I did it. I made it through the holidays. I survived. Do you feel like this every year, too? No matter what, there is always SOMETHING lurking that could send it all spinning out of control.  And when you have finally navigated the garland-draped, glitter-covered, gift-littered obstacle course it feels like you should get a gold star–and a stiff drink–for the accomplishment.

Stockings hung
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

This year, I found it particularly hard to get into the holiday spirit.  I’m a northerner—I need cold weather at Christmas!. I realize I sound like I’m whining (and I am) when I say “But it’s going to be 68 degrees here on Christmas!!” Now, I realize that everyone who hates snow and cold weather is yelling at me through the computer screen. But I love my 4 distinct seasons, and with that comes winter, kids. Get over it. (I know, keep throwing obscenities my way.)

Second, I tried not to reflect on the last couple Christmases. They were kind of hijacked, and strayed from the normal holiday plans. 2 years ago, I was 1 month post-broken ankle and couldn’t travel as planned. Last year, my in-laws had a house fire 2 weeks prior to Christmas (everyone was safe, btw), so we were not in normal “Christmas mode” as we dealt with the ensuing issues that come with an unexpected event like that.

And so this time around as I planned for my parents and brother to visit, and proceeded to coordinate to get us together with the in-laws, this year the minor setback was a nasty head and chest cold. Everyone seems to have had some version of this creeping crud, and sadly I was not immune. That took me out for a good week, which meant that all of the pre-cooking and sweet-treat baking was put on hold. I admit that my lapsed-Catholic guilt weighed heavy as I realized that while I was trying to make everyone else happy for the holiday, I was also going to miss out on some of the things I normally crave at that time of year. Whoa is me. Poor, pitiful, me.

Pomanders unfinished
For the cookies that didn’t make it…

And then I had an epiphany about 24 hours before my family arrived: if we have each other, and of course good food, we’re golden! If it’s not what was originally planned, so what? Go with the new plan! It’s not “perfect”? Get over it! Embrace “good enough” and move on with the new reality.

So when everyone arrived, I announced that this was the “go with the flow” Christmas. Or as my husband put it, a “Patton Christmas” (he’s obsessed with General George S. Patton). Apparently, a well-known quote from Patton is “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.” That was all I needed to hear.  That became our official holiday theme.

Christmas Lasagna
Lasagna to the rescue!

When everyone got here, we jumped into our traditions (lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner!), and other food comforts that complete the expected holiday feelings of nostalgia. Even though everything started as “good enough”, we had a great weekend of relaxing, cooking (which is relaxing for a dork like me), and visiting with family, which is the most important part of the holiday anyway.

And wine. We had wine. That’s an important part of “going with the flow”, too, right?

Wine Rack
Ready to go with the flow

When I was growing up, Christmas morning wasn’t just about what was under the tree. It was about the great smells and tastes that came once the gifts had been torn into, and the living room looked like a piñata full of paper, bows and ribbons had exploded. As we settled in to see what Santa had brought, my mom would sneak into the kitchen and get things into the oven. The house would soon smell of cloves, ginger, cinnamon—all the spices of the holiday.

Coffee Cake
Secret Family Recipe Coffee Cake

The two things in particular that were always waiting were my grandmother’s coffee cake recipe (sorry, that’s a family secret—I’m not sharing that one!) and Raisin Bran Muffins. Now, I realize that the muffins sound like health food, but as a kid we didn’t care that the bran was good for us, or that the raisins were actually dried fruit. It was just GOOD. Since the batter is made the night prior, it makes popping these babies in the oven in the morning super easy. And luckily, this recipe makes a TON of muffins, so freezing them and enjoying them when the holiday rush is over is just as easy.

Raisin Bran Muffins
Raisin Bran Muffins


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