Our winter holidays have so much build-up whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah. December is the month when it all comes to a head. Then you celebrate the new year! Afterward, everything seems much colder and drearier. It’s still cold, but the bright lights fade, leaving us feeling less festive.
How do we combat gloominess? Especially when – we Arkansans know – winter could last well into April or decide to finish in February only to make a comeback a couple of weeks later! We truly never know. I don’t know about you, but even my urge to drink cocoa is gone!
About Me Most people get through it by having resolutions or deciding on a goal for the year. Gyms are packed in the first few months, and everyone’s fridges are filled with healthier foods.In this way, the beginning of the new year starts on a high positive for many. However, this often goes by the wayside quickly for many – we’re only human!
We have to work to hold onto that cozy feeling and plan spring gardens or vacations we want to go on in summer. Instead, we should let the cold days push us towards warmer ones because we know they’ll come! Good things always come around, even if things are drearier now.
I wanted to take a moment to talk about New Year’s resolutions. It has been a crazy year. Not just for me but for many people. I’ve lost loved ones, gotten more than one fantastic opportunity, and have had time to reevaluate what I want to accomplish moving forward into 2023. My most significant conclusion was the importance of focusing on myself—my health, my goals, and the gifts I have to offer the world.
I have talent, and it’s hard to say that out loud sometimes. But we should all shout from the rooftops that we all have gifts to give the world. Yes, we need to eat; no, we shouldn’t all quit our jobs and become starving artists, but maybe you can afford to cut a few hours at our job to go back to school. Perhaps you have enough saved from skipping Starbucks to get a Fitbit and start running in the mornings? It’s all about small steps toward big accomplishments. So that is my focus for 2023. I resolve to make headway on the things I want to achieve.
I’ve been writing a book since 2010, but it has never gotten anywhere because I have had too many real-life barriers and mental health hurdles to jump to get anywhere with the project. So, I beat myself up every single day about not progressing. Not just that, but about my weight, eating habits, and training goals with my dogs – leaving me feeling like a failure rather than looking at the steps I’ve made toward my larger goal.
So, for this year, what can you do to get where you want to be? Let’s all focus on ourselves a bit more and forgive ourselves for previous “New Years” that maybe we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do. Learning how best you work as an individual is just another step in the right direction of achieving what you set out to do.
I used to HATE Thanksgiving. Yep, that’s right. If the Grinch hated Christmas, I would’ve been stealing cornucopias instead of decorated trees in Whoville. It’s still not my favorite holiday, and I have many reasons why that is that I won’t get into this go around.
One of my key complaints is that Thanksgiving is stressful for many people because of its proximity to Christmas. In addition, it is another obligation to travel when it’s already off to grandmother’s house we go in December. It’s just a lot to put on people in a short amount of time. I’d be happier if Thanksgiving were, say – in June! But the idea of pumpkin pie in summer feels a bit odd.
Another critical reason for my early aversion to the holiday stemmed from its excess. It was always too much food for not enough people. My mother would be exhausted when dinner was ready, and – to me – it was an over-the-top and unnecessary amount of work. She wasn’t cooking for dozens of people, just a handful.
Don’t even get me started on the fact that we have a turkey AND a ham every year. It’s too much food, but she loves cooking for us, and I would never rain on her parade. Plus, it is all delicious!
I’m not writing this to bah humbug all over the fun of Thanksgiving though. On the contrary, as I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate the heart of it. It’s about family, sure (which was part of the issue that made me dislike it, if I’m being honest). It’s more than an excuse to gather. As stated above, that is also part of Christmas, and the countries that don’t have a Thanksgiving holiday manage to annoy each other just fine.
No, we’re fortunate enough to have food to share – that is a blessing! So many people in our world don’t have enough food. The fact that I can cook a meal with my family and have electricity, hot water, and a roof over my head reminds me to be thankful. If we approach Thanksgiving ethically (and economically), we can also use it as an opportunity to support local farmers by purchasing farm-raised meats and vegetables. We can let it spur us into volunteering at the Arkansas Food Bank or a local homeless shelter. It creates a time of giving, which should exist year-round, but when the weather turns cold, we need each other to keep warm. Thanksgiving is a bounty celebration- a day to share with those around us.
Plus, if you freeze the leftovers, they can last the rest of the year – thanks, mom. . . Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I wasn’t fortunate enough this year to get a garden in for Summer, but Arkansas is a great place for preparing a Fall garden! There are lots of crops you can plant now to have a delicious selection before winter!
Starting in August, you can sow your seeds of leaf lettuce, mustard greens, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, kale, collards, and spinach. Make sure you don’t plant them in direct sun, however, as heat will wilt the seedlings before they have a chance to establish. Plant your pea seeds now, as well, and make sure they have something to climb on for the vines to grow.
