Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tips on Starting Your Christmas Cookies Now!

I first published this post a year ago but it was kinda late for the information I wanted to share. I only realized now is the time for this again because my daughter Jena made me aware of how close my magic date of November 1st is! 

So, I am re-posting it, a teeny bit later than I would start. Most of you probably won't be making 10-12 kinds of cookies, so  there is still plenty of time to accomplish it all. 

The first week of November is when I start baking my Christmas cookies. Yup, you read that right!

With the right preparation you can bake all your Christmas cookies in November, tuck them away in the freezer and have the whole month of December to enjoy the season.

I have been doing it for 30+ years and I make 10-12 kinds of cookies every year!

There is some prep work and leg work to do ahead of time to make sure all goes smoothly when that first week rolls around just after Halloween.

The idea is to plan, buy, bake, freeze, relax!

Here is a list of my tips:

1. In mid to late October (NOW!), make a list of all the ingredients you will need for all the cookies you want to bake. Buy a few of your ingredients every week up to the first week of November with your regular groceries. Your budget won't feel it as much when done a little at a time. It is also a good time to start saving the nicer plastic containers that store bought foods come in for giving cookies away in....more on that later. Dig out your Christmas cookie tins too! I will have a tip on how to get those returned back to you.
2. Choose a few kinds of cookies to bake each week. I do 2-3 kinds a week because I make so many. Bake in the morning if possible which gives a great sense of accomplishment for the rest of the day! Cool the cookies and DO NOT frost them.

3. Make sure to have plenty of wax paper, foil, and foil pans to freeze in. Put the cookies in layers with wax paper in between in the foil pans, cover with foil and write the name on the outside with marker. FREEZE! This step avoids disappearing cookies at the hands of husbands, little ones or teenage appetites before it's time to really indulge!

4. In mid-December on up to Christmas Day I defrost a variety of cookies as I need them to give away. I frost and decorate the cookies the day I will be delivering them. I always get comments on how fresh they are!

I defrost and decorate cookies for the Post Office clerks, the Town Clerk's office, and those that I mail out of town first and package them in a plastic container with wax paper and a bow. All those people are in my life all year and I like to give them a treat. I use the plastic containers for them so that I don't have to worry about getting them back.

Closer to Christmas I defrost, frost and decorate the cookies I will give to my Pastor's and their families, for holiday gatherings, special friends and my family. I layer, with wax paper in between, a variety of cookies and present them in one of my large collection of Christmas tins. I get those tins returned to me every year so that I don't have to keep buying them. They are getting pricey!

Wanna know how I do it?

I hand write this little note on sticky paper and put it on the inside of the cover. I have never NOT gotten a tin back. Maybe because I DO fill them again the next year for those nice people! I have had people panic when they have forgotten to get the tin back to me by January, so worried that I wouldn't give them cookies again. Somehow that makes me feel good!

Most of my recipes are either my grandmother's or the ones I have been making since the 80's. They are mostly Italian Christmas cookies. I add one or two new ones a year along with a different kind of chocolate bark or Christmas candies. 

I make the traditional cut outs, gingerbread men and coconut macaroons. The other cookies I make have names like Cuccidari (Italian fig cookies), Chocolate Meatballs and Biscot.

Starting with the first picture at the top of this post and the others of the stages of baking are pictures of the Cuccidari's. They are full of figs, dates, walnuts, raisins, orange marmalade and a touch of rum wrapped up in a wonderful cookie dough.

Click on the name to get the recipe and tutorial I did a few years ago. In my house  it is NOT Christmas without the Cuccidari's. Of course they have the most ingredients, the most pricey ingredients and are the most labor intensive!

It has been a labor of love for me for 30 years.

I took the Christmas cookie baking over from my mother who took it over from her mother. Still waiting for one of my daughters to take over although I am not sure I am ready it give it up...shhhh!

In December I like to finish shopping, put last minute touches on decorating, go to holiday craft shows and spend time with my girlfriends.

I can do all that and more because my cookies are done!

What kinds of cookies do you bake each year? Are you a last minute baker trying to get them all done the week before Christmas? How many varieties do you make? Do you give them away?

I would love to hear about your Christmas baking adventures!

AnnMarie :)

I am linking up with these great blog parties:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday Musings

Been musing in my head about some Fall things, both things I am doing and Fall things I just love.

