Saturday, November 10, 2018

2018 #Christmas Spirit #Reading Challenge - Sign up!

It's that time of year again!

As usual, there are multiple levels for participation, like children's books and watching Christmas movies AND the Christmas Spirit Readathon is back again this year. Keep reading for details!

Details and sign up:
  • challenge will run from Monday, November 19, 2018 through Sunday, January 6, 2019 (Twelfth Night or Epiphany). 
  • cross over with other challenges is totally permitted AND encouraged! 
  • These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, and for the first time...a children's Christmas books level! 
Levels:
--Candy Cane: read 1 book
--Mistletoe: read 2-4 books
--Christmas Tree: read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level...LOL!)

Additional levels:
--Fa La La La Films: watch a bunch or a few Christmas movies...it's up to you!
--Visions of Sugar Plums: read books with your children this season and share what you read

*the additional levels are optional, you still must complete one of the main reading levels above


  • The Christmas Spirit Readathon is back again this year. I'll be hosting once again over at Seasons of Reading also starting Monday, November 19 through Sunday, December 2! Details and sign-up can be found HERE.
  • the most important rule? Have fun!!! 
  • I will have a review linky posted as a page the day the challenge starts. You will find it at the top of the right sidebar. 
  • Sign up in the linky below (link to your post with your reading list...you can change up your list during the challenge...I just want to be able to stop by to welcome you and see what you plan to read).

One final note: The giveaway this year will be a $15 donation to the winner's choice of a human rights organization, such as the ACLU, Boys and Girls Club, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Amnesty International, It Gets Better, Planned Parenthood, or another human rights organization of your choice, perhaps your local chapter or organization. This giveaway is open internationally.

I hope you will join me!

Grab a button...check the right sidebar...there's a grab code. And don't forget to check out the Readathon details at Seasons of Reading!


Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.



Always in spirit...

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ken from the Sounds of Christmas shares new #Christmas music out this year


Thanks so much for once again inviting me back to your blog, Michelle!

I am very excited about the upcoming season for the Sounds of Christmas (which starts on November 1, which is next week)!

We’re actually already on, playing Halloween music through the end of this month. For the last eleven Christmas seasons, I’ve played a huge variety of Christmas music, and I’ve worked hard to play thousands of songs, without repeating the same song and the same artist. This way, you won’t hear “Sleigh Ride” twice an hour, and you won’t hear Johnny Mathis over and over.


I have just always felt that there’s so much good Christmas music out there, and more and more coming every year, there’s no reason to play Bing’s “White Christmas” every other hour.

I’m doing the same kind of thing with Halloween music, spreading out different versions of “I Put A Spell On You” and others, as well as separating out the songs by the same artists. You won’t hear “Ghostbusters” over and over (and I have multiple versions of that in rotation, from all three of the different movies).

By the way, if there’s a spooky song you’d like to hear, you can certainly let me know and I’ll do my best to play it for you!


So what’s new in Christmas music this season?

Once again, there is a lot of terrific new music this year, much of which is already out! I’m sure I won’t be able to get to it all of it in this blog, and there are always surprise releases that show up as the season gets going!

First, there are several notable releases that are being re-released with extra songs.


Trans-Siberian Orchestra has a 20th anniversary edition of “The Christmas Attic”, with a live version of “Christmas Jam” (from 2012). Helix and Lindsey Stirling have “deluxe” versions of their Christmas album, each with bonus tracks, and those are already out (along with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra). Still to come, there are “deluxe” versions of Christmas albums on the way from Brett Eldredge, KC and the Sunshine Band, Gwen Stefani, Lauren Daigle and Sia.

Stuff that’s “all-new” has been trickling out for the last couple of months!

The King’s Brass and Polyceltic both released new Christmas collections in September.


For October, we’ve already had new stuff from Elizabeth Chan, Eric Clapton, Dailey and Vincent, Engelbert Humperdinck, the Monkees, LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride, David Phelps and CeCe Winans.


And at the end of this week, we’ll get new Christmas music from Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers, Ana Cristina Cash, Jessie James Decker, John Legend, the Beach Boys’ Mike Love, Ingrid Michaelson, Pentatonix, Mitch Ryder, Chely Wright and William Shatner!


