Thanksgiving and the Most Important Thing

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

We’ll be hosting Thanksgiving here this year for about a dozen friends and family, and I’m excited. Yesterday I bought the turkey, unpacked the china on the dining table, and began making my To Do list.

Soon my list was filled with vacuuming, dusting, polishing, straightening, preparing and cooking. The pending celebration makes me look around here with a critical eye:  The bathroom sink has toothpaste in it! The stove needs to be cleaned! The front porch is full of leaves!

So I pause in my preparations, and curl up in my favorite easy chair to meditate and pray. My soul becomes calmer, and I sense that love is the only thing that really matters on Thursday — a day to be grateful and give thanks.

Let our home be warm and welcoming.

Let our celebration remind us of all we are grateful for.

Let our hearts be filled with love.

Amen.

With that prayer, I cross “Clean the oven” off my list.

Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving filled with love,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Here’s my easy method for cooking a moist, crispy Thanksgiving turkey, and our family’s favorite green bean casserole. Hugs!

Crispy Roast Turkey Recipe at Happy Simple Living blog

 

A Season of Stuff – 7 Ways to Prevent Holiday Clutter

7 ways to prevent holiday clutter

Our homes fill up with things a little at a time. Stuff creeps in gradually, until one day we open a closet and realize we can’t squeeze in another single item.

We’re about to enter a season filled with new things arriving on a regular basis–presents, Christmas cards, holiday goodies, calendars, and much more. But what if, at the end of this holiday season, our drawers and closets were actually a little cleaner, neater and less jammed?

Here are 7 areas to watch:

Winter coats, hats, gloves and boots – Let’s go through our cold-weather clothes and accessories now, and give away what we don’t wear. Shelters everywhere are reporting a shortage of warm clothes during this Arctic cold front. Maybe we can clear space in our closets and help those less fortunate at the beginning of the winter season, when our unused gear will do the most good.

Christmas ornaments – Each season, I try to give away the ornaments and decorations we no longer need. As new items come in, I vow to send an equal or greater number of items out the door and not let this collection grow unchecked. I’ve also ended my holiday tradition of buying a new piece for our nativity scene every year, after we had start arranging the family of ducks under the elephants (I’m not sure these were really common Bethlehem animals) to save space.

Food – Our family’s pantry can get really cluttered if I’m not careful. During this season of gifted baking mixes and gourmet food items, let’s try to use up what we already have and keep our cupboards neat and tidy. Holiday food drives are the perfect place to give away those edible items we’ll never use.

Clothes – A holiday sweater here, a glittery scarf there, and pretty soon I can no longer move the hangers in my closet. I now have a rule that if I buy or receive something new, I have to retire one or two items before the new item earns a place in my closet.

Candles – I love receiving candles, but then for some reason I like to put them in the cupboard and hoard them. I blame this on my shared DNA with my cavewoman ancestors who saved their Smoky Sandalwood Amber Mammoth-Musk candles for a rainy day. Here’s my promise:  I’m going to burn more candles this season and enjoy the magical flickering candlelight. I’m also going to give some of my collection away.

Kids’ toys and clothes – When your children are growing like bamboo plants, accumulating toys at a breakneck pace, and not particularly inclined to part with their precious things, your home can soon become a sprawling convergence of Halo 4 action figures populated with a couple of humans. The only recourse I know is to constantly give things away, every single week. Some of this casting off may happen when said children are away from the house. I need to double my efforts during the holiday season.

Papers – You’ve just recovered from the 2014 political season mailings, and now it’s time for the hap-happy season of holiday mail. Catalogs, holiday sales flyers, coupons, Christmas cards and calendars will be flowing into our homes with more force than the blizzard of 1982. It’ll take daily diligence and a conveniently-located recycling bin to keep those papers from stacking up. If you’d like stop receiving certain catalogs, you can input your preferences at Catalog Choice — a free service.  Here are 13 things you can do with Christmas cards. You can also send holiday cards to St. Jude’s Card Recycling, 100 St. Jude Street, P.O. Box 60100, Boulder City, NV 89006.

How about you? Have you discovered any ways to keep Christmas from becoming the Season of Stuff? I always love to hear your ideas and comments.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo by Patrick Q

The One Thing That Will Return Sanity To Our Political Process

Political flyers from one election season

I decided to save the paper political flyers we received leading up to this election. A quick count reveals that 89 brochures and postcards landed in our mailbox and on our front door.

In my neighborhood we have 600 homes, so just in our square mile we probably received about 54,000 pieces of propaganda. Think of the trees cut to promote candidates and issues this year — the environmental impact of our election process is staggering.

A measure that was dear to my heart was the passage of Proposition 105, an amendment to label GMO foods. Early returns indicate that the measure was defeated.

Three of the 89 mailers we received were slick, four-page color brochures from No on 105.

political flyers

 

We didn’t receive anything from the pro-GMO labeling camp. That’s not surprising, given that we were outspent on this campaign by 20 to 1. I contributed $25 to the Right to Know Colorado campaign, but it takes a lot of moms sending $25 to equal the $16 million dollars that Monsanto and other biotech and agribusiness opponents spent to defeat this measure in Colorado.

We’re now seeing the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s unpopular (and wrongly-named) “Citizens United” decision four years ago to remove barriers to corporate spending during elections. You may recall the furor over the court’s “corporate personhood” ruling. Eighty percent of us opposed the decision — with rare, nearly-equal bipartisan agreement from Republicans and Democrats both.

The aftermath of those open floodgates is not pretty. Do you know anyone who’s not weary of the awful barrage of attack ads, robo-calls and politicized misinformation? Just think — we have another presidential election to look forward to in 2016.

Now that Pandora’s Box has been opened, we can be assured that the politicians, wealthy donors, big corporations, and media companies that benefit from all the ad spending will be completely unmotivated to overturn the Citizens United ruling.

What can a frustrated, concerned citizen do? The answer is simple:  we need to make an organized, grassroots effort to enact campaign finance reform. Groups like People for the American Way and Move to Amend  joined forces and delivered a petition with 3.2 million reform supporter signatures to Capitol Hill in September. Sixteen states have already passed resolutions to overturn Citizens United.

Campaign finance reform is the only way to restore democracy to our political process here in the United States, and we may all need to get involved on some level to make our voices heard.

What do you think?

The signature for Eliza Cross

Cinnamon Crispies to Make Ahead for Christmas Breakfast

Cinnamon Crispies are an easy, make-ahead holiday breakfast treat | Happy Simple Living

Here’s the recipe I promised to share with you for the Cinnamon Crispies I prepare ahead each year for Christmas breakfast. I usually make a batch of these at the end of November and tuck them in the freezer. I cook some bacon or sausage the day before Christmas and refrigerate it. On Christmas morning, all I have to do is scramble some eggs and heat up the bacon or sausage and crispies for a super-easy breakfast. Fresh fruit rounds out the menu.

My friend Kathleen first introduced me to these heavenly breakfast treats, which are crispy on the outside with a crunchy brown sugar-cinnamon-butter crust, and creamy on the inside with a sweetened cream cheese filling. I might as well confess that I make them with WHITE BREAD — something we normally never eat — but once a year we do indulge. You can make these with whatever bread you like, and you’ll find it’s easier to roll up bread that is fresh and soft.

My family loves Cinnamon Crispies, and they’ve become part of our holiday tradition. I especially love that they can be made ahead of time, so that Christmas morning can be a sweet, relaxed family time.

Make-Ahead Cinnamon Crispies

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 10 slices soft bread of your choice
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Roll bread slices with a rolling pin to flatten slightly.

Roll bread flat for Cinnamon Crispies.

Trim off the crusts. Beat the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl until combined. Divide the mixture among the bread slices and spread evenly.

 

Spread Crispies with the cream cheese mixture.

 

Roll up slices tightly jelly-roll style, pressing on the edges to seal.

Roll the crispies up jelly-role style.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a shallow bowl. Generously brush each roll on all sides with the melted butter and roll in the brown sugar mix. Arrange the crispies on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze overnight. Put the crispies in an airtight container or bag and keep frozen until ready for use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and arrange the crispies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until hot and crispy.  You can also make the crispies without freezing and simply cook them for 8 to 10 minutes at 375, or until browned and crispy. Makes 10 crispies.

How about you? Do you have any make-ahead recipes you like to prepare for the holidays? I’d love to hear from you.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Create Your Custom Plan To Be All Done By December One

 

Holiday Christmas lights - photo by Michael Gill.

Want your house to look like this? Maybe start hanging lights today. Photo by Michael Gill.

Today marks exactly five weeks until December first. If you’d like to have all or most of your holiday tasks done by then, you might like to jot down a little plan so you can get everything done in the coming weeks. I’ve simplified quite a bit in the past few years, and my list looks something like this:

Week 1

  • Finish gift lists and order a few gifts online. (I’ve also bought some presents throughout the year that are stashed away.)
  • Address and stamp my business holiday cards. (My company is sending Thanksgiving cards this year, which I ordered last week.)

Week 2

  • Buy a gift or two, and wrap as I go along. (Our family recycles gift bags – surely one of the best inventions of the last century.)
  • Order family Christmas cards. (I update the address list on my computer throughout the year, and purchased holiday stamps at the post office earlier this month.)

Week 3

  • Buy a gift or two, and wrap as I go along. (Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…)
  • Address and stamp Christmas cards. I may bribe my youngest to help me with this.

Week 4

  • Finish gift shopping and wrapping. (I’ll join my girlfriends who organize an annual holiday shopping day at the mall on the Friday of this week.)
  • Make a big batch of gingerbread cookie dough and freeze. (One of my hopes in December is to decorate cookies with my family.)

Week 5

  • Decorate the Christmas tree, and put out a few decorations inside and outside. Give away any decorations we no longer need.
  • Make and freeze Cinnamon Crispies for Christmas morning. (I’ll be sharing the recipe next month.)

How about you? Could you create a plan of your own to tackle some holiday tasks in the next five weeks? Have you already gotten a jump on a few things? I’d love to hear your experiences, ideas and comments.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

All Done By December One – Your Ideal Holiday Season

Christmas dogs at Happy Simple Living blog

Photo: TRF Mr. Hyde

Many of you tell me you’re hoping this year’s holiday season will be different in some way. Perhaps, like me, you’ve struggled in the past to get everything done by December 25 and you long for a simpler, more meaningful celebration of Christmas. Maybe you’re tired of running yourself ragged in December, trying to prepare for what should be a season of joy and peace.

No matter what your motivation is for getting ready for the holidays by December first, I know you put a lot of thought and energy into trying to give your loved ones and friends a special holiday. But I’m thinking about you as I write this, and I have a very important question for you:

What would your ideal holiday season be like?

An important step in creating a plan that works for you is to spend a little time thinking about the Big Picture. Your Holiday Homework is to find a quiet place to curl up with a journal or some paper. Close your eyes for a few minutes, and really think about your vision for the holidays. You may wish to say a prayer and ask for divine guidance.

What sorts of thoughts fill your heart?  Maybe you long for more family time together. Perhaps you want to simplify, and reduce spending and over-consuming (and that embarrassing, too-big pile of presents under the tree). Or maybe you want to think of some creative ways to bring more spirituality into your Christmas celebrations.

Maybe your heart whispers that you need to do less this year. Perhaps it’s time to eliminate some exhausting traditions, or create more time for quiet and reflection. Write that down, too.

If you’re so inclined, feel free to share some of your ideas in the comments section below.

Here’s to doing less, simplifying, relaxing more, letting go, getting things done a little earlier, and having your best holiday season yet.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross