Thursday, November 24, 2011


  Another great recipe from www.marthastewart.com .  Nothing tastes better than cholate and peanut butter.  How about a Reeses peanut butter cup???? How about something bigger like a chocolate peanut butter pie!!

   The no-bake filling of this rich pie is a combination of cream cheese, peanut butter, and whipped cream sweetened with confectioners' sugar. The peanut butter filling is sandwiched between a chocolate cookie crust and a layer of whipped cream drizzled with peanut butter and chocolate.

Yield Serves 8


  • 1 3/4 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (from about 36 cookies)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark-brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/4 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate, melted, for decorating
  • 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter, melted, for decorating


  1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine wafer crumbs, butter, brown sugar, and salt. Press mixture firmly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Bake until set, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
  2. Make the filling: Beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and salt with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in peanut butter and vanilla.
  3. Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Whisk 1/3d of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream. Spoon filling into cooled crust. Freeze, uncovered, at least 4 hours (or overnight, covered with plastic wrap).
  4. Place melted chocolate in a resealable plastic bag. Snip tip from one corner of bag to make a very small opening. Holding bag about 5 inches above pie, drizzle melted chocolate over top. Repeat with melted peanut butter. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.



   Aggie Bonfire was a long-standing tradition at Texas A&M University as part of the college rivalry with the University of Texas at Austin.  For 90 years, Texas A&M students—known as Aggies—built and burned a bonfire on campus each autumn. Known to the Aggie community simply as "Bonfire", the annual autumn event symbolized Aggie students' "burning desire to beat the hell outta t.u.", a derogatory nickname for the University of Texas. The bonfire was traditionally lit around Thanksgiving in conjunction with festivities surrounding the annual college football game.
   Although early Bonfires were little more than piles of trash, as time passed the annual event became more organized. Over the years the bonfire grew to an immense size, setting the world record in 1969. Bonfire remained a thriving University tradition for decades until, in 1999, a collapse during construction killed twelve people—eleven students and one former student—and injured twenty-seven others.
The accident led Texas A&M to declare a hiatus on an official bonfire. Since 2002, a student-sponsored coalition has constructed an annual unsanctioned, off-campus "Student Bonfire" in the spirit of its predecessor.

File:1928 bonfire.jpg

Early Years

   The students of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, known as Aggies, burned their first bonfire on November 18, 1907 to congratulate the football team on a recent win.  The first on-campus Aggie Bonfire, a heap of trash and debris, was burned in 1909 to generate enthusiasm for a variety of sporting events. A decade later, the focus of the event narrowed to the annual rivalry game between Texas A&M and the University of Texas, held near Thanksgiving Day.  Little information was recorded about the early Bonfires; the 1921 Texas A&M yearbook mentioned the "final rally" of the students before the game against Texas, but did not refer to a bonfire. Six years later, the school yearbook published a photograph of the event.
   Freshmen were expected to build the early Bonfires to help prove their worth.  For almost two decades, the students constructed Bonfire from debris and wood acquired through various, sometimes illicit, means, including appropriating lumber intended for a dormitory in 1912.  In 1935, a farmer reported that students carried off his entire barn as fuel for Bonfire. To prevent future incidents, the university made Bonfire a school-sanctioned event. The following year, for the first time, the school provided axes, saws, and trucks for the students and pointed them toward a grove of dead trees on the edge of town.
   During the 1940s, the school paper described Bonfire as "'the greatest event of the football season'".  The 1947 Corps handbook stated that "bonfire symbolizes two things; a burning desire to beat the team from the University of Texas, and the undying flame of love that every loyal Aggie carries in his heart for the school;" this was often shortened to "the burning desire to beat the hell out of t.u."  The Bonfire design changed in 1942. Universal Studios, filming the movie We've Never Been Licked on the Texas A&M Campus, built a bonfire as a prop for the movie. Their structure used a design similar to a teepee, where all the logs rested against each other in a conical shape.  The logs were placed at an angle between 23 and 30 degrees, giving it "a tremendous vertical and horizontal resistance".  This allowed Bonfire to grow from 25 feet (8 m) tall to over 50 feet (20 m) tall.  Subsequent Aggies adopted the new idea, and the teepee design became standard for Bonfires for the next twenty-five years.

