Tis the Season

It is the last day of November, and I experienced a first today. My house is completely decorated for Christmas. It is the earliest I have ever accomplished this task. I don’t know what happened!

Here is a pictorial trip through my house with some of the highlights and a peek at what’s new this year.

Aunt Annie’s red box on the porch. The metal luminary with the Joy & Cheer cutout out is new this year.

I love including vintage pieces and family treasures in my decor, like Great Aunt Roxie’s little red wooden foot rest, flipped upside down to hold fabric trees and mason jars.

Vintage poinsettia dish grouped with Dayan’s first Christmas photo shoot (he’s 18 years old now), an antique ceramic candle holder, a tiny early 1900s Christmas card that I framed, and a flea market white tree I bought several years ago. Even the ceramic polar bear is getting old, a Bath & Body promotional piece from 2009.

The Snowman Village, featuring the framed snowman artwork. Greg’s brother, Ray, who passed away 15 years ago, drew this dapper snowman as a child. I framed it last year. The wooden sieve is one of my favorite vintage pieces. It gets new vignettes throughout the year.

An eclectic mix of snowmen and light. The brightly glowing square glass box, filled with miniature lights, was given to me by my friend Beth years ago. Every Christmas I replace the string of lights within it, plug it in, and leave it shining brightly until the little bulbs burn out…about late March. It is a beacon of friendship and hope.

My grandfather’s WWII army trunk now holds vintage quilts, little Christmas trees, metal stars and a trio of mason jars with tea lights tucked inside.

The ceramic nativity set was made by Greg’s mother Leta more than 60 years ago. The wooden shoes on the shelf below were a gift to my mom from her uncle when he returned from the second world war. She was five years old. She wore them, as did my sisters and I, and my children and grandchildren.

The rustic wooden box in my bedroom gets a simple and homey redo. The ceramic bird came in from my front porch, where it perched all summer. I like to mix in everyday items with my Christmas decor as well.

Silvers and golds, with touches of blue and brown, in the old battered suitcase. When Greg’s dad and his brother sold their parents’ home after they passed, they included all the contents of the house in the sale. Prior to the completion of the sale, I asked for permission to run inside before the house was locked up, and get one item. I grabbed this suitcase from a bedroom closet. It was full of old photos.

I am really pleased with this new display. The cross-stitched silhouettes were made by my mom in the 70s. Their original frames had fallen apart. I found the stitched works of art again today, and purchased new frames for them. Look how cute they are with the tartan plaid scarf and plaid Christmas tree! The display sits atop a chest that is more than 150 years old. My mother’s great grandmother traveled by covered wagon with this chest, which Greg restored for me eight years ago.

Also newly on display, this embroidery piece that reminds me of a snowflake. I found this still in its embroidery hoop, with the needle pushed through the fabric, in a drawer at Leta Moore’s house. She never quite finished it. The fabric balls were in the same drawer.

Another fresh piece, this one a vintage card tucked into an old copper-look frame. This is the fifth vintage card I’ve turned into art. I would rather display them than forget about them, tucked into a drawer somewhere.

The last photo, posted below, is of the vintage wooden ironing board that I recently set up in my studio. It has a festive green plaid scarf thrown over it, and a couple of little vignettes displayed on its wooden surface. The antique porcelain doll, from the late 1800s, has taken up residence in my studio for the first time. She is sharing space with a fabric tree made by Leta Moore and a couple of Kirkland purchases from last year. I found the gingerbread house, trees and man at Michaels a couple of weeks ago.

I not only love this time of year, I love being creative and using a mix of old and not so old, Christmas decor and everyday items. Every piece tells a story. I enjoy walking through my house, and hearing those narratives. Love, hope, survival, and family are the themes that thread those those tales, weaving a rich and varied tapestry.

Tonight the candles are lit throughout my home for the first time this season. It won’t be the last. How homey and festive and full of cheer it looks and feels. Tis the season…

Creating a Collectibles Display

I completed the Christmas decorating today. Photo blog post will be up tomorrow. This evening, as I finished the last project, before decorating the Christmas tree, I decided to capture the steps via pics, and show how easy it is to create fun displays of collectibles.

I enjoy transforming my house during the holidays, with every tabletop and shelf holding decor. I create Christmas vignettes in old suitcases, a vintage wooden sieve and rustic wooden boxes. Using what I already have on hand makes the experience a creative…and fun…challenge.

Here is the step by step process of grouping collectibles together, using on hand objects for the display. In this case, this is my Christmas mug collection that I began in the late 70s when Greg’s mom gifted me with two mugs she made when her boys were small. From that beginning a sizable collection has grown as I add to it each year.

Start with an area large enough to hold the collectibles and one that is secure from pets or small children, if the items are breakable. For my mugs, I clear a shelf in the living room armoire that houses the tv. This shelf will continue to work for me for another year or two. Then I’ll begin using the top of the armoire as well.

The fun begins. Depth and height add interest and help to create visibility for the items. I use risers to add varying heights to the display area, so as to best showcase the mugs. I could buy risers. However, I’ve discovered an easy alternative. I use small empty cardboard boxes. The boxes for some of my Christmas items work well and the empty Christmas tree light boxes are the perfect size.

Arrange and/or stack the box risers to create varying heights. Taller items will go in the back, working toward shorter items in the front, making a tiered look.

Hide the boxes under fabric. Again, I use what I have on hand. These linens were picked up previously in yard sales or flea markets. If I find a placemat, tablecloth or napkins that can serve multiple purposes at sales or second hand shops, I pick them up. Boxes are covered. I am ready to begin placing mugs.

This is the creative play part. Try different arrangements, moving items around until the effect is pleasing. This is the part that is so fun to me. It is my display, so I am the one who decides whether I like the results or need to play with it more. Larger, taller mugs go in the back. I fill in gaps with smaller mugs as I go.

Don’t be afraid to adjust as necessary. I realized I needed to create more height in front of the back row. Books make great risers too! I chose a thicker volume, and a thinner paperback.

The books go beneath the little white tablecloth. Now I can play some more, until I am pleased with the results.

This personalized Santa mug, and the rosy cheeked snowman mug behind it, started my collection. Greg’s mom made the mugs in the late 1950s and gave them to me in 1977.

And this adorable Christmas owl mug is this year’s addition. He came from Cracker Barrel. Each of the mugs in my collection has a note tucked inside or a sticker on the bottom, with the date and place purchased written on it.

The completed display. I love my Christmas mugs. Setting them up is fun…and it allows me to remember where each mug came from. There are yard sale finds in the collection and very inexpensive mugs. Those remind me of the Christmases when my children were young and money was tight. To have more to spend on them, I spent very little on things like Christmas mugs. And yet, these are precious memories of doing for my kids and buying a little something for myself. Someday the kids will deal with a collection that is twice this size, I hope, and mutter to themselves…”Why didn’t one of us stop her?!”

That’s how easy it is to create a collectibles display. Soon I’ll add a post detailing how to create a vignette, using items already available.

Happy decorating!

Giving Tuesday 2017

I’m getting a very late start on my blog post tonight, due to a full day. However, I paused long enough to honor the day, which is Giving Tuesday, and make donations to the organizations of my choice.

Giving Tuesday, also referred to as #givingtuesday, is an international day set aside for donating funds or time to charities and organizations around the world.

This special day, which is always observed the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was created in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation.

I learned about #givingtuesday in 2015, and it has become a yearly event for me. I typically celebrate Thanksgiving with family, and devote focused awareness on gratitude. I sometimes participate in Black Friday. This year I did. I sometimes participate in Cyber Monday. This year I did. Since learning of Giving Tuesday, I have always participated.

Here are the recipients of my donations this year:

BlinkNow – Created and run by 31 year old Maggie Doyne, this organization is in its 10th year. Traveling after high school graduation, Maggie was deeply touched by the children in Nepal, who were living in destitution. With her savings of $5000, Maggie began to care for children who were without parents, homes, education, medical care and basic necessities. In 10 years she has built a children’s home, a school, and a women’s center, and her organization provides necessities, education and medical care. Maggie is Mom and guardian to 50 children.

Check out BlinkNow HERE.

TOGETHER RISING – founded by blogger, author and activist Glennon Doyle, this organization began through Glennon’s blog, Momastery. Women began reaching out in tangible ways to help each other. Today Together Rising restores hope by helping women and families in crisis and by responding immediately to disasters around the world by raising and sending funds and necessities.


World Vision – this Christian based organization has created programs that benefit children, families and communities in need, around the world. They offer child sponsorships, medical and school supplies, food, sustainable living by way of seeds, fruit trees and farm animals, clothing and clean water.

Learn more about World Vision HERE.

Haven of Hope Rescue Foundation and Carthage Humane Society – both of these organizations aid animals by rescuing dogs (Carthage rescues other animals as well), and helping to place them in foster homes and ultimately into forever homes by way of adoption.

Haven of Hope, based in the Oklahoma City area, has saved hundreds of dogs since 2009. Check them out HERE.

And Carthage Humane Society has been in operation since 1948. Their mission is to provide a safe haven for animals in their care and aid in finding suitable homes for those pets. Find out more about them HERE.

Of course, donations and the volunteering of time and services can, and should, take place year round. I am grateful though, in the midst of this busy holiday time, that there is a special day for focusing on those people and organizations that live the giving lifestyle 24/7. These people and groups are making a difference in the world. Our attention and awareness, our funds, our time, supports them in their efforts.

And that is such a good thing. That’s #givingtuesday. Together we can change the world.

Movie Review: Justice League

My sister Linda and I enjoyed an afternoon movie yesterday. The new release, Justice League, has been on our list of movies to see for a couple of weeks. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to take in this fun film from the DC Comic universe.

Justice League features Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Henry Cavill, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, and CiarĂ¡n Hinds. This action adventure film was directed by Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon. The movie has a PG-13 rating, for intense action and violence, and has a run time of 2 hours.

Shortly after the death of Superman (Cavill), alias Clark Kent, the world tips into shadow. For Lois Lane (Adams) and Clark’s mother, Martha (Lane), it is a time of grieving for the man both loved. For Bruce Wayne (Affleck), Batman’s alter ego, there is remorse and regret, and a recognition of the sacrifice Superman made. He is also acutely aware of how desperately the world needs the man from Krypton.

Because a powerful enemy has returned to Earth, to claim the mother boxes denied to him eons ago. These three cubes, which emit a destructive energy, were separated after Steppenwolf (voiced by Hinds) was driven from the earth by a unified force of heroes…Amazons, Aquarians, men and legends of old. Two of the boxes have been guarded for thousands of years by the Amazons and the Aquarians. The men of that time buried the third box to protect it, and it has only recently been discovered again. The current generation has no knowledge or remembrance of what the box is.

Batman and Wonder Woman, also called Diana (Gadot), agree that they need help to combat this new threat. The boxes have awakened since Superman’s death, and they have called Steppenwolf back to Earth. He has transformed humans into a legion of demon like creatures. His intention is to destroy the planet.

Bruce and Diana separate to recruit three meta humans that they are aware of: Aquaman (Momoa), also called Arthur, who is an Aquarian living in the sea, a young man named Barry (Miller) who is called The Flash because of his ability to move extremely quickly, and another young man named Victor (Fisher), who is struggling to adjust after a horrific accident. His scientist father used the energy from one of the cubes, in an attempt to save his life. Victor was spared, but he is forever changed, more machine, or Cyborg, than flesh.

The five form an uneasy alliance. Each has something to overcome, a darkness within to purge before they can trust each other and save humanity from a greater darkness without. In the end, will they be enough? Is it possible that the same energy that saved Victor’s life, even while transforming him, might bring back the one hero they most need right now?

This was another exciting, action packed, super hero movie. Like its counterparts in the Marvel universe, the Justice League film was liberally laced with humor. The millennial Flash, with his many phobias, provides the most comic relief. However, all of the heroes got to reveal their comedic side. And dear Alfred (Irons), Batman’s faithful butler, father figure and longtime friend, anchors everyone while feeding them vital information.

There were moments when tears filled my eyes as well. These are flawed heroes, after all, learning as they journey. Batman is aging, and as as the only hero without a superpower, other than his ability to afford high end technology, he wonders how much longer he can keep up. Most have lost someone, or lost part of themselves. This movie is as much about the personal transformations of the members of the League, as it is about figuring out how to unite as a cohesive team.

For that reason, I enjoyed this film immensely. The new team members…Aquaman, Cyborg and Flash were welcomed additions and I look forward to their solo movies that will reveal more of their stories.

I have always been a Superman fan. As a child, the Man of Steel, with his pure heart, was my absolute favorite. I am glad to see him back. Batman has truly transitioned into the Dark Knight, but with a stronger desire to defend the helpless. He has become a more complex, and therefore, more interesting character. And this new Wonder Woman has at last captured my appreciation for her character. She is a Warrior with strong leadership qualities. I look forward to her further development.

Lois Lane delivers a great epilogue at the end of the film. “The truest darkness is not absence of light…but the belief that the light will never return. But the light always returns. Hope is real.” That’s the power of the Justice League, and of all good stories. The light wins. Hope is restored.

United, these guardians are so much stronger than they could be as individuals. The group hero pose toward the end of the movie was ever so satisfying…and promising. I await the next movie with anticipation.

The Gift of Gratitude

Today concludes a week of focused attention on gratitude, the high frequency feeling of thankfulness. I was inspired to spend this week thus, because of Thanksgiving. Rather that spend a day saying “thank you”, I chose to be mindful of the large and small blessings in my life during the days before and after this national holiday. That desire created a beautiful, soulful week.

My gratitudes this past week were expressed for major blessings, such as family, health, a plant based lifestyle, business, creativity, writing and the life expanding gift of travel.

And my days were full of gratitude for the small things: fall flowers, the beauty of nature, laughter, meeting new people, scoring bargains, finding the perfect Christmas tree, a fun movie with my sister (review tomorrow), and the many nods, winks and love notes from the Divine that assures me that my trust is well placed and my life path true.

It truly has been a joy filled week. And because my attention has been focused on gratitude, I have found much to be grateful for. It is more than appreciation for people and things and experiences. It is also the awareness that gratitude has the power to shift me, and shift my perceptions of the world.

It is difficult to be anxious, sad, indignant, judgmental or angry when I am counting my blessings. Beyond appreciation, gratitude has fostered fun, thoughtfulness, peace, kindness and compassion.

Robert Holden wrote, “The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”

I have found that to be true this week. I’ve looked at the world differently, aware of all the gifts I have been given. In that state of mindfulness, there is no room for mentally shuffling through incidents from the past or projecting into the future. Noticing my blessings keeps me grounded in the present, as my life unfolds moment by moment.

The Week of Gratitude is over, however, I am continuing to cultivate this virtue. And the prayer I whisper all day long truly is thank you.

O Christmas Tree

A simple gratitude post this evening, for a simple joy, bringing home this year’s Christmas tree. Today I packed up the fall decor. This evening, tabletops and shelves are empty, blank canvases awaiting creativity. Tomorrow the Christmas boxes get unpacked.

With temperatures in the 60s this afternoon, it was the perfect time to pick out my Christmas tree at Lowe’s Garden Center. No coat, hat or gloves were required. No shivering in the cold as I sorted through trees. I am grateful for such a gorgeous day and a pretty little fresh Fraser Fir.

