The Magic of a Yuletide Card

Thanksgiving eve.  There is always so much to be thankful for.  Health, family, security, home, and an inspired life.  These things I think of and am thankful for each day of the year.  As a vegetarian and a history lover, Thanksgiving isn’t really my favorite holiday.  And this year my children will be other places.  So, I have put up my Christmas houses and am clearing a place for the tree.  Yes, Yule is my very favorite holiday of the year.  The lights, the charity, the music, the wrappings, the trimmings, the beauty and joy that surrounds Yuletide is intoxicating for me.

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My grandparents with their great, great granddaughters. So much to be thankful for.

Now, I feel like we are all old friends here.  Just like you are over for coffee this pretty morning and I am telling you about how I, on a whim, just registered for a full load of classes to pursue a teaching degree (yes, I did that the other night) or am showing you photographs of my new granddaughter.  Over the years we’ve have had some laughs, we’ve had some tears, we’ve had some wine.  But I like the tangible as well.  I would love to be on your Christmas card list this year and I will add you to mine.  Let us pen old fashioned wishes and hopes for the new year.  I love hearing from readers and responding.  It makes us friends out there in this big, small world.

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Christmas cards may seem old fashioned, but they are a link and a wish to family and friends, old and new, and a moment of your time and love.  There is no greater gift than that.  Christmas cards have led to a few really fabulous pen pals for me.  I enjoy so much that moment of peeking in the mailbox and finding a card or letter.  Placing the envelope in my apron pocket as I make a cup of tea.  Sitting down to savor every word.  To be there.  To listen.  To read.  To pull out a few pieces of beautiful stationary and respond.  Yes, it is one of my favorite things.  Send me a card and I will send you one as well filled with good wishes and cheer, from my cozy home to yours.

Mrs. Katie Sanders

1901 Brown Ave

Pueblo, CO 81004

Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving and a happy beginning to your Yuletide festivities.

A Thanksgiving Tale

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The hazy golden dusk illuminated the sky behind their silhouettes in the cool evening air.  The cars stopped and the elegant family of deer crossed.  The leader had a staggering limp.  Yet the two does stayed at her flank and did not attempt to cross quickly or ahead of her.  The large buck, his antlers glorious and scenic against the autumn backdrop of mountains and sunset color, stayed back with the two infants as they gingerly crossed.

In the chaos of a grocery store I stood looking seriously at disposable pans when an elder gentleman approached softly.

“Are you going to make a turkey?” he asked.

I smiled at the man whose dark tilted eyes revealed close to a century of memories and Thanksgivings.  His wife had fallen, he said.  Thank the Lord she was home from the nursing home and rehab but she still couldn’t walk good.  And well, his hip was killing him but he thought he’d come out and get a few things.  A package of frozen hash browns and a plastic container of diced watermelon well out of season sat in his cart.  One of his children was going to bring them a Thanksgiving feast.

He pulled from his inner pocket a photograph of his son to show me.  Two photos, actually, side by side on a funeral program.  A handsome young man in a navy uniform and one of the young man as a joyful middle aged man.

“This is my boy,” he says.  “He got sick from the war and died.”  He didn’t elaborate.  He just folded the three year old paper and placed it back into his inner pocket.  “Once he died my wife and I went downhill.”

Now, the crowds in the aisles bustling with noisy carts and lines of folks faded as I watched him hobble away.

The family of deer safely crossed and nimbly flitted through the fencing.  They stood together grazing in the golden field.

May we all keep the spirit of Thanksgiving in our hearts tomorrow.  I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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!

 

Before You Give to a Charity (really helping those in need)

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‘Tis the time of year for charities.  To give to those less fortunate.  To share some of our blessings.

