Celebrate the SEAson!

20161211-blog-photo-new-fontsThree nights ago, the first flurries of the season swirled around in the air, illuminated by the street lights as they danced in the darkness.

I stopped for a minute and let a few snowflakes hit my face like cold zaps of electricity.

Earlier this month, I held the little hands of two of my nephews as we walked around a neighboring town in search of very elusive candy canes, mirroring how we walked around the week before at a local tree lighting. Later today, I’ll get to hold those little hands as we visit a hometown tradition at a local park.

Yesterday I opened our first holiday greeting card of the season (from my cousins M, J, A, and B) and put it our new card display on top of our television center.

A friend gave me a candy cane last week, and I savored each taste of that peppermint sweetness.

When I come home late, I take my time walking in so I can enjoy the sights of our lighted snowman and candy canes, of our red and green laser lights shining along with swirling candy canes on our house.

I take a picture every day of our perfect tiny 2-foot tall real table top tree, decorated in white and blue lights with tinsel and special ornaments.

As we drive around town, I take in each holiday display that I see while keeping track of the trees for the upcoming Operation Christmas Tree Hunt for 2016 with Agents 101 and 202.

We begin Secret Santa at work tomorrow, and I’m excited to give my Santa all of the trinkets I’ve been collecting with clues to throw her off as to who I am. Likewise, I’ve been finding the perfect little presents for people in my life who are so deserving of gratitude.

I listen to my favorite seasonal songs every day. Each song brings back a wonderful memory or two while simultaneously creating new memories with 2016’s cosmic time stamp.

I’ve been quoting my favorite Christmas movies…”Hello, everybody? I should say it?” “Fra-Gee-Lay…it must be Italian!” “Ho HO ho…You are a sad, strange, little man!” “SANTA! I know him!” “You smell like beef and cheese.” You get the idea…

December has been a difficult month for me over the past few years, and there are times this year when it’s been a little trying. However, I’m appreciating every little thing this season, more than I ever have.

The wonder is outweighing the struggle, with joy and peace winning.

And it’s the damndest thing…

I’m actually loving each and every moment of this warm December.

I hope you are, too.

 

The Gingerbread Boy

This is written for my nephew, I, with love…

“The Gingerbread Boy” by Jill Ocone (Copyright 2016)

img_1366aThe Gingerbread Boy

Wearing his pointed hat of red,

His favorite,

Waited with all of the other children

As the crowd counted down

From five with delight,

Then the lights came alive

As the star shined brightly

From atop the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

The Gingerbread Boy

Received a red balloon,

His favorite…

He held onto its ribbon

As it danced in the air

While the band played “Let It Snow”

With snowflakes swirling in the light shining

From the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

The Gingerbread Boy

Climbed into the red carriage,

His favorite,

The clip clop

Of the horse’s feet

And the jingle jangle

From its bridle of bells

Rang out as the horse turned about

Near the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

Suddenly the sirens screamed

As the parade of red firetrucks,

His favorite,

Decorated in lights

Arrived to deliver

Their Christmas cargo

Who dismounted from his ladder perch

Next to the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

He belted a joyful “Ho Ho Ho”

The big man in red,

His favorite…

Then the Gingerbread Boy

Through his twinkley eyes

Watched in wonder

As he winked while welcoming him.

The magic was real and

The Gingerbread Boy believed

That night

By the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

What Coffee Beans MUST Want to Be When They Grow Up…

It’s no big secret that I love all things Peppermint.  My favorite is Peppermint Coffee.

NOT Peppermint Mocha.

Peppermint.

For years, my father-in-law would send me boxes of Publix’s Peppermint Frost coffee beans (sold under the name of Brothers Gourmet Coffee) after he and my mother-in-law arrived in Florida for the winter.

Poppy would literally buy out the three Publix stores near his Melbourne Beach home. When those boxes were delivered, it was like a little slice of heaven appeared on my doorstep, better than anything Santa could ever bring. I would immediately dump a bag into my grind and brew coffee maker, and as the aroma of the peppermint filled the room, my first cup would be ready to enjoy.

Pure bliss.

Poppy sent home enough beans to last well through the first half of the year. I am usually very seasonal with things, as I have issues with anything Christmas-related before Thanksgiving or after Christmas Day itself (*see Seasonal Acceptance Disorder below, which is a self-created and self-diagnosed condition).

However, THAT coffee was so good I made the exception and didn’t think twice about having a cup in May. I would always save enough beans in my freezer for the following season, just in case.

As Keurig brewers became the rage and replaced the traditional drip coffee makers, many retailers stopped selling flavored coffee beans, including Publix.

