Holiday

 
 

Always Ready to Party

I pass this house on my bike rides either coming or going. I slow down as I pedal past. I try not to stare but it’s difficult not to. You see, it’s still a bit dark when I’m going past and strands of white twinkle lights light up the yard. That’s not something you normally see on an October morning.

I should mention it’s the back yard, not the front. I have no idea what the front of this house looks like. I should ride over that way and see sometime, I suppose. Many of these homes were modestly built out of cinderblock during the fifties, nearly identical inside and out.  Quarter or half-acre lots back up to this part of the trail which serves as a power line easement and passes backyards filled with dozens of stories and even more questions.

This particular back yard captures my imagination and holds it hostage.

Photo by Codo (The passion of the mariachi) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) ], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Codo (The passion of the mariachi) [CC BY-SA 2.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In the slowly brightening sky the outline of a mariachi band plays against the twinkle lights. More specifically, life-sized, rusty looking metal statues of a mariachi band face the back of the house. There’s no actual music. But the feeling of a song just ended hangs in the yard like a fine morning mist.

Several matching rust colored umbrellas stand at ease amid various patio tables. A small swimming pool reflects light on to heavy tied-back patio curtains.

In contrast to the perfectly manicured yard and setting, two vintage cars and a small lawn tractor sit nearby. A row of desert trees skirt along a white fence.

I imagine that on closer inspection I’d find a more than adequate barbecue set up, a fire pit and a mini bar.

The interior of the house usually stands dark and silent. Oh, how I’ve wanted to stop and take a photo. But that seems intrusive and paparazzi-ish. So I haven’t any images to share. I hold only a mental photograph I snap every single time I ride past. Somehow, I’m sure, a photograph wouldn’t capture the vision I see and feel.

While walking in the ordinary light of day past this home the magic pull of this back yard holds far less sway on me. It’s just another backyard in the sunshine. I’m not sure what it is but there’s something about the pre-dawn light that makes it all feel as if someone just sprinkled pixie dust over the entire site.

Photo by MzScarlett / A.K.A. Michelle from Missouri (Ice Tea) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by MzScarlett / A.K.A. Michelle from Missouri (Ice Tea) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In that early morning hour I sense I’ve always just missed the last snippets of a long night of whispered conversations, laughter, ice clinking in glasses and wet footprints leading away from the pool. I suspect I’ve missed out on serpentine stories and long jokes with intelligent punchlines. The only taste I get of the party just finished hovers lightly as the scent of creosote in the chill early air.

Do I think this household throws a party every night that last long into the wee hours? No, not at all.

What I do think is they have managed to capture the essence of a nightly party and hold it there in a quarter-acre space. It must conjure wonderful memories to look out from the kitchen window of that home and see ghosts of guests long since departed. What joy it must bring to remember, amid the twinkle lights, friendships and family, chatter and music, stars and breezes.

Clearly I’ve romanticized and idealized what happens at this home. Whatever really goes on, whoever really lives there, I don’t want to know. I’d rather keep what I’ve imagined and call it truth.

I wonder if I could create something similar. Surely I don’t need a metal mariachi band to capture that sense of excitement and wonder at daily life. Maybe something as simple as candlelight and music softly playing at dinner, even if it’s meatloaf on the menu. Perhaps a strand of twinkle lights draped along the patio and plugged in every night, party or not, just for the sake of celebrating life.

I’ll have to give this more thought. Is this just a Better Homes and Gardens or House Beautiful photo shoot I’ve stumbled on and can’t possibly recreate? Or is there something real there, something in the idea of celebration that I could blend into my daily walk and talk? It’s an intriguing idea.

