If you celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope you had a good time with the food and folks you enjoy.
My husband and I celebrated in our home, which has happened perhaps a total of four times in our married life. So it was a fun treat! I really enjoy staying home for Thanksgiving. We were unable to gather with family or friends this year due to various reasons. Neither of us felt like cooking.
Setting the table with some of the pretty glass dishes passed down from my grandmother and mother made the table festive. Out came our cloth napkins and special dishes.
Late afternoon, we picked up the turkey dinner-to-go at a local restaurant, Black Angus.
We got take-out from Black Angus last year, too. The food was tasty each time. The menu included:
Roasted and sliced turkey (white and dark meat)
Molasses bread with butter
Pumpkin pie and whip cream
The centerpiece candle provided a warm glow, and quiet jazz music played in the background. After dinner, we wrote what we are thankful for on small sticky notes and read them aloud as we added them to a poster.
Since we ordered the family meal for four, we had plenty to provide a meal for my mother-in-law and shared a piece of pie with her at her house when we dropped it off. She was unable to get out this year. We also had leftovers for two more meals for the two of us.
Honestly, getting the take-out meal was probably cheaper than purchasing everything to cook a meal for two at home. This is a great idea for an older couple living at home that doesn’t want to cook and still wants leftovers.
So many ways to celebrate all we have to be grateful for! Even though we are not quite out of the woods with this pandemic.
What was a highlight of Thanksgiving for you this year? Do you decorate for Christmas right away?
Stay charming, my friends. Sending a hug to you. I am thankful for my readers!
That feeling someone is missing. A deep, quiet sense of longing, even in the midst of contentment with current circumstances. The hovering shadow of being some sort of homesick for a more complete life. Do you feel it, too, at this time of year? Even in the middle of fun and good times. I do.
Longing for loved ones who aren’t with us is hard any time of the year, but especially at the holidays. I am eternally thankful for the times together with my loved ones in days gone by. Yet I’ll always miss them when separated, alongside the feelings of the love and hope that accompany this season. I still sense the presence of those I love through great memories, favorite recipes, and shared traditions.
Perhaps living with the uncertainty of the pandemic also triggers our desires to be emotionally safe and secure, amplifying that longing to be with loved ones, those far away.
I had the privilege to walk both parents and our good dog on home to Heaven in the last four years. Many of you have lost loved ones in that time frame, too. Humans and pets. Though the sting diminishes, the missing goes on. Thanksgiving, as families and friends gather, can trigger the pain of missing our loved ones. Some empty chairs remain at the table in our hearts.
Holiday gatherings are complicated. Our Thanksgiving tables may host all kinds of positive and challenging emotions, issues, and reality in the room, in addition to or caused by missing loved ones. Here is a list of possible guests:
Fear and uncertainty may attend and bring their friend, anxiety. However, they did not RSVP.
Sadness may come alone, as might lament. They will want to sit together.
Grief might come late, uninvited, but always expected.
Hardship may be part of the festivities this year. We will all help carry it.
Disagreement promises to be on its best behavior, and help us hunt for common ground.
Pride and entitlement might stop by. We can simply let them know they have the wrong address. Move along.
Joy will squeeze in the back door with a giggle, and bring a jiggly jello salad to share. Never the loudest in the group, but always the most surprising pleasant presence.
Trust will join in confidently, and immediately suggest that control issues, unmet expectations, and frustrations be quickly bagged up and carried out to the trash cans in back.
Peace will show up for dessert. Always a welcome guest. Rarely the first to arrive. Ready to highlight the blessings in spite of the pain.
Everyone will help clean up. Some more than others.
Thanksmissing. A reality when we experience a variety of emotions often connected to separation from loved ones through distance for many reasons: military deployment, death, changes in location, work schedules, a split in the family, differing views and opinions, other commitments, and perhaps even boundaries in relationships, or a lost dream.
