Nov 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful.  It was wonderful mostly due to the fact that I did not spend most of the day cooking and then cleaning up.  We are not that crazy about turkey.  We will eat it, of course, but it's not worth spending a day and a night cooking it, along with all the sides, to end up with all the leftovers.  Then there is the the poor carcass, which the dogs can't even eat because I'm too afraid they will choke on the bones and die.

So when it's just us, we do things a little differently on Thanksgiving.  Last year we did chicken enchiladas and fixings, this year we did lasagna and fixings.

I make my lasagna with 1 lb. ground beef, 1 onion diced and cooked with the beef, and then use a big bottle of Prego traditional spaghetti sauce.  I have never used anything but Prego, and I doubt this will ever change.  I layer the sauce/meat mixture with the noodles, cottage cheese mixed with pesto, and mozzarella cheese.  Pioneer Woman always talks about how much better cheese is when you grate it yourself, and I have to agree.  For years I would just buy the already shredded kind, but when you shred it yourself it is so much more moist and you don't need to use near as much.  You are never too old to stop learning, at least I'm not.  I bake that for about an hour at 350.

The Olive Cheese bread is another recipe of PW's, and my children love it.  When I'm alone, I can make an entire meal out of it.  To do that you get a loaf of French bread, and then spread the following mixture on top and bake at 325 for 25 minutes.  The mixture consists of 1 can whole black olives and 1 6 oz. jar pimiento-stuffed olives, roughly chopped, 2 green onions, 3/4 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, 1/2 cup real mayonnaise, and 1 stick of butter softened.  You can make the mixture up ahead of time and do the bread before you put it in the oven, or you can freeze it for several months.  If you have kids who are apt to "drop in" unexpectedly and often bring several of their friends with them, I highly recommend keeping a couple of these babies in the freezer, to be pulled out at a moment's notice.  They will think you are practically Superwoman.  wink wink.

I also did a large green salad with carrots, onions, peas, croutons, cheddar cheese.  This is what kept the boys from starving before Taylor finally made it home.  He has "slept in", which I was pretty sure meant he was "hung-over".  Ah, youth.

The Beautiful Redhead and I spent the night before getting all this ready to be slipped into the oven in the morning, and we made the desserts.  We made two pumpkin pies, as is the tradition, but they were not our best effort.  They will be some of our best memories, make no mistake, and therein lies there value.  We had a really good time, and if our pies were not perfect, well, we simply don't care.  The ride was worth the fall!  The one she made and forgot to add the evaporated milk was really very delicious.  No one noticed a thing.  And the one I made that I spilled three times turned out with a carmelly crust.  Both were very good.

The piece de resistance, however, was the Brownie Bottom Cheesecake with Raspberry topping.  I got the recipe from, which is a wonderful, easy recipe place.  You need a spring form pan to make this, which I had.  Until this year that spring form pan had only been used (still in the box it arrived in) as a booster seat for Abigail when she sat at the kitchen table.  Happily, it worked perfect when I finally got around to putting it to use.

For the brownie bottom, you take 4 sq. unsweetened chocolate and melt with 1/2 cup butter.  Or margarine, but I don't believe margarine is fit for human consumption, so use butter.  Once it is melted and mixed smoothly, add 1 1/2 cups sugar and mix well.  Add 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing to just blended.  Add 1/4 cup milk and 1 tsp. vanilla, mix well.  Add 1 cup flour and 1/2 tsp. salt, gradually to chocolate mixture, mixing until just blended.  Pour into a greased and floured spring form pan (don't forget to wrap the bottom with foil, tightly), and bake at 325 for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile beat 3 pkg. cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla on medium until just blended.  Add 1/2 cup of sour cream and mix well.  Add 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing on low until blended.  Pour over brownie base (when it's done) and bake 55 minutes, or until center is almost set.  Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight and let stand at room temp. for 30 minutes before cutting.  I put mine on a cake plate and the boys' eyes looked like it was Christmas morning.  I felt wonderful.

It was so good to have everyone together that it didn't matter what we ate.  It's so hard when your kids get older to have that time.  I treasured every minute of it and I sincerely hope you also had a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by the ones who love you.

Nov 21, 2012

Domestic Tranquility

It's Thanksgiving.

After the year we have had it practically feels like a duty to come up with a list of things to be grateful for.   After ruminating on it for a while, feeling terrible for having that attitude, and then asking forgiveness as usual, I have come up with quite a few.

I start at home, as always. 

I have 4 beautiful, healthy children who think for themselves and love each other, two of the sweetest dogs who love us all the time no matter what, extended family who are all healthy, friends who are faithful, a bonus daughter and her husband, and my beloved pretend grandchild Abigail has been joined by a brand new baby, Adriana.  I am humbled by this, as I should be.  I quickly add all the other babies who have come into this world this year, it seemed from out of no where, dropping like jewels to brighten our whole world.  Many of my friends are now grandparents for real, and all the new babies have given us reasons to on, do better, keep the faith, as God no doubt designed.

