Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to Layer a Christmas Tree

In the Little house we have a tradition, or addiction however you feel like looking at it, of going over the top on Christmas trees. We now have 3 trees.  Last year when I threw an ornament shower for my dear friend Katie, she asked my Mama the simple question "How do you layer decorations on your Christmas tree?" This year we decided to take that question and run with it, creating a "How To" post to share our knowledge with the world. (We photo documented the largest tree and the slim tree, and have finished photos for all.

1) Inspiration, colors and theme
When decorating or deciding to build a Christmas tree the most important thing to do is find your inspiration, colors, and if there's a theme. Last year when starting The Peacock Tree I had the idea of peacocks and the gorgeous colors of purple, blue, aqua, and greens and one day while at Hobby Lobby I found a gorgeous aqua peacock feather ribbon and a few peacock feather picks and the tree was born!

Our other trees are the Copper and Lime tree, which Mama has been putting together and up for almost a decade now, along with the Scarlet tree which has a southern feel with pearls, fleur de lis, magnolias and lives in a Scarlet room. We felt the name was appropriate

2) Choose a tree for the space and fill it with lights and cover with a tree skirt.
We have 3 trees in our house: a skinny pre-lit 7 ft tree in the dining room, a full 7 ft tree in the living room which stands on two gold boxes that my Daddy built to make it taller with 1400 lights on it, and a 6.5 ft pre-lit tree in our upstairs foyer.  Take your time to make it full and to make sure all the lights are operational.  We find tree skirts expensive so we often use fabric: brown and copper window sheers over two gold wooden stands for the copper and green tree, yards of gold sheer fabric on the Scarlet tree, and a cut up round gold table cloth as a skirt for the Peacock tree.

This will turn into the Copper and Green tree
This will become The Scarlet tree
3) Topper goes first
I feel we all know the scene in It's a Wonderful Life when they put the angel on the tree at the end of the decorating but to layer and make a beautiful tree put the topper first to make sure everything else blends together. There are many options for toppers Santa, an angel, leaves, feathers, spirals, again this is one of those things where you find your inspiration and add picks and height to your tree with pretty things.
We top with mixtures of size, shapes and color with 5 green and 15 copper vertical elements. 

This is a side view where you can see the grapes on the back and all the glitter sticks that surround for color and texture

On the Scarlet tree we use 6 gold picks that add different textures along with gold, white and scarlet magnolias

The peacock topper inspiration was the feather we found and then aqua spirals, we also have green tall picks, 5 peacock feathers and 24 gold spirals
4. Big spaces need big things
There are a wide variety of things you can use to create focal points in the larger spaces in the tree.  They are also excellent for cover cords, or blown out lights.  The goal is to minimize being able to see to the other side of the tree (unless it gives a glimpse of something spectacular like our rotating ornament.) Options for focal points: big ornaments, flowers, picks, ribbon (I'll get to this technique next.)
We use large reflective copper ornaments on the copper and lime tree.

While on the Scarlet tree we use the flower technique with two fake poinsettia bushes cut up into about 20 flowers and 5 berry picks

5. Ribbon, ribbon and more ribbon
When picking ribbon you want a variation of colors, sheer and solids, patterns and textures, shiny and glittery. We group two to three pieces of ribbon into groupings and swag them at a slight angle down the tree, tucking along the way.

 Copper-Lime tree has 3-9 ft groupings of 3 pieces ribbon, 2-6 ft groupings of two pieces of ribbon

This is where you use ribbon as the "bones" of the tree, tucking, it in along the way.

This is the best from the back picture I have I think where you can really see the back of the topper
The Scarlet tree has 4-5.5 ft ribbon groupings with 2 pieces of ribbon each.

6. Picks
Picks are complicated, the more random sometimes the prettier they are or the pretty ones off the tree do nothing on the tree. There are a wide range now of picks you always have the flowers but also there are grapes, pine cones and sticks, flashy things like I have on my peacock tree, birds, feathers, berries and I could go on. They are important on a tree to add color and shapes and sparkles and sometimes they become your favorite things.

