Thursday, August 4, 2011


I really enjoyed my first Christmas in July over at the Magical Holiday Home forums.  I found some great new blogs and met an amazing group of women who love Christmas just as much as I do.  I was pretty ambitious when I made my schedule for the month and unfortunately, the hot weather derailed some of my planned baking, but I did manage to complete the following:

1.  I watched a Christmas movie every day (or two to make up for having to miss a day when my friends from Italy were here) - I found a couple of new Christmas movies and watched a lot of old favorites.
2.  I read the Christmas in July book selection, The Snowglobe by Sheila Roberts, and facilitated the book chat with the help of a great discussion guide I found online here.  I also found a new author, Debbie Macomber, who writes wonderful stories about Christmas.  If she writes a new one this holiday season, you can bet it will find its way into my stocking.
3.  I started and am still working on a Christmas scarf with some fun fuzzy yarn that's a burst of white, red and green.
4.  I updated my blog almost every day (had to catch up on one or two I missed).
5.  I mixed up a great holiday cocktail to kick off the whole celebration - the Poinsettia Beverage.
6.  I baked up a whole lot of goodies, testing out some recipes I'd had my eye on:  Pecan Tassies, Sausage and Potato Squares, Christmas Tree Pull-Apart Rolls, Chocolate Cherry Truffle Cake, Cherry Cheese Coffee Cake, and Berry Brunch Pizza.
7.  I tested out a holiday treat recipe for Peppermint Bark.
8.  I whipped up some new ornaments - Felt Mistletoe, Snowman Face Disc, Quilted Ball, Music Star and Christmas Bauble.
9.  I made some Wine Charms.

It was a busy month, and I enjoyed every second.  If you love Christmas, you'll love Christmas in July, and over at the forums, it's a place to chat and share ideas, test recipes and craft ideas, and showcase decorating tips outside of the hustle and bustle that is December.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Christmas in July Days 23 and 24

Very little CIJ activity over the last two days as it was a busy weekend.  Saturday was a prep day and Sunday was the last horse show of the season.  The only thing I managed to get done was to watch Deck the Halls - funny!

For many CIJ-ers, today is the last day.  It's officially Christmas in July!  Tonight (9pm EST, 8pm CST, 7pm MST, and 6pm PST), I'm facilitating the CIJ Book Chat for the book we read this year, The Snowglobe by Sheila Roberts.  Please join us over in the Chat Room at the Magical Holiday Home forums.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Christmas in July Day 22

One of our Family Christmas Cards that had an international theme

The hottest day of the year so far - at one point, the forecast said 97 degrees but 123 with the heat index.  I don't think that was a typo - it was that bad.  We (Sophia, her friend A, MudLynn and I) retreated to the master bedroom where the air conditioner was churning out cold air and spent most of the day in there.

Not much inclination to do anything Christmassy today that required moving although I did manage to turn the pages of my book!  I finished The Snowglobe, Angels at Christmas, and started a new Debbie Macomber, Christmas Wishes.  It's actually two books in one - Christmas Letters (which I've already read) and Rainy Day Kisses.  A lovely, light read on a very hot day.

I spaced out again on this week's (July 17 to July 23) theme, It's a Small World Christmas, a celebration of Christmas customs and traditions around the world although I did post this entry on the forums.
I loved this link on the Magical Holiday Home blog - - and I clicked right over to the UK to see what sounded familiar.

My Mum was from England and my Dad was stationed in northern Europe with the U.S. Army for many years so we spent a lot of Christmases in England, or Christmases at home with our English family members, or just Christmases with lots of English trappings.

There's something about Christmas in England. It's just as festive (and in the stores, just as commercial as the USA), but whether I'm in someone's house or looking at pictures in a magazine, it seems somewhat...muted/blurred? I'm not sure if that's the word I'm looking for, maybe softer would be a better description. Everything seems less glittery, less brash, an English Christmas has a real olde worlde feeling to it. It could be the roaring fire in the background, the muted designs on wrapping paper, the abundance of real holly, ivy and mistletoe, or maybe it's just my outlook.

Our last Christmas in England was in 2001 - my parents rented a holiday cottage (three bedroom house really to accommodate the seven of us) in the picturesque Yorkshire village of Kettlewell. There was a sprinkling of snow on the ground and it was just magical. On the first night we were there, there was a knock on the door and we found carolers, complete with a Dickensian lantern - so quaint. They had heard that there was an American family spending Christmas in the village and they wanted to welcome us. How lovely is that? Mum invited them in for sherry and mince pies and they invited us to Christmas Eve service at the village church.

Mum had laid in all of our favorite trappings of an English Christmas - in addition to the mince pies and sherry, there were roasted potatoes with the turkey for Christmas Day, Christmas crackers, plum pudding, Christmas cake, all of favorite English biscuits, meringues, and a Cadbury's Chocolate Selection Box for Sophia. We spent the entire time in front of the fire, drinking endless cups of tea and had the best Christmas ever. My parents are gone now, and my sister and brother-in-law have added two sons to the family group, so we are planning a Kettlewell Christmas 15th Anniversary celebration in 2016. I love to plan and I've pretty much taken over my Mum's role when it comes to family events so I've got my lists started already! 

There were a few comments from readers who had celebrated Christmas outside the US and they agreed that the celebrations were indeed softer.
Tomorrow starts our final theme for Christmas in July - A Victorian Christmas Celebration.  Can't wait to see what everyone has to say about that.

It's another hot one today - stay cool, everyone!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Christmas in July Day 21

I got so tied with posting my movie list, I forgot my regular CIJ post!  It was hot yesterday, not as hot as it's going to be today (97 according to the forecast), but still too hot to move around too much.  I got up early to start loosening some of the paving stones in the backyard in preparation for the builder to remove them, but it was even too hot for him to come out.  Jingle All The Way was in at the library as well as a stack of Debbie Macomber Christmas books so I made a quick run to pick them up and that was about it.  I still have a 25% off your entire purchase coupon for Michael's so I might run down there today and pick up the rest of the horse charms for the wine charms set we're making for Sophia's 4-H Leader and see if there is anything else I can't live without!

It's going to be a quiet day.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christmas Movie List

Image courtesy of

I had a calendar all planned out with movies from my personal collection, Netflix and the local library, but somewhere during the month, it got a little mixed up.  Here's a list of the movies I have watched so far:

Hollywood Christmas
Christmas in July
A Charlie Brown Christmas
The 12 Dogs of Christmas
Christmas with the Kranks
12 Men of Christmas
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July
The Santa Clause
The Santa Clause 2
The Santa Clause 3
The Christmas Wife
The Christmas Card
Christmas Vacation
Love Actually
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Holiday
Four Christmases
White Christmas

I also watched Christmas episodes of these favorite TV shows:

Are You Being Served?
Hercule Poirot
To The Manor Born
The Vicar of Dibley
Good Neighbors
Keeping Up Appearances

I have a couple left on my must-see list:

Jingle All The Way
Deck the Halls
The Nativity Story

The ones I didn't get to, and more surprisingly, I'm not really bothered about:

Miracle on 34th Street
It's a Wonderful Life
Christmas in Connecticut
I'll Be Seeing You

For some reason, I'm just not into the classics this year.

All baking and candy-making has been suspended - it's going to be over 90 degrees for the next two days and then we have a prep day for this weekend's horse show and the show itself.  By Sunday night, I will be locked in my bedroom with the air conditioner on high and a big Do Not Disturb sign on the door!  This heat is really taking every ounce of energy I have.

Monday, however, I will be rejuvenated and ready to meet my fellow Snowglobe readers in the Magical Holiday Home forum chat room - it's a quick read so if you want to join us, grab it now and get busy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Christmas in July Day 20

One of the great things about Christmas in July is my amazing new blog friends!  I told you that I "sat in" on the Ornament Swap reveal over at the Magical Holiday Home forums chat, and we have a book chat coming up to discuss our CIJ 2011 book, The Snowglobe.  The bloggers over on the forums have the coolest recipes, craft ideas and decorating tips and I am learning so much this year.  Thanks to my friend Tammy, who blogs at Enter with a Christmas Heart, I have found Tim Holtz.  His creations are incredible - I love his 12 Tags of Christmas (check out his left-hand side bar for four years of tags!).  His step-by-step instructions are so clear and he makes me want to run right out and buy every tool that he has listed.  Alas, the budget says no, so I have had to do some improvising.

Today's ornament is this Music Star.

I didn't have any music paper but I did have some lovely Christmas paper left over from our Kettlewell Christmas Album 2001 which I thought had a distinctive Olde Worlde English theme and I also had some bits and pieces (die cuts and charms) left over as well.  So here is the result.

Bad camera, worse photographer, first experience with Modge Podge - loving this Christmas in July trial run period!  Need to refine my edging skills - distressing the edges as Tim demonstrates might have been the finishing touch.

On the movie front, I knocked out two today - too hot to do anything other than sit and have the fan waft a breeze over me!

White Christmas was first - love, love, love everything about the final scene, the show at the Inn.  We went to see White Christmas on stage the first Christmas we were in Rhode Island and that scene is just as amazing in a play.  Then it was today's offering from Netflix, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  I have to say that Martha May Whovier is my favorite character!

I've got a lot of fresh fruit left over (strawberries and blueberries were Buy One, Get One Free at my local market) from the Berry Brunch Pizza so I think I might whip up a cool dessert tomorrow.  I'm thinking that my Mandarin Cheesy Cakes could be adapted with berries so watch this space, I mean blog, for details tomorrow.

I got a Christmas goodie in the mail yesterday that I forgot to mention.  I really liked the Letters to Santa tube shown in the bottom right-hand corner of this Advent Calendar.

I found one online from a secondary source and stuck the site in My Favorites with the best intentions to order it later.  Well, later came along, and the site had been removed!  Time to turn to Ebay - I found one but it was green.  I figured green was better than nothing so I ordered it.  It was a bit larger than I expected but I love it and can't wait to put it on my tree.  I think I'm going to go back through our Christmas albums and type up all the Letters to Santa Sophia has written so I can put them inside.  That should give us a giggle when we put up our tree.  Here's her 2004 missive:

The bread is for the reindeer and the rest is yours, Santa.
The C..... Family
P.S. I'm Sophia and I'm ten,  I've been really good this year.
Sometimes she'd give me a longer letter and ask me to mail it to the North Pole, but this year she must have forgotten and just slipped a note on the cookie plate!

I'm off to watch Love Actually - it ranks right up there with The Holiday on my faves list.

