Soups Using Velveeta Cheese Plus Other Soup Choices

If you have checked out the food option for this blog, you know we make a lot of soups because they are usually quick and easy.  The last few months have been perfect soup weather.  As a result we have tried out some richly flavored soups that use Velveeta Cheese as their base.  Below are links to some of the recipes we tried and like well enough to make again.

If you have tried any of these soups and have improvement suggestions or have another recipe you would like to recommend we try, please provide that in the comments of this post.

If you love soup too, you may want to review some of our step-by-step recipes for these soups:

Beading and Making Jewelry Tips

Beading Examples
If you are a beginning or expert jewelry maker, you probably appreciate tips to help you do better.  I know I do.  The thing  I wonder about most is how many beads per inch does it take to make a necklace or bracelet without knotting. Even if you plan to knot between beads or pearls, you need to buy close to the same number of beads per inch as the final knot size will depend on the thickness of the beading cord.  Beading needles and cords are also different materials and sizes depending on the width of the hole inside the bead and the best cord material for type of bead.  Since seed beads (also called Czech beads or glass beads) come in a factory size rather than mm size, you need to either use a different reference or check seed bead packing for mm conversion and hole circumference.  (See video on how to knot.)

If not knotting, you can consider wire instead of cord for stringing beads to produce a necklace that may not have to be restrung later (cording eventually frays and breaks).  Using different sizes of wire for bead types will require purchasing crimp beads to use near clasp to keep wire from coming loose and provide a finished look.  Do not just pick a pretty clasp or toggle for your project, instead choose the best clasp and crimp for each jewelry project.

For more jewelry making tips, see my posts on Jewelry Creation and Repair Tips and Images plus how to videos in How to Repair a Broken Link in Chain of Necklace and How to Repair or Make a Stretch Bracelet.

For bead and tool shopping tips and warnings, consider my posts Beads and beading are the IN things to doGem Shows or Bead Stringing Heaven and Gem and Jewelry Show Two.

Hand-painted Leather Handbags

Do you want a fashionable handbag that is different form everyone else?  Do you like hand-made items that have that one-of-a-kind look?  Do you know someone who loves carrying a new purse evyerday?  Then you may be interested in the leather handbags by Anuschka or Sukriti for yourself or as gifts.

Thanks to shopping channels, everyone has easy-access to those expensive hand-painted leather purses and accessories.  The most famous in department stores is Anuschka with offices in the USA (NJ) and England (London) and India factories.  View their manufacturing process in 7 minute video below.   Anushka factories also produce the Anna brand.  Typically the handbags, wallets, shoes and more sold on shopping channels (  are designs or colors made especially for them.  The advantage to shopping channels over the manufacturer website or a department store is pricing and payments options.  Typically the shopping channels will offer a payment plan on a major credit card (mastercard/visa) or through their own card so you do not have to pay all at once. Wherever you purchase a new Anuschka handbag, it typically comes with a tote-type bag to keep it in as a dust cover. The shopping channel also has leather wallets by Buxton, embellished handbags by Sharif,

There is a newer option for hand-painted leather bags, accessories, and belts called Sukriti.  It is also made in India but only sold via shopping channels ( for about $100 less than the above options..  The Sukriti brand produces multi-color scenes similar to Anushka but with an ombre effect on many of their purse handles.  The  newly purchased Sukriti leather purse options typically come a dust-cover bag as well,   Sukriti also has another line called Vivid, which is dyed pattern brand rather than hand painted images. You can see a tour of the Sukriti factory by going to this video.  Another leather handbag option that is not Sukriit on this shopping channel is woven bags under the brand Chaas by Elsie.

Both Anushka and Sukriti guarantee that their dyes will not run/bleed or transfer onto your clothing.  If anyone reading this blog has a comment regarding quality of either brand to share, please add a comment to this blog post to help others make the best decision.

Coral is 2019 Color of the Year

Protected Living Sponge Coral
Harvested Dead Bamboo Coral

Pantone color of the year for 2019 is called Living Coral.

The color name is an attempt to bring thoughts of nature and the environment into our lives (see prior colors for 2016-2017 and 2014 or 2011).  Coral is a vibrant, yet soft pinkish-orange.  It is the color most think of when they hear the word coral.  CORAL is the color that invokes thoughts of cameos for jewelry lovers, although most will think RED for a coral bead necklace.  It is an easier color for many people to pull off than the bright tangerine choice of 2012.  Check out coral or go lighter by adding peach for home decor, office supplies, and fashion (see Vogue slideshow).

If you are interested in knowing about the different types of coral, see short read  on Corals vs. Sponges.

Gemstones Rarest vs. Most Expensive - Top Ten Gems?

I thought it would be interesting to find out what the most rare gemstones are.  When searching I found lots of varying opinions, which I assume were due to the posts being different years and newer discoveries or older mines playing out.  Some considered one-location gemstones rare even though the site may produce tons of stones.  There were also differing opinions on which were the ten most expensive, some of the confusion being caused by sites counting down 10 to 1 or up 1 to 10.  Values were based on what the store sites were selling stones for or the current appraised value - so always search for current year pricing.  Diamonds showed up most lists, although they are not RARE, they are usually the most expensive because they are the hardest gemstone and are very refractive.  I tried to find an infographic I could use, but the ones I liked were copyrighted.

