Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Barbecue Sauce Shortcut

Dear cooks who are all more prescient than I,

Have you ever realized at the last second that you didn't have something you needed for dinner?  Surely not; but it happens to me often enough! 

If you're planning to make some meatloaf, or a few steaks, or some pork chops and onions and just realized you don't have any barbecue sauce - fear not!  I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be for all men. 

Behold, you can make your own fake barbecue sauce very rapidly.  I always employ the method of honest cheating whenever I can to save time or a buck! 

Surprised Cook Barbecue Sauce
Homemade barbecue sauce is actually pretty easy, and you can get some great sauces with a few additional steps like sauteing onions and blending them ... but the point of this sauce is to save the day in just a few hasty seconds, so it's the bare-bones simple version - and it is oh so good.  Just cut out all the fancy parts and you have this short recipe! 

Spoon or squirt a cup of ketchup into a small saucepan (you can use store-bought or home-made).  Add a few spoonfuls of brown sugar and pour in a few tablespoons of cider or white vinegar.  Add a dash of hot sauce if you wish.  Heat to almost boiling, stirring very frequently or constantly.  

Serve hot or cold.  

Making up for lost time, 

Mrs H

Free Download

Cookbook Recipe List by Mrs H ... In the interest of not forgetting things, I like to keep lists!  I enjoy going through a new cookbook and writing out a list of all the recipes in that book that I'd like to try in the immediate future. I usually choose things that have ingredients I normally stock in my pantry, and sometimes I'll make a note if I'll need to buy something that I might not have fresh or in stock like "peaches" or something.  Download the simple recipe list here; or download the recipe list with grocery notes here.

Bookmarks by Mrs H ... Don't lose your place with these familiar little Dotal Anecdotes bookmarks!  Download set one or set two.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lunch Stop: Sandwich Haven

Dear lunch-plate-makers and school-break-takers,

Sandwiches are easy to make, easy to transport, and pretty much everybody likes them.

But sometimes it's fun to have some new ideas, no matter how simple!   I'll share a few of our favorite sandwiches, just in case you haven't heard of them.

Tomato Sandwich
I first had this at a friend's house years ago.  They brought a bunch of tomatoes in the from the garden, and their mom whacked together a stack of these in a few seconds.  I was hooked for life.  Every time I suggest them, people would say, "Gross! That sounds so boring, no way!"  But everybody who's eaten one has asked for more ... 

2 slices bread

Slice the tomato.  If you like, blot on a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.  Spread mayonnaise on both pieces of bread.  Layer one piece of bread with tomato (I like many thin slices; Mr H likes four fat slices), and sandwich the other piece on top, mayo-side down.  Slice in half and enjoy.

Cucumber Sandwich
My aunt made these for a little tea party one day, and cut them into darling triangle wedges.  I fell in love. 

2 slices bread

Slice the cucumber thinly.  Spread mayonnaise on both pieces of bread.  Layer one piece with cucumbers, as much as you like, and sandwich the other piece on top, mayo-side down.  Slice in half or into darling triangle wedges and enjoy.

Fried Egg Sandwich 
When we were first dating, Mr H and I would go running together and afterwards he would make these for lunch.  I like my eggs soft-cooked - he likes his with no runny yolk.  You can make a sandwich with 1 egg if you like, instead of 2.  

2 eggs
2 slices bread, lightly toasted

Heat and grease a skillet; fry both eggs to your preference.  Before flipping, sprinkle with fresh-ground pepper.  Spread mayonnaise on both pieces of bread.  Set both fried eggs on one piece of bread; sandwich the other piece on top, mayo-side down.  If your eggs are soft, do not slice the sandwich.

Bacon and Egg Sandwich
Once when my mom was pregnant, I remember that she wasn't feeling too well for while.  So every night, Dad took charge in the kitchen - and every night, to us kids' delight, we had bacon and egg sandwiches!  We couldn't get enough of them!  Dad would come downstairs in his Bacon Shirt - a red plaid shirt so dubbed because he wore it every night when he was cooking.  He'd heat up the huge griddle, and we would stand eagerly watching as he fried spattering pieces of bacon and bubbling eggs one after another and plated sandwiches for all of us.

