Many years ago, in the 1970's, I was a single mom with two small children ages 6 and 9. My budget was stretched to the limit and I needed a good bit of family help to keep things going in our lives. The holidays were a particularly difficult time for my tightly pinched purse.
A week or so before Christmas, the doorbell rang. My children ran to greet the postman, eagerly. In his hand was a COD package with my name on it. As I attempted to explain I had not ordered anything, the kids chimed in, excitedly, and urged me to pay the man for the "Christmas Present" they had seen on TV and had secretly ordered for me over the phone. They just knew it would make my life easier and my work load lighter and they knew... just knew... I would LOVE it. Scraping together every bit of money I had in the house, I paid up. Since then, I have used this gift to prepare countless family meals and it has worked flawlessly for over 35 years.
This week it broke and I'm heartbroken over the loss of service and the end of an item that brought back the faces of my little kids whenever I took it out to grate cheese. Okay, I'm a sentimental sap.
I have an idea, why don't I ask the kids to get me another one here and let them pay for it this time. What do you think of that idea?
Even when dining alone at Amelie's French Bakery in Charlotte, NC, I still managed to have a mouthful to say and nobody to hear me when I said.....
"Mmm.... smell the delicious aroma of coffee steeping in a classic French press", AND
I can remember making long car trips with my kids back in the days before portable electronics. You had to think up all kinds of things to keep them from getting cranky. We often played a game called Ten Questions. One of my favorite things to ask them was this. If you had to eat only one food item for the rest of your life, what would it be?
One always hoped they would say something like pizza or tacos or sub sandwiches or something that could contain a reasonable variety of food groups... to...well, keep you nourished. Their answer was often cookies.
A painting of the Irish cottage in Ballymoney, County Antrim, where my grandmother was born, is hanging on the wall in my kitchen. Eleven children and four adults lived there in 500 square feet, divided in half, duplex style. Two brothers married two sisters so, the kids were all what you would call double cousins, meaning they had the same grandparents and genetics on all sides. Now their descendants are scattered far and away in Northern Ireland, England, New Zealand and the United States.
My grandmother, Anne Munnis came here to the US in 1914 with $10 and the promise of a domestic job in her pocket. She worked hard, married, had 3 strong boys, 5 grandsons, 5 granddaughters and 16 great grandchildren. I'm grateful for her sacrifices and hard work.
I love all things Irish so, I decorated my kitchen like an old cottage. The only things different are the dishwasher, microwave, convection oven, coffee maker, bread maker, blender, food processor, and fully stocked refrigerator. Which all make me wonder what my cottage dwelling great grandmother would think if she were up from her grave to a tea at my table one afternoon.
My rustic cupboards and dish racks are filled with hand-thrown pottery from County Donegal.
So, Happy St. Patty's to you all.
May you be many days in heaven,
before the Devil knows you're dead.
My mother was a good cook and my grandparents were bona-fide foodies. I was raised to be a foodie. Finding good food is a big part of the tradition. My grandmother would be proud of my foodie tracking skills. She would also be amazed by all the help I get using sites like Urban Spoon and the Chow Boards. I never head out on a trip without a predetermined itinerary of wonderful food stops and I'm usually not disappointed either.
The only glitch in my foodie fanatics is the economy and the rapidly rising cost of eating out, so... we are dining in a lot more these days. I'm working on bringing my cooking skills up to my fussy, foodie, standards and rediscovering the joy of a quiet evening in, with friends.
I had forgotten how relaxing it is not to worry about the other people in line for your table, or the waiter's good intentioned interruptions right in the middle of a friend's great story. I don't miss the clatter and noise.
My formerly dusty china, crystal and silver is getting a workout. My guests feel pampered when they see the table all decked out. Handwashing everything at the end of the evening is a fair trade off for the sense of luxury it brings to the whole meal.
Necessity is the mother of invention and recent downturns in the economy, specifically my own, have necessitated a fresh approach to managing my Christmas expenses this year. I'm thinking, handmade, homey, resourceful, and just plain economically frugal. I want to do this without sacrificing creativity or quality and.... I want to use the craft stash I already have at my fingertips.
This is a bin of old wool and felt scraps I've kept around for kids to make projects out of when they come to visit. Some of it is boiled wool and some of it is low quality craft store felt.
This is one of those huge metal rings full of plastic bags containing every conceivable color of DMC floss all sorted and faithfully wound around little plastic bobbins. I used to cross stitch. I must of thought I would be doing it for eternity when I see how much of this stuff I have stashed away. This and some fiberfill stuffing will just do fine for what I have in mind.
Here is the challenge... use this stuff to make a gift for an 18 month old girl for Christmas. Make something she will LOVE.
Okay, that works. If you need some inspiration or patterns, check out this site. Now, on to the next stash busting, dollar stretching, handmade holiday invention.