Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NORAD Tracks Santa Claus

NORAD , the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has been tracking Santa Claus for over 50 years, all because of a misprinted ad in the newspaper. Apparently, in 1955 Sears-Roebuck printed Santa Clause's phone number in the Colorado Springs newspaper, but the number was printed wrong, and instead calling Santa at the department store, calls instead went to The Colorado Springs Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Shoup, who was on duty that night instructed his staff to give all of the children that called in Santa's "current location." A tradition began and continued when NORAD replaced CONAD in 1958, this tradition lives on today thanks to a huge network of volunteers.

via Wikipedia

NORAD volunteers receive more than 70,000 phone calls,  from over 200 countries, in addition to the over 12,000 emails and 9 MILLION visitors to the track Santa website.
Believers can follow Santa on most of the social media sites, to include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TroopTube, Flicker, by email, by phone and on the website.

For information visit or click HERE.

This is such a cool idea and a web site for your kids or even yourself to track the progress of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

I hope you have a fabulous day and enjoy the spirit of Christmas! I know that I will. This is my favorite time of the year and I love it all!

NOTE: You can log on December 1, 2011, I do know that if you go on there now there is a note that says Santa has ended his journey for 2010 and to come back this year.

Linking to:
Jennifer Rizzo
A Stroll Thru Life
My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Savy Southern Style
DIY by Design
The Christmas Spirit Alive 365
French Cupboard , The Shabby Creek Cottage 
 No Minimalist Here
The Shabby Creek Cottage
The Charm of the Home
Linking to these great blogs:
French Country Living

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Decorating with Pine Cones

Image Better Homes and Gardens

Pine cones are everywhere at this time of year and the great part about using them for decorating, is that they are free. 

Image Better Homes and Gardens

They come in all sizes and shapes, there are big ones, and little ones and even ones two feet tall! The simple beauty of pine cones allows you to use them from September to March, not just for Christmas.

Image BHG

You can use them for garland on the front door, for wreaths, for wrapping gifts and in a bowl filled with lights.

Image BHG

 Of course with a blog name like Pine Cones and Acorns I could not pass up the opportunity to show you a few of the decorating ideas from the December magazines and a few blogs.


Image Better Homes and Gardens

I love the simple beauty of a pine cone wreath.
Image BHG

Image BHG

Image BHG

Image BHG

Go outside and get a branch and then hot glue some pine cones on the branch, and then insert into a glass vase. What could be more simple?

Image BHG

What do you think? Do you use natural elements to decorate? Do you use a few pine cones to spruce up your decorations? Do you have any great ideas for using pine cones or other natural elements? I would love to hear about them.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Barista Style Coffee Gifts for Christmas

Good Morning! I hope that you are having a great week and getting all of your Christmas preparations underway. If you are still having a hard time finding the perfect gift for that special someone then perhaps it is time to turn to what some people deem the perfect  morning beverage, others like myself would call that drinking chocolate, and many more would say the perfect cuppa tea.

I know there are a lot of coffee drinkers out there, I have many in my own family and am always on the lookout for great coffee sources or gifts.

My husband in addition to looking for the perfect cup of coffee is  always on the search for the perfect coffee maker. We have gone from a small coffee maker, to a French Press, then this fabulous Gaggia machine from Italy.

If you love coffee, and want to feel like a barista in Rome, than this is the coffee machine for you. The machine does everything, it makes espresso, cafe creme, cafe au lait, cappuccino, and will steam your milk to make other drinks too.

If you are the sole coffee drinker in your house and like to experiment than perhaps this would be a better fit? Keurig makes all sorts of one cup makers and also offers K-cups from every coffee roaster in the country, Dunkin Donuts, Emeril's, Donut Shoppe, and too many more to write here, in addition to tea and hot cocoa.

If you are looking for a great coffee source, then check out, Whole Latte Love, they sell Illy, LAvazza, Gaggia, and about twenty five other brands, in addition to Espresso Machines, coffee makers, syrups, and many other coffee accoutrement's.

