Day 19: The Cranberries I Will Never Not Make For Christmas

I came upon this Stephanie Dietz recipe for Bourbon Cranberries back in 2011 and it was such a revelation I posted about it then.

But y’all.

It bears repeating.

Cranberries. With Bourbon.

Need I say more?

ROCKING (BOURBON) CRANBERRIES
4 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice

Preparation
Combine cranberries and both sugars in a cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat on your stove. Mix well and often as the sugar starts to melt for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add other ingredients, stirring often, for about 20 minutes. Check the cranberries for doneness and cook until you reach the desired consistency.

Oh my goodness, give these a taste. There is a bit of a kick, which is just perfect with cranberries. Yummmmmmm.

And that, there, is some joy, my friends!

 

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 18: Feathers, and transformation

just this morning

 

I haven’t written of feathers in a long while.

This isn’t because they aren’t appearing in my life, or because I no longer cling to these holy reminders I am loved and treasured. The world is filled with trouble and pain and worry, and as we all do, each morning I rise and make my way through it, processing, fretting, hurting–for my own challenges, for those of the people I love. For people everywhere whose lives are changed in an instant.

For those whose lives never seem to change.

Yesterday I received a feather of a different kind. It is this podcast conversation (Katie Couric, episode 45) between Brian Goldsmith and Rabbi Steve Leder, Senior Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the oldest synagogue in Los Angeles. Rabbi Leder talks of pain and how it transforms us–about forgiveness, about caring for each other, about politics and his perspective on taking a stand as a religious leader.

There is so much in this conversation my soul already knew, and yet Rabbi Leder puts an honest light on and within these topics that made me hear it all anew.

What a beautiful, beautiful gift during the last days of this Advent season.

I can’t stop thinking about it, my friends.

You can listen by clicking here, then choose episode 45.  

 

XXOO

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 17: It’s Wednesday. How ’bout some tunes?

The management of holiday music is a responsibility I take seriously. I am Director of Entertainment in our marriage, after all, and making sure I make the most of this vital but limited time holiday opportunity matters a great deal to me.

It’s tougher job than you might think.

First, there are all the songs you love because they’ve traveled with you Christmas to Christmas for lo these many years. (Like the entire Kenny Loggins album, December, which is Christmas to me.)

There are the actual classics you have to hear because they actually make Christmas Christmas. (Bing Crosby need I say more.)

Then there is the gigantic wild card of all the new songs/albums recently released.

  • Beloved artists and bands singing new versions of those classics, with enough je ne sais quoi to find their way to The List?
  • Totally new songs that are just, by golly, so good they earn a spot?

Then you have to add to that complicated equation–this.

Where is that music anyway? In the box of albums in the closet? That stack of CDs you never organized or put away last year? Lost in your iTunes library or Amazon Music or some downloaded folder, for heaven’s sake?

Plus this.

Does the daggone CD player even work anymore?

Well friends, I’ve got the solution, and I am happy to share.

The Beloved Spotify playlist.

It’s so easy to create one.

It’s so easy to edit. (If, perchance, you do something, like, say, add one too many Hanson songs.)

It’s so easy to simply hit PLAY.

I’m sharing mine, below, and would be joyful if you find it to your liking and/or want to use it as a starter for your own. I created this curated version from a larger Holiday Playlist in which I included full albums–some of which I am still working my way through. Do let me warn you: TDG HOLIDAY TUNES is a little eclectic and in no particular order, with a bend toward softer and slower but with other stuff thrown in, with very few classic classics since they are everywhereallthetime anyway. (But for Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby, which deserves to be on every holiday playlist allthetime.) I did try to not repeat songs with different artists but I may or may not have been able to accomplish that.

Please enjoy! And please please please–if you’ve got something you just know I should add, please leave me a comment! It’s a big job I’m holding down here, and I’ll take all the help I can get.

XXOO

 

 

#30 Days of Joy

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Day 16: Come Snuggle.

The afternoon turned cold and rainy. So I grabbed the Atlanta girls, a bunch of blankets, a tub of Party Mix, and we all settled in to watch Little Women.

Cozy. Holiday. Perfection.

XXOO

30 Days of Joy

Fun bonus fact: When my grandmother was a young woman–which would have been in the 1920s, she had her middle name legally changed to “Jo” because she so loved the character Jo March from Little Women. How I love her for that.

PSS: I should state for the record we first tried to watch A Christmas Prince (which of course they knew was cult) on Netflix. We could not take it.

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Day 15: Mothers and Daughters

It’s a tradition Rena and Maddie started some 15 years ago, a gathering of moms and daughters for a holiday party all their own. Today the parties continue, reuniting the grade school chums and now including an expanded group of besties brought into Maddie’s life though college, work, grown-up life. This includes Eliza and her roommates, Emily, Hanna and Perri–and all us Moms–each thrilled that accepting the invitation resulted in a subsequent Atlanta apartment sleepover for the eight of us.

Lawsy, did we have fun.

