Not everyone is happy at Christmas

Painting by Diana Calvert

Christmas Day, the entire season in general, can be a very difficult time for people. From the expense of it, the obligations and expectations, extra travel, often illness, stress, the competition of it all, planning, celebrating, gifts, extra cooking, baking, and buying. And then the day of–poof, it’s over. All that’s left is to reconcile the expenses, put away all things Christmas, wipe the slate clean, and start over. As you are out and about dealing with friends, co-workers, retail workers, restaurant staff, total strangers, even family members remember to dig deep within yourself and give people the right to celebrate how they want, when they want, or not celebrate at all. Make your gift to others be the gift of grace and acceptance.

I remember many Christmases, due to circumstances, being alone. There wasn’t a tree, or decorations, or friends, or family, or gifts–nothing. I was alone, working three jobs, and very empty inside and unbearably sad. Yet, even in all of that, I enjoyed buying gifts for some of the people I worked for and though I wasn’t welcome at home (long story), dropping gifts off for family. There were no special meals, but I would go out and buy some special snacks. I made do and I survived the season. As time went on, I created different traditions that to this day are still a part of my life. The first thing I created on my own was watching at least three Christmas movies–back then you had to catch them on the television. I would watch the original 1935 version of a Christmas Carol, as well as read the book.

My second movie never missed is How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 version), and last but never least It’s a Wonderful Life (black and white version). Having a tree was always important to me, but in lieu of a real one, I bought ceramic ones for years. Even before having ceramic trees, I would at least go out and buy a string of lights. In total in my life, I’ve spent fourteen years completely alone for Christmas, which includes the two years that I was homeless.

Sometimes Christmas can be difficult when you and your partner come from different backgrounds like my husband and I. He grew up in a Dutch household where they celebrate Christmas on December 5th eve and December 6th. This was a big deal when we first got married because I refused to give up Christmas Eve and Day traditions. Often throughout our time living next to his parents they would expect us to run errands, entertain them, or pickup their mail/water plants/ help with household things while they traveled during the holidays. You see his parents didn’t respect the fact that my Christmas, and now our Christmas, was the 24th/25th. We’ve always celebrated both his and my Christmas times and eventually his family caught on that I wasn’t going to budge and quit expecting us to do their bidding during this special time for us.

Another difficult aspect of Christmas is being a recovered alcoholic and dealing with all of the alcohol content throughout the world in December. Really though, it’s not really saved for special occasions anymore. Drinking, at least in the area I live in and work in, is all the time for most. Christmas just adds to all the reasons, for some, to stay intoxicated throughout. When we used to spend Christmas with my husband’s parents and siblings there was a big focus on alcohol especially with his father and brother. We no longer spend Christmases with them as his siblings and mother now live in Europe and his father has passed away. Both our work Christmas party themes each year revolve entirely around alcohol. And although this used to really bother me, I can tolerate being around people who drink, I just don’t want to be. It’s not fun for me to talk with or be a part of a crowd that’s drunk.

Maybe the hardest part of Christmas is the very first one after a loved one’s death. This year is hard for me, last year was harder, as we lost someone that I’d spent a long time looking for. It was hard not being able to be with him and equally as hard having to make arrangements for him from another country. The finality of all of it was hard to deal with. The harder is got the more I took hold of those well loved and long used traditions. I held on and took each one in–like an old familiar friend they brought me back to my happy place and I was able to survive my pain.

Last but never least are the things that happen in life that cause estrangements between family and/or friends. It can be hard to feel the season when you’re missing a dear family member, or like in my case an entire family, or a close friend. Things happen and there’s no other way to explain it. Time goes by and the window for reconciling just closes, or you become more distant, or afraid, or closed off, or just plain resistant/stubborn/angry and unable to heal the wounds. It’s a very private thing and most definitely a very painful happening. For years I missed Christmases with family. I longed at one point to just burst in the front door as a teen and refuse to leave. Waiting for a Christmas miracle that never came. Things didn’t change much when I grew older and relationships became strained and then suddenly poof. Years went by without a word or return call or letter. Again, one gets tired of rejection. Tired of feeling unloved and not needed or wanted and you emotionally move on. Every now and then there’s this hope Christmas or birthdays will change something and everything will be better. Hearts will heal and hope is alive and then as the years move on–nothing. Eventually to survive you move past your hopes and wishes, and though never forgetting, you must come to terms with it all.