File:Late 50s Aggie Bonfire.jpg

   Beginning in 1952, the bonfires were constructed entirely from fresh-cut logs.  The event suffered its first fatality in 1955, when a student was struck by a swerving car. The same year (for unrelated reasons), Bonfire was moved from Simpson Drill Field in front of the Memorial Student Center to Duncan Field, near the dorms of the Corps of Cadets (whose leaders oversaw construction). In 1957, the structure collapsed two days before Bonfire was to be held, but students worked around-the-clock to rebuild it, and the bonfire burned as scheduled.
   During this period, University of Texas students attempted several stunts, trying to light the stack early, but to no avail. In both 1933 and 1948, students from UT rented an airplane and tried to drop fire bombs onto the stack. In one of these instances, the plane ran low on fuel, and was forced to land at Easterwood Airport in College Station—the wooden portions of the plane found themselves part of Bonfire that year.  In 1956, there was an unsuccessful attempt to plant explosives at the Bonfire site and, in the late 1970s, a College Station police officer was fired after trying to ignite the bonfire several days ahead of schedule. Students spotted the officer before he could succeed and chased him across campus.  In 1999, a Longhorn fan hired someone to build a six-foot model airplane designed to carry a bomb into the wood stack to ignite it prematurely. "He was actually in the process of building that plane when they had the tragedy at bonfire," Mel Stekoll said. "At that point, we scrapped the plan. It would have been the next year that we planned to try it."


Organizational Change and Expansion

   In 1965, membership in the Corps of Cadets became voluntary for students at Texas A&M. Before, Corps leaders directed construction of Bonfire. However, because the Corps had no authority over the "non-regs", or civilian students, a separate Bonfire leadership structure was instituted. The new leaders were designated with colored hard hats, or pots, with the overall leaders known as redpots.
   The first Bonfire built with both Corps and non-reg participation was in 1963.  The stack was scheduled to burn only days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Out of respect, the students dismantled the stack.  As Head Yell Leader Mike Marlowe explained, "It is the most we have and the least we can give."
   In the following years the structure became more elaborate, and in 1967 the flames could be seen 25 miles (40 km) away. In 1969, the stack of logs set the world record for the height of a bonfire at 109 ft 10 in (33 m) tall.  Out of concern for the safety of participants and the community, the university limited the size to 55 feet (17 m) tall and 45 feet (14 m) in diameter.  As an added precaution, nearby campus buildings were equipped with rooftop sprinkler systems. Despite the new height restrictions, in the 1970s, the Guinness Book of Records listed Aggie Bonfire as the largest Bonfire in the world.

Design change

   In 1978, Bonfire shifted from its previous teepee design to a wedding cake style, in which upper stacks of logs were wedged on top of lower stacks. The structure was built around a fortified center pole, made from two telephone poles spliced together by cutting matching notches, approximately 10 feet (3 m) long, and with 5 US gallons (19 L) of glue. Four steel plates were bolted to the two poles, and a 38 inches (9.5 mm) cable wrapped around the joint and secured to the pole with steel staples. Four perimeter poles were placed 150 feet (46 m) away and ropes were stretched between the perimeter poles to center poles and tension placed on them to hold the center pole together. After the center pole was erected, logs were placed vertically around it in a multi-tiered wedding cake design composed of thousands of logs. By 1984, the logs

Chopping down tree for bonfire

were sloping only 14 degrees. The spiral arrangement of the logs was designed to make Bonfire collapse into itself in a twisting motion, thus protecting spectators. Although the tradition stated that if Bonfire burned through midnight then A&M would win the following day's football game, the introduction of the wedding cake design drastically reduced the time it took for Bonfire to fall, sometimes burning for only 30 or 45 minutes.
   While the Bonfires of the 1960s were constructed in five to ten days, working primarily in daylight, by the late 1970s, changes in the school led to a more elaborate and lengthy construction schedule.  Construction began in late October with "Cut", obtaining wood by cutting down trees with axes, which took several weekends.  After Cut, students brought the logs to campus during "Load", a process by which the logs were loaded by hand onto flatbed trucks and brought to campus.  In early November, crews began "Stack", a three-week period in which the logs were wired together and Bonfire took shape. Near the end of stack, known as "Push", students worked around the clock in rotating shifts. The first four of the six stacks were built with the efforts of all safety-trained participants. The day before Bonfire was scheduled to burn, junior redpots would build the fifth stack, and then senior redpots would build the sixth.
   To ensure safety during the Stack period, the organizers maintained a perimeter around the working area, and allowed only safety-trained students through. Cranes, donated by local construction companies, assisted in getting logs onto the upper tiers, and volunteers from those companies were on-hand at all times to offer advice. Emergency medical technicians were also required to be on site at all times and no more than 70 students at a time were allowed on the stack.  Once the stack was finished, "an outhouse painted orange [symbolizing a] t.u. frat house"was bedecked with derogatory statements about rival University of Texas at Austin and then placed on top of the stack.

