Second Day of Gratitude – Joy & laughter 

There is so much information about all the great things that happen inside us when we laugh. It’s amazing to realize that days will go by without me having a great laugh. I’ll laugh,  almost every day – but I’m talking about those crazy belly laughs. 

Reliably, the good, contagious, oh-great-now-everything-is-funny laughs are with my sisters. It’s a very neat mix of deep comfort, shared memories, understanding of each others’ funny bone, and the desire to make the others laugh that leads us to giggle and snicker so much when we’re together. It’s that magical combination that keeps happy tears ruining our make up. 

To try and retell the hilarity never works. There really is a bit of magic in the moment.

I hesitated to write laughter as what I’m grateful for today. But that’s what keeps coming up for me as I reflect on today. The night ended with my sister and I laughing for at least an hour, after having frequent bursts of giggles and funnies throughout the evening. 

I’m so grateful that there’s such joy in people. And that we can reveal it to each other when we connect. 

xo Mto3 

Final thoughts…

30 Days of Gratitude – day 0

Posting my thoughts about gratitude each day didn’t pan out as I expected. If this had been a school assignment I *may* not have passed.

However! Also unexpected was the trickle down effect on trio. My gratefulness somehow swirled through the house and into their bodies. Even if I didn’t communicate it to them, it seems they sensed my shift in how I perceive the world and reached to join me.

A note left on the whiteboard in our kitchen from lil miss to oldest read:

Brother I see youv gron out of grumpe so I love you a thasin times more

And middle found a way to highlight a strength in lil miss which could easily be seen as irritating or a challenge area.

And oldest thanks me and acknowledges my efforts when I’m doing regular mum stuff around the house.

Whaaat! I mean, really. And there’s more!

OK,  it’s certainly not rainbows and butterflies over here all the time, but it’s these forays and steps (albeit with a step back) into a wider awareness of people that fills my heart.

So yes, although I didn’t blog each day in the way I intended (and I’ve totally forgiven myself about that!) I have realized that gratitude can change perspectives, create dynamic energy in a person, and reach out and affect relationships with others.

On this Christmas morning, I am grateful.
For the tangible things:  cinnamon buns rising in the fridge for a Christmas breakfast! And gifts under our tree. And our cozy house.
For the intangible things: a safe community, an open culture, and health care.
For my relationships: trio (of course!). My dear sisters. My mum and grandma. My friends (especially she who introduced me to the gratitude idea).
And for the luxury of time and emotional energy to devote to contemplating and exploring these topics.  

Thank you for joining me on this part of my journey – even if you’re one person, you’re part of my story and I appreciate your time.

Whatever holiday you might be celebrating (…or not celebrating) please consider seeing things in your day to day for which you can be grateful. It’s a lovely seat to rest in while the holiday busyness dances around you.

Merry Christmas!

The impotency of grumps

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 9

I am so grateful to those who have Christmas Spirit this year. You’re everywhere and I love to look on you:

  • Smiling as you gesture me into you traffic lane
  • Ringing your bells to catch my attention for donating to Salvation Army/United Way
  • People who are wearing bells, santa hats, or red “ugly” sweaters
  • Lights and decorations on trees/houses
  • Paying it forward at coffee shops
  • The mountain of donated food stuffs at grocery stores
  • Happy messages on social media

There are so many places to see and hear Christmas Spirit. Each time one of trio says how much they LOVE Christmas it warms me up.

…not that I need much warming up – it is a balmy 4 degrees Celsius today! All month trio have been going to school in just a hoodie (and a toque, but that’s more form than function) and I’ve left my coat in the closet.

Unless it’s raining.

And that saps my spirit. I mean, the double rainbows are amazing, but not quite as Christmassy as I’m used to.

