Monday, December 31, 2012

Sangria. Nuf said.

Passing notes today:  Mrs. G

Hello and Happy New Year!!!  I hope you are all enjoying good times and healthy laughs with your friends and family.  I know that we are and am very thankful for it.  We are also thankful for a little soul warming around here (translation: Sangria).  My hubby and I always host Christmas Eve dinner and a few dinners around New Years .... so I like to make my favorite {adult} beverage.  Sangria.

I have had bottled Sangria that I like, but I think that you get a little more bang for your buck when you make it. My friend introduced me to this a couple years back (thanks Meg)! 

Here it is:

  • Red wine (table, merlot, cabernet, pinot noir ...)
  • White (table, chardonnay, reisling, pinot grigio ...)
  • Limeade (I buy the Wegmans brand)
  • Club Soda
  • Ice and fruit (optional)

I mix equal parts, depending on my carafe size, of white and red wine, leaving room for the other 2 liquids.  Cut up the fruit of my choice and marinate it for a few hours in the wine.  Right before I am going to serve the Sangria, add equal parts club soda and cold limeade.  A few ice cubes and a good stir.  Ready to serve! 

Go 2013,

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  Yes, please!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Time

A Word from Mrs. Kelly:

This year we met the holidays with mixed emotions.  In our hometown of Rochester, we lost two firefighters on Christmas Eve.  We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by recent tragedies.  We wish for an end to all pain and suffering.

I hope my dear friend, Maureen Daniels (Mrs. Sedaris), will forgive me for using her words.  She posted the following message this week and it resonated with me:

"Despite all the recent reminders that humanity can be painful and our existence fragile, life is still good and beautiful." 

With that said, if you woke up to this:

...I hope your week involves DIY skills for building snowmen and making angels.  And I hope you take a moment to find something in your life that is still "good and beautiful."  


Monday, December 24, 2012

Twas The Night Before Christmas - Mom Style


Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house

the kids were still stirring and tugging my blouse.
The stockings were hung, the table was set,
in hopes that Saint Nicholas wouldn't forget.

The presents were scattered all over my bed
While visions of all-nighters haunted my head.
And me in my yoga pants, and him in his sweats,
Had just settled down to wrap all our new debt.

When out in the kitchen there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
The dishes that stayed from our dinner that night,
Had fallen and broken and caused quite a sight.

The toys that required assembly were beckoning; 
the number of power tools still needed reckoning.  
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a nice glass of Pinot and for him, a tall beer

With a sip from my glass and a couple deep sighs,
I knew in a moment I'd feel energized.  
More rapid than eagles I got it together.
I baked, I wrapped, I checked out the weather.

Now stockings, now presents, place under the tree, 
Now letter from Santa and frost the cookies. 
Assemble the kitchen, assemble the bike
Think about breakfast and sleeping in...PSYCH!

To the top of the stairway, to the end of the hall!
Now put away paper, gift tags and all!
The house was all ready, the lights were aglow.
The "reindeer" had left tiny prints in the snow.

And then in a twinkling I heard from a room
sweet whispers and giggles and old Christmas tunes.
As I rounded the corner to head toward my bed,
I caught a quick glimpse of three little heads.

They called, "Mom and Dad!" and one gave a whistle,
then flew to our sides like the down of a thistle.
It's time they exclaimed!  And I caved without scorning...
"Happy Christmas to all and to all a good MORNING!"

Mrs. Williams Comment:  Are you kidding me, Mrs. Kelly?  This is genius.  The moral of this poem, in my opinion, is that once again, Pinot saves the day!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Guest Blogger: Mrs. Presley's Candy Christmas Tree

Passing notes today:  Mrs. Gosling & Mrs. Presley

Hey all -

Who is looking for a great Christmas Eve distraction craft for the kiddies?  Well .... we were, and Mrs. Presley delivered.  The four of us (ladies) and ALL our children, gathered over here for a morning of crafts, snacks and holiday cheer. 

This is what we made:
I bet you can't wait to find out how to make them!  Wait, I bet you can't wait to find out what is in the trunk?  It starts with CA and ends with NDY!  CANDY!!

Supply List:

  • Toilet paper/paper towel rolls
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue or glue sticks
  • Stickers, glitter, pipecleaners, foam pieces .. etc
  • Printable tags
  • Ribbon or twine
  • Candy
  • Construction paper/Card stock
First, we started with a holiday-crafting-worthy table setting.  White kraft paper with placements drawn on.  We were hoping that this would encourage space boundaries for the little ones.  Next, the kids cut their trees out.  Then, decorated.  
Next, the kids rolled the toilet paper rolls in brown tissue paper, stuffing the bottom paper up through the roll and leaving the top open.  Then, we filled them up with candy.  YUM!

We then glued the trees to the kraft paper rolls, tied off the tops, attached the tags and we were done. 
This craft was really fun because it involved the adults and children of all ages.  There are so many variations that could be derived from this:  Valentines Day, St. Patricks Day, party craft/favor.  The possibilities are endless!  

Thank you Mrs. Presley for another AMAZING craft.  We can't wait until the next one!!!

Have a wonderful Holiday and Happy New Year,

Mrs. Williams Comment:  This play date / crafting session was so much fun.  The only thing that topped it was eating all the peanut butter cups.  Thanks Mrs. Presley for teaching us all this cute and yummy craft!

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  I think I want to go back to kindergarten and be in Mrs. Presley's class.  Also, I'd like to point out that 3/4 of the way through this project Mrs. Williams announced excitedly, "Oh my gosh, it looks like a Christmas tree!"  She doesn't miss a beat.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Treats - 4 Gosling Favorites

Passing Notes Today:  Mrs. Gosling

I am no Christmas cookie extraordinaire by any stretch of the imagination!  I have to cook and BAKE for the masses, so I have never really gotten into making dozens of little delights.  I do, however, make a few holiday staples that I pass around to neighbors, teachers, mail carriers and myself.  Here they are:

1.  Heath Bar Crunch
2.  Chocolate Crackle Cookie
3.  Banana Bread
4.  Lemon Loaf

  • 1 bag of milk chocolate chips
  • 1 box of saltines
  • 3 cups of brown sugar
  • 1 small bag of nut topping or nuts of your choice

Prepare a cookie sheet with cooking oil or butter.  Lay out saltines covering the entire sheet.  Set aside.  On the stove, melt 1 stick of butter and 3 cups of brown sugar, stirring occasionally, bring to a boil (make sure not to let it burn).  Remove from heat, giving it a good stir.  Pour the contents over the saltines, spreading with a spatula, covering the crackers.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the cookie sheet.  Let them melt into the brown sugar mixture (appr. 1 or 2 minutes).  Once the chips have melted, spread them around.  The saltines may shift at this time, don't worry about that, just re-position them.  Allow for a few more minutes of melting, then top with the nuts.  Place in freezer for 1 hour +, remove the cookie sheet and break apart the saltines.  

Source:  My Mother in Law! 


  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I use chocolate chips, semi sweet)
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole milk (I use whatever I have in the fridge, usually 1%)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water or microwave.  Set aside and let cool.  Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl. 

With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Mix in the eggs and vanilla and then the melted chocolate.  Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk.  Divide dough into four equal pieces.  Wrap each in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Divide each piece into 1 inch balls.  Roll in granulated sugar to coat, then in confectioners' sugar to coat.  Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. 

Bake until surfaces crack, about 14 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through.  Allow to cool on wire racks.  Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment paper, in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 


yields 2 loaves

  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas mashed
  • 1/2 sour cream
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease two loaf pans and flour the bottom of the pans.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar until light.  Add the eggs, mixing well after each.  Add the mashed banana.  Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternately with the sour cream, ending with flour.  Blend quickly but thoroughly.  Stir in the nuts (optional)  Pour into prepared pans and bake 45 minutes (I only bake for 39 minutes and then leave the bread in the pans for 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack), or until the center tests done. 


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • Glaze:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour 1 loaf pan.  Combine all the dry ingredients.  In a mixer, combine all the wet ingredients until light and fluffy, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, adding oil and lemon zest.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 45 - 55 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack, then pour the glaze over the entire loaf, let cool completely. 

*It has been my experience that this lemon loaf, although EXCELLENT, is a little more cake-y than the actual Starbucks lemon loaf.  I don't know what the Starbucks angels do every morning, but that is a hard pastry to duplicate.  However, this recipe is an excellent second fiddle! 

Start heating up the kitchen,

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  Thanks for these.  I'm all over that heath bar crunch.  Mmmm.  Guess I should start baking soon, huh?  Also, where have you been hiding that lemon loaf?  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ornament Frame

Passing Notes Today:  Mrs. Williams

Hey ladies,

The first Christmas that my husband and I were married, my good friend gave us an ornament frame with a picture of my husband and I at our wedding.  It was such a sweet gift.  However, the year she gave it to me I had no idea it would spark an ornament tradition that we have carried on with as our family has grown through the years.  You see, since her first photo ornament, I have been adding a photo ornament of the boys or our family each year.  Now, as we decorate, I always look forward to finding the picture ornaments, so that I can smile and remember and feel so thankful for each of our years together.  Knowing that I was going to add another picture ornament to the tree this year, I attempted to make our own picture ornament.

First, I started with a small place setting frame from the Dollar Tree.

Then, I pulled out the red and green buttons that my boys helped me sort by colors this summer.  (Sorting buttons...a great way to occupy rowdy boys.)

