things that make me go hmm... #5

This is a follow-up to Mom's recent guest post on my blog, so if you haven't read that yet, please start there.

When she told me over the phone that she had written a new guest post, I thought that was awesome. She sent it to me in the mail with a couple of pictures, so I was excited when it came and opened it right away to read it... and after reading (and digesting for a moment), I decided almost immediately I needed to post a response, so here it is:

I had no idea that I didn't believe in Santa until I read Mom's blog post. Seriously! My brother was sitting across the room when I read it, and I looked at him confused. It went something like this...
Me: Did you remember that we grew up not believing in Santa and Mom telling us he was make-believe?

Brother: Kind of...

Me: Really?

Brother: Yeah.

Me: Hmm... I didn't believe in Santa?

How is it possible I didn't know/realize this? So, I thought about it some more.

I don't really remember not believing in Santa.

On the other hand, I don't really remember believing in him, either.

I do remember seeing Santa at the community center and doing normal kid things... I told mom that we have a picture of a family friend holding me near Santa at one of these events and that I remember being told that I was scared and didn't want to sit on his lap. Perhaps because I thought he was make-believe and didn't want to sit on the strange man's lap? ... Well, that's plausible.

I also remember, as she said, that we did have our presents under the tree before Christmas. We usually opened one at home on Christmas eve and the rest on Christmas day.

But, "Santa" did put stuff in our stockings on Christmas eve... though sometimes he had forgotten until we said something to Mom on Christmas morning, so "he came back" and did it when we went upstairs to do something. Again, though, I don't remember ever really thinking it was Santa who did that. I do, however, remember joking about it... "Moooommm... Santa didn't fill our stockings, yet!" (snicker, snicker). I also remember that we were always very pleasant, not at all sarcastic children. (ha ha)

But I digress... back to the topic at hand....

The story about Grandma hearing Santa wasn't real and being so upset is not one I remember, so I'm guessing no one ever told me. I find this interesting that she questioned her faith over this, because Grandma was the most faithful person I've ever met. But, I do remember Mom having the focus of the holiday in mind, often saying "Jesus is the reason for the season."

I guess the bottom line here is: I hadn't really thought about it before, so apparently I didn't notice one way or another. None of the normal kid stuff seems to be missing from my memory, and Santa was still around at events, but he isn't a huge focus in my memories since I thought he was make-believe, anyway. And, I lived to tell the story, so I guess it didn't ruin me for life. :)

Based on the comments on Mom's post, a bunch of my cousins were told the same thing by their parents (mom's siblings) - and others were not. Grandma's experience sure had an impact on future generations, I guess! I wonder if the cousins remember this better than I do... and I wonder what their doing with their kids? Well, I guess we'll have something to talk about Christmas eve...

On the bright side, maybe this is why I don't have that traumatic memory so many others do when they hear for the first time that Santa may not be real.

Do you have that traumatic memory? What happened?

More follow-up to come on other points in Mom's post soon...


guest post from mom! -- Growing up with Santa? And other Christmas memories.

Mom was so popular last time she guest posted on my blog that she surprised me with another one! I'm planning to do a response to this in a couple of days. :) I hope the picture quality is OK... if anyone else is interested in guest posting with their Christmas memories, let me know!

When my children were old enough to get presents and understand Santa, my decision of what to tell them was made years earlier. We tend to believe what we learn as children and I remember my Mom telling us that when she was little, her parents had her believe in Santa. When she found out that Santa did not exist, she was so disappointed that she began to wonder... if Santa doesn't exist, then maybe the other story about Jesus being born in Bethlehem and being the Savior of the world wasn't true either. She did not want her own children to question the birth of Christ, so – no Santa for us.

Did I mind? No.

Our presents were up under the Christmas tree ahead of time and many fun times were made when we would shake, rattle, and roll our gifts trying to figure out what we were getting. I remember one year I got a baton for Christmas, and wrapped, it looked like a baton. I twirled this wrapped baton around before Christmas and my uncle Leslie, who was living with us at the time, said to me “maybe that is not a baton, but something else.” I remember looking at him and thinking, “Yeah... right...” :)

One Christmas when this backfired on my brother, being the hunter he still is today, was when he wanted a BB gun so badly for Christmas. Under the tree (ahead of time, as usual) was a present wrapped up looking just like a BB gun. My brother walked around the house pretending to shoot everything. Unbeknownst to him, our Dad had cut out a shape from a board and had Mom wrap it up for him. Come that magic hour on Christmas eve at our house when we all opened presents when we got home from church... the look on my brother's face when he opened a gun-shaped board – oh my! But then Dad told him to go in the basement to find his real present. Of course, a brand new BB gun was waiting for him. I think the story of the barn windows being shot out will wait for another day...

