Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Amid baking tourtieres and gingerbread goats, I’ve dedicated more time to music lately, singing at our local Commission on Aging and developing more Celtic music (stay tuned for an important announcement in a few months). This time I tried something new, recording a song only using the instruments on GarageBand. I learned so much, particularly the process of adding new sounds and polishing tracks. However, I must admit that I prefer the “heart and soul” emerging during a live performance.

I recorded a holiday favorite, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Evoking memories of watching “Meet me in St. Louis” and Judy Garland’s stunning rendition, this song includes the bittersweet side of the holiday, reminding us that it’s ok to have some sad amid all the happiness this time of year. Or to quote a favorite toast, “To Life, it doesn’t have to be perfect, to be perfect!”

So here’s my gift to all of you! Take some time this holiday season to pause amid all the stress, relax in the moment, and enjoy your many blessings.

Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Shopping with Dad and Keeping a List through the Holidays

I recall one afternoon, sitting in the car with my father after a trip to Penzey’s spice shop. Dad stared in silence at the large bag of recently purchased spices in his lap; then sighed, “I’m sure a sucker for cooking spices. Most of these will probably remain unopened.” This memory reminds me of the current interest in essential oils.

We inhale the lovely aromas and learn how essential oils improve our daily lives; then later, our purchases often remain sealed, only a few seeing regular use. I’m guilty of this, too, even running my farm business. So to avoid Dad’s experience with spices, I put on my organization cap and examined which essential oils I use on a regular basis:

Peppermint: This is my most used oil!

  • Evict mice, bugs, and spiders (simply add a few drops to a cotton ball and place near doors, windows, etc)
  • Laundry need a boost? Add few drops in the washer or dryer
  • Aromatherapy to ease nasal congestion

Lavender: This wonderful oil helps relax at the end of a long day!

  • Make a spray for pillows at bedtime
  • Add a couple drops to hand or body lotion
  • Blend a custom facial toner

Orange: I enjoy this lovely scent year round!

  • Use 1-4 drops in a diffuser
  • Add 1-2 drops to clay mud mask
  • Serves as an antioxidant, the perfect addition to a custom facial toner

Peppermint, lavender, and orange essential oils are my “Big 3,” used daily in my room sprays, personal facial toner, and all-natural cleaning solution. They are also important ingredients in my homemade salt scrub and clay masks. If you are interested in adding essential oils to your life or gifting to friends this holiday season, start with these three. Essential oils truly add quality to our lives!

For the holiday season, I’m offering a starter kit containing my “Big 3,” including a worksheet to create all of the products above.

Essential Oil Sampler Kit

Stocked up on Lip Balm for the winter?

Beeswax Lip Balm

You can purchase through my Etsy site, or please message me for custom orders.

Thanks for reading!

Food, Family, and Heirloom Recipes

20131123-123959.jpg

 

Food traditions abound in our family. Both the Murphy and Roche Families gifted a love of food with celebrations. Whether the Timinski Family pickle recipe or the Roche Family sausage stuffing recipe, food remains a strong connection to happy memories.

Many years ago when I was having a bad day, my mom, in her unique, upbeat manner, offered some words of wisdom, “You should get in touch with your happy, French Canadian roots!” Mom shared stories of our ancestors, settling in Quebec in the mid-1600s. In fact, she mentioned one particularly obnoxious youth who was sent to be raised among a local Indian tribe (Is that the equivalent of boarding school on the frontier?). I also came across a lovely song book by Ann Arbor based songwriter, Kitty Donahoe, celebrating both Michigan and Canadian history through songs and stories. I even had the opportunity to see her in concert, hearing even more stories.

I was particularly drawn to her tales of the first fur trappers and their survival during the long, northern winters. Apparently, when all the food ran out and the weather was too rough to hunt wild game, many survived on beaver fat and sawdust (Yuck!). In later research, I came across another unique dish, the tourtière.

The tourtière is a meat pie, a French Canadian Christmas tradition. Scholars think the dish, dating back to Quebec in the 1600s, is named after passenger pigeons, or “tourtes,” probably the meat used in the original recipe. The tourtière can also be prepared with any meat, even fish. We have prepared the pie with venison and sweet potatoes, but our favorite remains ground pork with potatoes.

Many versions of this dish can be found on-line. In fact, regional areas across Quebec each offer an individual recipe, some shared and some secret (This reminds me of the many versions of stuffing across the United States at Thanksgiving). Each recipe is a piece of history, offering a glimpse into which ingredients were available or affordable in the various regions. More important, these recipes, handed down to each generation, contain more than food; they contain family memories from long ago, ready for the next generation.

