Christmas Go

It is the last night of our Christmas holiday. The boys are tucked up in the Man Cave watching Hockey Night in Canada, Max is out at the last party of the season and I am happily ensconced in our quiet living room with my book and my candles.

cute_cartoon_christmas_tree_character_flyer-r84b2406253dd45c9a245d8a57919bde6_vgvyf_8byvr_512I spent the afternoon getting rid of Christmas and as I look around me I feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I absolutely love decorating for Christmas. I love the tree, the lights, the cute and tacky decorations and the beautiful red poinsettias. I love the splendour of the season and I eat it up all through the month of December as the kids eagerly count their way down to the big day.

Once Christmas has come and gone, however, those same decorations seem to take on a depressing pall and I cannot wait to tuck them back into their boxes in the basement to await next year’s yuletide season. I just don’t feel like the New Year can really start until the Christmas tree is sitting in a snowbank. And if I had to, I would probably stay up half the night just to get rid of the decorations before the school bell rings on Monday morning.

Thankfully, I don’t need to go to that extreme!

Well, one more lazy evening until 2014 really kicks into high gear. So, for now, I will just sit and enjoy the quiet, the clean and the back end of Christmas 2013.

But, really, is Christmas ever truly gone? I don’t know about you but I am always finding those last stray pine needles well into August and the echo of Christmas past never fails to charm me!

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Mince Magic

My mom and I have a Christmas tradition that goes back as far as I can remember. Our pyjama breakfast on Boxing Day always starts with at least two mince tarts and a hot cup of tea. There is something so delightful about the taste of mincemeat first thing in the morning; that delicious blend of sweet, spicy and savoury that just tantalizes my taste buds. Mom and I are the only mincemeat lovers in the family, so it has remained one of our own special customs.Mince Tarts

As I was heading into the Christmas season this year I was disappointed to realize that my severe diet restrictions would mean no mince tarts. Mincemeat is loaded with corn starch and refined sugar and even gluten-free pastry is contraband.

Darn!

During one of the many sleepless nights I have had recently, I decided that I was not going to eschew our tradition and that I was going to find a raw/live version of my classic favourite. If I am eating Raw Lemon Cheesecake, Raw Key Lime Pie and Raw Chocolate Mousse Pie, surely I could find a Raw Mince Pie recipe.

I absolutely love recipes and thoroughly enjoyed sifting through and blending various recipes I came across. I have no idea whether I will be blogging next Christmas so I figured I would share this mincemeat pie recipe today.

I Love My MomMom and I did not get our breakfast yesterday as I was at the hospital. However, we snuck a special few minutes in together after our family Christmas dinner last night. And, even though the mincemeat tasted different, it wasn’t a tart, it wasn’t warm, and the crust wasn’t flaky, it was just as special. Perhaps even more so because each and every ingredient agreed with my body, my spirit and my heart. And, I was enjoying it with one of my favourite people in the whole, wide world; my mom.

Just in case you want to try it, I’ve included the recipe below;

Raw Mince Pie with Zucchini Cream

Crust:

2 cups Cashews (soaked three hours)

1 ½ cups Medjool Dates, chopped

½ cup Shredded Coconut

1/3 cup Coconut Oil

¼ tsp Celtic Sea Salt

1 tsp vanilla
–         Process cashews in a food processor

–          Add dates and process some more

–          Add the rest of the ingredients and process until well blended

–          Press into a pie plate

–          Cover with Saran Wrap and place in fridge (for at least 30 minutes) to set

Mincemeat:

4 Pears, grated

2 Apples, grated

1 cup Raisins, chopped

6 Medjool Dates, chopped

2 Oranges, zest and juice

2 tsp. Ground Cloves

2 tsp. Cinnamon

2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg

–          Mix all ingredients in a bowl and set aside to marinate for 2 to 6 hours

–          Transfer into a nut bag or cheesecloth to squeeze out some of the juice (leave some so the mincemeat stays moist)

–          Pour into pie shell

–          Leave in fridge until ready to serve

Cream:

1 cup zucchini, peeled and chopped

¼ cup agave nectar

1 cup cashews, soaked three hours

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. ground nutmeg

–          Process  the zucchini, agave, vanilla and nutmeg in a food processor until smooth

–          Add the cashews and process until smooth

The Towel

I’ve gone ahead and done it. I’ve thrown in the towel. At 3:00 this morning after yet another restless night of itching, scratching and pain, I decided that I could no longer fight the good fight. And so, six hours later at our local Urgent Care Centre, the proverbial towel landed directly at the feet of the doctor.

