Happy New Year

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Happy New Year!!!!!!
“Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life. The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story you possibly can.” I wish you Happy New Year and diary full of best stories ever written in your life.
Douglas Pagels – ( Addition to Quote by Muhammad Shaharyar Khan )
And above all watch, with glittering eyes,  the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it. 
~Roald Dahl                                                                                                    

I wish you a life full of people to love you, surprise you, amaze you. I wish you beauty to surround you, inspire you, delight you. If you pay attention, life is a series of miracles happening all around you. I can't wait to create in 2012!!!!



Favorite projects - Early 2011 (before I was a "blogger")

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A few photos of things that you may have missed from my "life prior to blog land".

January - I hosted a "game night" Sweet 16 party for a lovely young lady who is the daughter of a friend.

February - Homemade "love" for Valentines Day.

March: Family Room mini-makeover:

April: Easter and my Spring urn.

May: Flea-market patio furniture makeover. (and yes, I really did paint some of it in the middle of my kitchen...without a drop cloth).

June/July/August: Another batch of homemade laundry soap, Summer flowers, 4th of July, and crocheted cotton wash cloths.


Serendipity was "unofficially" launched in August and I entered into the "blog sphere" shortly thereafter.

Thanks for reading.



Even Martha Stewart is tired....

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Yep, it's true. See for yourself. That's her...my 13 year old Yellow Lab, Martha Stewart, sound asleep in the chair in my office, this morning.

After a whirlwind 72 hours spent celebrating with family and friends, it's nice to have a few moments to collapse in utter and complete exhaustion relax and reflect on time spent with people that I love so much and those who(for reasons that I'm sometimes baffled by) love me.  It was an incredible holiday spent with wonderful people. I'm thankful...I'm blessed.

Christmas Eve was beautiful. It wasn't "white" but it was calm and once again, "luminaria" lined the streets of town (Sorry for the blurry picture but you get the idea). In our village, at dusk on Christmas eve, nearly everyone who lives inside the 3 square miles of  our "town" lines their sidewalk and/or driveway with "Luminaria" (brown bags with sand in the bottom and white candles lit inside). They're sold as a benefit for the local Infant Welfare chapter but have been a tradition in my communityfor over 45 years. The whole town is aglow with soft candle light and the tradition of lighting luminaria on Christmas Eve is still one of my favorite things about living in this small village in Illinois.

I did manage to finish the Christmas stocking that I was making for my Great-niece, Ella.

I did not, however, finish the matching Christmas tree skirt for her parents. (In hindsight, I probably should have known that when I started this project at 8:30 p.m. on December 23rd, it might be a stretch to complete it before Monday morning and still spend time with my family and/or sleep.) I think that, all things considered, I made pretty good progress and at least I have something to do this week.... *smile*.

 Gifts were wrapped using Hobby Lobby paper, natural clay tags that I made and all of the "odds and ends" from bolts of ribbon left over from projects made for the barn sale.

Watching the  "unwrapping" is still my favorite part. This is Miss Ella and her dad (my Godson), opening her stocking.

Good food, great company and much love. Time shared together; the greatest gift of all.



P.S. A few my favorite things. Vintage lanterns and "shelf elves" from my sister (who is now, officially, an Ebay goddess) and an "eventually vintage" NEW, red plaid wool blanket from my parents. 

My "Home for the Holidays"

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With only hours remaining until Christmas Eve, I thought that I'd share the final photos of my house for this year and a poem from Helen Steiner Rice. I wish each of you the magic and wonder of the season, the love of family and friends and above all, I wish you "enough". Enough time, and patience; love, and faith. Enough kindness and compassion for yourself and others.  Enough togetherness and alone time. Enough resources.  Merry Christmas.

A Season of Kindness
May the kindly spirit of Christmas spread its radiance far and wide
So all the world may feel the glow of this holy Christmastide.
Then may every heart and home continue through the year
To feel the warmth and wonder of this season of good cheer.
And may it bring us closer to God and to each other
'Til every stranger is a friend and every man a brother.

ABC's of Christmas

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As I finish unpacking the Christmas decorations (with the exception of our family tree which is waiting for my son, Drew's arrival home from college this Friday), I realize that the unpacking, handling and placing of these "treasures" that I've collected over the years is, for me, almost as much a part of the season as the "Big Day" itself. 

For me, decorating takes weeks. Not literally, of course, as I work a full time job, I still have a son at home, one in college, a dog, and a house that seems perpetually in need of cleaning.  I steal an hour or two at a time during the week. It's usually in the early hours of the morning, sometimes before dawn, when the house is quiet.  It's then that I unpack the boxes, unwrap the tissue and spend a few moments remembering how the different symbols of the holiday came to be a part of what are now my Christmas traditions.

There are ornaments; gifted to me by my parents, grandparents, siblings and friends. There are both vintage and new items, some that used to be "new" that are now considered "vintage" *smile*.  There are nutcrackers and trains, cookie cutters, and angels and Santa Clauses;  all manner of holiday "stuff" that I've amassed during my life and to which, there are additions, each year. Some are gifts, some inherited, some "found". (At some point, I'll probably need to stop collecting...but that's not the point of THIS story. *wink*) 

Among my favorites is the collection of Christmas books.  Every year, from the time that they were born, I gave my sons a Christmas book on Christmas morning. These books make an appearance on the shelf, in the family room, for the month that is "Christmas" at our house.

We have read these books. At first, we read them to the boys. Then, the boys read them to us. Now, the boys read them to themselves or walk by, pause, pick one up, flip through it...sometimes only to the first page...where the inscription is. 

Among these books is one that wasn't a gift to my sons. It's my favorite book. It's my book. It's this book.

It's not fancy, doesn't have a screen printed graphic on the cover, shiny coated pages or slick typesetting in a cool font. The pages are yellow. I've had it for as long as I can remember. It was a Christmas gift from my Godmother/Aunt Mollie who was, at the time, probably 17 years old.  She bought the blank scrapbook with her own money and then spent her time filling the pages and making a gift for me that has become one of my most prized Christmas possessions.

Inside is a page dedicated to each letter of the alphabet with a Christmas related symbol, cut from an old Christmas card and with a rhyme, written in blue ballpoint pen, in my Aunt's cursive handwriting, describing each one.  Holly, drawn in colored pencil, adorns each page.  On the "Y" page, there's a photograph of my aunt and me, in the foyer of my grandparents' house, on my First Holy Communion.

This book too, makes an appearance on the shelf for the month that is Christmas at my house. I read it.  I remember reading it with my Aunt that first year. Her reading the "big" words to me and me reading the "little words" to her.  Over the years, I've read it to myself. Sometimes, I walk by, pause, pick it up and flip through it.  Sometimes it's only to the first page....where the inscription is...

In the best of all possible circumstances, when we share love and time and talent we create memories. Sometimes we do it without even realizing it. 

Thank-you Aunt Mollie. For sharing yourself, your gifts and your time with me.  I love you.



Home Made Marshmallows and Hot Chocolate: Recipes and directions

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A friend asked for this recipe this morning and it reminded me that I needed to make a batch of these to give to my neighbors as gifts. (Thanks, Laura!) Soooo, rather than wait to show you photos of what I make (although I'll do that later, too), I thought that I'd post recipes for those of you who are looking for the perfect "little something" to give to a neighbor or friend. Home made marshmallows are wicked-wonderful! Whether they are sandwiched between graham crackers with chocolate, dipped in hot chocolate or even eaten directly from the bag....they also make a great gift.  The photo above is one that I took of Valentines Day marshmallows and peppermint hot chocolate mix that I made for my "college kids" but you can easily either cut them into squares or use holiday cookie cutters to make them into snowflakes, trees or whatever your heart desires! For "stirs" I use candy canes or cinnamon sticks, dipped in melted chocolate and covered with sprinkles!

Here's the recipe for the marshmallows:
(makes about 90 One-Inch Cubes...fewer if you use cookie cutters)
About 1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tblsp plus 2 1/2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water divided as follows:
            1/2 cup with the gelatin and 1/2 cup for the mix
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup HOT water (115 degrees F)
1/2 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla (I also add almond or peppermint extract depending upon what I'm using them for)

Oil bottom and sides of a 13x9x2 inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with confectioners' sugar.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water and let it stand to soften.
In a 3-quart saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium and boil the mixture, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240°F (about 12 minutes). Remove the pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over the gelatin mixture, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved.
With a standing (or a hand-held) electric mixer, beat the mixture on high speed until it is white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using a standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (Depending upon the weather outside and the amount of humidity in your home, it may take longer but be patient, it will eventually whip up to the size needed) In separate medium bowl with clean beaters,  beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Then, beat the whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into the sugar mixture until it's just combined. Pour the mixture into the baking pan (don't worry if there's some "leftover"). Sift 1/4 cup  of confectioners' sugar over the top of the mixture. Chill the marshmallow, uncovered, until firm. (At least three hours but as long as one day.)
After they are chilled, run a thin knife around edges of the pan and invert it onto a large cutting board which has been dusted with confectioners' sugar. Hold up one corner of the pan and use your fingers to loosen the marshmallow and slide it out and onto your cutting board.
With a large knife, trim the edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (or use cookie cutters dipped in confectioners' sugar to cut shapes.) Sift the remaining confectioners' sugar back into an empty bowl or  baking pan. Roll the marshmallows in the sugar being sure to coat all sides before shaking off the excess and packing them  in an airtight container. 
Marshmallows will keep, in an airtight container, at a cool room temperature, for about a week. If you're mailing them, make sure to coat them well with confectioners; sugar as they will "weep" during shipment.
Once you've eaten these, you'll never go back to "store bought"!

Home made hot chocolate mix:
(makes about 45, 1 cup servings)

10 cups dry milk powder
4 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups powdered, non-dairy creamer (you can use different flavors to get flavored hot chocolate. Cinnamon and mint are my favorites).
2 cups shaved chocolate or mini chocolate chips (again, you can use mint chips, white or dark chocolate that has been flavored with peppermint or white chocolate with cinnamon to change the flavor of your mix)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. That's it...easy peasy. Store cocoa mixture in an air tight container.
For one serving: place 1/2 cup cocoa mixture in a cup or mug and add 3/4 cup of boiling water. Stir to dissolve. Top with marshmallows and/or whipped cream! 



More holidays!

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The holiday decorating continues!

Dining room side Board. re-purposing pine cones from Thanksgiving and burlap from exterior Autumn wreaths.

My sons' "sleigh", the birch logs from Thanksgiving.  Vintage Santa, skates and lantern - in the corner of the dining room.
Silver punch bowl with pine cone wreath and pine cones
Thanksgiving centerpiece "reworked" for Christmas using mixed Christmas greens, red berries (fake), pine cones, vintage red lantern, cardinals and a plaid bow.

Kitchen table - I made the black and white table cloth out of flannel, edged in red. Good Will Candlestick holders, vintage boot with pine cones, a "vintage" glitter snowflake and faux greens.
 I'll post more tomorrow.

Good night!



Christmas in My Kitchen - 2011

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I thought that I'd share a few shots of this year's Christmas decorations in my kitchen...

of course, I'm not finished...