Saturday, December 21, 2013

Practical Holiday Dish Art

My mornings are typically filled with reading and writing, so turning on the morning news a few days ago was a household anomaly. However, I had a hair appointment scheduled that day and did not have a lot of time. So, after reading the paper, I decided to flip on the television for a few minutes while I finished my coffee.

Mrs. Happy Homemaker was making a guest appearance on our local morning news show. A year ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of attempting any of the cute, fun holiday crafts she cheerfully demonstrated. But I've been at this stay-at-home-mom thing for a year now and have been exploring the crafty side of my personality. I was particularly interested in Mrs. Happy Homemaker's edible peppermint dishes. I was already planning to bring homemade bread and some goat cheese to a holiday party. Why not make a peppermint dish for the cheese?

While shopping, I picked up two rolls of goat cheese, so I was going to need two elongated peppermint plates. For my first try, I thought they turned out quite nicely.

Edible holiday dishes | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare

Goat cheese rolled in a mixture of chopped cranberries, almonds, and fresh rosemary looks much more festive on a peppermint plate, don't you think?

Cheese log on peppermint plate | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare

Not since I was a child watching my Shrinky Dinks bake in Mom's kitchen have I had so much fun sitting in front of an oven window. After making the cheese plates, I had to do more. I needed a matching platter for the cranberry cheddar bread I baked a day earlier. The only reason I even bought the cheese was to have something to spread on slices of the bread.

The bread platter was going to be a bigger project. I wanted to make it even more festive, but it still had to match my cheese roll plates. As I paced around the house, I turned to our decorated Frazier fir for inspiration. Candy canes! Of course!

It took a bit more time and patience to create the platter. But after painstakingly lining up my candy canes and mints just so, Hubby and I were as giddy as three-year-olds as we sat on the floor for 7-10 minutes. We actually laughed out loud and clapped when our candy melted into a piece of sweet, edible, practical art.

Candy cane mint platter | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare

Thank you, Mrs. Happy Homemaker, for sharing your secret to inexpensive, festive, edible, holiday dish ware that is perfect for covered dish parties—my platter cost much less than the foil containers in which I typically wrap my bring-along appetizers. And thank you also for the precious moments Hubby and I spent on our kitchen floor, giggling and staring into the glowing oven as our candy magically morphed into shiny serving plates.

Happy Holiday Covered Dish Parties!

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at)
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Merry Christmas Spirit

The date of His birth is irrelevant | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
It matters only that He was born (not when)
& how we share the Spirit of Christmas.
What's In A Date?
There are some who nitpick about how Jesus' birth had to have taken place in September or another month and date other than a cold December day nestled in the first week of winter. But I am glad we celebrate Christmas in December. First, I can't think of a better time of year than the beginning of the coldest season filled with hardships such high heating costs, surges in illness, and lack of warm sunshine to celebrate generosity, kindness of heart, and empathy toward the human plight. People reach out during the holiday season. And those who need a helping hand need it most during the unforgiving season of winter.

Let Mary and Jesus keep close in their own hearts the actual date of his birth to cherish in private. Let us mark the day during which the memory of His birth can have a deeper, more profound impact on the people He serves. Let those who would serve Him continue His charitable works. And let us all be inspired to live by such examples.

The story of the businessman who anonymously gives away $100 bills during December is one such amazing and inspiring example. Reading it inspired me to share more examples of the Spirit of Christmas as it wandered into my heart this year.
Secret Santa efforts spread the Spirit | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Secret Santa work helps evoke
and spread the Christmas Spirit

Save It Forward
While Christmas shopping with my mom this past week, I was standing in the checkout line of a large store. A woman who had just finished paying for her things turned around and handed me a stack of coupons. "Would you like to use these coupons?" I was shocked as I took the pieces of paper. Most were expired, but there was one that had a January 2014 expiration date.

At the register, I handed over the one good coupon, and then handed the rest of the stack to the cashier to throw away. He explained that the store was not honoring expiration dates. Then he added that I could use two and handed the unused coupons back to me. I was pleasantly shocked and surprised. I then turned toward the next person in the checkout line and handed the rest of the unused coupons to her.

When I rest my head on my pillow at night, I imagine the coupon stack getting smaller and smaller as it makes its way through the line of shoppers, saving folks money, spreading Holiday Spirit, and inspiring others to be kind to and share with strangers.

Under-indulge & Over Tip
It's no secret that I carry a more cynical heart than most. So, I'm sure this next episode was inspired by my earlier coupon experience. This story involves my son and me casually eating out as we do most Mondays when Hubby is scheduled to work the late shift. That evening, our server greeted us with a shrill voice. My son cringed as he wondered how we'd get through the meal listening to her. While I agreed the initial sound was off-putting, I suggested she might be nervous. Also, she looked sweet and seemed to be working diligently.

As the evening went on, her voice calmed down. We found out it actually was her first week as a server. She was attentive, patient, and kind. A strong desire to forego beverages, I selecting water instead, and choose a modest meal overtook me. My son followed my example and ordered lightly, as well. We then said no to a final course, even though my son had already selected a chocolatey-rich dessert while we were waiting for our food. When I received the bill, which was much lower than usual, I made up the difference with the tip.

The tip ended up being about 50 percent of the total. Our server deserved every dime. During this season of overindulgence, it felt liberating to cut back on our own indulgences and share some of our blessings with someone who works as hard as anyone and probably much harder than most.

Spread the Spirit
Many of us will never have $100,000 a year to hand out to strangers in need. But there are lots of great kindnesses that can be and are shared during the holiday season and into the New Year. No, Jesus was probably not born on December 25. But I certainly am comforted knowing I live in a world in which the warmth of human goodness is stoked in our hearts during an otherwise dismal time of year.

I hope you will share your heartwarming Spirit of Christmas stories with me via email or in the comments section below.

Merry Christmas Spirit to you and yours!

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at)
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare