Cookies, lists and common sense

Chocolate peppermint cookies

Chocolate peppermint cookies

Today has been a beautiful day in Southwest Florida but I have spent almost all of it inside, with the air conditioner cranked up and Christmas carols on.  I spent the day baking and making fudge, then allowed myself to take the time to deliver some to an elderly couple I haven’t seen in a while.  My first thought was, “I’ll quickly drop it off, so I can deliver others and get back home”.  Then, I thought about it some more and said to myself, “No, you will stop and breathe and relax and visit with them because you never take the time to do that anymore”.

I made up my mind that the days preceding Christmas were not going to be stressful this year, and that I would approach it differently .  Instead of having unending lists and must-dos because I have to, I decided to take it one day at a time, to do what I can and if something doesn’t get done, so what? Seriously, what’s going to happen if I don’t have all the shopping done by December 20th or I forget to buy all the ingredients for mom’s red velvet cake?  Nothing, that’s what.

If I forgot to make half of what I’m responsible for, our family would still have enough food left over to feed another family for a week.  And, if lo and behold that one gift I ordered online for my youngest doesn’t come in?  Well, then she will live and have a nice surprise a few days late.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to all step back and think about WHY we do some of the things we do.  Sometimes it seems we’re like hamsters stuck on the treadmill, running ourselves ragged, without accomplishing much.  Although I love traditions, if they become rote robotic type activities, they lose their significance and might as well be abolished.  What if you just make up a brand new tradition that fits your family?

Yesterday, I went to town to do some of my shopping and had it on my list to pick up poinsettias because I have an empty vase sitting here.  I also had two more pages of neatly penned items to do.  However, when I noticed my stress level beginning to climb and felt my allergy ridden body begin to tire, I came home.  No poinsettias and the list is missing many check marks.  I don’t care.  No one even knows and wouldn’t know now if I weren’t telling.

That’s my point, I guess.  We put ourselves under so much pressure to achieve self-inflicted goals that serve to prove what?  That we are exhausted and snappy and stressed?

This attitude is quite the departure from the norm for me as I even say sometimes, “I thrive on chaos”, or “I work better under pressure”.  Don’t misunderstand, I believe in responsibility and I take my obligations very seriously.  The problem that I’ve always had to contend with is that I over extend myself and give myself way too many “imagined obligations”.

Thankfully, I’ve finally learned my family wants my love and attention more than anything.  When we grasp that, the things like baking are actually fun and relaxing.  I didn’t set a goal for how many cookies I had to bake and how many people had to receive theirs today…I just baked and danced around my kitchen singing Christmas carols and texted pictures of cookies to family members.  It was fun.  I’m having fun a few days before Christmas!

As I write this, there are presents to be wrapped and a craft project left abandoned.  I will get around to wrapping the presents, but the craft project can wait until next year.  My house is clean, decorated and smells like cookies and peppermint.  I think we will all live if I fail to make one more decoration, especially if that means I have more time to enjoy my family.

Merry Christmas!

“Memories are the treasures that we keep locked deep within the storehouse of our souls, to keep our hearts warm when we are lonely.”  Becky Aligada

Glimmer, don’t Gripe

christmas lights

christmas lights (Photo credit: harold.lloyd)

While we dream of a White Christmas, children in a dusty street dream of shoes to wear

While we stuff the turkey and then our bellies, many are digging through garbage for dinner

While we share enchanted kisses under the mistletoe, someone somewhere is suffering violence at the hands of a loved one

As we carefully wrap gifts in shiny paper a laid off dad unwraps an envelope containing a bill he can’t pay

As we go caroling and attend plays and parties, the old man down the street cries tears of loneliness, feeling abandoned

While we fill our spare bedrooms and pull out couches with family and friends, a single mom and her children sleep in the street

And as we deck the halls and our homes with sparkling lights, many are searching for just a glimmer of hope

I write all this, not to upset anyone, or make anyone feel guilty for enjoying your Christmas and family.  ENJOY your family, really take the time to enjoy each and every one of them!  Look into their eyes when they are speaking, pay attention and show your love abundantly.  If you are among the blessed, be thankful for your blessings and don’t you dare complain!

Be the glimmer of hope for someone, whether you think they deserve your attention or not.  After all, when we think about the true meaning of Christmas, isn’t it about a gift of love we didn’t deserve?  Don’t let anyone on your street be hungry, hopeless or lonely this Christmas season.  If we all do that, think of what we would accomplish!

Grateful always

SONY DSC

The sun will soon rise, on this Thanksgiving Day

I’m up with my coffee, to read and to pray

The oven is buzzing, time to take out the yams

Next on my list, replace them with the ham

Ham is now cooking, time to start fudge

On Mom’s recipe card, an old chocolate smudge

This makes me smile and happy memories recall

Family cooking, playing, laughing and having a ball

The fudge turns out nicely, you never can tell

About half the time, my fudge is a fail

My phone begins ringing, my girls on the line

They will be missed this year, those daughters of mine

Topping fudge with pecans and peeking through oven door

My fuzzy socks dancing on my kitchen floor

Dancing with joy, Macy’s parade on t.v.

For all this and more, I am thankful you see

Green bean casserole is next and then my part is done

Then, it’s off to my sisters for more family and fun

This day a reminder to show gratitude always

Every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving day

Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving

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Easter morning reminiscing

Me and my mom's version of the Easter Bunny cake around 69'

Me and my mom’s version of the Easter Bunny cake around 69′

On Holidays, we always think about the ones we loved so much who are no longer with us, and this Easter Sunday, is no exception for me. I think about my Mom, who died almost 17 years ago, while I was pregnant with my youngest.

My mom loved holidays and to me, she was a combination of all the best in Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker and June Cleaver (for those of you too young to know who this is, google “Leave it to Beaver”).

She made all holidays special and I think Easter was one of her favorites. She made the “bunny cake”, and let us help sprinkle the coconut or place the whiskers. It wasn’t only pretty, but also tasty enough to make even Julia Childs stand up and take notice.

She dyed eggs with us, and let us hunt them until they were crushed, rotten or eaten. She was a bona fide pro, though and had fresh ones in the fridge. She laid out a delightful, delicious Easter dinner and usually invited family over to share.

Mom, Dee and I

Mom, Dee and I

Our outfits were adorable and immaculate and we changed out of them immediately after church. I sometimes think about her in church with us at ages 1, 2 and 3 (yes, we were little stair steps) and this makes me all the more in awe of her. We will be 45, 46, and 47, as soon as my brother catches up with the program, turning 45 on April 22nd.

She made sure we visited both sets of grandparents and she took pictures to document it all for days like this, when I’m reminiscing and want to remember their faces more clearly.

Most of all I am blessed that mom taught us the true meaning of Easter; that is wasn’t all about colorful eggs and dressing up and bunnies, that the true message was in the Resurrection and the hope we all share because of it.

So today, on this beautiful Sunday morning, I am grateful for my Christian heritage. I’m picturing Mom in heaven this morning singing and praising with the angels, as this must be a joyful day there as well.

Blessings and Happy Easter!!!

Wrapping up the 25th of December

Merry Christmas!

For most families, by this time on December 25th, there isn’t anything left under your tree, unless it’s that straggler present for someone who didn’t show up.  Your outdoor trash can is full of boxes and wrappings and the bags and bows that got through the unwrapping chaos unscathed, you have stashed to use again next year.

The kitchen is clean and all the leftovers have either been shipped home with family and friends or they are nestled tightly against each other in a refrigerator full of them.  If you are like my family, you won’t have to cook for at least a couple of days, but you will end up doing it anyway because you will be tired of turkey.

Most likely you are full and lazing around on the couch wishing you wouldn’t have had seconds (or thirds), or that piece of pumpkin pie.  Some of us are sitting around chatting, reminiscing, and making more plans to get together more often.  For others, a long drive home looms ahead.

Hopefully wherever you are and whatever you are doing you are in possession of some new, warm happy memories.  We need to remember if we got only one gift or have a full belly tonight, we are more fortunate than a large percentage of the world.  Count your blessings; don’t go to bed mad, lavish forgiveness and mercy, and love, love, love.    Peace and Blessings!

Christmas treats

Christmas treats

Baking for dummies

Making thumbprint cookies

Making thumbprint cookies

I hate when I’m browsing for recipes and I see a picture of something that looks perfectly scrumptious, only to click on the actual recipe to find out it is a mile long with complicated instructions.  What part of “easy recipes” does Google not understand?  Then they try to sabotage you with directions like “blend to desired consistency”.  What exactly is that supposed to mean?  My desire is that I actually end up with something edible.

In my late forties and just now actually beginning to enjoy baking, I don’t want to blast my confidence by attempting something that takes 2 hours just to assemble; it’s just not going to happen.  Well, maybe someday but definitely not today (or this year, I’m guessing).

I’m having one other slight problem with baking.  I can no longer hold some of the recipes (think small print on backs of semi-sweet morsel bags) far enough away to actually read them.  When I get into the middle of making something, I’m too stubborn to go find my “magnifier glasses” so it’s quite fortunate that I’m not mistaking a TSP for a TBSP which I’m finding really can make a difference.

I find that I am coveting a lot of gadgets and pans and kitchen items that I only bought in the past for the Suzie Homemaker’s on my gift list.  Thankfully for me, my mother in law is delighted with my new found love (or maybe like would be a better word at this point)  for baking and has some of these items that she is blessing me with!  I plan to hit my hubby up soon for some of the pricier things but the plan is to wait until after Christmas and until he is well over his despair of what it cost him.

Well, back to browsing for something else tasty.  Maybe if I search under “really super easy” or “baking for dummies”  I’ll have better luck?  I do think I will attempt my mother’s red velvet cake.  I’ve done it once before and it was a hit!

Happy baking and MERRY CHRISTMAS Eve to you all!

Sometimes time is more than money

On this beautiful fourth day of December,as you prepare for Christmas what are your plans for giving this season?   I’m making a conscious effort this year to think seriously about this question.  Of course, we all buy for our families and friends.

I know that I need to make a list for who I am buying for, decide on price limit for each gift and make sure that when I total this, it doesn’t exceed my budget.  What?  A budget for Christmas?  Yes, if you don’t want added stress in the new year!

The thing I don’t want to forget or put off is the other giving I want to do more of this month.  It truly is a time of year that either thrills people or greatly saddens them.  I sincerely want to reach out to those who are alone, sad, or maybe they recently lost someone and this is going to be a particularly rough Christmas.  Yes, I have already given money to charity and want to do more in that arena as well, but sometimes our time, a smile, freshly baked cookies, or just randomly doing a chore for someone is just as important.

I met a woman this week who doesn’t need anything monetarily and she looks fine and smiles a lot.  What I found out though is that her husband recently left her and she’s alone.  My first thought would be that there isn’t really anything I could do; after all she isn’t local.  However, I WILL find a way to somehow make her holiday brighter, even if it’s sending a note.  It’s easy to overlook needs if we aren’t looking at people and situations with love and open hearts.

Frosty neighborhood

Will you partner with me and search out some of these needs in your community?  If you already do, God Bless You, you rock!  I think most of us have good intentions, but sometimes the busyness of the season wears us down until we don’t even enjoy it.  We will enjoy it most when we give most!

Have a great night!

Make a memory!

Good Morning!  What is everyone up to?  Some of you have been up since before daybreak cooking, cleaning, mixing, chopping; all to make sure that those families of yours have a sumptuous meal.  Me?  Well, I get off somewhat easy this year as I’m only responsible for about 3 dishes and a dessert.

I just wanted to remind everyone of a few things as we busy ourselves in the kitchen and wish we had 30 minutes to do our makeup before everyone shows up.  It’s worth it…..it really is.

My mom was the quintessential Susie home maker, her nickname of Susie was very fitting.  She labored over the stove for days before and the day of Thanksgiving, but boy, did she put out a spread.  My sis and I are still more than satisfying our families with those same recipes today.

My love for all things Thanksgiving, is largely due to the time and effort she put forth to make great holiday memories and for that I am very grateful.

For all of you who are already tired, your back aches, you wish you’d had another hour to sleep, your manicure is ruined and the hot flashes are rearing their ugly head about the same time you have to check something in the oven, Well, you rock!  You are amazing and you are helping to make memories.

Let’s remember to thank those today who put so much effort into pleasing their families and even those who just keep a spot on the sofa warm.  Let’s be thankful for families and friends and do our best today to share moments, not things.

And above all, love, love, love.  We never know what tomorrow holds, but we can act today.  We can make someone feel special and loved.  Check on your neighbors, take someone a plate, invite a new guest who doesn’t have anyone.

Have a beautiful, blessed Thanksgiving!

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