Merry Mellow Christmas

Dear Friends,

Merry Christmas! Twenty-twelve is drawing to a close. The clock struck midnight not too long ago, and Homebrew Husband and I donned our Santa hats and crept down the stairs to place a decidedly modest stack of presents under the tree.

This has been the most mellow holiday season on record at our house. My parents will be joining us for dinner tonight and I’m cooking a simple meal of roast beef, potatoes from the garden and black forest cake. Beef and potatoes, step one: put in oven. Step two: eat. See, simple.

The cake is one of those looks-fancy-but-isn’t deals. I made a chocolate genoise a few days ago and popped it in the freezer, and the cherries were canned back in July so really it’s just an assembly job. Cake, cherries, whipped cream, repeat. My mom is bringing a salad. Simple. Everything feels really simple and I love it.

We barely have presents for anyone. Nick turned to me yesterday and said, “So, I really, truly don’t have anything for you for on Christmas.” “Good!” I replied, “I don’t have anything for you either.” And that feels peaceful to me. There is nothing we particularly want, and so shoehorning in giving just for the sake of doing it would be another thing to juggle. Opting out to the degree we want – giving ourselves permission to opt out – that’s been the biggest gift this year.

My husband and kids spent a good portion of the day playing on the floor with legos. I’ve been writing. It’s been lovely and mellow. The floor needs scrubbing and the pots need washing and the laundry – let’s just not talk about the laundry. But for some reason none of it bothers me. It’s Christmas and for the first time in memory, I actually feel relaxed, like, “Hey, I’m here, this is my home, mess and all. There are my kids. It’s so wonderful to see you. No really, I mean that. Come in, sit down, have wine.”

You know that saying, “the simple life”? I hear that thrown around a lot in connection to the kind of productive homekeeping activities I participate in: cooking from scratch, gardening, chicken-keeping, etc. I’m not sure who came up with that phrase, but it sure wasn’t a woman in the middle of an August canning session.

Here, surrounded by my family, scaling down Christmas to a level that works for us, I feel like maybe I’ve touched the simple life, and it’s lovely.

Thank you so much for being part of this community over the past year. As regular readers know, the second half of 2012 wasn’t the most fun for me. There were a few weeks of infrequent posts, and you’ve hung tight as my mind and writings have wandered to and fro and sometimes away from the garden. (But don’t worry, I’m heading back there – I can feel it deep in my seed-catalog-carousing bones.) Thank you for that. I’m tremendously grateful and appreciative to have such a supportive readership.

I’m clocking off now and I’ll be offline though the first week in January to enjoy this quiet mellow holiday. I’ll be back the week of  January 7th and I hope to see you then.

I wish you all peace, health and happiness in 2013. May all your tomatoes ripen, may every slug get lost on the way to your garden. May the rain be gentle but not continuous (Seattle folks, you know what I’m talking about). May your chickens eat cutworms and not chard, and may your soil be always free draining yet moisture retentive.

Happy gardening, Merry Christmas, and a very, very happy New Year.

Bring on Twenty-thirteen. I’m ready.




  1. Kenneth says

    The simple, frugal life is so much better. But you knew that already. People around me are so stressed out. They don’t have to be – the choice is theirs. Do your canning because you want to, not because you have to.

    Merry Christmas, Erica!

  2. says

    Merry Christmas to you, too! We’ve simplified Christmas here as well, and will be spending the day reading, eating delicious food, and just generally taking it easy – sounds wonderful.

    All the best to you and your family!

  3. says

    Simplicity is key. I am so glad you are feeling at peace with it….We chose a long time ago to forgo gift giving except on birthdays (the hubs and I exchange a few things for anniversary and solstices)…It was hard at first and sometimes uncomfortable to arrive with homemade jellies or candy instead of store-bought-glossy-beribboned gifts for everyone and their dog. Now, we are at peace with our decision to steer clear of consumerism and instead focus on food, family, and friends. Welcome to the tribe!

  4. says

    Thank YOU for such an informative and great blog. Really do appreciate it. Merry Christmas to you and your family and looking forward to 2013 blogging!!

  5. Rachel S. says

    We’re enjoying our first truly mellow Christmas too. It feels oddly wonderful. Wishing you and your family a wonderful new year!

  6. queenofstring says

    Pretty relaxed here. Very, very happy to be eating our own vegetables with our xmas dinner. Chocolate pate for dessert, just a tiny bit of something tasty as we’ll all be too full for proper pudding. Lovely husband and I stopped buying for each other 2 yrs ago, brilliant move, took all the stress out of trying to find the “perfect” gift for someone who didnt need anything. We do still buy each other a card, which feels very meaningful. This year I changed that a bit to buy him a vintage book, which I will put a personal greeting in. I like the one I found particularly as it already has a dedication in it from when it was first gifted in 1933! SImple is defintely better.

  7. Andrea says

    Lots of love to you all, this Christmas & New Year! My older children seemed to be really thrilled with their hand knitted gifts (eldest daughter put on hers & continued to wear all day). Youngest played Lego (with me) and my husband made our festive meal. Just love Lego! We too, have had a contented, simple day.
    Happy Christmas,

  8. dixiebelle says

    Blessings to you and your family, Erica and Nick. I hope the coming year brings you many wonderful times, and the strength the handle the not-so-wonderful. Thank you for your generosity, your educational and highly entertaining posts, your time and energy spent nurturing this community. I really appreciate it. On to amazing things in 2013, I think, for you guys!