Party on, my friends, party on.

~~~

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” 

– John Lubbock

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Categories: Celebration, Family, Fun, good ideas, Holiday | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Perhaps,” the Grinch Said, “I’ve A Few Questions For You”

I have a question for you...

I have a question for you…

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.”

What is it about Dr. Seuss’s classic tale that we all admire so much?

  • Do we secretly feel the same way the Grinch does? I have at times felt just that way.
  • Do we wish for a Christmas morning filled with nothing but simple joy in our hearts and a song on the breeze? Surely I have, or something like it.
  • Is there part of us that wants a something in our lives or hearts to undergo an instantaneous change? Of course, but reality doesn’t work that way, does it?

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” tugs at nearly every string we attach to the holiday. We read or watch then we laugh and feel all warm and fuzzy. And then we bust out our shopping lists, our baking lists, our to-do lists, our stress and our craziness.

But.

What if?

  • What if you woke to nothing? No tree, no gifts, no feast, no traditional anything? Would it still be Christmas?
  • Have you ever gone without Christmas? I mean, really had no Christmas. No tree. No gifts. No candy. No stocking. No great meal. No thing to mark the day as significant and distinct.

(And, no I’m not talking about a trip to some fun or exotic location in lieu of gifts and such.)

  • Did this happen on purpose, because you gave your Christmas to another family?
  • Or did it happen due to incredibly difficult circumstances in your life?
  • Or did the stuff of Christmas not happen for some other reason?

I’d really like to know.

(Please comment below, anonymously even if you want.)

“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

star-wallpapers-22

Categories: Holiday, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Santa’s Staff Reorganized this Year

Friday Letter to my Kids: December 12, 2014 ~

Dear J, J, L and L,

'Tis the Season!

‘Tis the Season!

One of the hardest things in life is giving up something you love. You’ll each have to or have had to face this in one way or another. I think this year is my big year for having to finally let go.

I tried about five or six years ago, but found out, with only hours to spare, that you’d all be disappointed if I let go of this one. How could I let my kids down? Sure, you were all in your late teens and twenties then, but reality doesn’t always want recognition.

“What they heck is she talking about?” I can hear you thinking already. It’s even difficult for me to talk about it. But I can do this. Here and now.

As you’ve known for some time now, I’m one of Santa’s helpers in this part of the country. He’s kept me busy over the years. It looks like last year was my final year. I had hoped for one more chance to strut my stuff at my speciality, but Santa had other ideas and didn’t really let me know I wasn’t officially on the team until a month or so ago. I suspected something like this, but have been in denial.

I loved my position as Chief Stocking Acquisition and Surprise Fulfillment Coördinator – CSASFC. I made it a personal quest for the entire year to locate some unexpected small trinkets and extra delicious treats for plumping out those stockings.

That one year where I tried the new and improved smaller stockings definitely backfired. I nearly lost my position over that one. But contrition won out and Santa kept me on, albeit with a slight cut in pay and no bonus that year. Sigh. Disappointment abounded, that’s for certain. The next year more than made up for it, at least I hope so.

Honestly, Santa probably should have let me go years ago, but I begged and pleaded. Made a great case for how very much-needed I thought I was. He has a tender heart and couldn’t break mine, so he let me hang on these past few years when the job should have passed on to younger associates. What a good guy!

I’ll be fine. Really.

See's, a day's dosage.

See’s, a day’s dosage.

Not sure I can bring myself to hang up a stocking for your Dad and I this year, since, as you now know, part of my job also included filling those stockings. But Santa assured me that I would weather this first year of retirement just fine. He recommended extra doses of hot chocolate, easy on the hazelnut creamer, heavy on the peppermint. So far, that’s helped quite a bit. I may have to resort to adding a prescription grade of chocolate orange sticks to the mix though. And I have a gift card from See’s, (thanks to the Valentine bunny, or is that Easter cupid?) Whatever. I can go with that good stuff if I have to. I’ve heard great things about Lindor Truffles too, but I’ll only resort to those if all else fails.

Anyway, I’m sorry to be the bearer of sad news. You probably saw this coming long before I did. Nothing sadder than an aging baseball player or arthritic basketball star pretending that they’re still at the top of their game. Nothing sadder except a Santa’s helper who won’t let go of the job when retirement age has come and gone.

You all probably have plenty to do with your own Santa assignments this year, so I’ll keep this short.

All I have left to say is this. It’s been a pleasure and a delight working with Santa all these years. I will miss this job, but I’ll probably get over it. Whatever shape your own Santa responsibilities take, just know this: the years fly by and before your know it you’re reluctantly passing the baton on to your successor. Enjoy every frazzled minute of it!

I’m gonna go bake up some sugar cookies and lick frosting from my fingers, right after I make a batch of divinity and a double batch of toffee. I’ll be just fine.

Merry Christmas!

Lots of love,

Mom

~~~~~

photo-25 copy 16

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” ~ Buddy

Categories: Friday Letters, Holiday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Sound of Heavenly Peace

holly ivyHave you ever wished you could talk with someone who has died? How do you picture something like that coming about? An ethereal mist with somewhat human form? A tangible person appearing from nowhere? Simply hearing a voice? How about just a feeling?

