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Create in 2016: 100 Days of Creative Living

Back in April, I chose my 100 Day Project: 100 Days of Creative Living

So, for the next 100 days, I am going to notice my own life. To see the tiny moments that create my existence. To lovingly describe the moment, using my preferred craft of writing.To honor the way creative living plays into my everyday life. For this is what the core of making is to me: making a life.

I began them over on Instagram and somewhere in the middle, the project stalled.

It isn’t that I stopped noticing my life, it’s just that I didn’t always stop to photograph it. In our social media world, do you ever wonder that failing to photograph and share a moment means it didn’t really happen? A bit of a joke, but also the reality of thinking these days, right?

And stalling a project is, honestly, a natural part of being a maker.

Yes, we need to be true to our need to create, to give power and time to our creative life. But we also need to be realistic and compassionate when a project stalls or other projects take center stage or real life demands temporarily get in the way.

I’ve picked up a day here and a day there, with the goal of finishing the project before 2017 arrives. A good way to honor my Word for 2016: Create.  Here’s a selection of some of my #100DaysofCreativeLiving Photos.

Day 2

Day 6

Day 15

Day 26

One thing I know for sure is that sleep is crucial to the quality of my daily life…yet on rare occasions I rise long before dawn. The waking isn’t by conscious choice, but rather than curse the dark, I am choosing to seize the opportunity to tend my creative life in some way. Upon finding JB’s pillow vacant around 1:30 AM, I slipped into a robe and found him wide awake…his mind too distracted by work matters to sleep. I went back to bed, but my own worries over his inability to sleep continued to roll around in my own brain. He showered. I made coffee and his lunch. He went into work. At 4 AM, I came downstairs to my own office…lit my candles and said a little prayer. It would be so easy to click around the internet and fritter away my time. Instead, I grab a 2nd cup of #coffee and sit down to #write. This is the art of creating a life: to choose myself and my creative life when it could be so easy to just choose ways to numb. This is day 26 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100dayproject #love #soultending #amwriting

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Day 38

Day 44

I took myself on an Artist Date today: A manicure and pedicure followed by lunch al fresco the patio. Then a long walk around the park where I ogled Super Hero Sand Sculptures and chatted with the artists….into a café for a double espresso and some writing…and wrapped the day up with a stroll around the farmer’s market, where I got a dozen eggs and pork burgers from @carrollcreekfarms We all need to take time and fill the well and being around other makers, like the sculptors and the farmers. To watch the people and eavesdrop on conversations… And it doesn’t hurt to pause with my journal and caffeine. #love #coffee #soultending This is the art of creating a life: to fill the well when we’re feeling parched. This is day 44 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100dayproject #love #soultending

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Day 50

We’re on Day 13 of John being out of the country and it makes the days long and the nights longer. Skype helps bridge the distance and we talk every morning and evening. No matter how long they may seem, time still advances and passes from one day to the next. And as we share the stories of our distant days, I turn my camera to the setting sun here in Ohio and he turns his camera to show the approaching sunset in Bogota out his hotel window. Even when we aren’t with loved ones, we are all still connected, witnessing the same sun set in different ways. This is the art of creating a life: bridging the distance between lovers with the reminders that we are still connected. This is day 50 of#100daysofcreativeliving for the#100dayproject #love #soultending

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Day 54

Day 56

I order a doppio espresso, a go-to order since my dairy-free experiment began in May. I sit and slowly sip the slightly bitter brew and watch the constant flow of office workers from the building next door stream in. When I was waiting to order, I notice the pastry case has been decimated and now see that in addition to creamy caramel macchiatos and thick iced lattes, almost everyone exiting the gauntlet of a line has a pastry bag in hand. This is the 3rd day of our trip… and never has the pastry case been this empty during previous visits and it gets my mind to wondering if the rainy morning is responsible for the cravings of sweet and flaky pastries. Or is it the need for hand-held comfort? Because despite it being a Thursday, the weekend still feels like a world away in the high-stress environment of DC and interoffice politics. This used to BE my life: high heels, sheath dresses, and seeking comfort in liquid and carby forms. This used to be my life: navigating the shark-infested waters of Office Politics. This used to be my life: dealing with the undercurrent of intense energies of people running on adrenaline, caffeine, butter, and vodka. I miss this city when I’m away and when I’m here I still love the city, yet am reminded how peaceful and drama-free my life is now that THIS isn’t my daily life. I am grateful for the hard choices I’ve made when it comes to career and doubly grateful that I have the support to choose creating my life on my terms rather than existing in the high-stress environment. This is the art of creating a life: to look at our past selves and be grateful for the hard choices because they were worth it. This is day 56 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100 day project #love #soultending #Starbucks #grateful

