art · Home Decor

My 2019 Christmas Cottage Decor

Merging the past with the present is what I’m all about this year. Previously I have tried to make each holiday as different from the last as I could. Each season would be bustled in with new ideas, themes and decor. This year, however, I seem to be searching for calm and caring re-connections. As I peered into each storage tub, it occurred to me that I had many old, forgotten treasures from which to choose. In time, it became clear that I did not want to choose a vivid color theme. I wanted all of my old slightly worn friends on display and so this year’s sentimental theme began to take shape.

An eclectic cottage with neutral colored Christmas decorations
The living room is just as eclectic this year as the bedroom, however it is a bit more muted. It is low key and rather neutral in color except for a few pops of red. It’s funny because I pulled bin after bin out of storage and into the living room. After the dust settled I wondered where all of the stuff went. It actually looks kind of empty to me now.
Rustic glam flocked Christmas tree full of ornaments
The tree is a slim line flocked tree with mostly neutral colored ornaments. I packed a ton of ornaments in and on this tree. Natural materials as well as metallics and glittered ornaments are represented. I’m calling this tree’s theme “rustic glam.”
Christmas ornaments
My favorites ornaments are the ones that look kind of old fashioned with sweet little animal scenes tucked inside.
2019 Christmas Cottage
I left the bookcases where they were and just swapped out fall decor for Christmas. The center section has a few of my soft Santa figures staged n a little tree forest.”The chair” got a quick cover of striped fabric with a soft, furry throw. I love this little rustic tree with the simply wrapped packages clustered at the base.
Christmas decor in my cottage entryway.
The entryway went back to simple artwork on the wall. The grey dollhouse is now off the dining table and stationed here in the entry. I’ve placed my little old feather tree on the white chippy table and decorated it with cute small ornaments, still in the neutral color scheme.
a collection of Belsnickles
I LOVE Belsnickles and other Santa figures . Though my collection is small and unimportant, it is cherished because I remember fondly where and when I picked up each and every one of them.
photo montage of 2019 Christmas decorations
The bottom corner shows some of the simple gift wrapping for this year.
Garlands draped over a mirror reflecting a pretty Christmas tree
Reflections of a Christmas tree. I went with four garlands draped over the entry mirror. You can see that I also collect glitter houses and little scenes in domes. Love those.
A photo montage of Christmas decor
Another collection- those cute little natural wooden houses. Little houses get me every time. The Christmas tree is a painting that Les did for me about 15 years ago. I love that rustic primitive look.
snowflakes pinned to an abstract painting hang above a Christmas village.
I was going to paint a Christmas scene for the concrete wall but was running out of time. Instead, I decided to return the abstract piece that was there previously. Snowflake ornaments strung with twine are pinned onto the top edge of the canvas to give it some sparkle.
This little shelf is in the kitchen above the fridge. My kitchen is simply styled with white uppers and with grey lower cabinets.
Won’t you share a few pics of your holiday decor in the comments section? I would love to see what you do.
Modern farmhouse Christmas decorations
I believe in the magic. Do you?
Food · Recipes

Sugar Free Maple Walnut Bon-bons

I sure do miss the See’s Candy stores that used to be in all of the malls in my town. You know the ones that I mean- the ones with an entire collection of the candy line-up and with free samples of whichever candies that you wanted to try. Sadly, all of that is gone now in my little town. But the memories remain – and what sweet memories they are too!

The taste of these maple walnut bon-bons are exactly as I remember them from long ago visits to See’s Candy stores.

The maple walnut bon-bons were such a favorite of mine that I had to try to make a Keto copycat version of that candy. Just in time for the holidays, these delicious bon-bons will be perfect to serve your guests. Even the non- Keto- sugar loving people will love them.

My excuse for the not-too-pretty chocolate coating is that my kitchen was cold this morning. The chocolate kept hardening up as soon as I covered one bon-bon so the look is less than stellar, but they still taste great. Why didn’t I wait until the day warmed up? Ha! What, me wait?

