family · Food · Intentional Living

Traditions

With an early Thanksgiving we gained an extra week to get ready for Christmas.  I don’t know about you but I feel a little calmer and more prepared for Christmas than in years prior.  As I start to plan for our family get together I find myself reflecting a bit more on our family traditions and also reevaluating them.  Are they necessary or important? If I didn’t do something would anyone even miss it? Would I?

I started by asking my husband about his Christmas traditions growing up in rural Minnesota in a big family of ten.  

 The ones that stood out in his mind, were the opening of gifts on Christmas Eve, a big breakfast at their house after Midnight Mass with friends and family and the town priest often attending. His mom always made a duck and ham.

They would get homemade flannel pajamas from his grandma when he was younger, and of course a “taste” of Mogen David wine for all the kids.  They felt pretty special.

My traditions also centered around family gatherings.  We would go to bed early on Christmas Eve and then wake up to get ready to go to Midnight Mass.

We always opened gifts in the morning and then would pile in the car, all eight of us, and drive to my grandparents house about an hour away to spend the day with my aunts, uncles and lots of cousins.   We would have a big turkey “dinner” around noon complete with apple and pumpkin pie.   After my sisters and I did the mounds of dishes by hand, my grandpa would usually set up his reel-to-reel to show home movies. 

Grandma would pass out little glasses of ice cold apple cider and homemade caramel popcorn.  After, the kids would either play games, go outside to play in the snow or sit around and chat with each other. We then had the great Minnesota  potluck hamburger hot dish “supper” with potato chips, beans, homemade buns, ham, Jell-O and pickles.

I then asked my kids what traditions were important to them.  I was curious if my value on traditions had translated to them.  I found it pretty interesting.  Some things that I thought were definite musts weren’t even mentioned. Those that made the list were spritz cookies, chocolate covered cherries, going to a movie on Christmas day, new pajamas on Christmas Eve and handing out gifts with the Santa hat.  Why is it we do traditions anyway?

Traditions bring a sense of comfort and connection to the past.  For me it is a way to pay homage in a way to my upbringing in a large family where the value wasn’t on gift giving but rather on family and spending time together.  It was/is a way to remember my mom and dad.  We only had one TV with three channels, board games, cards and the great outdoors with lots of snow. 1966 normal year of snow in MinnesotaThere was no internet, no cell phones, no computers or distractions.   Simpler times.  The traditions were often developed and evolved over the things we did to pass the time and out of necessity.  They stuck and became tradition as a way to celebrate our heritage, our faith, our family. 

Traditions help us to “go back” and regroup or recharge.  They are an already planned event or food where  you don’t have to think about what to do, it is just something you do.  It helps us to pause and try to put the brakes on our hurried lives.

They evoke emotions.   Ask “Alexa” to put on Celine Dion’s “These are Special Times” or the Carpenter’s Christmas CD and I am instantly in the holiday mood and ready to bake or decorate.  Traditions can be songs we listen to, movies we watch, games we play, places we visit, or things we do.  My annual Christmas letter and photo has become a tradition I personally love, though some would argue against them.  It has taken different formats over the years as we moved into the computer and digital age (yes, I used to handwrite them back in the dark ages) but I find it a wonderful way to document the year that was, the good and the bad.   A journal of sorts.  This year I want to put them all in a book with our annual Christmas photos.

Is it a lot of work?  Sometimes.  Is it worth it?  That depends.  Does it bring you joy?  Does it bring others joy? If the answer to these is no, than probably not.   I think it is important to re-evaluate from time to time the traditions you have because they sometimes just aren’t practical at some point. Of course times are different.  When we were younger all of our families were close geographically.  Now we live in three states, thankfully on the same coast and still within a short days drive. But once the kids get married, have the in-laws to consider and then grandkids come along, things can get complicated.

The traditions that were once near and dear to our heart become obsolete and impossible to hold on to…just a memory.  One tradition we incorporated for several years as our kids became teenagers and young adults was to go to a movie on Christmas Day.

Though we would still love to do this, with four very young grandkids, it would be a bit challenging.  Kids grow, families grow and change and grandkids come along all giving the opportunity for a tradition adjustment.

This year will be our first Christmas Eve alone in 33 years.  I’m not sure I want to make a tradition out of that so for now I think I will do what makes me happy but in moderation.   I will make the spritz cookies for my daughters, caramel rolls (ode to mom), Italian food for our family gathering,  maybe show some of my home movies I recently converted to DVD’s or at least as much as the kids will tolerate (ode to grandpa).

I will have apple cider and caramel popcorn on hand (ode to grandma), play the game TROUBLE with my granddaughter (a game I played endlessly when younger).  Someone will wear the Santa hat to pass out the gifts.

We will still open one gift at a time to anticipate and appreciate. Traditions come and go and evolve, is what I have decided, but the important thing is that family is together to celebrate, no matter what the day. It is then that we repeat favorite foods and activities that in time will become new traditions for a new generation.

                                                             Merry Christmas!  signature.jpg

family · Intentional Living

Living Intentionally

It’s that time of year where I become very nostalgic and introspective. 

As much as I am sad that time seems to be flying by and the holidays go by just as quick, I always get a little giddy and anxious for the beginning of a new year.   For me it is a time of reflection and renewal.

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First Sunrise of 2018 and promise of a fresh start to each day!

A time to pause and take count and regroup.  A count of my blessing and accomplishments from the past year (count of the pounds I didn’t loose from my last resolution).   It’s a time to wipe the slate clean and start over with new goals and ambitions.   I have another 365 days to “get it right”.  A whole year to accomplish my long list of projects to start or complete, to be a better person, to get healthy, to live intentionally. 

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Allow time to rest and recharge

What exactly is intentional living?  It is knowing why you do what you do or don’t do what you don’t do.  It’s about taking the time to evaluate what you are doing, taking advise and example from others and take from it what works for you so you can make an informed decisions.  It’s about doing things that are important to me no matter how difficult it may be and intentionally not doing things that serve no greater purpose.

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My husband and I have a tradition on New Years Day to get together and reflect on five areas of our life:  Relationships (couple, family, friends), finances, personal growth and faith, health and projects.  My list is long as usual, but I am refreshed and energized by the possibilities the new year has to offer; our first trip to Hawaii, my youngest graduation from college, the arrival of our 3rd grandchild, a mini Minnesota family reunion in July and all the wonderful unknowns that have yet to unfold.  I love planning for the things that I know are coming but am equally excited to look back on December 31st to see what surprises this new year would have brought.IMG_0008 light

 Wishing you a beautiful new year filled with promise, excitement and wonder.  Happy New Year from my family to yours!

Denise

 

Decorating · family

Memorial Day

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer with many of us having an “extra day off” from work.  You may have celebrated by grilling and hitting the beach or lake as I did with extended family this weekend at the lake.

Or you may have had a quiet rainy weekend watching movies, reading, or catching up on projects.  But I couldn’t let this day go by without acknowledging the service of all the military on this Memorial Day especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.   Being the wife of a Marine for over 22 years (now retired) and having many friends and family who have also served, I’ve experienced first-hand the sacrifice and challenges both the service members and family members go every day.  We can’t say thank them enough.

And since it is Memorial Day, I thought I would bring attention to a national memorial you might IMG_0380not be aware of and that is practically in my back yard.  Just a short drive from Smith Mountain Lake and located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Bedford, VA is the incredibly poignant National D-Day Memorial.  Why Bedford and not Washington DC?  Because Bedford suffered the greatest loss per capita during the D-Day invasion and was chosen to symbolize the loss all communities, large and small, realized on that day.  Located on 88 acres, you can  walk the grounds on your own but I highly recommend go on a guided tour to capture the true magnitude of the events on that day.  It’s hard to describe the beauty and symbolism of the many pieces to this memorial, you just have to see it and do the tour.   If you are ever in the area….make the time. You won’t be disappointed.

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                                                               Happy Memorial Day!

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family

April Showers and Trey

Living up to its name, April was a very rainy month…actually torrential!  We did a lot of spring yard work and a few house projects but nothing that can’t wait until next month to talk about. Instead I want to talk about Trey.TE

Trey is my fifteen year old nephew.  Trey will always be my fifteen year old nephew as he lost his battle with leukemia after a valiant eleven month fight.  In witnessing his incredible determination and positive attitude, and the unwavering love and support of his family and  friends, you can’t help but look at life a little differently.  Following are some themes that resonated with me and I think worth mentioning.

Family     Don’t pass an opportunity to spend time with family or to tell and show them how you feel.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  Reach out to someone who may need a hug or even a smile.  Call and actually talk to family members or write a letter instead of a text.   Be the spark that starts the fire when it comes to love and good instead of negativity and fights.IMG_1224

Time    Is there something you’ve been wanting to do?  Why wait?  I’ve learned that no one is immune to sickness and loss.  It can happen to anyone at anytime.  No one is promised tomorrow or next year so if there is something you feel compelled to do….why not do it or make plans to.  Live your life fearlessly and with purpose. Start a “Wish List” or “Life List” of things you have always wanted to do and see….and start doing them.

Forgiveness     Let go of what happened in the past and don’t let it affect/infect your future.   So much time and energy is wasted on holding onto grudges that keeps you stuck in the past.  Learn from it and then let it go, forgive and move on.  A weight will be lifted for you and allow you to live your life more fully and purposefully.

Faith       The older I get the more I appreciate my faith and lean on it to get me through these seemingly senseless losses.  My faith gives me the hope of seeing my loved ones again in heaven and I am comforted by the fact that they are happy and watching over us.

Get Involved     When we attended the Rainbow of Heroes Walk for bone marrow transplant the day after Trey’s funeral, it was never more evident how important marrow or organ donations are.   To see the amount of people who are touched by this selfless act and how much they depend on it for survival and hope is amazing.  If you can…help.   http://join.bethematch.org/swab

As for me, I will try to live my life with purpose and will always keep Trey as my guiding beacon to keep me on track.

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Creative Things · Decorating · family · Sewing

February Home Projects

What’s not to love about February?  It’s the reward of a short month after what seems like the longest month of the year. And right in the middle of the month is Valentine’s day which just happens to be my birthday.  So yeah, I love February.  It also gets me anxious and thinking about spring next month.  This year  it wasn’t hard to think about that because of the incredibly unseasonably warm weather.  Even with it being a short month, I managed to squeeze in a few of home projects.

Potting Table     Ok, I can’t take credit for this, but it was my idea and my wonderful husband made it happen.  I love the idea of having a green thumb and I’m sure having this potting table will inspire me.   I already see evidence of the bulbs I planted in December and January well on their way to blooms.   With a lake house the focus tends to be on the back yard, the dock and the area around the water.  We have such potential in our front yard and I wanted to be sure to utilize and enjoy that as well.

Master  Bedroom Window Toppers       Even though we have faux wood blinds on all our master bedroom windows, the sun shines through on a summer morning and on rare occasions our dogs actually allow us to sleep past 5 am.  I was looking for something natural looking that didn’t look heavy or distracting.  I decided on a mounted bleached drop cloth faux roman shade.  I made my own burlap ties out of leftover burlap which saved me a ton on money.  I needed fifteen yards and at $6 a yard for store-bought I knew I had to be creative and resourceful. I added a nonfunctional covered button strictly for the detail finish.IMG_9875

Master Bathroom Window Covering     Originally we had some wicker style roll shades on our bathroom windows.   But in order to maintain privacy we had to keep them down most of the day which then led to a very dark bathroom.   I love the airy country feel of café curtains and these windows would work perfectly for that.  It would allow us to let the light and view of our front yard in on the top half of the windows while still providing the privacy needed in a bathroom.  I actually found the curtains ready-made at Homegoods, hemmed them to fit into the window casing and then folded, pressed and clipped the pleats to give me the finished look.

Pillow Bed        This was a fun project I wanted to do to give my granddaughter the option to sleep on the floor if she needed to be in the same room as my daughter when she came to visit in February.  I got a super deal on this fun animal print flannel from JoAnn’s and found the pattern on Pinterest.

Teepee     Who doesn’t love a fort?   This was such a fun project that my husband and I worked on together.  I did the sewing and he took care of the hardware. It’s lightweight, easy to assemble and to take down. You can easily store it under a bed or in a closet.  Addy slept in it a couple of nights during her visit.  I see Addy and Ben having fun with this for some time to come.IMG_9910

I’m still finishing up my patio cushions.  They are almost done but will slide the completed project into March.  Other projects on my agenda include slipcovering a wing back chair at the lake and recovering the seat on a beautiful antique rocking chair I found.

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Decorating · family · Food

A few of my favorite things…

We’ve shopped, baked, decorated, wrapped, cleaned, attended office parties, listened to holiday music, watched every Hallmark Christmas movie ever made, watched other favorites on Netflix, and pulled out old classics on DVD all to get into the holiday spirit.   One of my favorite, get-you-in-the-mood movies, is “The Sound of Music”.   It was on TV the other night and I watched most of it (until I fell asleep…. probably because of the list of things I mentioned above), with my youngest who is home from college.  Well, here are a few of my favorite things this holiday season.

 

 I want to take a moment to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from my family to yours.

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Creative Things

Hidden Treasure Found

I found a treasure!   Not in the literal sense but in a literary  sense.  I found all my journals from high school. img_6698 Can I just say how much I love and truly appreciate everything my high school English teacher did for me?  That is no small thing.  I distinctly remember not particularly liking to read and write when in school.  I was a good student, (Salutatorian, thank you very much), but always loved math more.  I’m sorry to say that I dreaded going to English class, initially, but through Ms. J’s class (as we lovingly called her, Miss Janet Johnson in the proper sense), I actually started to look forward to it.

While unpacking and purging through boxes as part of my decluttering and downsizing, I discovered a taped shut box that was marked “high school memorabilia”.  I kept putting it in the back of a closet or on a shelf through the years to be opened at some later time when I had more time.  I guess that was now. So I grabbed the journals for some good reading for our  4 1/2 hour trip to and from the lake this weekend.  Boy did we have fun reminiscing. Here are some of the things I found.

  •  I found the entry of the day after I met my future husband.
  • I found listings of my favorite songs, books and movies from different years.
  • I found the entry after attending a TEC (teens encounter Christ weekend).
  • I found an entry for the weekend of prom (with all the details of where we went and what we did…much of which we had totally forgot).
  • I found some original poetry (some of them pretty darn good).
  • I found I was sleep deprived  from work, slept until noon and took naps. Hmmm.
  • I found silly classmate prophecies as a writing prompt.
  • I found insights of what I was like as a teenager in the 1970’s.
  • I discovered all the reasons I fell in love with Darryl and still do now.
  • I found snippets of my mom’s voice, like “you have a nice boyfriend, he worries about you in a storm”. (Oh, how I miss her!)
  • I found entries I wrote of hanging out with high school friends, some still with us, some not.

I loved the way Ms. J commented without judging and offered just enough advise to make you think and come up with my own solutions to life’s problems that seem so trivial now but were not back then.

I took a break from journal writing for several years after I graduated high school but took it back up in my thirty’s when I was presented with my grandpa Dostal’s published book of his journal writing. Before he died my aunt Lily took all his journals that he had kept from a young man to his later years and compiled them into a book about his life as a farmer. What a gift.

That was enough inspiration to get me started again.  At any given time I have two or three journals that I have going. I have exercise journals, garden journals, home journals, personal journals and gratitude journals, and now an online blog/creative journal. It’s a great outlet for capturing ideas, documenting goals, remembering milestones, and sorting out your fears, hopes and dreams.

If I could find that teacher today, I would say, Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you.  I can see now that there was a reason for all of that.  I believe that because of her, today I love to write and find an enormous value in writing something about me and my life, not just for me but for those I love to hopefully read some day and get some insight into who I was.  That I’m not really that different from them and that I was once a teenager just like them.  I really do know where they are coming from and what they are going through.  And just maybe, inspire them (or their children) to journal and write.

Do something creative today!

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