Posts Tagged With: Christmas

Twenty-four Seven Three Six Five Christmas

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful that generosity and feels extra abundant this time of year.

We received this Christmas card many, many years ago. The idea struck me so powerfully I chose to frame the card and kept it hung up in my room year-round for a long time.

Christmas all year round.

I wish I knew who sent the card. Even more, I wish I could give credit to whoever said this.

December seems filled with real-life stories of strangers helping strangers, random acts of generosity and secret gifts of stunning proportion. I love reading about or watching such stories. Hope takes a deep breath with each tale told.

I can tell you, though, that such things don’t just happen in December. I’ve been the recipient this past year of Christmas every single month in one surprising act of love or kindness after another. For some of it I have no idea who to thank. I can only pray that such generosity finds the giver blessed beyond anything they’ve given. For other blessings showered down on me, I’m woefully inadequate at expressing thanks.

Christmas is alive and well around here, I can tell you that. I see it 24/7/365. (All day, every day, all year.)

Thank you if you’ve given anything to anyone for any reason this year.  You may have very easily touched my life and lifted my spirits unknowingly.

For me it’s been a beautiful Christmas year!

Happy Holidays! I hope they live on for you long after the decorations get put away and the carols stop playing.

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Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Most Expensive Christmas Tree Ever, But Worth Every Penny

A few years back we finally followed through with my wish to go off into the woods to cut down our own Christmas tree.

“It’ll be fun!” I said smiling.

“Think of it as an adventure,” I cajoled.

“We’ll save money,” I smiled, as I played my winning ace.

My Dream tree… Photo By Nandaro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

My Dream tree… Photo By Nandaro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

So off I went to the store to buy a twenty-dollar tree cutting permit. What a deal! Twenty bucks for the freshest tree we could get. I could hardly wait. I planned to bring snacks and hot chocolate and to dress extra, extra warm.

Did I mention that it takes two hours to drive to the forest where these trees live? Small detail.

We’d make a day trip out of it. I’d pack a lunch for us, too.

MSH prepared more than I did. He got the chainsaw ready, which I thought was excessive. I figured a small hand saw would serve us well. And he tossed our tent, two sleeping bags and a couple of big backpacks with camping gear into the back seat of our trusty truck. “Just in case,” he said. I scoffed.

Sure there might have been a storm aiming our direction. That’s why we planned on leaving extra early so we’d get back long before the storm made its way over the Sierra’s and across the desert to our neck of the woods. But, MSH loves to “be prepared.” I think he might have been an Eagle Scout in a previous life.

As we neared our forest service approved tree cutting area we saw lots of big trucks with fluffy verdant green trees, branches thick and full and just waiting for hundreds of twinkle lights and candy canes and such. I felt giddy with anticipation. We turned down a few roads and began scouting for that perfect tree. After a half hour or so we wondered if those trucks we saw had cut down every decent Christmas tree left. All we saw were scrawny things, twisted and bare branched.

We figured we needed to get out of the truck and hike around a bit. So we pulled off the main road, turned down a side dirt road and parked. As we got out of the truck the first tentative snowflakes began to fall. “Ambience!” I said.

Photo by Wsiegmund

Our reality… Photo by Wsiegmund

We saw what looked like a good tree in the distance only to find on getting closer that it was two trees snuggled in close to each other. That happened time and again. After an hour of hiking around we finally shook our heads and picked the least scrawny of the scrawny trees that surrounded us. The chain saw came in handy.

Turns out we’d hiked further from the truck that we thought we had. The hike felt even longer since we dragged a heavy, very fresh tree along the forest floor.

Of course, turning back on the main forest road we, once again, saw trucks loaded with bushy pines and knew we’d taken a wrong turn and should have kept driving another half mile to the next turn-off where everyone else seemed to know they’d find perfect trees. Too late, though. We’d cut and tagged our Charlie Brown tree.

