5 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Perfect

glassHere are a few ideas for Thanksgiving to help keep the spirit of gratitude, family, and love involved while also helping you make it go smoothly.

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*Remember, there is always room for one more. 

I remember one particular year that I was alone and not really in a great place, I called a family member that was hosting Thanksgiving to see if I could come and was told there wasn’t any room for me.  I mean, I would have sat on the floor if necessary.  I just needed the company. So, if there are last minute people that want to come.  Borrow a folding chair!

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* Make sure you ask people to bring things. 

If you already have your traditional menu planned, request something from it.  Most of the my family and friends are coming down and staying Wednesday night so they can’t really make something.  But rolls, drinks, cranberry sauce, pies, that type of thing can be bought and brought over.  Sure, I could make all those things-in fact, the Martha Stewart in me insists that I do- but I know those little things can make a big difference between my cooking most of the big meal and enjoying the day or becoming overwhelmed with too many details.

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*Make everyone feel welcome.

Whether it be your daughter’s new boyfriend that just got out of jail or your mother-in-law who didn’t get much sleep last night.  Smile, hug, ask questions about them, really care.  We never know what any given person is going through and this is a meal to express our gratitude and be near those we love by sharing a meal.  Keep that in mind above all else.

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*Take a deep breath and laugh.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

I will have my puppy and two crazy grand-dogs running through the house.  The turkey may not cook right.  You might drop a pie.  The dog might eat the sweet potato casserole.  Aunt Sue might break into tears over a lost love. You may run out of whiskey.  This Thanksgiving, I want you to see everything with new eyes.  Every person there is alive this year.  Memorize the moments.  Watch people laugh.  Smell the turkey cooking.  Hear the ice clink in your glass.  Pet the dogs.  Have an extra helping.  These moments are precious.

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*Decorate Simply

A huge, ornate centerpiece is going to end up in the way and you will be sad that you have to move your beautiful decorations!  Try a nice napkin with mix-matched dishes.  A votive in front of each space.  Print off papers for people to write what they are thankful for.  Most of them the guest can color.  Childish?  We should be a little more childish.  Sprinkle some leaves on the table.  Or have the kids go collect some.  Place a mini pumpkin on each plate. (I for one do not like getting up during conversation to refill my plate at a buffet.  In fact, I usually won’t.  Much easier for folks if all the food is on the table and we can just pass it around!)

Put on some nice classical or jazz music.  Something that won’t clash with the volume of laughter and conversation.

You might not be able to use your hundred year old dining room table.  I will be moving all the couches and chairs into one section of the living room so that I can line up two long folding tables.  I will be able to seat fourteen comfortably in this little house by simply rearranging a little.  Folding tables are more compact but still offer lots of room. Your house doesn’t have to look perfect.

Light tea candles all over the house.  They will burn for two hours and create an enchanting ambience.

If you are in a good mood, your guests will be too.  If you are flustered, they will be too.  It’s just a meal with loved ones.  Enjoy!

 

A Guide to Renewing Your Vows

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We have been thinking about renewing our vows for some time now.  We decided to wait until we had a home of our own.  A celebration in itself coupled with a renewal of love and new beginnings.  We have certainly lived through all of our promises…through sickness and health…through richer and poorer…and have come out stronger than ever.  There were times of great sadness.  But the times of great joy and a life together lived with excitement and courage has reigned prevalent.  We share a friendship and a bond with more great memories than we can recollect.

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We had a lovely wedding.  As many weddings go, we planned for months, spent our life savings (and a good chunk of my in-laws’ savings), I became Bridezilla (crying bitterly over the greens in my flowers…I plead insanity), and then a snow storm hit and everyone skedaddled out of there promptly after the meal.  It was a blur but we were married.

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This time is different.  A bit of fun, a bit of whimsy, without expectations.  That is what makes things stressful.  Expectations.

1. This time we have no idea who is coming.  We invited to our joint house warming/vow renewal one hundred and thirty people.  Most have not responded.  It doesn’t matter.  Those that want to be a part of the ceremony and stand by us will be there.  I expect roughly forty, but perhaps not all for the vows.  I rented twenty chairs for a buck a piece.  The couches and miscellaneous chairs will fill in.  We do not need everything to match.  Just invite your favorite folks and let it roll.  Do not be hurt if certain people do not come.  We are all on many journeys.  We cannot possibly handle everyone’s schedule.

2. Have fun!  We are having a traditional Scottish wedding.  Why not?  Our friend is coming down with his bagpipes.  Our Renaissance friend is doing the ceremony complete with anvil.  Doug is wearing a kilt.  I am wearing my original wedding dress (which was my mother’s wedding dress when she renewed her vows) with corset, slips, and plaid beneath to show through.  I’ll pick up roses or something from the grocery store tonight.

