Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joy, Joy, Joy!

Merriam Webster's definition of JOY (verb):
to experience great pleasure or delight: rejoice!

joy glassybaby

The following description of the joy glassybaby my mom gave
me for Christmas sums it up for me:

"I am a light spread from person to person throughout the world by their kindness and smiling faces. You can hear me in the songs of choirs and see me in small children as they stir their hot chocolate beneath the falling snow."

I hope you are all enjoying the Joy of the season. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Honoring Traditions ~ New and Old

Traditions are wonderful. They evoke memories from the past, usually our childhood, and help shape new memories for the future. Traditions are especially plentiful and sacred during the holidays, but I think they are important all year long. Annual birthday celebrations with girlfriends, anniversary dinners at our favorite restaurant, fall pilgrimage to Hood River to see old friends, summer vacations in Tahoe. These are a few of my favorites. We look forward to and back at them. They imprint memories in our hearts and minds forever.

For, in fact, Webster’s definition of tradition is: “an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior.”

Traditions connect generations and inspire creativity. They feed my soul.

Here I share some of my family's holiday traditions. What are yours? I always love hearing new ideas.

Festival of Trees Tree Lighting and Santa Photos

Held the Sunday before Thanksgiving as a benefit for Seattle Children's Hospital, this wonderful event at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Downtown Seattle kicks off the season for us. We admire the beautifully decorated trees that are for sale for Children’s Hospital, watch the tree lighting ceremony, see old friends and have Sofia’s picture taken with Santa.

Christmas Wreath
Putting a wreath on my front door signifies it is Christmas. It usually goes up the week after Thanksgiving, around the time we get our tree. Each year, I add pretty ribbon and adornments.  This year I reused this beautiful bright green satin ribbon that came on a gift basket from a new friend and a sparkly star.

Santa Lucia Day
I dedicated a blog post to this beloved Swedish holiday that is celebrated on December 13.

Food and Feast

There is nothing like food and scents to evoke memories and traditions. My holiday favorites include:
·         Aroma of Christmas – Besides the smell of a freshly-cut Christmas tree, this warm, spicy blend of cloves, cinnamon sticks, orange and lemon, is my favorite.

·         Nuts and Bolts – aka Chex Mix (no explanation needed, YUM!)

·         Swedish Smorgasbord – complete with lox, Farmer’s Cheese, rye hard tack crackers, pickled herring (see below), cardamom bread, Swedish meatballs, lingonberries, Johnson’s temptation, Potatis Korv (Swedish potato sausage), Glogg (Swedish hot mulled wine), Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger cookies) and rice pudding for dessert. This feast is my 100% Swedish mother-in-law’s specialty. My husband and I do a scaled-down version of it each year.

·         Pickled Herring – not my favorite to eat, I usually only have one bite per year to keep claim to my Swedish heritage, but the smell of it reminds me of my dad. He and my childhood friend Scott’s dad used to spend a whole day each December pickling herring in our kitchen. I remember our house wreaked for days but I try to appreciate it during the holidays, at least!  

Advent Calendar
While the advent calendar’s origins are religious, most kids (young and old alike) use it as a countdown to Santa’s arrival. Hands-down the best non-registry wedding gift we received 13 years ago was this hand-sewn advent calendar made by my childhood friend Lara’s mom, Kathy. It is such a treasure and so fun to see Sofia’s joy each day as we get closer to Santa’s arrival. So far, she doesn’t know that most kids get chocolate in their advent calendars! I’m sure she’ll catch on soon enough. Until then, we’re enjoying this special, sugar free version!

Meatballs by the Fireplace
For at least the last five years, we have had my friend Tessa over for Swedish meatballs by the fireplace the week before Christmas. When we first started this tradition, Tessa was single and we were childless. It was just the three of us enjoying a quiet evening in. The evening is a little more boisterous and joyous since Robert (Tessa's wonderful fiance) and Sofia joined us four years ago. Now it is the five of us and it is truly one of the highlights of our holidays.

This year we toasted with wonderful Italian Limoncello, lovingly made each year by my friend Shana.

Teddy Bear Suite

The week before Christmas, Sofia and I visit the elaborately decorated Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Olympia Hotel in Downtown Seattle. All dressed up in her red taffeta Christmas dress, yesterday Sofia cuddled with the soft teddy bears and admired the pretty decorations.

