Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category


Good morning, Loves! I know it’s belated, but I hope that you had a wonderful Easter weekend. I hope that you have an equally wonderful Easter week.

It was wonderful seeing most of our immediate family. We missed a couple of my husband’s sisters, since they took their families to Florida, but we’ll see them this coming weekend for my eldest girl’s Confirmation.

It’s been hard for me to get to Church lately due to the pain, but it doesn’t reduce my spirituality or love for Jesus at all. It doesn’t reduce how amazing Easter is for me. It’s my favorite holiday, actually. It’s my favorite not just because it’s in the Spring and usually there isn’t a hint of snow (every now and then, there’s snow on Easter in Connecticut).

It’s my favorite holiday because of all of the typical reasons we usually give, the reasons that sound trite and cliche. This year we have two babies that are a year old running around, and baby that’s a month old. We have a four year old giving my three girls a run for their money. We have teen and tween nieces for my girls to get in trouble with. We have each other.

More than all of those things,  Easter lets us know that there’s… what’s the word… potential? promise? We have potential and promise to make the difference in our lives that we want to make. We can make changes that we need to make. We have get to be the ones to make the decisions if we choose to make them. We have the potential to affect change in others’ lives if we change our behavior and attitudes. Just as Jesus died and came back, every Spring we have the chance to remember what he did for us and grab onto his promise and take advantage of it. We can look at life with a more positive view if we choose, and slow our lives down even for just a few days.

We can reassess our schedules, routines, budgets, friendships, entanglements, careers, diets, etc. We can simplify our lives. We can choose what makes us happy, but is also considerate of and is a positive change for those we live with and have very close relationships with. We can choose which relationships need more attention, and which are toxic and need to be released without anxiety.

Easter is a release in so many ways, as well as a chance to focus, eh? It’s a reminder for us to take care of ourselves, our families, and friends. It’s a reminder to tend our relationship with God. God is in every positive change we make. He’s in every bit of potential, and every single promise. He’s in every lift of attitude and release in simplification. He’s the strength in the chain that holds our relationships to family and friends together.

Take good care of yourselves and Happy Easter. If you don’t celebrate Easter,have a beautiful day and take care.

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I have no idea where I originally found this

BANG HEAD HERE

I have another secret.

I shared it with The Mister last night.

It was such an incredible release, and it allowed me to cry. He let me cry. He encouraged me to cry.

He asked the right questions. He didn’t get frustrated. He was empathetic.

He helped lift a burden that’s been getting increasingly heavier and heavier for the past month.

Even better than that, he offered me a solution that I had thought about but didn’t dare speak out loud and in fact, had made me feel like I was a horrible, selfish human being for even thinking it. I had been so afraid he wouldn’t understand, but he did. He tried.

Maybe he doesn’t understand completely. Maybe all he understands is that I’m in distress … I’m at my limit of endurance: emotionally, mentally, physically.

But that’s all I need. That, and the gentle hugs he offered. He realized my pain, both emotionally and physically. He remembered how sick I’ve been with this “mild” flu over the past week (thank God in Heaven for the doctors who make flu vaccines, People, and no… I couldn’t be more serious right now).

I think I just might have the best Mister Spouse ever. Like, in ever of ever. I need to appreciate him more.

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The Stalking Tiger, such a pretty, seductive, sneaky girl when she’s trying to convince you that her presence is really not a big deal.

I thought I had my eye on her well enough. I thought she was being soothed and kept in her cage.

It turns out her cage wasn’t locked securely. The door has been open and I didn’t even realize it.

It’s a dance we do. It’s a dance I’ve done my entire life. I’m used to hearing the purr grumbling in the throat of The Tiger. Even with treatment, I don’t know if I can say that I’d know what I’d do if I didn’t have the breath of the tiger behind me. When she’s laying at my feet or at the foot of my bed, I can fool myself into thinking that it’s manageable. I can fool myself into thinking that she’s not stalking me, but protecting me, and that she’s keeping her distance.

But I keep feeling her bump into me, and now her teeth have scraped my calves. She’s drawn blood, and there’s simply no denying that. The rivulets of anxiety drip upward and sideways, making their path to my brain. Odd… odd how I’m associating anxiety with blood. Or maybe not so odd considering the state of the world right now, and the current headlines over the past month. Maybe it’s not so odd with the anniversaries and end of the year anxieties in work and the usual holiday worries.

I’ve noticed the depression getting increasingly worse over the last couple of weeks, as the symptoms I feel become too much to ignore. I’ve been forcing myself to take some stock in my language, my outlook, and how I’m feeling in general. I’ve been feeling as if I’m floating and watching myself act and react, or not act and react enough.

I’ve been feeling as if I’m separated from the Me part of me. It’s somewhat surreal. It’s almost as if I’m a different me taking care of Me, but I’m not doing a really good job. It’s likely been affecting me and my performance in, well, life for longer than the past month and it’s only just now caught me bleeding.

I’m having trouble concentrating in conversations.

I’m having trouble socializing.

I’m dreading most events.

I cry at the news. I cry at blogs. I cry at happy stuff.

When I should cry, I can’t even shed a single tear.

Laughing feels forced.

I dread leaving the house every day. Of course this hampers errands and shopping for groceries.

I’m having trouble remembering details, even when I write them down.

I’m losing focus.

It’s harder for me to care about getting ready for work. I do it… but the drive isn’t there. Physical pain, of course, is a huge driving force regarding that.

My emotions are leaning towards sad, extremely sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, annoyed, flat.

Dread.

A perpetual state of anxiety.

I can fake happy. OK, I can try to fake happy and the truth is, I’m not really sure that in the stage of depression and anxiety I’m in if I’m really pulling it off.

I can almost fake being able to tolerate my physical pain levels. I can’t tell if I’m covering up any of the feelings that would make other people uncomfortable. I hope and pray people only approach me when the pain isn’t so high that I can concentrate on what they’re saying and it’s not making me feel like throwing up.

I don’t know if I’m making enough of any of it work to succeed at Life right now. I can’t tell.

I want to withdraw into myself but there’s too much going on, and that’s making things worse.

And oh, the CFS. I find that I don’t want to fight it. It gets me through excruciating physical pain and yes, it gets me through emotional pain and the non-ness that I feel. It’s not intentional going through CFS, or to be forced some days to give in to it. Accepting it is a different matter. The CFS can drain the Jessica part of me although it can give some of the Jessica part of me back when I can give in. Refusing to give in to the CFS makes the Depression worse, sapping even more of the Jessica part of me. The pain worsens the depression and the CFS; the pain steals more of the Jessica part of me and I’m just less.

I’m Non-Jessica.

It’s like… an in between of existence. There’s a less-ness in how I affect others lives, and a less-ness, a non-ness in what might happen if I just disappeared. But being Non-Jessica can be a skill, too, helping me to be successful in that one thing… hiding, making the Jessica part of me less noticeable, so that she won’t be missed and no one will be angry if she can’t participate.

Can Non-Jessica still be a good person? Is my Non-Jessica-ness even still a person at all? Because what I get is a feeling of non-presence mixed with indeterminate value joined together with the un-, in-, non-. I suppose I know I’m here, but I’m still feeling unseen. Or maybe needing to be unseen. Needing to hide in plain sight so that Non-Jessica can slip away unnoticed. All of that is non-ness. Non- whatever. Non. Non-ness.

I’m not necessarily losing my bits of me. Those bits, those chunks that the Stalking Tiger likes to bite away in nibbles, then chunks, the times when even Non-Jessica is nowhere to be seen and Eaten Whole Jessica has taken her place, because when the Tiger nibbles, when she thinks I won’t notice because she’s feeding off other pain, she’s really stowing some of it away in little Tupperware boxes with little lids to be dusted off when it’s safe to take them out again, without even a dash of cinnamon sugar.

I feel as if I need time and space, which is difficult at this time of year. Everyone and everything else needs me. The problem is that the Jessica part of me, floating above Non-Jessica and watching the movie, trying to direct Non-Jessica, is forced to take control for spans of time to be functional enough to get through each day.

I need a time out, and a better lock for that cage. And also, maybe a better shrink.

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In my world, words matter, so take a gander.

Holiday:

Old English,  ‘holy day.’

The word originally referred only to special religious days, which is really kind of cool. Thanks to how language works, the word has evolved and is nuanced. That’s called etymology, and it’s really fascinating. So yes, it’s evolved to include non-secular celebrations such as these, and that’s all right:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Independence Day
  • Father’s Day and Mother’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Labor Day
  • Presidents Day, in observance of Presidents Washington, Lincoln, and some additional figures

 

Yes, there are non-religious people who co-opt the traditions of some religions in a secular way for their own families and enjoyment. There are people of other religions that perhaps pick up the traditions of another religion in a secular fashion simply because they enjoy it. Perhaps they adopt it into their own religious or spiritual traditions because they belong to blended families. I get it that this may upset you, and you may find this to be cultural misappropriation [Cultural appropriation, or cultural misappropriation is a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon].

And it is, you’re right. It’s cultural misappropriation if you choose to look at it that way.

The thing of it is, it’s not malicious intent. It’s not hurting you or others in any way. In fact, it’s binding us all together whether we share a common religion or not. It’s giving us all a tether to each other. 

I believe that when someone wishes me a Happy Holiday, the person is offering a blessing.  I’ll accept it because it’s a gift. It’s a promise that they wish me well and that in that moment I can trust them to be kind rather than malicious. The only “war” in these words is in how the recipient of the words chooses to respond.

Let’s make a promise:

 

No matter where we fall on the spiritual spectrum, please assume the best of each other rather than the worst. We’re wishing good blessings upon each other. We’re wishing each other to be happy and blessed. Whatever form that takes, whatever the words, the meaning is the same.  

 

P.S.

Fair warning: if I catch you reprimanding my children for being thoughtful, kind, and considerate because that’s the kind of children I have (most of the time, at least in public) no matter the particular, specific words they use, I’ll cutch-you. 🙂

But yeah… here’s a nice quick screen capture for you to take a peek at and revel in. ❤ Go ahead… ask Google. This is just a snippet.

 

Origin of "Holiday" is "holy day"

Origin of “Holiday” is “holy day”

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coffeeFor a very, very, very long time coffee and Catholicism have gone hand in hand. You say Catholic, I say COFFEE! You say family mass, I say DOUGHNUTS! MUFFINS! It’s just how the coffee cake crumbles.

I remember sitting in Sunday morning mass as a child, as a teenager, as a 20-something in my hometown church on Family Sundays hardly able to make it through mass because of the tempting odor of coffee wafting up through the floors from the basement/gathering hall and into the pews. As an adult in my current church, I can’t say that it’s much changed (when my pain doesn’t keep me from attending) because it hasn’t.

Coffee and church: It’s like chocolate and coffee or, you know, mocha.

Coffee and church: It’s like cream and sugar… in coffee.

Coffee and church: It’s like sea salt and caramel or, you know, salted caramel chocolate chip cookies … with salted caramel coffee.

Maybe you can see why maybe just maybe some people are a little confused as to why coffee, Christmas, and Christianity are all tangled up together:

It’s because of Family Sundays aka Coffee and Doughnut Weekend. 

Let me just say, though, if you take away the coffee on Family Sundays, there will be a REAL controversy. I remember talking with the former pastor of my current church saying that weekends of Family Mass shows higher attendance. When they have better quality of coffee, attendance is even higher. He wasn’t joking. Not even a little. He felt very strongly that good coffee, frequently, brought families to church.

Don’t mess with Catholic coffee. We will cut you.

Pastor Emily C. Heath is awesome. I’m going to show you why. Christians and Coffee Cups: [CLICK HERE] |Pastor Heath shared some simple and beautiful truth regarding the non-troversy (by an individual who fancies himself to be an evangelist pastor).

Her blog entry could be relevant every year with each new created non-troversy towards the imaginary “War on Christmas.” A strong faith doesn’t worry about every new media-proclaimed outrage. At least, mine doesn’t. But my faith is a whole ‘nother series of posts, ha ha.

What I think I’ll do with the money I could spend on the Starbucks coffee (and for that matter, any money I’d spend on my beloved Dunkin Donuts… mmm Snickerdoodle) is keep some non-perishable food in the car and donate it to the next homeless person I see. I’ll donate more food to the local food bank with my children.

I do find it amusing that the Pagan Goddess in the dramatic forefront of the cups 100% of the time, including Christmas and Easter, doesn’t seem to bother the evangelical versions of my brothers and sisters in Jesus. 😉

Apart from that, my parting thoughts on what Jesus might think:

Luke 6:20 NASB

a.k.a.

Dudes, if you choose to hate others, ostracize others, insult others, scorn others don’t you dare throw me under the bus when you do it and tell them it’s because I said so. Because dudes, woe to you. Woe. To. You.

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I meant to reblog this earlier in the week.  It’s a holiday safety post for families with special needs children that have Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder with tips on how to prepare for a more pleasant experience.

Prepare For July 4th ASD-Style | Ever So Gently.

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Last night I made two Easy Chocolate Chip Cheesecakes (click here for recipe).  They’re beautiful, although they did crack a little bit.  If I were entering them in a show (which I’m not) it would matter that they cracked but they’ll still be delicious.  I promise.  It’s my most requested recipe to bring to parties.

Today I’m planning to make my Easy Homemade Italian Bread.  It’s so good and homey and Italian-y.  It’s not the crusty, rock-hard rustic bread that you have to dip into soup or sauce to soften in order to eat but the nice big fluffy one that you can still put your teeth into without triggering TMJ.  Don’t let the written appearance fool you… it really is very easy.

On Christmas morning every year I make cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  It’s one of our favorite traditions.  I originally got this recipe from Allison M. Dickson, a friend and wonderful fictional writer that you really MUST look up on Amazon.  She writes some fantastic short stories.  This Cinnamon Bun recipe is what inspired my Snickerdoodle Cookie recipe.  I love snickerdoodles, but I needed one that was chewy enough and cinnamon-y enough… and what I really wanted was for them to taste like mini cinnamon buns.  I usually make snickerdoodles for Christmas but lost track of the time this year.  I’ll have to make them on the 26th.

I’m sharing the recipes of course, but I don’t have nutrition information.  If you go to SparkPeople.com I think you can plug recipes in there and it will give you nutrition information for individual servings.  It’s been a while since I’ve been over there.

Easy Italian Bread:
(Jessica)
Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. or 2 pkg. (1/2 oz.) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water, 95 to 110*F
  • 1 Tbsp. very soft butter, or olive oil
  • 6 cups of all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1 egg white, beaten with 1 Tbsp. of water

Preparation:

  1. Warm oven to 200* for five minutes, then turn it off.  You will need the oven to have a warm and non-drafty place to rise and rest the dough.

  2. In large bowl, stir together sugar, salt, yeast, and water. Allow the yeast to proof (produce bubbles and bloom).

  3. Add in the butter or olive oil.

  4.  Add flour by the half cup, turning it with a fork, just until there’s enough flour for the dough to be soft and kneaded by hand.

  5. Turn dough out of medium-large bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes, adding more flour as you go if the bread becomes sticky.  Bread should become smooth and pliable.

