Love Actually and DIY Sugar Scrubs

Tonight, I had a date with two vital elements of life, Love Actually and a DIY Christmas craft, as I haven’t given up on my “homemade Christmas.” Unfortunately, I can never seem to work our seven different TV remotes when Nicholas is out of town, and so I settled for the Love Actually soundtrack on my iPad instead.

I wanted to make sugar scrubs, but didn’t want to have to run back out to the store, so I used a hodge-podge of household goods: sugar, salt, rosemary from the sidewalk, essential oils, limes, mandarins, olive oil and baby oil. The recipe is simple, and in the absence of one scent or ingredient, I just substituted what I had. (This way, I can convince myself that I made these for “free”).

Recipe: these are all approximations…you really can’t mess it up. ūüôā
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
10-ish drops of Essential oil
Rosemary, lime zest, or something for color/texture.

Mix the ingredients together, and it’s enough for two jelly jars.

Substitutions:
-I used olive oil until we got dangerously low and wanted to save some for Sunday gravy; then I subbed in baby oil. When I ran out of baby oil, I used mineral oil (we usually use it for hydrating our cutting boards, but ironically, it was the best sub. It keeps your mixture pure white, and doesn’t have the strong smell of olive oil or baby oil, and thus requires less essential oil. In the future, I’ll just buy and use regular mineral oil.)
-I wanted a citrus scent, but didn’t have lemons, so I used limes for zest and juiced it into the mixture. When I ran out of limes, I used clementines. (Good thing I stopped there…I think pineapple, the only other fruit in the house, would have been really funky.)

In spite of my jumbled ingredients, I ended up with an awesome product that was super easy, cheap, and as an added bonus, my hands are soft and smell all rosemary and citrusy, just from cleaning the excess off the jars.

I’m sure the folks on my Christmas list are hoping for fancy gift cards, but I’m giving a little “scrub-scrub” instead. ūüôā

Happy holidays, y’all.

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Christmas Cookies in January

This past Christmas, one of my favorite students brought me these ridiculous holiday cookies–I remember tasting them, and after one bite, I threw caution to the wind and ate all three without even stopping to breathe. ¬†(I know you‚Äôre not supposed to play favorites with students, but cookies always help.) I asked him for his mom‚Äôs recipe, and finally made them tonight. I‚Äôm infamous for not having certain ingredients and improvising, and tonight was no exception‚ÄĒthe recipe calls for crushed peppermints and white chocolate morsels; I didn‚Äôt have either, but I had crushed Andes white peppermint baking chips, so I used those.¬† Delicious.¬† Here‚Äôs the deal:

Peppermint Melt Away Cookies
Active Time: 30 minutes.  Total time: 1 Hour

Ingredients:

Pam cooking spray
1 8oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter 9 (1 stick)
Large zip-top bag
1 cup starlight mints (or candy canes) finely crushed
1 large egg
¬Ĺ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 box white cake mix
1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Coat baking sheets with spray.
  3. Cut cream cheese and butter into small pieces, place into large bowl to soften and crush mints in zip-top bag.
  4. Add egg, vanilla, and half the cake mix to the cream cheese and butter.¬† Mix with electric mixer for 1-2 minutes.¬† Stir in remaining half of cake mix, white chocolate chips and ¬Ĺ cup of the mints.¬† Place remaining ¬Ĺ cup of mints in¬† shallow bowl.
  5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and press tops of dough into mints.  Place on baking sheets, mint side up and 2 inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden and center is barely set.  Let stand 3-4 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Making these cookies tonight connected me with an awesome moment at the end of the semester, and I’m thankful to feel this sense of connection to a world that already feels like a distant memory.¬† And, as an added bonus,¬†I love that my whole house smells like Christmas now, and I have the perfect midnight snack.

 

meltaway cookies

Too much too fast…

My nephew Remington...of course, he was named after a gun...sigh.

My nephew Remington…of course, he was named after a gun…sigh.


This post comes with a significant disclaimer…it’s about to get really corny and clich√© with a touch of cynicism, so if you were hoping for something clever and uplifting, you might want to close out and return to Facebook-surfing something else…

Nicholas and I were duly “home for the holidays” this year, and for that I’m sincerely thankful. After a beautiful holiday here with his side of the family, we flew to Illinois to do Christmas farm style.¬† After a year of significant change, I was really looking forward to the familiar and comfortable life that doesn’t change. The rust colored carpet in the upstairs of our farm house is as hideous as ever, my dad’s hamshack is still chock full of ham radio shenanigans and the water still tastes like rust.¬† The attic is still about 6 degrees in the winter and the trap door still squeaks as you open it into the vast unknown of years of storage.¬† The basement is still a creepy cellar full of canned food, my dad’s wood working projects and an obscene amount of split wood for the stove.¬† I love this house because it marks everything about my childhood.
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Only at my parents house, would you sleep beneath sweet photos and a gun.

Only at my parents house, would you sleep beneath sweet photos and a gun.

See..I ¬†grew up in an intransient community AND we were¬†Apostolic Christian. That means that home was everything: entertainment, family, love, food…everything.¬† It was normal to go to the garden and pick the veggies for dinner and go to the cellar to get chicken we butchered last summer out of the freezer.¬† We¬†didn’t have a¬†TV and we certainly didn’t go to the movies. What we did was learn to entertain ourselves in the crib, the barns, the pasture or the cellar, and were experts in pretend and creativity.¬† The farm¬†wasn’t just a place I called home, but is a catalogue of my¬†entire life. I know I sound dramatic, but even¬†after I moved away, I knew that¬†I could always come home tap into that world; I came home every summer of college to work on the farm and waitress in town. I came home after a semester¬†in Austria and kept slipping¬†into¬†German¬†while I attempted to share my experience with my parents.¬† And I’ve been home every summer except one¬†since the day I moved to Atlanta 10 years ago.

This weekend we had some hard conversations about selling the farm, and I walked the house a million times, taking pictures, laughing at particular memories, and crying at the thought of this change.¬† We moved back to Atlanta this year. Nicholas got a transfer and has a totally different role with Target then he used to.¬† We broke from suburbia and live downtown. I took a job and a new/old school and just quit at semester. This is a lot of change. I feel like I’m on a merry go round that hasn’t stopped for the next guests.¬† I walked the house thinking about how selling the farm would be a bigger change on the scale than anything else this year…and I wanted to absorb every¬† bit of the house.¬†¬† I touched the old quilts I used to think were tacky and admired the registers that Jeff and I used to use to listen to my sister’s conversations with boys downstairs.¬† I giggled at the stuffed raccoons over the fireplace that graced every prom picture background.¬† This house has so much character, and so many memories, and while I was already having separation anxiety, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude, too.

How many people can say they were raised in the same place their entire life?¬† I’ve had a “home base” for 33 years now, and I have to be thankful for that grounding and¬†the lessons of the farm.¬† Someone else now gets to have this benefit, and that is an awesome thing, I tell myself.¬† It’s an odd thing to mourn the potential loss of the farm in spite of the fact that I don’t want to live that life. I have no desire to butcher animals and cut asparagus, chase and shear sheep, pick up lamb’s tails, and drive 45 minutes to Target. I like walking across the street for dinner and mastering parallel parking on the square outside my front door. I love taking Uber to local events and while I complain about the traffic, I secretly love the congestion and chaos of the city.

The truth is, I love the life I’ve chosen and created, but sometimes in the midst of the chaos, I just want to be a kid again, play pretend in the barns, whine about the smell of butchering day, eat donuts with ham and cheese for lunch between the marathon church services on Sundays and be na√Įve enough to believe that it was normal to sew my own prom dress and learn to drive on the tractor.

I know that I’m not handling all the changes this year very gracefully, but I’m just trying to process and digest everything the best way I know how. The farm has taught me everything I ever needed to know and I find that the lessons are not quite over. Patience, acceptance, and the art of moving on may be the farm’s final lessons for me. Tonight I unpacked an aerial shot of the farm that has always hung in my classroom, and as I hung it on the wall and set up my vintage barn, I realized that I’m embracing multiple changes right now with as much grace as I can muster.
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Excessive Coupons and Christmas Kindness

A few days ago, I invited Nicholas on my couponing adventure at Target for the first time, since that’s the last place he ever wants to go after 12 hours of red and khaki.¬† But since we always opt to spend time together if we have the chance versus dividing and conquering, he came along and was a good sport about my frugality.¬† (I prepped my coupons and realized that I could essentially quadruple stack them in addition to my Cartwheel…we’re talking printable online coupons, paper coupons, manufacturer’s coupons and mobile phone coupons, in addition to my 20 coupon slots on Cartwheel.)

After a serious amount of time hunting down the items on our lists, we got in line at the register–I warned anyone who would listen that we were going to be awhile, since I’m no stranger to taking an extra 20 minutes at the register.¬† A couple with one cart each got in line behind us and I explained my excessive coupons and recommended another lane, but they assured me that they weren’t in a hurry.¬† I was holding a¬†percentage off¬†coupon that we couldn’t use.¬† I¬†saw their heaped carts of children’s toys and clothes¬†and I wanted to give it to them, but I felt really self conscious for some reason¬†and awkwardly clung to the coupon.¬† At this point, they did decide to move lanes and while we were finishing up our excessive haul the husband came over to Nicholas.

“Can I give you something?”

We were both immediately skeptical.

“You want to give me something?” Nicholas repeated.

“Yes, if you’ll take it.”

He handed Nicholas a $100 bill, said Merry Christmas and walked away.¬† I stood there, shocked, embarrassed¬†for my cynicism, and then¬†looked down at¬†the now sweaty coupon that I had wanted to give to them.¬† I looked around at all the guests in line, and wondered why he chose us.¬† I went over to their lane, thanked them, and explained the irony of this coupon I’d been wanting to give them.¬† The wife hugged me tightly, reminded me that things happen for a reason and we parted ways.

We saved $190 off of our purchase that night, but the experience of a stranger’s kindness was priceless.