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Day 65

A summer storm is brewing and the air is thick with humidity. Four miles on the bike, and since I’m already sweaty, I head downstairs and tend the flowerbeds. I intended to only pull the weeds and grass encroaching the periwinkles, and find myself stripping away dead strands from the daylilies. It’s before 9 AM and I’m feeling pleased as punch about my morning productivity. Now to sit a moment, sip some sparkling water, and breathe before I head inside, take a shower, and start to work. This is the art of creating a life: to honor the holiness of a tiny now in our day. This is day 65 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100dayproject – and in honor of @ModernCreativeLife #NewMoonCreative prompt for 7/7 is: “A Tiny Now”. #love #soultending #creativeliving #latergram

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Day 90

This is the first moment today I have taken to just sit and BE. My bed is beckoning me…but first, a few minutes to sip this glass of wine, write in my journal, and read the latest issue of @bellagracemagazine . Today was my first full day back #OnTheGround at home after spending the early part of the week in DC. There were necessary errands to run – mailing copies of my books out…..and so much editing to do. Finalize a new ebook for subscribers to help them choose a Word of the Year. Work on the 2016 Anthology for @moderncreativelife . Transcribe my column for Sunday from my journal to Word. John is still in DC til tomorrow …which means I stayed at my deak til after 9 tonight. It’s 12 degrees and snowing…and a smidge may stick…and the woosh of the wind can be heard over the sound of the furnace kicking… This is what creative living looks like some days: the push push push to move projects along…then delaying bedtime a few moments to fill the well with nourishment. #love #soultending The prompt for #decemberreflections2016 is “On the Ground ” This is my Day 90 post for #100daysofcreativeliving for my #100dayproject

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Day 91

On my way to pour my 2nd cup of coffee, I got distracted by this: the edges of the sunrise from the Northeastern perspective….the soft pinks tinged with gold as it melds into the pale blue…. Until the leaves fell, I hadn’t noticed the little nest in this tree. I am glad the occupants have moved somewhere warm…but look at how well-built and sturdy it is, clinging to the branches after all the snow and winds. Maybe that’s my lesson for the day: you are made of strong stuff…no matter the winds and storms…life always has beauty This is my (almost forgotten) (almost completed) Day 91 of #100daysofcreativeliving for my #100dayproject : the reminder to pay attention to the signs from nature. #love #soultending #sunrise

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

As I mentioned, my goal is still to finish this project before January 1st rolls around, to complete at least the 100 Days of Creative Living – on Instagram by then. But my work as a maker, my real work in the world, is not to stop noticing my own life and the details that make it richer.

As I said when I began this project is still true:  if we want our creative lives to be sustainable, we need to learn to subsist on tiny sips of inspiration and see the infinitesimal moments of beauty and perfection as our building blocks. 

To see the small moments of my life as holy as the big ones. To recognize that the way the light falls across a birds nest left in the maple tree outside my dining room window is as important to my creative life as publishing two books this year. To recognize myself that these days of not feeling at my best, yet sitting in the side-by-side companionship with John are just as important, or maybe more important than our vacation this fall.

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
― Mary Oliver

Christmas Day Letter: Dear Tender Heart

On Sundays over at Modern Creative Life, we rotate our columns – Sunday Sanctuary from me, Sunday Salon from  Becca, and Sunday Brunch from Melissa. And on the extra Sundays, we feature Letters. Sometimes by one of us, sometimes by a staff member, sometimes from an outside maker’s submission.