I have always preferred a real Christmas tree. While I see the benefits of having an artificial tree, I love the earthy scent of a fresh tree and the feel of soft needles as I decorate. At one time Greg and I cut our own tree each Christmas. It is much easier and quicker to select one that has already been cut at a Christmas tree farm. Selecting a tree at Lowe’s is my yearly tradition.

The only thing that has changed over the years is the height of the tree. I used to purchase a seven foot tree. Then I downsized to one close to six feet. Now, my tree is in the five to six foot range. They are easier to handle, at this size, and easier to decorate as well. They still smell just as fragrant.

Lowe’s always has a great selection of Fraser Firs and Douglas Pines, in a variety of sizes.

I make careful considerations: Not too skimpily branched. No glaring empty spots. Nice shape. Not to big around. Greg stood trees up as I selected them so I could view them from all angles. Tree number three was perfect!

The attendant in the garden center made a fresh cut at the base and wrapped the tree in netting. They always have a bin of cuttings, free for the taking. I bring home green pine boughs, to use on the front porch.

I am full of gratitude for a mild sunny day in late November, fresh, aromatic Fraser Fir trees, Lowe’s Garden Center with its kind helpers, my friend Mike for the use of his truck, and Greg’s assistance in getting my sweet smelling tree home.

Tonight the tree is relaxing in its spot in my living room, drinking in cool water. It is as yet unadorned. However its scent wafts to me every time I walk by or enter the room.

Tomorrow, I decorate.

“O Christmas tree, O Christmas, how lovely are thy branches…”

Black Friday Fun

To many, being grateful for Black Friday may seem crazy. I am though…grateful, that is, not crazy. Do I care what other people choose to believe? Nope. Not only did I save money…I had fun…met new people…shared in an adventure…laughed…and got to order something I’ve been wanting for a while.

I hear all kinds of negatives about this day. And people are certainly entitled to their opinions. I choose not to be negative, even though I don’t always go out and participate. As one who worked in retail prior to real estate, I know how crucial this day can be to businesses, especially small, locally owned shops. For many, their business surviving the next year is dependent on this day and the holiday season. And for people with limited funds, their hard earned cash goes farther when they can take advantage of deep discounts.

And for some, the thrill of the hunt is plain fun for them. My sister Debbie and niece Ashley excel at finding bargains. For me, I don’t typically shop on Thanksgiving Day, or stand in line in the dark before stores open at 5:00 am. I wait until noonish to venture out, if I have a reason for shopping. However those who enjoy Black Friday shopping and make an adventure out of it or create a family tradition around it…you go…and have fun.

My own adventure was precipitated by the need for a new blender. Mixing a fruit smoothie daily, plus additional heavy use since going plant based, has killed off my ancient blender. It was time for a new one. I purposefully waited until today to purchase one, sure I could get a great deal. I was not wrong! With the Black Friday sale at Kohl’s, plus a coupon I had received by mail, plus $30 Kohl’s bucks to spend later, I bought a top of the line $199.99 Ninja Blender for $105.99. I am so excited to create with this awesome kitchen appliance!

Also at Kohl’s I purchased six other items, spending $41.27 for items that normally would have totaled $159.08. My total saving today at Kohl’s: $211.81. That’s awesome…and certainly something to be grateful for. But the best part of being at that store today? Standing in line with positive, joyful people that I had never met before.

I started my shopping at noon. Apparently others had the same idea about beginning later in the day. The store was packed and lines stretched to the back of the store. You know what? If you are going to shop on Black Friday you’d better just be prepared to stand in line and make the best of it. Of the hundreds of people I encountered, I only heard two shoppers complain. Shhhh…they were both males.

The two ladies in front of me in line and the one behind me were of like minds. We decided we might as well have fun while we waited. Our thoughts create our reality. So guess what? We had a blast. We chatted like old friends. We told stories. We held the place in line for each other and took turns darting to displays to pick up something else. I grabbed a sweater in the right size for one of my new friends. She tried it on and asked how she looked. She looked beautiful. The staff at Kohl’s did a great job at managing crowds and had every register open with two sales associates per check out. Cheers to all of them!

