Hilarious Toy Packing Song by Sara Groves

A couple of friends invited me to a Christmas brunch today and we heard this wonderful woman Sara Groves talk and sing.  She told some great stories and sung some of her original songs as well as old hymns and Christmas carols.  During her talks before songs, she was either very serious or  she was joking and hilarious.  Below is the most amusing holiday song she sang related to opening toy manufacturers'  packaging for her children on Christmas.  You can buy her CDs on Amazon or her website.

Gingerbread Houses and Standing Christmas Trees

I am a Hallmark and other Christmas movie addict from Thanksgiving thru Christmas.  Often these movies show families happily making gingerbread houses for the holiday.  This year one of the newer movies showed a family making a house for a local contest, besides using a chocolate bar cut to be a door on their house, they made cute little gingerbread trees standing in their snow covered (powdered sugar) yard.  This got me looking on-line for how to make the trees.

I did not find a sample of the method used in the movie - which was:
1. Use a tree shaped cookie cutter and make 2 cookies per desired number of trees.
2. Leave 1 tree shape full and cut the 2nd shape in half from tip to bottom, but do not separate the halves. 
3. Place cut-outs on parchment covered cookie sheet so they are easier to remove.
4. Bake all the tree shapes according to gingerbread recipe,
5. Let cool.  Cut the halved trees along the marked line.
6. Using frosting, glue a half to one side of a whole tree, prop with something until it sticks good.
7. Repeat step 6 with other half on other side of whole tree.
8. Stand tree up and prop sides, allow 30 minutes to set.
9. Decorate as desired.
If the above instructions are confusing, look at the centerpiece tips below, so it will become more clear on how to do this,

Below are some of the easiest methods I found for making gingerbread trees, However they make one large tree to use as an edible  3-D centerpiece for your holiday table.
If you want to try your hand at making an entire Gingerbread House, check out the photos and 23-step instructions at How to Make a Gingerbread House.   If you plan to eat the house, then skip the "preserving" tips at bottom of this post.

If you do not want to go to this much trouble, but still want a fun activity to do with the kids, check out photos and instructions on How to Make Graham Cracker Houses.  The top of the post is construction, then in the middle of this post is a dip recipe to eat while creating houses, skip the dip to go to decorating ideas..

Christmas Cookie Tree - Frosted Edible Centerpiece

Upon request, I shared my Easy Decorated Christmas Cookies for Kids secrets using sugar cookie dough and frosting last year.  This year, I want to share a clever idea for using your sugar cookies as an edible centerpiece for your holiday parties.  The method uses multiple sizes of star cookie cutters, starting with large stars at the bottom and going up with smaller stars.  If you can not find a really large star for the bottom, then consider making a forest of trees on a tray for your centerpiece instead on 1 large tree.  You can use my easy method for making the cookies or your can make them from scratch using Pillsbury's recipe for  Holiday Cookie Tree Centerpiece.  You can follow their steps or view the 40-second video below for constructing the tree, once the cookies are baked and cooled of course.

This tree should be easy-to-do, however if you prefer something in gingerbread - check out my upcoming holiday Gingerbread Tree post. If making sugar cookies or gingerbread seems like too much work, then consider making a sheet of Rice Krispies Treats and using the star cookie cutters or tree-shaped cutters instead.  This would be especially fun for kids to make a forest of trees, whether they do it with cookie cutters or they try Molding Rice Krispie Trees by hand.

Nevertheless, Attitude Adjustment and Thanksgiving in Adversity

In her series of books based on The Never-The-Less Principle, Marion Bond West  shares her concept for adjusting a negative attitude to a more positive one.  She bases this idea on the way the scriptures using "nevertheless" are written.  The way the principle works is to take a negative complaint and add a positive spin to it with the word nevertheless (never-the-less) at the end of the statement.  I think this is a great way to turn disappointment and adversity into positive thinking and thanksgiving for our blessings,

Below are a few examples that may work for you or as a starting place.
  • My son's ADHD has me constantly worn out, nevertheless, I am blessed with a healthy and happy son.
  • I have an illness (or injury) that keeps me from doing everything I want, nevertheless, I have others that are willing to help me with what I need to do.
  • My daughter's seemly constant obsession with things disappoints me, nevertheless, I have an intelligent and caring daughter.
  • Prepping for the holidays really stresses me out, nevertheless, I enjoy the season and am able to relax after everything is done.
  • My spouse  always watching sports is annoying, nevertheless, he is a good husband and loves me unconditionally,
For some examples related to the job and more on this theory, visit 2bProductive post Nevertheless, Adjusting Attitude at Work.  If you are willing to share other statements you would make, please add them in the comments for this post.  Thanks!

