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That I have a NEW blog and website …..I am going to eventually let this one go, so I am hoping you will subscribe to my new one! If you have been a follower I am sincerely hoping that you will continue to follow my blog on the “new” site. It is so much cooler!

http://www.katecourysfarmhouse.com/blog

Thanks for your support!  Barbie

As much as I LOVE design and decorating I really HATE the work of putting up the Christmas decor and taking it back down again in approximately a months time! It’s like MOVING for crying out loud! However I do love the end result. I have a big house which requires a lot of decorations. Each year I seem to add to the collection though and it just keeps getting bigger and more work to put up and take down.

Part of this years decor in the great room… sans the dog.
Fancy Cardinal tree in great room
Family Christmas tree in foyer

I have always had a system to my Christmas storage bins that has helped, and I had to update it last year again because we lived in a different house the last time I updated them.  So last year I updated it all to each container only holding what is needed for each room or for which tree (we do two trees) (the family tree and the fancy tree). Then I took pictures of everything all decorated (I have a terrible memory) and if I allow myself to simply do the same thing a couple of years in a row it makes for less work, and no one really notices but me that it is exactly the same as the previous year. I do throw a few new things in there though! Ha! Can’t help myself.

Each tub has a list and a duplicate one for my kitchen drawer where I can quick reference which container I want ahead of time, instead of going into the basement and finding it first. It’s cold down there!

When I unpacked this year it was so much easier! I simply only had the storage container for each room I wanted to decorate brought up from the basement…..well….actually I’m lying….I had my son-in-law bring them all up at once because I only had “strong arms help” for a specific amount of time, since the containers are to heavy for me to carry by myself.  BUT!  my original plan was to do it the other way….it was such a good plan too. So to compromise I had each container put in its perspective room and it went so much easier and was without all the mess scattered about until I was done. It takes me days to decorate (I kinda hate that part) Haven’t figured out how to shorten that bit up yet.

I am actually ahead of the game this year! However, I got about 90% done and there it all sits, waiting to be carried to its yearly storage area. It’s been there a week now! I did it all last week, because I didn’t want to do it on the “precious” weekend….but we were so busy on the “precious” weekend that it never got down to the basement. Oh WELL it looks lovely all sitting in my foyer, and I’m sure whoever comes up from the basement or through our front door doesn’t mind bumping into it each time. I am positively sure of it!

And the re-pack begins. This is only a “few” of what is sitting there at the moment blocking my foyer!
I had to update a few of the lists because I inherited a bunch of new stuff this year.
Stacking up the containers as they are filled and ready to go back to the basement….which they have NOT yet. My daughter decided she will NEVER do this kind of BIG decorating EVER after watching me! That kinda made me sad…..or at the very least like I didn’t pass on the Christmas torch to her! Why wouldn’t she want to pack like she’s moving and unmoving once a year????

I may just try to drag them down the stairs myself….even though my back begs me not to…..I need my foyer back! I need Christmas gone and spring to appear!

 
Naked tree….looks so …..well….naked…and sad….goodbye Christmas tree for another year.

Spring here we come! YEAH! BABY! BRING ON THE SPRING!!!!

Almond Roca The Easy Way

 

I do  not care much for baking and such….but if the recipe is super easy and tastes FABULOUS, well…then I am willing to go to the fuss of it all.  However, this recipe is so easy that my Golden Retriever puppy could make it! In fact I have requested that he be the one to bring it to the Christmas get together at my husbands sisters house. He is SUCH a snob about his baking though….he won’t share any of his secrets!

Here is the recipe

Almond Roca

1 Lb of real butter

1/2 c Karo light syrup

1 c sugar

1 1/2 c chopped almonds

1/2 c ground almonds

1 pkg (12oz) chocolate chips

Melt butter over medium high heat in heavy skillet or dutch oven. Add Karo syrup and sugar, stir till dissolved.  Add chopped almonds.  Cook 12 -14 minutes or until mixture turns toffee brown.  Pour onto cookie sheet.  Sprinkle on Chocolate chips and after a minute or two spread the melted chips.  Then sprinkle on the ground almonds.

