Holidays, Traditions And Memories

It’s that time of year when I find myself in my pantry taking inventory. No, I’m not  extremely obsessed with what’s in there or making sure no one has found my hidden stash of chocolate ( admit it, you have a stash too 😉

It’s honestly to check out what baking ingredients I have or still need before I get ready to start all of my Christmas baking and candy making for the season.

We just wrapped up Thanksgiving where I  made a variety of pies and an amazing Pecan Pumpkin cheesecake.

Christmas will be all kinds of cookies, some new recipes, but mostly old, tried and true ones that have been in my family for awhile that everyone looks forward to.

For me, the traditions of the season mean as much as anything else to me. I love that my kids have been raised with certain things that as adults, are now traditions to them. My son is now interested in carrying on similar traditions with his children.

Last week I was whipping up some pumpkin pies, using a batter bowl that had been my grandmothers. She has been gone since 1994, but I know that piece from my childhood, remember her using it.

 

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When she passed away, my mom naturally inherited all of her things. She stashed the “old” dishes away saying she had seen them her entire life and wanted to use different  dishes.

When my mom passed away two years ago, the task fell on me to begin sorting through items in her house. Of course the first things I brought home were some of my grandmothers now “old” dishes.

Now long worn with wear, sporting some chips and an occasional crack, to me they reflect life, use, and the service to family. They reflect a time gone by. Family who is no longer with me today. Memories. Traditions. Shared experiences. Life.

Using these items somehow makes me feel more connected to my mom and grandmother.

I will admit, this time of year, from about October thru the New Year is hard for me since my Mom loved the entire “holiday” season. She loved the baking and freely shared her talents with so many people. She worked so hard to make the holidays enjoyable not just for her family, but those she encountered in her daily life.  I miss her plotting and planning with me for our big family meals, her festively wrapped packages, and childlike enthusiasm for the season.

Being in the kitchen is just a way I feel connected to her during this time. Using dishes that have been passed along are just a soft touch for me to keep my Mom, grandmother, and memories alive in my mind.

It’s my hope to share, teach and inspire the young women in my family to carry on the traditions for upcoming years and generations for their families.

What traditions do you have in your family during the holidays? Have you started new ones or do you carry on ones that have been in your family for a long time?

Below you’ll find the traditional pumpkin pie recipe I use each year.  Enjoy!

(1) 9 inch pie crust. ( homemade or a defrosted all ready crust)

2 eggs, lightly beaten, (1) can 15oz. Solid packed pumpkin, 3/4 c sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, (1) can 12 oz. undiluted evaporated milk

Prepare pie crust, mix filling ingredients in order listed. Pour into crust. Bake in preheated 425 oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350. Bake an additional 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. If necessary cover edge of crust with foil to prevent burning.

Cool and garnish as desired.

 

 

Parades, Small Towns, And County Fairs

So this past weekend we celebrated Labor Day weekend in the good ‘ol  U.S. of A.  This holiday weekend typically signals the end of summer, the start of fall and school activities, and a general wind down of simple, lazy summer days.

The town I’ve lived and grown up in has its county fair all weekend long and on Saturday the streets are literally closed off for the fair parade. This was the 111th year for all the shenanigans.

The parade, like the fair, has definitely changed a lot over the years, but then so has the town. It’s not so small anymore and some of the small town things have given way to a bigger town growth and ideas.

One thing that remains with the Saturday morning parade is the gathering of families, a relaxed fun morning and an opportunity to run into friends you might not see all the time.

Oh, not to mention hanging out at the local bakery, drinking coffee and indulging in a rare pastry 😉

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Hey! I’ve got coffee and that’s most important 😉 and don’t miss that I caught a kid in the act of shooting a basket, quite by chance haha

 

The parade has it’s usual variety of local business advertisements, some actual and real parade floats, bands, dance teams, military representation, and of course a plethora of clowns.

I’ve found over time people fall into two camps with clowns.

They love them… or hate them.

 

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They look harmless enough, right ???

 

Then you have grown men that speed around on things like this…. this is what scares me… well not really… not anymore as they’ve made them kinda tame down their crazy speed circles they used to do…. right at the crowds…

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This is what happens when dads are left unattended on weekends. Their version of a sports car 😉

Ok and you only see a few pictured here… there  really are like… thousands of them… in their loud lil cars, doing donuts and stuff…

Of course it’s not really a country parade without… you know….tractors….

