Holidays, Events & Parties

My Favorite MLK Jr. Quotes

January 18, 2016

MLK Jr at Pixabay

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. Here are some of my favorite quotes by him:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.
Image: Pixabay

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Welcome 2016!

January 4, 2016

Bubbles/Pixabay

Happy new year, friends! Ready to take on 2016?

I took a semi-tech break last week. Frankly, I don’t know where the time went, but I guess it had something to do with recovering from illness, my mother-in-law heading back home mid-week, New Year’s Eve and day, and some visiting here and there, not to mention being back to work.

How’s 2016 treating you so far? Have you made any resolutions? If you’ve been reading SlowMama for some time, you know I’m a fan of making resolutions, or some variation of it. (Mags wrote about making “non-resolutions” last year.)

This time, I didn’t enter the year with a well-defined list. I think it’s going to be a full one, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed last week just thinking about it, so I decided to not put a lot of extras on my plate.

A few things are calling to me, though: First, getting better organized. I’m starting a new system of sorts and I look forward to telling you more about it soon. I also want to work on my fitness. That’s been a goal I’ve failed in miserably for the past two years because I can’t seem to prioritize it in my schedule. But I’ve got a couple new ideas to help make it happen. I’m not putting too much pressure on, but it’s nagging at me.

I’ve also got a couple spiritual practices I want to focus on, and I want to be more deliberate about some family plans I want to see happen this year. When I get it all sorted in my mind a bit more, I may write about it.

I’d also like to make some changes to this blog. I wanted to do it in 2015, but a combination of being undecided about what exactly I want to do and my life as a working home-schooling mom knocked it down on my priority list. Right now, I’m not sure if 2016 will be a big year of change for SlowMama or not, but I’ll definitely keep you posted.

How about you? Any goals or plans? Any themes you want this new year to be guided by?

I wish you and yours a healthy, peaceful, meaningful 2016!

Image: Misku at Pixabay

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2015

IMG_4295

I’ve always loved Christmas, but S and H have taken it to a whole new level. They’re just so much fun. Their big gifts from us this year were guitars. H has been asking for a pink guitar since she could speak English, and S was equally interested so she got a blue one. They both love music and seem to have a gift for it. B plays so he can get them started and if their interest continues, we’ll get them some lessons.

I’m under the weather today, unfortunately, so I’m laying low and hope to be back to normal soon since my mother-in-law is here and I’m a little useless at the moment. But we’ll be trying to keep the spirit of Christmas alive for the 12 days of Christmas around here.

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas and happiest of holidays!

Oh, and also, this:

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Happy Christmas Eve!

December 24, 2015

Star Clusters/Pixabay

It’s Christmas Eve! I’m finally (mostly) recovered from a virus I came down with last week and I might just be ready for Christmas tomorrow after all. My mother-in-law landed in rainy, warm Baltimore yesterday and I even managed to clean the bathroom before she arrived. Miracles never cease!

I do love Christmas Eve and this year is a little different because we’re celebrating it Spanish-style with my brother and his family. My sister-in-law hails from southern Spain and Christmas Eve is a big deal there — most families eat their main Christmas meal with relatives on Christmas Eve before attending Midnight Mass. Depending on the region you’re from, dinner may be seafood or even turkey stuffed with truffles (not the chocolate kind), or some kind of pork. In our case, my sister-in-law is roasting lamb, and she’s a fabulous cook so I know it will be delicious. We’ll start with tapas, of course, and Spanish wine. I’m taking one liberty — I’m bringing a dessert from our side of the family — a traditional gingerbread cake with lemon sauce that my French grandmother used to make for Christmas every year. (In fact, posted in last year on SlowMama so be sure to check it out — a gift that keeps on giving.)

Enjoy your day and evening, friends.

Image: Pixabay

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The Best Laid Plans

December 18, 2015

Flower

So you know when you have plans to get a lot accomplished because Christmas is next week and you still have so much to do like shopping and baking and wrapping and getting packages in the mail, and finishing your cards, and making the house half-way presentable for your mother-in-law, and decorating the tree… and then you get slammed with a cold virus that zaps you of every ounce of energy and creative impulse?

Welcome to my world this week. It’s like God had a laugh when I said to my husband on Monday, “There’s so much to do before Christmas; I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed!” And then the next day, I was pretty much a walking zombie.

I really do try to keep things simple, but have somehow managed to leave certain tasks later than I’d wanted, so here I am.

