By Lacey Cencula
As a young college student, I often sacrificed quality for quantity when it came to cocktails. Now as a older, much wiser, graduate student, I’ve had all the well vodka I can handle. That’s right—I’m fancy now. With this newly acquired taste, I have come to appreciate the finer things in life, such as a well-crafted cocktail.
The holiday season is without a doubt my favorite time of the year. You’re receiving gifts left and right, and there’s a party about once a week. New Year’s Eve serves as the grand finale of the holiday season, but you can’t ring in the new year without a cocktail in hand. No matter what your plans are, there’s a drink for that! Watching cheesy movies on the couch? There’s a cozy cocktail for that. Hosting a dinner party for your family? Oh, you definitely need drinks for that. Getting ready for a New Year’s Eve party with friends? Time to break out the cocktail’s mini-me: the shot.
As you make your New Year’s Eve plans, here are three drink recipes that can elevate your night, no matter what your plans are!
Naughty or Spice
Cinnamon sugar (optional)
Mint to Party
Apple of My NYE
By Tony Hinshaw and Kelly Caldwell
Decorating for Christmas for a lot of us is about nostalgia and tradition. I have my favorites from childhood and then I have my own ornaments and trinkets I have picked up on my travels over the years.
Now, in my house, I don’t have a mantel, so I took a road trip to Senoia and borrowed the mantel at my friends Jim Preece and Tony Hinshaw’s house. I also borrowed Tony’s decorating skills to accomplish three different looks I absolutely adore.
We went with Southern Charm, Grandma’s House and High Society Winter Wonderland. These mantel displays are to be used to inspire you to do a little something different this year when it comes to decorating your fireplace. (Change it up a little and Santa will notice!)
We took inspiration from nature with this one. We brought in magnolias and cotton, but the focal point was a special treasure Jim has lugged around for many, many years.
“The picture is from the Savannah Symphony Orchestra. Back in the 1970s, they did a fundraiser where they sold wrapping paper. This was the sheet music for ‘The Nutcracker’ that the orchestra would perform.
“It literally cost me like $2,” he said. “Granted I spent a small fortune getting it framed, but we love how it turned out.”
To finish the look we used pillar candles for height, a yarn spindle, tarnished silver ball ornaments and garland consisting of pine cones and holly berries.
Really this reminds me of my childhood because my great grandmother Burson actually had a ceramic light up Christmas Tree. It makes me smile when I see reproductions in the stores now.
This embraces the more the merrier attitude with vintage figurines and decorations making their way to the center stage.
We elevated the look of our wreath simply by placing a Santa Claus wall hanging in the center. We used shatterproof red Christmas balls to bring attention to the garland cascading down the mantel. We also used multicolored lights because every grandmother should, right?
We have the main players of a children’s Christmas represented including Frosty, Rudolph and of course the main man himself!
High Society Winter Wonderland
How beautiful is this? I mean really. I think it may be my favorite but I am supposed to be unbiased.
Different greenery including eucalyptus, green berries, pine created the base of the mantel. White lights are used in this display and make the twinkle even more special with the flocked miniature tree with a gnome inspired Santa Claus. The floating bookshelves add a nice dimension of height and you can always use Christmas books from your collection. The metal trees reflect the white lights nicely.
Father Christmas stands to the side with glittered snow trees.
By Mary Lee Caldwell
I love Christmas and Easter. These are days that hold a special place in my heart because of the memories they hold, but more importantly because of what the days mean to me as a person of faith. They quite literally but the holy in holidays, and no other celebration compares to majesty and magnitude of Christmas and Easter, but if you know me, you know I love to make lists and rankings. Everything is a competition, and my 3rd favorite day of the year, or my bronze medal holiday, is New Year’s Day. It represents a fresh start, a clean slate, and new opportunities. It is a day where nothing seems impossible, and I love the idea of resolutions and embracing the new year with a sense of purpose and focused energy.
Resolutions on their own though can be a dangerous thing, so I think it is also important to reflect on New Year’s Day. Think back on the year you just completed, and ask yourself what you loved about the past year and what you hated. Think about your wins and your losses; what were the days you wish you relive, and what were the days you wish you could skip over; and challenge yourself to figure out who you are, who you have been, you want to be. These can be tough questions, but they are important when you want to live your life on (and of) purpose. Before we close the book on 2018, I want to challenge you to reflect on this past year with your friends and family. And I have three words that are going jump start this process and make it a whole lot easier to get the ball rolling: High, Low, Buffalo!
High, low, buffalo! These words represent my new favorite conversation starter with my family, students at work, even random strangers in line at Starbucks. The idea is simple: you ask other people what has been their high and low moments of the past year, and it is amazing to learn what have been the moments that stick out to others. You gain so much insight into other people’s mindsets and memories, but you also get a chance to explore and reflect on your own experiences and share that with others as well.
I am sure you are wondering where the buffalo fits into this little exercise. So here it goes: you finish the conversation by asking others for their buffalo moment of the year. This is where you ask the person about a time or experience in the last year that is fun, weird, or just something that sticks out in their mind – kind of like a buffalo would stick out at your family dinner. For example, one of my buffalo moments this year was having more than 3000 people sing happy birthday to me while I was at a conference in Orlando. These are always some of the most fun conversations starters. They are also a great way to remember moments that can’t fit easily into a box, but they are special, important, and they help define us.
For me 2018 has been a year full of highs, a few lows, and a ton of buffalos, and I want to learn from every one of those moments. This exercise has become a staple in our family dinner conversations, and I am always learning new things about the people that I am closest to. I hope you embrace it and love it as much I do.
By Jeremy Wortham
Humans are a superstitious bunch. And that usually means we’ve got all kinds of traditions to help bring in good luck and ward off evil spirits.
All over the world, folks celebrate New Years Eve in their own traditional ways. Some stay home waiting for the ball drop in New York City along with the endless other celebrations being shown from all over the world on the television. Some go out and get more involved by spending the night away at local events like parties, bars, and clubs. Others drive to bigger cities to partake in events such as the peach drop in Atlanta.
In the South, bringing in the New Year usually revolves around two things we all love dearly: football and food. Who in the south doesn’t love watching the college football bowl games while smelling the food cooking in the kitchen? Don’t answer that!
Most Southern New Year’s Eve traditions generally begin and end with loved ones in the kitchen at the parents or grandparents house. For as long as I can remember my family has celebrated New Year’s Eve in a very specific way. We eat. And I mean we eat a lot. And we don’t eat just anything, we eat what has become for me, and I’m sure many other southerners, the last feast, similar to a Thanksgiving or Christmas supper.
On New Years Day, my in-laws would cook the southern traditional fare. We’d have black eyed peas, rice, collard greens, cornbread and ham. Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represented gold. If stewed with tomatoes then it would represent health and wealth. Also, some form of pork is to be included: pork roast, ham hocks, hog jowls and so on. Many simply just add fatback in the greens. The pork represents health and wealth and continued prosperity. Some say that the pork also represents progress since pigs and hogs generally are not able to look backward without completely turning around.
According to old Southern stories, southern tradition dates back to the Civil War when Union troops pillaged the land, leaving behind only black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder. In the North, the black-eyed peas were known as “cowpeas” or “field peas.” Cattle ate cowpeas, and humans ate only English peas. Since the North believed that only cattle ate black-eyed peas, they saw no need to destroy this crop. They had already either taken or eaten all of the cattle.
First planted as food for livestock and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the black-eyed pea fields were ignored as Sherman’s troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby making the black-eyed pea an important food source for surviving Confederates. As one of the few food sources left to sustain the people and the Southern soldiers, those black-eyed peas came to represent good fortune.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate the tradition of sitting around the dinner table and everyone enjoying the holiday meal, part taking in the family games, followed by a firework show by the kids. Speaking of fireworks...
Fireworks are probably the second biggest part to a New Year’s Eve celebration. Do you know why we set off fireworks though? If you answered, “Because blowing stuff up is fun,” you’re mostly right. But the tradition actually has much greater superstitions. Fireworks have been used in China since ancient times. That might be where the belief stems from that fireworks and firecrackers scare off all the evil spirits from year’s past who may be trying to hang around too long. So don’t forget to get you some fireworks or at least go watch a firework show.