A couple of times my friend Kathy has “spoken” to me, but only in a kind of “I know what she’d say in this situation if she were here” sort of way. Like the first time I got a diet Cherry Coke from Sonic without her in the seat beside me. The thought came to me that she’d say, “Girl! Open the sunroof, crank the tunes and enjoy that diet Coke!”

Nah, I didn’t hear her voice at all. Just the memory of her in my head.

Then there’s the times I’ve had a conversation and said something really negative or pessimistic. “Kathy would get after me for saying that,” I think to myself.

By Wle2 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Wle2 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Still, not what I’ve wanted, or hoped for or thought I needed. I’m pretty sure she said all she needed to say to me while she still lived and breathed. But this month I’m finding myself reliving and reviewing last December, since it was Kathy’s last month of this life. I can’t not do that.

So what does all that have to do with my Gratituesday today?

Kathy finally spoke to me, indirectly, but as directly as she could. Consider this quote before you read on: “If it weren’t for music, I would think that love is mortal.” ~Mark Helprin

Kathy’s husband woke in the middle of the night a month or so ago with the thought that “Kami needs to go to this Christmas concert I’m singing in.” He tried to ignore the thought and go back to sleep, but the it persisted. So he messaged me and then, a few weeks later, gifted me these tickets.

Saturday night MSH and I attended the concert. I tried not to have high expectations. It’s just a big two hundred and fifty member choir and an orchestra. Nothing professional. And I didn’t want to be disappointed by, I don’t know, Kathy not walking across the stage and waving hello to me or some such ridiculous incarnation like that.

And yet, life can surprise you.

The Christmas song Stille Nacht (ca. 1860) by Franz Xaver Gruber (1787–1863).

The Christmas song Stille Nacht (ca. 1860) by Franz Xaver Gruber (1787–1863).

The title of the concert? “Heavenly Peace.”

From the first note my heart opened up and tears dripped from my eyes like a faucet left on. Why? Because the music communicated peace right to the middle of me. I felt cradled and comforted by the harmonies. Oddly, the lyrics didn’t matter as much as the warmth that radiated through sound waves swirling around me.

Songs of delight and child-like frivolity also danced across my heart. A sweet preschool choir communicated the innocence and excitement of the holidays. A tonal poem of one word repeated drew a colored sound picture so exquisite.

By nosyme (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by nosyme (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

The final number, though, gave new meaning to the word breathtaking. Bagpipes and dancers, chimes, singers in the balconies, singers overflowing the stage, every single participant pouring their everything in to each note! I literally had to catch my breath multiple times to keep my emotions in check. The sheer joy of the Christmas season with generosity and fun, lights and song, focus and tradition, shot through my heart like lasers swooshing about the room. I felt lifted and renewed and saturated with incredible hope.

I felt Kathy communicating, “Feel that? That’s how I feel now! I feel relief and joy and freedom and incomprehensible love.”

I’m thankful today for music’s power to transcend ordinary communication. I’m grateful for musical artists who give with such abandon to their craft. I’m indebted to people who pay attention and respond promptly to nudges and thoughts and then follow through with generosity and love. I thank Kathy for getting through to me and showering down blessings from heaven. I’m overwhelmed with the joy of this Christmas season.

Thank you to any and all who had a part in this singularly magnificent Christmas gift.

musical notes

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Holiday, Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dressing Up and Letting Your Hair Down

Boo!

Boo!

Dear J, J, L and L,

All week I’ve had mini-flashbacks of various versions of each of you in costume over the years.

