Tag Archives: Holidays

Top Ten Tuesday: Cookbooks for Winter Holiday Feasts

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Gingerbread people lying on a table. My Brain: Okay, it’s time to write this week’s Top Ten Tuesday entry now. What should we talk about in our freebie post?

My Stomach: Food!

Brain: Well, it’s supposed to be a bookish topic and, ideally, at least tangentially related to winter or the holiday season in general.

Stomach: We will be surrounded by more delicious food than usual until at least the first week of January. It’s the only thing I want to talk about, so there must be a way to blog about it while still technically following Jana’s rules.

Brain: What if we decide to use this prompt to discuss cookbooks? Will that work for you?

Stomach: Yes, I’ll agree to that deal.

Now that you all know how I came up with today’s topic, let’s talk about cookbooks. All of the winter holidays I’m aware of share one delicious and important thing in common: special dishes and meals. Every culture has them, and this is a very common time of the year for people from all walks of life to start making that famous family recipe that everyone expects during the holidays.

If my apartment were large enough for me to host holiday get-togethers, I’d want to browse through these books to plan the perfect meals for all of my guests.

Book cover for Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul by Diana Henry.

1. Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul by Diana Henry

Book cover for Husbands That Cook: More Than 120 Irresistible Vegetarian Recipes and Tales from Our Tiny Kitchen by Ryan Alvarez

2. Husbands That Cook: More Than 120 Irresistible Vegetarian Recipes and Tales from Our Tiny Kitchen by Ryan Alvarez

Book cover for Nadiya's Kitchen by Nadiya Hussain

3. Nadiya’s Kitchen by Nadiya Hussain

Book cover for Bread (River Cottage Handbook) by Daniel Stevens

4. Bread (River Cottage Handbook) by Daniel Stevens

Book cover for The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and 100 Essential Recipes for Midwinter by Nigel Slater

5. The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and 100 Essential Recipes for Midwinter by Nigel Slater

Book cover for The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into a Delicious New Vegan Favorite by Celine Steen

6. The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into a Delicious New Vegan Favorite by Celine Steen

Book cover for How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart by Pam Anderson

7. How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart by Pam Anderson

Book cover for Diabetic Living The Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook by Diabetic Living Editors

8. Diabetic Living The Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook by Diabetic Living Editors

And for dessert…

Book cover for Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home by Tammy Donroe Inman

9. Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home by Tammy Donroe Inman

Book cover for The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

10. The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Which cookbooks do you love? What are a few of your favourite things to eat during the winter holidays?

Top Ten Tuesday: Holiday Reads

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Ornaments, snow-covered pine cone, tinsel, and a wrapped present.While I don’t really celebrate any winter holidays with anything other than a nice meal, I still enjoy reading books about or set in this part of the year.

1. Yuletide Tales A Festive Collective by Peter John

I’ve never seen such a diverse assortment of stories related to Christmas. The references to the horror genre in the blurb are particularly interesting.

2. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

One of my favourite Language Arts teachers assigned this story to us when I was a teenager. I’ve loved it ever since.

3. The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror (Pine Cove, #3) by Christopher Moore

How can anyone read this title and not want to find out what happens next?

4. A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

How did I just now find out that this is a novel as well as a classic Christmas movie?

5. Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorothy Morrison

There’s something fascinating to me about learning where the various winter holiday traditions started.

6. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

I was obsessed with Mr. Andersen’s stories when I was a child. He was the person who introduced me to many of my favourite classic fairytales and legends!

7. The Cat Who Ate Christmas by Lil Chase

This is another one of those titles that is completely irresistible to me.

Mindfulness and Difficult People

Five yellow, smiley faces are hanging down from little chains. A fifth red face with an angry expression is swinging down to hit them.
This is a topic I thought would make a great introduction to the beginning of December and the holiday season that looms before us, but the information in it is timeless.

I’m using the phrase difficult people as a shorthand term for anyone you find challenging to socialize with because of their behaviour.

Labels are useful but can’t possibly explain every nuance in a relationship. Your relationship with a friend will probably have features that aren’t present with a coworker, romantic partner, in-law, neighbour, or acquaintance. It was my intention to cast a wide, friendly net for this post and try to offer advice that can be used for as many different scenarios as possible.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s talk about how mindfulness can help before, during, and after the moments when you’re spending time with someone who you are not sure how to relate to.

Beforehand

A tree surrounded by perfectly still water at sunset. I’ll admit to being the sort of person who sometimes plays conversations out in my head before they happen.

