Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Highlights

Thank you to all of you who commented on the thanksgiving posts last week. It was a very meaningful project for me, and really did make my Thanksgiving so wonderful. It was very nice to know some of you felt the same way! Today, before December is upon us tomorrow, I want to recap some of the holiday festivities.

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Michael setting up the outdoor shot.

On Thanksgiving Day we went to S's parents house. We tried taking some photos for Sam and Cheryl to use on their Christmas cards this year. I'm not sure what all the "tries" came out to look like, but there were plenty of duds on my camera, that's for sure.

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The un-family photo.

This is my favorite one though - Kim is not in the photo, as she was setting the timer on the camera so she could come hop in for the portrait. But, her camera went off while she was setting the timer. And this is what she got. Hilarious - how to get eight adults and two children to look awkward all at once - have them stare at a camera, presuming it is going to go off in a few seconds, but snap the photo right away.

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This is the "real" one.

It might not be the "real" one, because Michael had some copies he shot too, and well, they might be better. This one is "doctored" by me to make everyone's eyes open and cropped to the right size for the photo card. There were also photos taken outside...who knows which one they'll end up with. We tried - that's all I can say about that whole endeavor.

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And here's one with just the kids.

With red eye, I know. I didn't catch the red eye until after I had uploaded to the server. So, red eye it is today. We're going with the flow. What I want to point out however, to all you grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles - whoever - trying to take a photo with small children or pets of any kinds - here's the deal. And we're still working on those two up there, God love 'em. Here's the deal - when you're trying to get a good shot with kids or pets - YOU, you adult, YOU must stay facing the camera with a pleasant smile on your face and NO BLINKING for this to ever occur. Trust me. Because the minute you look away, at the child, blink, etc, the WORLD'S BEST PHOTO will elude you. Trust me. Look at the darn camera. Thank you.

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Oh, and here's one of S and his Nana.

That name up there - Nana - I'm sure you pronounced it in your head, "Nah-Nah" or even "Nya-Nya" ("a" sound like apple). Those would both be acceptable choices. But, this Nana spells it this way, and pronounces it like, "Nanny." Just one of those little family things that evolved, I'm sure. No matter the spelling or the pronunciation, we were certainly glad she was with us for the holiday. S is particularly partial to her, as she is to him.

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After the photos, Cheryl put the finishing touches on the meal.

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Three kinds of tea - sweet, sweetened with splenda, unsweet.
Very important.

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And Sam carved the turkey.

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And we all sat down to eat.

And eat we did. And I did. I had my turkey - on the diet - and then a bunch of lovely and wonderful side items - all in moderation - none of which are truly contained in the diet - green bean casserole, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato souffle. I did skip the regular mashed potatoes and the bread. Small concessions. Because I also had dessert. And sister, it was all sooooo good. And there are no photos because - well, because I WAS EATING!!! Amen.

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After the meal, there was time for catching up.

Look at the intensity in Andrew's face - he was checking out something on S's face, wasn't he? Who knows what.

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Even Alexandra was in a good mood after that meal.
It was tasty!

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Ok, I have to show this one.
Andrew, already learning to be a good Italian boy.
Heh heh.

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This is S and Andrew making the exact same face.
Andrew is teething. I am not sure what S's excuse is.

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He wasn't sour for long, though.

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Alexandra was very pleased with her xylophone skills.

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And had a great time playing with her dad.

On Friday, we got together with even more Italians - this time S's extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins - at a nearby restaurant.

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That's S and his younger cousin John.

Or, the "fourth brother" because he fits right in with S's other brothers, don't you think? Very prominent family resemblance between those four boys - er, men.

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Sam and his brother David (John's dad, incidentally)

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S's Aunt Sis and Cheryl

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Mark talking it over with Uncle Jim

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Carrie Jo, sister to Mary, who recently passed on.

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Uncle Harold

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Brooke, Andrew and Uncle Harold

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That's cousin Tony and his wife.
He informed me he was going to be 100. In eleven years.

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Aunt Sis and Michael

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Aunt Leigh

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Uncle John, who organized this party.
Talking to Alexandra, Mark and Kim.

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Uncle John talking with S and "John John" as he's known to clear confusion.
Between the Johns, that is.

It was a nice time to get together and chat. Catch up. Stay connected. Perfect for Thanksgiving weekend.

