The Eighth Day of Christmas

On the eighth day of Christmas to start the New Year right

I caught up on dirty laundry and made everything clean & bright!

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Starting the New Year off on the right foot is a good thing, at least it feels that way. For weeks as the push for getting everything done for the holidays closed in, everything around the house seemed to be put on the back burner. And I do mean everything.

Nothing got cleaned, nothing got washed, nothing got put away. If people were coming over, I threw clutter in things, under things, or buried them under a stack of presents for camouflage. Dishes were only done when there wasn’t one dish left in the cupboards. Laundry got done only after Hubby threatened to start wearing my underwear if he didn’t get some clean ones of his own. Waste baskets overflowed making it easy to shoot baskets with wadded up tissues because the basket was buried under a mound of already wadded up tissues so the target was three times its original size. And the dust was so thick on the end tables and floor that I dared not put on a ceiling fan for fear of reducing visibility in the great room to zero.

Yep, the house was trashed and I couldn’t stand it, but what could I do. Running away sounded good, but if I ran away, Hubby and the kids would just want to come with me, and then what would I be accomplishing. Ignoring the situation certainly wasn’t an option, not when you’re tripping over piles of papers, wading through baskets full of dirty clothes, and constantly moving stacks of dishes from one spot to another just to find an inch of counter space to pour a glass of milk.

So, what better way to start off a new year than to spend it trying to get caught up on some long overdue house cleaning and laundry that I seriously think could have walked itself to the washing machine. Obviously not everything could get done in one day, but even finishing one load of wash, running the dishwasher one time, and clearing a couch off so we could comfortably sit and enjoy a movie as a family is success in my book.

I’ve got the rest of the year to get caught up and catch my breath, and with any luck maybe I’ll be more organized and prepared for the holidays in 2016 — or not. I don’t think I’ll hold my breath on that one.

Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR to all, even if it is a day late — but heck it is still the new year and when exactly will it become the old one? For now, I’m going to enjoy the smell of a freshly dried towel from the dryer, eat off a clean plate with a clean fork, and yes, put my feet up on my still cluttered coffee table while sitting on my uncluttered couch — and for this I am, Simply Grateful.

The Seventh Day of Christmas

On the Seventh day of Christmas the countdown did begin

To say farewell to last year and see the new one in.

New Year’s Eve through the years has changed from what was once a big deal to something quiet and reflective. The transition was not an easy one to accept at first. Watching as friends and family drifted away, witnessing the kids growing up and getting closer to leaving the nest and starting their own New Year’s Eve traditions, and spending more and more New Year’s Eve countdowns without Hubby around because of the demands of work — have all taken their toll on finding a reason to “celebrate” at year’s end. Continue reading

The Third Day of Christmas

On the third day of Christmas, some candy I did make

And from cooking & cleaning got a break!

The third day of Christmas was spent helping Hubby out at the motel. With how many hours he is away from home, it was nice to spend an entire day with him, even if it had to spent at work. At the end of the day though, Hubby surprised me and took us out to dinner. We don’t go out to dinner very often, probably two or three times a year at most, so an evening without cooking is quite a treat.

Once we were home however, I took advantage of the time I didn’t have to spend cleaning up the kitchen from dinner and made a few candies that I’d not gotten to during the holidays. I made Old-Fashioned Butter Mints and No-Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Drops (both recipes can be found on Simply Grateful Housewife). The peanut butter oatmeal drops could be considered a cookie, but they are so rich and chocolatey, some might consider them a candy.

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Life doesn’t always give us the time we want with those we love, so being able to spend an entire day with Hubby is very special, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The First Day Of Christmas

Most people believe that the twelve days of Christmas begins on December 12th or 13th and ends on Christmas day December 25th, when in fact the first day of Christmas is December 25th and ends January 5th.

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In the spirit of this tradition, I have decided to take these twelve days and make the most of them. The twelve months before Christmas didn’t seem to allow for enough time to get all I wanted from the season or do what I wanted do, so these twelve days are my way to make up for what I missed.

Yesterday, the first day of Christmas (December 25th), I made the most of the day by enjoying every moment with my family. It actually began on Christmas Eve afternoon by sharing some time with my parents and lasted through Christmas Day. Hubby, the kids, and myself spent as much time as we could together, leaving cell phones and computers turned off, concentrating instead on being together.

There were presents, but that isn’t what we focused on. We ate all our meals together, watched holiday movies, listened to Christmas carols, and spent time remembering holidays past. It was wonderful and exactly what the holidays are supposed to be. We each gave of ourselves, making time for each other, and making moments to hold on to for the rest of our lives.