I never thought I’d be able to do it and struggled so bad with moving on. I prayed, even started going to church regularly, and talking with our minister. Nothing. I struggled and struggled to let go. Then one day a few years back that all changed when “family”, and I say that only as reference, decided to show their true colors and struck out at me across the internet, hoping–I can only guess, to hurt me. Not just any hurt, but really hurt me, knowing I was ill, kicking me while I was down in the worst possible way. Months later with anger, eventually more anger, then indifference, and finally grieving, I let go. The only thing that bothered me was the why? Why would anyone try to hurt another in such a heinous, cruel, totally evil way? I would later find out from the unlikeliest source that their intent had been to cause me to “fall off the wagon.” Which of course, in 18 years, thank God, I have not. Hearing this, which I fully believed btw, made me first feel anger and then later feel pity. For they must hurt way worse than I to want for something like this to happen to someone they claimed to have loved and missed so much. They are way worse off than my worst day. Finally after much thought and prayer, I was able to really let go. And, here I am. Making my way through another Christmas clinging to the many traditions we’ve created that put smiles on our faces, and warmth in our hearts from the memories we have that will last forever.

If this Christmas or any Christmas ever feels too hard for you to bear–stop and take a breath. Choose to be happy. If not happy, choose to accept today for what it’s worth and make a plan to make tomorrow better. Start a tradition. Take each day, hour, and minute at your own pace. Do the things you want to do. Do things for others. Peace and happiness to you all.

Kim

Christmas Morning Breakfast & A Scrumptious Savory Galette!

We usually do grapefruit, toast, and cereal. If I’m being honest. Because by December 20th, I’m worn out from work, shopping, wrapping, baking, hauling food, volunteer work, ordering things online and tracking them down, and oh yes–did I happen to say cooking. I won’t even have enough energy to prep something to just throw in the oven. Besides, is it just me or do breakfast casseroles just look gross? Dried bread crumbs mixed with eggs and leftovers. No thanks.

I digress.

I do like a good omelet or this broccoli and cheese galette that I’ve been dreaming about since September..

https://www.seriouseats.com/savory-broccoli-and-cheese-galette

I’m definitely making this for New Year’s Day.

I also love having breakfast for dinner. Tonight we had a real favorite of mine :

French toast made with maple and brown sugar bread- Yum!

So back to Christmas morning and traditions–it’s always fruit (orange and grapefruit, cereal, toast and jam, and hot coffee). I don’t get up at the crack of dawn, but rather at the respectable hour of 9:00 am sharp lol. Our stockings have oranges and chocolate in them. At midnight of Christmas Eve, which is now officially Christmas morning, we unwrap one gift, and then we go to bed to whisper stories to each other about our childhood Christmases past. Christmas morning is all about being together, having a good breakfast, letting our cat play with his new toys, and then eventually opening our gifts to one another. Soon after we get up, shower, get dressed, and start to get things ready for guests. Some years we’ve volunteered on Christmas day, but not for the last three years have we done this.

Christmas dinner is almost always ham and turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts, glazed carrots, stuffing, homemade rolls, a pickle tray, fruit and cheese board, and mincemeat and pecan pie. Christmas day is time spent with my husband, sometimes a friend or two, a dear family member and usually his partner. This year we will have two friends who would otherwise be alone on Christmas and a family member and his friend. We will eat, play board games, listen to classical music, and have too much pie and candy.

New Year’s eve will find us watching as many James Bond movies as we can–hopefully the newest one this year, me fixing the best darn charcuterie board I can muster up, and bed shortly after our midnight kiss. New Year’s Day I will be fixing that yummy broccoli and cheese galette, and a banket (homemade almond roll pastry), and maybe layered pistachio dessert this year?

All our Christmas movies watched ✅

Gingerbread made ✅

Sugar Cookies made ✅

Chocolate Mint bars made ✅

Shortbread made ✅

Cranberry made ✅

Guest room ready ✅

Stockings hung ✅

Gifts wrapped ✅

House clean ✅

We’re almost ready. All that is left to do is drop our gifts off for the 3 families we adopted this year, one last grocery shop, and flowers for my tables. Our Christmas guests will be here before we know it and the day..well that’s just around the corner.

