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It’s Friday, I’m in love…

How in the world is it already December 8th? I was going through our calendar today and caught myself pretty off guard by the fact that Christmas will be next week, in just a few days. I mean, what?!?!?!

I really love doing these Friday posts, and I really love the conversations they inspire. I get great feedback, through various means, about what you guys thought regarding the things I’m loving. I have also been directed toward cool things that I was not aware of, and I am so grateful! When I first began blogging, comments were EVERYTHING. People subscribed, and that was how conversations happened. Now, half of my readers read my posts in their email in-boxes and just hit reply. That isn’t counting the responses from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Blogging has really evolved and I need to remember that. Sometimes old school Misty gets all down and out, whining about a lack of comments, while the reality is that I have great connections with so many of you guys and several of this blog’s readers are now people whom I am lucky to consider friends. I love that! My goal, from the very beginning of my blogging journey (twelve years ago last month,) was to forge genuine connections and have authentic conversation. I have most certainly accomplished that and so much more…

This week’s list is a little different. All five of these things are VERY MUCH things I am loving this week. The points themselves, however, are a little tendrally, bear with me:

1.) Christmas music. Of course. I don’t love most of the music that plays on the Christmas music 24/7 stations, so I’m not super giddy over that. This is the first year we haven’t subscribed to Sirius in years. I would always get so excited as the stations transitioned over to Christmas music, only to sit back in disappointment after-the-fact saying that’s right, yuck. The thing is, if you were to ask my expert opinion (expertise on my taste, and that alone) I would tell you that I love really great Christmas music. New or old, classic or modern, as long as it is GOOD. Like this album (and yes, I mean album. You guys, it’s time to admit it- VINYL IS BEST) and in the last post (or maybe the one before it) I mentioned this one. I finally tracked a copy down and I am in
Christmas HEAVEN. I mean, the BEST way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear. Other than that, I’m just listening to Elvis and lots of classic records that have been in my family since way before I was born.

2.) I finally managed to see The Man Who Invented Christmas, and I can say it was well worth the wait! Such a lovely film and honestly, from a writer’s perspective, it gave me all sorts of feels…

3.) I LOVE Trader Joe’s. Anyone who knows me, knows this. So many people are right there with me. Some people don’t care and others hate it for some strangely incomprehensible reason… (It’s healthier, it’s fun, it’s creative and it’s affordable. What’s not to love?) What I am about to share, however, surpasses my regular, every day love for many things Trader Joe’s. Have you had Jingle Jangle ice cream? In case you aren’t quite sure what Jingle Jangle is, (and no, this is not an obscure Riverdale reference)  It is a holiday snack mix consisting of various sweet and salty bits. I am sure it can be quite tasty. The problem, for our family though, is that we never tried the snack mix before indulging in the ice cream. The ice cream is far superior. (well, assuming you love ice cream. And have taste.) The beloved TJ’s fave was a total let down compared to its creamy counterpart.

Imagine that this TJ’s bullet point were an album. On side A, we have the heavenly delight that is Jingle Jangle Ice Cream. This would be the delightful B side: The Taste Test of Caramels. Serious holiday fun, and it is delicious. Chw is a major lover of dark chocolate. The snobbier and blacker the chocolate, the better, as far as he’s concerned. (I, on the other hand, cannot stand dark chocolate) Super fun fact: I LOVE Caramels! They can come in the classless version of gooey goodness known as Milk Duds. They can be the square gems of luxury in the cheap and almost oxidized heart-shaped boxes of Februaries past. Caramels are life! (no. I’m kidding. Mostly I’m illustrating a here.) Follow up fun fact: Chw detests caramels! (we need to pause for a moment here… Ok.) It is totally like West Side Story up in here, sometimes. The tension is real, yo. Obviously, the prospects of this Caramel flight are equal parts torture and pleasure for us. We split them, one mystery caramel, each evening. We discuss and debate their layers of buttery sugar and bitter chocolate, and then (only then) we reveal peak at its flavor. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are very wrong. Last night’s Caramel (Fig and Honey) was one that Chw was the most terrified of, and guess what?!?! We both loved it. So far we haven’t had one we did not really enjoy, proving once again that TJ’s is amazing. It is the professional helping me to come to peace with disgusting dark chocolate, and my dear misguided husband embracing caramel. (#traderjoesforever)

4.) Really awesome gift finds. I am a gift giver. We all know this. I love it. I live for it. I am fairly descent at it, in most cases… This year I have discovered some really cool things and I want to share them here, just in case you find yourself in need of some ideas…