Rebuilding the bonfire in 1994

   Although between two and five thousand students participated in the construction of Bonfire each year, most worked only part time, and many worked only one or two shifts. Student workers were organized by dormitories or Corps units, with a separate off-campus student team. Many former students participated with teams they belonged to as students. Each team had assigned shifts, although individuals were not limited to working only the assigned shifts.  Students working on Bonfire wore "grodes"—old t-shirts, jeans, and boots. By tradition, grodes were either not washed until after Bonfire burned or not washed at all.
   In 1983, the city of College Station began manufacturing Austin city limits signs for students to place at the summit of the Bonfire so that students would stop stealing signs from Austin.  The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band began building the outhouse, ending the tradition of stealing Bonfire's components.

1999 Collapse

   At approximately 2:42 a.m. on November 18, 1999,  the stack, consisting of about 5000 logs 40 feet (12 m) high, collapsed during construction.  Of the 58 students and former students working on the stack, 12 were killed and 27 were injured.  Within minutes of the collapse, members of Texas Task Force 1, the state's elite emergency response team, arrived to begin the rescue efforts.  Rescue operations took over 24 hours; the pace was hampered by the decision to remove many of the logs by hand for fear that using heavy equipment to remove them would cause further collapses, resulting in further injuries to those still trapped. Students, including the entire Texas A&M football team and many members of the university's Corps of Cadets, rushed to the site to assist rescue workers with the manual removal of the logs.  The Texas A&M civil engineering department was also called on to examine the site and help the workers determine the order in which the logs could be safely removed, and, at the request of the Texas Forest Service, Steely Lumber Company in Huntsville, Texas sent log-moving equipment and operators.  Bonfire survivor John Comstock was the last living person to be removed from the stack. He spent months in the hospital following amputation of his left leg and partial paralysis of his right side. Comstock returned to A&M in 2001 to finish his degree.



   Despite the university's refusal to allow Bonfire to take place on campus, a non-university sanctioned bonfire took its place. The first unofficial Bonfire since the 1930s was held in 2002 and was known as the "Unity Project." This fire consisted of three piles of wood, with the center stack being 35 feet (11 m) high.
   In 2003, the event became known as Student Bonfire. In a design approved by a professional engineer, Student Bonfire uses a wedding cake design, but, in a departure from tradition, every log in the stack touches the ground. For added support, four 24 feet (7.3 m) poles are spaced evenly around the stack and then bolted to the 45 feet (14 m) center pole with a steel pipe. These poles are known as Windle-sticks, after Levi Windle, a staunch supporter of Student Bonfire who died in an unrelated accident in 2003.  Since the group does not receive funding, Student Bonfire charges a fee to each attendee to cover expenses. Attendance for Student Bonfire ranges from 8,000–15,000 people and the event is held in Brazos County or one of the surrounding counties.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, a former redpot, predicted during a September 2009 Texas Monthly interview that Bonfire will return to campus: "I will not be surprised if it happens by 2011, maybe even 2010. I think Bonfire will be back on campus. The kids will have the experience again." Perry also indicated he would let A&M officials handle the details surrounding its return. A&M officials, however, did not agree with Perry's assertions. A&M System spokesman Rod Davis said there were no plans to return it to campus. R. Bowen Loftin, school president, stated: "I think it would take an extraordinarily large amount of interest on the part of our students for us to consider building Bonfire on campus again.


   This diy comes from www.trendytree.com .  Pretty cool and pretty ingenious.  Make a few of these for around your front door or porch area.

