Sunday night. Dinner time. There’s a new In-n-Out Burger in town that just opened. Let’s try it!
As always the drive-thru lines were long, so we decided to make it a fun adventure in persistent pursuit of burgers and fries on this December night. Why not? It took a while, as we expected. In-n-Out was organized. Here’s how it went:
Traffic control guys working their magic with smiles on their faces.
Now the building is in full view. So much promise of food! Christmas songs on the radio. Windows down for that sleigh ride feel! Well, just pretend.
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 free online video from the Michael’s YouTube page (below) that you might enjoy. I participated at home by following the step-by-step directions. That made it feel easier to do. Otherwise, I may have looked at the finished image and decided I could never do that!
Perhaps you, too, talk yourself out of trying something new by looking at the perfect example given and comparing yourself to others. This time I decided to simply follow along for the fun of it, and see how it turned out. You could say I copied along, which made the project bite-sized. That seemed more manageable.
I had a relaxing time and was happy with how it worked out. I did not have the Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Cottage Palette, at the time. I ordered them later to color in the wreath I’d sketched out. This was a fun way to do something new and see what became of it.
I like these sorts of creative projects, and you might be interested as well. I love to doodle, draw, and color, as long as it feels like play and not an assignment. I also love to use art like this to pull my head out of the day-to-day adult life drama and demands. This was a risk, but a harmless one. I encourage us all who feel “craft shy” to try new things, too.
Practice imperfection. I believe helps us grow and engage in good ways.
I learned to draw the four styles of leaves.
I learned to add big flowers, berries, and little flowers to fill in.
I love the color palette.
(I apologize for the blurry screenshots below.)
My goal was to see what I could do, and that was relaxing and fun. We have a society that pushes for perfection and we lose the freedom to learn along the way. Our world’s kids need to see us grow, too.
Have fun creating just to see what you can do. And be satisfied with the process. Good for you for doing creative things along the way!
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.
For the creative ones in our midst, who, like me, working hard to vulnerably put good things into the world, this is a good article. It is a great reminder of a healthy practice that I participate in regularly, Artist Dates, or as I call them Author Dates.
When did play dates turn into dates? As children, other people coordinated spaces for us to gather with friends either for a specific event or just to play. My mother was usually this person, calling other moms to plan tea parties, a game of tag or a walk to the local playground. Now, I wait for someone to ask me on a date or I myself do the asking. Either way, “dates” are no longer organized by a third party, rather, they are planned by two autonomous individuals for a particular purpose.
Similarly, the word “play” has been removed from the concept. The traditional definition of the word play is “to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than serious or practical purposes”. A playdate was time specifically set aside for this. Now, dates have ulterior motives; they are not for child’s play anymore. But what if they…
When circumstances shift unexpectedly and become challenging, awkward, or even painful, pay attention. Maybe the shift came with recent news. Maybe it came with mystery and no apparent explanation of what is actually going on. Perhaps many questions came next. Perhaps good people behaved in hurtful ways, acted differently, or things got confusing.
Recently, I found myself in that kind of situation. I was face to face with a change in my circumstances, not initiated by me. I rarely make any changes when I am content. Yet I’ve learned that the gift of growth and good is often hidden in opportunities that come with discomfort in change I did not initiate.
What can I control when things seem out of control? What tools do I have to get through the situation? I reflected back on other times where change came my way and identified some things I could do to get through this new challenge, along with the layers surrounding it.
In a Brene Brown course I took online years ago, based on the wonderful book The Gifts of Imperfection, I sketched out a “change map.” Starting at the point of awareness that change was coming or needed, I mapped out steps I took to end up in a better place down the road. That was such a helpful exercise. I recently looked again at that map and reviewed the tools. I could apply some to my current situation, and that was empowering.
Are there new possibilities? What is just one next step to take? Read the road signs and determine options.
In a season of redirection, focus on internal growth. Look for the strength to accept things are now different. Realize that expectations will not be met in an expected way. That’s not easy. Leaning on family, friends, community, and faith provided the support I needed to keep my head clear and heart strong when circumstances intersected with change.
We all come to forks in the road. I’d prefer a spoon. And a bowl of ice cream. But off I go in a new direction, whether I want to or not. When things don’t go the way I’d planned, will I pull off the road or continue to go forward and grow as I continue down a new road?
Often the new road is winding. Watching for ways to grow in those troubled days is too much at times. Just keeping focused on the road, moving at a safe speed, hoping to get home safely, takes all we’ve got.
If you are like me, I work hard to make sense of difficult circumstances. On days that feel uncomfortable and odd, it is exhausting and sometimes a waste of my time and energy. If I’m feeling anger, I work hard to make sure that doesn’t cause the flat tires of bitterness or blame, which only slows me down. I need to keep moving down the road looking for a better place.
Some circumstances bring major delays in life. Often those leave us waiting and waiting. Our frame of mind or trusting heart goes under construction. We are reminded to use caution, to be patient and kind to ourselves and others. Waiting is a challenge in itself.
Some dark times cannot be simplified when choices are limited by commitment or resources. Some change brings limited options. Some change brings that impact like a truck overturned and spilled cargo blocking the road. So much to clean up and sort through before making any decisions! Sometimes the only choice is how we respond at that moment. Though change and weird circumstances can bring delays to plans, but growth is still possible.
Perhaps we need discernment and good counsel from wise people to determine if we’ve simply hit a speed bump to endure or need to merge at the end of the lane to a new lane in the journey of life.
I have learned that rough situations lead to new opportunities. Willingness to look beyond the situation, listen, watch, wait, and prepare to change can be so helpful. If you remain in difficult times, at least growing stronger is a hopeful option. But you might just find an open door to a new phase of life that brings more good.
Stay strong, my friends!
P.S. Recently, my job ended earlier than I would have planned. It’s a long story, and things are working out. It was a patch of rough road. Nothing tragic. Lots of challenge. I’d be happy to share more, but not here. However, it was unexpected and filled me with uncertainty, disappointment, and insecurity. I am still “under construction,” but enjoying a bit more of a scenic byway as of this posting.
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.