Friday, November 4, 2011


   The holiday shopping season is quickly descending upon us, which means this year's more popular toys and consumer electronics are soon to become in increasingly high-demand. In recent memory, the Sony Playstation III, Beanie Babies, and of course, the Tickle-Me-Elmo have generated a considerable amount of hype - quickly selling out, and then establishing a re-sale market. But have you ever wondered what the "it toys" have been throughout the decades? We have, and as a result, we decided to compile a time-line which illustrates the top toys from the last 50 years. Here they are, the most popular Christmas toys since 1960:

(click image to enlarge)

How many of these do you recognize? All 50? Let us know if you do, and feel free to comment with the names of your favorite Christmas toys, and share some of your favorite memories. We will be sharing this full list (which include the names of all these toys) later in the week, so make sure to check back.


   What to do with that extra can of pumpkin during the holidays? Here are some easy recipes that go well beyond pie filling

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin Rumshake


Pumpkin Rumshake

In a blender, combine canned pumpkin, ground nutmeg, vanilla ice cream, milk and rum. Blend until smooth, adding ice cubes for a more frozen consistency, if needed.
Pumpkin Shrimp Curry


Pumpkin Shrimp Curry

Black Bean and Pumpkin Burgers




This is brought to you from one of my favorites, www.lillun.com .  She always has something creative for almost any holiday.  This one is a take on the one that she did at Halloween time.  This one is a little bit of a twist on that one.  Again, a get diy gift for that someone special!

   I made a similar one for Halloween and knew I'd have to make one for Christmas because they're so whimsical and easy!

Here is what you'll need:

- Box/Vase/Cart to use as Centerpiece Base
-Floral Foam (Found at the Dollar Store)
-Paper Shred(Found at the Dollar Store)
-Foam Brush
-Scrapbook Paper
-Hot Glue


1. Begin by picking out your Centerpiece box. I just bought one for a buck at my local grocery store and painted it red. I also cut some vinyl dots and added them to the box, just because I am OBSESSED with polka dots!

2. Put two strips together and fold back and forth until you are all the way through. Then, hot glue the two ends together as well as the other ends so it makes a circle.

3. Push edges of strips IN to make an accordion flower. Hot glue center and hold, and do the same on back. For another tutorial on these flowers, I used one

4. Paint skewers the desired color you'd like and let dry. I stuck mine into the floral foam to dry.

5. I wanted to add a little something to the skewers, so I cut out .2 inch white strips of vinyl and twisted them along the skewer. My hubby is super smart and suggested I stick them in his drill, turn it on, and let the drill do the twisting. It takes seconds (isn't he smart?).
(And don't look at my nasty glue gun - the poor thing has been my right hand man through thick and thin - ha!)

6. Add buttons or other embellishments to your flowers. I also added some scrapbook embellishments I found at Joann's with some vintage Santa Claus pics as well as some scalloped circle punches I made.


7. Hot glue skewers to backs of flowers. I also cut out a 1 inch circle to add to the backs to cover the ugly.

8. Stick skewers through the moss and foam into your base and arrange as desired.

Voila!! A super cute and easy centerpiece. I had most the supplies at home, but with the box, paper, and everything else you could make this for about $7 or less.


   This comes to you from www.kingarthurflour.com.  Make some of this for a nice breakfast meal with your favorite drink, to get you started in the morning.

Recipe: Cranberry-Walnut Bread & Muffins

Here’s a baking truism:
The plainer, simpler, and more common the dish, the more recipes you’ll find for it.
And boy, doesn’t that turn simple into complicated – fast!

I was recently looking for a simple (yet not boring), plain (but still tasty) recipe for cranberry nut bread. One that could easily morph between loaf and muffins.
And, most important, one that didn’t include orange.
To many people, cranberry and orange go together like software and bugs. And I admit to enjoying the odd cran-orange muffin every now and then.
But my real love is the tart-sweet flavor of cranberries paired with the buttery nuttiness of walnuts.
Orange, go sit in the corner; you’re not wanted here.
Looking the place I usually look first, I opened my grandmother’s wooden recipe box. And found a recipe called CRANBERRY BREAD.