Double rainbow

So it is you, the Cheeries, who are keeping me on track this year. I will continue to seek you out and notice you, and ignore the humbugs and the grumps and the close-minded. And maybe my cheer will, in turn, happily infect someone else until maybe one of those humbugs will be injected with a little magic, and they will soften and become impotent of grouchiness.

eta: I took a brief trip to the mall this afternoon and, instead of ringing a bell, the volunteer at the salvation army kettle bell was playing a horn. The sounds went straight to my heart and bolstered me up.

I hope you find somewhere that triggers your spirit, or that you have enough to share for those that may not find theirs.
 

Children, Gingerbread Zombies, and The Simpsons

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 11

I grew up in a family predominantly female: sisters, mother, grandma, aunts, and “auntie” friends of my mum. It was also the 70s and 80s and little girls were still somewhat expected to follow the gender stereotypes of dolls, pigtails, and dresses. I was woefully out of touch with anything but this type of childhood.

And, given that I grew up with The Simpsons (thank you Tracey Ullman!) I believe that everything can relate to an episode.

So – the connection between the two above, combined with the Christmas season, can be summed up in the following clip:

bloody spearheads for bart

Don’t know it? Marge thoughtfully baked Christmas trees for the girls, and bloody spearheads for Bart. When I first saw this episode, I thought it was funny, but it became much more real to me when I had kids of my own. Thankfully… still funny!

gingerbread zombie

Whaaaat! Zombies… as a cookie…?!

bloody santa

Santa! What have you been doing??

macabre bunnies

Oh those poor bunnies. (Um, who’s idea was it to have Christmas bunnies, anyhow? We’re more familiar around here with the Dust variety…)

It really was because of this Christmas episode from The Simpsons that I felt (more) comfortable relaxing into this idea of decorating, because traditionally my gingerbread people looked similar to this one, designed by Li’l Miss:

happy gingerbread person

And, y’know what – it was sorta fun, doing something different and not taking things too too seriously.

Being open and not tethered to my preconceived traditions encourages me and trio to be in the moment, even if it is very different from what I feel it should look like. Because, really, we’re still together, decorating cookies. We’re laughing and sharing, listening to Christmas carols. I would love to keep trio at my table for as long as I can: decorating, chatting, soaking them in, making memories just. like. this.

However, trio’s great-grandma may prefer the Christmas trees, and snowflakes, and ornaments! We’ll include those more Christmassy cookies on our dessert plate. Mmm!

gingerbread cookies

 

…I didn’t put meat in the mincemeat

Baking is one of my favourite things to do. This is something that could possibly occupy all of my time – *especially* if I had a sous-chef, chopping ahead of me, and cleaning up behind me. heaven.

Alas! None of trio are interested in this position, yet will reluctantly participate when pressed. They want Chef status; or at the very least to spice, stir, and sample. And that’s it.

On my 2015 Christmas Baking list (because of course I have one) is mincemeat. I remember not liking it [at all] when I was a kid, but I feel I’d like it as an adult – maybe not from the jars at the grocery store. Not that I am a snob about using pre-packaged food stuffs (…powdered chicken gravy is my not-so-secret shortcut), it’s just that I think I could find a recipe to tailor to my taste.

It’s my first time making this. ever. Being guided only by the vague smushy, sour, deep flavour from my childhood, I began combing through online recipes to find one that I might be able to gently modify to my imagination.

Before I even found a recipe, my imagination was telling me that I wanted a mincemeat that *wasn’t* strictly raisins and currants; one that included dates (that I already bought because I was sure they were going in), prunes (as above), cranberries, maybe some dried pineapple, and more other delicious stuff.

Mincemeat in the pot

Joy of baking’s HomemadeMincemeat is the recipe I followed, and gently modified to include the dried pineapple. I substituted prunes for the figs (darn! I wasn’t going back shopping, but this would be so gooood), and dates for the currants, and accidently added the zest and juice of a lemon and an orange. I probably also reduced the sugar amount – but only because more sugar was erroneously added through the candied peel I added.