2 eggs
2 slices bacon
2 slices bread, lightly toasted

Heat and grease a skillet; fry eggs and bacon to your preference.  Before flipping, sprinkle with fresh-ground pepper.  Spread mayonnaise on both pieces of bread.  Set both fried eggs on one piece of bread, top with both slices of bacon; sandwich the other piece on top, mayo-side down.  If your eggs are soft, do not slice the sandwich.

Bologna Sandwich
When I bite into this sandwich, two memories rush to mind.  One is of my Dad making a plate of bologna sandwiches on the glass cutting board while I sat in the high chair at the table.  The other is of eating these at my Grandma Oregon's house whenever I go up there to visit. 

Thinly sliced cucumber
Bologna or cold cooked meat
Sliced Cheese
2 slices bread

Spread mayonnaise on one piece of the bread.  Spread mustard on the other piece.  Layer the cucumbers on one piece of bread.  Stack on top: two pieces of lettuce (a whole leaf, broken in half so there is a crunchy layer and a leafy layer), one piece of bologna or cold cooked meat, and one slice of cheese.  Sandwich the piece of mustard bread on top.  Slice in half and serve.

Mr H loves BLT sandwiches.  "More of the L and T!" he always asks when I start assembling.  

2 pieces bacon
1 leaf lettuce
One half tomato, sliced
2 pieces bread

Cook the bacon and cut each piece in half so there are four short pieces.  Blot with a paper towel to remove excess grease.  Spread mayonnaise on both pieces of bread.  On one piece, layer the tomato slices.  Set the four slices of bacon on top, and top with the lettuce.  Sandwich the other piece of bread on top, mayonnaise side down.  Slice in half with a sharp knife.  Enjoy!

BLT Variation - Miz Carmen style
One night after a long, long day of canning, Miz Carmen announced that it was time for a family tradition.  I didn't regret joining in! 

BLT ingredients as listed above
Peanut butter

Make the BLT as instructed above, except instead of spreading mayonnaise on each side of bread, spread mayonnaise on only one piece of bread.  Spread the other piece with peanut butter.  Sandwich together, slice with a sharp knife, and float to heaven as you enjoy.

Editorial Correction:  I received this letter from Miz Carmen shortly after posting.  My apologies to the family for posting the recipe incorrectly!  "The Mohr Family Folly (the Bacon-Tomato-Peanut Butter-Mayo Sandwich) has NO LETTUCE." So I guess we really have two BLT variations here - because Mr H and I like it with lettuce, too!  

Delicious Lunch

You can serve these sandwiches with individual Jell-O or fruit cups.

Follow the meal with a delightful snack of graham-cracker cookies And if you're hunting for good lunch-snacks, here's a cookie-treat from Bakers Royale that only takes two ingredients - Cookies and Cream Breakaway!

Putting it all together,

Mrs H

Free Download

12 Month Calendar ... Ann Voskamp has created a beautiful downloadable 12-month calendar.  Read the blog about it here, or jump straight to her PDF download here.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Do You Believe ... ?

Dear sincere readers,

Surely I wasn't the only one who was ridiculously foolish as a child, right?

But I have so many examples from my own life that sometimes I do wonder if I had an exceptional degree of block-headedness.

I remember standing in the foyer of our little church when I was just a child.  I remember particularly that there was a book rack with a Clifford the Big Red Dog book on it.  I loved those books when I was growing up, although I found it a little hard to believe that any dog could be so huge, or so red.

It was probably this very book cover that inspired the following conversation that shocked me to my core.  This book was published in 1991, so if it was on the book shelf as a new book, I would have been about four or five years old.

One of the "big girls" approached me as we were all putting on our coats to go out into the wintery cold.  "Do you believe in Santa Claus?" she asked smartly, staring down at me from her great height.

I was appalled.

She was asking me this in church no less.  Now, I am not entirely sure if I knew who Santa was.  I remember scurrying to be on Christmas Eve in later years so I could listen for his sleigh on the rooftop, but I don't recall understanding anything about Santa at the time I was asked this momentous question.  But I sure did know what it meant to believe in something.

"No!" I told her emphatically.  "I believe in GOD!"

It was years before I understood what she meant.

Earnestly yours,

Mrs H

Free Download 

Vintage dolls and lacing cards ... the download link here is no longer active, but if you click on the adorable pictures they will open and you can save or print them from there.  Check them out here! 

Vintage instructions for lacing cards ... a nice accompaniment!

Lacing card gifts ... make the lacing cards into a beautiful gift or toy that can last for a long time!  Instructions and pictures here.   

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Graham-Cracker Cookies

Dear Christmas bakers and potluck-food-makers,

I randomly made these little treats to serve after lunch the other day, and my husband looked at them curiously and said he'd never had them before.

Never had graham-cracker cookies! I said.

It occurred to me that not everybody in the world grew up with this easy-to-assemble and even-easier-to-eat treat.

Lest any fellow readers be similarly deprived, allow me to share the simple recipe for what is the perfect after-school snack, picnic dessert, hiking treat, and an all-around quickly-assembled munchy.

Graham-Cracker Cookies
As noted above, these are easy and fast to assemble ... maybe you need a break from rolling sugar-cookie dough?

Graham crackers (1 whole cracker per sandwich-cookie)
Powdered sugar

Break the graham crackers in half to make two equal squares.

Pour powdered sugar into a cup or small bowl and add milk, one teaspoon or so at a time, stirring vigorously.  Make a thick frosting that is moist enough to adhere to the crackers, but not so runny it oozes right off.

Spread frosting on one square of cracker and sandwich the other half on top.  Let them set for a few minutes to firm up before serving.  Enjoy!


Mrs H

Free Download 

50 Favorite Christmas Cookies booklet ... still in the mood to make more cookies?  Download this free e-cookbook from Recipe Lion to find a few new traditions!  

Friday, December 16, 2011

While By Our Sheep

To those keeping watch by night,

Every year, us kids would perform the Christmas play.

We were always inspired by the performances at church; I have many memories of us pulling the couch cushions off and propping them up to create a stable, rehearsing our blocking (there were few, if any, lines), borrowing ornaments for gold and myrrh and frankincense.

We'd wear our "jeans dresses," skirts that were far too long for us but that had been given to us by somebody, and we'd drape our heads and shoulders in blankets to represent the Biblical period outfits.

I think once I was Mary, and we used a pillow to make me look nice and pregnant for the travel scene.  Then we had to screen me behind the stable so we could whip out the pillow and I could be seen again miraculously holding Baby Jesus, a baby doll chosen from our ample supply (I remember the doll I used, and I wish I still had him - he was so cute!).

Eventually we'd run downstairs and shriek, "Mom and Dad, Mom and Dad we're ready to do our play now!"  Our parents would drag themselves away from whatever they were working on and compliantly sit on the dining room chairs while we dimmed the lights, cued the person with the tape player, and then solemnly marched about in our processionals.

I wonder how Mom and Dad kept from laughing?  I can't even imagine how ridiculous we must have looked, so grave and serious about it all, sometimes standing and reading passages from Luke to add to the gravity of the situation.  Sometimes Reb would play a tune on the piano.  Sometimes she'd play on the little wooden flute our aunt gave us one year.  We always used the Christmas lights for effect; sometimes we'd put a wad on the floor for our campfire.

I am sure it must have been annoying for Mom on some level to see her house and decorations be completely ripped apart for our entertainment, and I am sure we never put it back exactly the way it was supposed to be ...

But we had a lot of fun, and I suppose it kept us out of the way!


a.k.a. Mrs H

tweet us @_mrs_h for chewy nuggets
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Free Download

Adorable printable Nativity ... download and print this fun, colorful Nativity for the kids to arrange and re-arrange!  Maybe they'll tell the story in a less destructive manner than we did! Download the pages here.  

Christmas Cards to color ... you can also download and print these simple, delightful Christmas cards for the kids to color in!  I admit I am a sucker for coloring myself, and wouldn't mind coloring a few of these in!  Download the cards here.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Snowflakes for You

To the beloved and affectionate audience,

I could not be more thrilled to bring you the download for today.

Perhaps you remember that once I posted about how I enjoyed hanging verses or inspirational phrases in my home to motivate me throughout the day?

One of your fellow readers is a talented, skillful graphic design artist.  It was from her that I got many of my more recent cards to hang in the house - inspirational phrases, prayers, and verses paired with beautiful artwork.    She hosts "homeschool mom" nights in her home, and always shares with us elegant cards to put in books or on our kitchen cupboards.