 

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Old school tractors.. complete with the farmer….

 

 

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Why yes, that is a life size fake elephant on a little trailer 😛

 

 

 

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Reppin’ old military

 

It is worth mentioning, we actually roll up the streets like, three times a year, for parades. June is a German heritage celebration, then in December of course it’s a Christmas parade.

I will freely admit the Christmas is my most favorite. Our town is full of white lights and is so beautiful. Every entry in the parade is light covered and there’s just a fun spirit in the air.

Well, wait. Maybe that’s the kettlecorn I’m smelling. And oh my gosh, if you’ve never had it… I’m sorry…. really I am.

It’s this amazing combo of sweet and salty and I always want them to bag it for me right after it’s finished. Truthfully though, it’s always fresh as there’s a line waiting for it.

Some years the weather is the right amount of crisp, cold. Other years, you can wear shorts 😛

Gosh, hard to imagine we’ll be at that parade in a few shorts months…

Ah yes. Small town USA. Even though we’re not so really small anymore, during parades and town celebrations it still has that wonderful vibe.

And no matter what, it’s home, and everything always feels good when you’re home.

Favorite Things Of Christmas

Christmas week. Christmas only days ahead….

Yikes!

I’ve been baking, shopping and wrapping like a wild woman.

My stockings have been hung by the chimney with care in hopes that I’ve been a good girl and Santa will leave me some goodies 😉

Decorating and getting out favorite Christmas decorations is definitely something I enjoy each year. As much as I love adding a new thing here and there with the passing Christmas seasons, it’s the old stuff that’s been around for awhile that really brings me the most joy.
You know how you probably have something that is “Christmas” to you? Maybe it’s a special food or cookie. Maybe it’s a particular decoration or something that’s been hanging around for awhile that when you get it out it evokes memories of years gone by.

That’s cool stuff….things that evoke memories of past Christmas seasons.

This first picture is a little village my grandmother put out every year for as long as I can remember. She would put the Barclay skaters out with the village. ( you can see them in the second picture… the people in this one are definitely more current) That was back in the day when lead figures were made of, well, lead 😉 I would get lost as a child sometimes just sitting and looking at it… that tiny little winter wonderland.

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As time went on and my grandmother passed away, my mom got the village. And after several years she moved on to a newer more modern ceramic one ( I never understood). One Christmas I was up in the loft in my moms barn like some large rat rummaging around for some things for her when back in the corner, forgotten, was the tiny village and winter skaters.

I immediately fell into begging mode… “Please, please, please let me have the village!” ( I can beg quite well when I have to 😉
She agreed and then I pressed again… “and the skater people? and the Santa and sled?” she told me to take them all…

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. After all these years, the village and skater people with the Santa were mine!

I brought them home and carefully opened up the box taking out each tiny house. They were dusty and dirty and in need of some repair… to which I carefully set out to do… that Christmas they were out again with the lights carefully shining through the back of them (they have little holes for lights in the back)

That day began my quest ( and addiction) to learn about these cheap little dimestore houses and winter village scenes. Much to my surprise I learned the set I had grown up with were actually houses at the end of the era of the “cardboard” villages (mid 60’s).

The Barclay lead figurines were from the early ’40’s. I also learned my Santa is very rare and quite pursued as he was the only style made like this in 1942.

Often referred to as “putz houses” in older times the village was arranged around and under the tree creating often spectacular and unique displays.

As my digging and research broadened I learned these houses had shown up on the scene sometime in the late 1920’s. The most spectacular, beautiful ones were made during that time through about the mid 40’s. Many of these were huge with exquisite details ( and were on ebay selling for crazy amounts of money which quickly left me out of the pursuit of many) and yes, I got the bug.

Once I started seeing some of the unique, and beautifully detailed pieces it was hard to not jump in and gather my own “collection”.

This is the picture below.

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The “youngest” piece is the big white church in the center…it’s about my age haha… It was in horrible shape when I bought it. Someone had put hot pink and bright blue tissue paper in for windows… it had no fence…it was dirty… and I restored it to what it looks like now. The peach church to the left I bought for 9.00 … the windows had been chewed out by mice..it had no steeple… or windows.. the cotton was not on the roof… it was dirty.. but it was so unique I wanted it.( and my family shamelessly laughed at me for buying it) It had an actual little light in the bottom you could turn on. I bought it and carefully restored it… it is the piece I’m most proud of giving new life to. Even serious collectors I sent pics to were amazed at how it was restored.

I think my favorite pieces to find are the “cotton topped” houses, but especially the churches. These seem to have had a time span of only the early 40’s.

All of the houses in the second picture range in age from youngest of 55 to about 85 years old. The small house in forefront with lots of really tiny windows I believe is circa late 1920’s making it the oldest. Houses with the figurines of Santa and the Priest were made during the early 30’s and are most coveted by collectors today.

Given that these were cheap cardboard little pieces that sold for 5-10 cents during their brief time in history I find it totally amazing they are still around all these years later. I wonder about where they’ve been and what history they’ve been a part of. Todays villages are pretty but totally pale in comparison to me when I see the old antique beauty of these pieces.

In the second picture you can see the winter skaters and Santa and reindeer that were a part of my childhood village.

This is a part of Christmas that delights me in that childlike way.

Tell me… what special thing is it for you that says Christmas ?

Mary… Did You Know ?

Hey boys and girls =)  as I shared with you in a past post even though my blog focuses on health, fitness, and a whole lotta running related stuff, I will take times to delve into other aspects of life and write about whatever is currently on my mind or heart.

It makes for a happier blogger girl to get some of that other stuff outta my head 😉

Christmas is coming. Glorious, beautiful Christmas.

It is my most favorite holiday, hands down. I love the family traditions, special recipes,  shopping for gifts, wrapping ( I love making beautiful presents), the music, decorating my home, baking treats and sharing them with others… ahhhh so many delicious things to enjoy =) Yeah, stick around ’cause I plan to do several fun, happy spirited Christmas posts as we move through the month.

One of my favorite Christmas songs for years now has been a song called “Mary Did You Know”.  The music part aside, the lyrics have always given me great thought to pause as the song inquires  of thoughts from Mary about her son.

Maybe because I’m a mom of three sons it stirs  my soul in a deep way. I know the love a mother has for her sons. I know the tender way they can treat me, how they can make me laugh, make me crazy, terrify me, amuse me, and delight me at their own unique personalities.

Of course, my sons aren’t the Son of God.

The song asks Mary if she knew one day her son would rule nations, or heal the blind and deaf or if she knew kissing her baby, she was kissing God’s face.

mary did you know

 

When I hear those words, I have wondered. Did Mary know those things?

Mary was a normal young woman chosen to deliver the Son of God. I can’t help but think she would’ve had LOTS on her mind, and maybe lots of questions, but I’m still left wondering, did Mary know things about her supernatural son?

I like to think, Jesus growing up, was like a normal little boy. Active, busy, inquiring, into things, maybe making Mary breath a deep sigh of relief when he was (finally) taking a nap.

But could Mary know beyond an earthly sense things about her son ?  His destiny? His calling? His purpose?

She had received the unusual visit from an angel who had announced to her that she was chosen to carry God’s Son.  I’m pretty sure that would’ve set me on my ear. I wonder if she was given a special peace and understanding as she not only delivered this  child but raised and cared for him in daily life…. as he grew up and grew closer to his destiny.

His destiny to die for the sins of mankind. The Lamb of God.

Did Mary fully know ?  Could she ?

Yes, the angel had shared some things with her ( as if that wouldn’t blow your mind)  but like any of us (cause we’re human) did she grasp it all ?  How do you parent the Son of God ?

I wonder… Mary… did you know….

The reasons God chose you ? And ponder why ?

All of the amazing plan God had in store? or could you only see part?

That your son was really different from the other kids in the neighborhood ?

That some day he would miraculously heal the sick, blind and lame ?  Stop storms in their tracks ?

That the boy she watched grow into a man would someday die in front of her on a cruel Roman cross ?

Did Mary know her son was also her Savior ?

Did she know at all the suffering she would go through watching her grown son die in front of her?

I think this is what gets me the deepest. That evokes pain my heart.