Keto Maple Walnut Bon-bons

  • Servings: approx 24
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon sugar free maple syrup (I used Lakanto Monk Fruit maple syrup)
1 1/4 cups powdered Swerve confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (you can toast them for a deeper flavor, but it’s not necessary)
8 oz Lilly’s chocolate chips (or any sugar free brand that you like)

DIRECTIONS
1. Add the softened butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and maple extract to a medium sized bowl. Use a hand mixer to combine and then beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
2. Stir in walnuts. Chill for 30 minutes or until candy is firm.
3. Scoop balls of candy, roll to shape and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Return to freezer to chill a little more in preparation for dipping.
4. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl according to package directions. Cover each bon-bon with the melted chocolate and replace onto the cookie sheet.

Let the chocolate coating harden before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

DIY · Free Printables · Home Decor

Join Me on a Tour of My 2019 Christmas Bedroom

Approximately one year ago I decided that I was getting tired of seasonal decorating. Next year, I thought, there would be no more garlands all around the front porch- no more gigantic, overly decorated trees- no more little Christmas elements stuck on every shelf. I was as beat up as an old bat trapped outside of her cave.

Well… fast forward to this year – a lot can happen to one’s psyche in a year don’cha know. Maybe it’s the Keto lifestyle kicking in. It really does punch up the energy factor to sky high. Or, more likely, it’s retirement from the post office. Whoot-whoot! This year is the first time in many that I also decorated the bedroom for Christmas. Come along then – let me show you what I did.

Restful bed at Christmas time
The bed got the full treatment too. I usually do not go with printed sheets. It’s always plain white for me or else I wake up with nightmares that spiders are on the bed. No kidding. Too much information? LOL This year I am an adult so I figured that I could handle a plain little red and white plaid. So far, no problem.
Crafty Christmas pillows with reindeer silhouettes on them
Let’s start the craft talk with me showing off these cute little reindeer pillows. The base was a plain, square pillow cover that I bought at Ikea. My first idea was to silkscreen something onto the covers, but this year I’m pretty much into handcrafted rustic style- isn’t everybody? I searched the net for reindeer silhouette clip art. Then I printed out what I liked, cut it out and traced around the cut-out with a permanent ink pen. (Permanent Uniball-bold forever Baby!)
The last step was to sew pieces of ribbon and buttons to the cover.
And you just know that there is some other pillow stuck under the cover. Gotta save space where I can.
Comfy, cozy Christmas bedroom ideas.
Our comfy, cozy bedroom full of rustic and kitschy elements. The pops of classic Christmas red are a departure for me as I usually go with more neutrals.
childhood Christmas memories
When I see a Christmas element that reminds me of my childhood, I get it. That is what it’s all about, right? Being a kid again?
I also looked for free Christmas printables online. I found this watercolor print at Hip 2 Save
Wing back chair with Christmas decor
Notice the double garland on the mirror. This year is all about “the more the merrier” with garlands.
pillow made with placemats
This little red snowflake pillow began life as a small place-mat for the table. You can find instructions and quite a few more ideas for making fun and inexpensive pillows here.
Tall, rustic Santas grouped with a primitive, rustic Christmas tree
I try to make cohesive vignettes with my decorative smalls. That way, the overall look is not just a huge hodge-podge of stuff and things stacked everywhere.
Vintage Christmas ornaments
A charming little shadow box holds vintage smalls that my Aunt B. used to pick up for Les and I. Barbara has sadly passed earlier this year so these little trinkets are even more sentimental to us now. The mixed media ornament on top of the box was made by a local artisan here in Prescott.
Bedroom decorated for Christmas
I love how the bedroom is reflected in the closet doors. It doubles the Christmas decorations and heightens the fun for me.
Christmas shelf decorations
See that Santa on the right? When I found him at a thrift store- where else?- I thought that he was so cool and oh-so vintage. While looking through my new Country Sampler magazine, I saw him listed at $29.95. Laughing all the way, I showed the item to Les. He has always stated that I only like new- old stuff because I tend to go for “vintage look” over the real deal. It would appear that he knows me so well.

Merry Christmas everyone! No matter what holidays you celebrate, I wish you and yours the very best season and all the new year to come.

