Tag: slowing down the holidays

cranberriesEvery year I make my grandmother’s cranberry relish. It’s easy, it’s delicious and it’s always a big hit at gatherings. The recipe is simple:

  • 1 bag of cranberries
  • 1 whole orange (peel included)
  • sugar to taste (about 1/2 cup)
  • Blend in food processor. Done.

I told my sister that I loved it for it’s taste and it’s simplicity. She was surprised that I found it so easy. “It’s the cooking part that takes the longest,” she said.

“The cooking part?”

Apparently my grandmother used to cook it somehow. But I never knew that and so skipped that step altogether. Which was a good thing for me because I think if I had to cook it, it wouldn’t be a prt of my tradition and I wouldn’t have thought of her every time I did.

Now when I make it I think of my grandmother AND my sister. It connects us. And I am reminded about the importance of this amazing season. It’s not something to get through. It’s not something that should make you feel stressed and beholden. It should FEEL right.  You can borrow from tradition and mix it with your own ingredients. You can make up new stuff altogether. You can do it in a way that honors the past and celebrates the now. And find what works best for you and your family.

So as we kick off this big holiday season, let’s not fret about what we SHOULD be doing. Or how it HAS to be done. Instead let’s keep our eyes on the prize which is the gathering, the celebrating, the appreciating and the connecting. Oh, and the fantastic feasts!!!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

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Comfort and Joy? Make it Happen.

Comfort and joy! That’s the goal remember? It’s in the songs. It’s in the air. It’s in the display case at the department store even! So how do you find it this time of year when there is so much pressure to make it all perfect?

While I make no guarantees about perfection, I offer you this simple exercise for dialing in a little bit more of that joy we all desire. Ready?

Grab a pen and paper, have a seat and take a big, deep breath.

  1. Think of your ideal holiday moment. Not the entire holiday but one particular moment. Maybe it was when you were a kid. Maybe it was last year. Reflect on that moment only and write a brief synopsis.
  2. Now, break it down. In bullet points write down, what were the ELEMENTS involved? What was the FEELING you had?
  3. Without recreating the exact scene, write down a way you could bring some of those elements and those feelings into your present-day holiday. That’s it!

Are you feeling it? I hope so! I know this exercise works wonders for me as a great way of getting connected to the feelings I want. And remember the point of all this? Comfort and joy. Bring it on!

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Think the holidays are still a long way off? I know it’s still 80+ degrees here in Austin but I don’t think it’s too early to start pondering how you want your holidays to go. Not if you want to make some changes to the way it’s always been done. Not if you want to set yourself up for a thoughtful, happy holiday time. I talked to Vicky and Jen about this for their amazing show What Really Matters and they put together a beautiful little podcast on Creating Your Slow Holiday full of great ideas for taking out the hectic and adding in a little more love and joy. Listen to it! And then while you’re there listen to the show they did with Carrie a while back about slowing things down in general. That was chock full of good ideas.

And if you want to dive in a bit into your own ideas for Slow Holidays, there is an ebook. And even a teleclass that is on the books for Thursday November 29th starting at 7:30pm central time. We’ll go over the ebook and get to the source of how you want your holidays to feel, look, go. This year and all the years that follow.

You can make it how you want it. Truly.


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How to Make a Costume

The following post was written in 2009. Since then I’ve learned a few things about myself, about ego, about being all-one, and about making sure that the spirit of Halloween is imagination and fun rather than perfection and competition. (not that perfection has ever been a part of my world…) So read this. Take from it what you like. I’ll still never buy a new costume but I suppose if my kids wanted to spend their own money on one, I’d allow it. Fortunately that issue hasn’t come up for us anymore and my kids are more than happy to create from thrift, from scraps, from random pieces in our house and from the very depths of their imaginations. There’s that word again. My favorite.

This story originally ran in my Just A Minute blog in 2009. I’m sharing it again at the request of a few…

October 30, 2009…This morning, the day before Halloween, my little first grade monkey was excitedly putting on her ears, pulling up her pants with tail affixed, and straightening out her furry belly. All these pieces we had created last night by the way when she reminded me that all the kids would be wearing their costumes to school. All this time by the way I was thinking I had all morning Saturday to get said pieces ready for Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless we did have a really good time making the pieces last night as she determined which brown fabrics would be appropriate and desirable for her said monkey costume. At bedtime she was psyched.

At face makeup time, less so. She started getting nervous and I could feel it in her twitching face as she continuously wrestled away from my face-paint clutches to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

Then the exclamation followed by the tears, “I don’t even LOOK like a monkey! Nobody will know what I am! EVERYONE else will have a store bought costume!!!”

We happen to go to a very creative public school, or at least a public school filled with creative parents, teachers and kids. I was 99% certain that the handmade costumes would outnumber the store boughts but there was no convincing her of that.

I went on about using our own ideas, skills, creativity, brains as opposed to buying something made with someone else’s ideas, skills, creativity, brains. I pontificated about Halloween being a day for creative expression, costumes being renderings not exact copies. What she heard was “blah, blah, blah, no way in hell am I ever gonna buy a costume.”

By the time she arrived at school we were already late, she was already flustered and nervous and, because she was the last one to arrive she got flocked. Cries of “what are you?” went up from the crowd. The tears, which had been resting just under her lids, now flowed and she ran out of the room and into the van. (this part I was told as it was actually my husband dropping her off, I was still at home drinking my coffee.)

As she walked back into the house she cried out, “nobody knew what I was, everyone else had a good store costume, I’m NOT GOING TO SCHOOL!!!”

I let her cry, felt the pain in my own heart and for just a minute I was 7 and running out of my first grade classroom. I hugged her and she melted into me. She sniffed the final cry and wiped away the last tears which smudged her face completely. I took her into the bathroom and wiped off her face with a warm washcloth and held her up to the mirror.

