Simple Season

It’s crazy out there.

P1020314.JPGAt the time of year when we in the north country are inclined to hibernate, rest, and dream, we are galloping from pillar to post in a frenzy. We are spending money we don’t have buying things for people who need nothing. We are going to parties. We are baking, wrapping, decorating… I recognize that there are people who thrive on this kind of activity, but many of us feel exhausted by it.

The holiday season is hard for many of us. A number of my friends are facing their first or second holiday season without a loved one. They are at a loss for how to approach it – do the same things they’ve always done or try something completely new? Either way, it’s excruciating. Others are entering into the season as a divorced person, juggling a new world of new logistics with children and extended family. Several friends are living with serious health challenges that are drastically altering their daily lives and hopes for the future. Others are short of money or estranged from family. These things are challenging enough any time of year, but the holidays intensify the losses.

I’ve had a lot of rough holidays myself. A marriage blew up one year. I was sunk in deep depression another. And I can’t number how many times I caught some dreadful bug (no doubt at one of those innumerable social gatherings…) and spent the holidays alone and sick in bed while imagining all of my friends enjoying their Normal Rockwell holidays. Those experiences taught me a great deal. I’ve learned that it’s possible to be alone on Christmas and have a very good day. As my mother wisely quipped once, “It’s just another day.”

This year I started something new. I put a pair of warm socks, a good granola bar, a few bucks, some lotion, and a few pieces of candy in a Ziploc bag. I carry the bags in my car to hand out to folks living on the street. It feels right to give gifts to people who really need something.

So here’s my recipe for a fine holiday season: Don’t go nuts, make nuts!

Barbara’s Miracle Almonds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

1 cup real maple syrup (no fake stuff…..)
4 T. butter (1/2 stick)
2 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder
6 cups raw almonds

Melt the butter, maple syrup and 5-spice powder over low heat until it’s combined. Pour the melted stuff over the nuts and stir until they are coated.

Put a piece of aluminum foil over a cookie sheet with edges.   Spread half of the coated nuts in a single layer and pop them into the oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes.

Gently stir the nuts around a bit, being careful not to disturb the foil if you can. Pop them back in for 10 more minutes OR SO. These burn quickly, so keep watch to make sure the nuts stay toasty brown and not wicked black….unless you like them like that.

I did without the foil for years and spent a lot of time scrubbing even the non-stick surface. This way, you can make lots of batches with only one pan. Just allow the batch to cool for a few minutes, then pick the whole thing up and put it on a platter. Put the next sheet of foil down on the cookie sheet and you’re ready for the next round.

Here’s one more gift for you – my holiday song “Simple Season.” Light a candle, make some almonds, and enjoy a moment of sweet respite!

I’m calling you for a reason to wish you a simple season and hope this time of darkness brings you lightness of heart.

Here’s a link to the song –


About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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2 Responses to Simple Season

  1. Helen Gibson says:

    Thank You Barbara! Stunningly beautiful. It put a quite smile on my face and a friendly warmth in my heart.

  2. Ahhhhh…. thank you (finally had time to read this).

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