We did a whole lot more last weekend - yard work, Christmas cards, decorations, cooking, photographing cooking, paying bills, etc etc. Of course, some of it has photos attached, so I'll cover it later in the week. But for now, best wishes for your Monday and the start of that other late year holiday season. May you (and I) keep the spirit of thankfulness in our hearts a while longer.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Daze

Whoa. What a wonderful holiday S and I had. We saw his family, took lots of photos and ate so much food not on the diet I couldn't even quantify it. We watched some football and played with the related Dallas children. And we got to visit with our former neighbors for a bit last evening.

All of this is to say, I am in a turkey daze. Or is it a turkey haze? I have a full agenda of items to tackle today - the yard, for one - working on the Christmas list as it is now less than a month away, doing something about Christmas cards and decorations, planning for this class I'm teaching at SMU in the spring, and meeting up tonight with S's extended family. Will it all get done? Probably not. But sister, I'm up early to make a serious dent in it.

This weekend we will visit with some more old friends, I will photograph some more "In YOUR Kitchen" posts, I will pay bills and decide on a health care plan for 2010, and I will get through some photos of the festivities to post here next week. But for today, happy shopping (but don't be one of these) or whatever you're up to.

If you haven't read all the thankfulness posts, now would be the time to do that, here and here. If you haven't checked out the three In YOUR Kitchen posts from the past two weeks and have room to eat any more after yesterday, scroll seriously down or click here, here or here and try one of those. Or, come back next week and I'll have something new. You know I will.

I hope your holiday was as good as ours. We are very blessed.

See you next week.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Truly Blessed Thanksgiving

Today is the second day outlining all the wonderful responses I received from Operation Thankful and my request to you about what you are thankful for. If you missed the first installment yesterday, you can check it out here.

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I went back to read last year's Thanksgiving post this morning as well. And it's pretty much still all true, a year later. I still am very thankful, I still very much miss my Indiana family on days like today, and I still hope you are all going to have a wonderful Thanksgiving. What's different is this - by reading all of your thoughts on being thankful, I'm feeling a little more loved, a little more lucky, a little more blessed than I might have felt otherwise. And I hope you feel that way too after reading all of these wonderful, different, engaging, thoughtfully crafted responses.

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So - in this year's Thanksgiving post - the continuation of all the wonderful responses I received. Today, I thought we'd start with the responses from children. They are mostly short and to the point. Here we go:
  • my beautiful family - age 13
  • my family and belongings and school and friends and holidays - age 8
  • water, and food, and a house. and mom and dad - age 7
  • family night - age 7
  • my trucks and the holidays - age 6
  • Mario Kart Wii and my sister - age 5
  • My blankie Lovie and doggie pillow - age 5
  • Santa - age 3
  • mommy, daddy, dog and cat - age 3
Thank you to the little ones to keep it simple and say what's on their mind, no? We should remember to do that with more regularity.

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OK, on to some more responses - some more "one liners"- each of these came from a different person:
  • Being born in a country that gives women the right to vote, the right to education and the freedom to dress openly...I am also truly thankful for indoor plumbing!
  • Life in a free country. The Grace of God. My beautiful family.
  • My happy and (mostly) healthy family.
  • a good liberal arts education (you can say that again - editorial added)
  • My family and my email friends
  • changes in seasons - being healthy and happy
  • persistence and progress
  • the chance to change how I live
  • My healthy family
Families, education, freedoms, health. All things we Americans can agree on, I think!

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Moving to more responses - trying to get them all in:
I am thankful for my friends and family who understand that I am not good with keeping people updated but love me anyway. My wonderful husband who gets up to check on our daughter and replace her pacifier without waking me up. And I am most thankful this year for our beautiful, happy and sweet new daughter.
Love that.

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Keeping them coming:

I am thankful for my faith in Jesus and His gift of grace. Recently, during a conversation with my granddaughter, we were talking about a great grandfather that had recently died. I told her death was a beginning and not an ending. She smiled and seemed to understand. Her parents have done a great job in sharing their faith with her.

I am thankful for each of my children because they are my legacy. I have nothing that I have done or will do that will better demonstrate my time on earth than the legacy of my children.

I am thankful everyday that I can live free. Our daily news reminds us of others who are less fortunate. As I get older there is a greater appreciate for the many beautiful things around me that God has provided.

I am thankful for my wife. The best was I can describe the way I feel about her is that she completes me. I cannot imagine life without her in it.

Today on the radio they told a story of a 15 year old paraplegic boy who was being wheeled to the mall by a friend. The friend asked if the paraplegic boy could wish for anything and have it happen, what would it be. The boy thought and said, "Nothing. I have parents who love me and friends like you who help me with my needs. I have a loving God who has promised me a place where there are no wheelchairs." Stories like this make me thankful as well.

And, finally I am thankful that when asked this question, I had so many thoughts of thankfulness, I can never list them all.
I like to read the words of wisdom from those more senior than me. It helps me have perspective on life. This is what I thought when I read that one.

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Now for some medium length responses - each paragraph from a different person:

I am thankful for this year's uncertainties, which have made me focus on what IS certain: my family, my friends, my church.

I am thankful for my wife, my family, and my ancestors as they inspire me to be a better man and create a better world.

I am thankful for everyday that I wake up next to someone who loves me for who I am and what I am and though my day will be filled with challenges, disappointments and expectations, that I will always go to sleep with love in my heart for my partner.

I am thankful for full life that exceeds what I imagined as a child. I am grateful that my daughter is growing up in a home with two parents who love her and each other more than words can say. I am thankful that I have discovered what I am meant to do for a living even if I am not doing it right now. I am thankful for generous friendships with individuals who are as diverse as the United States.

I am thankful for the progress my new husband and I have made during our first year of marriage. We're more of a unit and more aware of one another's needs. At the end of the day, we can still just be together and laugh.

I am thankful for my family, health and most of all our Lord and Savior who watches over us each and every day.
I am sure you are seeing why getting all these responses in has been such a treat for me by now! It has been really wonderful.

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There are, of course, some more to go - here's a really well written long one. By the way, I did decide to truncate or leave out some of the longer blog responses, since they are already posted on the thankfulness posts, in the interest of time and space. Not that they weren't all wonderful, but as you can see, I had a lot to get through. So, the wonderfully written longer statements in today's post came from the thankfulness cards I mailed out because you cannot see them anywhere else. These people obviously chose to use their own paper:
First of all, I know I'm not supposed to be thankful for you, but really am thankful you gave me this assignment. I've thought about it A LOT. So, thank you for making me take the time to reflect on myriad things for which I am sincerely grateful. My list is quite long, but also very true. The things for which I'm thankful range from the mushy to the oddball - but I am really consciously thankful for everything on the list. Oh, and this stuff is in no particular order.

I am thankful that my children will grow up in a world where it is not the least bit unusual to have a black President.

I am thankful for the First Amendment and our inherent right to speak freely even when we disagree with our friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc.

I am thankful for thoughtful, rational debate even though I’m sad that there’s less of it than I would like to see.

I am thankful for our Veterans who are serving and have served our country and protected our freedoms.

I am thankful for the Daily Show and Jon Stewart who put a comic twist on real world issues while keeping me informed and making me think.

I am thankful that I have two beautiful, healthy sons and for how their eyes light up when they smile at their Mom.

I am thankful that I have a host of family living near us that are always willing to help with the boys.

I am thankful for my Mom who keeps my kids twice a week and helps around the house such that we don’t live in squalor – because I can assure you , if it wasn’t for her, we would. I love that she has the opportunity to have such a close relationship with my boys.

I am thankful I had boys. I thought I wanted a girl so badly. It's good that God knew better than I that I was made to be a boy Mom.

I am thankful for my loving husband who is a great partner and the best Dad ever.

I am thankful to be happily married to my very best friend.

I am thankful for Nana. She has been a loving, Christian influence my whole life. I so hope she makes it through her current cancer set-back and is around to be the same influence in the lives of my children.

I am thankful for my sister who listens to me rant and rave when I just need to vent.

I am thankful for my children’s Godparents.

I am thankful for my extended family even when they get on my nerves.

I am thankful for all my friends who are each special to me in their own unique way. I am thankful for all of them, but a special “thank you” shout-out goes to Brook, Meg, Valerie & Steve.

I am thankful that I still have a close circle of friends from SMU. I love them all so much, and even though I don’t see them nearly as much as I would like, when we do see each other, it’s just like we get to be together every day. Even though I might not see them as often as I see some of my other friends, they are still my closest, dearest friends.

I am thankful that I still have a close relationship with my favorite professors from SMU.

I am thankful for Peruna!