The Christmas Letter is by me…written a couple of weeks ago and the final edits were made last night. I wasn’t sure who to write it to: Love, Compassion, Grace, Tenderness, Forgiveness… and ended up addressing it to my own Tender Heart.

It’s an ode, in part, to the mystical power of prayer and the magical transformation that can occur when it comes to healing our own broken places. It’s also about the power of symbols and carving out altar spaces in our homes and hearts.

You can read it here.

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present,hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”
–Agnes M. Pahro

Talismans, Love and Our Edges

My August Break Entries for Days 8 to 12

Some of these photos and their little descriptions stand on their own…..others have more of a story behind them.

Day Eight – Smooth

Day Nine – Earth

 

Day 10 – Talisman

The bookshelves in my office serve as my altar space. The books I love and/or refer to regularly rest alongside my journals (and a longish story on my professional blog about going back to writing on paper). And mixed in among the beloved words are sacred items.

If it has space for a candle, I use it. Each candle has a specific meaning to it, based on what the talisman or totem represents. Coming from a Catholic tradition, lighting candles is a prayer for me.

Before I begin working or meditation, I light one or more of the candles and focus in on that moment the match sparks and the wick catches the flame. I may say a few words, sending up an intention, a prayer, a gratitude.  I may light one candle or four or more or less depending on what’s to be done that day.

I don’t have a talisman that I wear around my neck or keep folded in my wallet. But I do have sacred objects that serve to remind me of different aspects of myself and the soul work I am called to do. The bookshelves in my office is my altar and each item placed there holds a sacred meaning or particular intention. The photo of JB and I watches over my #love and #partnership. A rose quartz, a butterfly from Valentine roses…and all the books that shifted and shaped how I came to understand simulates and lovers. The lantern – that I am tasked with and have a responsibility to shine a light into the darkness for others. The Buddha and a heart shaped stone – the reminder to tend my own soul and shine my inner light The stained glass mosaic – in honor of my guide…the constant reminder that I am never “alone” The day 10 prompt for #augustbreak2015 : #talisman

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

  Day 11 – Edge

There’s a very long story here about the sail and this boat and the ocean off the coast of Martinique. I have a lifelong fear of getting my head underwater. I don’t like water in my face and never have. Though I didn’t know it until I was in my teens, sometime during the first two weeks of my life I was dropped into the tub by accident. Our bodies remember those kinds of things even if our minds don’t hold real memories.

So, JB and I had signed up for this snorkeling and sailing excursion during our vacation ( a cruise) and when we got off the boat to swim over to the area to snorkel, I had a full-blown panic attack. JB got me calm, got me centered, and swam alongside me as I managed the panic and the fear and finally gave over to the pleasure of the sea….

Day 12 – Yellow

There are signs of autumn falling from my little Birch tree…. I share more about it in the final Summer Love Note tomorrow morning….

Five Things About Me

My August Break Entries for Days 5 to 7

Day 5 – Citrus

Call me crazy, but I love grocery shopping (a link to my May 27th Newsletter about it). That wasn’t always the case, of course.  I snapped these two photos at my favorite grocery store, Dorothy Lane Market. It’s a local store with three locations and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be able to buy locally sourced produce, meat and dairy alongside cans of soup and bags of rice.

We use lots of lemons. In water. As the base of dressings and mayo. Both the zest and the juice in the prep of fish or baked goods….

   

Day 6 – Notebooks

Funny that the prompt was “notebooks”.  I wrote about keeping a journal in my work blog this week and will be following up next week with how I managed to get enough courage to go back to writing on paper full time.  I could have photographed a single journal, or a stack, or a close-up of these spiral-bound paper I use now.  (For the curious, I use Strathmore Sketch Books for my journals as it allows me to write large or small – and can stand up to a collage or mini-vision board.) Instead, because I see words as sacred, I let people see my sacred space – my altar space. Nothing goes here unless it means something.