I saw pumpkins stacked like this on another blog and just had to have it for myself for my front porch. I had just been by lots of pumpkin patches, not stopping because I was done with decorating and didn't need any more pumpkins (I thought!). I decided if I saw some funky pumpkins by chance, cheap enough (pumpkins are high priced in these parts!) I would get them.

There in my local Walmart was a table full of these pumpkins. They were labeled gourds, grown from seeds from around the world. They were $2.98 each. I grabbed them, choosing the ones that would easily stack in my cart to be sure they wouldn't fall over on my porch!

After I recently painted my kitchen stools  over, I got the bug to start re-painting the whole kitchen, badly needing a fresh coat of white. I chose Martin Senour's Swiss Coffee. After 15 years, the white oil based paint on my cupboards had chipped and yellowed. I don't like the knobs anymore either!

Now I like chippy, old white paint as much as the next vintage junkie, but there is just something about a fresh coat of white paint in the kitchen!!

This is a view of the island, stool and cupboards that are done. I have a long way to go!

It started out a cold, rainy Monday morning and I had to go out first thing. Layers were in order.

My son had off from school for Columbus Day and our plan was to go to our favorite Cider Mill/Farm Market, Schutts Cider Mill, about a half hour away.

By the time we were ready to go, the sun came out and it warmed up to 70 degrees! Driving with the windows down we passed by small roadside stands with pumpkins, Indian corn and gourds along the way.

My first stop was to search through the pumpkins in front of the store for fallen off stems, a tip I got from a tutorial on making velvet pumpkins. I fell in love when I first saw the stuffed beauties and with a real stem, they are so pretty to decorate with. I am going to try and follow that tutorial and make one!

Schutts has the best cider and donuts, both made on the premises. Their cider is clear and so fresh tasting. It is worth the drive and the price!

I was excited to get home and put my apples in my vintage orchard basket....

On the way home we stopped to drop off some cider and donuts to my daughter Jena and my granddaugher Chloe and newborn grandson, JC.

He is always sleeping! It's hard work growing so much! He is a big boy..... weighing 9 pounds 11 ounces at birth. At one month he is 11 pounds and wearing a 6 month outfit. Look at that red hair!!

It stands straight up like that no matter what you do!

My husband and I celebrate our wedding day every month on the 13th with a little gift for each other. This is what I got...M & M's white chocolate candy corn candies. They have a distinct white chocolate taste with a hint of candy corn flavor. My husband knows me well.

I know him well too. This is what I gave him...chocolate espresso bread for his breakfast every morning at work. He grew up on espresso and you know what they say about the way to a man's heart......!

Are you having a nice Fall?

AnnMarie xoxo

I am linking up to these great blog parties:

Treasure Box Tuesday
You're Gonna Love It Tuesday
The Scoop
Wake Up Wednesday Linky Party
What's It Wednesday
Share Your Cup Thursday
Home and Garden Thursday
Treasure Hunt Thursday
Freedom Fridays with All My Bloggy Friends

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Barn Sale

Those two words just get my picking fingers going and my heart fills with the thrill of the hunt!

So many great large items I had to pass by for things I could easily ship.

It was a good day at the barn sale!

There is a barn sale every October a few streets over from me. The owner owns the antique shop in town and whatever is left over from auctions and estate sales that she doesn't want to sell in her shop, she sells at the barn sale.

There is a large metal barrel, a metal bucket, a gorgeous basket, milking stool
hand painted enamel coffee pot, a chamber pot, enamel bowl, red transferware
creamer, baby shoes, syrup jar, wooden drawer, horse brass and an old
pig cutting board

It may not all be antique shop worthy, but it is all fabulous vintage stuff to me!

On the wicker chair is a Santa peg doll, a Santa shadow dancer by the artist Young, a red
transferware creamer, a silhouette picture, baby shoes and a wooden drawer.

Before we go any further, I have a confession to make.

Isn't she cute with her eyelashes?

This sale has been so good in years past that I just had to skip the first part of my Ladies' bible study at my church to be one of the first ones there at 9 a.m. I did debate about this over and over with myself but in the end I decided this was a once a year BUSINESS  thing so I had to indulge....I mean do my duty to my shop!