It will look like this when your done.

Keep frozen.  Then crack apart and serve.

Mine didn’t crack apart like it should…didn’t cook the Karo, sugar, butter mixture long enough, and Clifford neglected to tell me that part was crucial to the cracking of the end result! I TOLD you he was a baking snob.

Keep frozen until ready to eat.

 

Thats it!  It is AMAZING.

 

I LOVE those pine trees that you can find in all the upscale stores during the holidays! I LOVE LOVE LOVE them! I just don’t LOVE the upscale prices on them. So like everything else that I don’t want to spend my hard-earned money on but still REALLY WANT, I simply learn how to make it myself! Sometimes this has worked out for me and somethings it has really backfired! Like the time I could not find “hooked rugs” anywhere to put in my new LARGE home with all hardwood floors….I joined a rug hooking group and figured that I was just simply going to make ALL of the rugs for our new home! HAAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAA HAAAAAA HAAAAA!!!  These sweet ladies most much older and WISER than me ……sat looking at me with that look of “poor little thing has no idea what she is saying”! ) They were far to polite to actually LAUGH at me!  It took me two years to complete my first SMALL area rug! However I have been a member of this fabulous group of women for several years now, and I just love them and the art of rug hooking…but I broke down and “bought” most of my rugs for our house.  Hooked rugs are time-consuming and when you are done with all the work you really sorta kinda don’t want anyone to put their dirty shoes/feet on them! But I digress.  Today I want to show you how easy it is to make your own Christmas trees!  I will show you later how to also make your own Christmas wreaths and dried floral wreaths too…but today just Christmas trees.  Heres how you do it.

For tools you will need a drill and some small drill bits! I broke 4 on this project!  I was a little rusty with my drill I guess! You will need some good garland, floral tape, wire cutter and some hot glue. First cut a platform for your tree trunk to stand on and drill it in from the bottom with a screw long enough to go through all the thicknesses of the wood.

Start with a small tree trunk…just as long as it’s pretty straight and about 3 to 4 inches around, depending on how big you want your tree.
Drill a bigger hole in the middle and three smaller holes along the edge like this.
Cut three pieces from your garland making sure to leave about an inch to two inch portion of wire from the garland.

When you insert it the branch will be sticking straight up. Bend it down to a be perpendicular to the tree.

Like this. Don’t worry! I haven’t put the top on yet. I know it looks kinda like a palm tree right now.

Do this with the next two pieces.

Make the tree topper

Your going to want to make the top longer. It will almost look like a tiny Christmas tree all on its own.  Using your floral tape reinforce it with a piece of heavy gauge wire that has been wrapped with the floral tape then attach it to the garland using the branches to twist onto the wire….make sure to leave an extra long end that will be inserted into the top of the tree. About three inches should do it. Make sure that the hole you drilled on top is at least that deep too.  Go around the end of the topper at the stem and wrap with floral tape to keep it sturdy.  You want to do this because it will hold that wire in place and it won’t slip up and down. Then plop that into the top of the tree.

I didn’t actually go over the end of this one with the floral tape….sorry, I realize that is a bit confusing! But that “is” what you “should” do.

The reason I “didn’t” do that in the photo is because the particular garland I was working with had VERY GOOD and sturdy wire running through it already and a long enough wire already extending when I cut it off the garland that I simply didn’t need to put another reinforcement wire through it and extend it out for a longer end. (which is why you would normally do it)  wheww! That was a mouth full.  Sorry, but I felt I needed to explain that so as not to confuse you.

Make sure it fits flush with the top of the trunk.
Start to drill your holes about 3 inches down and go all around the tree trunk spaced evenly.

