Christmas Parsons Table Arrangement

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Christmas is one of my favorite excuses to be creative. While I love the holiday decorating, I tend to be rather skimpish when it comes to paying money for what I consider ‘disposable’ accents, and so I work to craft my own using what I own and the nature in my yard.

Last year for my birthday (it was a big one, saying goodbye to 5 decades, looking forward to more to come), my hubby showered me with flowers. They were breathtakingly beautiful, unique, and artistic, done by a local florist he knew he could trust to create arrangements outside the boundaries of 1800-florist. When their beauty had well past waned and out with the trash they went, I was left with unique and beautiful containers picked for specific areas, one of which being my parsons table. My parsons table sits behind my couch in-between the great room and the kitchen. It’s a big space and the vase is the perfect height , not too high, so I can see from the kitchen in to the family room, not too low as to be missed.

For the fall/Thanksgiving, I filled it with lemons and mini-pomegrantes. For christmas, I pulled out my vintage Christmas tree balls and headed out to my arbor vitae to clip some greens. A bit of decorative garnish and VOILA!

I am pleased with the result: simple, colorful and not too flashy. A bit of greenery in the house to contrast with the stark barren brown leafless trees, and wintery white snow outside, brings inside a cozy holiday feeling.

There is an abundance of nature out there, and any vase or cool container can be used to create a bit of festive holiday sparkle in any area of your own home. Just think out of the box and get snipping!


Black Friday – Avoided

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and all is quiet in the house. And while I love Thanksgiving Day, I love the day after even more. I get to sit in my sweats reading the news or a book. The kids are home, usually sleeping in till noon. Hubby walks the dogs for me. There are plenty of leftovers, so no real cooking effort needs to be made.

Yes, it is the perfect calm before the storm: The storm of festive flurry we call Christmas.

Thanksgiving has a gentle lead up to it. Mother nature does her part, slowing the cycle of life to a dormant state of rest. Plants and animals alike preferring to sleep through winter, to be awakened by springs breath, tickling them to awake. One is busy through Halloween, preparing ourselves for this time of ‘wintering over’. So, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, attention can be focused on giving thanks, untouched by the other distractions so prevalent in spring and summer.

Thanksgiving is the time of year families turn inward, reconnecting and cherishing each others presence. It is the time of year we seek out those who might not have the blessing of genetically related family, extending the hand of familial friendship, embracing new connections and relationships so that hopefully no one unwillingly spends the day alone. In our home, with the exception of my brother (who drives the long 4 hours in traffic) we don’t have our own extended family nearby. Instead, we have been blessed with amazing family friends with whom we have created our own traditions, and break bread with. Some years our little family has shared the occasion with three or four families, house bursting to the seams with laughter, conversation and joy. Some years it has been quiet and cozy, shared with one other couple or my brother, an emphasis on comfort and intimacy. All have been wonderful and wonderfully different.

When Thanksgiving Day is over, it’s the perfect time for me to pause before mentally and physically gearing up for the chaos that todays culture has created, Christmas. We all try not to get caught up in a ‘keep up with the Jones’ attitude towards Christmas; but many of us have traditions we wish to keep. The result can be a self imposed pressure to fit all that we have individually defined as ‘Christmas Spirit’ into the Christmas season. Ideally, we spread the ‘reason for the season’ throughout the year. But let’s be honest, it is at least nice to have a time of year were we are encouraged and motivated by society and culture to be intentionally giving and sharing.

And so we come back to Black Friday, a nightmare of consumerism, resulting all too often in the most base of behavior. It’s hard for me to fathom the very people who were sharing their time and table one day, embracing the concept of Thanksgiving, are the very same people mowing down their fellow man/woman in a mad rush to be the first at the bargain table the very next day. For those who work this day, I thank you for your patience and service. It can’t be easy to work on Black Friday, but with the demand for the stores to be open, someone must be there to open the doors and ring the cash registers. And ring they do.

I’ll leave the thrill of the sale to others. I am going to sit here with my steaming cup of coffee and give a pass to the madness. As I read the headlines of the morning, history has been a good indicator of the present. I am reminded of an appropriate metaphor: Don’t feed the beast. So, I won’t. Instead, I think I’ll make a leftover turkey sandwich and be very thankful I am home.