Christmas in July Day 19

It was another blisteringly hot day here in Rhode Island yesterday so there was no way I was turning on the oven.  The heat makes me lethargic so I didn't start any projects or even do any knitting.  This post is rapidly acquiring a "Bah, Humbug!" tone!  I did finish The Holiday - England AND Christmas AND Jude Law, what could be better?  I also read another chapter of The Snowglobe (I really, really want to finish the whole thing in one sitting but I'm restraining myself) and another couple of chapters of Angels at Christmas.  That was about it for CIJ Day 19 until I checked the mail and found this beautiful CIJ card "Christmas Rose" from my friend Jodie.  What a surprise!  She makes the most amazing Christmas cards and this one is a beauty.  She's matted the cream stamped rectangle on a red piece of paper with a subtle red-on-red stamped design, and placed that on top of a green printed piece.  The whole cover is accented with just a few glittery dots here and there.  Thank you, Jodie, it's gorgeous and will be the cover page for the Christmas in July album that I'm going to put together (add that to the list of albums to do!).  I hope a CIJ card becomes a CIJ tradition - perhaps you can consider it your trial-run for your holidays cards?

On the home front, Sophia's friend A is still here - I am really beginning to believe that they are sisters who just cannot decide which house they want to live in (ours or A's)!  She's a lovely girl and they keep each other amused so I am quite happy to have her as our houseguest.  They only have ten days left together before Sophia leaves for Oregon so I'm thinking they are going to be pretty inseparable.  It's so nice to have a BFF!  We ran into a snafu with the building inspector so the door/deck project is delayed until Monday.  You are only allowed a certain percentage of coverage on your property (coverage being the square footage taken up by the house, garage, decks, patios, outbuildings, etc.) and the new deck would exceed the allowance because they are considering a small bricked area at the back of the house into the coverage calculation.  So, tomorrow's task will be to pull up some of the bricks and throw down some grass seed - ta da! it will then be considered a landscaped area and taken out of the calculation.  Red tape, honestly, doesn't it drive you crazy?

I've got to do some housework that I've been sadly neglecting the past few days and then I might attempt another ornament.  Baking has been suspended for this CIJ as the end of the week and weekend is forecast in the 90's.  I've completely gone off track on the monthly calendar so today might be a decorating day.  In that case, I'll leave you with this gold wreath that I found over at The Diplomatic Wife.  She purchased the wreath but it doesn't look too difficult to make.  Not sure about the textured ribbon that's covering the wreath, though, I'll have to look for something like that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Christmas in July Day 18

I was so tired last night, I didn't have the energy to post but the good news is, the Berry Brunch Pizza turned out delicious and there wasn't a slice left! I did manage to make the Christmas Bauble ornament although I'm not quite as happy with it as I thought I would be. I followed the instructions but then took the wire out afterward and replaced it with a ribbon for hanging. I haven't got all my glue dots in the same place on each piece of paper so the slight lack of symmetry is bugging me (I'm all about symmetry!).

I've been watching The Holiday in spurts and hope to finish it today. It's one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies - I love Iris' cottage, Amanda's LA house, Miles, and, of course, Graham! Today is a baking day although it's supposed to be 88 degrees so we'll have to see if I get to my Cherry Cheese Coffee Cake. I'd like to halve the recipe but how to you halve an egg? A recipe for 12 is a bit big since I'll be the only one who eats it; a recipe for six would be breakfast for the next week assuming it keeps ok in the fridge and responds well to a quick zap in the microwave for reheating.

The builder comes today to start working on the door/deck project so that will be my main focus - can't wait to curl up in a chair on the deck with my morning coffee and a book. It's time for another chapter of The Snowglobe and I'm also working on Debbie Macomber's Angels at Christmas.

Hope you've having a fun Christmas in July - if you're stopping on July 25, we have less than a week to go!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Christmas in July Day 17

We spent all day at the 4-H Horse Show - I am still hot even after a cold shower and very sunburned no matter how much SPF 50 I kept slathering on. I can barely keep my eyes open but I did manage to finish off The Christmas Wife while I was eating dinner. In a word - weird - the movie, not the dinner! I imagined something completely different from the storyline and I found it disappointing. Cross another one off the list.

Today is a decorating tip day and before I fall asleep at the keyboard, I will put this up quickly and then head to bed.

Jingle Bell Wreath (a craft for ages 4 and up and guaranteed to amuse any curious cats who go digging around under your tree!)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Christmas in July Day 16

There hasn't been too much time today for Christmas in July activity - it's been go, go, go all day. Sophia and I volunteered in the Exhibit Hall at the local 4-H Fair (where she picked up blue ribbons for all four of her exhibits!!) and then it was a round of errands for tomorrow's horse show - barn, tack shop, and dry cleaners. Once she was done and showered, we headed off to the local Hallmark Store at the mall for the Ornament Premiere. Oh, my goodness, the ornaments are so beautiful! I picked up Daughter and Good Dog; the other two on my list are not out until October. I browsed through all the Disney offerings, Charlie Brown and other popular television and movie characters. Just beautiful workmanship - even Jack Sparrow is a great likeness.

In between errands, I baked and glazed today's recipe, Chocolate Cherry Truffle Cake.

Mine isn't decorated yet but it will be before I take it to Bible Study on Monday night. We did cut a very thin slice to sample and it is delicious. It says to store in the refrigerator, but I think it will be best brought to room temperature for serving. The recipe gives instructions for decorating it with white chocolate curls but Wilton has a new candy mold that I'm going to pick up tomorrow - it makes all types of filigree type chocolate designs that would look amazing on this cake.