So! Part of the reason that Mincemeat stayed on my list so long, was because I didn’t like the look of the candied peel in those little plastic containers in the grocery’s baking aisle. I wanted to try my hand at that too.

Sugary candied peel

This recipe at  The hungry mouse is amazing! I used 2 medium oranges, a lime, a lemon, and a grapefruit.

For my future self (or for those of you who are interested in following in The Hungry Mouse and Joy’s footsteps) I wouldn’t sugar coat the peel prior to adding it to the mincemeat recipe.

And in terms of time frames: I chopped all the fruit (oh ya, I also added in some chopped, toasted almonds) this morning (about 20 nonconsecutive minutes in and among helping trio get ready for school), and then threw it in the pot to simmer while I took them to school. The candied peel took some focused effort (maybe because it was my first time) but it was easy! The thinner the peel, the quicker it will cook, so I would stagger peel entries – starting with the grapefruit.

I am very grateful today for the experience of other bakers!

I will post photos of the mincemeat pie nearer to Christmas!

If you have a favourite mincemeat recipe, please let me know!

Christmas through fresh eyes

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 17

This is pup’s second Christmas with us. The x-pen is surrounding our live tree to keep him safe (ok, it’s also to keep the decorations safe – most of them are still felt and yarn from when trio was younger, very easy to shred up – and also to prevent the whole thing being yanked over! I’ve had to clean up *that* mess more than once over the years, and I’m not keen to repeat it!), but he’s much taller than last year, and can easily lift his head over the top to delicately remove squashy, stuffed gingerbread men.

He loves sniffing the nutcracker soldiers, and reaching for tinsel. He thinks each time there’s baking in the kitchen that he should have a sample. When the kids tear around the house, being “the jingle horse” from the song “Jingle Bell Rock” he loves scampering along with them. Just this morning while we were getting ready for school, we formed an impromptu conga line, and he merrily danced along.

Pup-po helps me remember the joy and novelty of Christmas. Not like I’m getting tarnished, but looking at the lights and glimmer through his eyes shines it up for me too. I can’t get mad at him wanting to eat the tea towel when it tastes SO much like all the dishes it has helped pull out of the oven (uhm, I imagine it tastes like that. I can’t say for sure).

Puppy last year

Now, if there was only a bit of snow…

On trees and traditions

We got our tree up (and decorated!) yesterday!

This was somewhat of a challenge, because there is no where we can buy time, so tree-ing has to be tucked in and among ‘regular’ activities, and there was surprisingly no time on the weekend for it.

In the last 8 years of solo parenting and living partner-free, I have been able to be the sole determiner of what happens from a tradition perspective (oh, there are lots of other areas where I am the sole determiner too, of course – but those can be saved for another time!)

Exciting! aaaand daunting.

I borrow heavily from my family of origin experiences, memories, and traditions (almost too many to list!).  I borrow from my close friends (love the elf wrapped pjs that we open the night before!). I make stuff up (Christmas puzzles we all assemble left out on the table to start on boxing day and worked on until they’re done). And I adopt from strangers (hiding a pickle ornament for the kids to find – that’s who opens the first gift).

For most things, I’m pretty flexible. I’m ok if trio choose to hang only some of the decorations, and leave others in the rubbermaid bins. If they want to have something unexpected for first breakfast. If we go walk around downtown and look at the lights and displays (or not).

There were some things about the holiday that were intentionally started when I began making mine-only decisions: gingerbread houses early in December, stockings hung along the stair railing.  But, maybe like many traditions, they crop up organically. Something really resonates or takes deeper meaning for a kiddo, and they want it to happen again this year. And the year after. Until it’s almost an expectation. For us, that’s why one of their creations take the angel/star location at the top of the tree. It’s become meaningful for all of us.

It’s not just me, anymore, being the sole decider! Maybe it wasn’t ever only me. Maybe I didn’t notice until time gave me some perspective.

There is influencing and learning and growing flowing in both directions: me to trio, but also trio to me.