Friday, November 27, 2009

Homemade Christmas - Buying Idea:

Here's Homemade Christmas Buying Idea #2:

This is a wonderful marketplace for all things homemade. You won't believe what you'll find. I recommend you check it out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chicken (Turkey) Broccoli Shells

I am a very big fan of Thanksgiving, but I’ll openly admit that the crown jewel on the Thanksgiving dinner table…the turkey is lost on me. I like turkey, but there are just so many other yummy things that I’d rather fill up on. I don’t think I’m alone on this. It probably doesn’t help that I know I’ll be eating turkey for a week straight.

Since I throw very little away, I repurpose the leftover turkey. This recipe calls for cooked chicken, but is an excellent way to use some of your turkey instead. And it’s a completely different taste than you’ve been used to for several days in a row. So when you head out to finish your Thanksgiving dinner grocery shopping, make sure you have these ingredients on hand for Friday or Saturday. Trust me…you’ll need a break.

Chicken (Turkey) Broccoli Shells

1 (16 oz.) jar of Alfredo Sauce
2 cups frozen, chopped broccoli florets (thawed)
2 cups diced cooked chicken (turkey)
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese (I use the cheapo sprinkle kind)
21 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained

In a large bowl, combine alfredo sauce, broccoli, chicken and cheeses. Spoon into pasta shells. Place in a greased 9x13 baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.

Tip: I sprinkle a little extra shredded cheddar cheese over the top before I bake it. I remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking so it browns.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm a Horrible Blogger

I'm still alive...I promise. I've been super busy crafting and getting early Christmas presents ready for delivery. The Advent calendars are completely finished and either delivered (to those who purchased) or wrapped for those who will be getting them as gifts at Thanksgiving. I really wish I had more time to do more. The ideas just kept flowing, but I ran out of time. Too bad I didn't start this project in July or August. Oh well...there's always next year.

Check back tomorrow for a super great recipe for your leftover turkey.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Homemade Christmas – Buying Idea: Homemade Cards

When I first presented this 10 week challenge, I told you I would be giving you project ideas and instructions to help make your homemade gift giving easier. I also told you that I would give you some ideas to buy some gifts that were homemade.

I introduce to you the cutest, highest quality homemade cards that I’ve had the pleasure of sending and receiving. Walnut Street Weddings, previously known as Walnut Street Cards, has been in business for many years fulfilling a passion to make and provide homemade cards at a great price.

Gift sets (6 cards and envelopes) are packaged in clear boxes and tied with raffia ribbon – hey no gift wrapping needed. You can purchase a set of 6 – 3 Happy Birthday and 3 Thank You for $15. This price includes shipping and handling.

These would be great gift for a teacher, postman, neighbor, pastor, or co-worker!. Add this to a basket filled with Chai Tea or Cocoa Mix in an Etched Jar and some homemade cookies. Tie with a beautiful ribbon and you’re on your way to a very happy recipient.

Contact Billi Lou at to place your order. All orders must be received by December 1 to ensure delivery by Christmas. As you can see, there are countless designs. Each gift set include a random assortment of cards.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Homemade Christmas – Project: Origami Boxes

I originally learned how to make these cute little boxes out of Christmas cards when I was in elementary school. They crept back into my head when I was creating my advent calendars and became the perfect container for a little treat.

1. Start with a square piece of paper. I started with a 4” square, which results in a box that is approximately 1 ⅜”.

2. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw lines from corner to corner so that you have an “X”.

3. Fold each of the four points to the center mark. Make sure you crease very well; this will help the box hold its shape later.

4. Now that you have folded each of the points to the middle, you have created new crease marks. I have marked them in red on this picture. Fold each of the points to the opposite crease mark.

5. Unfold square.

6. Fold one of the points to the middle.

7. While holding this down firmly, fold this point along the newest created crease, I have marked this in green.

8. Repeat on the opposite side.

9. Flip the paper over and fold the remaining points to the closest crease.

10. Repeat on opposite side.

11. Flip paper over.

12. Bring two sides up to look like this.

13. While holding one of the newly formed sides, you’ll notice that the side is a rectangle and directly to the left and the right there is a square. You’ll see below that the rectangle is outlined in red and the squares are outlined in black. There is a diagonal line that I’ve drawn inside each of the squares. Fold the paper inward along this line.