On each of our trees we average 15-20 per tree but and there are 3 or 4 types that vary in color, size and shape.  Some pick are placed deeper in the tree, others stick out from the tree.

7) Ornaments and Finishers
There are two layers of ornaments: 1) ornaments 2) finishers.
-Ornaments should vary in shape and size.  Use the small balls to cover and help unify the tree.  Many trees stop here and look good.  However, the last layer is what takes it to another level.
-Finishers are the ornaments and garlands that go on top of everything that make the tree look spectacular.

Round 1 Ornaments
To give ideas on sizes the lime ball we consider large, the apple we call medium, and dark green ball is a small
For the Copper and Lime tree we put on 20 large ornaments, 34 medium ornaments, and 57 small ornaments.

Here you can also see Santa's Little Helper, Cindy Bear who gets jealous and anxious when we put up trees because it takes our attention away from her 

For the slimmer Scarlet tree there are 13 large ornaments, 17 medium and 42 small.


The Copper and Lime tree has 132 finishers. Yes the below picture is all finishers, but the finishing ornaments are light and don't take up space and only make the tree prettier.

 The Scarlet Tree again because it's smaller has 90 finishers.

 Once you add the finishers you can truly see how everything blends together and turn into a beautiful Christmas tree.

Now that I have shared with you how to layer and decorate a Christmas tree I have a few tips on how to acquire these items to decorate because if you went out and bought everything today it would not be cheap.

  • Utilize sales, a few days after Christmas.  Sales ads are your best friend 50%  to 90% off is much better than full price.  When you like it and it's a great deal, buy 5 to 10 of them.  
  • Create your own ornaments:  on my peacock tree many of the small balls I have painted the inside or glittered the inside with help of "how to" articles I've found online.
  • Repurpose things you find on sale, the yellow snowflakes you see on the peacock tree were from a garland I bought for $1 at Target last year after Christmas.  I cut the snowflakes off and made 20 snowflake ornaments for $1.
My dad's sister, Carol, and cousin, Regina, started my mother along this journey back in the 1980's and taught us many things about toppers and layering.  We continue to adapt and evolve with the times to make sure that the trees do not become dated.  
    Happy Decorating! 

    Saturday, August 27, 2011


    Alright, I'm back and hopefully for good as this blog at the end of the day will end up being full of food and recipes either by request or things that I've found are just plain tasty.

    It is no secret in my family that peaches are King of the Fruit. My uncle owns and operates an orchard in Cleveland, Alabama and I have to say they grow the best peaches around. Right now Big Red Peaches are the ripest for picking at The Hazelrig Orchard. This week in the Little house we have been slicing and freezing these amazingly juicy fruit along with cooking family favorite fried peach pies and trying a new recipe of peach pound cake.

    Fried Pies or Hand Pies to me are one of the truly Southern desserts and how they are made by my mother tends to be a little different than most pies because we do not cook down the fruit of the peaches instead it's made of peach peels.

    Fried Peach Pies
    1 can of Grands Flaky Biscuits
    Peels of 10 peaches
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup water

    Directions: Takes the peach peels, sugar, and water and bring to a boil in a medium saucepan and good down until the peach peels start to breakdown and turn a light brown color, taste the syrup and make sure it is plenty sweet if not add more sugar. Open biscuit can and separate each biscuit into two biscuits and flatten out each piece and put on wax paper to wait for filling. Once the filling in ready spoon a heaping tablespoon into the flattened biscuit and fold over and seal with a fork. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and cover the bottom of pan with a small layer of oil/butter (Mama uses a little of each) and cook until golden brown about 2-3 minutes if the pan is hot enough. Make sure you stand over the pies because they will burn quick if you don't.

    Makes 16 if none are burnt and all are edible (If you couldn't guess we really ended up with about 10 because of the burning situation haha)

    Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar or ice cream or in this case peach ice cream

    Now onto the pound cake, the recipe was taken out of Johnnie Gabriel's first cookbook Cooking in the South. Johnnie has been famous around Marietta for years for her cakes, apparently my 2nd birthday cake from her bakery. She has since expanded her business into a restaurant and bakery and published two cookbooks. Mama and I love her! She is a truly Southern Lady and makes food that we would make and eat. Also you may have seen her on Paula Deen's show because they are first cousins and Johnnie is soon to have her own cooking show on Georgia Public Television. Anyways onto the recipe because it is just that good.

    Johnnie Gabriel's Peach Pound Cake
    1 cup (2 sticks) of room temperature butter
    1/2 cup shortening
    3 cups sugar
    5 jumbo eggs
    3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (we use White Lily)<-inserted in the cookbook by Johnnie again Southern
    1/2 t baking powder
    1/2 t salt
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup whole milk
    1/4 cup peach brandy--we had some peach schnapps leftover from another recipe--you can also use peach preserves or peach nectar from fresh or canned peaches
    3 drops peach oil--this you could find at a specialty store but we just included 3 teaspoons of peach nectar(it's all about adding peach flavor)
    1 cup chopped fresh, frozen and thawed or canned peaches

    Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 15-cup tube pan, tapping out excess flour (we used your basic bundt pan). In a large mixing bowl on medium to high speed, beat the butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar at medium speed  and then turn to medium high beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition at medium speed

    In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the vanilla to the milk. At a moderately slow speed add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in four increments, alternating with the milk mixture in three increments. Begin and end with dry ingredients. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as you are alternating dry and milk mixtures.You don't want to over beat so slow speed is sufficient.

    Once combined stir in peach brandy and oil or whatever peach flavorings you are using. Pour half of batter into the prepared pan add cup of peaches in the middle of batter and cover with remaining batter.

    Bake for 60-75 minutes or until a tester is inserted and comes out clean or with firm crumbs.

    Peach Glaze
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup peach brandy--again you can add substitutes if you like
    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
    1/4 cup water
    4 drops peach oil

    Once the cake has been baking about 30 minutes prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, stir together all ingredients. Bring the glaze to a boil, stirring to melt the sugar and butter.

    Remove the cake from over when it's done and let cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes, once cake is cool invert onto plate and cover with glaze.

    Santa Fe Ranch Dip

    I learned this recipe from my cousin Sherri and she got the recipe from her friend Monica and I have to say it is one of the easiest dips I have ever made and probably the most popular. I made it first for Easter as an appetizer and I saw 6 people devour half of it in 10 minutes and then attempt to lick the bowl. I then made it again for my cousins' graduation party and I was asked for the recipe about 10 times, so here it is.

    Santa Fe Ranch Dip
    2 blocks softened cream cheese (the softer the better)
    1 pack ranch mix
    1 4 oz can chopped black olives
    1 4 oz can chopped green chilies
    1 11oz can Green Giant Chipotle Corn
    1 cup shredded cheese 
    2 T Texas Pete Hot Sauce

    Directions: Combine all ingredients until well blended and serve with Frito Scoops. You can serve this hot or cold depending on what you prefer and your party prefers. It is great for tailgating and football parties or something kids can help with in the kitchen.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    February: A Month in Review

    So I just realized that I have yet to review February.

    February was not near as exciting or awesome as January was mainly because it was filled with doctors. My weekends weren't that eventful because after the first weekend I was pretty much on lock down at the house after VATS.

    1) The month started out with me staying at home and a weekend of going to The Varsity and seeing Country Strong with the 'rents.
    2) I also had a whirlwind trip to Alabama to see my favorite kiddos in the world.
    3) Also there were many new recipes tried in the first week and a half of February which were excellent and you should definitely check them out. Roasted Vegetable Soup Almost Guilt free Game Day Food Sloppy Crockpot Chicken Sandwiches
    4) I had a VATS procedure which left me at home for a few weeks cooped up and in decent discomfort at times, so there wasn't much blogging or activities in my life.
    5) The cancer was confirmed back so I started meeting with the fertility team to get going on fertility treatments which will start this month along with chemo.

    So I think that is about it!

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Firsts: Mardi Gras

    This weekend I went to Brewton, Alabama to see Mike and Cassie along with my friend Dustin to meet our niece Snooki Kathleen. Is that just the cutest puppy face that you've ever seen?? She is a precious puppy even if she doesn't quite know how to properly use her mouth yet and not gnaw on you with her razors baby teeth.

    Anyways with the rain Friday night thankfully Mike's softball games were canceled but with more pending rain Saturday evening we changed plans from the parade in Mobile to go to Pensacola. OH MY WORD! I never have had so much fun at a parade like I did in Pensacola. The parade seemed to go on forever but the floats were really well done and some more crazy than others, but we were able to get a ton of beads which really was the whole goal of the day. I know this still probably had nothing like New Orleans where people are sloshed all over the place and there are women and men going crazy like I've seen on COPS, but it was actually very family friendly and just a whole lot of fun. BTW I won the game and ended up with 72 beads, which my number was helped by Dustin because he is just that nice. Here are some before and after pictures.

    We had so much fun and it was definitely a great week and a great time to knock some "firsts" off my list.
    Firsts I experienced:
    -trip to Brewton
    -time to see Snookleen
    -driving 85 and 65 south alone (yes amazing I know, but truly never driven either solo)
    -trip to Pensacola
    -Mardi Gras 

    Hope everyone had as great of a weekend as I did!

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Fight or Flight: what does it mean?

    After a late night epiphany I've really decided that what has been deemed courage, strength or whatever people think I'm awesome for during all of this cancer stuff I really feel comes down to my reactions to situations and my fight or flight response. In Reba terms fight or flight is described as how an animal reacts when faced with threats or how a human reacts when put into a tight situation.

    I hear all sorts of comments from people I know and people I don't know that when I say I have cancer I get the response "I just couldn't go through what you are." I smile and say thanks but really in my head I am typically screaming "WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE A CHOICE YOU DO WHATEVER IT IS!" Maybe not always that loud but it has crossed my mind numerous times. Just like when someone complements me on my hair saying "I love your hair but I could never have mine that short it just wouldn't look right" again I smile and say thank you but the whole time in my head I am again screaming "You wear the hair that you are given and it's not an option!" Both I have now realized are just my fight reaction I'm not going to sulk in the fact that I have to deal with this and you can't just go hide from cancer or the chemo response so I get to just deal with it.

    I really struck this overall epiphany when talking to my friend online last night. We were discussing phobias and I explained on how much I hate snakes and I'm not fond of spiders but I have dealt with them. I started thinking over the times I had to "fight" spiders in front of my campers or students. I truly realized that I've fought and had to be brave and put on my big girl panties and did what needed to be done. Last year while teaching I was administrating a test and a spider literally out of no where started dropping from the ceiling tile on it's web towards the desk I was at, a few students saw it but I knew exactly what I had to do, so as classy as possible I took of my shoe and smacked it and it was done. I had to protect my kids, keep them calm and get rid of the issue. Just like one day a roach just appeared and instead of freaking out or making my teacher do it, again I manned up killed and got rid of it. I was able to show my students that I was going to protect, but also there wasn't much that could make me run away. It's what those kids needed and as I've realized recently it's what I needed because honestly without learning the lessons I did last spring I feel the last 9ish months would have been a lot harder and to that I thank them. It's sometimes how amazing God is when letting life fall into place and setting things up before hand to give us what we need to get through.I could really go on about it all but trust me, you may think you can't do something but really you will never know what you are capable of until you are put to the test.

    Happy Mardi Gras Everybody! Get excited for a fun weekend recap sometime next week!

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Kristy the Cysty vs. VATS: the Royal Rumble of Pain

    I know, I know I have been a terrible blogger, being neglectful for almost two weeks now. I have started different posts but never completed or never had a great flow to them. I think that's what some hard pain killers do to me, I can't compose much in a good manner. Anyways I'll get this party started

    First Kristy the Cysty definitely was the worse pain, KO'ing VATS quick in comparison. The worst part was the chest tube, so once I got out of the hospital on 2/11 I felt much better than I did for the almost 24 hours in the hospital. I think my pain level only ever reached around a 7 at the tops while Kristy topped the scale at a 9.9, the only reason she was not a 10 is I have a fear of that .1.

    Second, the cancer is for sure back there were 6 different samples taken during the VATS and they were 6 for 6 in confirming Hodgkin's. So with that being said I meet with a doctor tomorrow to discuss and hopefully figure out a quick plan to rescue some of my abilities to eventually have kids because the chemo and stem cell transplant will more than likely take all of those abilities away. Dr. L wants everything done quick because she would like to start all of my treatments and everything else ASAP.

    Third Dr. L's plan
    • Chemo 2 or 3 times in the hospital for around 5 days, every two weeks
    • Staging me again
    • Possible radiation
    • Upping my stem cell production, in which I will have to give myself shots. Honestly warn your kids if they are afraid of needles they will get cancer because I was the kids that freaked out to the point that I would pass out, now I'm going to have to give myself shots and I can almost watch my labs being taken but I don't pass out. 
    • Removing the stem cells
    • A butt kicking 8 day chemo treatment in the hospital to kill all living stem cells in my body
    • Returning the stem cells to my body and more time in the hospital
    Fourth, when your Dr. F said "Once you start doing more your pain will get worse" I should have really listened because really he should have said "Once you start doing stuff your body will tell you that it hates you and won't want you move." Yesterday was a long, exhausting day. My Great Uncle Virgil passed away Friday and yesterday was his visitation that we were able to make it to because I need to stay close to home in case I get called in to Emory to fix my port (I'll make that #5). But yesterday we left the house at 8am to make it to church and lunch with Charles and we returned home at 11pm, like I said exhausting both mentally and emotionally. Prayers would be greatly appreciated for my cousin Pam and her daughters, since in the past year she has lost both her mother and now father.

    Fifth, yep the the port is still not going the correct direction for flow. The port they/I want the line going downwards but it's going upwards so I have to go back to Emory to try to fix it because if they don't get it done this time they will have to replace it before chemo starts.

    Sixth changes happened on the background because I could do that without needing to be completely "there" in the head and I felt I needed something a little more colorful to fit my personality. BUT I still don't think it's my forever background because it's still not quite fully me.

    Happy Monday!

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Pre-VATS Brain Dump

    I feel like on some level I've been failing y'all lately just because when I write it's recipes, which if you do try them they will not let you down but also I guess I've just been keeping busy waiting on the VATS. On some level this will just be a brain dump, no rhyme or reason or flow so I will probably go with bullet points just to keep some form of organization of topic.

    -I named the blog "It's the Little Things" because I feel life is all about the little things that keeps you happy/sane/regulated/content/in perspective plus it's an awesome play on my name. My most recent "little thing" obviously is cooking because well it keeps me busy, planning, thinking and out of complete brain apathy. I have also started the flowery headband creations because it will be something I can do that 1) are cute 2) make great gifts 3) will be perfect in Katie's wedding.

    -I have learned I am not good at waiting for major procedures. My first one was done two days after coughing up blood so it was a whirlwind. My second was 10 days after graduation but having Kristy the Cysty (the ovarian cyst) and being in 9.99 pain out of a 10 distracted me for that time frame. Now you have the VATS, I have had 15 days of waiting, anticipating and I have just had to keep myself busy some how. I feel like I have already made a title for a soon to be possible drug induced post named "Kristy vs VATS: The Royal Rumble of Pain"

    -I was driving today, probably not thinking about the best results for tomorrow and a song came on and I know you're about to scratch your head, but it was "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks. I remember things like dates and people and events well and a lot are always associated with music. That song is Matt, has been since 7th grade and will be for the rest of my life. I am not sure if I have ever mentioned Matt in my blog, this one or Caring Bridge but we met in 6th grade in homeroom and always ended up in similar classes and homerooms throughout middle school. High school we lost touch a school of 2,000 with a grade of 500 and having off setting schedules where I had Math and Social Studies in Fall while he had Science and English. Our junior year he was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma after fighting for almost two years, going into remission once and given the news that there was nothing else that could be done Spring of Senior year, he lost his battle just 2 weeks after graduation. "Friends in Low Places" was his favorite song and today when it came on I kind of just felt it was Matt and everything I have done over the years have always been with Matt in mind. Our last day of 8th grade we were in our home room just sitting and talking about what we wanted to do with our lives after high school, after college and it breaks my heart that he never got that chance. Also I cannot mention Matt without mentioning Joel who also went to middle and high school with us who was diagnosed with leukemia our freshman year of college and lost his battle January of what would have been our sophomore year. This makes me the 3rd of our class to have cancer, the first girl and hopefully first survivor.

    -I don't always go hardcore touchy feely in my blog because well most of the time they are momentary lapses or feelings. When I had my biopsy in May I knew it was Hodgkins, there was no doubt about it deep inside my head what it was and what was going to happen. This go around I feel different about it mainly from looking at the scan but honestly I won't know what it really is until probably Monday.

    -It's snowing outside and it's a nice little fear of mine that this will cause issues tomorrow but hoping good thoughts.

    Well until later next week sometime probably: Have A Great Weekend!

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Sloppy Crockpot Chicken Sandwiches

    I had a whirlwind trip to Alabama the last 36 hours but it was great to see my babies which I guess it's time to upgrade them to kiddos being 9 and almost 4. I was sent on the mission to pick up the deer meat from the processor for Daddy's friends who shot two 8 points of my uncle's orchard this season. Anyways I got home a little before 3pm after dropping the cooler off at Juvenile Court with Daddy and I had no idea what I was going to fix to dinner, then I remembered that a recipe I found Sunday night and that we had a bag of frozen chicken in the outside freezer.

    I made what AllRecipes calls Zesty Slow Cooker Chicken Barbecue I liked to call Sloppy Chicken Sandwiches because well they are sloppy and it's a much shorter name. :)

    Sloppy Crockpot Chicken Sandwiches
    • 6 frozen skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
    • 1 (12 ounce) bottle BBQ sauce
    • 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    1. Place chicken in a slow cooker. In a bowl, mix the barbecue sauce, Italian salad dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the chicken. 
    2. Cover the Crockpot, and cook 3 to 4 hours on High or 6 to 8 hours on Low. 
    3. Once cooked shred with two forks and add back to sauce, until ready to serve.
    • You can serve as sandwiches or however you like
    • Use Kraft BBQ sauce or any other thick sauce, if you use a Vinegar based sauce like Dreamland it can easily be too watery, I used both probably leading to the sloppiness
    • Also you probably will be able to make some mean brunswick stew out of leftovers.
    • I served with pickles and baked beans that I doctored with mustard, molasses, brown sugar, chili powder, Kraft BBQ sauce, and ketchup. I didn't measure any of this just add to a can of Bush's and bake at 350* for 45 minutes.
    Happy Surgery Week Everyone!  

    Saturday, February 5, 2011


    I came up with a new craft some what thanks to Etsy but not wanting to pay them and realizing I could do it myself I figured it out with a little web research and just creativity along with The Sylv.

    Back story: I am in a wedding in June with absolutely gorgeous strapless light yellow dresses. Once I get it I will be wearing it around the house just because, yes that's how much I love it. Anyways I know my hair will not be long enough to really "do" by then so I started a search for the perfect flowery clip/headband to put on my head so I have something a little special about my hair for such a special day for two of my very special friends. I decided that between me and my Mama aka The Sylv we could do this.

    This is the one that was made for the wedding, but also every day wear. I love it!

    Here is the one I made tonight out of two rolls of ribbon for $1 a piece, so look out for a lot more flowers to come.

    Happy Weekend!