Monday, November 19, 2012

Thinking Thankfully

Another Thanksgiving is rounding the corner once more, giving us all another chance to be still for a moment and reflect. To think. To thank. Together.

At our house, as I've already mentioned, Turkey Tom shares real estate with Saint Nick and manger scenes, but we appreciate him nonetheless.

This thoughtfulness in mind, I asked the girls today what they were thankful for.

Caedance is thankful for our dinners--be they large or small, well planned out and presented with care, or thrown somewhat haphazardly on the plate a la Hectic Mom, whether eaten at the table with family, or picnic style on the floor with a family movie. She's thankful for them. She appreciates them, and is aware that not every one has the blessing of knowing a meal is coming every evening.

"I'm actually quite thankful for what we have for dinner every night, Mother. I feel bad for those who don't have that."

I love her heart.

Last week we visited a local food bank and took a tour around the huge facility, hearing about their programs and how they help our community every day of the year. Both girls are eager to volunteer and do what they can to help out.

Ashlyn is thankful for her family. "I love the fun we have together, Mama. I love that you all take care of me and make sure I'm okay. I love that you love me. I love you."

Did you read that first line? She has fun when we're together. All of us. The weight of those words is precious to me. How many times have I been tempted to get a few more loads of laundry folded, or wash some more dishes, or put some stuff away, rather than sit and be engaged in whatever activity we were doing? The pull of those Adult Responsibilities can be strong and hard to ignore; there is always something else that needs to be done. Urgently. But I try, I really do, to stay those whispers of work left undone to just sit in the moment and be with my family. Playing  game. Watching a movie. Reading a book. Talking. I try to be part of whatever present we are in rather than bowing out to my To Do list.

And she sees that. They both see that. That sentence is proof that my children see this sacrifice, this giving of my undivided time and appreciate it. And they have FUN when we're together.

I love that. Very much.

As for me, well, I'm thankful for each of them. Their differences make them as unique as their similarities do. I have been blessed by the good days of raising and schooling them, and the tough days as well. There is always something to learn when you're around kids all day. They are a mirror held up to my face, pointing out my own strengths and weaknesses and giving me an opportunity to either grow and flourish, or stay the same and wither.

This may seem cliche', but they make me a better person in every way imaginable.

And I am thankful for that too.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Early Christmas

Today I come to this post with a Cyber Declaration of sorts. Here it goes:

It's November 9th and I already have Christmas decorations up. What's more is...I am proud to say it. And once and for all I shall declare it loudly: I Decorate Early For Christmas. So take that.

For years I've hid my early-Christmas glee in the shadows, decorating only the back part of our house so that no one driving by our house could possibly spy the merry twinkle of multi-color lights coming from the family room. It was just our little (dirty) secret. No one need ever know.

But the simple fact of the matter is, come November 1st, I'm ready to give orange and black the old heave-ho, ready to unroll the holly and deck the halls.

Now I know you might be chastising me about rushing through Thanksgiving and all that, but let me tell you right up front that, in my mind, these two holidays go together perfectly. Hand in hand.

Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate our blessings; to gather with family and friends and cherish the memories we've shared in the past, while building new ones for the future. It's a day set aside to just enjoy what you have and not worry about the rest of it. For one whole day.

Here's the thing, for me that defines Christmas too. Only it's not just a day---a set of 24 hours. It's an entire Season to reflect on blessings and family and friends. A time to be grateful. Forgiving. Kind.

For all the materialism that Christmas has gathered around it throughout the years, the commercialism that vies greedily for the spotlight rather than sharing it with a silhouette of a simple manager, I still find it to be a time of being thankful.

Honestly, come All-Saints Day, I'm ready for a change in pace and attitude, aren't you? I'm ready to think candy canes and reindeer; twinkle lights and evergreens. Songs that sing of peace and love, of kindness and generosity, of hope and truth, just have a way of uniting us all amidst our differences. For this one time of the year, it seems, people are okay with the things that set us apart. It's like we can all agree to disagree and be together as mankind.

I like that.

And sometimes it seems a long trek from one December to another, doesn't it?

Maybe this is just my personal view but around our house, we're not exchanging Tom Turkey for mangers and St. Nick; they're getting along just fine together, thank you very much.

And for that I am very thankful.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bread Machine Dinner Rolls

In a previous post, I declared that making soup was like filling your home with sunshine and rainbows. And making homemade rolls to go with that soup was like inviting unicorns to the party.

Want to invite the unicorns over for a playdate?

Here's a recipe that lures them right on in.

I've been making these rolls for so long that I've memorized the recipe. Which is saying something since memorizing any sort of bread recipe can be tricky, and perhaps a bit fool hardy.

But there it is.

I got this recipe from a bread machine cookbook by Donna R. German. They're consistently perfect--just the right texture with a subtle sweetness that doesn't overpower whatever you're serving them with.

Perfect with soup.

Bread Machine Dinner Rolls

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Put all ingredients into pan according to your manufacturer's directions. For mine, that means adding all the liquids first. Select dough cycle--on my machine that is 1 1/2 hours. After the cycle completes, divide dough into 9-10 parts; shape into balls. Place each ball into a greased muffin cup. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise until doubled--30 min. to 1 hour. (If you set your oven to 170 you can proof your rolls faster). When doubled, you can bake as is or brush the tops with egg white and sprinkle with coarse salt. Yum.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Watch for over browning after 10 minutes--you may need to put a piece of foil on them.

Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

Okay, so here's the solid truth: I am a soup junkie. I am. Really.
I celebrate the stuff in all its various forms and presentations. And the only thing more intoxicating than eating it is making it.

Especially on a cold, wet, gray day.

Making a pot of something that involves the magical word "Simmer" is like harvesting sunshine and filling your house with rainbows. Add homemade rolls and that's like inviting unicorns to the party.

But I digress.

A favorite of ours around this time of year is a super easy to throw together one. Chicken Mulligatawny. Even the name sounds fun, don't you think? I like the way it rolls off the tongue....mulligatawny.

Here is the recipe for this great soup that even my picky eater children l-o-v-e.

Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

1/4 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 green peppers (or red & yellow too), chopped
1 large tart apple, cubed

1/4 cup flour
1 cup cooked rice
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
2 whole cloves
1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
2 TBS dried parsley
black pepper

2 cups milk

In a soup pot, saute onion, carrots, celery, peppers, and apple in butter until onions are translucent. Add flour, stir till well mixed. Stir in tomatoes, rice, curry powder, cloves, tomatoes, sugar, broth, salts, and parsley. Stir well. bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Stir in milk, simmer on low to reheat.

This soup is great the next day, (as most soups are), so leftovers are a bonus. It also freezes really well. I've been known to make a double batch and freeze part of it for another gray day when I'm in a hurry and need to have dinner made like 15 minutes ago. You know those days.