What about the perfect coffee cup? These are some fabulous cups designed for Illy, and Ritzenhoff but you can also find many more on Whole Latte Love, as well as Macy's, Home Goods, and lots of other places.




Do you have any favorite coffee sources? Coffee machines? Makers? Cups? Or ways to prepare? Or do you have another preferred beverage for your morning pick me up?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Decorating Around my House

Family Room

I love Christmas and I love decorating for Christmas! I love the lights, the ornaments, the greens, the smells, the sights and sounds of the holidays. What is not to love?

Love Christmas lights.

I have been collecting Christmas decorations and ornaments for over thirty years, I love taking each special piece out of the boxes and remembering where I got it, or who gave them to me. This year however I decided to change things up a bit.

A little bit of silver for the family room

Pine cones of course!

The fireplace is double sided, the other side is in the keeping room next to the kitchen. I wanted to keep the three pears that I usually have on the fireplace so this year instead of moving them I decided to decorate around them. I am trying a "natural" theme in this room; with birds, "berries" and pine cones.

Keeping room fireplace. These red balls remind me of the berries on the holly bushes all over the yard.

 I enjoy watching the birds come to visit every morning. So after visiting the antique store I came up with these little wooden birds and signs that all reference birds. Paired with a tree, lights and an antique well bucket, I think it turned out great.

Keeping Room Tree

More birds

Bird theme tree, complete with birds, bird signs, pine cones and of course acorns.

Tree in antique well bucket.

This is just the start, I do not want to overload you with all of the decorations. More tomorrow!

When do you decorate at your house? How do you decorate? Do you have a theme? Do you decorate the same every year? What are your favorite ornaments or decorations?

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, relax, and enjoy your time with family and friends.

Linking to these great blogs:
French Country Living

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fabulous On-Line Shopping for Christmas

image here

Christmas shopping for some people is torture, for others it is pure bliss. As for me, I love to shop with my mother and my sisters. We like to get up early, get our beverage of choice at one of the many great coffee houses in Milwaukee or Chicago, then shop a little, maybe get a tasty treat at one of our favorite bakeries, shop some more, then go for lunch, shop some more and then drive home the long way looking at the Christmas lights. Believe it or not, even though it seems as if we do a lot of stopping to eat and drink we do manage to get some shopping done.

 Unfortunately, I do not always get to shop with them, as I live on the East Coast and they are in the Mid-west. When that happens I like to shop online, I love to browse Amazon, Barnes and Noble, J.Crew, Williams Sonoma, Dean and Deluca, Boden, and many more places. In the last year I discovered some great online shopping, at such places as the Gilt GroupOne Kings Lane, Rue La LaJoss & Main and I am sure there are many more.

Image BHG

These online stores are great because they offer high end merchandise at a discount, you can buy jewelry, stationary, candles, cashmere, furniture, designer clothing, interior designers curated collections and many more things. I personally have purchased from all of these sites listed below.

Rue La La; last year I gave many gifts from Fauchon, which I brought back from Paris, imagine my surprise when I received an email from Rue La La saying they were having a sale on Fauchon chocolates, teas, and condiments. I will be honest here, I did buy many things at the Fauchon sale, it was less expensive than Paris!

Image BHG

One Kings Lane is one of my favorites, I love getting alerts from them, in the past I have purchased letter press stationary, books, cashmere blankets, kitchen items and too many other things to write about.

And last, but not least the Gilt Groupe, yes, I have purchased from here, for gifts, for birthdays and the holidays. They all have excellent customer service and great deals.

Image BHG

ALSO, buyer be ware, sometimes if the items are vintage you can find them elsewhere for less. Also, sometimes the items for sale are last seasons designs, that really doe not matter to me as I do not live where apparently that matters.

Make sure that if you buy something you do your homework, check the cost of shipping, and if you can return it (sometimes you cannot) if you do not like it.

Image BHG

WARNING: These sites are addicting, you also have to join at no cost to you, in order to purchase items. When you join you can invite people to join also and then if they buy you get a credit to your account, usually $10.00-25.00.