To all my friends and followers out there–be safe, be well, and enjoy the day if you celebrate it, and I’ll see you right away January 2022!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas

This year we’re going back a few years in how we’re celebrating and putting tradition and old-fashioned Christmas vibes back into our holidays.

If you’ve ever watched Little House on the Prairie’s Christmas movies, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

No commercialism, no links, no need for inspiration from the internet–just love for my husband, friends, and those close to us. That’s all I need to be able to find or make what I think they’ll treasure and love and know that my heart went into the gift and not just what’s in my pocketbook!

Having said that, Christmas is still different, hard in fact, for many people this year. For those that have lost someone this past year, those suffering from illness, those who may need to stay quarantined, or close to home, and those like us that usually spend the holidays with close friends, whom this year are keeping to themselves. We can respect that as neither of us like being sick and fortunately have spent so many years healthy and without sickness–we’re kind of spoiled. When I was ill March 2020, honestly, I was freaked out more than sick because I hadn’t been sick in so long. Neither my hubby or I want to be sick with anything this winter–so we’ll stay close to home and have a cozy, old-fashioned time of it. Christmas is our favorite time of the year.🎄

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This year’s activities, though sparse, are still going to be fun. First, we are going to be traveling about an hour away and touring the rotary lights and savoring hot cocoa on one of our first winter night time excursions of the year. Second, we are going to be touring a Victorian mansion that is all decked out for the holidays and buying local homemade goodies. Lastly we are hoping for snow (the light dusting kind), so that we can stroll the beautiful downtown area of Baraboo, WI and look in all the old-fashioned shops/bookstores, flower shops and stop for coffee at a local bistro.

Our indoor activities include a long list of holiday favorites in games, music, and movies. Of course we love to decorate and this year is no exception. Our only theme this year is to enjoy a little of this and that and not let the internet determine when we decorate, how we decorate, or when we have to take everything down. So, basically, the same as last year and the year before etc. etc. Our tree has all our favorite ornaments on it and none of it matches lol. We’re fine with that as many ornaments made their first appearance in years because I always wanted matchy-matchy.  From here on out that’s the way it’s going to be–because we have a lot of ornaments and I love seeing them all together on our tree. For the first time in years we both feel relaxed, laid back, and at peace with not having everything perfect.

An_Old_Fashioned_Christmas

I hope wherever you are and whatever you do or don’t do during the holidays you are safe and well.

Until next time, I’ll end this post by wishing you and yours many, many blessings and good health.

December Things

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our home. In fact, we are all finished decorating for Christmas. This weekend we’re heading out to take a walk through some beautiful rotary lights in a town an hour from home, and next weekend we’ll be headed to a mansion all decorated for the holidays and go on a self-guided tour (we’ll guide ourselves and be alone throughout). I have a couple of other destinations for us before the big day–so far, despite a stressful fall, we are looking forward to snow, Christmas fun, St. Nicholas Day, all our Christmas movies, all the Christmas music, and the many, many traditions we have in place that we look forward to each year. I hope wherever you are you are well, taking care, and if you celebrate Christmas–in the spirit.

Gratitude

Wonderful Ways to Focus on Gratitude:

  • Gratitude Journal–take five minutes a day to write down what you are grateful for today.
  • Send those you love and/or those that have recently done something special for you–emotional support or hands-on assistance a handwritten thank you note.
  • Show your gratitude to all those around you and take time each day to say”thank you.”
  • Tuck little notes into your children’s lunchboxes, hubby’s lunch or shirt pocket and tell your people how much you appreciate and love them. 

Gratitude is more than just little exercises to focus on or wall decor from your local craft and hobby store. Gratitude is a learned process of being thankful. More importantly feeling thankful and blessed even in the worst of times. In a sense being able to see the silver lining in all things. This, of course, can be extremely hard because our default state of mind during bad times is to fall deeper into negativity and believe that there is nothing to be thankful for and everything to be (insert emotion) toward.

It is believed that by practicing kindness and gratitude every day in one small way or another a shift occurs in the way you see things in life. Once this shift occurs it will become a natural part of who you are to include thankfulness and gratefulness in all things that happen to you in your life. Everyday problems in life will be looked at differently, for example– instead of a glass half empty way of thinking, you will see things from the perspective of a glass half full.  So car problems will include being thankful you have a car, and house problems will include being thankful you have a roof over your head, and lastly, work issues will include being thankful you have a job.