Once my hot glue gun was warmed up I got gluing.  I ended up sticking to green buttons only.

So that it could hang on the tree, I glued a ribbon loop to the side.

Here's the ornament right before it got its finishing touch...

And now, our 2012 ornament is complete...

Happy decorating, 

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  This might be what I needed to occupy our children while I scramble relax and finish up the holiday prep.  I always go to the dollar store for my wrapping paper anyway!  Love the finished product.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Traditions and A Gift Idea

Passing Notes Today:  Mrs. Kelly

Hi girls -

It's a Christmas tradition that spans a couple generations in my family...reading "The Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore.  My grandfather read it to my dad.  My dad read it to us.  And now, my husband and I read it to our children.  This year to honor that tradition I thought it would be fun to have a night-before-Christmas theme for the holidays (remember my mantle from last week?).  I have been stalking leisurely scoping local Goodwills over the last couple months to find different copies of this book.  There are so many wonderfully illustrated versions of Moore's beloved Christmas poem.

Some of my favorites from my own collection include this signed Will Moses version from one of my best friends:

And this year, my mom bought me the copy below on Ebay after dropping some not-so-subtle hints:

I heart Eloise Wilkin!
It's illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.  Ms. Wilkin lived and worked in Rochester, New York (my hometown).  Her pictures of children are so distinct and remind me of my own children.  Plus some of the homes and buildings in her artwork could be modeled after local places!  (Also, just saying, but Christina Applegate recently said one of her favorite children's books is this Eloise Wilkin classic.  That's how I roll...just me and the celebs).

This is the version I remember from my childhood.  It's illustrated by Tasha Tudor:

I'd know that cover of Santa and the corgi anywhere.

Here are a couple Goodwill finds (99 cents a piece).  These are what I used to decorate my mantle.

In addition to the books I've collected, I decided we needed one more to add to the lot.  I asked my oldest, my six-year-old, to illustrate the poem.  Then, I turned those images into a photo book. 

Here's an example...
"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse."

I took a picture with my camera then uploaded it to Picaboo. I resized it to fill the entire page once in Picaboo.  

FYI - The black portion should be cut out after printing.  Picaboo gives you parameters when you are composing your book.
I just published my book and will hopefully get it in the mail today!  I scored a good deal on a Groupon.  What could be more awesome than a book illustrated by your child?!  I know it's a little last-minute for this idea but you might have some luck with one of the local drug stores.  Or, have it published and just collect the drawings to give for the time being.  

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.  

Merry Christmas to All,

Mrs. Williams Comment:  I love the handmade book as a Christmas gift, and I never would have thought to take photos of the pages so that they could be turned into a book.  You're so clever Mrs. K.!

Mrs. Gosling comment:  I can hear the cracklin' of the fire right now.  What a great idea and perfect gift for grandparents, siblings or the next addition to your Christmas mantle.  Good job Professor!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Etched Ornaments

Passing Notes Today:  Mrs. Williams

Hey Mrs. G. and Mrs. K., 
When life gets crazy, like Xmas in less than ten days crazy, I like to get crafting.  So, I'm curious, are you in the mood to relieve some stress and make an etched monogram ornament in five really simple steps? 
There's an etched "B" on this ornament, can you spot it?

Step One:  Head to the craft store for supplies and pick up some:

  • Glass bulbs $2.99
  • Letter stickers $2.99
  • Armour Etch $12.99 (I used my 40% off coupon for this.)

Step Two:  Apply the letter "stencil."  
First of all, there are some fancy stencils that you can buy to use with the etching cream.  Since I wasn't sure how the cream would look, I decided to save a bunch of money and just buy stickers.  I'm sure the fancy stencils work better, but for me, the stickers worked great.

To create a sticker stencil, I just cut out the letter from the sticker sheet and removed the actual letter sticker, so that I had an outline of the letter.  It ends up being really narrow, so I just added tape to make the stencil wider.  Also, since it's a curved surface, it takes a little finagling (that's the first time I ever wrote the word finagling, oh, now my second time.)  Anyway, lay out your letter stencil where you want it on the ornament.

Step Three:  Apply Armour Etch
So, get this...this Armour Etch is some toxic stuff.  It even has a child-safety lock on the top.  Apparently it can like burn your skin off.  Don't I look smart applying it to the ornament with ungloved hands?  I did use my least favorite paintbrush and covered the surface that I was working over (yeah, Armour etch will eat through your table's finish too.)  While working with this highly toxic material, apply a really thick coat.

Step Four:  Wait
The directions say to wait two minutes.  However, my first attempt at this process ended with a barely visible letter.  So, I advise waiting ten minutes.  

Step Five:  Admire your work.
When the time is up, just wash off the excess etching cream and sticker.  I added a ribbon to hang the ornament, and that was it.

