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Christmas Traditions

As I sit by the tree and its twinkling lights, I am washed with waves of melancholy. It’s all over for another year. That always makes me sad.

Santa ornament b and w

The stockings are down from the mantle, the gifts under the tree have been opened and the turkey has been cooked. The dishes are done, and the wrapping is in the recycle bin. All the pomp and ceremony is done.

I always feel a bit bereft afterwards. Perhaps some of that comes from getting older, as things change. Family members are busy and it’s harder to gather together. There is something to be said for spreading the spirit around (when “more” is about more time together and not so much more stuff, then that’s a very good thing.)

Some of the old traditions disappear as we get older – has anyone else noticed how hard it is to find mandarin oranges and regular sized, regular flavoured candy canes? Christmas stockings with oranges and candy canesNew traditions can be hard to start up – how do we blend them in so there is some thread of the old nostalgia carried on alongside new attitudes and philosophies?

I love Christmas. I love the excitement of planning, the joy of sharing, the gratitude that comes from giving. People try harder to remember the good in each other during the holiday season.

The only way I know to make the empty feeling disappear is to revive the Christmas spirit in my heart. I don’t just believe during the month of December, so I’ve decided I’m going to actively represent my belief each and every month of the year.

Maybe this is another name for random acts of kindness, or paying it forward. My efforts will evolve, and I hope they will expand. Just as Santa’s workshop has expanded with the growing population, the world needs more believers to maintain a positive force to balance the cynicism and polarized attitudes.

I’m feeling a bit better now that I have a plan. Does anyone know where I can get some pointy shoes?

elf shoes

 

 

Can’t be Wasting

I am a product of my upbringing. The tales of root cellars where everything was preserved, my Grampa’s stories of living during the war when things were rationed, and the prevalence of farm culture from both my parents’ prairie life – all these elements combined with those Little House on the Prairie volumes in my head to make me thrifty in the kitchen.

little-house-on-the-prairie books

Gramps used to say when I refused the last morsel, “Can’t be wasting!”, and I would capitulate. It was like referring to those starving kids in Africa. I often wondered, would they eat sandwich crusts?

This time of year is when we work to save and store. It’s the end of harvest of course, so it’s a mad dash to make sure as little is wasted as possible. Some of the bounty doesn’t get used – it’s impossible to eat it all, even when we share. But I am heartened when I remember my farmer neighbour’s words that everything going back to the ground helps the soil for the following year. Mother Nature provides.

We dried fruit and canned chutney and jam and made hot sauce and kimchi and infused vinegars and oils. I baked bread and pies and bread pudding. I roasted squash and tomatoes and put them in the freezer. my last effort is to plan menus for the next couple of weeks so we can use the last of the arugula, green beans and green tomatoes.

It can be exhausting. I have new admiration for the pioneer housewives and their fortitude in the face of such a daunting task: providing a variety of flavours for a household through a cold, dark winter. Before there were OXO cubes, Heinz ketchup and Classico pasta sauce, there were women who kept everyone from losing their minds over endless bowls of turnip soup and boiled potatoes with mutton.

Perhaps the return of Outlander on TV has given me my second wind… are there any other fans among my readers? If Claire could manage to survive in a kitchen-of-old, then surely I can do it too.

My inspiration this weekend is to use the last of the apples and some quince with my final trimmings from the mint to make a sort of preserve that I’d like to use for both sweet and savoury purposes. My plan is to make it on the sweet side, and then when I want to use it say, for roast pork, I’ll sauté some onions and add in the apple mint preserve with a bit of cider vinegar to get more of a chutney or Branston-pickly kind of condiment. (If anyone has any experience with a similar recipe, I’m all ears.) I shall post up the recipe once I’m happy with the result.

Power Season 5 2018 And perhaps I’ll make a batch of Millionaire Shortbread in celebration of the Outlander premiere on Sunday. Since Claire and Jamie will be in the New World, it seems only fitting that we encourage that spirit of entrepreneurship, don’t you think? (wink)

 

It’s all in the wrist

You know how sometimes life gets ahead of you? Good intentions trip you up and instead of checking items off your “to do” list you are mired in the weight of the list itself and spinning your wheels.  I love to try new things and to share my excitement at new discoveries, but I have been caught in a hamster wheel for a while with things I told myself were “more important”. I was making excuses instead of getting organized.

But now I’m back, and I’m so glad I have this safe space to come back to. I still haven’t completed that list, but I did bake brownies today. And I feel so much better for it. It’s about following through, I discovered.