My skin issues are not, as I had supposed, hives. Rather, just a Throw in the Towelmassive systemic flare of eczema. I will not go into unnecessary and gory detail but, suffice it to say, the doctor’s jaw dropped when he learned that I had been suffering since the beginning of the month.

Fortunately, there is no infection so antibiotics were not necessary. However, a strong dose of oral Prednisone was prescribed and I have never felt happier or more eager to fill a prescription in my life. And when the friendly young pharmacist told me I might feel relief as early as this afternoon, I could have thrown my arms around him and kissed him!

Just the possibility of an-itch-free day is the very best Christmas present ever.

There is a little niggly piece of me that is disappointed that the allopathic route was necessary. I just do not agree with the practice of covering up symptoms. However, in this case, I am not sleeping, I am miserable and I am as uncomfortable as I think I have ever been. I just could not continue with this particular fight.

And so, thanks to my first dose of Prednisone almost five hours ago, I am already feeling relief. I can actually live more than two feet from an ice pack, I don’t feel the urge to burst into frustrated tears and I know it will be even better tomorrow.

And so, the Grinch has once again been transformed and life is looking up. I am off to enjoy a wonderful Christmas dinner with my husband, kids, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and siblings-in-law. And, honestly, I think it will be the first meal I have truly enjoyed since this month began twenty-six days ago.

A Radically Happy Christmas indeed!Grinch

Silent Night

It is 5:30 on Christmas Eve morning. After a restless night of hive-scratching, I awoke with visions of lists dancing in my head; shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, organizing…the big day is almost here!

So as not to awaken my sleeping family, I crept downstairs to make myself a cup of tea. And as I did so, I quietly acknowledged the fact that, for the past month, I have been careening towards Christmas. Every year I promise myself it will be different and every year it feels just a little bit manic. This year, with Simon’s pneumonia and my all-consuming flare of hives, it feels particularly nutty. Even the weather of the past week has created a distinct feeling of pathetic fallacy; angry winds, frantic ice and unsettled temperatures.

Christmas SnowAs I tiptoed past our beautiful Christmas tree on the way to the kitchen, I looked outside into the darkness of the December dawn. The vision that met me was so peaceful and so stunningly beautiful it took my breath away. The world outside my window was blanketed in a beautiful, fluffy layer of pure white snow. While we slept the landscape miraculously transformed from a hard and steely grey to a soft and gentle white.

As I stood at the window looking out at the winter wonderland I took my first truly deep breath in weeks. All the stress and worry and frustration just fell away and I was left with a feeling of pure wonder. Now I feel excited for Christmas. Now, I am excited to put on the Christmas music and wrap gifts. Now I can’t wait to make mince tarts. And even the grocery shopping feels festive.

The forecast is for delightfully cold temperatures. It is supposed to snow today and all day tomorrow. We have our white Christmas after all.

And for Christmas Eve, with a pure white blanket of snow gently covering the ground, we will have our Silent Night.Silent Night

O…M…G…!

I am perilously close to losing my mind and it has very little to do with the fact that Christmas is the day after tomorrow.

The massive flare of hives that has been plaguing me for the past two weeks is getting worse by the day. It started on my legs and is now all over my upper body. The hives are desperately itchy, painful and burn like acid on my skin. I am so itchy twenty-four hours a day I feel like I am going to go off the deep end. It is all I can think about and the only thing that gives me relief is holding a cold pack right onto my skin. Truly, if I could live in a freezer right now, I would be the happiest kid on the block.

Simon is going into his second week of pneumonia and is not really showing any signs of bouncing back. He is sneezing, coughing and feeling absolutely miserable. So, at this tricky and demanding season, I am single parenting. I am doing all the Christmas prep, the grocery shopping, cooking, laundry and cleaning.OMG

And, while I am doing it all, I am so itchy I want to scream, or cry, or both.