On the first day of Christmas, my family gave to me — Christmas day together merrily.

A Christmas Lesson

Twas just days before Christmas

And so much to do

There’s no time to make merry

This place is a zoo.

With still shopping and wrapping

Not checked off my list

I drove around searching

For presents I’d missed.

The roads were congested

The parking lots too

The store shelves near empty

My choices were few.

I rush down every aisle

And grab what I can

Not thinking about wishes

Or having a plan.

Who cares if they like” was my thought

Or want what they get.

As long as there are presents

They should be all set.”

My shopping cart brimming

With things no one needs

I push on to the checkout

To finish the deed.

The car spilling with presents

I hit the road home

Cutting off angry drivers

As I chat on the phone.

I turn into my driveway

Pop open my trunk

And wonder for a moment

What is all this junk!

Not a bag has a present

That means anything

Not to me or who gets it

No joy will it bring.

Sure these things filled my quota

I checked off my list

But there’s really no reason

Behind all these gifts.

When you buy just to buy

Your heart fills with doubt

You miss out on what Christmas

Is really about.

Yes, a gift can be special

And spread Christmas cheer

But that’s not what’s remembered

The rest of the year.

So this year no boxes

Or wrapping you’ll find

Bought because it’s expected…

No gifts of that kind!

I won’t be checking off lists

or dollars I’ve spent

I’ll reflect on the season…

The joy that I’ve sent.

This heartfelt message to you

And all those you know

Is a lesson on Christmas

And one that should grow.

Make the most of this Christmas

And each new day too

Don’t get caught-up or stressed out

If you haven’t a clue.

There’s no magic in buying

A gift for someone

When you’re heart isn’t in it

To say that you’re “DONE!”

Gifts of guilt, obligation,

or tainted with greed

Have no place in the season

Should be this year’s creed.

Giving time and attention

To family and friends

A Christmas message of love

You really should send.

It’s not presents or cookies

Ornaments or song

That help us to keep Christmas

In hearts all year long.

There’s a feeling at Christmas

That doesn’t compare

To any celebration

Or season we share.

Each day holds new blessings

So hold this thought dear,

Keep the Love that is Christmas

Throughout all the year.

Merry Christmas – Love, Tilly

Why do you buy presents?

Yesterday I got a call from my mother. She was moody, grumpy, and basically annoyed with the world. The reason for her call — to get Christmas gift ideas for the kids. She had spent the entire day before out shopping, looking for things, anything, and still hadn’t spent what she had budgeted for them. In fact, she hadn’t found anything for them other than the one gift idea I gave her for each of them nearly a month ago.

As patiently as I could, I tried telling her that one gift was more than enough and the kids would be grateful for that. She wouldn’t hear of it. She got more and more agitated as we talked and by the end of our conversation, when I had no other gift ideas for her, she was angry. I kept reiterating to her that the dollar amount she spent or how many gifts she had for them really wasn’t the point, but all she managed to scream at me was, “I know it’s not about the gifts, but I need more ideas for what to buy!”

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Okay, so her logic is definitely lost on me, but at the same time, I know I have taken some of her beliefs and lessons that her and my father have instilled in me about Christmas gift giving and been guilty of practicing them over the years. Even this year I found myself stressing about buying gifts for people, wondering if I’d bought enough, wondering if I should buy more, rethinking my decision not to buy presents for my parents because they neither need anything nor appreciate it. Rather than buying gifts, I chose to make them cookies, take them to a concert (not proclaiming however that it was a Christmas gift), and spending time with them. Based on my mother’s materialistic view of gifts, I know she and my father will be hurt and disappointed when they have no gifts to open this year.

After my conversation with my mother, after she flatly hung up on me when I could not supply her with any more “ideas,” I began to scour the stores for gifts for her and my father. Once again I had been sucked into the Christmas gift merry-go-round that is neither fun, nor what I want this season to reflect or be about.

When I buy a gift for someone, I want it to be because I know it is something they are going to love or at least hope they will. I don’t want to go out and arbitrarily buy gifts just so I have something to give someone in return for a gift they are buying me. I don’t want to check off a list that is handed to me and then watch as the recipient checks off their list in their head as they open gifts.

I’m not against buying someone what they want, but I am against being chained to a list. Some of the most wonderful gifts I have received are ones that I never knew I wanted. My good friend Suzanne has especially surprised me with many wonderful gifts, thoughtful gifts, gifts I know that she put a part of herself into and she has truly inspired me to try to do the same with gifts I buy or make.