  • The Gentleman’s Box. I LOVE this! Neither my husband nor my son would love to receive it, but I personally think that it is super cool.
  • Baby Lit. Does everyone in the world know all about Baby Lit, and I am just a loser? This entire product line is like one of those instances where I admit that I totally could have done this first, and been set for life. (Wait, is this company’s person (er, people?) set for life? I certainly hope so, because, BRILLIANT!
  • Blue Q. About a year and a half ago a friend sent me socks from Blue Q. They were edgy, and funny, and timely and unique. Since then, Blue Q has moved beyond socks and it is wonderful (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Ticket to Ride. It was early this year when our family boarded the TtR fan club, and when we commit, we COMMIT. Between the lot of us, we’ve got most editions covered. (no Rails and Sails, but someday!) Super fun game, for pretty much anyone over the age of 7/8. I was 40 when I started obsessively playing this game, and I learn so much from it, so that’s pretty cool.
  • Salt Massage Stones. I think I may have mentioned these before, but they were a high point this year, for sure. It is amazing, when heated, how they literally pull tension.
  • Le Creuset French Press.  Hands down, THE BEST French Press either of us have ever used. The coffee is incredible, it stays warm, it is super easy to clean. We love this thing!
  • Tarte Eye Shadow Palettes. Absolute favorite eye colors this year. Perfectly pigmented, blends beautifully. Ethically made. Just love them!
  • Novel Journals. Seriously, brilliant. Such a simple, cool and meaningful way to incorporate a classic book into a useful and intentional gift.
  • Cuisinart immersion blender. Truthfully, this gadget would make my list, EVERY SINGLE YEAR. It is, hands down, the best appliance we have in our kitchen.
  • Book That Takes its Time. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! It’s amazing! Most favorite book ever!
  • Instant Pot. I am not going to say much else. If you haven’t ever heard of it, I am shocked- and props to you for shielding yourself from every form of social media.

5.) This toaster oven. I am OBSESSED. To clarify, NO I do not own one, and I likely won’t ever.I will also have you know that I blame Oprah for making me aware of its presence. (thanks, Oprah!) It is incredible. (and sold out, because that is what happens when Oprah makes something her favorite) (but I don’t have a budget for one anyway, so it’s all for the best. Enjoy your amazing ovens, Oprah fans.)

So, in closing, let’s review a few important things… Vinyl is best. Everyone needs to see The Man Who Invented Christmas. JINGLE JANGLE! (#traderjoesforever) There are some cool gift ideas out there. If you are trying to reach me, and can’t, I am probably staring hopelessly (pathetically) at a website feature of the Toaster oven, and drooling.

Also, if I were Oprah, you’d all be going home with these really cool things and everyone would be so happy! (especially me, because I would have the toaster oven.)

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chronic illness, confession, creative, depression, family, food, friendship, gifts, gratitude, home, journey, marriage, parenting, parties

I know it is supposed to be the most wonderful time of year…

 

Holiday baking is this really incredible, magical ideal I have always had. My grandmother was the sort of woman, of her generation, who loved others through the food she made. She canned, preserved, baked and stewed almost 24/7, in one way or another. She believed, to her core, in hard work and I realize looking back that she lived the life of an authentic feminist, just at a time when this was more a way of life and less a mouth driven, man-bashing subculture. That woman truly needed a man for nothing, but had chosen to love one until his death. She was incredible, my grandmother… And the holidays were no exception. Her cookies, (often times colored and pressed, in that vintage way that is all about nostalgia now) her candies, cakes and pies were seamlessly there and ready, dependable and delicious, just like we’d grown up knowing they would be.

My own mother wasn’t much of a baker, or a cook really, but she certainly believed she was. Even now, in her state of dementia, when she begins talking about the days before her illness, she was the cook to beat all cooks. My childhood consisted of lots of microwave dinners, (unevenly heated and disgusting, mind you) bologna sandwiches and then when my step father was around (5-10 days a month) we had real meals. Sometimes my mom cooked them, (if that were the case, a box or can of something was typically ALWAYS involved) and sometimes he grilled them. Cakes involved mixes, eventually cookies involved mixes. She was all about that short-cut cooking which was introduced to America around the same time she was. It makes sense. It wasn’t that she was lazy… The woman painstakingly made chocolates to die for, and they were loved by many, many people, across the nation.

I remember when I learned how to cook, (a sordid and woeful journey, poor Chw…) I was very excited to share with her, my skills. That is how most young girls are. No matter what ill hurts lie between a daughter and her mother, that desire to get her approval is strong. My first big success was lasagna. An elderly woman, who was very dear to my husband, was also the brilliant cook to create his all-time favorite dish and as a wedding gift she was teaching me, from her wheelchair, how to make it. My mother was full of complaints and disgust over my perfected deep dish of love, and I was devastated. This became a theme, really… Mom, look at my new couch! It’s hideous, I’d never own something like that. Mom, I finally perfected a lemon cheesecake. I had thought it would taste way better than this, it’s almost inedible. And on, and on, and on.

