Christmas on Breaking Tradition

This year “Breaking Tradition” was the theme of our Christmas.

First off, we made kind of a spontaneous decision not to travel up north.  We made this choice for various reasons, and we will be making the trip in the summer.  This year, it was time to do something different.

So we were on our own for the holidays.  This the first time in our marriage that we haven’t visited relatives for Christmas, and we wanted to make sure it wasn’t depressing.  Drawing on our success from Thanksgiving, we created a holiday experience that was uniquely…us!

We wanted a real tree, but none of them were small enough.  So we bought the last artificial one at Family Dollar.

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The stockings were hung over the settee with care…

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Beanie got some “Reindeer food” from school, so she spread it over the bow to help Santa’s reindeer find us.

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Notice the low tide.  Boarding was difficult, even with the ladder.

Beanie awoke at 5 a.m. (yes we were up already, because we were so excited!) and chattered to us about the thudding sound she heard when the reindeer landed on the boat, and the sleigh bells.  (For those who don’t know, Santa comes through the hatch when he delivers presents to boats).  Finally, at 6, we let her open her presents.

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She had to open the big one first…


Because her stocking was filled with homemade mixes!

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My present came in a cardboard box with “Apple” written in faux-Cyrillic.


I had lost my beloved iPod to the depths of Clear Lake back in October.  Rob found a broken one of e-bay and repaired it to like-new condition.


Beanie has wanted a Hide Away pet, and we found a new one at the ICM thrift store.  That’s also where we found the Easy Bake Oven, for $4.



A shave kit for Rob.  I also got him a Maggard razor, but couldn’t find where I’d hidden it!  He found it later, stashed in the bathroom.


And a pipe rack, with a few pipes…



Beanie enjoyed her numerous e-bay and thrift store finds.

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Back when we lived in Michigan, Beanie had a suitcase filled with costumes.  Since she was outgrowing them, they got left behind during the move, and Beanie has asked about it many times.  So I stocked up on 90% off costumes after Halloween, and found a suitcase at Goodwill.

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After opening presents, we headed over to my parents’ apartment (they were in Michigan, so we were house-sitting) to enjoy some hors d’voures.


And yes, Beanie’s Easy Bake Oven and costumes came along!

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Every year that Rob and I have been together, we have made a cookie house.  We began by making them from scratch.  Then, after we got married, we started buying kits.  Now we buy a kit and hot glue it together!  Here’s this year’s creation, which is mainly Beanie’s vision:


So that was our Christmas!  Spending it on the boat got us thinking about our future and our plans, which still include eventually cruising full-time.  And while that is at least a few years down the road, we have started brainstorming ways to make that possible.  In that spirit, I have begun experimenting with various projects to use my writing to help support us.

As I try new projects, I will, unfortunately, be spending less time with you here.  But fear not–Journey to Ithaca will continue until the day we leave port.  (I already have my last post planned out, but that will be quite a few years from now!)

As far as immediate plans are concerned, our winter break is far from over.  Tonight, Beanie and I will visit the zoo and look at the Christmas lights (here’s hoping that it warms up and doesn’t rain!).  And tomorrow we’re heading to Houston’s Jellystone Park to celebrate New Year’s.  This campground is cheaper than the one at Canyon Lake, but our accommodations will be much more rustic.  I will be posting pictures.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday as well!  I will meet up with you in 2015.



Lessons from the Past 365 Days

A year ago today, my journey began.

I actually don’t want to share the details here, but it all began a year ago, in my basement, in front of that space heater, tonight.

I began questioning.  I began to consider that I could trust, and that my life had worth.

Life began, fragile and tentative, in that windowless room, this night.

Today I am a year old.

And here are the lessons I have learned in that year:

  • We are only limited by our perceptions.
  • We are loved.  All of us.  All the time.
  • Every one of us has within us the ability to change–and save–many lives.
  • If we’re suffering, it is by our own choice, whether we see it or not.
  • There are more honorable goals than martyrdom.
  • Change is inevitable.  And a hard pill to swallow.  Swallow it, and you will find peace.
  • We are all capable of infinite kindness.  But we must first find it within ourselves.
  • You will backslide, no matter what.  You will fall flat on your face again.  Get back up, and carry on.  It just means you’re human.
  • More than anything we THINK we need, we need rest.  And lots of it.
  • Happiness lies in learning to turn off our brains for awhile.
  • We need to learn to find joy and love within ourselves.  And we need to learn to ask for help and support from others.  Those two truths are not mutually exclusive.
  • Gratitude is a state of mind.  We can’t pick and choose what to be grateful for.
  • Life is beautiful, even when it isn’t.

Tonight, I am grateful to be here, in my new life.  The whole journey was a miracle, and it is all beautiful.  I am glad to have experienced every step of it.

What beautiful anniversaries do you see each year, in your life?


10 Great Things to Do on a Winter Day

We live in northern Michigan.  It snows here.  A lot.  In fact, we’re frequently snowed in.  By early March, that can cause some serious cabin fever.

Here are some great simple pleasures, to help beat the blahs, on those snowy days:

1.  Have a family movie night.  We have a projector, and Netflix.  We love to make popcorn, and watch an off-the-beaten-path family movie with the Bean.

2.  Bake bread.  Use the stove.  Or the pressure cooker.  But knead the dough, and let that warm smell fill your house!

3.  Collect old board games.  We love to play “Bonkers” and, of course, “Regatta.” 

4.  Curl up with a great novel.  Don’t forget the chamomile tea.  Of other beverage…

5.  Make some chocolate flavored coffee.  Yum!

6.  Order some new iTunes and dance!

7.  Find a box.  Or some boxes.  And make something.  You can probably get away with this better, if you have a kid, but you should do it regardless…

8.  Plan out your escape.  And then plan out how it’s actually going to happen…

9.  Create something.  It could be music, needlepoint, sewing, woodworking, photography, writing, etc.  But create something, and share it!

10.  Find some humor.  Read a funny book.  Find something funny online.  Listen to a funny CD, or watch a funny movie.  Humor is horribly underrateed.

So, stay warm, and find something cozy to do!


10 Songs to Beat the January Blues

I’ve told you that there is a lot to love about January. But I’ve also told you that I am a hypocrite.

So, yes, sometimes I don’t love January. Sometimes I get downright depressed and ornery, because of January.

And sometimes just having a little music playing can do a lot to make a bad day brighter. I’ve already shared my favorite songs for dancing. I found that updating my iPod with some of my favorites, really made January a bit brighter. Here are some of selections:

1. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. Might just be a girl thing, but belting this song out in the car is excellent stress relief.

2. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. I know all the words to this. It’s a stupid human trick that I can do. And fun as heck.

3. “We are Young” by Fun. We actually heard modern music on the one radio station that we can get, at Rob’s family property on Thunder Bay. This song kind of became our anthem for the summer.

4. “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba. Remember that? The perfect positive chant, for January.

5. “It’s All Been Done” by Barenaked Ladies. Rob and I have always felt that this described us.

6. “The Motown Song” by Rod Stewart. Makes you want to dance.

7. “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega. A classic summer song, from the days of yore.

8. “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Because you’d rather be sailing. Trust me.

9. “Africa” by Toto. Yeah, the words are pretty dumb (and Kimimanjaro is not by the Serengeti). But it will still cheer you up.

10. “Walk or Ride” by the Ditty Bops. The best goofy song about voluntary simplicity, ever. Sometimes we randomly start singing it, in public…

Add some music to your life, and beat the January blahs!

5 Reasons to Love January

Every season has its perks, and you already know how much I love this time of the year. The stretch of winter, between Christmas and Spring break, has a certain comfort that the other seasons lack.

Here are 5 reasons to love it:

1. There is something comforting about just everyday life, without all the running around that surrounds the holidays.

2. If you live somewhere where you get snow, there’s usually MORE of it!

3. The days are getting longer.

4. The new year is fresh, filled with possibilities.

5. With every day that passes, we get closer to summer.

So start a fire in the fireplace, make some hot cocoa, and enjoy the coziness that starts off the new year!

Saturday Simple Playtime: Seasonal Activities

If you simplify the holidays and get your Christmas shopping done early, you will have time to do the seasonal activities that you remember from your childhood! In December, we’re going to try to do at least one fun, winter activity each week. Here are some ideas:

–Make a cookie house.

–Build a snowman.

–Make paper snowflakes. Here are some patterns.

–Make Christmas cookies. Be sure to involve everyone in the decorating!

–Dance to your favorite Christmas songs.

–Watch some classic Christmas movies, such as Rudolf or The Grinch.

–Make dough ornaments.

–String some popcorn.

–Take a walk or drive and look at the Christmas lights.

–Make a count-down-to-Christmas chain. Be sure to remove a link everyday!

What activities do you enjoy doing, for the holidays?

Why I Love This Time of the Year

When I was a teen, and especially in college, I hated winter semester.

I love all the seasons, but the long stretch between Christmas break and spring break, when it is cold and snowy, just seemed to drag on and on.

Now I love it.

Why? It’s a time when life follows a definite routine, we have lots of cozy family time, and we are able to see our friends and family on a pretty regular basis. These are the things I love about late winter:

1. Consistency! Christmas time is fun, but very random. Afterwards, there are no special events, no extended visits (which we love, but they do lack the routine), no long breaks from school. This is the time when I get things done with my students, when family life follows a nice rhythm, and when the Bean is her happiest.

2. It’s all about us. We visit over Christmas, and we usually visit over spring break. In-between, we’re at home. It’s snowing outside, so we’ll pop some corn, relax, and enjoy some “us” time. It’s when we dance almost every night, go out for dinner, and play together in the snow.

3. Regular get-togethers happen. Nobody is busy with the holidays, or with vacation. So we’re seeing our friends in Mount Pleasant once every other week, my parents once a week, and our friends in Saginaw and Midland on a much more regular basis. It keeps us more connected than we are any other time of the year.

So, brew up some cocoa, and have yourself a wonderful winter!

Planning for Future Stressors

Getting into a routine takes time. Then, changes happen that totally derail it. The key to keeping with a routine lies in preparing for the changes.

Right now, the Holidays are looming on the horizon.

The difficulty is, we don’t know exactly what we are doing for the Holidays. Still, we can prepare some food to share, and to freeze, in advance for all of them. We have our motor home, so I can warm anything up on the road. We should plan for 2 Thanksgiving dinners in November. In December, we have 6 parties to attend. Many dishes can be frozen for that (especially after it freezes outside!).

After that, Christmas shopping is an issue. I have already started, and I will continue to do some shopping every pay period. If all cooking/shopping is done before Thanksgiving, I can focus on logistics, rather than those things.