I recall a Frankenstein’s monster, a beauty queen, tiny witches, cute witches, a leopard, a black cat, an epic version of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, a ninja, a devil, a wizard, superheroes, insects and Indians and dozens of others long past.

Of the non-holiday version I recall Wilbur the pig, Tatiana from Midsummer Night’s Dream, a pilgrim, an egyptian queen, poodle-skirted teens a pioneer and a cowboy.

I’m pretty certain we came up with costumes for school projects, spirit weeks and other odd events at least three times a year. Multiply that times the four of you. Add in Halloween and we had the drama department at the high school outgunned in costuming paraphernalia.

The sewing machine got a great workout every October, as I attempted to make reality of who you wanted to transform into that year. Lucky for me sewing costumes don’t require great skill, just adequate knowledge.

I miss those days of dressing you up for so many different events. Perhaps that why I started dressing up myself for Halloween a few years ago. Or maybe I’ve just acquired a need to be someone else for a day once or twice a year.

Last year’s witch costume on Halloween night, scared a few children away from the candy bowl. Perhaps it was the green face, or more likely the cackling, high-pitched, evil sounding voice that involuntarily took over who I was under the costume. Strange how that happens.

A couple years ago my Biker Chick outfit, complete with pleather pants and a real leather biker jacket, felt wild and empowering. So opposite to my recognizable personality, that costume rocked a few people’s perceptions of me. I enjoyed it though, for that one night.

Being a pirate wench the year or two before taught me that I probably ought to be careful what sort of characters I choose to become. It’s easy to do and say things that aren’t your usual fare when you’re somewhat disguised.

This year, sadly, I have other obligations during the Trick or Treat hours. And surprisingly, I wasn’t invited to any Halloween parties where I could take on the persona of some other creature for a while.

I suppose it’s best that you’ve missed this side of my odd personality, this need or desire to dress up and play pretend. I guess I’ve never really grown up in some ways.

Where’s the fun in that, anyway? I like having a childlike part of myself that I can access when the need for silliness arises. I only regret there’s only one time every year that I can let my hair down like that.

I’ll spend the next twelve months with an occasional question about how to dress up next year. Just the planning of such nonsense brings a smile to my face.

I highly recommend accessing your inner child when the opportunity arises.

Happy Halloween my little goblins!

Love always,

Mom

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, Holiday | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Banded Together

It’s Gratituesday! The radio normally doesn’t play in the car when I’m driving by myself. Yesterday I turned it on and heard the most surprising sound coming from my speakers. It  sounded like a high school band playing The Star Spangled Banner.

I expected some advertisement to start blaring in the middle of it, but nothing like that happened.

I checked the station setting, expecting it to be NPR doing some patriotic piece about something to do with the upcoming American holiday. Nope. Not National Public Radio.

I turned the volume up some and listened to the rest of the anthem. Meanwhile tears came to my eyes as I drove.

What a surprising moment in the middle of my day.

That song, played not with perfection but with feeling and obvious hours of practice, spoke volumes in those few brief measures.

I felt so lucky to have won the lottery that let me be born here, a place that millions have dreamed of and worked at and sacrificed to come to and to live.

I felt gratitude for so many who’ve defended the freedom I so richly and probably undeservedly enjoy.

I felt reverence for the wisdom of those who first wrote the words and signed their names to the document that begins:

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”

Which document is that, you ask?

It’s the one whose second paragraph begins with these more famous words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It’s time to read that inspired bit of history and of foundational concrete. A reminder I know I need more often.

Here’s a copy for you to read as well. (It’s 1137 words long – five minutes to read, maybe a bit more.)

20071018_declaration

Just kidding. It’s too tiny. Click here to read a copy.

Also, if you can find some way to let yourself hear the national anthem sometime this week, I’d encourage you to make that happen, too.

My thanks also goes out to a local radio station, 94.5 FM for reminding me how blessed I am as a citizen of these United States of America.

flag

A Word You Might Not Know But Will Now

un·alien·able

adjective \ˌən-ˈāl-yə-nə-bəl

: impossible to take away or give up

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Holiday | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Serendipity of Your Birthday On Memorial Day

Dear Kathy,

I find it interesting that your birthday this year also happens to fall on Memorial Day. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you had planned it that way.