Adriana Rose.  I've loved her since the day she was born.  I got to be there!!  I will take a picture of my own children tomorrow when we are all together.  Until then, enjoy this.

Despite spending many months in a drought, causing most of the farmers to get rid of their livestock, the roses were inexplicably wonderful.  The colors were so rich and they even looked velvety from a distance, and lasted well into the fall.  I, who feel like I can't really see anything anymore, noticed this for months on end until just the last few weeks.  It was wonderful, even with all the other heart stopping action going on in the world.  For that I am thankful.

I met some of the best new friends, who have shored me up and commiserated with me, and one of them even made me a quilt!!  For that I am thankful and touched and, well, I really just don't even have words.  Suffice it to say that I keep this on my bed and no boy or dog has ever touched it.  They are too afraid to!!

Patricia Dorman ROCKS!!

The fall leaves were gorgeous this year and they lasted for several weeks.  I think the poor trees were confused, as most of them had pretty much shut down during the drought and then when we got some rain in the late summer, they played catch-up as long as they had the sun.  I noticed on one tree in October that the berries were out as they should be, but also there were a few blossoms, born by accident, thinking it was already spring again.  These things God gave to us every single day.  I took time to notice them.  I hope you did also.  For that I am thankful.

I bought an electric heater that looks like a wood stove, and the effect upon both children and dogs has been hypnotic.  They gather close around it and feel relaxed and safe and warm.   For that, I am thankful.  Also, the gas bill is down.  The blessings just keep piling up.

See the stove?  It's electric but don't tell anybody!

Abigail turned 4 this year.  I'd be lost without this child, she brings me unspeakable joy every time I so much as think of her, and this girl has turned into a singer and a dancer.

Dancing on a chair after cooking scrambled eggs.  Do not try this at home.

Also, she is brushed my hair to within an inch of it's life and offered to turn Jack into a "rainbow horse" with fingernail polish.  Which I did not allow, alas.

Sorry for the bad quality, but the flash was showing in the mirror, plus every time I moved my head an inch she would sternly tell me to stop moving with her sweet little hands on each side of my head, pointing me back to the front.  Little seeds, people, little seeds.

In times of stress I find it very calming to bring my focus down to what is right in front of me.  My grandparents had an old saying, "Save up the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves".    I mention this not only because we are on the verge of another depression fiscally, but because it translates perfectly to the spiritual realm of our lives.  

The pennies saved turn into dollars you can spend toward your needs, or just save to feel safe and prepared.  In this same way we should start and pay attention to the gifts God gives us and the lessons to be learned from Him.  There may be nothing we can do to halt the steps our government or others take in the larger world, but we can make sure we are informed and teach our children the truth. We can set an example of having honor and principles that we will defend to the death, and not bow down or live any way but free.  When we do this, we plant little seeds that grow and reach fruition and multiply.

The important thing to remember is that no matter what you do, or don't do, as a parent, plants little seeds (or saves the pennies) and multiplies (and hopefully adds up to dollars).  We now have to face the fact that we as parents are responsible, whether we look away and let them spend hours each day in front of  a television screen or turn it off and talk to them about their day, or our world.  It all counts.  Whether it adds pennies into dollars or runs up a big deficit, it all counts.  It all multiplies.  Are you raising children who think things through and take responsibility, or kids who spend hours in fantasy land and think the rules don't apply to them?  These are the people who are going to be in charge for the rest of our lives.  This thought may make you rejoice or weep.  It's a crap shoot, to tell you the truth, but do not despair.  There are a lot of kids out there with no one looking out for the adults they are going to become.  It's not hard to influence them, one way or another.  Think of the future, picture it bright and good, and show them how, tell them why, listen to how their minds work.  If you don't, someone else will. 

They are very easy to influence.  It is this thought that can stop a parent's heart.  Make sure your influence is the best it can possibly be.   It can feel like a war that will never end, but end it will.  One day you will look back and see what your influence was, one way or the other.  Make every day count, and take time to be thankful.  Take time to teach them how to be thankful.  It's a good place to start, anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving America.  Let us be truly thankful for our blessings, of which we have many.

I just spent the best evening with my only daughter making lasagna, PW's Olive Cheese Bread, two pumpkin pies and a brownie cheesecake to be covered with raspberry sauce.  She left the evaporated milk out of one pie and I slopped the other one all over the counter, but aside from that, I think everything will be great.  All we have left to do is make the salad and put stuff in the oven.  When we discovered the missing ingredient left out of the pie, we just laughed and wondered if the boys would notice.  We will see.  I told her "That's all right.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  That's how memories are made!  And I'll tell you another thing,  you will never make that mistake again, no matter how old you live to be."  We will never forget this Thanksgiving, and it hasn't even happened yet.

