Cranberry Cherry Sauce

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

If you're still looking for a cranberry recipe for tomorrow - I've got the recipe for you! This one is SURE TO BEAT congealed cranberry "stuff" straight from the can complete with can marks. :-) (What a ringing endorsement, I know.)

The great thing about this recipe is that it incorporates cherries to sweeten it up enough for even kids to like it. It is approved by my boys, so I'm passing it along to you.


Cranberry Cherry Sauce

2 1/2 cups cherry juice
10 oz dried cherries
1 c granulated sugar
1, 12 oz package fresh or frozen cranberries
zest from 1 orange
1/4 tsp all spice


  1. In a medium pot, bring cherry juice to a boil. Remove from heat and add cherries. Set aside for 8 minutes.
  2. Add sugar, cranberries, zest, and all spice. Return to heat and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium high and cook until the cranberry skins pop, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Transfer to a glass or plastic container and refrigerate. Sauce thickens as it cools.

Note:
If you prefer other fruits in your cranberry sauce besides cherries, check out this other tried and true Harris Sisters Cranberry Sauce Recipe. And while you're at it, don't forget these other Thanksgiving-worthy Harris Sisters recipes:



One Man's Trash: Vintage High Chair

Monday, November 24, 2014

In another classic example of how one man's trash can truly be another's treasure, we find this beat up old high chair in need of some major TLC.  But add a little bit of imagination for what this chair could be, and this deal of the summer turns into a very special piece for our babe.


This is how we found the chair.  You can see years of gunk and wear on it.  It also sported a cute retro decal, which we liked, but in order to restore the chair, it would have to be removed.  Check out the price sticker too.  Yep, we got this high chair for a whopping $10 at a rummage sale. 


But this high chair has good bones.  The wood is still in great shape, and that tray you see there is bakelite.  Score!!

                               

My handy husband jumped right into this project, using the same type of one step chalk paint we have used before in Lexi's vintage nursery.  Incidentally, this is the type of paint you often see now on restored painted wood furniture.  You literally sand down the surface to a smooth finish (but no need to remove old paint or wood finish), then start painting on with your chalk paint.  We chose a super light pink blush shade. Once it is dry, you can distress areas with your sandpaper if you like. We did on this chair.  We also used a little crackle finish in places to add to the vintage appeal.   


Here is a closer look at the paint, complete with distressed areas, and crackle.  And check out that little cowgirl!  I picked her out myself.  We purchased this inexpensive decal on eBay, but you can also print your own at home with decal paper.  
  

And to finish it off, we added a decal to the back too. This high chair is looking good now, coming and going.  

And as you can see, it is also Babydoll-approved.  


So there you have it.  Another shining example of how you can turn great vintage treasures into something truly special - maintaining the vintage appeal but adding a modern twist. 

Preparing Your Home for Holiday Guests

Saturday, November 22, 2014

With holidays literally right around the corner, chances are you might be hosting overnight guests in your holiday home sooner than later.  If so, read on to learn more about how to prepare for them and make them feel comfortable in their home away from home this year.  


I read once that the best way to prepare your guest room for company is to literally spend a night or two there yourself.  There is no better way to understand what your guest room needs than to sleep in the guest bed, shower in the guest bathroom, etc.  

As it turns out, my husband and I did just that a couple months ago over our Labor Day Staycation. While we enjoyed our time in the guest suite, it was a bit of an eye-opening experience.  Why, oh why, have none of our guests ever mentioned things like the lack of a bath rug in the bathroom or towel hooks?  Oh dear, our guests sure are nice.  

Although I can usually count on my dear father-in-law to let me know this type of thing.  This is the man who literally brought his own alarm clock and left it for our spare room because we were missing that too.  Over the years, he has also mentioned that we needed things like a shower caddy and a trashcan for the guest bathroom, which we corrected once he pointed it out.  So why he hasn't mentioned the rug or hooks, I cannot imagine.  Now that I write this, I believe it is very possible that perhaps he has mentioned towel hooks before.  In any case, he is my barometer.  And a very good one.  

However, if you don't have someone to "test" your guest accommodations on, it's back to square one. Spend a night or two if your guest room, and ask yourself.

  • Are there enough pillows and blankets for the bed?
  • Is the air temperature comfortable?  Do you need to add a small fan or heater?
  • Is there a clock/ alarm for the bedroom?
  • Are there bedside lamps?
  • Are the closets neat and uncluttered?  (Ha, that won't happen in this house, but it's certainly a good idea if you can manage it.)
  • Is your bathroom stocked with plenty of clean towels and washcloths?
  • Are soap, shampoo, and other basic toiletries handy?
You might just find that you have to add a little more to your "to do" list to prepare for your holiday guests, but ultimately they will be happier and more comfortable and you can once again reclaim your title of supreme hostess.  Ahhh, all is right with the world yet again.  

Crockpot Potato Leek Soup

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Looking for a new crockpot recipe to try? Well, temperatures are dropping rapidly in these parts, so soup is on heavy rotation on the menu. This recipe was quick and easy to make and was quite tasty. Give it a try; it does not disappoint!