I am thankful for SMU and the Mustang Band – almost 15 years later I am still close to friends and professors from my college days. I still love to go to campus and games. I love the education I received. My time in college is still one of the best times of my life.

I am thankful for Facebook. It’s so nice to reconnect with friends from High School, College, previous jobs, etc. It’s great to be able to keep in touch with folks I have lost track of over time and to at least peripherally stay informed about their lives.

I am thankful that I have a great job that I enjoy getting out of bed to go to every day.

I am thankful that I am a Texan – even though I don’t exactly fit in politically sometimes.

I am thankful that I am happy and healthy. I have a great life, and I am comfortable in my own skin.

I am thankful for my co-workers. It’s nice to work in a place full of intelligent people.

I am thankful for our church and the choir who welcomes us with open arms, open hearts and open minds even though we’re on again/off again with our regular attendance.

Well, I think that about covers it! But, of course, there is more!

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Some more "medium" responses - each one from a different person:
I am thankful for great friends, of which I have many. Because of another great friend, I met you and we became friends and I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for my husband and my four sweet children who each make me laugh and smile daily.

I originally answered this question by saying I was thankful for YOU. Reason: you make us think about things like this. So here is another reason to be thankful: HEALTH. Reason: (and this could be a function of growing older and wiser) We have all seen family, friends and loved ones who are sick, who have suffered and died. It makes me thankful for each and every moment of healthy living where we can enjoy each other.

Mostly, I am thankful for God's favor. I've been blessed with a wonderful family, life and friends. Even when life lets you down, God is there, you just need to look up!

I am thankful for God's compassion and love for me. I am so undeserving of his grace and mercy but he loves me in spite of it.

I am thankful that even though there is war in the world, it is not on our doorstep. Poverty, unemployment and hopelessness have not darkened our door. Illness or fear have not entered our lives. We are safe, want for nothing and enjoy the luxury of free will.

Amy, this is so sweet! I want to do this very same thing. I'm thankful for my friends and family that love and support me. I'm thankful for laughter. I'm thankful for my animals who never get mad at me and are always home to greet me and keep my company. I'm so thankful for the time one arth and memories I had with my grandmother - I miss her so much. I'm really thankful for everything I have.

I'm thankful to wake up each morning to the sounds of my daughter. Not the waking up part, but I just love hearing her talk to herself, count, say the alphabet, whatever. Listening to those first happy sounds over the monitor feels like such a stolen moment of joy. Even if it shortly devolves into her shouting "Daddy!" or "Mommy!" to force one of us out of bed.

I am very thankful this Thanksgiving season. I'm thankful my husband is home from the hospital and improving daily. I'm thankful for my wonderful family, for good health, for my home, for wonderful friends, for the seasons that I am always ready to see when they come around, and for the wonderful way God takes care of us. When I slow down and really see things around me I am always amazed at the beauty everywhere you look, if you only take time to see it. Thank you Amy for making take time to really think about Giving Thanks.

Even though our culture and society seem to be solely based on the acquisition of material things and cause de celeb, separating fact from fiction, news from opinion and splitting our population into segments based on our personal, private lives, I am still thankful that I live in the USA. I am thankful because of freedom. I am thankful because I have the right to express myself.

I am thankful for my two beautiful, happy, healthy boys God entrusted to my husband and me! There isn't a day that goes by that they don't teach me something new or help me appreciate the simple things in life. I'm also thankful for a husband who loves and adores me no matter what.
OK, we're on the home stretch now!

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And to conclude all this thankfulness - all this inspiration - here is one I thought was very poetic:
At the end of the day when I look to the sky and the sun's colors of red, pink and purple all stream into the white clouds and the rays of silver dance across the sky I am thankful for another perfect day.
Here is a family prayer shared by one blog reader:
We thank you God for autumn.
For frost upon the ground.
For ripened apples, golden corn and pumpkins fat and round.
We thank you for our table, and all things good to eat.
And for our happy family gathered here to make the day complete.
Just lovely. Just perfect for an autumn holiday. For a day of Thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing it!

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Here is another prayer I found recently written for this holiday. It was written by the great priest/poet George Herbert:

Thou hast given so much to me
Give one thing more - a grateful heart:
Not thankful when it pleaseth me, As if thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be
Thy Praise.
Amen. May you and yours have a fun, wonderful, joy-filled Thanksgiving Day, and may we all give proper thanks for the many blessings we enjoy.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sharing Feelings of Gratitude

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I mentioned the last few days that I had so many responses from my thankfulness post and "operation thankful" initiative. I have so many, in fact, that I think I'm going to take two days to tell them all to you. So, here is the first installment. Tomorrow, on the big day of thanks, we'll cover the rest. The listings today and tomorrow are a mixture of them all, and in no particular order.