I only put about 3 holes around the trunk and when I start the next row (3 inches down) I stager them to offset the branches.  Also as you go down the tree trunk with your garland as you start each new row make sure to make your garland cuts a little bigger each time. Think of a pine tree….it gets bigger and bigger as you get towards the bottom. Just a bit each time should do it NOT a whole BUNCH just a wee!  Don’t worry you’ll probably screw up! I still do…..just adjust and recut if you make it too big. If you make it too small then save those pieces for another tree! Because once you master this I promise you that you will WANT to make another and another and then some for gifts and on and on. Trust me.

Keep going until you have gone all the way down your tree trunk leaving about 24 inches without branches at the bottom. Side note: see all my “unused” holes LOLOL
Sorry for the crappy picture…it’s the only shot I have to show you the bottom.

Your tree will look like this when you are done.

Hang some lights on them and WA LA!
Then I made another “bigger” one out of different garland and put them next to my front door.

It really is important to find good strudy garland that has a strong wire holding it together for the larger trees…otherwise it will be to floppy.  I tried it with the cheap Walmart type stuff and it looked awful. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you do have to get some garland that is nice…the nicer the garland the nicer the tree. If you choose to make a smaller tree…such as a 36 inch or so then you can easily use the cheaper stuff (and I DO have some of those in my house too).  And they look great.

I made these about 15 yrs ago with the really cheap stuff and they still look great.

OK! So I realize that I showed you how to do this entire thing w/out showing you the “hot glue part”  I did that on purpose. It’s because I ALWAYS screw up where I want the holes…if you look closley you can see I have MANY holes in my trees!  I move those holes up and down (no one will ever know unless you tell them) because once the branches are on it really hides them, plus the tree trunks are kind of raw and natural like that anyway and the holes are so small that they are sort of unnoticeable anyway…just looks like a bird or bug did it or something! LOL   At any rate I drill all my holes first and then attach all the garland pieces and make sure I have everything where I want it and it looks right to me and THEN I use the hot glue at the very end. Just dip the end of your wire on the garland piece in the hot glue and stick it in the hole you want.  Add some pinecones or twigs or berries…whatever flips your trigger and presto! All your friends will think your amazing!  I made my husband say the words “Wow honey”!!! “YOU made that?”!! “You are soooo amazing!” In fact I made all my family members say it to me! Then I felt quite satisfied with myself, as I nodded my head yes, and acted quite humble about it all.

You see, my family is so used to me now with all my DIY stuff that they barely notice when I do something cool anymore!  It’s like “Oh”, “Mom is building another house today”?” “no big deal.”  Every DIYer needs a pat on the back….every time. 🙂

For a more creative how to’s visit my new website at http://www.katecourysfarmhouse.com/make-your-own-christmas-tree

Everyone loves a great bow! I know I do!  Costco has a GREAT assortment of affordable ribbon on the spool. I believe it is about 50yds for around 7 or 8 dollars (don’t quote me on that price), but it is a GREAT buy considering you may want to wrap a LOT of presents or decorate your entire Christmas tree or wreath with these bows.  I usually buy one or two spools of my favorite and use it for all my packages. It makes your package look so yummy and luxurious.   If you think about it it’s probably just as economical as buying a big ol bag of bows pre made and a whole lot more attractive.  Here is how to make the perfect Christmas bow.

OK, did anyone notice that I totally screwed up and didn’t put the last loop on the other side to make 8 loops! ha ha ha ha!  OH WELL! Just pretend that I did! Ok? OK!

Now go buy yourself some pretty ribbon and get to making some beautiful bows and be a big fat show off!

Giving credit to Giada DeLaurentiis

Ok, so I do realize that Thanksgiving is OVER, but hey the holidays are NOT.  So in light of the fact that Christmas is right around the corner I would like you to consider this dressing if you choose to have Turkey as your Christmas dinners main dish.  I AM!