Crockpot Potato Leek Soup

3-4 leeks, sliced  - white and very light green part only (about 4 cups)
4 medium-sized baking potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups vegetable broth
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
2/3 cup half-and-half
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
sour cream and sliced green onions for serving
  1. Put the leeks and potatoes in the crockpot. 
  2. Add vegetable broth (should cover the leeks and potatoes). 
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
  4. One hour before soup is finished cooking, puree with an immersion blender. 
  5. Add chopped spinach and continue cooking.
  6. Before serving, add half and half and salt and mix thoroughly.
  7. Serve with sour cream and sliced green onions.
FAQ:
"But I don't know what the heck a leek is! I've never cooked with one before!" It's very similar to a large green onion. It just gives a little oomph to the soup. Don't be intimidated. :-)

"But I don't like spinach!" Then, leave it out altogether, let the soup cook for a full 6 hours straight then after pureeing the soup, just skip directly from step 4 to step 6.

"Where's the bacon? I usually put that in my potato soup." I don't generally include directions for adding bacon in my vegetarian recipes, but you do whatever floats your boat. ;-)

Reddit's Secret Santa

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How would you like to participate in a record breaking Secret Santa exchange this year?  

The popular social networking and news website, Reddit, is sponsoring the mission.  Last year, over 85,000 people from across 120 countries participated to break the Guinness Book of World Records for largest Secret Santa exchange.  So this year, they are back at it to try to break the record once again.  



You have until December 1, 2014 to sign up.  Reddit will then match you with another participant, who you will research to find the perfect gift for, and then send said gift off no later than December 19.  It comes full circle when you receive your own gift and post a thank you note and photos on the Reddit gifts page.  Registration and all the details you need to get started can be found here

Apparently, one Bill Gates participated last year, so you just never know who will draw your name, or vice versa.  Although, I can't imagine trying to buy for a multi-billionaire.  No pressure there.  :)

The countdown is on, so let's get cracking!  

Think Outside the Big Box

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Small Business Saturday is only two weeks away. For those of you who might not have heard of this relatively new phenomenon, Small Business Saturday falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and was first observed in 2010. Still going strong after five years, this shopping day was set aside to directly encourage consumers to shop at small, locally owned businesses, rather than big box and chain retailers as they do on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year, Small Business Saturday is on 11/29.


The shopping day was originally created by American Express. Therefore, cardholders can claim up to 3, $10 credits to their American Express cards by registering their cards and shopping at participating small businesses on that day. Registration opens at midnight  11/15 (that's tonight - but in mountain time - so do the conversion for your time zone). Registration is limited, so make sure to register early if you're interested in this part of participation.



Even if you don't want to register your card, if you haven't yet finished (or even started) your Christmas shopping. I would encourage you just go out into your neighborhood and SHOP LOCAL. Small business owners need our support, so let's do what we can to support them.


Make your list for gift ideas (and check it twice just like Santa would do), but be open to changing your mind if a local shop has a unique gift idea that you hadn't even though of. With your list in hand, head out the door for a full day of shopping. Here are some ideas for a fun day of errands AND shopping:

Take your dog to the local groomer. Give them your spouse's telephone number to call when he's ready. You have now shopped local, run an errand, and don't have the responsibility of picking your dog up from the groomer. ;-)


Visit the local thrift store to see what treasures they have. (I bet vintage decorations and ornaments this time of year!) You are shopping local and scoring some awesome vintage finds! These beauties need a home for the holidays too.


Visit all types of shops to see what sorts of treasures await. You might not buy something in every shop, or you might only pick up stocking stuffers, but it's nice to get to know your neighbors and you might also be surprised to find the perfect gift at a store that you would never have thought to shop at before.

Place card holders for the Perpetual Hostess on your list?


A Santa alarm clock for the Christmas Lover on your list?


Old fashioned ribbon candy for stocking stuffers?


And if you're REALLY thinking outside of the big box, don't forget that shopping small means supporting your local crafters. And sometimes those folks can be found online via Etsy as well as locally. So don't forget to seek them out too!




Before you head home, buy cupcakes from the local bakery. Bring them home to share them with your family because it's the nice thing to do after you've been gone all day. :-)


Happy shopping!


Fresh Strawberry Triple Layer Cake

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I don't know about you, but THIS family is always in search of the perfect strawberry cake. It seems like one of the boys always requests a strawberry cake as his birthday cake. So, that gives me another reason to try new recipes. This one's a winner. It's a "made from scratch" cake, but don't let that deter you.

It's almost as easy as making a cake from a boxed mix. Give it a try and you won't be disappointed! You might find that you have a new talent for baking!



Fresh Strawberry Triple Layer Cake

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup strawberry puree* (instructions follows)
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
Strawberry Puree
Process fresh or frozen (and thawed) strawberries in a food processor or blender until very smooth. Approximately 3 cups strawberries will yield 1 1/2 cups of strawberry puree.

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour three 9 inch cake pans. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, vegetable oil, baking powder, salt, strawberry puree, vanilla, and eggs.
  3. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
  4. Allow cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
  5. Chill cakes for one hour before frosting.
  6. Frost cakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows).
  7. Store completed cake in refrigerator.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup strawberry puree
6-7 cups powdered sugar

  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well. Mix in strawberry puree.
  2. Working in one cup batches, mix in powdered sugar.
  3. If frosting is still a thinner consistency after adding all powdered sugar, refrigerate before using to frost cake. (Frosting will be thinner than most buttercream frostings because of the amount liquid added from strawberry puree.)

Notes:
If after reading this you still don't think you're "up" to making an entire strawberry cake from scratch, don't worry, we've got you covered.

Head over to check out our Triple Strawberry Cake recipe. It's a doctored recipe that starts with a boxed mix.

If THAT seems too daunting, try our Strawberry Cheescake Trifle recipe. It starts with a purchased Angel Food Cake. Can't get any easier than that!

Free Thanksgiving Printables

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thanksgiving will be here in less than 3 weeks! We'd better get cracking on preparations, people! To help you get started, I've gathered some free Thanksgiving printables to help with the event.

I also have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to FREE ThanksgivingPrintables, which I will be loading up with these finds today and with others in the coming weeks. So make sure to follow it for all the latest finds. Also check out and follow my Thanksgiving Pinterest board for awesome decorating ideas and inspiration.


First off, you can dress up any pies or cakes with this adorable Happy Thanksgiving mini bunting by Kara's Party Ideas. That's one schmancy pie:


And I love this fantastic idea of pie tags at Skip to My Lou to identify each type of pie because I don't know about you, but we eat A LOT of pie at Thanksgiving. It's an easy way for people to identify their own pies because at some point, the pies all start looking alike! ;-) Don't forget to check out these tried and true Harris Sisters pie recipes if you're looking for a few new ones this year.


Here's an entire printable party kit from TomKat Studio. It includes (among other things) a Give Thanks banner, food labels, leftover labels, menu, invitation, and many other goodies. 





Here's another set of leftover labels for the big day from I Heart Naptime. Send these cuties home with your guests (if for no other reason than to label their goodies), and they'll surely remember this year's Thanksgiving!


And here's one more set of leftover labels from Oh Happy Day:


This set of labels is beautifully designed and although it also includes a leftovers label, this set by WorldLabel might be more appropriate for delivering plates of food to those who might not have family visiting them on Thanksgiving day - a special way to share the day with maybe an elderly couple or brand new parents! We Harrises have been known to walk a plate of food over to neighbors on Thanksgiving day before - we hope you'll share in this tradition.


If you plan to decorate for Thanksgiving, then you can't go wrong with these free 8 x 10 chalkboard printables by Nest of Posies:

Thankful and Blessed:


Count Your Blessings:


Give Thanks Unto the Lord:


And here's another beautiful free decor printable from The Pleated Poppy.

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart:


And two more free chalkboard printables available in both 8 x 10 and 11 x 14 by Happy Go Lucky.

In All Things Give Thanks:


These "I am Thankful for" printables by Silverbox Creative are shown here linked together as a chain for a Thanksgiving decoration (great craft project to do with the kids). But they can also be used separately as napkin rings for your Thanksgiving table. Each one has a blank space to write in what you and your guests are thankful for!


Here's another "I am thankful" free printable in the form of a game from Sissy Print. Instructions for the game are included with the link:


If you're visiting others for Thanksgiving, consider bringing a gift to the host. This free printable mason jar label from The 36th Avenue is perfect for homemade goodies, such as Harris Sisters Crockpot Apple Butter:


As is this simple free printable Thank You tag from Five and One:


Or what about this free printable Thanksgiving bread wrap from Whipperberry, which would be perfect for Harris Sisters Super Moist Pumpkin Bread or Sweet Potato Pecan Bread:


And here's another free printable bread label from Lil Luna:


And I love this idea for hand-stamped wooden utensils plus a free printable Thanksgiving gift tag from The Idea Room (directions for stamping the wooden utensils are included in link):


Don't forget to get some memorable photos while everyone's together for the holiday! These free printable photo booth props from The Dating Divas will be a hit:


Here's a super fun way to kick off the festivities - it's a free printable Thanksgiving Trivia Game from The Mother Huddle. The game comes with its own trivia questions plus blank cards so that you can add your own trivia about your friends and family (or Thanksgivings past)! Sounds like fun!


Here's a free printable kids' activity placemat by Embellish:


Or, you can keep the kids busy with these fantastic free printable Thanksgiving Mad Libs from How Does She?:


But, never underestimate the power of a good, old-fashioned activity sheet! Here are some Thanksgiving themed ones from Reading with Kids:





And don't forget, if the activity pages and photos don't keep the kids busy, you can always ALWAYS have them help you make butter. ;-) Happy planning!