Saturday, November 28, 2009

A visit with Santa!

We have a tradition in our house: the day after Thanksgiving is light-up night — the day we go to see Santa! 

It's a really charming, small town light-up night, with quaint little shops all aglow, their windows festively decorated to herald in the season. The streets are lined with lovely white luminarias. The trees are lit up with tiny, white lights all the way down to the park gazebo, where Santa sits and waits for the arrival of all of the children.

My son's been talking about it & practicing the routine for weeks. He already had his list prepared (with a little help from me, of course) and he couldn't wait to have his chance to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what he wanted for Christmas! Poor guy was so nervous we wouldn't make it there in time - and so anxious for his turn, he was jumping up and down in line!

There were no tears this time. He was so thrilled to sit on Santa's lap and not in any hurry to go...I love the innocence of this a visit with Santa can be so exciting, so magical!

It's so elf passes out chocolates to every child, Christmas carols play, they give out free donuts covered in red and green sprinkles and hot chocolate, there are horse-drawn carriage and sleigh rides, carolers, and bonfires. To cap off the night, a spectacular fireworks display!

We had a wonderful time!  The weather had been unseasonably warm all week, but yesterday it was only 30 degrees out (18 with the wind chill) and it even snowed just a bit - perfect weather for a visit with Santa!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Gobble Gobble Gobble!

I hope you and your loved ones are having a blessed Thanksgiving!

~ Don't eat too much! ~

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Cookies

My son and I made these adorable cookies for his daycare friends from Family Fun last night...cute little marshmallow pilgrim's hat cookies.  Really simple to do (although I had to dip the marshmallows because you have to go quickly and the chocolate is hot, but he helped gather the ingredients and enjoyed watching the hats come together). 

He proudly carried them in this morning as his little friends, Oooed and Ahhhed over their chocolately snack!  I think they'd look darling on the kids table at your Thanksgiving dinner!  It's a great way to focus on the holiday on the historical aspect of its origins, as well.

Tonight I'm planning to start on my turkey-shaped cake for the buffet.  While that's baking, I'm going to get out all of my glassware, silverware, dinnerware, platters, etc...and clean and polish everything. I bought some pretty crackled pearlescent amber glasses at Pier 1 Imports that I think will look lovely this year:

And some super cute large acorns to scatter on the table...

I always want to go through my table linens and make sure everything's ready to go. The turkey's been in the fridge for a few days thawing (I hope everyone remembered to take theirs out by now!)  The dining room has been thoroughly cleaned.  The groceries have been bought. Now it's just last minute touches!

I also have to finish working on my centerpiece.  I'll add fresh flowers to it at the last moment, but I want to have everything properly arranged.  I'm also hoping to have time to work on my placecards. Lots of last minute holiday prep!

How're your turkey day plans coming along?  Are you all ready??

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday Commercials

I wanted to share two holiday commercials with you that I love:

The first one is a local favorite from a restaurant chain located here in western Pennsylvania called Eat'n Park:

The second is from Pampers and makes me cry every time I see it:


Sunday, November 22, 2009

End to the weekend

Do you like my scarecrow? I picked him up this past summer at a garage sale for a $1.00! We set him atop a bale of 'raffia hay' from Michaels. He keeps watch over the buffet in the dining room. My son gets a big kick out of him :)

Another lovely weekend has come and gone. I spent most of it readying the house for Thanksgiving and decorating the playhouse for Christmas. 

Luckily I picked up a perfect little 4' artificial tree curbside during the summer for this express purpose!  My husband thought I lost my mind when I made him stop the car to get it. The last thing we needed was yet another Christmas tree, but I knew it would be so cute in the playhouse. You can't beat FREE!!  It's gotta be a sin to throw out a perfectly good Christmas tree.   It's going to be darling once I decorate it; it's the perfect size for his little house!  The same night that I picked up the tree, I also picked up a 3' Santa statue curbside.  It'll be so cute on his little front porch.

So while I was putting up the tree, my husband strung lights all along the playhouse rooftop, and then I put out his new snowman Joy light set.  It's SO cute!  And it'll be even cuter once I add the wreath, garlands and other special touches.

Saturday we made a special trip to a farmers market for some fallish things for the Thanksgiving table.  My son helped me pick out some pretty gourds that we used in the centerpiece.  The table is looking gorgeous!  I can't wait to set it with all of my special Thanksgiving pieces!

I absolutely love Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Exterior Illumination

It feels like Christmas Vacation around our house! As fall is winding down, we're gearing up for Christmas by getting a head start on our exterior illumination. My husband likes to have most of the lights up before Thanksgiving while the weather is cooperative. So out came the lights and the ladder so he could get them strung on our roof, eaves, and our giant pine tree.

We don't light them until December 1st, but it's nice having the bulk of our outdoor decorating completed with all of the lights strung so that all we have to focus on are the garlands, wreaths and swags.