Day 7 – 5 Things about Me

I dug back into my archive of photos a bit to get all these images.

The first is one of my favorite photos of JB. I took it in January when we were on vacation and seeing him relax on this catamaran just made me fall more deeply in love with him. I took the photo in either St. Croix or Martinique.  I came face-to-face with – and played with some of my edges of –  around my fear of water. He was there beside me, witnessing and helping me through it. But that’s a story for another day.

The second photo was one taken while we were in Kauai in December. The lesson that love is the answer took years for me to learn, and I am ever grateful. The third? My new morning routines and rituals, taken just this week.

The fourth photo – the middle one – was taken this past October in Paris at a sidewalk cafe. It was an adventure. JB was working in The Netherlands and I had tagged along….but took a side trip. I hopped a train to Paris, spent a couple of days exploring and met up with a friend that was in Paris at the same time (Kayce Hughlett). Then, I left Paris to head back to The Netherlands.

The 5th and final photo is from the flowerbed surrounding our little pond in the backyard. I love sitting out on our deck or our porch and being a part of nature. I also dearly love flowers. I love cut flowers in the house and the magic of planting bulbs in the fall to have spring beauty.

 

I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed writing in this space.  As a part of my seeking of new discipline around the writing parts of my life, I know that eventually, I need to come up with goals for writing in this space. Because, without goals and deadlines and guidelines, I’d never get anything published. 😉

The August Break

A visual artist I am not; I can tell you, though, that investing in some time behind the camera with intention has been a tremendous part of my spiritual growth. I enjoy looking for the miracle and the detail in the pause – and usually see beyond the pause hours, days or weeks later.

PrintSusannah Conway created “The August Break” as a way to connect with others while connecting to our own life in a deeper way:

Pause, look around you and shoot what you see. Live inside each moment. Pay attention to what’s there.

She released the full set of prompts so there’s no waiting for a post to see what the prompt for the day, and I like the ability to wake up knowing the intention of the project without needing to get online.

I included the links and prompts in case you want to join in – just tag your Instagram (or Facebook) photo #AugustBreak2015

Though I may not participate every day, here’s the results from Day Two and Day Three.

Day Two – Air

Day 3 – Skin

Butter & The Beast

It was a beautiful summer evening in Washington DC. I was on a date with a gentleman I had met while in New York City earlier in the year. We’d shared a beautiful meal at Central Michel Richard, a bottle of wine, and I had promised to show him one of my favorite spots on the National Mall: the Lincoln Memorial.  We climb the steps, stand in reverence before Lincoln and read the inscriptions.

Romance is definitely in the air.The moon is full and we walk around the porch to the backside of the Memorial and we are entranced by the Moon’s reflection on the river. His hand caresses my cheek and he leans in to kiss me.

And my cell phone rings.

I, of course, answer it.

It is 2008 and I am in the middle of the biggest and most important contract I’ve ever had since I started my business in 2003. It’s a demanding and stressful project.

When the phone call is over, we resume our date. But, of course, we can’t recapture the mood. We manage a half dozen more dates over the next few months, but the relationship fizzles out. Just like so many of the relationships during the 2003 to 2010 time frame.

I’ll be honest: though the work was contract was demanding and the personalities were challenging, I flat out adored the work. My small consulting firm had taken the contract to serve as the Project Manager for an Environmental Impact Statement, which means I am immersed in words and people every day.

This was my typical schedule.

I’d wake up (in a hotel) around 5 AM. I turn on my computer, connect to the hotel WiFi, and begin downloading my email. I grab coffee in the lobby and process email for the next hour. I shower. Dress in a suit, hose and heels. I snag a cab and, on the fifteen minute ride to my client’s office, I peruse the paper. I am in the office no later than 8 AM and my first conference call begins at 9 AM. I manage challenging personalities along with piece of the document all day. I leave the office at sometime between 5 PM and 7 PM. I take the Metro back to my hotel, drop my briefcase with the bellman, and head to one of the restaurants close to my hotel. I am back in my room by 8 PM and work until 11 PM.