The recipe is one I saved over a year ago and never got around to trying. Red Wine Brownies (yes, really). Please don’t wait that long – they are really good. Sarah at Broma Bakery knows her stuff.

It seems so silly now that I’m here writing – I try to live not feeling guilty for indulging in life and yet that’s what stopped me from taking time to write or try new recipes. I felt guilty because I didn’t have everything done I thought I should do. Foodie heal thyself, right?

Okay, so I’m human. Today I took Ella for a walk and we decided we should stop by the local fruit market for ice cream. It turned out to be a rather nice fall day, and they will be closing soon for winter, so it was a “carpe diem” kind of inspiration. You know,

Eat ice cream, breathe the fresh air, shuffle in the leaves; for soon it will all be cold and white.

Root beer float and Tiger Tiger, on a waffle cone of course. I only ever eat Tiger ice cream in a cone. I have to say, the combination with root beer may be a new classic I want to lay claim to. It was like a key to a time warp that made me feel ten years old again. Living in the moment. Ella seemed to approve too, although her tastes are not very discriminatory when it comes to ice cream cone bottoms.

I felt a wonderful sense of pride and accomplishment seizing that beautiful moment. After all, I had spent the morning inside doing housework. I deserved a break. (And even if I hadn’t done housework, why not say “Yay me!” for making a memory?”)

The brownies didn’t get made until after dinner, since other tasks were prioritized. But they only took about 10 minutes to whip up, and then just 35 minutes in the oven. They were lukewarm when I cut into them to serve.

Hubbie was very happy I made brownies, and even happier when they showed up in a bowl with ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce and crushed toasted pecans. I was happy when I tucked my spoon in for the first bite and realized how gorgeously gooey and rich (not sweet) they were. Thank you, Sarah!

Broma Bakery red wine brownies

The thought did cross my mind as my spoon headed to my lips: “this is the second time I’m eating ice cream in a single day – and I only bothered to stretch today, didn’t even really work out!” I swallowed that thought with the bite of brownies – it was delicious.

So, there you are. I’m human. Not at all perfect. Completely fallible. But I can bake a good brownie with a little direction. And now that I have my momentum back, I may even come up with a variation on something or a new idea. Just watch me! Like my Dad used to say when I was trying to improve my clutzy basketball skills, “It’s all in the wrist.” One just has to follow through.

 

Pause a Moment

When the world falls away, what else can you do but pause a moment to think of your own little world?

We are in a haze at the moment, with smoke from forest fires to the west and the north drifting into our valley of paradise. Depending on which way the wind blows, the smoke hangs on one side of the valley or the other.

When I got up this morning, everything but our little domain had disappeared in an eerie sort of brownish fog. I could see the vegetable fields, and the farm market at the end of the street, but the town and hills beyond were gone. There was no sign of the lake and what was usually beyond seemed a figment of my imagination. In the air was the scent of ash, charcoal – like the melancholy smell that signifies the end of an evening bonfire.

I suddenly felt a rush of gratitude. Here I was walking casually with Ella, having just stopped to nibble berries from our bushes in the front yard. I watched the young crew picking cucumbers and zucchinis from the fields to be sold at the farm market. So peaceful. But with an underlying sense of foreboding. 

I was struck later in the day too, by a story shared from someone I know of their recent tough  family times. They were stoic, and gave the advice “Hug your loved ones. Hug them hard.” I was heartbroken for them in their difficulty and also inspired by their ability to carry on. Using love as a force in life, a way to sustain oneself, is quite possibly the best diet you can adopt.

I’m using today as motivation to focus even more on the value of my time to sit and share a meal. The simple moments around a table are the perfect time for us to soak in the love and be grateful for our blessings.

There but for the grace of God go I.

 

I wonder…

…if the person who invented fireworks was inspired by Mother Nature?

As I watered the garden today it occurred to me that it holds  plenty of inspiration. 

Ready…


Set…


Go!


Children draw “simple flowers” … but have you really looked at a sunflower lately? It looks just like a child’s drawing. 

But there are many possibilities, both in individual blossoms and the entire plants as well as the landscape itself. There is no set design…


There is no single way to grow…


For the kid who loved to wear pink striped socks with a purple embroidered tunic, all this is still  great encouragement every morning. 

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockle shells 

And pretty maids all in a row. 

It always seemed like a silly nursery rhyme to me; anyone can see that gardens don’t want to grow in a row. 

Here’s to unruly blossoms that wave in the wind and gardens that inspire the child in all of us! 

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