I’m baaaaaccccccckkkkkkkkkkk

Well I want to be back anyway. I have dozens of started-but-not-finished posts that I should dust off, add some photos, and post. Buuuttttt instead I’m gonna go ahead and share one of my favorite holiday recipes because I feel you’ve earned it. And it is super easy and involves cranberries and rum.

Without further ado, I offer you my top secret recipe…

Cranberry Infused Rum

You need exactly two ingredients:

1. Bag of cranberries

2. Rum (or any kind of booze you want)

Directions:
– Chop the cranberries (I use my pampered chef chopper because it is easy but you can also just use a knife. The goal is to just rough up the cranberries so the skins are pierced.) Put chopped berries into a jar – I guess it is about a cup of chopped berries.
– Fill the jar with rum

 

– Put a lid on the jar and wait a few days.
I also recommend saving your rum bottle so you can re-use it for the flavored rum.

After the berries have infused for a few days (or as long as you want to wait), strain out the berries.
In my experience, there’s no wrong way to enjoy cranberry rum. One of my favorites is to serve it in ginger ale with a lime garnish.

 Cheers! 

 

Homemade Christmas coming my way

Pardon while I brag about some of my favorite people… sometimes I can’t help myself.

1419My nephew Geno made me this awesome frame for Christmas. (Well, he bought the frame and then embellished it). He had the idea and gathered the pieces, but admitted that he had Lucy glue everything together because “she’s better with a glue gun.” Not surprising somehow. The frame came with a note in it saying it was for my best camping pictures (of the kids camping at my house). I sure love my camping gang! So I printed up this awesome picture of the camping gang on Stick Day last spring and it is now hanging in the newly painted sewing room. And yes, this was my favorite gift because it comes straight from the heart and crafty little people that I love. DSC_2321

I also got homemade Christmas fudge (ish). It tasted like chocolate chips melted with candy cane bits on top (from Lucy). And Jane made the pups their own baggies of homemade dog treats. Always a favorite at our house.

My other favorite gift was the wise men for my Willow Tree nativity. I LOVE IT. I mean yes, I put it on my Christmas list, but I’m super excited to have gotten it. Now I want to build a stable to go with the whole set… (#ifyougiveamouseacookie)

Homemade Christmas Round Up

DSC_0048I think I last mentioned my overly optimistic Homemade Christmas plans back in November. Here’s what I managed to make for Christmas for the various nieces, nephews, and godchildren:

13 pairs of flannel pants
2 dinosaur sweatshirts
2 dinosaur hooded towels (finished and sent after New Year’s)
3 fleece jedi robes (finished and sent after New Year’s)

The gifts were well received, seemed to fit fairly well, and have been appreciated.DSC_0676IMG_8585DSC_0688

 

 

 

 

I made (and then had professionally printed) the extended family calendar (with a HUGE thanks to mysister Fiona who made three of the months for me!!!!). The count is  81 birthdays right now. 81 birthdays! 81 people to find photos of and put into the proper months! It is a significant undertaking and I was quite late on starting this year, 734758_10151404564884583_937545644_nbut it is also a really good reminder of God’s faithfulness to this family. Every year I think a lot about my grandma (who passed away 15 years ago) and how pleased she must be at her legacy. Every time the family is gathered together lately, I can almost see her there smiling and laughing at all the antics and the fun.

DSC_0632Righto, back to the homemade gift situation. I helped my siblings re-felt my dad’s pool table as his gift (not as easy as I’d hoped but a worthwhile endeavor). We’re working on raising another generation of pool sharks and it is always fun to get beaten by Grandpa Gene, who even at 92, can usually beat anyone.

I did end up buying the goddaughters their gifts, as I suspected may happen and have one small godson whose gift I’ve had since Thanksgiving and I haven’t managed to mail it. Thankfully he will never know the difference.

IMG_9204Shout out to my dear friend Karen who sewed pants with me one night and helped me finish the seams of the dino towels. Part of me wants to get a serger and learn how to do that myself and most of me is happy to have an excuse to hang out with one of my favorite people doing an activity we both love.

Making the gifts was quite enjoyable because it gives me a great excuse to do something cozy and creative on these dark winter evenings, for some of my favorite little people. Though I can’t say it was all accomplished on time, I am going to say that Homemade Christmas was a success.

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Homemade Gifts … the optimistic beginnings

IMG_8549 Every year I have the same struggle: To make or not to make. And yes, of course, I want to MAKE ALL THE THINGS. Because for some reason, it feels more meaningful if I make a gift for a loved one. Especially if it will be cozy and useful too.

IMG_8558Some of my early memories are making gifts for people I loved. I was wicked fast on that loom and made potholders for all of my favorite aunts and uncles and grandparents. Probably several years in a row even. When we were in middle school, my sister and I would set up a folding table in the dank dark back room of the basement and manufacture Christmas gifts. We made plaster of paris magnets that we painted carefully. Another year we made pom pom with googly eyes magnets. We made pasta noodle angel ornaments. We made nativities out of that twisted paper stuff with spanish moss hair. And our beloved family never made us feel stupid for the chintzy crafts we did. In fact, those lovely magnets graced their refrigerators for years, making me feel as thought I’d made some important contribution for years to come. (Thank you to those kind relatives who used ugly potholders and displayed my meager crafty contributions with such generosity).

IMG_8588For every baby that comes into my life, I want to run out and buy gobs of flannel (or cotton, depending on the day) and sew that new baby a new blanket. Sadly I am constantly constrained by finding TIME to actually make said blanket (especially when people in my life are having babies constantly!) (If you ever wonder why I have a ridiculous fabric stash, this is why. Buy the fabric, run out of time, buy a gift, stash the fabric for next time). This summer there was a baby shower for my cousin’s first baby. I felt wretched that I didn’t have time to make anything and even worse resorted to a gift card because there wasn’t a lot left on the registry and I didn’t have time to sort through it all. Does giving a gift card mean I don’t love my cousin and his wife and their new baby?? Nope. I gave it with the love and generosity of my heart. I’m thrilled to welcome their baby into the world and into this big, beautiful family. On the other hand, I was embracing the reality in my own life (limitations– always limitations) and also figured new parents can always use diaper money, amiright? Nonetheless, I felt bad because my impulse is to make something meaningful. And as sweet as that is, I’m also recognizing that I need to let go of feeling bad about my limitations.

IMG_8553This brings me back to Christmas. I want to make something for all the little people in my life. Duh. But again, time and money folks, the struggle is real. Last year I started making plushies (homemade stuffed animals) for all the nieces and nephews, but didn’t even manage to get them made for all the in town kids, much less the far away kids. I just couldn’t do it, no matter how hard I tried. And believe me, I tried!

Well, the calendar tells me that Christmas is a mere 45 days away and of course my brain is racing and I’m perusing my sizable fabric stash to see what I can make in that time.  The count right now looks like 15 nieces and nephews, 6 godchildren, and of course, the family calendar.

IMG_8592Rather than looking at the impossibility of that on top of my full time job, full time life, and several home improvement projects and a million leaves to deal with, I’m going to be optimistic and report that I’m actually getting somewhere on Christmas gifts… IN NOVEMBER! Way to go Reenie. Not to mention that now that it is dark all evening, every evening, it is good for the soul to have other things to work on, rather than curl up under a blanket and wish it wasn’t so dark.
So far I’ve made two dinosaur sweatshirts for godsons, coordinated with the godfather for a third godson’s gift, and bought something for #4 godson. Woooo. Not everything will be homemade and it doesn’t mean that there’s not love and meaning behind the gifts (yes, I’m reminding myself of this). I’ve got overly optimistic ideas for the two goddaughters (MAKE ALL THE THINGS) and a plan for what to purchase if I can’t actually get things made (this seems like the likely outcome). Sunday night I cut out 10 pairs of flannel pants (that is 2/3 of the nieces and nephews). And last night, while hanging out with a dear friend who happens to own a serger, the two of us assembled ALL of those pants. Now I just have lots of hemming and adding elastic… and getting 5 more pairs cut out and sewn. Nothing I make will be perfect, but it is made because I love those munchkins and I hope they know it!

IMG_8551So I am embracing reality in my life and reporting to you, my dear reader, that I am, as usual, a work in progress. I am making incredibly optimistic plans for a lot of homemade Christmas, but realistic enough to say that I probably won’t get as far as I want to because there is a lot of life going on and I’m going to work on embracing that too.
Happy 45 days of Make-All-The-Things before Christmas (or perhaps it should be Embrace-all-the-reality-and-go-buy-some-gifts).

Traditions

I love Christmas and I love Christmas traditions. I have to admit that our family traditions have morphed quite a bit in the past years as the family grows and changes. One of my current favorite traditions is our immediate family celebration: Cousino Fondue Fest. We’ve been doing it during the day on Christmas Eve. Everyone brings various fondue ingredients and dip-ables, we cook the fondues together, and then begin the long process of eating our meal. It is nice because we have other family parties with the big traditional dinners, so this is different and delicious.

This was the first year my sister and her family participated since they have been out of state when we started this tradition. I asked Ben (10) what he thought of it, “I wish we had been part of this tradition before.” If that isn’t a rousing endorsement, I’m not sure what is.

We set the big dining room table up with fondue pots in the middle, and dip-ables surrounding them. We label the fondue forks with names on labels, set out small plates, and just have at it.

Here’s the fondue round up:
Cheese fondue – adult version – wine, swiss, gruyere (AMAZING)
Cheese fondue – kid version – either cheddar or monterrey jack cheese
Meat fondue – turkey / chicken / beef broth, garlic, salt and pepper
Chocolate fondue

Dip-ables:

  • Bread cubes
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • asparagus
  • broccoli (pre-steamed)
  • carrots
  • apples
  • oranges
  • strawberries
  • pineapple
  • bananas
  • marshmallows
  • pretzels
  • pound cake cubes
  • cookies
  • anything else you can think of to dip!

Dinner takes a long time as everyone dips and munches but it is a lot of fun. Usually after the gift opening, round two happens where people graze through again.

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