12.14.16 Holidaze (& a Giveaway)
Have you been sucked into the December vortex? Standing in long lines, eating too much sugar and feeling like a loser because you can't afford to buy all the presents are some indications that the holidays are getting the better of you. Resist! I say. Go simple. Stay true. Be calm. It's a challenge, I know. Just the other day, as I sat wrapping gifts, I was overcome with sadness. Both my parents are gone, what little family I have lives on the West Coast and most of my friends are far away. I never had children. I live in a tiny cottage and my home doesn't overflow with several generations. My life suddenly seemed very thin to me and, I confess, I felt a little sorry for myself. And I start every day with a gratitude practice in which I carefully review all my many blessings! What is it about this time of year that preys on our vulnerabilities? I didn't really snap out of it until my husband came home and took me in his arms and talked me through the realities: I am healthy. I am safe. I am lucky. I am loved. There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.
Onward & upward! I'd like to share a few of my holiday highlights with you. In that top photo is, of course, evidence of the annual caramel-making tradition. This year I am not doing a huge mailing of them. I decided I would just give them away to people I actually encountered in the flesh. The exception, of course, is you. I have a few bags for lucky readers in far-flung corners. To be eligible for my random drawing for golden-cardamom and chocolate-chile sea salt caramels, leave a comment at the bottom of this post by Sunday, 12/18, telling me about your favorite holiday tradition.
This picture, above, is from my visit to Blackcreek Mercantile. I was headed to Kingston, NY, for an appointment with my homeopath and happened to read that they'd opened a new retail space. Their wooden kitchen utensils and furniture are beautifully made. I especially love the ones that are stained black. They also carry work by local artisans, including some stunning handblown glasses by Ernesto Echeverria. When in Kingston, make sure to check out Hops Petunia and Clove & Creek. Both shops carry charming assortments of locally made (or locally relevant) goods.
Just before Thanksgiving, a gorgeous grouse showed up in our yard! G and I were putting the garden to bed and this feathered friend started hanging around. He wasn't at all shy, unlike most wild birds, and we now suspect that he was raised in captivity and released on the grounds of a nearby hunting club for game season. Whatever his provenance, he is safe with us now. We have named him Larry David and provide him with a steady diet of cracked corn. He seems to get along just fine with the jays, doves, woodpeckers, cardinals and chickadees that are all regular guests at our winter feeder. (There is some interesting symbolism associated with the grouse.)
Gingerbread is a holiday favorite of mine. I start to crave it by October and usually bake it at least twice during the cold weather. I like this recipe because it turns out great no matter what I do to it. Once I forgot to add the egg and it was still divine. This year I made it using blackstrap molasses (rather than unsulphured) and it was better than ever. The crackly lemon glaze is essential.
Speaking of lemons, I am so excited about my annual delivery of organic Meyer lemons from Lemon Ladies Orchard in California. They are grown by the amazing Karen Morss and each one of her trees is named for a woman who helped her achieve her goals and dreams. She always includes a surprise or two in my box—see the green makrut limes and the California bay leaves? I'm all set to make preserved lemons.
Of course a delicious cocktail is required to toast our many blessings. I like this one, The Red Sea, because it makes good use of the season's vibrant fruit: blood orange, pomegranate and kumquat. (And my friend Nini spoiled me with the most stunning tin of fragrant Persian saffron, which I will use to make the infused vodka.)
My husband took this portrait of me last week and I think it really captures the joy at the center of our connection. When I told him that I knew everything would be OK because I always had him, he smiled gently and said, "Even more importantly, you have you." Handsome, kind and wise! I really am blessed.
But enough philosophizing—there are caramels to eat! Actually, I scarfed down so many of the chocolate ones the day I made them that I got heart palpitations and felt nauseous. (The upside is that I simply can't eat any more.) Let that be a lesson to you when you get yours! Now, leave me a comment so you can get back to cultivating inner peace. xo