3. Ask family and friends to help.  Our daughter, Shyanne, is making the cake.  Our other daughter, Emily, is taking care of all the food.  Shyanne is a master baker and has her own baking company, A Witch and  Whisk.  Emily wants to open her own restaurant.  She has been in the business for five years.  She is setting up a taco bar.  My friend, Alvin, is doing the photos.  He is an amazing photographer.  My mother-in-law is making some delicious desserts.  Fruit infused waters make an inexpensive and delicious drink.  Homemade chokecherry wine and beers for toasts.

4. Go with the flow.  It always feels like Spring in Pueblo but it is not going to be particularly warm tomorrow to my great dismay.  Somewhere between 35 and 45 degrees in the morning.  The sun always makes it feel warmer.  We may not know until morning if the ceremony will be outside or inside.  The bagpipes should be outside!  Folks can grab a couple of chairs and we can move them where we wish.  Take weather and the flow of the day with a smile and a heart of gratitude.

5. Gratitude.  That is the key.  Be happy there is a celebration to be had!  Loved ones made a point of being there in a world of busyness.  There is food and drink and laughter.  And bagpipes.  Can’t get better than that!

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Next week I will share with you the celebration in pictures.  Perhaps it is time for you to plan a celebration of your own?  They do make life ever sweet.

 

 

The Music Filled Homestead

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The guitar was sitting next to the fireplace untouched.  My children can play various instruments and sing and we always had lots of music in our home.  We gave away the piano so we didn’t have to move it.  Oh, how I miss it.  We sold the violin and the mandolin.  Andy took the banjo and his guitar.  Doug gave me a guitar for my birthday a few years ago.  I wish I could say that I have Andy’s natural talent but I will forget what I learned musically pretty quickly.  Twenty years of piano and I would still need to reteach myself.  I can sing, but not as consistently as the contestants of the Voice.  But I do love music.

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This year we worked like crazy folks to rebuild.  I tend to hurry, hurry.  No time, no time!  But what harm does it do if I am ten minutes behind because I am singing loudly and strumming with chords and following a beginning guitar book?  All that does is add joy to my life!  And I’ll write about it more in the coming weeks, but my goals for 2017 are to live.  Really live.

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I will be on the search for a piano for our new house as well. The piano cares not if I am a maestro or not.  A home filled with music is a home filled with love and joy.

If you could learn any instrument, what would it be?

Summer List and Sunshine

Summer is quickly becoming one of my favorite seasons.  Sometimes in Colorado it seems like we have seven and a half months of winter a few weeks of spring, a few months of summer, a few weeks of autumn, then right back to winter.  Yesterday felt so good at seventy four degrees.

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Summer does have a wicked tendency to come and go before you can get your tan lines straightened out.  Along with our shop we do farmer’s markets and now Doug has a 9-5 job too.  We watch the baby, I am writing a novel, and we have three garden plots, and…well, we need to make a list of what we really want to do.

I am a notorious list maker.  If I don’t make a list of the things we want to do this summer then we shall miss it.

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So far we have seen a bluegrass concert at Red Rocks.  I have read a good book, The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton.  I have a beautiful garden started.

  1. Go to pool one morning a week.
  2. Take Maryjane to the carnival next week.
  3. Take Maryjane to rodeo next week.
  4. Go hiking on a trail we have never been on.
  5. Ride bike as far down the trail as I can go.
  6. Read three great books.
  7. Dance under the full moon of the summer solstice.
  8. Order lemonade at the county fair.
  9. Drink coffee on the balcony every morning.
  10. Go to the mountains and picnic by a stream at least once this summer.

I would like to add road trips and vacations and time in hammocks and bonfires but time, especially summertime, is elusive.  But we will do all we can to soak up each beautiful warm moment.

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Tell me,   what do you want to do this summer?

Christmas Dreaming

 

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As winter snow danced lightly down, the moon still held her luminous crown

and watched as each child in town went to sleep softly in the night.

Dreams of Santa filled their minds as they looked at moon’s generous light

and so wondered if they would see his reindeer cross her face in flight.

Warm with hot chocolate, jammies on, their stockings hung above the fires

their eyes grew heavy as they watched the tree with her glimmering wires.

Old Bing Crosby did croon, the sounds of the season on down through the hall

but sleigh bells were the most beautiful sound of all.

When they awake they will see who’s been here

Santa Claus and his eight glorious reindeer.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

A Night at Karaoke

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The restaurant is dimly lit with people relaxing around the bar and round tables holding drinks and talking to folks around them.  We are at Bistro Al Vino’s on Parker and Orchard.  They boast an impressive wine list and delicious food.  A glass of J.Lohr Syrah and I am ready.  We are waiting for Avery.

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So are most of the other people in the place.  Karaoke is starting soon.  The stage is lit with dozens of spotlights.  The microphone is erected and the sound is checked in the speakers.  The chatter rises above the sound.  Most of the people are familiar.  Most have sang with the main karaoke hosts in and around the area.  The camaraderie is heartening and singers we haven’t seen in years share hugs and smiles.

