Christmas prep…ongoing!

During the past few weeks, I have almost finished all the cookies and candies that I can make ahead of time, to be stored in the freezer until the Open House in December. I think I have two more things to make. And then I might add a couple of new things…

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Christmas sugar cookies

Packaged and ready for the freezer.

Christmas sugar cookies

Cranberry Orange Cookies … These are simple to make, but delicious! Big on flavor! One of my favorite Christmas Cookies.

Christmas cookies

Cranberry Orange Cookies

A new treat this year…Pecan Pie Truffles. I made the centers and will dip them in chocolate and garnish them with toasted, chopped pecans before the Open House.

Pecan Pie Truffle centers

Peppermint Meltaways … These tender cookies require careful handling, but are really worth the extra trouble. After being thawed, they will be frosted with pink frosting and garnished with crushed peppermints.

Mint Meltaways

The garland and lights are up over the kitchen windows. As you can see, a string was not working, but DH fixed it. He has also put up over-the-door garlands, the outdoor porch garlands, and the front hall garlands. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

garland for the kitchen windows

The chalkboard tree is coming along! Each additional feature that Genny chalks on makes it that much better! She should be able to finish it this weekend. It is almost complete! Then we move on to putting up and decorating other trees.

As it stood a week ago.

Chalkboard Tree 2018

As DH walked by the chalkboard one day, he couldn’t resist adding something for the father in the picture to juggle…but that won’t be the final story for that panel. I should be able to show the finished picture next week.

Chalkboard Christmas tree 2018

Last weekend’s update to the tree is as follows.

Chalkboard Christmas tree 2018

Chalkboard Christmas tree 2018

Note that the children are opening door number two on their countdown to Christmas box. Our open house is scheduled for the second of December. Genny thinks of little details like that to make the picture better!

Chalkboard Christmas tree 2018

Chalkboard Christmas tree 2018

When I printed this coloring page, the smaller girl was holding scissors. Genny took them out. Don’t you think she looks entirely too young to be packing large, sharp scissors!?

Chalkboard Christmas tree 2018

Meanwhile, I’ve also been working on ornaments for an exchange.

diorama Christmas ornaments

diorama Christmas ornaments

diorama Christmas ornaments

diorama Christmas ornaments

Stay tuned for more updates!  ~~Rhonda

mini putz house in teal and yellow

This mini Putz house has been listed to my Etsy shop.   ChristmasNotebook.etsy.com

Teal and Yellow Putz House with deer

It is made from the same pattern as the last Putz house I made. I reduced the pattern to 85% of the original and reversed it when constructing the house.

mini and regular putz from same pattern

I rounded the fence. Thought about adding fence posts at the entrance, but decided against it.

Teal and Yellow Putz House with deer

The colors for the house are taken from the Christmas card used to make the base.

 

Teal and Yellow Putz House with deer

Teal and Yellow Putz House with deer

The sidewalk is painted onto the base and sprinkled with glitter.

Teal and Yellow Putz House with deer

Teal and Yellow Putz House with deer

The bottle brush trees are about 1 1/4″ tall. I dabbed them with faux snow and sprinkled them with silver micro beads.

Teal and Yellow Putz House with deer

Teal and Yellow Putz House with deer

You can see my Putz houses and other Christmas ornaments in my Etsy shop.

ChristmasNotebook.etsy.com

If you are interested in crafting some Putz houses and bottle brush trees of your own, check out my Putz tutorials for more information. Putz House Tutorials

I am always happy to answer questions about the process. Please ask, if you are wondering about the details of putzing!

All proceeds from my Etsy shop benefit Kenya Mercy Ministries. They work with the urban poor of Nairobi, Kenya, particularly the children and their families who live in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. Thank you for your part in helping these children when you purchase items from my shop!

~~Rhonda

a putz barn and a putz house

This Putz barn was made months ago, but I hadn’t found a Christmas card that I liked for the base until a few weeks ago.

Santa's Barn Putz

The words, the harness bells and the trail of stars are picked out in a shiny gold foil.

Santa's Barn Putz

Santa is checking on the reindeer!

Santa's Barn Putz

Santa's Barn Putz

A tiny deer stands in the front yard, near a hanging lantern.

Santa's Barn Putz

As always, the lights add a new dimension to the Putz.

Santa's Barn Putz

Yesterday, I cut and constructed this Putz house, painted the pieces, glittered everything and then set it aside to dry overnight.

Grey and purple Putz house with snowman

Today, I completed it with a fence, faux snow, a bottle brush tree, and a snowman.

Grey and purple Putz house with snowman

The colors of the Putz are dictated by the colors on the Christmas card that I used as a base.

