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The Secret to a Happy Christmas Dinner

happy Christmas dinnerChristmas is my favourite time of year, and Christmas dinner seems to epitomize the festive season: the food and drink and best of all, the company. Just think – at what other time of year can you argue about whether the dressing should be traditional or adventurous, or agonize over which tablecloth would look nicer, and which serving pieces to put out to make sure Aunt So-and-so sees the gift you never otherwise use! (Okay, maybe in the closest families that happens every Sunday, but it seems most of the other days of the year we are far too busy to spend that much time on dinner.) On that point I agree with the Chef – be grateful you have those people you care about enough to argue with, and toast their good health before you dive into that sumptuous dinner.

As far as the menu goes, I have always been one who liked to “upset the apple cart” so to speak, by trying to suggest some new (or old) twist on the Christmas dinner. I wanted to try goose after having read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. I always wondered what Brussels sprouts tasted like and figured they couldn’t really be as bad as my Dad said. And who wouldn’t marvel at the idea of marshmallows at the dinner table, all toasted over a dish of sweet potatoes! Then there was the stuffing. This was a topic that was hotly discussed by my parents, as my Mom read more cooking magazines and my Dad pined for the “good old days” when celery and sage were all it needed. (Years later, he would be the one saying why hadn’t we added walnuts or used cornbread earlier!)  But if you ask me what I remember about Christmas dinner, it is not the specific menu items but rather that warm and fuzzy feeling that came once the plates were empty.

I for one don’t think it was merely the tryptophan that made me groggy and light-headed at Christmas; it was more that sense of euphoria that comes over you when you immerse yourself in the spirit of Christmas. If you truly believe in the essence of Christmas then as you let it into your heart and take active part in the festivities and the giving, you cannot help but feel better yourself. Children know this intuitively, and it is only as our hearts harden if we don’t practice such things that we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. Christmas is not for children, but for the child that lies within us all, hoping for a chance to believe in something pure and good, and listening for that magic signal which says that something exists.

Grinch carving the roast beast

So if you need a dose of “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “The Polar Express” before Christmas dinner to get you in full gear, go right ahead. When you sit down to dinner, cherish the meal, and those around you, and of course the cook who made it possible. It is important to take Christmas to heart, for if you do it right, it just might stay with you until next year. Wouldn’t that make the world a wonderful place?

As Tiny Tim said so long ago, “God Bless us every one.” Merry Christmas from our table to yours. Tiny Tim Bless Us Everyone

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The Secret to Happiness is in Sharing

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving

I write often about the fact that sharing food is a central concept to enjoying it. Gathering around a table to break bread and share the events of the day has been an integral part of society since the ancient Greek and Romans started it. As a cook and a lover of food, I get a kick out of seeing others enjoy my preparations and also being able to sit down and savour someone else’s hard work.

Food isn’t the only thing that is fun to share; friendship works exactly the same way. One of the easiest friendships to have is with a dog, and I have been privileged to know many four-legged friends in my life. Dogs don’t judge friends; once they have decided you are a companion they stick by you for life. I am partial to Labrador Retrievers, who are famous for their gregarious nature and ability to be thrilled with whatever you want to suggest to them. IMG_2550 They can be running or swimming at full speed one moment, and then relaxing and ready to nap the next. With their dense soft fur, they are eminently huggable, and will often encourage this kind of behaviour, being touchy-feely animals. They are also big lovers of food, another worthy trait in a friend, I think. I highly recommend at least making use of a dog that belongs to someone you know even if you don’t have your own. They say time with a dog lengthens your life, so how bad can it be?

In this post I’d like to salute my current companion, Ella. She is featured this week in a photo contest, so here’s your chance to think about dogs you might like. Hopefully you’ll vote for my lovable Brown Girl, but even if you don’t I’m sure this few moments will put a smile on your face. Vote here (no registration required)

Take time out to simply Be Happy and Live in the Moment. It’s Ella’s philosophy. Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying life?

Ella & me selfie Knox Mtn 2014

It’s Beginning to Look a lot like…

Dare I say it? The lights are going up everywhere, and the displays in stores have now totally taken over. You could only excuse yourself for not knowing Christmas is coming if you have all electronic devices off and you haven’t left your house. At our place, even inside you can tell – it SMELLS like Christmas. By this point I have definitely joined in on the spirit of things. Who wants to miss out on the biggest festivities of the year?

I do like Christmas. And I won’t apologize for calling it that and not saying “Happy Holidays”. I fully respect those who celebrate Hannukah, Kwaanza, Eid al Fitr and all the other festive holidays that exist. I would expect they might offer their greeting to me. Since I enjoy Christmas, I wish them well on behalf of that holiday and I hope in the spirit of all of those named days we can all share a bit of communal good tidings and love. I think one of the reasons that children should lead the way in celebrating Christmas is that they want primarily to enjoy it and share, and that is the essence of the giving season in all cultures.

Rabbit Hollow smells like Christmas as soon as December looms on the calendar, as we host a block party every year with numerous desserts for our friends and neighbours. (Some would call it bribery – I say whatever works; we all enjoy the company and the goodies!) We like to share the stories of the year, and a bit of good cheer. We also take the time to donate to the Food Bank as well, for those who are less fortunate. Having something on the table to share is at the heart of the holiday season.

There are many ways you can help in the community to share with others who have less, and this time of year does seem to remind us that giving is at least as good a feeling as receiving. I thought, in the spirit of the season, that I would offer a few ideas for you in the Kelowna area as you make your plans and do your shopping.

West Kelowna Community Food Bank – drop offs can be made at the old video store in the mall next to Save-On Foods. (community drives exist through local businesses as well)

Kelowna Community Food Bank – drop offs can be made at numerous locations and there are numerous community events – check out their website here for details

Salvation Army – watch for the kettle ringers in the area; their programs offer food and many other kinds of assistance to those who need it; see website for details

Kelowna Gospel Mission – they accept donations at their location in downtown Kelowna and online – click here for more details

If you can afford to give, then it will certainly be appreciated. But remember, even a kind thought will help us make the world a better place. Merry Christmas!

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