I’d really wanted to visit you on your birthday but I’m afraid it’ll be crowded and noisy and I just wanted some quiet one on one time with you. I’d even thought of bringing along some hummus and pita bread to munch. And, of course, a forty-four ounce diet coke, easy ice, with diet cherry flavoring and handful of real cherries.

Instead, I think I’ll come by for a visit in a few weeks, when the crowds have died down (no pun intended) and it’s quiet and peaceful. Hoping it isn’t too hot by then, or too windy. I suppose if your geraniums survive the summer at “your Sarah’s” house nearby then I’d do okay with the summer heat on “the mountain.”

pieces-of-the-puzzleI have to say I have mixed feelings about visiting you. It just won’t be how it was. Of course, what is anymore? Seems like someone took the puzzle that was my life in January, threw it up in the air and let the pieces fall wherever. I think the wind caught a few pieces and carried them away.

Can I also admit something horrible? I’m kinda angry. That sounds really stupid as I write it. All those conversations we had for years about what “now” would look and feel like, all those assignments you gave me, all those things in the far distant future actually happened. At the time of those conversations none of it felt real.

Surreal, yes.

Real, never.

“Now” is here and more real than I imagined and I don’t like it one bit.

See the paisley shape in each one? Not as cool all by itself.

See the paisley shape in each one? Not as cool all by itself.

I’m also a bit aggravated because you set this gold standard for the perfect friendship. Nothing else will ever measure up to that. That’s not really your fault. You couldn’t help it that you were the friendship yin to my yang. Now I’m just a funky looking squiggle, a paisley shape. Dumb and boring.

I keep expecting to run into you. And yet, I avoid going to your house. I’m not following through with those assignments you gave me. I’m a slacker.

Truth is, it hurts too dang much to go over to your place now. Even driving past twists this pain through my back and into my heart and makes an ache that takes days to breath away. I should get over that. Eventually.

I also expect to see you in dreams. I did, a couple of weeks ago. I wrote the dream down in my journal. Reread it a few times. Gave up trying to understand it. Too much like real life. I was hoping for revelation, insight, wisdom, healing, and yes, maybe even laughter. This dream didn’t have any of that in it. But I did see you, your face, that light you have in your eyes. And I heard your bossy, take charge voice, sort of. It had softened some.

This letter probably gets your dander up. You’d tell me to suck it up. You’d say…I don’t know. What would you say?

I can’t remember now. I don’t want to remember. And I do want to remember.

photo-24 copy

translation: quit your belly aching

Actually, now that I’ve thought about it, you’d say, “Kwitchurbelyakn!” Just like that little sign on your stove said.

This was meant as a perky, happy letter. One to let you know I’m okay, even though I miss you. I’d planned it out in my head to start with a great joke, share a couple of funny memories, finish with another good joke and then sign off with some witty remark.

You know me better than that. You’d see through the smoke and mirrors and would call BS when you got done reading a letter like that.

What advice would you give me? Can you just drop me a line somehow? You’re one of the most resourceful, innovative women I know. Surely you can do a workaround to get word to me. A mystery text. A phrase in a book I’m reading jumping out at me. A glimpse of your big smile on someone’s face. Be creative, I’m pretty open-minded about however you reach me.

Tall order, I know. Plus, you’re probably pretty busy reorganizing heaven so it runs more efficiently.

Just so you aren’t completely irritated by my whiney letter I’ll let you know I’ve trolled the internet for jokes and I share them, almost every day. Just trying to stay on the sanity side of the grief thing. It seems to help, some.

This quote by Bill Cosby caught my eye and, of course, I thought of you.

“You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive. it.” ~ Bill Cosby

You did that really well, so I’m trying to keep up the tradition. Laughter, even in the crappy times. So here’s a parting joke, or a party joke. Whichever.

Little Johnny’s new baby brother was screaming up a storm. He asked his mom, “Where’d we get him?”

His mother replied, “He came from heaven, Johnny.”

Johnny says, “WOW! I can see why they threw him out!”

