Syska Toolbar

Friday, November 30, 2012

You Are Precious

"Now on the final and most important day of the Feast, the last day, Jesus stood, and He cried in a loud voice, 'If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink!'" John 7:37

We are precious and valuable and God has a plan to manifest His goodness and kindness through what He wants to do for us in our life. It does not matter what we have done or what has been done to us, the past remains in the past according to God and we too have to let it remain in the past! God has a great future for us ~ we can have a wonderful life but we have to receive it, we have to agree and say, "That is for me."

Jesus cried out to tell us that He has what we need ~ as referenced in today's verse, "Now on the final and most important day of the Feast, Jesus stood, and He cried in a loud voice. If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!". What we cannot do for ourselves, God has already done for us ~ He invites us now to come and receive it, to drink it, to take it into/for ourselves. We do that by believing and trusting through faith that it is for us.

To drink is defined as "to take in or receive avidly" ~ "to receive into one's consciousness." Remember in John 16.24 Jesus said, "Now ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy (gladness, delight) may be full and complete". If we ask and receive,then our joy will be full.

How are we going to impress a depressed world if we believers are as depressed as those who are without Christ? God wants His people to show forth the glory of His kindness upon them. As we receive God's provision, our joy will be complete, which is the way the Church is supposed to be.

Act as a receptacle for God's blessings. We need to take in what Jesus has paid for with His own life to provide for us. We need to study the Word so that we will be sure of His promises.

Father God, here I am, Lord, pour it on as I receive the fullness of whatever your Holy Spirit has for me. Help me realize that I am precious and valuable. In your name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Closer Than You Think

“Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.” Hebrews 10:35

Have you been praying and believing for something that seems like it’s taking a lot longer than you thought? Honestly we have all be in this place at one time or another in our lifetime and so many times, people can miss God’s best simply because they give up before they see their “due season” come. Don’t let that be you! Be encouraged today, your answer is closer than you think. If it seems like things are getting more difficult, remember, when the intensity heats up, that means you are closer to your victory. It always seems darkest just before the dawn arrives ~ Satan is working his last ploy against you because he knows that your victory is close and he will be defeated.

We serve a faithful God, and He’s working behind the scenes on your behalf. Don’t cast away your confidence today because your reward is coming. And just like a new mother forgets about her labor pain once she is finally holding her newborn, you’ll forget about your struggle when you are holding on to your promise. While you are waiting, keep an attitude of faith and expectancy. Wake up every morning and say out loud, “I’ve come too far to give up now. My due season is coming. I will reap my harvest.” Stay in faith and look for His hand of blessing because He has promised you victory, and it’s closer than you think!

Father in heaven, today I stand believing that You are working behind the scenes on my behalf. Give me Your strength to stand in faith until I see every promise fulfilled in my life in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Easy, Fun~to~Make Handmade~Homemade Christmas Holiday Crafts and Gifts

Patterned-Paper Christmas Trees

Spruce up your holiday decor with patterned-paper trees. Cut or punch a decorative edge from 1x2-1/2-inch and 3/4x2-1/2-inch strips of patterned paper; curl the edges by wrapping them around a pencil. Hot-glue the pieces to a foam cone (ours are 9, 12, and 15 inches tall). Top each tree with a star cut from felt and held in place with wire. Add a gem for sparkle. Trim the tree with button, brad, and gem ornaments.

Pretty Christmas Packages

To make a pretty floral gift, cover a block of florist's foam with button mums. Stick a pearl-head pin through the center of each flower to secure it to the foam. Tie a red velvet ribbon around the finished package, or hot-glue it to the top.

Crystallized Christmas Trees

These rock candy-embellished cones are a fun -- and easy! -- holiday craft project. Pour horizontal rows of candy crystals in three or more colors on a baking sheet with the rows flush together. Wrap solid light-color cardstock around foam cones, slightly overlapping the paper at the back of the cone and securing it with hot glue. Do not apply the glue directly to the cone, which will melt. Larger cones may need two sheets of paper to be completely covered. Spread crafts glue on the cones and roll them in crystals; let dry. Re-glue and re-roll, if needed, to cover cones completely with crystals. Use hot-glue to fill in small gaps with hand-placed crystals.

Embroidered Fabric Christmas Tree

Craft a clever Christmas tree from colorful fabric scraps and display it front and center in a bright frame to make a fun holiday decoration. Using coins as pattern templates, draw around coins on assorted fabric scraps. Cut out. Cut a 1-inch square from gold print fabric for a tree trunk. Referring to the photo, fill tree shape with fabric circles, attaching circles with red or green floss and French knots, straight-stitch stars, or with square buttons on top. In spaces between circles, sew French knots with green floss and attach red and green buttons with matching floss. Whipstitch tree trunk in place with gold floss. Frame the finished piece.