Many of the sites were just copies of others, of the sites that were different the 10 most repeated gemstones (in no particular order) are:
- Diamond (although different colors were featured) 
- Alexandrite
- Black Opal
- Bixbite (red beryl)
- Tanzanite
- Jadeite
- Taaffeite
- Benitoite
- Musgravite
- Painte
Under expensive also included were Emerald (green beryl),  Ruby, and Sapphire. Under rare included were Poudretteite and Grandederite.

Below is a list of the best links I found that contain either great photos of the gems or the most detailed information.
  10 Most Valuable Gemstones in the World photos from Pearl Source 2018
  Top 10 Investment Gems photos from AJS Gems 2018
  10 of the World’s Rarest Gemstones photos from Mental Floss 2016
  The World’s Top 10 Rarest and Most Expensive Gemstones photos from True Facet 2015
  Top 10 World’s Rarest Gems infographic from SEO Surfer 2015
  The Most Expensive Gemstones in the World infographic from Gem Coach 2013

Trauma and Drama - What do you see as a Christmas story?

A different view of the Christmas story from Luke 1:26-2:39 in the Holy Bible was presented by the pastor of Victorious Life Church from the perspective of the earthly parents of Jesus.  Below are quotes from part of his sermon, the words in brackets are mine to help explain the preceding word.

"The Christmas story is too often misread. The words aren't misread, but the context [circumstance, scene, background, situation] is. We interpret is as though they knew [Joy of Jesus] what we know [Jesus' life of Wisdom, Miracles, and Teaching, followed by: Persecution, Crucifixion, Ascension, Salvation].  We sterilize it; we filter out the emotions [troubled, fearful, concerned, anxious] they were feeling." - Pastor Mark Akers

Takeaway:  "What we've been given [Salvation through Christ] is greater than anything we go through."

If you are having or expecting "trauma and drama" this Christmas, below is the song "The Most Inconvenient Christmas" by the Oak Ridge Boys to put things into a better perspective.  At this time, you can only get the song as MP3, it is not on the 

The Oak Ridge Boys ChristmasCelebrate ChristmasChristmas Time's A-Coming CDs/LPs.

Keep Christ in Christmas with a Capital C, not an X?

I often hear people complaining about Xmas replacing CHRISTmas.  Ok, I understand they think that example is taking Christ out of the holiday by shortening the official holiday term for marketing purposes.  However, the way it was explained to me is that the X is also called a cross, so that is supposed to keep Christ in since He died on the Cross.   (See also The X In Xmas Is Really About Jesus Christ.)  So are we supposed to read Xmas aloud as CROSSmas? Not the merriest/happiest or most thoughtful phrase for a birthday celebration.  Also, I got to wonder why was MAS (formerly Mass) was left in the term, as it implies a religious celebration?

Now the all-inclusive advertising/PC phrase has changed again.  Instead of "Merry Christmas" we are supposed to say "Happy Holidays."  Didn't the word holiday from from Holy Day?  (See also Happy Holidays: How Did We Get to This?.)   Some believe the reason is so retailer could lump Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year together for a longer selling timeline (noticing more Santa/Snowman decorations come out in October this year).  Isn't that moving even further from the reason for the season?  JESUS is the REASON for the SEASON of Christmas!  We are told this in the Go Fish song and comedy routine "Christmas with a capital C".  Below is video of just the singing part along with the song lyrics printed out.

See also post Where did all the Nativities go?

Christmas Reindeer Cookies from Gingerbread Man Shape

Last week, I shared a post on making gingerbread houses and trees instead of the usual gingerbread men.  Below is a video with another Christmas gingerbread alternative - in under a minute it shows how to take your gingerbread man cookie cutter, turn it upside down and with a little frosting creativity you can make it into reindeer heads.  Such a cute idea that kids will love to help with.  You can let small children make eyes and nose with M&M candies or chocolate morsels instead of  doing it with frosting.  Or buy different colors of frosting tubes so older children can easily do all the drawing. For recipe and step-by-step instructions, go to Food Network's Gingerbread Reindeer recipe.  If you come up with other ideas for how to decorate reindeer, feel free to share in comments and if you desire include photo or link.

Thumb Print Cookies plus Other Holiday Food and Decorating Ideas

BHG Magazine, Dec, 2018 issue
My son and I used to make cookies together for Christmas aech year until he went off to college.  His favorite was our Christmas Tree sugar cookies and his second favorite to make were Thumbprint Cookies.  We usually stuck with traditional Hershey Kisses in the center, although we tried different flavors and stripped versions various years.  My Grandmother used to make Thumprint Cookies with jams or preserves in the center.  My son and I would have loved to try the different variations and flavors for Thumbprints from Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  If you do not like the idea of pushing your thumb into cookie for indention, you may use the bottom of a small measuring spoon or melon baller.

There were other recipes in the December 2018 magazine issue that would work for Christmas brunch or a Holiday Desserts party.  If you plan either, check the magazine out at a local newsstand to make sure there are at least two recipes you want before spending $4 on the Christmas issue.

There are also some cute ideas for decorating party tables with mini-trees.  The most colorful version of trees uses real and simulated candies, but I don't recommend use it for a kid's party as they are not edible and you never know if a child will try to take a bite!  If you want edible, check out previous cookie tree posts on this blog.  If you do not want to bother making your own decorations, you can get cute glitter or tinsel cone-shaped trees in various sizes and colors at many discount or drug stores.

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.