Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Music Blog-New Year's 2012 Edition

Welcome to the final Friday Music Blog and the final blog of 2011 on Chief 187™Chatter. While year-end reviews, food, and gratitude lists mark the close of a year, music, too, fits that bill. As has been discussed here through the years, music marks daily life and major milestones. Sharing music with you all has been the highlight of every week for me here on Chief 187™Chatter. I’m thrilled to announce that the Friday Music Blog will continue in 2012.

This week’s focus will definitely be music that makes you think of New Year’s Eve/Day. Please list any and all songs that fit the bill for this category and remember to include the artist. New Year’s Eve/Day can be in the title of the song, in the lyrics, or simply make you think about the song in those terms.

I’m tickled to conclude 2011 with 85 total official followers of this blog, nearly 42000 pageviews, and a ton of support from the most engaged and wonderful readership! Words fail to relay the absolute pleasure you all give me through Chief 187™Chatter. I sincerely hope you will all continue to join me in 2012 and help me spread my work to an ever-growing readership.

A new year on the horizon makes me hopeful, optimistic, and anxious to jump in and begin anew. From reinventing myself (to a point) to exploring my life and my place in it, there is much I’m thrilled to experience in 2012. This year I will turn 40 (in August) so I hope you tune in each week to see what life is like for me, a wife, mother of 3, writer, and on-air radio personality. And I truly hope you will take a few moments not only to read daily, but leave your comments, too. Don’t forget, you can not only talk to me through comments here, but also via Twitter by contacting me @Chief187s.

Please check this blog out throughout the day and weekend to see what other selections readers made. Weekends, especially holiday weekends, are a fantastic time to read archived blogs on Chief 187™Chatter. I invite you all to join me on Monday, January 2, 2012 to begin another new year and week of new and original posts. I’ll be there and hope you will be, too.

Wishing you a safe, healthy, prosperous, and Happy New Year 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday-New Year's 2012 Edition

Welcome to the last Tantalizing Thursday of 2011 on Chief 187™Chatter. Thoughts are squarely on New Year’s Eve/Day as this weekend marks the end of 2011 and ushers in 2012. As with most holidays food plays a big role in the celebration. Traditional foods have a firm hold especially when superstitions are associated with the recipe. For New Year’s Hoppin’ John, a dish made with black-eyed peas, ham/bacon, and rice is normally served for good luck. The following recipe offers a new twist on this classic that keeps the main ingredient for all the good luck you want and need in the New Year but switches up the taste.

Texas Caviar
Recipe by Linda Larsen


• 1/2 onion, finely chopped
• 1 green bell pepper, chopped
• 1 bunch green onions, chopped
• 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
• 8 oz. bottle zesty Italian salad dressing
• 2 (15 oz). cans black eyed peas, drained
• 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped


In large bowl, combine all ingredients except cilantro and stir gently to combine. Serve immediately or store, covered, up to 10 days in refrigerator. When ready to serve, mix in the chopped fresh cilantro and serve as a dip with tortilla chips or toasted baguette slices.

For a quick, easy, and satisfying appetizer try this recipe for Sweet and Spicy Meatballs.

Crockpot Sweet and Spicy Meatballs
Recipe by Linda Larsen


• 2 pounds precooked frozen meatballs
• 1 cup grape or apple jelly
• 2 cups chili sauce or cocktail sauce


Heat meatballs in oven as directed on package. Place in 3-4 quart crockpot. Mix jelly and chili sauce or cocktail sauce thoroughly, pour over meatballs, stir well, cover crockpot, and heat on high 1-2 hours until sauce is hot. Turn heat to low until ready to serve, stirring occasionally.

Finally, for a sweet offering that is unlike the Christmas cookies most have had their fill, try these tasty treats.

Kandy K’noodles
Recipe from


1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
1 (12-ounce) package white chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups creamy or crunchy peanut butter
3 cups chow mein noodles
1 cup chopped, dry roasted peanuts
1 cup finely chopped dates


1. Line 2 to 3 cookie sheets with wax paper.
2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and peanut butter and microwave at HIGH (100%) for 1 minute; stir. Continue heating 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are completely melted and mixture is smooth when stirred.
3. Stir in noodles, peanuts and dates.
4. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookies sheets.
5. Allow to set at room temperature, or to speed up the process, refrigerate until set. Store in a cool place.
Makes about 4 1/2 dozen candies.

Whatever your plans this New Year’s Eve/Day, be sure to stay safe, do not drink and drive nor go

in a car with anyone who has been drinking or driving, and enjoy! I hope your 2012 will include Tantalizing Thursday each week! Cheers!

Please join me tomorrow for the year-ending Friday Music Blog on Chief 187™Chatter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Farewell 2011

It is with a mix of sadness and exhilaration that I bid 2011 farewell. The year began with tons

of snow, seven storms in seven weeks where I live, and a new course for Chief 187™Chatter. Rather than four days a week of free-style offerings and the Friday Music Blog, I introduced the formula of the following daily categories: Monday Movie Blog, Simple Joys, Free-style Wednesday, Tantalizing Thursday, and the Friday Music Blog. The set days provided me a guide, a schedule, and a known program for my readership. From the beginning of 2011 my readership began to steadily increase. Thus, 2011 started brilliantly.

Throughout the year I began working on getting Chief 187™ trademarked, a task that was long, arduous, and ultimately worthwhile. I also worked hard to share my work. Thanks to key individuals during the year I learned to spread my brand, expand my reach, and promote my work more effectively. Through Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and the kindness of my readership my pageviews at this site went from a sluggish few a week to upwards of 1000 views per week. At the end of the one year anniversary Chief 187™Chatter had realized 25000 pageviews; now, 3 ½ months later, the site is on its way to 42000! Now, with my name trademarked, I even have merchandise for sale at that carries my image and my brand.

Many eras ended in 2011 for me. Oprah Winfrey, my favorite talk show host for the last twenty-

five years, walked gracefully away from her top-rated talk show in May. That departure prompted a blog from me that is one of my personal favorites from this year. In November another favorite talk show host, Regis Philbin, retired from his self-titled program. Although I never watched

either show daily, they were a big part of my life throughout my adulthood and formed a lot of my beliefs, personality, and style. I am saddened by their disappearance and feel the void occasionally. But I have realized that by writing about these entertainers, I have become the entertainer for some.

Loss was forefront this fall when IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon was involved in a season-ending race crash in Las Vegas. Death was the result and deep sadness settled across the field when the information was released. As a casual viewer I was horrified by the loss; as a race fan I was prepared for the news, and, as a Dale Earnhardt fan, I suffered anew when the news came of his demise. So, as a writer I wrote about the accident and death of this athlete. When I was still grieving along with the rest of the race-loving world, I wrote another piece about death entitled “Disassembled”. That piece and subsequent response from my readership showed me that my voice matters and that was eye-opening.

I was humbled this year as well. While waiting for a big break with a wealthy, successful, and charismatic businessman who was enamored with my writing, I was lulled into thinking I was valued. It turned out I was simply being used for my talents but not being paid. The break never came and I lost a lot of confidence in myself inwardly. I privately licked my wounds and quietly continued my workload. Finally I found the courage to write about the incident which did much to heal me. In the piece “I Know” I recounted what I had learned about myself.

As 2011 comes to a close I look back fondly on a year of growth, milestones, and friendships. It’s always hard to say good bye, but I do so look anxiously to the future. 2012 will bring slight changes to Chief 187™Chatter; the Monday Movie Blog will be replaced by the Monday Media Blog. But mostly I’ll continue to provide the content you have grown to appreciate. I have no idea what 2012 will offer in terms of opportunity, milestones, or experiences, but I am feeling most anxious to find out! Mostly I fervently hope that the friendships I have forged will remain and new ones will grow. I am so very grateful for your readership and look forward to providing more interesting, informative, and entertaining content for you to enjoy. I hope you feel encouraged to return daily and comfortable to leave your comments as they cheer me to no end!

What were your favorite parts of 2011 both personally and on Chief 187™Chatter? What was your least favorite? What are you looking forward to in 2012? How often do you check in with Chief 187™Chatter? Leave me a quick note; I look forward to learning more about you!