Bright Sequined Christmas Lights

These colorful ornaments will light up your tree in vintage style and bold colors. For the bulb base, press a 1-1/2-inch plastic-foam ball on a work surface to flatten one side; repeat to flatten the opposite side. Roll the shape back and forth on the rounded edge, pressing down until the bulb base resembles a marshmallow. Press in one flat edge of the bulb base with your thumb, making it concave. Hot-glue the concave edge to the wide end of a 2-inch plastic-foam egg (this will form the ornament shape).
Place a line of hot glue between the bulb and bulb base and attach one end of colorful sequin trim. Continue adding lines of glue and wrapping the trim around the bulb, overlapping the trim slightly as you work; cut off excess trim. Poke a hole in the center of the flat edge of the bulb base with the tip of the glue gun. Make a small loop at one end of a length of metallic cord, leaving a long tail. Push the ends of the loop into the hole; let the tail trail out of the hole. Place hot glue on the bulb base around the loop; attach and coil the cord on the base around the loop. Continue wrapping and gluing the cord to the bulb base until it is completely covered; cut off excess cord.

Christmas Canvas

This brightly-colored Christmas collage is a great festive addition to bookshelves, nightstands, or coffee tables during the holidays. To make, paint a 6-inch stretched canvas with red acrylic paint; let dry. Referring to the photo, use decoupage medium to adhere a hill shape torn from sheet music to the bottom of the canvas. Evenly cover a purchased two-house foam stamp ( with light green acrylic paint; stamp houses on canvas atop the hill. Stamp a snowy sky above the houses with circle foam stamps and white acrylic paint. Stamp a striped design around the sides of the canvas with white acrylic paint and stamp a scallop design with teal acrylic paint along the bottom. From a red ink pad, stamp a doodle frame design onto a scrap of pale yellow cardstock; cut out the frame and frame center and adhere to the canvas with decoupage medium. Cut holiday-theme words from an old book and adhere them inside the frame.

Hanging Ornament Artwork

Christmas ornaments don’t have to be just for your tree -- here, they come together for holiday artwork in minutes with paper circles cut from repurposed Christmas cards and festive ribbon. Grab three old Christmas greeting cards in coordinating colors and cut out three different sized circles from each. For the ornament caps, punch two circles from metallic silver cardstock using a 1/2-inch circle punch. Glue a circle at the top of the small and large ornaments, tucking half of each circle behind the ornament shape. Position ornaments on a sheet of white-on-white patterned paper; mark positions with a pencil. Cut a length of green grosgrain ribbon for each ornament hanger; tape the ribbon ends to the paper with double-sided tape. Tape the ornaments in place and tie a bow from the remaining ribbon. Adhere the bow to the top of the medium-size ornament with crafts glue. Frame the design for a polished look.

Heartwarming Musical Ornaments

Strike up a merry chorus on your Christmas tree with these handmade ornaments made from sheet music. To make, place old sheet music in water until it is just damp; blot off excess water with a towel. Apply a thin, even layer of decoupage medium to a piece of cream cardstock; immediately place the damp sheet music on the cardstock. Roll rubber brayer over the sheet music to smooth it and push out air bubbles; let dry. Trace the ornament patterns, available below, onto white paper and cut out. Trace the paper patterns onto the wrong side of the cardstock; cut out shapes using a crafts knife. Erase any remaining pencil marks, and make a hole in the top of each ornament with a needle or a hole punch. Rub a cotton swab in sepia ink and rub the swab along the front and back edges of each ornament. Apply several layers of decoupage medium to both sides of each ornament; let dry between coats. To hang, thread a wire ornament hanger or a ribbon through each ornament hole.

Wire Ornament Holder

Gather your favorite collectible ornaments and trim the boughs of a whimsical art piece. Hung inside a frame topped with a bow, the ornaments are the center of attention.

Cute-as-a-Button Wreath

Gather white buttons from your stash and sew them onto fabric to make a wreath that's suitable for framing.

Cheery Christmas Blanket

Give a purchased blanket a personalized touch with ribbon and pretty stitching in red and green. The result is a cuddly throw, perfect for a Christmas gift or an extra cover for holiday guests to use.

Cookie Cutter Christmas Wreath

If making cutout cookies isn't your thing, use cookie cutters in a new way this Christmas. To make this wreath, arrange large cookie cutters on a paper-covered work surface in a circular shape, and fill in the gaps with smaller cookie cutters. Glue the arrangement together with an adhesive appropriate for metals; let dry. Spray-paint the wreath, if desired, and finish with a festive bow.

