Tuesday, November 8, 2011


This comes to us from www.craftaholicsanonymous.com .  These would look great in a grouping witha little holidays snow on them and some red or green velvet ties. Enjoy!

   One of my fabulous readers, Jodi, sent me a link to a project inspired by Country Living’s Pine Cone Door Hanging. And needless to say, I fell in love with the concept. So here’s my twist on a CL classic. {This was a last minute addition to Tutorial Week.}
   Ok, back to tutorial mode. Where was I? Oh, this would be a great project for the kiddos to help out with: they could round up the pine cones and help hot glue (with assistance!) the ribbon on. This should take you all of 5 minutes to do or so.

Supplies needed:
  • 7 Pine Cones, cleaned off (you can do more if you want)
  • Ribbon, cut into seven 18″ strips and one 6″ strip (I used 5/8″ ribbon)
  • Frame (mine is an 11″x14″)
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun

Take each pine cone and put a dot of glue on the top.

And press ribbon in place. Leave about 3″ over hang. You can trim it later if you don’t like the look or want a shorter over hang.

Then arrange and stagger your pine cones so that they hang at different lengths. Determine how far you want them to hang down (measuring with your frame) and pinch the ribbon at your chosen length.

Now take your 6″ strip of ribbon and wrap it around the ribbon and tie a knot.Then trim your ribbon as necessary.

To hang your pine cones, hammer a pin or tiny nail through the ribbon and into the wall right below the knot. Be sure to catch all the ribbon strands with the pin/nail.You’ll probably want to arrange your pine cones a little. Mine got jumbled in the hanging process. After you have your pine cones situated, hang your frame. I found it was easier that way, than trying to redo the pine cones if I hung the frame wrong.
I just love this simple wall hanging! So simple, so gorgeous!


   The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.
   By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.

   The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.
   The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

   The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.
In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The youngest child then lights one purple candle.
   During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.

   During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.
   Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.
   Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.


   This comes from marthastewart.com.  Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts and one that I love to make on any occasion.  The pumpkin just adds a little richness and spiciness.

     Two popular favorites -- pumpkin pie and cheesecake -- are rolled into one delightful dessert. This is a good make-ahead dessert, as cheesecake keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.
   To prevent the top from cracking, be careful not to overmix the batter, and do not open the oven door while the cake is baking or cooling inside the oven.
  • Prep Time 30 minutes
  • Total Time 8 hours
  • Yield Serves 12


  • For the Crust

    • 1 1/4 cups graham-cracker crumbs (from 10 whole crackers)
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • For the Filling

    • 4 packages (8 ounces each) bar cream cheese, very soft
    • 1 1/4 cups sugar
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
    • 2 tablespoons pumpkin-pie spice
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 4 large eggs, room temperature


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. Assemble a 9-inch nonstick springform pan, with the raised side of the bottom part facing up.
  2. Make the crust: In a medium bowl, mix cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter until moistened; press firmly into bottom of pan. Bake until golden around edges, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Make the filling: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on low speed until smooth; mix in flour (do not overmix). Add pumpkin puree, pie spice, vanilla, and salt; mix just until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour filling into springform, and gently smooth top. Transfer to oven; reduce oven heat to 300 degrees. Bake 45 minutes. Turn off oven; let cheesecake stay in oven 2 hours more (without opening).
  5. Remove from oven; cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours. Unmold before serving.

Cook's Note:

To make the crumbs for the crust, pulse graham crackers in a food processor until finely ground. Or, if you prefer, substitute the same amount of packaged graham-cracker crumbs.