The problem with this is that no one can predict the future.

That conversation might not ever actually happen. If it does happen, there’s no way to know in advance when it will pop up or if it will end the way you expect.

Spending as much time in the present moment as possible is a great way to avoid borrowing trouble.

One of the biggest benefits of mindfulness I’ve discovered for days like these is that it helps me to prepare for them without making assumptions about how they will go.

All you know for sure is that a certain event is on the horizon and that specific people are probably going to be there. Start with that.

During

Slow Down

There is something beautiful about intentionally moving slowly through these sorts of interactions.

Not every question or remark deserves an answer. If it does need to be answered, that could happen five minutes, or a week, or a month from now after you’ve had time to think it over.

Observe

I like looking at designs on silverware or counting lightbulbs in a room. There is always something to pay attention to that you might have otherwise ignored.

Reading body language is also a fascinating thing to do. You can learn so much about someone by quietly watching their posture, facial expressions, and gestures.

Breathe Deeply 

The beautiful thing about breathing deeply is how it encourages your mind to remain in the moment and what a calming influence it can be.

Focus on every breath as it enters and exits your body. Sometimes I’ll even count them silently in my mind.

Choose Your Words Carefully

It can be so relaxing to sit there and make small talk about the weather or some other innocuous subject when a tricky topic comes up.

There’s also the option of saying nothing at all. Silence is truly golden sometimes. As I mentioned earlier, not everything requires a response now or ever.

A well-placed dose of silence can give you a moment to think of how you want your words to come out before you say them.

This is a technique I’ve found especially helpful for people who have the urge to swoop in and fix the lives of those around them regardless of whether or not you actually wanted those things to be fixed. If they don’t know you adopted a new dog from the local animal shelter, chances are very good they’ll never tell you all of the things you’re doing wrong with that pet or why the breed you chose is the worst one ever.

Afterwards

Be honest with yourself. 

How did it go? What parts of this gathering did you enjoy? Which ones were not so helpful?

Release

I know it’s tempting, but mentally going over what anyone said or did at tricky events like these probably won’t be helpful.

As Elsa sang, let it go. Find something to take your mind off of what just happened. Taking a long, brisk walk through the park is a nice distraction for me when the weather is nice. Sometimes I even use that  trick on stormy days! It’s hard to ruminate when you’re also trying to avoid slipping on a patch of ice or stepping into a large puddle.

Think Longterm. 

The strategies I mentioned today have been helpful for me in the short term, but it’s also important to think about what you want your life to look like months, years, or decades from now in my opinion.

I believe in meeting people where they’re at and being understanding, compassionate, and supportive when they’re going through a difficult time.

Smartie Painted to look like a smilie faceBut I also believe in natural consequences and in putting emotional energy into relationships that are healthy and reciprocal. The only person I can control is myself, so there have been times in my life when I’ve reduced or  eliminated the time I spent with someone based on their behaviours and current level of introspection.

There’s a huge difference between using mindfulness to get through a difficult conversation that must happen and repeatedly agreeing to spend time with someone who chooses to be unkind… or worse.

It’s not my place to tell anyone how to arrange their lives, but I think there’s something to be said for finding both short-term and long-term strategies for dealing with these things.

What I’m Reading Over the Holidays

I was originally planning to write about walking meditation today, but I’ve been dealing with a stubborn headache the past few days that’s kept me from doing the research needed to properly put that post together. It’s such a cool concept that I want to make sure I do it right. So we’ll save the walking meditation discussion for a later date and have a quick chat about winter holiday reads now instead.

Honestly, is there such a thing as having too many posts about books? I vote no! For those of you who haven’t met me in real life, I’m pretty quiet in person…unless we somehow get on the topic of books I’ve read, am reading, or want to read soon. This is one of those things that can make me light up, especially if it happens to be a title I have a strong opinion about.

Luckily, my local library seems to have have endless supply of reading material, and I’ve been reaching the top of the list of some very interesting titles as December speeds by. I should warn you that nothing in today’s post is going to be about Christmas, New Years, or any other winter holidays. They’re simply what I hope to read over this period of time, and this year it’s a beautiful hodge-podge of genres and themes.

These are the books that are currently in my to-read queue. I can’t promise that I’ll finish all of them, but I will be giving them a shot as 2018 comes to an end.