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First, I have decided to list the comments without names in total. Some of you signed your remarks, but many of you did not, and I respect the fact that you wanted to remain anonymous. Also, the intent, as you will remember, of this exercise was for all of us to feel a little more blessed by remembering other things we hold dear when we read through other's comments on the subject. You know - to make it one big BLAH BLAH BLAH for the holidays? Yes, you remember. So, I think no names will help you make it your own.

And, God help me, I am going to try to get all the responses in the post in two days. But, if I somehow fail at this endeavor, please know it is no reflection on your response. It just means I failed at that endeavor.

There were more responders on the blog itself than in the card responses - I think I will receive all 20 back when it's all said and done - a couple are still on their way here - you can see on the posts many of the people who responded to the blog comments. But, I thought you might want to see what made up the random 20 cards sent. So, in the spirit of no names, here is a breakdown of how I know them:

- one brother and his family
- one parent and family
- one brother-in-law and his family
- one step sister and her family
- one of my oldest friends and her family - we met in preschool
- one family of church friends
- three friends from undergraduate school and their families
- one former co-worker from when I taught school
- one of S's friends from grad school and his wife
- a friend I've known since we went to camp together when we were twelve
- three people who used to work where I am still employed
- two former colleagues from my last job at the DCPA
- a friend in the local arts community
- two friends from graduate school and their families

So, there you go. From all over. Really, I made it very, very random. And, as it turns out, that group of people span age groups, ethnicity, religions, political views, sexual persuasion, type of profession, size of family, gender, degree of curmudgeon-ness, children, pets and just about anything else you can name. They are a diverse group, and they are all very special to me. And, God bless them, they all responded.

Except the brother-in-law.

But I am still thankful for him. God bless him too. The sister-in-law took up the slack and responded anyway, which I very much appreciate.

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So here we go - to get us started - some of the "one liners":

I am thankful for:
  • a wonderful and supportive husband, my great friends and family. I am lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life.
  • old and new friends, real and true love, family, music, health, an interesting job and the holy trinity.
  • your blog because your photos make me smile and your commentary makes me laugh and I need both of those in my life. (Aw shucks, thanks!)
  • my freinds, family, animals and my health.
  • so much! I have so much to be thankful for! My son is my sweet little guy...always.
  • my daughter and all the rest of my family.
  • a family who spans four generations...and all the wine to keep us sane! 8 children under house. Whew!
  • the love of my partner who brings me joy every day.
  • an extended network of loyal family and friends.
  • the love of a splendid woman and wonderful children AND clarity about the future.

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And, today, some of the longer responses:
I am thankful for:

- the people responsible for the Tivo, the cheeseburger and NFL footbal
- my wife who always keeps me laughing even when we are fighting
- a job that lets me go home at 5:30 every day
- a sweet, happy new daughter who finally allows me to understand what all the fuss is about with this parenting thing
- an electorate that sometimes votes for the right person in November
- parents who fly 3000 miles and spend all their time helping out around our house
- college friends who come up with clever Thanksgiving projects like this one.
Awww, thanks. I thought it was a good project, yes. But, of course, it's nice to hear others think it's a useful way to spend your time too. I should also point out that the above response was all written on one of those little cards. Now THAT'S talent.

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Another lovely response from the parent of an adopted child:
I am, of course, thankful for all the things you are supposed to be thankful, friends, my job, my home, a place to live (there IS a difference between a home and a place to live) etc, etc. But I am choosing to say what came to my mind right away when I read your note. I am thankful for the fact that someone thought I could be a better mother to a little girl than they could be. I am very thankful for this person to show her faith in God to guide and direct her as she made the most difficult decision she ever had to make. We are not only thankful to have a very beautiful little girl (inside and out) but we are thankful someone gave us the opportunity to fulfill our dreams of parenting.
How sweet. Well said. What a lucky little girl!

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And another:
I am thankful for human kindness. Remote controls. Modern medicine and pharmaceuticals. The Food Network. My job. Indoor plumbing. People who value a sense of humor. Progress toward equality for ALL. Brahms and Beethoven. 30 Rock and Mad Men. Thrift stores. Human differences. The Midwest. All types of ice cream and pizza. And so much more.