Grey and purple Putz house with snowman

Using a greeting card to make the base is my trademark. I love the surprise it provides.

Grey and purple Putz house with snowman

This sweet little house is listed in my Etsy shop.

Grey and purple Putz house with snowman

You can see my Putz houses and other Christmas ornaments in my Etsy shop.

ChristmasNotebook.etsy.com

If you are interested in crafting some Putz houses and bottle brush trees of your own, check out my Putz tutorials for more information. Putz House Tutorials

I am always happy to answer questions about the process. Please ask, if you are wondering about the details of putzing!

All proceeds from my Etsy shop benefit Kenya Mercy Ministries. They work with the urban poor of Nairobi, Kenya, particularly the children and their families who live in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. Thank you for your part in helping these children when you purchase items from my shop!

~~Rhonda

making progress with Christmas prep

Christmas preparations are well underway. I am cranking out the cookies and truffles! During the past week, I’ve made the following…

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I love to use this recipe for the peanut butter cookie dough. It tastes so good!   Honey Peanut Butter Cookies

Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies

Unwrapping the mini peanut butter cups takes more time than making the cookies, it seems!

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

In the back are Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies (delicious!), with the Peanut Butter Cup Cookies in the front. I set the Peanut Butter Cup Cookies in the fridge for five or ten minutes so the chocolate would set. Then I packed them and put them in the freezer.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

These truffles are dipped in chocolate and then, when the chocolate has set, they are dipped in white candy coating. I froze these as is. They will get the white candy coating and a sprinkle of colorful jimmies just before the open house.

Peanut Butter Truffles

Peanut Butter Truffles

Almond Cookies

I forgot to get a picture of these after baking. They are a delicious almond shortbread. I froze them after baking. Before serving, I will top them with toasted sliced almonds and then drizzle almond-flavored powdered sugar glaze over them.

Almond Cookies

Chocolate Brickle Truffles

For this recipe, I made chocolate truffles and added a bag of toffee bits to the dough. I haven’t made them before, so I am interested to see how they do after several weeks in the freezer.

Chocolate Brickle Truffles

I scooped them onto the cookie sheet. After the chocolate had set a bit, I rolled them into balls. I froze them at this point and will dip them in white candy coating and garnish them with a sprinkle of finely chopped almonds a day or two before the open house.

Chocolate Brickle Truffles

Ready for the freezer.

Truffles and Chocolate Shortbread

Minty Cream Cheese Truffles

Cream Cheese Mint Truffles

Cream Cheese Mint Truffles

I dipped them in white candy coating, then drizzled white candy coating that I had tinted pale green over the tops. Before the drizzle dried, I sprinkled them with pink sanding sugar.

Cream Cheese Mint Truffles

Mocha Truffles

Dipped in chocolate, then drizzled with chocolate mixed with white candy coating. Then drizzled with white candy coating. Sort of like coffee and cream.

Mocha Truffles

Truffles

Our son and his wife and the twins were here on Saturday to help with pre-holiday cleaning. They cleaned the places where Christmas trees will be put up. The only tree that made it up, though, was the small “Snow Tree.” It goes on top the cupboard in the dining room. The snow is cotton batting placed over each branch. I had to tweak that a bit after the tree had been stored for a year. Didn’t take much to make it work, though. It is stored with the lights, snowflake garlands, and the cotton batting on it. This tree is about four feet tall.

Small "Snow Tree" for the Dining Room cupboard

Genny did more work on the chalkboard tree. It’s coming along! The amount of work she puts into this tree is amazing. The tree tells the story of coming home for Christmas, starting at the bottom, where you find the front gate and a lamp post. The sign on the lamp post says, “Where the love light gleams.”

chalkboard Christmas tree 2018

There will be a string of chalked lights all around the edge of the chalkboard.

chalkboard Christmas tree 2018

In this picture, you can see one of the branches she has started to chalk in, under the “putting up the Christmas lights” panel. The branches will be made of several kinds of greenery…pine, mistletoe, holly, etc. We are hoping there will be room to add popcorn and cranberry strings.

chalkboard Christmas tree 2018

DH and Older Son carried down several trees. I’ll be working on those soon. We are expecting Older Son and family, as well as my sister Genny, back this Saturday to lend a hand again. More to come!

~~Rhonda

Christmas prep over the weekend

Genny arrived Saturday morning and we started on our Christmas preparations. I began by mixing together ingredients for two kinds of truffles. Almond Truffles and Raspberry Truffles. Both are easy to make.