Pregaming at the apartment: Eliza, Deb, me, Hanna, Kelly, Lee Ann, Perri, Emily

 

We Uber-ed north to Alpharetta, where we were ushered into a party filled with warm, fabulous women. There was yummy food, cold Sangria and a wildly competitive Dirty Santa gift exchange!

There was also this homemade photo booth, created in a doorway, complete with lots of great props. Needless to say it was the hit of the party.

 

I’m so stealing this idea.

 

the precious “girls”
the precious moms!

 

On Saturday we ventured to Ponce City Market for brunch.

 

Yay! Maddie and Carly joined us!

There followed shopping, napping, and a rousing game or two of Train Dominoes. (I missed this part due to a wedding, but have it on good authority the fun continued in full force.)

It was a magical weekend that served to remind me how beautiful it is when new people come along, changing the tapestry of our lives. How amazing that these connections–which are so often made in unexpected ways–bring light and laughter. How important it is to remember that of all the gifts, it is friendship that most sustains us.

It is our friends, and the sisterhood thereof, that grounds us, that lifts us, that holds us accountable, that makes us laugh out loud.

What a grand gift. Friends, old and new.

XXOO

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 14: Top-Secret Secrets To Making The World’s Best Chex Party Mix

The holidays roll around and so do the requests for my World Famous Chex Party Mix. Even though I realize it is World Famous only because I am willing to make it, I’ve decided to divulge–right here on The Daily Grace–my biggest Traditional Chex Party Mix making secrets.

Here goes, and this first one is a big one:

FOLLOW THE RECIPE ON THE BOX.

(Seriously.)

 

Except for this.

ADD A GOOD POUR OF CHEERIOS.

 

Plus cheerios. (I do this because my mother did.*)

 

And except for this:

A little less Wheat Chex, because that box doesn’t go as far. And also because people really don’t like the Wheat Chex in there all that much. (Except for Alex, who swears they’re his favorite.)

And except for this:

ADD A LITTLE BIT MORE BUTTER THAN IT CALLS FOR. I’d say 15% or so, because how can more butter be bad?

And this:

I don’t typically use pita chips because those suckers are expensive. I do use good mixed nuts but mess around with the amount depending on if I found them on sale. (Keep an eye out for December discounts on all the ingredients–this can be a big help when you need some volume.)

Also, and this is key:

DO NOT MAKE PARTY MIX IN THE MICROWAVE AS THAT IS AN ABOMINATION AND THE EIGHTH DEADLY SIN.

Make it the way God intended, baked in the oven, low and slow at 250 degrees. Stir every 15 minutes or whenever you remember to, for an hour or maybe an hour +10 minutes.

 

going in

 

DO NOT LET IT BURN. DO let it almost start to brown, thus the +/- 10 minutes.

IMPORTANT NOTES

  1. When you get to the bottom of the cereal bag, do not use the crumbly dregs. They soak up the yummy butter and seasonings and throw off the whole ratio.
  2. Make way more than you think you need. I plan in batches of boxes. By that I mean–one box each of wheat, rice, and corn chex, and part of a box of cheerios (plus the other stuff) will make four batches. You’ll want at least that much to not have to worry about the 10,000 sneaked bites that start the moment the Chex Mix aroma hits your home’s airwaves. Plus you’ll want plenty to share with friends, as hostess gifts, at the office.
  3. And for Christmas morning. We always, always have Party Mix to snack on when we open presents Christmas morning. (Now that I write it down that seems a little strange. Nevertheless.)

It’s what Mom did!

XXOO

*Similarly, please note I am 100% sure bows go at the top of a wreath. I know this because years ago, my mother corrected me on my bow-at-the-bottom hanging methodology. I asked (rather impertinently) how she knew a bow should go at the top. With no hesitation she responded:

“Because Mother said so.”

Oh yes, I do believe!

CATHY’S WORLD FAMOUS CHEX PARTY MIX, BASED ON POSEY’S
3 cups of Corn Chex
3 cups of Rice Chex
2-2.5 cups Wheat Chex
1 cup (ish) of pretzel thins, broken in half, or maybe a half cup, however much you want
1 cup (more or less) of mixed nuts
1 cup bite size bagel chips, broken into bite-size pieces (i usually omit this, although they’re a nice addition)

6 tablespoons butter, plus 1 more for good measure
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips in a big ol’ bowl.
Melt butter, then mix in worchestershire sauce and seasonings.
Toss with cereal mixture. DO THIS GENTLY BUT INSISTENTLY.

Spread on a big roasting pan (I use the one that came with my oven. I like those tall sides.) and bake for 1 hour stirring every 15 or 20 minutes. Then I usually go another 10 minutes or so to be sure it is just getting golden brown. But you have to watch it–you do not want it to burn.

Cool, share and enjoy. And when people say, “This is the best Party Mix ever!”, just give them a big, knowing smile. It is the recipe on the box, after all, with a few secret adjustments.

🙂

 

30 Days of Joy

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Day 13: Bringing Christmas

It is one of the great joys of my life to sing in the choir at Providence Presbyterian Church. But this year, due to an out of town wedding, I won’t be here for our annual Christmas music program.

Tonight I went to rehearsal anyway. But instead of sitting in the choir loft with music and pencil in hand, I moved to the back of the church where I sat and listened.