I started watching The Christmas Wife from Netflix, but didn't get very far. I hope to have a chance to finish it off tomorrow, if I'm not too exhausted from the horse show! Looks like it's going to be in the high 80s, so it's going to be a long, hot day!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Christmas in July Day 15

Got up early today because I had a busy morning ahead of me and some Christmas in July fun for the afternoon. First, a quick recap on yesterday evening. I sat in (at my laptop) on the CIJ Ornament Swap reveal last night!! It was so cool to see all the comments as the ladies opened up the swap ornaments one by one. I can't wait to participate next year. Thank you all so much for letting me join you. You can see a photo of the ornaments here.

Sophia was out with friends so I sat down to enjoy a British comedy Christmas extravaganza. I'm a big fan of British comedy, the older stuff mostly, from the 1970s when we lived in England and from the 1990s. I'm not too crazy about the current offerings. British television censorship, if you can call it that, is very loose and I find a lot of what is produced today to be very tasteless. When we lived in England, the humor was what we called "cheeky", which I think is best translated into American English as "saucy". One definition said "offensively bold", but I think that's a bit strong. Anyway, there is quite a bit of innuendo but it's very funny. I worked my way through the 1977 Good Neighbors Christmas special, "Silly, but it's fun", the 1979 To The Manor Born special, "The First Noel", The Vicar of Dibley's 1996 "The Christmas Lunch Incident", and Keeping Up Appearances' 1991 special, "A Very Merry Hyacinth". I don't know if any of you are familiar with any of these episodes; I was going to put up a short video but surprisingly enough, or not, all four episodes are available on You Tube. If you want a good laugh, check them out (I've included the You Tube links).

Here's a brief synopsis of each to help you choose:

Silly, but it's fun: Tom and Barbara are all ready and prepared with their homemade newspaper decorations, crackers made from the colour supplements, a yule log with an over-sized robin and balloons that have cost a wopping 15p. Margo and Jerry, however, are set to have a very miserable Christmas, as Margo, in a fit of conservatism, sent back her entire Christmas purchases because her tree is six and a quarter inches too short. She has in effect, cut off her festive nose to spite her yuletide face. It's up to Tom and Barbara to show them what a true Christmas is all about, a Christmas without the trappings of riches, just pure silly unadulterated fun...not to mention a few bottles of the old pea-pod.
The First Noel: Richard and Audrey compete in supplying the traditional Christmas crèche to the village church, and the question soon becomes which offer is more ridiculous her homemade monstrosity or his crassly commercial model?
The Christmas Lunch Incident: Geraldine is so popular that everybody wants her round for Christmas dinner so she won't be alone - Jim and Frank, Alice and her family, who are even more bizarre than Alice herself and the Hortons. Geraldine is protective of Hugo when David bullies him and indulges in a sprout-eating contest. As a consequence she has to be taken home on a bulldozer to sleep it off. And then Owen turns up wanting company since he has spent every Christmas alone since 1971.
A Very Merry Hyacinth: Hyacinth is in the full Christmas spirit with 112 Christmas cards, and counting. She's also forced Richard to dress up as Father Christmas to distribute presents to the old folk. But the journey to the church hall to hand out the gifts is filled with many surprises including a drunk Richard, a disguised Elizabeth and of course a mishap with Daddy.
Synopses courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

So, this morning I got the grocery shopping done and put away, picked up Sophia's saddle from the barn (big horse show this weekend so it needed to be cleaned), ran by Michael's to pick up two more balls of Fa La La (2 for $5, sale ends tomorrow), and stopped at my local supermarket to check the price of berries for a dessert I'm planning to take to Bible Study on Monday.

I read another chapter of The Snowglobe (it's really getting good!) and then worked on today's craft project with Sophia's help. She's the beader in the family. I was making a set of wine charms for Sophia's 4-H leader, hence the green beads and the horse charms. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, as I've seen wine charms in gift stores, but I found this great tutorial which was very helpful. The hoop is from a Wired Hoop Assortment by Jewelry Findings at Michael's and the charms are from the Charm Gallery, also at Michael's. The beads were $2.99 for a large tube (enough for probably more than 100 charms) and the little crimp beads at each end were extras Sophia had on hand. This one was a test; now that I like how it turned out, I'll go back and get more charms. I had in mind this set for Sophia's leader: the horse head in the horseshoe (shown), four leaf clover (for 4-H), a plain horseshoe, two different horses, and the letter D for Diane (her leader's name). Should make a nice gift for Christmas.

I modified the Spicy Sausage and Potato Squares to come up with Ham and Potato Squares and that's what I had for dinner. I substituted ham for the sausage and broccoli for the asparagus and it was delicious. It was very enjoyable with The Santa Clause 3. I'm whipping through the movies - I've decided to end Christmas in July on the 25th which works out really well because that's only a few days before Sophia leaves for Oregon and we have a lot going on that week.

Tomorrow is a decorating tip day but I'm going to swap it with the recipe day on Sunday and try out the Chocolate Cherry Truffle Cake. I'll be at the horse show all day on Sunday so I'm not sure if I'll get any CIJ work done other than putting up a decorating tip here and knitting a few rows on my scarf.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Christmas in July Day 14

Less than two hours to go before a chat opens up between the Magical Holiday Home Ornament Swap participants and I'm gonna be there to listen in! Sophia is off out to eat with her friends and then to the midnight showing of the latest Harry Potter movie so it's me and MudLynn for the evening.

