Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Less Cleaning, More Meaning

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Once again, I am rushing around trying to spruce things up before guests come over. Don’t get me wrong, things are picked up and relatively organized, but why does it always seem that stuff just appears right before visitors are due to arrive? I know for a fact those dust bunnies I can see under the chair as I walk up the stairs were NOT there last night. Neither were the fingerprints on all the light switches, nor the smear across the front of the refrigerator. Where does it all come from? Maybe from the two teenage boys, the dog, the cat, and the perpetual remodeling projects in progress both inside and outside the house?

So, I take a deep breath, rip a drooping, yellow leaf off a plant as I pass by to answer the door, and have a sudden flashback of a weekend my family spent camping out in a friend’s backyard. There was nothing fancy about it; in fact, the yard was filled with 19 old cars, all in various states of disrepair, a few stacks of tires, some rusted yard implements, and several little buildings (shacks?) in need of a fresh coat of paint, among other things. There were three different enclosures filled with chickens, doves, parakeets, cockatiels, and finches. Not to mention three or four domestic turkeys, as well as two wild turkeys that hopped the fence one day, hoping to make new friends, and decided to stay. That yard was a little boy’s dream, bursting with endless possibilities of exploration and discovery. Resort-like, it was not.

The thing that sticks in my mind the most, though, is how much fun we had. Those turkeys were a riot. Every time someone laughed, those silly birds would gobble. Laugh, gobble, snicker, gobble, giggle, gobble, gobble. We spent time with precious old friends, cemented friendships with couples we don’t get to see too often, and started new relationships with folks we had never met before. That ramshackle yard, with the mismatched stools set around some old doors for tables, the tub from an old washing machine commandeered as a fire-pit, and the goofy gobbles of the turkeys, became a haven. It wasn’t the place (although it did provide a lot of atmosphere!), but the people that made the weekend so special—the laughter, love, and open hearts of good people just spending time together. I can’t wait to go back.

As you rush around this holiday season, trying to fit in all the activities and functions that are a natural part of this time of year, I hope you find yourself not worrying about the dust and fingerprints, the stray sock on the floor, or the wad of dog hair in the corner. I hope you laugh with the turkeys and delight in the people you are with. I plan to. And my friend waiting at the door? I just kick the cat toys out of the way and greet her with open arms and a smile that comes straight from my heart.

Words of Wisdom - Linus Van Pelt (Peanuts)

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.” -Linus Van Pelt in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

A Green Halloween: Costumes, Candy, Pumpkins and More

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

By Christine Dell’Amore
National Geographic Green Guide for Everyday Living

The sheer waste of Halloween is enough to make any environmentalist scream. From individually packaged treats to cheap one-time costumes, the holiday is usually anything but sustainable.

“Halloween is a great time to have fun with family and friends but it generates a huge amount of throw-away waste,” Kim McKay, a green-living expert and author of the National Geographic True Green book series, told the Green Guide by email.

So “why not make your Halloween as natural as possible … ?” McKay said.

You can enjoy the holiday in a way that’s less frightful for the Earth with these tips:

Make Homemade Halloween Costumes and Decorations

Homemade Halloween costumes and decorations can both save you money and prevent another witch hat from reaching the landfill. The Center for the New American Dream, a Maryland-based nonprofit that encourages responsible consumerism, compiled this list of conservation-minded costumes…

Read the full article here: http://www.thegreenguide.com/home-garden/holidays/green-halloween

Finding Gratitude Every Day

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

When I was a child, my father made a ritual of coming into my sister’s and my bedroom for our goodnight prayers. These weren’t the prayers recited by rote in school or church, but rather his own words to convey what he wanted to say at the end of the day. Even now, I can still remember at least part of this same-every-night prayer. As we lay there in a darkened room, he always started by saying ‘Thank you’ for a myriad of things: our health, shelter over our heads, food on our table, a good school…’ Then he’d segue into various appeals for continued good health, happiness for all of our friends and neighbors, peace in the world, etc. To my child-like sensibilities, it seemed that good health, shelter, and a good school were things that everyone had, and priority should be placed on the ‘request’ part of his spiel. But there came a night when my big sister piped in with her thanks for something, and before long, I was adding my own thanks to the line-up: for my rabbit, the fact that it was summer, or the fun hide-and-seek game with the neighborhood kids my parents had let us stay out past dusk to finish.

It seems that no matter our religious or spiritual inclination, it is part of the human condition to ask or say a prayer for something. Even if we don’t make a big, elaborate deal of it, we ask for you-name-it: good weather for the company picnic, a victory for our team, an improvement in the economic climate, the end of the drought in Africa, etc. But I think that giving thanks just doesn’t happen as often as making a request—at least it sure doesn’t with me. I find myself whispering a plea much more often than I acknowledge something for which I’m grateful. Yet I’ve committed myself to finding gratitude every single day, and that’s probably because my father made it part of our lives as kids. Having learned early on that I have countless things to be grateful for, I can almost always find a bright side to even the lousiest day. My bet is that we all have a myriad of things to appreciate. Whether it’s the roof over our heads, the rain on our thirsty garden, the luxury of being able to fill up the gas tank, or the fact that we still have our eyesight, the list is nearly endless.

And that’s why I think that Thanksgiving is one of our most meaningful and sweetest holidays. Hopefully, we take the opportunity to reflect on the good things in our lives. It gives us the chance to build a celebration around one single quality: gratitude. It gives us the chance to move beyond the ingrained sense of self-entitlement so many of us in our country have and look at life from a position of a grateful ‘I have’ rather than ‘I want’—a position that will not only enhance our own lives as well as our children’s, but will truly make the world a gentler and more caring place.

You’re Not Alone

Friday, September 11th, 2009

It has been a year since I received one of those phone calls everyone dreads getting. Our phone rang early on a Saturday morning when my husband was out of the country and I was home alone. On the other end of the phone was someone I didn’t know telling me that one of our closest friends had been killed the night before in a horrible plane crash.

I have heard that when your system receives a shock, time seems to switch into slow motion. That was true for me. While trying to breathe through my own grief, I had to figure out how to contact my husband and break the news to him. Since we were literally half a world apart, it was impossible to really hold and comfort one another. We each had to deal with the disbelief, the sadness, and the pain alone, as I imagine many people have to do.

Over the past year, I have watched our friend’s widow and daughter deal with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, his birthday, and Father’s Day all without their husband and father. So many times I thought to myself, “How do they get through this pain? How do they get out of bed each morning?” But somehow they did and continue to do so.

Every single one of us will have to deal with death and grieving at some point in our lives. No one is immune - it will touch all of our lives. The holidays are some of the worst days for those who are mourning. Some will have to mourn alone; others will have family members to help ease the pain. Maybe you know someone who needs a little extra attention this holiday season - someone who has recently lost a loved one. Or maybe you, yourself, are grieving the loss of someone you love.

May we all take the time to reach out to those who are hurting and let them know that even though they might feel alone, they really aren’t. While this is a season of joy for most of us, we will experience more of it if we reach out to someone who is hurting, lonely, facing a life-changing illness, or just needs a little extra love. This holiday, I wish peace of mind, love, and comfort to all.

More Than 100 New Arrivals!

Friday, September 4th, 2009
Welcome to Chinaberry, home of outstanding children’s books, quality toys, fun family games and puzzles, kids’ arts and crafts, and many other gifts and treasures to support mindful parenting. We search high and low for only the very best in kids’ literature, the most fun and engaging educational games and children’s crafts, and meaningful toys that stimulate imaginations and are truly built to last.

Chinaberry offers items to support families in raising their children with love, honesty and joy to be reverent, loving caretakers of each other and the earth.

While you’re waiting for your fall paper catalog to arrive, take a peek at all our new items by visiting the Chinaberry website at: http://www.chinaberry.com/new.cfm.

