Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Christmas Blues: Three Tips for Survival

The holidays are among us. Personally, at this time in my life, I love the holidays!  I have spent the past several weeks decorating my home trying to make it look as festive and cozy as possible for my family and loved ones.  However, if I am being super honest, I have not always appreciated this time of year. There was a point in my life when I was getting divorced and my father was dying of lung cancer that I honestly dreaded this time of year.

I do not think I am alone. For many people, the time between November and January is a very difficult time to get through. Some may call it the bah humbugs or seasonal depression, or even just a funky ole mood but it is common to encounter someone with the Christmas Blues whose goal is just to survive the holidays. 

There is something very emotional about the holiday season. It could be simply societal pressure of purchasing gifts and spreading ourselves too thin.  Maybe it is that a new year is upon us and staring us in the face, offering a time of reflection or taking stock of where we are in life and were we have failed or come up short. During my divorce, I felt like the biggest failure who would never find happiness again. The holiday's served as a reminder of all the things that I had lost and did not have. It was such a cycle of grief: I was sad to be alone, but when I was around everyone else, I was reminded of what a failure I felt like that I just wanted to be alone.

 Many of my friends really struggle during this time of the year.  Many have a relationship, or even relationships, they are not content with. They are experiencing rifts between their siblings or emotional distant from their parents, contemplating divorce with their spouse, or even have an estranged relationship with their child. These relationship challenges often are the basis for the Christmas Blues felt during this time of the year,

If you struggle during this time of the year, try keeping these three tips in mind.

1. Be Present in the Moment

There is a saying that Rome was not built in a day. Neither were our relationship challenges.  Christmas dinner is not the time to engage in an argument over Grandma's funeral or the business deal that failed. Despite all the holiday movies that find a solution and make the family perfect; in real life a solution will not just magically appear. Lessen your expectations. Instead of expecting the relationship to instantly be repaired,  make a plan to enjoy the short time you are together. Leave the "baggage" at the door and be present in the moment you are sharing.

2. Do What You Can

Work parities, school parties, family gatherings, social events with friends: it seems like the invitations are endless during this time of the year. You do not have to say yes to every single in invite you receive.  You can pick and chose. You also get to decide the depth that you enter. Some may enter up to their ankles, where others may wade into to their hips. No one expects you to be the life of the party and you should not expect that of yourself either. When I was at my lowest, I had a small child that did not understand my struggles. I did what I could for him and let the rest go. You know what, he still had a perfect time. As he has moved into adulthood, he looks back on the collection of holidays and hardly remembers my down times.

3. Forgiveness

I believe that we all are generally trying to do our best in life. I think we are all making life choices while weighing the pros and cons of our decisions. Some decisions we make seem like good ones in one moment and we learn later that they were not the best or they had consequences that we did not foresee. These are moments that can haunt us.  They make us feel unworthy. Forgiveness is critical to moving on. I would suggest that we have to start by forgiving ourselves before we can begin to seek forgiveness of others. Saying, "I am sorry, I made a mistake," is such a powerful message. Why not start with yourself.

My wish for you this holiday season is for peace. Take care of yourself and remember sometimes getting through is the best we can hope for. So, even if you chose to stay in bed all day on December 25, I promise the next day is a mere twenty-four hours away. 

Christmas Cookie Exchange: Lemon Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread


I think we all might have a touch of Cookie Monster in us when it comes to our love of cookies. I mean, really, who does not love cookies?

One of my favorite holiday traditions is an old fashioned cookie exchanges. You bring in a couple dozen cookies and swap with your friends. You leave with a sampling of cookies; maybe an old favorite or maybe even something new.

My cookie of the year is a Lemon Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread. The red cranberries and the green pistachio's just look like Christmas in a cookie.  The lemon just gives the cookie an extra pop of flavor.

Lemon Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

2 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted pistachio's coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
zest from 1 lemon

Mix the flour and salt together in a separate bowl. In your mixer beast the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Gently stir in the flour mixture just till incorporated. Fold in the pistachio'sand dried cranberries.

Divide dough in half. Roll into a log and and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours or up to three days.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Use a sharp knife, slice the logs into 1/3 inch thick cookies. Place on a prepared cookie sheet (one lined with parchment) and bake for 15-20 minutes. You want the edges to be just beginning to brown.

My work life has been rather busy lately. Our agency is kicking off a new approach to engaging with families to help partner to keep children safe. We had a huge kick off in St. Louis, Missouri, four hours from my home. I arrived home late in the evening the night before our cookie exchange. What I appreciated most was this dough was able cool in the refrigerator the two days I was gone.  One word of advice, I should have let the dough sit at room temperature for a moment before I started slicing. 

My girlfriend sent me a text after trying the cookie. She is not very adventurous in her culinary life. She wanted me to know that the pistachio's scared her but she really liked the cookie. I love it when you try something new and learn it is yummy! 

Thank you coworkers for inviting me to the cookie exchange. I came home with some super yummy cookies. The family wolfed down the peanut butter cookies. I loved the molasses spice cookies and the applesauce cookies! They both reminded me so much of my childhood. My mom used molasses a lot when I was growing up. Mom also used to make an applesauce cake and those cookies felt so familiar! 

I hope you all are enjoying the most wonderful time of the year ! Don't forget to slow down from the hustle and bustle of shopping to enjoy a small pleasure. Have a cookie! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Worldess Wednesday: Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree such please you do bring me!

So much that I keep adding them to my home. Right now I have five in my home. By the time Ole Saint Nick arrives I may be up to six.

This year we changed things up a bit. I added mesh garland to the main tree in the house. I even made my own topper. The family tree in the basement got a new Frosty hat topper and some cute Elf legs.

My dining room tree is a rustic burlap, white, crystal, gold and bronze.  The star is a giant wooden star I found at Pier One last year.

This year in honor of our 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals, I created a small Royals themed tree. All the ornaments are salt dough and hand painted by myself. I made a gold crown for the topper out of sculpey clay.

The final tree is a small fuschia colored tree with pink lights and a pink star. This tree finds its home in The Short Chic's bedroom. She decorated it herself this year.