“Mini Holidays” Help Us Celebrate Life and Keep Us Moving Forward

We tend to prioritize Christmas, Easter and Independence Day over holidays that we don’t get off work or school, such as the upcoming Valentine’s Day.

Rightly so. When we’re celebrating our country or our God, such holidays should take precedence.See the source imageAlthough many grumble about the so-called “Hallmark Holidays” – those that we spend on but keep working through – I fully embrace them. I’ll even put up a few decorations, albeit nothing like the winter wonderlands we all erect for Christmas. I like the little joys the mini-holidays bring.

I forgot this truth about myself as I grumpily walked through a store the week after Christmas.

Wandering the aisles on December 28th, I saw the line up of Valentine’s, a few Shamrocks and a couple of cotton tails. Although I admittedly grunted out loud because I couldn’t locate clearance Christmas wrap, I quickly shrugged off my silly disappointment and embraced the idea of moving forward.See the source image

Momentarily mesmerized by the glittery Valentine cards, I thought of my friend who we lost three years ago. The month before she met Jesus, she was talking about the trip we were about to go on together. It was her entire family of about 15 and us closest friends and our families, totaling around 27 for a week in the Outer Banks. As we finalized a few details, she looked at me solemnly and said, “I’m afraid that when we get back from this trip, I will decline rapidly…I’m looking forward to this but realistically, I probably won’t make it to Christmas.” She was thinking about the next big celebration. The anticipated vacation to North Carolina had kept her moving forward.

That was in June. She passed away in July, shortly after we all returned from that final trip together.

I don’t know why my mind goes to such deep places so quickly while merely rummaging through pretty things at a store🤔, but it gave me perspective. Retailers prematurely stocking shelves for holidays that don’t happen for months is a silly thing to grunt about. These little holidays keep us moving forward. Nothing wrong with spending a few short minutes staring at a sea of sparkling red in one aisle, green in the next and happy, fuzzy bunnies in the third aisle. We can enjoy a little pretty inside stores and our homes when the world outside is sometimes ugly.

I agree that the constant “too-early” merchandise displays are annoying and if we let them, they can rob us of living and enjoying the moment or truly, completely enjoying whatever holiday season it may be. I resist the retailers’ psychological ploy intended to create urgency that we “better get the stuff now” – 2 months ahead of time – when what we have stored in the basement is no doubt already more than we need.

However, I choose to buy candy hearts and expensive chocolates for my February 14th kitchen table, rejoicing that I have people to love and spoil. I put up shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day and decorate for Easter with the holy reminders along with big, stuffed bunnies. Who doesn’t feel better after squishing a soft, cuddly bunny? 🙂

The Superbowl tomorrow, MLB kickoff in March, NHL playoffs after that…these too give our families reasons to gather and eat and celebrate life. Some may scoff, but if such celebrations bring a little joy amidst the mundane and routine, why not?See the source image

(Click on images for source(s).)

I Can’t Have a Relationship with my Turkey

(Many people enjoyed this post so much last year, I thought it might be fun to re-post as we enter into Thanksgiving week…)

I live in a suburb that is home to several beautiful farms. Recently, I saw two different signs offering turkeys for sale for Thanksgiving. I pulled over to take photos of both signs so I could call the numbers in the next few weeks to place an order.

I thought it would be neat to tell everyone at Thanksgiving that they were enjoying a healthy, no-hormone-injected, no-inhumane-treatment-turkey from the local farm.

Then, at the second farm, I looked to my right to see the other sign that said “choose your turkey”. There in the cutest little coop were several, beautiful white turkeys clucking around with their fellow feathered friends and family members. The customer could select their turkey, visit it regularly, watching it grow plump over the next few weeks.I stared at them. They were adorable! I suddenly thought about how the kids would name the horses or cows down the street when they were little. I didn’t have the heart to tell them back then that those cows we were visiting would end up in someone’s freezer by fall.

Not to sound like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but I’m a meat-eater. I love a good roast, pulled pork and definitely a Thanksgiving turkey with plenty of gravy. However, I don’t think my enjoyment would be the same if I visited my selection for a month before picking him up headless.A few years ago, one of our 4H Moms had us over to plan out the year of crafts for our daughters. About an hour into the meeting, her daughter got up and said, “I’ll be right back, I need to go feed him.” I inquired about who she was feeding. Mom explained that every year her daughter independently purchased a small steer. She fed it daily and cared for it, eventually selling it the following year at fair.

When the girl came back into the house, I asked if she ever got attached and felt bad turning it over for slaughter. She shrugged saying, “Nope. I get paid $1300 at fair. I’m saving for college.”

While some may not get attached, I fear I might. Knowing me, I might actually name the bird during a visit. Then, I’m likely to share with the family that our meat was once “Bob” and we are eating him. My kids might get a chuckle, but I may have trouble digesting.

I momentarily felt conflicted about the whole turkey situation, but it does not make me consider being a vegetarian. I’m looking forward to the cherished meal.  I have to go order my turkey now. But, I’ll let the farmer choose one for me.

Baking Brings Calm. Order. Completion.

See the source imageI made cookies over the weekend. Although there were plenty of tasks I “should have” done instead, I needed to do something that made me feel normal, creative… and – in the end – something was accomplished that was visible and complete. I went so far as to arrange the cookies in straight lines, lining them up one against the other as if the tray would be photographed for Gourmet magazine. I did this to visually experience “order” because last week at work was so very out of order.

Someone recently said they prefer cooking to baking because it isn’t exact whereas baking requires precise measurements. I never gave thought to baking being precise. That made me think of the other activities I consider hobbies or relaxing activities: Target shooting. Organizing. Labeling boxes in the basement. Straightening photos on the wall…

There seems to be a theme😄.

While the stunning galaxy we dwell in has astonishing order, earthly day-to-day existence is often disorderly. Utterly chaotic. Stressful. Unpredictable.See the source imageSometimes I need to sit and look at an established, tall tree. Immovable. Rooted under the ground for a half mile in either direction. Gentle flow of leaves slightly shimmering while the trunk leads to deep roots that spread a half mile in either direction. Beautiful. Strong. Sometimes I stare up at the constellations. My spirit needs reminder that He’s got this. In the midst of disorder, there is astounding order in the galaxies.

These feelings make me think of the song Symphony by Switch…

“‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drowning out the voices all around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony…

You’ll never let me drown
I know that my hope is found
In the name of Jesus…”

Sometimes I just need to bake. Exact. Visually appealing. Delicious. It has a start that provides a satisfying conclusion in a relatively short amount of time – unlike endless work projects. The finished product gives satisfaction. I feel like something was accomplished. It brings joy.

While the cookies below are the ones I made…I did in fact, alter the recipe. Yes, baking is more exact than cooking but I still tend to make baking recipes my own! To this recipe, I always add a handful of mini chocolate chips, eliminate the walnuts and add 1 cup of butterscotch morsels.

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/24445/chewy-chocolate-chip-oatmeal-cookies/

 

Convenience Reigns King in our Modern Times

A couple years ago I was telling my kids how sad I was that Wegmans closed the W-Kids play center at the front of our local Wegmans.My kids laughed and said, “You never let us go in there! We were always with you!”

True.

I loved shopping with my babies in strollers and eventually, loved shopping with my school-aged kids just the same.

Stopping in for a few groceries after a Saturday ball game was fun.

But back to the W-Kids.

When they first deconstructed the kids room, I figured that the majority of parents were already connected to daycare all week and either wanted to keep their kids with them on the weekends or shopped after work while the kids were still at daycare. Either way, if the demand existed, Wegmans would have kept it.

Next, self-check-out stations appeared.

Then, the majority of the W-Kids space became housing for mountains of pre-packaged Insta Cart groceries🛒.Shelves and refrigeration units now line the former W-Kids area filled with already-pulled groceries for pick up, or for the driver delivering the groceries to people’s homes. My friend recently sent me $10 off my first Insta Cart purchase. I keep wanting to try it but haven’t. I’m not opposed to my groceries being delivered, but I happen to not hate grocery shopping.

Then again, it hasn’t started snowing yet. I might just jump on that Insta Cart wagon on a frigid Sunday in January when I really want warm cookies baking in the oven but I’m missing a few ingredients (& while I’m at it, order all my groceries for the week…).

 

Ordinary? No, it’s Extraordinary…Peanuts in the Shell!

Every now and then, the little things I see or use every day suddenly appear unique and amazing. Today, it’s peanuts in the shell (or, “out” of the shell for eating!).Not that I don’t love peanuts out of a jar.Or out of a can.But there is something unique about cracking the peanut out of the shell.

I’ve never eaten a burger at Five Guys but I have certainly feasted on their peanuts in the shell. And, what’s more fun than eating peanuts at a baseball game?Staring at one peanut…after I’ve eaten a thousand over the years…got me thinking about how exactly they grow. If you click on this photo, you can learn a bit more about their growth process.Although it was interesting, I’m going to give my perpetual-student mind a break and merely enjoy how cool these little things are. Appreciating something so ordinary in our everyday cuisine is really quite extraordinary.