One of my favorite cards was hanging in my bathroom on the mirror - "I pledge to read the Bible every day."  Another card was hanging on my kitchen window - a prayer of warfare that I prayed over my husband continually.  (You have a lot of time to do this when you're washing dishes!)

And now she has created a delicate, frosty-snowy card with a beautiful verse for you!

This is just a preview!  The download link is below.  
You can print these on photo paper for the highest quality, but really any paper is just fine.  If you don't have a printer right now, just download the picture (.jpg) version and use it as a winter-themed background for your computer screen.

Many thanks to the Art Momma for contributing this wonderful artwork for all of us to enjoy!

Let it snow!

Mrs H

Rosie is all about the snowflakes
Free Download 

Snowflake Verse from Art Momma ... download the printable PDF file of the verse-card here.  

Snowflake Verse Picture ... download the picture (.jpg) of the card here, if you prefer to use it as a background image instead of printing.   

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free Cookbook from Gooseberry Patch!

To kids from one to ninety-two,

Our download for today is a Christmas cookbook ... I love this darling little eCookbook! 

Here are a few of the festive holiday recipes included in the Gooseberry Patch Christmas with Family and Friends cookbook ... Butterscotch banana pancakes, savory chicken brunch bake, apricot oat breakfast,       Chinese chicken wings, sweet & sour meatballs, Vermont eggnog, bean with bacon soup, vegetable cheese chowder, slow-cooker stroganoff stew, Mom’s seafood gumbo, southern style cabbage, potluck potato bake, snowball cake, ultimate peanut butter pie, cocoa and coffee sheet cake, eggnog pound cake, fruitcake cookies, Mexican hot chocolate, frosty-fizzy punch ...

Hungry yet? 

The cookbook is available for free for now; these deals don't typically last long so download immediately if you think you'll want it! 

This eBook downloads for the Kindle, but if you don't have a Kindle reader don't worry - you can download a Kindle app for free so you can read the books on your PC.  

*If you view the page and it shows a dollar amount for the book, that means the free offer has expired.*

If you do not have a Kindle: It's simple to download the app, and with all the free Kindle books and games you can download it is definitely worth it!  

First, download the free app by clicking the link above and following the instructions, using your Amazon account e-mail and password.  

Then, click on the Gooseberry Patch link above and click the "Buy" button.  Either: Toggle over to your Kindle app and look in the "All Items" section (there will be a few free books already downloaded for you here).  Click the Gooseberry Patch book and it will begin a brief download, then open.  Or: after you click Buy Now, Amazon will show you a confirm page and you can click "Read Now in Kindle Cloud  Reader."  

Enjoy your new recipes! 

The weather outside is frightful ... but the free downloads inside are so delightful! 

Mrs H

even more goodies! 

After you've downloaded your Kindle reading app, pop over to the Free Collections and see what else you want to download for free! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pretty Windows!

Dear starry-eyed window-dressers,

When us kids were little, we had our own term for the Christmas lights we saw decking houses up and down the streets as we drove about town.  My older sister coined it, but she had a little difficulty pronouncing it.

"Pretty windows!" she would point out the car window and exclaim, but what actually came out of her mouth was, "Bidabindos!"

Bidabindos (n., bid-a-bin-dos, IPA bɪdˈʌbɪndoʊz) became the family term for the glowing strings of bulbs, and for years us kids went on using that phrase without any idea that there was any other word for them.  It wasn't until one year when we asked our cousin, the Indomitable Max-o-millions, if his family was going to put up bidabindos that the horrid truth came out.

"Bidabindos!" he said callously, and laughed and laughed.  "You guys still call them that?"

Uh, yeah - what else would we call them?

"They're Christmas lights," he explained through helpless tears.

Christmas lights!  We scoffed at this term.  It was useless.  It was cold and unfeeling.  It lacked depth and color and rich history.  Christmas lights didn't even mean anything!  Bidabindos, though - now that's where the money was at.


Mrs H

Free Download

Free Christmas Music ... Every day until Christmas, Amazon.com is posting a new free Christmas song for you to download!  You can download any that you've missed from the last 13 days, and keep checking back until Christmas day for your new free song!  Check them out here.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

'Serve The People' Book Giveaway Winner!

Dear readers and cookers and blog giveaway enterers,

I'm here to announce the winner of our Serve the People book giveaway!

Actually, not to be totally cheesy (and I do love cheese), but you are all winning a book today, because I am posting the link to a free e-book download!

But our official grand prize winner, selected by random.org, will be receiving her book in the mail soon - congratulations to Saeri, comment number six!  Soon she'll be cooking up Chinese dishes like Cold-Tossed Shredded Tofu, Shanghai Soup Dumplings, and Yangzhou Fried Rice!

Saeri will shortly be receiving an e-mail to let her know she won, and for the rest of us ... let's do some downloading!

happily clicking away,

Mrs H

Free Download

12 Days of Christmas Cookies e-book ... brought to us by the deal-hunting blog Consumer Queen, Mr. Food has delivered a free Christmas gift for you!  Click here to download the PDF. (If that link doesn't work, go here.)

Me reading this book in the mountains last year ... 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Downloads Continue!

Dear patient readers,

My apologies for not posting your free links yesterday - we ran into some little technology problems which involved me kicking over a quart jar of peaches onto the laptop ...

Puts a fresh perspective on the term sticky keys.

Anyway, here are your free downloads for yesterday and today, and a bonus link for your patience!  Thank you for not throwing me to the wolves and giving up altogether ... Oh what a great thing is grace.

Also, I know you are anxiously awaiting the winner of the giveaway of Serve the People - you mystery person you, your name will be announced tomorrow!! (I don't even know who you are yet!)

With haste but definitely no waste,

Mrs H

Free Downloads

Yesterday: 7 Gifts Downloadable Notebook ... Ann Voskamp has created this fun week-by-week guide to record the gifts in your life that you are thankful for.  Print, fold, and share with your family for a new Christmas tradition!  Download it here.  

Today: Free photo editing software ... Need to edit all those Christmas photos?  Upload them here and edit online for free!  This is a fabulous resource!  Check it out here.  

Bonus link because you are so patient: Wanna-read booklist by Mrs H ... Maybe you've been reading book reviews here on the blog, or maybe you've been visiting the bookstores for Christmas shopping, or maybe you just always have a list going - don't forget a single book here.  There are two versions: one where you can make comments on the book you want to read ("recommended by Mom") and one without the comments.  Download the version with comments.  Or, Download the version without comments.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jell-O in Jars

Dear creative cooks,

Living in California, we don't have much in the way of dishes right now.  All of my beautiful trifle bowls, stemware, and elegant bowls are packed snugly in storage awaiting a permanent duty station.  So, we make do with what we have ... and that is really fun!

I wanted to make some jell-O because you know how much Mr H loves it, but we didn't even have decent cups to hold it in.  The solution?

Canning jars!

Make trifles, layered puddings, jell-Os, and just about anything layered and pretty in the wide-mouth pint or half-pint jars (truthfully, a pint of jell-O is just way too much ... neither of us could ever finish a whole one and I would recommend using the half-pints for more realistic serving sizes!).

What other layered delicacies would you suggest for these jars?

Layers upon layers,

Mrs H

Free Downloads 

December Desktop Background ... a beautiful picture with the December dates calendar at the top.  

A fun Christmas card ... download this for free, courtesy of Life ... Your Way

The Master Plan for Today (Free Downloadable!)

Dear readers,

Last fall I decided I needed to be able to visualize my daily plan better than just scribbles in my household management book.  I drew out plans to use every morning and then after a while I created them in the computer so I could print them, and eventually came up with several different versions to serve my various purposes.

I like to memorize verses and write the new one down for the day on my schedule and so I created a space for that; but you could write down any inspirational phrase you liked, if you aren't excited about memorizing!

I kept these papers usually on my table or in the kitchen with my calendar, and referred to them throughout the day.  It's useful to have a place to collect all the thoughts and chores that fly through my brain, and I like being able to check things off when I'm done - that extra feeling of accomplishment!

I also found these useful as a sort of record - I could flip back through the last few days and recall things I had done, hadn't done, or purchased, et cetera.  Hopefully these can be as useful to you as they are to me!

Organizing what we can and categorizing what we can't,

tweet us @_mrs_h for chewy nuggets
Pin us at Pinterest for pretty photos and intriguing articles
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Free Downloads

Daily Master Plans by Mrs H ... 
Version One - the basic plan 
Version Two - the basic plan with blogging tasks
Version Three - a day with exercise
Version Four - a day in the kitchen
Version Five - a busy day with chore list  
Version Six - simple boxes

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Download Vintage Paper Dolls!

Dear printers and cutters and wrappers,

This is probably my favorite link right now!

Do you remember the Betsy McCall paper doll from the McCall magazines?  Well, I had never heard of her but she is an adorable little paper doll with various family members, outfits, and accessories that ran in the McCall magazine from the 1950s to the 1990s!

Here, you can access PDF files of little outfits and activities from her five decades of glory!  The links are at the end of this post.

Print this to keep somebody busy ... or print a stack of them and wrap in a pretty envelope for a Christmas present for a special little girl.  They are that beautiful and high-quality!  If you are really hardcore, print them someplace like Kinkos on sturdy paper.

Poor Rosie only has one outfit!
Snipping and trimming,

Mrs H

Free Downloads

Vintage paper dolls - all of Betsy's outfits and activities: click here to view and download as many as you wish! 

Click here if you just want a random Betsy outfit - this is from Christmas in the 1950s! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Educational Packs for Little Kiddos

Dear cozy carolers and late-night chocolate drinkers,

Do you have little ones at home?  Do you know some dear sweet children (always innocent, never naughty), that would love to do some fun Christmas-themed pre-K activities?

I found some awesome little educational Christmas activities online that you can download and print for free at home!  Turn school into a Christmas activity.  You could print up a pack and give it to a mommy with little ones, or print it up and do it with your own kids or some special dibbuns - kids you babysit or miniature relatives.  The links to download and print the activities are posted at the end of the blog.

If you wanted, you could make a night of it!

Start the evening off with frothing hot cocoa and homemade marshmallows - as many flavors and colors of marshmallows as you have young'uns, perhaps?  If you're really intrepid, maybe the kiddies can make the marshmallows with you!

Lay out some Christmas sweets to get the rascals on a sugar high, especially if they aren't your own kids and you're sending them back home later.  Maybe some hot, airy beignets, or some jellied sugar and spice drops.  You could go simple with some chocolate dreams, and roll out a few sausage balls on toothpicks for something savory.

Then, let the fun begin!

To all a good night,

Mrs H

tweet us @_mrs_h for chewy nuggets
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Rosie wants to do activ

Free Downloads

Christmas projects for little hands ... fun patterns, simple math with Christmas themes, cutting practice - these are the activities that we lived for when we were little.  School was always fun when it involved colors and scissors!  Download the free pack here.  

Christmas and Nativity Pre-K Packs ... download more adorable preschool packs here - practice letters and reading with colorful characters from the Christmas nativity!  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scented Pine Cones for Christmas

Dear holiday decorator,

Every year I pass by displays of bagged pine cones, their cinnamony scent wafting by me alluringly.  But buying pine cones isn't exactly a priority so I've never got around to bringing them home.

Mr H and I went on a hike a few days ago and the ground was littered with huge, beautiful cones.  He suggested I pick up a few and bring them home for decorations, probably because I am always whining about how cool pine cones would be for decoration ... he went to get the car and when he came back I had a whole paper sackful.

When finding pine cones, choose the lighter, brighter colored ones.
The cone on the right is slightly fresher and sturdier than the cone on the
left.  Older cones have a more greyish-brown hue and their little tabs will
fall right out when you pick the cone up.  
"That isn't quite what I meant," he said dubiously.  But in his infinite wisdom, he did not argue with Woman.

And now ... we have scented pine cones to decorate our house for Christmas!

Scented Pine Cones 
It is surprisingly easy to make this wonderful Christmas decoration.  These don't smell quite as powerfully as the ones in the grocery store, but they are very fragrant and beautiful nonetheless!  You can give these away in baskets, or display in your own house with or instead of potpourri or candles! 

