Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Intentions, 2016

Well, well, well... somehow, 2015 has slipped right by, and a New Year is upon us! 2015 was a pretty great year for us! I can't wait to see what's in store for 2016.

Like many others, this is the time of year when I take a look at how my life is going, and take stock of things I'm struggling with, goals I want to accomplish, successes, failures, etc. I sit down each year and make a list of "Intentions" for the New Year. These are different than Resolutions, which seem a bit too "all or nothing" for me. You can see my past posts on Intentions by following the links here: New Years Intentions

In looking back at last year's list, I found I made GREAT progress on a couple of things, but zero progress on a couple more. That's life, I guess. But overall, my life definitely moved forward in wonderful, positive ways in 2015, so that is something I feel pretty good about. My health is much improved this year. I've been trying hard to work on patience and gratitude. And most notable: I've tried lots of things I've always wanted to do (like maple sugaring, beekeeping and soap making!) I'm hoping to continue moving forward, growing, improving, and enjoying life in 2016!

So... on to this year's list:

1. More Art. This was on last year's list, and... it really never happened. Life is busy, there was a lot going on, and once again, Art fell by the wayside. So... I'm going to try again this year! More Art!

2. Continue my journey toward good health. While I've made good progress on this one, I still have lots of room for improvement. So, I will continue to try to make caring for my body with good nutrition and exercise a priority in 2016.

3. Stick to a budget, and start saving something each month. This is ALWAYS a tough one, and I know we're not alone in this. I'm hoping that we'll be able to stick to our budget at least mostly, make it possible to start contributing to saving for the future, which is something we've not been so good at in the past.

4. Daily Journaling. This is something I've been wanting to do for a while, but just haven't been able to motivate myself. I was recently given the gift of one of those cool "daily prompt"-type journals from a good friend, which is just the kick I needed to get started. I'm going to start that book tomorrow, and plan to work on a "Gratitude Journal" as well.

5. Spend more time being a Fun Mom. I always wanted to be a Fun Mom, and when my kids were little, I think I was, at least most of the time. We were always off on adventures, doing fun things together. As they got older, life got in the way, and I feel like I got too wrapped up in daily survival to focus on having fun. This has gotten better since I quit my job in 2014, but now that they're (almost) all teenagers, I realize I've missed out on a lot. My youngest recently reminded me that we never play games anymore. He's right. We don't. That needs to change. Our oldest boy will be leaving the nest this summer, and my middle boy will be giving up homeschooling to attend High School next school year, so I really want to make the most of the rest of the time I have with them this year.

So that's it for my list of New Year's Intentions for this year. Now I'm going to go spend this New Year's Eve with my family... eating pizza, watching The Hudsucker Proxy and playing games until 2015 comes to a close.

May you all have a peaceful, joyous, love-filled, and very Happy New Year.




Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Holiday Wrap Up, 2015!

Winter Solstice window

After much merriment over the last few weeks, the Holiday Season is finally winding down. It's been a good one for us! I hope it was for you, too. Since last post, we've enjoyed a Solstice Feast, Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day!

Our Solstice celebration was last Tuesday... we were joined by my sister and her fiance, and we all enjoyed a lovely candle-lit evening, filled with good food, and good company.

We roasted chestnuts over an open fire... 



Traditional Solstice ice lanterns.. though, with
temps in the 50's, they didn't last very long! 



The table is set... ready for the feast... 



Christmas Eve and Christmas were also spent here at home. Christmas is a quiet, casual affair for us. We enjoyed having a couple of visitors, Skyped with my parents in Florida, and were very grateful for some quiet family time. We wrapped up Christmas Day as we always do, with take-out Chinese and a Christmas movie (this year, Elf!) 

As of now, We're currently in Christmas Recovery Mode. I'm clearing up the Christmas Clutter, and getting our home back to "normal." I am also savoring the remains of Winter Break before the kids' classes and activities start up again next week. It's nice to have some time to catch up on things here at home, and to have a little "downtime." 

Next post, I'll be talking about New Year's Intentions, as well as some fun new stuff I'm planning for the New Year!  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Savoring the Season...

There's a lot to love about the month of December. We've spent the first half of this month winding down from Autumn and gearing up for the coming Winter. We've been "Decking the Halls" and making our home cozy for the long, dark nights. We've been enjoying some of our favorite traditions, such as trimming our tree, making decorations and special gifts, going to parties, attending our town's "Holiday Stroll" event... and there have been holiday concerts, and we saw a wonderful production of A Christmas Carol! There are always so many great things happening this time of year. We always make it a point to cut back on regular Homeschool stuff in December, to give us more time to focus on these special activities and traditions.
Our living room, decked out for the season. 

This year's handmade wreath... one of my favorite traditions.