In happier news, I have a new niece — a beautiful baby girl named Felicity Rose, born on Wednesday night. What a great Christmas present!

In honor of her, I should offer a drink, but it needs to be something that will also kill a few germs, so how about a straight shot of whiskey? I don’t like whiskey, but since I can’t taste or smell much at the moment, why not?

And how has your week been? What’s on your calendar this weekend? If I’m better, I’ll have a lot of catch up to do, and hopefully dinner with a friend who will be in town. Hope it’s a good one and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Death to the Stock Photo

 

 

 

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Endings and Beginnings

December 14, 2015

Bridge at Night

This past Saturday was my birthday. It isn’t the best time to celebrate a birthday — I’m always preoccupied with end of school semester stuff and Christmas prep, plus everyone is so busy — but it also comes at a good time because it’s the natural end of a year and the beginning of another. It’s the time of year I pause and think about what the past year has been, noting the significant events, the struggles, the accomplishments. And I look ahead and survey what’s on the horizon, and what I’d like the next year to be about.

2015 passed lighting-quick. Looking back, what stands out were our trips — to the mountains of North Carolina for the TV show we filmed, our time in Maine, and then bringing S and H to Nova Scotia for the first time (which was the highlight of their year, for sure). B made a big change in his work schedule, which changed our family routine, and I continued to learn how to juggle working from home, homeschooling, and parenting in a house the size of a shoe box.

Which brings me to one big hope for 2016: a new house. It’s overdue. We have many details to work out, but I’m hopeful that by March or April we’ll know whether we can really make it happen and where exactly we’re going. Moving feels overwhelming, but it’s got to happen.

I have numerous personal and professional hopes and goals for the new year, too, some of which I’m still thinking through. How about you — are you thinking about the past year yet, or the year ahead?

Image: Dave Meier at Picography

 

 

 

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Poinsettia at Pixabay

Advent began yesterday and I find that observing it changes this time of year. For a lot of people, as soon as Thanksgiving is over (and I’m taking about the US here), the Christmas festivities begin and all of it culminates on Christmas day. Then it’s all over the next day — the trees come down and life starts to go back to normal.

But Advent is meant to be its own season, with its own themes: darkness and light, waiting and anticipation, patience and preparation.  There are also many different traditions or celebrations that make it special. We place an Advent wreath on our table, which we light at dinner time, and we also have an Advent calendar that the girls use to count down the days until Christmas. And S and H will also get treats in their shoes on St. Nicholas Day (December 6), even although we tend to cut back on treats in Advent until Christmas arrives (except for birthdays or special days).

This year, as a family, we came up with a number of Advent activities we’re going to do that center on thinking about others. Here are some of them:

  • Bake something special for a shy neighbor who finds second hand books for the girls and drops them through our mail slot. He knows how to pick them, too — they’re always winners.
  • Bake something for our terrific car mechanic and his staff who’ve gone the extra mile for us this year.
  • Drop off a treat to the local firehouse to thank them for their important service.
  • Create small gift bags for the homeless and street people we encounter downtown and give them out the week before and the week after Christmas. We’re still deciding what to put in the bags, but it will be things like: healthy snack bars, chocolate, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, hand sanitizer, lip balm, and a little note.
  • Get one dollar bills, put sticky notes on them with little messages of kindness, and leave them in random places for people to find.
  • “Be kind to each other” at home: We’ll cut up small strips of paper (pretend straw) and each time someone does a special act of kindness or thoughtfulness, you put a strip in a little “manger” (a box or little container) for them.  (That’s where the baby Jesus will be placed on Christmas morning.)

I’m excited about doing these with the girls. As they get older, we’ll do other things, like maybe visiting long-term care patients in a hospital, singing carols at a nursing home, or volunteering to serve meals to the homeless.

Of course, no matter what, there are still gifts to buy and mail in the next couple of weeks, a tree to get and decorate, guest to prepare for, menus to plan, B’s office party to attend, and some birthdays to celebrate in the middle of it all (including mine). But a meaningful Advent often makes for a more joyful Christmas, which is all its own season, too.

Do you observe Advent? Any special traditions you have between now and Christmas or Hanukkah?

Image: Pixabay

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Happy American Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2015

Harvest

There are lovely smells wafting from my oven right now. And rightly so —  there’s a 15 lb turkey in there. Only wanted a 12-pounder, but the farmer said the turkeys are big this year so… lots of leftovers! Later I’ll make  a cornbread and herb dressing as well as bourbon maple sweet potatoes (in addition to other sides), and last night I baked this nutmeg maple-cream pie. It was calling my name this year. Then there are the delicious contributions my sister-in-law will be bringing for dinner. And there will be wine, of course. Plenty of wine.