“Look at those ears. Look at that tail. Look at that furry belly. What are you?” I asked.

“A monkey. But nobody knew.”

We talked about how everyone was excited, she was the last one in, she missed them doing it to everyone else. We talked more about store bought, her creative self, how much fun we had making the costume last night. I told her over and over, “Look at you. YOU made that costume!” She smiled a little monkey smile and said she wanted to go back.

In solidarity I put on some cat ears, drew myself some whiskers and drove her back to school. We arrived just as the class was lining up to walk to the senior center to share their costumes and a few songs.

The kids gathered round. All of them stating how much they LOVED her monkey costume. (apparently a little chat had ensued upon her initial departure)

I looked around and saw that at least half of the costumes were indeed handmade or mindfully assembled with random pieces. (my preferred style for sure!) And, if you bought your costume, no offense intended, but those handmade costumes really did shine brighter than the store boughts. They were filled with love and creativity and time together and conversation and laughing, and maybe even a few screams and cries but what art doesn’t come with struggle? (I also saw that store bought didn’t necessarily mean instant recognition but that was a lesson I’m not sure my child could see just yet.)

I will continue my quest to have my children see that a handmade or assemblage costume is the way to go for as long as I live. I want them to see, feel, know that Halloween is about having fun and dressing up in our own version of something. I want them to feel too that our own creativity is more fun and more valuable than anything we could ever buy. And I want them to understand that everything that is on the store shelves now started out as an idea in someone’s brain. Every Batman, Power Ranger, every cartoon, movie, story, drawing, show. All of them came from someone’s brilliant self. Somewhere, sometime, somehow.

The lesson may not be realized fully by the first grade monkey but I am of the firm belief that it will sink in drip by drip.



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Creating Your Slow Holiday

I went into a department store the other day in search of a punching balloon for a papier mache pinata we are making. The Halloween decorations were out. Which makes sense. And right behind them were the Christmas decorations. Garland, stockings, tree stands and more. Really. In the beginning of October. And I breathed in. Out. And realized it was time once again to set some intentions for how it could/should/would be for our family.

Rather than panic I took it as a reminder that the holidays were coming and if I wanted them to be peaceful and easy, which I do, now might be a good time to start pondering what they might look like.

Over the past few years we, as a family, have honed in on what we want our holidays to look like. What we want to do. Where we want to go. And most importantly, how we want them to feel. For us the holidays are full of making stuff, day trips, family hikes, packages mailed and treats created. Because, regardless of our beliefs, the holidays come at us from every direction in every form. And if we’re not clear about what we DO want, we are bombarded by what we don’t want. And I don’t think I need to go into detail about what that looks like.

In light of all of this, we created a workbook a couple of years ago to help families figure out not just what they don’t want, but what they DO want. How do we want it to feel? What are the pieces we want to incorporate and how can we get where we want to be as the holidays come our way.

Because goodness knows, they definitely come our way whether we are ready or not.

If you’d like to set some intentions for your upcoming holiday season and make your holidays feel more aligned with your family life, this Creating Your Slow Holiday workbook might be for you. Check it out. Answer the questions and then let us know what pieces worked for you. What changes are you going to implement? We’d love to know.

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Comfort and joy

I started to spiral a little bit into holiday blues this past week. I was worrying about the consumption of it all and not exactly finding the spirit needed to bring me joyfully into this season. In an effort to combat the blues and bring in the cheer, I made a short list of what I wanted this month…

  • connection with family and friends
  • celebration of the season
  • baking
  • crafting
  • sharing my good fortunes with others
  • kindness
  • a spirit of giving
  • comfort and joy

As I looked at the list I realized all the things I want are completely attainable. And all are well within my power to make happen. We hung our Advent Calendar (finally) which consists of tiny pockets full of trinkets which get pinned onto the tree. In each pocket I also stuck a little note full of ideas for giving of the spirit. I crafted with some mama friends last night. And today, on this chilly rainy Sunday afternoon in Austin, TX I plan on doing a little holiday baking with the kids. And each time I start to spiral into overwhelm, I’ll look at my list for inspiration.

How do you create the spirit you want around the holidays? Do you know how you want the holidays to look and feel? Will you count down the days with joy this holiday? Or cross them off in a race of endurance?

If you need some ideas, we have a Creating Your Holidays e*book that will help you figure out just how you want things to look and feel.

November 09 random 171

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Holiday slow down

Though we haven’t quite hit Thanksgiving yet, the move into holiday mode has already officially begun. And if it seems like it’s coming at you faster than ever, perhaps it’s because it really is. I even read one report of an early “black Friday” which seems to me like calling Thursday Monday.

In our house we are beginning our holiday prep by making list of the items we can make for gifts this year. Sewing, drawing, baking, helping, collecting will all be themes this year for sure. We are not big shoppers by any stretch. Well, unless you count the thrift store which I truly adore. We are however big lovers of making and sending packages far and wide. These packages have become a big part of our holidays and we start their assemblage in early December and fill them all month long. It’s fun on our end to make things, draw pictures, find things in our treasure stash, discover relics here and there that remind us of relatives far and wide and pack them up in crayon covered wrappings. When all is said and done, filled and decorated, the boxes go out via USPS to their destinations.

To all of us in our family of six, this ritual, which has grown over the past few years, feels connected. It fills us with the spirit of giving. It fills us with thoughts of our huge and extended family. It is now filled with tradition too. And it feels slow and connected.

What are some of your traditions? What are the things you do during the holidays that fill you with love and connection? How have you found ways to celebrate the season without feeling overwhelmed?

Need help finding ways to slow down your holiday? We’ll help you bring back the comfort and the joy.

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