Monday, December 21, 2009

A Heart and Home Christmas

Greetings, my Blogging Friends! Today I want to share a few more of my holiday decorations, and a little bit of the ultimate transformation!  You all remember this guy, don't you?


As a refresher, here's some of his story:

*It was quarter past dawn...
All the Whos still a-bed
All the Whos, still a snooze
When he packed up his sled
Packed it up with their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags! And the Tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mount Crumpit,
He rode to the tip top to dump it!
"Pooh-pooh to the Whos!"  he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
"They're finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
Then all the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!"

"That's a noise", grinned the Grinch,
That I simply must hear!"
So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow...

But the sound wasn't sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-Ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
was singing! Without any presents at all!

He HADN'T Stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling: How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

It came without packages, boxes or bags!"

And he puzzled three hours, til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas perhaps...means a little bit more!"


Wishing you all peace, love, and happiness, and the true meaning of Christmas.

Until next time

*Thank you, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Suess to you and me.)
For more holiday decor, go here, here, or here.

Remember to go check out these other sites:
 Kimba, at A Soft Place to Land DIY day.
Three or More Tuesday,  Tam at The Gypsy's Corner
Thanks to Susan, A Southern Daydreamer, For Outdoor Wednesday (indoors for the holidays!)
Thank you, ladies!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Heart and Home's Sweets and Treats

Hi everyone! How's it going? I've been pretty busy around here just like the rest of you. but I will admit I feel petty good right now --  I've gotten almost all my to-dos done! Not bad! I just have to wrap gifts and plan the menu for Christmas dinner. Still have no idea what I'm making, I just know it won't be a turkey. Once a year is plenty of turkey for me and the family. Right now I'm debating between preparing game hens, prime rib, or the old simple stand by ham. Considering there's a whole week left before Christmas my decision will probably change about 3 or 4 more times!  What is your favorite thing to make for Christmas dinner? I could use some interesting options....

One thing I always leave plenty of time for each year is one of my favorite holiday family traditions of baking cookies. The only time in 21 years that I didn't bake anything was the year our kitchen was being remodeled and I didn't have an oven! But I missed the mess and the aromas, and most of all the finished products! Which I will admit I sample freely throughout the holidays, and give away to friends and family.

My mom always started baking right around Thanksgiving, She made so many different types of cookies we would often lose count, and sometimes the cookies themselves would become misplaced. She would hide them all away in big metal cans on shelves in the garage until about a week or two before Christmas. Only then would she allow us to sample one or two after dinner. Several  times, many months after the holidays, we came across unopened cans that Mommy had forgotten about! Nevertheless, we always had plenty to go around and we gave big boxes to all our neighbors, friends, and our school teachers. I remember being very proud of the beautiful array of traditional German holiday cookies, arranged  perfectly in paper-doily-lined boxes, which I had helped my mother bake, pack and wrap.

Before I start baking, I make one big ingredient shopping trip to stock up on all the butter, eggs, flour, sugar, nuts, spices  and  chocolate that I'll need. Then I stack up all the baking ingredients on the kitchen counters , and I put aside a couple of days to really get busy. Now that my girls like to help we can whip up all kinds of goodies in a pretty short amount of time.

This is what my kitchen looks like for a few days at the beginning of every December:

This year I baked about nine or ten different types of traditional holiday cookies, and some five-minute fudge, too! I make most of the same things every year, but I also like to add a new recipe every now and then.

This time I decided to add Linzer cookies to the list. I've always loved them, and looked for a recipe that was easy to follow, and sounded delicious.

I didn't take long to come across a great recipe at Cooks.Com. (Click here and you'll go right to a printable page with the recipe). The hardest part of this recipe is staying away from them once they're baked!!

They were a tiny bit labor intensive, but very much worth the extra effort. They are tasty!
As a matter of fact, I just taste-tested (another!) one right now, just to be sure I should recommend them to you! (yes,  yummy!!)

All these other goodies are cookies that have been baked at our house for years and years. My mom used to make them, and now my sisters and I do, and someday I'm sure my daughters will carry on the tradition.

I still haven't made any gingerbread, or German lebkuchen, (I'll do that this weekend), and Mr. H and H and the girls still need to decorate the sugar cookies. They always spend an afternoon or evening doing that together, and they have a great time coming up with new colors and themes for the stars, bells, trees and angels.

I think we have plenty of treats to enjoy, and share with our friends. I know from my own personal taste tests that each variety is delicious, and for health reasons I make sure each one fits into one of the basic food groups (yup, that's right: fats, and sugars!!)

The time and effort it takes to bake all these goodies is worth it due to the delight they bring my family.  We've shared some really fun moments together in the kitchen, the girls have learned their way around a mixing bowl and a recipe, and we all really enjoy the results of our labors! While we have many family holiday traditions, baking cookies together remains my favorite, and is something I look forward to every year. What about you?  I'd love to know your favorite way to ring in the holiday. Thank you, Beverly, at How Sweet the Sound, for Pink Saturday!  Also, I'm a late addition to Foodie Friday, at Designs by Gollum. and I'm linked to Welcome to Our Crazy Kitchen,  here, too! Happy Holidays!

Until next time,

Date and Walnut Bars   330 degrees   5-10 min prep, 30 minutes baking time

3/4 Cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sliced dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 330 degrees F. Grease a 9"x 9" x 2" pan, line the bottom with waxed paper cut to size.
Mix the dry ingredients and eggs with brown sugar and vanilla, add dates and walnuts and stir until mixed. Spread in prepared pan, bake 30 minutes until set. Do not overbake!! Cool slightly, invert and remove from pan. Remove wax paper and cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, cut into squares. Enjoy! This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 13" x 9" x 2" pan.

