Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Sunrise

I've always been one to enjoy a sunrise more than a sunset.  Maybe it's something about the symbolism -- a sunrise is hope, light, and life.  I love being up early, when the world is quiet and there's a small chill in the air.  Something about the serenity soothes my soul every time.

This morning I was at Starbucks with a friend.  We've been meeting up at 6 am a few days a week before work to get ourselves out of bed early enough to spend time with Jesus.  It has been extremely worth it and life to my soul to get time with a dear friend and to start my day early.  When I was in high school I used to get up early every day and read the paper with a bowl of cereal.  I hate being rushed in the mornings.  I am an old person at heart, as evidenced by the nice elderly folk hemming me in on every side.

As I wrapped things up this morning (I'm reading an amazing book by the way: A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman), I smiled with contentment at the first strokes of color coming up on the horizon outside the window.  Arizona is known for its beautiful sunsets, but I think the sunrises are just as spectacular, its just that few are up to see them.  As I watched, colors turned from dusty blue to pink, from pink to vibrant orange, and suddenly I realized I had to see that sunrise.  Starbucks is no place to view something like that.

I quickly bagged up all my things and charged out of the place.  I ran to my car and as I started it my hands were shaking.  A sunrise isn't something that waits around, and I knew this one was going to be glorious!  There is a park down the street I went to once, with a big lake, one of those places that I wish I visited more often, but I usually just stick to my boring routine.  

I raced out of the parking lot.  I didn't even put on my seatbelt.  I always put on my seatbelt, because I am a great lover of rules.  I exclaimed out loud to myself as I watched the colors accelerate in my rearview mirror.  I drove over the speed limit.  I only needed to make it two blocks!  

I careened my car into the parking lot by the lake and literally ran to the shore.  No one was around but me.  Me, the waterbirds, and this:

This was my actual face of delight.  Orange from the glow.

I sat by the water for a few minutes taking it all in.  And then, as soon as it came, it was gone, the colors faded into hazy blue, the birds awakening from their slumber and pecking in the grass.  

This is the kind of morning that makes for a beautiful day.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hope and Sugared Cranberries

Christmas cheer is in full swing, even here in the desert.  The stockings are hung by our chimney with care, our tree gives a soft glow every evening, and our little fireplace dances.  The temperatures have dropped down to freezing -- my Boston-bred husband couldn't even stay out long tonight.  But it makes it all seem much more cozy and festive.

We've been doing a little advent reading every night, just to remember the magic and wonder of Christmas before it slips away.  I love the idea of advent, of waiting, hoping, anticipating.  Advent - "coming."  He is coming.  The whole world sparkles with it this time of year.

I've been thinking about hope a lot lately, which is appropriate since on the first week of advent we light the hope candle.  When we feel disappointed, broken, lost, bored - hope gives us reason to sing.  Someday, somehow, things will be made right.

I took a drive this week into Phoenix to pick up something I purchased on Instagram.  Honestly, it opened a whole new world to me, new neighborhoods, new people, new adventures to be had.  And just like that, another candle lit, another little light of hope that life can flourish here in the desert.

A new addition to our gallery wall (and I am in LOVE with it).  "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." - Hebrews 6:19

In the spirit of making Christmas feel all the more Christmasy, I made some sugared cranberries this week.  If you're looking to get a lot of bang for your Christmas buck, this is the project for you.  These are SO easy to make, are completely addicting (and also probably fairly bad for you), and look  festive and beautiful on the table.  

The original recipe for these is from Cooking Light.  But it's easy enough that I can write it from memory after making it once.  All you need is:

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries (I got mine from Trader Joe's)
3/4 cup superfine sugar (or regular sugar that you ran through

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan.  Heat on medium, stirring every so often, until all the sugar is dissolved.  Bring it to a simmer, but not to a boil, then remove it from the heat.  
Pour in the cranberries and stir to coat.  Pour the whole mixture into a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or 8 hours, or in my case, about 24 hours because I didn't get around to the next part until then).

Drain the cranberries.  Bonus: save the water and use it as a holiday sweetener in cocktails, coffee, etc!  Easy and delicious cranberry simple syrup.

Pour the superfine sugar onto a plate and roll the cranberries through it a few at a time.  Place them on a baking sheet to dry at room temperature for about an hour.  

Then pour into a pretty bowl and enjoy!  If you can keep from eating them all first.  They have a perfect, crisp little pop when you bit into them, and a delightful combination of sweet and tart.  I can't get enough.

In fact, I think I'll go have a few now.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

With New Eyes

Jonathan and I spent Thanksgiving this year on a last-minute trip back to Boston, to visit his family.  As we drove down the main street of his town, I found myself seeing things with new eyes.  It's one of my favorite things to do when things start to seem ordinary--to remember what it all looked like the first time I saw it, before everything got dusty and average in my mind.

I remember the first time I was in Norwood.  I mentioned it a few posts back, how we drove at midnight down the silent streets, lit up in an array of white Christmas lights, a little town, its little square, very quaint and New England.  When I first saw it, it was beautiful.  There's the big Catholic church in the square next to old bars and ice cream shops.  The local bridal shop where I tried on the bridesmaid dress for my sister-in-law's wedding.  The breakfast diner that Jonathan has been frequenting since he was two (the same waitress still works there). When we were first dating, he used to love to drive me past his old high school, so proud that they were renovating it.  We spent a few minutes one starry night trespassing on the football field where he used to play drums in the band.  It is small town America to me, and nothing like where I grew up.  To be real, it's suburbia--it's not like there's one dirt road and a stoplight.  But something about that New England spirit is sowed deep in the ground there, somewhere between the Dunkin' Donuts and the Friendly's, past the little cape-style houses, down the commuter rail tracks behind the middle school.  
I joke that my husband is the definition of a townie, but it's something I love about him.  It took a lot of courage for him to move across the country on this adventure, and he's paid for it in homesickness already.  But it has been worth it, and does make it all the sweeter when we can go back to the frigid air and familiar sights of home.  We can see things in a new way because we've missed them for a few months.  

All that to say, I want to remember to look at things with fresh eyes more this season, especially with Christmas approaching.  Can I remember what a lit Christmas tree looked like to me when I was a little girl, still full of easy joy and belief?  Can I choose to remember what I loved about my job when I first started working there, before the drudgery set in?   Driving around Tempe, this place can seem like Anywhere, USA.  But if I choose to really look, I see the palm trees.  They were one of the first things I remember marveling at when we landed here.  And it reminds me that this is an extraordinary place full of beauty and new life.  Seeing with new eyes is more than just imagination.  It's choosing to remember what is still bright and beautiful about the world in front of me.

Choose to see something with new eyes today--and enjoy!

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