Simple Decorations at the Ranch

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:

Salvaged Junk Stars @FunkyJunk
Super Saturday Link Party @ItAllStartedWithPaint

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Rockin' & Roastin' Coffee Giveaway

I'm gonna talk a little bit coffee...
        a little bit the life of Bliss...
and a little bit rock & roll.

 Joey Kramer's Rockin' & Roastin' coffee, music to your lips. 

Rockin' & Roastin' Coffee
How do you like your coffee?  Rocking?

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.

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Wood Spool Christmas Tree & Link Party

Wood Spool Christmas Tree
Hold on to your tinsel folks, 
this post is packed full of Christmas cheer!

Wood Spool Christmas Tree

The Christmas Junkers United Team and the 12 Days of Christmas bloggers are combining for Day 2 with holiday inspiration and Christmas junk.

So many ideas, 
you won't need your eggnog spiked to make your head spin!

My creation is an upcycled, recycled, junktastic project......

Remember these spools my son in law brought me this summer?

One of them has been taken apart.  Cut to shreds.  Sawed in half.  Just like magic.

Husband magic.

The spool top received a masking-tape tree shape and the Brawn of the operation took pity on me and got out his DeWalt reciprocating saw to cut the tree out.

As I repeatedly thanked him, the only instruction I gave was not to make a perfectly shaped tree.

Wood Spool Christmas Tree

The spool is about 2 inches thick.  I'd still be at it if I had to cut it myself.  Probably minus some digits or with a gash in my thigh.

I gathered some junk and sort of made up the whole thing as I went along.

These are some heavy solid glass bottle stoppers.  I wrapped wire around them to hang on the tree ends - my version of icicles.

Or would that be junkcicles?  Glasscicles?

I know... they are re-cicles!

Glass Bottle Stoppers Upcycled to Icicle

This tree is big...... from the base to the top of the star it's 5 feet tall.  I'm just an ornament or two taller.

Wood Spool Christmas Tree

My oldest daughter collects snowmen and I picked the .25¢ star up at a garage sale for her.  Don't tell her she can't have it now.

I painted it white and left some of the rust color showing through.

An old bed spring is stapled to the tree top and the star is wired on.  I left the little bells on, because like I said, I was making this up as I went.

Upcycled Tin Star with Bed Springs

To celebrate Brawn's German heritage, the tree got a little O Tannenbaum chalkboard.

I'm not German, I'm Irish.  For me it's O'Tannenbaum.  Get it?

Wood Spool Christmas Tree

The base is made from the center of the spools, cut down to size, which I coated with a white wash and I also hit just the tips of the branch ends to clean my brush off.

Totally recycled.....
spool, bed spring, star, and glass bottle stoppers, turned into a rustic 5' Christmas tree.

Wood Spool Christmas Tree

I thought about adding some vintage glass ornaments I bought this summer.  In fact, if I ever find them I will probably do just that.

I spent as much time looking for those darn ornaments as I did putting the project together.  Don't even ask if I'm mad that I can't find them.

The tannenbaum will probably move to the front porch.  Can't you just picture it outside all sparkly and cozy surrounded by piles of soft billowy snow, it's white lights illuminating our entry?

Are you insane?  I am NOT counting the days till it snows, and if it held out till December 24th I'd be happy.

Wood Spool Christmas Tree
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Bl├Ątter

A spool top Christmas tree isn't all I've got for 'ya, no siree! 
There is a whole lot of holiday cheer being spread around the ranch today.  
Different than the usual 'stuff' I spread around.

If you want some wonderful inspiration for the season, 
take a peek at the Pinterest Junkers United Christmas Pin Board

Junkers United Pinterest Board

just might have 12 projects too... 
they are 12 elves each rolled into one, 
and leave me in the glitter dust!

Angie - Knick of Time

PLUS the 12 days of Christmas bloggers have a new post each day 
for 12 days which means at least 12 ideas each to make your holidays bright.  
Lets do math....  if I'm correct (and I rarely am with math) that would be 144 ideas.

That's a lot of junk to be inspired by,

so follow along with everyone.

And last but not least, it's time for the

 Junkers United Christmas link party. 

 We will be pinning our favorites to the Junkers United Christmas Pin Board
where 47,000 of your best friends can see what you have created.

I've rolled the old wood spool over to these link parties:
Christmas Extravaganza Party @TwoTwentyOne

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Chicken Wire Light Shade Covers

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.

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Chocolate Caramels From Epicurious

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?

Remember to stop in at Down to Earth and link up a holly-day recipe or one of the other hosts; Amy at Atta Girl Says, or Marty from A Stroll Thru Life.

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

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Cake Testers From One30One Design

What's a cake tester?  

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

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.

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

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".

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

The fancy beads are known as lampwork.  A glass artist twists long glass rods over the flame of a torch, similar to glass blowing.

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

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.

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

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.

Cake Tester with Agates by One30oneDesign

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.

Cake Tester with Agates by One30oneDesign

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!

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

Everyone says the same thing..... that they love their cake tester or the recipient loved it.

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

They are beaded nice and tight.  Some folks say they are too pretty to use.

I say nonsense, I use mine all the time.

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

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!

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

One thing I know for sure..... the photos don't do them justice.

Cake Tester with Lampwork Beads by One30oneDesign

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.  
Buy 2 get free shipping.  
Use coupon code CAKEISBLISS.
Expires December 15th

You can read about the artist and her cake testers at One30oneDesign
or click { here } for her Etsy Shop.
I think she's something pretty special, just like her cake testers.

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Dining Room Chairs Post..... again!

One year ago this month I located the perfect chairs on Craigs List for a redo.....

Due to the time of year and being the hostess with the mostess*, two of these birds were purchased the same day as the chairs..... *FYI mostess auto corrects to moistness.

Thanksgiving arrived and the Butterball's were smoked on the grill....

the chairs were sat on as-is, and all was grand, as in grand plans to finish them.

Eventually the dining room was painted.  By now it was 2013.

and a new table was made......

Six chairs were taken apart.

Six chairs were painted (several times with different colors).

Six chairs were distressed, waxed, and buffed.

I wanted to gnaw off my arms so I would never ever have to do this task again.

The seat bottoms were covered with a deep espresso. 

One of them makes a funny noise when anyone slides off it..... I try not to sit on that one when company is here.

And then what happened?  Such a nail bitter this story is huh!

Let me tell you more.....

Two of these rustic-chicken-wire-backed-plate-holder-things were built, stained, hung, waxed and wiped.  Yes in that order.  Brawn doesn't wait around for me to complete my part of the job when he is ready to complete his.

Being the trend setter I am, they were finished with a re-rod plate holder bar.....

Drop cloth was purchased, washed, and cut to size for chair backs.

Round head tacks were left as is, the patina on them was perfect....
(that and there was no way no how I was polishing hundreds of them).

The awesome graphic for the chair backs was ready to go.....

Yes I realized I spelled correspond wrong, and no... I wasn't going to remake the whole little Picmonkey thing to fix it.  If I knew I was going to show the graphic again, well I probably would have.  I'm a good speller, but a bad proof reader.  Thankfully I caught the mostess/moistness thing earlier.

I picked up the transfer paper for the design in May on a drive back from a weekend away, with an emergency stop at Office Depot because I HAD to have that transfer paper before I got home and unpacked. 

Then what the helllllll happened?

Nothing happened, that's what.  Other than a year went by since I started these chairs and five months since I purchased the transfer paper that I'm hoping I can now locate.

Thanksgiving 2013 is about to arrive.  Two new turkeys have been purchased, 20 pounders this year if you want to know.

So with a new Thanksgiving gig to host, the chairs are fix'n to be finished at the ranch.   I'm telling you that in case no one hears from me while I'm knee deep.

I'm going in and I'm not coming out till they are done.

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