Also, remember if you are making delicious handmade gifts, and crafts, there are many tutorials out there. I posted on a few of them HERE. In addition, Anita at Castles, Crowns and Cottages posted a beautiful list of hand crafted gifts from various artists, both on Etsy and elsewhere as well as, antiques and unique finds from other shop owners. And Jeanne from Collage of Life has begun a series of gift ideas of her own, as well as, from other bloggers.

If you are out on Black Friday I hope you are having fun and getting everything that you went for. I am home sitting by my fireplace, reading and drinking cocoa. Lucky for me I am finished shopping and wrapping and shipping the gifts to their respective recipients. The only thing I have left is my baking! I cannot wait.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Twas the Night of Thanksgiving!



Twas the night of Thanksgiving, but I just couldn't sleep.
I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep.
The leftovers beckoned--the dark meat and white,
but I fought the temptation with all of my might.

Tossing and turning with anticipation,
the thought of a snack became infatuation.
So, I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door
and gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore.

I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes.
I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
till all of a sudden, I rose off the ground.

I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.
But, I managed to yell as I soared past the trees.......
happy eating to all---pass the cranberries, please!

~~Author Unknown.~~

I hope you had a wonderful day with family and friends, good food, laughs and of course pumpkin pie!

Have a great night!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Enjoy your day with family and friends!

Photo take by Pine Cones and Acorns


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hand made and Homemade Christmas Ideas from Etsy, Blogs and friends

Christmas is a time of great joy for many people and a time of great sadness for others, lets face it these are tough economic times, and there are some who are really going to struggle to have a happy Christmas without a home or a job. Then there are the people who are just plain tired of the commercialism of Christmas, and finally there are people that are just really crafty and enjoy making and giving of their talent and wonderful gifts! And guess what, you do not even need to go out to the Black Friday sales to do all of these great things!

Via Southern Living

If you are looking for interesting ideas to make gifts for Christmas or would like ideas for crafts and activities your children could make there are ideas a plenty on Pinterest, blogs and the web for making homemade and hand made gifts for Christmas.

via Beautifulism
 I personally love to bake and give lots of cookies, cakes, breads, brownies, homemade fudge and caramel toppings and chutneys to relatives, and friends who either do not bake themselves or who really do not need anything or want any more material goods.

Cranberry Chocolate Rugalach

I will be baking up a storm in the next couple of weeks but for now I thought I would share the great sites I have found online.

Made 8 batches of these for parties already.

As I said, blog land is ripe for the plucking with ideas. The blogs listed below both have great and inexpensive ideas.

This is a great place to start, DM Designs Ultimate DIY Gift Guide. There are 101 ideas that range lip balm, to making your own vanilla, wreaths, pies in a jar, plates purses, and more.

Another place is Everything Etsy 101 simple handmade gift tutorials, there are tutorials, for bath bombs, hand made soap, lip balm, magnets, mugs, and so many more.

I also follow a blog called A Trifle Rushed, it is written by Jude who has a home both in England and Brittany, France. Currently she has been cooking and baking up a storm of traditional English recipes, mince pies, Plum pudding and many interesting liquors. Although I have eaten these delectable treats in England before I have never made any and I think that this year I am going to start. If you would like to branch out this year and try some different ideas for gifts then check out Jude.

And lets not forget the beautiful art, antiques and hand made items on Etsy. A few blog friends have fabulous sites on Etsy and they sell fabulous items, Meg from Pigtown Designs, for antique treasures,  Diane from Yonks, fabulous and unique antique finds from all over Great Britain and beyond(many of which I have purchased myself), and  Anita at Castles, Crowns and Cottages, wonderful, hand painted art, cards and many more images from her imagination and of course of the iconic Audrey Hepburn.

Pinterest also has tutorials everywhere! Do you know of any great homemade or hand made sites we should look at? Or do you have a favorite thing that you make to give as gifts? Let us know in the comment section, I would love to hear what everyone is up too!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, a Twist on Tradition

This recipe contains two of my favorite ingredients, chocolate and pumpkin. I confess was a little skeptical of trying this recipe because I LOVE, LOVE. LOVE, pumpkin pie! I thought why mess with perfection, or at least perfection to me.

The recipe was featured on the new talk show with Mario Batali and Daphne Oz, Michael Symons, Carla Hall, and Clinton Kelly, The Chew. Each of the hosts were featuring their favorite Thanksgiving recipes and this one one of them. So I tried it...and it is very good. The chocolate is a delicious addition to the spices of the pumpkin pie, and it is a wonderful twist on tradition! So if you are looking for something new and different to spice up your Thanksgiving meal and to add chocolate to your day this is the recipe for you.

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
Directions and Ingredients:
Recipe Adapted from The Chew TV Show

1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 cup Unsalted butter (very cold and cut into small pieces)
2-3 tablespoons Ice Cold Water
 Combine the flour, salt, sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse until coarse, with small marbles of butter remaining. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse until crumbly, and dough holds when squeezed together. Add another sprinkle of water if too dry, but do not over mix. Transfer dough to a plastic bag, press into a disk, and refrigerate for one hour. Preheat oven to 425F. 
 Roll out dough on floured surface. Press into pie plate, trim to leave 1-inch excess around edges, fold under and flute edges. Cut a piece of parchment or nonstick foil to the size of the pie, and use to line pie crust. Fill with pie weights, and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

 3 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (very finely chopped)
6 oz Semisweet Chocolate (chopped)
4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter (cut into small pieces)
 In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter, stirring frequently until smooth, and remove from heat.
Pumpkin Filling
1 14 oz Can Pumpkin
1 12 oz Can Evaporated Milk
3/4 cup Packed Light-Brown Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
3/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
Pinch of Ground Cloves
 In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, evaporated milk, light brown sugar, eggs, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Fold in the chocolate mixture, and pour into pie crust. Place pie pan on a baking sheet.  Bake at 325F until center of pie has set, about an hour. Refrigerate until cooled completely to serve.

NOTE: I was lazy and used a purchased crust. You can do the same or use your own crust recipe, I know that many people have a favorite family recipe, as do I.
Let me know if you try this and what you think!

Linking to :

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Scary Mommy: Blog Power

Scary Mommy is a parenting blog written by Jill Smokler, she tackles everything from raising kids, to stretch marks, to affairs, to asking mistresses to write in and give their side of the story,  and that is only in the last few weeks.

On November 13, Jill wrote a blog post about how much she enjoyed Thanksgiving Dinner with her family, and then went on to say that with the downturn in the economy many of her readers could not afford food on a regular day much less on Thanksgiving. Jill's idea was that the average Thanksgiving meal cost $43.00, if people would donate $25.00 she could match up two readers with one mom in need.

The idea took off and as of today she has raised $20,000! Well over 900 people left comments pledging money, enough to feed roughly 438 families! Not everyone donated $25.00, some donated less, can you imagine that in your own time of struggle and need you give your last dollar to someone in need?

I am grateful for Scary Mommy's post because we are all at different places in our lives, and sometimes blog land makes everything look sunny and perfect, when in fact there are many people struggling with no jobs, no homes, and no money, not to mention illness in the family, aging parents, special needs children and many other daily challenges. I am thankful for my husband, my dog Munchen, family, friends, my life and all of the advantages that I have and I pray that those who are struggling will find the help and strength they need to get through these hard times.

As those of us in America get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving and many around the world Christmas and Huanaka, let us remember that "One person can change the world" we can all make a difference in someone lives. Let us reach out and do our part whatever that may be.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Slab Apple: Thanksgiving Dessert Idea

"OK, here's the Thanksgiving Menu so far; apple pie, pumpkin pie, blueberry tart, and ice cream roll. What am I missing? CAKE! We need a cake."
Grace Adler on Will and Grace

Anyone who has read my blog for even a few days knows that I love to bake and I really like, no make that love sugar. When I read that quote above I laughed out loud because that is really how I plan parties and meals. I love to entertain and I am always worried that there will not be enough variety of foods, enough dessert which I consider to be the most important meal of the day and well really just ENOUGH... of everything.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching, I will not even tell you how many days until Christmas in case you are a bit behind on your shopping, and I am always on the lookout for easy, fast and delicious ideas to serve a crowd.

This recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember, and my mom says that her mom made it when she was little, so it has been around for awhile. Basically it is a huge sheet cake apple pie with a sugar glaze. It is easy, delicious and a great recipe to have on hand for parties, pot lucks, gifts, etc.

Slab Apple Pie



3 cups of flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 tsp of baking powder
1 cup of shortening (Crisco)
2 egg yolks
8 tablespoons water

Apple Filling
Powdered Sugar Glaze

In a large mixing bowl mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder until blended.  Cut shortening into flour with two knives or a pastry blender. . In separate bowl mix egg yolks, and water. Add to flour mixture.
Mix until dough forms a ball. Separate into two balls. Roll out one ball between two Silpat mats, to fit a cookie sheet. Place in bottom for crust.

Arrange apple filling on bottom crust. Roll out second ball of dough for top crust and pinch edges.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Cool and frost with glaze.

Apple filling
14-16 apples peeled and cut into uniform pieces
2 tablespoons of flour
11/2 cups of sugars
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Peel, core and cut apples into uniform pieces, place in bowl. Blend flour, sugar and cinnamon in small bowl and pour over apples, mix gently and well. Pour apples over crust. Dot with butter and then squeeze lemon juice over the entire pie. Then add the top crust, cut a vent hole or two and bake.


2 cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp of soft butter
4 tsp of warm water

Prepare glaze after cake is cooled. Mix powdered sugar and butter. Add water gradually and blend. Then pour over cooled slab pie. 

You can also make a streusel topping if you prefer:

Streusel Topping:
1 cup of flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup of brown sugar
2/3 cup of butter

Omit top crust. Stir flour, cinnamon and brown sugar together. Add cubed of butter and work with a pastry blender until crumbly, add to top of apples. Bake as directed.

CHANGES: I always make 11/2 of the crust recipe. I like the crust, and I like more of it. You do not need to do that. Also, I add more cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of allspice. That is my preference because I love the spices. 

Happy Sunday! Enjoy your family and friends and enjoy your day!

If you are looking for other recipes for Thanksgiving, I have had several in the past few weeks, Butternut Squash cake, Pumpkin CheesecakePumpkin pie white hot chocolate, Carrot Cake and over on my other blog, Once Upon A Chocolate Life I have tons of delicious chocolates,  brownies, and cakes.

Linking to:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fall Photos and Holiday Open House

Happy Weekend! I am so ready for the weekend, its funny but lately I feel as if I really need a 3 day weekend every week. Just to catch up on things, maybe take a nap and just relax. 

There are simply too many things going on and I need a little break! Not to mention that I am really getting anxious to start baking and making candy for the holidays!

I have been experimenting again with my camera, reviewing some things that I learned at my blogging class,Blogging Your Way by Holly Becker of Decor8, (I wrote about that here, if you are interested) and thought I would show you my progress. 
As the weather has dropped 31 degrees in one day I think this spectacular color may fade soon with the coming frost so I wanted to capture a little of its beauty. All of these photos are taken around my house.

Also, you may recall me featuring a few of my friend Marians pieces of beautiful hand painted furniture, the Cypress Point Antique Mall where she has her booth is having a holiday open house this weekend.

 If you are in the neighborhood of Virginia Beach, you should stop in. They will be having lots of goodies to eat, there are beautiful antique finds there and Marian hand painted some of the most beautiful ornaments, and about five more spectacular pieces of furniture. I love them all!

I am off to see the Coastal Living Magazine Idea House decorated by the fabulous Phoebe Howard. I will show you the photos this weekend.

Happy Weekend! Enjoy!

Cypress Point Antique Mall
928 Diamond Springs Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
(757) 671-7557