New Years Eve…………. The Art of the Start in 2016

What a great time to ponder days of past and goals of the future. As an entrepreneur, I find that no title really suits me. I am the worker, the inventor the visionary. I can be the one with silly ideas and brilliant ones! But mostly being in my position is a state of mind. The goals that I want to achieve are ones that I can only possess. Perhaps I can effect some big change in the world ultimately hoping that at some level I can bring joy to others, while cultivating my talents mixed with dreams of super success.

It is with great anticipation that I start out 2016 with the conscience decision to boldly go where no man has gone before, A START UP. When I filled up my garage last night with 20 boxes stacked high, my friend and I laughed as the garage door went down. What was I thinking? Funny, they actually look like the classic hope chests of days gone by, storing memories of the past while looking to an unknown future plan of some sort. This chest is a dollhouse “hoping” to fulfill the fantasy of children in make-believe and creativity. A child’s first house to design and decorate is my desire. Kids love to be grown-ups. So ironic and funny as I’m still trying to figure out how to be one.

My next few months of 2016 will be in the discovery of offerings to add to these dollhouses to give full power to these potential designers/creators and imaginary players. As a designer, taking it “small” to scale a challenge, but one I plan to tackle with joy. It is a job I take very seriously.

My wish for you in 2016? Find what you love doing, embrace the power you possess and give your God given talents a chance to dream. And yes, to go where no man has ever gone before…. Within.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year in 2016!

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2 Days ‘til Christmas…. Let there be Peace on Earth

May the season and the birth of Jesus Christ fill you with the beauty of taking each moment and live each moment in Peace eternally. It has to start with each and every one of us. Peace to all. Take a moment and listen to this song today. Here are the words!

Let there be peace on earth

And let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth

The peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father

Brothers all are we.

Let me walk with my brother

In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me

Let this be the moment now.

With every step I take

Let this be my solemn vow.

To take each moment

And live each moment

With peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

3 Days ‘til Christmas….. Mistletoe

I hung a small token of Mistletoe under a doorway for my birthday/ Christmas party last week. I think it went unnoticed, but I plan to stand under it soon and see if anything happens. I remember shooting it out of the tops of trees back in Oklahoma. Of course we were in our 20’s and it was within the city limits, so it was done quickly and with no apparent harm (except bad aim). Still the notion of having this branch above the door became an interesting discovery when I ran across some articles on the history of the plant.

So the plant is spread through bird poo. Yep, and we stand under it for a kiss. The host tissue (a tree) is its target and grows out of the branch. It’s poisonous to us, but promotes wildlife as a great source of food. Birds rely on the plant and butterflies lay their eggs on it and use the nectar.

Through the centuries it has been thought to have majestic powers and was hung in doorways to ward off bad spirits and against witchcraft. It was utilized in rituals to heal various diseases like epilepsy and ulcers, and more importantly promoted fertility and conception. It was oddly used to find treasures. Mostly it was considered to have a profound effect on people’s lives and imaginations. After the 3rd Century, mistletoe was integrated to an extent into Christianity. The earliest documented case of kissing under the mistletoe dates from 16th century England, a custom that was very popular during the Christmas season for its powers of fertility!

So snag a branch and hang it from the doorway. See if sparks fly under the mistletoe this year. Sounds like fun to me and hope to see you under the mistletoe soon!

9 Days ’til Christmas… Giving to the less fortunate

One Christmas come to mind. We were living in Naperville, Illinois, and Blair was in the 4th grade. The middle school offered a “giving tree” and angels were hung on the tree for kids to take and fulfill a needy child at Christmas. One afternoon I received a phone call from a lady. She introduced herself and said that her child wanted to give a gift and had brought home an angel. The lady explained that her husband had lost his job and that she had 3 children. She said that they could not buy a present but that she worked for a cereal company and she could donate cereal.

I was stunned by her complete devotion to offering her gift. And here she had nothing for her own family. I took her phone number and told her I would give her a call back. A tear streamed down my cheek with her generosity so endearing.   I went to the school and talked with the principal about the family. I found out that they were a part of the free lunch program and were probably a family in need. I asked if it would be okay to “adopt” this family and was able to get permission to do so.

I received a card and photos in the February after Christmas of her young family opening up Christmas presents and with a two page letter of gratefulness. I will never forget the willingness for her to take care of others, when in fact she needed the help for her family. I will be forever humbled. That will be my most favorite Christmas letter.

During this time, can we become aware of those around us that have less than we do. It could be the elderly neighbor that needs the company to share another human heart, a gift of time., or maybe a meal or a small decoration or perhaps a nice cozy blanket to ward off the chilly evenings. May you and your loved ones be blessed with the peace of the Season and may it fill your hearts with the willingness to give to those in need now and all year long.

10 Days ’til Christmas…Party planning

As a decorator, I love to plan a party. I spend countless hours decorating my home for the Holidays. Nothing pleases me more than to open my door and have people enter my cottage with a huge smile on their face. They simply love my Christmas. After more years than I will confess, I find myself in a twinkly wonderland of happiness as I sit in my room during this time of the season. With a crackling fire in the background, I am in the moment.