With the holidays soon upon us, it’s especially important to take some time to reflect upon all the things in our lives, that we have to be thankful for. I get extremely frustrated at this time of year trying to juggle everything, but in putting this blog post together, I’ve decided to start a gratitude journal before Thanksgiving. I truly believe writing down something every day will keep me focused on being grateful for all the things I already have.  This time of year every IG feed and Facebook post is filled with new and shiny things to buy. Looking around my home I realize I already have way more than I can truly appreciate. I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on new stuff over the years–most of which I rarely have time to sit down and really enjoy. This holiday season I will live each day with intention and refocus on all the things in my life I have to be grateful for–health, marriage, friendships, warm home, food, and precious memories made with the people I love.

Have a lovely and blessed Thanksgiving.

Holiday Gift Ideas! 🎄

 

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For the foodie in your life: New Cookbooks 📚

  • Simply Julia, 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food by Julia Turshen
  • The Food of Oaxaca: Recipes and Stories from Mexico’s Culinary Capital by Carla Altesor
  • The Weekday Vegetarians 100 Recipes and a Real Life Plan for Eating Less Meat by Jenny Rosenstrach
  • Maman-The Cookbook: All Day Recipes to Warm Your Heart
  • Black Food- Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora
  • Jew-ish: A Cookbook: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch by Jake Cohen
  • The Pepper Thai Cookbook: Family Recipes from Everyone’s Favorite Thai Mom Book by Garrett Snyder and Pepper Teigen

Check your local bookstores out, or ask your local librarian if they have one of these at your library or have them order one of these new cookbooks for you to pick up to read.

For the movie lover 📽️ in your life: a paid subscription to a premium channel: 

  • Coming soon on HBO Max–Sex and the City “And Just Like That” (reboot) (as low as $9.99/mo)
  • Handmaid’s Tale– Hulu April 2022 (as low as $7.50/mo)
  • A favorite of mine–Discovery Plus ( Magnolia Network, The Lost Kitchen, and more) (as low as $6.99/mo)

Local Gift Ideas 🏠 :

  • Gift certificates to antique stores, book stores, local theaters and museums
  • Gift certificates to local restaurants
  • Gift certificates for golf course membership, local apparel, grocery, jewelry, gift shop, most local stores

Local Businesses that may need your help🐕:

  • Animal shelters
  • Food shelters
  • Homeless shelters
  • Churches

Things you can still do for your elderly neighbor 🌨️ (at least I hope so?)

  • Offer to shovel their walk
  • Offer when icy to walk their dog
  • Stop occasionally, esp. if inclement weather is coming, and ask if they need anything

Until next time be well and be safe!

 

Thanksgiving Menu–adding a couple of new dishes to the menu

I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner since I was 18 years old. For my husband I’ve been making the same Thanksgiving meal almost 28 years. Several years back I decided not to try new dishes for the first time during holiday meal making, because if they don’t turn out then my stress level goes through the roof. Nothing worse than a dish that flopped and there are a minimum of 10 hungry people at the table. Every year though I say to myself– “self, I should try something new this year”, but I never do. This year I’m taking a leap of faith and I’m making two new dishes. Last week I did a trial run to make sure neither of the dishes are going to be flops. The two new dishes are creamy mashed cauliflower and pumpkin bundt cake with cream cheese frosting. They turned out GREAT!

The recipe for the cauliflower is on Eating Well Creamy Mashed Cauliflower.

Special tip-

Once the cauliflower is cooked, mashed and creamy add butter, buttermilk, and nutmeg. Try Nutmeg– I promise you this will become your go to seasoning. It works well on cauliflower that has been steamed or boiled (just sprinkle a little over the top once done) and works great with green beans and Brussels sprouts. Just make sure to have a bit of butter worked into the veggies and then lightly sprinkle with nutmeg. In place of butter, if you like, you can use any oil you would normally drizzle on veggies. I would find a good priced quality extra virgin olive oil if you are opposed to adding butter.

My Turkey Day menu this year is:

Roasted 16# Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Cauliflower
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Baked Squash drizzled with Maple Syrup
Gluten Free Stuffing
Homemade Parker House Rolls
Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Pecan Pie  

(I love King Arthur Flour recipes– their pecan pie recipe is a big hit every time I make it)

Until next time–be well and be safe!