  9. says

    Young lady, you are a light to anyone who is trying to keep up with god-knows-what and yet are feeling trapped and unhappy. I hope everyone in that spot finds their way to your blog and learns that life can be so wonderfully different. This year is our first really mellow Christmas as well, although we’re older. At first it was upsetting; I was kicking around kind of lost thinking I should be ______ fill in the blank! And then I started to think instead I’m liking this lack of busyness- this peacefulness, and that’s just what it is. It’s peacefulness. I’ll join the others in wishing you and your family a Peaceful Christmas Season and a Joyous, Prosperous New Year.

  10. says

    Merry Christmas to you! Thank you for the gift of this blog. Your work has brought my family so many gifts, in the forms of meals!

    We also chose to have a mellow Christmas. My husband and I only had one food treat in our stockings and no presents at all. Our children got gifts, but only from family. The few from us were art supplies that needed restocking. We ordered some Legos for them, but they didn’t arrive in time. The boys were so happy without them, we’re going to return them and put the cash towards birthdays instead. I’m thankful for the tardiness and reminder that simpler is better.

    We played a lot. Ate well but simply. It was really great.

    Thanks again!

  11. says

    Blessed Be to you and yours. It sounds like you are in a great space. I used to enjoy Boxing Day most of all. Christmas had been accomplished, the kids were busy with new toys, there was leftovers to eat, the pressure was off. Now we start with scaling the whole thing down to start with. I am just NOT getting sucked in. We had a nice dinner with a neighbour/friend, her place. Before that we just hung out with Messiah on the radio and I sent electronic cards around, since I never did get the paper ones together. And I saw Steve Solomon’s new book is out, promptly ordered it. Now for the soil tests. Hope to see you garden and write with two good eyes in 2013.

  12. Tiff says

    Erica, being able to travel along with you learning, cursing, celebrating and crying has been a joy. I truly wish for a mellow and love filled 2013 to you and your family and ALL of you crazy dirt worshipers that spend time like me reading this awesome blog. Happy Holidays, tiff

  13. says

    My husband and I chose not to exchange gifts this year and, for me, it was the most wonderful gift of all–it made the whole holiday much more enjoyable and relaxed for me. Our gifts to our children and relatives were decidedly scaled back and for the first time in ages I was able to sit back and enjoy watching them open their gifts. So glad I found your blog earlier this year; Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  14. Myra says

    Wow – mine – was much like yours. It’s grand. We are happy and contented. I bought almost nothing, and got very little – I hate to feed the “stuff” monster, so didn’t, for a change! Our dinner was for 6 – our 2 (barely-grown) kids came from Seattle over here to Bainbridge, and my husband’s parents from Kingston. I made one side dish (easy broccoli cheese casserole), picked up some Macrena rolls, and had a ham out of the freezer left over from my last local side of pork order. You never know what goodies are lurking in your chest freezer until you do a little excavating. My M-I-L brought a side of yams. The only thing I spent time on was the chocolate, banana cream pecan pie, out of the new Tom Douglas cookbook – yum, it was worth every minute. The “kids” loved their stockings, filed with chocolate, nuts, tangerines, teas, and even supplements! My daughter posted a picture on facebook, “here is my hippie mothers stocking to me.” I took it as the complement it was intended to be :-) I bought my husband nothing, he got me a couple of cookbooks, but thats nothing new, he gets me them every month, at least!

    • says

      I received that cookbook from my parents for Christmas! I’ve been reading it for 24 hours more or less straight and I love it. Tom Douglas has perfected the art of making food people really, really want to eat!

    • Myra says

      correction – cookbooks were – one about preserving the harvest in small batches, (paraphrased) and the other was a farm to table cookbook from our local organization Friends of the Farm. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Erica, glad to have you as a “friend”

  15. says

    I’ve always though Bilbo said it best.

    “there are some to whom our ways seem quaint, but today of all days it is brought home to me that it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life” -Bilbo Baggins

  16. says

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, you guys! Sounds like you had a lovely holiday (and I saw that cake on FB–looked stunning!) Kevin and I exchanged only stocking gifts this year–no presents under the tree for either of us, just for the kids, and that was a first. Felt great. Now I’m busy filling in my NW Edible 2013 garden planner and thinking about seeds. :) Enjoy your mellow time off!

  17. says

    I know the feeling… I just wrote about how ours was so low key I almost wondered if the holiday were even happening? One gift for each of us, which we didn’t plan but worked out perfectly… and besides, we don’t need anything and are trying really hard to pare down some of our excess, so why add more? It was nice though… no stress, and the fella said it was one of his favorites ever- just the two of us and the dog, a simple dinner and a cozy fire. Hope your break and New Year are restful and productive… I enjoy your writing and look forward to more! Cheers,

  18. Jeanne says

    We have always had mellow Christmases, but this year we skipped it altogether! We are now in Japan, visiting Hubby-san’s family. It is the last time in a long time we will be able to visit as a family, and his parents are getting very old. There is a sense of this being the Last Hoorah, and it has been so very good to spend time with family–grandparents, aunts, uncles, Hubby-san’s siblings, their kids and grandkids. My children have commented on not missing all the Christmas rush that other family’s experience, and even not really missing Christmas at all this year. Family is where it’s at! (All the wonderful food doesn’t hurt, either. :-) )

  19. says

    Merry Christmas! Our Christmas was also more scaled down on the present front this year. I made friendship bracelets for my husband and the kids, and shortbread for the rest of the family. There were fewer gifts under the tree but still plenty, and the kids had made their own presents for everyone – they enjoyed giving as much as, if not more than, receiving.

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