Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hillcrest Cottage Christmas Tree Arrives

Once upon a time before there was a Hillcrest Cottage and when the family lived in another land, in another life, seemingly a lifetime ago, Mom and young boys were paraded in front of a very large church along with the other pastors' wives and children and were asked to share Christmas traditions and it was so awkward that I can not even look at the video and have contemplated destroying the evidence that this event ever actually occurred...oh the embarrassment and the cheese-factor.


in the moment it was either make up stuff about our family in order to sound like Martha Stewart before there was even a Martha Stewart or opt to tell the truth, which we did, of course, as we were literally before God and the whole world it seemed. 

And my creative boys came up with some truly creative traditions: Every Christmas our family puts a tree in our house which we decorate. On Christmas morning, we open presents. 

Somewhere in the story it was added by my youngest that we always make gingerbread cookies, which we did not, 


guess what I am doing after I write this story, as I have ever since that day?

And guess which tradition we have always kept? 

The tree... and it is real... because just like your pearls, I believe all Christmas trees should be real

There, I said it.

The following is another story which needs no words, except to say that a couple of important people will be missing from the Hillcrest Cottage Christmas this year. 

Insert sad face, but carry on.

And... the picture of our family in from of our car was so incredibly bad of me that it could not be included. I am going today to get my bangs fixed as my new haircut is a bit of a disaster. (Fil, if you read this I hope you will be better soon and get back to cutting my hair.)

And... I want to explain that I did make the executive decision to go "lights only" plus some simple silver tinsel... and I love the look and the simplicity. It goes quite well with my favorite brown paper wrapping.

BTW, I did make those gourmet marshmallows about which I had written earlier, and they are incredible!

Favorite books from my childhood.

Off to make the annual gingerbread cookies... and to get a bangs-trim-fix... fingers crossed.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Return of the Santa Mugs

Christmas creeps quietly into Hillcrest Cottage. "Return of the Santa mugs" is the first sign of the holiday approaching. My collection is 63, give or take a few. I have a friend who has amassed over 200... so I am not as cool (or crazy) as her. 

Here's the criteria for my collection: 
1.) Made in Japan... means it is circa 1960's. Many times the date may be stamped on the bottom. 

2.) No mug may cost over $5. The ideal price is $1. I walk away from greedy sellers who try to get more for them. The mugs are fragile and cheap. That's why I began collecting them in the first place... cheapness. 

3.) Mugs who do not meet the original specifications are allowed "in" but I am the only one who can really decide if that particular mug is worthy. 

For example: Pottery Barn has begun to manufacture very cool 1960's replicas. I buy these replicas every year because these are the mugs out of which I allow people to drink. A couple of years ago I became saddened about the way the actual use makes the little mugs peel. 

See what I mean? Fragile and cheap.

Okay... here's the tour.

I scored the following candle holder the other day at an estate sale. 

Best estate sale ever. 

It was the kind of sale about which I dream! The weather was getting bad. Everyone in town was preparing for the snow: buying up all the bread and beer and rotel. Meanwhile, I was at the estate sale of the century... a sale where every interest of my family was represented. 

I bought like a hoarder. 

No one was at this sale! It was a house stacked with very cool stuff from floor- to- ceiling. I was told the owners had moved to Oregon with 9000 pounds, and this sale was what they had left behind.


"I promise I am not one of those weird people who buys stuff all the time," I told the check-out lady. Embarrassing. Next, I went home and made my husband and son come back with me. 

They bought like hoarders, too.

We bought cowboys boots, two Christmas gifts, a pair of real ice skates (which I will share later), awesome black bear bookends, a pipe rack, tools, a $1 video game that my son spied as valuable and will re-sell, Christmas lights, calligraphy pen nibs... and this candle holder mug (1960, Made in Japan, $1).

The mug tour continues.

Now, true collectors will spy these next posers. However, I love them because they are of the drinkable variety

More drinkable mugs. I spy a Snowman!

I bought this $1 Fitz & Floyd mug at the aforementioned estate sale. He will be filled with candy for our annual Christmas "mugging" exchange coming up soon. For now, he decorates Hillcrest Cottage's very frozen front veranda.

Hot chocolate station. Decorated with vintage Christmas stickers. Going to Williams and Sonoma today for the gourmet marshmallows... yum.

And, lastly, Atticus Finch and Tabasco Spice are feeling merry, too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Final Day of Thanksgiving & One Chick Doing It All

Thursday, Game Day of Thanksgiving: My day began at 7:30 a.m. As I write this, it is 11:30, and the kitchen is still piled high with food and dirty dishes. "Why did I start this silly series on Thanksgiving," I ask myself as I type when I should be cleaning.

We were  missing some key players from the celebration this year but were thankful for the friends and family who shared this day with Hillcrest Cottage. Thanks so much because without you, all the work is meaningless.

Every Southern woman has at least one piece of silver which had been buried during the Civil War. This spoon is mine. It is worthless and flimsy but reminds me of the link I feel to my past when I pull out the china and special serving pieces... knowing that the women who passed them down to me, also had wild and crazy days filled with much work making holidays special for their loved ones.

Every person at our table always has a special name card which I hope says to them, "You are important, and we are so glad you could share this meal with us."

And, some help did arrive at last. Jeff always carves the turkey for me. Last year he cut his hand; this year we were injury-free. And the sons pitched in to help with last minute vegetable dishes. 

And we ate. And I cleaned. My kitchen was spotless. Then round two happened as the cousins arrived for their second meal of the day. It always happens that way...everyone talks about how full they are and soon we are filling our plates once again. Hence, the mess in the kitchen behind me as I type. The clock is ticking away and I am tired.