And now I sit, at the start of another Christmas season. I have my dutiful little list all written out… What I will bake, and for whom. When. And slowly the dread of doing so, and the self-doubt of why begins to trickle in. Over the past few years I have the same pattern, and though I plan and list otherwise, it will play out the same. The past few years have been the first where I have not had a holiday season filled, to the brim, with friends and family upon which to force my confections. This is far more bitter than sweet for me. This season it is mostly just the two of us, and Chw’s perspective is that of- there is no need to stress yourself out and go to the trouble when it’s just me and I probably won’t eat much of it anyway.

And I am sad.

I always say that I don’t love baking, but I remember loving it. I remember sugar cookies, ornately decorated, every season of my motherhood, until we moved back to Michigan. I remember reveling in my cheesecake masterpieces, creating cakes centered around loved one’s likes- for their birthdays, I remember delving into flaky pastries and pies and tarts and loving it all.

And then nothing.

No new cheesecake adventures, and truly I miss it. I do. But if I were to craft a new cheesecake, half of it would go into the garbage, and that hurts my feelings, though it probably shouldn’t. No cookie exchanges, no holiday parties or gatherings. It is easy to see how the holiday season can become so depressing for people. I look back on the good old days, where holidays were full of love and faces and people, my home always full and people enjoying what I’d made as we conversed and laughed over board games and quality moments. I knew then, that these were the life moments I loved, and how great things were. I remember pausing my life for a micro-second, simply to absorb how great it all felt. I remembered to appreciate it, always. What I never expected was it gone completely, all that is left is the reoccurring holiday list…

cookies

cupcakes

marshmallows

cheesecake

It is doubtful that any of it will get done. The thought of doing it exhausts me, (because, why?) but the thought of not doing it stabs me somewhere gutturally. And I think about these women before me, the holiday sugar journeys and how grateful I am for them. Maybe this season and phase of my life are meant to go in other culinary directions. I am strongly (and overwhelmingly) toying with the idea of tamales. I grew up with the eating of them a Christmas eve tradition. This was also in New Mexico, where everyone you know makes them, and they are readily accessible. I, myself have never made them and I am thinking that, maybe it’s time…

I am also toying with a few other adventurous little recipes to try out, since it is just us. I am both excited and tempted to just stick with doing nothing at all.

What about you? What baking/cooking will you plan to do?

beautiful, creative, entertainment, family, gifts, gratitude, holiday, home, journey, parenting

My first Christmas Gift, of the season…

My heart is all a flutter these days as darkness blankets the world earlier and twinkly Christmas decorations span the city streets. Part of my adult heart still feels a bit surprised when evening brings such Christmas magic to life. Isn’t adulthood kind of like that? Each holiday season seeming to approach sooner, and never seeming to hold quite enough of those peaceful, magic-filled moments we crave… Maybe it’s just me. (It isn’t though, right???)

Being a movie lover, and a Christmas lover (Christmas itself and not the consumer induced frenzy of chaos and clutter that seems to misrepresent the season, anyway) I find that movies really do act as the glue which binds my season together. For roughly forty-six weeks of the year I am a pretty critical film watcher, with fairly high standards, but come early November I melt into that girl who loves nothing more than spending a snowy afternoon or at-home-evening in front of the fireplace with a Hallmark Christmas Movie on TV and a cup of something deliciously warm and comforting in hand. Sure, its cliche. I’m pretty ok with that. These are among the rare moments I have ever shared with my mother. This is the very description of many a Christmas season moments in our home, once my motherhood was the route of my journey. Of course though, Hallmark is not the only source of Christmas movies which hold my heart… I love so many, from the really funny ones (Christmas Vacation, Elf, Surviving Christmas, A Christmas Story) to the heart-layered-lovely ones (Step Mom, The Family Stone, The Holiday) and so many beautiful classics (Miracle on 34th st, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Bishop’s Wife)… Many of these fall on my must watch every year list, which naturally inspires one to wonder: does this girl do anything other than watch Christmas movies in November/December??? The answer to this, naturally, is sort of… They are almost always on, in the background. Sometimes I focus on them, sometimes they simply go about their two-hour time period bringing comfort, like an old friend, while I go about a work project, gift wrapping, card signing, baking, or mundane household chores.

If I am being honest though, I’d have to admit that my all time favorite Christmas movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. This Christmas is finding me at 41 years old. For as long as I can remember, my holiday seasons have held this movie as a part of life’s festivities. It never grows old and I somehow still manage to cry and draw kernels of wisdom and truth from George’s story, despite the fact that every inch of it is already stitched into my heart. Though Michigan may not be my favorite leg of this life’s journey, one thing I truly love is at Christmas time when we bundle up (because the weather here is usually pretty rocky on this day, and Ann Arbor seems to intensify the rockiness of the weather) and head to the Historic Michigan Theater for a Sunday December afternoon showing of It’s a Wonderful Life. The seats are snug and tiny, and every inch of our surroundings are rich with history and family sharing millions of moments just life the one we’re partaking in. The theater has both warm popcorn and beverages, and proceeding the film there is a jolly man playing the best of all fun Holiday jingles on a larger-than-life pipe organ. When ever I think of Christmas and the bits I truly love, this one always illuminates my mind first. The entire afternoon is sheer perfection.

I love my old school, time-honored favorites. I am a sucker for the new Christmas movies too. There are already two out, and I’ve seen them both. (Like I said, I am pretty die-hard about this whole Christmas movie thing. Speaking of Die Hard– ALSO a Christmas movie I love! ) The movie I am REALLY looking forward to this season is The Man Who Invented Christmas. (Fun fact sidenote: I also read A Christmas Carol every December)

The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.

 

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS releases in theaters on November 22.

As if it isn’t exciting enough, I also have a behind the scenes featurette to share!

So tell me, are you feeling in the mood for Christmas yet? Well… I have a little Christmas giveaway to add to the spirit. I would love to give one of you a Christmas movie DVD pack. I’m leaving the title’s a secret, BUT to make it fun- I will tell you that each of the three films has some significant tie to this movie The Man Who Invented Christmas! Intriguing, right? Entries end at Midnight Thanksgiving day!

To enter to win this awesome little package all you have to do is leave a comment RIGHT HERE, about your favorite Christmas movie. That’s it. (and yes, Hallmark movies COUNT! They totally do!)

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Octobers are my favorite…

I love the beautiful simplicity of this photo. It isn’t mine, it isn’t us. There is something so beautiful about clasped hands, held together, skin-tight, love all that will fit in the between. After yesterday’s post, I wanted to take a little time before posted something far less significant. At the same time, however, looking over my list really allowed me the opportunity to be intentional about the 30 days still to loom ahead, within the month…

Home:

  • decorate for Autumn
  • more candlelit evenings
  • donate 31 things to charity
  • make candied apples
  • make my Grandmother’s apple butter

Create:

  • paper crafting projects
  • pull out the knitting needles
  • experiment more with essential oils and ways to help others with them

Relate:

  • spend time with my BFF, for the almost-week she’s visiting
  • apple picking and making memories
  • welcome my husband home and connect with him in all of the ways, before life takes us on legs of our own journeys again
  • speaking of journeys- fly to Seattle to spend time loving on my beautiful little granddaughter
  • dates with my mom
  • actively displaying gratitude and support to the staff in the nursing home
  • reaching out to connect with other women in life affirming ways

Personal:

  • (finally) meet with personal trainer
  • stick to a schedule for writing, and progress.
  • continued work with my chiropractor and kinesiology
  • hot baths, yoga and self-care

Read/Watch:

  • American Made. (dying to see this movie, even though I know it was technically as September release.)
  • The Mountain Between Us
  • Goodbye Christopher Robin 
  • Reread Alice in Wonderland
  • Braving the Wilderness 

 

What about you? What are you looking forward to, in these growing and cooling evenings? What things do you look forward to the most? Life is hard and heavy, but we still have the responsibility to love the lives we’re living and try to breathe life and beautiful in the brutal… Some days that may be all we’ve got.

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Depend… (5MF post)

 

Every time I take a moment to contemplate the things I feel I want to do, need to do, or would like to plan for- I am instantly chastised by the voice in my head which tells me to consider pretty much everyone else. For example, I would absolutely love for my husband to be offered an amazing job where we move away from the midwest and start anew. Though this dream sings the song of my heart, for sure, the crushing reality is that it wouldn’t really work. My mom is in a nursing home here and she depends on me… In the day-dream he is given a gigantic raise, making flying out here regularly a possibility- but still…

Every heart-note of my soul song is turned flat by the weights which I feel depend on me.

  • I would LOVE to buy that new dress with this $68, but is that fair to my husband/kids/etc?
  • I would love to buy a ticket and go to New Mexico for a week, but Chw and I have hardly been home together and that is not ending any time soon, and what about the dogs? It’s not fair for him to deal with this on top of working the awesome job he actually has, in real life… 

I love to be needed. I love to be able to help a friend or loved one out. I love for someone to reach out because they know I’m there. These days though, I am feeling a little bit of the weight of the normal adult things depending on me. I want to be free to be/go/do/dream without the crashing reality of adulthood. There are days when life feels filled with others who have that freedom and it magically works out. I am hoping my time to learn that secret happens soon. :)

(this posts is a piece for the Five Minute Friday weekly challenge.)