14. Repeat on opposite side.

15. Fold flap into box.

16. Repeat steps 13, 14 and 15 to create the remaining side of box.

You now have the top of a box. Create a bottom by following these instructions on a piece of paper that is slightly smaller. I use a square that is 3 ¾” for the box bottoms.

If the flaps of the box don't stay tight within the box, your creases may not be strong enough. Try unfolding and recreasing.

As always, just ask if you have any questions.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Homemade Christmas – Project: Cookie Sheet Advent Calendar

Remember these?

They can turn into these...

Yep…those old, ugly, beat up cookie sheets and tv trays can turn into these absolutely adorable reusable advent calendars. These are perfect for an early Christmas present to be mailed or given at Thanksgiving.

1. Start with old or new cookie sheet or tv tray. I found mine at a resale shop for $0.25 each. I was thrilled!!!

2. Drill two holes at the top of the sheet to hang later.

3. Paint your cookie sheet (wash and sand first if you have a used one) with spray paint that will work on metal.

4. Use coordinating scrapbook papers, construction paper or wrapping paper to decorate the cookie sheet.

5. Add a title of your choice using stickers or cut out your own letters.

6. Go crazy with embellishments. This is the fun part. On the blue and burgundy advent calendars, I made tiny envelopes. These are going to the grandparents and will be filled with tiny black and white pictures of Bug and Doodle for them to remove each day. I’ll collect the pictures on Christmas Day and use them to create a border for a color picture of the girls together…(Grandmas – if you’re reading this, please act surprised.)

On the red advent calendar I made origami boxes. These are the perfect size to hold a couple of Hershey’s kisses or a few M&Ms. I’ll post the instructions for making the origami boxes tomorrow. They’re very easy.

And yet another idea is to decorate small bead storage containers or tins like I’ve done here. Still have to add more detail to this one.

7. Add numbers and more embellishments.

8. Attach magnets. You can use hot glue for round ones or you can use magnetic tape that has a removable sticky back.

9. Tie with ribbon for hanging and you’re finished…I’ve been so busy decorating these sheets that I almost forgot this step – Oops!

The possibilities for this advent calendar are endless and they’re so darn cute you’ll need to get busy right away so that you have time to make one for yourself and for someone else.

Homemade Christmas Challenge Update…I mentioned when I started this challenge that I would be sharing ideas on where to buy homemade Christmas gifts. Please contact me at if you’re interested in placing an order for your very own advent calendar.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Yuck, Yuck, Yuck….Yumm! – Butchering Chickens

I think I finally have everything related to Saturday’s chicken butchering cleaned up and put away. I will not lie to you…it is a lot of work, but well worth it. This is how the day progressed:

7:00 AM – Mr. heads out to string up the first 10. We have found (through our wealth of experience – HA, all two times) that the best way to kill a chicken is to hang it upside down by its feet and then cut its head off. This eliminates the whole headless chicken running around terrorizing the neighborhood. Could you imagine?!?! Let them hang for several minutes so that they bleed out.

7:30 AM – The plucking begins. We set up a propane turkey fryer and my large pressure cooker filled with water to scald the birds before plucking. The heat releases the feathers and makes plucking much easier. Trust me, it works. The first time we butchered chickens we didn't scald them. I found Mr. sitting at the counter in our kitchen with a pair of needle nose pliers trying to pluck a chicken.

The water needs to be very hot. They just need a quick dip. The best thing to do is to start plucking the feathers around the neck first. This allows the skin around the legs more time to cool so that you don’t rip the skin while you pluck those feathers.

We iced them down in a cooler while they awaited the final cleaning and bagging in the kitchen.

9:30 AM – First 10 are complete. We stop for breakfast…I know, how could we possibly eat after that? It’s a lot of work, but it’s really not that bad.

10:30 AM – Mr. heads out to string up the next 8. The water must have been the perfect temperature with this batch because the feathers came out with little effort.

11:30 AM – Mr. heads out to string up the last 7.

12:45 PM – Final cleaning continues in the kitchen and the cleanup outside commences.

2:00 PM – Everything outside is cleaned up and drying in the sun. All chickens have been cleaned thoroughly inside, have been bagged and are in the freezer.

6:00 PM – Dinner. And what do you eat on chicken butchering day? Only the freshest fried chicken you’ve ever had. Add some mashed potatoes with chicken gravy, corn from our garden and iced tea and you have the best, freshest comfort food you could imagine.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Homemade Christmas - Recipe: Hot Cocoa Mix

The temperature is falling and I've noticed that Mr. is hitting the hot chocolate at night. Those little packets of instant hot cocoa are acceptable, but this mix is so much better.

2 cups dry milk powder
¾ cup sugar
½ cup cocoa
½ cup powdered creamer

To make cocoa: Add two heaping tablespoons (more or less to taste) to a mug of hot water.

Mix all ingredients together and store in an air-tight container. Even better…put in a beautifully Etched Jar and attach a tag with instructions to give as a gift.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reusable Duster – No Sew

I dusted! Since I showed everyone my dust here, sheer embarrassment finally motivated me to dust my house. It took me an hour and a half…no joke. And since dusting is the worst household chore in my opinion, that was torture. I decided that I needed to stay on top of my dusting and just make it happen – period. Surprisingly, I’ve been doing a much better job.

But by doing a better job, I’ve been going through the Swiffer dusters and I’m out. I refuse to buy more, so I came up with a reusable duster that has plenty of places to capture the dust like the Swiffer duster, but without the price tag.

To make this funny looking reusable duster all you need is some fabric – this is the perfect time to dig in your rag bag or clothes headed for charity. Find something soft; I used an old pair of pajama pants.

1. Start by making your pattern on paper. You’re making a mitten, minus the thumb. Trace it larger that you need.
2. Place your pattern on your fabric and cut it out several inches wider all the way around.

3. Cut ½-1 inch fringes around the entire mitt.

4. Tie the fringe from the top piece to the matching fringe from the bottom piece. Double knot.

That’s it. How simple is that?

Happy Dusting!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Homemade Christmas – Project: Etching Glass

Wait, Wait, Wait! Don’t leave yet. It’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds. In fact, the hardest part is creating your stencil and you can buy those pre-made.

Here’s What You Need:
  • Glass Dish (You can buy brand new, but I’ve found some great deals at local consignment and thrift shops.)
  • Contact Paper
  • Xacto Knife
  • Etching Cream (I use Armour Etch – it’s kind of pricey, but even the smallest bottle will complete many projects.)
  • Small Paint Brush

1. Type your word or words into your favorite word processing program on your computer. I recommend a font that is basic unless you want to torture yourself with cutting out the intricate details.
2. Print.
3. Trace your letters onto contact paper. Here’s where it could get tricky…you just have to pay attention. If you’re going to etch onto the side of a glass container you’ll want to make sure that you trace the letters as you’ll see them onto the sticker side of the contact paper. If you’re going to etch onto the bottom of a dish like the plate, trace them backward onto the paper side of the contact paper, so that they look correct when the dish is flipped over.
4. Clean your glass very well. I use rubbing alcohol and then air dry or if you’re impatient like I am, dry with a paper towel.
5. Center your stencil over your item, remove backing and adhere to glass.
6. Using an Xacto knife, cut out the letters.

7. When you’re finished removing all of the spaces that you’ll etch, you can start with the etching cream. Use a small paint brush to apply a liberal amount of etching cream to every open space.
8. Let sit to allow etching cream to do its job. My bottle says to wait 5 minutes, but I didn’t go through this much work for it not to work so the shortest amount of time I’ve ever let it sit is 10 minutes. I find 20 minutes will give a crisper image.

9. Wash with warm water to remove all etching cream. I’ll warn you that when you start to wash off the cream, it looks like nothing has happened.

10. Remove stencil to reveal finished product. If you’re very careful, you may be able to reuse the stencil you’ve created. As the glass dries the etching gets lighter, making it more visible.

I’ve shown this on the outside of a glass container, and on the bottom of a plate, but this is also great for the bottom of a glass casserole dish. Sure takes the guess work out of who the dish belongs to after a potluck dinner. Don’t forget to etch a jar for your Chai Tea Mix before giving it away.