Wishing you and yours a very Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, Adventurous, and Joyful New Year in 2012! I hope we can spend the year together here.

Please join me tomorrow for Tantalizing Thursday on Chief 187™Chatter.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Simple Joys

Welcome to Simple Joys on Chief 187™Chatter. The Christmas holidays are behind us

and with them a cacophony of sounds, a plethora of emotions, and a litany of feelings. Once the day is over there is a mix of sadness for its conclusion and relief that normalcy is on the horizon. Even under the best of circumstances there are rough patches when life intervenes; a broken glass, hurt feelings, or burned rolls can put a pall on part of the day. Instead of allowing incidents of this nature to change the direction of the day, it is important to change perspective and seek out the Simple Joys of the recent past and the near future. With this being a holiday week and New Year’s Eve on the horizon it is as vital as ever to concentrate on the Simple Joys in life. Now, without further ado, is today’s Simple Joys.

Phone call. I don’t particularly like the phone. Last week, minutes before my parents were due to arrive, I got stressed. No, I went into full on panic mode. No matter where I cleaned and picked up my two year old undid the neatness. Everywhere I looked there were unfinished jobs, gifts to be wrapped, food to be baked, and piles of mess needing put away. I was putting pressure on myself that I write to y’all about avoiding. In the middle of my attack the phone rang; normally I would have ignored it but it was my big brother. He called to ask me if I was having fun yet, but instead of hearing my smile through the phone he heard my unrelenting tears. It only took a few minutes of him “talking me down” to work to change my mood. Having my big brother to calm and cheer me was a Simple Joy that carried me through since he couldn’t be with me this year. After our chat I as fine the rest of the weekend with my fears totally in check.

Dinner Party. My father turned 70 on Christmas. I invited his two brothers and their wives to dinner on the Thursday before Christmas to celebrate. It had been a long time since the families had all been together for a social situation and I felt fabulous that it happened at my insistence for my father’s milestone. These brothers who had grown up together, worked together their entire adult lives, and share infinite memories were fantastic guests. Witnessing the synergy, feeling the bond, and sensing the electricity in the room was priceless. My cheeks ached from smiling, my throat hurt from laughing, and my heart burst from the love that emanated from the gathering of these men. I heard stories that were sensational and definitely true as they all remembered them the same way. I compared features of the three brothers and asked questions about the generations of family I never knew. My aunts chatted away while my husband and I played host. My children hugged and kissed their kin before they scampered off to bed. The dinner party was far more than a Simple Joy, it was an enrichment of my soul and, according to my dad, the best birthday he ever had.

Bev. Bev works in my grocery store and a woman I see weekly, usually several times a week. She knew me pregnant with my daughter and has watched her grow into a lively toddler. We spend only moments here and there when I’m shopping in the store but I can tell you I adore her. I came to the store on Friday to do the last bit of shopping before Christmas. I sought Bev out, gave her a gift and chatted. Before I left she fawned over my daughter and gave me goodie bags full of candy (she asked permission first) for my 3 children. A while back Bev thought she might be transferred. A few weeks later, when I hadn’t seen her in a while, we saw one another. Tears sprang to my eyes because I was so relieved to see her; she was staying at the store. We hugged. There are people in your life you see in passing who matter; Bev is one of those people to me. Having Bev in my life is a pure Simple Joy.

Christmas Eve Brunch. A few years back I decided to host a brunch on Christmas Eve and invite a few friends to the mix of family we have every year. The party was so much fun that it became a tradition. My guests bring a dish or two, we sit around the dining room table and let the wonder of the season, the time to relax, and our chemistry take over. Laugher, stories, gifts, and good food fill the hours and before we know it the afternoon is deeply upon us and we part ways to get our Christmas activities going. Having our Christmas Eve brunch to reconnect and celebrate is an annual Simple Joy.

Sickness. My daughter fell ill on December 22nd and, even though I took her to the doctor and was told nothing could be done at present, her condition worsened by Christmas Eve. Feverish, stuffed up, coughing, and suffering from other ailments, our little girl was one miserable tot. Aside from warm baths, loving hugs, and some tidbits of food for sustenance, our daughter slept and cried. Christmas Day she felt a bit better and was excited about opening a few gifts, but she was by no means feeling well. No one wants their child to suffer during the holidays or any time, but having her ill led to a slowing down of our celebration. Gifts were opened at a more mo

derate pace and then played with while waiting for other events to unfold. Dinner was eaten while the child was napping so I was able to fully engage with my family who were visiting. And, once she was feeling livelier, I was fully immersed in the Simple Joys of watching my daughter thoroughly enjoy her Christmas.

Throughout the Christmas Week I was reminded how important Simple Joys are in my life. That certainly they make day to day life richer and fuller, but Simple Joys also serve me well during holidays as well. Whereas Mondays will bring a change for 2012, I cannot, in good conscious, conceive of changing Tuesdays. Simple Joys will have a home at Chief 187™Chatter as long as there is Chief 187™ Chatter. As attentions turn to New Year’s resolutions, perhaps yours can be as simple as embracing the Simple Joys in your life. Whether you write them down as I do or merely think about the ones you experience daily, focusing on Simple Joys is one of the keys to a much happier life. That’s a New Year’s resolution worth making! Thank you for your continued support, enthusiasm, and belief in Simple Joys!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday Movie Blog-New Year's 2012 Edition

Welcome to the Monday Movie Blog on Chief 187™ Chatter, the last of 2011. It was a

year ago that the idea for the Monday Movie Blog came to me as the few movie topics I had done were quite popular. I began the blog in January by kicking off six months of alphabetical movie prompts. Those played well with my readership. In the second half of the year I threw different ideas out and you all sent forth your selections. I have enjoyed this process immensely and together we have amassed an amazing resource of movies that fall under many categories. As 2011 draws to a close I am anxious to change things up. The Monday Movie Blog

will be replaced by the Monday Media Blog. Now Mondays may be about television, video games, movies, magazines, or the like. I am very excited about this new feature and hope you will be, too! But now it is time for the last Monday Movie Blog.

This week’s focus is movies that include New Year’s Eve in their storyline. Whether New Year’s

Eve is a major plot line, a minor mention, or somewhere in between, list the movie or movies that include New Year’s Eve. Please mention a cast list and a brief synopsis or review of the film.

To access the past’s year Monday Movie Blogs simply type “Monday Movie Blog” in the search feature located in the upper left hand corner of this page. While perusing the former topics, feel free to add more titles and reviews to the existing ones. These archived blogs add up to one enormous resource for all readers of Chief 187™Chatter.

I wish you all a very happy, healthy, safe, prosperous, and wonderful new year in 2012 and thank you for your continued loyalty and support. I so look forward to beginning a brand new and exciting year with you!

Please join me tomorrow for the most popular post of every week on Chief 187™Chatter, Simple Joys.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Welcome to the Friday Music Blog on Chief 187™Chatter. This is the last of the 2011 Christmas-themed music blogs so let’s make it a good one! Christmas music is among my

favorite genres of all times so I have a sadness that the season is nearly over. It will be a pleasure for me to listen to my Christmas mix on my iPod for the next week! Whether you love it as much as I or can't wait for the radio stations to return to normal, this is the last of its kind for the 2011 Friday Music Blog with a Christmas slant.

This week’s focus is Christmas songs that mention Santa Claus in the title or lyrics. There are many Christmas songs, but not all mention the gift giver. Please list any and all songs that include Santa Claus. Be sure to include the artist.

My Christmas gifts are plentiful this year and many came early! Chief 187™Chatter picked up its 85th follower (thanks Jason!) this week, surpassed 41000 pageviews, and is now well on

its way to the next milestone! I realize that some blogs get these numbers in an hour whereas this is an all-time total, but I am so humbled, honored, and grateful for each and every view this blog gets. The fact that you, my readership, think enough of my words and stories to read my work and return to read more each week is the highest compliment you can pay me.