Old Fashioned Pie Recipes: Buttermilk and ShooFly

Below are two more old-fashion pies: Buttermilk or ShooFly.  Check out the history of shoofly pie.To see the other pie, go to Butterscotch post

Buttermilk Pie

3 eggs
1 and 2/3 cups sugar
4 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 stick margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar

1. Beat eggs and sugar.  Add flour and beat well.
2. Beat in buttermilk, vanilla, and vinegar.  Beat well.
3. Pour into unbaked pie shell.  Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.  

EXTRA:  For a buttermilk pie that does not require a crust consider the Bisquick Buttermilk Pie also called Impossible Buttermilk Pie.

Texas ShooFly Pie

1 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon shortening or margarine
3/4 cup hot water
1 cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
1 9-inch single crust pie shell*

1. Combine flour, brown sugar, and shortening.  Using pastry blender, make into crumbs. Set aside.
2. Combine molasses, hot water, egg, and dissolved baking soda.  Mix well.
3. Reserve some crumbs.  Stir most of the crumbs into liquid.
4. Pour mixture into pie crust and top with reserved crumbs.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. 

NOTE:  This pie is typically made in an uncooked pie crust so it is chewy.  However, if you want a more crispy crust, you may pre-bake your pie crust for 10 minutes to get it slightly brown and then reduce heat for complete pie baking.

EXTRAS:  If you want to get the kids giggling, make and serve Apple Pan Dowdy pie too for a family gathering - be sure to play the song Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy!  Or try the Bisquick Apple Pie Dowdy cobbler version instead.  Want another funny-names pie?  Try Sawdust Pie.

Grandma's Recipe: Yeast Buns

In the past, I mentioned my quest to find family biscuit and roll recipes for us to make now.  I shared Grandma’s Favorite Biscuit recipe in another post.  For the upcoming holiday season, below is my Grandma’s Yeast Bun recipe from an old Church Cookbook.  I’m still looking for my Mom’s Yeast Roll recipe – I will know it when I see it.  Mom’s was a popular recipe she adapted as a school cafeteria recipe when she worked there so the portions should be marked for both large and small groups.

Grandma Parrish’s Yeast Buns

Wet Mix:
1 package Dry Yeast
1 and 1/3 cups warm water
Dry Mix:
3 cups flour
2/3 cup powdered milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons shortening
Butter or Margarine

1.     Prep Wet Mix: Put yeast powder in warm water.  Let set 5 minutes.  Stir to dissolve.
2.     Prep Dry Mix:  Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix in shortening well.
3.     Combine Mixes: Pour liquid over dry mix.  Mix on low speed for 12 to 15 minutes.
4.     Dough Rising: Cover dough with warm towel; set bowl in unheated oven for 1 hour.   Remove dough from oven.  Place dough on floured bread board.  Knead with floured hands until firm (only few minutes). Roll out and cut with biscuit cutter.  Place on buttered cookie sheet. Put back in unheated oven for 20 minutes.
6.     Bake and Butter:  Do NOT open oven; turn thermostat to 425 degrees. Bake until lightly brown (about 20 minutes*).  Remove from oven.  Split each bun and fill with a pat of butter or margarine. Brush tops of buns with (melted) butter or margarine and serve hot.

-  Sorry, she did not mention the number of rolls this makes, so let me know how many you get and what size biscuit cutter you used so I can add that to this posting.
* Grandma had an old gas oven, so be sure to turn on your oven light and watch your baking time about 15 minutes so you don’t burn or under-cook yours if you are using electric or convection oven. 

Aunt Margaret's Dessert Recipes: Banana Pudding and Butterscotch Pie

My great aunt Margaret was known as the guitar player at her Church and a most-excellent seamstress by her family.  She was also know as a great cook.  Below are two dessert recipes she shared. 

Banana Pudding Supreme

1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups whole milk
1 (6-oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (12-oz) box Vanilla Wafers cookies
1 (8-oz) carton Cool Whip whipped topping
4 bananas, sliced and dipped in Real Lemon juice*

1. Cream the cream cheese until smooth in large bowl.
2. Mix pudding mix with whole milk; add in condensed milk.  
3. Add pudding/milk mixture to cream cheese.  Fold in half of the Cool Whip. and mix well together.
4. Layer pudding mixture, cookies, and bananas in dish; top with remaining Cool Whip
5. Chill.

*NOTES:  lemon juice prevents blackening too soon and gives it a good flavor
If you need more, double the recipe!

