Hello, 2018! What do you have planned for me???
Huh. The better question is: What do I have planned for 2018? My 2018 word of the year is, “INTENTIONAL.”
Adjective, meaning: done on purpose, deliberate, calculated, conscious, intended, planned. Meant, studied, knowing, willful, purposeful.
How does this word relate to My Suburban Sanctuary? I want to live my life with intention. I want to make studied and calculated decisions about what I bring into my home and into my life. I have cut back on my “big box” decor shopping over the years, especially anything made cheaply from China. Not that everything made in China is cheaply made, but you only have to look at the decor being offered at Michaels, Joannes, and Hobby Lobby to know what I am talking about. I intend to continue supporting small, local businesses, whenever possible, buy authentic vintage items and antiques for my home and then use them in intentional ways.
I’ll be purposeful in my purchases and not fill up the car with a bunch of impulsive buys, just because we pass an antique store.
I intend to choose healthier foods and intentionally support my body. I intend to lose weight in a thoughtful manner. I intend to improve myself and by doing so, I will improve the life of those around me as well.
I intend to be kinder. More forgiving. Withhold my opinions until they are asked for, unless it’s a situation that involves someone’s safety or well being, then I reserve the right to “opinionate’! Yes, I just made up a word. A pretty cool word too.
Intentional is a strong word. It implies knowing what you want to do before you actually do it. That might be tough for me, because I’ve always ascribed to the flying by the seat of my pants way of life, making snap decisions, acting on impulse, having only a vague plan……it’s recently left me feeling a bit discombobulated. Adrift, and re-doing things I hadn’t planned well. Purchasing things that didn’t really fit my vision because my vision kept changing, it wasn’t carefully planned! It was more like….”ooh, that’s cool….I want that!” Hence our Goodwill box filled up more than once and Mr B was making almost weekly trips to donate things I no longer liked or wanted or could figure out how to use. I saw dollar signs flying out. It wasn’t a good feeling.
Intentional is a good word for me.
I will also be very careful about who I let in my life, I have systematically divorced “friends” over the years who were negative or mean spirited. I developed that “skill” many years ago after experiencing a major hurt from a friend. A friend I trusted. From then on I became distrustful and had a “don’t suffer fools gladly” attitude. I no longer want to be as distrustful, but I do want to be careful. I want to be intentional about people and how they impact my life… a few I will have to let go, but there are more than a few who have brought passion, joy and light to me, and those are the people I will take along with me this year. 2018, just wait to learn what I have in store for YOU!
What word is yours for 2018? What changes will you make this year? Email me and let me know! MySuburbanSanctuary@Gmail.com
Be intentional in creating your sanctuary. Love the home you’re in now, not the one you may never have.
Every family has traditions. Things that are done the same way, year after year. Things that are counted on. Traditions provide a foundation and a feeling of coming home. Of safety. And happiness. Of continuity. Maybe it’s the way the mantel is decorated. Or the ornaments remain the same each year. Or it’s the cookies that Grandma always made, still being made long after Grandma is gone. Or perhaps it’s Lasagne for Christmas dinner. But what if a Tradition doesn’t “fit” anymore? Becomes too expensive, too “big” or too difficult? Is it OK to change a tradition?
In my case, our tradition was Christmas Stockings. I was a single mother. I didn’t always have enough money to buy a tree. I sometimes put red ribbon bows and candy canes on a Ficus and called it “Our Charley Brown” tree. But the one thing I had without fail was Christmas stockings. Mine rarely had anything in it. It was more for show. But I always made sure my son’s was stuffed with fun things. Matchbox cars when he was young. Bubbles. New crayons. And a new ornament. (which remains a tradition). As I’m sure all kids do, he begged to open his gifts on Christmas Eve. He was filled with excitement, his eyes big at the sight of boxes wrapped and piled under the tree. He almost vibrated with excitement. I had a rule, no gift opening til Christmas morning. Despite the groans and moans and the, “Please, Mommie?” I stuck to that rule. Except. (You knew there was going to be an “except”, didn’t you??) OK, ONE gift on Christmas Eve and we’d get our Christmas stockings to see what was in them. He was well past the age of believing in Santa so there was no fake story about the fat one coming early. Those stockings became our “thing.” I put a lot of time and energy and money in being creative as he got older. The gifts became more elaborate and more expensive. Gift cards to favorite restaurants or to the zoo or some outing to do together. Always a new ornament. And then the teen years hit. So there was after shave and young man things. I think he loved opening the stocking more than anything else.
