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Yuletide Greetings

Yule log from a community solstice celebration

Yule log from a community solstice celebration

We’re in that space between the winter solstice and the New Year.  Unless you are a committed last-minute shopper, most of the hustle of the season has ended.  It is time to raise a cup, relax, and enjoy the celebrations.  It is a time of quiet, a breath before the round of New Years eve parties and Super Bowl buffets.

It is the darkest time of the year.  The solstice marks the sun’s return, but we won’t really notice that the days are getting longer for at least a month.  The holiday lights reflected on the snow bring a hint of magic to the darkness.  It is a time to review the past year and make plans (goals and dreams) for the next.

"candles" light up the neighborhood.

“candles” light up the neighborhood.

This is a family time of year.  That family may be blood, or may just be your close friends.  But it is a time to connect with those we love and care about.  It is a time to share, not only in our exchange of presents but in our presence.

The darkness can be bittersweet, especially for those who have suffered a recent loss.  I have had years where much of my silence was missing companions.  I have had years where I couldn’t afford to purchase gifts and had to make due.  I have had years where my children and I were adopted by secret Santa’s who made our holidays bountiful in spite of our poverty.

At the heart of the darkness is the light that comes from gratitude.  I am grateful for the loved ones in my life.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to spend time and share laughter.  I am grateful to have food, and warmth, and shelter, knowing there are many who go without.  I am grateful to have the energy to participate in the holiday season in ways I couldn’t even imagine a year ago.

lights in the middle of nowhere

lights in the middle of nowhere

I am grateful to people I’ve never met who have bought my books and who read my blog.  I’m grateful for the opportunities and ability to express myself and for my voice to be heard.  I’m grateful for the family and friends who support me, promote me, and direct others to my work.

I am grateful to still be open to growth and learning.  I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to further my education either through independent research or through classes.  I’m grateful for the writers who inspire me, who make me think, and who challenge my world  view.  I’m also grateful for the one’s who express what I feel more eloquently than I could manage on my own.

May you find the space to take a breath in this part of the seasons celebrations.  May you welcome in the magic, and the darkness, and the light.  May you find renewal at the center of the unknown.  Please cherish this Yuletide Season.    Happy Holidays!PART_1419259969090_20141220_185211

Eggnog malaise

Mom and Andrea

Mom and Andrea

This post holiday blues thing is getting to me.  It hasn’t helped that Orion and I have been passing a variety of versions of “ick” back and forth.  Currently he’s complaining of a sore throat.  It seems as soon as one of us is feeling better the other one is feeling worse!

I would bet there is a small portion of that “just don’t feel right” that can be attributed to over indulging.  I know that New Years Eve meal – the egg nog challenge – can’t have been great for my system.  All by itself I probably would have been alright.  The problem is that it comes after the alcohol and appetizers.  I’m not sure I can even name all the appetizers!

Darcy and Danny at the Appetizer buffet

Darcy and Danny at the Appetizer buffet

My attempt at a list: There was spinach dip with my Dad’s homemade bread, gravlax (also courtesy of my father) and his famous carmel corn.   There was shrimp cocktail, “sheep dip” (it’s really a crab and shrimp on cream cheese but if you call it that no one wants it and there’s more for you.), and the caviar and oyster thing.  There was chocolate (Lindt truffles) and my sister Andrea (or her beau – Butch) made a lovely brochette with tomato and pesto.  I suspect someone threw out some pickled herring at one point or another.  There were probably cookies somewhere as well.

Karina and Danny with hot sugar and hazelnuts

Karina and Danny with hot sugar and hazelnuts

Our host and hostess (we’re talking again about  Andrea and Butch ) were delightful, helpful and a little overwhelmed with everyone trying to cook at once.  It was Karina teaching Danny how to candy hazelnuts that really got everyone in the kitchen.  We all wanted to try our hand at it.

Zac plating his salad

Zac plating his salad

I didn’t take a lot of photos.  My batteries were acting up and it seems the spares I brought were old as well.  Both Karina and Darcy  made a point of taking photos of each course to “help” our judges.  Thanks for sharing!

My Father made the first course, a rustic pumpkin soup with a side of corn bread topped with melted cheese.  He used the eggnog in both the bread and the soup.

Pumpkin eggnog soup

Pumpkin eggnog soup

Then my nephew Zac presented the salad course.  The orange and spinach salad was topped with a truly amazing citrus and eggnog dressing.  The judges said his was the course they would definitely eat again.  Me too!  He actually won with the salad and as a “prize” got to take all the leftovers home.

The winning salad

The winning salad

Mom and Darcy (Zac’s finance) had the main dish.  This was a lovely chicken with a lemony gravy but the only place the eggnog was used was to dip the chicken before breading it and frying it up.  As much as we appreciated the break from the eggnog and as tasty as the chicken was,  the judges ruled it was a little bit of a cop-out.