It is never easy to endure separation when it causes missing, but practicing gratitude and embracing the privileges we’ve had along the way may get us through. The holidays can be bittersweet for many, especially as we age. Sensitivity and kindness in the midst of those moments go a long way. Love will prevail. New traditions, recipes, and memories will be made.
I wish you each a happy Thanksgiving! And if you are missing someone this year, I hope you hold them close through great memories, video calls, plans for future get-togethers, improved health, and healing hearts. I wish you peace. Many of us understand. There will be more blessings to come, so please pass the pie and that bowl of fluffy, sweet, billowy whip cream to top it off.
The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.
Stay grateful, my friends.
For those of you who also follow God, here is an encouraging verse:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Many of us are aware that Oprah shares a list of her favorite things each fall. In 2017, my husband ordered maple syrup after seeing it on her 2017 list. We enjoyed it all year with weekend pancakes and reused the pretty wooden box for other things. It was quite delicious.
I decided to start my own favorite things list, a holiday twist on gratitude.
Here is my list of 21 2021 Favorite Things. Photos follow. May it inspire you to list yours. Scroll through photos on your phone. I can guarantee those photos are filled with favorite things, moments, people to inspire you for this activity.
My good dog(s)
Classic Christmas movies, especially from my childhood
Here is a general list of some of the goldmine of places I like to go for good grub in the Uptown Whittier restaurant district, including the Greenleaf Promenade.
From time to time, a friend will ask what restaurants I would recommend in the Uptown Whittier, California area. This is a subjective list. What I like may or may not be what others are looking for. Just ask my husband. However, in compiling this list, I was amazed at the variety available within just a few blocks.
Let’s talk about parking. You will need to park and walk. This is an urban area. California Grill does have its own parking lot, but the rest are street parking (free), if you can find it. You can also take advantage of one of the two parking garages (not free). Enter one from Bright across from Phlight. Enter the other from Comstock between Philadelphia and Bailey. I think those are $2 or $3 to park, and you can often park inside which has the advantage of a cooler car upon your return. There is a larger outdoor parking lot near Chicken Koop and Off the Hook. Also, there is a smaller lot off Greenleaf north of Monty’s Camera and The Cellar, entered from the alley off Hadley or Bailey.
I have not included addresses. Your smart phone map app can help with that.
Currently, many restaurants have outdoor dining, which I have enjoyed. As the summer temperatures rise, however, that is losing its appeal. It seems, however, that when I dine outside the loudest cars and motorcycles seem to drive down Greenleaf Avenue. Annoying. But you might be a track-side NASCAR fan and thrive on that energy.
I have eaten at all these places and liked them. I’ve enjoyed some more than others depending on the food, service, and ambiance. Feel free to ask for more specifics in the comments or on social media.
There are some restaurants I have not tried yet. They are not on this list. I am set in my ways and just don’t have room for some of the new hot spots in my repertoire at this time. Some restaurants are missing simply because I’ve eaten there once, and that was enough. You can add your recommendation in the comments or on social media to expand this list.
For your reference:
Check Yelp or the restaurant website for the days and hours. Some are not open every day. Some are not open for lunch. Some are open for brunch only on weekends. Giving the restaurant a call will guarantee the most up-to-date information.
For some, it’s walk in and order at the counter. Some have servers that wait on your table.
Some are dark and pub-like. Others are open and light.
Some are loud. Some are quiet.
Some are old-school diner-style food. Some are interesting fusion cuisine and everything in between.
It was fun to bake an angel food cake from scratch over the holiday weekend. Especially eating it with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and fresh whip cream. Delicious! Before you continue reading, please read the disclaimer:
Remember I am a relaxed cook and baker. In other words, I’m high on ideas and low on ambition. If there is an ingredient I do not recognize, I will move on to another recipe. If it seems complicated to make, I will enjoy the photo and move on. I need lots of time and a lot of counter space. I do not cook or bake as often as many, so everything takes time. I’ve made a lot of things one time because cooking is an adventure not a routine for me. Keep that in mind. If you are an experienced cook, there is nothing new here for you. If you are a casual cook like me, this might inspire.
