Archive | December, 2013

Decorative Handmade Christmas Tree

10 Dec

Well, the frigid temperatures continued this past weekend (I think our high on Saturday was only 2°F!), but that did not stop us from going out and getting our Christmas tree! Growing up I always remember having a live tree. My sister and I would get all bundled up in our snow pants, hats and gloves, ready for the adventure. We would drive out to a tree farm and run around in the snow while our mom and dad tried to pick out the perfect tree for the season. After Dad cut the tree down, we would go sit around an outdoor fire and have hot chocolate or apple cider while the people at the tree farm helped Dad put the tree in the car. It was a blast! As an adult I wanted to keep that tradition going, so the past few years, Jason has graciously (sometimes begrudgingly) ventured out with me to a local tree farm to cut down a Christmas tree.

This year I also had a grand idea to use fresh garland and lots of greenery to decorate our front porch. So we not only picked up a blue spruce tree, but 25 ft of fresh garland and a wreath from the tree farm. I also wanted to have a decorative Christmas tree/topiary on the front porch, but it was so cold out that morning we just wanted to go home and drink more hot apple cider and hot chocolate!

Pinterest actually gave me the idea to make the little tree using a tomato cage, green garland, white lights and bows. With the garden, I have plenty of tomato cages that sit in the garage over the winter, so I did not need to go buy too many supplies. After I figured out how to successfully wrap the garland around the tomato cage, the whole process was pretty easy and the end result looked really cute! Here’s what I did:

Tomato Cage Christmas Tree
Supplies:
Tomato cage
Green garland (real or fake, I used fake for this one)
Red bows
White lights (optional. You could always used colored lights too)

Supplies for the handmade Christmas Tree

Supplies for the handmade Christmas Tree

1. Turn the tomato cage upside down so it looks like a cone. Make sure it is fairly level on the bottom so the cage does not tip over. You might have to bend the metal a little bit to accomplish this.
2. Starting at the bottom, wrap the green garland around the cage, working toward the top. I looped the garland around each “spoke” as well to keep the garland in place.
3. Add your lights using the same process you did for the garland (bottom to top)

The finished tomato cage Christmas tree

The finished tomato cage Christmas tree

4. Add a red bow (or other decoration of your choosing) to the top of the tree.
5. Move the tree to it’s final location. You are done!

That’s all it took! It did take me a few times to figure out how I wanted the garland to sit on the tomato cage, and once I figured out that I had to loop the garland around the vertical spokes of the cage that eliminated a lot of frustration! Looping the garland helped keep it in place on tomato cage instead of falling toward the bottom. If I had more garland I probably would have wrapped the garland tighter so you couldn’t see the tomato cage or empty space but I like how it turned out! I plugged the tree in on our front porch and it was just what I was looking for to complete my decorating! Now we are all ready for holiday visitors. What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

The front porch all decorated!

The front porch all decorated!

How I Met Your Mother “Sumbitch” Cookies

5 Dec

Yesterday we got our first snowstorm of the season. I love snow, don’t get me wrong, but I really dislike the traffic that happens when it snows.  Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to work from home while we got about 6″ of snow dumped on us. I loved watching the big fluffy snowflakes fall from the sky, and how pretty all the trees looked with the blanket of fresh snow. I felt so cozy at home that I got this urge to bake cookies, no complaints from Jason of course.

Normally I have my go-to recipe when I want cookies (oatmeal chocolate chip), but I had been holding onto a recipe we had heard about from an episode of How I Met Your Mother. Jason watches the show pretty regularly, and I just happened to be watching an episode with him, the one when “The Mother” meets Lily on the Train and uses her “sumbitch” cookies to help calm her down. They sounded so good! Who could resist, chocolate, peanut butter and caramel?

Here’s the recipe I used:

How I Met Your Mother “Sumbitch” Cookies
1 c butter softened
1 c granulated sugar
1 c packed brown sugar
1 c creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
bite size chocolate covered caramel candy (I used Hershey’s Kisses with caramel)

1. Beat butter, sugars and peanut butter until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until blended
2. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Add to the butter mixture, beat until blended. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes
3. Preheat over to 350°F. Shape 2 Tbs of dough around each unwrapped candy. It helps to use lightly floured hands to keep the dough from sticking. Place on an ungreased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Cookie dough around the Hershey Kisses

Cookie dough around the Hershey Kisses

4. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. (Cooling for extra time on the sheet is very important! The candy is still really soft/melted so if you pick up the cookies too early, the whole thing will fall apart.)
Yields: about 4 dozen

The finished "Sumbitches!"

The finished HIMYM “Sumbitches!”

The cookies did not disappoint! I loved the combination of peanut butter and chocolate and to throw the caramel in there too added another yummy flavor. The cookies were chewy (my favorite) and the caramel stayed pretty soft too. I was worried about it hardening, but it didn’t at all. The kisses  melted into the dough really well too, but did not spread all the way though the cookie. The stayed close to the center, so don’t be surprised if that happens to you too. Jason took a few into work for taste testing, and everyone loved them! Now I’m really craving a “sumbitch” and of course they’re all on the counter at home.