Tag Archives: Holiday

Occupy V-Day*

14 Feb

photo from bencandance on etsy

*It seems like every organization is occupying something these days…figured I’d follow suit.

1989 – I carefully picked out Jem and the Hologram cardboard cards to put in my classmates’ Valentines Day mailboxes, because mom said I had to give one to everyone, even that boy who called me names and said my card had germs. He so didn’t deserve that card. It was truly outrageous.

1994 – I painstakingly glued doilies to construction paper hearts, believing handmade to be far superior to store-bought, and hoped that my crush noticed that I put extra glitter on his.

2003 – I baked my new boyfriend a honey cake in the shape of a heart, with honey icing, because I wanted to bee sweet. He said no one had ever baked him a cake before and told me he loved me.

2005 – My new fiancée and I decided that it was stupid to go out on Valentines day and sit among bored-looking couples you just knew didn’t go out to dinner any other day of the year, and the newly not single! who were just so excited! to have someone! on valentines day!!! We decide to start a new tradition of alternating years where one of us cooks a fancy dinner at home, and the other one buys the chef a present. Everyone wins.

2008 – I asked A to spend way too much on flowers to have them delivered to my office (it was the first time I had an office!) so that my co-workers would be impressed by how much my devoted husband loved me.

2012 – A. and I decide that Valentines Day, as a whole, is a stupid, overrated game that makes singles feel bad and couples feel pressured. So we decided not to play.

Listen up people! The hearts and flowers made-up holiday shenanigans have gone on long enough! I’ve done the single thing on February 14th. I’ve done the girl-power anti-valentine Valentines. I’ve done the dating, have to find just the right way to say you care without going overboard shopping, thing. I’ve done the “ok, so we’re married and we show each other that we love each other every day, but now we have to make extra effort on this arbitrary day” thing. None of it’s good, and it’s high time the juggernaut that is Valentines Day be stopped.

I feel like breaking out in a Spice Girls song…
Colors of the world! Spice up your life!
Every boy and every girl! Spice up your life!
People of the world! Spice up your life! Ahhhh….

Reasons not to play the V-Day game:

  1. If you’re single you’re made to feel like you’re not as good as those with significant others, which could not be further from the truth, and you’ll feel strangely optimistic when viewing (pointed and blatantly manipulative) eharmony ads.
  2. If you’re dating you are made to feel obligated to buy something for you significant other, not because you care and want to, but because every store, every advert, every billboard and sale ad reminds you that VALENTINES DAY IS ALMOST HERE, and you are brainwashed into believing that buying stuff on this day means you really care.
  3. If you’re married you are made to feel fearful at forgetting this hallowed day and disappointing your spouse and having to sleep on the couch. The pressure to meet and perhaps surpass last year is tremendous, and you start to watch your partner anxiously as the dreaded day approaches to figure out what in the heck they might want to make sure you do enough.
  4. All the focus is put on one day and one type of love, instead of celebrating that love is a daily action, a daily choice, and that there are many types of love, all equally worthy of celebration.
  5. No one looks that good in pink and red.

To all those, including my past self, who have bought into the idea that throwing an ANTI-V-Day party (or celebrating Single Awareness day with champagne and chocolates) is sticking it to the system…let’s not fool ourselves people. This holiday is all about buying and consuming to make ourselves feel better. Buying anything remotely V-Day themed, including that bottle of bubbly that your supermarket ordered extra of to meet demand, is putting your hard-earned dollars into the deep, heart-shaped pockets of The Valentines Day Machine.

So I say we revolt! If you’re single and sick of being targeted as sad desperates looking for love this time of year…if you’re married and don’t feel like shelling out $200 just because a day says you have to, and you just had three date nights last month alone…if you’re dating and are tired of the emotional vice-clamp that increases pressure the closer February 14 gets…let’s be brave, be different, be against the grain. Let’s treat February 14th like every other day and make it not matter. We can take this mother down if we all work together.

They can take our hearts and glitter but they Can’t. Take. Our. FREEDOM!

If you’re tired of V-Day and want to see it taken down,  click to share and spread the revolution!

Friday Five – Childhood Christmas Joys

2 Dec

photo via Pinterest posted by Nicole Kraus

This week I’ve been working on being intentional; in my marriage, in my appreciation of the season, and in preparing my heart and spirit for Christmas. In the spirit of preparing for the Christmas Season, this Friday I wanted to share five things I remember fondly from times of preparation for Christmases past. And fair’s fair…if I tell you mine, I want to know yours!

  1. Advent Calendars
    We had two that I remember. One was two layers of cardboard with cut out doors. Each door had a number on it, and when you opened it a part of the nativity scene was revealed. The other was a tower of tiny drawers. Each one had a number, and each held a tiny prize. A chocolate, a pair of stick-on earrings (remember those ladies? Childhood gold.) I think I knew even then that those surprises weren’t there accidentally or magically – that my mom had taken the time to select each one to delight her girls. The one with the drawers caused a bit of anti-Christmas -spirit contention in our house, as we didn’t have much so had to share the prize calendar, taking turns on who got the gift each day and who opened the door on the Christmas scene. Torture to a six-year old, but it taught me patience, tolerance, and the value of waiting.
  2. Driving Around to Look at Christmas Lights
    We didn’t have many Christmas traditions – especially as the years passed and the family ties started to fray – but driving around to look at Christmas lights happened for enough years in a row to make a deep impression on my childhood Christmas memories. My dad would pile us into the car, bundled up in puffy jackets and hats, and we’d drive to the more upscale neighborhoods that boardered San Bernardino, the car heater intermittently sputtering or blasting, depending on what we were driving that year. When we spotted a likely looking street (meaning you could see the glow from down the block) dad would pull in and sloooowly drive down the row so my sisters and I could press our noses against the glass and ooh and ahh. If we were lucky the street turned out to be a cul-de-sac and we could enjoy the lights each way, without switching from window to window in effort to not miss anything.
  3. An Eclectic Christmas Tree
    None of our ornaments matched. Each year mom would get out the cardboard boxes containing our ornaments and we’d pull apart balls of tissue paper looking for the unique bauble inside. As we unwrapped each one, either mom or dad would tell us the story of how they got it. As soon as I was old enough to have memories from previous years, I remember exclaiming over each one as it was revealed “oh, I remember that one! That’s my favorite one. I want to hang it!” I’m sure my parents loved that, especially since we must have had at least sixty ornaments, all of which were ‘my favorite’.
  4. Palm Trees Decorated with Ornaments
    I grew up in SoCal. ‘Nuff said.
  5. Putting Out Cookies for Santa
    My mom always listened to my opinion on what type of cookies Santa would like best. Some years I thought homemade was best (oatmeal chocolate chip was a personal favorite), other years Oreos were the haute cuisine of cookies. I obsessed over the note I wrote to santa and carefully placed the cookies, milk, and carrots on a plate. (Unpeeled, unwashed. Hey, they were reindeer.) I counted how many he ate the next day, analyzed the nibbles on the carrot (apparently reindeer aren’t very hungry creatures) and poured over the note Santa always wrote back on the note I left for him like it held the secrets to the universe. I never noticed that Santa’s handwriting – on the note, on the present tags – looked a lot like the writing on the tags on gifts marked ‘from mom and dad.’

What are your favorite memories from Christmas past? Post them in the comments or on your blog (and drop me a line so I can visit) and share your memories!

Making Peace with the Season

30 Nov

photo from pinterest via Karen Kay, from homefurnituremag.com

I recently rediscovered my love of candles. I used to burn them all the time – in high school, when I fancied myself to be quite the hippie child. It feels right, this time of year, to bring little flames of light into the home. It’s cozy, comforting, and something I’m finding I really missed.

I don’t do well this time of year. The Autumn time change brings nightfall as soon as I get off work, and for sun-loving me, it also brings a nice case of the blues. I get very down after the time change – at loose ends, one might say – and it lasts anywhere from a week to a month. Right now I’m on week two of downsville, so I thought it might help to make a list of five things that I appreciate about this time of year to get me into a more grateful mood. So in no particular order, here are the things I’m thankful for that only come around this time of year.

Chai to Remember Sweater via ModCloth

Cozy Sweaters
I’d rather be in a tank top, for sure, but there’s something incredibly comforting about coming home, turning on lights, wrapping myself in a cozy sweater and comfy pants, and walking around my house lighting candles and a fire before starting dinner.

Winter Squash soup via smittenkitchen.com

Everyday Soup
During Spring and Summer our table is loaded with the fresh farmer’s market bounty of California.Soup is for sick days, and even then only if it’s under 80 degrees. When the weather turns nippy, however, my love of good, homemade soups can run wild. Is there anything better than hot soup with fresh bread and butter? Soup is simple, inexpensive to make in large batches and freeze, one-pot wonders, there really is no downside. Chestnut and celery root soup, potato leek, think stew, apricot turkey, lentils corriander, mmmmmmm……My friend Katie over at Cakes, Tea and Dreams knows what I’m talking about.

Holiday Celebrations I’m not much for the awkward workplace variety, but get-togethers with friends and loved ones are the best. They happen so much more frequently around the holidays, and are a great reminder of how very, very lucky we are to have so many great people in our lives.

photo from Pinterest via Chloe Hu.

Starbucks Holiday Cups
Especially when they come filled with a creme bruleé latte, or an eggnog lattee cut with regular milk.

Cuddly Husband
I don’t have a photo for this one, but it’s definately one of my favorite things. A. gets very cozy and cuddly when the temperature drops. Evenings are spent holding each other on the couch, watching a movie, maybe with popcorn and champagne if I’m lucky. 🙂

That’s my list, now I want to know what’s on yours! What makes you thankful for this time of year?

Saturday Soundtack – It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Third Day

26 Nov

I wasn’t ready for Christmas to come. Like my good friend Adelle, I was caught off guard by the trees at Whole Foods, the decorations in Santana Row that were up the day after Halloween, the handmade ornaments that beckon so temptingly from The Land of the $200 Dress. However, Thanksgiving at our house means the return of background Christmas music, and nothing says Christmas to me like Third Day.

I don’t know what it is about Mac Powell’s voice, but it sends me. This is a voice blessed by God to bring joy to the world, and I don’t care who you are, I defy you to listen to the Third Day (Holiday) station on Pandora and not feel like decking the halls with peace on Earth, goodwill to men. There are a few singers who I look forward to making music with on the day when I kneel before the throne and lift my voice up to God (Jon Foreman, Jeremy Camp, Plumb), and Mac Powell is definitely counted among their number.  So join me in ushering in the holidays with the best Christmas music since Bing Crosby and David Bowie sang about a little boy with a drum. Enjoy!

“O, Come All Ye Faithful” by Third Day.

Do you have music that says Christmas to you? Share it! Let’s make a BiRL Christmas playlist!

Gameplan For a Perfect Thanksgiving – Redux

25 Nov

You know how yesterday was supposed to go, so let’s just see how we did, shall we?

8:00 am
Zzzzzzz zzzzzz “Get out, hooligan doggies!” zzzzzzzz…

9:00 am

10:00 am
Wake up, realize that no one set an alarm to get up in time to implement game plan, sleepily roll over for ‘just five more minutes’.

10:35 am
– Stumble out of bed, realize that during grocery shopping for Thanksgiving feast we somehow managed to overlook the need for milk and cereal.
– A. starts cleaning the kitchen because he rocks at life.

10:55 am
– Run to corner Starbucks for bacon gouda breakfast sandwiches and fortifying cups of caffeine.
– Tip $3 to assuage guilt over patronizing a store on Thanksgiving.
(Totally against our principles, stores should be closed on Thanksgiving to let workers be home with their families, not stay open to cater to the hopelessly unprepared. *ahem*)

11:15 am
– Return home with hot breakfast.
– Convince A. to step away from the sink and enjoy his coffee with me.
– Both of us open books and enjoy our coffee for 30 minutes.
– Look at clock and agree that we’re taking the ‘downtime’ I planned for between 12:30 and 2:00 now. “As long as we get cleaning and prep done by 2:00, we’re golden!” we say, and settle in to finish our chapters.

12:00 pm
– A. transforms kitchen and counters into gleaming showroom kitchen. Begs me not to mess it up with my cooking.
– I attack guest bathroom and decide, while I’m at it, that I may as well clean ours as well. No use letting toilet-cleaning rubber gloves go to waste.
– Go on de-cluttering rampage courtesy of my ADD brain and clean wrappers, tags, and odds & ends out of places that guests will never go, like under my master bathroom sink.