Wondering if she knew…. wondering how she stood up under that knowledge.

Several years ago, my middle son had a horrible wreck coming home. He flipped his truck several times before it rested towards the bottom of a hill. His friend was thrown from the truck. When a friend called concerned and he hadn’t shown up home, we went driving looking for him.

I will never forget that night. As a parent it was the most horrible, gut wrenching thing I’ve gone through. We came on the accident site and I had no idea at all if my son was ok or not. It was surreal.

The lights from emergency vehicles. The police telling us to stay in our car.  My heart pounding out of my chest so loud I could hear and feel it.

My son. My beautiful, funny, strong willed, passionate middle son. I didn’t know how I would stand up to not having him.

After being told he and his friend were alert and transported to the hospital, I felt a little better, but still had no idea the condition he was in.

Arriving at the hospital and finally seeing him, bloodied and hurt, but talking and acting in his strong willed way relieved me. I wept with thankfulness for his life that had been spared ( his friend was ok too)

It’s this taste of personal agony that makes me think whenever I hear this song…that makes me wonder….

I wonder if Mary knew she wouldn’t be able to stop what would unfold..  watching in horror as her son was crucified.

Did she KNOW God’s plan for redemption  and somehow rest in that?  Knowing that her son would die, but rise to live again ?

She was human. She was a mom.  That was her child too. Her beautiful son.

Mary, did you know ? 

And what would you share with us about parenting God’s Son ?  What tips of peace would you offer us in parenting our own children ? What encouragement would you give to us when we struggle with understanding the plans for our children’s lives ? Or feel the agony and pain of loss ?  What would you teach us about the faithfulness of God and his perfect plans ? What joy would you share with us when you were reunited with your Son after the glorious resurrection ?

Mary, did you know when that angel first came to you, all the pain and joy you would experience or the incredible adventure you were about to be involved in ?

Yes. This song causes me to reflect deeply each time I hear it.  And well, there’s just a lot we’ll never know.  We can ponder, think, and reflect but we won’t ever know so many details ( I’m a woman… I love details! I want details!)

But this I do know, and it’s enough. Mary knew and trusted God. She trusted his plan. She was obedient and offered her life as an offering to be used…

and because of that I do know this… she brought MY Savior into the world who would someday die for me too… and for that… I’m immeasurably thankful.

mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween

Happy halloween

Happy Halloween =)  Time for ghosts and goblins and all things cute… and candy… free candy….as much as you want depending on your endurance and patience to hike house to house getting single or sometimes, double pieces at a time.

Let’s face it… the best and coolest places give out real chocolate 😉

Oh wait… hold on… I’m like… an adult now…. do I get to participate ??

Haha I still love having a costume and heading out with my kids… and they are all pretty much grown but I can still tag along ’cause now I’m in grandparent status.

I will shamelessly admit I still love dressing up. I love costumes and all things fun. I figure there are enough people in the world holding down the “sane, sensible adult category” I don’t need to  take up space there 😉

So yeah… costume ready… and I do get to fish some good prizes outta the kids treat bags so it’s a win/win.

But I got to thinking…. hang with me if you will….  I was getting a little nostalgic thinking of Halloweens past and trick or treating when I honestly WAS a kid.

Times seemed simpler. The day seemed longer. There weren’t so many of the worries and concerns there are today. There weren’t crazy stigmas tied to it. You got to make tissue ghosts and spiders and have real Halloween parties in school before it became generically “fall” themed.  It was just a fun time to dress up in cool costumes and roam the neighborhood hoping to get enough candy to carry you over till Christmas.

My younger childhood was spent in a classic low key typical neighborhood where all the kids roamed and hung out at various houses all year long. Even as a kid I got that it was a pretty comfy thing. On Halloween though it was always fun because the neighbors went all out to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. There was an older lady down the street who made real, honest super sweet popcorn balls. They were awesome. There was never even a hint we shouldn’t eat them. She was like the resident grandmother of the group. My Mom of course, cookie baker, as well as making those crazy red candy apples that threatened to break your teeth. Honestly, I never did like them. I love caramel ones though.

