Thursday, December 30, 2010

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Disasters

I'm still in recovery from a big Christmas disaster at our house.  I'm not sure I've found the hostess wisdom or lesson learned from this situation, except that maybe laughter is the best medicine and sometimes even the best planning can't help you. I'll recount the story in the hopes it will bring you some laughs.

Pruitt Family Christmas Tree
 Post-disaster Happy Times at the Pruitt House

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I always prepare a special dinner for my father-in-law and any of my family that might be visiting.  This year, my husband and I decided to keep it simple (HA!) by cutting down on the dishes we would make since there would just be three of us.  The menu consisted of a cranberry salsa appetizer (delicious!!!), roast prime rib with horseradish crust, potato gratin in a rosemary crust, roasted green beans, and a cream cheese pound cake with whipped cream and strawberries for dessert.

I got up early and made the pound cake, so it would have plenty of time to cool.  I used a sunflower pan and was going to pretend it was a poinsettia for Christmas.  It came out perfectly.

Christmas Disaster Cake

When my husband got up, we were synchronized cleaning and menu prepping like you wouldn't believe!  We've had enough practice that we can work super efficiently with very little communication. That morning, I even thought what a great team we make and how lucky I am.

We had made a preparation schedule of when to begin assembling each dish and what time they needed to go in the oven in order to have everything on the table at 7:00 pm for dinner. We were a little ahead of schedule when we started working on the potato gratin by rolling out the crusts, shredding the cheese, and chopping the rosemary.

I got out my new (never-been-used) Pampered Chef springform pan for the potatoes. It has a glass bottom for more attractive oven-to-table presentation (just my style).  I decided I should flip the glass in the pan, so that the smooth side was inside the pan and the textured side would be face down.  Standing in the center of the kitchen, I loosened the springform just a little, and the glass dropped to the floor.  DISASTER BEGINS!!!
Pampered Chef Springform Pan
I was so glad my husband and I instinctively closed our eyes because glass flew everywhere.  I've never seen anything break like this with glass bouncing up super high and landing so far in distance. This was way more than a mess on the floor!  There was glass on every surface in the kitchen: counter tops, kitchen table, in the burners of the stove...EVERYWHERE!  Our pantry is down the hall, and even though the door was closed, there was glass in there.  Despite our closed floor plan, glass had gotten in the dining room next door, too.

This holiday disaster literally took the cake! My sunflower/poinsettia cake, still sitting on its cooling rack, was sprinkled with glass shards and had to be trashed, along with the rolled pie crusts for the potato gratin and the freshly shredded cheese.  All food in the kitchen was contaminated. I didn't even get to taste the pound cake before it went in the garbage.

We stayed cool and calm and agreed that since we were about an hour ahead of schedule, my husband would have time to run to Target for more pie crusts, a new springform pan with a METAL BOTTOM, and more cheese.  As I began cleaning alone, I started to realize the scope of the disaster was WAY WORSE than our initial assessment, as I found glass in more and more places.  Every surface had to have its contents removed and wiped down.  It took sweeping the floor three times and vacuuming once to feel pretty good about the safety of the floor. 

Holiday Disasters Pampered Chef

By the time my husband got back from Target on the craziest shopping day of the year (it wasn't a quick trip like we thought), I still had lots of decontaminating to go, and now, we were behind schedule.  As you can imagine, I was feeling pretty exhausted and discouraged. The loss of our Christmas Eve dessert was particularly disappointing to me. I even suggested we just forget cooking all together and go out to eat that night instead.  Ultimately, we decided to have mashed potatoes instead of the potato gratin, since I could make those pretty easily while the prime rib was in the oven. We put out some Pepperidge Farms Christmas cookies with our cranberry salsa appetizer for munching, deciding that would be good enough for dessert, too.

The mental and physical exhaustion continued to impact me as we continued preparing the food, though.  For example, I spilled a whole cup of sugar for the cranberry salsa down the counter top and onto the floor (later, I realized I had a bunch of sugar in the pocket of my apron from the episode, too, which is pretty funny).  This caused me to start playing it ultra safe....I was too worried to pull out any of the China pieces for the dinner in case I might drop them, so we just used serving pieces that were easily accessible.  I didn't have time to iron my tablecloth either.  As a result, our table was a little mismatchy and plain looking.

Christmas Eve Mismatch Table

When it was time to sit down to eat, all of the days dysfunction melted right away, as my husband and I decided not to mention what had happened at all to my father-in-law. The food was all delicious!  My husband, Roger, did a wonderful job with the prime rib.

Christmas Eve Dinner

I'm sure this will go down in our family's history as a funny Christmas Eve, but as for right now, I'm still a little tender from the disaster. We did get a super special surprise the next morning: a WHITE CHRISTMAS!  It really helped make things feel all better for Christmas day. We live in Alabama, so that's super rare for us to get snow at all.  Here's our house covered in snow.

White Christmas Alabama

Have you have had any big holiday disasters at your house?  Any entertaining disasters in general?  I would love to hear about them!  Let's have group therapy!  ( ;

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Present Wrapping

I really love wrapping presents and, especially, adding hand-stamped tags and little embellishments like jingle bells or Christmas ornaments. Here are some of the Christmas presents that I've wrapped lately, along with the handmade gift tags I've made for them.

Christmas Present with Joy Gift Tag

Christmas Present with Snowflakes

Purple Christmas Gift Tag

Let It Snow Christmas Present

Pink Christmas Ornament Gift Tag

Silhouette Gift Tags for Christmas

Twinery Gift Wrapped Box

Snowman Gift Tag

Gingham Ribbon Christmas Bow

Snowman Gift Tag for Christmas

Twinery Wrapped Present in Tissue Paper

Turtle Dove Christmas Gift Tag

Silhouette Christmas Gift Tag

See even more pictures on my Facebook page. While you're there, hit "Like" and become a fan!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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The Blackberry Vine

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wrapping Paper Scraps: A Husband's Dream

Here's one of my favorite present wrapping tips: create a bag of wrapping paper scraps. As I cut wrapping paper off the big rolls, I save the leftover pieces after wrapping a gift and roll them up inside of a recycled shopping bag for later use on smaller gifts.

Christmas Wrapping Paper Scraps
My husband thinks this is the best present wrapping innovation EVER because it saves him so much time when wrapping presents. He can just hunt around in the bag for a scrap about the size of the gift he needs to wrap.  He probably wraps 90% of his gifts out of this bag. The littlest scraps are usually perfect for small stocking stuffers. (At our house, we usually wrap about half of the items inside our Christmas stockings.)

Recycle Wrapping Paper Scraps

I try to keep the bag organized with Christmas wrapping paper on one side and paper for birthdays and other occasions on the other side.  I used a smaller recycled shopping bag inside the big one to help keep them separate.  It's also helpful if you can find a big shopping bag with long handles, so you can carry the bag even if you have long scraps inside.  I hang my bag on a hook in my craft closet when not in use, so the long handles are great for that, too.

Do you have any present wrapping tips to share?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Decorating Christmas Packages and
2010 Post Office Shipping Deadlines

If you're going to send packages this Christmas, add a little pizazz, and get them to the post office soon! Here are some important deadlines if want your Christmas packages delivered before December 25th via the US Postal Service.

Post Office Christmas Package deadlines:
  • Monday, December 20 - First Class Mail
    (cheaper option, maximum weight of 13 oz)
  • Tuesday, December 21 - Priority Mail
More USPS shipping details.

When shipping personal packages, I always like to make them festive.  One of my favorite ways to do this is with paper doilies.  I usually get mine at the Dollar Tree, and I use them for the address labels and as decorative touches.

Christmas Package Doily

Using circle doilies as labels are fun because you can write your return address in an arc around the top edge of the doily for a super unique presentation.

Christmas Package Doily Mailing Label

You'll notice that my boxes are drenched in packing tape. It's really important to cover your entire doily with tape to make sure none of the intricate details get snagged in transit.

Christmas Package Decorations

To cover ugly labels or old bar codes on my recycled boxes, I like to use scraps of leftover wrapping paper, which can add another pop of color.  This box definitely looks homemade!

Wrapping Paper Christmas Package

Loaded up in the car and ready to go to post!

Christmas Post Office Packages

Do you have any tips for making holiday packages festive?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Box of Christmas Cheer

I have a friend who has had a lot going on lately, and it's really taken a toll on her ability to get in the Christmas spirit.  It was breaking my heart to see her feeling so down, so I knew I had to do something and fast!

Box of Christmas Cheer

That's how I came up with the idea for a Box of Christmas Cheer. I spent a night gathering up fun little Christmas things at Target in bright and cheerful colors. I also made a "Merry" party banner and some new-to-my-collection Christmas ornament gift tags.  I would have liked to have made more items by hand, but I wanted to get the box sent ASAP.  Right from the beginning, I decided that I would only include what I could buy or make before bed time in order to have the box ready to ship the next morning.

Christmas Cheer Box Contents

Box of Christmas Cheer Contents:
  • Pepperidge Farm Gingerman cookies (So yummy dipped in Cool Whip!)
  • Pepperidge Farm Almond wreath cookies
  • Puffs tissues in Christmas hologram box
  • Penguin cookie plate
  • Snowman 3D straws
  • Bright Christmas napkins
  • "Merry" party banner by Belly Feathers
  • Hand-stamped ornament gift tags by Belly Feathers
  • Ornaments and Christmas soaps from Michael's (not pictured)
  • Snowflake sucker from Dollar Tree (not pictured)

Merry Christmas Party Banner

Christmas Ornament Gift Tags

I packaged it all up with bright green tissue paper in a USPS priority mail box for fast delivery.  Who wouldn't be able to smile upon opening such a colorful box!!  Of course, to sprinkle on a little extra love, I drew Christmas-y messages all over the box with Sharpies.  I'm not a very good drawer, so they definitely looked homemade.

Box of Christmas Cheer Gifts

The package arrived two days later at a much needed time, and I think it did just the trick! With the busy hustle of the holidays, it's so easy overlook those that need a little extra love this time of year.  I'm so grateful for all of my blessings and hope that I can continue to keep my eyes, ears, and heart open this holiday season and throughout the year.

Happy Holidays!

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