The woman in front of me, who had an adorable little daughter with her, shops Black Friday sales out of necessity. Her money goes farther. She can spend less and accomplish more. The woman behind me was elderly. She was purchasing clothing for herself. Same motivation. Her limited funds can do more. This is a yearly event for her, when she buys essentials for herself.

Greg, who had dropped me at the door, came into the store to find me. One of the ladies waved him over and called out, “She’s making new friends!” She was right. Cheers too, to Greg, who had a wonderful cheerful attitude as well and chose to make it a fun afternoon.

Back home, I went online and picked out this little beauty for me, from Boho Style, at a $20 savings. Check it out HERE. This silver feather ring has significance for me, and I was deeply touched that it popped up on my newsfeed today. More about that later. Let me just say this was a playful wink from the Divine.

And then another delightful surprise. I’ve been wanting to order the Ancestry DNA kit and have my DNA tested. I know I am primarily Scottish, Irish and English. Or am I? I can trace my Lauderdale roots back to Lauder, Scotland. But lots of families have married into the Lauderdale line down through the centuries. Where did they originate? I am so excited to get a map of my heritage.

I intended to order the kits last Wednesday, one for me and one for Greg, as our children will then have a complete heritage background. Normally $99 each, the kits were on special for $79. I use a special loadable debit card for online purchases, for security reasons. When I went to load my card Wednesday, the lines were long and I had cooking to do at home. I decided to wait until today to order. Today through Monday…Black Friday through Cyber Monday…the Ancestry DNA kits are reduced to $59 each. I purchased three, including one for my college aged grandson. Savings: $120. More gratitude…more joy…great excitement!

As a bonus, I joined Ancestry.com. I am in the process of transferring the info in my overstuffed-pages falling out-genealogy notebook into Ancestry’s easy to use online family tree system. I am already discovering more valuable info.

What an incredibly fun day. How tender my heart feels for those who dared to shop today, whatever their reasons for doing so. How empathetic I feel towards those working today. I worked Black Fridays in retail for years, alongside Greg and all three of my children. We can tell stories that make listeners laugh, shake their heads…or cry.

Today, I saved a total of $351.81 by shopping Black Friday sales, both in stores and online. Monday is Cyber Monday. I already have items waiting in a shopping cart on Amazon. I expect to save big there too.

And Tuesday? That day is Giving Tuesday, a national day set aside for corporations and individuals to give to the charities and organizations of their choice. It’s a day to make a difference. I participate every year. The money I saved today…and will save Monday…at least part of it will be distributed to several organizations that I support. Saving money on Black Friday let’s me make more of a difference on Giving Tuesday. This year I have a new organization to help people through. I’ll be giving to them in my name and the names of my five grandchildren.

And for that opportunity , I am extremely grateful.

Gratitude, Celebration & Fun

What a beautiful day, spent with a few members of my family. We enjoyed a casual meal together and celebrated my son-in-law Nate, whose birthday was today. And we tried out a new game, a birthday gift to Nate from his sweet wife.

Today’s gratitude overflowed…and included celebration and rowdy family fun.

I love the ease of meals where everyone contributes. We kept it easy, picking up smoked turkey and brisket from the Billy Sims restaurant yesterday. And we tried new recipes. Elissa supplied apple pie and pumpkin pie and drinks. Dayan made his first batch of brownies. I was told they were very good!

Adriel had dinner rolls on hand and prepared a hash brown casserole, deviled eggs, and a relish tray. She roasted asparagus for the first time, and it was excellent! She also made Nate’s favorite spice cake for his birthday. And I carried in the food I prepared last night: raw cranberry relish, mixed veggies and brown rice, and sweet potato casserole.

Everyone had plenty to eat!

My Thanksgiving meal. Good food! I am grateful.

Today was my son-in-law’s 36th birthday. We celebrated by singing to him and spending a good part of the day with him. Lucky Nate! I am so grateful for this young man. He and Adriel are such a sweet couple. Nate is a kind, good hearted man. We are privileged to have him as a member of our family.

Adriel and Nate have fur babies, and they love attention. Watching how Nate cares for these pets, I know he will be an excellent daddy someday.

Adriel bought Nate this game as a birthday present. Our family enjoys playing board games. This one, which is definitely for adults only, uses cards with photos from memes on them. Each player looks through the seven cards he or she is holding, and selects a phrase that seems most appropriate for the meme. They are handed to a judge, face down, who shuffles the cards and then reads them aloud and chooses a winner. The person whose phrase is selected wins the meme card. The person with the most meme cards at the end of the game wins.

We played this game all afternoon, until well after sunset, and I laughed until my face hurt. Desserts were sampled, and stories told, while we played round after round. Elissa was the ultimate winner!

I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with family today, share a meal, laugh and chat, and play a game together. The holiday season is officially launched, and in the past five days I have expressed gratitude and celebrated with all of my children and their families. I will begin unboxing Christmas decorations tomorrow and spread joy and merriment throughout my home…an outer reflection of my joyful heart.

Life is good.

An Abundance of Goodness

Day 4 of Gratitude Week falls on Thanksgiving Eve. I am doing what I usually do on this night before Thanksgiving…I am preparing food for tomorrow’s meal. We had our big family Thanksgiving Sunday, while my son was off work. Tomorrow is a more casual meal with my two daughters and their husbands, Greg, and grandson Dayan.

We are all contributing to the meal, which will include smoked turkey and brisket, for the carnivores in the family, and an abundance of veggie side dishes, for the plant based eaters.

My gratitude today is for the delightful fact that holiday meals and a plant based lifestyle are not exclusive of each other. I will dine well tomorrow and enjoy spending an afternoon with family. We will share food, talk, laugh, play games and celebrate a birthday.

I am grateful for a wealth of healthy recipes to try out. Tonight I made three dishes for tomorrow, trying out two new recipes and recreating a favorite from last year.

The foundation of the recipes was plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Here is a peek at what I am contributing tomorrow:

I made Raw Cranberry Relish, from Life Changing Foods, last year for the first time. I like cranberry sauce, even the blob of stuff from the can. This relish, made from fresh cranberries, apples and oranges is amazing. And it is so easy to make, using a food processor. The recipe calls for coconut sugar, which is a natural, unrefined sugar. Last year I substituted raw honey. Tonight I had coconut sugar on hand. This is seriously so delicious, that even people who think they don’t like cranberries might be surprised.

Cranberries are full of antioxidants. They not only aid in healing urinary tract infections, they reverse gallbladder disease, cleanse the liver and help with kidney stones. They also help heal cardiovascular disease and draw radiation out of the body.

I wonder why I only make this around Thanksgiving? While cranberries are plentiful, I should be making this relish once a week!

I am super excited about this Sweet Potato Casserole. I found the recipe on Pinterest, posted by Nutritional Foodie. I made a sweet potato casserole for years. That one was full of butter and brown sugar and used canned yams. This one started with fresh sweet potatoes that I cooked myself and then mashed with coconut oil, spices, coconut sugar and unsweetened almond coconut milk. The topping, which I’ll add in the morning before baking, has pecans, coconut sugar, coconut oil and garbanzo bean flour.

After I poured the sweet potato mixture into the casserole dish, I tried a bite, from the bit left in the pan. It is so wonderful! And this version is good for me. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and promote productive bacteria in the stomach while starving out unproductive bacteria and fungi. They help regulate hormones and promote sleep.

Look at this colorful dish! The Mixed Veggies with Brown Rice features fresh carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini, along with organic peas and red kidney beans. Combined with the brown rice, this will be a wholesome, protein rich dish that will be the main part of my meal tomorrow. This recipe comes from a little cookbook called Slow Cooker 100% Vegan.

