Where did all my troubles travel?

I am a sucker for Christmas. The music. The lights. The snow. The magic. It’s all beautiful.

Each year that I come to this season, I have some unspoken expectations. I want some chances for fun Christmas shopping that involves caramel brûlée lattes from Starbucks. I want to have an exciting twinkle tour with our kids and lots of peaceful, relaxing moments with my family.

True Christmas magic.

As the snowflakes were falling the other night, I couldn’t contain my holiday joy any longer. We had to decorate.

About ten seconds into decorating sugar cookies I realized this was a complete disaster, and Amayah was not really old enough for this kind of activity. photo 1

About five seconds into setting up the tree, I realized that my child safe ornaments were not the ones that the kids were going after. They heard “these are the glass ones the kids can’t hang”, and went directly for those. Amayah then started smashing them together!photo 3

Needless to say it was a really wonderful night, because I’ve done the whole toddler at Christmas thing before, and was fairly prepared for the on the fly changes that need to happen.

Adjusting to a child’s needs is one thing, but what about an adults?

Christmas can bring out unrealistic expectations in all of us, and getting a bunch of people in one place with unspoken expectations can be like having a bunch of flammable containers close to a flame. Eventually things will blow up.

While listening to some Christmas favourites the other day I was struck by the line in “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” that says “from now on all our troubles will be miles away.”

“from now on all our troubles will be miles away.”

While it’s just a fun song, it really speaks to the unrealistic hopes that we place on the Christmas season.

All my troubles are not going to magically ride away on Santa’s sleigh.

Even if I had enough control over my own issues to not allow them to come up over the holidays, what about the other people in my life who I have no control over?

A friend once shared this verse to help get through the holidays with realistic expectations. I have found it to be an incredible help to keep me levelheaded.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Philippians 2:3-4

These verses hold it all. Ask those closest to you what they are hoping to experience this Christmas, and figure out a way that you can value them and serve with love.

Don’t just worry about what you want, but take an interest in what’s on their heart too.

The gem in that song is the line earlier that says “let your heart be light.”. We can choose to enjoy what comes our way, treasure the memory making of the holidays and not focus on what isn’t going according to plan.photo 4

For The Love Of Tea

For as long as I can remember I have loved tea. Tea holds so many dear memories to me of treasured times with my dad, tea and toast with my mom, or watching movies all set in the Victorian era. Tea has got me through many exams, long trips, and emotional nights. I once fell out of a very large tree I was climbing and hot, sweet tea got me through the shock. A headache is rarely a match for a strong cup of tea with my body. The warm comfort tea brings to me is unmatched by almost any other thing.

The love of tea runs throughout my family, as my dad grew up in England and my mom’s family is notorious for toast and tea before bed. Whatever the reason, I started my love affair with tea at a very young age.

We always drank Tetley Orange Pekoe. Just normal, strong, and delicious. After graduating from high school I discovered Tetley Bold, which is the same thing just a little richer flavour. My family has always referred to Orange Pekoe Tea as “normal tea” and when it is offered to the group, someone always makes some cunning remark about how wouldn’t we all love some “normality”.

As time has gone on I’ve noticed the popularity of tea shops like David’s Tea or other loose tea stores that carry all kinds of varieties. While they are lots of fun to try, the price can definitely start to soar. The more adventurous you are in your tea tasting, the higher price you will pay.

Because of my love of a “normal”, strong cup of tea, I am always hesitant to try new flavours. As I have branched out however, I have enjoyed trying new flavours, as long as they remain in the realm of black teas! The other night when we were over at some family friends, I tried a delicious chocolate and strawberry black tea. While I didn’t have any dried strawberries, I decided to try mixing some flavours up with my Tetley Bold to bring you a gourmet specialty tea.

Cinnamon Chocolate Black Tea

For a full pot of tea you will need:

3 Tetley Bold (or another Orange Pekoe tea) Tea Bags

3 Tbsp. Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

Cinnamon sticks, broken into large peices

Heat water on the stove until is comes to a rolling boil. Have the tea pot warmed by rinsing it with hot water before. Place the tea, cinnamon sticks, and chocolate chips in the tea pot right before you pour the boiling water over top. Steep for 5-7 minutes.

Have some form of strainer ready to pour the tea through into the cups.

Serve with milk or cream and honey or sugar. This is a simply delicious dessert tea.

Gift Idea!

Mason jars are all the rage at the moment, and why shouldn’t they be? Who doesn’t love a glass, vintage looking container? The variety of sizes allows them to be useful for all sorts of fun projects. I pulled one of mine out and placed the ingredients for this tea inside as an example of what a unique gift this could be. You could type of the directions for the tea or right them out on fancy paper and fold it up and place it in the jar. Add your own embellishments and you have an inexpensive, thoughtful gift.