What are some food traditions in your family? Are there any recipes worth preserving for future use? What a fabulous conversation to have with loved ones this holiday season. Thanks for reading!

A Message for All Americans

uncle-sam

I keep seeing stories about the protests and even cases of civil unrest after the election. While I don’t condone the violence or support students’ skipping class, I understand the sadness, confusion, and frustration. In fact, I remember voting in my first Presidential election, only to see my candidate lose. I remember sitting among fellow shocked classmates the next day. Our Economics professor entered, took one look at us, and focusing on economics, devoted the entire lecture to any questions we asked. While I lack the skill to create such an impromptu lecture, I decided to prepare a few words for my students:

The day after a Presidential election brings many emotions. Many of you just voted in your first Presidential election. If so, congratulations!!! I remember the joy of voting in my first election, the shock of watching my candidate lose, and in future years, the glee in watching my nominee win. Moving forward, my nudge to you is to think outside the box, look beyond the candidates, the political parties. Instead, which issues motivate you?

Take the time to learn about what motivates you! This is the same wisdom I share with the research class. If you truly want to understand a topic, you must examine and learn about both sides. If you study politics, that means you must devote time to look at what both the right and the left have to say. Look for flaws, strong points, bias, and identify the leaders of each issue. Examine both sides and determine what you truly believe. You might even want to take time to journal about these issues during class or start gathering data for future college essays (Hint Hint!).

As an educator, I’m reminded that while I might not agree with some students’ political views, I admire their passion and dedication for examining the issues. Their dedication only strengthens our nation! So during this holiday season, if the young members of your life want to discuss the issues, please listen, share what’s important to you, and attempt an amicable exchange.

Thanks for reading! Peace, friends.

For the Love of Music: Christmas Edition

sled

(My brother’s Flexible Flyer from the 1960s…Mom recycled it into a Christmas decoration)

 

Life is busy at the Murphy House: Shopping, wrapping gifts, grading final essays, Christmas concerts, tourtiere baking, the start of wrestling season, the list goes on… I wanted to record one more song this year. The past seven months have been a fun adventure, learning to play the Strumstick. The instrument has become a fine compliment to my Celtic folk music (and even a few Christmas songs).  So to all my readers, I wish you cozy nights, the companionship of family and friends, and a blessed holiday.

 

My Favorite Things: The Christmas Edition

Christmas quickly approaches! Only two days until school break starts for the kids, thought I better post something before the final, chaotic stretch to the holiday! I started journaling this morning about holiday stress but decided to tuck the negative away and focus on something positive. Instead, I’m sharing some of the season’s favorites!

nativity

Our Celtic nativity: Yes, Bethlehem is a long way from the Emerald Isle, but I LOVE my unique nativity, complete with Celtic knots and resin figurines that resemble stone. I searched for the perfect Irish themed nativity for about ten years and finally found one through an on-line store in England. Ironically, the shipping cost more than the set.

snowman earrings

My cheap, gaudy, snowman earrings: Chad bought them many years ago. Friends call them my “Summer diamonds…Summer real, summer not.” I love to dig them out of the jewelry box and wear them throughout the month of December.

stockings

Homemade stockings: My sister-in-law, Lissa, made my needlepoint stocking and her sister, Linda, made stockings for Chad and the kids. Linda’s are a particular favorite, complete with a Christmas tree to add mementoes over the years.

The Christmas seasonal culinary traditions: So many here…tourtieres, gravlox, sticky buns, overnight eggs, cheesy hash browns, fondue…nothing fancy, just simple, holiday traditions to look forward to every year.

Jesus:Santa

Santa and Jesus: Coming from a family of history majors, I love putting this decoration out and hear the outrage from Mom about the historical inaccuracy. I prefer to view this decoration for symbolic value, a reminder of the true reason for the season.

Of course what makes these favorites is the opportunity to share them with family and friends. Each Christmas season is a gift and chance to be with those we love, help those who are struggling, and remember the simple gift of hope and peace that arrived in a stable so many, many years ago.

God Bless!

Photo of the Month Bonus: The Tourtière

While I don’t consider myself a baker, every year I make a special Christmas dish, the tourtière. This is a savory pie with ground pork, potatoes, and spices.

It all started with a joke when Mom said I should get in touch with my happy, French-Canadian roots. I read about this tradition and tried to make one. The kids loved it and asked me to make more. Now I make many every year and freeze them for holiday meals and gifts.

This year I tried making my own pie crust and have come to the conclusion that life is too short 🙂

What are some of your holiday food traditions?

20131123-123959.jpg