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.




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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.


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.


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:




Except for this.



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:


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.


  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!


*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!

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!)



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Day 12: For Those Who Still Believe

I’ve known of the project for a while–he spent months and months and months working on it, and once completed, invited us over for our first viewing.

It is an incredible work of art. Tim and I marveled at his imagination, his ingenuity, his skill. My brother had built this North Pole Village, you see, built it in his dining room, complete with ice skaters and a ski slope and all the things with no kit or instructions or anything, really, but a great curiosity to figure it out.

So happy he did!

but a small slice of the entire thing
uh oh. skater down!
William, making a little adjustment


(Yes, that’s The Polar Express train circling through the village!)


30 Days of Joy


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Day 10: Ye Olde Town

To up the JOY factor we gathered my brother, William, and took a (cold) holiday stroll

through the streets and lights of Old Town St. Augustine.

Then a festive dinner at the Columbia Restaurant

where we drank Sangria, ate too much really, really good food

and told lots and lots of old stories.

It was fun!


(*Pardon the blurry photo. Too joyful not to share.)

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Except where we are. IN FLORIDA. During the most exciting snow event EVER.

Still how can I complain? I spent the six-hour drive south yesterday watching every snow video and clicking through the snow photos from every person I love and every person I follow all across the interwebs.


And then this morning, as I sat here looking out at the cold, wet Palm Trees, these beauties arrived on my phone from my lovies, Emily and Eliza, in Atlanta. They’d foregone their beloved Sleep-in Saturday time to get outside and PLAY.



That there, my friends, is some December snow joy!


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Day 8: Just Exactly Perfect.

It’s a lovely and mind-boggling thing to watch your children become people–and by that I mean grownups with lives all their own, often lived in faraway cities. You feel great pride in watching their growth, their maturity, their learning to deal with all the incoming of daily life as they stand independent from you.

But it’s also a weird thing to spend much of the holiday season simply waiting for them to return home.

(Now I understand my own mother’s sentiments when I’d walk in her door after making the long six-hour drive to Virginia. “You’re here,” she’d say. “Now Christmas can begin.” Internally I’d roll my eyes a little, thinking she was being just a tad dramatic. I mean, there were 4000 Santas in her little den alone. Clearly Christmas had taken up residence.)

Oh do I get it now.

Still the point I meant to make as I sat down to write Day 8 is the joy my heart felt when this photo scrolled by on Instagram.



This is Maddie’s tree. Sweet, sweet Maddie, a dear friend of Eliza’s who lives in a tiny, tiny one room apartment in the city. I looked at this little tree with its white lights and star and felt the joy of simple things, of small spaces and kind gestures, of how awesome it can be when there is, in fact, less. Not more.

It’s just exactly perfect, this tree. Don’t you think?

About the time I hit the LOVE button on Instagram a ping popped on my phone. My own Eliza had sent a video of her three roommates running across a gigantic intersection with a long skinny bundle under their arms. (You have never heard such giggling.)

We just bought a real Christmas tree! she wrote.


Hanna and the star


I don’t know where they got the ornaments, or the tree skirt, or the star, but I know it makes me immensely happy that those four lovies have brought the spirit of the holidays to their apartment. It was a well considered decision, I am quite certain, as living in Atlanta requires each of them to budget well.

And so all of us–all the Moms and Dads and Grands and Aunties and Uncles–all of us are waiting, watching, counting the days until the planes land or the buses stop or the cars pull in the drives, counting the moments until those we love most come home.

And then it will be Christmas.



30 Days of Joy


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