  6. Put the dough into a medium sized bowl that’s been greased with vegetable oil and turn the dough until all of it has been greased.

  7. Cover the bowl with a clean, slightly damp (warm) kitchen towel and let set for 30 minutes in a warm, draft-free place.

  8. If you’re using a baking sheet, grease it lightly.  Sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal, if desired. If you’re using a flat baking stone, do not grease it but simply put cornmeal on it if desired.

  9. Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured table and cut into equal halves.

  10. Roll each dough half into a 15/16 X 9-inch rectangle, tucking dough from the long sides tightly under the bottom.  Be sure to pinch from underneath to the ends or the dough will open up during baking and flatten out the loaf.

  11. When folding and pinching is done, the loaves should similar to footballs.

  12. Allow the dough to rise in the still-warm oven for 15-20 more minutes, then remove from the oven.

  13. Heat the oven to 425*F.

  14. On top of each loaf, using a non-serated knifed, cut three diagonal slits.

  15. Using a pastry brush,

  16. Tightly roll dough along the 15-inch side. Pinch seams and taper the ends of each loaf. Place loaves on baking sheet. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place for only 20 minutes.

  17. Preheat oven 425 degrees F. Make 3 deep diagonal slashes on each loaf. Using a pastry brush, lightly but firmly baste the tops of the loaves with the egg wash.

  18.  Bake bread for 25 minutes, or until bread is browned and makes a hollow thumping sound when tapped firmly.

Cinnamon-y Snickerdoodles:
(Jessica)
makes 4-5 dozen

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400.
In a small bowl, combine 1/8 C sugar and 1/8 C cinnamon, blend well, then set aside.
Beat together shortening and 1 1/2 cups of sugar.
Beat in vanilla.
Incorporate eggs separately.
Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
Beat dry mixture into egg mixture.
Taking about 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie, roll the dough into balls, then roll each ball into the cinnamon sugar, coating completely.
Set onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. You should be able to fit 12 balls of dough on the cookie sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Allow to cool on cookie sheet for a minute or two, then remove cookies to a sheet of wax paper on the counter OR a cooling rack.
Store tightly covered.

Cinnamon Buns Popped Out From Spring Form Pan via Jessica’s Kitchen

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Buns:
(Allison Dickson)To make things more convenient, melt all 8 tablespoons of butter for the recipe at once and measure out as needed.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, for pan

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Cinnamon Bun from the middle

Biscuit Dough
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for work surface
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
11/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (Jessica’s note: I clabber lactose-free milk with some white vinegar)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Icing
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened (Jessica’s note: I don’t use cream cheese and don’t have a lactose-free substitute, so I just use enough clabbered lactose-free milk and confectioner’s sugar to act as a glaze, mixed with about a teaspoon of vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Pour 1 tablespoon melted butter in 9-inch nonstick cake pan; brush to coat pan. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2. To make cinnamon-sugar filling: Combine sugars, spices, and salt in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon melted butter and stir with fork or fingers until mixture resembles wet sand; set filling mixture aside.

3. To make biscuit dough: Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk and 2 tablespoons melted butter in measuring cup or small bowl. Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed (dough will look very shaggy), about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy.

4. Pat dough with hands into 12X 9-inch rectangle. Spread filling over, roll lengthwise, and cut into 8 even pieces, and arrange buns in buttered cake pan. Brush with 2 tablespoons remaining melted butter. Bake until edges are golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes. Use offset metal spatula to loosen buns from pan; without separating, slide buns out of pan onto greased cooling rack. Cool about 5 minutes before icing.

5. To make icing and finish buns: While buns are cooling, set rack with buns over baking sheet. Whisk cream cheese and buttermilk in large nonreactive bowl until thick and smooth (mixture will look like cottage cheese at first). Sift confectioners’ sugar over; whisk until smooth glaze forms, about 30 seconds. Spoon glaze evenly over buns; serve immediately.

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