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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Finishing Out the Old Year at Our Preppy Mountain Farmhouse

This is how I feel about the upcoming year.  Can you feel the excitement?

I'm sharing with you today moments from our final week of 2016.

Our youngest loved sporting her new Santa pjs on Christmas Eve.

I made cherry cream cheese danish for breakfast Christmas morning.  Pinterest-inspired, of course.

This is where I spent most of my time around Christmas: in the kitchen in my holiday apron.

One of the odd mishaps that occurred on Christmas day: my air bake pan that was full of corn casserole went screwy when the bottom rose up in the center, pushing the corn contents up and over the top and all through my oven.  We had Christmas dinner in a smoky kitchen.

I tried my hand at some creative appetizers found on Pinterest.  The meat/cheese/cracker Christmas tree on the left looked pretty close to the Pinterest pin; the veggie Santa not so much.

Believe it or not, these one-piece elephant pajamas were not a gag gift.  Our 14-year old loved them!

This hen somehow flew the coop and perched outside our kitchen window most of Christmas day.  She did get to share the scrapings of corn casserole from that mangled cake pan with a very large opossum who showed up in the evening.  I wonder if it's the same marsupial who hung out under our front porch as a baby this summer.

We drank two pitchers of this insanely awesome champagne punch.  The recipe can be found here at Between Naps on the Porch.

Watching our grandson open his first Christmas gifts was so fun, and he was very proud of himself.

This farmhouse felt big when we bought it, but after squeezing 17 family members in one room to exchange gifts and get pictures, it's evident that we need some extra space.  I'm praying big prayers this year for an addition so we can continue to host gatherings as our family expands. 

We have no exciting plans to ring in the new year since Hubby is on call at the hospital and our teen son needs a ride to/from a swing dance.  I'm hoping to not have to be the one to pick him up after midnight, and I can sip some of this delicious Choco Vine I got as a Christmas present while I watch old episodes of Gilmore Girls and Call the Midwife with our teen daughter.  It has really been an awesome year, and I thank God for all the blessings we've received in 2016.

I am so excited about what 2017 has to offer.  I plan on spending more days with our grandson while he's still a baby, learning how to use all the features on my new camera, renovating our farmhouse kitchen, watching our youngest take her first Holy Communion, and spending more time on blogging.

And I want all of you Preppy Mountain Farmhouse readers to know that I also count you among my blessings for this year.  My little blog has tripled in views, subscribers and followers this year thanks to all of you.  I cherish every comment I receive from you and am thrilled when I see in my stats the various cities and countries you are from.  Writing this blog and connecting with you is one of my high points every week.

Happy New Year, Everyone!  See you again in 2017. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Preppy Plaid Plates on Sale at Home Goods

Home Goods had the most incredible sales this week on their holiday items, and my husband surprised me with plaid dinnerware so I finally have good winter dishes and serving plates.  All of this was 50% off.

I got a dozen dinner plates, two serving platters, a set of three bowls, a buffalo check casserole dish, and some disposable napkins thrown in for fun, and it all totaled less than $75.  I might use them for a few more weeks even though Christmas is over.  We keep our tree and decorations up until January 6 anyway, so our Christmas celebrations won't officially end until then.  Perhaps this will motivate me to throw a small dinner party for some friends before everyone returns to work and school.  It's use them now or wait until late 2017 because ...

...we are getting ready to start a kitchen renovation next month.  I am beyond excited!  It's just like another Christmas present.  And I look forward to blogging about the process and sharing it with all of you.

Have a terrific final three days of 2016, everyone.  And check out your local Home Goods store if you're looking for some holiday bargains.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Few of My New Favorite Things

After three very full days of Christmas celebrations, I am using today to catch up...on overflowing baskets of laundry, journaling and blogging, exercising and dieting, and relaxing.  I'm sure most of you can relate.  We had a terrific Christmas, and I'll fill you in on the highlights later, but today I just had to share my excitement about some of my favorite gifts I received.

This Sony camera is something I've been wanting, but I felt too guilty to spend the money for myself.  I've been blogging for 20 months and using my outdated Samsung tablet and a cheap Smartphone for nearly all my photography.  My husband surprised me with this Sony a 6000 camera and accessories, and I am so eager to get outside and see what it can do.  I took dozens of pictures with it over the past couple of days of family and food and celebrating, but I have so much to learn about photography and this camera's features.  I now have a new challenging project going into 2017.

