle showing.  Again, I glued two stars together back to back with the skewer/spindle in the middle.  Glitter the same way as the directions for the  cone tree above if you want.  Done.  This is an easy one for children to do.  The cone tree is a bit harder.

These trees are so pretty - quite elegant actually.  They would make lovely hand made gifts, especially for book or music lovers and they are inexpensive which is even better!   Don't forget to make some for your home also.  Wouldn't this be a fun family project on this rainy weekend?  What's more fun than cutting, gluing, glittering and decorating?  It's certainly better than what's on television.   Remember, we are making memories.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

My fondest memories from childhood Christmas's involve things I made, which I have been doing every year since I was about 7.  Take the time to make some precious holiday memories whether baking or making things together, or both.  You'll be so happy you did.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Welcome To The Living Room- Christmas 2012

Welcome to Christmas at the Little Yellow Cottage.  Decorating began the day after Thanksgiving and has been going on since.  Do you have trouble getting done?  I seem to be continually adding or changing.  There is always another idea, something that could look better, another place or use for something.  Creativity is a curse sometimes, but I am thankful to be cursed.

The tour begins in our main living area.  Our living room is not large, but it is very cozy with the fireplace being the focal point of the room.   When you enter through the front door, there is a small entryway with a rustic cabinet that has old windows for the doors.   It holds our crystal because we don't have enough cabinet space in the kitchen.  The decorations change with the season and here is how it looks this Christmas.
Since I am totally enamored with the shutters I painted earlier in the season, I took my book page wreath down for the holidays and added the ornament wreath I made last year.  My "Joy To The World" sign has been part of our Christmas decor for many years.  It is very dear to my heart so it is used every year somewhere.  For a slightly different look this year, I used the burlap ribbon and the large and small sparkly stars.

There are two small trees in the living area.  I gave up large trees years ago due to lack of space and time.  Small trees are much easier to decorate and place.  With 6 grandsons under the age of 9, three of them under three, it is nice to have them up off the floor.  Grandma does have lots of stuff sitting around and the temptation for little hands is great.
This is the flocked tree in the front window that has all crystal and clear ornaments.  There is a small village under the tree and you can see the big snowflake through the front window.
Here is a closeup of our little village under the tree.  The boys LOVE the ceramic train that I have had for more than 25 years.  Such a temptation for little hands.  We'll see how long it survives.

The mantle is decorated in a winter wonderland theme using lots of white lights, snow flakes (Dollar Tree), candles, and mirrored trees.  If you have not made yourself a regular at the Dollar Tree, do so now.  There are such awesome decorations to be had for very little money.  The mirrored trees came from there 3 years ago.  I had seen them at a high end boutique gift shop for $30.00 each.  I scored mine for $1.00 each.  Yahoo!
They reflect so much light and give such a frosty, wintry look.  They make me happy.  The snowflakes are hung with monofilament line from clear pushpins.  It's very hard to get a good picture of them so that you can see the detail, but they are quite lovely.  These will probably stay up until February.
The small tree in the corner in front of the mirror is decorated with hand made ornaments that I made years ago, lots of icicles and red glass balls.  The reflection in the mirror makes it seem much bigger than it is.
See the large rusty snowflake under the tree?  I have lots of those that get used in different places also.  Have had those for years and years.
Here is a close up of the two trees you can see in the first picture.  They are sitting on a trunk that is used as a coffee table in front of the sofa.  I made these using sheet music.  There will be a tutorial on how to make them tomorrow.  They are beautiful decorations and would be wonderful gifts.   The little polar bear came from you know where.  $1.00.  What can I say?

Need a really easy centerpiece or gift?  I saw these at TJMaxx several years ago and thought holy cow, why should I pay for that.  We have lots of sticks in the yard.  Just gather some up and cut them to similar lengths.  Wrap them with wire in the center to hold them together, spray paint them any color you want.  I added some Christmas greenery and made a nice big bow.  Voila!  A lovely, natural centerpiece.  This sits on top of another small cabinet next to my $2.50 candle holder I found at Gordman's a couple of years ago.  I told you, I am the Queen of Cheap.

The sofa table holds one of my prized possessions, a gift from Dan years ago.  She is a beautiful angel from Mexico.  She sits 12 inches high and holds a candle in her hands and another can be placed inside that shines through her robe.  I hadn't gotten the candle in her hands for the picture.  Details.  It's all about the details.  There are mirrored trees on the table and stars that I have gold leafed, paired with white glittered stars.  You just can't have too many stars in my book.  After all, it was a star that led the wise men to the manger.
And this is my newest addition to our Christmas decorations.  My advent calendar made from an antique Coca Cola case.  I have two of these and have had them for 43 years, as long as we have been married. They have followed us everywhere and have been used for several different things.  This was sitting on our hearth looking at me when it dawned on me it would make the perfect advent calendar!  I found these adorable little ornaments at Big Lots (another one of my favorite haunts).  I used little cup hooks which were screwed into the top of each compartment.  I numbered 24 ornaments and hung them in each little compartment.  There is enough space to put lots of little treats for grandsons to find for each day of the countdown to Christmas.
I used a fine point Sharpie to write the numbers on each little ornament.  I must say, it is adorable.  The boys love to find a treat whenever they are here.

Thanks for joining me tonight.  Hope you got some decorating ideas and tomorrow I will show you how to make those lovely little trees.  Next, we will visit the dining and kitchen area.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

My goal is to make memories for our family and grandchildren.  Yes, it is a lot of work, but so worth it to me.  It's all in the details.