1:20 pm
– Realize that there is exactly 40 minutes until major part of cooking needs to commence, and we have no prep work done.
– Call A. into bedroom to fix the bed and help shove unfolded laundry back into the hamper. The room will just be a coat and purse holder, they’ll never know the difference.
– Ask A. to please take care of tidying the living room and dining room so I can start on prep.
– Walk into living/dining room and realize that he already did all the tidying while I was preoccupied under the sink.
– Award A. 10 points on the Best Husband Ever Scoreboard.
– Decide to forgo vacuuming so we can both focus on prep work. (Can’t win ’em all.)

1:30 pm
– A. gleefully attacks reducing helpless day-old sourdough baguette into cubes and oversees their subsequent toasting in the oven. Put him in charge of browning sausage while he’s standing at the oven.
– Congratulate self on giving him the task most likely to involve grease spatters, meaning I can’t be blamed for messy stove top.
– Work on dicing mise en place, bragging to A. about my awesome knife skills.
– Get aromatics chopped and into roasting pan.

2:00 pm
– Turkey comes out of fridge and into pan to throw off the chill.
– Pre-heat oven to 325°
– Realize that I’ve forgotten about cranberry sauce and vanilla bean whipped cream, which both need time to set in the fridge before dinner.

2:10 pm
– Throw cranberries and orange juice into a pot, decide to use some of the vanilla bean simple syrup I made the night before in sauce instead of sugar and water.
– Set A. to removing stems from green beans. Assure him I will join him soon to peel pearl onions.
– Throw heavy cream into vanilla bean simple syrup and whip.

2:20 pm
– Realize that excessive simple syrup use has prevented cream from whipping. Put bowl into fridge to set; resolve to refer to topping as ‘vanilla bean froth.’
– Sauté remaining stuffing components. Process moves like a dream, thanks to beautifully prepared mise en place.

2:40 pm
– Pour stuffing into prepared casserole dish, cover, and set aside as a job well done.
– Taste cranberry sauce. Addition of vanilla was inspired, as cannot stop licking the spoon. Even anti-cranberry sauce A. proclaims it delicious. Put sauce in fridge as a job well done.
– Join A. at the table to half and peel tiny pearl onions.
– A. begs to switch jobs, as he’s in green bean snapping hell. Point out that he only has a handful to go, and wouldn’t he enjoy the feeling of triumph at finishing what he’d started?

2:50 pm
– Curse teeny-tiny pearl onions and their thin, papery skins that stick like glue to their overrated flesh.
– Give A. a kiss as he starts on prep-work dishes. Point out to A. how nice the stove looks, as am learning to clean as I go.

3:00 pm
Bird goes into oven. At last, we are back on schedule.

3:15 pm
Put on festive Pandora station and change for guest arrival. A. hops into a much-needed shower, as smells faintly of 409 cleaner and green beans.

3:30 pm
Put pot of coffee on, and waltz around non-vaccummed-but-still-pretty-darn-presentable living area lighting candles and a fire.

3:40 pm
– Realize we have forgotten lunch thanks to late lie-in brunch, including pre-game mimosa. Briefly consider adding a shot of bourbon to coffee, but decide against as haven’t eaten anything in hours.
– Put water on to boil for green beans.

3:55 pm
Mothers arrive simultaneously, bearing appetizers and festive decorations. Fall on salame and brie like the starving hostess that I am.

4:00 pm
– Stuffing goes into oven, on schedule.
– Blanch green beans, but decide to wait on making pearl onion balsamic glaze, as we’re still an hour out from eating. Decide this part of plan was flawed and move on.

4:15 pm
Get nervous about possibility of whole dinner waiting on green beans and decide to go ahead and glaze them.

4:30 pm
– Check turkey. Legs are done according to thermometer, but breast has a good 20 degrees to go.
– Take legs out and tent with foil, putting breast back in oven and turning up the heat slightly.
– Tell family dinner will be 30 minutes later than planned.

4:50 pm
– Turkey breast is up to temperature, so out it comes, onto the cutting board to rest.
– Turn oven up to 400° and uncover stuffing to crisp.
– Start gravy with A’s ever-present and much-needed help. Them’s roasting pans be heavy!

4:55 pm
– Notice smallest dog climbing up the side of the dishwasher, licking frantically with a drugged-out look on his face. Realize that turkey juices have pooled on cutting board and are dripping down the side of the counter.
– Kick turkey-drunk dog out of kitchen and wipe down counter, stuffing paper towels under board to staunch juice flow.
– Register that A. is saying to me that something was covered in turkey juice and asking if I wiped it down. Think he’s talking about the dishwasher and reply in the affirmative.

5:20 pm
– Gravy is divine. Resolve to never, ever lose this gravy recipe as long as I live.
– Stuffing comes out of oven, golden and aromatic. A Team Aylesworth success.
– A. begins to carve turkey. Breast is golden and moist, absolute perfection. The legs on the other hand…despite a good temperature reading, the legs are totally red in the middle.
– Briefly argue with A. about how turkey is not a steak and there is no way we can eat a pink bird. Console A. about missing out on dark meat until later, and put the stupid legs back in the oven.
– Thank the Good Lord that I got a large turkey breast so there’s plenty of meat for all, despite disappointing legs.
– Set green beans out. Realize that beans have turned an unappetizing shade of brown, due to sitting in balsamic glaze for extra time while turkey cooked. Tastes fine, so warn family that while beans look very much dead, they still crunch and taste quite good. Dubious family decides to risk it.

5:30 pm
– Sit down with family and enjoy a sumptuous feast with perfectly paired wine.
– Take (finally) cooked legs out of oven and start planning for leftovers.
– Notice that taller dog is obsessively licking the head of my smaller dog. Realize the thing A. told me was covered in turkey juice and asked if I wiped off 35 minutes ago was my dog’s head, not the dishwasher. Pull turkey-drunk dog off of smaller dog, who looks confused as to why he can smell turkey but not find it. Wipe his juice-matted head off with a towel and contemplate dunking him in a sink-full of water, but realize that sink is full of dishes. Resolve to give him a bath tomorrow.

6:00 pm
– Start food-coma recovery process, on schedule.
– Give dogs bits of turkey with baked potato and pumpkin instead of kibble. Dogs are delirious with happiness and proceed to lick their bowls for a full 10 minutes after food is gone.

6:30 pm
Take dogs for a walk to shake off the coma. Happily am joined by A, my mom, and sister’s boyfriend, who we enjoyed getting to know better on the walk. Lovely young man, very happy he’s dating my sister.

7:00 pm
– Returning walkers and happy dogs come home and are greeted by fresh eggnog, lovingly prepared by sister while we were out.
– Sister realizes that she read the wrong directions for sweet potato pie, and will actually take another half hour to cook, and another to cool. No one complains, as we are all happily patting our newly acquired food-babies.
– A. comes over and starts to rub my shoulders. Realize he’s angling for Husband of the Year Award, and tell him he’s won it, hands down.

Eat homemade pies, courtesy of my middle sister, that are so good they make me want to cry. Promptly put in an order for sweet potato pie for my next birthday.

8:30 pm
Enjoying guests far too much to have them go home, so settle into a game of Munchkin with mom, sister, sister’s boyfriend, and third glass of wine.

9:30 pm
Realize that no one enjoys playing munchkin but sister and self. Mothers start to trickle out, while sister and boyfriend conspire to win the game in a tie, leaving me out in the cold.

10:00 pm
Settle in to watch Dr. Who with sister and very cool boyfriend, who I’m slightly cool towards thanks to game-winning conspiracy.

11:00 pm
Bid final two guests good-bye. Tell A. I’m not even remotely sleepy and suggest we put on something easy, like Dirty Jobs. Proceed to fall asleep ten minutes after D.J. starts.

12:15 am
A. picks me up off the couch and takes me to bed. I ask him what happened on Dirty Jobs. “They got dirty,” he answers, and tucks me in before climbing under the covers next to me. We whisper sleepy congratulations to each other, as we both feel this was our most successful Thanksgiving ever. A true team effort. Easy cooking and clean up. Everything tasted absolutely delicious, shady-colored green beans notwithstanding. We feel close and loving, and say so before drifting off to sleep with our turkey-scented dogs curled contentedly at our feet.

How was your turkey day? Did everything go according to plan, or was it a ‘best laid plans’ kind of day? 

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