Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! Reflecting on 2013

Today is the last day of 2013 and I don't know about you but for me here in Colorado it was for the most part a good year, though unlucky 13 did read its ugly head a few times.

In 2012 we had the horrible Waldo Canyon fire that was intentionally set.  This fire burned many acres and hundreds (approx. 350) homes.  I can remember sitting on my back deck and seeing the flames glowing at night.  The result of this fire for 2013 was every time it rained over the burn scar we had flooding.  Bad flooding. 

Manitou Springs flooded several times and the images of water and rocks coming down Highway 24 was astonishing and unbelievable.  It was so bad that every time it rained they closed the highway and evacuated the town of Manitou.  The flooding was also bad downstream as all that water rushed into downtown Old Colorado City, Colorado Springs then onto the plains and the Arkansas River system. 

We had horrible rains all over the state this past summer.  It would rain so hard and so fast the rain didn't have anywhere to go so we had floods.  There was the flood in Boulder where the small quiet stream overflow its banks and flooded the college and most of the town.  I even had water in my basement and my front yard from all the rain.

On a good note, all this rain brought us out of the drought we were having.  Water rationing for lawns and gardens went away.  The silver lining! 

2013 also saw another bad fire.  The Black Forest Fire started on a windy day, well I know, every day here in Colorado is windy but this was an exceptionally windy day.  The fire, fueled by the dry conditions and wind burned hundreds of homes and businesses.  But again, the silver lining was the rain that came and helped the firefighters. 

To me it all comes down to finding the good in everything.  The Manitou shops are having a resurgence in business as the town has come together to shop local and support the town of Manitou Springs.  Even the local businesses in Colorado Springs and Old Colorado City are booming from the community support of shopping local.  The people of Black Forest are rebuilding and doing fire mitigation to help prevent another fire.  Their businesses are also finding a silver lining from the fire as our community is working to help them and support their efforts. 

I accomplished a lot of things in 2013, our family camped several times, we made new friends, said a sad good-bye to a dear friend who lost his battle with cancer but overall we had a terrific 2013 as a family. 
I started this blog in 2013 and I'm grateful to anyone who reads it and I hope it brings a laugh to you at least once in a while.  It is very cathartic for me to write and I appreciate all of you. 

So Christmas! 
For me, Christmas is a time for me to reflect on the small child born so humbly and reflecting on how his ministry changed the world.  Prior everyone was a pagan but this man teaching love and peace changed the world dramatically.  To me it means that my contribution, no matter how small can change the world. 
Christmas though is for children and I am lucky enough to have nieces that I can spoil if I want!  It is my job.  The largest gift under the tree was for my Lily.  Christmas is also a time for family and friends to gather together and laugh.  I am lucky enough to have a family that enjoys each other and we get together often to eat, play games and just laugh and be silly with one another. 
Here is a bit of a look at our Christmas 2013.

As we start 2014 please be careful if you drive, watch out for the crazies!  I wish everyone peace, love and joy for 2014! 
I'll be back on Friday to show everyone how to clean their ovens... did you know that the doors come apart so you can clean inside?  Nope, me either! 
Happy New Year and God Bless us Everyone! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Year, new organizational paradimes

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! 
Ours was a comedy of errors.  First we had a sewer back up then no hot water!  It all got fixed and worked out in the end but it was funny!  HA HA - NOT.  What a mess.  Luckily our friends and family understand and didn't mind the washer and dryer in the family room.  We could still play pool so that is what was important!

I got a new laptop for Christmas.  This thing is so fast I'm hitting buttons and it is doing things and I'm like, 'NO! STOP!'  but I love it!  It won't take me 20 minutes to download pictures now.  So watch out blogging world here I come faster and better than ever! 

Is it just me or does everyone feel the need to purge after the holidays? 
By purging I mean cleaning out.  But yes I did eat too much. 

I go through clothes, shoes, accessories, coats (hey may be this week I'll get my hall closet organized! It has only been on my list for 6 months).  Don't judge! 

I also go through dishes, kitchen items, nick-knacks, really anything that I haven't used or don't like any longer goes!  GoodWill and the ARC love me this time of the year. 

For some reason this year, the purging started early for me, the day after Christmas.  I was itching to take down our tree, get everything boxed up and put away.  To me, everything was looking cluttered and dirty.   No, things weren't dirty, cluttered because yes I do have over 100 Santa's!  I did put off the putting away until Saturday.  Then I cleaned like crazy and got not only the house but the outside boxed up and away with the help of my husband. 