The menu this year is a bit of an ode to north and south — appropriate since we live in Maryland. Next year I want to shake it up a bit more, though, by bringing more international dishes into the mix, especially Ethiopian and Spanish (my sister-in-law’s home country).

What’s cooking at your house today?

Today is, above all, about slowing down enough to consciously ponder all the gifts in my life. It’s easy to take my health, family, friends, good food, safety, clean water, comfortable home, work, opportunities — and so much more — for granted. The world is full of tragedy and pain which reminds me to, in each moment, be grateful for what I have, especially those things I did absolutely nothing to merit.

So, a very happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! And to everyone else, I hope you’re having a lovely day and week. I’m truly grateful you show up here to read my words; it sure makes writing a lot more fun!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

 

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Pull Up A Chair

October 30, 2015

Pumpkins

Seriously, friends, how did it get to be late October?

We’ve had some warm days this week, but fall has definitely arrived so here’s something to celebrate the end of the week while you’re putting those last touches on Halloween costumes and carving pumpkins — a Szarlotka (also know as Polish Apple Pie Cocktail). Chamomile-infused vodka? Sounds extra relaxing. And such a simple drink to make! (If you can find that vodka, of course.)

So while I lift my glass, I want to tell you that I finally got around to selling one of our cars, but the process ended up a getting a bit complicated. After money was exchanged and the car was gone, I discovered there was a title issue and I needed a lien release letter before the new owners could register the car in their names — and that was going to take five-to-seven days. So I prayed the couple would keep it parked off the street, as they said they would, because essentially it was still my car. Then I got a distress call the next day from them saying they tried to move the car and it was completely dead and it seemed to be an electrical problem. They wanted their money back. The car was still in my name and on my insurance — and I really didn’t want these people to end up with a total junk heap — so I agreed to refund their money and made plans to have the car towed to our mechanic.

Long story short, the new owners trouble-shooted the problem further before that all happened and discovered a simple fix to the problem. And they still wanted the car. So I’m happy to report that as of yesterday, the car is no longer ours. Now it’s time to figure out what to do with our other car and get to the business of buying a new one. Baby steps.

But enough about cars, on the roster today are happier things like an All Saints’ Day party at the girls’ homeschool academy, pumpkin carving, and getting ready for a little boy’s birthday party tomorrow as well as trick-or-treating. We keep it simple here, taking the girls to a handful of houses in the neighborhood and giving out treats from our front step. The big excitement for S and H is getting dressed up and my super talented mother-in-law made their costumes again this year, out-doing herself yet again. Can’t wait to snap a couple of pics and show them to you!

What are you up to this weekend? Hope it’s a wonderful one at your house, whatever you’re doing. I’ll see you back here next week.

Image:  Zoe Saint-Paul

 

 

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Serving Ethiopian Food in Ethiopia First, a big hello to anyone here who is stopping by after hearing my interview with Jennifer Fulwiler on her Sirius XM show yesterday! Jen really talked up SlowMama and while things have been a little quieter around here of late, I hope you’ll poke around and find something worth reading. Please come on by anytime.

September 11th has become both a day of remembrance as well as a day of celebration in our home. I can never forget being in downtown D.C. on 9-11. What to even say about that tragedy 14 years later? Words still fail.

But the day also happens to mark Enkutatash, the beginning of a new year in Ethiopia, which follows a different calendar. So it’s 2008 there as of today. This is one of the biggest celebrations for Ethiopians and to help keep our daughters connected to their birth culture, we celebrate it. Tomorrow we’ll be joining a large group of Ethiopian adoptive families at a local restaurant (Ethiopian, of course) to toast being seven years younger! Ha.

I’m still thinking about the beautiful services for our pastor this past week. As expected, the downtown basilica was packed and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. I’m not used to seeing archbishops cry. It was all very fitting for a holy man who touched so many lives and is already deeply missed. It’s a gift to have people in our lives who come along and show us what it means to live and love well.

A few people recently mentioned that they miss my Friday “Pull Up A Chair” posts, so I might get back to those, maybe a couple times each month. Always fun to find those delicious drinks to end a week!

I hope this weekend is restful and lovely where ever you are. See you back here next week.

Image: Ethiopian food being served in Ethiopia, Zoe Saint-Paul

 

 

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