Lastly, out with the old and in with the new. A clean home represents a fresh start for the new year. But there’s a catch: make sure you get everything clean before Jan. 1 or the day after. Some traditions state nothing should leave the house on the first day of the New Year -- not even old Christmas trees -- to signify not losing anything important to you. And, to make matters even more complicated, you should make sure your cupboard is full. A bare cupboard could mean a similarly bare year, and nobody wants that!
Whatever the reason for the tradition, we Southerners stick religiously to it. Especially when it comes to southern cooking because it’s DELICIOUS!
By Ashley Butler
When I first began to write the column for this issue, I had one topic up front and center in my mind and on my thoughts. The thoughts and topic were smothered with Hot Chocolate, cozy blankets, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, jack frost nipping at my nose and the faint sound of sleigh bells ringing in the snow. Then, something happened. Every thought changed when my husband looked at me and said, "this is just peace."
It's October as I write this. It's 90 degrees in Northern Mississippi and I'm sitting at a picnic table in the dusk of the evening alone. My boys have gone fishing again and left me and my thoughts all alone. Me and my thoughts of Christmas in the dead of a Southern Fall Heat Wave! Super Merry and Bright, right?
We decided to take a few days to enjoy the Fall Break that the school gave us. We shot up to Hernando, MS to enjoy the sights and then ride a little further and let little Easton experience the lovely home of Elvis. For the record, Easton is not the least bit interested at this point. The only thing he remembers is that Black Leather Elvis is mommy's favorite Elvis. Ha!
Earlier today, we had taken a walk through the woods. Let me be clear, this would be my first real walk through the woods. I was raised in Randolph County and I love to explore all areas of it...on an ATV, with my feet raised high and nowhere near the ground or in grass where I cannot fully examine the grounds around me. I fish from the back of a truck that is backed as close to the water as possible or from an ATV that has positioned me perfectly on the bank. I don't do the outdoors very well. Anyway, my husband looked at me as we sat on the shore and as he and I talked, he looked at me and said, "it's just peace here".
It was. Water clears my soul. Sometimes I can't get close enough to it. For some reason, every single thing about this trip had been simply, peace. The ride to the campground. The area in which we camped. The funny stories. The loud singing. The silly dances. Every ounce of it was peace. It. Was. Peace.
After the boys left back out to do a little late evening fishing, I began to think about all the things we expect Christmas to be. One word came in my mind over and over. That word was PEACE.
It's peaceful to think about the birth of Jesus. It's peaceful to think about what He brought to this world: the salvation for any and all who call upon His name.
We want to think of our Christmas gatherings filled with peace. We want that perfect Holiday photo of everyone enjoying their evening with good eats and surrounded by an army of family and friends with large smiles plastered on their faces. We want the magazine picture perfect Holiday portrait.
Would you love to ask me how this ties into my peaceful October, Mississippi getaway? I would love to answer that for you. Follow me for a few moments, won't you?
If you could take a sneak peek into my secret journals, you would find that I began praying for this trip weeks ago. I'm the most uptight human when it comes to family trips. I am a horrible packer. I can't stand unexpected things on a trip. I hate making 24 trips to Walmart for things I forgot, because it makes me feel like a failure. I'm usually very ill and snippy the entire time because I can't stand for the room or the camper to be unorganized or messy. I spend a ton of time picking up and then as I'm doing that I'm griping that, "this is my vacation too", "I can't believe I left home just to clean up after everyone somewhere else". I am the world's most horrible trip mom. I own it. I totally own it. (And all my boys said "AMEN")
I prayed in advance for the most peaceful trip. I truly wanted this for my husband and my children, well child that’s not in college. I truly wanted a beautiful and peaceful trip for everyone. Did you notice what the first sentence of this paragraph said? I said, I prayed for a peaceful trip.
As we sat on the beautiful shore, when my husband turned to me and said, "It’s just peace here", I began to thank God for answering my prayer for it being a truly joy filled event for all of us. Also, I said to myself, "Self, why don't you pray about all of your uptight moments?"
I joke often that there isn't enough Xanax in the South to help me through the Holidays. Ok, I joke, but I kind of mean it a little, or a lot. Because I know you fit into one of those categories. I'm just as bad of a Holiday mom as I am a trip mom. Maybe worse.