You will need:
Pine cones
Hot water and soap
Baking sheet and foil
Plastic zipper baggies or paper garbage bags

Essential oil (approximately 2 ounces per pound of cones), such as cinnamon, apple, orange, peppermint, nutmeg, pine, clove, Christmas blend, cedar, etc.
Spices (optional), such as cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, ginger, nutmeg, whole or ground allspice, orange peels, eucalyptus leaves, whole or ground cloves

1. Wash the pine cones in hot, soapy water to remove as much foreign matter as possible.  Insects, dirt, stray needles, etc.  Some of the sap will come off but not all of it - that's okay.

2. Shake the pine cones off and line them up on a foil lined baking sheet.  The foil is important unless you love picking sap off of pans.  Bake at 200 degrees F for approximately one hour; check occasionally for safety (no forest fires, please!).  Remove from the oven and let cool so you can handle them easily.  The sap will be melted and hardened into a shiny gloss, so they will no longer be sticky.

3. Place the cones in the plastic baggies or large paper sack (the plastic baggies are better as they are more air-tight.  We want to seal in the scents, here!).

Option A: Spritz with essential oil + a little water from a squirt bottle, or brush with a paint brush.
Option B: Drip with essential oil (this is what I did).

If you wish, sprinkle with spices.  I sprinkled ground spices on mine, and then threw in whole cloves and allspice.

4. Seal the bags or fold the paper bag tightly closed.  Shake to distribute the spicy, aromatic goodness.  Let sit for 24 hours (they will smell good) or longer (a week or more, they will smell amazing!).  The longer they steep, the stronger they smell.

My pine cones, after five days in the bags, smell fragrant and Christmas-y.  I am still steeping them, but I wanted to get this post up quickly so you could get yours started for Christmas right away!

What other essential oils, spices, or fragrances can you suggest?  Post ideas in the comments below, and also let us know what you tried and how it worked!

It's beginning to smell like Christmas!

Mrs H

Where there's Rosie,
there's free stuff!
Free Downloads 

Holiday Décor E-book ... Getting the house ready for Christmas?  Download this free e-book full of handmade holiday décor ideas.  Read about it here or jump straight to the PDF here

Book Giveaway ... Did you enter the giveaway on this very self-same blog? You could win a book for yourself and save it till Christmas ... or maybe give it as a gift!  Contest ends Saturday, December 10th, 2011 at midnight.  Enter the contest here.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Free Advent E-Book!

Dear Christmas anticipators,

Women of Faith has provided a wonderful gift for you this Christmas - a free e-book!

"For centuries, Christians have anticipated Christmas Day with a month-long observance called Advent...

Celebrating the season of Advent keeps us focused on the most important reasons we celebrate Christmas.  A Family Advent presents guided heartfelt and thought-provoking devotionals with fun facts, journeys back in time, activities, and much more.  

Until December 31, 2011, you can download a copy of A Family Advent absolutely free.  It's our gift to you!"  

Download the e-book here

And there is even more fun to be had ... every day they are posting a fun little gift for you - a devotional thought, some trivia, or a special sale!

Click here to open the package and see what the gift for today is

With great anticipation,

Mrs H

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes ...

Dear wholesome reader,

What kind of a world do we live in where innocence is seen as immaturity?  Where purity is considered the equivalent of naïveté?

I remember once a friend referred to some obscene behavior in the presence of my little brother before I could put the brakes on her conversation, and he innocently asked what she was talking about.  She looked at me and said, "Are you kidding me, he doesn't know what this is about?  He needs to join the real world."  I was appalled.  "He's ten," was my reply, "and there's no reason to fill his mind with that."  I'm not sure what kind of 'real' world these people live in, but I enjoy a world where my mind does not have to be filled with your perverted images and stories.

On a more humorous note, a group of us were discussing the hilariousness of youth the other day and I asked them what sorts of silly things they did or thought when they were fresh-faced youngsters.

The confessions came thick and fast.

You know how you can kill flies by snapping a towel?  One of them accidentally whipped his mom in the eye with the towel.  Later, he and his mom were unloading the car; he tried to close the rear hatch, and when it crunched down he realized he had slammed his poor mother's head in the door!  She survived his childhood, somehow.

Another revealed a more sinister side.  When he was three, he had drawn a picture of he and his mother holding hands.  How sweet!  When he was five, he was mad at her for some reason.  Taking the picture, her marched up to her and slowly ripped it down the middle, severing the clasped hands in the middle.

I know they were telling the truth, because you can't make this up!

They were discussing how horrible their week was one day, when one of the guys looked mournfully away. "No matter how bad it is," he said in a hushed voice, "it can't be as bad as the time I found a dead cat in the litter box."  I laughed so hard I cried.  He explained: they had purchased a litter box that could be sealed airtight, theoretically to keep odors from escaping.  I am not sure I understand the purpose of this box; at any rate, a cat got trapped in there and they didn't know until they opened it and found the lifeless corpse.

When I was little, I remember I would always wander into the kitchen around dinnertime when Mom was simmering things on the stove, washing things in the sink, mixing things in the bowl.  "What's for dinner?" I would inevitably ask.  And she always answered the same: "Pig snouts!"  The incredible thing is that I always believed her.  I never once doubted that she had a pot of rolling, jostling, fleshy pink snouts bubbling in the pot, and I was mystified as to why they never appeared on the dinner table.  To this day, I can see that image in my mind's eye.

I also thought pickles grew in the ocean; that explained their saltiness.  I pictured them rolling up on the beach, seaweed trailing as the waves pushed them from the depths.  I thought drugstores were dens of sin, because - hello - they sold drugs!  And one of the guys told me he always thought a strip-mall had strip clubs!

For some reason, I remember when we were little we always treasured the bruises on bananas.  We would select a banana from the bunch based on how likely it appeared that it was bruised inside the peel, and we would eat around the bruise and save it to the end.  I imagine it was probably sweeter than the rest of the banana, and that was why we loved it so much.

But there was one food that I had a deep fear of growing up, and it wasn't until I was in my late teens and was inspired to do some investigative work that I even learned the truth.  Mincemeat.  Where did this fear come from, you may ask?  I will tell you.  It was Thanksgiving, and Grandma and Mom were bringing pies from the kitchen and setting them on the table.  "Here's mincemeat," my grandma said.  "What's in that?" I asked curiously.  I remember she and Mom exchanging A Look.  "Oh no," my grandma said, "you do not want to know what is in that."  I was horrified.  I pictured chopped eyeballs, miscellaneous gut-strings, repulsive ingredients of all manner.  For years I did not know what was in mincemeat ... I never ate it.  One day I read a recipe and realized it is now, traditionally, just very richly spiced apples, currants, raisins.  I told Grandma about this story and she had no recollection of her devastating words!

But confusion can work both ways - when we were all discussing the menu for Thanksgiving one evening, somebody mentioned pickled beets.  "Dad loves those!" we said, laughing hysterically at our witty sarcasm.  Everybody knows Dad hates pickled beets vehemently.  However, we did not realize that not everyone caught the sarcasm in our voice: dinner was in full sway when Grandma came out with a bowl of glistening red orbs and proudly set them down in front of Dad.  "Pickled beets - I got them especially for you!"  He was paralyzed with shock!

I remember standing in church during worship when I was about five.  I knew Mom had a pack of gum in her purse.  "Mom," I whispered, "can I have some gum?"  "After the singing," she whispered back. The song ended and I awaited the promised treat.  As the next song began, Mom made no move to pass me some gum and I was grieved to realize she must have forgotten already!

When I was babysitting a couple weeks ago, the little girl climbed onto my lap so I could brush her hair.  "Id did a bobbo taya!?" she asked excitedly.  I looked to her brother, a year older, for translation.  He obligingly said, "Thee thaid, ith thith a bawbers chaya."  A barber's chair!  I started laughing.  "How," I said, "did you know what she was saying?"  He shrugged.  "Wutty dess!"  Lucky guess!?  I laughed harder, and they asked me, "What so funny?" "Sometimes you say funny things," I told them.  They threw back their blonde heads and screamed with laughter.

Some years ago a family member purchased a large new home, and outside there was a beautiful fountain.  "Wow!" said my little brother, probably five or six at the time.  "Is that where you throw your pennies?"  I remember my relative laughing and saying, "Oh no ... we're saving those!"

What confusing things did you think when you were little?  What charming (read: ridiculous) things have you heard from children lately?  Did you ever put on plays or concerts for the folks?

Always in a pickle,

Mrs H

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