Tuesday, November 17, 2015


   Decorating Christmas trees became popular in America in the early 1800s as immigrants from Germany brought hand-made ornaments to America with them. In 1880, Woolworth stores began carrying ornaments although Mr. Woolworth was not too sure about the prospect of selling ornaments. Within 10 years, his stores were selling $25 million dollars worth of five and ten cent ornaments.
    It was around 1973 when Hallmark decided to try their hand at the ornament business. It all started with some yarn ornaments and six glass bulbs. Hallmark now has more than 100 ornament series in addition to approximately 3,000 other ornaments that they have introduced over the years.
    The Hallmark ornament designers are true artisans and design ornaments with subjects that have special meaning to them. Many Hallmark artists design ornaments that bring back heartwarming Christmas memories or design something current they love. Therefore, the consumer can relate to many of these charming Hallmark ornaments.

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   If you have ever seen a Hallmark ornament, you will agree that they have exquisite craftsmanship and the quality of the ornament is great. The small detail in Hallmark ornaments is amazing and contributes to their uniqueness and ability to capture unforgettable moments. There are ornaments for special occasions such as First Christmas Together, Baby's First Christmas, Mom-To-Be and New House. There are ornaments that are dated making them great keepsakes. In fact, Hallmark calls their ornaments Keepsake Ornaments.
   Hallmark ornaments quickly reached collector status and collectors rush to their favorite Hallmark store in July of every year when the new collection premiers. Then in October the rest of the line comes out to keep collectors coming back. Hallmark has an Ornament Collectors Club that you can join for a reasonable fee. Your membership entitles you to choose two free ornaments that are collector-club-only ornaments. There are usually four and Club members have the option of buying the other two. All ornaments are coded so that collectors know by the symbol on them what year they came out.

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    Besides decorating the tree, Hallmark ornaments can be used as gifts. There is so much variety in the over-all collection that you ought to be able to find an ornament for anyone on your gift list.
    Another use of ornaments is as decorations. Ornaments are cute added to a ribbon that is tied around the napkins or just as part of your centerpiece. You can set a pretty round ornament on top of a glass candlestick holder and it makes a lovely table setting. You also can hang them on a wreath for decoration. In fact, several years ago, Hallmark came out with a wreath that had hooks already on it to make it easy for you to decorate your wreath with ornaments.
    Not all of the ornaments are Christmas related so you can use them as decorations or use them in shadow boxes all year round. Many of the ornaments are child-related so you can use them as decorations in your child's room. Themes such as Thomas the Train, Winnie the Pooh, Super Heroes, Athletes, Trains, Star Trek or Barbie are just a few of the selections you can make. They are not toys, though, and may have small parts. You may also find an ornament relating to different professions among the Hallmark collection.

    Of course, you could not have Christmas without Nativity ornaments, creches, angels and other religious ornaments to commemorate the Christmas season. They, too, are lovingly crafted and wonderful reminders of the true meaning of Christmas. If you have never seen a Hallmark ornament, you might want to check them out. They will surely bring a smile to your face.


      This fine recipe was found at www.bakingdom.com .  Good luck.  This will make your house smell like heaven.

Mini Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Pepita Streusel Topping

by Darla

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably know that I’ve been running in the mornings. Usually. I mean, mostly. I run most mornings. It really just depends on whether it’s too hot. Or early. Or late. Or whether I’m tired, or hungry.
Anyway. I usually go, but I’ve lost some of my oomph for running lately, and I don’t know why. Just about anything can become an excuse not to run.
I think the Hubster sensed this the other day when he texted me from work to say good morning. He reminded of something very important that I had forgotten. Something that we all learned is Rule Number One (well, all of us that watched Zombieland).
If I’m going to outrun the zombies. I need to work on my cardio.
Thanks, Hubs, for reminding me that those zombies wanna eat, so I don’t have time for stopping, or looking around. Just keep running. Those were his exact words, “don’t stop. don’t look around. zombies wanna eat.” I mean, he prefaced it with, “have a good run,” but you know, when it comes down to running because a horde of undead, rotting corpses are chasing you down so they can make your brains into sushi…having a “good” run is sort of off the table.
All the zombie talk certainly motivated me that morning to quit being such a baby, but it also got me thinking about zombie movies. Obvs.
For example, how come there’s never any little kid zombies. Dawn of the Dead had a little girl in it at the beginning, but she was the only one I’ve ever seen. Do they maybe not last as zombies? You never see a bunch of shuffling middle schoolers going after their principle or teachers or anything, and I’m sorry, but if I became a zombie when I was in middle school, that definitely would have been my strategy. If zombies have strategies. Which I guess is pretty unlikely, but still.
Also, can we just get it cleared up as to whether or not zombies can, in fact, run? I mean, it’ll be of vital importance when caught in a showdown with one, to know whether it’ll just shuffle towards you all creepy like, in which case you can just skip away laughing…or even just shuffle a little faster, taunting it. Or whether it’s going to have full use of it’s arms and legs, and coming bolting after you.
In some cases, even if they can run, you could probably still outrun them, but what if you get stuck with the ex-track star zombie? You’re pretty much screwed then.
How come there’s never any animals in zombie movies, either? It’s been made clear, pretty much across the board, that zombies only wanna eat people brains. Yet, where have all the animals gone? You never see stray cows in the fields, or even walking the streets, for that matter. You would think they’d still be everywhere, but they aren’t. So…did the zombies eat them once they ate up all the people brains? Did they get so hungry that they resorted to animals?
Hunger can make you do crazy things.
That got me wondering whether there would be any foods, like for really real foods, not brains, that might entice a zombie to not eat your brain. If they’re willing to eat cow and puny turkey brains out of desperate hunger, maybe pumpkin bread would work too?
I doubt it. But I made some anyway…for all of us non-zombies. Then I added a super amazing streusel on top, cause I’m cool like that. For the record, though, this stuff is as bad as the zombies in that you better get some cardio in, because you’re not gonna be able to resist the bread. The cardio is gonna make you feel a whole lot better about that.
Trust me.

The bread needs several ingredients, but they’re pretty standard issue cupboard fare, so you will probably be set…except maybe for the pumpkin. Which you should go buy, like, yesterday. Cause it’s gonna be sold out e-ver-y-where any day now. At least in the States it will be. I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but we sure do love our pumpkin in the Fall here in the U.S.
But you know, it’s actually super easy to make your own pumpkin puree with a real pumpkin, too. Really, it is. I’ve done it. It takes quite a long time (baking time), but it’s still easy. If you hit up the store and there’s only those poor lonely cans of squash puree next to the vast emptiness that used to be the canned pumpkin shelf, google how to make your own. It’s e-a-s-y.
Anyway. Like I was saying, you’ll need pumpkin puree, all-purpose flour, apple sauce, canola or vegetable oil, water, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, salt, baking soda, and eggs. If you wanna go for some vegan pumpkin bread, you can easily do the flax seed substitution in place of eggs (1 tablespoon ground flax seeds combined with 3 tablespoons water, per egg).

Mix, mix, mix, then divide the batter between either six mini loaf pans, like I’ve done here, or between three 7×3-inch loaf pans. Your call.

The streusel topping for these is pretty much your run of the mill streusel: brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, butter, and a nut of some kind. Walnuts and pecans are delish, but I wanted to try out pepitas (pumpkin seeds, which, trust me, you want to buy hulled), and they’re great. I mean, they just make sense, right?
These bake for about 40 to 45 minutes in their mini form, and 50 to 55 minutes when they’re grown up loaves.

These come out of the oven all gorgeous and spicy and warm and irresistible. They are such a fabulous payoff for hardly any work at all. Seriously. Mix the bread batter, pour it in the pans, mix the streusel, top the batter, bake. That’s it. Oh yeah, well, there’s also stand over them breathing in the perfectly pumpkin smell, slice, eat, and repeat. But I figured you guys knew those steps already.
Btdub – those mini loaf pans are from Michaels. And guess what? They’re only a dollar. Yes, that’s right, they are ONE DOLLAR each. Pretty awesome.

While I highly recommend allowing these to cool completely before slicing and serving, I’d be a hypocrite if I told you that you have to. Cause I never do. I just can’t.
So go. Bake these, and eat them warm from the oven. Preferably on a cool, crisp day with a nice hot cup of tea. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread
with Cinnamon Pepita Streusel Topping [Printable Recipe]

Makes 6 mini loaves, or 3 7×3-inch loaves



3 1/2 cups (445 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (125 ml) canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (127 grams) brown sugar, packed
4 eggs (or 1/4 cup ground flaxseeds combined with 3/4 cup (187 ml) water, for vegan/dairy free)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
2/3 cup (167 ml) water

FOR THE STREUSEL (optional, this bread is still amazing without it)

1/2 cup ( 127 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pepitas (or pecans, walnuts, or any other nut, chopped)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (half a stick or 56 grams) unsalted butter, melted (or margarine for vegan/dairy free*)
*when buying margarine for vegan/dairy free usage, be sure it’s actually vegan. I prefer Earth Balance

To make the bread:

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees (165 C). Lightly spray 6 mini or 3 7×3-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray with flour, or grease and flour each one; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves; set aside.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the oil and apple sauce. Stir in the sugars until combined, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Stir in the pumpkin until thoroughly combined. Stir in the water. Sprinkle about half of the flour mixture over the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the remaining flour mixture, and mix just until no streaks of flour remain. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and set aside while you mix the streusel topping.
To make the streusel: In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, flour, and cinnamon together, whisking until thoroughly combined. Stir in the pepitas or nuts. Drizzle the melted butter over the mixture and stir with a spoon until you have a mixture that resembles lumpy wet sand. Do not break up the clumps too much.
Divide the streusel evenly between the pans, sprinkling it over the top of the bread batter to cover it completely.
Bake mini loaves, three at a time on a rimmed baking sheet, for 20 minutes. Rotate the pans, front to back, and bake for another 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If making large loaves, bake all 3 7×3-inch loaves on a rimmed baking sheet for 25 minutes. Rotate the pans, front to back, and bake for another 25 to 27 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving, preferably longer, if you can.

Recipe by Darla