Holidays mean, at least for me if I'm being honest, lots of peeps we would rather not see, buying gifts for tiny humans we don't know, and fake smiles as we receive gifts that will be tossed in the trash. At some point, while you are making your 27th batch of sausage balls for the season, you slip out words or entertain thoughts about it all being too busy or you gripe about how much you don't want to go to the place where said 27th batch of sausage balls is to make an appearance.
Have you ever prayed about the Holiday Season before it approached?
Well, I haven't. I just did the things that were on the check list to be done because "mama said," and when "mama says," then....well, you do!!! The end. That is the rule of the SOUTH.
When my husband looked at me and said the exact same words back to me that I had prayed that would cover my trip, I was shook. I froze.
Every year, at some point, I become Monster Holiday Mom. I rarely ever enjoy the Holidays in real time. It's always days or weeks after, when I'm surfing through my memory bank, that I begin to slow down enough to cherish moments, smiles, laughs and stories. I really don't want to be Monster Holiday Mom. I do believe this year, it will all be different.
The scripture that will change it all is found in Philippians 4:6-7. "Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then because you belong to Christ Jesus God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel."
Just as my husband slipped the words "this is just peace" out of his mouth, my entire Holiday Season will be covered in a peace that I can't completely understand.
This trip was dramatically altered because of prayer. I got specific with the details of my prayer. God hears us when we pray. He cares deeply about our details. He answered in His always perfect and beautiful timing. No request made in the Throne Room is taken lightly. There isn't such a thing as "to little for God". He takes great pleasure in hearing our true hearts desires. So, go ahead and take your requests to Him. He is eagerly waiting to hear from you.
Have a deeply beautiful and Monster Holiday Mom free Thanksgiving and Christmas. See you all in 2019.
By Mandy Markham Johnson
My mother was the queen of Christmas. She would craft ornaments, sew stockings, and buy holiday décor year-round. Her favorite style for the season was an eclectic mix of vintage and country – a look I never quite embraced, but to this day, I know it when I see it.
My siblings and I woke on Christmas mornings to displays of gifts arranged in ways that rivaled the work of Macy’s best visual merchandisers. Santa nailed it every year at our house. As her children aged, my mother adjusted how we celebrated the holidays to accommodate our growing families, but she still managed to make it magical for all of us, even after dolls, bicycles and video games fell off of our wish lists.
I’m not sure how an elementary school teacher managed to pull this off on such a meager salary, but I like to believe in the magic of Christmas, and I never doubted it would happen again and again. So when my mother died suddenly ten years ago, just before Thanksgiving, my belief in the magic of Christmas died a sudden death, too.
Still in shock, I moved through the season that year inconsolable and distant. My husband and friends offered all sorts of support and love, but I was not having it. As I worked through my grief over the next several years, I muddled through the holidays with varying success. There were days I melted down when I saw a country snowman or a vintage-looking pixie elf in Hobby Lobby and there were days I knew that my mother’s Christmas magic was living on while watching her grandchildren enjoy the holidays.
I was scrolling through Twitter one morning in December 2012, around the time of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT and saw that Ann Curry had mentioned a movement called “#26Acts” as a way to honor the victims of the shooting.
The idea was simple: perform a random act of kindness for a stranger in honor of each of the 26 victims. Best practice was to remain anonymous, but to present a note to the stranger explaining which victim the act of kindness they were receiving was honoring.
For my first act, I paid for a man’s take-out order at a local restaurant. I asked the server to select a bag waiting for pick-up, and I paid the tab slipping my note in the bag. Next, I left a $5 Starbucks gift card inside a note card taped to the mirror in a public restroom. I left iTunes gift cards and notes in magazine on airplanes. I taped snacks and notes to parked cars and bicycles around the college campus where I work. I left extra tips with notes for servers and donated blankets to our local animal shelter in honor of a victim who loved his dog.
On Christmas Eve, my husband and I decided to perform three of the acts together. We cranked up the holiday tunes in my little Fiat and headed out. We taped a $20 bill and a note to a gas pump at a station just off the interstate hoping that someone needing gas money would find it. We randomly selected an older man in a cowboy hat in the Toys-R-Us parking lot and handed him a gift card for the store as we drove off. I’ll never forget the smile I could see on his face from my rearview mirror. We delivered a bouquet of fresh flowers to a woman working the late shift at a nearby convenience store. It was the best kind of Christmas Eve. Pure Christmas magic.
