Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Christmas Table in 3D

Actually I didn't get the table, just photos of the food.
Please notice my new cookie sheets my dear husband picked up for me at Sam's.
They made everything look better and taste yummier. :-)
I would show a picture of my old cookie sheets but it's simply too embarrassing.
Mark has since taken them to use in his outdoor kitchen. It's all in the spirit of giving. :-)
Above is the traditional Cinnamon Christmas Tree Rolls (idea fetched from Pinterest last December).
It's easy and not heavy. With Christmas meals being so heavy I want to offer something light and sweet for my hobbits looking for breakfast.
I see us possibly having some Christmas breakfasts here in the future as the children are growing and marrying and leaving home which, naturally, constitutes adjustments to the predictable Christmas noonday feast.
This year all 5 children were here with their significant other and our first grandbaby Mr. Hudson.  It was a blessing but one I know not to expect every year. It's called mid-life change. I'm forever grateful God sent us the last two girls in our thirties so there really is no vacancy in this house.
In the future, if no one is here for noonday feasting, my plans are to do a good Christmas breakfast and offer a later Christmas dinner for those stopping by in the evening. With the two younger sisters here, I don't see lonely days ahead. There will always be someone to cook for, at least for the next seven years or so. Then I figure we'll find some stray child's home to crash enjoy.  
I think it's practical for the next couple years to have a Plan B and Plan C.
 I'm in hopes that the children and grandchildren always feel like this house is a home to come back to at any time of day. It's a blessed-plus that we live in the family home where many holiday memories were made in days-gone-by.
In a sense, we maintain the physical house that harbors the mental house of memories.
So what did I serve?

This was a breakfast dish I put together for Opa who adores oysters in any shape or form. I sauted them in butter in my black iron skillet then made a Hollandaise Sauce to cover them.
I placed thin slices of French bread in a casserole dish, topped with fried Canadian bacon, and a sunny-side-up egg, then poured the oysters and sauce on top of everything.
Here is our Cajun Appetizer Tray.
It's a simple (but very pretty) tray assembled with pickled okra, boudin, sliced cheese, baby corn, peppered black ham, homemade summer sausage, and centered with pickled beets.

We bought this turkey for Thanksgiving and ended up going to the camp to meet family and friends and didn't take it out of freezer. So our Thanksgiving bird became our Christmas bird.
Dear husband always does the meat and the past two years he's been able to cook in his outdoor kitchen so that's a blessing beyond measure. Really clears out a great deal of my kitchen space for the other dishes. He brings it in to brown in oven and to carve.
He injected the dear bird with Cajun Butter. It's the best yet.

Baked beans with browned ground meat, buttered corn, and string beans flavored with onion and bacon for those who like common vegetables.

Easy-Peasy Cherry Salad
Small container of whipped cream
15 oz can of sweet-condensed milk
Small can of cherry pie filling
Small can of crushed pineapple (drained)
Handful of pecans
Almond slivers for topping
Mix everything together.
Put in pretty bowl.
Top with almond slivers.

Avocado and Asparagus baked with bacon-flavored white sauce and topped with Italian bread crumbs.

My mom brought the rice dressing, fruitcake, pumpkin bread, sweet potato pie and pecan pies.
Also crescent rolls were at end of bufft to top off the mountain of overloaded noonday plates.
(You know, the way everyone tops off their plate by putting bread on the very peak?
Doesn't your family?)
It's classic. :-)
I made my annual rum cakes but in muffin size this year.
And, because my husband requested them, I made the mini-pineapple cakes from last year.
Here's the recipe:
~ Prayers that your New Year 2013 will just as bountiful and productive. ~

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Do You Possess the Knowledge of Christmas ?

I awoke this morning depressed that so many of my family had to leave for work.

I found it depressing because, goodness spirits alive!, even Scrooge made up the fires with another coal-scuttle and enjoyed a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop with Bob Cratchit the day after a day of merrymaking.

My husband, who works so hard for us to have enjoyed a very Merry Christmas and who is fighting a nasty cold, left in the cold still-sleeping hours of morning. So did our oldest son and daughter-in-law who live next door. In a flurry of 30+ degree cold, my other son, on his way to work, let the two outside dogs inside as they were scratching and wagging and barking their way into warmer quarters.

In the beauty of December 26, our faith says that Christmas has only begun, that we should continue to celebrate the spirit of Christmas for the next 12 days when, in truth, we should live each day of the year in the spirit of giving that we gleefully chant on December 25.

Like Scrooge, we should live and bask the days after Christmas " the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and ...(know) how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possess(es) the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!"

In the quiet of December 26, society says Christmas is over. Get back to work. And, I guess, as a society, it must be so. I, myself, must stop at the store today for paper towels and a prescription. Life goes on and that includes life's necessities. Stores must be restocked, trash trucks must collect joyful wrappings, nursing homes and hospitals must be fully staffed. I'm sure even the pioneering mothers had to get back to cooking and sewing and mending and washing and scrubbing floors on the 12 days following Christmas.

We must live the spirit of Christmas even as we go back to work and go shopping and go about tanking up our vehicles. Christmas is the one day that let's most of us press pause.

So I allowed myself the peace of the day-after because mothers can't always press pause on the day-of. I turned on the Christmas tree lights anew, made a pot of coffee, threw on a load of laundry, Swiffer jetted all my floors (except the kitchen which will need an old-fashion broom and mop job), and ate a warmed-up rum cake. And I prayed for those who were not together this Christmas Day, those whose families suffering through divorces and family breakups, those who did not have children waking under their rooftops to enjoy Christmas presents, and those who had lost loved ones this past year.

One must be ever aware of the pain outside. That's part of Christmas as well.

Despite the beauty of a bright star, heralding angels, and kingly gifts, there was also the cold dark, the barn stench, cobwebs hanging from rafters, and a desolute manger made holy only by what was placed inside of it.

Christ made the ordinary holy. Christ made the day holy. He left the warmth of heaven to enter a cold, rejecting world. His own skin, goose-bumped and naked, was laid in raw splinters. Only his mother's arms offered comfort and warmth.

While there are twinkling lights and fellowship within our homes, somewhere in the world there is a little match girl wandering the cold streets without warmth to return at home to. Does the warmth of our homes filter outside itself?

Through the month of December, my girls and I, with friends, rung the bells for Salvation Army. We sent games and toiletries to runaway children at Harbour House. We collected can goods and non-perishables and delivered them to St. Vincent de Paul's Pantry. We visited the nursing home and delivered treats. With each store clerk's, "Would you like to donate a $1 with your purchase today to X-charity so that a children can enjoy Christmas this year?" I said, "Yes, of course." 

These are all good things but they still felt a bit outside myself. Anyone could do these things. They are things we often do once a year.

Nothing personal lingers on my mind in the way a certain private encounter does.

It was Christmas Eve.

I was checking out of Wal-Mart with some last minute baking-shopping items. The store clerk and I spoke casually.

Was I finished with all my Christmas shopping?
Yes, I think so. This should do it. What about you?

Will family be over on Christmas day?
Yes, all of them. And more.

The grandmother and mother behind me joined in our little tete-a-tete. Several nice pleasantries were exchanged then the store clerk shared with me that actually her Christmas wouldn't begin until December 26. That's when her little girl was coming to visit her. We shared a smile that only mothers exchange and I acknowledged her delight. What a thrill! What a joy! What glory to be able to tangibly continue the spirit of Christmas the day after.

How old is she? I asked.


Perfect age for Christmas! I told the mother. Perfect! Nothing like the eyes of a four-year-old at Christmas time.

We silently, purposely, skirted the fact that this mother would awake Christmas morning without her young daughter. That the beauty her daughter would see Christmas morning would not be under the gaze of her mother...for whatever reasons.

Here's where society's hunger for all knowledge has ruined its respect for silence and faith.

It is not our business to know all the whys and hows and reasons that this mother does not have her daughter on Christmas Day.

It is our business to live the days after Christmas " the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and ...(know) how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possess(es) the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!" (~Dickens)

There is so much pain out there. We should look and love each encounter God places before us and live that moment with the intention that our Christmas moment begins now in the person before us.

So I spent the close of my transaction telling the mother how blessed she was to be able to spend the day after Christmas with her little girl. A continuation of Christmas, what a gift that would be from her to her daughter.

And I thought of them this morning as my own family left the house and went back to the ordinary of everything. And I'm praying their morning spent together was as beautiful as the present Mary held in her arms the day after Christmas 2012 years ago.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December Morning

If it's still outside tomorrow morning, I'll have our birthday girl make a wish. :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 3: Christmas Novena

Day 3 - Christmas Novena Prayers
Opening Prayer:
V. O God, come to my assistance.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father...
Our Father...
The Expectation of Birth.
O most sweet infant Jesus, who waited for nine months
enclosed in the womb, and inflamed the heart of the
Virgin Mary and St. Joseph with the most powerful love
and expectation, all for the salvation of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Have mercy on us, 0 Lord. Have mercy on us.
Hail Mary...

Day 2: Christmas Novena

 Day 2 - Christmas Novena Prayers
Opening Prayer:
V. O God, come to my assistance.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father...
Our Father...
The Visitation.
O most sweet infant Jesus, who by means of your
Virgin Mother, visited St. Elizabeth, and filled your
servant, St. John the Baptist, with the Holy Spirit,
sanctifying him from his mother's womb.
Have mercy on us.
Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.
Hail Mary...

