December 23, 2017:

Hola!

It's COLD here and getting colder by the day, brrrrr. By December 26th the high may be only 3 degrees above zero. Yuck! But it's nice and cozy inside, and filled with the scents and sights of Christmas and Yuletide!

Today I made a crock pot full of my easy-peasy Beef Burgundy, made with a soup can full of sweet red wine (to rinse out the soup can, of course), and four other ingredients: beef (this pot I used beef already sliced in the package for beef stroganoff, and then cut the long thin strips into bite sizes), a can of Golden Mushroom soup, an 8 ounce package of whole button mushrooms cut into halves and thirds (depending on cap size), and a packet plus a little extra of a second packet of dried onion soup/dip mix. I also added a generous helping of ground pepper, dried thyme and dried - and aged (a year and three months, yikes!) of whole basil leaves that I ground up in between my fingers. Then the pot cooked on the "low" heat setting for 4 hours, with only one stir half-way through. The scent permeated the house and even managed to waft out to the street - wowsers - guess I need to get some additional insulation in these 1956 walls! My mouth was watering by the time I made up my first dish (over on-purpose a bit dry mashed potatoes) and gobbled it down, then had half a second dish as well! Now I want a nap.

I have my dark chocolate covered Queen Anne brand cherries (a Christmas must!), Beringer White Zinfandel wine, plenty of new fuel for my gel fuel fireplace and a host of Christmas movies to watch. Best of all, Solstice is done and we had a bit of sunlight day, late this afternoon. Every day, although it is not noticeable right now, it will get lighter a few minutes earlier and the Sun will sink below the horizon a few minutes later each day until the Summer Solstice on June 21. The worst is over, except for the bitter cold of January and February. I think I will go visit my friend Isis in Las Vegas in March - that always perks me right up :)

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all, and may the Season's blessings shower you with good fortune for all of 2018.

Jan

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I Want -- A Cardinal Christmas Tree

Hola!

I've been drooling over this Gump's cardinal-decorated artificial tree, used as a table-top centerpiece, for years:


But at $138, I just could not pull the trigger.  She's a beauty, though, and 31" tall in a nice faux-gilded pot, with battery-operated lights!

Last year, I started simmering on the idea of trying to create my own table-top cardinal holiday tree.  I looked around a bit, but - well, last year wasn't a very good year for moi.

But -- after recently looking through yet another Gump's catalog (this one was a holiday collection catalog) that Gump's strategically mails to me to make me wish I was rich and occasionally induces me to part with my hard-earned money, I could not get the cardinal tree out of my head.  I have a thing for cardinals, and I have been entertaining thoughts of doing a little bit of decorating in the back of the house (family room, dinette and kitchen, all open to each other), other simply than hanging ornaments from the light fixture above the dining table and from the pulls on the kitchen cabinet doors.  So, I decided it was time to go for it and make my own cardinal tree!

For more than a week I've been seriously looking around online for an artificial Christmas tree in an urn.  I found many, but none at a price I was willing to pay! Big Lots had a good deal in their flyer last weekend -- two 3-foot artificial pines in antiqued plastic urns for $30.  But Big Lots does not sell online and I have no way of getting to Big Lots since I do not drive.  A 3-foot tall tree was also taller than I wanted to go, as I'm planning on using the cardinal tree on my dining table for a centerpiece.

Soooo, I started looking for a 2 foot tall artificial tree in an urn or a tree and, separately, an urn I could put it in.  I found several cute artificial pine trees at good prices, but was not having much luck finding an urn that I was willing to pay the price for!  I also was keeping in mind whatever it might cost to buy some feathered cardinals to use as decorations, and a set or two of battery-operated lights.  Ach!

I was beginning to despair, but then I checked at Amazon.com to see if they had anything I might be able to use.

The short of the long of it is that I purchased an artificial 2-foot tall fluffy pine tree that has a burlap-wrapped base tied with twine  -- it is not in an urn or pot.  The vendor offered the same tree in a pot that looks a lot like the Gump's tree's pot for $8 more and I decided not to spend the extra money:




 I also purchased a set of 12 cardinal feathered ornaments that look remarkably like the cardinal ornaments that decorate the Gump's cardinal tree and are 5 1/2" in length from head to tail:




The lights on the tree I purchased are not battery-operated, so I'll have to run the cord across the table underneath a runner, add an extension cord clipped underneath the table and plug in to a nearby outlet.  Or I can bite the bullet and spend a little more money to buy a set or two of battery-operated white lights.  The cost thus far, with shipping and sales tax, for the tree and the cardinal ornaments was $60.  Shipping charges on the cardinals was outrageous!  The shipping charges on the Christmas tree were lower than what I paid in shipping for the cardinals.  Ach!  But it saves me time digging around locally for cardinals I may not like nearly as well, or that so resemble the cardinals used on the inspiration tree, so I won't complaint too loudly.

Depending on how the tree looks once decorated, I might also add additional red berry picks and possibly some faux boxwood picks or something similar. 

I love the snow-frosted look on the branches and the rustic look of the burlap-wrapped base!  I will place the tree on something in the center of the table to elevate it a few inches; the Gump's tree is 31" tall; I did want (and got) something shorter than that.  What I bought was not at the bargain-basement price I was hoping for, but I'm quite pleased and I think it's going to look great once I get it all together :)

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