Suffice to say, my personal life is basically non-existent. My blood pressure is also sky-high and I am about twenty-five pounds overweight.

Like many entrepreneurs, I created my business because I was passionate about what I could create. I chose the challenging road of being an entrepreneur because one of my top values was freedom.

When you are running a business, it’s so easy to get lost in the work. We look at the outside goals – the amount of money we will make, the vacations we’ll (eventually) take, and dream about how successful our business is going to be. The thing is, though, passion and perfection can push us towards further away from the other things we say we value – like health, family and freedom.

And, darling, I promise you that’s no way to live.

My life today no longer resembles my life in 2008.

Yes, I am still self-employed. I am still passionate about words and people, but I reconfigured my business at the end of 2010 because I realized that I wanted to keep the parts I was passionate about, but needed other things in my life as well. I wanted to be healthier. I wanted a fulfilling personal life.

I wanted freedom. And working eighteen hours on the average day isn’t freedom.

On an average weekday, I rise around 6 AM. I start coffee and put my partner’s lunch together. Between the hours of 7 AM and 6 PM, I have coffee, write in my journal and make sure I have a real breakfast. I coach brilliant people around the landmines in their lives as they work to create a daily life that feels nourishing. I run our household errands and chat with a girlfriend. I write blog posts and work on my book. I make a beautiful meal that I share with my partner and we shoot to go to bed sometime between 9 PM and 10 PM.

Becoming an entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding callings you can answer. Listening to your passions and turning that into a way to support yourself and your family is beyond rewarding and fulfilling.

If you want to create a business that provides you with your daily bread and butter, do the important things that allow you to create the structure you need to succeed: a business plan, financial goals, and marketing plans. Know that the fears around creating your business will arise. You’ll convince yourself that the only way to success is to devote all your time and energy to tending your business.

But don’t forget to tend yourself and nourish your life.

As you create your business plans, dig into how you desire to feel and make sure you’re your plans are congruent with those feelings. As you set financial goals, don’t forget to set boundaries around your work hours. And darling, as you create a marketing plan for your business, plan for ways to nourish your heart and soul to ensure that you don’t get lost in your work.

Remember that as you nourish and grow your business, putting a value on the quality of your daily life is a way to ensure that you keep your passion and are able to stay dedicated to your dreams.

Though I am a logical person, I believe in some age-old traditions to bring luck into your life. Like eating Black-Eyed Peas with Pork on New blackeyedpeas.1Year’s Day to ensure a lucky and prosperous year.

Before you go to bed, rinse a pound of dried black-eyed peas and place them in your crock-pot. Cover them with water and leave them overnight.

In the morning, drain and rinse the peas and place them back in the crock-pot. Add one diced yellow onion, 6 sliced (or pressed) cloves of garlic, ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, a dozen grinds of freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 3 bay leaves. Add 4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (Kitchen Basics is my go-to). You may need to add a little bit more water until the beans are completely covered.

Put your crock-pot on low.

Then, take either a boneless pork loin chop or pork loin (about ¾ pound) and dice it into bite sized chunks. Heavily season it (salt, pepper, garlic, cumin). Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet and sear the meat until it has a nice brown color. Add the contents of the entire skillet to the crock-pot (yes, including the olive oil). Cook on low for about 8 hours.

When the peas are done, remove about a cup of them and throw them in a blender or use your immersion blender to cream them. Add that back to the crock-pot and leave on low for another 20 minutes. This will make a huge difference to the quality, the overall creaminess, and depth of flavor. Remove the bay leaves before you serve!

You can always double the amount of meat you add to this if you know you want to serve it alone and want something heartier. You can make a meal on its own with the peas and some cornbread – another lucky food because it represents GOLD.

This piece was created for the Butter & Beast Project and was scheduled for today.

We Live Life in the Middles

peacock

How has your week been? Mine has been this beautiful combination of Zen and Stress, which is to say that it’s been flat out normal. Isn’t it funny how easily it would be to focus on the stressful parts and forget about the zen parts?

I got caught in that cycle in my head Thursday evening. It was one of those longer days and we ended up skipping dinner because it was just too late to eat by the time JB and I were both done with work. We headed out for a quick walk instead and I started thinking “Good heavens, I haven’t had a good meal all week.

Forgetting, of course, the beautiful dinners we had Tuesday and Thursday evening. Forgetting, of course, the satisfying breakfasts we had Sunday and Tuesday. Oh, and the fact that I treated myself to a lunch at a tea room to capture some culinary memories.

Those Inner Voices are all about pointing out the hard stuff, aren’t they?

Of course, there’s the other side of the coin. The Picture Perfect only Present the Positive in Public voice. We photograph those beautiful meals we forgot when we were tired and hungry.

The Zen parts of my week included a visit to a beautiful Temple where this glorious Buddha. It was to mark the date a decade ago when I visited a Buddhist Monastery so that I could take a course in meditation.

Maybe one of the reasons I focus on creating a daily life that you love is because I finally understand the reality that we humans are meant to experience the highs and the lows of living. And, that we spend most of our time in the middle of that.

When we can capture the beauty in the every day parts – the ones that aren’t high or low. Well, darling, that’s when life becomes truly exquisite. That “normal” life is really the best part of living.

I find that I especially have to remind myself of that as we get closer to the holidays. The energy of so many people is frantic as they seek to create perfect holidays for everyone.

So, tell me, darling, what about you? Are you focusing on the stress? Are you only capturing the perfect moments? What can you do the capture the beauty in the ordinary moments? Does the energy of the holidays push you and pull you? How can you step away from perfection?

What can you do to capture the beauty that is all around us? How can you grant yourself permission to stop focusing on the highs and the lows and finding grace in the middles?  What can I do to help you find your threads of courage and love? How can I help you prepare for an amazing end to 2014 and a beautiful beginning to 2015?

Note – this was my “love note” to my newsletter subscribers today.

The Morning Ritual

It begins with filtered water, fresh beans, and the touch of a button. Five minutes later, I am duly rewarded with the heady brew that is coffee. debrasmouse_31daysimageThough my perpetual to-do list and the energy of the world both urge me to rush, rush, hurry, hurry, I do not. I will not.

This is a moment crying for sacred ritual and loving prayer.

I reach for a favorite mug and gently drop two tiny spoons of raw sugar into the bottom. I take a deep breath, inhaling the tantalizing scent of magical beans turned to liquid gold as I pour the first few ounces from the Cuisinart. I splash in a generous amount of whole milk from a white ceramic pitcher and observe the cloud that blooms in my cup as the coffee accepts its offering from the dairy world.

I stir, and find beauty in the perfect caramel color as the sugar, milk, and coffee blend their voices to sing in three part harmony.

I close my eyes and breathe in the sensual and the simple and the sacred.

I sip.

The first drops pass my lips and cross my tongue and that first taste is like a prayer for life and love and gratitude for the fruits of farmers in Costa Rica and Wisconsin.

This is my morning ritual. It is simple, but no less holy or sacred for being so.

How we begin our morning sets the feel for the rest of our day. We can rush, or we can take one moment to ground and center and feel the sacred offering of our life before us.
The choice is ours.
I encourage you to find ritual in your first sip of the day. Whether coffee, tea, water or juice, how can you invite a deeper connection to yourself and to God? How can you begin the day with a sacred action that becomes prayer?

This piece was created for the 31 Moments of Simplicity & Inspiration from Kayce Hughlett and was scheduled for today.

Shop Until You Drop?

Though this may sound a little strange, JB and I don’t exchange Christmas presents. We buy what we need throughout the year. We indulge in IMG_20131217_073806an item we really want here and there. But there’s no sense in feeling obligated to buy at Christmas.

I did happen to be in the mall yesterday, though. Presents aside, I appreciate a good sale just like the next gal. Macy’s was celebrating their “Friends & Family” sale, which meant brands like Ralph Lauren were on sale, too. As part of the “business casual” side of wardrobes, it was nice to take advantage.