Another idea that I thought would be fun for a tea party is to have all sorts of finely chopped nuts, dried fruits and chocolates in little bowls, along with black tea bags. Have different brewing instructions to create your own specialty tea, for example “almond apricot” black tea. Or people could be creative and invent their own flavours. It would be a tea party to remember.

Have fun creating your own tea flavour. It just might become your new family favourite!

Share your tea stories below! Tell me your favourite kinds and what memories tea evokes in you!

Choosing The Perfect Gift

This year my husband and I have been trying really hard to think creatively and, especially, make some homemade gifts. I’d LOVE to give away what some of them are, but since probably some of the recipients may be reading this, I will restrain myself. After Christmas I’m going to post some of the things that worked well for us.

Are you familiar with the Five Love Languages? If you are not, this page will give you a quick definition of all them if you scroll down past the description of the book. A basic understanding of the love languages is must to get the most out of my thoughts on creating or choosing a perfectly satisfactory gift to anyone you are buying for (this will apply for any gifts, any time of the year).

Recognize the love language of the person you are giving the gift to. Once you know what love language they have, then you can think of the type of gift, or how the gift should be delivered, that they are more likely to enjoy receiving. Some of the love languages are more easy to think ideas to go with than others, but we’ll try to be creative here.

Remember…most people have a secondary love language, which can make it easier to mix and match up ideas for gifts. Our nature is to show love in the way we like to be shown love, but my hope is that this will encourage you to be objective and analyze that unique persons true desires.

1. Words of Affirmation – A card is really important to this person, and you should take the time to write a truly encouraging note. Don’t flatter them, but write something from the heart. The card may be even more important than your gift. When putting together their gift, try to incorporate different items that speak to who they are, things you appreciate about them and that offer encouragement. Some examples of this are:

  • Sentimental Gifts  – Willow Tree Angels or another item that represents something
  • A Devotion Book or encouraging daily calendar
  • Inspiring Painting or Plaque
  • *Never forget a card with someone who is a words of affirmation person! 

2. Quality Time – Giving this person the gift of time will be incredibly meaningful to them. Any gift that you give that show you either spent time and energy making it, or that involve you and that person spending quality time together after, will be a big hit. Here are some examples:

Time Together Ideas:

  • Tickets to an event where you have time to connect, maybe a sporting event, bridal show, etc. 
  • A promise of a meal, coffee or other food date (high tea is a fun one too)
  • *for kids* an assemble together gift, or something that you need to build or create together. 
  • A board game or other group activity 

Time Spent Ideas:

  • Homemade gifts that show you are aware of their likes and interests. If they love fancy coffees make them a homemade Vanilla, Raspberry , Coconut or Caramel Syrup and take time to decorate a jar. You can find so many ideas online if you just think of what the person enjoys. 

3. Receiving Gifts – Since gifts are such a big thing for this person, a lot of thought needs to be put into it. In my opinion, always go over the top with this person. I’m not meaning put yourself in a hole financially – but pay attention to what they are asking for, what they are interested in, and then take time to add a personal touch.

  • The person mentions to you they would really enjoy the new movie “Courageous”. You would take that one item, and build around it. Turn it into a “movie night” basket with popcorn, hot chocolate, and homemade decorated popcorn bowls. 
  • You know your friend is stressed out and really needs to relax – find a homemade bubble bath recipe, decorate a jar, and make a “relaxation basket” with tea, bath time items, new loofah, nail polish, etc. 
  • These people are also wonderful to go in on big gifts with friends because they love the excitement of receiving a gift so much! 

4. Acts of Service – Anything that would improve this persons life and help them out would be much appreciated!

  • Homemade meals – can some of your homemade soup! Bake fresh bread, etc.
  • Make “free babysitting” cards or offer some other needed task for free
  • If you must buy a gift card, this would be someone who would really appreciate something practical – like a car wash card or oil change.
  • If you know of a project that they’ve been needing or wanting to get done, go ahead and do it! It could be as simple as getting their favourite picture matted and framed. 

5. Physical Touch – This one I think comes down mostly to execution of the gift. Thankfully most people have a secondary love language, so you can try to figure out what that is for the main portion of the gift and then make sure that when you give the gift they get a hug from you and really sense that you love them!

Okay, I’m ready to hear some of your suggestions! Feel free to comment below and share with others some practical ideas for giving meaningful gifts that will bring joy to every love language, and show the deep appreciation you really have for your loved ones!

Happy dreaming, creating and giving! You may just have more fun thinking of what to give people, than you do actually receiving a gift yourself!