Friday, December 17, 2010

Just for today - all is good

This year I will be spending Christmas in Portland with my daughter.  Since they moved to Portland a couple of years ago, they have always rented rooms in different homes, three of them to be exact. Now Olivia and Bryan have their own apartment which they got a few months ago.  It is a small one bedroom which they are thrilled to have, this space of their own which feels to them like their own "Tara."  Unfortunately the only furniture they have happens to be their bed.  I think this bothers me much more than it bothers them.  I'm the orderly mother worrying about where will we eat, where will we sit, where or where? The living room is barren, except for computers, guitars, keyboards and amps.

Olivia, Bryan and obedient little David Bowie
(and the living room where I will be setting up my aerobed Christmas Eve!)
So I can put the Norman Rockwell Christmas aside this year, this one will have less family members since they are spread all around the country, no big roaring fire in the fireplace (since there isn't one), no poinsettia laced table cloths on the dining table for Christmas morning breakfast (which I will be making Dutch apple pancakes - recipe below)  or dinner (since there is no table), no feet propped up on the coffee table after late night hot chocolate and Wii games, since there is no sofa or coffee table, and yet this Christmas feels like what could be the perfect Christmas.  Sleeping on an aerobed, dining cross legged on the floor, making due with few cooking pans, pots and utensils. listening to Olivia and Bryan play music, rumble and tumble on the floor with the ferocious little schnauzer, Bowie, laughing and hugging, and feeling almost more love than this little apartment can hold.

Christmas eve we will honor my tradition of going out for Chinese Food (or perhaps Thai this year, because Portland has some of the best Thai restaurants I have been to), then off to Peacock Lane to join the hundreds of others walking the few blocks, hot lattes or maybe even a microbrew in hand, to view one of Portland's most lit up neighborhoods.  You can walk the few blocks, take a carriage ride, or if you must, drive your car.  I suppose that will be weather dependent.  Buckets of rain would call for a warm dry car, a light drizzle could entice us perhaps to take a carriage ride, and if it is a mild star filled night, definitely a walk, umbrellas in hand as a precaution, this is Portland after all.  I really am hoping for that clear night, where the moon and stars will compete with the seasonal brightness and can be spotted half-way around the world.

Letting go of all expectations - kicking the butt of those Ghosts of Christmas past - and making new traditions.  Ah, I can exhale.  Accepting that we don't have to have a turkey dinner, crab and chicken enchiladas seem to be my "new black" for the holiday, no need to string cranberries and popcorn for the tree, lots of lights will do me fine, no need for gingerbread houses and copious amounts of baked goods.  Just letting the feeling of gratitude, that Christmas feeling and spirit spill all over me (probably rather sloppily after one too many eggnogs).

As a Feng Shui practitioner and teacher I give my clients and students the "assignment" of starting a gratitude journal.  They have been around forever, made even more popular by Oprah and "The Secret".  Every night I write down things that I am thankful for, which on some days it can be a stretch to think of anything good!  But it could be something as simple as my morning cup of coffee (which actually makes the list everyday), hearing from a friend, receiving a Christmas card with an adorable Westie on the cover, making every green light, that my jeans aren't too tight, going to Trader Joe's and finding my favorite popcorn in stock, to much bigger things, like getting a raise, receiving a clean bill of health from the doctor, a new addition to the family.  But just as important is the need to be grateful for the things that didn't happen.  That for today, everyone we love is okay, is healthy. No distressing phone calls, no bill collectors, no pimple on my forehead, or worse on the end of my nose, no flat tire, no friends to bail out of jail!  Just for today. All is good.

So I hope all of you enjoy this holiday - even if it presents itself a little differently.  Maybe a different menu, someone else's house, new members of the family, less members in the family, different games, snow, no snow, or an aching back from sleeping on an under inflated aerobed.  It really isn't about anything more than love.

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace. Agnes M. Pharo

  • Dutch Apple Pancake

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces Golden Delicious apples (about 2), peeled, cored, thinly sliced

  • 3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar (optional)


Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon in large bowl until well blended. Add flour and whisk until batter is smooth. Place butter in 13x9-inch glass baking dish. Place dish in oven until butter melts, about 5 minutes. Remove dish from oven. Place apple slices in overlapping rows atop melted butter in baking dish. Return to oven and bake until apples begin to soften slightly and butter is bubbling and beginning to brown around edges of dish, about 10 minutes.
Pour batter over apples in dish and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake pancake until puffed and brown, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve warm.

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