Hey, when you do as much holiday decorating as we do, you have to start as early as possible!  Nothing is worse than being outside on a frigid day struggling with light strands until you can't feel your fingers any longer!  (of course that can be fun, too, because then you have an excellent excuse to come in and get warmed up with a cup of hot chocolate!) 

When do you start to decorate?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pre-Thanksgiving weekend to-dos

If you haven't picked up a turkey yet, you'd better get one this weekend!  This is the last weekend before Thanksgiving!  I need to pick up a few more things for our menu, as well as our table setting!

We plan to get a jump-start on our outdoor holiday lights.  I like to have all of the roof-top, eaves, and hard-to-reach places on the house strung with lights before the weather turns sour (I don't want my husband up there on a cold, icy day!)  We've been having an unseasonably warm week (with temps in the 60s) so we plan to take full advantage of it!

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hot, chocolate!

What is it about hot chocolate when the weather turns frightful that we all love?  There's something so indulgent and satisfying about the swirls of steam, the lucious rich chocolate, the light puffy marshmallows, and decadent whipped cream...Mmmmm. 

For a rich, grownup version, invest in real hot chocolate (not cocoa powder) this version from Williams Sonoma that's a family favorite of ours...

Add these...

And top with freshly whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles or shavings...

You can thank me later :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Speaking of baking...

It probably doesn't make any sense that a baker would buy pre-packed cookie dough mix, but when I saw these at the grocery store last week, I just had to have them!  They'll be perfect to whip up in some cookies or bars one evening, along with the frozen snickerdoodle cookie dough I bought from one of my son's friends for a school fundraiser. 

Who wouldn't want to come home to a triple surprise whammy of yummy cookie varieties waiting for them to munch on?  And each of the two mixes above makes a whopping 3 dozen cookies! 
Mmmmm, my kitchen is going to smell divine!!

Thanksgiving Centerpiece

What do you do for a Thanksgiving Centerpiece?  

Throughout the years, I've done all sorts of things - a cornucopia basket (which I can't find anywhere for the life of me!) of flowers, autumn leaves and wheat...

I made two wheat sheaves (below) several years ago that flank either side of my buffet table every fall)...

I've seen some really gorgeous centerpieces searching around online, and of course - Martha Stewart always has some excellent ideas.  Her kids table with the Mayflower boat of fruit and nuts and a map tablecloth was beyond cute!   I love her grape centerpiece idea, too; it's not only lovely, but functional.

Speaking of adorable tablescapes, Lisa @ Moore Minutes featured her 2009 Thanksgiving table in a post on her blog yesterday, along with her version of Martha's Mayflower boat for the kids' table!  You simply MUST check it out!  She did an outstanding job! (as usual!!) 

I'd love to hear some of the things you've decorated your Thanksgiving tabletop with over the years! 

My 2009 Thanksgiving Table

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Baking

I love to bake.  I find that there's so much more creativity in baking than in ordinary cooking, and I'm constantly inspired by others with new recipes and techniques.  So naturally, baking is a huge part of the holidays for me. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I loved watching my mother in the kitchen during the Christmas season - and I loved helping even moreso!  I learned so much from her, watching her mixing doughs and icing the cookies.  We all looked forward to Christmas Eve when she would set out a giant platter of all of the cookie varieties for us to eat.  I can still picture her with one of her holiday aprons on, spoon in one hand, bowl in the other...while Christmas records played on the stereo to create the holiday aura...the delicious heady aroma of cinnamon and sugar emanating from the oven.  It brings back such fond memories.

I look forward to this time of year so much.  As soon as the stores begin stocking their holiday baking aisle, I'm in Heaven.  All of those glorious rows of sprinkles, frosting, sugar crystals, and sacks of flour send me into a tizzy!  And I simply can't neglect to mention the gorgeous holiday baking magazines that come out every fall; I'm a sucker for any holiday cookie magazine!  Like I said, I love to be inspired, and I'm constantly finding a new recipe or icing technique that I've never seen before.  I try to add a couple of new recipes to my holiday repertoire every year.

There's something so domestic and fulfilling about donning my favorite Christmas toile apron, digging out my favorite wooden spoon and all of my holiday recipes, powering up the KitchenAid mixer, turning on some Christmas carols, and baking for my friends and family.  It's part of my Christmas traditions ~ and it brings me such satisfaction and joy! 

Even if you don't consider yourself much of a baker, I invite you to try even a simple recipe.  Get your husband and children involved in the process and make it a project for the entire family.  The joy you'll get from making something warm from the oven for your family is pure holiday magic!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Isn't this so cute?! 

I bought this snowman set, at - of all places - Big Lots, to decorate my son's playhouse for Christmas!  I rarely ever shop there, but a couple of weeks ago we decided to see what they had for Halloween and I came across this adorable light-up snowman and light-up "Joy" set for around $30. I instantly loved how colorful and playful it looked, and I knew it would be the perfect thing for the front of the playhouse. 

We're going to string big, colorful C7-size multi-colored lights all around it, and I bought battery-powered LED candles for the windows.  We wanted to give it a Charlie Brown-type of look.  I can't wait to get started!!