The story continues…
Next, I got to beat the egg whites in the KitchenAid mixer I got for a wedding present 29 years ago. Still going strong. On both counts. This part was also fun because I got to watch for “until foamy.” Then “soft, billowy mounds.” After that came “glossy peaks.” Watching those stages actually appear in the shiny steel mixing bowl brought a smile to my face!
Such a fun afternoon of baking something in the hot weather! Who doesn’t like to fire up the oven on a summer day? Ha, ha. The reward was a tasty treat we enjoyed during fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July.
Stay cool, my friends!
P.S. I made fresh whip cream to go on top. Thank you, Alton Brown.
If you celebrate Easter, what are your traditions? How have they changed over the years? What do you do now that is fun and meaningful for you that is a recent tradition? Do you find yourself missing loved ones who are not at your table this year? Does your world feel smaller or have traditions that don’t seem to fit the way they once did? Holidays have a way of making the heart long for loved ones and good times gone by. Holidays seem to sharpen the pain of missing others. But let’s not stop there.
I grew up enjoying our family dinners on Easter Sunday. After going to church as a family, dressed up in our new Easter outfits, my mom provided a lovely meal and included some relatives or friends. I carry those fond memories with me to this day, and always miss my parents, especially at holiday times. Thinking back as I write almost puts me in the mood to make a molded jello salad. Almost.
When I married and lived far from my hometown, I spent Easter Sunday dinners with my in-laws. Those times also provide sweet memories of good family fun, such watching young nephews gather eggs from the hunt. We even had an earthquake one year! I still treasure all the rich memories of the past. The family has grown through marriages, relocation, and the arrival of grandchildren. Our get-togethers are more spread out. Yet we make it work.
Traditions bring meaning to our lives. They anchor us in a sense of belonging. Circumstances shift and create opportunities for different Easter Sundays and new memories. Change comes along and invites itself in. Loss and separation flicker in hearts at the holidays, shining a quiet light on pain residing there. When change collides with tradition, we recognize that traditions need to bend. Flexibility is key to joy, especially during this pandemic. Flexibility can permit traditions to get a makeover that welcomes new happy moments.
In addition, Easter Sundays are busy days for many, too. We often help out at our local church until early afternoon. My husband now works on staff at our church, so Easter Sunday is a long day. We still find ways to still enjoy this special and important holiday through good food, conversation, and connection.
At our house, our immediate family is a party of two. I like the traditional Easter dinner, but that looks different now. I am a casual cook and have no interest in preparing a full meal, especially for just the two of us. I look for an easier way.
This Easter, I ordered two “Dinners-to-Go” Easter meals from Alicia’s Cookery & Catering in Brea, California. I picked up the meals Saturday in the early afternoon. What a great dinner for just us two, especially since I am a non-ambitious cook! Here’s what this year’s meal included:
The food was delicious, interesting, and packaged so nicely.
The serving portions were generous.
All I had to do was set the table, heat the items we wanted to be served hot, and plate the food.
The meal was ready in about 15-minutes, saving time and energy for other things.
Clean-up was minimal following the meal since Alicia’s did all the cooking.
I split the food into three different meals: Easter dinner (ham, potatoes, grilled veggies, rolls, and shared one of the salads and a deviled egg), a light supper (fruit, cheese, water crackers, and shared the second deviled egg), and another meal for later this week (soup, the other rolls, and the other salad).
Once I calculated what it might have cost me in time and money for shopping for and preparing a homemade meal, I thought the price was fair. Plus, dividing it into three meals for two people really made the price reasonable.
My leftovers will provide lunch for me this week.
Ordering meals is a great way to enjoy good food for just two people or a single person. It was tasty and convenient with great leftovers. A single meal could also be shared with two people.
A cupcake and two cookies were included in each meal. The desserts lasted several meals, too.
The timing worked out, too. In years gone by, Easter dinner was reserved for right after church on Sunday. That just doesn’t work for us anymore. Easter Sundays are long and packed with church responsibilities. This year we were able to enjoy a traditional Easter dinner on Saturday at 3:00PM as an easy alternative. My husband then went to church to help out with the Saturday 5PM service. This worked out well in a relaxing way.
Another option, depending on pandemic restrictions, is to dine out. For the past couple of years, prior to the pandemic, we’d leave church around 2PM, tired, and ready to eat. Our local family had already eaten. My husband and I headed out to BJ’s Restaurant for a relaxed meal. We never have to wait to be seated. The crowds have thinned out by then. We plop down in a comfortable booth, order, and enjoy a relaxed meal served by someone else. And cleaned up by others, too. My husband usually orders the prime rib. I like to order a mini Sweet Pig pizza and salad. We split a Pizookie. It is also fun to be in a busy dining room with other people out having a good time together.
These new traditions are so different from my memories of Easter Sundays long ago. Yet, with an open mind and the help of prepared meals or restaurants, we eat well and enjoy the time. Maybe we even end up with time for a nap!
Stay open to new traditions, my friends!
P.S. For those without family plans on holidays, I hope this encouraged you. For single friends or those living with just one other loved one, I hope we all continue to find ways to enjoy good food and make holiday traditions meaningful. Let’s avoid comparing our situations to others. Social media is full of photos of bigger family events. We can be happy for our friends enjoying their traditions. We can remember to also find contentment with what we have, to be creative, and to look for blessings around us.
January 2021 is coming! If you are a paper planner person, I have two things to say to you:
You are probably already in possession of your 2021 planner.
You are my kinda people.
But first, it is so weird to be a planner person and to look deep into the eyes of 2021 and see very few things to plan. Just like that last nine months. Yet I still have goals and a schedule, so here we go! Big dreams on pause. Small steps and what’s next in clear view. We are often what we do. The pandemic has forced us to face who we are. Oh, and quick question. What day is it? “Blursday.” Here is a great seven-minute story from CBS Sunday Morning, December 27, 2020: Going to Plan B: When COVID pulls the rug out from under you.
I love planning. I love paper planners. I work at living an intentional life and these tools help me. I can be a procrastinator and a last-minute kind of person, too, and planning provides more of a guardrail for that.
Maybe I should open a planner store or work for a planner company. I have a good time looking for the right paper planner. Too good a time. I enjoy seeing what friends are using for their planners. It’s a hobby as much as it is a practical resource. I own multiple planners and calendars. I’m not sure if I’m asking for help or bragging. I’m not sure if I need an intervention or to start a club.
For a brief time, I used only a digital calendar, my phone’s iCal, and then also Google Calendar. That didn’t work for me. Putting pen to paper makes a difference. The full visual of a month or a week on paper gives me a better sense of time and space for planning projects, next steps, and prep work. Paper planners also permit doodling and decorating with colorful stickers or stamps and art, which is important to me. That’s a creative outlet I find useful, relaxing, and rewarding. As a result, I am now a hybrid planner person, using a combo of digital and paper. That has worked for me for years.
Planners and Systems
My hybrid planning includes:
Phone iCal digital calendar: For appointments, scheduled things, and repeating routines. I love the convenience and mobility.
Paper planner: For plotting out the months, weeks, and days to plan projects, next steps in pursuit of goals, and preparation for various coming events and activities.
Teacher planner: Used exclusively to plan my writing business in blocks for all the aspects of my duties and projects as a writer.
Bullet Journal: For collecting notes on projects, making lists, mapping out a plan, notes from a phone call, and all kinds of notes and doodling. This tool broke me of the scattered sticky notes life. Weekly, I summarize any growth opportunities, celebrations, and blessings from the previous week to help keep perspective.
I like Franklin Planners for a variety of reasons and keep coming back to them. I was required to use one as part of my graduate studies in educational leadership, and that is something that has helped me to this day. When priorities are important, planning is the tool for success.
I also like some of the features of the Happy Planners, along with some of the planning stickers.
I started using a teacher planner in August for my writing business. It adapted so well to tasks that I treated as I would have subjects and periods in the school day. After so many years as a teacher, it felt quite natural.
I also love wall calendars both for the art and for the practicality. Time is a gift, and wall calendars remind me of that, and make me pause when I find myself wishing time away. Here are some of my favorite wall calendars.
Wanderlust Wall Calendar: We post a 12-month wall calendar in the kitchen to communicate housemate dishwasher duty rotation, monthly house dinners, reserving the kitchen or living room for guests, and the dinner duty schedule for my husband and me. (Photo below.)
Paper Source Great Big Calendar: This large planning calendar was on my desk at the office, but now that I work remotely, I repurposed it. I use it strictly for work deadlines and meetings and it hangs on two large clips on the wall behind my studio desk. It’s part of my virtual meeting background. (Photo below.)
When I look for a paper planner, I look for a pretty design, a monthly spread with large blank boxes, a place for notes, a place for scheduled appointments and tasks, and a place for the to-do list. For my Bullet Journal, I use a Leuchtturm1917 journal with dotted pages. What do you look for?
What works for you in planning? Do you have a favorite planner brand?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.
– Mary Oliver
Here are some other questions:
Do you put work and personal things on the same calendar? I keep them separated, but I might blend them this year.
Do you tend to be the planner in your family?
Perhaps there are four kinds of people in the world. Paper planner people, digital calendar people, hybrid planner people, and then everyone else. This time of year, switching calendars and setting up new planners, is fun for those of us who are planner people. I hope you are pleased with your new planner and that you have a year that is organized, relaxing, and filled with moments that become great memories.
May your new planner full of blank spaces bring a sense of hope. I share your optimism.
Christmas is around the corner with New Year’s Eve and 2021 just beyond that. How are you feeling today? Are you, like me, working to wrap your head around a pandemic Christmas? Are you looking at your 2021 calendar hoping for better days? I cannot believe we are still dealing with these restrictions, over nine months later.* Is pandemic fatigue or frustration fogging your season?
I made a list of my favorite things about Christmas, the fun and meaningful ones. I assessed the list and realized most of my Christmas favorites can still be part of Christmas 2020. That was so encouraging and provided a good perspective. A few things were adapted in new ways. And just a couple were actually put on hold this year.
Perhaps you too have noticed how much is similar to past years. For instance, here’s a few:
Decorations inside and outside our home
Enjoying some of the same favorite holiday foods
Stockings are hung
Pretty presents wrapped and ready for delivery
Holiday music playing
Steaming hot cocoa fills our mugs on cold evenings
Taking a drive after dark to see Christmas lights
Favorite Christmas movies and claymation stories entertain
Cards and letters are trickling in
Plenty of Hallmark movies with quaint snowy towns and holiday romance. Who ever tires of a happy ending?
And yet hovering over everything is the ominous CoVid19 cloud and all the challenges with that. It has taken the shine off this time of year for many, even if only slightly. It also brings a more intense sense of missing and longing for people and traditions, not part of this year. I have to acknowledge that for many of us this time is also littered with disappointment, stress, uncertainty, painful loss, and limited social life for those following guidelines. Those are weighty things for sure.
Sometimes this virus feels like a Grinch ready to steal Christmas. So much is so different. Yet we can choose to not let the pandemic ruin Christmas. I hope we can all find a centered place of contentment, reflecting on the good we have encountered this year. What can you find to enjoy? Who can we encourage? Maybe we can express thanks to any essential workers with whom our paths cross. Perhaps we can focus on what we have, what we hope for, instead of what is missing and has been lost. Then the Grinch virus will not ruin Christmas. It is about more than the fixings and the fuss.
I know some are so lonely and blue this Christmas because of cancelled plans and limited contact. My heart goes out to them. It is so hard to overcome in these circumstances. I pray those dear ones can find hope and joy in their holiday, too.
Here in Los Angeles County, we are on a stricter “Stay at Home” order through Christmas. For most years of my adult life, I’d be thrilled to be asked to stay at home for Christmas. But somehow this is not exactly what I meant.
We are having a very different December. Christmas celebrations for us won’t include the physical presence of family or friends beyond our CoVid home bubble. We choose to do what we can to slow the spread and to follow the county and state requests. That isn’t easy, but we feel like we want to contribute in that way.
I hope you and your loved ones are doing OK as you finish planning and preparations. I also hope you are kind to yourself this year, accepting what you cannot control, and enjoying what you can. Maybe if we just have a day without controversy, conspiracy, or conflict. That would be a good gift. And I hope you, like me, are able to enjoy a slower schedule.
In closing, I also want to wish happy holidays to all my friends who celebrate different traditions with family and friends. Perhaps you recently finished the meaningful time of Hanukkah. For those honoring Kwanzaa, you will begin soon and are probably already looking forward to the feast. As the different celebrations always remind us, we can get through this together.
Stay resilient, my friends! And merry Christmas to all celebrating the birth of Christ this week.
P.S. *Speaking of nine months of pandemic life, here come the babies! Perhaps you’ve noticed that we are heading into a little baby boom, and it’s underway now. New sweet little ones are making their way into the world, and we are cheered by that for sure!
Years ago, I found a recipe for simmering scents that bring a sense of the holidays to our home. I made a batch recently. I love that the ingredients are all-natural and incorporate my favorite holiday smells. There are no exact measures on this for the ingredients. If that makes you uneasy, the photos will help. Once you get more adventurous, play around with various amounts of this or that and see what scent gets the emphasis.
Add the following ingredients to a small saucepan or pot:
Rosemary sprigs (I cut some from our backyard plant)
Vanilla (a few drops)
I also add:
Cranberries (I toss in a handful mostly for color)
I often turn the burner off, and the smell continues to waft as the brew cools down. Then I don’t worry about it burning dry. I use the same mix for a few days, just adding water and reheating it.
Turn on some holiday music and fill you home with the sounds and smells that can bring simple joy, even in these uncertain days.
The fall season is a favorite of mine. This year, it’s a balance of joy and struggle. The pandemic, a guest that has worn out its welcome, makes it more complicated. The anticipation of this week’s federal election fogs my joy, too. I feel the stress of wondering about the results, the response of leaders, the response of Americans, and the responsibility of the media to be patient with reporting results. You might be feeling all that, too. But, hey, what’s a little more uncertainty? After all, it is 2020. When all I want to do is curl up with a cozy blanket in a fall chill, I feel the weight of our current circumstances that leave me cold in a different way.
I do love autumn, but I have to get creative this year and not give up on the joy. What are you doing this fall to enjoy the season? Here are some of my favorite activities lately.
While at my desk, sometimes I sit virtually by the river to enjoy the calming sound and beautiful fall color while working, using the YouTube video below.
We enjoy a simple cup of hot tea in the evenings, a November ritual that gets interrupted by hot cocoa once December comes.
To cut back on all my computer screen time these days with working remotely, I went old school and ordered actual paper magazines. Remember print magazines? Do you still read physical magazines?
I enjoy watching Hallmark movies with an autumn setting. The sets of those movies are always beautiful.
My college football team did not play for the first half of the season. Fortunately, the Big 10 did start their schedule on October 24. I hope it works out safely for all the teams.
Some days are like a scavenger hunt for contentment, to find a centering joy not dependent on what life looked like before. Fall is a favorite time and I want to keep that feeling. Lets’ not give up. I want to look back and feel like we made the most of it, in spite of the limits and heartache of separation from loved ones.
Although cloudy moods can set in, and that is natural, many days have sweet encouragement in simple things, including these for example.
This fall will not be the same. We must shift expectations. I love how some friends have taken road trips to find fall color and beauty. Following their inspiration, we can choose to be OK and get through it, making the most of it. Then we can look back on it to see it worked out after all. Maybe not without disappointment, but hopefully still with joy.
What are your November or autumn rituals or plans? Can you still do those even in a pandemic? Where will you have to get creative? What will Thanksgiving look for you this year?