Nov 11, 2012

America, America, Wherefore Art Thou?

If you are a conservative, you have just been dealt the worst blow of your life.  This country just re-elected Obama, and if you are like me, you practically went into shock.  

There are some of us still left who see America as a place of freedom, a place where you can come for equal rights, a job, freedom to have a family, and to live your life without being controlled by anyone, least of all the government.

All I can say is, it's time to wake up and smell the coffee, should you still be able to afford any.

I watched this election very closely, and thought that this election would show us how many Christians were left in this country.  Now, it is possible that a lot of them did not vote, and that is what I hope is true, but I think we need to deal with reality here.  America is in dire straights, infiltrated and destroyed from within.

Apparently, America is no longer the place where you sacrifice everything to come to and find a job, but the place where you sacrifice everything to come to for the "benefits".  Gone are the days where it did not matter where you came from, you were American now.  Now, you are some kind of hyphenated-American and should make America honor your own culture.  We simply are not all on the same side anymore.  There used to be two sides, easy to pick one.  Now there are just many shades of gray, the identity of America is not so easy to recognize these days.

Apparently, America is no longer the place where, if you are a member of the armed forces, you can believe that you will never, NEVER be left alone to fight until you die.  No longer can you really believe, if you are a member of the armed forces, that the might of the Red, White and Blue will without a doubt show and "bring the rain".  Now, you may or may not be ordered to go to the aid of your brothers.  The days where the good guys won may be behind us forever.

Apparently, America is no longer the place where, if there is a terrible natural disaster, any government agency will show up to help you.  They now are unable to operate in bad weather conditions.  That's not completely true: they will show up. With photographers, for photo ops.  It's after that you will be on your own.

Apparently, America is no longer a country where the picture of a "family" consists of a father and mother who are married.  It would be crazy to get married and have to pay for that yourself.  Utter lunacy.  

Apparently, the idea of saving up to purchase anything, starting with a car of your own, much less a college education, is no longer an idea that America can get behind.  Just make sure you can "make the payments" and if that doesn't work out, hey, there's always bankruptcy.  Try not to focus on the fact that we ALL have to pay that off too, it makes it a lot easier.  As long as you got yours, well, that's all that matters, right?  Should other people be stupid enough to pay that off, well, it sucks to be them.  Right?  Right?  Still with me here?

Apparently, America is now a country with citizens who have no problem with lots of "Czars", paid for by us but with no supervision or accountability to anyone of us, and multiple executive orders written that bypass Congress, which is our only hope of even finding out what they are before they are passed, let alone getting the chance for a vote of any kind.

Apparently, the idea that the government now has the power to tell us we "have" to buy something and that's just fine and dandy with a majority of us.  

Apparently, in America, the country we fought to build out of sticks and stones now has a legal system so corrupted that we think it's just fine that it be put to use with cases involving people stupid enough to spill hot coffee on themselves.  Oh, and we don't mind our tax dollars being spent on court cases to protect various animals and/or plants, because we believe they have rights too.  Why should we make it hard on a spider even if it would make us energy independent?  Independence is over rated, and mean.  A tired idea that the old white men just can't give up trying to sell to us.  When will they die off, anyway?  They are such a draaaaggg.  Yawn. 

Those dreams you had of your grandchildren being free?  The ones we have always taken for granted in America?  It's time to either commit completely or let those dreams go.

The outlook is bleak, I must admit.  What is a Christian to do?  Hide in bed with the covers over your head? Move to a place where you are more comfortable with your neighbors having the same moral outlook on life?  Stock up on ammo?  Pray more?  All of the above?  I'm going with all of the above.  

In America, we love our children.  Like the South, we have mistaken "loving" for "spoiling".

Have you missed the fact that we have raised generations of kids who never had to earn money for their first car, let alone a college education?  Who grew up with the idea that instead of saving up to buy something you could just charge it and worry about that later?  Whose parents loved them so much they did not want to see their children struggle to buy their own house, especially without an SUV, even if they lived in town?  

How many hours are spent by adults and children combined in front of a television?  Whether you are watching what passes for the "news" or playing video games has never mattered less.  For those of you who can remember Pong it is easy to look back and see how easily it started.  We would have never guessed where that first, seemingly innocent step would take us.  Did we? I certainly never saw Mortal Kombat coming in those days.   I missed it.  It did not look like a slippery slope to me.  Well, there you go.  That is exactly how it happens!

We now see what our love has wrought.  We spared the rod and spoiled the children.  Not just us, the government got into the action too.  Now we are dealing with people who are very good at spending money without ever worrying about paying it off.  Apparently there are more of them now than we who work to contribute to the tax dollars that pay for it all.  How long can this last?  The good news is, not much longer.  The bad news?  Also not much longer.

