Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Visiting With My Daddy This Christmas

My Daddy was well-known for his homemade fudge. I can remember as a child watching with excitement as he stood over the stove and stirred the pot, how he would ask us kids to butter the plate that he would be pouring the finished product on, how we would wait with our spoons to scrape the pot. The fudge was most heavenly while it was still warm. And best of all was my Daddy’s giddiness while he was making the fudge. He was like a big ol’ kid himself.
I can only remember one time when Daddy’s fudge did not turn out perfect. He wondered what would happen if he used chocolate syrup instead of cocoa powder. The result was a delightful taffy-like, gooey, chewy concoction. My brother and I loved it. But he never made it that way again.

After I was living on my own, my Daddy came to visit me in my newly-bought house. I had recently gotten myself a new Dutch oven, and I asked Daddy about how to season it. I lamented to him the fact that I had never learned how to make pot roast in the Dutch oven the way Mammy (Daddy’s grandmother) made it. That reminded me that I had never learned to make fudge the way my Daddy made it. All those times of seeing him make it as a kid, I never paid attention to *how* it was done.
”Oh, it’s easy,” Daddy assured me. He started telling me the ingredients, and I grabbed a piece of paper and asked him to write it down. This is what he wrote:
Thankfully, I was able to ask him some questions!

I only attempted to make it once while he was still on this earth. It didn’t turn out right; the fudge never did “set”. He told me once it’s done “You really just have to beat the mess out of it.” He also told me that if it’s raining it sometimes won’t get firm enough. Geez, it was just too much trouble, and I put it aside and forgot about it. I’d just get Daddy to make it for me.

Well, Daddy hasn’t been here to make it for me for five Christmases now. I’ve attempted it a few times, but it has never turned out quite right. Until this year. This year, I made several batches, making notes along the way about how long it should cook, how it should look and feel at what point, and how long it should be beaten at the end. I swear, if it weren’t My Daddy’s specialty, I would have given up. But this year, I finally got something that was close to what he made. 12-25-10 Christmas41 Tasting it brought back all those wonderful childhood memories. And of course, I was stretching my brain trying to recall every time I saw him making the fudge, trying to remember what he did, trying to remember what he said about it. I guess the nostalgia is worth it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Keeping Christ in Christmas—The Blessing of the Christmas Tree

IMG_1137 Our family began a tradition several years ago of blessing our Christmas tree. The first readings are read by Mama or the older children who can read, we recite the prayer together, then Daddy blesses the tree with holy water. My hope is that these words will plant seeds deep in the children’s hearts, and that they will remember every time they look at our tree that Christ is the Tree of Life and the Light of the World.


(Reader One):  “Thus says the Lord God: I will Myself take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I Myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.

(Reader Two):  On the mountain of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind.” (Ezekiel 17:22-23)

Prayer:  Creator God, Your own Son is the tender shoot that grew to become a majestic cedar. As the birds find safety in its giant branches, so we find shelter and comfort in Your Son. We thank You for sending us Jesus, the Tree of Life. Amen.

Blessing:  Lord God, bless this tree in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May it remind us throughout this holy season that Jesus is the Tree of Life. (Turn on tree lights.) As we turn on the lights of our tree, we are reminded that Jesus, our Tree of Life, is also the Light of the world. Amen.

More of our Christmas Traditions…

Monday, December 13, 2010

Am I Late?

My mama said I was born several weeks late. All my babies are born late. This year, I’m ordering my Christmas cards late.
Except that I am not actually late. May I remind you that Catholics observe Advent for four weeks before Christmas, and our Christmas celebration doesn’t begin until the Christmas Eve vigil? It’s technically not appropriate for us to say “Merry Christmas” during Advent, and we will continue to say “Merry Christmas” after the rest of you have put away your decorations and moved on. Our Christmas celebration lasts for twelve days until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. So there ya go. The way I see it, I’m not chronically late after all; it’s just that everyone else’s timetable is off.

All that to say…I’m working on Christmas cards. Our favorite shots have always been of the kids in their pajamas in front of the Christmas tree.
Our foreign exchange students have humored me by posing in their jammies.
12-24-03 Christmas with Da-Haechristmasjammies Not everyone wants to cooperate, though.

Our niece has also joined in the fun…12-25-08 081 
This year, I managed to get one of all the children looking at the camera and smiling. At the same time.

Just remember when you get your card from us somewhere around December 28…it’s not late. Christmas will have just begun.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Anniversary To Us and Christmas on the Square

This year, for our 11th year anniversary, Greg and I decided to do a daytime outing instead of a date night. We went to eat at Creegan’s Irish pub and grill, which is now on our list of favorites. I was in the mood for shepherd’s pie and Greg had the chicken cottage pie, but next time I’m going to have the bangers and mash. Just to say I did because it sounds funny and makes me giggle. The boxty farthings looked very good, too.IMG_1100After our hearty-stick-to-your-ribs-comfort-food lunch (excellent choice, honey!), we walked around downtown. We spent a couple hours browsing art shops, antique shops, had some good coffee, and eventually did our traditional anniversary-date-Christmas shopping. Lovely, lovely day. 
When we got home, it was time for our small town’s annual Christmas on the Square. We take the children to this every year, where we walk around the shops visiting with our townsfolk, listening to Christmas carols, and partaking of cookies and hot chocolate. This year, we missed the parade. But the children who wanted to visit with Santa had the opportunity to do so.
I love December!
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don’t Throw Out Your Turkey Bones!

I should have written this before Thanksgiving, but Christmas is coming up, so it’s still timely. What to do with the leftover turkey? You can find recipes for turkey enchiladas, turkey chili, turkey stir-fry, turkey soups, turkey casseroles, and turkey whatever-you-can-think-of all over the internet, but I wanted to give a shout out to the bones. Don’t throw them bones out! They can make a very nourishing broth to be used for future recipes and illnesses. Here’s how it’s done…
After I’ve pulled all the meat off the turkey and stored it in the freezer for recipes, I put the bones in my large stock pot. I add an onion or two, a bulb of garlic, peppers, celery, herbs like rosemary or thyme, and whatever I have on hand that I think will be helpful. Add 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar to help draw the minerals out of the bones. Sometimes I add astragalus root, sometimes I omit the astragalus. Fill the pot with water. Simmer all day. After it has cooled, skim some of the fat off, strain the liquid into containers, and store them in the freezer. Then when I need a recipe that calls for broth or we are ill, I pull this broth out of the freezer and heat it up.

Broth at the first sign of an illness helps keep us hydrated, and the protein, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals will help our bodies to repair themselves. The garlic, onions, and herbs strengthen our immune systems and help our bodies fight off whatever germs we’ve been exposed to. Adding cayenne and/or miso to our soup is also helpful to strengthen our immunity, but for the children’s sake, I add it to my own bowls later. This, along with plenty of rest and cutting out the sugar/processed foods, will help us get over whatever we've been exposed to more quickly.
When there are lots of illnesses going around our area, I make our recipes with the broth that contains the astragalus root, as it is an immune-strengthening herb. But because it is a tonic herb, which means that it can possibly drive illness deeper into the body, I use the broths that do not contain astragalus when we are already ill.
In addition to being hydrating, nourishing, and immune-boosting, homemade broth is more delicious and satisfying than the canned broths in the supermarket! Our Thanksgiving turkey yielded 5 quarts of delicious broth. We also use chicken, beef, or any other bones with marrow to make broth throughout the year. The same can be done with vegetables to make vegetable stock. When you are cutting up your onions, celery, broccoli, carrots, or whatever, save the parts that you would normally throw away, simmer them together, and strain for veggie broth.

This year, Greg had to work on Thanksgiving Day, so we had a nice dinner at home the day before. I’m so thankful for all our blessings!
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The best thing about spending Thanksgiving at home is that nobody cares if the baby shows up for Thanksgiving dinner wearing nothing but a hot pink diaper! hehehe

Later that night, the girls and I went to see the Moscow Ballet perform The Nutcracker. It was Mojo’s and Gem’s first ballet.  Here they are waiting for it to start.
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