Family Christmas Calendar

Build anticipation for Christmas day with a handcrafted countdown calendar. Basic crafting supplies, a computer, and your creativity can transform a plain wooden plaque into a calendar filled with family photos.

Close the Door on Fear

“Do not give the devil an opportunity to work.” Ephesians 4:27

So many people today are living with less than God’s best because they’ve allowed fear to creep in and take root in their lives. Fear is the greatest weapon the enemy uses to try to hold us back and fear is not from God. Scripture tells us that fear brings torment ~ it’s designed to paralyze us and keep us from God’s blessings, keeps us from God's best for us.

The good news is that God is greater than any fear you may have. His power in you is greater than any power that comes against you but, in order to walk in His power, you have to close the door on the enemy. See, the enemy can’t have access to your life unless you open a door and give him access. That’s why we have to be careful about what we watch, what we listen to, what we read, who we keep company with and what we say. When we open ourselves to fear, we give the enemy opportunity.

If you’ve allowed fear to steal from you in any area of life, today you can be free ~ you can be finished with fear. Conquering the enemy starts by making the choice to close the door on fear by receiving God’s love,praising Him in all things and meditating on His promises. Receive His truth and speak His truth ~ let Him set you free and lead you into victory as you close the door on fear.

Father, I come to You in faith declaring that I am finished with fear. Thank You for giving me a spirit of power, love and a sound mind. Fill me with Your peace and joy today as I worship You and move forward in Your victory in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Showstopping Christmas Cookie Recipes

Whether you're hosting a cookie exchange party or a holiday open house, these beautiful, creative Christmas cookie recipes are sure to wow the crowd.

Mint Meringue Kisses
Make light-as-air meringues kissed with mint. For the ultimate bite, sandwich semisweet chocolate between two meringues.
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
7 - 8 drops green food coloring
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
Directions: Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl add cream of tartar and salt to egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until glossy and stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Beat in mint extract and green food coloring. Transfer meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2- to 3/4-inch open star tip. Pipe stars 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake about 60 minutes or until meringues appear dry and are firm when lightly touched. Turn off oven. Let meringues stand in the closed oven about 60 minutes or until cool and crisp. In a small saucepan heat and stir 2 ounces chocolate and the vegetable oil over low heat until melted and smooth. Spread about 1/2 teaspoon each melted chocolate on the flat sides (bottoms) of half the meringues. Press the flat sides of the remaining cookies against the filling. Let stand until set.

White-Chocolate Cherry Shortbread
A Christmas classic goes from traditional to fabulous when dipped in melted white chocolate, then rolled in nonpareils and edible glitter.
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 teaspoons shortening
White nonpareils and/or red edible glitter (optional)
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60.

Cherry-Almond Ornament Cookies
Snips of dried cherries add Christmas-red color to almond biscotti. These sweet treats bake as a roll so you can quickly cut them into cookie shapes and top with cream cheese frosting and a cherry.
30 - 36 maraschino cherries with stems
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (2 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped candied cherries
1 recipe Cherry-Almond Frosting
Directions: Place maraschino cherries on paper towels to drain while preparing cookies. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl combine butter and cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, almond extract, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in half of the flour just until combined. Beat in candied cherries and the remaining flour. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/2 inch thick. Using a 1-1/2- to 2-inch fluted round cutter, cut out dough. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 14 to 15 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool completely. Pipe or spoon Cherry-Almond Frosting onto cookie centers. Top each cookie with a maraschino cherry.

Cherry-Walnut Balls
A surprising and delicious filling of maraschino cherries and toasted walnuts makes these sweet bites irresistible. Powdered sugar makes a quick (and delicious) topper.
1/4 cup coarsely chopped maraschino cherries
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted*
Powdered sugar
Directions:Preheat oven to 325F. Drain maraschino cherries on paper towels; pat dry to remove any excess liquid. Set cherries aside.Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in the 1/2 cup powdered sugar, almond extract, and vanilla until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, nuts, and cherries with a wooden spoon. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until bottoms are lightly brown. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheets on wire racks. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar to coat. Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely. If desired, roll cooled cookies in additional powdered sugar before serving. Makes about 48 balls.

Chocolate-Peppermint Meringue Kisses
Ideal for a holiday open house, these sweets feature a layer of crushed peppermint candies, velvety chocolate, and billowy meringue.
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup milk chocolate pieces
1 teaspoon shortening
1 1/4 cups crushed striped round peppermint candies* (about 50 candies)
Directions: Place egg whites in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line two very large baking sheets with parchment paper or foil; set aside.For meringue: Add salt, vinegar, and peppermint extract to egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight) and sugar is nearly dissolved. Transfer meringue to a decorating bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip. Pipe 1-inch kisses 1 inch apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake all of the meringue kisses at the same time on separate oven racks for 7 minutes. Turn off oven; let meringues dry in oven with door closed for 1 hour. Lift meringues off paper or foil. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely. In a small saucepan, combine chocolate pieces and shortening. Cook and stir over low heat just until melted. Remove from heat. Spread crushed candy in a shallow dish. Dip bottoms of meringues in chocolate, then dip in crushed candies. Place on waxed paper and let stand until chocolate is set. Makes about 192 meringue kisses.

Peppermint Palmiers
If you love mint, try these refreshing cookies. Be sure to use white (clear) creme de menthe instead of green to avoid adding color to your cookies.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons white creme de menthe
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white creme de menthe
Few drops liquid red food coloring
1/2 cup finely crushed peppermint candies (about 20)
Directions: For dough, in a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, the 2 tablespoons creme de menthe, the milk, and vanilla. Beat in as much of the 2-3/4 cups flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any of the remaining 2-3/4 cup flour. Divide dough in half. Cover; chill about 3 hours or until dough is easy to handle. Meanwhile, for filling, in a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, the 1/4 cup flour, and the 1 tablespoon creme de menthe. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until smooth. Stir in a few drops red food coloring until filling is pale pink. Gently fold in crushed candies. Cover and chill up to 2 hours. (Do not chill longer than 2 hours or the candies will bleed into the filling and the filling will become too soft and sticky.) On a lightly floured surface, roll a portion of the dough into a 12x8-inch rectangle. Spread half of the filling over the dough rectangle to within 1/2 inch of each long edge. Roll both long edges, scroll fashion, to meet in center. Brush seam where dough spirals meet with water; lightly press together. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Wrap rolls in plastic wrap. Place rolls on a tray or cookie sheet. Freeze for 4 hours to 24 hours or until rolls are firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Using a serrated knife, cut rolls into 1/4-inch slices. Place slices 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven about 10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Makes about 80 cookies.

There is Hope

Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God." Psalm 42:5

“What’s the use?” Joe said to me. “I’ve tried many times to work for God and to accomplish great things. No matter what I do or how hard I work, I end up failing.”

“I vowed that I would set aside time for God every day,” Jane said. “That was my only resolution for the year.” She shrugged. “It’s now April, and I stuck with my plan for about three weeks. I never complete most of the important things in my life.”

Joe and Jane are only two examples of people who feel hopeless ~ they know what they want to do, but they still don’t accomplish what they desire.

There is no one way we can explain all failures, but both of these believers had reached the place of hopelessness ~ they were sure they couldn’t do it. “I’ve tried before, and I failed,” they each said and they saw no point in trying again.

“Okay, so I try again and then I fail again,” Joe said. “I already feel bad; why would I want to feel worse?” He didn’t realize that negative thoughts and words were the cause of his own failure. Satan was there to attack and discourage him, but he did most of the work himself through an attitude of hopelessness.

“I end up failing.” Those were Jane’s words. “I never complete most of the important things in my life,” is the way she said it.

By their own words, Joe and Jane had prepared themselves to fail and their words weren’t the only thing that doomed them ~ it was the thoughts behind their words.

Discouragement destroys hope and failure easily leads to more failure. Once we allow our minds to say, “This is the way it will always be,” the devil has won a victory over us.

We need to examine the "Joe and Jane" thought life that lies within us. Think things like “For now, I won’t focus on the outcome or the result of my action and examine your attitude and your thought processes.”

It is obvious that Joe expected to fail, the devil had already enslaved his mind so of course, he failed. He got just what he expected and the same was true for Jane. Both of them thought failure and focused on failure and they expected nothing else. They were afraid they would fail right from the beginning, and the Bible says "What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me." Job 3:25.

We need to ask ourselves what kind of thoughts have we been thinking ~ if we change our negative thoughts, we can change our outcome. Joe and Jane both believed they would fail, but we want them to believe they could succeed.

We can make great progress in overcoming the negative thoughts ~ whenever we start on a new project we need to say, “Things are going a little slow, but I’m making progress. Yesterday was difficult, and I started to feel discouraged. I even felt a little sorry for myself. But that was because I chose wrong thinking.” OR “I now refuse to be discouraged. Help me Lord not to give up.”

We need to realize that things aren't going to change over night ~ we may fail once this week and twice next week BUT remind yourself that you are faithful the other days and that will give you hope to carry on. Think things like “It’s not 100 percent victory, but it’s a lot better than zero.”