This phone call from my mother, however, tainted my perspective once again and gave me reason to doubt myself and my gift giving choices. I hate that. My mother has an uncanny way of bringing the worst out in me. It’s not like this holiday season hasn’t already had enough glitches in it with me being sick at the beginning and again now, being too busy or too exhausted to do many of the things that I wanted, forgetting what is truly important during the season, not doing any entertaining, and baking only a few holiday treats to date — why not throw in a little gift-giving guilt to round out the season?!!

So, this morning I sat down and began to write. Now I used to write a lot of poetry when I was younger, but as of late, not so much. I love to write rhyming poems, but a lot of time they seem to turn out childish and don’t stay on point. Today, however, the words flowed, and with few bumps along the way, I managed to put my feelings on paper about gift giving and touch on the holidays in general. If you’re interested, I put it in a separate post titled “The Christmas Lesson.”

Remember, this is the season of compassion, so bear with my poetic attempt.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to you all and I hope your holidays are filled with love and joy and the gifts that you wanted as well as those you didn’t know you did. The holidays are upon us, today and everyday in your heart if you let them, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Another Restaurant Favorite Made At Home

Whenever Hubby finds something he likes at any local restaurant, it becomes a challenge for me to see if I can make it just as good, if not better, at home. This hasn’t really worked out all that well for me, because it pretty much means Hubby doesn’t want to go out to any restaurants because whenever I ask if we can go out he’ll say, “I like your cooking better.”

As nice as it is to hear that, it would be nice on occasion to go out on the town. Still, I just can’t seem to help myself.

A few weeks ago I attempted yet another specialty dish that we could only find at a local restaurant — puffy tacos. I haven’t quite mastered it yet, but Hubby already has crossed going out for these off his list of foods to eat out.

Check out my recipes for Puffy Taco Shells and Homemade Taco/Burrito Seasoning at Simply Grateful Cooking.

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Even though it means that I might not get to go “out” for dinner or lunch, I doubt I’ll ever stop trying to make Hubby’s favorites here at home, it’s just what I do. Thankfully, Hubby does appreciate my efforts, and definitely makes all the effort worth the while, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Preparing For The Holidays — The Days Are Counting Down

Every year preparing for the holidays is a huge deal for me. The house alone goes through a complete transformation that consumes most of my time for more than a month — more like a month and a half. I can’t just decorate a room, I have to completely change it. From the curtains/window treatments to the wall decorations, to every nook and corner being touched by something for the season. Then there’s the baking, cooking, parties, shopping, get-togethers, movies, music, and everything else that makes the holidays special. It’s a labor of love, but some years its overwhelming and more like work than joy.

This year, with everything being set back because of our skunk incident, a huge backlog of canning projects from the garden, cleaning out the garden, and not harvesting the last of our garden until the beginning of November, starting the holiday preparation was set back several weeks.

Then, when Hubby decided to remodel 14 rooms at our motel, I spent two weeks helping strip the old rooms, clean walls and carpets, and then setting up all the new furniture, mirrors, televisions, and pictures. It didn’t seem like this year was going to be a year for decorating or the holidays at all. Plans for dinners, decorating fun, caroling, Christmas parties, shopping trips, and everything else that always was part of the “JOY” of Christmas for me, hung like a dark cloud above my head. The pit of my stomach ached with dread just thinking about everything that needed to be done.

Finally, in between trying to keep up with laundry, cleaning the house, the kids activities and needs, making meals, and trying to maintain my sanity, I did manage to begin the process of decorating. Honestly though, the process was not fun. All the while I kept stressing about being so far behind, wondering if I’d ever get it done in time to invite friends and family over, and practically giving up every time something went wrong — and lots went wrong.

The first tree I put up took me two days to fix the lights. I burned a hole in the new drapes I made for the great room door wall when I ironed them. I blew two plugs because I didn’t follow my own rules on lights allowed per plug. Every time I turn on my villages at least two houses go out so I change the bulbs, but then another goes out. And then the unspeakable happened…I hung one of my most prized decorations, a portrait of Santa, above the mantel and ten minutes later it came crashing to the ground, shattering the glass, splitting the frame at all four corners, scratching Santa’s face, and leaving several gouges on the print.

At this point I knelt among the shards of glass and began to cry. Hubby and Grace both came running, but there was nothing they could do. Although this portrait was not my oldest decoration, it was one of my favorite and one that I bought during a dark time in my family’s life that symbolized hope for a brighter future. The crumpled frame, shattered glass, and damaged picture all mirrored how I felt about the upcoming holiday season–broken. For several days I avoided doing any decorating, leaving boxes scattered everywhere, decorations strewed all over the floor, the basement completely in upheaval, the house a total mess. Yep, I had a holiday meltdown and it wasn’t even December.