There are also a few new collections, with mostly previously released songs. Hannah Kerr adds four new songs to hers. Tracy Lawrence adds two. And Michael McDonald just adds one.
November has plenty more in store, including new Christmas albums from David Archuleta, Rodney Crowell, the Mavericks, JD McPherson, Robyn Spangler, Aloe Blacc and the Old 97’s.

There are still plenty of rumors about other releases, including (possibly) Susan Boyle, Naturally 7 and the Osmonds (Jay and Merrill). Stay tuned for the latest.


The Sounds of Christmas shifts to Christmas music on November 1. I know not everyone is ready for it that early, but we’re here for those who are. And we’re very excited to have several new sponsors this season, including Engelbert Humperdinck, LeAnn Rimes, Sarah Smith, Reuel, alongside our returning friends – Kenny Davies, the Laurie Berkner Band, Ryanhood and Katie Garibaldi!


Hope you’re able to spend at least some of your holiday season with us!

And may you always believe in Santa Claus!

Ken
http://www.SoundsofChristmas.com

I have a link to the Sounds of Christmas in the right sidebar so you can listen while you're online. Look for the Sounds of Christmas Christmas tree, click the image and you'll be taken to the site where you can listen.

Also, Sounds of Christmas now has an app on Google Play so you can listen on the go...and it's free! You can find it in the Play Store here.

A big thanks to Ken for sharing the exciting Christmas music news!


Always in spirit...

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Rudolph Day, August 25, 2018 - A new look and other news


Hello there! I know...what? A Rudolph Day post. How long has it been? Let's not go there. lol

I thought I would take the opportunity, late on Rudolph Day, to see what you all think of the new blog design. I know it hasn't changed much. It's just a bit more streamlined. I think I like it! Without the gaps in between the sidebar elements, etc., I think the background is more visible. I hope you like it.

As you know, last year I introduced a Halloween page (since I love Halloween just about as much as Christmas). This year, I think I will be sharing some Halloween-y type things throughout October (with Rudolph Day reserved, of course, for Ken from Sounds of Christmas and his yearly guest post about new Christmas music releases. Yay!).

If you love Halloween too (and if you think fall, meaning September, officially starts the spooky season), you might want to check out my fall reading events going on at Castle Macabre and Seasons of Reading. I'm planning an all encompassing event at Castle Macabre that will include the FrightFall Readathon at Seasons of Reading in October. I should have an announcement up at Castle Macabre by tomorrow so please do stop by.

Trying to plan a special Rudolph Day post for September so stay tuned. I can't believe Christmas is only 122 days away! It will be here before we know it!

Always in spirit...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Weekend #Crafting - All that Glitters... #ChristmasinJuly


I LOVE glitter! So I was on the hunt for some super glitter-y crafts...and I found them. Enjoy!


DIY Glittered Glass Ornaments

Supplies:
  • Clear glass ornaments – you can get them at Michaels.
  • Glitter
  • Pledge floor polish OR Glitter It (both work great, but the pledge is less expensive for group projects)
  • Small dixie cup (for drying)
  • Paper towels
Instructions:
  1. Take the ornament hanger off before. Pour a small amount of Glitter It or Pledge Floor Care into the glass ornament. Swirl around making sure to wet the entire inside. Pour the remaining liquid out into a cup or sink.
  2. Sprinkle and pour a generous amount of glitter inside your glass ornament. You may want to use a small funnel or make a paper cone. My glitter bottle had a pretty good opening for perfect pouring, so I was able to do it without a funnel.
  3. Covering the opening with a paper towel, shake and swirl until the inside is completely covered with glitter. If you need more glitter, just pour more in. Shake out excess glitter.
  4. Set the ornament upside down with the opening facing the bottom of a small cup. This allows them to dry with no pooling of excess liquid or glitter. Dry at least 24 hours before placing the ornament hanger back on.

Image credit

Glitter Stamped DIY Gift Tags

I love the idea of these, but I would even maybe do an extra variation for myself and my bookish friends...bookmarks! You could use card stock or longer pieces of Kraft paper (cut into bookmark size) and, if you have super fancy (or even nice) handwriting, you wouldn't even have to use a stamp. Use ribbon or cord instead of baker's twine AND you could use non-Christmas-y glitter colors and make these for everyday bookmarks. Light bulb!