Hmmm… Looks pretty good; A bit sweet, perhaps, but… drat, there’s that OJ!
Well, DUH, let me check the King Arthur Flour recipe site. Surely I’ll find a rendition of this classic New England favorite there.
I did, in fact. Made the muffins. OK, not great…
I can do better than that, methinks.
So I ask Susan Reid, our Baking Sheet editor, and she shoots me over a recipe from our newsletter.
With orange juice.
Remember what I said about simple being harder than you think?
Next: take a favorite muffin recipe and change it into a cranberry nut muffin.
What’s my favorite muffin recipe?
Simple. Doughnut Muffins. And with 171 glowing customer reviews, I know you like it, too.
Should be easy to change – it’s a plain cinnamon muffin. Just add cranberries and nuts, right?
Wrong. The amount of batter for the pan is just perfect as is; add 2 cups of cranberries/walnuts, and you’ll need another muffin pan.
I don’t have two muffin pans; and I suspect many of you don’t, either.
So, out comes my calculator. I figure I need to reduce the recipe by 25% to make it fit into a single muffin pan.
1 1/2 eggs? Nah, leave the eggs alone.
3 tablespoons each vegetable oil and butter? Well, without the Doughnut Muffins’ butter topping, perhaps I’d best keep those at full strength, too. Besides, 1/4 cup is less fussy to measure.
Things seem to be working out just right. But then I have one final inspiration:
Whole wheat.
This classic muffin needs a homey, comfortable look. Substituting whole wheat for half the all-purpose flour should add a rich, golden hue to the muffins, a perfect complement to the red cranberries and mahogany-brown nuts.
But whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid than AP, right? Should I change the amount of milk? Or maybe change the milk to sour cream, or yogurt – to help tenderize the wheat bran?
And how about a touch of almond extract?
By this time, I’ve worked myself beyond simple recipe to something complex.
Why? Because it’s a challenge. Like Everest, the perfect cranberry nut loaf is out there, just waiting for me to NAIL IT.
Is this recipe perfect?
Not quite. The whole wheat flour, though it adds nutrition and lovely color, does make the loaf crumblier than I like; the bran interferes with gluten development.
And I’d like a SLIGHTLY moister muffin…
And I think using all-purpose flour in place of whole wheat would accomplish both those objectives – wouldn’t it?
Back to the drawing board…
In the meantime, let’s make this Cranberry Walnut Bread (or muffins) just as the recipe stands.
And if you can’t wait, skip to the end of this post to see how the non-whole wheat version turned out.
Preheat the oven to 425°F for muffins, or 350°F for a loaf. Note the different temperatures.
Lightly grease a standard muffin tin. Or line with 12 paper muffin cups, and grease the cups with non-stick vegetable oil spray; this will ensure that they peel off the muffins nicely. If you’re baking a loaf, lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
Beat until well combined.

Add 2 large eggs.

Beat until well combined.

Stir in the following:
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
3/4 cup sour cream or yogurt, full-fat or low fat-preferred
Place the following in a food processor:
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour or Premium Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup dried cranberries
Process until the berries are coarsely chopped. Add the nuts (if they’re not chopped), and process briefly, just until the nuts are chopped up a bit.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.

Mix just until everything is thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter among the wells of the muffin tin, filling each one about 3/4 full. A muffin scoop works well here.

Sprinkle the top of each muffin with coarse sugar, if desired; coarse white sparkling sugar, or Demerara sugar.

To bake a loaf instead of muffins, scoop the batter into your prepared 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.

Bake the muffins for 14 to 15 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into one of the center muffins comes out clean.

Bake the loaf for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove muffins or loaf from the oven. Nicely risen, I’d say!

Tilt the muffins in the pan to cool a bit… then transfer them to a rack to finish cooling.

…then transfer them to a rack to finish cooling.
Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.

For best results, don’t slice until completely cool.
Store muffins or bread well wrapped, at room temperature, for 2 to 3 days; freeze for longer storage.
Now, what happens when you make the muffins entirely with all-purpose flour, no whole wheat?

Revelation. The brown sugar gives them nearly the same golden hue as white wheat flour does.
And they probably would have been a tad moister, had I remembered to turn on my oven timer and not over-baked them.
Bottom line: half whole wheat or not, this recipe is quite satisfactory, thank you.
To make these muffins without whole wheat flour, simply substitute 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour for the cup of whole wheat flour. I mimicked the Doughnut Muffins finish, too, by dipping the muffins in melted butter (2 tablespoons for the batch should do it), and granulated sugar (about 1/4 cup; no cinnamon. Remember, I don’t want any assertive flavors fighting it out with the cranberries and nuts).


   All Saints' Day (in the Roman Catholic Church officially the Solemnity of All Saints and also called All Hallows or Hallowmas), often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honor of all the saints, known and unknown.
   In Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Roman Catholic Church, the next day, All Souls' Day, specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Catholics celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those in the state of grace who have died and are either being purified in purgatory or are in heaven (the 'church penitent' and the 'church triumphant', respectively), and the 'church militant' who are the living. Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways.

In The East

   Eastern Christians of the Byzantine Tradition follow the earlier tradition of commemorating all saints collectively on the first Sunday after Pentecost, All Saints' Sunday (Greek: Αγίων Πάντων, Agiōn Pantōn).
   The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI "the Wise" (886–911). His wife, Empress Theophano—commemorated on December 16—lived a devout life. After her death in 893, her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to "All Saints," so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honored whenever the feast was celebrated.   According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.
This Sunday marks the close of the Paschal season. To the normal Sunday services are added special scriptural readings and hymns to all the saints (known and unknown) from the Pentecostarion.

Communion during All Saint's Day

   The Sunday following All Saints' Sunday—the second Sunday after Pentecost—is set aside as a commemoration of all locally venerated saints, such as "All Saints of America", "All Saints of Mount Athos", etc. The third Sunday after Pentecost may be observed for even more localized saints, such as "All Saints of St. Petersburg", or for saints of a particular type, such as "New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke."
In addition to the Sundays mentioned above, Saturdays throughout the year are days for general commemoration of all saints, and special hymns to all saints are chanted from the Octoechos.

In the West

   The Western Christian holiday of All Saints' Day falls on November 1, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.
   The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to May 13, 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. There is evidence that from the fifth through the seventh centuries there existed in certain places and at sporadic intervals a feast date 13 May to celebrate the holy martyrs.   The origin of All Saints' Day cannot be traced with certainty, and it has been observed on various days in different places. However, there are some who maintain the belief that it has origins in the pagan observation of 13 May, the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of "all the dead".

   The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world", with the day moved to 1 November and the 13 May feast suppressed.
This usually fell within a few weeks of the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to the Roman festival of Lemuria, but which was also a harvest festival. The Irish, having celebrated Samhain in the past, did not celebrate All Hallows Day on this November 1 date, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: "...the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches [in Ireland] celebrated the feast of All Saints on April 20."
  A November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 in the days of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops", which confirmed its celebration on November 1. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).

All Saint's Day in the Philippines

   The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between October 31 and November 6. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. It is also celebrated by other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada, the Methodist churches, and the Wesleyan Church.
   Protestants generally regard all true Christian believers as saints and if they observe All Saints Day at all they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those that have died that were members of the local church congregation.  In some congregations, a candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person's name is called out by the clergy. Prayers and responsive readings may accompany the event. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are afixed to a memorial plaque.
   In many Lutheran churches, All Saints' Day and Reformation Day are observed concurrently on the Sunday before or after those dates, given Reformation Day is observed in Protestant Churches on October 31. Typically, Martin Luther's A Mighty Fortress is Our God is sung during the service. Besides discussing Luther's role in the Protestant Reformation, some recognition of the prominent early leaders of the Reformed tradition, such as John Calvin and John Knox, occurs. The observance of Reformation Day may be immediately followed by a reading of those members of the local congregation who have died in the past year in observance of All Saints' Day. Otherwise, the recognition of deceased church members occurs at another designated portion of the service.

All Saint's Day in Sweden

 Roman Catholic Obligations

   In the Roman Catholic Church, All Saints' Day is a Holy Day of Obligation in many (but not all) countries, meaning going to Mass on the date is required unless one has a good reason to be excused from that obligation, such as illness. However, in a number of countries that do list All Saints' Day as a Holy Day of Obligation, including England & Wales, the solemnity of All Saints' Day is transferred to the adjacent Sunday if 1 November falls on a Monday or a Saturday, while in the same circumstances in the United States the Solemnity is still celebrated on November 1 but the obligation to attend Mass is abrogated.


   In Portugal, Spain, and Mexico, offerings (Portuguese: oferendas, Spanish: ofrendas) are made on this day. In Spain, the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. In Mexico, All Saints Day coincides with the celebration of "Día de los Inocentes" (Day of the Innocents), the first day of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebration, honoring deceased children and infants. In Portugal, children celebrate the Pão-por-Deus tradition, and go door to door where they receive cakes, nuts and pomegranates. This only occurs in some areas around Lisbon.
   In Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and American Cities such as New Orleans people bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives.
   In Poland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Catholic parts of Germany, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives.

Early All Saint's Day Epitaph

In the Philippines, this day, called "Undas", "Todos los Santos" (literally "All Saints"), and sometimes "Araw ng mga Patay" (approximately "Day of the dead") is observed as All Souls' Day. This day and the one before and one after it is spent visiting the graves of deceased relatives, where prayers and flowers are offered, candles are lit and the graves themselves are cleaned, repaired and repainted.
   In English-speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn "For All the Saints" by William Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Catholics generally celebrate with a day of rest consisting of avoiding physical exertion.