Enter a marriage and instant siblings. The stocking tradition continued well into adulthood. I was rapidly spending the bulk of our Christmas budget stuffing those stockings. So one year, I decided to go another route. This was the year the whole family was going to be together. All the siblings. My husband was home (He frequently traveled on holidays), the Grandchildren were here. It was a perfect time to introduce a new tradition. I made gift bags. BAGS. I thought I was being clever. I could put larger gifts inside, the bags held more. Brilliant. Not so fast, Christmas Mom.
My son walked into the family room and saw no stockings hung by the chimney with care. In fact there were no stockings to be seen! He promptly grabbed my attention by quietly bellowing, “WHERE ARE THE STOCKINGS????” “WE DON’T HAVE STOCKINGS??” I saw him looking frantically around the room, searching for his stocking. By this time, the rest of the group became restless and I could hear murmurings……“Did Mom forget the stockings?” “Is Mom OK?” “What’s going on?” You know, concerned that I’d had some sort of mental lapse. Which, as it turns out I did. What was I thinking? I explained that this year I didn’t do stockings, I did gift bags!!! Woot! There were no return Woots. My son, drew himself up to his full height, and announced to no one in particular, “This is unacceptable. UNACCEPTABLE”. (In case I didn’t hear him the first time.) “What do you mean, gift bags?? GIFT BAGS??“ And he stomped off. OK, maybe not stomped exactly. But very firmly put one foot in front of the other and left the room. Dead silence. I stood for a few seconds, in a mental hamster-on-a-wheel moment, searching my brain for a solution to this calamity. Did I have time to get the stockings from the attic, stuff them, bring them out later, and yell, “SURPRISE! ONLY KIDDING, HERE ARE YOUR STUPID STOCKINGS!” Nope, not happening.
I honestly didn’t consider his reaction. I should have known. We’d moved around quite a bit when he was young and he hung on to things that were familiar. I suddenly realized the stocking meant more than just stuff for fun, it was one of his few remaining touchstones, a symbol that while everything else in his life had changed, this one thing, his Christmas stocking remained. We went on with Christmas that day, it was filled with fun and great food, music, the kids tussling, me yelling, “Take it outside!” and “Don’t slam the door!” The Grandkids overwhelmed with gifts and too many cookies, protesting the taking of pictures, hanging out with their beloved Aunts and Uncles and the rest of us.
It was a great, big, typical, noisy, messy holiday. And I loved it. I was the subject of affectionate scorn from every.single.member.of.my.family. In good fun, and it would become another family joke, told the next year and the year after that. My son, that sweet, goofy, big hearted prankster, never let me forget. He continued to shoot me the stink eye all day, (lovingly, accompanied by his grin, but the stink eye nonetheless), and I could hear him muttering in my direction all weekend long. I couldn’t hear all of it, but I caught enough of, “Unacceptable, and “For petes sake” and there was the odd eye roll. Whatever. I got it. I got it already! Stockings were hung by the chimney with care every year after that. Stuffed to the tops, overflowing. Bonus. There were also gift bags for the things that were too large for the stockings.
My son was killed in an accident three years after that Christmas. I don’t do stockings anymore. Except his. His is hung every year. His last, and favorite Hallmark ornament, a Mustang, hangs from it. A little stuffed reindeer we got from McDonalds during his teen years is in it. This year it hangs from the door to the room he stayed in whenever he came home. That stocking means more now than ever. It doesn’t hold gifts anymore, it holds memories. Years of memories. It is overflowing.
I’m SOOOO excited! Today’s post is about me in the kitchen! The KITCHEN y’all! And I made something, actually a couple of somethings and it all turned out so good I just had to share. Because this is the season of miracles after all, and me in the kitchen creating anything is a minor miracle.
Have you ever had sugared cranberries? Yes? Well, where have I been? I mean, I’ve seen pictures of them, all staged just so on scrumptious looking cakes or in pretty little goblets. But I always thought making them would require following a complicated recipe involving mystery ingredients and math. You know I don’t do math and I’m a total loss in the kitchen, all because I was born without the all important Betty Crocker gene. But even all us Betty Crockerless people can successfully make sugared cranberries. And do it like a boss!
So here’s the recipe and list of
crap things you will need:
Cranberries obviously. You can buy fresh cranberries in a bag at the supermarket. Who knew? I used a 12 ounce bag.
Granulated sugar. You can use super fine sugar for a more sparkly, upscale look, but why? These babies look good with granulated and you probably have it on hand
Parchment paper or foil
2 Cookie sheets or other rimmed baking thingy. (See? I’m gettin the hang of the kitchen lingo.)
Colander for draining the cranberries
Covered container with lid (Tupperware or the like)
That’s it. Nothing fancy.
So here’s what to do with all that.
Rinse the cranberries and pick out the soft, cruddy ones. Let the berries drain in your colander in the sink while you are doing the next part.
Add equal parts sugar and water to a sauce pan. I used a cup of each. Use more or less depending on the amount of cranberries you are using. Mine were in a 12 ounce bag. On medium heat, stir the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Don’t let it boil. Heat until the sugar and water thicken a bit. Turn the heat off and add your cranberries. Stir to cover completely. I was told that if your sugar solution is too hot the cranberries may “pop.” But I let my simple syrup cool slightly and had no problem.
Pour the mixture in to a Tupperware container and seal with a lid. Put in refrigerator overnight. You don’t have to do this if you are in a hurry. But all the “expert” cranberry people say that it helps the cranberries absorb the sugar and increases their sweetness.
The next day (or after you’ve covered your berries in the sugar mixture and let soak for at least an hour), pour them in to your colander again and let them drain over the sink. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour a good amount of sugar on the sheet. I just eyeballed it and made a pile. Using a slotted spoon add the cranberries to the sugar and roll them around, use your hands or another spoon to make sure the cranberries are covered well with the sugar.
Place the sugar coated cranberries on another parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer, making sure the berries don’t touch. Allow them to dry. IF you can wait that long to eat them. About an hour is all it takes. Mr B began snacking on these almost as soon as they hit the cookie sheet.
These are amazing little sweet tart treats. They make a beautiful garnish for cakes or brownies. Need a quick snack for guests? Or something that looks like you’re a kitchen wizard at the next potluck party? These babies will be your ticket. Fair warning, they are a bit addicting.
Don’t plan on storing them for long. They get soft after a couple of days or so. I read that placing them in a covered container over a layer of rice will help keep them crunchy. I’m trying that right now. The ones I stored without rice were soft after 3 days, but still edible and tasty. Just know that these treats need to be eaten soon after making.
Not a problem, I can assure you. I made these for our 22nd wedding anniversary as a culinary surprise for Mr B. I came off looking like…..
Kitchen Wonder Woman. Those tights tho. egad.
I made chocolate cupcakes. From a mix. But I still had to read the ingredients and use the measuring cup to, well, measure. And they were edible! I didn’t burn them, or cause a kitchen fire, and for that I’m happy. I had a bit of batter left after filling the cupcake cups and used that to make what looked like a giant thin brownie, or a thick spongey cookie, but was really a sad, thin one layer cake…..if you got down to eye level and squinted. But some powdered sugar and a couple of sugared cranberries later and I looked like a genius!!! Maybe I’ll start a bakery, move over Magnolia Cupcakes….I’m lookin at you Joanna Gaines! (It’s good to have goals).
Mr B had the cranberry garnished cupcake the next day and said they were still delicious. And he ate 3 pieces of the sad layer cake. So there you have it. Give these a try. And if you’ve known about these forever, don’t mock me. Be kind to those of us who are Betty Crockerless.
Create your sanctuary one room at a time. Even the kitchen. Kitchens need love too.
Stuffed somewhere between the manic candy eating and the pretending to be someone you aren’t of Halloween, and the glitz and glitter of modern day Christmas, is……….Thanksgiving. Or at least it used to be. What happened? Thanksgiving has all but disappeared. I was pondering this recently and wondered….Is Thanksgiving dead? or dying a slow death? or just forgotten?
Can we revive it? Is it worth it? SPOILER ALERT: If you are one who decorates for Christmas the day after Halloween STOP READING NOW. Please don’t send me hate mail, I’m not anti-Christmas for goodness sake.
The answer to the can we revive it question is, Yes! Yes, it can be revived with a little forethought and it is most definitely worth it. In spite of the fact that Thanksgiving is predicated upon a romantic notion of grateful Pilgrims sitting down to an abundant harvest of food and friendship with also grateful Native Americans, a notion that has been disproved over time, families still sit down to eat too much food together, drink beer (I mean come on, what’s Thanksgiving without a drunken Uncle Fred??) and watch football.
When I was young, Thanksgiving was looked forward to with anticipation, the candy from Halloween had long since been eaten, jack-o-lanterns retired to the trash, toilet paper removed from the trees and the rush and excitement of Christmas hadn’t yet started. Although my Grams did have a corner in her closet for those “special” gifts from yard sales she squirreled away through the year. And let’s not forget Green Stamps and Top Value stamps saved and hoarded for gifts that couldn’t be found at yard sales. And she saved 25 cents a week just for Christmas at her bank’s Christmas Club savings program. But this post isn’t about that, how did I lose track of Thanksgiving already??