I have the raw brown rice in the slow cooker and the veggies prepped and seasoned with mixed Italian herbs, sea salt, coarsely ground black pepper and fresh garlic. I’ll stumble into the kitchen at 3:00 am to add the veggies to the slow cooker, along with two cups of water, and turn it on low. It will finish cooking just in time to cart it to Adriel’s house. I’ll bet it will smell wonderful as it simmers.

I am so full of gratitude as I sip on my turmeric milk, all my food preparations completed. During my healing journey I have realized this truth, and accept it wholeheartedly…

What I eat becomes the fuel that my body uses to live and thrive…or exist and struggle.

EVERYTHING I eat and drink matters. Poor nutrition results in poor health, illness and pain. Good nutrition results in good health and an immune system that can fight off invaders and heal itself, maintaining well being.

I choose carefully what I nourish myself with. During celebrations or the holidays, I am not missing a thing by holding to my plant based lifestyle. What I gain is continued health, not extra pounds or an upset digestive system.

Here’s to a healthy and abundant Thanksgiving!

Christmas Spirit

I know it is still two days before Thanksgiving. And I have devoted time this evening to pouring through plant based recipes in preparation for Thursday’s meal. However, the magical thing happened today, that finds me about this time every year. I never know quite when it will rise from the corner of my heart, where it resides the rest of the year, and flood my being. I am grateful for it and it is my gratitude today.

The Christmas Spirit awoke in me.

I love this time of year…from mid October to my birthday in the new year, January 9. The cooler weather and colorful leaves signal the approach of the holidays. It is my favorite time to decorate and cook and nest. Love and joy and yes, gratitude overflow my heart.

These are the events that triggered Christmas Spirit today.

Greg sent me this photo from Lowe’s this morning. These fresh beauties have arrived! Ill be purchasing mine this weekend. Years ago, I cut trees out in the wild. Ask me sometime about THE Christmas Tree incident that ended in disaster. Now, Lowe’s Garden Center is my tree destination and I receive much joy from selecting the perfect tree.

I received my first Christmas message from a friend, via Facebook Messenger today. It made me smile.

I visited the arts and crafts store, Michaels, to check out the feasibility of an idea I have. Of course, the store is in full Christmas mode, with holiday music playing overhead and shoppers already getting a head start on gift buying. This is where I began humming Christmas songs and a smile first appeared. Christmas was stirring within my heart. I nodded and spoke to other shoppers as I browsed. I don’t mind crowds at all, especially this time of year. I love the feeling of being on a shared adventure, rather than viewing it as a competitive one. Even though I don’t need more Christmas decor, I was captivated by a little gingerbread house with matching trees and a tiny gingerbread man. I bought it!

And Christmas thus Christmas began, for me, on November 21. The humming turned into singing. While cooking dinner, my iPod played through holiday songs. And after dinner, I set out the items I’ve already purchased for this Christmas season.

I buy myself a heart ornament every year, to represent my shiny Mithril heart. Mithril is a precious metal referred to in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit stories. It is strong, silvery and valuable. My Christmas tree is adorned with many heart ornaments. I like this simple metal heart for this year.

I also add a Christmas mug each year to my collection. This is my first owl mug. He is adorable. I found the wooden sign in a vintage shop. It will find a spot in my snowman village.

And this tartan ceramic Scotty dog ornament came home with me from Scotland. I purchased it in a gift shop near Loch Ness. It will remind me of my travels this year.

I am so grateful for this beautiful season, when love and joy, peace and wonder overflows. For me, it is a time of sharing with others, and a time of personal reflection as the year winds down and a new one approaches.

The boxes of Christmas decorations will come out of storage this week, and my house will be transformed. My heart already is. My life reflects that.

I don’t care what anyone says about welcoming Christmas too soon. When the Spirit moves me…it moves me. I would not bid it to wait. I agree with Charles Dickens’ well known character, Scrooge, after the Spirit of Christmas was born in his heart and made manifest in his life. I keep a reminder of Ebenezer’s words hanging year around in my house. And I too honor Christmas in my heart.