We often gave money to organizations that helped the homeless.  Then we became homeless ourselves after losing our rented farm.  We opted not to go on welfare, but rather to work very hard to get jobs and get back on our feet.  About this time two years ago we were out of money and hungry.  You can only eat so many dollar burritos from Taco Bell with found change.  We looked into getting a food basket from a local charity that distributed them.  I didn’t have a coat, I was freezing.  We were really struggling and not a single organization could or would help us.  They gave everything to the “poorest” in the county.  Well, you couldn’t have been poorer than us at that moment.  You have to work pretty dang hard to be the poorest in the county.  You have to get on welfare and food stamps, and you can’t try to find work or you would lose your pay out every month.  No thanks.

Then we have the homeless organizations that we gave to.  Those are intended to serve the perfectly able folks with signs-who make more money than anyone I know- on the corners of busy streets.  We did a farmer’s market for years in a park that was popular with the homeless.  They stole, took drugs in the park, excitedly went and got free food from the food kitchen, and had no desire to change their lives.  Or they wouldn’t be homeless anymore.  It was a lifestyle they chose.  They were the first to admit it.  And that really surprised us.

Now, this all sounds a little harsh, but let me be clear, there are people out there that need your help.  They just don’t have cardboard signs and are working hard to try and make it.  They are the elderly on your block who would love company and a meal with someone.  It’s the single mom who can’t afford new coats for her swiftly growing children.  It’s the friend at work whose wife is sick and they need help with meals and cleaning the house but would never ask.  There are people all around you who could use a bit of charity and mercy and help.

Only a few cents goes to the people large charities serve.  If you were to just look around you could have a much more powerful impact, make a personal connection, and strengthen the community you are in.  I will forever be grateful to my old neighbors who showed up at my shop with a box of home canned food, squash, a winter coat, and a hug.

Before you write a check to a big charity, look around and see if anyone near you could use a little holiday help.  We all need a little help here and there.

(Thank you to all of our friends that pitched in back then with money, a place to stay, a dinner, and hugs.  We never imagined we would have been in that situation.  Amazing how much can change in such a short time. We are really grateful for all we have now.)

 

The Secret Power of Gratitude

20171031_182428This is the time of year that we speak of gratitude.  Gratitude is a secret ingredient to a happy and content life.  Even if it seems like not one more thing could go wrong, simply sitting still with a cup of tea, the sun on one’s face, or even just with eyes closed, thinking of the things we are really grateful for changes the energy around us.  We exhale.  We smile.  We know it’s going to be alright.

20171012_111725Fear is the opposite of gratitude.  Fear is based on losing something.  If we just flip the wheel and see the things we do have, we can change our attitude, therefore our perception, therefore our life, and the feeling is contagious.

20171022_134338Every day for the next three weeks consciously do something to encourage gratitude.  Some ideas might be:

Call a relative you would like to visit with.

Make a huge pot of soup and invite neighbors or friends over.

Drink a green juice to help heal your body.

Write a poem about the sunrise.

Compliment a stranger.

Do something towards a dream or goal you have.

Put some money in a coffee can and start an emergency fund at home, little by little.

Do a twenty minute yoga video.

Meditate quietly on all the things you love about yourself.  About your life.  About your circumstances.  Allow yourself to grieve and then watch the grief fly off on an imaginary butterfly.  Allow peace to come back into your heart.  Smile.

Walk in nature.  Really, this does wonders!  Walk around the block even.  Get out and be near Mother Earth and the great vast sky, and the trees.  Laugh at squirrels.  Listen to your footsteps.

Write a letter, hug your loved ones, eat nourishing food, breathe deeply, watch the sunrise and sunset, turn off the news, stretch, smile, live.  Gratitude for our health, our loved ones, our life, our experiences, our time with those passed, food, shelter, clothing, animals, friends, candlelight, joy….all these things remember.

20171011_124929Whisper “thank you” often.

I am thankful for my readers.

Redecorating for the Season (easy tricks for a beautiful home)

20171027_071224In the winter I was experimenting with how to set up our new house.  An art and writing area, a music and reading area, and a sitting area took up separate sections of the old living room.  Then my classes started and I needed to be able to seat ten people comfortably and have a bigger conversation area.  The living room was rearranged again.  Now I am looking at having my family over for Thanksgiving dinner and entertaining for the holidays.  I will need a place for the Christmas tree (I know, I know, it’s not even Halloween…) and I wanted the seating area to surround the wood stove for cozy nights with a delicious book and a cup of hot chocolate.  Add to that I wanted to display my medicines for when customers come by, and have a place for all of my plants so I tapped into my inner Martha Stewart and spent the day redecorating!

