In Search of a Christmas Drink

A couple of years ago, I rediscovered the seasonal drink eggnog. My mom used to fix the non alcoholic version when I was a child. During my year of having daily new experiences, I sampled an eggnog with a splash of rum for the first time. Topped with a sprinkle each of cinnamon and nutmeg, these nightly cups of eggnog with just a hint of rum became a favorite holiday drink. 

This year, since I no longer consume dairy products or sugar, I knew eggnog was out. I accepted that I wouldn’t be drinking it, mentally shrugged, and moved on. Truthfully, I didn’t miss it…until I discovered that Silk makes an almond milk nog, dairy free, with minimal sugar. 

The search for Silk Almond Nog began. 

Alas, it was not to be. Searching every store in my city, I could only locate Silk Soy Nog. Soy is on my “no” list. I accepted once again that I would not be drinking eggnog…or even almond nog…this Christmas. 


This is where the story takes a beautiful turn…where the Divine intervened. Others may have a difficult time believing that God cares about what I have to drink. I believe! Experience teaches me every aspect of my life matters. 

The desire beneath my desire for eggnog was simple. What I really wanted was a soothing, warming drink on cold winter evenings, after a full day…a drink to sip and unwind with. Hot tea is my standard evening drink. However, this time of year, I longed for something more festive. 

“Here you go,” whispered the Divine

On Christmas Eve morning, I happened to see a post from Anthony William in my Facebook newsfeed. It was a recipe for Spiced Apple Cider. It caught my attention immediately. A hot drink…a hot healthy drink, offered by the man I credit for inspiring me to begin my healing journey. 


Tonight, a pot of spiced apple cider simmered on the stove while I cleaned the kitchen. The aroma was wonderful, drawing me frequently to the bubbling pot to inhale deeply. This. This is what I had been looking for, a savory warm drink to sip on. And the cider is full of health benefits as well. 

Anthony writes, “Apple cider is a great digestive aid and is very soothing to the digestive tract, sipped before or after a meal. It also helps to reduce stress damage and keep the body energized and active. Cloves and ginger are especially good for warding off respiratory ailments and any cold or flu symptoms. They also help relieve headaches, nausea, muscle spasms, tension, & nerve pain. Cinnamon is very good for reducing inflammation in the body, making it helpful for people with autoimmune disorders such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Cinnamon also has the amazing ability to stop yeast infections, candida, and menstrual cramps. Star anise is highly beneficial in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism, back pain, shingles, herpes, halitosis, and sinus infections. It is also commonly used as a digestive aid and can help to relieve gas, constipation, cramping, bloating, heartburn, and indigestion.”

Now that is a good for me drink, with no dairy, sugar or alcohol! I used organic 100% apple juice, not from a concentrate. Instead of fresh ginger, I substituted 1/3 teaspoon of ground ginger. I’ll increase that amount in the next batch. I had the other spices on hand. Star anise can be purchased at health food stores. 

The spiced apple cider was wonderfully satisfying, fragrant and warming, the perfect drink to sip on during this holiday season…and beyond. I am so grateful that I went searching for a healthier nog. I was given something so much better, in every way. 

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Christmas 2016

What a beautiful day! This Christmas was different from last year, in that none of my grandchildren were present. All of the children spent the day with their other parents. Today, I missed the kids…and I had a joyful afternoon with my adult children, their spouses, Greg, my mom and my sister. 




My younger daughter Adriel and son-in-law Nate hosted the family in their beautiful home. We had a true smorgasbord for our shared meal, rather than a traditional Christmas dinner. Each of us brought a dish or two. There was taco soup, hash brown casserole, cheesy peas and other tasty offerings. I brought what has become regular fare for me, so my family could sample a variety of plant based sides. Included were seasoned potato wedges and brown rice pasta, served with marinara sauce, homemade hummus, lentil curry with brown rice, and roasted apples and pears, along with pomegranate bark. I loved the lentil curry that I made for the first time, using my slow cooker. 

My Christmas meal today…lentil curry with brown rice. 




After our meal we gathered in the living room, where the kids spent a couple of hours rummaging through boxes of their childhood artwork and flipping through old photo albums. Much laughter filled the room as drawings were revealed and the artist remembered the story behind the art. My children are all talented and creative artists, and my mother’s eyes could see that potential, even in their earliest works! 

My funny son-in-law, Josh. 