Oh yes….anticipating Turkey Day. While my Grandfather was alive, that meal was a big deal, preparations began days in advance, the good dishes brought out and washed, the silver polished, table linens starched and ironed. The required paper turkeys with their glorious honeycomb tails, lined the table and the old faded pilgrim salt and pepper shakers were brought out and filled. The family was coming for a day long eat fest. Along with whatever stray person my Gramps dragged in, usually someone he met in line at the hardware store with no place to go. Having no place to go was something he couldn’t abide. So we frequently had strangers at the table, eating and talking with the rest of the odd lot of relatives I saw only once a year.
The day began early for my grandmother, she would often get up at 4 or 5 in the morning to begin preparations. When it was time for the Macy Day parade it was also time for her first break. The sounds of that parade and the soft oohs and ahhs from her still resonate in my mind every Thanksgiving. It was a day of warmth and familial tolerance, if not love. I tolerated my Great Uncles, a rowdy bunch of former coal miners and farmers, veterans of wars and unnamed battles, loud, obnoxious, but adored by my Grams and they, in turn, adored her right back. My Great Aunts (my favorite relatives,) colorful as exotic birds, tugging assorted husbands and boyfriends to the dinner table, everyone laughing and waiting expectantly for the turkey, my Grams’ triumph of early morning rising, stuffing and basting the morning away.
The glorious bird would arrive, carefully carried by Gramps, steaming and golden brown, placed on a large platter, clearly the star of the meal. Grace was said, everyone held hands and bowed their heads, the Uncles eyeing the biscuits, (I always peeked in case they were ready to throw something at me), and then we went around the table, reciting what we were most grateful for before the meal began in earnest.
And what a meal it was. Mashed potatoes ( and no one made them like my Grams), stuffing, turkey gravy, a variety of veggie dishes, something called Waldorf salad, the required Jello with weird additions….Hello orange with shredded carrots and walnuts, I’m looking at you! And the always mystifying can of cranberry “sauce” which never lost its can shape, wasn’t really saucy and was more like molded jello without the benefit of walnuts or shredded carrots. Hot just-from-the oven biscuits and warm home baked bread. Then there were the pies, enough pies to make the sideboard groan. Every person brought pie, every.single.person. There was mincemeat pie (something I wouldn’t eat, I mean what the hell was in that anyway?) pumpkin pie of course, and apple, and sometimes there was a dreamy coconut pie in all its chocolate decadence.
And pudding, Jello chocolate pudding because that was my favorite. But also vanilla…with bananas and something called Cool Whip, although my Uncles preferred Ready Whip because when you pushed the little thingy on top of the can, it sounded like someone farting according to Uncle Buddy. And it could be used as a weapon. There were always threats of “whipping your ass,” at the time, I thought they would be using the ever handy can of Ready Whip as the weapon of choice. But wondered why would anyone use whipping cream to beat someone up??? Ahh, the sweet innocence of youth.
The beverages of the day were always sweet tea and coffee, if it was cold and it usually was….there was hot mulled cider. My Grandparents weren’t drinkers. My Gramps had a beer or two while hanging out with his fishing buddies but we typically didn’t have it in the house…… and wine, when it was brought to family dinners, was always in a large jug. Sophisticated we were. What with our cranberry sauce from a can and our Gallo wine from a glass jug.
One or two of the Uncles always got into heated arguments, the reason long dead, but revived, just in time for food. How does that happen?? For me the day meant stuffing my face, dodging “noogies” from the Uncles, playing outside with my dog and the highlight of the day was watching the Lions and/or the Bears play, sitting in front of the TV with my Gramps. One or two of the Uncles, done arguing, would join us and there were more than a few new arguments over the “Best Ever” in whatever position they were debating.
That part of the day was special, I got to share that time with my Gramps, sitting in his chair, smoking his pipe and laughing at all the antics and telling or retelling his favorite jokes and stories, me usually leaning back on that chair, bringing my bed pillow for comfort. As the day turned to evening and the candles were lit, music playing after the football game, various bodies snoring on the sofa and every available chair, replete with food and warmth, that day became Thanksgiving. I carry it with me still today.
After my Gramps passed, the dinner was still held, but it had lost something besides my Grandfather. My Grams was never the same, and in the subsequent years as more of the family left us, uncles, and aunts died or moved away, there were no more strangers, because helloooo, you never knew what kind of creep might show up, until it became just me and my Grams and my two favorite aunts, Ruby and Vi, along with their husbands. A more sedate day but still filled with love, laughter, warmth, too much food and reminisces.
