Thank you so very much for your beautiful comments, emails and texts in regards to my last post. I'm not going to deny that I'm struggling, and this is a difficult time for me. I'm working through it, trying to find joy and peace where I can, and being kind to myself. As my friend Carla is fond of saying, "WYCWYC" - What you can, when you can. Indeed. I'm grateful to all of you.
Today, I made Marshmallows. It's a Christmas tradition - I usually make hot chocolate truffle balls and give both of these as a gift, but this year, I decided to only do the marshmallows.
i use this recipe. Yeah, yeah, Martha Stewart, blah blah - but this is the easiest recipe I've ever found and the results are stupid awesome.
Melt the gelatin in warm water and make a sugar syrup. Whip the two together and after 12 minutes, it looks like this:
Spread it into a prepared pan and let it sit for a couple of hours. Lift it out and peel it off of the plastic wrap, like so:
It helps to spray your hands really well with cooking spray...
And cut apart with well greased kitchen scissors, and drop into a bowl of powdered sugar. Toss around and voila! You've got yummy marshmallows. This batch was peppermint - I think that the next batch will be vanilla. And then? Maybe chocolate. :)
For those of us who celebrate Christmas, it's coming up - as of today, we have 13 days.
Less than two weeks.
Are you feeling the pinch yet? Struggling? Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, with too much on your plate and not enough time to get it all in?
You are not alone. I promise - we are all feeling the same. Well, most of us. I don't know of anyone who has it all done ahead of time, has more than enough money, knows just exactly what to buy for each and every person, and never forgets anyone on the gift list.
I may or may not forget someone every.flippin.year. I'll never tell. :)
So, let's discuss.
I thought that maybe, over the next couple of days, we could break it down. Over a day or two, let's pick a gift giving area and pool our knowledge and expertise together. Maybe we can help each other out of some tight spots.
For example, today - let's talk teachers. Now, I don't know about you, but my kids combined have roughly 594757305 teachers. Ain't nobody got time (money, OR energy!) to buy gifts for that many people. I let my kids pick one teacher, usually their favorite, and that teacher will get a small basket of baked goods from me - after I check to see if there's any food allergies, etc. Often, I do a loaf of bread, some honey butter and some jam that I made over the summer. Once, my daughter told me that her teacher complained of not having enough chalk - and so we bought ten boxes. I have bought 5ish copies of a book that the class will read together in the upcoming months, just to make it easier on the teacher. Or, you know, Starbucks works well too.
I'm interested to hear your thoughts - and who is your area of concern this holiday season?
I entered a Facebook contest yesterday, what you had to mention your favorite Christmas movie and garner votes.
I won. :)
Which got me to thinking - what is your favorite holiday movie? For me, it's a choice between three:
A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Christmas Story
I also have a very special fondness for The Family Stone. And, inexplicably, The Sound of Music - how is that even a Christmas movie?
Tell me, what's your favorite - and what makes it your favorite?
I take pictures of my kids every year for a Christmas card.
My husband and I disagree on what those pictures should look like.
He thinks I should pose everyone in front of a Christmas Tree. Nice, but unoriginal - and I'm definitely not a normal type person.
One year, I sent a picture in which everyone, bar one, was crying or arguing. The next, I laid all six kids down in a circle and took their faces, in a snowflake type pattern. Several years, I've taken all of the kids out for one entire day of picture taking - various groupings, hats, props, etc. The last two years I did this - well, they were really stressful times. I took my mom with me one year and she's the only thing that saved the day when my youngest fell apart and my oldest took that opportunity to really force the issue.
Last year, I ended up crying, I was so frustrated. People had bad attitudes, were irritable, refused to cooperate - and although I did get some good shots (that I later turned in to canvas prints for my living room) -
with everything that went on this year, well, I just didn't know if I was going to do it. At all. I wasn't feeling it, didn't want to bother with it, and, really - who wants to see more pictures of my kids? I was bummed, because I really and truly love taking a Christmas photo that is out of the ordinary, but didn't honestly know if I had the energy. When I mentioned it, people were understanding - but more than a few encouraged me to give it a try.
Over a year ago, I read a photo tutorial on Casey's blog. Casey is the photographer I want to be when I grow up. I saved that tutorial and periodically, I'd look at it. Could I do it? I really doubted it.
Yesterday, I tried, and it was - good. Not great, but good. I tend to shoot in Aperture mode - definitely off the green square (haven't shot there in more than two years) - but I'm not quite in manual. I'm nervous about it, y'all. Too much control, too many opportunities for something to go wrong and for me to miss the shot I'd tried so hard to get.
So, today, I tried again. I took a deep breath and dialed the camera to M. And I shot these.
It's not the entire Christmas Card, but it's a start.
(It was glitter - tons of different color glitter. Gold, silver, pink, and little purple cellophane butterflies.)
So, there's this once a year, fancy dress up occasion that the hubby and I attend. I mean, it's really, really fancy. It's a fund raiser for the school, and everyone goes all out. We get dressed up, hang out with friends, eat a fancy dinner, bid on prizes - and generally enjoy the heck out of the evening.
We both needed it this year. I mean, really needed it.
I went to Sephora and cashed my free makeover coupon I'd had for an entire year.
Then I went and got a fantabulous 1940's/1950's pin up hair style.
And we went and rocked out.
And a good time was had by all, even if I did get a bit teary right before we left - I remembered that, last year, I'd gone to show Joann my dress - I always did that before I went out fancy, she really loved to see me get dressed up. I had to force myself not to cry, because the makeup application took two hours - being that I'd asked for one step below drag queen - and there was no way in the world I'd be able to replicate it at home.
And we took a few pics when we got home, mostly for posterity - I was told by more than a few women at the party that my dress was gorgeous - one woman even said I was the prettiest person in attendance, so that felt nice.
Even if my boobs were the first thing to enter the room....
We had a great time.
Except that for me, it's not. I'm done shopping, everything is wrapped, the house is (mostly) clean, thanks to a party that we had yesterday. I have about 6 hours of work to do, so I woke up early. Three of my kids have eye doctor appointments - and once 3 p.m. rolls around - I'm going offline and spending time with the people who mean the most to me.
Enjoy your day, however you spend it. Take time for you, spend time with your spouse and kids, parents and siblings and those who are special to you.
Take some time to just - BREATHE and RELAX.
Merry Christmas, y'all!
I went out yesterday to complete my shopping. I had four gifts to purchase, and I also needed to buy an additional two gift certificates.
Now, this is where my inner "Martha Stewart/ADD/anal-retentive" character kicks in. The two gift certificates were for two of my daughters voice teachers. ( I'm not sure if I ever shared this, but one of my kids is in performing arts school.) The performing arts school is downtown, and it's in an urban area. There are many specialty restaurants in the immediate vicinity, and I thought it would be a great touch to buy these two teachers a restaurant certificate. You know, make it a personalized gift – I really like to do that.
Mistake number one. Should've just stuck with Starbucks, but I know that some people don't like Starbucks. And, dammit, I really wanted a personal touch. So shoot me.
There is a great mom and Pop coffee shop across the street, and that was my first choice. I should have known it was too good to be true when I got a space on the street right in front of the coffee shop. And I should've been clued in further when there was money left on the meter. I went to open the door, and saw the sign – "We will be closed from 12/21 to 1/7."
I turned around, and saw a restaurant across the street. I know that they make great sandwiches, so I went in there. They weren't open, but there were several staff members there. I located a manager, who told me that she would not sell me a gift certificate, as the restaurant didn't open for another hour. When I asked if she couldn't do it, she looked at me and said, "I am extremely busy and I do not have time to do this. I'm not going to do it - I'm too busy."
I went back out onto the street, and I put more money into the meter. I saw a sushi restaurant immediately across the street from the school and I know that at least one of the teachers loves sushi. So I went in there. I asked if I could get two $15 gift certificates.(Hey, I'm not made of money, $15 a teacher is my limit.)
The clerk there told me that she could not sell me $15 gift certificates, but she did have $30 gift certificates. She also had $50 gift certificates, and $100 gift certificates. I was welcome to buy any of those. When I said that I needed two $15 gift certificates, and repeated myself a third time, her response was golden.
"You can buy a $30 gift certificate, and they can share."
Which explains how the two teachers ended up getting California pizza kitchen, and I have no idea if they eat there.
The only thing that saved me from getting a drink there at the same time was the fact that it was not yet 11 AM.
All of my purchasing is done, all of my gifts are wrapped, and I'm still (mostly) sane. I think I'm going to count this as winning.
Subtitle this post The "As Seen on Pinterest" post. All of these are on my Pinterest boards, all of them have been tried and all of them rock.
I recently made my own Lotion bars. I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing these things are. I use them on my hands a few times a day and on my feet before I put on my socks in the morning and, if I remember, at night before I go to bed. I bought the coconut oil at Wal mart - I bought the cheap stuff. I ordered beeswax and almond oil from Amazon - I saw them both in Whole Foods, but they were both more expensive. I made one batch without scent and didn't care for it, so I just remelted the discs in the top of the double boiler and added some essential oil. I will say that it took a LOT more essential oil than the original recipe called for - I used a combination of grapefruit, lime and tangerine. They smell awesome - but the lavender ones make me sneeze. A LOT.
These are going five in a mini mason jar for teacher gifts. I used the same silicone mold that the origianl poster did, and they set up in minutes. I left them to sit for a couple of hours just to be sure - but this was an uber quick thing to do.
Homemade bread mini loaves with cinnamon honey butter was my teacher gift last year, and I'm thinking of using it again for some of the teachers. It's easy to make, yummy to eat and it's not another "apple of my eye" teacher coffee mug.
Mary from Owlhaven has a stupendous recipe for candied almonds
Make a chocolate cake like this one
Or an orange cake
Or a lemon cake. EVERYONE loves cake.
Groupon for restuarants - I've done this for my kids for Qdoba and the like, and for other places as gifts for my husband. There has been some discussion in my family as to if it's a cheap gift, but I'm thinking nope.
These are some of my ideas for this year. Any of them grab your fancy? Any successes that you'd like to share??
So, yeah. It was Halloween. Probably my least favorite holiday. Kids, of course, love it - and who wouldn't - you get to dress up and get tons of candy.
I don't like being scared, I don't like vampires and zombies and yards with models of decayed bodies climbing out of fake graves. I don't like hearing people scream, seeing fake blood and axes coming out of people's heads.
So I really don't like Halloween. My kids LOVE to dress up, though - and up there we have a gangster, a convict (with a sign that she created herself, and you can't see the handcuffs or ankle weight she made as well), a nerd and Princess Athena.
And I was corrected a bazillion times that Athena was a GODDESS and NOT a PRINCESS. Geez, Mom - get it right. Athena was the goddess of war and there was nothing princessy about her.
After about 30 minutes out there, my spectrum kiddo put her hands over her ears and said, "It's too loud out here. Too much noise and it's hurting my head and making me feel funny. I don't want to do this anymore." And so we didn't. We went home. And I was FINE with that. HORRAY for a kid that's had enough OT to tell me when she feels like it's getting to be too much!
November is my favorite month. It's getting cooler, I can wear jeans and boots and jackets and hats, don't need to wear a heavy coat, leaves are falling, Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday EVER -
and it's my birthday month - along with that of some of my most favorite people.
I thought long and hard about participating in NaBloPoMo this year - I've done it every year since it began, I think. (That stands for National Blog Posting Month, in which you post on your blog every day for a month.) Ultimately, I decided not to do so. I'm working 6-8 hours a day at my job - which I love! - and about 2 hours of freelance work, house and kids and family and exercise and sanity. And I don't want to feel pressured to get something up here, throw something up just for the sake of saying that I didn't miss some made up deadline -
so I'm not going to do it.
Every day that I do post here, though, I plan to name some things for which I am grateful. That's one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving and I love the 30 days of thankfulness that some people participate in, so I decided to follow.
Today I am grateful for my husband, the hardest working man I know. :)
And that Halloween is over for another year. :)