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Smile #12 ~ Generations

12 Jan

     “Generations pass like leaves fall from our family tree.

      Each season new life blossoms and grows,

     benefiting from the strength and experience

     of those who went before.” ~ Heidi Swapp


Smile #7 ~ Happiness Is…

7 Jan

“Happiness is like a butterfly.

The more you chase it, the more it eludes you.

But if you turn your attention to other things,

It comes and sits softly on your shoulder.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

Smile #4 ~ Nighttime Coffee

4 Jan

Today was one of those days where smiles were few and far between. Nothing was seriously wrong, just a whole bunch of little nothings that piled up until I felt heavy. My youngest wasn’t feeling well when he went to bed last night. He’s twelve years old, more than capable of taking care of himself on a normal day, but my Mommy Ears kept me awake all night in case he called out, or coughed funny, or slept poorly. Because of that, I overslept. Not by much, but enough to miss out on my morning quiet time — my “Me” time when I do my best (and sometimes only) writing of the day. It’s selfish time, I know, but I need it.  And I missed it this morning.

Josh still wasn’t feeling the best when he woke up, but he didn’t have a fever so I sent him to school. Today was the first day back after Christmas break, the start of second semester and some new classes. Too important to miss for just feeling kinda yucky. Mommy-guilt kicked in the instant the bus pulled out of the driveway, and I checked my phone every thirty-seven seconds for the remainder of the day, certain the school nurse would be calling. She didn’t, he was fine, but the guilt still clings.

Things didn’t improve once I got to work. Again, nothing serious happened. It was just a Monday kind of day on a Wednesday. Too much to do, not enough time. Deadlines looming. Annual reports. Taxes. Someone who needed assistance that we couldn’t provide. That always makes a day hard. I wish we could help everyone, all the time, but we can’t. There are rules. Guidelines. Limited funding dependent on donations. She didn’t qualify. She was understanding, and said ‘No worries, Sunshine!’ but I still worry. I wish we could have done more for her. For everyone. I said a little prayer. It didn’t feel like enough, but I know someone is listening. He will provide.

The phones were quiet and I should have stayed late to get caught up, but my sleepless night was catching up with me, tightening like a band around my head. I had hoped to fit in a visit to the vet for my kitty who has been suffering tummy troubles since before Christmas, but no luck there. Between my schedule and the vet’s, poor Poppy will have to wait until next Friday to get his check-up and handful of kitty treats from Dr. Schawang. When I got home, a hyper-happy black Lab came bounding up to greet me, but even that didn’t make me smile. Free-range Lilo means all three dogs have escaped their kennel. Again. Lilo’s the good one, faithful to a fault, and never wanders far from the house when she escapes. I honestly don’t know why she bothers wiggling her butt under the fence. She doesn’t do anything once she’s free, except lay on the driveway. The other two dogs, on the other hand, were hell and gone. My eyes immediately drifted to the highway, dreading I’d see the worst. Thankfully, I didn’t. The hooligans eventually came home not long after dark, filthy dirty, damp from the creek, and looking mighty guilty. Luckily, they didn’t drag anything home with them this time, but I keep expecting a phone call from one of my neighbors regarding missing chickens or traumatized cats.

Supper was a rushed affair. We’re almost out of milk. Homework’s done, but it took a lot of prodding to get that way. My head still hurts. It’s almost bedtime, and I am finally sitting down to write for the day. Beside me on the desk is a steaming mug of French Vanilla coffee, and as I sip I count my blessings that my day of little nothings stayed just that — little nothings. Nothing serious. Nothing life-changing. Just a blah day that I can sleep away, and wake anew in the morning.

Smile #2 ~ Scented Candles

2 Jan

I don’t know what it is about a scented candle lighting up a dark corner that evokes a sense of warmth and comfort, especially in the bitter cold days of winter. Maybe it’s the hypnotizing flicker of the flame, or the heady, sweet scent of the melting wax conjuring up memories of days past. Whatever it is, it brings a warm smile to my face whenever I light one.

In fall and winter, I tend to favor candles with scents that smell as though they’re loaded in calories — Amish Cookie, Banana Bread, English Toffee, Toasted Macaroon —  and I’m a sucker for anything labeled “Grandma’s Kitchen.” During the long, hot days of spring and summer, if I burn a candle at all, I’ll switch over to a lighter, cleaner fragrance. Something fruity maybe, or a scent with the word “Rain” in the title. But the moment the mums start to bloom and the temperature dips below 60 degrees for a daytime high, I’m back in sugar-scented heaven.