By cogdogblog on Flickr (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By cogdogblog on Flickr (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0]

For fun we opted to take the scenic route. By scenic, I mean a dirt and gravel road that mostly followed the edge of the Mogollon Rim. Five miles in and far too committed to turn back, the storm kicked in a bit stronger. Winds from the south blew the snow horizontally. The huge Ponderosa pines around us seemed to brace themselves against the force. The further along we got on the Rim Road, the more the snow increased and the wind picked up. Luckily the snow wasn’t sticking to the dirt road.

When we took a little side road for a brief pit stop the truck wouldn’t start up again. Not even a click from the key turning. I pictured us huddled in our little tent for days, hoping someone noticed we weren’t around and would be found before we froze to death. But before I could imagine a great rescue scene or compile a farewell letter to my children MSH figured out a cable had shaken loose on the battery and had tightened it up. The truck started right away. Phew.

Crisis averted.

Not five minutes after that we had to stop the truck again. This time we stopped to stare in amazement and absolute awe at something we’d never seen.

By William Warby (originally posted to Flickr as Hovering Kestrel) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by William Warby (originally posted to Flickr as Hovering Kestrel) [CC BY 2.0]

A hawk hovered ten feet away from the edge of the cliff. And by hovered I mean just hung in mid-air, in place, not moving forward or backward, up or down. The wings tipped a bit to compensate now and then, but for the most part the hawk simply hung there as if suspended midair. The updraft on the cliff from the incoming storm provided perfect conditions for this beautiful creature to practice wing control and aerodynamics. Five minutes. Ten minutes. We watched, mesmerized at the skill and wonder of this bird.

Finally the bird either tired out or the wind changed. A small tip of the wings and the hawk floated up and away, slowly disappearing from view.

The storm let up long enough for us to get down off the Rim and into the nearest town just before sundown. We stopped for a warm dinner, took a reading on the storm and safety dictated the rest of the drive should wait until morning. So we checked in to a motel for the night. We enjoyed a late breakfast the next morning as the storm blew through and the sun came out.

Total cost of that scrawny twenty-dollar tree? After gas, dinner, battery cable part, motel and breakfast: One-hundred-ninety-five dollars.

Trekking through the snowy woods, seeing a hawk do a stationery hover on the wind, and quality time with MSH? Priceless.

Categories: Holidays | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

“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!”