For some reason this holiday season felt like a job, not the “Most Wonderful Time Of Year” that I thought it should. Everything I touched seemed to break or lose it’s luster. I felt no joy, no excitement, no childlike anticipation as I had for so many years. And the worst part was that for the first time since my grandmother died in 1999 I could not feel her presence as I decorated. My grandparents were my inspiration for going to such lengths to transform my home every year into a Christmas Wonderland and even after my grandmother died, I could feel her with me as I decorated my home. I’m not sure if it’s because my grandfather passed away this past July and now that they have been reunited, they are both decorating up in heaven finally leaving me for good or if the stress that has plagued our home for the past several months is just taking its toll, but this season started out very hard.

Hubby and Grace both went to great lengths to find a replacement for my portrait, to no avail. The artist no longer paints and the limited edition print was not to be found. Hubby did manage to clean out the broken glass, glue the frame back together and fix the picture as best as he could. I plan on trying to hang it again tomorrow and under the majestic glow of Christmas lights I hope the flaws in the print will not be noticeable.

Eventually I pulled myself together and began to push forward on the decorating front. The house is decorated, as decorated as I plan on making it. The only thing left to do is put the ornaments on the family Christmas tree in the great room. Hubby, Grace and Zeb all helped start that process this afternoon and even if not another ornament gets hung, it’s perfect.

Hubby sat down with me today to talk about the holidays and what plans we have. We agreed we need to step back and rethink the season. Although I definitely enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holidays, perhaps the hustle and bustle from the past several months just burned me out and now is the time to recoup a bit. Hubby suggested we get through the holidays as stress-free as possible and then have people over. He even said to leave the decorations up until we’re done celebrating, why feel tied down by dates on the calendar.

Sometimes having someone acknowledge your feelings is all it takes to pull you out of a rut. With his words, Hubby took the pressure off of me to make this holiday season “perfect.” He gave me back the perspective I’d lost on why I love this time of year and what is truly important.

Tonight I took the kids and Bell to an outdoor mall and we walked among thousands of Christmas lights, listening to holidays music, drinking Starbuck’s holiday drinks, and wishing all we saw a Happy Holiday. Then when we got home Grace and I did holiday facials and made plans to make homemade candy and cookies TOGETHER next week.

A lot of the time during the holidays it seems like all I’m doing is working to get everything done for the holidays…counting the days. December 1st begins the final countdown and flies by. Not this time. I am really going to try to enjoy the rest of December and make the most of every day in the coming year with my family and friends. Christmas is a state of mind, not a time of year, and I need to remember this always, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Year of the Skunk

Every year I add an ornament to our tree. To be fair, I actually add more than one, but at the very least, one new ornament must be added. This ornament can be our traditional family ornament, an ornament that I couldn’t pass up at the store, one that is gifted to us, or an ornament that signifies something that happened during the past year.

Back in October I was just getting back into the swing of blogging, catching up on posts that had been piling up, looking forward to new possibilities, ready to really make an effort to posting regularly again. Then, the unspeakable happened…Bell got skunked!

I know this is not something earth-shattering or life-changing, but here in our house, it was unbelievably horrid. Having a dog get skunked is a common occurance out in the country, but living in a subdivision with more than 1100 houses and very little open area for wildlife, this is not the case. So when Bell was let out at 9 o’clock at night, no one thought twice about it. When Bell came trotting back to the door (actually she was cowering with her tail between her legs, but Grace didn’t pay attention to this–a mistake she will never make again), the door was opened and she bolted in.

Now normally I would think if you noticed something was off when your dog comes back into the house, especially in the “smell” department, you’d immediately send that dog back outside. Not at our house. What did Grace do? Well, in her infinite wisdom she called upstairs to me, who was comfortably nestled in bed preparing to work on a blog post, and told me to call Bell because she thought she smelled funny.

I knew better than to call Bell, but upon hearing the word “upstairs” Bell ran as fast as she could through the kitchen, the dining room, the great room, up the stairs, through the hallway, and into my room. Bell is a very athletic dog, so bounding from the door right onto my bed was no problem.

Anyone who has had a pet skunked can attest to the fact that the smell that accompanies this wonderful act is awful. The smell is not like the smell you’re used to when you smell a skunk off in the distance when sitting on your porch enjoying the coming night. Not even close. The smell is far more concentrated, like multiplied by 100.

Well, Bell jumped right onto my bed and proceeded to roll on her back in submission, which spread skunk oil all over my bedding. Needless to say, I was not happy. I screamed for Grace and we got Bell back out of the house. Of course this was not before she ran from room to room, trying to avoid being put outside, laying down on the carpet in each room she had to go through, until I finally had to pick her up, hold her tight against me, and throw her outside.

Now, skunk smell is not one of those odors that you can just wash away. No, this smell has to wear out and for some reason is not necessarily just where the oil might have touched. The smell gets into the woodwork, every piece of material/clothing (including in shut closets), leather (including furniture, shoes, coats, and accessories), wall paper, and furniture (including wood). Yep, that stench gets into every nook and cranny in your house.

The first couple of days we were lucky enough to have some fairly mild weather so we had every window and door open trying to air out the house. Every piece of clothing had to be washed (my clothes from that night were thrown out), all bedding had to be cleaned, and all drapes and valances had to be taken down, washed and hung to dry.  I didn’t dare put anything in the dryer because all of our appliances for some reason seemed to ooze of skunk smell, so my clothes line did double time.

My bedding, like the clothes I had on the night Bell was skunked, was a lost cause. After two weeks of airing it out, washing it countless times, and spraying it with every type of air freshener/odor eliminater I could find, we tossed it. And I eventually had to buy a plastic mattress cover, one of those made to put on mattresses with bed bugs, to contain the smell that would not go away. As for the new mattress pad I had just bought a week prior to this happening, well that too had to be tossed.

Airing out the house helped a bit, but the smell in the carpets, walls, and furniture seemed to intensify. For the next two weeks I washed walls, floors, carpets, furniture, and tried my best to get our house back in order. The smell slowly dissipated, but it wasn’t until mid-November that I can honestly say you could walk through our house without the faint smell of skunk lingering about.

The smell on Bell however is a different matter. She has had more baths in the past six weeks than her entire four years of life. She’s been washed in tomato juice, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, peroxide, mouthwash, watered down bleach, and even the professional skunk removing shampoos sold at pet stores. Still, the smell prevails. It’s certainly not what it was, and some days, she actually smells okay, but the moment she gets the least bit damp from rain or even walking through the frost on the grass, the smell comes back.

Bell is an indoor dog. We have no option of keeping her outside. So when she comes back in the house smelling worse because of rain or snow, the smell lingers. Blankets need washing and furniture needs wiping down. It’s as if I have a full time job of trying to keep down the skunk smell in our house.

Everything was in upheaval for more than a month, setting everything back. But, it has now been nearly a month and half since this happened and things are beginning to get back to as normal as normal can be around here. I’ve almost finished decorating the house for Christmas, I’ve started my Christmas shopping, I’ve finally gotten back into trying new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the holidays.

Black Friday, Grace and I went out for our annual day after Thanksgiving shopping trip. While we were out, we bought our annual family ornament, but when I came across this little ornament at Joann’s, I knew I had to buy it.

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As much as I would love to forget our whole “SKUNK INCIDENT,” that is just not going to happen, so why not have a little fun with it. Everyone who comes into our house this holiday season will have to bear with me and endure a regaling of Bell getting skunked, Grace letting her into the house and sending her up to my room, and the process of trying to get the smell out.

I can say without hesitation that this has been the worst experience of owning a dog to date, but at least we can laugh about it now, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Where Does The Time Go?

I cannot believe it has been more than a month since my last post. It has been so very busy this past month and blogging is not the only aspect of my life that has been neglected.

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Between the garden, canning, remodeling Zeb’s room, cleaning out the clutter in the basement, and getting the kids back into some sort of routine with the onset of school again, it has been a challenge just to get dinner on the table and laundry on the line.

I have a journal with lists of posts for each of my blogs that need to be done and I can’t even look at it. It is far too overwhelming how many posts I am behind on. Simply Grateful Canning alone has at least 30 posts that I am behind on, not to mention all the gardening updates for Simply Grateful Gardener that I never got to and the new recipes (albeit few) that have piled up and are waiting to be shared on Simply Grateful Cooking.

At this point, trying to play catch-up seems pointless because my posts won’t be timely. Still, I did finally go take a look at how many hits I got while not posting, and the traffic was actually fairly consistent. People find my posts by Googling subjects that I write about click on the links. I guess how timely I am won’t really matter in the long run if it’s there when someone is looking for it at another time. Dealing with the no-blogging guilt however is another matter.

This morning I did finally make a post on Simply Grateful Gardener updating my pepper progress — Summer In The Pepper Mines. It gives a little insight as to what my time has been consumed with this past month and what continues to plague me.

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For now, I am going to try to get back into this by setting aside at least an hour a day to make a post of some sort and get back into the groove. I have missed this and have missed reading blogs as well.

My first post in more than month — for this I am — Simply Grateful.