The key to party planning is to over decorate, over invite and have more food and drink than you think you will need! I like to invite the hairdresser, the lawyer, the neighbor and the college kids. I am the “more the merrier” at a party, but have found a detail list of food and preparation important. I like to do almost everything in advance, and if it is in a crock pot, that works, but items in the oven tough to do during the party unless you have hired help. Also, use large enough trays so that you do not need to replenish. I set the table the day before with my platters labeled so that I  remember all the items of food to set on the table. I set trays on coffee tables and around the kitchen and outdoors if weather permits. Filler items to set on side tables such as peanuts or popcorn are also nice. All décor is done the day before including new candles ready to be lit.

I like to do a timeline of what needs to be done before guests arrive. What items can be put out first and what remains for later. I have big tubs for bottled water, a must at every party, and stack another with wine and beer all iced down 2 hours in advance. Included in the timeline are food prep, bar set up, when to light candles and fire (have additional logs handy), and even down to when I need to finish getting ready. I hire at least one person to serve drinks and have them arrive early to get acquainted with where things are and duties. They can keep a watchful eye especially to prevent someone from being over served. I like to have ample trashcans (nice ones if you have them with extra bags in the bottom) so that trash can easily be emptied if needed. The use of nice paper or clear plastic plates and silver for extra large parties work as there is far less mess. I do like to have glass for drinks and stack these in the dishwasher in a couple of loads the next day.

My menu this year includes meatballs, pulled pork, smoked salmon, a beautiful array of Holiday season dips and veggies and gourmet cheeses. Champagne is the theme of the evening and we have a variety of recipes to offer. Two outdoor fire pits and a heater will keep us warm and I have added the making of s’mores to the enjoyment of the evening.

Hope to see you at the front door with a huge smile ready to toast the Season!

11 Days ’til Christmas… Shopping nothing a drink can’t cure

I was strolling down the aisles at some of the department stores and laboring over what special something I should get that someone special. Then I ponder, “Who is special?” and my list is way too large. I reconsider those that have significantly helped me without hesitation no matter what the project. Again, the list grows to numbers larger than my checkbook. The signs in the aisles separate items into a certain price point and I can’t think. I haven’t eaten yet and my head is now pounding a beat greater than any drums I have ever heard. A tiny voice says, “Leave now”. But then I remember that the postal days left to really make sure someone receives not only a gift but a card is fast approaching, like yesterday….

So I am taking an idea and running with it tomorrow. I have scheduled to join a friend, with a list of people that I need to ship gifts to and we are meeting at a bar. I know, that sounds awful, but as long as your heading down the isle you have two things that have happened; a friend to make it fun and you have taken the stress out of the decision. It became an annual event for my daughter to do her shopping this way. She hates to shop and even more, she hates to spend money. With an open store to confuse even the best of “listeners” she spins like a top under the stress of the perfect gift. In an effort to at least have a little something surprise under the tree for me, I encourage her to join a friend for shopping fun.

It truly is exciting to see her when she arrives home, as she glances at me with a twinkle in her eye as she scurries up the stairs to wrap the presents. I will miss her bubbling over with joy this year as we live many states away from each other. I wonder if she joins a friend now to do the same thing? I’d like to think so.

12 Days ‘til Christmas… Eggnog

I was at a friend’s house collecting some items to borrow for my Christmas/birthday party this weekend. Erica and I seem to watch our December birthdays go by in the same blur that our friends do during the frenzy of the Season. We decided to combine our birthday years and our celebration would be our 101st birthday, together of course, I mean collectively our years on this earth. Anyway my friend picked up an old bottle of Spiced Rum in her garage that she accidentally purchased for a party and thrust it into my hands and stated, “Use it with the eggnog at your party”. As I dusted off the bottle and placed it in the car, I was surprised I had left this concoction off the party list. I adore eggnog and it was an excellent idea.

My mom use to love eggnog and it was a family Christmas tradition. As I stroll down the dairy isle at our local Von’s Grocery store, I can’t help but place a carton in my basket. I struggle with the “light” version, which consistency is like a watered down version, but the calories at this time of year are waning. I opt for the really good stuff, after all we have rum to add and it just would not do the drink justice.

The original eggnog brought to this country from Europe was mixed with, of all things, beer and wine. The prevalence of rum made it a natural substitution and I would think a better idea.

I can smell, taste and feel the texture without bringing it to my lips. I found this awesome recipe, so raise your glasses to this holiday festive drink by making your own (or angle a carton at the grocery market):

Eggnog

Beat a dozen eggs in blender for one minute on medium speed. Slowly add 2 1/4 cups of sugar and blend for one additional minute. With the blender still running, add 3 teaspoons of freshly-grated nutmeg, 1 1/12 cups of Amontillado sherry, 1 1/2 cups of anejo tequila, 4 1/2 cups of whole milk and 3 cups of heavy cream until combined. Chill thoroughly to allow flavors to combine.