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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

~~~~~

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“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

Seeing Through the Eyes of a Child Circa the 1960’s

By Noël Zia Lee (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Noël Zia Lee (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do you remember how exciting December was when you were six or seven years old? Not quite old enough to stop believing in Santa, and still young enough to take in the fun, food and crazy excitement in the air. No pressures, just sheer anticipation and a long month of counting down ‘how many days left until school let out for the holidays.’

I loved going down town in our little city and walking the slushy sidewalks, seeing and hearing the bell ringers on the street corners, peeking in the windows of the shops. My feet still remember that sudden whoosh of surprise at catching an extra sloshy pile of snow and having it slip inside my shoe. I’d stand at the corner, my gloved hand in Mom’s, stamping my foot while waiting for the police officer with his whistle to make certain the road was clear before we crossed the street. I loved the crowds of people, the decorated light poles, the bustle of it all.

The Five and Dime store held my interest even more than the candy counter and the elevator at the department store during that time of year. Slowly making my way down each aisle I’d look at all the treasures I could possibly buy to give as gifts to my siblings and parents. I imagined their surprise at opening up a wrapped package with such wonders tucked inside. I pictured their happy faces and knew I’d absolutely have to buy this item or that trinket. At least, until I happened upon the next perfect gift. Choosing among such possibilities seemed beyond my abilities at such a young age. Back then I think I’m certain that price held little meaning and the decision process probably involved my mother ruling out the overpriced items.

Occasionally I’d see some toy that spoke to my soul. I knew I’d stumbled on the gift that surely Santa would leave for me under the tree. I didn’t always tell Mom about it, though, since I didn’t recognize her important role in making certain Santa knew what I dreamed of receiving.

By Dough4872 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Dough4872 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We’d also make a separate trek downtown with the entire family to visit the Christmas Village with those traditional lighted walkways and glittering trees. It seemed as though nothing ever changed; the same lights and displays in the same place each year lent continuity and stability to my young life. And, of course, it seemed we always picked the coldest night of the year for this endeavor, for no amount of bundling kept me warm enough. Fortunately hot chocolate waited for us in a thermos in the car and sleep usually overtook me on the drive back home. Is there anything to compare with being carried inside from the car to the bed, sleep barely nudged by the removing of boots and gloves and coat? I think not. I felt so very loved in that act.

I also recall walking door to door with a small group of neighbors, carrying plates of goodies and decorated boxes filled with fruit and treats. We’d stop at the homes of mostly widows and elderly people. We’d sing some Christmas carols, with me mangling the words as I tried my best to sing along. As we’d leave each house we’d belt out “we WISH you a merry Christmas” which I knew well and could sing loudly and with confidence. I don’t recall feeling particularly cold, in spite of trudging through snow, while singing and treating. I think being in a group kept me warm, but it could have been some warmth within from the joy of it all that kept me toasty.

Dave Hitchborne [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Dave Hitchborne [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On Christmas eve we’d ask Dad (since he had the biggest foot size) if we could borrow one of his socks to set out for Santa to fill. We didn’t have a fireplace, so we set them on the floor next to the furnace knowing full well that we’d find an orange, some nuts and some candy plumping up each sock.

I’m sure I’m idealizing what I remember. But isn’t that what we do with our childhood?

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m remembering it all exactly as I experienced it. After all, I didn’t have glasses yet and the world still came across as a bit hazy and foggy. My focus, being nearsighted, always zeroed in on nearby and up close things. The rest of the world melted to the background while I lived in a bubble. What a wonderful world, too!

I like to imagine I could put all those memories in a sort of snow globe that I shake up several times during the month of December. The flakes fall around that idyllic distant scene and I look on with child-like yearning for a Christmas long past.

Categories: Holidays | Tags: , , , , | 1 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.

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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

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

If a Tree Falls…

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for the weird occurrences in life that give it flavor and spice. This morning provided just such an occurrence.

Here’s a question for you.

If a tree falls in the living room and no one hears it, did it really make a sound as it crashed to the ground?

We bought our “fresh-cut” pine on Thursday evening and immediately brought it home securing it in the tree stand filled with water and some preservative. It stood four entire days regal and proud, its scent filling the house with memories of forests and camping and the wonders of nature.

I’m not sure why we didn’t decorate it right away. Oh yes, now it comes to me. We were busy. Very, very busy. Who isn’t this time of year?