Finish starting seeds inside for fall crops like Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, and Cauliflower. You’ll want to plant these a little later once the heat dies down. Because our area is warmer, we can easily plant a fall crop of potatoes. Try to get them in by the second week of September.
If you did manage to get a summer garden in, harvest vegetables such as beans, peas, squash, cucumbers, and okra regularly to prolong production and enjoy peak freshness into autumn. Continue your regular weeding efforts. Every weed that produces seeds means more trouble next year. Cut down any weeds before they can produce seeds and spread those seeds throughout your yard. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
When September rolls around pumpkins are ripening and when they start show color can be harvested as the color will continue to develop afterward. Just be careful not to damage the surface of the fruit as it will invite mold and bacteria.
It’s finally time for houseplants to come indoors again after their summer vacay because the nights and mornings will begin to get cooler. However, the cooler weather means you can continue planting spinach, lettuce, radishes, arugula, Asian greens, kale, and collards if you haven’t already. Some crops such as parsnips, peas, Brussels sprouts, and kale have enhanced flavor after a frost.
If you’re not feeling a fall garden this is the perfect time to start preparing your soil for next year’s Spring crops! Add fertilizer or manure to your field or plant a cover crop that can be tilled into the soil. Wood ashes contain phosphorous, potassium, and calcium. They can be placed on vegetable gardens and flower beds as a top dressing that will feed into the soil all winter. What a great use for your leftover bonfires!
If you have a birthday on or near a holiday you know that there are a lot of hurdles when it comes to celebrating. I was supposed to be born in June, but when it became apparent that my mother’s pregnancy wasn’t happening anytime soon, they slotted her for July 5th to induce labor. Her doctor, however, had a fishing tournament that day – so I ended up being born on July 3rd.
Being an Independence Day baby meant firework-themed birthday cakes, lots of actual fireworks (which I never liked much), and cooking out on the grill once I had blown out my candles. My friends could seldom make it to my parties because most had out-of-town plans preceding the 4th. That was always disappointing, but my parents did their best to throw me a big shindig. My attendance may have been down, but I always had fun, even if only one person showed up – and I have been best friends with that girl since I was three years old!
What I run into now as an adult is the lack of planning capabilities. I know anyone with a Christmas birthday, or one on Thanksgiving knows that these times of the year are booked solid! You have to plan months in advance if you are wanting to go somewhere to celebrate or if you just want to do something special.
With the 4th of July happening in summer (obviously), I and the Memorial Day babies had better know what days we’ll have off from work months before our birthdays because there will be no last-minute trips! Good luck finding lodging anywhere, especially if you’re like me and forget you have time off before, on, and after your birthday – the week before.
Another bum deal of having a holiday birthday is the themed parties. Listen, I love Halloween and the idea of a spooky birthday sounds fun, but if you’re like my husband, who was born at the end of October, the novelty wears off after your fourth costume party. To this day, he still doesn’t want to have his birthday associated with Halloween at all – and I totally get that! I still hold a lot of animosity towards fireworks.
The MVP of holiday birthday kids though are those born in December. Is the day that you’re supposed to receive gifts and celebrate your birth on or near the day your family gets together and exchanges gifts? What could be more annoying, especially for a kid? I have had several friends while growing up that never got gifts because of the proximity of their birthday to Christmas, or if they did get gifts, they only got one. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all blessed to receive any gifts! But when your friends get a Power Rangers-themed birthday in August, and you are relegated to being gifted as an afterthought – there is a discrepancy in fairness there in the eyes of a 9-year-old.
So, it’s safe to say we holiday-born kids have had a bit of the birthday blues in our lives at one time or another. I think it’s also fair to say that we’re grateful to be here another year! Whatever day your birthday falls on, I hope you have a wonderful celebration of your life. You’re unique and deserving of a day to celebrate yourself and if that means ignoring a holiday to do so – then go for it! There may be many birthdays, and there are many holidays, but there is only one you, and there are people who are so glad they get to say “Happy Birthday” when they see your face!
Happy Independence Day / Teighlor’s Birthday everyone!
With the changing season, many of us have begun gardens. Growing your food produces fresh, healthy fruits and veggies to fuel your body, and gardening gives you a good workout!
One of the issues I face is pest control, and using harmful pesticides is not an option for me. Because of this, I’ve researched alternative ways to repel pests and better the health of my plants overall. One of the fascinating things I’ve learned about is plant compatibility.
Certain plants help with soil nutrition when grown near each other. Clover, rye, and oats, for example, can be used as cover crops, fixing helpful things like nitrogen in the soil promoting plant growth. They also smother weeds keeping down the growth of these competitor plants. Many plants can help repel pests, attract vital pollinators, and increase growth. Some combos include:
Lettuce and calendula. Calendula attracts slugs, so they feed on them and not the lettuce.
Tomato and basil. Not just a great combo on pizza, basil repels insects, improves growth, and enhances the flavor of tomatoes.
Cucumbers and radishes. Radishes help deter cucumber beetles, acting as a trap crop for flea beetles and other insects.
These are just some of the many combinations in the gardening world! Companion planting is a great way to get the best bang for your buck this summer and increase your garden’s output.
April showers bring May flowers, and it is finally time for all the blooms! Everywhere you look are peonies, lavender, wisteria – and the air is so fragrant you can almost taste their sweetness. But did you know we can capture a bit of that floral essence? By first making a tea from the petals of certain flowers, you can create colorful jellies and syrups with unique floral flavors. That means the taste of Spring all year! Some species of flowers should be avoided, such as toxic lilies. However, the list of flowers and fragrant leaves that are often used for making jelly are numerous and include the following:
Johnny Jump Up
Teas from these flowers contain antioxidants, and those same benefits exist in the jelly. There are also ways to process your jellies and jams using less sugar making them a healthier alternative to store bought jellies. Plus, you can’t get much fresher than flowers from your own backyard!
Making the tea:
To begin, rinse your flowers and make sure they’re clear of dirt or insects. Remove any stems and leaves.
Measure 1:1 cups of water to however many cups of flowers. Bring that water to between 203-212 degrees Fahrenheit
Remove water from heat and then add flowers. Let the pot cool to room temperature then cover it and put it in your refrigerator fo 24 hrs.
Making the jelly:
Disinfect jars and lid by boiling them in a canning pot or using your dishwasher to clean them (remember to have the heat setting turned on).
Strain the flowers from the tea and add in 2 tbsp of lemon juice per 4 cups of liquid.
Bring your tea to a boil, then add one package of pectin (per 4 cups of liquid). Let this cook for 1-2 minute. You may use no sugar needed pectin to have more versatility with your sugar levels or sugar-free options.
Add 1:1 ratio of sugar to your tea, then cook this for an additional 1-2 minutes.
Take your clean jars and fill them with the liquid leaving at least 1/4 in of space at the top of the jar before adding the lid.
Place jars in the canning pot for a 10-minute bath, then after removing them, let the jars sit undisturbed for 24 hrs. to create a nice seal. Any can that does not seal (the top lid does not “pop” and invert) needs to be refrigerated.
Now you have delicious Springtime jelly to enjoy all year long! I have personally made jellies from clover, daylilies, and wisteria. I think clover is my favorite because it tastes like honey. Daylily jelly is also very good, and I found that it tastes a lot like plum jam.
Christmas has a ton of traditions, more so than most other holidays. These traditions grow and change, but ultimately remain rooted in popular practices. Ornaments, presents, stockings, and family gathering together are just some of those traditions that people hold dear. Of all these practices, tree trimming is one of the most iconic. However, many are moving away from the classic style of round red ornaments. From country chic trees trimmed in burlap to pink trees with flamingo ornaments, people are putting their stamp on their trees.
Red and green are the traditional colors of Christmas, but many have decided to step away from this tree trimming style. Red looks lovely on a fresh evergreen tree (or a plastic one, no judgment), and those shiny round red ornaments stand out against the branches. That is because red and green are complementary colors. This means they’re situated opposite on the color wheel. When complementary colors are mixed they make our eyes dance. They dazzle us with their stark contrast. But what are some of the other Christmas colors? What are some historical traditions people can look to for inspiration? How can we combine them to make our holidays even brighter?
Tree Trimming, Forest Style
Christmas trees have been around long before Christianity put its stamp on any of our holidays (look at Easter’s history, you’ll be shocked). Evergreens were special to people because they were a sign of health and vitality during the difficult months of winter. Boughs of fir, spruce, and pine were hung around doorways to ward off illness and evil spirits. It’s only natural then that a lot of people are opting to go more natural. Pine cones, wood garlands, and ornaments made of real wood are increasingly popular. Many are forgoing ornaments altogether to enjoy the natural beauty of a bare tree.
Tree Trimming with Icy Blue
Winter is cold, at least for most of us (looking at you Hawaii). It makes us think of ice and snow. Building snowmen and cuddling by the fire. Many are taking inspiration from this season and bringing the chill indoors – in a good way! Blue looks stunning on a tree of any color and conjures feelings of winter’s chilly winds that perhaps the promise of a white Christmas and holidays spent playing in the snow.
Tree Trimming the White Tree
Speaking of a white Christmas, it doesn’t get much whiter than a white tree! White is a canvas. It allows any colored decoration to stand out. This means you can have a different color theme every year and know it’ll look beautiful for the holidays.
A Themed Tree Trimming
We have many holidays besides Christmas and for many a decorating aficionado, taking down their beautiful tree is a drag. So why not make a tree for every holiday? Or even to showcase your love for cats, or gardening, or anything. Giving your tree a new look when the mood strikes give you an excuse to never stop the tree trimming tradition!
Can’t do a tree because of cats? Find out some cat safe tree ideas here.