Free Printables · Home Decor

My Pared Down Autumn Decor

Can you believe that it’s almost Christmas? Again?! I’m so excited to show you my Christmas decorations reveal, but first, take a look at what the living room looked like before the Christmas transformation.

wheat stalks for fall
Living room entryway
In preparation for Thanksgiving visitors, I removed all items that were strictly Halloween decorations and added just a few fall touches to the living room. This is the entryway wall. I had to move the grey dollhouse over here to clear the dining table for company.

After the hoopla of my Halloween decorations, autumn looks very understated. To make a fast transformation I took away all things that were strictly Halloween and added a few fall touches to complete my living room in time for Thanksgiving company.

free fall printables
I started the presto-change-o by printing out a few free autumnal mages. You can find them here. and here.
morning sun casting shadows on a terracotta pot filled with pumpkins and fall fruit
Early morning light falls on a terracotta bowl filled with pumpkins, fall fruits and a bittersweet vine.
wooden cat on a white chippy table
Wooden cat on a white, chippy table
concrete wall in living room
power wall, wall of bookshelves
wooden pumpkin bowl
Found this adorable little wooden pumpkin bowl at a thrift store for just pennies.
coffee table dressed for fall
Early morning sun casts such interesting geometric shadows, don’t you think?
favorite coffee spot
This is my favorite spot to sit and read and have my coffee in the morning. It’s a great way for me to gather my thoughts before the day’s activities.
Mixed media sculptures by Les gains
While I’m showing you around the living room, I thought that you might like to see some of Les’ mixed media figures.
Mixed media figures by Les Gains
Les used lamp fittings- the part that light bulbs go into- and clay to craft these little guys.
abandoned bird's nests
On his walks around the property, Les also found and created a place for these little abandoned bird’s nests.

And now, just like that, the next post will be to share my Christmas decorations. It is the first time that I decorated even the bedroom. I usually just do the kitchen and the living room for company, but this year… well, you’ll see.

Christmas ornaments
And, before I could blink, it was time to dig out Christmas ornaments.
DIY · tutorials

Another Free Crochet Pattern- The Wave Stitch

Crochet in fall and winter? Oh yeah! What better craft to keep you warm while you are constructing it?

I wanted to make an afghan for my Mom that would be super soft against her frail skin but that would still keep her warm and cozy. I used a supposedly baby blanket yarn from Bernat. I say supposedly because when I was finished with the afghan, I realized that it would be too heavy and would smother my bed-ridden mother let alone an infant. The finished afghan is way heavier than expected. I’ll confess though, that was probably my fault since I used a heavily textured crochet pattern called the “Wave” stitch and a size 10mm crochet hook.

The Wave crochet pattern
Another free crochet pattern called The Wave Stitch. This one is soft and heavily textured – perfect for a chilly winter morning.
The Wave crochet pattern
Ah well, I got carried away with making the afghan too chunky, but the blanket really is soft and warm, so I’m using it on the little bed in my reading/craft room.

There are seriously thousands of free crochet patterns on the web. The variety of styles and difficulties of pattern can be mind boggling. Talk about spending hours cruising the web. This pattern comes from a square that was used in a patchwork sampler afghan. I liked the square so much that I decided to make a whole afghan out of that “Wave stitch” pattern.

The crochet pattern written instructions can be found here: Crochet Along Afghan Sampler from the Inspired Wren. Check out her blog for a ton more cool crochet patterns.

If you would prefer to see a video tutorial, I found the one linked below to be really clear and concise.

The difference between my afghan and this one is the border. I used a ribbed crochet stitch instead of the single crochet border shown here.
The Wave crochet pattern
To make the ribbed border just do a single crochet all around and then follow up with a back loop only single crochet all around. Repeat for several more rows until the border is the width that you like.

Bundle up and stay warm. Happy holidays!

Food · Recipes

Easy Keto Penuche

You may recall my post about a caramel sauce using Keto friendly “brown sugar”. Well, the taste of that sauce brought back such fond memories of penuche that I knew I had to make some for the holiday festivities. When I was a kid, I used to spend part of my lunch money to buy it almost every day at the convenience store on the way home from school and I STILL love the flavor. (Don’t tell Mom though.)