It was a sad day when, in 2013, Poppy told me he could not find Peppermint Frost coffee beans in any Publix. He probably visited every Publix within a 60-mile radius of his house in his valiant effort to locate them, but it was not meant to be.

It was just as well, since my grind and brew pot shut down around the same time and was relegated to the Cemetery of Faithful Coffee Makers after brewing its final cup.

Santa brought me a new-fangled K-cup brewer in 2013, but all I find was Peppermint Mocha pods, which wasn’t the same.

The allure of Peppermint coffee lost its luster when we lost Poppy in April of 2014.  For the last two holiday seasons, I had a cup here and there, but not regularly. I think it was the mental connection to losing Poppy that made reject any K-cup with Peppermint in it, even hot chocolate.

Until this year.

While shopping at Target earlier this month, I wandered down the coffee aisle, and I did a double take.

fullsizerender-3Candy Cane K-cups by Archer Farms (Target’s brand).

Could it be?

Peppermint, SANS Mocha?

My heart was ready to give this coffee a try.

I bought a box and waited until Thanksgiving to try it, so as to not upset my Seasonal Acceptance Disorder*.

With the anticipation of a wonderful Thanksgiving day ahead, I took the first pod out of the box and put it into my machine. I hit BREW, and as the machine worked its magic, I recognized that sweet elixir of a smell in the air.

When the coffee was ready, I added my stevia and cream. I sat for a moment and just let the aroma dance around my senses as it wafted through the kitchen.

Then, I took my first sip, and I almost fell to my knees.

Holy crap.

THIS IS IT.

These Archer Farms Candy Cane K-Cups brew a cup of coffee that is 98% the same as one brewed by those beloved Peppermint Frost coffee beans from Publix.

What is that missing 2 Percent?

Poppy. If Poppy had sent me these K-Cups, then it would be 100%.

Pure Bliss, yet again.

I’ve had four cups so far this season, with many more to come.

Each sip brings additional joy to my heart as I picture Poppy, the Purveyor of Peppermint, smiling down with that little smile he had, proud that he led me to the right coffee at the right time. Thanks, Poppy.

With each sip of my morning coffee today, I kept thinking that this heavenly flavor must be what each coffee bean wants to be when it grows up. Take that, Chock full ‘o Nuts!

I am not being paid for or compensated in any way for this raving endorsement of Target’s Archer Farms Candy Cane K-Cups. The Candy Cane K-Cups are available for a limited time, so hit up your local Target now before I channel Poppy and buy out their entire supply.

* Seasonal Acceptance Disorder: The inability to enjoy seasonal flavors, decorations, celebrations, or media outside of the regular calendar season. Seasonal Acceptance Disorder can cause mental anguish, the shakes, and the need for therapy. Most patients diagnosed with Seasonal Acceptance Disorder can only watch Christmas movies between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Such patients may experience undue stress and rage upon experiencing holiday displays six months before said holiday, usually taking to social media to express their extreme dismay, and cannot actively participate in events such as Christmas in July without severe side effects.

Something to SEA: “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt”

Last year, I started a tradition with my niece and nephew that turned out to be much more fun than I had ever hoped for.

I noticed just how many Christmas Trees were on display in business windows and in other public places around town, and I thought that it would be pretty neat to take a picture of every tree I saw.

Thus this new holiday tradition of “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt” was born.

My nephew is Agent 101 (he is now 11), with my niece as Agent 202 (is now 13). I am Agent 303, boss of the mission. I recycled our Agent names from a game we played several years ago when my nephew devised these names for each of us. Sidebar: Agent 101 didn’t give my husband (his uncle) an Agent name; rather, he named him Dr. Coconut.

Anyway, I kept a running list of the trees I saw, then added to it every day as my husband and I would make our daily rounds and beach runs.

slide7I then began to “tease” my two co-agents with cryptic messages after I set a date with my sister-in-law as to when our “Operation” could take place. I would leave messages like the one to the left in their mailbox (I know the images are a bit blurry-if you click on them, you will be able to read them better).

Agent 101 and Agent 202 accepted the mission, even though they had no idea what I was up to! All they knew is that they were going to spend the afternoon with their crazy aunt, and it had nothing to do with Six Flags or Artie Farty (yeah, my sister-in-law loves me for teaching the kiddos all sorts of inappropriate ditties like that).

On the mission date, each agent was dressed in black and all ready to go at the designated pick up time of 2:30 pm. I handed over their “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt” Classified Folders, which contained the mission instructions, a pen, a map of all of the trees I knew of, and a list in “route order,” so to speak, of the places we would be stopping.slide3

As they read the instructions, they were laughing and loving it:

Today’s Mission:

  1. Rapidly enter the buildings on the Map.
  2. Say NOTHING.
  3. Stand in front of the formal Christmas tree. 
  4. Smile for a photo. 
  5. Rapidly exit the building.