We need to realize and understand a powerful truth ~ Jesus does not condemn us, we condemn ourselves. We allow discouraging, disheartening thoughts to fill our minds. Now we need to be aware that we can push those thoughts aside and say, “With Your help, Lord Jesus, I can make it.”

Lord Jesus, with Your help, I can make it. With Your help, I won’t be discouraged and feel hopeless. With Your help, I can defeat every wrong thought the devil slips into my mind. Thank You for victory. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Forget Black Friday Shopping ~ Make Your Own Handmade Christmas Gifts

Ring in the season with these Christmas theme handmade gifts. From cozy candles to stamped sachets ~ you'll delight friends, family, teachers or co-workers with any one of these personalized handmade Christmas gifts.

Holiday Coffee Sleeves

Fashion a cute Christmas sock or small sweater into a reusable sleeve for coffee or hot cocoa to go. After washing, cut a 3-inch section from the top of your clothing. Embellish with buttons or felt snowflake cutouts for added winter charm. Slip the sleeve onto your to-go cup or tumbler, roll the ends to hide frays, and start sipping.

Photo Frame Calendar

This sweet and easy-to-make Christmas gift will be appreciated all year long. Fill one side of a hinged dual photo frame with a mini monthly calendar and fill the other with a special photo. Include the other months in a plastic sleeve, so the recipient can change the calendar as needed, along with fun stickers and scrapbook paper so they can personalize the design if desired.

Christmas Flower Gift

An amaryllis bulb in a beautifully decorated terra-cotta pot is the perfect Christmas gift for those with a green thumb. Tie a bow with a wide red ribbon around the pot and nestle a sprig of ivy and a Christmas ornament in the pot for a gift-worthy presentation.

Stamped Sachets

Homemade sachets make easy, affordable Christmas gifts you can create in bulk. Dress up purchased drawstring muslin bags with a pretty rubber stamp design, then fill with fragrant cedar shavings.

Monogrammed Candle

Personalize a store-bought candle for an inexpensive Christmas gift. Simply wrap cardstock around the candleholder, and embellish it with a die-cut accent and letter. No die-cutting tool? No problem -- use stickers instead.

Framed Inspirational Sentiment

Give a friend or family member's desk a little holiday flair with a framed quote. This one is done with a seasonal motif, but you can adapt the project to fit the recipient's passions or interest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Best Thanksgiving Product Shortcuts

Want to save time and eliminate stress on Turkey Day? Try preparing these make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes, which allow you to do most of the work in advance. Or consider hosting a Thanksgiving potluck this year rather than tackling all of the cooking yourself. If you’re really pinched for time, try these tasty time-savers, such as stuffing mix and pre-made pie crusts, to create dishes that only taste homemade.

Best Stuffing Mix: Trader Joe's Cornbread Stuffing Mix
"It's just moist enough," said a fan of this fluffy, fine-crumb version with a mild corn-bread taste. "The bits of celery and onions are a nice touch."

Best Poultry Seasoning: Magic Seasoning Blends Poultry Magic
"Unexpected Cajun notes and a dash of paprika give the bird a kick," a tester noted. "It's not too hot for Grandma, but it tingles your lips."

Best Cranberry Sauce: Grown Right Organic Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
The full, plump cranberries delivered the "taste and consistency of juicy, fresh fruit," marveled one volunteer," and it isn't at all watery."

Best Biscuits: Robinhood Free Meetinghouse Five Herb Parmesan Biscuits
These zesty, buttery, and moist biscuits wowed testers. "I can taste fresh basil, and I like the hint of cheese," said one.

Best Piecrust: Wholly Wholesome Organic Nine-Inch Pie Shells
Experienced bakers dubbed this crust "amazing — it's super flaky and soft, with a hint of butter." Not too sugary, it is suited to sweet or savory fillings.

Best Pumpkin Purée: Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin
"I like that it's thick and creamy, not runny, like the other purées I've used in pie fillings," said one dessert lover. "And the amber color is gorgeous."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Easy Thanksgiving Appetizers

Need a snack to tide everyone over until the big Thanksgiving feast? Here's a few option from delicious dips to cute tarts, these easy appetizers will whet your family's appetite before the giant feast.


What you'll need
2 to 3 hot dogs
tube of crescent roll dough
bologna (hand-sliced from the deli counter, for a larger diameter than prepackaged)
sliced yellow American or Cheddar cheese
Heat the oven to 350°. Cut hot dogs into eight 1-inch segments. Separate the dough along its perforations. On a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, stand the hot dog segments on end, spaced well apart. Drape a triangle of dough over a segment. Dip a glass in flour, then use it to cut out a circle centered on the hot dog, as shown. With floured hands, press the dough around the segment to form a hat shape. Repeat to make the remaining hats. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, cut eight thin strips of bologna and eight small squares of cheese. Arrange them on the cooled hats as shown (if the ends of the hatband don't meet, use the buckles to cover the gap).

