Day 22: Big Little Things

When it’s the day after the day after Christmas, and the gas logs suddenly won’t light, and the HVAC compressor goes out, and downstairs sewage pump stops pumping.

 

 

And with absolutely no fanfare at all your thoughtful friend walks over and hands you a steaming cup of peppermint tea.

With honey.

 

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 21: The Time After

I woke up this December 26th thinking about the aftermath: the piles of boxes and torn wrapping paper, the dirty dishes, the no-holes-barred-celebratory calories quite literally encircling my waist.

Even my heart felt heavy, the realization coming fast: Today my girl heads back home, to Atlanta.

It’s come and gone too soon, I thought. All those weeks of planning and preparation, and now Christmas has gone too soon.

Then I remembered these words from writer and minister Winn Collier, who put it like this:

Good news to all who woke a bit blue this morning. Christmastide is here! Christmas is a season, not a day. Advent asked us for many days of watching and waiting. Now Christmas asks us for 12 days of joy. Party on. Take time and eat well. Enjoy the ones you love. See good movies. Take walks. Give the kids a little extra space. Pray for peace and goodwill the world over. Save a little gift for a surprise later. In all, thank God for all the joy.

 

 

Light has come.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

 

XXOO

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 20: Merriment and Awe

FIRST COLLEEN ARRIVED, our sweet New York friend here to spend the holidays with us.

Then we dashed through the soft rain to Lisa and Joe’s for some merriment and a house so beautifully decked the Biltmore would stand in awe.

I mean, this is their tree.

 

Yes, it is fifteen feet tall. (And about that wide.)

 

It was a glorious night filled with twinkling lights, cranberry champagne and friends who love each other so dearly laughter rides the air room to room, conversation to conversation, hearts touching in a communion so lovely it fills your soul to the very brim.

Or even overflowing.

 

Trying to corral this crowd.

 

How grateful I am for these bonds, for the love, for the joy of treasured, trusted friends.

 

Colleen and her loves: Ayden, Josie and Julian

 

This right here is all Joey P.

 

Success!

 

AND NOW HERE I AM, on this beautiful Christmas Eve morning, waiting for my dearest love, Eliza, and her sweet love, Preston, to arrive from Charlotte. I send you my heartfelt wishes that your day is filled with all the people you love most, and that this holy holiday brings you the deep peace that comes as we wait in wonder for the Christ child. I leave you with this photo I post every year–and the awe I experienced all those years ago as I made my way through the house turning out the lights late, late on Christmas Eve. I walked in to find our cat, Tiger, had somehow gotten up on the table and positioned himself among the animals at the manger.

 

A Christmas miracle, indeed.

 

30 Days of Joy

 

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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

 

 

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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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