Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Quick and Easy...Yet, Oh So Fun!

Everyone can use some quick and easy ideas during the holidays, so I'm sharing a few of  my favorites.

I had my book club here last night. Because we were in Charlotte last week for Thanksgiving, I planned ahead. I already shared the spinach balls recipe. I tried a new pumpkin dessert that was a big hit. I have no idea where it came from. I already checked my two favorite recipe blogs (Six Sisters and Plain Chicken) but it wasn't on either of them.

Pumpkin Cake with Apple Glaze
1 yellow cake mix
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 T. apple juice
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Mix dry cake and pumpkin with a hand mixer until blended. Spread into a prepared 7 x 11 pan (I doubled the recipe for a 9x13.) Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake.

Let cool 5-10 minutes then top with glaze. Serve warm or room temperature. 

The books we read this month were The Husband's Secret. We had a pretty lively discussion---starting with---would you have opened the letter containing the secret to begin with. I think we all agreed that we would have. 

The other book was Necessary Lies. This book introduced the subject of eugenics to many of our members. Although I was already aware of this practice (improving the human race by controlled breeding) I was surprised to learn that it continued until 1973 in the south.

Both books were excellent and rated a 9 average from the group.

Outside of book club, I'm reading Jodi Picoult's newest---Leaving Time. I'm nearing the end and really enjoying it. I didn't think I was going to like learning about elephants, but that part has been fascinating and my favorite part. I always learn a lot with her books. In fact, it was her book, Second Glance that first introduced me to the subject of eugenics several years ago. 

I'm getting ready to tackle Stephen Hawking's book---The Brief History of Time. I just saw the movie The Theory of Everything, starring one of my favorite actors---Eddie Redmayne. It was soooo good!!! I have a feeling the book may be way over my head, but now I'm really intrigued to give it a try. I am in no way a scientific thinker. In fact, I've always told my book club that I am not a deep thinker either. Otherwise, I just get myself all confused. One thing I know for sure---Eddie Redmayne deserves an oscar for his performance. It was incredible. Hands down---the best actor in just about anything I've ever seen.

Speaking of movies and scientific or deep thinking---Interstellar kept me totally confused. Don't get me wrong---the movie was great! I just can't wrap my head around the concepts. There are so many words that they use that don't even compute with me. I wouldn't mind seeing it again to gain a better understanding.

I saw Gone Girl for a second time. I loved the book and movie. Seeing it the second time, I was able to relax and enjoy it. Often times when I see a movie after I've read the book, I spend a lot of time thinking, "was that how it was in the book? I thought...." Hmmm, maybe I'm a deeper thinker than I think I am. Nah!

By now everyone's decorating is probably underway. This is the time that I'm usually alone as I'm done and my friends are starting. I do have some wrapping to do. I've also committed to getting Steph's house back in shape after her recent remodel. I'll be sharing some of those pictures soon. Everything looks great!

There are so many things you can do to make it easy on yourself when it comes to decorating. In fact, you can get a lot of "bang for your buck" by just adding greenery from your yard.
My favorite "go to" greens are the magnolia leaves. They are big and shiny. Perfect for the holiday. Beware---they dry out in like two days and are an extreme fire hazard. I'm very careful to keep the candles away from them. Years ago, my niece's husband was driving through his neighborhood when he noticed that a neighbor's mantle was on fire. He ran in and called to the family partying in the basement. If they hadn't left their front door open so no telling what would have happened. Years ago, I had an artificial arrangement catch firs in my living room when the candle burned too low. I'm VERY careful about the candles---and I light a bunch!
That tassel scarf looking thing---is a pillow sham I found on clearance a few years ago. I didn't really know what I was going to do with it when I bought it. Now it makes perfect sense.
And books---I cannot decorate without books. Whenever a spot needs something, books are just the right thing---and not only at Christmas. Books give a warmth to any decor. Sprinkle a few little ornaments amidst the greenery for some added charm.
I used to put all of my regular decorations away at Christmas. Now I just decorate around them and
include them in the "scene." You can get away with a lot more clutter at Christmas.
Add needlepoint pillows. Don't have any? Well, you can find some really nice, festive pillows around. Pier 1 one has a good selection. There were several I was tempted to get this year---they have two 3-d ones that are so cute. One is snowmen and the other is sock monkeys. I had to resist because I do not have anyplace to put them.
 I'm even using the dining room chairs to display the ones I've made. Plus, I've given each of my girls Christmas needlepoint pillows. I love needlepointing holiday themed things during the holidays.
This one is hard to tell, but it has glass stars sewn on. I really liked the tartan plaid background rather than a Christmas print.
Lastly, use your holiday spices to decorate with. I bought this gigantic spice tin a few years ago at an antique mall. I love it. This year was the very first year I've ever bought pumpkin pie spice---specifically for the recipe above. The "it's butter y'all" ornament came from my Paula Deen cruse last January. It was my favorite gift from Paula.

We have a lot of fun, holiday related things coming up. Tomorrow, Connie, Nancy A. and I kick off our holidays with our traditional theater production of A Christmas Story. We've gone for about the last 6 years. Unfortunately, we just found out that one of our favorite actors is very sick. Most likely he will not be able to perform this year. It just won't be the same without him. I never imagined how this play could possibly be better than the movie with adults playing all the kids. It is so incredibly funny and charming. If you ever get a chance to see it on stage---RUN. I'm pretty sure that this production is what keeps our rep theater afloat.

We're celebrating Mindy's birthday on Sunday. We'll be doing it at Steph's house. I'm making one of Mindy's favorite meals---chicken pot pie. Another easy recipe that I'll post next week. I think I'm going to try to freeze it to see if it could be a candidate for my freezer club.

Monday is the Christmas concert at the Cathedral. We went last year for the first time. There are several choirs from around town and a full symphony orchestra. It was beautiful. Looks like another tradition in the making.

Then there's festive lunches, gingerbread house making, bridge party, friends dinner, Christmas parade of homes, ornament exchange, family baking day and Titan's football games. All while our now house is under a big remodeling project. I'm under no illusions that it will be finished by Christmas. But secretly, I'm hoping. We're still being told that it will be---we'll see. If it goes as quickly as the painting did, then it will be finished. There's just so much to be done. It's going to be grand!!! I'm so excited. But then, I always am at this time of year!

Merry to you!!!


  1. You sound like you are in full Christmas spirit! Yes, I like a bit of Christmas clutter. As soon as December comes we put up our stair light decorations - that way we have a least one month in the year when we can see to go up our very dark stairs.

    My brother had to jump off the pavement out of the way of Stephen Hawkin's wheelchair in Cambridge once

  2. I can see that you really enjoy your decorating - very nice! Love that star Santa pillow. This year I am cutting way back on the amount of decorating I am doing. We've accumulated too much stuff, so I'm keeping my favorites and setting aside some for the kids as they move out, and the rest goes to Goodwill. Of course, if I have time, I might add in a new thing or two!

  3. There's always so much going on at your place - loved this post! I've tried a few new ideas with my decorations this year & will share those soon. We finished our decorating today, a little later than usual since we were out of town until the end of November. Your decorations look so festive!

  4. Sounds like a very fun week at your house. Hope the birthday celebrations go well. Agreeing that books always make a scene look good :)

    Enjoy Brief History of Time - Quantum studied at Cambridge where Stephen Hawkins teaches and yes had a lecture with him. Wookie loves that book - his is a very worn copy.


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