Love the patterns on these pretty pieces.

I planned it all out. I am a multitasker so it wasn't hard to do.

I already have one of each of these so this may
become a "one for me, one for you (my shop)"!

 I was going to get there at 9:00 on the dot and be gone in 20 minutes.....which includes finding fabulous things, going around twice (which I HAVE to do) and paying. I would still make it to the second half of bible study. Aside from the wonderful spiritual insight I was to gain, I had to go because I was to pick up a gift, drop off a check and I had signed up to bake goodies for the ladies. Thinking ahead, I had dropped those off the night before. I HAD to make this work!

I love how the hand painted bright orange and yellow sunflowers give
this enamel coffee pot a whimsical look.

I arrived at 8:50 a.m. and there were others there already. Great! I was 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I had to bypass all the fabulous vintage chairs, chests, trunks and other large objects (not shippable for me) outside to get to the goods. As soon as I entered the barn itself I started picking and gathering and stock piling. I actually had to start a pile by the checkout so that I could go back for more.

How could I pass up a chamber pot? It has cobalt blue trim. The
bowl is pretty beat up but it is enamelware so I couldn't pass it up.

At 9:20 I was out of there! On the way to church I realized my phone had died. I did not feel comfortable going 20 minutes away from home without anyone being able to get in touch with me. I do still have a kid in school. I turned around and went home to get my charger. Once on my way again, isn't there a train ready to cross the tracks?! Bad timing!

A close up of the Santas. I used to collect Santas. I am being very
brave listing these to sell!

I made it to bible study in pretty good time though. I was blessed with a lot of spiritual insight, picked up the gift, dropped off the check and all my baked goods (I made the pumpkin bread from my last post, here) were almost all gone!

This is called a horse brass and it is so unique. I used to make necklaces
out of these. It is a solid brass medal that horse owners would hang on their
horses' neck to identify them. They were made with many different symbols
according to what the horse owner wanted.

Totally worth the effort, don't you think?

I love the wooden items I got. The stool is so small and cute!
My heart skipped two beats that day...one for the wicker basket and one for
the berry basket. It is quite large and may be too big to ship.....
hmmm, I may have to keep it!

Now I need to clean, primp, photograph, research, and list all my fabulous finds in my Etsy shop. I may have to keep a few things for myself......but don't I always?!

Oh yeah, I am definitely keeping this, found at a garage sale I just happened to be going by on my way home from getting cider and donuts....

He is from the 1950's and so nostalgic to me. He already has a few cracks and is very fragile. Because I just don't want to take a chance trying to ship him, I have to keep him for myself. He will probably hang right where he is at holiday time or maybe in an upstairs window.

Quite an adventurous day and the weather was absolutely divine. A perfect Fall day!

AnnMarie xoxo

I am linking up with these great blog parties:

Amaze Me Monday
Masterpiece Monday
Make It Monday
Make It Pretty Monday
Show and Share
Treasure Box Tuesday
Anything Goes - You're Gonna Love It Tuesday
Let's Talk Vintage (a new party!)
Vintage Inspiration Party
What's It Wednesday
Treasure Hunt Thursday
Share Your Cup Thursday
Freedom Fridays with All My Bloggy Friends

Friday, October 3, 2014

Chloe and Her Leaves

My 3 year old granddaughter Chloe visits me for the day every Wednesday.

She found a new thing she likes to do at NaNa's. In the afternoon when it is warmer and sunny but the grass is still wet, we go outside to the front walk to chalk.

She loves finding sticks and since the leaves are falling and gathering on the ground she has found some other new"natural" play things.

Gathering them up, she makes a pile.

There must be a variety of leaves. Once the leaves are gathered from the ground she pulls them off of plants and trees. Those are special and funny because it makes NaNa scream! Like the leaves from the already bloomed Iris!

Then start chalking. You have to be precise and diligent in your work.

Getting the chalk on just right.

Finish them off with a jab here and a jab there with the stick.


Yes, Chloe, you should be proud of a good job!

Happy Fall!

AnnMarie xoxo

I am linking up with these fun blog parties:
The Pin Junkie Pin Party
Freedom Fridays with All My Bloggy Friends
The Weekend Re-Treat Link Party
Share Your Cup Thursday
Strut Your Stuff Saturday