Holidays, Events & Parties

Good Friday

March 25, 2016

Lukas Budimaier

Image: Lukas Budimaier at Unsplash

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Pull Up A Chair

February 12, 2016

Greg Rakozy for Unsplash

A few unrelated things to cap off the week…

First, I want to share this flourless chocolate cake recipe from Nigella Lawson that the girls and I made Tuesday in place of a king cake. (I just couldn’t make the traditional Mardi Gras treat happen this year. Plus, somehow the the plastic baby got lost somewhere. So that was that.) All the women in this house love chocolate so it seemed like a no brainer for the day before Lent.

Since I typically don’t keep white sugar or white flour in the house, I dug up this recipe and was reminded why it’s the perfect go-to chocolate cake. I used coconut palm sugar (stuck it in the Vitamix to make it superfine) and everything else was the same, except for adding dark chocolate chips to make it extra chocolatey. The three of us ate the whole thing in a day. And I still felt good afterwards, which is what happens when you fake your body out with a yummy chocolate cake that actually has no flour, dairy, or refined sugar!

Speaking of sweet things, Valentine’s Day is Sunday. Any plans? I’ve grown to like the celebration a bit more since having kids, but I’m still mostly a humbug about it. Maybe the girls and I will make some decorations, or I’ll surprise them with a treat. Lent and Valentine’s Day don’t really go together in the treats department, but at least it’s on a Sunday.

In honor of love day, and especially on this very cold winter weekend, I’m thinking this broiled grapefruit daiquiri may do the trick. I gave up alcohol for Lent, but virtual imbibing doesn’t count, and I think you’re going to love this one. (Can you tell I’m on a grapefruit kick of late?)

What’s on your docket this February weekend? Hope you stay warm and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Greg Rakozy at Unsplash

 

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Lent 2016

February 10, 2016

Lukas Budimaier for Unsplash

Lent has arrived super early this year! I don’t think I’m alone among those who observe Lent who would say that I have a love-hate relationship with this season. Mostly love, though, as I find the themes and practices edifying, even if sometimes challenging. If Easter is all about light and new life, Lent is the winter twilight. I don’t know what it’s like to celebrate Lent where it’s still summer, like they do in the southern hemisphere; but it seems to lend itself so well to the cold, dark days of winter.

Today I’m making a simple lentil stew for dinner and bidding a temporary farewell to my glasses of wine with dinner and regular dark chocolate indulgences. I have a couple of spiritual books I’ll be reading, and I’ve stocked up on healthy snack bars and bottled water to give to the homeless when the girls and I are out and about. I’m also doing something I just heard of, which is to take a calendar and write someone’s name down on each of the 40 days of Lent — family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, etc. and then each day I’ll be praying for that person and his or her needs.

There are a few other ways I’ll be marking this season, but I try not to make it too much about doing and more about the spirit of the whole thing. It’s also another opportunity to teach my children about the Lenten themes of sacrifice, simplicity, humility, faith, and generosity. By the way, S and H have decided they’re giving up candy for Lent. Not going to be hard when they ever actually eat candy. Ha.

Do you observe Lent? If so, do you have any common practices?

 

Image: Lukas Budimaier at Unsplash

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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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