I am also thankful for choices. As a human, I get to make choices each day that are easy to take for I interact with people, what I say to others, what music I listen to in my car, when I smile and when I frown...

Case in point...every day I feed my cats kibble. And every day, they look up at me when I am eating my variety of human foods with faces that clearly say, "human mom, you get a choice. You are not fed mass quantities of brown, crunchy, meat-flavored food each day without option. We all love food, and you are so lucky that you have the freedom to choose what you feel like eating. Same with music. Note to you, Mom - we're tired of listening to Bob Dylan this week. So be thankful you get to choose what you eat and what you listen to. It's only the opposable thumbs that stand in the way of our taking that turkey sandwich away from you."

And then, I share my turkey with them. To share the thanks. It's a choice I get to make.
Very nice, my friend, very nice. Very "meta," no?

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See what I mean - and this is just a few of the pile still sitting here next to me on the computer - all very thoughtful, true, human, wonderful responses! Here are a couple more...
I am thankful for our Creator and all creation. I am thankful that Jesus died for my sins and rose again to join our Heavenly Father. I am thankful for the gifts given by God to each of us. I too, am thankful for family - children, grandchildren, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins galore, and all the inlaws and friends. I am grateful to have a realtively healthy mind and body that allow me to independently function and contribute to society. I am thankful for you and your blog and for reminding ups of how bless we are.
There are many very spiritual people among the pile. This one was written (anonymously) with certain conviction that I felt made it speak also to being thankful for religious freedoms in this great country of ours.

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OK - one more for today. Then we'll take a break from all this thanking until tomorrow.
I am thankful for...

...a job I love where we have strong, caring leadership and everyone shares true "team spirit"!

...oddly, the gift of the Internet which has allowed me to reconnect with school and college friends I'd lost track of years ago. Our reunions are the most incredible delight! Not many "almost 60 somethings" get to experience the job of a slumber party with High School girlfriends...guys and girls on teh beach where we were once 16...enjoying a bottle of wine as we watch the sun set over a & phone calls with your BFF from High School who now lives half a continent away. Technology is a wonderful thing! I'm tryly blessed to be in their company and to know them once again...this time for the rest of our lives! 'adopted' granddaughters. Without their parents' friendship, granddaughters would be an element missing in my life. grandsons. Having raised daughters, seeing the world open through the eyes of a little boy has been a delight beyond my wildest dreams.

...the good health of all my family and our extended family circle. In this He has TRULY blessed us all!!!

And, Amy, I'm grateful for your request. I could go on and on and I appreciate your making me aware!
And thank you, my friend, for making ME more aware. And all of us more aware of things that do make us truly blessed. In this season for thanksgiving. Because, no matter the circumstances, no matter the economy or the horribleness or the constant change all around us, we ARE truly blessed. Amen to that!

Have a blessed Wednesday. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Mark's Kitchen: Pear Squash Soup

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I thought Mark's little jar of measuring spoons was especially photogenic.

I am very excited to bring this recipe to you today, two days before Thanksgiving. Why? Because the flavors in this recipe are so very autumnal that you are all going to want to run out and purchase ingredients to make some of this as an addition to your Thanksgiving meal. A simple, tasty, autumnal addition. So let's get started on our next segment of In YOUR Kitchen.

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There's Mark, in the middle.

Today's chef is my friend Mark. Mark and I are work colleagues, where because we are always having different little get togethers where food is involved, I have had the pleasure of eating his cooking creations on more than one occasion. You last saw Mark at the State Fair, where, on team building day, I coerced my co-workers into standing with my award winning photo.

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The origin of the name - squash and pears. Imagine!

But, back to the soup. I've been the lucky recipient of this very soup on more than one occasion. And it's a real winner. And healthy, too! I asked Mark where he got the recipe. He said his wife Brenda used to make it. So he went to ask her where she got the recipe. And she said she thinks it came from a magazine, but years ago, and she's not sure which one or where. Mark added that one day he decided to make it and since then, Brenda doesn't make it anymore. It's become officially his dish.

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Some of the ingredients. Except the banana is not in the soup.
Yes, we have no bananas.

The ingredient list is short - butternut squash, pears, onion, curry powder, chicken broth, salt and pepper. That's it!