As much as I love science fiction, it’s definitely not the only thing I read. This list is pretty representational of the wide range of fiction and non-fiction that I’m working my way through at just about any point during the year, and everything is listed in order of when I’m hoping to read them. I generally try to read the titles that are due back at the library first unless something really exciting pops up in my queue.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

When Humans Nearly Vanished: The Catastrophic Explosion of the Toba Volcano by Donald R. Prothero

In Search of the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World by Lauren E. Oakes.

I Wait for the Moon: 100 Haiku of Momoko Kuroda by Momoko Kuroda. Translated by Abigail Freidman.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing by Sam Kean.

Jell-O Girls by Allie Rowbottom.

Dealing with Dragons The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book 1 Patricia C. Wrede.

Happiness: How to Get into the Habit of Being Happy by Gill Hasson.

Happy Times in Norway by Sigrid Undset.

In the beginning of January, I’ll be sharing the list of everything I finished reading over the past year.  (It doesn’t make sense to me to count a book that I only read a chapter or two of before putting it aside for something else). A couple of the bloggers I follow have already published the lists of what they read which is wonderful. Hopefully this trend will grow in the future. It’s so much fun to see what everyone has read and possibly find some new authors or series that you might not have heard of before.

Have you read any of these titles? What will you be reading over the next couple of weeks? Finally, what’s your most effective and/or unusual home remedy for headaches?

People Watching and the Holidays

Like many other places, Toronto’s malls, subway system, and other public places are bustling with activity at this time of the year. No matter when someone might use or visit them in the month of December, there will be far more folks there than will be the case in January when the new year has finally arrived and everyone has settled back into their usual routines.

One of the things I like about this point in the winter holiday season are the opportunities it gives for people watching. I will be returning to the usual subjects for this blog soon, but I can’t stop thinking about this topic and thought it would make a good one for today.

There are so many folks out and about now that all of the stories they tell with their body language, facial expressions, and the occasional, accidentally overheard conversations provide endless scope for the imagination. You can learn so much about them by paying attention to how they behave when they think no one has noticed them.

I love seeing how people and animals interact with strangers, loved ones, and everyone in-between. You can learn a lot about someone based on how they present themselves and how they behave in public.

Dogs wiggle in excitement when their favourite, or sometimes any, human walks around the corner and into view. The occasional pet snakes, parrots, rabbits, and cats that I’ve seen folks carry around don’t seem to have a strong opinion about our species either way. Small children stare wide-eyed at the holiday displays, decorations, and advertisements in stores. Friends reunite, families figure out what to eat for lunch, couples embrace, and a million other interesting things happen simultaneously wherever large crowds of people gather.

There’s nothing like watching strangers live out these fleeting moments in their lives. The writerly portion of my mind can’t help but to make up stories about who these individuals are and what might happen to them after they’ve finished their to-do list and gone back home.

Not knowing if my guesses are actually correct or not only makes me more interested in continuing to play this game. Everyone that I’ve ever met has portions of their personalities, identities, and interests that aren’t easily or immediately noticeable when you first meet them. I love it when I notice little hints about these parts of themselves however those hints might be shared.

To be perfectly clear, this isn’t about stereotyping anyone or assuming that because they’re X they must love/hate/be indifferent to Y. (Let X and Y stand for whatever your imagination desires. I did not have anything specific in mind when I typed that sentence).

Instead, it’s about seeing how real people behave on a perfectly ordinary day that stands a very good chance of being neither the worst nor the best one they’re ever going to experience. In fact, they might not remember anything about it at all six months from now. They’re simply a regular person (or, in some cases, animal) going through the routines of their lives.

It’s the patterns that interest me the most. There are certain behaviours that just about everyone seems to share, especially when they’re feeling happy, hungry, or tired. On the other hand, I love seeing glimpses of the things that make each person unique.

I’m still looking forward to the quieter days to come in January, but in the meantime I’ll keep a friendly eye out for all of the things you can learn about strangers by noticing how they behave in public.

Do you like people watching? If so, when was the last time you did it?

Saturday Seven: Characters Who Need a Date

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so today I’m thinking about characters who could really have benefited from going on a date. None of the characters I’m about to discuss had romantic storylines. They were far too busy looking after a disabled friend, exploring a… Read More

Dual Citizens Get Two Thanksgivings

Seven years ago, I became a Canadian citizen. There are many things I love about being a citizen of both Canada and the United States. Having the excuse to celebrate Thanksgiving twice every year is definitely part of that list. Yes, this is blog post about food. No, this isn’t about turkey. Don’t tell the… Read More