I rarely saw the reactions of my recipients, but the ones I did see left a big impression on me - the surprised looks, the instant tears, the glancing around to see if they were being watched – all of this served to remind me of the surprises Santa created for me over the years. Clearly, my mother got immense joy from her queen of Christmas gig, and now I knew why. What started as a way for me to somehow acknowledge the grief of the friends and families of the Sandy Hook victims actually became the way for me to move through my grief surrounding the holiday season. Giving, it turns out, really is better than receiving.
By Mary Lee Caldwell
Finding the perfect gift for friends and family can be an overwhelming and exhausting process, but no worries the latest trend in gift giving is here to save the day. Well, we have the solution for you: gift subscription services. From makeup to monograms and office supplies to fun fitness items, you can have trendy new products sent right to your door each month or season. The services can easily be sent directly to your friends or family, and it literally becomes the gift that keeps on giving! Since each box is carefully curated by the service, it takes the stress out of finding the perfect gift, while still having a personal feel to everything you give.
For the past year, I have been obsessed with these services, and I am ready to share with you some of the amazing products that I have discovered on my mission to find the best gift box subscription services the internet has to offer. With companies that focus on everything from stationary to snarky shirts and entrepreneurial spirit to adorable memory making dolls, here are some great gift subscription boxes that will be making an impact long after all of the tinsel has been packed away.
Cloth and Paper
If I were Oprah and making a list of my favorite things, I would ALWAYS have beautifully designed office supplies and paper products. The monthly subscription boxes from Cloth and Paper more than deliver on these items! Every month, subscribers receive a box full of Cloth & Paper exclusives, stationery goods, planner accessories, hard to find pens, and all types of fancy lifestyle items. I was so lucky that the first Cloth and Paper box I received included their beautiful planner for 2019, and I cannot wait to put it to great use this year! I also received a great pen, monthly stickers, and post-its. The care taken to deliver quality products with a beautiful presentation was evident, and if you have a planner on your gift list, this would be an excellent choice! Cloth and Paper offers a stationary box with 6-8 items with a variation of planner and lifestyle items ($38), a penspiration box with 4-6 pens and pencils many of which are hard to find ($18), or a combination box ($48). You can also save by opting for the 3, 6, or 12 month prepay plans! Click here to subscribe to Cloth & Paper.
Maple Box Kids
Easily the most adorable gift subscription box I have ever seen, the Maple Box Kids, is the perfect box for any child that loves dolls, books, and making memories. The Joyful Jenny Kit is incredible because it not only includes a precious doll, but also activities designed to help parents engage with their kids: recipe cards, monthly bucket lists, and a puzzle activity. The box also included a sweet charm bracelet and a storybook. This starting kit is filled with more than $70 worth of products, but it can be shipped to the special little girl in your life for only $49.99!
My Rewards Box
According to their website, My Rewards Box is designed “for busy women who hustle everyday”. With bath and beauty essentials, jewelry, home goods, makeup, and more, the My Rewards Box more than delivers. With my first My Rewards Box, I received a sweet pineapple necklace, an ice cream scented candle, an essential oils shower steamer, a bubble sheet mask, a facial cleansing stick, and an adorable kitchen whisk guaranteed to sweeten and add fun to any kitchen. The box was full of fun treats that I was excited to try, but not necessarily something I would have sought out to buy for myself. These are the kinds of things I love to give or receive as gifts. Subscriptions are available month to month or through a 3, 6, or 12 month prepay plans. Each box includes 5-6 full size items, and one box costs only $35. Click here to subscribe to My Rewards Box.
Smartass and Sass
Disclaimer: this box is not for the faint of heart, and some of the items include profanity. But in the words of the company, “we love funny s***, cuss words, and treating ourselves.” If you love these things too, then this is the gift box for you! I loved almost everything I received in my first Smartass and Sass box: a necklace that inspired me to “slay” the day, socks, stickers, a pencil pouch, a journal, and an adorable sign that is making itself at home in my office, because when working with college students, it’s message rings true: “I’m not bossy, I’m motivational”. Each box also includes a t-shirt. In this box, the shirt was printed with the clever message: “My brain has too many tabs open” - This was my mother’s favorite item out of every gift subscription box I received. These monthly Boss Babe boxes start at $34.95, and there are sure to be a hit! Click here to subscribe to Smartass & Sass.