It's been a busy day. I got up early - taking a nap yesterday and going to bed early left me super alert first thing this morning and I've been going like the Energizer Bunny all day. I let Sophia sleep in since she'll be up half the night so I enjoyed The Santa Clause with breakfast. We ran a couple of errands once she surfaced and then we sat down this afternoon to enjoy The Santa Clause 2 while having a craft session. I finished off the Quilted Ball ornament and knitted some more on my scarf while Sophia worked on her beaded jewelry. Shameless plug here -if you like beaded jewelry, check out her page on Facebook "Bella Sophia".

Here's the Quilted Ball:

Here is the finished product - you run a band of ribbon around the center to cover where the edges of the fabric on each side meet - I'm not happy with the ribbon I chose as I think it needs to be a bit wider and heavier - the ribbon I used is wired but it's also a bit sheer. I added the pearl embellishments, not sure if I like them or not.

Here is a view of the top - I like this because I seem to have the symmetry right and I added the little pearl in the center to cover where four pins are placed. I used dressmaker's pins but I realize I should have used bridal/lace pins which have smaller heads. Lesson learned for next time.

I added a hanger by unpinning one of the red pieces of fabric on top, running the ribbon underneath, and repinning it. It holds it quite nicely.

A close-up of the finished ball - it's lost some of its roundness, I think perhaps from my holding it too firmly or running the ribbon too tightly. I also don't think that I need to fold the fabric over twice - I think that the whole ball would be lighter and easier to make if I just used rectangular pieces of fabric and made one fold. I'll experiment with that another time.

Good grief, I am critical, aren't I?

Today's recipe was Christmas Tree Pull-Apart Rolls. My whole kitchen smells like an upscale pizzeria and they were delicious. Here's the recipe from Woman's World magazine, December 21, 2009 issue:

1 tube (11 oz) refigerated breadstick dough
1/2 cup sun-dried tomato pesto **
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tbs shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp crushed dried rosemary
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
Assorted fresh herbs and ribbon bow

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. On lightly floured surface, unroll dough. Spread pesto over dough, sprinkle with cheeses, parsley, rosemary, and pepper.

Separate dough at perforations. Beginning at short end, roll up each dough strip jellyroll-style. Arrange, spiral side up and sides touching in tree shape on pan. Brush with egg. Bake 25 minutes or until golden. Serve garnished with herbs (along sides of rolls) and bow (at the bottom of the rolls).

Serves 12.

Rolled up, arranged in tree shape and ready to bake:

The finished product:

** I found the sun-dried tomato pesto at my local supermarket but if you have any difficulty, you can order it from Pastene. It's under Shop USA and then Sauces.

Looking forward to chatting all about your lovely ornaments.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Christmas in July Day 11, 12, and 13

I feel like it's been a lifetime since my last post! We picked up Natalie and Alexandra from Alexandra's soccer camp yesterday at noon and headed to Panera for lunch. Then it was off for a stroll through downtown Newport - down along the waterfront and back up quaint, cobbled Thames Street to the car.

In front of The Feet and The Wave statue on Newport's waterfront

I pointed out landmarks as we went by - Trinity Church where George Washington is said to have attended a service, St. Mary's where Jackie Bouvier married Senator John F. Kennedy. We headed down elegant Bellevue Avenue to The Breakers, the sumptuous Vanderbilt Mansion and took the audio tour of the house.

The Breakers

It's my second time there and it still takes my breath away. After the tour, we drove along Ocean Drive to admire the scenery and then headed home. It was only a short stop at home to drop the luggage and then we took off again, this time to introduce Natalie and Alexandra to Boogie, our leased horse, and then to head to Anthony's Seafood for dinner. When we got home, I'm sure we would have talked for half the night if we hadn't all been so exhausted!

Up early today to fix breakfast and then head on out to the airport. It was a quick visit, but so great to see them both.

I've been blogging about Christmas in July after the fact (most of my post seems to start with "Yesterday....") so I'm catching us up to the present and then I'll start blogging each evening. On Monday I watched Elf (Sunday's movie) and then Hercule Poirot's Christmas in the evening. It's a bit creepy to watch a murder mystery for a Christmas movie, but this particular one has some beautiful scenes of an olde English Christmas - snow-covered shops and houses in the little village, an abundance of holly, roaring fires, and choir boys singing carols. Today's feature was to be A Christmas Story (can you believe I've never seen it?) but my copy from the library kept skipping so I'll have to get one from Netflix. I watched Four Christmases instead which is hilarious in parts but the seriousness of the ending doesn't really blend well with the early hilarity so I was a bit disappointed.

On Monday, I worked on the Quilted Ball Ornament. I am so happy to have this Christmas in July because I really made a mess of the ornament and I would be so stressed if I was trying to do this in December and I had to start all over again. It's basically three layers of fabric pinned to a Styrofoam ball, each layer lowered and staggered from the previous one, to form a star pattern. You do three layers down from the top of the ball, then flip it over and do three more layers so that the third layers from each direction overlap and you cover those with a band of ribbon. Voila! A Quilted Ball. Well, because I had my layers too far apart, the top three far exceeded one half of the ball so I'll have to unpin it all and start again.

The first half was starting to look pretty good (not quite symmetrical, but I'm learning!)