OMGOSH! This is the worlds BEST dressing/stuffing EVER! And I am a total dressing/stuffing snob! It is Giada DeLaurentiis’s and I kid you not when I say you will be dreaming about it every day after you eat it. You will want to make it again and again, you will look for reasons to make it! You will create new holidays just so you can make this dressing again! I am not going to go into the “making” of it here because Giada does a spectacular job of that already check it out. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/ciabatta-stuffing-with-chestnuts-and-pancetta-recipe/index.html

My new blogging friend “She’s a Maniac” turned me on to it! She “says” she is a bad cook….I think NOT. If she made this dressing it is proof positive that she has great taste and discernment on what is good and what is not.  Thank you so much Darla!

I will say this….The chestnut part may discourage you…..well don’t let it! And by all means do NOT leave them out! I almost did.  Yes, the dressing will still be fabulous, but I simply cannot imagine (now that I know) not having that GLORIOUS chestnutty flavor in it. You can find them at “World Market”….don’t even bother going to your local grocery store….they will take you to the “water chestnuts” or produce, and tell you you have to roast your own every time.  The best thing to do if you do not have a World Mkt is talk to your local grocery store ordering manager (or what ever you call them) and let him know about a month in advance to please order you some chestnuts in a jar….tell him it is usually a “seasonal item” and that you would like to know if he can get it for you. He probably can. I did find one manager that knew exactly what I was talking about and had ordered some….but they would not arrive in time for my Thanksgiving prep. The best bet is a food specialty store….and be prepared ….they will be a bit spendy ….I got mine 1/2 off….you may not be that lucky…but trust me….they are WORTH every dime ….some things are just worth that high price trust me you won’t regret it.

Start with your basic turkey….and I made up my dressing the day before, because it takes a bit of time to prepare.
……And always…..coffee needs to be an active part of the preparation.

You  must get up at the butt crack of dawn (notice how dark it still is out the widow behind me?)….and of course in your jammies…cause you may want to go back to bed after you stuff the turkey….I “have” done that in the past….but mostly NOT.  It was somewhere around 6am in this photo. A twenty pound turkey needs to cook around 6.5 hrs.

I experimented this time and used “cheesecloth” to line the turkey cavity before stuffing.

This proved to be a really great choice! It made it so easy to get the stuffing out after it was cooked….I think it cut down on the drippings though and so I had to really stretch to have enough for the gravy after all the basting of the panned stuffing and what ever I used to baste the turkey while it was cooking. Still I would say definitely worth it.

Unfold until it is only one layer….like this.
shove it up the turkeys butt…..Sorry, but I really enjoyed writing that!
Stuff the bird nice and full inside that cheesecloth.
Twist the cheesecloth after your done and snip it.

Then flip  the bird over and stuff the neck too!

Don’t forget to stuff the neck.
cram it full as you can! 
Pull the skin up over the opening.
Secure it with anything you can find that will go in the oven…I used a cut shishkabob skewer.
Flip that bird back over and you are done!
Cover loosely with “heavy duty foil” and your cookin!

Now go back to bed and sleep for another couple of hours! Your going to have a big day ahead!

The Pie Crust

Thanksgiving day….come and gone already.  How did that happen? Tuesday was spent with cooking ALL DAY LONG….so we would have most of it done! Then, I kid you NOT….we cleaned on Wednesday ALL DAY LONG from 9am to 6pm (we have a big house) and the only time we really deep clean it is when someone is coming over for dinner.  We had 13 people over for dinner, and it was glorious and fun and happy, and everything that a Thanksgiving day gathering should be.

There was “Chaos in the kitchen” before dinner, while the last minute preparations of potatoes needing to be mashed and turkey needing to be carved and dressing getting burned a little went on!  Then all the EATING and STUFFING and laughing around the dinner table…..then coffee and playing games! Finely it is time for dessert! We had Three….Pumkin Pie (of course), coconut cream pie, and then…..the traditional apple pie …..my mother in law always brought her apple pie to Thanksgiving. She made the best pie crust! She made the best EVERYTHING.  We lost her last February suddenly and unexpectedly. This was our first Thanksgiving without her. None of us were looking forward to it. It has been a hard 9 months for us and my husbands sister and her family….My Mother in law “Evelyn” was the go to for almost everything. She was organized, never forgot a birthdate, always knew the protocol for everything….was never late for an appointment, was the cleanest woman I ever met, the least judgemental person on earth and had the sweetest spirit!  I loved her in the way a best friend loves her sweet and opposite BFF…..(the way I love my mild mannered and more gentle spirited BFF of 38 yrs) I would kick anyones butt who tried to hurt them kind of love!

