Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Shopping done? check!

Wrapping done?  check!

Cooking done?  All but an oven full of baking.

Decorating done?  Finally!

Stockings hung by the chimney with care?  Absolutely!

Nothing left except to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas! and hope that you are with people you love and filled with hope and joy!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holiday Cheer

Today we come back home - to my home.
After seeing so many pretty wreaths this year, I decided I wanted something different.  So, I took it down and started over.
I had most of the redder poinsettias from a mantle piece I did several years ago and only added a few more based on the slight change of color I wanted.  The real culprit was the ribbon.  I found this one day and fell totally in love with it.  
 How can you not love those feathers?
It's not Christmasy at all, but how could I resist?   It's a warm, red-ish brown with those gorgeous feathers in shades of gold, silver, and red with the gold edge.  The flowers that I added were a more peachy shade to try to pull the redder shades toward the browner ones.  
And then, of course, a bit of the shiny white and berries that are red in a brownish tone.
 These flowers are sort of organza with lots of gold, as if they were sprayed.
Am very pleased with the result.

[Now, everyone, off to bed early so that Santa can come.]

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gardenfest of Lights

Mitchell and I made our almost annual trek to the nearby Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden last night for dinner and a balmy stroll thru the gloriously lighted garden.  There was a bit of rain, but not enough to tarnish all the shiny we found there. 
As usual, my photos didn't come out well enough but his phone to the rescue for a look at the caterpillar tunnel.

We dined in their treetop Tea House surrounded by trees wrapped in red and gold lights and children in their best pre-Christmas finery and manners.  All in all a lovely evening. 

Then a quick ride thru the neighborhood to see the lighted houses.  Am happy to report that the wreath we looked at a few days ago came into its own at night.
In the dark this dazzles with lights and seems to hover low in the sky - Star in the East-style.  It was big, bright and lovely.   You'll have to use your imagination, tho. 

As we rush thru these last two days of shopping, wrapping and cooking I hope you are with those you love, or that they will be with you soon.   Peace and joy ... but mostly calm and quiet!

Holiday Cheer

Several  days ago the lesson was that sometimes more is too much.  Today's lesson is that sometimes less is more. 
This is on a store in a nearby strip mall and is very eye-catching from the street.  I think the red materials at the top catch the sun to get your attention. 

I really like this one.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Memories from the Past

Do you ever see an idea in a magazine on or TV - I just dated myself again - or on Pinterest [there, that's better!] and you say, "I just have to do that!"?  I am particularly prone to doing it when I am already overloaded.  For me this year it was making marshmallows.

Yes, I know, it's bizarre, but i was fascinated.  In the December issue of "Better Homes and Gardens" if found a recipe for Flavored Marshmallows.  Had to try it. 
Fortunately, we have nieces in town who have school aged children who will enjoy them.  I will have to apologize to the mothers for giving their kids a box of crack cocaine sugary sugar!

The recipe was deceptively easy to follow and within 30 minutes I actually had something that looked and tasted exactly like marshmallow cream.  Into the 'fridge for the night ...

... and this morning -  voila!
This is where the memories from the past come in.  Way back in Girl Scouts the "in" thing to make was a tuna noodle casserole (canned tuna, mushroom soup, spaghetti, and crushed potato chips - don't you remember?) and Mother got recruited to help teach half the troop how to make it.  Only three easy steps.  What mother wouldn't want to help?

So on the appointed afternoon half my troop trouped into our kitchen and the stuff started to fly.  There was soup everywhere, chips crumbled all over the floor, cans of tuna - well, you don't even want to think about it.  Fifteen happy pre-teens went home that day - each carrying a casserole to proudly present to their families for dinner and Mother took to her bed!

Making marshmallows is a bit like that.
First, you peal off the parchment paper and start coating the block of marshmallow with confectioner's sugar and then you start cutting it into strips, then cubes.  Not terribly difficult, but it takes forever and gets sugar everywhere.

Ninety minutes later there are three holiday boxes ready to deliver, plus a big bag left for us - we will find someone to give it to, lest I eat them all!
I felt like one of those Girl Scouts headed home with my treasure, leaving behind a kitchen for Mitchell to clean. 
Ok, so I cleaned, too.  I'm tougher than Mother was!
In case you would like to give it a try - not this year! - the recipe follows with comments.  
Ho, ho, ho!

Flavored Marshmallows
Better Homes and Gardens, Dec. 2013

Prep:  25 minutes.  Chill: 4 hours   Cut up: 90 minutes

4    Envelopes unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup water
3    cups granulated sugar (not sure which one this is in England)
1    cup light-colored corn syrup (I used Karo - the clear one)
1/2 cup purchased syrup (I used Starbucks Caramel because I had it - peppermint would be good)
1/4 tea salt
     gel food coloring - whatever color you like
     confectioner's (powdered) sugar

1.  Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with parchment, leaving 2 inches of paper hanging over the sides.  Coat with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. 
2.  In a very large bowl put gelatine.  Pour the water over to cover completely and stir to combine.
3.  In a large saucepan combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, flavored syrup, and salt over medium heat, stirring until sugar is completely melted.  Bring to a boil over medium high, add a candy thermometer and boil until temperature reaches 240 degrees - about 2 minutes.
4. With mixer set on medium speed, pour sugar syrup down the side of the bowl slowly into the gelatin.  Increase speed to high and mix five minutes until marshmallow is light and fluffy and bowl is cool to the touch - about 122 degrees.
5.  Using a rubber spatula, spread mixture evenly into prepared pan.  Add drops of food coloring to mixure about 2 inches apart and swirl in coloring with a table knife or spreader.  Chill uncovered 4 hours or overnight.
6.  Remove from refrigerator.  Sift powdered sugar over marshmallow.  Turn out onto cutting board that is coated with powdered sugar and peel off the paper.  Then sift more powdered sugar over the marshmallow.  Using a sharp knife cut cut into squares.  Place additional powdered sugar in a bowl and dredge the cubes to prevent sticking.  Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Makes 117 one-inch marshmallows.

Nutrition:  I am not going to share that.  It's pure sugar, but then ... it's Christmas.


1) I used a 15 x 10 inch rimmed cookie sheet  - yield was 160-ish marshmallows slightly smaller than one-inch cubes.

2) Coating the parchment with non-stick spray is crucial.  If in doubt ... overdo it.

3) The gelatine may look really thick and clumped up when you start beating it, but it will smooth out as you add the hot syrup.

4) I think it would be difficult to do with a hand mixer unless you can recruit a second person.  Pouring the hot syrup down the side of the bowl would be difficult if you were trying to control the mixer too.

5) The cutting was tedious until I got a pattern.  I used my longest bread knife to score it and then slid a small knife or spreader along the blade to cut thru the mass.  It is very sticky on the sides, so lots of powdered sugar needed.  I did strips and then cut them into cubes one "row" at the time, packaging as I went.

Overall ... well worth the effort, but not very often!  Enjoy!

Holiday Cheer

You know [I think] that for me at Christmas time more is better.  But I may think that this one has just a little bit too much "more". 

Was driving down the street and it leaped out at me.  I just loved it ... well, at first.
I love the colors!  All of the balls at the bottom are almost apple green - just a variety of sizes packed tightly together.  The shiny blue at the top is wide, shiny ribbon loops, and the streamers are a different shade of blue and not shiny.
 On closer look, tho, I think it's actually too much.  
Here's a longer view.

What do you think?