Easy Keto penuche
Easy Keto friendly Penuche
(I’m noticing how the bottom looks like a darker layer of something but it is just the shadow from the dish. Sorry about any confusion from the picture. LOL, There is not a second layer of darker caramel or anything.)

Sometimes penuche candy is referred to as brown sugar fudge because of the creamy texture. It can be shaped as a little patty or it can be cut into squares like a fudge, but it is all the same- a creamy, delicious brown sugar flavored confection packed with nuts.

In this recipe, you do not need a candy thermometer or any of the lengthy machinations that were involved in the old directions. Nope. I experimented a little but I didn’t stray too far from a traditional recipe except to make this candy very easy, very fast and Keto friendly.

Brown sugar candy made with Xylitol and brown sugar flavor extract
Brown sugar candy made with Xylitol and brown sugar flavor extract

I used my own “brown sugar” concoction with Xylitol and brown sugar flavor extract. You can find the details in the caramel sauce post. The Swerve Brown sweetener seemed to crystallize on cooling more than the Xylitol, but it works if you don’t want to buy a brown sugar flavor extract to make your own “brown sugar” substitute.

You will need to prepare a foil lined baking dish to make cut squares or a foil lined cookie sheet to make candy patties. I used the baking dish this time. The easiest way to line a baking dish with foil is to first shape it over the back side of the dish and then fit it inside.

how to line a baking dish with foil

Easy Keto Penuche

  • Servings: 90 pcs
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients


– 1 cup butter, either salted or not
– 2 cups granulated Xylitol
– 2 tsp brown sugar flavor extract
– 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 3 1/2 cups powdered Swerve sweetener
– 1 cup chopped walnuts (it’s good with peanuts as well)

Directions


Prepare an 8×8 baking dish lined with foil and sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray (I use avocado spray)

1. Mix the Xylitol with the brown sugar flavor extract until well combined
2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over med-high heat
3. Add the “brown sugar” and bring to a boil, stirring constantly
4. Pour in the cream stirring for another five minutes or so
5. Remove from heat and let cool for about 30 minutes
6. Stir in the vanilla extract and walnuts
7. Pour into a foil lined 8×8 baking dish, cover with fol and continue to cool in the refrigerator until firm
8. Remove from dish and cut into small squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Be sure to cut this candy into fairly small squares. It is SWEET and guaranteed to satisfy even the biggest sweets fans out there.

Food · Recipes

Spiced Sugar Free Caramel Sauce

There are two things that I want to point out in this post. One is that even the Swerve brown sugar will crystalize once your sauce cools down. The second thing is that once I figured out which sugar free sweetener to use to make my own brown sugar, it tasted like penuche candies which I LOVE.

Both caramel sauces and penuche candy call for brown sugar. Sooo I will tell you how to make your own approximation of sugar free “brown sugar”. This post will also be followed by a really great Keto friendly penuche candy recipe. Yay!

On the first attempt at the sugar free caramel sauce, I grabbed my Swerve brown sugar. What a waste of a whole bag of sweetener!

Don't use swerve brown sweetener for any caramel sauce. It crystallizes tot fast.
Caramel sauce made with Swerve brown sweetener. The first picture shows a reasonable facsimile of caramel sauce. The second picture shows how the sauce started crystallizing immediately as it started to cool down. Not too appetizing.
making Keto friendly caramel sauce with brown sugar flavor extract
Much better. This sauce is made with Xylitol granulated sweetener and a brown sugar flavor extract. Those little bubbles are from boiling the sweetener mixture.
Keto caramel sauce
This is the Xylitol sauce about three hours after cooling down. As you can see, the sauce thickened up, it darkened a bit but it stayed smooth with no crystallization to the texture.

The most important part of this sauce recipe is to make your own “brown sugar” with Xylitol and a brown sugar flavor extract. I ordered the extract online from Olive Nation. I was blown away by how many different flavor concentrates and extracts that I found online. On a side note, I also bought the marshmallow flavor concentrate which is awesome for making Keto whipped marshmallow fluff. Yum!