13 Days ‘til Christmas… Gingerbread Houses

 

I am fascinated by the incredible amount of work and detail that goes into the work of bakers in creating Gingerbread Houses. At the Four Seasons, I marveled at the Christmas decorations but am drawn to spend some time in front of the Gingerbread houses. These craftsman and bakers can maneuver and shape almost anything out of dough!

The origin of gingerbread has been around since the 11th Century when it is thought that crusaders brought back this spice from the Middle East. The baking of gingerbread became an art of centuries as the bakers guild acknowledged it as a profession. In the 17th Century only professional gingerbread bakers were permitted to bake with the exception of Christmas and Easter season.

The actual baking of houses came after years of molds and tradition in Europe. Houses were created for the first time in the 18th Century, the result of the well-known fairytale, Hansel and Gretel. The children were abandoned in the forest and found an edible house made of bread with sugar decorations. This book made it popular for German bakers to bake fairy-tale ornamental houses of ginger during Christmas. I believe the Bavaria area of Germany (my heritage) was the area of its origin.

In 2013, a group in Bryan, Tx, broke the Guinness Book of World Records set the previous year for the largest gingerbread house, with a 2,520-square-foot edible-walled house in aid of a hospital trauma Centre. The gingerbread house had an estimated calorific value exceeding 35.8 million and ingredients included 2,925 pounds of brown sugar, 1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs and 7,200 pounds of general-purpose flour. How fun is that?

As a project for grandmother one Christmas, we left my daughter, Blair, in her hands to build a Gingerbread House. When we arrived home late, the house had slid off the plate and laid in a clump on the floor. We decided to glue it back together, keeping it for decoration! It is a funny memory and it brings a smile to my face. So grab some icing and take a stab at your own creation this year! And forever have “sweet” memories of this Christmas holiday season.

14 Days ’til Christmas… Elves

This Elf has been busy with a new startup. I considered back “issues” of my blogs, but my nonprofit work for abused kids took up the extra time and honestly the cool mornings in my cottage with its old windows that seep in the morning air kept me under the covers with business needs dancing in my head.

I was most excited about having elves to help me launch my product (social media and online vehicles to sell) but Amazon felt like a new product needed some research. Awe, the joys of entrepreneurship. I hope to be filling the hearts of kids with my new dollhouse soon. It was fun to video and to see first hand my two girl models enjoy the house and their kinship of hours of play and pretend. Funny how they want to be grown ups. I’ll take child’s play. I will be their introduction to design. They can create their first home with my dollhouse!!!! Stay tuned for backdrops and accessories in 2016!

So what is the story of elves? Centuries ago, in the pagan times, Scandinavian people believed that elves are house gnomes who guarded their homes against evil. If you were good, the elves were good to you, but if you were bad, the mischievous elves would play tricks on you. By the mid-1800’s they became the magic behind making toys for Father Christmas. They were the administrators of the naughty and nice lists for Santa and had other duties such as taking care of reindeer.

The popular Western names of the Christmas elves helping Santa Claus are:

  1. Alabaster Snowball (Administrator of the Naughty & Nice list).
  2. Bushy Evergreen (Inventor of the magic toy-making machine).
  3. Pepper Minstix (Guardian of the secret of where Father Christmas’s village is located).
  4. Shinny Upatree (The oldest friend of Santa and the cofounder of the secret village in Lapland).
  5. Sugarplum Mary (Head of the Sweat Treats, she is also known as Mary Christmas. She is an assistant to Mrs Claus and helps her in the kitchen).
  6. Wunorse Openslae (Designer of Father Christmas’s sleigh and responsible for its maintenance. He also looks after the reindeers and it is believed that his reindeers reach speeds faster than Christmas tree lights).

This elf is having fun enjoying this Christmas Season with both good deeds and mischief. Sprinkle good deeds so that Alabaster Snowball will put you on the Nice list for Santa! Rumor has it Alabaster is struggling with what list to put me on….. Cheers!

25 Days ‘til Christmas…. Tinkle Bells

Yes, you heard that right. I often wondered about the meaning of the song, Silver Bells. It turns out to be the most delightful story of Paramount Pictures in the making of a movie called, “The Lemon Drop Kid.”

The producers were insistent that the composers, Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, write a Christmas song for the movie. Both Ray and Jay were nervous about their contracts with the production company and were concerned that a new hit song for Christmas an impossible feat.

As behind every good man is a better woman, the original song was called Tinkle Bells. When Jay told his wife the name of the song she suggested that he was out of his mind! Jay was not thinking of the double meaning of what tinkle referred to. I wonder how the song would sound today and if it would bring a chuckle!!!

The inspiration behind the song came from a bell sitting on their desk. They began to think of the Salvation Army volunteers starting the season with their bells soliciting donations on street corners. I must say those volunteers will bring joy to my heart and “ring” in this season with plenty of Joy and “tinkle” to my ears!

The song was debuted in 1951 and was sung by one of my favorites, Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. Bring on the Silver bells and place your donations in the red bucket today. Try singing the song tinkle bells and see if it doesn’t bring a smile and laughter.