Sunday, December 29, 2019

Hot Chocolate or Hot Cocoa?

Is there a difference?

Well, if you Google it, there is a difference and for chocolate connoisseurs it is a big deal (apparently!) I'm basically in it for warmth and whipped cream so what do I know?

If you want to know more about the differences (and similarities) then this article can clear things up for you!

Whichever you prefer, this warm chocolate-y drink is a holiday favorite.
And the part I'm up to speed on is all the "stuff" you can add to a big steamy mug!
I love to set up a Hot Chocolate Bar for Christmas parties at home and at church and we keep a small Hot Chocolate "corner" (it's not a full blown Hot Chocolate bar!) ready and waiting at home through the cold months!

There are a lot of delicious hot chocolate recipes all over Pinterest and recipe sites.
I have made hot chocolate from scratch but my "secret weapon" for large groups is this...
I buy already made chocolate milk in the gallon jug (cold) from the grocery store.
 It's yummy and creamy and for a big group of people it just works!
I put it in crock pots with plenty of time to warm up slowly and then when its warm I pour in a can of Sweetened Condensed Milk and mix it in well. It's outrageous!
For individual servings at home we use our Keurig and K-cups.

That's it. But the "extras" are where you can have fun
 and impress visitors to your Hot Chocolate Bar. 

Whipped Cream!! No. 1 item hands down. And in the cans with a nozzle, please! If you are having an event then fill a bowl or champagne bucket with ice and put the cans in it to stay cold. Easy.

Peppermint Syrup with a pump nozzle is a nice touch. 
If peppermint isn't your fave then there are a ton of flavored syrups available - salted caramel, vanilla, raspberry! You name it.

Then gather some small bowls or other cute serving containers and add chocolate chips.  marshmallows (which come in a zillion flavors and shapes!), sprinkles, crushed peppermints, candy canes, m and m's and even cinnamon sticks! Get creative. 

Add some spoons and cute napkins and it's a party!

Such a fun way to celebrate the season! 

You say Hot Cocoa, I say Hot Chocolate 
but as long as we all get a warm cup with whipped cream 
then everyone is right in my book!

We will keep this little corner stocked through January and February so stay tuned over on IG to see how I change it up once I put away the Christmas decor!

Monday, December 23, 2019

A Little Nativity for Everyone.

This year I made a little tiny, portable Nativity for every family at church - plus extras!

I gave out 1 piece of the Nativity each week of Advent. 
We jokingly called it the "Happy Meal Nativity" - a new prize each week :)

In all seriousness I designed it to motivate each of us to think about each "major" player in the Nativity story in a special way. 
We tend to put our Nativity out and think, 
"OK. That part of my decorations is finished and not think about it in detail." 
Maybe you are more intentional than I am but the busyness of the season distracts me! Easily.

My components were Joseph, Mary, The Manger with a star above it and Baby Jesus, of course!
It all fits in a sandwich size baggie with a sticker on the front with a verse from Luke.

They were very popular and people were excited to get each piece. People put them on their desks at work (there's on in high finance and another at the Space Center in Huntsville!), gave them to grandchildren, friends, shut-ins, family at nursing homes and more.
 (That's where the extras went.)
They put them on the dash of their cars and mini vans, carried them in their backpacks and shared the story of each piece with people they showed it to. 

A  church visitor on this past Sunday was so intrigued she took pictures and asked for details so she can take the idea back to her church in North Carolina.
These little Nativities really got around!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

I Started A New (to Us) Christmas Tradition...

Lat year I came across the tradition called Jolabokaflod, from Iceland. 
It is the tradition of giving books and chocolate on Christmas Eve.
As soon as I read about it I knew it was for us!!

Christmas in the Library - you can see why getting and giving books is for us!

It is a fabulous tradition to start anytime but since Mollie is an adult
 and we don't have small children around
 some of our past traditions that focus on Santa and reindeer have fallen away. 
There's some spare time now after Christmas Eve service!

Books and chocolate!? Yes!
 New tradition for us!

Here are some of my favorite titles from previous gift giving.  Mr. Monkey holds a few chocolate treats!

Even if you have some family members who aren't "big readers" like we are there are plenty of books you can still give. I would count comics. Or photo books you create online of trips you have taken, all the grandkids through the year, or the year in review. And coffee table books exist in almost every genre and most people love to learn the history behind what they collect or their hobby. (Tennis player who doesn't read much? - find a picture heavy book about Wimbledon. Start a collection of a series for younger children - you might just create a reader! And you know what to give them for the next holiday- the next book in the series.)
You can get very personal and creative with your book shopping. 

All of our books for Christmas Eve giving are wrapped and ready.

The tradition began in Iceland during WWII.
 Paper was readily available when almost everything else was scarce. 
Icelanders gave each other books as gifts and to this day they are a country of readers!
Jolabokaflod roughly translates to "flood of books" which I love.

Blue and white chinioserie teapots for serving hot chocolate.

So start looking for that perfect book for everyone to open on Christmas Eve, find a fabulous hot chocolate recipe (or keep it simple and buy a gallon of chocolate milk from the grocery  and put it in the crock pot!)
Then every one can cozy up with a mug of cocoa or a gourmet chocolate bar (if you prefer) and their fabulous new book.

PS. Don't leave yourself out - I order myself a fabulous design book so that I can cozy up with a book and cocoa too!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Christmas Tour 2019 - Part 1. Outside, the Entry and the Library.

Our sweet Greeter Guy (as I call him) greets everyone with a shy smile
 and a big shell full of chippy Christmas ornaments in every color. 

Rain or shine he's cozy in his plaid scarf.

In December there's a second greeter at our house.
 The big gold Santa (Mollie's fave) is on the front porch. He was a Goodwill find
 (in the middle of the Summer) and people looked at me like I was crazy for hauling a 5 foot tall, pretty ugly Santa out of the store in 90 degree heat!!
See his before here.

Our garland is a faux base with lots of fresh greenery wired in! 
You can barely see the "faux" underneath.
It's such an easy way to create full, manageable garlands.

We are using this gorgeous, blue plaid ribbon again this year.
We love it so much.

No filter needed - those are the true colors!

The swag on the back gate got the same gorgeous ribbon. 

In the entryway we have a small champagne colored tinsel tree
 with some little Chinoiserie ornaments I made last year.
 All the details and how-to's are here.

I just noticed one of the green Chinoiserie lamps got turned around while we were dusting -oops!

 I added in a little Audubon.
 I think Chinoiserie and Audubon birds are perfect companions!

Just a little touch of palms and palmetto fronds (lowcountry gal here)
 complete the decorations in the foyer.
I have had the nativity on the bamboo table for about 30 years.
 It goes in our entryway every year. 

Our cozy Library (or Snug as the British say) is home to the blue and white Chinoiserie Tree.

(This is also where several porch plants are spending the Winter)

There are a few more touches - magnolia, palmetto fronds and ornaments 
tucked in here and there.

This is one of my favorite spots during the holidays!

Hopefully I will have a few more cheery spots to share before the big day is here!!

UPDATE: Christmas Tour Part 2 did not happen due to a family medical emergency.
 I didn't even take any pictures to show later :( 
Here's to 2020 and blogging more regularly!

Monday, December 16, 2019

A Spot of Christmas Green

I have a new little spot in my garden area. 
I started this project a few months ago but it's just now all coming together
 so I gave it a little Christmas touch!

I had a bunch of bricks that I saved from a patio demo 
when we installed The Bucket this Summer.
The hutch is one that had been shuffled into the back of a storage area. 
I thought a coat of SW Lounge Green (which is the same color our porch floors are)
 would liven things up!

 No playing favorites here - we use ALL the plaid ribbons!

The twinkle lights are staying up year round (duh!)

 I look forward to how handy it will be this Spring.
But for now it has a holiday feel. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Bottle Brush Trees

There is a bit of a bottle brush tree obsession going on at our house. 
Mollie was inspired last year by our friend Paige Knudsen's mantel
 and her quest began- filling the mantel with a forest of bottle brush trees. 
Every size and color!

This is our mantel from last year. 

This year the forest is full and colorful! 
(Although she is on the hunt for 1 more tall gold bottle brush tree for the left side !!)

Look at these colors!!

They are a lot of fun because they come in every color imaginable and are fun to group all together or tuck in here and there. Here are a couple we added to our powder room shelf.

I made a much smaller scale bottle brush display :)
 I "planted" mine in vintage blue and white tea cups and bowls. This one is on a brass bamboo tray that corrals our hot chocolate corner in the kitchen.

Bottle Brush trees have an unusual name but they are exactly what it sounds like!
This is what Google had to say:
In the 1930s, Addis Brush Company, an American manufacturer of toilet bowl brushes, began dyeing bristles green and assembling them into artificial Christmas trees. These new artificial trees were especially popular in Britain, which had lost many of its trees during WWI.

And now, they are very popular again
You can find them anywhere that sells Christmas decorations!