Friday, December 28, 2012

One Kitchen, Many Hearts - Holiday Edition

One of my favorite facets of the Christmas season is giving gifts to my friends and family.  When, on the rare occasion, I find The Perfect Gift (which is becoming more and more rare), I become so fired up that I can hardly keep the secret.  I'm certain that I developed this trait from my dad, who would fill the holiday season with so much gift giving that he would have to schedule days on the calendar for various calendar-making or chutney-cooking just to get it all in.
What I didn't realize when I was younger is that my dad filled those days to make sure that he didn't have time to miss his own dad, who passed away either very late Christmas Eve or very early Christmas Day before my parents ever met.  He used the hours that it took to prep, chop, cook, and can chutney, etc., to be sure that he didn't have a spare moment to dwell on missing his father at what is supposed to be, for many, the "most wonderful time of year."
Now that I am older, I still find a great joy in giving others gifts, but I also find myself this year with less joy than I usually have.  While I was thrilled to see my own daughter decorate the Christmas tree and then open the gifts under it with great gusto, my heart was heavy knowing how many parents were not able to see the same sights this year.  Between Lily's passing and the horrific events in Connecticut, as a parent, I grieve with the mothers and fathers who can no longer wish their own babies a merry Christmas.

So the decision that my blogging girlfriends and I made to have a Secret Santa round of our gift exchange helped bring some more joy into this holiday season.

Top (L-R): Mads, Kirsten, Megan
Bottom (L-R): Jeanne, me, Kat
I feel incredibly fortunate to have become friends with all five of these ladies, and I've been doubly fortunate to meet Kirsten and Megan in person thus far - just in the last month and a half.  I'm hoping to get to see Mads, Kat, and Jeanne in 2013.
Kat has joked that we actually are all sister-wives, and while the polygamy jokes never get old with me, there is truth behind the humor.  After all, the six of us span multiple age demographics, and we can offer advice and insight to one another in so many areas, from child-rearing to footwear.  It's like the phrase "it takes a village" was created for us sometimes.  

Jeanne took charge of this exchange, drawing the secret Santa names and emailing them out, and I'm grateful to her, although I am kind of sad that, because of this, she knew her "secret" Santa the whole time.  We'll need to work on that for next time.  Since I'm pretty sure there will be a next time.
I, for one, could hardly contain my excitement and very nearly gave away my secret multiple times.  Every day.  I basically wanted to tell everyone.  It was determined that we could open and then email or private message one another once we received the packages in case there were perishables inside.  So as soon as I could, I sent off my package in hopes that it would arrive as early as possible.  Click here to see where it arrived.

Kat was my secret Santa.  And y'all, she just gets me:

In my package:
  • Trader Joe's salted caramel sauce, which she promised will change my life (I haven't cracked it open yet - I need some good, homemade ice cream and some serious alone time)
  • Thetalicious, her sorority's cookbook
  • Minnesota wild rice (with a suggested recipe)
  • hot cocoa mixes
  • Ghirardelli sea salt dark chocolate
  • maple sugar candies
  • a beautiful brown and orange scarf (which made a perfect staging item for the photo above), which goes perfectly with my winter coat
  • a bangle bracelet (that at picture time had been appropriated by HRH)
  • not one but two types of cookies which, uh... didn't quite make it to press time
And instead of labels, which we have been wont to include, she wrote a letter.  It's a rare event that we receive "real mail" anymore, so it was like the icing on an already lovely cake to have such sweet sentiments on paper:

The goodies were one thing, but some simple words of encouragement for logging even more miles in 2013 were just IT.  I mean, better than if Oprah gave me a car IT.  These words are especially important coming from Kat, who has run multiple marathons and plans to do more.  She will be a resource when I decide that it is Time for me to train for my first one.  That she believes in me to log 1000 miles in a year - that's an average of 20 miles a week! - means more than I can really convey.
And then of course, the obligatory "move to where I live" comment:

I am intrigued at the idea of living somewhere that doesn't house scorpions, but considering how chilled to the bone I was during our stay in Michigan over Thanksgiving, I'm not sure I could hang at the 45th parallel full time.  HOWEVER, being a snowbird is more and more appealing to me the longer I live in Arizona during the summer.

Thank you so much, Kat - it was so much fun waiting for and opening that package, but more importantly, it's been a wonderful year of friendship and fun.  I can't wait to see the shenanigans that 2013 has in store for us!

Of course, like I mentioned earlier, I love the gift giving - more so than gift receiving. So you must also check out the wonderful boxes that my friends received, too - I know I can't wait!
Click here to see what Megan (Wanna Be a Country Cleaver) received.
Click here to find out who was Kirsten's (Comfortably Domestic) secret Santa.
Click here to check out what Mads (La Petite Pancake) got.
Click here to see what came in the mail for Kat (Tenaciously Yours,).
Click here for the package sent to our main schemer, Jeanne (Inside Nanabread's Head.

And now that the holidays are coming to a close, take a minute and give someone - anyone - a fun little gift.  You might not be a secret Santa, but you will be doing something positive and kind and good, something that we can always use more of!

What was the best gift that you have ever given?


  1. I love your comment on "it takes a village". Truly, we are the village. Minnesota wild rice is delicious in homemade wild rice soup. My absolute favorite recipe is from the grocery store I used to work at. It's not healthy by any means, but it IS delicious:
    Merry OKMH-mas!

    1. I am intrigued by this soup recipe! TH and I love soup in winter, so perhaps this is a Sign to make this ASAP!!!!

  2. Holy smokes! Kat's right - your life is about to change with that Trader Joe's fleur de sel caramel. That's the same jar she sent to me to make that Turtle Cake, and I'm still oooo-ing and ahhh-ing over it. Even got another blogger in CA hooked on it. It's contagious, I tell ya'! Dry dipping sliced apples or bananas in it, and you'll never go back to other caramels. It's that good. Love the scarf, love the wild rice, love the love behind your box. Great job, Kat! Merry OKMH-mas to you, The Hubs & Her Royal Highness. -j

  3. it sounds like such a nice lovely group of women who are involved in this and it has been nice to hear how you all have gotten to know each other over the year. And even more than that how mutually supportive you have all become. If i had a blog i would be begging to be included in 2013 but i don't. however, if you all would like to have a 3rd party do the matching for your secret santa match up so all could be in the dark i would be more than happy to offer my services. hope you all have a blessed 2013.

    fruitcrmble AT comcast DOT net

  4. 1. I almost stole the scarf out of your box on multiple occasions, beginning with when I left the store with it on Black Friday. This is just truth.

    2. PLEASE accept my apologies for how the letter was crumpled into the box - I got to the post office, realized I didn't know where to put it and just sort of shoved it in and hoped that you would figure it out.

    3. Someday our #RunningPackintheSky will not be in the sky anymore. Hopefully that day comes soon!

    1. 1) I understand. I would do the same.
      2) Story of my life.
      3) This is my favorite.