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Faux fur rugs and gold toned throw pillows cozy up the velvet futon which reclines to become a double bed for guests.
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On the other side of the wood stove the love seat sits. A colorful sofa cover and earth toned throw pillows set a comfy space to play the guitar or have a drink. Guess what is behind the cow painting? The television! Wish I would have thought of it years ago. I am always trying to hide that thing!
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I knew our life transitioned into a new stage when I agreed to buy matching recliners. To me, recliners are the ugliest things ever and I swore I’d never have them in the house. (They are awfully comfortable though…)
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There wasn’t room for the coffee table in front of the recliners so I made it into a stand for my farmer’s market kit of medicines. Games, movies, and music are stored on the bottom shelf of the coffee table.
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Books are always at the ready and Maryjane’s books are easy to reach for when she comes to visit. A set of old doors creates drama, and my lovely grandfather clock adds charm. My collection of Native art and my feathers adorn the shelves.
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The table is closer to the front door than the kitchen now but I have more space to expand the table here. I can roll the giant aloe plant to the corner and add another table in here to accommodate more guests.
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My desk is an old sewing machine table and it can be rolled into the bedroom when it’s time to add a Christmas tree after Thanksgiving.

I didn’t spend a penny on this redecorating day and it only took a few hours.  The house feels cozy and the pumpkins and colors add an autumnal spirit.  Twinkly lights are always in order for a charming home.  Wishing you a beautiful season filled with warmth and family and home.

 

 

Recipes Made Better

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A swirl of truffle oil or walnut oil on green beans is really quite nice.  Some toasted slivered almonds or walnuts dressed with truffle salt is delicious.  And a bit of blue cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar  elevates the green bean casserole from cream of something to fresh amazing.

Recipes are developed to appeal to the average palate but if you want to take your dishes from average to extraordinary, it really only takes a few changes to make your guests take pause as they eat.

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Pumpkin bread calls for cinnamon, but what about adding other spices from pumpkin pie spice?  Instead of vegetable oil sub out vanilla olive oil…or orange olive oil.  Add a handful of chopped candied ginger or chocolate chips.  It doesn’t change the basic recipe at all.  Vanilla salt replaces ordinary salt.  This makes pretty amazing pumpkin bread.

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Combine sesame oil with orange oil to dress salad.  Use smoked salt on mashed potatoes.  Add a little New Mexican red chili to sweet potatoes.  The sweet marshmallows and the smoky chili is bliss.  Cream chives into the butter.  Or cinnamon.  Have fun!  Cooking is an exploration of the human palate, a sensual dance of sweet, sour, spice, umami, and savory, far from average.  And eating with loved ones is food for the soul.

Here’s to family, friends, gratitude, and dreams come true.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

 

 

 

Thankfulness and Determination

 

familyThanksgiving.  I am thankful.  I am thankful for the soft, plush fur of my purring kitten that greets me each morning at dawn.  The pink glow of day through the trees as I awake.  The hot coffee, its earthy aroma and taste, filling me with life.  I am thankful and say “wado” do the Creator each day.

“It’s just material stuff.  You can’t take it with you!” folks say, then go to their warm homes and kitchens.  Easy for them to say.

I know friends and family that have lost children, spouses, their health.  They would rather have our lot.  I know.  We have so much to be thankful for.

My beautiful baby granddaughter is with me four days a week filling my spirit with light.  My children are healthy.  Beautiful.  Pursuing their dreams.  What more could I ask for?