You’re a keeper, no matter how demanding you might get. Try to stay out of trouble, if you can. I know you like to stir things up, have things your way. Try to remember you aren’t the one in charge anymore.

This was probably two years ago or more. An eternity and just yesterday.

This was two years ago or more. An eternity and just yesterday.

Here’s that picture I took a couple of years ago that you photoshopped and sent back to me. I should frame it to remind me of your sense of humor, your ability to laugh in life’s toughest situations. Not to mention, I’d get to see that mischievousness in your eyes. And it’d remind me to be happy anyway.

I miss you a ton.

Happy Birthday!

With love from your bestie,

Kami

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Death, Holiday, Humor | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Odd Ways We Say Goodbye

Everything drips with symbolism lately.

photo 2-1 copy 5

Whether shiny, sparkly or pale the gold looked stunning next to green boughs.

I’ve undecorated the tree this afternoon. It’s time to let go. In fact, it’s past time. The needles are dropping faster, brownish tan slowly outshines the evergreen color. Sure, in a certain light, night-time,with just the small twinkle lights on, it looks vibrant and adds such ambience to the room. But in reality, a fire hazard stands in the living room.

When we first became acquainted, this tree sent its voluptuous pine scent wafting about the entire house. I thought it seemed happy here. But truly, it was simply on its last few weeks of a life spent outdoors, gazing at the stars, tucked in under the snow, basking in the sun, drenched in the rain. Then it found its life cut short and quickly waning. For a brief span of time it glowed and sparkled with beauty and light and life, its last bit of energy expended giving joy and lifting hearts.

photo 1 copy 5

A well-lived life draws to a close.

But now, fully spent, its time has come to move on. Perhaps a few of her needles will become part of the mulch that nurtures next autumns flowers into a radiant bloom. Perhaps a chill night will be brightened and warmed by her last few embers. Perhaps in years to come a photo of a decorated tree, fallen over with the weight of too many ornaments and not enough balance, will lighten the heart of an aged woman. Or another photo of that same tree redecorated and standing proud and straight with a sweet smiling man at her side will bring cheer into a grandchild’s mind.

This sweet Christmas tree oversaw a bittersweet holiday.  It did its job with honor and aplomb. If there were medals awarded for Christmas tree service above and beyond the call of duty, this tree would have earned and worn an extras star of honor.

Now a small brass angel oversees the last of the boxing up of the gold and white bulbs, the untangling of the white lights from the branches. Tonight that tree will look up at the stars once again and dream.

photo 4 copy 2

A few baubles waiting to get boxed up for another year.

Tonight, my living room will feel empty. I’ll walk in and feel lost knowing something important is missing. The empty spot will continue feeling empty regardless of the rearranging of furniture or placing of photos and lamps.

Now you see that I’m a silly, melodramatic woman, with far too much time for thinking and not enough to keep my mind and hands occupied.

I keep saying goodbye in such odd ways.

Maybe this year, this new set of twelve months, will be spent doing just that.

Categories: Death, Holiday, Memory Lane, Relationships, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Me to You Wherever You Are

It’s Gratituesday! Who would have thought that one birth, one life, one death, could have such an impact on a world.  It has on mine. And this year particularly, his resurrection feels like a part of the season of celebration and gratitude. I think perhaps it will continue that way  for all the Christmases that follow.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

I wish you Peace!

A quilt work of the heart my youngest daughter helped me make.

A quilt work of the heart my youngest daughter helped me make.

Oh Holy Night

– Marcus Tidmarsh

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

 “God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity … down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.” ~CS Lewis on the incarnation

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Holiday, Hope | 3 Comments

Baking Up a Storm

I wish I were baking up a storm.

But no, I’m putting it off. Just not feeling the baking love yet this month. I haven’t even made a loaf of bread in weeks. What’s up with that?

Russian tea cakes

Russian Tea Cakes are more like a cookie than a cake. Must be eaten with a glass on milk on the side. Powdered sugar on your shirt, face and arms will be guaranteed.

Normally I’d have whipped out a few batches of Russian Tea Cakes and eaten half of them myself by now. And I’d be contemplating making another batch or two to share with friends and neighbors.