   On November 25th-26th,  2011, it's that  time again.  For the winter season opening in Engadin Samnaun, Santa's arrive  from all over the world to crown the best in their industry on "ClauWau"Difficult tasks require skill, knowledge, creativity and humor of the contestants to the utmost in order to earn the title "World Champion of Santa Clauses".   The Santa Clauses and Christmas stand for a time of contemplation and charity.  In this sense, the ClauWau is opened with a charity event to benefit "Jeder Rappen zählt" (Swiss aid organization). With a classy show program which also includes the presentation of the ClauWau teams, the first discipline of the competitionsYou can enjoy one of the  biggest events in the ClauWau tent on Friday night November 25thThe World Cup teams also participate at the fundraiser. Part of the prize money is donated back  to the Foundation.


   Everyone is familiar with the legend of Saint Nicholas, who goes from house to house each year rewarding the good children with presents but admonishing the naughty ones. There are many myths and legends surrounding Santa Claus, but how did it all begin, and how did it become what it is today?
   Many of the legends cannot be verified but we know that a Saint Nicholas lived during the 4th century in the country known today as Turkey. He was bishop of the port city of Myra and known to be an advocate for the cause of social justice. He was also very fond of children and became a true friend to children. One legend which dates back to the tradition of giving presents on Saint Nicholas' Day, explains this:
On three separate nights, Nicholas anonymously threw a golden bag of coins through the window of the three daughters of an impoverished merchant. This enabled the merchant to pay for his daughters' weddings and meant that he did not have to sell his daughters.
   As well as the custom of giving presents, other traditions surrounding Santa Claus arose, some of which still exist today. For many generations, one of those traditions in Samnaun has been the "Clau Wau", which has given its name to the Santa World Championships. On the evening before St Nicholas' Day, the children – dressed as St Nicholas or Schmutzli (Black Peter, St Nicholas' servant) and wearing cowbells – visit every family in the village. They sing their songs and read poems. As a thank you, they receive money and sweets.
    Since the  2001, this charming tradition has taken on a new dimension in Samnaun:
CLAU WAU – St Nicholas World Championships
   The World Championships of the St Nicholases represent the ultimate pleasure at the start of every winter season. All participants have the chance of going down in the annals of sporting history as world champions. But take care: only the best of the profession have a realistic chance of being allowed to call themselves the World Champion among the Nicholases

   Hosted in the Eastern Alps of Samnaun, Switzerland, the ClauWau championships feature 23 teams of four people testing their subzero fortitude and unrelenting Christmas spirit in a range of festive events and shenanigans.
   Leave it to Switzerland to balance a sporting championship with a worldwide Christmas party.
   There's something about seeing Santa look-alikes dancing around onstage, singing "Jailhouse Rock" with a German accent that could make even Scrooge want to shake a leg.


   The American squad, St. Nick's Hicks, stormed into the championships in candy cane-striped overalls and led by Capt. Jack Nicholson of the U.S. Navy.
   At the opening ceremonies, he confided, "We're torn between honoring the Christmas spirit and the natural American desire to dominate."
   His ClauWau comrades all have worked in the Navy as well, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Clarke, 37, ran the Boston Marathon three times. Equally fearless and tenacious, Bob Groat, 70, and Cathy Groat, 56, shared their rigorous pre-competition preparations.
   "We ate a lot of milk and cookies," said Cathy, gesturing as though the cookies weigh as much as 50-pound dumbbells.
   For the first event, Santas ride "zipfy bob" sleds down the mountain with teams timed by the point each member crosses the finish line.
   Not able to maintain balance, one of the Japanese men in ITTEQ, the traveling variety show team, started running down the mountain, sled in hand.
   Other struggles ensued.
   "I had to steer with one hand, while the other was trying to save my costume from getting under the bob [sled]," said Mark Zoutenbier of Team S.I.L.A.L.N.H.A.K. from Holland. "I crashed on every snowflake on the track."
   The team name stands for "Santas in Liver and Lungs Not Heart and Kidneys" -- a play on the team's penchant for partying -- but its pronunciation is also meant to foil the announcer, Zoutenbier quipped.
   Others favored labels with global appeal.


   Such as the Super Santas. They flew in from England, sporting Superman-style emblems on their chests, a red cape and tighty-whities over their red tights.
   Next, Santas paraded around the beautiful village of Samnaun and performed a two-minute presentation to showcase their spirit to the panel of three judges who score the creative events.
   Some Santas read stories, performed short skits, and danced the Macarena. Team USA explained the meaning of "hick."
   For the sleigh races, two Santas steered a horse-drawn sleigh in a long loop while the other two kept pace, gathering gifts along the way and banking them into the back of the sleigh.
   They've got big stockings to fill. The real Santa can't leave behind a little boy's fishing pole or a girl's pink iPod Nano -- the elves would be furious.
   Patrick Kurmann grabbed the reins for Team Auwer Chlause from Switzerland and said, "The reason why we were so fast: The owner of the horse told me if I loosen the reins, the horse gets faster."
   Faux Santas must be able to steer horses and snag stray gifts, but they also must be keen on geography -- to identify and locate 14 famous landmarks from pictures featuring the Taj Mahal in India, Mount Fuji in Japan and Mount Rushmore in the United States, among others.
   Santas, weary from running and straining their brains, are then challenged with a creative task: Two people will decorate gingerbread, and two will sculpt a design in the side of a snowbank.
   The reigning champs, Teleschmutzli's, sculpted out, designed and painted a Santa on a motorcycle. Scoring high as well, the Hicks' Capt. Nicholson and Bob Groat carved out a turtle they dubbed a Maryland Terrapin.
   "Previously untapped gifts," Nicholson joked of his sculpting. "We just Googled 'easy ice sculpture,' and the turtle was the top one."
   Finally, to round out the qualifiers, Santas shinny up a chimney while carrying a sack of gifts. Climbing is strenuous, but you'll never see Santa on a treadmill, burning off the billions of cookie calories.
   ITTEQ posted a solid performance considering "there are no chimneys in Japan," said the show's coordinator, Ryoko Nakajima. "So Santa enters through the window. And Japanese kids don't leave milk and cookies."
   The 20-something competitors look like squirrels zipping up a tree, but for the older crowd, the rock wall tower can be more daunting. However, the oldest competitor, Groat, burst up the makeshift chimney with a smile on his face and a fire under his tail.
   He scored the biggest cheers from the crowd when he powered to the top, rang the bell and tossed down the gift sack, advancing the Americans to the finals.
   And the ClauWau finals concluded with a three-event run-off, starting with the hat race.
   Twelve teams test their "togetherness" by the team standing under a tall and wide red Santa cap and scurrying around the sleigh-race loop, scooping all of the gifts under the hat. There's a small screen window in the front of the hat so the leader can steer the crew. Not sure when Santa ever needed to run around under a big hat collecting gifts, but the event looked funny.

Santa Championships

   Better yet, what about an eggnog-chugging contest? A blindfolded, obstacle course run through Legos left out from the night before? Feeding reindeer without losing a hand?
   For the next event, the Steinbock Sprint, teams hustle these hearty steinboks (like rocking horses) in a relay race, with some competitors even bucked off the back.
   The grand finale, with the nearly $6,000 ClauWau championship prize money on the line, all amounted to who could stage the most compelling karaoke show.
   Going from Steinbock Sprint to Santa Karaoke is like asking the San Diego Padres to run off the field in the middle of the ninth inning to do the chicken dance on the dugout.
   But Santas know no bounds. The Spitfire Bombej Santas donned black suits, skinny black ties and turbans to sing the Blues Brothers' "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love."
   The Americans belted John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy, while the Japanese crooned Wham's "Last Christmas."
   But it was Team Auwer Chlause that delivered the goods and captured the championships with Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock."
   Kurmann, a 25-year-old computer science student wearing painted, white eyebrows, expressed the team's philosophy.
   "You have to set priorities; you have to have an interesting life," he said. "You need to focus on family, culture and especially free time."
   He plans to divvy the money among the team members and the one "coach," who "cheered us on, watched our wallets and brought us hot drinks."
   All of which is quintessential Christmas.