Thursday, November 29, 2007

You're a mean one Mr. Grinch

A few days ago, I began thinking about the Christmas holiday season and trying to figure out what all my husband and I could do together to make this holiday more of our own. Obviously, some traditions, we will carry over from things that we've done individually and in meshing those together combined with new activities we will hopefully begin building our own Christmas traditions.

This last year we set up the holiday visitation extended family will be visited for Thanksgiving and we'll spend the days preceding Christmas and Christmas day celebrating with my husband's family. But the smaller things, the little ones that make Christmas special in it's own unique way are the ones that have truly been on my mind lately.

Things such as building an Advent Wreath together and singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" definitely made the list of things that I suspect we'll do together while preparing for this season of Christ's birth.

But another idea that crossed my mind was of all the fantabulous (yes, I know this isn't a word) Christmas cartoons that air this time of year and among those cartoons my favorite being, "The Grinch who Stole Christmas"!

I could hardly contain my excitement last night when I realized that it was the evening that the Grinch would be on. Of course, my techno-savy husband insisted on tivo-ing the Grinch so I'm certain we can watch it any time we please....but the fact that the TV stations were airing last night was thrilling.

So after a nice evening of Bible study...and a Eucharistic service at our church, we hurried home to finish cooking supper (more like warming it up since I'd started much earlier in the evening) and sit down to our family meal.

After supper my wonderful husband even helped me clean the kitchen!!!! WOW! I'm not sure who had more fun watching it last night....the hubby or me...but regardless I do believe we both have that classic just about memorized. Nothing beats wholesome cartoons such as that one with such a wonderful message that Christmas is NOT about commercialism, etc....

I thought as I watched it, I wonder if people today would create a cartoon about something like this for the general public and decided it probably wouldn't happen, but was thankful that 40+ years ago someone did, because I know that so many people were enjoying last night just as I was....after all...who can help but singing when that bass voice begins, "You're a mean one...Mr. Grinch..."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Running with dogs

You know I never really thought that married life would change me all that much. Motherhood? I absolutely expect that it will...but married life? Not so much. However, it has. When I look back even the few short months that I've been married I see many changes in my routine. Let me see if I can explain....

This time last a single person I could probably be pulling into the drive way of my country home...looking for my dogs...scrounging...maybe going for a walk...picking grapes, looking for food...or who knows what...but these days my schedule is much more predictable.

And as such...I've found that the routine is actually kind of comforting. Each afternoon, after arriving home...begin preparations for supper, start a load of laundry...straighten up the living room or other areas of the house and begin to prepare to take the dogs to our makeshift park. I call it makeshift, because it's not technically a's an abandoned lot where the old hospital used to sit. But it has a make shift track (probably the old drive way around the hospital) and a crumbly parking lot...but it works for Rachel and Shayne and me. It's our park and we LOVE our time there.

Shayne's favorite activity of the day is playing ball...and so for 15 or 20 minutes each evening...I stand throwing Shayne his ball...he catches it...or chases it...brings it back and again we repeat the cycle.
Rachel loves the park because it reminds her of our country environment (the one she grew up in). So she chases squirrels....smells for bugs and dashes through the woods. She's even found an old drainage ditch to go swimming in. And each evening after Shayne and I finish playing ball we walk around the park with Rachel. Oh and lest I forget it...the most savored activity that the park provides are the HUGE mud puddles. For several days after it rains there are almost pond size (not in depth but in breath) mud puddles to splash in and lie down in. So Rachel and Shayne look forward to those too.

However, today I decided to put a new spin into our daily routine. I added jogging. I've gained quite a bit of weight since I started dating my dear husband and would like to lose a bit of it before I become pregnant (or gain weight from pregnancy). So...I experimented today and told the puppies that today we were going to run all the way around the park a couple of times before beginning any of the other activities. They LOVED IT! Around and around we ran....Rachel sprinting...Shayne lopping and me slowly trudging along. And I have to admit...watching my babies prance and smile as we jogged together gave it a whole new element.

And thinking about that I realized...that I'd like to continue this tradition when I have children...dogs and all....I can just see myself pushing the baby stroller around *our* park....running with dogs...and bonding as a family....even more closely and creatively than we all envisioned it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Interactive games and homemade dog biscuits

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know that we certainly did. Amazingly it took us only 10 hours of driving time, each way. And honestly, I enjoyed that time alone with my husband. We sang songs together, read parts of a book outloud, watched movies and just talked.

When we finally got to Helena, we sat around with family and recalled old times. Then on Thursday we did that some more and while listening to my Great Aunt tell me stories about my Great-Great Grandfather...we ate our Thanksgiving dinner. I was so pleased with how many people we had in attendance at Thanksgiving this year. There were 4 dining room tables full. It was so good to see some cousins that I'd not seen for the last ten years or so.

But, I do believe though that the day after Thanksgiving is just as special for me as Thanksgiving day, when we travel further into Arkansas and visit with my first cousins and Aunts and Uncles some more while we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one. Josh told me on our way home that this day was even more special to him, than Thanksgiving itself. And it was on this Friday evening that Josh and I had the pleasure of playing the Weii for the first time. It was really fun and interactive. Gina and Terry had one so we stayed up late Friday night, playing brain age, boxing, bowling, playing tennis and just bonding.

I particularly liked the boxing, but also enjoyed the bowling. The boxing was fun because I could pretend that I was actually boxing my husband. He claimed I was doing it wrong because he said I should aim for the television, but it was just as much fun to aim for him and I actually won one round doing it that way. On the bowling I discovered I'm a better pretend bowler than a real one, but also that I could move my arm in such a way that I'd send the bowling ball flying backwards toward the audience (on screen). That was quite funny. :)

And I think one of the coolest things to me was how Weii engaged the whole family and got everyone off the couch so that it becomes truly interactive family experience. I think that activities such as this that the whole family can become involved in are part of what makes families so healthy. Josh and I talked for over an hour about how wonderful Gina and Terry's boys are and how Gina and Terry definitely seem to be doing many of the right things when it comes to raising a family.