I thought I saw our Christmas tree listing to the right a bit as we strung it with white twinkle lights and placed ornaments on it last night. But MSH assured me it wasn’t going anywhere. Even as it leaned a tad bit more, he assured me again.

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What I saw in the living room this morning!

So, no surprise to walk in the living room this morning to see a Douglas Pine splayed sideways across the end of the glass coffee table, ornaments thrown about the room in what was apparently a spectacularly rapid and explosive fall. There’s a strand of lights caught on the ladder we had left out to finish up with today. Luckily, or miraculously, the glass table top isn’t cracked or broken.

Not so fortunate broken glass ornaments populate the carpet. I really don’t want to have to buy more ornaments. That would mean shopping, of which I am not a fan.

I’m thinking this is one of those years that we get to somehow attach the tree to the wall or ceiling so we don’t have to deal with this mess a second or third time.

About six years ago we had a tree that didn’t want to stay standing. After three falls and three big carpet stains from the sap and water in the tree stand we secured the tree from two points on the wall with heavy-duty twine.

I’ve heard of people simply hanging the tree from the ceiling. I’ve known of some who place the tree in the play pen to keep the toddler out. I’ve never seen anyone actually have to tie their tree off to keep it upright, although I’m sure we’re not the first to have to do so.

I had been leaning myself toward having no tree this year, but was nearly voted off the island by MSH and the kids who thought that would be too depressing not to have a Christmas tree.

But this, is more dispiriting. Work that we spent hours on has to be redone. And that’s aggravating, frustrating, infuriating even, if I let myself dwell on it too long. It looked so pretty last night. White lights glowing. Gold, clear and silver ornaments reflecting the light. The Angel at the top overseeing the work of art we’d created shone with approval.

Sigh…

Maxine

My Favorite Hallmark character Maxine

My favorite Christmas cartoon ever is a Hallmark card featuring The Crabby Road Lady. Maxine says:

“Christmas is just plain weird. What other time of year do you sit in front of a dead tree in the living room and eat candy out of your socks.”

Boy is she right. It is a weird holiday when you think about it that way. Oh sure, I know the meanings behind it all, I’m all into the symbolism of stuff (see yesterday’s post.) But still, on the surface of it we must look pretty strange doing some of the traditions we do. Maybe I need to stop being quite so much like Crabby Maxine in how I look at things.

The tree will stand again.

max on sled

Can’t you just feel Max’s little tail wagging with excitement?

We’ll approach the task with less excitement tonight, maybe after watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” just to put us in the right mood. I love Max the Grinch’s dog. He’s such an optimistic little soul in spite of everything he deals with.

Maybe I can try behaving more like Max. Smiling, my tail wagging, happily caught up in part of the adventure no matter how weird or warped or inconvenient things might get.

Without a few catastrophes, breakdowns, and it-only-happens-in-the-movies moments, our life would feel fairly ho hum instead of ho ho ho.

Maybe if I keep channeling my inner-Max, life might get to sound like Hallelujah more often.

However you look at it, my life’s blessed with spice and flavor and plenty of variety both good and bad.

I hope today you’re feeling blessed in some little and big ways. And I hope a bit of Max lets you feel a wag in your tail today.

And, may your tree stay standing, too!

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

Tick Tock Tick Tock

My latest attempts at achieving organizational nirvana involve the computer, colors and willpower. After two days using this self-created self-help tool I’ve recognized a few fatal flaws.

  • I shouldn’t rely on a computer for something so critical
  • The color coding doesn’t make much sense except in an advertising kind of mentality (oo, oo, pick me, pick me)
  • My willpower varies widely with the time of day, how much sleep I got, if I remembered to take my medications and how much caffeine is in my system.

I might have to resort to stronger measures. Like a sheet of paper and a pencil.

Someone one December suggested abandoning the lists altogether.

It was a man.

You know, those creatures with the one track mind. Aim them toward something and nothing will distract them. No multitasking there. Do Item A. Ignore everything else until Item A ends successfully. In fact, no other items even exist until Item A reaches completion.

Oh, to be a man.

Abandon all lists.

As if.

Ha!

Here’s a sample list of things to do between now, Friday afternoon, and Monday, three days away.

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I hope your list doesn’t look this long or this silly.

If I cloned myself and hired someone to help it might begin to make a dent. And this doesn’t include the seven or eight things at the top of the list. Nor does it involve the unwritten mental list I carry around all the time. And it certainly doesn’t have anything written down that might suddenly come up and take total precedence over the entire list. Even the red, or blue or highlighted or underlined or bolded items. Nope. There’s always that kind of stuff hovering nearby.

If you’re like MSH, or almost any other man, you’d suggest the ABC123 approach of prioritizing.

That’s all well and good.

But, honestly, I’m just venting. Your job is to read and commiserate or shake your head and think I’m a nut case. Whatever.

If you also have a list that looks like this, or worse (bless you) then you understand. My list is just here to make you feel better about your list.

Nothing more.

What gets done will get done. What doesn’t, doesn’t.

Oh well.

Life goes on.

Except when it doesn’t.

Categories: Family, Holiday, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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