Our gracious hosts for the day. 

Six of the most beautiful souls that I have the pleasure of knowing. I am grateful to be their mom and mom-in-law!

I sat back today, watching the adult kids in my family, listening to their easy banter and peals of laughter as they pulled drawings or photos from the boxes. I love hearing my children and grandchildren laugh. I love seeing them interact with each other. It was an incredible time of celebrating together. 

I received special, and unexpected, gifts today, that include coloring books, gift cards, cookbooks and a pressure cooker that I am eager to try out. Greg surprised me with an art print that speaks deeply to my heart and ignites my creativity. Painted by a local artist, who is also a friend of mine, the piece is called “Incandescence” and contains my symbol for 2017 and an old fashioned typewriter, which represents my writing. I am thrilled to own this limited edition print. Hanging in my studio, it will be a daily reminder of the path I am on, and of the invitation I have been given for next year. 

Gratitude fills my heart tonight and overflows. I have so much to be thankful for…health, happiness, wonderful family and friends, and another magical Christmas captured in photos and memory. 

Merry Christmas…and truly, God bless us, everyone. 

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Anticipating Christmas

I love waking up on Christmas Eve day, and experiencing the thrill of anticipation. As a child I looked forward to opening gifts and playing with new toys. Now, I lie in bed and savor the delicious anticipation of opening a new day and letting it unfold as it will. And play, of the creative sort, is still an important and meaningful part of my day.  

It has been a full day…full of activities, full of fun, full of preparation, full of joy. Because I still have cooking to do, and it is 10:43 pm, I am sharing the unfolding of my day via photos. 

Beginning the day with fresh celery juice, followed by a breakfast smoothie. It has been vital, during this busy season, to continue to take exceptional care of myself. I am excited to be finishing the year strong, healthy and fit. 

Banana, peach, pineapple, blueberry smoothie. 

After completing grocery and gift shopping today, I worked upstairs gathering up photo albums and boxes of artwork created by my children when they were young. Tomorrow we will enjoy looking through these moments from the past. Above is one of my favorite old family photos, Greg’s great-great grandfather Tuck, in the civil war uniform, and Tuck’s sons Quincy and Roy. 

I finished wrapping the last of the gifts. 

And after delivering gifts to my younger daughter Adriel and son-in-law Nate, the three of us watched A Christmas Carol. This is a yearly Christmas Eve tradition for Adriel and me. The George C Scott version released in 1984, the year Adriel was born, and we’ve watched it together every year since, with the exception of last year, due to Adriel working Christmas Eve at the hospital. We love this classic story! 

Back home, candles were lit to welcome Christmas and send out Light into the mild night. 

I am creating in the kitchen, while Christmas songs play on my phone. I succesfully made pomegranate bark tonight. I have several more plant based dishes to prepare for tomorrow’s family gathering and smorgasbord at Adriel and Nate’s house. 

Interspersed throughout the day, Christmas messages and texts have flowed in, literally from around the world, warming my heart and amplifying my joy. That tingle of anticipation I awoke with has been the constant undercurrent during my day, as I look forward to spending time with my family tomorrow and sending Christmas greetings to friends and more family. 

There is a musical meaning for the word anticipation, that I love. It is the introduction in a composition of part of a chord that is about to follow in full. What a perfect definition for today…Christmas Eve…as I am experiencing in part what I will fully enjoy tomorrow. 

Happy Christmas Eve…and happy anticipation. 

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Christmas Gift Making with Dayan

I finished up the Yaya and grandchild Christmas tradition today with my oldest grandson, Dayan. However, we broke the new tradition of sharing a meal and shopping for family, reverting back to a tradition that Dayan and I practiced for years when he was younger…making Christmas gifts. 


I love that my 17 year old grandson, a senior in high school, asked if instead of shopping we could be creative. Of course, I said yes! Dayan was my only grandchild for years. When he was four, he made the connection between other people having birthdays and celebrating holidays, and giving them gifts. He embraced this idea with the whole of his big little heart, discovering it was as fun to give as to receive, and I began taking him shopping to buy gifts for his family. As our family grew, it became more economical to make gifts together, rather than purchase them. 

Dayan and I have been very creative over the years, and the time spent together making gifts was precious to me. Returning to this practice, after shopping for gifts last year, felt nostalgic and right and brought joy to my heart. 


Today we took a simple idea and duplicated it to create cookie wreaths for his family members. The results were wonderful, and we were quite pleased. We played Christmas songs by Pentatonix as we worked, as we both love this a cappella group. And we had fun as we made batches of cookies, laughing and chatting. 


Our conversations today were quite different from those we had when Dayan was a little boy. This intelligent young man discussed world events with knowledge and competence, sharing with me about recent occurrences around the globe. I appreciated that I could ask him about the refugee crises in Syria and get an in depth answer that helped me to better understand what’s happening in another country. Dayan’s compassion for others and his desire to make a difference in the world were very evident as he spoke. 


I am well aware that Dayan will be headed to college next fall. Knowing he will be venturing out and embarking on his own journey soon creates deep love and pride for my grandson, and a sense that such times together, making things, is coming to an end. 

Or are they?

As if reading my mind, Dayan said he would come home from the university next Christmas, and we would make gifts together to give to family. Yes, I agreed…yes we will. My heart sang! 

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Movie Review: Sing

My grandsons Joey and Oliver joined me this afternoon in watching a new release at the movie theater. Neither boy had high energy today, after experiencing a full week, and rather than skating or playing at House of Bounce, they opted to watch a movie. We had seen trailers for Sing and all of us agreed we wanted to check out this animated film. 


Sing features the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Seth McFarlane, Reese Witherspoon, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, Nick Kroll, Garth Jennings and Scarlett Johansson. This newest animation from Illumination was directed by Christophe Lourdelet. The movie is rated PG for some rude humor and has a run time of 1 hour and 48 minutes. 

Buster Moon (McConaughey), an optimistic koala bear, is the owner of a theater that he has loved since he was six years old. His father worked hard so that Buster could purchase the aging building. However, years of lackluster productions has tarnished the theater’s glory and brought Buster to the brink of financial ruin. 


In an attempt to save his crumbling theater, and his crumbling life, Buster stakes all he has on one grand, final show…a singing competition, with a monetary award. Buster’s ancient assistant, Mrs. Crawly (Jennings), inadvertently changes the prize amount from $1,000 to $100,000…and suddenly there’s a long line of eager participants ready to audition. 


Buster narrows the competition down to a handful of singers: overwhelmed mom Rosita (Witherspoon), who is paired up with the flashy, more outgoing Gunter (Kroll), Mike (McFarlane) the smallest competitor with the big voice, Johnny (Egerton) the soulful teen who is hoping for a better life, Ash (Johansson), the porcupine who is discovering she has the voice and the talent to go solo, and shy Meena (Kelly) who can sing beautifully…when she is alone. 



While each participant has the ability to win the singing competition, each also has struggles to overcome, to best share his or her gift with the world. And although Buster is excited about the talent before him, and the prospect of an amazing show that could revitalize the theater, he resorts to desperate scheming to come up with the prize money. 

Who will win? How will Buster honor what he has promised? Or are there bigger rewards that come as the participants follow their passions…and sing? 


This was an entertaining film with plenty of humor, a great selection of more than 85 songs, and important life lessons. I watched Joey and Oliver occasionally, as they sat with eyes on the huge screen, smiles flitting across their earnest faces. With all the music contained within the movie, I wondered if the boys would enjoy the story. I need not have wondered. They payed close attention, laughing over the funny lines and sight gags, often sitting very straight, on the edge of their seats. 


I deeply appreciate films, animated or live action, where transformation and growth occurs as the characters journey. Sing captures the transformation of its characters as they try and fail, or move past their fears, or discover who they are and what they can do. And captures it very well with a story that flows beautifully. At the end of the movie, the large audience in the theater clapped. 

There is much to like about Sing, not the least of which is that the film is the latest offering from the creators of Despicable Me, and features a clip of the Minions singing about Illumination. This was a great movie to discuss with the boys. I appreciated their insights and thoughts and we had a good chat about what happens when we do the things we love to do. 

Joey, Oliver and I give Sing three thumbs up!

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Christmas Shopping with Jonathan

This afternoon I picked up grandson Jonathan for his shopping time with Yaya. We had barely gotten underway, when this sweet boy let me know he wasn’t feeling well. He didn’t want to cancel or postpone our time together. And although he didn’t feel like eating dinner, he was eager to shop for gifts for his family. We continued on to the first shopping stop. 


We had a twenty minute drive to our destination. We chatted about school and his friends. And then this high-tech young man delighted me by telling me about an app he recently downloaded, called Wattpad. This app is a place to read and share stories, for free. Wattpad’s mission is to connect a global community through the power of story. I was intrigued!

Then Jonathan wowed me. He’s already written three chapters of his own story on the app. Called Clash, Jonathan’s story is a fan fiction tale, based on the video game, Clash of Clans. As I drove, Jonathan read the three chapters to me. As a writer, I was extremely impressed with his writing style, his choice of words, and his technique. As a Yaya, I was flooded with pride and love and appreciation for Jonathan. What a goal for a young man, to write and share his story. 

Jonathan told me his class was rewarded, for an accomplishment, with an hour of free time. The children who owned cell phones were even allowed to play on those, if they wanted to. Jonathan chose to write, and edit, and move his story along. That’s a huge choice for such a techy boy, who loves his online games. 

We arrived at our first stop, and Jonathan came up with such great ideas for his family members while we were there, that this store became our only stop. In a short time, we were headed to my house so he could wrap his gift selections. 


Even though he didn’t feel like eating dinner, a cold Icee from Casey’s did sound good to him. And surprisingly, so did a bag of Cheetos. I sincerely hoped Jonathan kept those down, or he would likely never eat another Cheeto again! 


It didn’t take Jonathan long to wrap his purchases. We postponed another project, until he is feeling better. And I will take him out to dinner next week, after Christmas, to make up for no dinner tonight. I appreciate that he listened to his body, and skipped a meal when eating didn’t feel right. He followed his heart though, and completed his shopping, so excited about what he bought for his family that he’s hoping to open presents early! 

I enjoyed our time together, brief as it was, and listening as Jonathan read his creation to me. He’s planning on ten chapters. I downloaded the Wattpad app tonight and followed Jonathan. I’m a big fan of his already. 

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Vintage Santa Pitcher from Miss Daisys Attic

I took advantage of brilliant sunshine and warmer temps today, to join the merry throngs of holiday shoppers. Needing to complete my Christmas shopping, it was a necessity, and I don’t mind the crowds. Greg accompanied me, offering his services as chauffeur and package carrier. We made a day of it, grabbing lunch and visiting a variety of shops, as I crossed items off my shopping list. 


One of my stops was purely out of curiosity. Miss Daisy’s Attic is a vintage boutique offering an interesting mix of antiques, repurposed items and hand crafted pieces. The shop opened in mid October and I’ve been wanting to stop by. Located near Cracker Barrel Restaurant, at 2702 Richard Joseph Blvd, I was intentional about adding Miss Daisy’s to my list of shops to visit. 


What a beautifully arranged store. Miss Daisy’s Attic has the charming look of a boutique, rather than a flea market. The displays were well merchandised and appealing. I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the store, seeing many interesting items. I will visit again, after Christmas, and shop for myself. However, one piece caught my eye this afternoon and I couldn’t leave without it. 


This vintage Santa pitcher, made by the Japanese company TILSO, was made in the 1960s. I have a large Santa mug collection, that I display every year, and I’ve never seen this pitcher in a store before. It is a perfect addition to my collection. 

Greg’s mother unknowingly started my collection in 1977, when she gave me the three mugs pictured above. The winking Santa mug, which is another TILSO piece, was purchased in the 60s. She made the snowman mug and the Santa one in her pottery classes, sometime in the early 60s. Greg’s name is painted in gold on Santa’s stocking cap. 

This year’s mugs…the “bushy eyebrows” Santa and the motor home mugs, purchased at Target. 


I have been adding to my collection each year. Most of the mugs are representations of Santa, as I stay true to the pieces that started this tradition. However, there are also snowmen mugs, a snow angel and a shepherd among the group as well. If there is not a sticker affixed to the bottom of the mug, with the date and store name on it, I write that info on a strip of paper and drop it into the cup. 

I enjoy my mug collection. It is festive and cheerful and a connection to my late mother-in-law. As I continue to add new mugs, I will have to find a new location for displaying them, or split the collection into smaller groupings. I am delighted with my find today at Miss Daisy’s Attic. The pitcher looks great perched in the midst of the assortment of mugs. 

Greg’s mom is surely looking on with amusement, or astonishment, at what has grown from those first mugs that she gifted me with. Merry Christmas to me…from Miss Daisy’s Attic!

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