Lemony chicken

Lemony chicken

I had the side and made au gratin potatoes with egg nog, lots of cheese a little bacon and some scallions.  It was good, but the sugar of the eggnog made it a little sweet.  I also didn’t have the pan I wanted so the potatoes were a little under cooked.

potatoes

potatoes

We took a little (much needed) break before tackling Karina and Danny’s desert.  She made a chocolate Frangelico pudding with eggnog and then topped it with those candied hazelnuts.  It was really good!  It was also really pretty and really rich.  I suspect part of the reason she lost to Zac is because everyone expected her to do well.  I also think that by the time we got to desert we were all too full to appreciate anything properly!  When she found out the “prize” Karina was happy to concede.

Not just any pudding

Not just any pudding

Is it any wonder I wasn’t 100% the next day? I wouldn’t want to eat (or cook) like that everyday.  It was great fun though and I’m finding myself missing everyone.  I’ll just have to get out of the house of “ick” and appreciate the sunshine!

Resolution

Happy New Year!  firework 1

I’m not a big believer in New Years resolutions.  I tend to either be willing to do something, or not, and no amount of resolving is going to help.  New Years has never been a great holiday for me anyway.  The impact towards promoting a new resolution leaves a lot to be desired.

The spiritual “push” to start something new in my life seems to be more seasonal.  Maybe it’s the lunar cycle that helps me with resolutions.  Maybe I am just so encultured to the academic calendar that I am moved to start things in September rather than January.  Maybe I think starting something new moving into the coldest, darkest, most miserable weather season of the year is setting myself up for failure.

This New Years we will be with the family having Christmas.  It was the best date for all of us to get together.  We’ve been challenged to bring a dish with the secret ingredient of egg nog.  I’m supposed to work with my niece and come up with a side dish.  Karina, the pastry chef, was of course given dessert (and the most difficult partner).  Orion isn’t going to eat anything with egg nog in it so he’s off the hook.   I’ll let you know how it turns out.100_3846

I’m really avoiding the issue here, which is resolutions.  Objections aside I have made myself a challenge for the year 2013.  I’ve started a new blog.

Don’t fret, I’ll continue to post this one.  The new blog is a challenge for me personally.  It’s supposed to make me think about my writing in a different way.    I’m calling it LisaSpiralReads.

I am a reader.  I’ve always read, a lot!  The blog is a challenge, not to read 50 books in a year.  I do that most years without even trying.  The blog is to write 50 book reviews in a year!

So if you’re a reader, or just interested enough to see how much crazy stuff I read, consider following the new blog.  I won’t post on a schedule.  I’ll just post as I go.  I may only review the things I like, or I may buck up and try a review of something that doesn’t really turn my fancy.   I’m not going to rate books.  I can’t even manage to rate my pain levels!  But I will let you know if something appeals to me, if I recommend it, and why.100_4153

In the meantime, thanks for checking in.     Best wishes for a fabulous New Year!

Resolutions

Starting with an update from last week, I ended up purchasing a new computer and transferring the data.  I don’t think I lost anything (except money)  YEA!   New computer came home Friday afternoon.

Dinner Friday evening was a surprise.  The oven failed to light.  Now, I’ve been struggling with this stove for awhile and I know the oven’s been acting up.  Since I still couldn’t get it to light by Sunday I resigned myself to a new stove as well.  I have been resolved to get a handle on my financial situation for awhile now.  This is not helpful!

How many of you have all ready managed to break your New Years resolutions?  Have any of you ever managed to keep a resolution for a whole year?

The New Oxford American Dictionary that came loaded into my laptop defines resolution as follows:

resolution |ˌrezəˈloō sh ən|noun1 a firm decision to do or not to do something : she kept her resolution not tosee Anne any more | a New Year’s resolution.• a formal expression of opinion or intention agreed on by a legislative body, committee, or other formal meeting, typically after taking a vote : the conference passed two resolutions.• the quality of being determined or resolute : he handled the last French actions of the war with resolution. See note at courage .

2 the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter : thepeaceful resolution of all disputes | a successful resolution to the problem.• Music the passing of a discord into a concord during the course ofchanging harmony.• Medicine the disappearance of inflammation, or of any other symptom or condition.

3 chiefly Chemistry the process of reducing or separating something into its components.

I happen to prefer the second definition especially at this time of year.  The action of solving a problem or a contentious matter.  The passing of discord into concord.  I suspect that most of our New Years resolutions stem from some kind of discord in our lives, dissatisfaction with ourselves or desire for something different.  The proclamation that we’re going to resolve that problem in a years time is often quite ambiguous.  I resolve to lose 100 lbs this year.  There is no real plan of action for how to go about that momentous task.

When I make a New Years resolution I usually manage to hang on to it for about 3 weeks.  When I approach a problem with resolve I’m much more likely to gnaw away at it until it comes into harmony.  I’m likely to pick it apart and find out what I can get done immediately.   I worry the rest of it until either I solve the problem or decide it isn’t worth continuing to fuss about.  Then I cheerfully leave it behind without any guilt or concern that I failed.