Start by cutting the ends off the squash.

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Then peel it.

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Mark says, "This ain't Rachel Ray, sister - it'll take a minute to finish this up."
There's no going to commercial when you're in someone else's kitchen!

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Then, while the peeling continues...

...notice the beautiful window right next to you is open. And dream of one day again living in a house with windows that open. I'm THANKFUL for windows that open, and for window screens. One of the world's best inventions!

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After it's peeled, cut it in half.

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And, if you're me, marvel at the fact that the seeds look like pumpkin seeds.
That nature, it'll get ya every time.

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Then core it with an ice cream scoop, the easiest tool for the job.

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Then cut it up into small chunks.

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And add it to your stock pot, which is patiently waiting for ingredients on the stove.

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Next, chop the onion into large-ish chunks.
That's a technical cooking term, of course.

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Add the onion to the stock pot.

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Then add in 1 tsp curry powder.

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Then cut the ends off the pears.

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And peel them.

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Then - you guessed it - core and chop!

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And into the pot with them!

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Last, add four cups of chicken broth.

Mark has used vegetable broth for this instead of chicken broth. If you're a strict vegetarian, use that. If you're a strict vegetarian, you probably don't need me to tell you about this possible substitution. If you're a meat eater, use the chicken broth, because Mark says it tastes better.

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Stir and turn up the heat to maximum until the mixture boils.

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Do a little kitchen cleaning instead of watching it constantly.
A watched pot never boils, don't you know...

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Then allow it to simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

Mark says this is the best part of the recipe - that you get 25 minutes to go do something else. Of course, we sat and kvetched. And looked up the definition of mincemeat for his daughter Emma, who is reading Great Expectations for school and wanted to know. Did you know traditional mincemeat has suet in it? Do you know what suet is? Well, we had to look that one up, too. It's "the hard fatty tissue about the loins and kidneys of beef, sheep, etc., used in cooking"

Yeah. Not in my cooking. Nope. We decided that while that may be traditional, many people these days don't put that in their mincemeat pies - rather, they are just dried fruit pies. Or at least that's what we choose to believe. And, actually, that link up there will take you to a Wikipedia article that states most people just use some vegetable shortening these days. Amen to that.

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After twenty-five minutes, the mixture is cooked down and tender.

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Use your immersion blender if you have one to puree the ingredients.

If you don't have an immersion blender, go buy one. Heh heh. No, seriously, you could transfer the contents to your regular blender to puree. But, sister, those hand immersion blenders are mighty nice. Add it to your Christmas list.

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After pureed, add salt and pepper to taste.
Don't be shy with the pepper.

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And then you're ready to serve!

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Hoo-wee, it's a good one!

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Mark's Pear Squash Soup

1 butternut squash or 4-5 cups
1 medium onion
2 medium pears
1 tsp curry
4 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut ends off, peel and chop squash, onion and pears into small chunks and place in large stock pot. Add curry and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Puree mixture until a smooth consistency throughout. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

So there you have it! A wonderfully warm, soothing, tasty, healthy, autumnal recipe to add to your arsenal! Add it to the list for the Thanksgiving feast. You won't be sorry you did! Thanks, Mark, for allowing me to photograph your tasty soup creation.

Before we go today, I want to thank my newest (and really very seasoned) followers for joining the "Follower" ranks yesterday. It's nice to see some of my regulars showing up over there!

Also, this morning was the next diet weigh-in. After a slow 2.2 pound loss last week (actually a normal amount, but it was a little slow based on the weeks prior) - this week, I am excited to report that I have lost another 5.2 pounds for a total loss of 19.4 pounds!!! This is very exciting for me, as I hope to at least get to 25 pounds lost before Christmas and this still seems attainable. I mean, the week ahead will be rough on the diet, because I do intend to eat on Thanksgiving and any Thanksgiving related events. So, while I will still be dieting in between, it could be another low loss week. But, even with "slow" weeks, I should be able to make it to 25 by the time I go to Indiana. And that is exciting to me!

And, I cannot WAIT to start telling you about the thankfulness mail I've been receiving. What fun it has been to get to the mailbox every day! You should try mailing self addressed stamped envelopes to your friends and see the kind of mail you get back! What's more, the stuff on the cards are TERRIFIC and you're gonna love them. It's gonna be great!

Kindest regards for your Tuesday. See you tomorrow.