How to Make a Lighted Christmas Box Decoration


This crafty idea for lighted Christmas decorations comes from TypicalScrapbooker Janie, one our Trendy Tree Facebook Group members, and what an excellent idea! She put together some pieces of chicken wire to make her box, added some inexpensive clear Christmas lights, covered the boxes in a nice shiny fabric and topped the box off with a crisp Deco Poly Mesh bow. Kudos to Janie! – Be sure to drop by her Blog Typical Scrapbooker Crafts and say hello!
There is just no limit to getting all sorts of variety in this decoration – size – color – fabrics - bows – embellishments……the list is long and only limited by your imagination. Imagination…..which in my case….I need examples!! So here are some more photos of TypicalScrapbooker Janie’s boxes!

Wire mesh or chicken wire, secured with zip ties. Strand of 100 Christmas lights also secured with zip ties…..don’t you just love zip ties….so many uses))) The lights were secured around the sides. Bottom of the box was left open.

A second layer of wire mesh was added for more support. Wire mesh or chicken wire can be found at your local hardware store, Lowe’s or Home Depot. You’ll need a pair of wire cutters and be careful with sharp edges. I like to wear thin leather gloves when working with wire.

You’ll see some sagging before you’re done, but once the sides are wired together it will be sturdier.

Good old zip ties! Zip ties were used to secure the lights too.

Finished box ready for decorating!

Lighted Box. You might want to test the arrangements of your lights before the next step, just to even them out.

Fabric was applied with double sided crafting tape.

Boxes could be made in any size or shape and would look great as a collection underneath the tree…..or on the tree! Some other options to consider might be:
  • Assorted fabrics or other materials. I believe Janie tried Deco mesh and this proved to be too thin, even two layers of it. Janie recommended a fabric that was not too sheer, but sheer enough that you could see your hand through it.
  • Clear Christmas lights – an option would be to use battery powered lights if you’re making a small package. One of the lighted boxes that we have for sale on Trendy Tree has the lights wrapped around a coil like center instead of the lights wired into the sides. This might be an option that would save some time maybe. This sort of lights yields a soft glow to the box, or the purchased one do, I think the effect would be about the same. I’m thinking about some 3″ cardboard centers that we have out of a roll of packing material…..wrapping the lights around that several times. You know how a rolled of string of lights just glows….you could just put the bunch of lights under the box if you’re not going to be moving it around or anything.
  • Toppings for your boxes are just unlimited. With the gorgeous wire edge ribbons and Deco Poly Mesh….bow making is a snap. Love the use contrasting colors and textures. Other embellishments of tinsel, pieces of sprays, balls….
  • Lighted boxes don’t just have to be for Christmas! Birthday parties …….multicolored boxes….decorated with polka dots or even the birthday party theme….I can see right now….I need more time for crafting!!
Thank you so much TypicalScrapbooker Janie! And thank you for being a member of the Trendy Tree Facebook Group. We look forward to seeing more of your creations and sharing ideas! Again, drop by Janie’s site for a visit ….you’ll be glad you did))


   The childhood magic of anticipation comes rushing back with one of these treasures packs of promise! 

   Christmas crackers or bon-bons are an integral part of Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. They are also popular in Ireland. A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper, making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled by two people, and, much in the manner of a wishbone, the cracker splits unevenly. The split is accompanied by a small bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a chemically impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun).
   Crackers are typically pulled at the Christmas dinner table or at parties. In one version of the cracker tradition, the person with the larger portion of cracker empties the contents from the tube and keeps them. In another each person will have their own cracker and will keep its contents regardless of whose end they were in. Typically these contents are a coloured paper hat or crown; a small toy, small plastic model or other trinket and a motto, a joke or piece of trivia on a small strip of paper.

   Assembled crackers are typically sold in boxes of three to twelve. These typically have different designs usually with red, green and gold colors. Making crackers from scratch using the tubes from used toilet rolls and tissue paper is a common Commonwealth activity for children. Kits to make crackers can also be purchased.
   Crackers are also a part of New Year celebrations in Russia (where they are called хлопушка - khlopushka) and some countries of the former Soviet Union. Those are however more similar to pyrotechnical devices, normally used outdoors, activated by one person, and produce a stronger bang accompanied by fire and smoke.