 

my beloved choir

 

What joy it brought to get to experience the gift of the Advent promise from there.

Here’s a tiny little snip snip for you. (Please pardon the recording quality since at the last minute I decided to grab it as a voice memo on my phone!)

 

 

30 Days of Joy

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Day 3: Putting Up The Dern Tree

It goes like this at our house.

  1. Annual conversation about how tall tree should be even though we have been in the house 10 years and have put said tree in same spot with same ceiling height Every. Single. Year.
  2. Eliza and Tim head out the door with rope and straps and all manner of things required to attach a big Fraser Fir to the top of a big SUV.
  3. Dynamic duo returns home flushed and joy-filled with a big Fraser Fir properly attached to the top of the big SUV.
  4. They unbind it.
  5. (I hear grunting. And laughing.)
  6. In a flurry tree is unloaded and hauled into the living room.
  7. I am called in to oversee proper tree placement and straightening.
  8. (It is clear these two jokers think they can achieve perfection on their own but have come to the conclusion–misguided as it may be–that I represent an impossible standard and it is better for everyone if I am simply humored.)
  9. They string the lights.
  10. I leave them to it as they string the lights.
  11. I go to the kitchen and leave them to it as they string the lights. All the while I visualize the web of wires that will crisscross that tree horizontally and vertically and diagonally and horizontally again by the time this exercise is complete.
  12. They come to the kitchen, delighted. We return to the living room, together. I praise, praise, praise their glorious work.
  13. (I wonder how we will ever manage to place a single ornament lest we hang it from the green light wires.)
  14. They smile at each other, then exit the room.
  15. Where are you going? I ask.
  16. Our part’s done, they say.
  17. No! I say. Decorating is the best part! Come back! 
  18. They ignore me.
  19. Please? I say.
  20. (Silence.)
  21. I’ll make White Russians.
  22. They return but refuse to even lift the lid of ORNAMENT BOX #1 OF 4 until they are each, in fact, holding a White Russian.
  23. Ornament hanging commences.
  24. Dogs Barking Jingle Bells plays in the background.
  25. I itch with every ornament hung.
  26. (Everyone knows the big, shiny balls go in the big, empty spaces and delicate angels go higher on the tree. Plus those precious birds and the yarn basket and the pretty gourds and the sand-in-the-clear ball Suzann made in 1997 go right in front, where I see them from my desk.)
  27. These people.
  28. Twenty minutes in Eliza pronounces That’s enough ornaments. Don’t you think, Mama?
  29. Tim shakes his head agreeably.
  30. I open my mouth to scream IT’S A WONDROUS TIME OF YEAR then spot a Little Drummer Boy who is, in fact, hanging from the lights.
  31. Yes, I say. Yes. You guys go on and I’ll just clean up a bit.
  32. They head for the kitchen and the big oven tray of Party Mix.
  33. I reach for the lid.
  34. ORNAMENT BOX #2 OF 4, here I come.

 

30 Days of Joy

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Day 2: Real.

We were on the road and in need of a quick, late lunch, landing me smack at the front door of the Weaverville Ingles. Hanging right there so festive were long lovely winds of fresh greenery, twists of white pine and fragrant cedar in coils 10 feet long.

I kept walking–my mission grab-and-go from the deli–but I also kept thinking about that garland. It has been my practice to drape the mantel in our keeping room with a pre-lit catalog version I’ve had for many years. There are a thousand reasons: it’s well designed with perfectly placed little bundles of fruit; it is clean and manageable and just the right length; it will not dry out, drop needles, make a mess.

Still something about this possibility took hold of my heart.

Real, live greenery for the mantel.

I grabbed two.

 

 

How pretty it looks. How pleased I am!

 

30 Days of Joy

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Day 1: Gathering

And so it was his birthday, my sweet husband’s, the big 6-0. And his greatest wish was to spend it at our mountain retreat, 5,000 feet of altitude and 200 miles from our regular, beautiful lives.

But we’ll be all alone, I reminded him, something that suits the introvert in me just fine but that might not be what his big extroverted heart actually desired.

And before you knew it our dear Richmond friends agreed to come for the birthday and the holiday, and our precious mountain neighbors said yes to an invitation for turkey dinner, and Eliza and her sweet beau agreed to make the long drive from Atlanta, and Tim’s brother, John–one of the Island Monettis–made plans to fly from Florida to Asheville creating the greatest, most joyful birthday surprise of all.

It has been one beautiful week, that’s my point, one of those times in which you can hardly hold it all, the gorgeous moments coming so fast and furious.

 

Proof John can, in fact, find sunshine anywhere

 

our giddy Thanksgiving crew: Doug, Jim, Tim, Preston, Jessie, Vickie, me, Eliza

 

And then we had this sunrise, one I want you to see and feel and experience with me, one that took my breath away.

 

 

AND SO DAY ONE is a big one, bursting at the seams–a cumulative, week-long celebration of the best things in life: love, and family, and friends, and food; of God’s great reminder, new every day, that every moment offers the chance for great, surprising joy.

30 Days of Joy

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