Thanksgiving 2010 ( That's Evelyn in the blue sweater)

Last Thanksgiving was our last with her and it was probably our best! We had her and my husbands sisters family for dinner and they all stayed over night (lots of snow) and we all went shopping the next day for new Christmas trees…..it was a barrel of laughs and also a particularly “sad” day as well. It was our first Thanksgiving without “Grampa” my husbands father….who had been battling Cancer for several years (he had passed on Thanksgiving day). Evelyn and Ron had been married for 53 yrs. I have always felt so thankful for Ron and Everyln and their example of family and marriage. Because of them I have my husband who walks out their example in our family.

Never in a million years did I EVER think that we would be celebrating another Thanksgiving “this” year without now having Evelyn at our table and in our presence helping with all the last minute chaos….It is still so unbelievable….we are still in such shock.  I remember last year as I sat with her in her house at the end of the day on Thanksgiving, while waiting for my husband to take his sister home. She sat in the chair and looked up at the clock (it was 7pm) and said “It has been exactly one year Barbie” I knew what she was talking about. One year since Ronnie’s death….he died at 7pm. We had all thought about it that day…..it was hard (very hard)….but we still tried to make it a happy day. Gary’s Mom was such a trooper.  However, there we sat her and I….I asked her if it had gotten at all easier as time had passed…..without hesitation she replied “no” …..thats all just “no”and wiped the tears out of her eyes…..I felt so helpless and sad… I wanted to make it all better for her.  She missed him so much.  I just ached for her.  At the same time I found comfort that we still had “her” so healthy and full of life.  She was not an emotional woman (unlike me) and I counted it a privilege that she would entrust me with her emotions at that very moment. I don’t even remember what I said to her in response or how I tried to comfort her (I’m sure I did” something”) it would be completely unlike me to keep my mouth shut, but whatever it was it fell far short of making it any better….so I just sat with her quietly. Never would I have guessed we only had a few months left with her. If I had known there would be so many things I would have done differently. I loved her deeply, and I miss her like she was my own Mom.

So this year for Thanksgiving, we honored her by making “her” stuffing/dressing recipe (along with mine too) which we always did. However, what was the most special of all was the fact that she had always made up pie’s, cookies and pie shells and put them in her freezer ready to go for any last minute thing she might need.  Every time my husband and I went to her house he would go directly to the basement and reappear back upstairs with a handful of her raisin oatmeal cookies, all frozen with a big smile on his face…..she never batted an eye….in fact I know she LOVED that.  So when we cleaned out the freezer….I grabbed all those pies and we ate them together with all the siblings and their families…..we left the cookies and we all ate them each time we went to her house to do more clearing out of stuff….it was just sort of a comfort thing we all understood.  The last thing left was the pie shells…..there were two…..I took them and put them in my freezer with the intention that we might someday want to make a pie and use them. As I put the turkey away in the freezer to wait for Thanksgiving this year I noticed the pie shells…..and thought about her apple pie….that we would not be having this year….then suddenly I thought “oh yes we will”  so my husband made the apple pie and used those two shells…one for the bottom and the other for the top.  It was as if Evelyn herself had brought her pie to our Thanksgiving feast.

As I cut the first piece I felt this pain in my heart….I almost didn’t want to let anyone have any….I felt like it was our last goodbye to anything her hands had made (well food wise that is) and I wanted to run in the other room and bawl like a baby, but I dished it up and thought to myself….I will saver every last bite….just as I saver every last memory that I have of that wonderful woman.  I miss her so much, and I look forward to the day I see her and Ron again. We will have all eternity together.