It seems to me that a New Years resolution is like credit card debt.  Great instant gratification and guilt for an extended time down the road.  Sadly, as I’ve found this year, sometimes that credit card debt seems pretty unavoidable.  Unless of course your resolutions tend to be more in line with the old custom of Braggarts Toast.  The drinking game where each in turn says they are going to do some great deed topping the last toast made, and we all drink to that.

So the first person says they are going to lose that 100 lbs this year, and we all drink to that.  The next person says they’re going to take that 100 lbs of fat and turn it into 30 lbs of lean muscle tissue, and we all drink to that.  The next person says they’re going to use their lean muscle tissue to repave the road the city never gets to, and we all drink to that.  The next person isn’t just going to repave the road they’re going to build a whole mass transit network, and we all drink to that.  You get the idea.  The only guilt involved with that kind of braggarts resolution is from the hangover the next day!

I decided a long time ago that I was giving up on New Years resolutions.  I didn’t like beating myself up for a month over it.  I do a little better with shorter term goals that with this kind of big promise.  I do think it’s a good time of year for visioning.  I like to take a little time out to meditate on how I would like my life to look, how I see myself, in December next year.  Because this is a wish, there are no strings attached.  Often though, the visioning can serve as a carrot throughout the year to get myself somewhere I really want to be.  Better for me to work towards something than against.

I hope that whatever you’ve resolved, what ever issues you have resolve about, and whatever New Years visions you hold that the coming year holds many blessings and pleasant surprises.  I wish you great joy and laughter in 2012.  May your spirit be filled with love and peace.

BB

Merry Merry

Regardless of what you call the celebration where you get together with friends and family and exchange gifts in this darkest part of the year, it seems like there’s a lot of it.  I thought I cut back this year.  I skipped several Yule rituals due to double booking, rather than trying to do two things at the same time.  I declared that Santa didn’t need to come to a household were no one lived who was under the age of 18.  I am not hosting any holiday parties, attending any of the parties for my December birthday friends and am going to ONE place for New Years.

Even with that I had 2 Yule rituals, 2 Christmas dinners (I was sou chef at both), Family gift night (we can’t decide if it’s Yule or Christmas) which also meant cooking dinner, and 2 holiday parties still to come.  That’s 7 distinct events over the course of 2 weeks! I’m thinking that’s a lot even with cutting back.

When I grew up we had a long Christmas.  It started Christmas eve, went through much of the night and started up again after a long winter’s nap with Santa first thing in the morning.  We’d finish up presents, get dressed and head to Grandma and Grandpa’s for Christmas dinner.  24 hours of Christmas.  Really one long day, even if it took two.  If there was a New Years event at all it was a small party (3 couples) just for grown-ups or being allowed to stay up and watch Dick Clark until the ball fell.

Depending on the weather we might travel to my other Grandma’s but that could wait until the following week or even until the February thaw.  That visit wasn’t really any different than any other visit to Grandma’s.  There was no special event that distinguished it as Christmas, except a small present exchange.  We usually got handmaid knit slippers or mittens.

A busy Christmas season meant getting outside to go sledding or skiing.  It meant getting to go to the movies.  It meant ice skating and cookies and hot cocoa.  The ‘busy’ part of the season was from Thanksgiving on when all the baking was going on, not during the actual holiday.

My children, who are 18 and 23, have never had a holiday season that didn’t involve multiple events at multiple households.  Their father and I were divorced when the youngest was 2.  That meant holidays at 2 households, even though we often continued to double up so Dad would stop by Christmas morning and I would go to his parents for dinner.  Practicing a different religious tradition than our parents also meant that we had Yule and Christmas.

To throw a wrench into the works, or maybe an odd spice like tamarind, my son has special needs.  He  had a caregiver who was with us from the time he was 3 until adulthood.  She’s like a second Mom to him, and her family and ours have grown very close over the years.  When they were little, we’d pack all the kids (hers and mine) up into the van and take them all downtown to see Santa.  As her kids are now as grown as mine, we’ve skipped the holiday exchange there as well.  Incidentally, they are Muslims.

I have no idea what kind of holiday traditions my children will develop as adults.  Will my son collect invitations to everyone’s party and go to as many as he can?  Will my daughter decide that she wants family traditions and invite (or uninvite) the rest of us to join her?  Will they both continue to attempt to satisfy everyone’s traditions adding more and more events to their celebrations?

I know that many of their peers will face similar problems.  We have raised a generation that has multiple families, and that considers their chosen families to be just as important.  I am grateful that, so far, pretty much everyone gets along.  There is no reason to exclude a family member just because they can’t be in the same room with someone else.  My ex-husband’s family is not so fortunate.  From what I see and hear, the ‘who doesn’t get to come’ scenario seems more common.

So as hectic or as lonely as you may find yourself this holiday season, I would encourage you to try and play nice.  Play up the love and understanding, the peace on earth.  Because the first place to start with peace on earth is in our own households.

Merry Merry!

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