I'm a little behind this year on everything. Even with letting some things go that I do every year, I'm still watching the days fly by trying to accomplish and prepare for some of our family traditions.
These gift crates, or faux tree crates are almost finished and will be delivered. If you would like, you can read last years great crate post, to see who gave me the inspiration, and find out how I made them.
This year I made three - three piece, backless, bottomless, three sided crates. When they are easily screwed together they slide under the Christmas tree and hide the tree stand.
Now don't be telling my friend Dii, who reads my blog, that one of those is hers. Just in case she doesn't recognize her last name, and the year she got married.
I wanted her to have it under her tree before she hosts a big family Christmas bingo party, but it's still on my dining room table. Have I mentioned I'm behind this year?
That same friend made me some red, green and bronze bell ornaments. I love them.
Dii ..... I'd like about 100 more of these please. In your spare time is fine.
Last night I sat down to do a rather lame decorating post and instead spent the whole time on phone help with our cell phone provider who had messed up our account. I'm over it, as long as my phone works when I check it in a few minutes.
Now I can get back to the lame decorating post I intended.
Yes, those are plastic ornaments, from a garage sale, under a cheesedome cloche. I bought them to use outside on my decorated window ledges.
My window ledges have not gotten decorated.
I had excellent organization - cutting the greens and red dog wood branches before the snow flew.
I simplified this year. Not because I wanted too, out of necessity. I needed that extra week we usually have between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Brawn is responsible for decorating the top three feet of our tree, so don't judge it. It's about 15 feet to the tip of it, and I'm not standing on a ladder and leaning into the tree. You know what would happen. And saying each year "don't put all the same kind of ornaments next to each other, mix it up", I guess falls on deaf ears.
I realize vintage measuring apparatus turned into a star are not anything new. However when our tree top star fell from the sky I had to find something proto while Brawn was up on the top of that ladder. Hence the big star - it's 17 inches across - but I love it.
I wanted the lights to twist between it, but I dare not ask for too much for the top three feet.
There is nothing else vintage on my tree this year. We went a different route. So of course the star is a bit out of place with all the glass bulbs.
These glass bulbs never made it any further than in a pottery bowl on a very dusty willow coffee table. Festive enough, and fuss free. They are staying.
We have poinsettias all over the place that have white lights strung through them. Big punch, pretty impact, and easy.
The nativity has it's prominent place.
The only thing that involved any effort, I didn't even do! My daughter wrapped a big picture in the dining room.
Me?.... I stuck an upside down poinsettia arrangement in the light fixture and called it good. 10 second decorating this year.
And I'm really ok with all of it. I'm putting my effort into the things that matter, like enjoying my family. Don't get me wrong, I love decorating for Christmas and making it warm and cozy for all who are here, and fussing and making new things, but not at the expense of running myself ragged.
There are only so many hours in a day.
So this year at the ranch, it's plenty Christmasy inside, just simple. And there is not one thing wrong with that.
The metal yardstick tree topper thingy is linked up at:
Served roastin' hot on the deck like that photo above?
With a side of 6 inches of snow and a 39 below windchill? Yes 39 below ZZZEROWW.
You can't see the steam that was wafting up from the cup for all of 3 seconds before it turned into ice, but it was there.
You also won't see a picture of me falling on my asss because I had snow stuck to the bottoms of my slippers after taking that photo, and slippers get slick on a wood floor when coated with ice.
Someday I'll remember that snowy Midwest fact.
I'm a rock n roll gal, an original California Valley Girl. Old enough that the very first concert I attended was in 19&%. (What... you can't read that year? Tuff.)
I also drank coffee back then, and it was the only bad habit I had, I was a good girl. Well... ok... I did like the boys......
My boyfriend in those days was a drummer. He used to put his headphones on so only he could hear the music, then make me sit and listen to him bang on his drumset. It left a bad impression on me, mostly because he was a jerk and I really didn't like him all that much.
I told my daughters they could never date a guy who played the drums on the dashboard of his car. The air drums as we call it.
And then it happened..... first one of my kids took percussion in school. Then another. Then another.