Also, I tried another design using the actual letter sticker.  I added stripes with tape and applied Armour Etch everywhere else. 

I'm thinking that these personalized ornaments would be a really fun addition on the top of a Christmas gift...or all on their own for that matter. 

Hope you're "hanging" in there - 


Mrs. Kelly Comment:  You definitely would be etching ornaments right before Xmas.  Are you building your own manger this year too?  Kidding!  Love the ornaments.  I like the striped one best.  I'll come etch ornaments with you as a stress reliever.  I'll bring a vat of eggnog too.  :)  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Night Before Christmas Kids Mantle

Passing Notes Today:  Mrs. Kelly

Hi ladies, 

This year we decided to embrace a "Night Before Christmas" theme at our home.  I will tell you more about that next week.  But in the meantime, here's a look at our mantle.
gene fireplace
Gene is checking out the places where my children have crayoned on the stone surround.
I think it adds to the ambiance for Santa, no?
In our house, the fireplace mantle is in the "playroom."  And by playroom, I mean family room where all the toys are housed.  It's not exactly a sophisticated space for displaying's more for fun!  I thought our mantle should reflect the kids so I used the books we had been collecting for our "Night Before Christmas" theme.


I love this mirror!  I'm pretending it's a big, blue snowflake.  


Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!

Visions of sugarplums

I'm convinced the picture below looks like my youngest children.  My husband disagrees.  

Thanks for stopping!  Tell Santa, we're ready.  "Happy Christmas to all..."

Mrs. Williams Comments:  I love how you reference elements of the book with the the mouse and sugar plums along the mantle, Mrs. Kelly.  So sweet!  Speaking of sweet, those little ones on the cover of the book, I agree with you, they're the spitting image of your youngests.  Has your husband ever looked at your kids? :)

Mrs. Gosling comment:  I'm with Williams, those saucer eyes could only belong to one couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kelly!!!  I wish that I was coming down the stairs to that mantle Christmas morning! 

PS - Where'd you get the mirror?  AMAZING!!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Tree Jute Ribbon Bunting

Passing notes today:  Mrs. G.

Hey ladies -
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!

Yes, I have been singing this for weeks now ..... I can't help it.  Having a freshly cut tree in the house brings out the "broadway" in me.  Well, er ... not really.  But I love Christmas. 

This year especially, I feel extra warm and fuzzy because we welcomed our fourth healthy and happy baby boy.  A huge sigh of relief came over me after he was born.  Not only because I knew I would never have to go through childbirth again (sorry babes, but it's not easy getting you into this world) but mostly because I felt complete.  Our family was all here, to enjoy life and start our journey as a team.  So naturally, I was so excited to take our team and cut down our tree this year (and by "cut down" I mean, hubby on the ground with 3 small boys sitting on his legs, cheering him on).  We came, we cut, we conquered.  If you are looking for a local place to go, check out last week's post.

The tree made the 10 mile drive home and in the living room it went.  We started decorating...I keep it old school when it comes to the ornaments.  I use the same ones every year.  I keep the expensive ones up top, away from little fingers and swinging dogs' tails.  I always put the glass ones directly in front of a light and hope that they don't come crashing down.  But this year and this year only, I have decided to omit something I have always done--adding red bows.  I picked up the bow trick from my mother.  I think that she always put these on as "fillers."  We usually had more tree than ornaments growing up and she wanted the tree to look full.  I started doing the same thing when we got married, but this year I mixed it up ....... REBEL!  This year I made a jute ribbon bunting to wrap around the tree.  I drew inspiration from Miss Mustard Seed's recent post about burlap and all it's glory. 

Here's what I came up with:

jute garland

Do you like? 
Here is how I did it:

Gather supplies (jute ribbon, trim ric rac, cutting mat, rotary cutter, scissors and sewing machine). I freehanded the triangles, I wanted them to have that Laura Ingalls-not-so-perfect-someone-just-loomed-the-jute-ribbon-look.  Translation:  not the same size.  After I was done cutting them I sewed them onto the ric rac.  36 feet in total.  This took about 20 minutes from start to finish. 
Other suggested supplies that won't fray:  felt, burlap, fleece, tulle, duck cloth.  I used the glittery ric rac because I wanted a little bling, but any ribbon would work. It's a modern interpretation of those red bows!  

Do you have any family traditions that you have updated? 

Happy Bunting,

Mrs. Kelly Comment: That picture of your little guy under the tree is priceless.  Where did you get your jute ribbon?  I bought burlap ribbon at Michaels and wrapped it around my banister.  It gives a similar effect but because I'm sew-challenged I think it suffices.  Love your sweet garland of jute flags!  Good one team Gosling.  

Mrs. Williams Comment:  I always go ga-ga for garland!  Thanks for sharing such a fun idea.  



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