Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Blog’


When we were in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, we made time to visit Ethel M. ® Chocolates.

About 15 minutes south of the Strip, the facility is owned by Mars, Inc., the people that Make M&Ms® and other yummy treats yours truly should stay far away from.

The Mars tradition of candy making began in 1911 in the kitchen of Frank and Ethel Mars home in Tacoma, Washington. Their son, Forrest Mars. Sr.,  retired to Henderson, Nevada in 1981 and created Ethel M.® Chocolates to honor his mother by creating a line of gourmet chocolate candies that reminded him of how he learned about quality chocolate making. Ethel M.® Chocolates are sold in various locations throughout Las Vegas, and via the web at www.ethelm.com.

The factory is still located at its original location at Two Cactus Garden Drive in Henderson, where gourmet chocolate gifts are made from Ethel Mars’ original recipes. Captain Cavedweller and I were completely enthralled with the pecan brittle. It was beyond wonderful.

Guests to the factory can take a self-guided tour and also stroll through the cactus garden. At night, the garden comes alive with hundreds of lights and decorations artfully placed along the three acres of beautiful and rare plants.

Although we went during the day, we did have fun checking out the garden.






She Who Enjoyed Seeing the Exotic and Interesting Plants – and Sampling the Chocolate!

25 days 2011


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peppermint cookie finished

A box of candy cane pudding has been begging me to do something fun and creative with it, so I got the idea to make cake mix cookies.

From start to finish, these cookies took me less than half an hour and tasted so good.

The other perk is that the house had the most wonderful peppermint smell while these were baking. I nearly melted in a puddle on the kitchen floor.

Whip up a batch (if you love peppermint) and see what kind of words of undying gratitude come your way – if you decide to share the cookies!



Mix everything together until well blended.

Mix everything except chips together until well blended.

Stir in chips.

Stir in chips.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about eight minutes.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about six to eight minutes or until just set.

Remove from oven before they start to brown and let cool completely.

Remove from oven before they start to brown and let cool completely. I lined my baking sheet with parchment mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to scrub the pan.

peppermint cookie finished

Peppermint Cookies

1 vanilla cake mix

1 small box instant candy cane pudding

2 eggs

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup peppermint crunch baking chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake mix, pudding, eggs, and butter until well blended. Stir in chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake about six to eight minutes, until cookies are just set (if you poke them, they still give a little but aren’t smooshy).

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for a few minutes. I slid the entire sheet of parchment out of the pan and onto the counter to let them finish cooling.

Your house, at this point, will have the most delicious peppermint aroma.

If you want to get all fancy, you could drizzle the tops with vanilla frosting and sprinkle crushed peppermint on top, but these are plenty sweet without any extra help. You could also throw in a handful of chocolate chips if you like the chocolate peppermint combo (which I do, but somehow managed not to add chocolate to this batch.)

Yield: About three dozen.


She Who Really Liked These

25 days 2011

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Sometimes it seems like the holiday area a continuous round of expenses, obligation,s and stress.

Take a step back from all the craziness and spend some time nurturing the spirit of the season.

Here are some free or inexpensive ideas for capturing some fun during the holiday.

1. Watch a holiday parade. How can you possibly not help but smile as you watch floats, listen to bands play holiday tunes and see kids with grocery bags gathering up as much candy as humanly possible?  Yes, it might be cold and yes, it might take an hour of your time, but it is well worth it. Bundle up and go have some fun.

2. Drive around and look at Christmas lights. There are certain neighborhoods in our neck of the woods that are known for their spectacular displays. Load up in the car and spend an evening looking at the lights.

3. Take your kids (or inner child) sledding. If you live somewhere there is snow, spend an hour or two out there in it playing like you were a kid.

4. Go caroling. Gather up some friends and stroll through your neighborhood singing Christmas carols, or call the activity director at a care home or assisted living facility and ask about caroling there. Bringing a smile to the face of another  is guaranteed to put one on your own.

5. Have movie night at home. Pop some popcorn, make some hot chocolate and cozy down for an evening of Christmas movies at home. Watch something funny, something touching – it doesn’t really matter. The point is to watch it together as a family.

6. Bake cookies for an elderly neighbor. Get the kids involved and whip up a batch of cookies. Even if you don’t or can’t bake, you can decorate store-bought cookies and take them over. It will be fun for you and the kids and appreciated by someone who might not receive much holiday cheer.

7. Take photos.  Put on an elf hat, strike a silly pose, all dress in matching Christmas sweaters. Do something fun and silly and capture it for all eternity with photos. You can even start a holiday scrapbook.

8. Go for a walk. There is something magical about taking a walk on a crisp winter night when the frost is heavy and your breath puffs in white rings in the air. Bundle up and enjoy the velvet sky sprinkled with stars.

9. Make something. If you are on a super-tight budget, gather what you can find in your yard (or gather pinecones from the park). Placed in a glass bowl, they make a nice centerpiece and bring in the outdoors. You can glue pinecones to a form to make a wreath. Kids can make pinecone people with some construction paper and glue. Get creative and have some  fun.

10. Show appreciation for your loved ones. Have a quiet evening where you each share one thing you appreciate about someone else. The only rules is it has to be sincere and heartfelt.

She Who Needs to Get In the Spirit

25 days 2011

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favorite snowflake

There is a Pier 1 commercial about what speaks to you this holiday season. I’ve long had a problem with things that speak to me. My most wonderful mother in law was the first person I heard coin the phrase years ago. I liked it and stole it, of course.

Any number of things speak to me on a daily basis, and the holiday season is no exception.

As I put out the decorations this year, several things spoke to me, some quite loudly.

I love the soft, fuzzy snowflake above.

favorites tiny sleigh

I also adore this little sled. Reminds me of one I had as a kid, except mine was a left-over from the youth of my brothers, was sadly lacking in paint and only steered one direction. On second thought, this one is way better.

favorites - frosty greens

I don’t know what it is about these frost greens and pinecone with the snowflake votive holder, but I really like it.

favorites sparkly deer

Almost as much as I like this sparkly deer that has taken up residence on my desk. (Are you sensing a theme in what I like with the whites, creams and greens this year. I think I may have a problem…)

favorites believe plaque

Someone very dear to me gave me this Believe plaque for my birthday. My one-word theme for the year has been Believe, which makes this so fitting.

favorites merry christmas lace

This lacy wall-hanging is awesome and a gift a few years ago from my beloved Captain Cavedweller.

favorites moose in chair

Don’t ask me why, but this fuzzy guy makes me smile. He’s a great cuddler, too.

favorites sleigh trivet

And this trivet… CC knows I have a weakness for sleigh decor and managed to sneak this home from my book signing in Redmond last month. I love it!

She Who Has Too Many Favorite Things

25 days 2011

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