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~~~~~Merry Christmas to YOU!~~~~~~

Dear Readers,

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you and very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope the holiday season brings you many blessings - of pausing to spend to spend time with the ones you hold dear and remembering the "reason for the season".

When I reflect on 2009 I know I will count blogging as one of the best things I did, for me. It was a leap and one that has proven to be well worth it. I thank you all for your support and friendship.

Our family will be leaving our little Forever Cottage tomorrow so that we may spend the holidays with family....I wanted to leave you all with these favorite words of holiday wisdom....from the magnificent Dr. Seuss himself!

"And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, Stood puzzling and puzzling: How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas....perhaps...means a little bit more!"

See you in 2010!

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photo courtesy of Country Living

Tis the Season........

I have had a fairly relaxing holiday season...because I made the decision to make it so. Recently I have enjoyed some of my favorite Christmas 'events'.

Our community store hosted it's annual Santa visit. It is a wonderful event for our neighborhood because the kids feel like they really get a private visit with the big guy himself!

My oldest was too cool for time on Santa's lap this year - which broke this mommy's heart but the little one was very eager. I loved this photo of my 'baby' telling Santa she wants a Barbie Glamour Camper....because shouldn't camping be glamourous when you are Barbie? (Excuse the red eye!)

I have spent some quality time with this favorite appliance....

Using lots and lots of this....

To make many yummy treats like this.....

Ricotta Cheese Cookies

For cookie:

4 c. flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 c. sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs

For icing:
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. milk
Red and Green spinkles!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and reserve.

Beat sugar and butter until creamy. Reduce speed to medium, add ricotta cheese, vanilla and eggs and beat until well combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture mixing until dough forms.

Drop dough by level tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are very lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare icing:
Whisk together powdered sugar and milk until smooth, adding more milk or sugar as necessary. Allow icing to set for 1 hour before serving.


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Giveaway Alert!!!

Go check out my friend Kasey's blog . She is "closing" or "suspending" her online shop and is hosting a giveaway of leftover inventory! Go leave a comment so you have a chance to get the goods!

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Sometimes the best gifts.....

are the ones you buy for yourself.

That's not to say that my thoughtful hubby and darling children are not great gift picker-outers.

They are.

But sometimes there are those special, unexplainable, and dare I say quirky, items that a girl can only buy for herself because...well...more than likely she is the only one (with the exceptions of her like-minded friends) who can fully appreciate their wonderful-ness.

I had purchased a french bottle drying rack from Tracey at French Larkspur and was able to pick it up from her when I went to Kasey's event in Illinois.

I had admired these beauties for a long time and knew it would fit perfectly in an ackward spot in my kitchen and serve as a perfect place to display some of my smaller ironstone pitchers.

Merry me!

What can only you buy for you?

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Hints of Christmas

I have 7 boxes of Christmas decorations.

They all remain relatively full....and by relatively full, I mean full.

This year, I chose to decorate my home with just "hints" of the holidays.

I have my reasons.

First, we spent the better part of the fall not knowing whether my husband would have a job or not (he does, thank God!). And while we did receive good news, it put things in perspective for me, especially when preparing for the holidays. new mantra.

Second, we are traveling to my parents for the holidays...I am not entertaining....

And third, I like my house the way it is...all white and cream and chippy and well, those 7 boxes of Christmas decorations are all red and green and shiny and if I may so myself...cheesy. No wonder the kids love em!

I came home from Kasey's event last week and my family had not only put up our tree but decorated it as well! What a gift!

Over this last week, I added some "important" elements, including our nativity scene. I did not angst, or rush, or feel the pressure to have the perfect vignettes placed within my home. Simplicity.

And while I was at it, I took a few pictures to share with you, of the "hints" of the holidays at my cottage. I particulaly love the combination of the snow covered spruce tips, dried hydrangea in my front porch pots.

How about you this year? Are you going BIG or embracing, like me, simplicity?

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Finding a soiree!

Yep, that's me with the fabulous Kasey of Lola B's! Excuse the no-make-up, hat wearing look. We took NO pictures of us together the night of the soiree, yes, you heard me, NONE! So I guess I deserve to show you me without make-up and looking a bit exhausted.

