Thursday, January 3, 2013

Holidays and Simple Lives

My family lives a short drive away from my home, which requires some time on an interstate that rolls through the hills and fields of Eastern Iowa. This time of year is sleepy in this space between cities.  We stayed home this Christmas, one of the best decisions we've ever made, but we went to see my family a week later. We arrived at noon in fresh clothes, bursting with gifts to give and food to share.  We played, ate, gave, and received. Eight hours later, disheveled and blissful, we left my parents' warm home, which previously belonged to my grandmother, and drove home.  Before we left I nursed the baby in her car seat and she easily fell asleep after a long day of playing with her cousins and receiving an inordinate amount of attention and affection.  My husband sat in the back seat with her, as he always does, and I drove.  He fell asleep, too, and I was left by myself to escort my family home. I'm the driver in the family because any other position in the car wrecks me with nausea. Often when I'm driving I think of this post by Teacher Tom and focus on trying to be the person I want to be all the time, which can be difficult behind the wheel.  I'm working to be mindful in these moments. I've mentioned before about trying to be mindful while going through daily tasks that may otherwise seem like a distraction like childcare or travel.  One of the most simple ways to be mindful is to tune in to your senses.
So I looked around me.  Watching pavement speeding by is frankly disorienting, but I tired to keep my attention on the road while observing my surroundings.  In the bright light of the moon, just waning from the 13th full moon of the year, I watched the highway curl around snow-covered farms. The moon was so full that it almost looked like daylight, and I felt that bring me comfort. Rural areas toe the line between being the safest and most dangerous places to be. I have driven that journey with white knuckles in the dark, fearing a hungry deer would cross my path. Being able to see beyond the road, beyond the ditches, and into the quiet countryside calmed me.
I smelled the leftover pork sitting in the driver's seat next to me. A year ago we put our order in for our annual Berkshire with Danelle at Stamps Family Farm and I swapped out a few smaller cuts in favor of a crown roast. The meal was celebratory and special, especially since we knew that the pig had been happy and well taken care of by good friends.  We prepared it simply with herbs and garlic and the scent lingered in the car. Amazing how you can be stuffed after dinner but just an hour later the food sounds so good again.
I heard the breathing of my loves in the back seat, so rhythmic and deep. I listened to my own breathing and tried to say relaxed in the moment.
I looked back at the trunk of the car, stuffed with meaningful gifts. Christmas is obviously not about the material, but my family does such an incredible job with giving gifts. They are always thoughtful and useful. I leave each holiday feeling loved and listened to, and that they feel the same from me. I am so lucky to have a family of creative and generous people, and so happy to share that with my daughter.
By the time I pulled the car up to the house, I was floating with bliss from the day and the drive. I carried the sleeping baby inside  and spent the rest of the evening with my husband in the glow of the tree and some nog with brandy.
We were overloaded with beautiful things and people this season. Here are some photos of just a fraction.
Ellie still loves the Boba and shows no sign of being tired of being carried. It's even nicer to snuggle close in the winter.

Christmas Eve at my in-law's meant tons of gifts for Ellie including a Kikaroo high chair which came in this box, obviously way more fun than any toy.
Here's the chair in action. It's great to have her at table level again. I've started cutting her coins of bananas that she can peel herself. This trick has worked well to get her to eat bananas again.
We spent Christmas at home in our pajamas. We got ourselves two new ornaments this year.


And we actually exchanged gifts, something we don't normally do.  I got Tim a copy of this book called Q&A A Day.  
And he got me a ginko leaf necklace. I love it. In fact, my older sister also got me a ginko necklace that is totally different and I love them both. See what I mean about great gift givers?

We ate some of Grandma Ann's poppy seed bread.
With oatmeal and eggs.

 We spent the Saturday following Christmas with my family. Nana bought the cousins matching outfits.

These girls. They kill me.

Mom got me this sweet hand-embroidered towel.

And my sister got Ellie this puzzle. It's too difficult for her now but eventually it will be really fun.
Then we prepared for New Year's Brunch. Ellie helped me make cinnamon rolls.

And we had our best brunch yet.



Yes that's candied bacon. So good.

The holidays have been a whirlwind in the best way and I'm both looking forward to returning to normal routines and a little sad about it. Putting away the decorations and cleaning up feels good. The house feels normal again. Things were starting to feel like clutter instead of fun so it was time to go. I think I'll feel the same about returning to work and our regular routine.  But staying in the moment of the holidays, doing my best to keep things relaxed and calm, made the season a lot more fun and a lot less draining than before. 
How did you keep it simple this holiday?  I'd love to hear about it, or any plans you have for the new year. I wish you all the best and can't thank you enough for sharing in our journey here.
Here's the link up, so check it out after the jump.  Please be sure to link back to a host blog if you like up!
reduce 1. Top 5 Ways to Go Green(er) in 2013 by Eliza K Prints. "2012 was a great year. 2013 is going to be even better." baked apples 2. Spiced Baked Apples by Real Food Forager . "This is a simple recipe that is easy-- great for company as everyone loves baked apples." 2013 3.Simple Living 2013 by Simple Life in Norwary. "Ok, so we in our little family have given ourselves a huge challenge for 2013. The challenge combines many small areas of our life, and we hope it can help us to complete our life a little more, to make our living more sustainable and maybe even making us more self-sufficient."

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