I knew I was going to have problems with the second half as soon as I had the first layer pinned (the red fabric at the bottom of the photo). The next two layers were going to end up too long, completely covering the third layer of the opposite end.

I don't know if any of the above makes sense, but here's the Quilted Ball Tutorial so you can check it out and see how it should be done!

Today is a decorating tip day and going along the lines of this week's Hollywood Christmas theme, here is a teaser from the This is Glamorous blog which is showcasing elegant silver and gold decorating ideas.

You can see the whole post and all the photos here.

I'm up to date with The Snowglobe and enjoying it very much and still working through Debbie Macomber's Christmas Letters and enjoying that as well. I'm trying to keep up with the posts on the forums as well. There have been a few posts on the Hallmark Ornament thread and I'm excited about the Ornament Premiere this weekend.

I'll leave you with this bit of excitement - One of my fellow CIJ'ers, Miss Jane, posted this link to Southern Living's Holiday Cake Contest. This is for all you bakers out there - you could see your cake featured on the cover of the December Southern Living magazine and win $$$$$$. Happy Baking!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Christmas in July Day 10

It's going to be busy for the next day or two with friends coming for an overnight visit so if it's quiet on the blogging front, I'll be back in a few days.

Yesterday was a recipe day and the Spicy Sausage and Potato Squares were divine. Not only was the aroma to die for, but the taste was incredible and it was so easy. Sophia has my camera so I'll have to borrow this shot to show you:

Photo courtesy of and recipe available from

I didn't get a chance to watch Elf but I'll get to it soon. I started a thread over at the Magical Holiday Home forums about Hallmark Ornaments as this weekend is the Ornament Premiere. I've been collecting since 1984 and have a few on my shopping list for this year. Do you collect ornaments? Any particular kind?

Better run and get busy. I mentioned the other day that we were picking up my friend Natalie and her daughter at the airport and taking them to the local university for a five-day soccer camp. Natalie is my homeschooling friend from our Virginia days - she lives in Italy now but has been in the States for about the last month, visiting family, colleges, and chaperoning her daughter at soccer camp. We will pick them up tomorrow, head to Panera for lunch (when you live overseas, there are just some places you MUST visit when you come back to the States!), and then wander around Newport for a while if it's not too blisteringly hot, or raining as it is forecast to do sometime tomorrow. If the weather is bad, we'll probably whisk them off for a mansion tour and then head back to our house to catch up. They will stay the night and then we will take them to the airport in the morning. A flying (excuse the pun!) visit but it is great to have them here even for a few hours.

I'll leave you with this little guy, Popcorn Mouse from 1986. He's my favorite whimsical ornament from Hallmark.


UPDATE: Oops, the photo disappeared - I tried to save it and upload it here but that didn't work, so then I tried copy and paste but if you can't see it (I can't on my blog), you can check it out here - Popcorn Mouse

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Christmas in July Themes and Day 9

Back in this post, I told you that Christmas in July has weekly themes. I didn't quite follow the first one, Sweet Candy Christmas, as much as I should but I am determined to follow more closely with the second one, A Hollywood Christmas. It's described as:

It’s Christmas Hollywood Style….so look for a lot of glitter and gold and fancy recipes and decor ideas!

Sounds great to me! I've got some of the best of Hollywood on the movie schedule this week - Elf, A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I've got a couple of fancy recipes on the list and I'll be searching out the best decorating tips in glitter and gold.

On yesterday's agenda was the decorating tip I shared early in the morning, the ornament chandelier. That would look pretty spectacular in glitter and gold. I like that you could make it any color - must look out for after-Christmas sales on the shiny orbs and maybe use it next year. Even a mini-version suspended from an archway would look lovely. I had to catch up on Friday's movie, The Christmas Card, and watch Saturday's, Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (ugh! don't bother, it was creepy in parts and I think it would scare little kids to death - imagine Santa's archenemy in a sleigh pulled by snakes! Charming animated tale - not!).

On the recipe front today is Spicy Sausage and Potato Squares which would be delicious served for brunch with frosty Mimosas. Very Hollywood. I cut out all the fabric squares for tomorrow's craft, a quilted ball ornament, and read another chapter of The Snowglobe. Life is taking a great turn for'll have to read it for yourself to find out what happens. I'm looking forward to the book chat at the forums - I believe the final date is now Sunday, July 24. We have a horse show that day but I'm hoping that it will be scheduled at a time when I can participate.

It's time to get ready for church but I'll be back later to kick off A Hollywood Christmas with a Spicy Sausage and Potato Square, a mimosa, and Elf! What's on your agenda for today?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Christmas in July Day 8

It was a CIJ Fail yesterday - too much running around, too tired to really do anything. I had planned to make a Half-Eaten Gingerbread Man ornament but after cutting him out and thinking about it for a while, I decided he really needed to be sewn on the machine. Those of you who know me well know that I don't know how to operate a sewing machine and yesterday certainly wasn't the day to drag out the instruction manual to try to learn. So, Gingie and his fixins' are relegated to a Ziploc bag pending the return of Vic, who will hopefully show me how to use the sewing machine. How sad is that? When the hubby has to teach his wife how to sew!

I checked out two more Gooseberry Patch books but was disappointed in both of them. Every recipe in Very Merry Christmas Cookbook had already been in the other books I read and Christmas Cookies was all recipes without a single photo. I've got to have a few photos to get me motivated when it comes to cookbooks. I was also disappointed to find out that Gooseberry Patch no longer sends its mail-order catalog. I used to love their catalogs; they had so many cool gadgets and gift items.

I didn't get around to my Christmas movie yesterday, The Christmas Card, so as soon as I post this entry, I'm off to enjoy it. Sophia is at a sleepover so it's just me and MudLynn this morning. I did finish Debbie Macomber's The Perfect Christmas (very cute!) and now I'm onto her Christmas Letters. I am really enjoying her books.

Today is a decorating tip day so I'll leave you with this really cool idea. I don't decorate my tree with round, shiny ornaments but I do have some that I use to fill baskets or glass jars/bowls and they bring a great splash of color to a room. This chandelier idea is interesting (I found it here), although I wish they had shown how it was attached to the ceiling.

Photo: Roland Bello

Friday, July 8, 2011

Christmas in July Day 7

Another hot, hot day yesterday. Peppemint Bark was on the recipe agenda and was it ever delicious!

Peppermint Bark

Here is my version - Sophia suggested putting the white chocolate on the bottom of the mold so it would get the pretty snowflake pattern.

It was very rich so I think I will be looking for a mold with smaller cups this holiday season and make 12 thinner snowflakes rather than the 6 I made.

12 Men of Christmas was very good, and no, they didn't bare it all! It reminded me of Calendar Girls with a bit of Love Actually thrown in. What I wouldn't give to have the house in the final scenes - all decorated for Christmas and with a party in full swing!

I'm off to the airport this morning to pick up my friend Natalie and her daughter. They are homeschooling friends from Virginia (2004-2007) and they are stationed in Italy now. Natalie has been doing some college visits with her elder daughter and chaperoning her younger daughter at a couple of soccer camps. We will drop them off at the local university for a five-day camp and then return to pick them up next Tuesday. They will stay Tuesday afternoon and evening with us and then we'll take them back to the airport on Wednesday morning. It will be so good to see them!

Rain is in the forecast for today so I have The Christmas Card to watch this afternoon and a couple more Gooseberry Patch books to flip through, Christmas (Book 1, 1999) and Celebrate Winter: Fireside Feasts and Merry Celebrations. A Half-Eaten Gingerbread Man ornament is on the agenda for today as well.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Christmas in July Day 6

Yesterday was a low-key Christmas in July day. It was forecast to be 85 degrees so I knew that a relaxing, staying cool kind of day was in the cards. We don't have air-conditioning here in our house in Rhode Island - we don't really need it with so few hot weeks and we are fortunate that our house receives a lovely breeze most days. Yesterday, however, was hot and humid with very little breeze so a lot of moving around was out of the question. I spent the day browsing through this book that I picked up at the library.

One of my fellow forum-readers commented on how overwhelmed we can get at Christmas and don't we all know it? All our of senses are bombarded with Christmas sounds, smells, and scenes and add to that a book of over 600 recipes, crafts and decorating's just too much! Christmas in July is the perfect time to have a leisurely browse through a book like this and that's just what I did. After that, I watched Christmas with the Kranks (love the scene when Luther gets Botox!) and knitted a few more rows of my Christmas scarf. That was about it for today.

On Tuesday, I received my mold for the Peppermint Bark recipe that's on the agenda for today. I was disappointed that the mold I wanted had been discontinued by Wilton, but was very happy to find one on Ebay.

I've modified the recipe to make just these six candies - any more and my waistline is really going to suffer!

Today's feature comes from Netflix, 12 Men of Christmas. I love Kristin Chenoweth and when I was searching for Christmas movies, this came up. Here's the Netflix summary:

Devastated after losing both her influential job and her fiancé at the office holiday party, publicist E.J. Baxter (Kristin Chenoweth) flees New York and lands in Montana, where she decides to produce a racy calendar showing off the local guys. But some of the men take exception to her scheme to raise funds for a search-and-rescue team by having them bare it all. Meanwhile, Mr. December is raising E.J.'s pulse in this Lifetime Original Movie.

It's Not Rated, so I'm hoping they don't "bare it all" on film! I'm thinking not, since it was a Lifetime movie. I'll let you know tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Christmas in July Day 5

This was my craft for today - you can find it here although it's only the photo as it was originally intended to be a potholder. I modified it slightly by getting rid of the crocheted loop at the top and replacing it with a longer piece of ribbon so you can hang it on your tree. I couldn't quite decide whether to run a line thin of glue where the stitching ends so the stuffing would not work its way out. In the end, I decided not to do so, but regret it now.

Here's my finished product:

I think if I had run the line of glue, I might not have ended up with the uneven join at the top, just to the right of the loop hanger. Live and learn! These are all trial-run ornaments for the next ornament swap so I will know what to change for mass production.

I'm working my way through The Snowglobe very slowly - one chapter every other day to make it last through the entire month (or until the CIJ Book Chat Room is posted in which case I will speed read to finish it!). To supplement my reading (because it is so hot here, sitting in an air-conditioned room with a book is about all I can handle), I have When Christmas Comes by Debbie Macomber which is hilarious in parts. You must read it!

The 12 Dogs of Christmas was cute. It's a kid's movie but I enjoyed it all the same. Today was supposed to be a Netflix selection but with the holiday, my Netflix schedule is off by a day so I moved Christmas with the Kranks up the schedule for today. Today is also a decorating tip day and I decided to share with you some of the amazing Advent Calendar ideas I have found lately. I am completely addicted to Pinterest and "Advent Calendar" in the search box yielded dozens of ideas. These were my favorites. A couple of the ideas have been shared on the Magical Holiday Home Forums, but since some of my readers are not celebrating Christmas in July, I'm posting them again for their reference. Links for each are listed below the photos.