Day 1: Christmas Novena

Day 1 - Christmas Novena Prayers

Opening Prayer:

V. O God, come to my assistance.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Glory be to the Father...

Our Father...

Day 1 Prayers

The Incarnation.

O most sweet infant Jesus, who descended from the bosom of the eternal Father into the womb of the Virgin Mary, where, conceived by the Holy Ghost, you took upon yourself, O Incarnate Word, the form of a servant for our salvation. Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary...

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Difference Young Hearts Make

On Thursday night, as parents of 20 dear souls tucked their hearts into bed for the last time, I sat in the auditorium where I graduated 26 years before to watch a ribbon pinned over the heart of a girl I love, a girl who who has decided it is her calling to help others in pain and grief.

That morning she had gone for an interview and by 4:30 that evening had not one but two jobs offered. She chose the oncology floor over the pediatric and medsurg jobs. I know she will give compassionate care no matter where she works.

On Friday as, unbeknown to us, 20 little hearts were brutally snuffed out, I was given the chance to sit on the sofa with my daughter and our hearts talked.
On this day it was only a spare moment, one of many talks, in a lifetime of firsts. I didn't realize at the time how much that time spent talking was a gift, a grace, that some parents would never have with their child.
She spoke of her future and of a possible move to the bigger city yet how she might stay on here until her October wedding because...well...because we're all here. The family, you know, and the hearts that beat within.

And she spoke of conversations she's had with other nurses who have moved and traveled and started their families. And she sees the future in a new way.
Four years makes an incredible difference on young hearts.
Four years mature a person despite their desire to stay forever young.

{Friends since 4th grade}

Opa laments the newer generation. He mourns the lost generation. He's outlived these newer ways and times. Young people have lost compassion, says his thoughts racingly loud, not meaning for them to be heard. But grandpas have seen too much and often say too much.

Do the young listen?
Do they take those words to heart?

{Walking for Suicide Awareness}


His granddaughter does and she, who has his heart, who will be part of the generation to lead him home, speaks..."Opa, I am part of that generation.You think I don't care? Are you saying I'm not compassionate enough?"
And Opa tells me later how her words slowed his aging mind and rocked his world. How, instead of seeing the eyes of youth that the media and society sells, he saw the compassionate eyes of his granddaughter. And he trusts her. He trusts her with his life.
And that Saturday morning, as parents grieved and wondered how their life's blood would ever flow again since their heart has been ripped from their chest, Opa and I and all who love her dearly got to applaud our little girl's departure from childhood and entrance into the world of grown-ups. And we thanked God that He saw her on this path and allowed us to walk with her.
She is now not one of those who is to be protected; she is now one of us who protects and cares and serves those whose pain is great.
And we know our daughter will serve well...with a heart full of compassion.
* * * * *
The hurt ran deep this past weekend across our nation. As the little heart of Newtown, CT beat its pain and youthful blood, veins of support filtered across the nation and back to it with love and compassion.
People asked, "Where was God?" while seeing how one person could destroy and cause so much hurt and misery.
"There is God!" is the answer returned in 20-plus-70 times-7 souls who brought (and continue to bring) so much heart to the little town of Newtown.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Cookie Heaven (with pictures and books)

This week was Christmas cookie week without any preparation. It just happened.

{Annie's Snow Drop Cookies}

{Gooseberry Patch Cookie Cookbook}

Annie quickly picked out a cookie recipe to share at the Girls' Club cookie exchange and that was that. Lucky for me all the ingredients for her Snow Drop cookies were already in our pantry.

Then Chelsea had a festive baking mood on Sunday, located the easiest Christmas cookie dough recipe she could find (from a recipe book I got in second grade through the Scholastic Book Club), turned on her ipod music list, pulled out all the stops and pots and bowls, and started mixing.

Next thing I knew, Annie was alongside of her and they were rolling out ball after ball of dough over sugar sweet giggles and music.
At the end of the baking session was a bowl of uncooked cookie dough, sticky bowls in the sink, and no bakers in the kitchen.
I froze the balls in hopes of finishing the baking and decorating before Christmas.
These are Annie's Snow Drop Cookies she made for girls' club.

This was one of the tables full of cookie exchange plates.
Mexican Hot Chocolate cookies, sugar cookies, jelly-filled cookies, peppermint cookies, peanut butter cookies...

And here are some sweet Christmas cookie books to enjoy in your kitchen while you bake this Christmas. :-)

The Baker's Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepherd/ Wendy Edelson

The Baker's Dozen: A Colonial American Tale by Heathr Forest/ Susan Gaber

Waiting for Christmas: A Story about the Advent Calendar by Kathleen Long Bostrom/ Alexi Natchev

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall/ Deborah Chabbrian

From our house to yours...may you be blessed with a wonderful, joyful Christmas and New Year!

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