Costumes of course were simple affairs crafted by whatever you could pull together laying around the house. My brother and I were skilled at coming up with stuff…. and of course our Mom had to be dragged into it also. My poor brother, bless his heart, would pretty much go along with whatever hair brained ideas I came up with.

We would head out at dusk, orange plastic pumpkins with happy smiley faces in tow. The plan? Have them full before we returned home for the evening… or until our mom made us stop 😉

I don’t know why those evenings took on that “spooky” kinda feeling, but they did. You know…. where you spent time looking over your shoulder ? worried something might pop out and grab you ?  Mom always said we shouldn’t worry ’cause whatever grabbed us would soon return us haha

kids halloween

One year we had hit up a small one floor apartment complex. It was perfect….just seamless moving from one door to another collecting our sugar high.

Until…. this small, evil, yapping Chihuahua came outta nowhere and started chasing us. ( seriously I think they have “little dog” syndrome. Must they all be so nasty?) My brothers pumpkin went flying, I bolted, that dog seemed like it was everywhere….candy flying…some screaming… the owner running after it yelling… “Frito! Come here!”  ( yes. Frito)

We managed to get his pumpkin and then made a quick exit out of there. Thanks dog for ruining a good thing… but we weren’t up to wrestling with that demon anymore.

Those nights were a time of laughter and fun and high expectations. My brother and I would head home, dump out all the candy, set aside the ” not so desirable” fare and re-bucket the “good stuff”. There was the inevitable trading off for our favorites from each other.

Simple times that go by to fast. Actually, simple times that are lost and gone in todays world.

Maybe it’s just fun to me to still appreciate it on some level…. “Adult” or not. Actually in some ways, it’s more fun as an adult…. although…. the neighbors kinda frown when you show up on their door step looking for free chocolate 😉

What fun Halloween memories do you have ? Do you still like dressing up for it ?

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Pumpkin Spice And Everything Nice

pumpkin spice all things

October. I’m in denial. I know it’s technically fall, but living in south Texas and continuing to rock shorts and tanks on any given day… it’s hard to get into that warm, cozy “fall” feeling…. leggings, sweaters and boots seem far away…..

Add to that the commercial Christmas bus will be barreling down on us shortly…. but…… let’s address another big hyped thing that occurs with the beginning of Fall and all things cozy….

Yes… pumpkin spice everything.

Of course among all of the orange and spicy offerings it’s not officially Fall till Starbucks launches their Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Now I’m not a huge fan as I find those drinks to be entirely to sweet and all I think about is the zillions of calories and crazy amounts of sugar they contain…. and really I almost always just prefer my bold, black coffee… and… I don’t wear yoga pants and Uggs  😉

Now I’m not bashing the entire pumpkin thing. Not at all.  I happen to like a lot of tasty offerings… my mom made an amazing pumpkin bread and I make pumpkin spice cookies that will make you drool.

pumpkin everything

There is something about the combo of pumpkin and those spices that feels… homey and comforting and all things relaxed.

Right ? Can I get a raised Pumpkin Spice Latte in salute??

Maybe that’s what it is. After a long summer we’re ready to shift gears into a new change of seasons. We want to embrace crisp cool mornings,bulky sweaters and yes, cute boots. 😉 And what better way than a drink or special food that feels like those things ?

I found a couple items this week in my contribution to all things Fall and wonderful….

Chobani has launched another limited edition flavor in, yes you guessed it, pumpkin spice. I had my first yesterday ( I always buy one of a new flavor incase I hate it and it makes me gag 😉 I love Chobani’s Greek yogurt as I find it lower in sugar and the texture can’t be beat. My favorite “go-to” is the coconut one. But I can easily be swayed away when there’s a new kid on the block.

Ok… I loved it from first taste. It was like… creamy pumpkin pie in a cup. The spices were perfect. As mentioned, I bought one. Today, this is what’s in my ‘fridge 😉

20151002_201414The other item I found was this….

20151002_201519I’m thinking warmed with a little cream cheese….  they could be rather delicious 😉

You don’t have to look to far and wide to find there are lots of products being offered up right now if Pumpkin Spice is your big thing….

pumpkinOhhhh…. maybe the spiced cream cheese for the bagels ?? I’m not sure about the chips though.

What about you ? Do you look forward to Pumpkin Spice season ? Do you have favor things you anticipate ?