Preparing for the Holidays

Dear friends,

What a weird year it’s been! It’s hard to believe that in just a couple of weeks 2020 will be over, and I’m praying for some sense of normalcy in the upcoming year. With the vaccines now being distributed, we are at last on the path to recovery. We will be celebrating by taking our very first family trip – Michael, me, my boys, and his two kids – to Savannah GA/Tybee Island at the start of the summer. We’ve rented the most beautiful house for a few days and are very much looking forward to the adventure!

Right now, I am battling the usual winter blues and preparing for the holidays, which for us begin this Friday. Friday night we are Christmas caroling with Michael’s parents and siblings. Then Saturday we are having our annual Christmas Cookie Swap party, although – as is the case with everything in 2020 – modified from usual. I normally have an extended group of friends in our area along with family members. But this year it just isn’t safe to have large gatherings, so we’re keeping it small – our close-knit main group of friends, which is nine of us in total – just making the limit of 10 for a gathering.

The challenge for me, being the only plant based one in the bunch, is to plan a spread that will provide plenty of options for me and still keep my carnivore friends happy as well. I’ve decided to lay out a large charcuterie spread on my kitchen island, which is a butcher block table. I’m doing the traditional meats and cheeses, plus a “pickle roll” requested by one of my friends (ham and cream cheese wrapped around pickles and cut like sushi). Then I’ll be adding crackers, toast, fruits, veggies, a variety of hummus dips, olives, and finishing it off with some chocolate covered pretzels and cracker sticks, and Christmas M&Ms.

Then of course, the cookies. I’m making my traditional sugar cookies, which are not vegan since they contain eggs. But I’m also making vegan raspberry thumbprints – not healthy since vegan butter is just a bunch of oil and of course there’s plenty of sugar and refined flour – but still animal- and cholesterol-free. Everyone else will be bringing different cookies too, so I will have a nice variety to mix and match for the family on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve we will be breaking the gathering of 10 rule by one – there will be 11 of us from my immediate family. I was hoping to get to have Christmas dinner a little early and make it 30 miles north to my hometown church to sing with the choir – we haven’t been singing all of this time, but the director is breaking us into groups of about 5 to sing for the Christmas masses – but it doesn’t look like it will happen. My sister, a 21-year-old college student working part time at Walmart, has to work until 3:00 so they (her, my mom and stepdad) won’t be down until around 7:00, and mass is at 8:00. The plus side is that I will have more time to get dinner, and myself, ready.

I’m again the only plant-based one in my family, so I’m planning a carnivore friendly dinner. I’m making my usual beef roast and a pork tenderloin. I’m doing two kinds of mashed potatoes – one with vegetable broth and almond milk, and one with rosemary and white cheddar. I’m making a stuffing using vegetable broth and sourdough bread with the traditional onion, celery and sage. Then green beans and corn to pair with it. Since I do eat a small amount of meat about once per week, I will save that day for Christmas Eve dinner and have one small piece of the pork tenderloin with all of the other plant-friendly sides.

Something I’m super excited about is my Christmas Eve outfit! I like to do a little vintage-y theme each year at Christmas, and this year I bought myself a little Christmas present (which is currently delayed, but my fingers are crossed it will be here before next Thursday)…a beautiful pair of white Tory Burch booties! Which will go with a solid white sequin dress with a crinoline underneath, and a white pillbox hat I have from a past vintage outfit. Finishing it off with white nail wraps (I also ordered some red Christmas plaid ones for an accent nail, but I managed to lose them). So this year’s outfit will be white on white on white!

I will have the Nikon out for both events so I can do a post for you after Christmas to show you all of the spreads, and my complete Christmas outfit. I wish all of you the merriest of Christmases, and strength to endure the rest of the pandemic. Much love to all of you this holiday season.


Christmas Cookies! Starting a New Tradition with my Friends

Hello Again Friends,

I’ve never been more present in my life than I have this year. I settled into my new home in March, and have felt consistently rooted to my existence ever since. For the first time I don’t feel a constant sense of distraction or weight of the unknown, and this has brought a sense of contentment and joy that is pouring over into my daily life. I lead with this because it is the reason I could not wait for Christmas this year! This will be my first Christmas with my boys in my new house, with a new Christmas tree, decorated with Grandma’s old Victorian decorations from my early childhood.

I wasn’t able to stop myself from putting up that tree. I wanted to wait until after Thanksgiving, partly because I didn’t want to be tired of Christmas before Christmas actually got here, and partly because I didn’t want everyone to think I was nuts! But I just couldn’t do it. My brand new tree was sitting outside the door to my carport where the delivery guy left it, and it tempted me every single day when I came home from work. Then one day I was at Menards getting paint for my basement family room, and they had a sale on Christmas lights. It was mid-November, about a week before Thanksgiving, and my Christmas Spirit bubble popped right there in the middle of Christmas Land at Menards.

I bought lights for the tree, and the next evening after work I put up the tree and wrapped it up in 400 sparkly soft-white lights. I eagerly brought the white box stamped with tiny holly berries up from the basement. I was filled with anticipation as I lifted the lid and exposed the vintage pink and pearl ornaments, and the pretty pearl and gold beaded garland strands, that were tucked neatly away inside. I draped the garland across the branches and delicately placed each ornament, hoping and praying that my cat wouldn’t topple the tree and shatter them. As it turns out, my fears were in vain because Raz-y Cat has no interest in Christmas trees! The final touch was ivory satin ribbon with glittered Christmas trees and snowflakes that I bought from Hobby Lobby and weaved through the branches.

Once the tree was finished from the ivory tree skirt to the ivory satin bow, to every pink, pearly, glittery bit in between, I knew I had to host a party this year. I finally live near most of my friends, and I love to entertain because that means I get to see everyone without leaving home, and it gives me a great reason to cook for people over the age of 12! Sitting in my living room chair a couple of days later, catching up on the latest episode of Scandal, it hit me… I was going to have a Christmas Cookie party!

A cookie party. I could bake my famous…err, famous within my family at least…sugar cookies for my friends! And they could bring cookies and a fun little Christmas tin, then we could all share and take home a variety of cookies for Christmas! Was a cookie party actually a thing? Was there some sort of etiquette for this? I googled it and discovered that it has been done, and there were very helpful rules in place to make sure it went smoothly.

It’s preferable to have no more than 12 guests, or at least 12 couples, including the host. Each guest/couple brings two dozen cookies, enough for everyone to have two of each kind. All of the cookies are displayed on a table, and guests take a couple from each tray. This would be the perfect reason to make my sugar cookies, and some homemade cocoa too. And I would make chili and soup and invite everyone to bring beer and wine and wear ugly Christmas sweaters. It sounded like such a fun way to spend a little Christmas time with my friends, so I immediately took to Facebook and created an event and invited my friends.

I wanted my first themed Christmas party with friends as a 30-something adult, to feel like a party for adults. Almost all of us have kids now, own our own homes, have careers, and prefer sleep to closing down the bars. But that doesn’t mean we’re dull and boring or over the hill! Truly, 30’s are so much better than 20’s. I have always heard people say that your 30’s will be the best decade of your life, and I am starting to understand why. That haphazard, uncertain, almost lost feeling of being in your 20’s and trying to figure out who you are and what you want from life has passed. There is a new level of maturity that comes with the age of 30. Things start to make sense. Silly little things that you once obsessed over and worried about, suddenly don’t matter anymore. Life starts to come into focus and you start to truly gain perspective and feel settled.

I really wanted this party to reflect this new phase of life that my friends and I are in, so I consulted my inner Emily Post to do it up right. That meant lively and fun…but vintage, because that’s just who I am…Christmas music. The classic chili, plus some curry meatball stew, fabricated from a recipe I found the week before. Homemade hot chocolate, wine and beer, and LOTS of cookies!

One thing people still don’t do in their 30’s is follow the rules! A couple of people brought cookies, but didn’t take any cookies home. I had SO many cookies left! But the party was a success and everyone said I need to do it again next year! My friends Kate and Matt brought their 10 month old daughter, so I got to snuggle a baby without any of the responsibilities of being a parent. The curry meatball stew was a big hit, and I had to give out the recipe the next day. I also took extra cookies to church the next morning for someone celebrating a birthday, and even more cookies to Grandma’s house. And then I took even more cookies to work on Monday for my coworkers, and I still have a whole container full for Christmas!

And the best part…it was over around 10:30 so I wasn’t up too late, even with hosting a party. Zach and Jenny were the last ones to go, and I walked around the house throwing away plates and putting away cookies. I unplugged the tree and the lights on the banister. I blew out the candles while the peaceful voice of Andy Williams sang Silent Night. I was too wired to sleep for a while, so I lay there in the dark, reflecting on this last year and feeling the weight of contentment that has settled on my life. For so many reasons, this Christmas is going to be especially merry. I hope that yours is, too 🙂