Butterscotch Pies 

4 egg yolks (save whites for meringues)
6 Tablespoons cornstarch 
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
1 cup light brown sugar
4 Tablespoons margarine
2 pie crusts

1. Mix all ingredients, except margarine, together and cook over low heat.
2. Add margarine and let cool; ,ix well together.
3. Pour into 2 baked pie shells.
4. Beat egg whites into meringue and cover top of pies,  Brown in oven.
5, Let the pie stand at room temperature in a draft-free spot before serving.*

*NOTE: Do not refrigerate pie immediately as it may make meringue weep (water on top).  However, after a few hours pie will need to be refrigerated.

Perfect for Holidays: Squash Dressing

Last year, I provided a Corn Sausage Dressing recipe.  This year, the recipe is a little more vegetarian as it does not include meat, except for the chicken broth in the canned soup of course.  This one takes a little more work than the last recipe, however it is more traditional southern fare for the holidays.  We use yellow summer squash or crookneck squashes in this recipe.  We have never substituted other versions of summer squash. However, if you are limited to the types of squash you can get, you may want to try. 

Squash Dressing Recipe

1 package (6 oz) cornbread mix, prepared and baked as directed
2 cups milk
2 pounds yellow squash
¼ cup water
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped onion
2 Tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 can (10 oz) cream of chicken soup
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.       Cook squash in water in covered saucepan until tender.  Drain and mash.
3.       Crumble cornbread into milk.  Set aside.
4.       Sauté’ celery and onion in margarine, until tender.
5.       Add pepper, soup, poultry seasoning, and squash.
6.       Stir in cornbread mixture.
7.       Pour into 2 quart casserole dish.  Bake 1 hour or until set.

No Nation under Satan – Pray Before You Vote

It hurts me when I hear someone say they are “voting for the lesser of two evils” in an election.  This feeling applies whether the voting is for city, county, state, or national.  I understand that some feel there is “no such thing as an honest politician.”  After all, we have seen some get away with libelous lies, broken promises, cheating, theft, corruption, and even treason because others have excused or pardoned instead of going forward with criminal prosecution.  It is no wonder that some feel evil has taken the reigns in politics and that it is the level of demon verses saint we have to choose.

However, there are some out there who really care about the people they represent, their home state, and their country.  They care about the same things we do.  So do not listen to name calling and blaming, instead read where they stand on the real issues.  Who agrees with you on most things?  If you are a live citizenVote for the right person, not the lesser version.  Do not listen to the loud accusations or protestations by a disrespectful few - instead turn to your own personal, faith, and family values to make a choice.  Who agrees with you on most things?  Vote for the best person, not the “politically correct” version.  

Remember your vote counts.  The United States is a republic with democratic principles (not a party-line). We are not ruled by communism or socialism.  We have mostly elected officials that we can re-instate or replace in the next election.  As a country, we claim “one nation under God” in our pledge and foundation. We are not a nation under dictatorship or a monarchy.  We have no devilish person running things.  If we want to keep it that way, we need to vote.  If we want to make sure we vote correctly, we need to pray before we vote! Please, pray before you vote.

C.S.Lewis said “Aim at heaven and you will get earth.  Aim at earth and you will get neither.”  In other words, if we want to remain under God and not risk becoming under Satan – we all really need topray for the nation and our leaders.  

Fashion Eyes: Smokey or Rose - Black or Pink?

Rose Shadow with Lavender Liner
There are some really beautiful eye make-up choices out there.  See 25 Best Eye Makeup Tutorials for  a few of those. A really bad idea that came out some years ago was using green mascara along with the lid shadowed in either the same shade or slightly lighter shade of green.  This style looked like mold dripping from the wearer's eyes. Whereas a dark blue mascara can provide a more elegant evening look.  Best advice for dramatic eyes, skip the new mascara colors that can make you look sickly and stick with classic black or dark browns.

A few years back it was the smokey eye,  which started out as soft browns and a little smudging of liner.  Somewhere along the way, people overdid this style to enhance the goth look with thick black rings all around the eye.  Instead of looking mysterious, it looked more like they were in a fight and left with a black eye.  I assume the  sunken and sullen look caused by the black eye was supposed to give a more walking dead zombie look. So maybe it still works for Halloween, but otherwise it is an outdated look.

Now the smokey eye has moved into the rose eyes look, using pink or peach tones instead of brown or black.  Smudging may be soft blues or purples under the eye, caution if using dark pinks or reds is not a good look.  Unfortunately, when overdone by circling all around the eye, this look makes one think the person has pinkeye.  That is contagious disease most people would prefer not to catch.