What joy the gospel gives me. I can approach the throne of God with confidence, not because I've done a good job at my spiritual duties, but because I'm clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. ~ C.J. Mahaney

Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! I took a long bloggity break while we visited with family and friends. Now it's time to pack up the holiday decorations and freshen up the house for the New Year.

I love the warm, cozy, slightly busy mood during December. But I also enjoy the relaxed, de-cluttered, more orderly feeling of January. I went out today and purchased some new cleaning supplies, organizing bins, and a fresh, blank 2008 planner. Those 365 empty squares represent a new start and the promise of a whole year of surprises yet to come. I can't wait to see what 2008 has in store.

Laura Lee

The Best Christmas Cookies Ever

This old family recipe makes the best Christmas cookies ever. I was introduced to them when I married Tom. They have become a Christmas tradition around here. We make a big batch of these at least once during December. Everyone who tastes them just raves about how delicious they are.

The dough is mixed up in two steps, wet and dry. Then the two are blended together and the resulting dough is chilled overnight before rolling and cutting. Without a doubt, what makes these so awesome is the butter cream frosting heaped on the top. Don't get me wrong; the cookies themselves are soft and wonderful, thanks to the sour cream. But the frosting is a must. We love to color the frosting in all sorts of festive hues and then liberally sprinkle the frosted cookies with decorator's sugar and non-pareils.

Christmas Cookies
1st Part
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
Mix really well like pastry till crumbly.
2nd Part
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
Mix together in a separate bowl. Mix 1st and 2nd parts together well. Chill over night. Roll out on floured counter to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes or until set and firm. Do not let the bottoms brown. Frost with butter cream frosting.

Butter Cream Frosting
  • 1/3 cup soft butter
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • about 2 tablespoons milk
Blend butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla and milk. Beat until frosting is smooth and of spreading consistency.

Abby's Elfing Service and Santa's Workshop

This year, Abby has really helped me out by getting the little girls out of the house for a few hours. I needed some uninterrupted time for sewing. The two littlest girls are getting American Girl colonial era dolls for Christmas and I wanted to make each of their dolls a couple of frocks.

So as they drove down the driveway, this corner of our bedroom...

...turned into this... 12.04 seconds.

The race was on to sew faster than the elves shopped. (Not an easy assignment.) Abby called a few times from Elf Central to inquire how Santa was coming along. She had already taken them to Arby's, covered every square inch of the mall, and was heading to Marble Slab for ice cream. "Take your time!" I told her. "Eat slowly!"

The first day I made these little dresses and pinafores.

A few nights before, I had stealthily cross-stitched the hearts onto the fabric right under their little noses, without them suspecting a thing. "Those are pretty hearts, Mama!"

"Oh, thank you, Maggie!"

Today, while they were on excursion #2, I managed to finish up these dresses:

I'd still love to make each doll a nightgown, but I'm running out of time. Abby has been such a trooper! I'm very thankful that she loves her sisters so much and enjoys carting them all over town!

Thank you, Abby. You're Santa's best elf! And you are totally rockin' that cow print jacket, girl!

When Life Gives You Lemons.....

....make Lemon-Drizzled Lemon Muffins!

This is a lucious muffin recipe I found in a book several years ago. We can devour a plate of these like nobody's business. Not too sweet, they are bathed in a lemon glaze and explode with lemon flavor. I like to make them in mini-muffin pans because they soak up more glaze per square inch! But, you can make them regular size as well. I think you'll fancy them anytime, holiday or not.

Lemon-Glazed Lemon Muffins
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest

Mix together dry ingredients. In separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Gently stir wet mixture into dry ingredients. Spoon into mini-muffin tins which have been sprayed with Pam. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, longer if using regular muffin pans. Remove to plate while warm. Drizzle with glaze.

Lemon Glaze
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Mix together and pour over warm muffins.

Fill the pans pretty full.

Betcha' can't eat just one!

Laura Lee

Stichin' Love and a Braggity Moment

Is it cold where you are?

We are quite chilly here. Lacy and Bella have been camped out by the fire all morning, Lacy working on some crochet. She made the crocheted Christmas throw that they are lying on. She never divulges her secrets; so I wonder what she is up to now....?

Here is what she was up to on Friday night. She played The First Noel at her recital with her good friend, Rachel. Please humor me in this braggity moment....

Aren't they good?? They have both been taking violin for a little over a year.

Anyway, I know what Bella is up to. She's trying to stay warm, as you can tell by her not one, but two sweaters. Don't laugh. If you only weighed five pounds and had almost no fur, you'd be chilly too. Besides, the girl has style and the layered look is IN!

Meanwhile I'm working on some Christmas stiching. It's a little gifty for someone who will necessarily remain unnamed. This is a linen "doily" for lack of a better word. My mom found some of these at an estate sale and graciously gave them to me, knowing I love anything vintage. I thought it was the perfect foundation for some redwork.

Speaking of redwork, here is a favorite Christmas quilt that I made several years ago. I lucked into this one, half-made, thanks to Ellen, who made one, then started this one and didn't want to finish it! It has seven redwork blocks with Christmas motifs. I think the pattern is called Irish Chain. I love to display it in the family room each Christmas.

I'm back to stitchin'! Time's a wastin', as they say!

Stay warm!

Laura Lee

YOC Soup

While stationed in Japan in the 1970's, my family was introduced to this delicious soup. A creamy onion soup, it was very popular at the Yokota Officer's Club, hence the handle "YOC Soup". My mother was able to procure this recipe and it quickly became a family favorite. There is nothing quite like a steaming bowl of this soup on a cold day.

It's a cinch to make and it is Ryan's most oft requested recipe. First, saute' a heap of thinly sliced onions in loads of butter. Then add flour, salt, chicken broth, and milk stirring gently until it comes to a slow boil. Shake in some Parmesan cheese, then serve this soup piping hot over French bread topped with a slice of Swiss cheese.

Unless you have a small family of dainty eaters, you'll want to at least double this.

Use sweet onions such as Vidalia.

These still have a ways to go. You want them to be transparent.

Laura's bowl ready for soup

Ryan's He-Man-sized bowl. Ryan dropped out of kindergarten
because "he don't play no games."

One Happy College-Dude-Home-on-Christmas-Break

Yokota Special Onion Soup

  • 2 cups thinly sliced sweet onions
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt (Be careful here! I use 1 teaspoon!)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • grated Parmesan cheese to taste
  • 6 slices French bread and Swiss Cheese
Saute onions in butter in large saucepan over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until tender and transparent. Blend in flour, pepper and salt; cook over medium heat, stirring, until bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in milk and stock. Return to heat; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; boil for 1 minute Place 1 slice French bread and 1 slice Swiss cheese in 6 large bowls. Pour soup over bread and cheese.

Santa Lucia Dolls

I had such a wonderful time yesterday, painting and dressing these delightful little clothespin dolls. Alicia, at Posie Gets Cozy, is one of my favorite bloggers. She is quite possibly the most creative lady I've run across on the internet. She made these kits available and I grabbed at the chance to buy something designed by her.

Today is Santa Lucia Day. I didn't know much about it, so I read this from Take Joy! The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book.

In Sweden there is a particularly charming Christmas custom centering about the Lucia Queen. Saint Lucia was a beautiful Christian maiden who lived many centuries ago in Rome. Because she refused to give up her religion to marry a pagan, she was burned at the stake by order of the Emperor Diocletian. Her saint's day falls on December 13th, a day that was celebrated even in pre-Christian Sweden as the beginning of the Festival of Light-the Winter Solstice, the day when they say that"the sun stands still." Because Saint Lucia's festival coincided with the time of year when daylight once more began to lengthen she was especially beloved by these people living where winter nights were very long and dark.

In Swedish homes today, the yougest daughter is usually chosen to be the Lucia Queen. On Christmas morning, wearing a white gown and a crown of lighted candles, she brings breakfast and a Christmas song to all the members of her household. The animals are never forgotten; they, too, receive extra rations so they may share in the joy and the good will of the day.

NO BOYS allowed in the girls' dressing room!

"Is my hair OK?"

"Does this dress make me look fat?"

Santa Lucia and her sisters are ready to greet their family.
She wears her wreath of candles. They carry wands.

I painted their stands to match their dresses.

Holly and Maggie will have fun playing with these today. As for me, I must do some work around this house! Cleaning and laundry doesn't exactly do itself while I'm busy playing with dolls!

Angels We Have Heard on High

Here is one of my favorite ornaments of all time. Over twenty years ago, my pastor's wife showed me how to make these precious pasta angels. I have made dozens and dozens of these over the years. One year, Abby walked around the neighborhood selling these, telling people about our "angel" waiting for us in China. She probably sold over 100 that Christmas.

Now Abby works part-time at a gift shop and she's been after me to make some of these to sell there. She took a prototype into the shop today to show the owner. She loved them. Now I've been commissioned to make a whole basket full. We won't need to build another Fort Knox in the backyard to hold my earnings, but it is my hope that I'll have a little extra to spend on the children this year.

I thought maybe you'd like to see how I put these little angels together and maybe be inspired to make a choir of your own.

You'll need:
  • 2 cm wood beads (no hole)
  • pasta wheels
  • rigatoni (or tube pasta about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch long)
  • pasta bow ties
  • elbow macaroni
  • teeny tiny tubular pasta for hair (can't remember the name, I've had mine for years)
  • Aleene's tacky glue
  • white spray paint
  • black, pink, and red acrylic paint for face
  • gold thread
  • foil card stock for song books (I use old Christmas cards!)

Notes: Allow all the steps to set up before moving to the next step. Do this in assembly-line fashion. Use Aleene's because it works beautifully. Hot glue makes a MESS! Elmer's is WAY too thin.

The assembly goes like this:
  1. Glue the wooden ball to the middle of the wagon wheel.
  2. Glue the wings to one side of the rigatoni
  3. Glue the head unit to the body unit.
It should look like this:

The hair is really fun!

  1. Using your finger, coat the head with glue where you want hair. Don't glob it on, but don't skimp either. We are striving for a bouffant coiffure!
  2. Dip the head into the teeny tubular pasta.
  3. Press and shape until it lies flat and pretty. You don't want any big gaps. Be sure it's nicely shaped around the face.

Now glue one little tube to the top to act as a hanger.

Next, glue two elbows on for arms.

At this point, let the angels dry completely.

Lay them out on waxed paper and spray paint them white using a good brand of spray paint. Coat lightly each time you flip them, to avoid drips. I do several coats on each side. Just make sure you get them good all over, including the top of the head.

Then paint the facial features using a fine tipped paint brush.

Cut the foil cardstock into little rectangles and fold to make books. Attach with a dab of glue.

Thread a length of gold through the hanger and knot.

"Gloria in Excelsis Deo!"

Laura Lee

PS Just out of curiosity, after I finished this, I Googled pasta angel ornaments and found this website. Hmmm, let's just say I think it was time for another tutorial.

A Surprise Visit!

Yesterday Maggie had a surprise visit from her friends Jason and Neisje. Their mom, Jessica, made Maggie the cutest little apron with her name on it and a baker's hat for Christmas. They also brought her cookie mix and cookie cutters. Maggie wasn't so sure about the baker's hat to start with, but decided that she did look awfully cute in it after all. The girl is all about a photo-op.

So the minute they left she started asking to mix up the cookies. If I had counted, I'd say she asked at least 2, 488 times. "Can we, PWEEESE????" Oh, my goodness. Who could resist that face?

Fear not. These won't be shared with the general public! Don't you just love it when someone gives you a plate of cookies and says, "My kids and I made these just for you!" ?

Notice the little pinky held high. Does my girl have finesse or what?

They had so much fun; Holly helped Maggie roll and cut out. I'm sure she'll now want to make cookies everyday. Thanks, Jason and Neisje, for the fun gift!

Cookie Monster #1

Cookie Monster #2