I asked an organization in my county how one can be gifted with a basket of fresh vegetables.  They said they were distributing them to the people in the county in need.  Where do all these things get distributed?  They erased my request from the page.  I shiver without a coat.  Wear the same four outfits mismatched so they look like a new outfit.  We have lived on the kindness and loans from friends for five months.  What Doug makes from his new job goes to support the shop and gas to get to work.  He brings home expired pastries for our breakfast.

“I didn’t realize you were still struggling so much,” a friend says.  How do you talk about that kind of thing?  You don’t.

I am thankful that we have shelter.  When I used to say that it meant I was thankful for my house.  Now I am thankful not to be out of doors.  I am thankful for food.  I am thankful for friends.  And hugs and gifts and smiles and visitors and that I could hang on to my cats.  I am thankful for my husband.  I would not trade our marriage for anything in the world.

“We are definitely not living our life,” he says as I tell him about a video I saw of a woman who has lived off-grid for thirty years.

I started to doubt my own words that I write and speak about.  The manifesting your own destiny and dreams seem a little full of it now.  My roommate agrees.  There is great danger in making people feel like they can achieve anything.

I am thankful.  I am blessed.  I have everything I need.  This I know.  I need to get out there and help and inspire as many people as I can.  And mark my words, readers, this time next year I will be writing you from my farm on how to create a homemade Thanksgiving.

 

 

‘Tis Thanksgiving Eve

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‘Tis Thanksgiving eve

a prayer hushes over the land

of grateful hearts for harvest so full

such bounty in our lives and hand.

 

We bow our heads in repose

to give sweet thanks for blessings abound

for those before us that bowed their heads

their new lives on this prairie found.

 

A feast to eat before us

everywhere in the wild to be found

our little cottage so filled with love

warm sun setting without a sound.

 

We will be thankful and not want

so easy to wish for something more

we could be unloved, hungry and cold

and sleeping on a sodden floor.

 

So we bow our heads and say grace

lest we forget that our basic needs are few.

Tomorrow we will be thankful too.

And the day after.

And the day after.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

A New Mexican Brunch

A New Mexican Thanksgiving Brunch

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Menu

Mimi’s Egg Soufflé with Green Chilies

Fruit Cocktail

Cinnamon Rolls

Creamed Corn

Pinon Coffee

Egg Nog

Orange Juice

I decided to ask my mother in law for her recipe for egg soufflé.  It is the staple for Hanukah and also for the breaking of the fast at Yom Kippur at her house.  It is a delicious combination of bread, eggs, and cheese.  I will add my own addition, green chilies.

Take 6 slices of bread, crusts removed, lightly butter, and cut in half.

In a bowl combine 6 eggs, 1 teaspoon dried minced onion, salt and pepper, and 2 cups of milk.  I am adding 1/4 cup of green chilies.

Have 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese ready.

Butter a high casserole pan.  Layer part of the bread, egg mixture, then cheese  Finish by layering the rest of the bread, egg, and top with cheese. 

Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, take out and leave on counter for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for one hour uncovered. 

The fruit cocktail is a mixture of fruits that we canned over the summer.  In the root cellar rests jars of cinnamon peaches, honey apricots, blueberries, pumpkin pie spiced apples, and cherries.

The cinnamon rolls could easily be made.  I have a great recipe, however, that early in the morning, among my children that will all be in one place for a whole three hours together, I would really rather not be spending all my time in the kitchen.  So store bought, ready to bake, organic cinnamon rolls will certainly suffice.

Creamed corn is in golden jars held in the basement only needing a dab of butter.

Pinon coffee is a New Mexican specialty.  Simply grind a tablespoon of pine nuts in with whole coffee beans before you brew it.  It creates a nutty, and delicious accompaniment to breakfast.

Egg Nog (we’re going to have to do that homemade during the Christmas season) and Orange Juice are from the health food store.

A New Mexican blanket will act as a table cloth, mix matched red china (turkeys and English castles), sparkling wine glasses, and cloth napkins will don the table.  Candles, mini-pumpkins that grew in our garden, and Indian corn will add fall splendour.

We’ll toast to our blessings and pray for the opportunity to help others and be a blessing to those that meet us.

Happy Thanksgiving!