To make the “brown sugar” replica, use 1 tsp flavor per one cup of granulated sweetener. I used granulated Xylitol to make the mix.

Brown sugar flavor extract
Use one tsp flavor extract per 1 cup of granulated sweetener.
Making Keto friendly "brown sugar" with Xylitol
The mixed granulated sweetener with brown sugar flavor extract.

I made one cup of “brown sugar” to use in this caramel sauce recipe.

The traditional caramel sauce recipe that I found called for Corn syrup. Since I’m trying to make Keto friendly sauce, I used a Stevia sweetened pancake syrup that I bought at Safeway grocers in place of the corn syrup.

Keto Sugar Free Caramel Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
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Make 1 cup of the “brown sugar” sweetener as outlined above.
In place of corn syrup, I used Stevia sweetened cinnamon flavored pancake syrup that I bought at Safeway grocery store.

Ingredients


– 1 cup homemade sugar free “brown sugar”. I used Xylitol granulated mixed with 1 tsp brown sugar flavor extract.
– 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
– 1/4 cup Stevia sweetened sugar free cinnamon maple flavored syrup
– 1 tbsp butter (I used salted butter)

Directions

  1. Throw everything together into a medium sized saucepan.
  2. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly until the granulated sweetener has dissolved.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
  4. Let sauce cool down a bit so that you can pour it into an airtight jar.
  5. 5.Store in a pantry or cupboard. No need to refrigerate.


Use this sauce to top cakes, cookies, custard, mousse, ice cream….the choices are many! Enjoy.

Keto penuche candy
Wait till you taste the penuche candy from my recipe to follow. It’s just like the candy that I remember as a kid using her lunch money to stop at 7/11 on the way home from school. LOL.
Food · Recipes

No Bake Keto Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse

No bake cheesecake? Yep, and this cheesecake mousse is probably the easiest and fastest desert that I know how to make whether it is chocolate, cappuccino, strawberry or even pumpkin.

Low carb pumpkin cheesecake mousse
Trying to stick to a Keto routine his season? Try this easy pumpkin cheesecake mousse. The caramel sauce takes it over the top for a sweet treat.

Pumpkin anything is still a favorite of mine. In autumn I HAVE to have pumpkin everything. I even have a foamy pumpkin spice topper for my coffee during this holiday season.

Regarding the traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie though- not so much. If you have read any of my past recipes about pies, you already know that I do not like pie crust so pumpkin pie is pretty much out of the picture. This is especially so at dinner parties where I am likely to embarrassment Les by eating only the whipped cream and pie filling leaving a rather unsightly crust gunking up my desert plate. And I will do that without hesitation. (grin)

Pumpkin cheesecake mousse with sliced almonds and caramel sauce
Top the mousse with sliced almonds and Keto caramel sauce

Soooo, to avoid pie crust, I loves me some pumpkin mousse or pumpkin cheesecake. In that vein, this recipe is for all of my friends who would rather just eat pie filling with no soggy, lardy pie crust!

Keto Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preparation: First! Grab that cream cheese out of the fridge to bring it to room temp while you are assembling all of your other ingredients.

Ingredients


1- 12 to 15 oz can pumpkin puree (I have cans in both sizes and I just use whatever I have on hand at the time)
12 oz softened cream cheese
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup Xylitol granulated sweetener (if you do not have a huge sweet tooth like me, then start with 1/3 cup sweetener of your choice and sweeten to taste)
3 tsp pumpkin pie flavor extract (you can sub 3 tsp ground pumpkin pie spice if you like)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

    1. Use an electric mixer to combine pumpkin puree and cream cheese until smooth and creamy.
    2. To the pumpkin/cheese add all of the rest of the ingredients.
    3. Mix all ingredients until the mousse is a desired consistency.
    4. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Top with whipped cream or a caramel sauce and sliced almonds as you like.
Sandra McCall
Keto holiday
 deserts
An easy and sugar free pumpkin cheesecake mousse guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth.