Friday, November 26, 2010

Making memories and passing on traditions

We shared our Thanksgiving meal with some friends and neighbors this year.  We really enjoyed the fellowship.  We contributed to the meal as well, but it wasn't exactly the same as doing the whole thing in our kitchen.  I really wanted to make sure I had a chance to pass down our own traditions to my girls, so we decided to celebrate again, today....the day after Thanksgiving. 

Yesterday we made our traditional "dressin'' which starts with a whole baked hen in the oven.  Meredith learned how to crumble the cornbread, add the eggs, and add the stock until "it looks right".  No measuring...just making it look right.  We also tasted (prior to the eggs, of course) to make sure there was enough seasoning, enough onions and enough crunch of the celery.  She then learned the proper way to mix it all up....with your hands.  So fun....and no spoon needed.  It is quite therapeutic actually.  She even learned how to add a couple of pieces of loaf bread by putting them under the faucet to wet them and squeeze those and add to the mixture.  Lots and lots of "hands in" activity!  It will take a few more times of doing this for her to actually get this on her own, but she is well on her way at 11 years old.  Never too early to learn to make dressing.

Today we moved on to the girls' favorite things.  Janey is sadly a potato girl.  She could live on mashed potatoes.  So today she peeled them all!!!  It is time for her to learn how much work goes into those taters!  It took her quite awhile, but she did a great job with the potato peeler.  After they were done, she did the honors of mashing them.....but as is our family tradition, there must be the appropriate amount of lumps still in those taters!  She also made the gravy.  This year I used a simple packet, but plan to teach her to make it from scratch soon. 

Meredith was in charge of the deviled eggs and sweet potatoes.  She cut all the eggs and mixed the yolks with mayo and mustard until it was "the right color of yellow" as my Mother says.  I'll never forget the first Thanksgiving that Brad and I spent alone and I was trying to make Mother's potato salad.  I didn't know how much mustard to add, so I had him call her for me and ask her.  She told him "until it's the right color of yellow".....and that totally blew his mind.  I knew what she meant.  So Meredith mixed all her ingredients without measuring...because there really aren't just needs to be the right consistency, the right "color of yellow" and taste great!  She did an awesome job.  She used the little cookie dough scoop to fill them and we thoroughly enjoyed them.  She asked me while we were cooking why they were called deviled eggs.  According to many sources, the term deviled eggs was first seen in print in 1786 in the Oxford Dictionary in reference to cooking.  You can follow my link to read about it.  We learned quite a bit!

Next Meredith made sweet potato casserole.  We even used Splenda in place of the white sugar so we could save a few calories.  She used the hand mixer and made the potatoes and then the topping of pecans, brown sugar (no substitutions there, though), flour and butter.  It was quite tasty as well.

There were other dishes---broccoli and craisin salad, rolls, cranberry sauce that looks like the can (read my last post), roasted chicken, and of course iced tea!  What a fun day.  All three girls in the kitchen.  Brad has a bad cold and so he was very happy to eat and then be sent back to the sofa for the football game while I allowed the girls the wonderful pleasure of cleaning up after the meal.  (There are perks to them getting older and learning to cook!)

Happy Thanksgiving!!  I am truly happy.  I am loving being a mother and teaching my girls to love others, love the Lord, respect their elders, have manners, not just be grateful....but show it and say it, and passing on memories and traditions that I hope they will never forget.  I have enjoyed talking to them about our family and our relatives and how I learned to do these things.  I love sharing stories about our family and making sure they have a tight connection to their roots. 

As we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade yesterday, they decorated the tree and commented on all their homemade ornaments, remembering when and where they made them.  They decorated the house with all our trinkets and fixed them just like they wanted them.  They set out the manger scene and made sure everything was placed "just right" in their minds of how it might have been the night Jesus was born.  The fire was on and the Lucy (the cat) was watching.  Such a simple scene brought me such pleasure.  I am very thankful to be alive and to have such a precious family. 

Now.....where are those leftovers?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving, rotten fruit, and the real Santa Claus

Freeze!  Time out!  That is what Thanksgiving is more and more as the years go by.  It is a pit stop in the middle of a race through the December.  The nature of my job makes December extra busy beyond the normal busyness.  But, I enjoy sharing about God's gift to the world through music during this time of year.  Some of the most beautiful music is Christmas music and Advent music.  Thanksgiving comes at just the right time.....time to take a time out and yell  "Freeze!" much like we did when we were kids.  It also brings back lots of memories.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  

I bought some clementines at the grocery store this past weekend.  I love oranges and tangerines.  I grew up in Florida and was spoiled to have about six orange trees, two grapefruit trees, and one tangerine tree right in my backyard.  Of course while I was growing up I didn't realize how lucky I was.  It was hard to count myself "blessed" when I had to go around the backyard every Saturday with a heavy duty black trash bag and pick up all the rotten fruit that fell to the ground.  The longer you waited to pick it up, the mushier it became.  I would reach under the tree and pick up a piece of fruit, only to have my fingers go straight through the rind.  Yeah...yuck and "ewwww" is right.  But as I sit here and eat my little clementine, I remember coming home from school and my mother cutting a whole in the top on an orange picked right off the tree so I could squeeze and suck the juice out of it.  I also remember my Daddy getting up on Saturday mornings, or on special occasions and squeezing a gallon of fresh orange juice with the pulp still in it.  Mmmm.  Nothing like fresh squeezed juice.  Now as I go to the store and look at the citrus, I have a very hard time buying any.  I do every now and then because I crave it...but it is never quite as delicious as it was at home.

I also have such fond memories about Thanksgiving growing up.  It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  The T.V. doesn't budge from the parade channel until I see him.  He's the real one, you know.  All those other Santa's out there are fake.  But the Santa in the Macy's parade is the real deal....the big guy.  I love watching all the dancers, the singers, and the helium balloons.  Sadly, the performers over the years from the "pop" world aren't as good as they used to be, but I still look for Kermit, and some of my favorite "non-human" performers.  I always laugh at the hundreds of John Jacobson "show choir" singers and dancers, and I love the Rockettes.  

Our family has it's favorite additions to the meal.  We have the best dressin' in the world that my Mother has always made and now I make it for my family.  We also love deviled eggs, sweet potato pie, and lots of other things.  One thing we always laugh about is our preference for the cranberry sauce....the kind that comes in a can.....with no berries.  The jellied cranberry sauce that looks like the can when it comes out and makes that special sound when it releases from the can...."thhhhhhhhlop".   Yes, I know people make home made cranberry sauce and have special recipes, etc...but I just have a special love affair with good old Ocean Spray.  :)  It's also a lot less stressful!

Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without a nice long nap.  I think I am really looking forward to that the most.  It's nippy here in North Carolina.  I have the fire going.  I'm lonesome for my family.  I have lots of great memories in my mind that will keep me company.    Comfort.  That is what Thanksgiving is.  Pure comfort.  Time to "freeze"....time to reflect....time to count my many blessings and praise my heavenly Father for his never-ending love.  I am spoiled.  Truly spoiled by Jesus.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Embracing my place

I am feeling a bit reflective today.  It is lunchtime and I usually rush through lunch....which leads to either indigestion or just plain feeling yucky.  Today I decided to write a little and "journal" here during my lunch break.  Sometimes journaling is the only way to get the thoughts out of the head so I can move on to the issues of the day. 

We had a death in our family this past week and our weekend was filled with the details surrounding the funeral and such.  I am so thankful that even though the events were very sad, I was able to spend some time with my parents that I would not have been able to due to the schedule of every day life.  We had a nice visit amidst the hurried events of the week and weekend.  I enjoy hearing all about what they are doing and about people I know from my hometown.  I think one of the things I am missing a lot these days is living among my "history".  I am envious of those who are raising their families among the people who raised them.....parents, church family, friends, neighbors, old teachers, etc...It is so neat to see people raising their families in the place where they were raised.   They are bringing their children up in the church they were baptized in.  Sometimes I get stuck in the "wishing well" of thoughts about that.  I wish I had my old friends around.  I wish my children could grow up knowing their kids. I have been looking at pictures that make me long to be connected.  I guess it isn't meant for me to be connected with those lives as much as I would like to.  I see their events and snapshots and wish I was there in the picture, too.  I wish I had the familiar feeling of being around people I have known all my life and who have known me since I was a child.  It's the "Mayberry" that I've always dreamed of having. 

God has other plans for me, I suppose.  I am ready to embrace those plans and embrace my place.  I want to have deep relationships.  I find that hard in this day and age.  No one can stand or sit still long enough to listen.  I often feel as if I'm keeping someone from something if I talk about my own life.  I also wonder if people will actually remember what we've talked about.  There are a few people in my life who really listen.  I am so appreciative and thankful for them.  I want to be a good listener.  I think it's important to listen and follow up so people know they are loved and thought about and "heard".  Those are important building materials in a relationship.

While I've been dreaming of yesterday, God has shown me that I am missing out on so much joy today.  One of my girls awakens very cheerfully each day, while the other one tends to greet the morning with a scowl and a groan.  The morning scrooge has become quite unpleasant to be around in the mornings and tends to lean toward the "mean" side of the street until she's had her breakfast.  In order to remind her to begin her day on the right foot, we started waking our girls up every morning with Psalm 118:24.  We say, "This is the day the Lord has made"...and they are to respond (cheerfully, I might add) "Let us rejoice and be glad in it."  The first few days each of them responded enthusiastically.  After all, it was a "new game" in their minds.  After about three days, the "new" wore off.  My morning scrooge gritted her teeth on day four and responded with venom.  Cheerful child overheard and responded with sugar dripping from her lips.  We got quite the chuckle over that morning.  Thinking about the "game" we play with our morning words reminds me that I don't live out the scripture I have challenged my children with.  I do not live each day with joy because God made it and has a plan....already planned.....already in motion.....a perfect and beautiful plan.  I need to join in His masterful symphony.  I wonder what beautiful passages I have missed....what solos, duets and exciting cadenzas that have gone unplayed because I have been sorting through my 8-tracks with nothing to play them on. 

I am ready to embrace my place. 

"This is the day that the Lord has made."   I will rejoice and be glad in it.