Agent 101 and Agent 202 had a lot of fun sneaking around and became more stealthy with each mission location. I was glad that none of the businesses gave us a hard time about going into their stores just for a picture with their tree. In fact, many of the people working at each spot laughed and loved the idea.

We ended up with photographs of 49 different Christmas Trees, most of them from my map, but we found others along our journey too. When they would find a new one, they would scream, “There’s one! Can we use that one too?” My answer was slide1always “Of course!” Both agents were silent for each business visit and neither uttered a word inside any of the stops along the way. Their poses in each picture are a crack-up, too (I didn’t include any so as to protect their privacy), and as I am looking at the pictures now, I am literally laughing out loud.

Photo 22 is actually a picture of the agents with Dr. Coconut posing as a tree; they wanted to stop by and say hi to their uncle to include him in our mission.

When Operation Christmas Tree Hunt 2015 was completed, I took them out to dinner to celebrate our successful mission.

I made a photo book for each Agent with the pictures I took. Even though the books didn’t arrive until January, they didn’t care. Agent 101 and Agent 202 loved their books just the same.

I’m already keeping a list of the trees I spot for this year’s Operation Christmas Tree Hunt, but I’m going to make a few changes to the mission parameters. This year, I am going to add riddles to some of the stops, where Agent 101 and Agent 202 will have to figure out the next stop along the way instead of plotting every location on the map. I’m also going to make “Thank You” cards for the Agents to hand to each business. Agent 303 (me) will keep some singles in my pocket, and if a business has a charity collection bucket, I’ll have Agent 101 or Agent 202 give a dollar towards the cause.  Maybe next season we can call up Agent 404 (my 5-year-old nephew) to the ranks of big kid Agent and have him join us for our adventures.

slide5Agents 101 and 202 might not remember the present I gave them last year or the year before. However, I know Agent 101 and Agent 202 will always remember Operation Christmas Tree Hunt and the many laughs they shared with mission boss Agent 303 along the journey.

I know Agent 303 will.

 

 

Sea My Christmas Wish For You

Christmas Square 3

So.  This IS Christmas.

My retrospective of what I have done this year is forthcoming.

But today, today is for making memories.

I hope your Christmas is a good one, and I hope you have fun.

My wish for you is an endless abundance of peace, love, and joy.

Merry Christmas, my friend.

With much gratitude for your support and encouragement,

Jill

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 12/2/2015

20151205 Beach Photo

We are getting down to the wire for 2015 friends!  It’s the last month, and it will hopefully be filled with cherished memories.  I have several interesting shares for you today, many with a December-type feel.  Hopefully you will find something you like, a new writer to follow, or an idea to try.

Don’t forget…it’s not too late to join December Reflections!

Love and Family through Tough Times:  A video from Fox Football’s Thanksgiving Pregame about Philadelphia Eagles DT Bennie Logan.  I’m not an Eagles fan, but after watching this, I am a Bennie Logan fan.

Christmas in the 1970’s versus Christmas Today by Victoria Fedden…awesome and hysterical…yet true

A Town on Top of a Fish – by Marc Jordan

Countdown to Christmas Kindness Calendar

A Lighter, Simpler, More Meaningful Holiday from Becoming Minimalist

Making Christmas Magic (with Free Printable) from Vicki, the Moxie Girl

To plan for 2016, you might be looking for a “reading” or a “writing” prompt per day.  Check out Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year by Demi Lovato and Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges by Lori Deschene

Christmas Lights by Coldplay

Zoella’s Christmas Haul – I love her accent!

Peppermint Bark K Cups – so good!

“Right Here, Right Now, We are doing it!” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Some of my favorite vendors for photo books, cards, and canvas prints at this time of year are Mixbook, Shutterfly, CG Pro Prints, and Minted.

And finally, on a personal note, I am very troubled by the state of our world and our society…the arguing, the hatred, the blaming, the slanted media, the agendas…the list goes on and on.  It is hard to shut off the outside world, but I am doing just that and limiting my time spent checking news feeds and social media.  Our world is changing, and perhaps it is naive of me to just ignore it for right now, but I’d rather have my nephew’s little hand in mine, hear my niece laughing, explore a new place with a friend, or create something with my words and photos than engage in a never-ending war of comments on social media.  I am choosing to focus my energy on having a wonderful holiday season, because isn’t that what this season is all about anyway?

Peace, love, and joy people…peace, love, and joy.

Until next time,

Jill