And truly it's many of the smaller things that they do, that make this difference. One of those being the way that they spend so much quality time together...another being the way they celebrate the simpler things in life. And yes it is always amazing how the smallest things can make such a huge difference in the way that we view our days isn't it?

Another example of the small things that I truly enjoyed this weekend was getting recipes from my Aunt Gina and Uncle Terry. One of them was for a butternut squash lasagna (I'll share it sometime in the near future). The other was for dog biscuits. Gina told us a story about how when she'd been in a more domestic mode had made dog biscuits for all the dogs in the neighborhood and packaged them up with a label from Star Angel (their dog). Gina said many of the neighbors wrote back (from their dogs) thanking Star for her kindness. How cool is that?

In today's world, where our animals have become so much a part of our families it only makes sense to me that people would want to celebrate with their pets. So yesterday evening, Rachel, Shayne and I began a dry run on making dog biscuits for our friends pets. Shayne and Rachel were the test tasters of course. And they heartily approved of the recipe I used, however the icing still needs some work so I believe that we may have to try again sometime soon...until we have it just right to give out for Christmas. Don't you know Shayne and Rachel are heart broken??

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Turkey Song...

I do believe that Thanksgiving is my absolute, most favorite time of the year. Yes, I realize that was a terribly grammatically incorrect sentence, but still it stands true. And I wonder sometimes why so few people give Thanksgiving the respect that it deserves. Is it because there are no Thanksgiving songs...or should I say almost no Thanksgiving songs. I remember with great delight learning "The Turkey song" when I was in high school.

Here are the words:
" If God can love turkeys,
then God can love you.
'Cause you are a turkey,
and I am one too."

This song is just so true! Yet, Thanksgiving means so much more than simply turkey and dressing. As we all know it's also about being thankful. But, for me Thanksgiving is even about more than that. It's a celebration of family, friends and fellowship.

I honestly could not imagine Thanksgiving any other way than this...every year (with the exception of one) my family loads up on Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving and begins our pilgrimage to our roots. We travel the majority of the day, observing the sights and spending quality time together, playing the license plate game, singing songs, arguing, sleeping and just being together. After the day long pilgrimage we are all ready to fall into bed after reaching our abode for the evening. Usually this is a plush bed and breakfast, that my family has reserved the majority of the rooms in. At least that's the way it was when I was a child.

As my cousins and I have grown older the family pilgrimages have grown for many of them few and far between. Our numbers have dwindled and fewer and fewer of my family members have been willing to make this trip. In fact, we only had about twenty people present last year when I first introduced my husband (then fiance) to this tradition.

Thankfully, this year due to my Great Aunt's ingenuity we will have at least 60 present. Why the change? Simply put, because my Nanny Netta (great aunt) asked everyone to make the effort to be at Thanksgiving at her house this year.

I cannot believe how excited I am that we've all answered her plea. You know...Christmas morning itself has nothing on Thanksgiving, for me. I'd much rather spend this time with my cousins, and Aunts and Uncles and niece and nephews than open a million present.

Perhaps the real things that we should be thankful for are intangible, rather than the things that we all get bogged down in. Yet so many of us do end up being thankful that we have more than the person next door or the guy living down under the bridge. Yet, as that catchy song reminds us....if God can love turkeys....and those turkeys don't spend time comparing possessions with the Joneses (or the other turkeys) maybe that's why...we all need to be reminded of how blessed we are.

Have a safe and happy, Thanksgiving. And above all remember, be Thankful for all that you have especially those around you this holiday season, because I know I will be.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekend wanderings

After reading several friends blogs, I've decided that I'd like to join this exciting world of blogging. So here goes... wish me luck on my first attempt!

What a weekend this has been! My wonderful husband I are truly blessed. Literally! This Friday, we had a house blessing and I absolutely loved having all of the people from church here. Our priest called Thursday evening to let us know how many people we should expect and the number of attendees ended up being about 10 more than that!! But each individual that arrived was someone who meant the world to each of us!!!! WOW! I worried a little bit about seating and food since we had so many extras show up, but shouldn't have. It all worked out. We had more than enough food, wines, desserts and seating. :) In fact we ended up with lots of left overs (especially desserts and wine).

Then yesterday, my dear husband headed off to a conference for work and I was blessed by having the time to go work in the yard with my church friends. This is the first work day that I've attended in quite some time. I really enjoyed it...
Then when I got home, I discovered that our dogs Rachel and Shayne had uncovered a bit of a brick walkway in our yard. Neither my husband nor I had any idea it existed. So off to the hardware store I went to purchase a hoe. Hoe in hand I worked diligently for over an hour clearing dirt and grass and weeds off of our newly discovered walkway. It did not turn to be as large as I'd hoped that it would be...but my arms are thankful for this. It's about six feet long and has the nicest brick patter. I'll try to post a picture of our new walkway soon so that you can share in our excitement. Once it was cleared though...the image of this walkway made all of the work worthwhile, even if my allergies are giving me hell today for having done so much work outside yesterday, but c'est la vie.

So I decided to turn my interests in doors after my outdoor adventures and have been perfecting my bread baking skills. I attempted two different breads yesterday and had one turn out pretty good. It would have been better, I think, if I'd put the ingredients in, in the right order. So I'll try that again soon. In the meantime; however, here's the recipe. I hope that you all have as much fun playing as I did.

Amish white bread

2 cups warm water
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.

Mix salt and oil into the yeast.
Mix in flour one cup at a time.
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth.
Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat.
Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9x5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.