New Traditions

We are starting a couple of new traditions with Sofia this year. We got her her very own tree for her bedroom with pink lights, of course, (such a lucky girl) and we are giving her a nightgown (her first) on Christmas Eve just like my mom did for my sister and me every year of our childhood. It is a sweet, sweet memory and I can't wait to see Sofia twirl around in her new red Hello Kitty flannel nightie on Friday night!  We are also going to the family Christmas Eve service at a church we started attending again recently. I am excited for the annual Christmas pageant and hope it becomes a tradition for our family too!

Looking ahead to when Sofia is a bit older, I envision going to the Nutcracker will be a wonderful tradition. I enjoyed seeing it every year when I was a child, and even performing in it too. We saw Le Petite Nutcracker this year (a 45-minute version) which was just perfect. I am excited to share the full Pacific Northwest Ballet Maurice Sendak version with Sofia in a couple of years. Until then, I will have visions of sugar plums as I take in the magic of the season and honor our wonderful holiday traditions ~  new and old.

 Once again, from my home to yours, Happiest Holidays to you and yours!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Girlfriends Feed My Soul

Truly, truly you do! (That sounds like song lyrics, doesn't it?!)

Last night, about 25 of my beautiful, wonderful girlfriends descended on my house for a festive evening of "sips, bites and jewels." It was such a great gift to me to be surrounded by such amazing friends, some whom I see often and others I don’t get to see much.  

We sipped bubbly, chatted about new babies, new homes, new jobs, old jobs, husbands’ jobs, engagement rings, weddings, books, travels, schools for our children, home remodels, flooded basements, cute boots, Christmas plans and more “girl stuff!” It was the best! We also oohed and awed over the stunning and stylish Stella & Dot jewelry collection that one of my dearest friends, Megan, reps. I love supporting her and seeing her second career blossom.

Earlier this week, another friend told me that one of the things she admires most about me is the way in which I make and maintain friendships with so many different people. That was the ultimate compliment to me because I do "invest" a lot of energy in my friendships. And I can truly say they are among the best investments I have ever made. 

When I finally fell into bed last night just after midnight, I felt exhausted, exhilarated and so very thankful for my wonderful circle of friends. I love you all so much and thank you for enriching my life and sharing yourselves with me.


We were having so much fun last night that we didn’t take any pictures, so below are some photos of the wonderful hostess gifts I received, as well as some of my favorite Stella & Dot picks for my wish list!

Orange Tory Burch votive candle - LOVE!

Williams Sonoma assorted cookie cutters for Sofia and me!

Homemade Limoncello and darling custom label.

A fabulous bottle of wine is always appreciated.

Delicious, homemade chocolatey nut ginger raisin bars called French Bark - YUM!


And now for my Stella & Dot wish list picks:

The Vintage Link necklace is bold and gorgeous.

The Penelope necklace is sweet and delicate.

The Pave Bee Pendant necklace is beautiful.

The Delicate Drop earrings are so pretty and sparkly.

The Gold Fringe Hoop earrings will liven up any outfit.

I love the green Garden Pary Chandelier earrings.

Aren't these Signature Clover drop earrings gorgeous?!

OK, I think that's all for now. What is on your wish list?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy St. Lucia Day

Today is St. Lucia Day (or St. Lucy’s Day) – one of the best-loved holidays in Sweden. Traditionally, it is a home-centered holiday and a tribute to all of the facets of light (Lucia means light) - the longer days, the return of the sun (we had some today in Seattle!) and the end of darkness. To children, it signifies that Christmas is almost here.

Traditionally, the oldest daughter in the household plays the role of Lucia. She wears a long white gown with a red ribbon sash and a crown of (real) blazing candles on her head. Early in the morning on December 13, accompanied by younger sisters as attendants and brothers as mischievous star boys, she awakens her sleeping parents with the sweet St. Lucia song and a tray of coffee and sun-colored saffron buns. The holiday evokes the legend, dating from about the fourth century, of Lucia, a Sicilian martyr who wore candles on her head so she had both of her hands free to carry food to persecuted Christians hiding in underground tunnels in Rome.

My three-year-old, Sofia, was so excited for St. Lucia Day today. We made a paper crown with candles that she proudly wore to school to share her Swedish heritage with her friends and teachers. She also took pepparkakar (Swedish ginger cookies) to share. After school we went Christmas shopping, and she proudly wore her St. Lucia crown the whole time. A few people asked her if it was her birthday and she quietly said “No, it’s St. Lucia Day.” It is so cute to see her embrace her Swedish heritage at such a young age. I didn’t totally appreciate my Scandinavian (Swedish and Norwegian) heritage until I visited Sweden and Norway about eight years ago. Now, I love all things Scandinavian and especially embrace them during the holidays! When Sofia is a little older, I hope she will awaken me with coffee and saffron buns singing the St. Lucia song!

Happy St. Lucia Day and God Jul (Merry Christmas in Swedish) to you and yours!

Sofia in her St. Lucia crown.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Aroma of Christmas

I am so excited. My first batch of Aroma of Christmas of the season is simmering on the stove and my house smells wonderful, warm and spicy. It's instant Christmas for me. Scents are like that. They take you back, evoke memories and stir emotions.

Ever since I was a little girl my mom has warmed this wonderful blend of cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, orange peel and lemon on the stove throughout the month of December. For as long as I can remember she has also packaged it up for friends. I have been sharing it with friends for many years now too. In early December (or maybe even late November) I start thinking about what the packaging will be that year. I love going to Packaging Specialties for inspiration. This year I chose a cellophane bag with red birds and berries and tied it off with red grosgrain ribbon. I, too, love sharing the Aroma of Christmas with friends, neighbors, colleagues and teachers. It's an easy, personal way to spread some joy. Below is the recipe if you feel inspired to share it too. I hope you will.

Again, from my home to yours, Happiest Holidays.

Aroma of Christmas

3 sticks of cinnamon
3 bay leaves
¼ cup whole cloves
Add 2 sections lemon and 2 pieces of orange peel
1 quart water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and keep simmering over low heat. Add water as needed; it evaporates quickly. Enjoy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Great Gifts Doing Good.

That is a mouthful, isn't it? I originally titled this post "Good Gifts Doing Good," but after further thought I actually think they are great gifts!

It's like the mantra that some companies aspire to: doing well by doing good. Like I said, it's aspirational, but I think the intentions are good. As I think about the intentions of the gifts I give (and receive!) this holiday season, there are lots of opportunities to have a positive impact on people's lives. Below I share some of my favorite "great gifts doing good."  

A Few of my Favorite Things 

Anyone who knows me very well knows I love glassybaby, fashion icon and designer Tory Burch, and Stella and Dot jewelry. They all offer beautiful products and have a strong social responsibility commitment to doing good.
At glassybaby, 10% of the sale of dozens of special colors they've dubbed "goodwill" goes to a variety of non-profit organizations such as Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Conservation International and the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research, to name a few. To me, glassybaby is the perfect gift.
seattle sunset
seattle sunset is a personal favorite of mine not only because I LOVE orange but because it was created in honor of a great woman who I was fortunate enough to know and be related to by marriage, Gretchen Mathers. She gave me my first two glassybabies which started my collection four years ago. 10% of the sale of seattle sunset benefits the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. 

 marsha's hope set of three (cabo, pearl, seafoam) benefits the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research.

10% from the sale of each bff (love the name!) is donated to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

For a look at all of the beautiful goodwill colors, go to glassybaby's website.

Tory Burch just launched a line of beautiful products that benefit the Tory Burch Foundation which is committed to providing economic opportunities to women and their families. The collection includes studded cuffs (see below), key rings, t-shirts, CD, totes, flip flops, a charm bracelet (also below) and more. I love it that they are actually products you would want and they benefit a good cause. Hence "great gifts doing good!"

Profits from this darling charm bracelet benefit the Tory Burch Foundation and microfinance partner Accion USA. I LOVE IT!
This silk scarf benefits the Tory Burch Foundation and Accion USA.

All profits from these Tory Burch studded cuffs benefit the Tory Burch Foundation and microfinance partner Accion USA.
 I LOVE these too, especially the oranage one, of course!

Stella & Dot is a relatively new jewelry company that is empowering women through style. I love their jewelry and their commitment to women and girls. The Stella & Dot Foundation is focused on creating positive change in women's lives through the support of organizations that promote women through education or economic empowerment. I watched a video on the Stella & Dot website today that educated me about their commitment to organizations such as Girls Inc., Accion USA (like Tory Burch) and buildOn.  If you have a minute, I encourage you to take a look at it. It really inspired me to see the ways that companies and individuals can positively contribute to the lives of women and girls in our community.

All net proceeds from these beautiful multi-colored Stella & Dot Foundation Bracelets go to Accion USA, buildOn and Girls Inc., which help create positive change for women. They come in little girls sizes too. What a beautiful way to teach the little girls in your life about helping others.

Wow, I just realized that what all of these products have in common is supporting women. I love that!!

I know there are many, many companies that sell "gifts for a cause," but these are definitely at the top of my list. What are your favorites?