Tuesday, December 25, 2018

I'm a Basket Case at Christmas!

Okay, that might be a little misleading. But now that I’ve got your attention, let me share with you how I started a new tradition this year. I’ve spent the last year collecting every day treasures to share in gift baskets with family and friends. Let me explain…

It might seem like I’ve set-up a completely different life moving this past year. Fence posts have replaced stoplights and busy intersections. The truth is that I’m closer to where I always felt the most comfortable as a kid…living life one moment at a time and appreciating what matters the most to me. I’ve found a home on about an acre of land and we are utilizing it to its fullest potential.

We tilled our first real garden in the spring (hand turned with shovels followed by a walk behind tiller). We had “bumper crops” with tomatoes and BLTs were a dinner staple over the summer. I managed to can a few jars of salsa and pasta sauce as well. Early in the season, I felt like this was a thankless job as the boys kept eating the salsa faster than I could make it…but I caught up and made some reserves for the winter.

My habanero plant produced more peppers than I knew what to do with and so I made Apricot Habanero Jelly and Strawberry Habanero…and Cranberry Habanero…you get the picture!

I added milkweed to attract butterflies in the side yard, where I have flowers growing in a small stone hedged garden. I was also pleasantly surprised to see I already had monarda growing. I saved the dried flowers and made sachets out of Christmas fabric to enjoy their fragrant scent long after the blooms died.

I’ve upped my game in canning, moving from water bath to pressure canning of green beans and squash. I’ve promised an entirely new meaning for “return for deposit” to gift recipients on my list.

In collecting antique Christmas bulbs in the shapes of Santa and Snowmen, I started making vintage looking ornaments and experimented with soldering copper. I’ve reverted back to the glue gun until I get a better handle on dealing with high temperatures!

We have pine trees in the side yard and collect them whenever we can. We’ve made wreathes and crafts and used as fire starters as well. I store them in empty dog food bags and have found that a scarcity mindset goes a long way and in our case, it seems to have sparked a lot of creativity as we see so many other ways to use an item other than its intended purpose.

I have apple trees I’m still working on. I’ll be pruning and treating them in the next few months in the hopes they bear fruit next year. I’ve been lucky to have nearby orchards and friends to supply apples for my apple butter. I still never think I’ve made enough to last until the next season. I can’t believe I ever ate store bought before. I’ll never do it again.

I wish I could wrap up the sunrises and sunsets we’ve seen this year. The skies are gorgeous absent the city lights. And earlier this month, I saw the Geminid meteor shower. I counted at least 6 or 7 shooting stars that were like slow falling rain drops surrounded in white light. I truly believe anything is possible in these rare moments where nature takes center stage and life stands still. My continued resolution is to focus on these little miracles and make sure that the boys are learning to appreciate life as well.

I can’t remember a summer that ever went as fast as this one. It reminded me of those I had as a kid. Every single day, I walked in the garden with my 16-year-old, Pete. We’d grab one of my favorite vintage baskets and collect vegetables and take pictures of our glorious patch of land. What I will remember most about this first summer in our new home is that I stopped looking in and started looking out…in life, from the windows of my house…on the deck…in the garden…on the riding mower…driving to and from work on a rural state route road. I’m not saying this year did not come without its fair share of challenges…but more and more I realize which moments are worth hanging onto and which ones to let go. I see now that you can’t grab the next moment until you let go of the last. And this applies to absolutely every area in life. Love your job, love your home, love your life…exactly as it is right now.

I’ve always carried forward traditions from my childhood. This year, I started one of my own. I shared baskets filled with every day treasures I was fortunate enough to have and plan to do the same again next year. I may not see my family and friends as often as I would like, but with this new tradition I can share a little bit of every season throughout the year!

Merry Christmas Everyone!