Along with the camera, I have new reading material for the weeks ahead.  I have always been drawn to colonial America and love to study that period of time.  Although our farmhouse was built in the late 1880s, it was renovated in an early American style, and there is so much more I'd like to do with it.  I really wish Chip and Joanna Gaines could come to the Alleghenies and tackle our farmhouse for their next project.  I absolutely love watching Fixer Upper and was going to buy their new book, The Magnolia Story, myself if it wasn't under our Christmas tree.  Finally, my sister spent the better part of this year researching our family's genealogy and created a scrapbook of our family tree and lots of old photos, newspaper clippings, and old legal documents.  She was able to trace both sides of our family as far back as 1570.  It turns out that the vast majority of our ancestors settled in Pennsylvania and Virginia in the 30-50 years prior to the Revolutionary War.  It's fascinating to read some of the stories, and I can't imagine how many hours of tedious work my sister put in, but I'm so grateful she did.  I can't wait to curl up on my favorite chair with a gourmet Cappuccino (also a new gift) and these books.

And you can see how badly I needed a camera after looking at the photo above.

Not only is my sister a talented writer, but she is an artist and wood crafter as well.  This wall hanging was another total surprise Christmas gift she made for me in a farmhouse chic style, and it's hanging in our dining room above the piano.  I got all the kids and she got all the talent in the family. 

Our house was full this Christmas---with gifts, food, holiday spirits (both kinds), and family.  Yesterday we had 17 people crammed into our dining room around our main Christmas tree opening gifts.  Our farmhouse was full of life and love and laughter, just the way I've always hoped it would be.  The best part was sharing it with our first grandchild who truly brightens the room with his squeals and energy and innocence.  I'll share some of the details of both the high points and the mishaps later, but today I'm just going to savor all of it while the memories are fresh and the house is a bit more quiet.

And I'm going to play with my new "toy" so I can get more great shots like the one above.  I hope you're all able to bask in this post-Christmas euphoria and relax a bit as we finish up this year.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Unintentional Internet Fast & Merry Christmas

After blogging on Tuesday, we lost phone service and Internet at our house.  After many phone calls, visits from the repairman, two new routers, and hours of trying to get us connected to the Web again, we finally regained Internet service at 1:00 this morning.  It's been a hassle and definitely stressful, especially with a son who is cyber schooled and was in the middle of exams.  Oh, and half of the foods I am making this week for Christmas were found on Pinterest...and I couldn't access the recipes.  Living up here on the mountain, our cell phone service is unstable at best, so even using our Smartphones wasn't an option.  It's amazing how cut off from the rest of the world we feel now when we aren't connected virtually.

But I did begin this week at Mass praying for things to slow things down, quiet my mind, and allow my family to focus on this last week of Advent and what Christmas really means to us.  And I would say my prayer was answered.  As usual, it wasn't necessarily handled the way I would have chosen, but it was certainly effective.

Instead of being plugged into social media, news sites, email and blogger, Netflix and Amazon, Youtube and Minecraft, we found other ways to occupy our time.  Children went sledding and played games.  They painted and were crafty.  They cleaned and tidied up their rooms.  We spent so much more time together interacting with each other---talking, laughing, singing.

We baked cookies and reminisced and danced and watched old videos.  We lived without electronic distractions.  And things did sort of slow down and be still.  The house still bustled with life and noise and messiness at times, but it was different from the buzzing of incoming messages, emails, and updates.  

It was a blessing, actually.  I won't lie and say I wasn't at all stressed out about it, but it was a lesson in how much time we actually spend on electronic devices.  I believed that I greatly limit the time our children spend in front of a screen, but without Wifi, it became clear how much of our days are actually spent logged in throughout the day...myself included.  So it is with mixed feelings of relief and anxiety that here I am this morning on the Internet blogging, checking messages and social media and stats.  I'm glad that I can retrieve my Pinterest recipes so that I can prepare meals this weekend, but I do wish that we had more of a respite from the electronic distractions this time of year.

On that note, I'll leave you until next week, Dear Readers.  May you all Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Spreading Yuletide Cheer to Our Rustic Cabin

Even though we wait until the day after Thanksgiving to begin our Christmas preparations, this year we did begin a little early up at our cabin.  With the excuse that I needed to get it ready for company, the children and I went up there the day before Thanksgiving and tried to make it a bit festive.  I'm a month late in posting, but I wasn't sure I wanted you readers to see just how much of a fixer upper this cabin is.  But I decided, what the heck.  This way you can come along with us on this renovating journey as we pick a project a year to tackle, both at our farmhouse and the cabin.

Before we started any of the decorating, I whipped up two pumpkin pies for dessert in the working oven.  The old refrigerator at the cabin also works, so I was able to store the pies there since the one at our house was full of a thawing turkey and all the other Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. 

I hadn't ever used the oven before and I think that one side was hotter than the other because I nearly burned our Thanksgiving dessert.  Fortunately, my teen daughter checked them in time.

We also threw some cookies in the oven for the kiddos.

Between the pies, cookies, cinnamon pinecones, and the large scented candle burning, the musty smell of the cabin was fairly well masked.  We're thinking the multiple layers of mismatched carpeting is where that smell is coming from.  They will have to go.

