Winter in Massachusetts means that, as a resident, you often get some… interesting weather. Two Sundays ago, we had a storm that started as snow, then changed to rain and later to sleet / freezing rain. Then our high temperatures for the next two days were in the single digits Fahrenheit, with wind chills below 0. (Plus, all the snow and rain that had fallen? It froze.) By that Thursday, it was precipitating like crazy again – except it was pouring rain, because the temps had warmed up to over 50 deg F (10 deg C). 😮
And then, on other days, it’s still cold but at least nice enough for moments like the banner image. 🙂 So where was I when I took this photo? And what joys from the past 2 months did I decide to share today? Let’s get right to it!
What Made Me Happy in December
Christmas and New Year’s
The easiest way to describe Christmas 2018 is in bullets. (*lol*) This holiday has sort of become a month-long celebration, thanks to traveling and various get-togethers. Here’s how it played out this year:
- On one Saturday, I hosted an annual holiday party with my friends from college. We ordered pizza, had tea and M&M banana bread for dessert, and chatted for hours.
- The following weekend, I visited my parents on Cape Cod and exchanged gifts with aunts on Mom’s side of the family who were also visiting.
- I also spent Christmas weekend on the Cape with my family. We went out to dinner one night to celebrate my brother’s birthday, drove around the Sandwich area to see the Giants of Sandwich (large wire-and-holiday-light sculptures) another night, and had a small but delicious ham dinner and exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve.
- On Christmas Day, before we drove “off-Cape” to spend the afternoon with relatives on Dad’s side of the family, my brother and I went to one of the local beaches to feed seagulls. (Believe it or not, they’re patient with humans – they just don’t like sharing with each other!)
- Gifts this year included books (like this gorgeous illustrated edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea collection), tea (such as this flowering tea set from Numi), gift certificates, clothes, cute socks, ankle boots, and a new pocketbook (which I needed badly, since the handles on my old one were ratty!).
New Year’s Eve was quiet, which was what I’d planned. I had tomato soup and a homemade croque monsieur (a French recipe similar to a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, except baked and BETTER) for dinner, then stayed up until 11 p.m. reading Markus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay. (And almost cried during the last two pages. The Dunbar boys have my heart.)
A Tea Tasting Hosted by Friends
Before the Christmas festivities began, Tea Friend and Musician Friend hosted a tea tasting at their house. This was something Tea Friend had been brainstorming for a while, and she delivered a blissfully long, scrumptious night of tea, yummy treats, laughter, and good conversation. Plus, swag bags! Everyone who came received a tea thermos, a mini-infuser, and lots of tea samples.
And the menu. Oh my goodness. I must share ALL OF IT:
- Cheese and dried fruit charcuterie boards paired with holiday teas from The Republic of Tea.
- Fresh fruit paired with Silver Needle white tea from Rishi.
- A variety of finger sandwiches paired with Gyokuro green tea from Tealyra.
- Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese paired with Bao Zhong oolong from MEM Tea.
- A dessert tray of assorted cookies and chocolates paired with Yixing Gold black tea from Whispering Pines (which is currently out of stock, but you can still check out their other amazing teas!).
- This show-stopping Rose Petal black tea from The Tao of Tea to end the night.
- We also tried this Guayasa Cacao herbal infusion from Rishi before the tasting began, and OMG it’s like melted butter mixed with cocoa, vanilla, and bourbon. (*dies of happiness*)
Eucalyptus Oil (and Essential Oils in General)
I came down with a head cold two weeks before Christmas, which meant holiday preparations and life in general came to a brief, screeching halt. :S Thank goodness for my essential oil collection, though. After I double-checked how to use the appropriate ones, they helped make that week more bearable. (Along with drinking lots of tea and eating lots of soup!) I used lavender, lemon, peppermint, frankincense – and, yes, eucalyptus oil.
Extracted from the eucalyptus tree’s leaves, this oil is known for its purifying and revitalizing properties and is used for respiratory, antibacterial, and skin issues. So after some quick research, I diffused eucalyptus oil with peppermint and lavender oils to help with my congestion and diluted it with peppermint in grapeseed oil for a homemade Vicks VapoRub. (Fun fact: Eucalyptus oil is a key ingredient in VapoRub and other over-the-counter cough medications.) Nothing can completely relieve your symptoms during the height of a cold, but I definitely was able to breathe better thanks to eucalyptus oil.
What Made Me Happy in January
New Music from Josh Groban and Conception
I love having such varied taste in music – and my two most recent acquisitions are examples of that!
- Josh Groban’s Bridges: The latest album by the voice of an angel. ❤ Bridges is uplifting, diverse, and chock-full of duets, including “Run” with Sarah McLachlan, “We Will Meet Once Again” by Andrea Bocelli, and “99 Years” with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland). I also adore Josh’s resonant cover of Simon & Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and the opening track “Granted.”
- Conception’s My Dark Symphony: Anyone here a fan of the symphonic power metal band Kamelot? Their former singer Roy Khan reunited with his first band Conception last year, and they used PledgeMusic to crowdfund their first new release in 20 years. My Dark Symphony is a short, six-track affair of dark progressive rock with complex rhythms, atmospheric moments, and charismatic vocals. And Roy’s vocals… Wow. He hasn’t sung on a record in almost a decade. Yet when you listen to “Grand Again,” “Into the Wild,” and the title track, he sounds like he hasn’t been away at all.
Yoga Friend’s Wedding Dress Is In!
Yoga Friend is getting married in August! She’s been diligently checking items off her wedding to-do list, including her dress, which she ordered in November. The Dress (yes, I capitalized it on purpose *wink*) recently came in, so Yoga Friend invited me to join her and her mother for an informal fitting when they picked it up. And… you guys, it’s gorgeous. It’s as if my best friend is becoming a princess. ❤ You can see a model of it at David’s Bridal here.
The Post-Holiday Return to “Normal”
It feels weird to list this as one of my recent joys. Maybe it’s because January is typically quiet for me. This one was no exception… And after a busier-than-usual December, between the holidays, work, getting sick, and trying to squeeze in time for the Big Secret Project, poetry, and… Yeah.
So I was more than content with a low-key January. I got together with friends a few times, visited my family one weekend, and went to An Unlikely Story’s first open mic night of the year. Otherwise, I spent most of my time at home, where I was warm and dry and could renew my focus on the Big Secret Project (read more below). And relax, too. Sometimes the calm, rejuvenating moments can be just as satisfying as the exciting ones.
December 2018 / January 2019 Writing Update
Here’s what I’ve been working on (and, um, what I haven’t been working on *lol*) since my previous update:
- The Big Secret Project: After weeks and months of hard work, much thinking, and a LOT of patience-testing, I think the Big Secret Project should be ready to launch on Saturday, February 9th. Expect a special blog post that day with the big news!
- Poetry: In case you missed it, Amethyst Review published two more of my poems (“How to Pack for Iceland” and “Hraunfossar”), and Canary published “Osprey of Bass River” in its Winter 2018 / 2019 issue. I also submitted two more batches of poems, continued writing / revising / editing othe poems, and am preparing some new submissions. It’s an ongoing process, for sure!
- Fiction: Hahahahaha, yeah this isn’t happening right now. XD
- Iceland-Inspired Worldbuilding: Ditto. Maybe I should just take this and Fiction off this list for the time being?
What’s made you happy recently? How were your end-of-year holidays? What were some of your favorite gifts? What are your go-to remedies when you’re sick?