Apparently,we have a deficiency in knowledge of basic economics.  Four more years of this could actually fix that, for all the good it will do.  The hole will be so deep by then that I am at a loss as to how we will ever get back out again.  It would probably not be amiss to brush up on your choice of a Chinese dialect.  There are plenty to choose from.

If you read the Bible, it will never tell you that life as a Christian will be easy.  In fact, it will tell you just the opposite.  We must rededicate ourselves to helping those younger than us to understand not only economics, but the value of freedom. 

In order to do this, as far as I can see, we will have to figure out a way to make it look like there is a benefit to saving money and for children to have the stability of a home and both of their parents.  How we are going to compete with the government and their seemingly endless Santa's sack of benefits will not be easy.  But just remember that nothing worth having ever is.  I've heard the stories of how many benefits they get and how it actually would be "stupid" of them to get married or get a job and give those "up".  Trying to explain that those "benefits" are not "free" is like having a conversation with a 13 year old.  Full of all the confidence in the world that they are "right", riding fast toward a hard fall that you can see coming and do not want to see them go through, what's a normal person to do?  This is a situation every parent has faced.  

Until now, parent's have had the ace in the hole that they can control the child's "world" in order to teach them these very basic and vitally important lessons.  Now parents are faced with kids who, if they are 18, can thumb their nose at their parents, sign up for benefits, and continue much farther down the path toward their own destruction.  I hate to say it, but it' looks like it's out of our hands.

How do you take over a country?  Get control of the kids.  Brainwash them into little cookie cutter units that never learn to think for themselves and will follow the program that you set out for them.  It's actually the easiest thing in the world, once you get the parents out of the way.  If you can talk them all into going to work in order to afford the cool SUV, all the better.   In any case, offer them free child care under the guise of "pre-school" and you're are pretty much in, womb to tomb.   Should you discover any of the units that can think for themselves and rebel, offer them a position of control and bribe them with more "benefits".  Tell them it's for the children.  Who would have the backbone to fight that?

If you are wondering why conservatives are in mourning, I will tell you: it is because they have seen their vision of what America is die.  Now when they consider the possibility of what the Supreme Court will look like in the future, their possibility of holding onto that idea is now gone for the rest of my lifetime.  (I am 47 years old)  Now in order to ever turn it around, it will be up to our children and grandchildren.  I fear America as a whole has lost the idea that we are the greatest country in the world, able to help other's because of our freedom to make money and control what we do with it.  We know that our country is on a train going 120 mph toward a cliff.  We thought we could put the brakes on that train with this election.  We thought we could stop the train and still be able to dig our way out of this debt and still have an America left.

We were wrong.

Trying to tell my children what their "rights" under the law were was confusing a few short years ago.  In the future it may be quite a bit easier if only because there will be so few left! 

If you are a young person, I urge you to put forth the effort to find people who will tell you the truth, fight for your freedom, hold you responsible for your choices and help you do better when you make mistakes.  Yes, you will make them.  We all do.  How do you think we learned these painful lessons for ourselves?   I would urge you to learn what you need to sustain yourself and take care of your family in whatever way you can without anyone, especially the government, ever telling you what you "have" to do. 

But you know what?  It's not going to be easy.  America, I pray for you, I still believe in you, and I know that God wins in the end.  It's the spiritual battle that is getting me down, and on my worst days, I fear we are losing this battle.  On my good days, I renew my strength to fight it at every turn,  It's all I can do.  I pray that it is enough. 

I see America on her knees.  Why would she be put in this position, I wonder?  The only answer I can see is so she will get up and FIGHT.  This is not her first rodeo, and she still has many brave defenders.  This is not the time to give up.  So we fight.  We pray.  We watch for those small steps (think Pong) and we guard against them ever getting a foothold.  We may not win, but we must not ever stop fighting.

The ability to deal in the "now" is what separates people who survive extreme situations from those who do not.  Dealing in the "now" is dealing what is, not what we wish was or how we think things should be.  I will admit it's ugly.  I will never admit it's too ugly for me to fight.  It's the American in me.  You should be so lucky. ;)

It's not much, but it's all I got.  I still believe.  I still choose to believe.  I will choose dying for freedom over living in slavery.  It's time we all decided for ourselves, at least those of us who are still able to think for ourselves.  I just hope it's a majority of us.  If not, then I will fight and I will die gladly, for I know where I'm going.  I am not worried about that part at all.

Take time to grieve, but then gird your loins and rejoin the battle.  I beg of you.  I cannot promise you any benefit from it in this world.  That's why it is called sacrifice.  We just have to believe the sacrifice is worth it. Choose to believe.