Gratitude in the Season of Attitude

I don’t want to turn on my TV this morning, or for that matter, any radio with people who speak between songs.  I just don’t want to hear it.  It is Black Friday, and I don’t want to hear about people who are willing to do physical and emotional damage to another human being just to get the best deal.  All I can think is:

Seriously, people???  Does it really matter that much?  Really??

I’m not talking about those people who shop Black Friday sales because the deals are awesome.  I’m not talking about people who map out the mall and have tag teams and a strategy. That is organization.  And I get that because I am all about saving money.  I’m not even talking about people who wear light up antlers and singing sweatshirts.  That is making it fun.  I’m talking about those people who are willing to trample, punch, shove, and show no compassion or respect for anyone but themselves.  Those who are pressing against the doors, grabbing shopping baskets and plowing over store employees and other shoppers, all to grab the deals as if their very lives and happiness depended on it, and then act like Daffy Duck when they have scooped up all their baskets can hold and more:

It’s mine!  Mine!  All mine!  Mine!

Wait a second…time out here…what on earth are they thinking???  Let’s back this truck up here and really think about what in the heck is going on here.  Nobody’s life depends on getting the right deal.  No one will spend the next five years in therapy if not presented with the proper gift at Christmas.  And certainly, there is absolutely no reason to hurt somebody in the name of all of this foolishness.  Where did we get the idea that large gifts – which have become the right gifts – are essential for the perfect Christmas?  In part, the commercials that play all season don’t help – think cars with big red bows, but the mentality has shifted so much to meeting people’s immediate demands and away from the relational aspect of the Christmas season.

I was reading Dear Abby the other day, in which a harried toy store employee was asking shoppers to step back and think before they freaked out when the season’s hottest toy was out of stock.  The writer said parents even ask her, “Now what do I do?”  I find this sad, because the thought process seems to be that if the child does not have this present, it will ruin Christmas.  Will it?  Honestly?  Or will your child even remember it in six seconds after opening gifts?

Let’s face it, we all sat in front of the TV saying we wanted everything on the commercials, but we certainly did not even know what some of those items really were.  And we are not devastated, nor has Christmas been ruined forever, because we did not get the whole list of things we thought we wanted.

I can’t tell you what all of my gifts really were, or what I had wanted in the first place, but I can tell you stories of what happened on one Christmas or the other when I was celebrating with my family – taking the goofy pictures of all of us in the matching pajamas that my Maw-Maw had made (which was cool because there were a ton of us), sitting at the kids table at my Granny’s house and trying to beat my cousin to the mashed potatoes, and all of it a big mass of love and cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles and fudge and cookies with candied cherries on top (I never ate those cherries…gross!).  My family can all tell stories of the goofy things that happened at the office party at the company my dad used to work for, I can tell stories of a good number of Christmas Eves where my dad would wake me up with, “Daughter, it is time to go shopping for your mom,” (one year we lost the car – it was tan, so that was not hard to do), hanging the Santa and his reindeer ceramics that my Mom had made, all of us scooping out divinity in a hurry, and the sleeping Santa candy dish. I treasure the memories the most.

So first, let’s keep it civilized this year, people.  Don’t cross the line of being willing to hurt somebody else in order to fulfill your needs.  That is not right.  Second, let’s spend some time having attitude – an attitude of gratitude.  Be kind, especially to the people who have to work the crazy hours so you can shop; the people in line around you, some of whom have been trampled; and anyone else in range.  Be grateful that you have the blessing of money to purchase gifts, and use it wisely.  Be grateful that you have family and friends who love you.  Be grateful for all of your blessings – sit down and start making a list – and you will be amazed how quickly it all adds up.

And most of all, remember that you do not make the perfect Christmas with stuff.  Stuff is stuff.  Focus on the birth of our Savior.  Focus on family, friends, relationships, and the beautiful gift of time.  Focus on what is really important, and the stuff is not it.

My Crock Pot Rocks – Beans

My Crock Pot Rocks - Beans

All gaseous mass jokes aside, we love beans, especially in the wintertime. But having to babysit them while they are cooking on the stove is a bit of a pain, because you have to watch them pretty carefully to make sure there is plenty of water and you are not burning them. Enter the crockpot to save the day!!

Start with soaking your beans. You can either soak them in water for 8 hours (overnight), or use the quick soak method. If you don’t know this one, it is really simple. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add beans, cover, boil beans 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the beans sit covered for one hour. Boom! Done.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans and add to crock pot. Add water or broth, and then your seasonings. If you want to add ham or sausage, go for it. Then put the lid on the pot, set on low for 6 hours or so, and go away. Check the beans to make sure they are done – larger beans will take longer – and then let cool.

You can freeze beans to use in soups or chilis, or to use as a side dish or meal later.

Chicken Broth

This is easy to make, easy to freeze, and super helpful because you always have it on hand.  I don’t know about you, but I have been caught short-handed on this one a few times, and it annoys me.  Plus, have you ever noticed how much salt and other junk is in commercially prepared broth and stock?  Eeeeeuuuuuwwww!!

So here is what you do: 

I buy a rotisserie chicken when I make a Costco run.  I debone the chicken, and add those bones to the large pot.  Save the chicken for later. I do not add the skin because of the salty seasoning on it.   Add roughly chopped veggies – carrots, onions, and celery – to the pot.  You will be straining this, so the veggies do not have to be tiny.  Go ahead and use those little odds and ends of veggies that you have left.  If you would like the taste of salt, add celery leaves instead of throwing them away.  (We are a no salt/low salt family, so this helps us immensely.)  Add water to the pot so that it is mostly full.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 40 minutes.  Strain and let cool.  Now you can:

1.        Just freeze the plain broth in whatever increments you would like.  I use ziplock bags for this. 

2.       Add some of your chicken, and you have a base for chicken and veggie/noodles/rice soup.  I also have made egg drop soup this this base, and it is super yummy.  You can also freeze this in ziplock bags. 

3.       Can the broth in mason jars.  You will need to do this while the broth is hot, and follow the directions for your pressure canner.  I do this more when the weather is cool and my house benefits from the heat this produces….and I get nice jars of broth.  Win!

This also works with turkey, and since Thanksgiving is on its way, let’s not let all of those turkey bones go to waste.

 

Taking People for Granted

Taking People for Granted

A very sweet lady that I have known since I was probably eight posted this on Facebook for her granddaughters. I love it for that, and for the very simple message – notice and appreciate. This simple lesson is something that we can take from this season of gratitude and apply it year round. We will be better people for it.

We take so much for granted – people most of all – so think about the small opportunities that you have to notice and appreciate. That harried clerk who has to ask for your id when you use a credit card. Instead of harrumphing about what a pain it is, thank the clerk for being concerned about fraud and show your id with a smile. It will totally change the day for both of you. And on a side note, thank you to those companies who check id from someone who had her wallet stolen from VBS one year, and the thieves racked up almost $1000 in charges in less than 45 minutes – $245 in underwear. Notice the barista at Starbucks who has a squillion detailed orders to fill and gets them all right. Notice the school secretary who answers every phone call with compassion and kindness and patience even though she has been asked the same question forty times already, even though the answer to the question was sent out in two emails and a tweet. Notice the person who opens the door for you, or better yet, notice the person struggling to open the door and give them a hand. Notice the elderly couple who are still holding hands in the mall. Notice the IT person who answers your questions with patience and never once makes you feel incompetent or stupid. Notice your mail carrier, who delivers you mail with the same care he delivers his own. Notice the health care worker, day care worker, or server at your restaurant. Notice the teacher who will do whatever it takes to help your child be successful, the counselor who makes sure your child has the support to work through problems, and the principal who orchestrates it all and balances love and discipline. Notice the checker at the grocery store who lets the child with special needs help her ring up the groceries. Notice as much as you can. Say something to those who you are noticing to show how much you appreciate their efforts.

Yes, most of these people are just doing their jobs, but if they were not, where would you be? And where would everyone else be if you did not do your job? Everyone, no matter what, loves to be appreciated even for the smallest thing. So reach out to those around you and truly show your appreciation for as much as you can. And keep this attitude of gratitude with you all year long. Not only will you be making someone else’s day, it will open your eyes to all of the blessings in your life.

Christmas is Coming – Update 2

So, I am ten days away from December 01, and here is my progress so far:

1.        Apple butter for teacher’s gifts is done. 

2.        Our photographer has posted the gallery of pictures and they are amazing.

3.       I have ordered some gifts online already.

4.       I have the events on the calendar that we need to attend, and nights blocked off for us to stay home or do family stuff.

5.       I have some meals already cooked and frozen, and the meal/prep plans done for the next two weeks.

6.       I have already shopped online for gifts that I need to go pick up this weekend.  I have to head out to the mall anyways, so I might as well save the shipping. 

Here is what I have left to do: 

1.        Make another half a batch of apple butter for additional gifts.

2.       Order Christmas cards.

3.       Pick up the remaining gifts this weekend and wrap them.

4.       Start doing Christmas baking.

5.       Decorate.

6.       Make a few meals ahead in the crock pot. 

That is it.  That is seriously all I have left.  I have to say I love this idea of organizing little bits each week to get it all done.  I cannot tell you the last time I had anything done before Thanksgiving, much less December 15th.   It feels really good to know I can work a little each day over Thanksgiving and have it mostly done, except for the cards, which will take a few days to print and come in.  But I can at least make the labels for those. 

The email this week from Happy Simple Living advised to prepare meals and baking ahead of time to reduce stress and take advantage of coupons and sales.  I am all over that one.  I am a big fan of the crock pot, and I have a lovely Dutch oven as well, and I use those to cook meals ahead of time and freeze them.  Both will make huge batches of soups, stews, and chilis, which freeze well.  I also have some other recipes on the blog, and the Happy Simple Living blog had some websites listed that are also super helpful. 

So I am still working on it, and I am closer to my goal than I have ever been before. 

 

My Crock Pot Rocks – Roast

I love roast in the crock pot.  And I love it when roast goes on sale – chuck roast is my favorite.  And you can do a ton of stuff in the crockpot with it, so all the better.  Here it goes…

Take your defrosted roast and season with pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Put in your crock pot.  Here is where the fun begins, now what?

Add onions, sweet potatoes, and low sodium beef broth. 

OR, add a few cups of black coffee and onions.

OR, add onions, carrots, potatoes, and low sodium beef broth.

OR, add purple onions and BBQ sauce of your choice.

OR, add onions, diced tomatoes, and low sodium beef broth.

OR, add onions, mushrooms, and low sodium beef broth. 

OR, use your imagination.  What ingredients do you like?

Once your ingredients are all safely in the crock pot, put the lid on it, set on high, and go away.  Come back in 7 hours or so (depending on the size of your roast), and your meal should be ready.  Enjoy!

Oh, and freeze the leftovers.  You will love it all over again.