•    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 20: Old Man Winter   

    Jack Frost has gently slipped from within our reach, leaving us with the white, heavy delight of Old Man Winter. Waking to the sight of frosty window panes and snow nestled on the rooftops of Main Street almost gave our home the excitement of Christmas morning and a peace and easiness that gave me the tremendous glow of a happy mom.

    Our morning began as any morning would, coffee, morning hugs and quiet chatter, while mom and dad enjoyed a few sips of rich morning java.  It was a morning that was not rushed and mornings such as these are treasured beyond gold. Our living room was filled with the cozy spark of squeaky giggles and extra blankets for all who snuggled on the couch, but to the heart of a five-year-old little girl, the calling to go outside and make snow angels became overwhelming.

    And so outdoors we went. Our boots were tied, our jackets zipped, and our laughter roared as little foot prints left snaking trails across the freshly fallen snow. Snow angels were made and snowballs were tossed. We noticed the white picket fence that was now trimmed with a blanket of white ribbon, and the trees that glistened as if they were encased in glossy shimmer from tiny ice angels.

    The morning was bright, beautiful and still. It was wonderful and warm and filled with tender blessings and melted snow on the kitchen floor. It was filled with hot chocolate, whipped cream and marshmallow treasures for 2 little ladies and one very happy mommy.

    Ingredients for a snow covered backyard escape

    2 mugs of hot chocolate with whipped cream and plenty of marshmallows

    1 cup of steaming coffee

    3 pairs of boots

    Mittens, hats, and 2 little snow suits

    Christmas carols in abundance – our favorites include Feliz Navidad and Neil Diamond’s Sleigh Ride

    Time to cherish, laugh and savor the morning together

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 19: Delight in the Vine   

    There is something inviting about the celebration of opening a bottle of wine with friends, and sharing an evening together that delights my spirit.  I love wine. I love the taste, the aroma and the time spent lingering, chatting about life, dreaming of the future or discussing situations of the present. If you happen to be a friend of mine reading this you may laugh, of course you already know I enjoy wine and the pleasure of sharing it together. Wine has been around for thousands of years and it is very much a thread that runs through the history of our culture and our culinary existence. Wine varies from full-bodied, bursting with fruit and smoky flavors to tart, crisp and clean. Sharing wine with friends is a celebration in itself – a celebration that is enjoyed with gladness and gratitude in our home.

    The oldest known winery is located in the Areni-1 cave, which is located in the most sparsely populated province in Armenia. This discovery was announced by archaeologists less than 1 year ago in January, 2011. The winery, which is believed to be over 6,000 years old, contained a wine press, fermentation vats, cups and jars. Biblical accounts tell of Noah and his sons producing wine at the base of Mount Ararat and it is interesting that the word “wine” is reportedly mentioned 200 times in the Old Testament of the King James Version of the Bible.

    Wine has been around for thousands of years. It is a drink that time honors with beauty – just as people gain wisdom through life experience, good wine gets better with age. I love learning about wine and exploring the different grape varietals, and even unique combinations that give an unexpected tingle to the senses. In honor of the celebration of wine, following are some little known pieces of wine wisdom and a recommendation for great wine on a budget – some wonderful sips that won’t break your budget. Cheers!

    In ancient Greece, a person hosting a party would drink the wine first just to make sure it was healthy to drink and not poisoned. It was here that the popular phrase “drinking to one’s health” arose.

    Since wine tasting is all about wine smelling, women of reproductive ages are better wine testers because they have a better sense of smell than men.

    The average cost per bottle to age wine in only French oak barrels: $2.50

    Dom Pierre Pérignon, a French Monk, born in 1638 is often credited with the invention of champagne, but opinions differ widely on this topic. Pierre was the cellar master of the abbey until his death in 1715.  He was quoted as saying, “Come quickly – I am drinking the stars,” after tasting his first sip of champagne. The famous champagne Dom Pérignon, the préstige cuvée of Moët & Chandon, is named after him.

    The legal release date for Beaujolais Nouveau is the third Thursday of every November – is your cellar stocked? This is a delightfully green and earthy wine that comes out only once each year in November with very young grapes.

    The average life of a vine is 40 years, but with no disease and temperate weather, vines can live to up to 100 years.

    Airén is the world’s most planted wine grape. Predominantly planted in Spain and occupying more than one million acres, it is most widely used to make brandy.

    Thomas Jefferson stocked the cellars of the first 5 presidents, and preferred Bordeaux and Madeira.

    Wine need not be fussy or expensive. Here are my favorite fabulously inexpensive sips.

    Red: La Finca Oak Aged Malbec, 2010, Argentina ($5.00 a bottle, Trader Joe’s) – known as the poor wine drinkers gold

    White: Chumeia (koo-may-a) 2006 Chardonnay, California ($12.00 a bottle) – Chumeia is the ancient word for “alchemy”

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 18: Creative Cooking 101   

    We love crafts, quirky projects with glitter, and the creative energy that gives a blissful hum to our hearts during a project that comes together nicely after a ping pong pattern of inventive pleasure. We love to enjoy great food together and the joy that comes from leisurely mornings spent in the kitchen.