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Doug and I have sung karaoke on cruise ships, on vacation in other states, even Las Vegas.  We have never been around a group of consistently amazing singers like we are in Colorado.  Outside of New York and Hollywood I bet the state with the most beautiful voices goes to our own.  I think a lot of folks think that karaoke is hokey and loud, filled with wannabe singers.  You will get the occasional new group of people who are nervous to sing and outlandishly sing, “Friends in Low Places” or “Like a Virgin” but since they are so few (many times not at all in a night) then we laugh with them and applaud.

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There are singers that have sung the same song every time for the past fourteen years.  They are amazing at that song because of this fact but they are still applauded and patted on the back and given high fives.  The encouragement is always so enlightening.  It’s just a bunch of working folks taking an evening off of real life to pursue their singing.

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Some of us have auditioned for singing shows and have made it a ways, some of us have been in Idol this or that around the state and had fun in competition but the real fun is in a dark bar with a cold glass of Chardonnay and friends and comrades all around.  From twenty-one to eighty-one they come out to sing, some in life just trying to get by, some in suits, some in sunglasses and shorts, just having fun.  We all dance, sing, laugh, and go home exhausted and restored.

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If you have never been to a karaoke show, I encourage you to do so.  Even if you just hold onto your glass of wine and watch, go.  It is essentially a free concert.  You will be blown away.  Should you get the nerve to come up and sing, do so boldly, for no one is there to judge you.  Everyone is there to sing and encourage one another to live more playfully and to express.

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This Wednesday at Bistro Al Vino at 8:00 we will be there at our round table with friends and fellow singers ready to put on a show, even if for only a moment.  See you there.

Firewood, Trucks, and Guitars

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Just a few homesteader necessities!  When Doug’s sister said that her beautiful crab apple tree had finally fallen over due to a storm we didn’t waste time getting down there to retrieve the wood!  Wood is necessary on a homestead with wood stoves. This year we would like to not use the propane (hello heart attack when you see the bill and it doesn’t even heat the room) and not freeze our booties off.

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Now in order to get the wood we needed a truck.  We gave our truck to Emily and thought we could go without one.  You should have seen us packing hay and straw bales in the back of the Chevy HHR we drive.  It has been a patient farm car but it is not meant for this type of lifestyle so with our tax refund we bought a truck.  Mind you it is in the shop again but when we get it back Friday it is going to be one heck of a ride.  I love it.  The HHR is being bought by someone who lives in the city and is excited to have a smart looking smaller car.

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I have fallen in love with my guitar.  I have played lots of instruments but never with this type of passion and sense of fun.  I am trying not to be so serious about it.  I ask my teacher (who I think might be my daughter’s age) a million questions and he says this week my homework is to learn to comfortably strum.  In 4/4 time?  I ask.  Just strum.

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My goal is to play the local town fairs next year and play at my own festivals this year.

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So, I am strumming away on this lovely homestead with my big truck and piles of wood and potatoes to be planted today and the grandbaby coming over.  ‘Tis a good life, my friends, a very good life.

Music Returns to the Homestead

I received something for my birthday today that I have wanted for some time.. music.

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When we downsized to this little homestead I sold the piano, the violin, and the mandolin.  Andy took his electric guitar, his acoustic guitar, his banjo, and the harmonica.  It was terrible.

Now, mind you, I probably would not have set down to play the piano since we moved in, nor would I have had it tuned.  The violin hurt my shoulder, and Doug was never really into the mandolin.  The children moved out and took their music with them leaving our home very quiet indeed.

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I am not a natural musician like my Andy.  He was playing seven instruments and writing songs when he was very young with very few lessons.  I played the piano for twenty years and if any time lapsed at all I wouldn’t be able to play a single song by memory.  At the end of a year of violin lessons I played at the Celtic Festival.  Not very well, but good enough!  The violin and the piano are really loud when one is learning and making mistakes and I am afraid I was too concerned over the neighborhood hearing my screeching and pounding practices.  Oh, my poor husband.  Yes, I did not need any instruments.  Until they were gone.

I took my mother’s guitar to seventh grade to take some guitar lessons.  I took my son’s guitar to college for that semester of lessons.  But then I gave the guitars back.  Maryjane and I have been watching a lot of Sound of Music.  She demands to watch it every day.  It occurred to me that I could play the guitar.  I have ten acres plus hundreds more of listening birds and frogs.  The strings are quieter.  I could have music.  I would learn this time!  I could get a book and it should all come back to me.  I could be the opener for the band I hired to play at the farm after the Homesteading Boot Camp!  I could play at our Pumpkin Festival!

But alas, we are on a tight farm budget.  There is no extra for guitars.

My husband, Doug, has been saving money without my knowing.  And this morning I woke to this beautiful guitar.

Music has returned.