We all laugh and tease my brother, too, about the time he was about 9 or 10 and he went out into the woods to cut down our Christmas tree by himself. He dragged it all the way home and was quite happy with it. We sisters thought it was a rather ugly cedar tree, but after much trimming so it would fit in the corner, Mom said we had to use it. That was one of many Charlie Brown trees from the woods. He is a picture of one of our Christmas trees from my childhood:

So, this leads to “Did my children believe in Santa?” I followed my Mom's beliefs and didn't want my kids to wonder how much I was telling them about Christmas was true, so the answer is no. Probably a mixed message, because I did write “from Santa” on some of the gifts, but also at the same time said he was make-believe. Presents were under the tree ahead of time and the kids got to guess what they were, just like me and my siblings did. Although, they tell me in recent years that when their dad and I were out milking cows, sometimes they did a little more than guess... my kids wouldn't peek would they??? (Editors note: more to come on that subject).

Glenn and I took our kids out to the woods to cut our Christmas trees some years, too. We also went to Burg's farm in the valley and would cut down a tree from their lot for one or two dollars. We also had our share of Charlie Brown trees! In later years, when I would buy one at the lot in town, Glenn always complained that I picked out the most crooked tree possible, and so we eventually moved on to the artificial tree.

Here is a pic of my family around our Christmas tree one year:

I think, like in any other child-raising decision, the parents have the right to make the decisions – and I'm curious about your feedback?? Did you believe in Santa? Do your kids?

Merry Christmas to all from our household to yours!


thanksgiving salad

I love Thanksgiving because it means we get to spend time with our family, of course, but also because the food is GREAT because we have some pretty awesome cooks in the family. For the last couple of years, I've offered to bring salads. I looked back, and I don't think I posted about the one I made last year, but it was pretty good. This year, though, the recipe I used was awesome, so I wanted to share!

I didn't really change much, so I'm linking to it here - it was Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing and I found it on allrecipes.com (shocking, I know... I find tons of stuff, there).

If you're looking for a great salad recipe, I highly recommend this one. I doubled the recipe and used two bags of romaine lettuce mix instead of buying heads of romaine. And I didn't quite use all of the cheese. I had leftover dressing because there was too much for the amount of lettuce,  but that's OK because it's great to use later on a different salad!

Give it a try!

What did you make/bring for your Thanksgiving?

more eggs

So, over the last few days, there's been some new activity (thanks, Nel - haha!) on an old post that Mom did as a guest post about Home Comfort Foods. In that post, Mom shared a couple of egg dishes she grew up on and that I, subsequently, grew up on. And still make sometimes as an adult.

In the spirit of home foods and to follow-up on the flurry of activity and comments on that other post, I thought I'd share another egg dish I grew up on. As you probably know, I grew up on a farm and so when Mom went to work during the day, we stayed home with Dad on the farm. One of our regular breakfasts that he made for us was Eggs and Crackers. Apparently this is something that Grandma K. made when he was growing up.

This morning, we had this for breakfast - I sauteed some onions in butter, and then poured in some beaten eggs (with about 1 Tbsp. of milk). When it was about half done, I added some coarsely crushed saltine crackers and folded it in as we finished the eggs. Salt and pepper. It was delicious, with some toast and the apple butter my brother made this fall. Mmm....

You might be saying "crackers in eggs??" And you might be giving me a virtual "weirdo" look. But, it's good.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

What are the foods you remember most from growing up that you still make today?


happy thankgiving!

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the idea of living a life of gratitude and some other things I learned from a friend recently.... so check that post out, too.

But, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few things I'm thankful for today:
  • the new snow tires on my car, and the having means to get them. 
  • my family who loves me unconditionally, even when I test their patience.
  • all of the new things I've tried this year (so far).
  • my friends, who laugh with me, support me, let me whine, and let me gloat. 
 Happy thanksgiving - what are you thankful for?


living a life of gratitude

It's somewhat by happenstance that I'm posting this around Thanksgiving - but timely, nonetheless.

A few weeks ago, I was able to spend some time with a friend (and colleague) who was visiting Minneapolis. She's awesome... and she has done quite a bit of research on spirituality, positive thinking, meditation, and all that jazz. 

I'll admit that I'm not very familiar with all of that, so may not explain this all very well. Thanks to her, though, I have been thinking about it more. She did an informal "session" for a few of us to teach us about some of the basics. One of the things I really appreciated she wasn't to push or negate any religious beliefs of anyone. She shared some info herself, we listened to a recording, meditated for 5 minutes looking at a candle flame (which actually isn't as strange as it sounds), and did a couple of other activities.

Honestly, I wasn't sure what I'd think about all of this... but I was pleasantly surprised and left with a few take-aways that have kept me thinking since then. Thanks, Tiffany!
  1. Take time for you. Think about it - how much time do you spend thinking about others, doing things for others, working for others? .... Now, compare that to how much you think about yourself and do things for yourself. This is where the idea of meditation comes in - and not necessarily like you may be imagining - sitting cross-legged, saying "ohm...." repeatedly. It's about taking a few minutes to do clear your head and think about you. Sit however you feel comfortable. Take some deep breaths, even for 30 seconds... sit quietly for 5 minutes... spend 30 minutes or an hour clearing your head. And, get really crazy - take a whole day to yourself (gasp!) Who has the time? Right? You do - just take it. It's not selfish. It's necessary.
  2. It's OK to Recommit. It's not uncommon for us to get down on ourselves when we fail at something - and we all fail. I messed up my diet and ate that cookie (or box of cookies); I was late (again); I screwed up on (insert most recent mess-up here). We have a tendency to be really hard on ourselves, beat ourselves up, and not let things go. But, whatever wagon we've recently fallen off of, we need to learn that it's OK to recommit ourselves to our goals and move forward. So what if I ate the (box of) cookies? I'll do better tomorrow and I'll recommit to (insert name of wagon here).
  3. A life of gratitude. This has been what has stuck with me the most. Related to (#1) how we don't take time to reflect and (#2) our tendency to look at the glass half-empty. Thinking about the things we're grateful for can help lead to a life of more positive thinking, and help us to remember that life isn't so bad, or hard, or insane, after all. So, take time for yourself (#1) and think about what you're grateful for (#3). And, if you get sidetracked and stop for a while, it's OK... just recommit (#2) to remembering what we are grateful for.
So, what does it all boil down to? In the past few weeks, I've been trying some little things. And, I'll have to admit that I've had to recommit a couple of times already to #1 and #3 because (surprise) I've been busy and I haven't taken the time. But, I'm trying.

Tonight, I'm taking time for me - sitting down and writing, which is something I enjoy doing for me. And, tonight I am thinking about some things I'm grateful for: 
  • Tiffany for making me pay attention to these things. 
  • vacation days so I can be off until next Monday, because I hardly ever take time off. 
  • a job to take vacation days from.
  • Tiffany for giving us a burned copy of her birthday-mix CD so I haven't had to hear the song I hate the most for weeks!
  • friends who call to tell me random things that make me laugh (I'm looking at you, KVO).
  • family who will love me no matter what.
  • and - you, for humoring me and reading what I write.
What do you think? Is there anything here that made you think?

And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving this week - what are you grateful for?


catching up

It's been a while - no excuses. Life has been busy and ... interesting ... and blah, blah, blah. Since I last posted, I've done some fun stuff, though - I had a birthday, helped some friends pass out Halloween candy, tied for first in our chili cook-off at work (more about that later), saw the Youth Performance Company's show, Mean, for the second time and attended a fundraising breakfast for them -- and another for Clare Housing, an organization that provides housing and support for individuals and families living with aids. I went to a Lion's club waffle breakfast (noteworthy because the waffles were delicious), went on a great 4-wheeler ride with family and friends, helped start a facebook page for church, and learned a little bit about taking time for myself and some ways to live a life of gratitude from a friend (more on that later, too).

Now that we're all caught up, I figured that I would post something kind of timely. This week, we had a potluck at work - the turkey was provided and we needed to fill in the sides, desserts, etc... and it was Thanksgiving themed, so I offered to bring stuffing.

I, of course, called mom because I've never made stuffing before. The call went something like this:
Me: Can you send me your stuffing recipe? I want to make it for a potluck.
Mom: Sure - I'll send you one from one my cookbooks.
Me: From a cookbook?

Mom: Yes. 
Me: Is it sage stuffing?
Mom: Yes. 

Me: I don't want that one. I want your stuffing recipe.
And, why was I so adamant to have Mom's? Because it's awesome. I don't know what to call it, except the "the sweet one with the raisins." (note: I don't even like raisins, except in this, Raisin Bran, and mom's rice pudding - otherwise, no thanks...) Part of the reason I wanted this one, too, was because if the people at work didn't eat all of it, I wanted this as the leftovers over sage stuffing any day. Turns out I didn't have any leftovers, so crisis averted... or perhaps a flaw in the plan?

This recipe was doubled so I had enough for the potluck, so you can easily cut in half - everything can be to taste, so adjust as needed. 

Stuffing - the Sweet One with the Raisins

1 ¾ lg. onion (you could probably use 1 lg. and 1 med.)
5 celery stalks
1 c. butter
1 ¼ c. raisins
6 Tbsp. Brown sugar
2 bags unseasoned stuffing bread
6 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. cinnamon
6 med. apples, chopped small (I used fireside apples)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop onions and celery into small pieces (I used my food processer/chopper). In a med/lg. saucepan, saut̩ butter, onion, celery stalks until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste while they soften. Add brown sugar and stir well until dissolved. Add raisins and simmer for about 10 minutes (I just let it simmer while I peeled the apples and chopped them РI used my food processor for that, too). Let the mixture cool a bit.

Put the stuffing bread in a large bowl and mix in the sauté mixture and the apples. Add chicken broth, 2 cups at a time stirring in between. I added part of the cinnamon with each of the rounds of chicken broth to try to make sure it got mixed in well. I think I used a pinch or so more than a tsp. of cinnamon.

I baked in 3 glass pans for 50 minutes at 350; but my pans were a little small, so you could probably get by with 2. Each pan should be greased well with cooking spray and, on top of the stuffing, I put a few small slivers of butter. Bake until the top is just golden brown and a tiny bit crispy. You can serve it immediately, or put it in a Crockpot, refrigerate, and re-heat the next day.

Or, you can take mom's route and don't bake it at all - she just puts it in a Crockpot for 4 hours – her batch is usually about half of this, so if you make a large batch, it might take a little bit longer but not much. I didn’t have 4 hours to deal with the morning of the potluck, so I baked the night before and re-heated in the Crockpot.

It's delicious. Do it.

Also, we're wondering, now, if this is the recipe that came up in a comment to a previous post that was my great aunt's. Greg - let me know if this sounds like Ruth's stuffing... :)



book club munchies

A few months ago (5?) I was invited to join a newly formed book club, organized by my friend Diane. It's been great - we've read a few interesting books and I've had the opportunity to meet a few new people because Diane is the only one (of 5 of us) in our book club that I knew before starting it. And I really enjoy everyone and it's been a great opportunity to get to know some wonderful women... or start, anyway!

Books we've read so far include:
  • Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb
  • A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
  • Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The way it works is that we each take a turn hosting, so noone is stuck having to do it each time, which is nice. Whoever is hosting chooses the book for that meeting (mine was Extremely Loud...) and they have a few appetizers/munchies, and usually have some wine, soda, water - or if people want something specific, it's BYOB. And this all works out pretty well! Whoever can come, does, and I think we've had 4 at each one. We eat, drink (non- or alcoholic), and we actually do talk about the book... although there isn't a strict rule that you need to finish it. :)  Sometimes you run out of time, or sometimes it's not catching your interest... but you're still welcome.

So, this past week was my turn to host. I'd been really busy at work last week and had been kind of stressing out about the food part. Although we don't get graded on creativity, taste, and presentation - the other girls have made some pretty darn good stuff. And I didn't want to feel like a big loser with some potato chips and dip with hostess cupcakes, or something. They wouldn't have minded, I don't think - and I wouldn't mind if they did it... but for me, I wanted to have something a little cooler than store bought stuff.

The stressful part wasn't making it though... it was choosing it. One would be easy, but getting stuff you think might go together was harder. But I ended up with a mix of store vs. made @ home. Here's what I ended up with:
  • mixed nuts (store) (salty)
  • Milano cookies (store) (sweet)
  • veggies & ranch dip (store) (mostly neutral)
  • spinach artichoke dip (home) (salty)
  • bacon-wrapped dates (home) (sweet & salty!)
The spinach artichoke dip was super tasty and pretty easy -- and it did taste quite a bit like what you get in a restaurant! I used this recipe from allrecipes.com and it went over very well.

My notes:
  • I didn't roast the garlic ahead of time - I just put it through the garlic press into the mix. 
  • I made it the night before and put it in the fridge overnight, and baked it right before the book clubbers came over. 
  • I only used half (there was only going to be 4 of us) and cooked it in a large ramekin.
  • Served with oven-toasted french bread. Would work well with tortilla chips, too.
  • Keith ate the leftovers without baking them - just microwaving - and they were good that way, too...

The other "made at home" item was bacon-wrapped dates. I had them at a tapas restaurant in Atlanta several years ago, but still remember them and have been meaning to try them. They are an excellent combination of sweet and salty. And, if you're thinking "ew, dates?!" - stop and try them, and then come and talk to me.

I found a recipe on epicurious.com for Parmesean-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon. I mostly followed that recipe, but .... my notes:
  • I used blue cheese (not parmesean) to stuff the pitted dates. I was conservative, though, due to flashbacks to a holiday blue-cheese/salad incident (not mine... but I was a witness). I was worried it would be strong if I used too much. However, I really didn't use enough because you couldn't really taste it. Will use more next time. 
  • I put the toothpicks in right before I served them... I didn't want them to start on fire in the oven. 
  • I made them AND baked them the night before. I baked according to the instructions on a slotted pan, so the grease would drain off into the bottom pan. But, they weren't very crispy, so I left them in the oven for another 2-3 minutes. They were crispier, but not too much that I couldn't reheat them. The slotted pan helped reduce the grease-factor.
  • Because the temp. is pretty high in the oven, my smoke alarm went off when I took them out. Don't be surprised. 
  • I stored them in the fridge overnight and then put them back on my slotted pan and baked them for a few minutes until they were hot and, in my opinion, the perfect amount of crispy.
  • We had a few leftover, heated in the microwave (about 15 seconds is good) and that was tasty, yet, as well!
  • Just as an aside - and not really from my notes, it may seem obvious, but if you bake these on a regular pan, make sure you use one that has sides. I read in the reviews that someone used a flat baking sheet for them and their stove started a grease fire. You may think "duh" -- but apparently someone did it. 
I was happy with how it turned out! Do you have favorite appetizers for book clubs or parties? Or book club recommendations? 


the song I love the most... #1

Since yesterday's post was negative about the song I hate the most right now, I thought I should counter that with the song I love the most right now.

It's Hallelujah, sung here by the Canadian Tenors. I've heard this song in a couple of other places - on Shrek and on General Hospital (don't judge my viewing habits, please). I love it. They played it as part of the In Memory part of the Emmy's a couple of weeks ago, and I thought it was great. I think it's lovely, beautiful, and all kinds of other warm and fuzzy adjectives.

Now, I just need to control how much I play it (obviously I downloaded it) so I don't get sick of it.

What's the song you love the most right now?


the song I hate the most... #1

Hate is a strong word. And maybe I don't hate this song, but I'm on the verge.

It sounds harmless enough - nice and upbeat music. But, the lyrics, on the other hand are about "the kids with the pumped up kicks who better run, better run, faster than my bullet." And that pretty much wrecked it for me... but, I did a little searching, and apparently the song is to "bring awareness to the issue of youth gun violence."

Even so, this is the song that is on the radio when I wake up. It's the one in my car when I leave for work. It's on when I get to work. And it's the song in my car on my way home from work... and probably by the time I get out of the car, as well. Rinse. Repeat. Day After Day. After. Day. After Day.

When I got in my car after work today, I had a headache. Then the first thing I heard was this on the radio.... Lovely.

And that is the song I hate the most -- today, anyway.

What's yours?


things that make me go hmm... #4

I was talking to a friend, who has two kids, on the phone tonight about a baby shower we're planning for another friend next weekend.

Friend: You're making a cake, right?

Me: Yes, I'm planning on it.

[we discuss flavors, even though it's obvious we'll be having chocolate]

Friend: Oh, I just remembered I have a nook I can bring if you want.

Me: What? (thinks "Nook?"... thinks "I already have a Nook...")

Friend: A nook - if you want to put it on the cake as a decoration.

Me: A nook?

Friend: Yeah - but if you don't need it, that's ok... you can do what you want.

Me: Ohhhh. A pacifier?  (just now realizes friend meant Nuk - a pacifier.) When I think of Nook, I think of my e-reader.

Friend: Haha - wow. We really do live in different worlds.

Me: Haha - apparently. But your kind of Nuk makes more sense for cake decorations.
Hmm... it's funny how your life can make you interpret things so differently than others - but we love each other anyway. :)

My Nook:

Her Nuk:

See also:
things that make me go hmm... #3
things that make me go hmm... #2
things that make me go hmm... #1