The thing is, those closer we get to Christmas, the less I want to go into stores. There’s so much frantic energy and you can feel the stress pouring off of shoppers and sales people alike. Often stress leads to meanness. I witnessed the total lack of acknowledgement to a sales person. Not even a “thank you”, even though this is one of the most charasmatic sales people I have come in contact with. He tried to push to be seen with his “Thank you for Shopping at Macy’s” line after they were already walking away as if he didn’t exist.

A couple of years ago, I happened to be in Kohls the first week of December looking for something we genuinely needed: slippers for JB. His were worn out and needed replacing, so I wanted to take advantage of the holiday sales. In the store along with me were crazed shoppers, just throwing things into their little carts. Popcorn machines. Keurig pods, socks, sweaters….

This past May, I cleaned out our dressers. Among what I tossed? Two dozen new-like sweaters in JB’s drawers.  You see, he isn’t a sweater guy. A sweatshirt on the weekends sometimes, but sweaters? Not in the 5 years we’ve been together.  But, family members bought him sweaters for Christmas and birthdays because they’re an easy gift.  I kept three really beautiful ones (solid navy, solid green, solid black) but not the rest.

As we move towards the gift giving season, I’m all about buying needed items and meaningful gifts for those we love. However, don’t buy piles of unnecessary things in order to meet any kind of imaginary quotas. This is just that reminder to think before you shop. We want our gifts to be loved and used, but what a waste to fill someone else’s drawers with items they don’t like or love or will ever wear or use.

So, tell me, darling, what about you? Do you get caught up in the energy of shopping and buy, buy, buy? Can you release some of the “shoulds” this week. What if you reduced the “need” for a certain number of packages under the tree or stopped trying to be “equal” when it came to gifts for the family?

What can you do to extend yourself more grace?  How can you give yourself permission to unplug and nourish your real needs? To cultivate your desired feelings and experiences this holiday season?

Note – this was my “love note” to my newsletter subscribers today.

Did Someone Say Cookies?

Though I haven’t been following the Holidailiees prompts so far, this one sure jumped out at me. One of my favorite gifts for our neighbors or to cranberryoatmealcookiestake as a housewarming gift to a holiday party is cookies. They can be eaten right away or thrown in the freezer for post-holiday treats. But who wants to give away a batch of cookies when you can make a variety of deliciousness for the offering?

Each week in my newsletter I share a favorite recipe with my subscribers – and the month of December is dedicated to COOKIES.

Last week I began with a cookie containing a seasonal favorite ingredient – Cranberries and shared a recipe for Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies. Though I’m not a big fan of white chocolate, it’s a fabulous combination with the dried cranberries.  And, note: though I normally recommend unsalted butter, this recipe just sings with the slightly salty touch.

Here’s the recipe:

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, cream together 2 sticks of (softened) salted butter with ¾ cup of firmly packed brown sugar and ½ cup granulated sugar.  Add 2 Eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together 1-1/2 Cups all-purpose flour (or ¾ cup whole wheat flour and ¾ cup all-purpose flour) with  1 Teaspoon Baking Soda, 1 Teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 Teaspoon salt.  Combine in with butter and sugar mixture.  Don’t over-mix.

Add  3 Cups Old fashioned (or rolled oats – or for variety, you can use the Old Wessex 5 Grain Cereal) and 2/3 cup of dried cranberries and 2/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips and stir until incorporated

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Cookies can be frozen for up to six months.

This coming week, I’ll be sharing a recipe for Coconut Thumbprint cookies. To  make them a little more “Christmas-y”, you can tint the coconut green and use a red jam – like strawberry or raspberry.

On December 20th, I’ll be sharing a recipe for Ginger Snap Cookies – with three kinds of ginger. And, on the 27th, I’m going to share a new cookie recipe I’ve been playing with – a Salted Chocolate Chip Caramel cookie made with those new Nestle Delight-fuls.

What’s your favorite Holiday cookie? I can’t wait to peek around everyone else’s posts!

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