Heidi on Foodista

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In the Mountains with Heart and Home

Welcome back for another Outdoor Wednesday, sponsored by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer. Thank you Susan, for hosting!

Last weekend we spent Saturday up in the low mountains surrounding our town, walking in the woods and searching for the perfect Christmas tree!

This is one of my family's favorite ways to kick off the holidays, and has become one of our annual traditions.

We like to get all bundled up because it can get pretty chilly up here, even though it's really bright and sunny. At the scenic lookout we stop to take in the view of the surrounding forest, and the lush valleys below.

The view of the trees goes on and on.....

We enjoy the wide variety of greenery: evergreens, redwoods, eucalyptus, manzanita, bay laurel, elm, and several types of oak trees surround us on all sides.

This little helper-elf is ready to cut down a tree!

These are all too small! We want a huge tree, and we know with perseverance we'll find the one that's just right. We just have to search for awhile, but it's out there somewhere! Then we'll lug it all the way back to our car. The trip back seems to take longer, for some reason!

Underfoot, the ground crunches with pine needles, bark, leaves, acorns, and pine cones. The air up here is fresh and fragrant, perfumed with the scent of the evergreens. We love to spend the time outdoors together, to take in the beauty of nature and bring home the perfect tree.

 By the time we get back home, we're ready for some hot chocolate! Then it's time to wrestle with the tree (which always seems so much bigger in the house!), and to put on all the tangled strings of lights. That's a task no one at this house looks forward to. And by the time that's done, we're ready to call it quits for the night. We'll put on the decorations tomorrow! For now, we'll look at the tree shimmering with hundreds of tiny white lights, and recall a day spent outdoors, filled with fresh air, sunshine, and the company of the people we love the most.



That's how we do it here on the redwood coast!  If you'd like to see more decorations,  you can scroll down or go here,or here, here, or here for a Christmas memory. I'd love to know, what's your favorite way to find your Christmas tree?

Thanks for visiting, remember to leave a comment, and please come back soon!
Until next time

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lovebirds at Heart and Home

The theme of my posts this month: the Holiday transformation here at our home in the Redwoods! . Because I'm so sentimental, almost every ornament on our Christmas tree has a story or memory associated with it.  I've added to our decorations year after year, and am lucky enough to have some favorites from my childhood that I love. But, when asked to share my favorite Christmas decoration, I knew right away what it would be.

No, not the Eiffel towers, though they do remind me of our honeymoon in Europe, our last few wonderful days spent in  Paris.....

No, not the mermaid with the long red hair that is cherished by my first-born mermaid daughter,

...nor the smiling man-in-the-moon, who holds special significance to me as a reminder of  a very wonderful first date....

...and certainly not the sparkly deer, which is much more elegant than the ones that turn my garden into their own personal salad bar every year!

It might be this bee's wax wreath, the last remaining of two dozen that I made years ago, while my newborn baby watched me from the safety of her baby seat on the kitchen counter....

...or this transparent golden butterfly, which represents the thousands of monarchs that migrate to our coastal town every fall.

No, although they are all lovely, not one of those is my very favorite. I didn't even take into consideration all the handmade ones my dear girls have made over the years, because each one holds a special place in my heart, and it would be impossible to choose among those! But rather, it's this one:

It has no sparkles, no shine,  and it's not very fancy. These doves in the basket (or are they lovebirds?) sat on top of the cake at our impromptu wedding party 21 years ago,  a week after Mr. HandH and I got married. We eloped , and this is the only memento I have of our "wedding". (Well, unless you count him, and some grainy photos.)

Every year I carefully unwrap them from their storage box, and place them in a place of honor on our tree.
This is always the first ornament to go up, and the last to come down. (and, like everyone else, we've had our ups and downs, too!!) Each year more and more, to me these birds represent the heart and soul of our home, and the reasons I dedicate so much time and energy baking, shopping and decking the halls:   Love, family, hope, and faith.

My favorite ornament, and my favorite reasons to celebrate!

Thanks, Beverly, for hosting Pink Saturday! For a look at more home trimmings, scroll down, or go here    or here, or for my favorite holiday memory take a look here.  Thank you for stopping by, I hope you'll come back soon!

Until next time,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Show and Tell at Heart and Home

Hello everyone! I'm feeling very festive today,  after finally having all the decorating done, (well, almost, just one more wreath to decorate!) the packages mailed, and eight different types of cookies baked. That's such a relief, and yet I have more shopping to complete before I can really sit back and say I'm done! But, getting those boxes into the mail this afternoon made my day, and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders as I left the post office!

Well of course you knew I couldn't leave well enough alone yesterday! I went and fiddled with the mantel one more time. It just needed a bit of red, I think, to tie in to the decorations throughout the rest of the house. (Scroll down or click for Wednesday's post to view the mantel in the daylight!)

It's done now, honest!

I thought everything looked so pretty last night that I wanted to share my view from my favorite spot on the love seat in the living room.

Watching the angels and shepherds and three wise men go around and around can be very therapeutic after a hectic day! The spinning motion has a way of mesmerizing me - for a little while anyway.

With all the lights, and candles, and ornaments it's hard not to feel festive. Throw in some Christmas music (Bing Crosby!) a couple of home baked cookies, and maybe a nice glass of wine and you've got the makings of a perfect moment in which to sit a bit and contemplate the wonders of the universe, and the spirit of the season.

Except that I can't sit for long. I've still got to wrap all the gifts, and finish that wreath for the front door....
Maybe tomorrow?!

Thanks, Cindy, at My Romantic Home, for Show and Tell Friday! Thanks also to Amy, for Finer Things Friday at The Finer Things In Life.
Thanks, everyone for visiting! I hope you'll be back soon.
Until next time