Supplies:
  • Mod Podge Matte
  • Kraft Gift Tags
  • Ink Pad
  • Confetti (or I'm sure any type of glitter would work)
  • Merry Christmas Stamp (similar, here)
  • Bakers Twine
Instructions:
  1. Stamp your kraft tags, making sure to leave room at the end for adding your confetti.
  2. Using a foam brush, add some Mod Podge to the end of your gift tag. Dip in your confetti, tap off the excess, and let dry.


Always in spirit...

Monday, July 9, 2018

A variety of festive sugar cookies #NationalSugarCookieDay #ChristmasinJuly


Today is National Sugar Cookie Day so I thought it would be a great day to share a few festive sugar cookie recipes I found online. Since I don't turn on the oven in the summer, I won't make these until November/December, but if you make any of them, let me know.

First, a little history on the day:

Observed each year on July 9, National Sugar Cookie Day honors the ever popular and delicious sugar cookie.

A holiday favorite and very easy to make, sugar cookies are sure to disappear quickly once they come out of the oven. Made with sugar, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla and either baking powder or baking soda, most people have the ingredients on hand at all times and can have the kids help make a batch on any day. The fun just begins with cutting the dough with fun shaped cookie cutters and then getting creative by decorating with icing and sprinkles.

The sugar cookie is believed to have originated in the mid 1700′s in Nazareth Pennsylvania. It was there that the German Protestant settlers created the round, crumbly and buttery cookie that came to be known as the Nazareth Cookie~from National Day Calendar

Minty Chocolate-Dipped Candy Canes


INGREDIENTS

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. unsalted butter
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 oz. semisweet chocolate or white chocolate
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
Red and white nonpareils

DIRECTIONS
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and then the vanilla.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Shape the dough into 4 disks and roll each between 2 sheets of wax paper to 1/8 inch thick. Chill until firm, 30 minutes in the refrigerator or 15 minutes in the freezer.
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using floured candy cane–shaped cookie cutters, cut out cookies. Place on the prepared sheets. Reroll, chill, and cut the scraps.
  5. Bake, rotating the positions of the pans halfway through, until the cookies are lightly golden brown around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Melt chocolate according to package directions, then stir in the peppermint extract. Dip half of each cookie in the chocolate, letting any excess drip off. Place on a cooling rack set over parchment paper and sprinkle with nonpareils, if desired.

Recipe and image from womansday.com


Cookie Pretzels

INGREDIENTS

DOUGH
1 stick unsalted butter
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
2 tsp. Lemon Extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

DECORATION
1 egg mixed with 2 tsp lemon juice or water
Coarse white and red decorating sugar

DIRECTIONS
  1. In large bowl, with electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar and salt until creamy. Beat in egg, yolk and extracts until smooth. With mixer on low speed, beat in flour until blended. Chill dough in refrigerator 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment or nonstick reusable liners. Shape level Tbsps dough into balls. On a smooth surface with floured fingers, roll each ball, 1 at a time, into a 12-in. rope; lift rope to a prepared baking sheet and shape into a pretzel. Make more pretzels, spacing them 2 in. apart on baking sheet. Lightly brush with egg mixture; sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Bake one sheet at a time, 14 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden brown at the edges. Let cool on sheet on wire rack 2 minutes; remove to rack to cool completely. Bake remaining cookies.
Recipe and image from womansday.com


Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla

Frosting
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 to 4 tablespoons milk SAVE $
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Betty Crocker™ gel food colors, as desired
Betty Crocker™ candy sprinkles, as desired

Steps
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In small bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  2. In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, cream cheese and 1/2 cup softened butter with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until fluffy; scrape side of bowl. Beat in egg just until smooth. Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla. On low speed, beat flour mixture into sugar mixture until well blended. Cover and refrigerate 15 minutes.
  3. Shape dough into 60 (1-inch) balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are set. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat powdered sugar, 1/4 cup softened butter, 2 to 4 tablespoons milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla with spoon until smooth and fluffy. If frosting is too stiff to spread, add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time. Tint with food color. Using knife, spread slightly less than 1 teaspoon frosting on each cooled cookie; top with sprinkles. Store covered in airtight container at room temperature.
Recipe and image from bettycrocker.com

My cookie storage tip, especially good for those with frosting. A lot of people say layered in wax paper in an air tight container. I use parchment paper (which I also use when I bake cookies). It doesn't stick to the cookies like wax paper or plastic wrap.


Always in spirit...