I ask you to leave your selections for this prompt and return throughout the day and weekend to check what has been added. I will be taking the weekend off but encourage you to check out the Gift Guides I’ve posted, catch up on some Simple Joys, or utilize the Monday Movie Blog topics to find some great movies to watch on your days off. Finally I invite you to join me on Monday for another fresh start to the week with new and original blogs on Chief 187™Chatter.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all! Thank you so very much for spending a portion of your day with me!


Chief 187™

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday - Appetizers

Welcome to Tantalizing Thursday on Chief 187™Chatter. With people dropping over, planned visits, and the festive atmosphere, the appetizer is a very important aspect to a holiday menu. It’s important to have stuff on hand like mixed nuts, cheese and crackers, and even shrimp with cocktail sauce to offer friends and family, but some planned and easy recipes are vital as well. Here are three that I have used to rousing praise over the years. I hope you enjoy!

Clam Spread

Recipe by Aunt Caryl Aibel

3 cans minced clams (2 cans juice)
1 large fresh lemon
Place clams in juice and lemons with juice in pan and cook 5 minutes
1 stick butter
3 cloves garlic
1 small onion
Saute onion and garlic in butter
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon paprika
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Mix all ingredients and pour into casserole – bake in preheated 350 degree oven to heat through.
Serve with melba rounds or other sturdy crackers.

Sausage Cheese Balls

Recipe obtained from
1 lb. bulk sausage meat
2 cups Bisquick
1/4 cup water
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Mix and form into small balls.
Bake on greased sheet 25 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven.

These are a throwback to the nostalgic cocktail party foods your parents or grandparents might have served. You simply can’t go wrong with pork fat and cheese!

Artichoke Dip

Recipe from the creative staff of Hallmark circa 1990

Back in the early 1990s Hallmark Gold Crown Stores used to give out handy helpful calendars chock full of ideas for the holidays at their November Holiday Open House. I saved every one they ever gave out and have used the ideas, recipes, and crafts for over two decades! This gem is from one of those calendars.

Artichoke Spread
3 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Spoon mixture into buttered ovenproof serving dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned and bubbly. Serve with crusty French bread slices, sturdy crackers, and/or raw veggies.

These recipes are simple, utilize easy-to-find ingredients, and offer big flavors. Some of them are mainstays in my holiday repertoire while others have been out of rotation. This year I believe they will all make an appearance. If you try one, two, or all three, please let me know how you liked them. And, if you have any appetizer recipes you’d like to share, please do so below!

Wishing you culinary success!

Please join me tomorrow for the last of the 2011 Christmas-themed Friday Music Blogs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Minute Gift Guide

Four days to go until Christmas. With the hustle and bustle of the season, gift-giving gets pushed aside until the very end by many. This guide along with others posted at Chief 187(TM)Chatter this year and last can do much to cross off name after name on your list and still afford you a reasonable Christmas bill. Though there may be some repeats occasionally, those ideas are so good they keep reappearing! Keep it simple, keep it heartfelt, keep it reasonable, and keep it full of love.

Last Minute Gift Guide

A plate of assorted Christmas cookies - homemade or store-bought or a combination of the two is always welcomed, especially if you've been invited over to someone's home. A pretty plate or platter holding the cookies acts as the gift long after the cookies are gone.

A box of gourmet candy - a luxury most do not splurge, this gift says "You're worth it, enjoy!"

Bottle of wine or champagne – if you know the person drinks, this is always a welcomed gift!

Christmas Amaryllis – a plant that begins blooming when the sparkle of the holiday is stored in the attic.

Poinsettia - the Christmas plant that adds color and beauty to any room. If well cared for these plants can last and bloom for years on end!

Christmas ornaments – mark a milestone, fill a collection, and/or celebrate a friendship at any price range.

Board game – a gift for the entire family to enjoy during Christmas vacation, get one appropriate for all age groups that is fun!

Tickets to a local game/play/concert – take advantage of local culture and support the local teams/actors/musicians. Experiences are fantastic gifts!

New Year’s Eve party ware – hats, tiaras, noisemakers, plastic Champagne glasses, banners, streamers, et al make great gifts and/or stocking stuffers.

Favorite team gear – from football to NASCAR, hockey to baseball, and every sport in between there are jerseys, jackets, hats, and banners to show support; it you know his/her team, this is always a good place to shop.

Christmas album – Bing, Perry, Nat or Michael Buble’ are all solid choices to add to a friend’s collection.

Lessons to a class – learn to cook, bake exquisite cakes, work on a car, use the digital camera, or set up websites, whatever their need or desire, set them up with paid classes at the Adult School to learn!.

Write a list of reasons why you love the gift recipient – you don’t need to be a professional writer to put down on paper what’s in your heart. Some gifts can’t be found in stores. Priceless.

Calendar – a real gift when you add important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions!

Homemade coupon book of favors – kids do this with “washing the car”, “go to bed without a fuss”, but an adult can do some for other favors… use your imagination. Great stocking stuffer!

Sexy items - in addition to the above suggestion, adults can also think sexy for gifts like lingerie, literature, films, or whatever else he/she might be interested…

Photo book – no one wants to see your 1500 pictures from your trip to the Grand Canyon, but the best 40 in a photo book is a grand gift! Grandparents/parents love these with the kids’ pictures!

Journal - Write a Christmas Simple Joys list or journal for the recipient or give them the materials to do their own.

Gift Journal – those of you who shop year round for gifts and read Chief 187™Chatter are well versed in the Gift Journal.

Gift Basket – Make your own pizza is a personal favorite. Boboli pizza crust, jarred tomato sauce, package of pepperoni, good mozzarella cheese, veggies, and whatever other clever ingredients you’d like to add. Other baskets could be Make your own Sundaes, S’mores, or lobster boil!

Here’s hoping these suggestions are helpful for your needs and you get your gift list wrapped up in good order so you can enjoy the holidays with friends and family and not wander aimlessly around the mall on December 24th. Whenever you shop, take these ideas with you and you should be successful!

Wishing you and yours a most happy and healthy Holiday!

Please join me tomorrow for 3 appetizers on Tantalizing Thursday on Chief 187™Chatter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Simple Joys

Welcome to Simple Joys on Chief 187™Chatter. Even I can experience low periods during the holidays. As I like to remind, I am human and given to react like all do at certain times. I adore Christmas Season, that is certainly true, but I get sad that some of the people

are no longer around the table anymore, that my family isn’t closer to enjoy the entire month together, or that my husband and I can’t find more time to hangout while he’s working fervently on his Master’s Degree. I get sad, a bit depressed, lonely, and a case of the blahs occasionally which seems the antithesis of my personality this time of year. But, even though these feelings settled in briefly this past week, I had Simple Joys to revive my mood and make me concentrate on all I do have and not what I don’t. Each week is another opportunity to learn and grow, a fantastic fringe benefit of writing Simple Joys. Now, without further

ado, is this week’s Simple Joys.

Playing Tag. A while back I had written that my Kindergartner, his sister and I played a game while waiting for the bus called “Toss the Stick” in which we tossed a stick as high as we could. We enjoyed this game immensely, but, like most things, we eventually tired of the monotony. One day my son’s eyes got wide with excitement when he suggested, “Mom, let’s play Tag!” I hadn’t played since I was a kid, but I said, “Sure!” He screamed “You’re it!” and dashed to a base which, according to him, are the trees and large rocks in the yard we play in while waiting for the bus. Our neighbor, thankfully, doesn’t mind. Well, that little kid of mine can run fast! I chase him around the yard and, although I can really catch him, usually let him get to safety. Sometimes, when he does get caught, I run him around the yard, but I’m always conscious to let him catch me. It does my heart good both literally and figuratively to run and play with the boy; we’re both huffing and puffing and face aching from laughter, and I feel like we continue to bond. Playing Tag with my son is a pure Simple Joy.

Doctor’s Appointment. Part of my lousy mood last week was due to an impending doctor’s appointment. My husband had asked me earlier in the month if I’d like him to drive me, but it seemed like such a hassle with our children that I said no. On the night of the appointment my nerves were raw and my mood terrible. He again asked if he could drive me. This time I said yes amid my tears. We quickly hustled the children to the car, he dropped me off, I had the appointment, and he picked me up immediately upon me finishing there. Once in the car my husband went away from our path home. “We’re not going home yet,” was the answer my husband gave when I inquired where we were going. Instead he took the entire family on a Christmas lights tour. Wherever there was a cool light’s display we drove to to look. It was a lovely evening and another Simple Joy that melts down to how much my husband values and loves me and our family.

The Polar Express. Watching Christmas movies and specials have always been a part of my holiday traditions, but with a toddler running amok I rarely get to watch this year. My sons chose to watch The Polar Express on a rare afternoon with no homework and no place to be in the evening. I relented because I love that film. My daughter excitedly sat right next to me, thrilled I wasn’t planted at the computer or in the kitchen. From the moment the movie started until the closing credits she sat enraptured, watching every scene! This child can’t sit still for longer than six seconds so you can imagine my surprise and delight that she was so involved in the movie! My sons, daughter, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie together and I was overjoyed to be able to share something like that with my two-year-old! Watching anything, but especially a favorite Christmas movie, with my children is indeed a Simple Joy I treasure.

Holiday Boutique. One night my children and I packed into the car and drove to my oldest son’s school for the annual Holiday Boutique, a “store” full of reasonably priced items ($.25 - $10) that the children can buy gifts for their entire family. The children are afforded this luxury by the PTO who does it as a service for the children. They are allowed to bring money in during a chosen day at school and shop without prying eyes, but there is also one night the parents can accompany the children. We went for that one night and really went to town. Normally my son would get $10 to spend on the entire extended family, but, with me and my wallet there, we upped the ante! I was taken in by all of the cute items, many of which said “#1 Mom”, “Best-Loved Dad”, and “Favorite Grandma/Grandpa”. I bought and bought and bought. When I had the parent volunteer ring up our purchases and the total was declared I nearly fainted. She asked if I’d like to put some things back, but I did not. She then confided that we had broken the record for most sold to one person! Well, can you beat that? What can I say, buying items my children picked out at the Holiday Boutique at school is a Simple Joy that made me poorer in the pocket book, but richer in my soul.

Cub Scout Pack Christmas Party. Friday night we attended the Cub Scout Pack Christmas Party. Among the activities the oldest boys’ den (WEBELOS II) buy a live tree, a strand of lights, and a stand, decorate it with candy canes and the ornaments the Pack made the week before, and donate the entire kit and caboodle to a needy family in town. We, as dens, take turn hanging our ornaments so the tree gets more decorated and beautiful with each crew hanging their handiwork. In addition, we are asked, if we can spare it, to donate food staples as the Pack donates a large turkey to the family as well. Lastly, we are told the ages and sex of the children living in the home so we might add some gifts to make their Christmas even merrier. This year I was able to fashion a gift for each of the four children in the family as well as donate a lovely meal out of non-perishable ingredients. It feels so good to help out when possible to make another’s Christmas merry. Much has been given to me so I am happy to revel in the Simple Joys of giving back.

Crafting. I’m not particularly crafty or clever. Writing is my craft, but I am certainly no Martha Stewart when it comes to artistic crafts. I happened to come across some pins that when beading is applied becomes a snowman head; it can be worn on a blouse or jacket and looks really cute. The directions are not terribly difficult, but the beads are impossibly small and my eyesight is beginning to wane. My five-year-old, when he learned of my having these kits, showed enthusiasm, so on Saturday morning when he ran out of bed at 6:30a we began. This child is focused, meticulous, and full of joy when he is presented a task. He nimbly set to work on following the directions I read and ended up with a darling finished product that I would be thrilled to receive and proud to gift another. Mostly the Simple Joy was in spending time alone with my middle guy and working together to make such a pretty end product. Spending time with the boy is a grand Simple Joy!

Simple Joys have come to my rescue time and again over the past year. It is with much relief that I write this feature weekly and revel in the gifts it provides in my life. It is why I am so passionate about sharing them because if they enrich my life, I know the ones you experience are enriching yours. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the Simple Joys through the clouds of grief, sadness, fear, and uncertainty that we encounter, but finding them results in more of them! Whether you write them down as I do or simply think about them, I wish you days filled with Simple Joys!