I could spend hours at a craft fair, hopping from table to table, cracking open the lids of the jelly jars filled with hand-poured wax, debating which fragrance to take home with me. Blueberry Muffin… mmm…. Cappuccino… no, wait… Apple Butter! Oh, my! By the end of the day, my nose is in ecstasy, husband has grown bored and wandered outside to chat with the guy making Kettle Corn, and I’m lugging around an armload of heavy bags of clinking Mason jars because it’s impossible to select just one. I have the same problem when the boys bring home The Barn Candle Company fundraisers for school. I could very easily finance not only their field trip, but also a new gym and an entire fleet of school buses with my candle purchases if I happened to be hungry that day. They all sound so yummy!

My house is currently filled with the warm, detectable glow of Creme Brulee. How about yours?


Random Heartbeats of 2011

31 Dec

A few snapshots of random heartbeats that blessed my life this year. Wishing you all a New Year full of little moments that bring you peace and happiness.


Snow Day!

3 Dec

It came a little later than usual, but we finally have our first snowfall of the season. Four to six inches are in the forecast, making it the perfect day to decorate the Christmas tree and bake that first batch of cookies. Yum!

Every year I try to mix it up a bit and try something new, but there are two cookies that are Sturgeon family standards at Christmastime. One is my mom’s “secret” cut-out recipe that I have been making since I was a little girl, and the other is Amish Sugar Cookies.

I originally got this recipe from my mother-in-law, but I adapted it slightly because I like a little spice to go with the sweet in my cookies. They are buttery-crisp and highly addictive in the way they seem to melt in your mouth. They are also very simple to make, making them the perfect choice for those who have little helpers in the kitchen, as I often do. Ever since my son has been old enough to stand on a chair, he has been the official Amish Cookie “Squisher” of the family.

Amish Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

4-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1 tsp cream of tartar

Colored Sugar

Cream butter, sugars and oil. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and cream of tartar. Gradually add to creamed mixture. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place on cookie sheets and flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in colored sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 8 dozen cookies.

My Little Scrooge

2 Dec

Josh, back in the good ole days when he had Christmas Spirit

The other day, during the long drive home from the orthodontist, I asked my twelve-year-old son, Josh, if he had any homework. He grunted out a yes, I asked him what subject, and he grumbled, “Band.”

“Ah…” I replied.

That grumbling wasn’t anything new. I’ve heard it many times before. Every Monday, the band instructor assigns a three-paragraph essay on a random topic relating to music, and every week both of my boys act as though their world has come to an end because they have to write it.

I asked him what the essay of the week was on. It had seemed an innocent question at the time, but the twenty-mile rant it unleashed proved otherwise. The volume of his voice, and the sheer ridiculousness of his argument, increased with every mile that passed. I’ll spare you the ugly details. Basically, it all boiled down to this: My son hates Christmas carols.

“Insanity!” I say.

I blame genetics. He gets it from his father. His older brother also inherited this unfathomable trait. Me? I adore Christmas carols. Love, love, love, love, love them! I wouldn’t go as far as to say I listen to them year round, but between Thanksgiving and New Year’s they get top billing on my playlist. I actively seek them out on the radio in the car. I crank them up while I’m baking cookies or decorating the tree, or scrubbing the toilets. They even make shopping in a mall somewhat-tolerable. Quite simply, they warm my heart.

If I were assigned the same essay as my son, I would probably go on a little rant of my own. Selecting just one to write three paragraphs about would be like asking me to pick just one of my kids to brag about. Impossible! Instead, I give you my Top 12 Songs for 12 Days of Christmas, in no particular order:

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Dean Martin

“White Christmas” Dean Martin

“The Christmas Song” Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole

“Little Drummer Boy” Drumline version

“O Holy Night” Celtic Woman

“O Come All Ye Faithful” Art Garfunkel

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” Judy Garland

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” Brenda Lee

“A Holly Jolly Christmas” Burl Ives

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” Andy Williams

“We Need a Little Christmas” Johnny Mathis

“Carol of the Bells” Mannheim Steamroller

Oh, and thanks to Weird Al Yankovic, my son did finally find a Christmas song he likes.

Here’s his.