Later in the day, after the chocolate had hardened a bit, I used a small cookie scoop to portion out the centers. Then I rolled them and left them on cookie sheets to harden again before placing them in the freezer. The day before the open house, I will dip them in white almond bark. The raspberry-flavored ones will get coarse red sugar sprinkled on top and the almond-flavored ones with be garnished with finely chopped toasted almonds.

truffle centers

I helped Genny with the chalkboard Christmas tree for a little while. There will be a large lamp post on the side of the chalkboard tree, and I needed to make a pattern for Genny to trace for the lamp. I also had a coloring page that I had printed from online, that had to be simplified for Genny to transfer to the chalkboard. While I was doing all the above, Genny was working on the chalkboard tree.

She likes to start at the top of the eight-foot tree to minimize smearing the chalk as she works. This is the beginning. Thirteen more panels to go!

Chalkboard Christmas Tree

We took a break from the chalkboard tree to work on the “Blue and Silver Tree” in the downstairs bedroom. The room is done in blue and yellow. The tree is decorated with vintage-style ornments in blue and silver. And finished with a sprinkle of silver tinsel.

My handy Christmas elf (DH) brought the tree down from the attic Friday evening and set it up for us. He made sure all the lights were working. The silver bead garlands are attached to the tree so they stay on while the tree is stored. That saves us a lot of time each year. To attach them, I bend the end of a stem under and over the bead string where I want it to hang. I squeeze it together and they stay on, even while the tree is hauled from the attic, down two flights of stairs, and down the hall into the bedroom. The beads usually need a little tweaking as they may be tangled around another branch here or there, but, for the most part, they are ready to go when the tree is placed in the tree stand. The lights stay on the tree, as well, of course. I used cool-white LED lights on this tree and they are perfect for the blue room.

The other interesting thing about this tree is that I spray-painted it silver. Yes. I spray-painted a brand-new tree when we got it in 2012. Here’s a blog post about the first tree I spray-painted in 2008 with some updates through the years. As the post points out, I didn’t use glitter on the second incarnation of the spray-painted tree. You can read about it here:  thanks, hgtv

I should have taken more photos as we went along, but I forgot. Here’s a video of the completed tree.

Silver and Blue Christmas Tree

Then back to the chalkboard tree. Genny wasn’t satisfied with the picture she had chalked in the left panel below. You can see it in the chalkboard tree picture at the beginning of this post. It was too finely detailed to be at the top of the tree where it is harder to see than the lower panels. We decided to use the same picture, but we enlarged the picture using the printer/copier and will use the main part of that picture for the left panel. Maybe you’ll see that next week!

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

She moved on to the next panel, the children’s Christmas program. We’re going to have a little angel dangling to the right of the manger, among the stars.

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

This panel celebrates the annual Christmas Eve church service.

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

And below the church panel is Grandma baking Christmas cookies. Genny gave Grandma blue curtains with snowflakes to mimic my own kitchen’s Christmas curtains.

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

As you can see, we have a ways to go! Of the twenty-plus trees we put up, this one takes the longest to “decorate.”

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

While Genny worked on the chalkboard tree, I made a double batch of Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies. I am storing the dough in the fridge until Wednesday, when I will bake them. I also made Double Chocolate Biscotti, which has mini chocolate chips and chipped white chocolate in the dough. I baked those, stored them in a gladware container and put them in the freezer. Before the open house, I will thaw them and dip one end in white chocolate.

Double Chocolate Biscotti

The other project I finished today was to make ribbon tree toppers for the glass tree. I looped ribbon and tied it to the end of wooden skewers I had painted black. I enjoyed the fireplace and Christmas music on my computer while I worked.

Ribbon tree topper

I added some hot glue to hold the ribbons in place. On Wednesday, DH plans to climb the ladder to place these at the top of the glass tree.

Ribbon tree topper

Also on Wednesday, I plan to make more cookies for the freezer. Genny will be here on the weekend, as well as our older son and his family to help with more Christmas prep. It should be fun! Stay tuned and join us as we watch Christmas come together!

~~Rhonda

this week’s Christmas cookies

Today I made three batches of cookies for the freezer in preparation for our annual open house in December. I made Holiday Oatmeal Icebox Cookies. I usually roll these into logs and roll them in green and red sugar. Today I just added coarse green and red sugar to the batter.

Christmas Cookies

I used a cookie scoop to form the cookies.

Christmas Cookies

Then I dipped them in the same red and green sugar.

Christmas Cookies

They baked up beautifully.

Christmas Cookies

I stored them between sheets of waxed paper in a Rubbermaid container.

Christmas Cookies

I also made Macadamia Nut Shortbread cookies. Besides the nuts, they have chopped white chocolate in them. They didn’t bake as nicely as usual. Flatter. But still taste great. I stored them on top of the first batch of cookies in the same box.

Christmas Cookies

The last batch of cookies were the Elfin Bites, which are also a shortbread cookie.

Christmas Cookies

These are tiny cookies about an inch square. So good! I put them in three ziplock bags and stored them on top the other cookies in the same container. Those are now in the freezer, waiting for Christmas!

Christmas Cookies

Next week, I plan to make Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies, Sour Cream Sugar Cookies, and Peanut Butter Cup Cookies.

~~Rhonda

two Christmas trees started over the weekend

Yes, we’re putting up Christmas trees already. That’s just the way we roll around here. We do a lot of decorating, so we need to start early if it’s to be a pleasant experience!

This past weekend, my sister came to help. We put up the “glass tree” which is an artificial tree decorated completely in glass ornaments. Mostly clear glass but there is some colored glass and some frosted glass, as well. I still need to add more ribbon to fill out the tree topper.

"Glass" Christmas Tree

A grand piano with a piano bench is surrounded by some of the 250-plus prisms that decorate this tree. The prisms came off two chandeliers that were in our present home when we bought it more than twenty years ago.

"Glass" Christmas Tree

We also use the glass chains from the chandeliers to decorate this tree as garlands.

"Glass" Christmas Tree

"Glass" Christmas Tree

One of my favorite ornaments is this bucking bronco, complete with cowboy.

glass ornament

The tree is a seven-foot tree. It stands on a two-foot high box that my husband made for use as a tree stand. The ceilings are twelve feet high, so it helps to fill the space if the tree sits on top of a box.

"Glass" Christmas Tree

If you had asked me thirty years ago if I’d ever have a tree completely decorated in spun glass, fused glass and crystal, I might have said, “When pigs fly!” But the collection, which started with a glass hummingbird in 1984, has grown and grown. Now it is my favorite tree of all the ones we put up each year.

when pigs fly

We also worked on another favorite tree, the chalkboard Christmas tree. As often happens, my original plan for the tree changes, and is edited and nipped and tucked until I think it’s just right. This year, the theme “I’ll be home for Christmas” stayed the same, but the pictures changed. I began with pictures of houses, but decided to go with pictures of the kinds of things that draw us home at Christmas.

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

I print pictures from online (many of them are coloring pages) and we arrange them on the floor, in a way that tells the story of our theme.

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

The next step is to tape them to the wall, step back and check the balance, then start the job of copying them to the chalkboard, using graphite paper.

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

We have a lot of work ahead of us. It will be amazing to watch how it comes together.

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

You can find links to our previous chalkboard Christmas trees here: Chalkboard Christmas Trees.

Stay tuned! I’ll bring you more updates to our progress as we move along.

~~Rhonda

checking in…

Update from my house. I haven’t done any crafting this week at all. I’ve been sorting boxes. Yes, mostly dull work. But a few surprises.

During July I had help from my sisters, Genny and Margaret, to go through the attic, sorting boxes, pitching, donating, packing the kids’ stuff into taped-shut boxes for deportation to their own homes. We made great progress. There were about eight boxes that contained papers, magazines, pictures, memorabilia, etc. I decided they should be left in the craft room so I could go through them later and not take up the precious time I had my helpers while they were here to assist. Those boxes have sat in the craft room since July. I truly didn’t realize it had been that long until I checked today for pictures of our attic work. Which I couldn’t find…I know Genny sent me some, but I don’t know where they got to. I may have deleted them from my phone… Anyway, I have spent this week going through all those boxes. I have one left and will finish it today. I have to say, I pitched a lot of trash. ::SIGH::

But, on the other hand, I posted some great vintage photos to Facebook for my extended family to enjoy. Like this one of my grandmother and her highschool boyfriend. Grandma was born in 1904 so this is 1920-ish. My Dad told me someone dared the boy to walk the top of the bridge, but he wouldn’t do it. But Grandma did. WTG, Grandma!

My grandmother Ruth Mitchell Ashby and friend. About 1920.

This is a very busy time of year for me. We do a lot of Christmas prep in October and November, as we have our annual Christmas Open House on the first Sunday in December. I have at least thirty kinds of cookies and candies to make. Most can be done ahead and frozen. I’ve been doing some of that this week. I made three kinds of cookies for the freezer in preparation for the open house.

Toffee Bar Crunch Biscotti I plan to dip the bottoms of these into some good quality chocolate the day before our open house.

Christmas cookies / Toffee Bar Crunch Biscotti

Daniel’s Cookie Bar Bites These 1″ squares will be dipped in chocolate the day before the party.

Christmas Cookies / Daniel's Cookie Bar Bites

Nutmeg Logs These are done and only require thawing before the party in December.

Christmas Cookies / Nutmeg Logs

I have finally reached the point (read “age!”) where paring down really does sound like a good idea. Last week, Genny, my BFF Marsha, and I sorted 34 boxes of Christmas decorations. Emptied fifteen. Have about ten that are pending until Christmas decorating is done. If the contents aren’t used to decorate this year, they will be donated, too. That leaves about 100 boxes of decorations still to sort, but a lot of that will be done as we decorate this year.

My sister will be here again this weekend to help with our Christmas prep schedule, so I won’t be crafting again until Monday. I have a custom order to finish which I can’t reveal until after Christmas, as it is a gift for the daughter of one of my friends. We don’t want to ruin the surprise!

Genny and I may begin the work on this year’s Chalkboard Christmas Tree. The theme is ready, the picture patterns are printed and edited, and I’m excited to get started! The theme is “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” I’ve printed fifteen little houses, but won’t need that many. As we design the layout of the tree, we’ll decide which ones will make the cut.

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

This will be chalked over the top of the tree.

iChalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

I’m thinking of making the Christmas tree branches from one of these designs…holly branches or garlands. The holly branches would be easier…we shall see!

Chalkboard Christmas Tree 2018

Of course, there will be

“snow
And mistletoe
And presents ‘neath the tree”

Also cats ‘neath the tree, as well, as we try to include a couple of our fur-buddies on the chalkboard tree. You will find links to the past six years of trees here:  Chalkboard Christmas Trees.

Back to the last box…wish us well as we tackle some Christmas preparations this weekend!

~~Rhonda

two story putz house

I drew the pattern for this Putz house in 2012. It remains one of my favorite patterns.

Red and Green 2-story Putz House with snowman

The tree is decorated with red, glass pearl beads, faux snow and white glitter.

Red and Green 2-story Putz House with snowman

The Christmas card I used to make the base features snowmen and peppermint letters.

Red and Green 2-story Putz House with snowman

Red and Green 2-story Putz House with snowman

I used red and white striped chenille stems to embellish the eaves of the house and I also placed them along the fence.

Red and Green 2-story Putz House with snowman

The back of the house includes a hole for the use of an LED light string for lighting the house.

Red and Green 2-story Putz House with snowman

Red and Green 2-story Putz House with snowman

The front yard includes a friendly snowman.

Red and Green 2-story Putz House with snowman

The door is open. Stop by any time!

Red and Green 2-story Putz House with snowman

You can see my Putz houses and other Christmas ornaments in my Etsy shop.

ChristmasNotebook.etsy.com

If you are interested in crafting some Putz houses and bottle brush trees of your own, check out my Putz tutorials for more information. Putz House Tutorials

I am always happy to answer questions about the process. Please ask, if you are wondering about the details of putzing!

All proceeds from my Etsy shop benefit Kenya Mercy Ministries. They work with the urban poor of Nairobi, Kenya, particularly the children and their families who live in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. Thank you for your part in helping these children when you purchase items from my shop!

~~Rhonda

back to a simple putz design

I went for a very traditional feel with this mini Putz house.

Mini Red and Green Putz House

I had made a base from a long Christmas card and wanted something traditional to go with the very traditional feel of the card.

Mini Red and Green Putz House

I also wanted to make a mini Putz, so this card was perfect as there is little wiggle room for Putz placement on the finished base.

Mini Red and Green Putz House

The hole in the back allows the use of a mini LED light string for lighting the Putz house.

Mini Red and Green Putz House

An added puff of smoke makes it look even more like it is welcoming you home for the holidays.

Mini Red and Green Putz House

The bottle brush trees are decorated with metallic green and red beads and strings of tiny gold beads. With the beads on, I dabbed the tree with faux snow and, while the snow was still wet, I dusted the trees with clear glitter. I used fine clear glitter on the building and coarser clear glitter on the faux snow.

Mini Red and Green Putz House

All in all, I am pleased with the finished Putz house.

Mini Red and Green Putz House

You can see my Putz houses and other Christmas ornaments in my Etsy shop.

ChristmasNotebook.etsy.com

If you are interested in crafting some Putz houses and bottle brush trees of your own, check out my Putz tutorials for more information. Putz House Tutorials

I am always happy to answer questions about the process. Please ask, if you are wondering about the details of putzing!

All proceeds from my Etsy shop benefit Kenya Mercy Ministries. They work with the urban poor of Nairobi, Kenya, particularly the children and their families who live in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. Thank you for your part in helping these children when you purchase items from my shop!

~~Rhonda