Why the hiccup in my usual plans?

No idea.

I have a formidable list of treats I like to make this time of year. Here it is in no particular random order:

  • Russian Tea Cakes
  • Six Week Muffins
  • Carmel
  • Fudge
  • Christmas Pudding
  • Snowdrops
  • Toffee
  • Baklava
  • Divinity

New this year Olympic Cremes, a childhood favorite. If they turn out okay I’ll post the recipe. I can almost taste them just remembering how Mom would carmelize sugar and then add the other simple ingredients then shape the mixture into balls of delight. Sugary, crispy, melt in your mouth confections unlike anything I’ve ever tasted for sale in a store or on a plate of gifted goodies.

Baklava

Baklava (Photo credit: niquei)

The Baklava is a middle eastern delight I learned to bake in the Paleocene era, from the original Greek dinosaurs Lambda Iota Tau Eateosaurus Rucus. Takes hours of painstaking work and pounds and pounds of butter and this decadent amount of honey, spices and nuts. But, it’s worth every aching muscle in my tired feet and back when it finally cools after eight hours. Those diamond-shaped delicacies bring joy to even the most grinchy soul.

The Toffee gets made multiple times over several weeks because we here at Casa de la Tilby inhale it like oxygen. Oh the butter and chocolate state of nirvana that one achieves! Words fail me.

Christmas Pudding graced my husband’s table as a wee lad. It took me years to embrace this unusual, I’m guessing British, dessert. The smell of all the spices steaming into the air over hours of bubbling on the stove top adds to the charm of this recipe. The best part about Christmas Pudding lies in its carmel sauce that I prefer to drown my small bowl of rich cake-like succulence in. I’m licking my spoon in my mind as I write.

Homemade Caramel Sauce-001

Basic ingredients to anything wonderful, butter, sugar, milk…mmmm (Photo credit: Emily Barney)

You should drop by for a taste or two. Anytime would be fine, if I ever get around to starting this process. That thought might motivate me to start the process sooner.

I don’t need to waste my words describing fudge or carmel as everyone has their own favorite twist on both. I’ve thought of forgoing the fudge this year to make next years batch seem all the more precious, but I might get in trouble. Maybe just half a batch and call it good.

How can I describe Divinity if you’ve never eaten any? Marshmallow cream training for a marathon. That doesn’t do it justice though. Divine Food of the Gods. Manna. Fluffy taste bud heaven. Here’s a visual I always think of when I say Divinity: the album cover to Herb Albert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights. (Not exactly a G-rated piece of art, so don’t click if you’re a sensitive soul. Great music though!) I digress. Find some divinity or make some Divinity. Then, partake. You’ll thank me.

MSH prefers it with Walnuts. I don’t. I win since I’m the cook.

He gets nuts in nearly every other thing I bake this time of year, so don’t feel sorry for the man. Carmel and Divinity, no nuts. Everything else, nuts.

I’m nuts.

But that’s normal, not exclusive to this holiday season.

Melted white chocolate chips

Melted white chocolate! (Photo credit: frugalupstate)

Snowdrops are a recent addition to the repertoire. Okay, not that recent now that I think of how long ago we lived in Oklahoma, where I got the recipe.  It wasn’t an original Tilby or Mitchell family recipe.  It’s the easiest one I make and surprisingly satisfying. Imagine Rice Krispy treats but replace the melted sticky marshmallow with melted white chocolate, add peanuts, mini marshmallows left whole and unmelted, and a touch of Capn Crunch Peanut Butter cereal. That’s it. Weird, but truly delicious.

Great, just as I suspected I’ve made myself hungry for Christmas baking. I should jump on that motivational train before it departs the station.

photo 1 copy 3

Nothing like sugar to help you blast through that Christmas to-do list!

What do you bake for the holidays? Anything unusual? Fun? Weird? I’d love to hear about it. Maybe I’ll forsake one of my standards and try one of yours.

(Lest anyone feel slightly, I used to do sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles, but they had to take a sabbatical to make room for everything else.)

Include links to recipes and I’ll be your friend forever.

Now, where’s the sugar?

Categories: Food, Fun, Holiday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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