And now I'm surrounded by drum helll. But I like it.
We have snare drums and bells for school, we have Zildjian cymbals, wood blocks, and all sorts of musical stuff on stands by a deep red metallic drumset.
And cowbell. Yes it's true, there is a cowbell because well, you know, you always need more cowbell.
We have electric guitars, a Les Paul, and soon a custom handmade guitar from Guatemala. Guitars and coffee are both better from Guatemala.
There are a couple acoustic guitars, mics, amps, cords, banjo's, bongos and bass.
Piano, harmonica, mouth harp, and rain-stick. And more speakers than you can shake a rain-stick at.
Spoons, we have a set of spoons. Did you know spoons are a musical instrument?
We even have a didgeridoo.
Don't know what that is? Look it up.
Whose kids ask Santa for such weird stuff?
So really, it's no surprise then, that Little Rocker has the coolest dresser in the state right?
Anyway, so back to that first concert... it was Aerosmith, at the Forum in Los Angeles. Yup, contrary to what my kids think, I was young once and I thought I was cool. I wore my little white tank top with a couple of perky girls tucked inside, along with freshly tanned skin showing at the midriff - no muffin top then - and off I went with the beautiful people to see my first live concert.
In those days the Valley Girls didn't talk all stupid like that 80's movie, but we did hit the beach every chance we could to get as much bronzed skin as possible over winter.
If someone would of told me then I'd live in a state that has a 39 below zero windchill, so far from Malibu that I barely remember what hot sand feels like, well I'd of thought them nuts.
But here I am, freezing my once perky girls off. I must be the one who's nuts.
But I drink pretty cool hot coffee.
So what does all this rock and roll drumming and reminiscing stuff have to do with coffee?
Joey Kramer of Aerosmith has a coffee company.
Joey is the drummer in Aerosmith.
I drink Joey's coffee.
I have two drummers, a pianist, and one guitarist with a band.
And I'm cold because it's freaking below zero here.
The tag line is 'Music to your lips'. Drinking it doesn't make me sound good when I sing, but I do moan "mmmmmmm" when I have my morning cup.
I think my favorite of the three roasts is the one from Guatemala. Maybe. Definitely maybe.
I won't claim to be any kind of an expert on how coffee is roasted, how to pick beans, or what the real differences are in organic, and regular coffee.
But I do know what tastes good.
I've had plenty of the fancy coffees from coffee houses, and ordered way too many beans claiming to make the best cup of joe out there.
I wasn't sure a dude who plays drums for a living was gonna be capable of making a coffee I would like.
I mean come on, surely Mr. Kramer played dashboard drums once or twice right? The type boy I warned my daughters about? Well someone's daughter married him. Wonder if he uses his fingers as sticks on the dashboard of his RV?
One of my sons brings me plenty of coffee beans back directly from Guatemala. In fact, he's there now, so I'll probably be getting coffee for Christmas.
But this Rockin' & Roastin' stuff is good. The drummer dude wasn't lying. We have gone through 6 bags trying to decide which roast we like the best. Maybe #2 son will bring me back Rockin' & Roastin' this time? I can hope.
Joeys coffee is smooth.
No bitterness, it really is the best coffee we have ever brewed. It comes in ground or whole beans. I like to grind my own.
How do you drink yours?
I like mine with real cream and a few lumps of sugar. Mmmmmmmm......
And now, because sometimes it's just who 'ya know,
I've got a new joke for you.....Did 'ya hear the one about the blogger and the dining room chairs? No? Well I'm not telling it to you either. Lets just say things are not going well with the chairs and my attempt to recover the chair backs.
So far I have hammered holes from the tacks into my kitchen counter, and burned a pillow case with the iron.
Not only did I burn the pillow case, I also pulled up the wax and wood grain design from my dining room table top. Don't. Ask.
If anyone needs to make a faux wood grain on Egyptian cotton, just ask, I'll be happy to share my technique.
To divert attention from whatever chair-redo hellll that I currently
live in, I decided to finish up the dining room light fixture.
Just let me make this very clear.... I am not a food blogger, do not enjoy documenting cooking progress nor do I like to rewrite recipes or take pictures of food.
~ Read that above line one more time and soak it all in. ~
I do however enjoy eating, and I know good when I taste it.
I also like to join in on link parties my friends host, and one of my decorating inspirations, Holly over at Down To Earth, is having a holiday baking party I want to be part of.
I have been trying for 10 years to perfect or find a chocolate caramel recipe that is as good as my butter caramel recipe. Last year I gave yet another recipe a try.
It turned out to be "the one".
The one that is now in the lineup of favorite holiday treats to make year after year. The one good enough to end the yearly search for a chocolate caramel recipe.
It has the perfect creaminess and a very distinct chocolate flavor. I found the recipe at Epicurious. It is a salted caramel recipe that I love, but my family doesn't like the salt on top so I leave it off.
The caramels do look more gourmet with the salt flakes, but I haven't had anyone feel slighted without it.
Look at that hot vat of bubbling cocoa goodness. Mmmmmmmmm.
The only change I have is to NOT cook it to the temp they call for in the original recipe. The original recipe calls for cooking to 255* on a candy thermometer. I find cooking to that temp makes the caramel too hard. I recommend 252 and no higher for perfect ones, at least in my kitchen. Cook it right at 252 and when it starts to go above that, turn it off.
Unlike my butter caramels this one is a two step boil process. A little more work, but after a 10 year search for the perfect tasting chocolate caramels, I'm not messing with a good thing because the outcome is excellent.
I will doubled the batch again this year, without any problem for the original recipe.
I use Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet chocolate baking bars. I won't use another brand because these give me the taste I was going for.
Yummmm....... I don't like overly sweet, I want to taste the chocolate not just a sweet something I can't identify.
I gift some of them, but usually my family asks me to hoard these for us. Not very giving at the giving time of year are they?
For the full chocolate caramel recipe/tutorial, head over to Epicurious .... those folks don't mind writing out tutorials like I do. I like to just get right to the best part....... the eating. And these are excellent eating if you want to indulge.
Stay Tuned, coming soon, December 2nd to be exact......
Linking up the goodies at:
Holiday Baking Party @DownToEarth
The human version of a cake tester is probably someone who must have the most amazing job on the planet if they get to taste test cake. Brawn tells me I'm a "Supertaster" because he saw something on the Discovery Channel and decided his wife met the criteria.
I think I would be a good cake taste tester.
But in this post a cake tester is a beaded bauble of beauty used for testing if baked goods are done, specifically cakes.
Think of a cake tester as a grown up version of a toothpick. Very grown up. They are referred to as "kitchen jewelry".
The fancy beads are known as lampwork. A glass artist twists long glass rods over the flame of a torch, similar to glass blowing.
The beads on the cake testers are solid, not hollow bubbles, and they come in various sizes. The small beads are all glass as well.
The rod is food grade stainless steel direct from the manufacturer. That little hook at the top is hand bent and each piece of rod is hand cut.
Sometimes faceted fire agate beads are used for a more earthy natural look. I give them as a gift to the family holiday meal hostess, with a cookbook for a bridal shower, or tucked in a gift basket.
I have seen some imitations. Made on cheap wire that bends, a hat pin, or a squared bbq skewer. Don't fall for their cheaper prices.
One 30 One Design has made over 300 of these things - on Etsy and for fine local shops. Read the feedback in the Etsy shop. 100% positive. You don't get that sort of comment love for nothing!
Everyone says the same thing..... that they love their cake tester or the recipient loved it.
They are beaded nice and tight. Some folks say they are too pretty to use.
I say nonsense, I use mine all the time.
Packaged in a box with shred for easy gift giving.
And it is that time of year. Gift giving time.
These cake testers are unique, one of a kind gifts. No one else on the block will have one. Although the designer would love it if they did!
One thing I know for sure..... the photos don't do them justice.
And because it's that time of year, and because I've got an "in" with the designer
I'm offering a coupon for the readers of Bliss Ranch.
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