Last month, the freezing temperatures summoned a mouse into the great indoors: our living room. We spotted the mouse making a dash from sofa to television. It was a tiny mouse, the size of a walnut. A walnut with fur. And whiskers. And little pink ears. And a black tail.
My 17-year-old son and his two friends just happened to arrive home just in time. Let’s corner it and shoo it out the front door, we brainstormed on the fly.
It was my husband, me, my daughter, my 17-year-old son and his two 17-year-old friends, my youngest son, and our dog vs. one mouse the size of a walnut.
Let me tell you, it took the eight of us to lift the sofa to scare the mouse to the wall’s edge, to get down on one’s knees and clap loudly, to scream with excitement, to block the dining room, to prevent Otis from eating it, to dance wildly in the middle of the room, to chase it with an orange Home Depot bucket, to continue to persuade it along the wall’s edge, to open the front door.
We did it! What a team effort!
When the mouse fled through the front door, we all stood there a little stunned, threw our heads back, and laughed.
Give me your tired, your shriveled,
Your limp veggies yearning to breathe free,
The limp carrots from your teeming fridge.
Send these, the throw-aways, toss them over to me:
I lift my ladle from beside the golden soup.
Do you have soon-to-perish vegetables lingering in your fridge? Give those vegetables a purpose. Let them be soup!
Soup is easy. Soup is healthy. Soup is comforting. Soup is my friend.
This is what I do. I boil the carcass of a roasted chicken or a turkey in water. Remove the bones and whatnot. Add kosher salt and garlic and sometimes crushed red pepper, and bam, you have broth. (I have never written the word carcass. Now I’ve written it twice.)
Add any vegetables you want. Lately, I’ve been using cauliflower, purple onions, yellow peppers, celery, fresh cilantro, fresh spinach, and carrots. Chop away!
I try to use fresh produce, but sometimes, the carrots are kinda floppy. So, I give them a chance to participate.
Add the vegetables to the chicken broth. Boil, stir, then simmer.
My mother and I traveled to the tiny town of Tlacolula, Mexico and experienced the hustle and bustle of the Sunday market, an open-aired market packed with coconuts, peppers, batteries, carrots, clothespins, papayas, shampoo, shoes, onions, chickens, hairbrushes–and people. It is a market where the villagers, rural people, and Zapotec women with their colorful aprons and ribbons woven in their braids, come into town to shop once a week.
With no Safeway or Home Depot or Walgreens, this is the place to purchase everyday necessities to the freshest produce, and everything in between. Shoppers fill their woven baskets, bargain, socialize, and eat freshly-made tortillas filled with meat and cilantro and crema from the food carts.
Amidst the crowd, a gentle man approached me. We talked for a bit in Spanish and guess what? He reached deep into the bag he was carrying to gift me two handfuls of pinon nuts that he grew from his tree.
I was so surprised by this gesture and gift. I instantly made a new friend 3,000 miles from home and will forever remember his kindness.
I took a selfie to show that amabilidad–kindness–is everywhere.
“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”
What weighs 30 lbs., is comical, crunchy, and has its own hashtag?
We bought a big cabbage at the produce market for $5. Locally grown, it was a giant cabbage so big that it could be used for cross-training.
But first, we photographed it and posted its glorious girth on Instagram. Who knew that this cabbage of mine would make so many friends? Who knew that #bigcabbage could bring the world together, sharing smiles and gasps, one post at a time. I “liked” all the posts with #bigcabbage and met friends from around the world, including Japan and Kentucky, who shared the love of extraordinary produce.
My daughter carved a face in the cabbage. (She is really good with knives. You can read that post here.) It proved a wonderful, carvable canvas. We then enjoyed that head over the course of ten weeks. Did you know that the cabbage is one of the healthiest foods you can eat? A cruciferous vegetable packed with nutrients. Don’t take my word for it. Read more here.
My grandmother used to read me the story of Angus and the Ducks. Angus, the curious Scottish Terrier, got into mischief. One day, he was off-leash and ventured on the other side of the hedge, encountering two ducks. They stared him down and proceeded to hissssss at poor Angus. This hissing scared the crap out of Angus and he ran back to the safety of underneath the sofa in his living room. He never ventured to the other side of the hedge again.
The thing was, my grandmother made the most amazing hisssssssing noise when she read that part. During my childhood, I made her read that page over and over. We both would get the giggles.
Fast forward 30 + years.
While on a run, Otis, the curious Yellow Labrador, and I encountered two hundred Canadian Snow Geese. We stopped for a moment to take it all in, with Otis nearly ripping my arm off. He was raring to go get into mischief.
The pause in our run made me reflect upon the wondrous moments reading about Angus with my grandmother. When I visited her–even until I was pushing 16–we would snuggle up to read Angus and the Ducks and we would giggle at the hisssssss. Every time.
I have read that book over and over to my children. But it never had the same effect.
I guess some things are best kept tucked away in the memory vault. Best kept as my own magical moments.
In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget taking care of yourself. Your mind and body. There are countless tips on how to reduce holiday stress such as letting go of your to do list, going for a walk in the fresh air, blah blah blah.
How about buying yourself a new bra or two? I’ve written about the power of bras before.
I mean, ’tis the season to put those baubles on display and let them shine! I took 15 minutes out of my day yesterday to try on bras and ended up buying myself a gift.
The gift of confidence. The gift of happiness. The gift of lift.
You know the well-intentioned sentiment from The Nightmare Before Christmas, where Jack Skellington and the Halloween Town folks “make Christmas” as best they can? That’s what it’s like around here during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Full of preparation and excitement and good intentions. It is my job as a parent to make a nice, fun, and memorable Christmas for my family.
Time to give them something fun
They’ll talk about for years to come
Let’s have a cheer from everyone
It’s time to party
My husband and I have made Christmas for our children over the years. A combination of family traditions: cutting down the tree, baking cookies, Christmas movies and music, setting up the nativity scene, putting up lights, donating presents and time, counting down with an advent calendar, decorating the tree with ornaments from childhood, and visiting the mountain where there’s guaranteed snow.
This year, our Christmas tree was cut down, brought home, and dressed in lights. Then it sat for a week. Nearly naked. With no ornaments. Maybe this will be the year that lights will do. Why bother with ornaments this year?
Then. Guilt hit.
What about the hundreds of sweet ornaments collected over the years and so carefully wrapped in Chipotle napkins? Stuck in a bin for another year? I simply could not let this happen. The ornaments needed to do their part to make Christmas special.
What about the homemade ornaments our children have made over the years? The beaded candy cane. The teddy bear with the googly eyes displaying a photo of my son taken in Kindergarten (he is now 17). The Star of David made with popsicle sticks. The snowman made from a cinnamon stick. The Snoopy with the googly eyes made by my husband when he was in Kindergarten. What??!!
What about the special gifted ornaments? The starfish with pearls, gifted to me by my mother-in-law when we were in San Diego. The little drummer boy gifted to my husband at his birth. The glass icicle gifted to me by my husband. The painted horse my mother gifted my daughter while visiting Phoenix. The coyote “couple” singing hymns we were gifted when we got married. The glass frog ornament with a tutu I gifted my daughter in 2003. The set of three yellow Labradors my daughter made for me from clay. Angels. Owls. Mittens.
What about the prized purchased ornaments? The pea pod with the three smiling pea faces representing each of my children. The dozens of tin ornaments my mother and I bought in Mexico. The pickle my daughter and I bought at the mountain general store. Mermaids. Frogs. Poinsettias. A dolphin. A tomato.
Each ornament has a story. They are filled with memories that reemerge every Christmas season.
On Saturday night around 11:00 p.m., we had an impromptu family celebration. Let’s have a cheer from everyone. It’s time to party. We ate Skittles and hung our ornament–both by the handful.