All those extra Christmas decorations that I no longer use in the house got toted up there and were put to good use.

The girls and I decorated this little tree that is supposed to be 4 feet tall, but unless I'm actually much taller than my driver's license shows, I'd say this is just a tad inaccurate.  I even have the tree on top of a stool to give it more height.

Michael's had their pre-lit artificial trees, plaid tree skirts,  and ornaments 50% off the week before Thanksgiving.  I had a rule that I wouldn't buy anything related to Christmas until after that holiday, but I made an exception for the cabin.  And here in this photo, you can see some of the remodeling that needs to be done.  This one wall alone has paneling on part of it, bare sheet rock (I think?) in places, and noticeable insulation.  There's also a ping pong tabletop for the air hockey table that we moved up there.  And look at that yellowish carpet.  What color would you call that?

And while some of us baked, cleaned, and decorated, others were sprawled out watching Christmas movies.

That's because the cabin still has an old working VCR, and we still have quite a collection of movies on VHS, believe it or not.  I am just not willing to spend the money to upgrade to DVD when the videotapes are still good.  We almost always start out the Christmas season with Home Alone and A Christmas Story, which our youngest referred to as the "Shoot Your Eye Out Ralphie" movie for years.

After a few hours at the cabin, the inside smelled, looked, and sounded like the holidays, and it had warmed up enough outside to go for a hike before our out-of-town guests arrived.

I'll be making my way up there again later this week to prepare for Christmas guests.  The interior of the cabin hasn't changed since Thanksgiving, but outside it looks like this:

While the surrounding areas with more sun have melted, here on the north facing side of the mountain, we are still covered in snow and ice.  I think there's a good chance that at the Preppy Mountain Farmhouse, we will have a white Christmas even though there is no more snow in the forecast.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Secret Kiss Cookies

My plan this weekend was to start my holiday baking with my traditional peanut butter kiss cookies, but I discovered that I was out of shortening.  So I skimmed through one of my seriously used cookbooks from my childhood, Favorite Brand Name Recipe Cookbook, and decided to try these cookies for the first time.   Wow.  They were a huge hit and were one of the easiest cookies to make.

Secret Kiss Cookies
Cream 2 sticks softened butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Gradually add 2 cups flour and beat until blended.  Chill dough for about an hour or until firm.  Mold a tablespoonful of dough around an unwrapped Hershey's kiss and roll into a ball.  Make sure the entire kiss is covered.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 12-16 minutes.  The cookies should be set, but not brown.  Cool slightly and coat with powdered sugar.

This is one cookie that is actually better after it's cooled completely.  I experimented with a variety of the holiday kisses.  The cherry cordial kisses melted and oozed out onto the cookie sheet, so those weren't the best choice.  But the mint truffle kisses were fantastic.  They gave the cookie just the right amount of chocolate and mint, and a day later when the cookies were cool, they looked awesome when you bit into them.

With only 5 ingredients (plus the Hershey's Kisses) and minimal time and effort required, this cookie recipe is definitely a keeper.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

We are nearly three-quarters of the way through Advent and full of Christmas spirit and activities here at our farmhouse.  This is a bit of what we've been up to as we try making spirits bright.

We've decorated a total of four Christmas trees this year, not including ones that we've helped with at schools and Church.

There's been some fun gingerbread cottage competition going on.

The boys built one, and the girls built the other.  I must admit that we girls added some inedible embellishments to give ours a bit more curb appeal.

We got some snow over the weekend, and the children were so excited to be on a two hour delay Monday morning due to the ice that accumulated on top.

And then we woke up this morning to a lot more snow, but there was no delay, much to the dismay of the kiddos. 

I've been creating some Pinterest-inspired chalkboard art in the kitchen and the front porch.

And the house has been decorated with a few new things...

...but mostly old.

We've still got our burlap plaid theme going on throughout the house.

And we even took the rustic preppy look to our fixer-upper cabin this year.

There is plenty of viewing of Christmas classics.  I think I've watched Christmas with the Kranks on Netflix three times already.

And we've been counting down the days with our Advent calendar and this crafty bit of last year's Christmas tree that I made.  I change this every morning before I get my first cup of coffee.

The Christmas cards have been sent.  The trees have been trimmed.  The halls have been decked, though not with boughs of holly.  Gifts have been purchased, wrapped, and hidden.  The Holly radio station is played every time we're in the SUV.  Most of the Christmas movies have been watched, and the books are being read.  All that's left is the cookie baking.  The children have been wanting to start on that for weeks, but I'm putting it off because I can't resist the sweet treats.

And I'm desperately trying to end this year no heavier than when it started.

May the remaining days of your week be merry and bright, dear Readers.