    Cooking with little children is a rewarding experience – a treat for both parent and child. Inviting children into the kitchen early encourages their confidence, creating a can-do attitude towards cooking. Sometimes more fun than actual cooking is assembling and creating a snack together. Below are two simple creations you can make at home with your own children, or take to a party for some kid-inspired excitement.

    Kids love to sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle so cinnamon is a staple at our house, and it boasts many health benefits, including regulating blood sugar and boosting cognitive function – sprinkle with delight!

    Fruit Salad Beach Party

    1 naval orange

    Red grapes, halved

    1 apple or 2 kiwis

    1 banana, sliced

    8 vanilla wafers, or any variety of cooked oatmeal in place of the vanilla wafers for the sand

    A dusting of cinnamon for the sandy beach

    Banana Bunnies

    2 powdered donuts, any size

    1 banana, quartered

    1 peach, cubed, or use small tropical fruit pieces from a container of fruit cocktail

    Raisins for the eyes

    4 spoonfuls of peanut butter for a dash of protein atop the ears

    A dusty of cinnamon on the ears

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 17: The Purpose of Christmas   

    The Christmas season has officially begun and as the retail world tells us, we should be shopping, shopping and shopping. There are lists to be made, parties to attend and cards to send with shiny photos of our families in matching sweaters. There are times when the routines of society, and the calendar, can take over our spirits and our sense of peace in the true meaning of Christmas.

    This morning as we got ready for church, cooked and cleaned up several rounds of breakfast and got everyone seated in the front row at church, I had no idea what the topic or message of the day was going to be. Little did I know, the message was about the beauty of Christmas through the great gift of a tiny baby, born in a manger,  beautifully presented by Terry Simpson.

    Terry delivered a simple message that reminds us that the season of Christmas is about so much more than black Friday sales, parties with co-workers and the in-laws, and rushing to frantically wrap with pristine bows. It is about the birth of Jesus and the gift that this special event provides for all who choose to believe – every day of the year.

    This week St. George Lutheran Church will be launching a small-group program, The Purpose of Christmas, and we look forward to participating. I love Christmas and love the traditions that surround the holiday and truly embrace those special reasons for holiday pizzazz. I also love remembering and celebrating the birth of a savior and sharing these important stories in our home. While I too will be sending glossy-photo Christmas cards, hosting a cookie exchange, and smiling from ear to ear after Santa comes on Christmas morning, I will also proudly celebrate Christ’s birth and the peace that it brings to my soul.

    Christmas is a miraculous time of year. It is a time when good will abounds, generosity soars and traditions are honored. It is a time to give and a time to celebrate all God has created. This Christmas, I look forward to opening my heart to what we may learn in our study, The Purpose of Christmas, and I hope that I grow spiritually to better comprehend the incredible power of our true purpose through the perfect eyes of our Creator.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 16: Changing Roles Fill A Life With Sparkle   

    Today I was graced with the gift of time at home with my Mom, who is also one of my favorite people, Diana Grant. She and I, along with Kris and the girls, spent the day putting up our white vintage Christmas tree, which is beginning to yellow in spots, but when trimmed with the twinkling of icicles, and golden strands of beads, pure magic glistens on our porch. I have always loved things to be a little different, a bit unexpected and filled with sparkle. My Mom also shares this passion, and she has taught me the pursuit of creating a home that feels good to come home to. She has perfected this story in her own life, and is known for her ability to make others feel instantly welcome. Today was a day filled with calm chatter, laughs, stories by the old window box and of course, many rounds of oooohs and ahhhhs as yet another dusty box of treasures was unearthed from the basement.

    I have been blessed with two wonderful parents – A mom who encourages me to embrace laughter and whimsy, and a dad who loves to leave lottery tickets and friendly reminders of his love through bushels of apples left at the door in the fall, and fresh fish from the streams up north when the trout are running. Both have shown me by example the blessings of hard work and commitment. I have been given their love and support throughout my life, with never a moment’s hesitation, and it is a gift for me now to watch my own parents embody new roles as grandparents.

    To witness roles change, blossom, and travel through an ever-flowing circle of life is truly an everyday miracle. Today, I am thankful for the gift of my parents.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 15: Dusty Boxes Filled with Nostalgia   

    Today I embraced and shared in the gifts of rest and rejuvenation. With the help of two little sets of hands, I hauled out our Christmas treasures, and hauled down the remaining fall decorations that were ready for a long winter’s nap in our basement. I am grateful to have the help of those little hands who share in my nostalgic delight – seeing the felt trinkets, twirling figurines hanging from frayed ribbons, and cloudy snow globes with appreciation and open arms each year. Opening a dusty box, fresh from a dark basement, bursting at the seams with a silver vintage Christmas tree brings wonder and squeals to our living room. Sharing in the delight and memories of years gone by is a gift that the spirit of Christmas offers each year. Many of our ornaments are a bit rattled and tattered after many years, or decades, of dedicated love and use, yet they shine with great brilliance in the hearts of those that love them. As the season of Christmas begins, let us open our minds and hearts to the simple beauty of rest, time with those we love, and bedazzled silver Christmas trees that speak to our souls.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 14: Happy Thanksgiving   

    Happy Thanksgiving from Totally Townies. Today we are grateful for the gift of old family traditions, and the excitement of carrying on those traditions while creating new ones with our own family. May the spirit of giving to others and living with gratitude remain in our hearts all year long.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 13: Thanks & Giving   

    I love the beautiful words Ralph Waldo Emerson shared throughout his life as an essayist, poet and American lecturer. Today the eve of Thanksgiving is upon us and many are scrambling to pick up last minute items from a crowded grocery store, or are feeling overwhelmed by the long list of chores to be completed before guests arrive tomorrow. Today let us pause from our hurried evening to breathe in the gift of this day. Let us wait with anticipation of the dawning of tomorrow, let us be still in the simple perfection of a beautiful American holiday. Thanksgiving (Thanks & Giving) is a gift for us to freely experience in our lives – to live with a heart filled with thanks and a spirit for giving is to live with joy.

    For rest and shelter of the night,
    For health and food, for love and friends,
    For everything Thy goodness sends.
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 12: All I Wanted for Christmas   

    As a little girl I remember each year that the thing I wanted most of all was never a new doll house or a baby that could magically wet a diaper, but was a little brother or sister. I wanted to share life with another little person so badly and deeply that I would request this from Santa Clause each year with the hope that a small baby would arrive after our simple discussion. I also recall my mom wishing for more children, and knew in my heart she would have been a wonderful mother to many children. We cannot predict how our life will twist and turn as we make plans and decisions, creating a game plan that we think is perfect, but then things change, or don’t fall into line on the chess board as we hoped. There is always a greater plan in our lives and it is when we can trust in that grace and power that we experience freedom.

    I grew up as an only child, until the age of 10. I was happy and very much loved and supported. I enjoyed a wonderful childhood filled with many people who truly gave me a piece of their hearts through their attention and time that is forever captured in my soul. I enjoyed afternoon tea parties and long talks with my mom in the woods, international travel with my grandmother, and outdoor adventures with my dad. I was very happy, but always wished for a little hand to hold and someone to share my toys, laughs and dreams with.

    It was November 19th, 1988 when my own dream, and the dream of our family of 3 came true. God brought the gift of my wonderful brother into our lives and into our hearts. That sweet baby was born on a cold, Saturday morning and I can still remember holding him for the first time in my little arms with a heart beaming with pride at the hospitol. I loved him even before he was born and I recall a conversation my mom and I had as we talked about the baby that she was carrying inside her. “It is like someone is coming to be with us after a very long train ride. We’re so excited to meet them, but we don’t know exactly when they will come,” I told her. She and I both knew that when this baby did arrive, he would be surrounded by love and was the answer to many prayers.

    My little brother was an adorable baby, and is now an even more handsome man. He was a little boy with much spunk, and lots of brown curly hair . He insisted on wearing long johns with shorts, aqua socks and big sunglasses all year round, and we proudly told him he should wear what he liked. He loved buses and grew to own several – his first at age 9 when he placed an ad in the Brighton Argus stating, “9 Year Old Seeks Bus – Need Not Run.” He was a child-sized connoisseur of chicken strips who loved to laugh and purchase treasures from junk shops. He was once secretly carried into my 9th grade classroom for a presentation in which we shared something we were thankful for. He was 4 years old, and sat silent and still, curdled up in an over-sized duffle bag until he jumped out with great excitement, giving Mrs. Tessmer a reason to shriek. Our classroom was then delighted with the spirit of the little boy known as Ryan Fielding Grant.

    He is now 23 years old, attending Wayne State’s Pharmacy Program. He has always been the gift I wanted for Christmas as a little girl,  and is always someone I have been proud of. He is filled with a genuine spirit and a zest for life, and is someone I consider an absolute treasure in my life. Today my life is richer, more colorful and more beautiful because I was given the gift of a little brother.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 11: Downtown Brighton   

    From the sound of the train that crosses Main Street most mornings at 5:20am, rattling our old windows, to the smell of crepes on the griddle at Main Street Cheese, downtown Brighton is brimming with life. I love walking through town and seeing the familiar faces of store owners who have now become friends. Supporting local business is something that just feels right – right for our community and right for our future. Today I am thankful for the rich blessing of being a townie – cheers to sidewalks, afternoons at the Mill Pond and soaking up the sights and sounds of the local culture.

    Here is a great clip featuring some of the fabulous downtown businesses in Brighton.

    Thank you to the Brighton Historical Society for this photo of downtown Brighton in the 1930’s.