The Oxford English Dictionary records the use of cracker bonbons and the pulling of crackers from the early 1840s.  Tradition tells of how Thomas J. Smith of London invented crackers in 1847.   He created the crackers as a development of his bon-bon sweets, which he sold in a twist of paper (the origins of the traditional sweet-wrapper). As sales of bon-bons slumped, Smith began to come up with new promotional ideas. His first tactic was to insert mottos into the wrappers of the sweets ( fortune cookies), but this had only limited success.
   Smith added the "crackle" element when he heard the crackle of a log he had just put on a fire. The size of the paper wrapper had to be increased to incorporate the banger mechanism, and the sweet itself was eventually dropped, to be replaced by a small gift. The new product was initially marketed as the Cosaque (i.e., Cossack), but the onomatopoeic "cracker" soon became the commonly used name, as rival varieties came on the market. The other elements of the modern cracker, the gifts, paper hats and varied designs, were all introduced by Tom Smith's son, Walter Smith, to differentiate his product from the rival cracker manufacturers which had suddenly sprung up.

   However, the OED may well be in error as they appear to have been available in France in 1817. Lt. Colonel Felton Hervey states in a letter dated 7 November 1817 The night before last Arthur Hill desired me to give a letter to the Duchess of R[ichmon]d, which I did very innocently. It contained one of these crackers, called Cossacks, which are sold in the fair here. It went off, and the duchess also, into one of the most violent fits of laughing hysterics ever witnessed. I am happy to say she does not think me guilty. I wonder it did not kill the old woman.

Make Your Own Christmas Crackers

Required Supplies and Equipment
  • Wrapping paper (cut to 7.5 x 12 inches) -- crackers made with lighter weight papers will tear apart easier when pulled.
  • Stiffener ends (cut into 2.25 x 7 inches -- use 60-70 weight white card stock, such as 67# Exact Vellum Bristol.
  • Fortunes, jokes or riddles.
  • Cracker snaps.
  • Paper hats.
  • Small gifts or novelty items (at least one per cracker).
  • Cracker rollers (1 pair).
  • Cardboard tubes (2 x 4 inches).
  • Low temperature glue gun.
  • Scissors.
  • Curling ribbon.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker

Step by Step Directions
1 -- Insert rollers into ends of cardboard tube (if fit between tube and roller is not snug enough, add a little masking tape to smaller (red) end of roller).
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
2 -- Lay roller-tube assembly on back of wrapping paper making certain tube is centered across length of paper. Apply a small drop of glue from glue gun to bottom middle edge of paper and roll tube back over glue.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
3 -- Place snap under front (leading) edge of roller-tube assembly, making certain snap is centered across length of paper.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
4 -- Roll paper onto roller-tube assembly to within a half inch or so of paper's end. Make certain paper rolls evenly (straight) onto tube.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
5 -- With glue gun, run a narrow bead of glue along back of paper about a quarter inch in from top edge. Roll paper over glue keeping glued seam pressed against work surface for several seconds to allow glue to harden (placement of glue bead may have to be adjusted slightly inward if glue flows out of seam onto outer surface of wrapping paper).
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
6 -- While holding paper cylinder in middle (one hand grasping cardboard tube), remove roller from each end of cylinder.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
7 -- Roll stiffener end into slightly smaller diameter cylinder than cracker and insert into end of cracker until even with outer edge. Do not cover snap during this procedure -- it must remain free in end of cracker.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
8 -- Spread stiffener out firmly against inside wall of cracker end and glue into place with glue gun.

9 -- Repeat step 8 on other end of cracker.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
10 -- Using thumb and forefinger, crimp (gather) one end of cracker between tube and reinforced (stiffened) end.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
11 -- Securely tie a 10 - 12 inch length of curling ribbon onto the gather of the cracker using a double knot. Then clip off the loose ribbon ends.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
12 -- Insert gifts/messages into open end of the cracker. The fillable central part of the cracker measures 2 inches in diameter by 4 inches in length. Your items must fit comfortably into this space in order for the cracker to be closed and finished. When filling your crackers, make certain you do not push the cracker snap into the center of the cracker.
13 -- Repeat steps 11 and 12 for open end of cracker.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
14 -- Check the finished end of the cracker to make certain the snap is located near the outer rim of the cracker and not too far down into the cylinder. Reposition with fingers as necessary.

Your cracker is now finished and ready to be shared with your party guests.
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker
Some practice is usually required to make a consistently well-wrapped and formed cracker. Techniques such as the one described above using solid core centers, rollers, and stiffened ends have been found by many people to be among the easiest methods for making nice looking crackers. Other techniques and directions for making your own party crackers can be found at the following web addresses: