Exorcising the spirit of Martha Stewart

For 50 weeks of the year, I’m happy to be “that” woman – the one who doesn’t watch the food network or home decorating shows.  The one who dreads home renovating projects or shopping for anything remotely related to home decor. I can’t knit, sew, paint without making a mess, or whip up a do-it-yourself centre piece from scratch. (Well, maybe I could, but you wouldn’t want it on your table).  And I’m fine with that. We all have strengths but being crafty is not in my toolkit. Except for the two weeks before Christmas when I am possessed by the spirit of Martha Stewart.  

It starts in mid-December when I buy the tree. This year it was pouring rain but the vendor gamely followed me through the rows of trees leaning against wooden racks, pointing out the merits of one or another.

Finally, I asked him to pull one out so I could see how tall and full it was. I rejected it for being too scrawny and moved to the next row.  To his credit, he continued to follow me cheerfully until I spotted one that looked like it might be a winner. He smiled and looked at me hopefully as, yet again, he pulled it out and proudly held it up straight. But, no, that one was just a tiny bit too short. And so it went, his smile getting a little more forced each time, until I found one that met my standards.

I swear I saw him in my rear view mirror, watching me drive away with the tree strapped to the top of my car, one index finger to his temple as it swirled in circles. Still, having him think I’m crazy was a small price to pay for finding the perfect tree.  

Next came baking. I’ll admit that I like to bake, but not to the point where I devote a lot of time and effort to it. Until Christmas rolls around. This year was especially bad. After finding the recipes I wanted to make, I shopped for ingredients: Chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, dried cranberries and raisins along with flour, butter, eggs and vanilla.  With holiday music playing in the background and my tree glowing in the next room, I went on a baking spree.  The result: three dozen chocolate crinkle cookies; three dozen cranberry-macadamia nut cookies; three dozen raspberry thumbprint cookies and one massive, three-layer gingerbread cake with Clementine cream cheese icing. Along with the leftover turkey, we’ll be eating them until the beginning of summer.

Finally, the big day arrived. I set the table with the good dishes and silverware. I served  the appetizers and they were a work of art, if I do say so myself. (The caprese wreath on a pretty frosted glass plate was especially festive.) So far, so good. The friction between hubby and I came with the plating of the main course.

Hubby called for the dinner plates as he stood at the counter carving the turkey.  “No, no, no! Let me get the pretty serving platters that we can set right on the table,” I said and scurried away to get them. By the time I returned, he had slapped the turkey into an every-day platter; the carrots were in a storage food container and the mashed potatoes were in a stainless steel bowl!

“The food was getting cold,” he said with a shrug when he saw my horrified expression. “Who cares as long as it LOOKS pretty???” I wanted to scream.  My son, the traitor, said while trying to hide a smile, “Love this serving bowl,” as he scooped potatoes from the stainless steel bowl onto his plate. That’s when I saw the humour in the situation and felt Martha’s spirit finally go on its merry way.

We enjoyed a good holiday meal with gravy spatters on the tablecloth and cranberry stains on the napkins. There were dirty dishes on the counter and coffee spilled on the floor, but we had great conversation and such a good time. Be gone, Martha, and please don’t come back next year.

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Make the Time for Traditions

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I had been thinking about how our lifestyle is chipping away at traditions, wearing at them like waves pounding at rocks on the shore.  Then I read Thanks-Giv-A  on J.P.’s Blog  and I thought: That’s what I’m talking about.  (The post pokes fun at the idea of Chick-Fil-A catering Thanksgiving dinner, even though the author enjoys its food at other times.) We all like restaurant food as a treat once in a while, but are the holidays the time to serve up a Big Mac Buffet or a Pizza Hut Platter?

Still, let’s be honest:  Did you ever reluctantly drag your feet to a Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner with extended family when you’d rather be home watching Netflix or a football game?  (Guilty.) Or if you’re hosting, do you really get excited about spending several days cleaning and cooking for guests?

I get it. The world has changed in a way that has us racing to check off everything on an unrealistic to-do list each day.  Down-time and self-care have become forbidden candy, which makes us crave them even more.  And there are things we can remove from that list – permanently. But family traditions and time together shouldn’t be one of them.

That doesn’t mean those traditions can’t be scaled back. It’s not about the magazine, picture-perfect table setting or food worthy of Martha Stewart. Women don’t have to wear fancy dresses that cost an arm and a leg.  And men can leave their suits and ties at home. Every family is different and there is no one-size-fits-all. But they can all come together around a table to enjoy good food and each other’s company.

So let’s keep those special days … well, special. This holiday season, make the turkey, or at least a very large chicken. Make the effort to set the table with the good dishes and silverware. But most importantly, make the time for family and friends.

Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the 2nd Monday in October, but my American friends and bloggers are prepping for the holiday this month. Here’s wishing you all a Happy Holiday.

A PERFECTLY IMPERFECT FAMILY HOLIDAY

Why am I still thinking about Thanksgiving more than ten days after the holiday? Because it was a fun day where our family didn’t try to live up to an idealistic picture-perfect holiday.

Our two grown children were coming over for a turkey lunch. And that’s as far as the plan for the day went. No football. No board games. And best of all, no unrealistic expectations of the holiday. And then a fun, spontaneous thing happened:  We launched YouTube Music on the big-screen TV and each of us took turns finding videos of some of our favourite artists and introducing them to the rest of the family.

My husband went first with “Nothing Breaks Like the Heart” by Miley Cyrus.  That he would even appreciate Miley Cyrus was the first surprise. He is not into main stream pop … at all. But he loves this song, the power of her voice and the lyrics.

Then my daughter helped us to discover Billie Eilish. We watched a few videos and – wow- this young girl can sing and has a maturity beyond her years!  (I can’t help but worry, though, that this much fame and success at 17 will cause her to go off the rails at one point. Think: Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber, Britney Spears, to name a few. I wish her her the best!) I especially liked an acoustic version of a song called Copycat.

My son was up next and he presented an artist I had never heard of:  Dimash Kudaibergen. I have no words to describe his talent. You’ll have to listen for yourself.

Then it was my turn. My favourite music videos are performances. I’m not a huge fan of Taylor Swift but her performance of “Me!” to open the Billboard Music Awards, with Brendon Urie (of Panic at the Disco, and who I adore!), a marching band, a whole crew of dancers and mind-boggling sets was amazing!  Here’s the clip from the show. The sound isn’t great, but the visuals are – be sure to watch to the end  for the best part.

I also shared my other guilty pleasure:  The Jonas Brothers and the medley of songs they performed at the same show, ending with their smash hit “Sucker for You”. Again, you have to watch the whole clip as finish their performance in what looks like a stage ringed by fire.

We had a great time and discovered more about each other through music. If you’re looking for a new Thanksgiving tradition, consider music videos!