Pottery Barn Inspired Advent Calendar

Muffin Tin Advent Calendar AKA Lazy Moms Advent Calendar Countdown

Matchbox Advent Calendar

Activities Advent Calendar (can be also used to hold gift cards)

12 Days of Christmas Earrings (can be modified to 24 pairs of earrings for Earrings Advent Calendar) - I found the picture here but I think it might be an Avon item

Cookie Sheet Advent Calendar (for some reason, I can't click directly on the blog post featuring this item, the link takes me to all the December posts - scroll down to December 5, 2007)

Clothes Pin Advent Calendar - not quite sure how to credit this one - the Pinterest link is here but if you click on the picture when you get to, you end up on this Norwegian blog.

Aren't they amazing? Was blogging around when Sophia was little? I wasn't very crafty at that stage of my life, so we had chocolate Advent Calendars or a cloth snowman with 24 little pockets that usually held Hershey's Kisses. What type of Advent Calendar do you use?

BTW, yesterday I was looking for any unmoderated comments that I had missed and accidentally deleted the last 75 comments posted on my blog. I know many of you left comments on some of my posts and I am so sorry to lose them. I'll hope you'll keep stopping by and commenting!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Christmas in July Day 4

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July! It was a quiet day at home for me - picked Sophia up from one sleepover and dropped her at a pool party. She went on from there to another pool party and then home with one of her girlfriends for another sleepover. I am certainly beginning to understand Empty Nest Syndrome.

On the agenda for yesterday was catching up on my Christmas movies - check and check. Today's feature is The 12 Dogs of Christmas and I have to reorganize the viewing calendar because I forgot that there was no mail service yesterday so my schedule of movies from Netflix has to be adjusted by one day. My craft project for today is to make a snowman face disc ornament. Tune in tomorrow to see the results.

Probably not the best day to turn on the oven, as the temperatures were in the mid-80s, but I did anyway and turned out a delicious batch of Pecan Tassies from this 1999 Pampered Chef cookbook:
This cookbook can be found at

You need this Pampered Chef tool, the Mini-Tart Shaper, or something similar. If you would like one of these, check it out here.

Pecan Tassies

Tart Shells
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped
Powdered sugar (optional)

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add flour; mix until a soft dough forms. Cover; refrigerate at least one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls of dough into ungreased cups of mini-muffin pan (the one with 24 cups). Dip mini-tart shaper in flour,; press into dough to form tart shells. For filling, melt butter and stir in brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Add chopped pecans. Fill each tart shell with filling. Bake 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool in pan 3 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Makes 24 tarts.

The finished product! The third one from the right on the bottom row is a perfect tart. I found out that you really have to have the tart shaper right in the middle and use firm and even pressure to get the tart shells to look like this. Some of mine are a little uneven and the filling ran into the side of the muffin tin, making them difficult to remove (the real mistakes are in the top left-hand corner and were the first to be eaten!).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Christmas in July Day 2

Day 2 was a bit of a bust so I have today to get caught up. I had the best intentions to work on my felt mistletoe ornament so I printed off the template, pinned it to the felt and cut out the pieces. I thought they looked awfully big and when I put the three pieces together, it really was much too big to hang on a tree. I also didn't like the green felt - it was too green - but I started to put it together anyway. That's when I realized I didn't have any fabric glue! Off to Michael's I went, and I picked up a new piece of green felt while I was there - olive green. I came home, reduced the size of the template, reprinted, repinned and cut out the mistletoe in olive and liked that one much better. I tried to economize by buying something called Crafter's Glue, which apparently doesn't work on felt - is there a special glue for felt? Anyway, I will swing by Michael's after church today for some new glue and put the whole thing together this afternoon while I watch Christmas in July, which I didn't get to watch yesterday.

Are You Being Served? Christmas is on the calendar today so that will be two Christmas DVDs for my viewing pleasure.

Today is a decorating tip day so I wanted to share this gorgeous centerpiece that I found over at Between Naps on the Porch. It's a Williamsburg Apple Tree Centerpiece and you can find the complete tutorial here. I was thinking that you could create the centerpiece using faux fruit but it would be a bit difficult to store unless you found a tall, sturdy box. Spend some time on Susan's site; check out the most amazing tablescapes here (scroll down for Christmas).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Christmas in July Day 1

My Poinsettia Cocktail was really delicious and the movie "Hollywood Christmas", although long, was very interesting. Who knew that the first time Christmas was featured in a movie was in 1898? I put up and decorated my mini-tree in the office/craft room and loved Chapter 1 of The Snowglobe. It's going to be so hard to read a chapter every other day when I want to sit down and read it all at once! I also started When Christmas Comes by Debbie Macomber which is a lovely story so far. Can't help but see the resemblance to the movie The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz; I wonder which came first? The only thing I didn't get started was the scarf I planned to knit because the box of knitting needles has gone missing. Have to search the basement today or make a run to Michael's. Luckily, I have one 40% coupon left!

On the agenda for today is this ornament:

Photo courtesy of and tutorial can be found at

and this movie:

Hope you're having a great Christmas in July!