Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crafty Christmas

I have a few reasons for wanting to give handmade Christmas gifts this year. First and foremost, I have the craft itch. Bad. I'm devouring blog after blog of good project ideas. Second, it's nigh impossible to shop with the twins. Either one baby or the other is screaming our way through the store or they're taking up all the space in the cart (or stroller) leaving little room for my purchases. Third, I think handmade gifts are more memorable and meaningful. You give of yourself when you give a gift made by your own hands.

I made this embroidered heart ornament for my mother-in-law. My parents-in-law's Christmas tree has many homemade ornaments by their three sons. I hope my ornament is given a nice spot on their tree. Maybe even on a branch out in front. Best of all, my mother-in-law witnessed the care and attention I put into the heart as I did a lot of the work at her house last weekend. She even helped me with the french knots. This was my first attempt at embroidery, and I'm overall very pleased with the result. Can I just say that blanket stitch is really cool.

My inspiration came from It has a tutorial for making embroidered felt ornaments. Thanks Sunshine's Creations!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Giving Thanks

I wasn't sure I was up to making a big production of Thanksgiving this year. Taking care of our 7-month-old twins and 3-year-old keeps me so harried that the very idea of shopping and cooking was making my head a little squirrely. But I did it, and it was good. Making holiday memories for my kids, and thankfulness for my abundant blessings kept me going.

Let me share a couple of things that really made a difference to my meal preparation. These are steps that I plan to do again next year. Hope they help you.

1) First, about a week before T'gvg, I roasted a whole chicken for dinner. From that bird, I made the most amazing, dark-brown chicken stock. That stock went into our stuffing, and man was it flavorful.

2) Last Monday, I went to a potluck dinner with a youth group with which I volunteer (since the twins, I've spent a lot less time volunteering - go figure). I brought corn bread. I had a whole 9x13 pan of cornbread left over. Guess where that went...into the stuffing! I've never made a cornmeal stuffing so it was a fun change to our traditional menu.

3) For the potluck, I also made a compound maple butter (whisk some maple syrup and a dash of salt into a stick of butter). Maybe it was a little too unusual for this crowd because I had an entire ramekin to take home. The kids preferred the big tub o'butter. So I took my maple butter and rubbed it all over our turkey before baking. The maple syrup may be why our gravy drippings were so dark in color. It was delicious.

4) My final suggestion to you and my future self is to start cooking on Tuesday like I did this year. I made the stuffing, cranberry sauce and pies days ahead. That left cooking the turkey, gravy and squash on the actual Day. (My mom brought the potatoes.) It made for a more leisurely day not spent entirely in the kitchen sweating over a hot stove.

But I must remember to hide the pies from my son next year. Check out what happened to my first pumpkin pie. When I asked him why he ate my pie, he said, "because it tasted so good." Now how can I be mad at that?!?