 


Christmas & New Years is ‘Family’ Traditions

Merry Christmas to everyone, I hope you had a wonderful celebration of the reason for the season! 

Christmas is a time for family, whether it’s your own small family unit or a gigantic gathering of all the relatives. It’s about LOVE and LOVE is meant to be shared. For our family, that means having others over who may not have family around to share the day with. We have pretty much been on our own since my husband and I were married, so we have continued this tradition for going on 24 years now.

When my own children were born, we decided (since we were on our own) we needed to create some traditions to fill the void and make it feel special. And so we did. I thought I’d share our families traditions through the holidays. I hope you enjoy as much as we do. 

Christmas Eve: We have done this night with the only variation occurring these past couple of years my daughter sang at the midnight Mass service. This year, however, she was back on the 5 o’clock service so it was back to normal. Every year we dress for Christmas Eve Mass, go to service, come home and have the same meal. Food is an important tradition in this house! Baked Ham, Scalloped Potato, and a green vegetable. This year was creamed spinach (which was amazing) and a garlic-chili broccoli. When my daughters were younger and received presents from relatives, we’d open those presents on christmas eve (santa delivered presents for them to open christmas morning) as they were calling each relative to thank them and wish them a Merry Christmas. It was much less hectic than trying to get ahold of someone on Christmas Day! Every year, as is tradition, every one gets new PJ’s. We then put on our new PJ’s, I make a big batch of hot cocoa, pour it in Santa mugs and we pile in the car to drive around and look at Christmas Lights. Then home to check Norad’s ‘Santa Tracker’, just to be sure Santa had not passed them by. 

Christmas Morning: I have had to change this a bit now that we are gluten free. For years I did Wolfgang Pucks Quiche Lorraine (it’s simply amazing), an Apple-ginger Strudel cake and tropical fruit salad. This year to accommodate my daughters gluten intolerance (and it seems dairy is bothering her now also), I did ham & cheese omelets (cheese optional), a gluten free monkey bread, maple glazed sausage links, and a limoncello fruit salad. It was delish, and I believe it is the new menu going forward! While the food is baking, presents are shared. 

Christmas Day: We open our house up to anyone who feels like swinging by for a cup of cheer and one of my husbands famous Bloody Mary’s. I make a smattering of light appetizers, Stacys dip (see previous post), spinach dip, crudite, various cheese and hard salamis, fruit, and little sweets I’ve made over the holidays, like the butter crunch toffee. One year it was quiet with just another couple who stopped by, other years its packed to the rafters with little room to move.

Christmas Evening: Is the grand finale! Roast Prime Rib Beef, Yorkshire pudding, sautéed green beans, loaded baked potatoes and to top it all off, my mothers famous cherry cheesecake. And then we all fall in to a food coma and watch Christmas movies. Almost always we watch ‘Scrooge’ featuring Albert Finney. (honestly? the best version ever)

New Years Eve: My mother is the one who started this tradition. Being from the west coast and close to Hawaii, on NY’s eve we would always have what she termed as ‘Pu Pu’s’. This is a hawaiian term for a variety of appetizers or small bites. Some years I would do oil, cheese and chocolate fondue, other years it would be a mixture of ribs, rustic bread, and finger veggies. It just all depended upon what I felt like making. Then it would be a leisurely picking all evening long, until the ball dropped and champagne was popped. 

These are our families traditions, which have made this time of year very special to us. The one thing of importance, in my opinion, is to keep perspective of what you can reasonably accomplish, who you want to spend it with, and why you are celebrating in the first place. Christmas is not about the material things, it is a time of joy for those of us who are followers of Christ. It is the celebration of God’s abundant and endless love, proven by His sending of His only Son, born as a human child, to atone for original sin. We no longer are condemned to eternal death and separation, and that is truly a reason to be joyous! New Years is a time to contemplate the past year celebrating both the joys and sorrows, look forward to the new one with all its potential hopes and dreams. 

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas as the joyous birth of Christ, it is a time for everyone to celebrate LOVE. For moms like me, that is expressed through food and fellowship. However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe, joyous and yummy New Years Eve.