Fortunately, I had an appointment booked to see my fabulous and brilliant Naturopath, Dr. Carissa Doherty, this afternoon. As I was driving to her office in Burlington I hoped fervently that she would take one look at my skin and say…”OMG”.

Well, she took one look at my skin and said; “OMG”. And all I could think was; ‘thank goodness’.

After a lengthy and fascinating consult with her sister, Sonya, (who treats my kids), we had a plan. And, honestly, just knowing that both Carissa and Sonya were worried about me, and that there was a plan, I started to feel better.

Sometimes we moms just need someone to nurture us. Someone to understand what we are going through. Someone to pass a Kleenex when we cry. Someone to hug us and say; ‘it’s going to get better.’

And sometimes we even need someone to say…’OMG’!

The Flip Side of Laughter

Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

I arrived home from my retreat yesterday afternoon to an absolutely heart-melting welcome from Simon and my boys. And even though I had only been gone four days it felt simply wonderful to be tucked back into the bosom of my family.

Simon made it clear that even though I was home, I was still on retreat and was not to ‘do’ anything. He also informed me that my calendar was clear and today was for resting, relaxing and accomplishing very little. After the kids left for school this morning I decided that another Raw Chocolate Mousse Pie was in order. I mean, after all, what is a cup of afternoon tea without a little treat beside it?

One of the things I love about having the house to myself is that I get to listen to my own music. And, with Christmas just two weeks away, I decided that my Christmas playlist was exactly what I was in the mood for. I sang along to all my favourites; Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Wintersong’, John Lennon’s ‘War is Over’, Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ and lots more.

As I sang I was aware of snippets of Christmas memories drifting through my consciousness, almost as if I was watching a lovely old home movie. I saw my grandparents, my siblings, much younger versions of my parents and each one of my kids as babies and toddlers. I remembered cute little Christmas sleepers and outfits and I felt exquisitely nostalgic.

Raffi's ChristmasThe nostalgia shifted quickly into a flood of tears when my playlist offered up one of Raffi’s Christmas songs. I was immediately transported back to our Dundas kitchen at Christmastime about seven years ago. We were all in the kitchen decorating gingerbread houses and Raffi’s Christmas CD was playing. As Raffi was the equivalent of a rock star in our house back then, he got plenty of airtime (I am actually pretty sure I could perform, in order, every single song from Baby Beluga!)

Anyway, we were all singing along to Raffi’s Christmas classics when a song I had never heard started to play. It is an original of Raffi’s called ‘A Child’s Gift of Love’. The song just grabbed me by the heart and moved me to tears. I remember Michael, who was 4-years-old at the time, looking at Simon in a kind of panic and asking; ‘what’s wrong with mommy?’

With loving laughter in his voice, Simon assured Michael that there was nothing wrong with Mommy. He told Michael that; ‘Mommy doesn’t just cry when she’s sad, she cries when she’s happy too.’ Michael looked puzzled but seemed to accept Simon’s explanation and went back to his gingerbread house.

I didn’t realize it at the time but Simon was setting the tone for how our kids handle tears- especially women’s tears. He was showing them that he didn’t need to fix me, make me happy, change how I was feeling or shame me for my weakness. He just passed me a Kleenex and gave me an affectionate hug.calvin hug

As I broke down in my kitchen this morning all I could think was; ‘my children sure know about tears now.’ One of the most common refrains in our house is; ‘mom’s crying again.’ And nobody panics. Nobody rushes to my side on their white horse to fix me. I get a hug, a smile and sometimes an affectionate shake of the head for my uber-sentimentality. But nobody’s feathers are ever ruffled by my frequent and healthy outpourings of emotion.

Imagine the boyfriends, husbands and partners these men are going to be because they know how to be with both laughter and tears!

Mom’s crying again.

And the crazy thing is, from one day to the next I never quite know what will trigger a fresh bout of tears; a Raffi song, a Facebook post, a Dr. Suess book, the hug I got from Michael to welcome me home yesterday or the hug I got from Max when I was leaving.

Yes indeed, Mom’s crying again. And she will keep on doing so for all of her days…I mean, after all, tears really are just the flip side of laughter.