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Monthly Archives: December 2014

On watering

It’s the time of year when many of us reflect on what’s in the rear view mirror – and what’s out front.  And here’s the thing about resolutions:  I no longer make them.

Nope, not one.  Too much pressure with too few results, in my experience anyways.

Instead I’m looking ahead at my days off and rolling in them.

I’m going to bed when I’m tired and getting up when I’m not.

I’m doing what I want to do and finding that I want to do a lot more!

Over the past couple of years it’s been far more productive to just say “no” to what I don’t want to do,  and to those who would distract me from what matters.

Google.images.com

Google.images.com

Saying no takes effort, especially for me, a people pleaser, organizer of the fun and keeper of the peace. But – here’s the rub – saying “no” allowed more yes-es.

I’m simply continuing the progress made and looking forward to what’s next.

Some things that have worked for me include:

I’ve stopped trying to do it all, be it all, fix it all for everyone else.

And most importantly, I no longer water the weeds.

Amen!  Google.images.com

Amen! Google.images.com

 How about you? Do you make New Year’s resolutions?  What do you want more of?

 

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Categories: Attitude, Confidence at any age, Determination, Faith, Family, Gratitude, Growth, Holidays, Home, Life, Personal, Rants, Self Discovery, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , | 29 Comments

Making time for the pauses

Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve and I am this excited about it: excited

For Christmas, of course, but because tomorrow afternoon the Grands arrive.  We’ll have a full house: our boys, me and Hubbs and the two littlest ones  – we’ll enjoy “fun” foods, play games and look for red noses out the window.  We’ll call the Santa Tracker to estimate the big guy’s arrival and we will surely ring Papa’s Sleigh Bell.  Here are the two of them last Christmas Eve:

the grands readying for bed; Christmas Eve, 2013

the grands readying for bed; Christmas Eve, 2013 – An Emjayandthem(C) photo

I’m working today, with only a few tasks left on off my list, and I like it that way. I have time to enjoy the pauses.  Pauses that allow me to be grateful that the sickness I’m getting over is on its way out not in, pauses to think about friends and family going through challenging times, and, of course, pauses to consider the gift given to all in a little stable far, far away.

Last night, I finished wrapping and now, just two presents remain: per wee MJ’s request could I save some wrapping for her to do? There are two left – one for Daddy and one for Mommy.  Yes their parents are divorced and don’t always along but doesn’t mean little ones don’t need to learn the joy of giving.   So after they arrive and coats and boots are off I’ll scurry them away with much ado about secrecy and “don’t peek here Daddy” and I’ll be giggling and thankful for little fingers and tape and ribbons and bows and three and a half feet of wrapping paper for a 10″ box.  That’s just how it goes when you have the chance to spread the magic that is Christmas.    I can’t wait.

But first – here’s a gem of a clip that I hope you take time to watch ~ it’s stirring and wonderful and takes me right home to my little prairie church.

 * * * Merry Christmas! * * *

 

 

 

Categories: Beauty, Faith, Gratitude, Growth, Holidays, Home, Life Lessons, Mom, music, Personal, Products I love | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Random Five … Sleigh Bells Ring

It’s Saturday and I’m a day late for 5 random thoughts … here goes!

1.  5 – count ’em – 5 upper respiratory infections this year – with another landing Tuesday. By 4:30 I was in the Doc’s office, feverish and aching.  Today marks 4 days of rest mixed with work, lots of fluids and antibiotics and somehow I still sound like Kermit the Frog.  But at least it’s not Christmas Eve! 🙂

2. Opened a package from my cousin recently and to my delight I found this:

Only in Canada, eh?

The  World’s Greatest Toffee.  Only in Canada, eh!  Mmm mmm good.

How do you enjoy toffee with 4 temporary crowns?  Very, very carefully LOL!

3. A friend found out yesterday that her job ends Jan 2nd  – after 34 years of service.  She’s 55 and couldn’t be happier.  Why?  Severance pay & time to spend with her grand kids and sister.   There’s planning and then there’s planning meets opportunity.  I couldn’t be happier for her, either.

I love her Moxie!

I love her Moxie!

4. 3 days left of work for me this year then some much-needed vacation; I plan to be on the ‘whatever’ schedule for the duration! Whee!

funny clock

5. Mid-week, huddled under blankets and feeling miserable, Hubbs brought me a package that had arrived in the mail.   I unwrapped it, read the little note with it … and cried.    Seems my brother and his family were cleaning out an old farm building when they came across 7 sleigh bells on a leather strap — all curled up in a pail.  Turns out these were the jingle bells Dad would add to the team’s  harnesses at Christmas-time.  The sound of all those bells – the crunching of snow beneath draught horses hooves – and our squeals of delight singing, “bells on bobbed-tails ring, making spirits bright, what fun it is to laugh and sing a sleighing song tonight,” – well it was so wonderful to revisit those memories again.  The bell is substantial, it fills my palm, and as I hold it I swear Dad is right here with me.  One word:  Magic.

Dad's sleigh bell; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

Dad’s sleigh bell; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

And how was your week? Care to share your “Random 5” with me?

Categories: Animals, Attitude, Beauty, Blogging, Faith, Family, Gratitude, Growth, Holidays, Home, Joy, Life, Mom, Personal, Relationships, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Christmas memories ~ Butter Crunch Toffee

Thumbing through recipes last week, I found a tried-and-true candy recipe I’ve carried with me for at least 25 years.  Shared by my first CT neighbor, Debbie, this is one of those candies that tastes like it came from a gourmet shop.  Except it’s not.

Image from Redbook.com

Image from Redbook.com

I met Debbie when I moved us to our teeny apartment on the second floor of a family home in an older, established neighborhood.  It was just my boy and me so we didn’t need much – in fact – we shared a bedroom.  A few doors down was their house – Debbie and Rick’s.  At the time, they had two large dogs in place of the kids that never arrived.  Rick looked like Santa Claus and could fix anything except their relationship.  Debbie, short and stocky, was a good friend and an avid reader — we shared books and she talked regularly of their struggles with infertility. Sometimes she cried about it, especially when holding my curly-haired giggling son.    Sadly, their marriage didn’t last and one day the house was sold – both moved on and we lost track of each other.  So when I read through my notes on how to make this candy, what comes to mind is kindness, big dogs, and unfulfilled dreams.

** Debbie’s Butter Crunch Toffee **

  • 1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup crushed almonds for topping
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter, no exceptions
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/4 lb melted semi-sweet chocolate
  • Candy Thermometer
  • ** Makes 2 lbs

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan cook the butter, sugar and water on medium-high heat.
  2. Cooking rapidly and stirring constantly this will gradually become thicker and caramel in color ~ cook steadily for about 10 minutes or until the mixture reaches the “hard crack” candy stage (300F).
  3. Stir slivered almonds into the caramel and pour onto the cookie sheet.
  4. Melt chocolate and spread over caramel.
  5. Note – (I usually melt the chocolate in double boiler – a small sauce pan sitting inside another saucepan of water set to medium hot — it will melt but not burn that way.  You can also microwave it).
  6. Before the chocolate topping hardens dust the entire mixture with finely crushed almonds.
  7. Let cool then break into pieces.
  8. Store in a covered container. Freezes well.

Tips:

I live in the Great Lakes State and it is often too humid to make this — so don’t even attempt it on a humid day b/c you will have a dickens of a time getting the toffee to “set.”  I will make this when the temps drop again and it’s frigid and windy outside.    It’s also a perfect make-at-the-last-minute-bring-to-a-party-treat.   Thanks, Debbie.

What favorite recipe came to you in an unconventional way? Who comes to mind when you make it?

 

 

Categories: Animals, Friendship, Holidays, Joy, Personal, Recipes, Relationships, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Random 5 Friday – 12/12

It’s Friday! It’s Random! Here we go …

1.  I work with someone who lies.  A lot.  He lies so much he forgets which lies are which and gets tangled up in them, like someone trying to walk through a jump rope.  One of these days he’s gonna get busted and land on his face and  I kinda hope I’m around when it happens.

Karma's coming!

Karma’s coming!  Google.images.com

2. Monday I endured 5 – count em- 5 hours in the Dental chair.  4 old crowns were sawed off and I was prepped for 4 new ones.  My face still hurts and soup is my new best buddy.  Bah!

image from cooking-questions.com

image from cooking-questions.com

3.  Speaking of today, I’m off to meetings at the Capitol.  Ever heard the term “Lame Duck?”  Quack Quack 🙂

Michigan State Capitol

at Michigan State Capitol

4. It’s Friday and I am this happy about it!

excited

Weekend!  Google.images.com

Tonight we’re meeting friends for drinks & yums at a cool old burger joint downtown. Tomorrow night is bowling with friends and Sunday? Sunday I’ll just collapse :).

5.  Saw a great clip this week that helped me in my quest to dodge Holiday stress:

Google.images.com

Google.images.com

 

Happy  Friday! What’s on your agenda this weekend?

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Food, Friendship, Holidays, Home, Life, Random, Relationships, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel

Tumult.  Of late, there’s been a noticeable amount of it. Swirling near me. There’s angst and change at work, not for me directly, but close enough that I can feel it. There’s also lines-in-the-sand being drawn between oldest boy and the ex and little ones in the middle. Ugh.

Those are the thoughts that stir me awake at 2:00 a.m.

You know what I mean … that heart-pounding holy-cow-what-was-that and then you realize that was the sound of your brain – and heart – on overdrive.

What is it about the Christmas season that brings so much anxiety to the surface? Is it the expectations? The schedule?  What?

Yesterday I found myself in a 40+ line of women-grabbing-one-last-thing-on-their-lunch-hour-it’s fine, I’m fine!!   About 20 people deep I looked at what I held in my hand and laughed. Laughed out loud.  Set it aside and walked out.  Out. Out the door.  I laughed harder in my car. Laughed like a lunatic with one tiny moment of sanity and drove away, far far away from the madness that can be … this time of year.

I’m out.

Christmas is coming. 2 weeks tonight.  And I’m out … out of all of that.

Instead, I’m turning my focus back to what Dad reinforced for me one winter’s night in a stable far, far away.

Everything else?  Not even a close 2nd.

 

Google.Images.com

Google.Images.com

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6

 

Categories: Attitude, Determination, Faith, Family, Growth, Holidays, Life Lessons, Love, Men, Personal, Rants, Self Discovery, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

It was only a matter of time

Google.images.com

Google.images.com

If this were my kitchen they’d get a treat. That elf is creepy and I’m so glad we didn’t have him around when the boys were little.  For more stories of Moms rebelling against him click here:

Here are 3 simple ways to enjoy the Christmas season:

1.  Load up the car and go for a “sparkle” tour.  Little kids in P.j.’s, warm cocoa in cups, and a tour through decorated neighborhoods can bring loads of “oohs” and “aahs” and – bonus – all free.

2.  Do something kind for someone else. Shovel a neighbor’s walkway. Bake cookies for relatives, coaches or friends and let the kids deliver them.  The list goes on and on.

3. Count your blessings.   Give each person a piece of paper and something to write with. If they can’t write, do it for them.  Take turns having each one name 5 things they’re thankful for (this will vary by age, often with hilarity).  Place the completed lists on the fridge for a week and, every night at dinner, have each person read another’s list.  It’s heartwarming to hear one child say they’re thankful for the other.  Seriously.  The next week? Start new lists.   Gratitude is like compound interest – the more you do it the more you have.  And this exercise may help lessen your angst, too.

 

What are your tips for keeping sane through the Holidays?  Is there an Elf on your Shelf?

 

Categories: Animals, Attitude, Faith, Family, Fun, Holidays, Home, Opinion | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

R5F ~ All you need is love

It’s Friday.  Thank goodness!  And with that, here are my 5 Random thoughts :).

1. Why is it that a full work week after just a few days off feels like the longest week ever?    It’s like we jammed 10 lbs of potatoes into a 2lb sack, not kidding. Long days, lots of meetings and trips coupled with all the “to-dos” of this time of year left me reeling.

Made it to Friday!  Google.images.com

Made it to Friday! Google.images.com

2. Text reminders.  It’s the end of the year so I’m jamming in Doctor and Dentist appointments while I can.  Now I receive multiple text messages to confirm my appointments and to remind me of my appointments, too. All so I can arrive early and wait for the Doctor or Dentist who is always … running behind.  Maybe the office staff should text them. Grr.

3.  Started Christmas shopping last Sunday and took today off to finish it.  I’m hoping for an absence of crowds and looking forward to lunch with a good friend whom I rarely see. And if we run over and the shopping doesn’t get done today, so be it. 🙂

Olive Garden - soup, salad and breadsticks - yum!  Google.images.com

Olive Garden – soup, salad and breadsticks – yum! Google.images.com

4. Speaking of Christmas we had our office Holiday luncheon yesterday ~ about 20 of us went to one of those Hibachi restaurants where the chef cooks in front of you and tosses samples your way.  The food was delicious, the camaraderie was great but I’m not a seal and this girl is not diving for broccoli.

Just say no.  Photo from DailyMail.co.uk

Just say no. Photo from DailyMail.co.uk

5.  Reading the above, I’m sounding snarky. One of my employees recently introduced me to Willy Chirino, a Cuban-born entertainer who covers The Beatles with a Salsa-funk sound.   It was a great reminder that no matter the day, all we need is love.

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Food, Friendship, Fun, Home, Humor, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The “Un-Christmas” Christmas cookie

*originally published December 6, 2011.

Years of Christmas baking has taught me one thing: make what they eat.

There’s no point spending the money .. and the time .. to bake something pretty if no one’s eating it up.

So, every year, I make what my boys (hubbs included) call, the “Un-Christmas” Christmas cookie:  Chocolate chip-butterscotch chip-macadamia nut cookies (otherwise known as “Mondo” cookies).

There’s no jam, ginger or molasses in sight.

These are the ones my guys go back to time and again and that’s why I bother.  Plus, I rarely make this treat the rest of the year so, in our house, they’ve become a “Christmas” cookie in their own right.

Here’s the recipe for MJ’s Mondo Cookies:

  • 3/4 sticks of Crisco Butter flavored shortening  (no substitutions) (1 1/2)
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar (2 1/2)
  • 2 tablespoons of milk (4)
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla (2)
  • 1 large egg (2)
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour (3 1/2)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (2)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (1 1/2)
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips (2)
  • 1 cup of butterscotch chips (2)
  • 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts (2)

(The numbers in brackets are the quantities if you wish to double the recipe; I usually do).

Who says I’m not a Christmas cookie?

Directions:

Pre-Heat oven to 375 F.

Using an electric mixer, beat shortening, brown sugar, milk, vanilla and egg until light and fluffy.

Add salt and baking soda, mix in well. Stir in flour slowly until blended then stir in chips and nuts. Stir well until all ingredients are blended, especially any remaining flour. *The dough may feel a bit stiff, just take your time and work in the flour.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2-inches apart onto cookie sheets (a single batch makes about 2 cookie sheets full; double batch makes 4).  Bake 12 min. (I usually cook these 6 min per pan then switch pan locations and cook another 6 min).  Set pans and cookies on top of stove for 2-3 minutes before removing cookies from cookie sheet.  Transfer to cooling rack and enjoy!

Recipe makes 3-6 dozen cookies. These freeze well and travel beautifully, rarely falling apart in shipping.   The best part?  Santa loves ’em!

Hubbs’ idea of heaven ..

There’s one more treat I’ll make for my chocolate-loving fiends and that’s some Chocolate covered peanut clusters.

"I could quit smoking before I could quit eating these" - Mr Hubbs

“I could quit smoking before I could quit eating these” –  Hubbs

Yep – like last year – I have decided to stop watering the weeds.

* * *

How have your Christmas traditions evolved over the years? What’s your family’s “must have” Holiday treat?

 

 

Categories: Attitude, Family, Food, Fun, Growth, Opinion, Personal, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , | 18 Comments

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