I learned a lot about my family then, the old stories, the history being repeated around the table while the adults seemed to forget I was there, lost in their memories. The day ending in hugs and a flurry of goodbye kisses and hugs, the house silent once more. It wasn’t a sad day…..just a quieter and smaller version of the earlier dinners. But one thing remains clear in my mind. There was a feeling of thankfulness, of being grateful and content. And then Grams would signal it was time to bring the Christmas boxes down. THEN Christmas began. That’s what I miss most of all.
These days I browse my Instagram feed, look at posts from my many decorating groups on Facebook, and wince when the Christmas trees start appearing the day after Halloween. The last few years I’ve been sick of Christmas decor long before Christmas ever gets here. People are in such a rush to get from one light filled extravaganza to the next that Thanksgiving has become a day to get through so the “real” Christmas season can begin. Propelled by retailers needing to grab our dollars by enticing us with glorious and gaudy Christmas displays and the must have newest generation of phones, tablets, robotic vacuums and telling us we need someone named Alexis to have a good life…… We buy pre-lit faux trees with timers and programmed music. And then we spray our homes with the scent of evergreen in a can or burn scented candles because faux trees have no scent. ??? Does that seem weird to anyone else?
I often wonder, what’s the hurry? I hear and read “Fall is my favorite season,” yet those same people pack up fall as soon as the last jack-o-lantern is kicked to the curb and start putting up trees. WHAT? Fall is still here, people! And can we just set aside ONE day to be grateful for all that we have? For the people, pets and abundance in our lives? For a day of, granted, too much food, but served with a side of affection for family? WHAT IS THE HURRY?
I know many people love Christmas, I love it too. I love anticipating and planning it each year, I have countless magazines devoted to all things Christmas. I make lists. I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy every season, every holiday I have left and I try not to squander one for the sake of another. Fall is a SEASON, Christmas is a holiday. Thanksgiving is a holiday too! There. I’ve said it.
There may be a reason for starting Christmas early…. for military families, it may be a deployment. For some it’s involvement in the Christmas Parade of Homes, or another local tradition, perhaps someone is moving far away….for the rest of us, it’s the holidays as always….or should be.
It’s a bit different, being a blogger. We’re expected to get our holiday tips, tricks and photos out early so that you, my dear friends, can learn new ways to celebrate. I get that. But this year, I’ll be posting some things from last year, so that I can ease into the holiday with joy in my heart.
I’ll be cutting back on social media for a few weeks as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family we’ve chosen for ourselves. The kids are all scattered with families of their own, and one will be celebrating with us from Heaven. Mr B and I would normally eat a scrumptious, but less stomach challenging meal, followed by football, where we sit comfortably ensconced on the sofa, hurling insults at our heroes when they fumble or drop a pass.
This year we’ll be gathering with friends, some will eat too much, some will drink too much……but we’ll gather together to be grateful we are still here, to offer a moment of silence in remembering those who are no longer with us and THEN we’ll all hurl affectionate insults at one another, much like my uncles used to do, without cans of of Ready Whip for the ass whippings. Why…. we are much more sophisticated than that. We don’t need no stinking cans of ass whip. We just throw intellectual barbs. And drink wine from slim bottles with fancy labels and actual corks, and locally brewed beer with creative names. Yes, we’ve come a long way from Ready Whip and Gallo wine. Cool Whip may still be lurking somewhere….. but there will be no orange Jello with shredded carrots and walnuts. Um…..I might miss that. But there will real cranberry sauce that’s actually sauce and there will be pie. Lots and lots of pie.
Bring Thanksgiving back. Don’t look at it as the day before Christmas starts, drag out your vintage pilgrim salt and pepper shakers, line your table with paper turkeys in all their splendor. Decorate for this day as if it’s important. Because it is.
In today’s world we NEED a day to focus on what’s important, a day to hit pause, to remember and reflect. Christmas can wait. Put down the device, forget Facebook and Instagram (gasp!) for a day and enjoy conversations with the people who are standing or sitting next to you. Hug. Say I love you. SLOW DOWN. Enjoy the season you’re in. You never know when it will be the last season you get to enjoy. Or the last time you get to see the face of someone you love. Savor it. Christmas will come as usual, and there will be time for it. Leave the frantic shopping and the hurrying for a bit.
There’s time. It’s STILL fall y’all
Create your sanctuary. One season……one holiday at a time.