So we've been keeping ourselves happily busy with all of these fun December activities. But we've also devoted a good deal of our time this month to doing our daily "good deed" picked from our
 "Acts of Kindness" Tree. The kids and I have been enjoying giving back in small ways (like donating to our local food bank, buying poinsettias for the nursing home, baking cookies for our librarians, paying for someone's coffee) and in bigger ways, like organizing a coat and blanket drive for the homeless in our area. It makes me crazy proud as a Mama when I see my kids getting excited and enthusiastic about giving and helping others. For me, it's personal in a different way... I've been on the receiving end of SO much kindness and assistance during the years when things were really rough for us, so it's really important for me to Pay it Forward now that I'm able to. 

The next few days will be spent preparing for our Solstice Feast! We've got lots to do! Making ice lanterns, finishing up the menu planning, decorating, baking, etc. This is my favorite celebration of the season! I love embracing and celebrating the Earth's cycles. I'm one of those people who really lives by the seasons. Our routines, the way we eat and the activities we engage in all change and flow with the seasons. I find immense amounts of comfort in this. It makes me feel connected to something greater than myself. The Winter Solstice is particularly meaningful to me. I love marking the time when the days begin to get longer again, minute by minute, each day. I love thinking about how our ancestors have celebrated the Return of the Light for thousands of years. This dark, cozy time of year is a time of reflection, appreciation and togetherness.  

“Winter is the time for comfort,

for good food and warmth, 

for the touch of a friendly hand 

and for a talk beside the fire:

 it is the time for home.”

                                                          ~Edith Sitwell




Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our Thanksgiving Weekend, and Family Holiday Projects...

We are currently on our second day of  "back to business" after a really great long weekend/mini-staycation for the Thanksgiving holiday! It was great to have a few days to renew, recharge, and reconnect. The first three months of the school year have been an absolute blur, so this downtime was much needed. The Man was home from work this week, and we took most of the week off from our homeschool stuff, so we were able to really slow down and savor the holiday.

We hosted Thanksgiving here, but it was a small group... Myself, The Man, three of the five kids, and my wonderful cousin (who is more like a sister to me!) A big change from previous years was that, having the week mostly-off, I was able to actually enjoy the preparations for the holiday, without feeling stressed and rushed... I'm pretty sure that's the first time that's ever happened! We spent Monday and Tuesday cleaning, decorating and shopping. Tuesday night, we baked up all the desserts. Wednesday, I prepped most of the rest of the food (and finished in time for a date with The Man in the evening!)Thursday morning there was nothing left to do but set the table, put things in the oven, and put the finishing touches on the meal. 

Speaking of the meal... everyone always asks what we have for our Vegan Thanksgiving. This year, our main dish was, in fact, the ol' vegan standby, Tofurky! This is actually only the second time in nearly 30 years of vegetarianism that I've served Tofurky (last year was the first time!) but... the family likes it, and it's easier than the labor-intensive lentil loaves and such I've made in the past, so I was happy to oblige and make it again this year. Here's our full menu:

Appetizers

Crudite with dip
Cashew Cheese, pepper jam and crackers

Dinner

Autumn shredded kale salad
(with cranberries, pecans and apple cider vinaigrette)
Pumpkin Soup
Tofurky
 Roasted sweet potatoes and onions
Apple-cranberry stuffing
Balsamic roasted squash and brussels sprouts
Mashed potatoes
Corn
Cranberry sauce
Rolls 

Desserts

Pumpkin pie
Apple Tart
Molasses cookies
Spiced Cider
Tea

Next to the food, my other favorite tradition for Thanksgiving is the little "Thankful craft" we do every year... Starting about a week before the holiday, I leave out some paper leaves and markers, and throughout the week we all write down things we're Thankful for. We hang these leaves into a garland, and it just makes me so happy to see it hanging up as a reminder of all the good stuff we've got going on in our lives. 


A few of our Blessings


The garland, hanging on the mantle.

Speaking of seasonal crafts and projects... Today is December 1! (Seriously... can you believe it?!) so it's time for another favorite family project for this time of year... our Acts of Kindness Tree. (You can read more about that tradition in this post from last year) During our nice relaxing weekend, I got our tree ready, and later this morning we will be starting our first Act of Kindness. While I do think it's important to always be looking out for each other, and helping each other out all year long, it's really fun to have this little tree that reminds us to "step it up" during the holiday season, and do at least one kind thing for someone else every single day. 
Preparing... 

This year's Acts of Kindness tree
I've tried to work on reducing our obligations for the month of December, so that we can have a little bit more time to embrace the season, and do all the things we love to do this time of year. We'll spend more time in service to others, more time connecting as a family and more time making our home cozy for the long, cold winter ahead. 

Next post, I'll be sharing our seasonal decorating, which we'll be starting later this week.