Sparkle Hustle Grow
Sparkle Hustle Grow is a box designed for the women entrepreneurs in your life. This is the perfect gift for women who are rocking the business world in all kinds of work. Their signature full sized Box will be packed with 4-6 items to inspire the working women in your life and and help their business grow…like books, planners, tech gadgets and chic office supplies. One of my favorite features of this service is that each box includes an online training each month! Plus you get access to the private Facebook community for a book study, additional training and of course, connecting with fellow female entrepreneurs. The first box I received from SHG included fun tech gadgets to help me stay connected, a book, and a cute notepad reminding me to hustle. These boxes start at $39.95, and I think will be a huge hit especially if you know any women who are wanting to rock their work! Click here to subscribe to Sparkle Hustle Grow.
Editor's Note: Southern Holiday Life does use affiliate links in this story. We will receive compensation for anyone that subscribes to these boxes.
by AMANDA HENDERSON • www.cultivatecreate.net
Long before the holiday season approaches, I’ve been dreaming up a winter wonderland, planning how I’ll make my home festive for my family and friends. It’s about more than just perfunctory decorations or obligatory adornments. It’s about capturing the spirit of the season, holding the meaning dear, and allowing that to spill over into my home. Decorating a Christmas tree can mean more than merely going through the motions, it can mean encapsulating the wonder and excitement of a newborn baby being laid in a manger. It can mean creating something that makes a child’s eyes light up in amazement, a means to which we share the reason for the season, and a symbol in which we gather around together; friends, family, and neighbors.
Step 1: After assembling, fluff your tree branches, making sure there are no visible holes and the shape looks uniform. Also, if your tree isn’t pre-lit, add lights. Make sure to secure lights on outer branches as well as further into the tree.
Step 2: Start adding in large floral picks, branches, or floral garlands. Work with the largest items first, then medium and small items. Allow for some branches and picks to cascade from and stick out from the tree a bit to give dimension. In this case, we used flocked and snowy branches, pine cone garlands, and pretty white berry picks.
Step 3: Add your tree topper. Begin by adding a base layer of floral picks, then ,layer other textures and variations that tie in with the rest of your tree.
Step 4: Now, add Christmas balls starting with the largest first. Space the largest ornaments out throughout the tree. Once finished with this step, you have a beautiful, neutral and simple, winter white tree.
Step 5: (Option 1: Preppy and Plaid) Let your ribbon choice be the focal point and dictate what ornaments you use. Add your ribbon to your tree, starting by wiring a large bow to the base of your tree topper. Then, add smaller bows throughout the tree by wiring into the tree or by simply gathering the bow in your hand and then using the wire branches to hold the bow in place.
Step 6: (Preppy and Plaid) Lastly, add in smallest ornaments that coordinate with your ribbon. In this case, simple navy blue ornaments were added.
Step 6: (Winter Ski Lodge) Add your ribbon, starting by wiring a large bow to the base of the tree topper. Then, add cascading sections of ribbon, tucking about every two to three feet to create gathers. Secure by using wired branches of tree to hold ribbon in place.
Step 7: (Winter Ski Lodge) Next add large focal items, like the ski set and the sled. This will give visual interest to your tree.
Step 8: (WInter Ski Lodge) Lastly, add small ornaments to fill in any holes or gaps like the ice skate ornaments and red ornaments pictured.
By Mary Lee Caldwell
Turkey and dressing, pecan pie, discussions of shopping and football- sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon. But just like the SEC (the greatest college football conference in the world), the fourth Thursday in November just means more. Thanksgiving is about spending time with friends and family. Unlike other holidays or celebrations, gifts are not typically exchanged, and the day is designed to be spent giving our most valuable gift to our loved ones: our time.
I don’t remember all of the meals my family has shared together over a Thanksgiving table; I don’t remember the all of the games we have played or watched; and I don’t remember any of the great sales we scoped out for Black Friday. But I do remember the feelings of love, laughter, and gratitude. This is what Thanksgiving is all about: being thankful for the blessings in our lives. Blessings that come in many forms, but most often the greatest blessings come in the form of the people in our lives and the time we get to spend with them.
This past year, I have been writing articles in Southern Holiday Life’s sister magazine Lake Wedowee Life. Each issue, I have written about intentionality and different ways to live one’s life on and of purpose. It is fun to explore different ways to reflect and focus on goals, action plans, and advice. I love planning, and I love giving advice, so this holiday season I only have one big tip: be obsessively grateful.
Spend the season seeking out opportunities to explore and express how grateful you are for the blessings in your life. The holiday season is the perfect time to spend extra time with family and friends, and make the most of it. Lean in to the season and soak up the true meaning behind each of the holidays we celebrate this time of year. This can mean different things for different holidays but for Thanksgiving, I hope you find ways to count your many blessings and express your gratitude. It is not always easy, but it is rewarding.
To get you started, Southern Holiday Life is breaking tradition, and giving you a Thanksgiving gift this year! Head to southernholidaylife.com today, and download a free Thanksgiving card that you can print. Use the cards to send to your family and friends, or keep it for yourself as a reminder to live a life of Thanksgiving!
By Stacey Pirtle
Some of us are pretty protective of our long-standing holiday standards. We don’t want anyone messing with our green bean or sweet potato casseroles. And Heaven forbid anyone but Aunt Bertie dare to take on the cornbread dressing. Lord, what would the world come to?
If it is your turn to host a holiday meal, it can be a tricky task making sure that everyone’s favorites make the buffet line and bring back all those precious memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases past the family has been anxiously waiting to relive all year.
Sometimes, suggesting having something new or different at a holiday gathering can cause all sorts of hoopla. When all of the cooking shows come out with their holiday menus, you can almost hear the collective response, “Hey, food lady! Keep your oven mitts off our Thanksgiving!” The nerve. Close to sacrilege. Why can’t they just let holiday meals be the way they’ve always been?
There are other (and quite tasty) ways of honoring our precious food memories than just eating exactly the same thing in exactly the same way every single holiday. Stay with me now. It’s true.
You can still evoke family, tradition, and heritage even if you throw in something new, as long as you do it the right way. There are 3 keys to successfully adding something new to a holiday meal without taking away from what your family loves most.
1. Choose one or two dishes that aren’t the star of the show and replace them with other foods that fall into the categories of traditional and/or family-style.
There are always those dishes that show up on the menu every year that everyone could do without. Maybe for your family, it is the jello salad or the macaroni and cheese. They are not the favorites, and no one really touches them. If this is the case, consider replacing them with something else one year to see what happens. For my family, it’s the turkey. Gasp! I know, right? But by the time we finish the Thanksgiving leftovers, then it’s time for Christmas and turkey again and then those leftovers, and there is just so much turkey one person can consume before there is permanent tryptophan damage. So yes, sometimes we switch out the turkey at holiday meals for other traditional options- pork loin, pork crown, and this year… prime rib. Prime rib is a natural for the holiday table. It is the choicest of beef cuts (it is called prime, after all!)
2. Any time you decide to substitute one dish for another or add a new dish, maintain the flavor profiles of the season or the flavor profile you are replacing.
What better way to honor an old dish than by breathing new life into it and falling in love with it all over again? For instance, instead of green bean casserole, a hostess might find that green bean bacon bundles with stuffed mushrooms might be more up her alley. Or maybe a spinach salad with cranberries, pears, and candied pecans sounds like a good choice. While the bundles stay true to the elements of the original casserole dish, the salad simply highlights the flavors of the season. With this method, even a new dish can have a comforting familiar feel and be a welcome addition.
3. Don't mess with the family favorites! Keep those passed-down family dishes that everyone loves the best.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water?” Don’t get carried away and start changing everything. If your family is expecting a traditional holiday meal, not everything needs an upgrade. Keep those dishes that speak the loudest of your Thanksgivings past and preserve what your family holds most dear about the meal. Even the grumpiest of family members will be more open to trying new things when the heart of the meal stays the same.