I washed down walls, doors, baseboards and moldings.  I got on my hands and knees and cleaned the hardwood floors as well as the grout in our master bathroom. 

Now that everything is cleaner I am looking back and thinking I was crazy!  I should have left Christmas up a bit longer. Everything looks so bare now.  Normally I leave Christmas up until January 6 or there around.  Epiphany.  With my older daughter back at college and my younger one encouraging me I took it all down early. 

Now comes the organizing.  January equals organizing and purging for me.

Do you organize things in your house?  Let's start with my kitchen. 

I am very proud that I only have 1 junk drawer in my entire house.  Yes, just one!  It holds pencils, pens, scissors, tape measure, tie backs, address book, felt pads for chairs, a small flashlight, night light bulbs and a jar of thumb tacks. 

I keep the pens and pencils in a small basket in the drawer along with the flashlight, scissors and the measuring tape.  Everything else just kinda lays in the drawer. 

Otherwise my kitchen is a mess, literally. 

I don't have a large kitchen it is probably 8X10.  I painted the cabinets white to make the kitchen look larger and personally, I don't like a white kitchen.  I do not like white cabinets.  The dirt that seems to always be on them drives me a bit crazy with cleaning them sometimes.  I don't have a neat family.  My husband tends to drip coffee, my kids put their dirty hands everywhere.  My husband cleans fish in my kitchen sink!  yes he does!!! 

The doors always look dirty and you can tell where people touch them to open them.  I thought if I got knobs and pulls that this would make a difference, nope. 

All of my drawers feel unorganized and messy.  I found this online and thought BRILLIANT! 

This is one of those things where I said, "why haven't I thought of this before?"  This simple change to a drawer makes so much sense to me.  I am always cleaning the plastic bin where the silverware is because to me if that is dirty then your silverware is dirty. 

This is something I have shown my husband and he even said it is a brilliant idea! 
My silverware is in an odd place in my kitchen.  It isn't in a drawer under the cupboard where the plates are, nooo, that would be a logical place for them.  They are across the kitchen in one of only 2 large flat drawers.  The other large flat drawer is next to the stove and that is where I keep cooking utensils I don't use every day.  The odd whisk or spatula hides in that drawer. 

I also really like this idea.
This is another organization tool that made sense to me.  I don't have a basket, I have a lazy susan type of marble plate that I've got this sort of stuff on.  Why, because I have it on hand, no buying anything extra.  Though if I come across a basket like this and the price is right I may buy one. 
When you Google 'kitchen organization ideas' and look at the images most of what you see is bins, clear bins to be exact.  I don't have room for bins in my kitchen.  Again, small... only 6 upper cabinets, really 3.  The ones above the stove and refrigerator shouldn't count as cabinets.  You can't access them and they are so small you really can't put anything in them.  I also have a very narrow upper next to my refrigerator that I keep cookbooks and medicine in.  Bottom cabinets I have 4.  One is a lazy susan that holds all the small appliances and one by the stove holds cookie sheets, colander and baking pans.  The other is where my can goods and other boxed good go.  I do not have room for a pantry in my little kitchen so there is really no room for bins.  On a side note, I do have a pot rack.  A must otherwise I'd be storing pots in my oven. 
I do like the idea of storing knives on a magnetic strip above the stove...
I don't know if I have the room to do this though. 
I also see lots of ideas for storage on the countertops.  Yeah, good idea but I don't have that much countertops so I try, yes try, to keep them clutter free. 
Do you have any great kitchen storage ideas?  I'd love to hear them! 
Happy New Year!  If you venture out please be safe.  I'll be gone the rest of the week but I'll be back next Monday.  Happy 2014.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night...

As we gather together to fill our houses and hearts with joy and light this holiday season may you find the blessings and peace of a humble heart.  May the Peace and Goodwill that is felt this time of the year be extended throughout 2014 and may your heart be filled with the joy of giving. 

As we know even a small gesture can be payed forward a thousand times and spread like the light we fill our homes with.  Even that small unassuming child, born in a stable, taught about love of your fellow man, peace and kindness throughout the years. 

May you find peace, joy and light this holiday. 

Thank you for reading my posts and laughing with me as I make mistakes and have small triumphs.  I hope your 2014 is as great as you want it to be. 

I will be taking the rest of the week off to spend with family and friends.  I'll be back on Monday with some tips for a festive New Years Eve party. 