Corn Crisps

What you'll need
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
canola or vegetable oil
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cumin, sugar, and cayenne. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and butter. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until they are just blended. Fold in the corn and scallions. Pour oil into a large nonstick skillet (it should come about 1/4 inch up the sides of the pan) and heat it until the oil is shimmering. For each crisp, drop a slightly rounded tablespoon of batter into the oil, flattening it slightly with the back of the spoon. Fry them in batches over medium-high heat until they are golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn them over and fry them until the other side is golden, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the crisps to a paper towel–lined sheet pan, sprinkling them immediately with a bit of salt. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Chocolate-Drizzled Trail Mix

What you'll need
3 cups nuts (I used peanuts, almonds, and pecans)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1 cup chocolate chips
Mix together the nuts, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, raisins, and dried cranberries or cherries. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave. Pour the chocolate over the baking sheet in ribbons. Stir to coat everything. Let the chocolate cool, then break the mix into pieces and pack it in individual containers. Makes 12 servings.

Cute Cornucopia

What you'll need
Small veggies -- we suggest peas, baby carrots, baby corn ears, grape
tomatoes, and cornichons (or any small pickle)
Dip or dressing
To create each cornucopia, cut a tortilla in half. Roll it into a cone with the rounded edge at the open end. Secure the cone with a toothpick, then fill it with small veggies. Serve with your favorite dip or dressing. NOTE: Set one at each place as a meal-starter, or make a bunch to serve as a kid-friendly hors d'oeuvre platter.

Apple Pie Party Dip

What you'll need
1 1/3 cups peeled, cored, and diced apple
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons apricot preserves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
5 (6-inch) flour tortillas
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Combine all the dip ingredients in a bowl, then cover and refrigerate the mixture until chilled. Brush the tortillas with butter, then cut them into wedges. Arrange the wedges on a greased baking sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 350º F until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let them cool before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Mini Pumpkin Tarts

What you'll need
3 packages (15 tarts each) prebaked frozen mini pastry shells (we used Athens Mini Fillo Shells)
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
2 cups (plus extra for garnish) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 teaspoon (plus extra for garnish) pumpkin pie spice
1 (3.4-ounce) package cheesecake-flavor instant pudding and pie filling
Mint leaves (for garnish)
Remove the shells from the freezer and let them thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the pumpkin, whipped topping, and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl, whisking until smooth. Add the pudding mix and whisk until smooth and thick. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling into each of the shells (you can also pipe the filling with a pastry bag or a plastic sandwich bag with one corner snipped off), then top the tarts with whipped topping, a sprinkling of the pumpkin pie spice, and a mint leaf, if you like. Makes 45 tarts.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Look Again ~ It's Right In Front of You

“ ‘Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he said. Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back.’ The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea...” 1 Kings 18:43–44

The Bible says that after the prophet Elijah prayed and asked God to end the drought, he said to the people, “I can hear the sound of an abundance of rain.” He was saying in effect, “There is a yes from God in our future!”

Elijah told his assistant to go look on the other side of the mountain to see if there was any sign of rain. When the assistant came back, he said, “No, Elijah. There’s not a cloud in the sky. It’s perfectly clear.” Elijah didn’t get discouraged and think, “What are we going to do now? I might as well quit this prophet business.” Instead, he simply said, “Go back and look again.”

This happened six different times, but Elijah kept saying, “Go look again.” On the seventh time, the servant came back and said, “Elijah, I saw a small cloud in the sky. It isn’t much, just the size of a man’s hand.” Elijah’s answer was basically, “You’d better get your umbrella. Rain is coming!”

Maybe you, like Elijah, are believing for something and aren’t seeing anything happen. Don’t give up, go look again! If God has promised it, He will do it. It won’t be long until you see His showers of blessing pouring down on every area of your life!

Father, thank You for Your faithfulness. I believe that You are working behind the scenes even when I can’t see it. I choose to keep believing. I choose to look again until I see every promise fulfilled in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Easy-to-Make Place Cards, Napkin Rings and Centerpiece Ideas for Your Thanksgiving Table

Add fall flavor to your Thanksgiving table with elegant yet easy-to-make napkin rings, name cards and centerpiece ideas ~ from natural elements to candle displays, these centerpieces will be a highlight of your holiday table.

Wire Basket Thanksgiving Centerpiece
This stress-free Thanksgiving centerpiece makes a statement on a sage green table runner. Simply tuck pears, nuts, and fresh or preserved leaves in a large wire basket for an updated take on the cornucopia.

Flea Market Finds Centerpiece
Rely on the old for fresh Thanksgiving decorations. Dust off your vintage collectibles, or search flea markets and antiques stores for interesting finds. Here, a glass bowl on an overturned silver mold teams with a canning jar. Adding pecans, wheat shocks, and ears of Indian corn gives the centerpiece a harvest flair.

Corn and Candles Centerpiece
Fall-color candles pay homage to the harvest when surrounded by dried corn in a plain glass jar. What could be simpler?

Thanksgiving Ribbon Napkin Ring
Custom-print ribbon with a Thanksgiving sentiment for simple place cards. Write each guest's name on a dried or fresh leaf using a permanent marker and tie the stem onto a rolled napkin using printed ribbon.

Indian Corn Place Card
Nestle an ear of Indian corn in layers of tamale papers (available at grocery stores) or dried cornhusks. Tie one end with a shiny ribbon. Cut a rectangle from cardstock, write a guest's name on it, punch a hole in the top, and string onto ribbon. Add shimmer to the ear of corn by sprinkling it with metallic dusting powder used for cake decorating.

Mini Pumpkin Place Card
Make room at the table for everyone by layering each place setting. Start with the dinner plate, place a salad plate on top, add a soup bowl, then nestle a napkin in the bowl. Using a paint pen, write a guest's name on a mini pumpkin and lay it atop the napkin. Tuck in a few leaves for an extra touch of fall.

Message on a Candle Place Card
Write words of admiration or thanks, along with the recipient's name, on a strip of paper and wrap it around a glass candleholder. Use double-sided tape to secure. Experiment with layering different papers to create a unique look. Place a pillar candle inside the holder and light just before dinner.

Dried Gourd Turkey with Feather Napkin
Add a dash of humor to your Thanksgiving table with a dried gourd turkey perched atop a wooden napkin ring. Recruit your kids to cut felt and paper pieces and glue them to the gourd to make the turkey's face. For the crowning touch, make the "feathers" by folding a patterned napkin accordion-style and securing with a wooden clip hidden behind the gourd.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes: From Turkey to Dessert

Take the guesswork out of assembling a delectable Thanksgiving menu. From the main dish to dessert, it's all right here!

Cranberry, Ginger, and Orange Chutney

This chunky cranberry chutney is super-fresh-tasting because the cranberries are simmered briefly and the orange sections are added near the end of cooking.
2 large navel oranges
2 pound(s) fresh cranberries
1/2 cup(s) water
2 tablespoon(s) balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup(s) granulated sugar
3/4 cup(s) light brown sugar
1/4 cup(s) minced fresh ginger
Freshly ground pepper
Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Working over a bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the sections. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into the bowl. Cut the orange sections into 1-inch pieces. In a large saucepan, combine the cranberries and water with 1/4 cup of orange juice from the bowl and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped, about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, both sugars, the ginger, and orange pieces and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Lemony Mushroom-and-Pine-Nut Stuffing Muffins

A mix of sautéed wild mushrooms adds lots of texture to this stuffing; lemon juice and zest make it tangy.
1 cup(s) (4 1/2 ounces) pine nuts
1 loaf(s) (14-ounce) brioche, crusts removed, bread cut into 1-inch dice
1/4 cup(s) extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery rib, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 pound(s) assorted mushrooms such as shiitake, oysters, and chanterelles, shiitake stems trimmed, caps thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup(s) heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/2 cup(s) chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup(s) chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 12-cup muffin tin. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate. Toast the nuts for about 4 minutes, until golden. Spread the brioche cubes on 2 large baking sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes, until toasted. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and celery and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the shrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender and browned, 7 minutes. Let cool, then add to the brioche. In a medium bowl, whisk the cream with the eggs. Stir in the stock, lemon zest and juice, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Add to the brioche along with the parsley and toasted pine nuts and stir well. Spoon the stuffing into the prepared muffin cups. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 45 minutes, until crisp on top and heated through. Unmold and serve hot.

Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

Michael Symon's four-ingredient potatoes get plenty of flavor from browned butter and crème fraîche. Reserve a little browned butter to drizzle on the potatoes just before serving.
3 1/2 pound(s) white or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 stick(s) unsalted butter
2 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter
1 cup(s) milk
1/4 cup(s) crème fraîche
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the potatoes over moderate heat until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well. Return the potatoes to the pot and cook over high heat for 1 minute to dry them out slightly. Pass the potatoes through a ricer and return them to the pot. In a small saucepan, cook the butter over moderate heat until the milk solids turn dark golden, about 4 minutes. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the brown butter to the potatoes along with the milk and crème fraîche and stir well. Season with salt and stir over moderate heat until hot. Drizzle the remaining brown butter over the potatoes and serve.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Toasted Marshmallows

In this clever version of candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows, just mash sweet potatoes with deeply flavorful grade B maple syrup and butter before stuffing them back into their skins and baking them a second time.
9 (12-ounce) sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon(s) canola or vegetable oil
1 stick(s) (8-tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/3 cup(s) pure maple syrup, preferably grade B
3/4 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
Cayenne pepper
3 cup(s) mini marshmallows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F; and set a sheet of foil in the bottom. Rub the sweet potatoes with the oil and prick each one all over with a fork 5 or 6 times. Roast the potatoes directly on the oven rack for about 1 hour, until tender. Let cool slightly. Split each sweet potato lengthwise and carefully scrape the flesh into a large saucepan. Transfer 12 of the potato skin halves to a baking sheet (discard the remaining 6 skin halves). Using a whisk, mash and whip the sweet potatoes over moderate heat until slightly dry, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Season the mixture with salt and cayenne, whisking until it is smooth and hot. Spoon the sweet potatoes into the 12 skins. Press the mini marshmallows onto the mashed sweet potatoes. Bake the potatoes in the center of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until heated through. Turn on the broiler and broil for about 1 minute, until the mini marshmallows are toasted. Alternatively, brown the marshmallows using a kitchen blowtorch. Serve the twice-baked potatoes right away.

Soy-Sauce-and-Honey-Glazed Turkey

This bird is marinated and basted with soy, sesame, honey, and ginger.
2 cup(s) soy sauce
1 cup(s) honey
1/4 cup(s) toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup(s) fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 pound(s) (14-pound) turkey
1 tablespoon(s) kosher salt
2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) Chinese five-spice powder
6 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 cup(s) chicken stock or low-sodium broth
4 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
In a very large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and half of the ginger. Put the turkey in the bowl, breast side down, and marinate at room temperature for 45 minutes. Turn the turkey and marinate breast side up for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set a rack in a large roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, and five-spice powder. Remove the turkey from the marinade; reserve the marinade. Set the turkey on the rack, breast side up, and season it inside and out with the salt mixture. Stuff the cavity with the scallions and the remaining ginger. Turn the turkey breast side down on the rack. Add 2 cups of water to the roasting pan. Loosely cover the turkey with a foil tent. Roast the turkey for 4 hours, basting with some of the reserved marinade every hour and adding a total of 3 cups of water to the pan during roasting. Turn the turkey breast side up and baste well with the reserved marinade. Roast uncovered for 30 minutes, basting once halfway through cooking. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 165 degrees. Carefully pour the juices from the turkey cavity into the roasting pan and transfer the turkey to a carving board. Let rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, strain the pan juices into a large saucepan and skim off the fat. Add the chicken stock to the juices along with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. In a medium bowl, blend the butter with the flour to make a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in 2 cups of the hot pan juices until smooth. Whisk the mixture into the saucepan and bring the gravy to a simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened. Simmer the gravy over low heat, whisking occasionally, until no floury taste remains, about 8 minutes. Carve the turkey; pass the gravy at the table.

Free-Form Apple Tart

This dessert is usually with Arkansas Black apples; the dense, tart apples are harvested late in the season, making them a good Thanksgiving choice BUT Granny Smiths are an easier-to-find alternative.
2 1/2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon(s) sugar, for dough
1/2 cup(s) sugar, for filling
Kosher salt
1 1/2 stick(s) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/2 cup(s) ice water
1 teaspoon(s) finely grated lemon zest
4 Arkansas Black or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon(s) lemon juice
1 large egg white, beaten
2 tablespoon(s) turbinado sugar
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the flour with 1 teaspoon of the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the butter and mix at low speed until it is the size of small peas, 30 seconds. With the machine on, gradually add 1/4 cup of the ice water. Add as much of the remaining ice water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is just evenly moistened (it shouldn't mass on the paddle). Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for 1 hour or overnight. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 17-inch round, then trim it to a neat 16-inch round. Transfer the dough to the cookie sheet. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Add the apples and lemon juice and toss well. Arrange the apples on the dough in 2 concentric circles, leaving a 3-inch border all around. Fold the edge of the dough up and over the apples, overlapping the dough on itself as needed. Brush the rim with the egg white and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.Bake the pie in the center of the oven until the crust is golden and firm and the apples are tender, about 55 minutes. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack to cool. Slide the pie onto a plate, cut into wedges and serve.