Celebrating a Girl’s Rite of Passage

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Frankly, I’m not big on a lot of the pomp that often surrounds birthdays. I like to keep our celebrations intimate and un-hyped. But Elizabeth’s thirteenth is coming up and this passage is one I want to acknowledge with a true ritual — one that helps her with a new self-identity in the adult world. And I want to do this with a sense of the sacred and an element of the mysterious. So I’ve written to the women she respects and loves the most (they’re scattered all over the country) to ask them to send her some piece of advice that they wish THEY would have gotten from an older woman friend when THEY were thirteen. I also asked them to send something small and special — a beautiful rock?, a poem?, an extraordinary bookmark? — something that she can tuck away and pull out when the going gets rough to remind her of the women who have weathered their lives’ storms and hopefully give her a boost of support to see her through her own life’s challenges. Finally, I asked all of them to tell Elizabeth what she means to them — her essence, I guess. As their gifts arrive, I will collect them into a handmade basket or wooden box and give them to her at a special moment when she and I are together.

For other ideas about coming-of-age and rites of passage, consider purchasing the Chinaberry book, The Joy of Family Traditions by Jennifer Trainer Thompson

Drama Trauma Flower Essence for Pets - 4th of July & Beyond

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Who wants a quiet 4th of July? Do thunderstorms frighten your pets?  Going on summer vacation with your pets? Does Your Pet Need a Little Extra Help?

Just like people, some animals suffer from anxiety, depression, fear, and panic attacks. Although our pets can’t talk to us, we don’t have to be psychic to know when something is going on with them. Now, there is help for them when they sometimes so desperately need it.

Flower essences are remedies that work on a subtle energy level, much in the same, rather mysterious way that aromatherapy or homeopathy works. Hard to explain, but powerful nonetheless. They were developed in the 1930s and have been used for generations with people to help ease moments of tremendous shock, fear, or trauma. Now we can bring that same help to our animals thanks to Meg Harrison. A horse trainer for 20 years, Meg discovered the value of flower essences when she saw unexpected progress after giving essences to ”damaged” horses. Fast forward to today, and Meg is at the forefront of this modality, with animal care specialists and behaviorists, shelters, and Best Friends Sanctuary asking for her blends by name. Dogs, cats, horses, birds — virtually any creature can benefit from the appropriate flower essence blend.

Drama-Trauma is especially good for cats, but works for other animals as well. Use this blend if your pet suffers from anxiety, fear/panic, stress, inattentiveness, and if he/she has drama queen tendencies. This blend eases the ride on life’s rollercoaster and is very similar to the Rescue® Remedy blend sold for people.

Made especially for animals, these flower essences have proven to help soothe, comfort, encourage focus, and generally enhance the emotional well-being of your furry, feathery, or scaly pal. Packaged in a handy spray bottle, each blend can be administered by adding it to the water bowl (it is ok if other pets share the water bowl), spraying directly onto the animal, or by spraying your hands, then petting the animal. Please use the bottle within 3 months after opening.

Review by Ann Ruethling

Available on our sister site, Isabella: Drama Trauma Flower Essence for Pets.

Dad’s Awesome Grilling Book by Bob Sloan

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Techniques, Tips, Stories and More Than 100 Great Recipes

I’m hard-pressed to decide whether it’s the recipes or the humor that makes this book one that the Man-of-the-Family simply must have. Sloan’s wit will make any grill-fearing or even ”there’s nothing I don’t know about grills” guy want to hunker down in the easy chair and read the book cover to cover.

A must-have for any family prone to BBQ, Dad’s Awesome Grilling Book has recipes for appetizers, beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, burgers/dogs/brats, pizzas…the list goes on and on. Add to that its funny musings and really helpful technical info, and the book lacks for nothing. Get it for Dad.

Review by Ann Ruethling

From the author, Bob Sloan:
If you’re like me, then Father’s Day is a chance to make a request for someone in your household to provide you with your favorite food. For me, that would be some barbecue. If you’re also like me, you don’t trust anyone else to smoke the ribs or brisket but yourself. So what’s a dad to do? Well, here’s a solution that’s worked for me–have your wife and/or kids throw together these Barbecue Pork Burgers for lunch. They’re not true, pure, unequivocally absolute barbecue, but they allowed my family to feel as if they were making something special for me–Dad–on my Day of Days. The burgers, in fact, do have that essential barbecue flavor, which is a perfect fix to hold me over until dinner. That’s when the ribs I have coated with my special dry rub the night before will be coming off the grill. Hey, I know it’s supposed to be My Special Day and everyone is supposed to be taking care of me, but I just can’t help myself. Anyway, there is no greater gift than my family eating together–especially when we’re getting our hands messy in unison eating barbecue. For great smoked barbecue recipes, check out Dad’s Awesome Grill Book.


An exclusive recipe for Chinaberry Customers from Bob Sloan:

Barbecued Pork Burger

This burger captures the spirit of an authentic down-home pulled-pork barbecue sandwich. Let the sauce soak into the bun and eat it with a fork. It will definitely give you a heady barbecue rush.

  • Burgers
    • 1 1/2 pound ground pork
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
    • 2 tablespoons favorite bottled barbecue sauce
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 hamburger buns

Place the ground pork in a medium bowl. Add all the ingredients except the oil and gently mix together until just combined. Shape the meat into 4 burgers about 3/4 inch thick and 4 inches across, handling as little as possible. Make a 1/4-inch dimple in the center of each burger about the size of a half-dollar about the size of a half-dollar with the tips of your middle 3 fingers.
Place a skillet, preferably cast-iron, over high heat, and let it get very hot, about 2 minutes. Add the oil and spread it evenly over the pan. Arrange the burgers so they aren’t touching and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Turn and cook 4 to 5 minutes more, or until the meat is no longer pink inside (160 F).
Serve in hamburger buns topped with additional barbecue sauce.
For charcoal grilled burgers, make a medium-hot fire (see note page 14). Cook the burgers for 5 minutes. Turn and cook 4 to 5 minutes more.
For gas grilled burgers, preheat on high until grill is very hot, about 500 F. Cook the burgers for 5 minutes with the lid closed. Turn and cook 4 to 5 minutes more, again with the lid closed.
Makes 4 burgers

Happy May Day

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Can you believe it’s already May??? Ever since I became a parent, time just seems to fly by at record speed. One day our family is celebrating the new year, and then, with Houdini-like magic, it’s Valentine’s Day, then Easter, then my twins’ birthday, then time to sign them up for summer camps. Isn’t it crazy?!?

Anyway, I digress… the photo is of the May Day 2009 Bloom from Susan McKinley Ross, toy and game designer. Check out our interview with Susan from last week for more information.

Here’s to life slowing down just long enough so we can catch our breath.

May Day History and Significance (from TheHolidaySpot.com):

Well, it is a fact that May Day, which the children do enjoy with all vibes, is not an overly prominent holiday in America. Yet, it does have a long and notable history as one of the world’s principal festivals. The origin of the May Day as a day for celebration dates back to the days, even before the birth of Christ. And like many ancient festivals it too has a Pagan connection.

For the Druids of the British Isles, May 1 was the second most important holiday of the year. Because, it was when the festival of Beltane held. It was thought that the day divides the year into half. The other half was to be ended with the Samhain on November 1. Those days the May Day custom was the setting of new fire. It was one of those ancient New Year rites performed throughout the world. And the fire itself was thought to lend life to the burgeoning springtime sun. Cattle were driven through the fire to purify them. Men, with their sweethearts, passed through the smoke for seeing good luck.

Then the Romans came to occupy the British Isles. The beginning of May was a very popular feast time for the Romans. It was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers . It was in her honor a five day celebration, called the Floralia, was held. The five day festival would start from April 28 and end on May 2. The Romans brought in the rituals of the Floralia festival in the British Isles. And gradually the rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane. And many of today’s customs on the May Day bear a stark similarity with those combined traditions.

May day observance was discouraged during the Puritans. Though, it was relived when the Puritans lost power in England, it didn’t have the same robust force. Gradually, it came to be regarded more as a day of joy and merriment for the kids, rather than a day of observing the ancient fertility rights.

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