Till then,
Merry Light.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Welcome Christmas AH WHOO AH WHO

Happy Holiday!
I hope everyone had a safe weekend and got all their shopping done.
If you saw the extra blog post I did on Saturday, you'll know that I baked all weekend.  The Christmas Crack is the best, if you haven't tried it, go to the Saturday blog post and get the recipe!  It is great and very easy to make.

I thought I'd give a bit of a tour of my house.  I've been contemplating as I don't have one of those phenomenal blogger homes.  My house is a ranch with a VERY tiny, tiny, kitchen.  I mean small.  I don't have a massive dinning or living room.  They are open to each other though.  What I do have is high ceilings.  They arch to 20 feet in the middle of the dinning and living room.  My little house is about 1100 sq ft on each level but I really love it.  We actually live in our house, each and every room.

OK so the outside...
Yep we're THAT house.  
So when you come in the door you are greeted by a small table (I am still looking for another table with storage for this space - one day).  I like lanterns, you'll see them throughout the house.  I also collect Santa's.  In here is one with a reindeer.  

Walking straight you will see our tree in all its glory!
Behind the tree you can see the massive and dark fireplace and mantel.  No I haven't changed it.  My husband likes it as it is so it will stay.  To the left of the tree on the shelf are some more Santa's... I have quite a few!

If you turn to the right I have my love seat and the sliding door to the backyard.  There is also an end table and coffee table.  On the coffee table I've got another lantern with an old salt and pepper shaker.  My Mom brought these to me last year.  One is a Santa and one is an angel.  
 I always have sea shells in my decor as a nod to my home state, Maryland.
If you turn around you will see the dinning and kitchen.  This is my buffet.
And dining table.

The top of my refrigerator.
 And my new chalkboard door!
Now downstairs...As you head down our steps I have several tree's on the bottom landing.  Along with several Santa's!
And a larger tree in the family/TV room.
 My daughter and husband decorated this tree, they did a great job!
 We have bookshelves with movies and books and more Santa's!
If you keep heading left you find the game room/office.  Here is a smaller tree and more Santa's!

I try to decorate every room.  Every bathroom has something Christmassy in it, every bedroom as well.  
This little nativity is in my guest room where my Mother stays.

My girls even have tree's in their bedrooms.
 And even the bathrooms get a bit of Christmas.

I feel that Christmas decor shouldn't be relegated to just one room of the house.  I do go over the top but I love it!

I won't be blogging on Wednesday - Merry Christmas everyone!  I will be back on Friday!
May the joy of family and friends be yours this holiday.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Crack

I've been baking today.  Busy, busy, busy.
I had a very ambitious schedule for today, fudge, oatmeal, chocolate chip, lazy cookie bars, peanut butter fudge bars, butter cookies, Christmas crack and banana bread.

I got most of it done.

 Lazy cookie bars, made with box cake mix!
Chocolate chip, a standard!   
Fudge brownies

Butter cookies.  Also made with box cake mix and cream cheese!  They are soft and very rich and buttery and covered with powdered sugar.... yum

PB fudge bars.  Decadent! 

And last but not least, Christmas Crack!
Prior to being broken up...
After being broken up.

Now I know what you are saying, "What the heck is Christmas Crack?!!"
I am here to tell you that it is good and easy to make.  If I can do it, you can do it!
You will  need:
1 cup unsalted butter - the good stuff no substituting margarine!
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar - I use light brown sugar
2 cups (at least) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, or any type of chocolate you want  On one half of mine I used mint chocolate!
Approximately 40 saltine crackers... yep crackers.

O.K. first things first.  Get a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides.
Line it with parchment or aluminum foil.  Spray the parchment or foil with non stick cooking spray.
Next - lay the saltines flat on the cookie sheet on top of the parchment or foil. Make sure the crackers touch one another.  One layer only.
On the stove in a small saucepan:  Melt butter and sugar until a boil is reached - stir, stir, stir constantly!  Once it is boiling turn down to medium/low and continue to stir for 3-5 minutes until the sugar is melted and the toffee begins to thicken.
Pour the hot toffee over the crackers!  Spread it out to coat all the crackers evenly.
Bake in the oven - 350 for 8-10 minutes or until the toffee begins to bubble in the oven.
Remove from the oven.  Let it sit for 1-2 minutes then sprinkle the chocolate over the top.  As the chocolate begins to melt spread it out evenly over the toffee/cracker mixture.
You can add nuts or sprinkles or candy or anything you want at this point!
Let cool completely.  I covered mine and put it in the garage on a shelf since it has been so cold here.  Once cold, break it up into pieces and eat it up!  This is seriously good!

Some things to note.  I don't know why the crackers are the bottom layer because the hot toffee seeps through the holes and most of it ends up on the bottom and the crackers for the most part end up being the middle layer.
I doubled my toffee portion.  My cookie sheet is really big so I also used more than 40 crackers, 56 I think was the final number.
I used different kinds of chocolate chips.  I did mint chocolate chips on the left, milk chocolate chips in the middle and semi-sweet with pecans on the right.
  I also had to put mine back in the oven to get the chips to melt this time.  For whatever reason they just didn't want to melt on top of the hot toffee.  So I put the whole thing back in the oven for 2 minutes on 350.
I ask you what is better than salt, chocolate and toffee!?  Not much, well peanut butter, but that is another post!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Water-less snow globes

I did it!  I finally crafted the water-less snow globes.
As I sit here and write this post it is very ironic that I am writing about snow globes when I look outside all our trees have frost over them and it is very foggy.  It looks like I am inside one of my snow globes!

Have you seen these online?  Anthropology carries then starting at $25.00!  I think I made 12 for less than TEN!

What you need.

Glass jars.  I bought canning jars from Walmart in a 12 pack for $8.00.  I bought the large ones. You can use any kind of jar though, if you have old pickle or mayo jars, just any kind of clear jar with a lid.  You will see that I made one in a dollar store sugar dispenser!
Bottle brush trees and or small items to glue into the jars.  I got mine from the dollar store.
Crazy Glue - I had this on hand.  You can also use a craft or even Elmer's glue.
Snow.  I bought mine from the dollar store but you could use Epson or Kosher salts.

Take all the lids off the jars and make sure they are clean.  Now glue your items onto the seal or inside the lid making sure you stay inside the red rim on the canning jars.  Otherwise you won't be able to screw the lid on.
Let the glue dry really well.  
Next, put some 'snow' in the jar part of your globe.  I didn't use much.

Screw the lid on...

 Turn it over and WHA-LA!

 Aren't they cute!  The are very easy and other than working with the super glue a toddler could help you do them.  I am going to tie a ribbon around the bottom and give these as favors to family.
Like a little snow forest.
Now for the sugar container.  I did the same thing except:  instead of gluing to the lid, I glued to the bottom, put the snow in, screwed the lid on and called it good!
Other variations you could try - bleach the bottle brush trees so they are white.  Use ornaments, pictures or even pine cones.  You could embellish the top glass part or the bottom lid part with an ornament or a mini pie tin, a block of wood, a child's block, fabric or anything you want.  Use your imagination!  
I think they turned out soooo cute!  I can't wait to see everyone's expressions when I give them out.  
Have a great weekend!  Monday I'll be sharing my entire house decorated.  Inside and out!  
Be safe if you are driving this weekend, the crazies will be in force!
Till Monday!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The blog about nothing

I never plan out what I am going to write, usually I fly by the seat of my pants and write whatever comes to me.  Today is no exception.

I picked my Mother up from the airport today.  Enough said! :-)

So here I sit trying to decide what to write.  I haven't wrapped a gift, haven't started my Christmas favors - yes I make something for everyone to take home with them.  This year I am making water less snow globes.  I've seen them online in catalogs like Anthropology and Pottery Barn and they are crazy expensive.  I figure I can do something similar much cheaper.  I haven't even started them and Christmas is what, a week away!?  I can see me making them Christmas Eve! I found these on another blog - Makely School for Girls - aren't they cute!
They just look so easy and in the stores, they are EXPENSIVE!

Like a little forest.

Now, if I only get time to actually do them!
I still have to make cookies.  Otherwise I think my family will throw me out.
 I have only made 1 batch of cookies.  I have ambitions to make Buckeyes, chocolate chip, Peanut Butter and PB with Hershey kisses, sugar cookies, biscotti and fudge.  So far, I have only made chocolate chip cookies.

I am really behind.
I have to - HAVE TO - wrap this week because all the gifts are in my daughters room and she comes home from college on Sunday.  She'll need someplace to sleep!

Did I say that I am really behind?  Christmas is coming fast and there isn't enough time in the day with working full time then all of this other stuff I want to do.  I need to invent a time machine or something to make time stand still so I can finish a couple of things!  At least I am done, done, done shopping!
What about you are you ready for Christmas?
I will be back on Friday with some last minute gift ideas and hopefully (keeping my fingers crossed) I'll have the water-less snow globes done... if not YIKES!  I also hope to show you my house all decorated, yes I finally got it there.  I decorate every single room with something for the holiday.
Till Friday!