The Cousins (Minus Military Cousin & Wife and New York Creative Cousin)

"This one chick did it again," I say as I pat myself on the back, "It was a lot of work, but I live to tell the story."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day Three of Thanksgiving & One Chick Doing It All

Wednesday, Day Three: Wow. I'm not gonna lie... I am soooo tired. My day started very early with this pie crust creativity.

My finished products of the day were two chocolate pies...

Two buttermilk cream pies with pecans on top....

And two pumpkin which will be served with whipped cream... ( Oh, glad I wrote that bc I forgot to add "whip the cream" to my morning list.)

I had planned on setting the table, but I'm just too beat. Going now to prepare my turkeys so that they can be popped into the oven at 7:30 a.m. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day Two of Thanksgiving & One Chick Doing It All

Tuesday, Day Two: This will be the most boring post ever. I am in the thick of the preparation battle. I am tired. My feet and back hurt. It is late, and the kitchen is finally cleaned. I am facing a long day tomorrow... pie day.

My mom and college-age niece spent the afternoon cooking with me. Mom rooted us on from her stool. I taught my niece a few things about how to make a sweet potato casserole and homemade yeast rolls. We caught up, told funny stories, and I threw in a family history lesson (My favorite!) 

Time well spent.

Things left undone on todays list will roll over onto tomorrow's... but that's okay. If I am too busy for family, then why am I even doing this thing? Right?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day One of Thanksgiving & One Chick Doing It All

Monday, Day One:
Today is my day to do a bit of dusting (where it counts only) and a lot of vacuuming (Thank you, Mac the Labradoodle, Lucy the Goldendoodle-less, & my 90- year- old house).

Time to iron all the linens. Sometimes I use my white linen tablecloth, but I also enjoy this yellow tablecloth because I like the yellow with the blue antique Bavarian china passed down from my grandmother.

If I had anything shiny, I would use this cream today. (Special note: I do have two very large dogs, an alarm system, and a house full of manly men with a variety of weapons.)

And, I pulled out the calligraphy supplies to make personalized place cards for the table. I will share the results when I show the finished table all set and ready to go.

I also organized my recipes for the first day of cooking which will begin Tuesday.

Cornbread was made for the dressing I will put together on Tuesday. Hard- boiled eggs are for the gravy to be made on Thursday.

Looking forward to Tuesday as I begin to cook anything that will safely keep for two and a half days.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Four Days of Thanksgiving & How One Chick Truly Can Do It Alone

Follow me for four days of Thanksgiving feast prep, and I will show you how one chick (me!) can do it all! 

"Why would you want to fly solo?" you ask. My mom is 84 and gave up helping several years ago. Both my parents were only children. Although I once had many greats, I grew up with zero aunts. My husband's family is in South Carolina. I have three sons. (Special note: My adult son who enjoys cooking will be preparing his Thanksgiving dinner miles away in El Paso, even though his wife is perfectly capable.) Lastly, it is the "off" year for my siblings and their families which translates to no sister-in-laws or nieces to contribute.

I am really not into being a martyr, it's just the way my Hillcrest Cottage life is.

For the next few days, I will demonstrate how, with organization, proper planning, and hard work (no lie...hard work). One chick really can do it all.

Grocery shopping and menu planning done. And, yes, my frozen turkeys are already thawing in the basement fridge.

Come back tomorrow to see how Hillcrest Cottage begins a fun-filled week.

P.S. Everything on my menu is made from scratch... even my pie crusts.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Not Your Typical Country Outing

Come with me on a beautiful fall excursion to the incredible Garden Home of P. Allen Smith. You should know his work from Southern Living, his incredible books, television shows, and his YouTube videos series. In a few short years, he has created an unbelievable "garden home" (his trademark) at the Moss Mountain Farm in Roland, Arkansas.

I had the awesome opportunity to join a tour of the house and garden. I also enjoyed an elegant country luncheon inside the barn. 

Best grits I have ever put into my mouth! 

Consumed with great delight was the pecan buttermilk pie. I have never had luck with the traditional "karo nut" pie (Mainly because I only attempt the pie once a year. At this rate, I figure it could take a decade of Thanksgivings to perfect.) Therefore, this year I will be adding the buttermilk delight to my Thanksgiving menu. 

I expect this pecan buttermilk pie will make me very popular.

Back to the farm.... Imagine a place where every material thing I love in life can be found in one location.

A Shady 350 Year Old Tree.

A Wide, Welcoming Front Porch.

Garden Gates.

Places to Day Dream.

Enjoying the Sunny Warmth on a Crisp Autumn Afternoon.

Bicycles on Country Roads.

Interesting Chickens.

Bright Pink Roses.

Pastoral Views Which Seem Endless.

Barn Doors with Surprises Inside.

 Strong Coffee in Fun Mugs... Added This Baby to My Collection.

The Perfect Blend of Antiques & Modern Comfort.

I Can Imagine My Vintage '72 Black Raleigh Bicycle with Wicker Basket Parked Here.

Go Ahead & Ring the Bell... I've Arrived in Heaven.

And... I Really Do Not Want to Leave.

Please be sure and check out all the P. Allen Smith "Garden Home" resources. I love all the ways this farm is giving back to the local community and also teaching people rural skills which are quickly fading like chintz on a sun-filled veranda.

The Moss Mountain Staff were hospitable and welcoming. They work tirelessly to make the guests feel at home... and I did. 

Many thanks!