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Monday, December 5, 2016

December Joy List

Since I did no joy list in November I don't have to cross things off or explain my failures. November's joy was filled entirely by my family all being together and by Pip (the granddaughter) who radiates joy.  Now on to December!

 1. Volunteer at I.P.
 2. Listen to Christmas music daily
 3. Find and enjoy some free live music
 4. Bake and share cookies
 5. Take food to someone having a hard time
 6. Have Mom up weekly for dinner
 7. Take Mom out to see the Christmas lights
 8. Take Mom Christmas shopping (I admit this in not joyful for me but it is for her)
 9. Get Santa Letters addressed and mailed (Chore but joyous when it is finished)  Literally hundreds of letters to kiddies from Santa with the North Pole cancellation were mailed today to be remailed. I have addressed so many blooming envelopes my hands will not function right now. 
10. Spend at least one night relaxing with only the Christmas lights lit, music playing and a glass of         wine.
11. Gussie up the Christmas packages
12. Think of what I like most about each person when I send my Christmas cards
13. Take food to the food pantry
14. Have a small dinner party
15. Have neighbors over for dessert and coffee
16. Go to a play or Christmas extravaganza
17. Pray for world peace
18. Appreciate and enjoy the rain (Best lesson learned from a drought)
19. Make 3 Christmas gifts
20. Facetime with Pip and talk about Christmas (or anything) 2nd time this week.  I miss her terribly
21. Light candles daily
22. Gather unused coats for a homeless mission
23. Toys for Tots donation
24. Donation to Foster Families Christmas Celebration
25. Quiet time daily with Advent meditations
26. Christmas Brunch!
27. Catch up with an old friend
28. Have a conversation with someone I don't know
29. Try a new food/dish Soup at a Persian restaurant in town. Can't pronounce it much less spell it.           Luckily it is on the menu as "soup of the day"  Whatever it is called it is delicious!
30. Try a new adult beverage
31. Make fudge (several kinds) and share the love!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Scruffy Hospitality!



This is a simple copy and paste of an article I really needed to read. It can be found at the Style Bueprint and I am linking the article here just in case thee are issues. I hope it will transmit so that each of you can gather some wisdom from it, that is ,if you are like me and need it.  Maybe we can indeed have the best Christmas ever!  Peace!



Scruffy Hospitality? During the Holidays?! Yes!

Liza Graves


‘Tis the season for the picture-perfect home, the picture-perfect meals and the enviable holiday party where again, everything is just perfect.

What’s up with our need to make everything so PERFECT? I know, I know. I am not the first person to ask this and I won’t be the last. But, during the holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, this need for detailed perfection is at its annual peak. Maybe that is why so many people hibernate in January. It’s not the cold weather. It’s recuperation from all that perfection that we tried so hard to maintain for the previous six weeks. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who excel and are energized by all of this planning and doing. But it excludes the rest of us who feel that if we can’t compete, why even try?

A scruffy Thanksgiving.

My own Thanksgiving meal this year took place in a kitchen missing upper cabinets, with drywall showing and food was served straight out of aluminum baking pans … there was no centerpiece on the table, but I found two candles. The feedback? The best, least stressful Thanksgiving ever.

And I’m not even going to pretend that StyleBlueprint doesn’t add to the frenzy. We’ve curated beautiful tablescapes, recipes, cocktail ideas, holiday homes and ideas for great gifts. But, let’s all remember that those tablescapes were made for a photo shoot. Those recipes? They were captured in perfect lighting and were likely the only thing being cooked at the time. Those cocktails? Well, let’s be real … if you want to make a gathering easier, just serve beer and wine, as hard as it is for this cocktail lover to admit. Those holiday homes? They have been fretted over for days to get them ready to shoot. Many had designers involved. The photos are likely edited to make them even more … perfect. Just like a runway model, where you see something to inspire your look, take those same cues from these homes … get ideas, but don’t think your house has to live up to them … unless that is your thing, and then go for it! And the gifts? If you are losing your mind, just get a food/beverage gift for everyone … they’ll use it or be happy to have it to pass on to someone else. Buy a case of wine or some coffee, or order brownies or oranges for everyone. We can take this down a few notches. Let’s remember that.

Which brings me to the topic of “scruffy hospitality.” I’m not talking about planning a nice party and having people over to your home that you haven’t cleaned up at all because you’re trying to “be real.” If you plan a party, clean up your house and prep, sure. Show people you care and wanted to make them feel special. But, what about the Friday night where you get home and think I’d really like to see some friends, and you text a few people and they are free too. Let’s leave time and space in our calendars and hearts for these impromptu gatherings. And, by all means, straighten up a tiny bit … wipe down your counters and maybe empty your sink. Make sure there is toilet paper and soap in the powder room … but otherwise? Order a pizza and have everyone else bring wine or whatever. Leave the backpacks by the back door and the mail on the counter. All those giveaway clothes you’ve had in bags to get to your car? It’s okay if your friends see them. Maybe those bags will encourage them to purge some items as well.

If you haven’t heard the term “scruffy hospitality” before, it was coined by a Knoxville, TN, Anglican priest, Jack King, in a sermon that he wrote a blog post about here. Here is an excerpt:

“Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

Don’t allow a to-do list to disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’” — Jack King

You know that political statement we hear, “It’s the economy, stupid?” I feel like we need to say “It’s the relationships, stupid!” to ourselves every now and then as a reminder. Don’t let your own need for perfection outweigh your soul’s need to be real and connect with your friends and family. Invite people over. Tell them, “My wrapping paper is piled in the corner, and I’m wearing yoga pants. My plant is dead, but it’s too heavy to carry outside. All that said, I’d love to see you and share a pizza and catch up during this crazy time.” It’s probably exactly what they wanted and the permission slip they needed to be real, as well. Can you imagine receiving that text? You’d probably know you were in for the best night of the whole season.

Have you been waiting for your new furniture to arrive to invite people over? Don’t wait. That hole in the wall to be repaired? Put a frame around the hole and make a joke out of it … you’re friends will love you all the more for it. If I’ve learned only one thing in the past few years it’s that we really don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and who cares if your plates don’t match because you’ve broken too many? Who cares that having a perfectly tidy and organized house is just not your talent? You can run to the olive bar at the grocery store, add some cheese, grab some sparkling cider and wine and say “Welcome.”

And that goes both ways … be the guest with a gracious and nonjudgmental heart. If your friend invites you over and everything is not “just so,” be grateful for the invite even if you are the type who CAN do it all. Got it?!

Cheers to great parties and Christmas trees that are over-the-top beautiful. Cheers to the families who can pull off the gorgeous holiday cards, hand addressed in beautiful calligraphy. But cheers as well to deep breaths, messy desks, car trunks that still have summer’s goggles in them and a few piles of papers that you just can’t seem to file away. It’s okay. Deep down, we care far more about everything else. Let’s talk about it. Tonight. My house, or yours?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas Card Swap and Giveaway






Hey y'all!  Since I have been a virtual friend to so many of you and shared your lives this past year I thought it might be fun to have a card swap among anyone who wants to participate.  The rules are so simple that there are no real rules.  Simply email me haljam3@gmail.com.  I will literally put everyones name in a hat and randomly draw 3 people for you to send a card.  Then I will randomly give 3 people your name.  In the end we will have 3 cards to send and receive. Buy them, make them, bake them__whatever you want your greeting to be. I figured 3 was a doable number for anyone.   The only real rule is to email me in the next few days.  That will give me plenty of time to sort it out and get back to each of you with your 3.   So if you are so inclined, or even remotely inclined, join in. It is a low cost way to bridge the distance between the virtual and 3-d worlds we occupy.

As an aside while I have been doing this major cleaning and purging I found several copies of a fundraiser cookbook I bought a few years ago.  It is a book of recipes sent from chef's across the country. I gave some to Goodwill but kept one copy to use as a giveaway.
Following a variation of
Sluggy"s rules, comment "enter me" in the comment section for 1 entry.  Post it in your blog with a link to this page for another entry.  Then everyday you post it on your blog with a link here is another entry.  Simple enough.
There are 218 pages of recipes, some from nationally known chefs and some from very generous restaurant owners who were more than willing to help.
All entries are due by December 9 with a drawing on the 10th.


Delayed Festive Friday Post

Today's post is in no way shape or form intended to be the ultimate gift from the kitchen, but simply a very inexpensive way to reuse some things you have in your house anyway to give a gift from the kitchen a little more oomph. After all it's all about the presentation, right?

I had originally planned on using this box to show 3 different gifts from the kitchen using the same container with very different looks, but time and tide wait for no one and I have been about as busy as I can be.  Since I skipped Festive Friday last week I thought I would go ahead and show you and trust that your imaginations are large enough to see other ways to use this.




Begin with an old Christmas card box, You know the kind with the clear plastic lids on them, right? Use enough wrapping paper and make sure you have enough to have a 3 inch border beyond all four sides of the box. The remaining tools are pretty basic.  I used a pair of scissors and a glue stick.  I am sure there are more complicated tools and directions but I am a simpleton at heart and almost always use the K.I.S.S*. method of doing things.














Turn the box bottom upside down and place the paper on the bottom of the box.  I will confess I used a smear of the glue stick to anchor the paper in place. Fold the long sides first, creasing the bottom and top edges, then do the same for the short sides. Now turn the box over so you can begin the folding and gluing part.





Fold the edges over the top edges of the long sides of the box, then fold about half or it under the first fold to make a nice smooth edge.  Glue the folded under edge to the paper much like hemming a skirt. Next, run the glue stick down the entire top edge of the inside of the box and glue the paper to the long sides of the box. On the short sides of the box, fold the ends like you are wrapping a present, then "hem" those edges also.  Run the glue stick down the inner edges of the box and glue the "hemmed" ends to it.  Since you are making those wrapping end folds you might need to glue down every fold.  I didn't, but again K.I.S.S. This is how it looks completely covered.






Before you do anything else, wash the card box lid thoroughly in warm soapy water, rinse well and dry with a lint free cloth. (I am talking seriously dry here, not like I do when I dry my hand washed dishes. Oh, who am I kidding? I usually let them air dry)

The next step is to make something homemade to put into the box.  As fate would have it, Son3 was returning to NYC this afternoon so I made him some peanut butter fudge to take back, but I confiscated a dozen pieces before I packed his to go.  This would look nice with truffles, turtles, buckeyes, chocolate fudge, divinity.  The sky and your imagination are the only limits!












Grab a few candy paper frills and line the bottom of the box. (Mine held a dozen. Mini cupcake liners would also work just as well.) Then set a piece of candy in each frill.
If you are putting cookies in the box,  line the box with enough white tissue paper to overlap all the cookies.  Cut a piece of white parchment paper to go on top of the tissue in the bottom of the pan, fill the box with cookies.  Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the cookies and fold the tissue over the parchment.








The last step is to put the lid on the box then slide a ribbon underneath the box bring it around to the top of the box and tie a bow.  If Son3 had not been walking out the door to catch a flight, I would have put some tiny ornament in the middle of the bow, but he was ready to leave and I was in a hurry.  Oh well, imagine something really cute attached to the bow. Now go make a list of everyone you want to have something that looks really cute for and get busy wrapping leftover card boxes.








Speaking of cards, If any of you want to be involved with a Christmas card swap email me your address to  haljam3@gmail.com  I read all of your blogs daily, even if I am living in chaos and don't have time to respond.  I would love to send holiday greetings to you and would even organize a blogging card swap for anyone interested.

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid!














Friday, November 18, 2016

Finding What Is Important

If you read my blog you may have been seeing my posts about trying to make everything appear perfect in the house.  I had planned on having everything completed by noon today with the remainder of the day for cooking and decorating. As happens so often, when we carefully plan, life makes other arrangements.

Wednesday I got a phone call that a friend of our oldest son had died in a wreck.  We had been close friends with his family since the kids were little fellas but had lost touch lately except through FaceBook.  We are still close friends with his father  in law and mother in law, and see them every few weeks and it would never occur to us to not acknowledge his passing.  So last night I stopped cleaning to make some food to help with their extended family  lunch today and this afternoon I went to a funeral for a young man who died too soon and leaving a young widow and 2 young daughters and a broken hearted mom, dad, brother and sister. While I was going through the receiving line at the visitation before the services his dad hugged me, told me old friends are the greatest friends, and said nothing mattered but hugging my boys.

On the way home I was getting cranked up because I was sitting at a dead stop on the interstate, making a mental list of things I had not finished yet. In the middle of the stand still I mentally heard Bob's voice saying again, nothing mattered except hugging my boys.  The frenzy I had been feeling was gone and replaced by an internal peace, because life is uncertain and nothing matters except hugging my sons, dil and of course granddaughter.  The house is pretty darn clean and it might not be  exactly what I envisioned, but instead of seeing something askew  or not quite perfect I am going to heed Bob's advice and know that nothing matters except hugging them and enjoying our time together. Because  Nothing. Else. Matters

I know his entire family would give anything in this world to have Thanksgiving in a crappy dirty house all together instead of facing the empty place at the table. So I am now ashamed that I believed for even one moment that this Herculean cleaning frenzy was necessary.  We will be together and laugh and enjoy each other, and eat too much, and since I have sons will have some toilet humor, loud sounds and unseemly fragrances and it will be enough and it will be good!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

And the Moral Is

Once upon a time there was a woman (who shall remain nameless) who could easily live in a less than perfect state of being.  Her home would pass an inspection by the Health Department (well most days anyway) and she ascribed to the old adage that a home should be clean enough to be healthy but dirty enough to be happy. Since she had tendencies to be obsessive about things it was probably a good thing for her family that cleaning has never been one of her obsessions.

 Life was pretty easy, she kept their clothes clean (most of the time), she kept the house tidy (most of the time) and she cooked them delicious food. (except for the days when she served so-so stuff or they went out to eat) Yes life was pretty easy, and then, one day, she decided to make a complete list of everything that needed to be done before company would be there.

In the hands of normal people a list might just be a handy tool or a guide to stay on task, but when you a list like this in front of one of those "other kinds" of people, something as simple as cleaning out a powder room vanity cabinet takes on epic proportions and no longer will cleaning the cabinet do.  It then needs a new coat of paint and the rug in the powder room needs to be cleaned and while getting the steam cleaner to clean the run in the powder room, the upstairs closet has to be completely torn apart and put back together, but not before finding a picture one of the kids drew when they were in elementary school, which has to be framed, but who can frame kid artwork without first cutting a mat for it, then while looking for the exacto knife finding 2 tubes of watercolors that were out of place, which means cleaning all the art supplies and reconditioning the brushes before putting them back in the jar that holds them, but the jar had spots on it and needed to be cleaned....

Which brings me to her latest less than sane moment. After quick shining the hardwoods (and they do look lovely now) she decided the gourds she had dried a few years ago and still uses as autumn decorations looked "flat" against the fresh shine on the floors.  And because the world does not have enough idiots, she pulled out some medium gloss varnish ( I mean she wouldn't want to be garish) and painted it on the gourds which now have a lovely low luster and will be perfect on the foyer floor. Well almost perfect, she still has to run to Hobby Lobby and snag some fall colored plaid ribbon because she just decided they would look nicer in a big basket and a big basket requires a bow right?

And all of this chaos because of a stupid list!

Which brings me to the moral of this little tale.  Before the youngest graduates from college sell your home and move into a 1 bedroom condo.  That way when holidays are near and people come to visit you can put them up in a nearby hotel and eat in restaurants and everyone stays sane!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Clock is Ticking and I'm Still Cleaning

I fell behind this week. Time is fleeing, but I still couldn't get motivated, so now I am hurrying like crazy to try and finish everthing I have not yet done.  I would love to have Friday free and clear to do the last minute touches and also do some baking. (Who wants to visit home without a taste of their childhood on the table?)  Better still I would love to be like Samantha and just twitch my nose and have everything do itself, but I am pretty sure that is not going to happen.

Barring unexpected magic, I will be scurrying like a hampster on a wheel, so I can finish by Thursday night. That will leave me all day Saturday to catch my breath, enjoy some coffee on the deck, run the vacuum, dust one last time, cook something delicious, light the candles and get ready for their arrival at 9:30.





Week 2:
 1. Clean music room
 2. Deep clean guest room bathroom, Waiting for Friday right before they come
 3. Deep clean Son3's bathroom, Waiting for Friday before he gets home
 4. Gussie up the deck and screened porch
 5. Deep clean Master bedroom
 6. Deep clean Master bath  Deep clean dressing room
 7. Wash summer comforter and put away did this week 1
 8. Air winter comforter and shams and put on bed did this week 1
 9. Whatever else I think of this week to add to this list
10. Paint corner cabinets in the dining room paying to have this done today, best  money spent ever
Carry overs
Quick shine hardwood floors in foyer/lr and dr
Create a bedroom for Pip from my former office work in progress,  over 2/3 finished
Deep clean dressing room
Deep clean laundry room
Deep clean butler's pantry
Clean oven  doing a tad more baking before I clean it

Extras if I get to them, if not carry over to week 3 or possibly forget about entirely
 1. Wax cabinet fronts and doors
 2. Re-do kitchen table top Not going to happen.  Tablecloth right?
 3. Shampoo den carpet   decided a thorough vacuum and spot cleaning would work fine
 4. Take breakfast nook rug outside and wash it
 5. Get a few Thanksgiving decorations in place