And while I am posting some pictures I took while at Kasey's home within this post, I would urge you to visit Kasey's blog to see how a real photographer "saw" the evening. Kim of Mimi Charmante did a beautiful job capturing the evening.

Also, while I had planned on giving you all the details of the evening, I prefer to share some reflections I had while driving home from my wonderful weekend (all SIX hours!).

You see, when I left Minnesota last Friday it was with a heavy heart, and frustration, and hurt, and lots of anger.

I have an 11 year old, 5th grade daughter. Her name is Emma. Emma has always been a very outgoing, sweet, innocent and dare I say spunky girl. But Emma had not been herself for the last few weeks. She seemed agitated, was easy to tears. I chalked it up to hormones and typical "changes" that I was anticipating.

However, I learned last week - on Thursday the day before I left to go to Kasey's that Emma and her friends had been being "bullied" on the playground and in school. And by "bullied", I mean the crappy (yes, I am using that word) girl kind of bullying - calling eachother mean names and getting other girls who you thought were your friends to now decide they were not going to be your friends. And by mean names, I mean REALLY mean names - the kind I had to explain their meaning to my 11 year old sweet girl way before she should know what those words mean.

My mama bear claws came out - big time!

I spent the first hour of my drive talking to one of the bullying girls' mother. Yep, I made the call. I know this woman and know she does not approve of this kind of behavior. I needed to know that she was aware of the kind of words her daughter was throwing around on the playground.

I was proud of myself. I am not generally confrontational - and I wasn't but I did feel the need to stand up for my daughter because weren't we all once that girl? Didn't it feel terrible? Didn't it start later than 5th grade? Why can't girls be nice to one another, celebrate their differences, respect one another's dreams and ambitions, generally just stick together?

And then I drove to Kasey's - (and locked my keys in my car while getting gas....ugh!)

I arrived at Kasey's beautiful home and was greeted by friends - new friends to be exact. You see, I met Kasey for the first time - only briefly at The Farm Chicks Antiques Show in Spokane last year. And Kim, well we spent some time together at the Oronoco Antiques Show in Minnesota this last summer but that's it. It is because of this blog that I call these women friends.

That is refreshing.

I started my trip, thinking of the troubles my daughter was experiencing, knowing that it was just the beginning for her.... Thinking of my own journey as a girl and then as a woman with friendships, the good and the bad.

It is hard.

But this weekend it wasn't.

I learned that with like minded women it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what your age, race, history. It matters where you are now, in this journey.

And we celebrated that.

I know that my daughter's friendship journey is just beginning and will not be without pain. But by finding joy in my friendships both old and new I will show both my daughters that women can come together in a supportive and respectful way - a fun and crazy way where you are free to be who you are meant to be.

A BIG thanks and hug to Kasey for her hospitality, generosity and friendship. Thank you to Kim, Martha, Christina, NC and all the other fabulous women who helped me gain some valuable perspective this weekend.


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Warning...this is a NO picture post (gasp!).

I am home from a truly wonderful weekend spent with some fabulous women.

I am inspired (and tired!).

Kasey really put on a special event in her exquisitely comfortable and styled home. And yes, I got to sit on that beautiful settee and have a glass of wine (and other yummy things).

One of the items in the box of goodies that every guest left with was a CD of music Kasey picked - including tunes from her blog. I drove home to Minnesota yesterday listening to the CD and thinking happy thoughts from the weekend.

If you go to Kasey's blog today and comment you too can have a chance to win one of these fabulous CD's.

I promise photos of Kasey's home tomorrow....oh yes, I took plenty!

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Off to a soiree..........

I am a lucky girl.

Tomorrow I am heading to St. Charles, Illinois to hang out with two of my favorite bloggers...Kasey from Lola B's and Kimberly from Mimi Chamante. I am going to be attending Kasey's "Be Inspired" evening soiree.

Timing is never is the first weekend in December and our family schedule is PACKED - sleepovers, Sunday school program rehearsals, soccer practice, holiday open houses....

I am putting trust in my good hubby that he can handle it all, while I take-off and enjoy some much needed "girl time". My battery is running low and I think this is just what I need to recharge.

Don't worry, I am bringing my camera and will report back early next week on all the details (well, most...) of the weekend.

Oh, and by the way....Santa was able to secure two Zhu Zhu's for the good little girls who live in my house. Thank you to all you good readers for your help and suggestions.

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