29 November 2008

Christmas shopping

Today I actually went out to a store and tried to buy a Christmas present to take advantage of a holiday deal advertised at Target. It didn't actually work because the toy wasn't at the store, but I was kind of surprised at myself that I actually ventured out. Shopping and I are generally not friends. But today was successful, in my mind. The kids stayed home with Daddy and I enjoyed the time. I stopped for coffee and coffeecake at Mika's on the way into the city and stopped for some lunch to bring home on the way out of the city. And in between, I hit a couple of stores. I didn't think the traffic or the crowds were too terribly crazy and I am now finished with buying gifts. All in all, it was good.
I also finished wrapping the presents tonight. Last year, Dennis and I decided that we are going to get our children three gifts per year in their stockings. We thought we'd tie it into the presents that Jesus received from the Magi and that we'd sort of use an interpretation of the gifts we'd either read about or heard somewhere -- one present will be something to treasure like the gold, one present will be something for the body like myrhh, and one present will be something to speak to the spirit like frankincense which was used for worship.
So, this year, Annalivia is getting a doll and Daniel is getting a fire truck to treasure (though not the one that was advertised at 75% off at Target). They are both getting t-shirts for their little bodies. And they are getting two books each to enhance their spirits-- one is a Christmas story that will appeal to each and the other for each is a story about developing wise character. I managed to find the books I was looking for today, thus completing the trio, so Dennis and I wrapped the gifts up tonight and hid them downstairs. And it's not even December yet! :)
For our families, we will be making gifts, for the most part. My family has always been good about spending a very small amount on Christmas and instead focusing on the pleasure of giving and receiving gifts that use the giver's talents and consider the receiver's interests carefully. It is always so much more fun to give and receive things that bear some imprint of real consideration for another, isn't it? I love that the precedent for Christmas has been set in this way. It's frugal, but also, more importantly, meaningful.
So, I am pretty much done shopping, unless I end up needing supplies for those things I'm making. And, I suppose I will need to take Annalivia up to the Et Cetera Shoppe with her Christmas allowance at some point and allow her to choose presents for family. But those things will be fun to do when the time arises. I'm looking forward to it even now.
Maybe Shopping and I could become friends after all!

28 November 2008

And onward...

We had a very nice Thanksgiving Day here. It was a day of lots of food. I made the rest of the buttermilk roll recipe into cinnamon rolls for breakfast. They were very good and led me to appreciate even more that recipe. The family arrived for pate and other stuff late morning. We were done with that by noon and then on to Lil's for dinner in the early evening. The food was all wonderful and the schedule was fairly relaxed. After our exhausted children got into bed a little before 8, I went out to my parents' house and got to have some really nice, and needed-by-me, conversation with both Dad and Mom. I returned home in time to smell the laundry Dennis had done in my absence. It was a good day.
Today, we are turning towards the next holiday. The fall decorations are in the process of being put away. I got the Advent/ Christmas books out today and set out some of our nativity sets. Tomorrow morning, we'll go help decorate the church and then Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and we'll start opening the doors of our Advent house calendar. Sunday night my sister, brother in law and I will sing at our Hanging of the Greens service.
I'm looking forward to all of it. In fact, this approach the holidays is so new and different for me right now. I'm very excited to be able to actually focus on contemplating and absorbing and experiencing and worshiping this year. Actually, about two weeks ago, it occurred to me that I hadn't even considered that Advent was approaching quickly. That never, ever, ever happened as a pastor! It was a delicious realization. I'm not sure I've ever been in the position to approach Christmas this way, as a matter of fact. Before pastoring where coordinating church activities absorbed all focus, there was seminary with church and finals, and before that college with finals. My guess is that it has been since I was in high school or before that I have been able to come into the holidays with a blank slate, of sorts. It's definitely the first time in our marriage, which means it's a whole new world for Dennis, too. It's amazing to be able to just savor this time! I pray I make the most of it. (Perhaps by making less of it...) What a gift as life proceeds onward...

26 November 2008

Why don't I think of these things sooner?

I have pulled the turkey out of the oven. It smells wonderful. It tastes pretty good, too. I cooked it in an oven bag because it is getting sliced up and put in a dish ahead of time. I like the oven bag because the cooking time is so much faster, and it seems to me that the meat seems a little more moist. Even still, I think the breast meat is too dry. This is one reason I appreciate the whole slice-it-up-ahead-of-time turkey prep. Last year when I pulled out the bird, I was sort of aghast at how dry the breast meat ended up. I sliced it, covered it with broth, and refrigerated it. The next day, it was delicious.
What occurred to me today, though, after I took the turkey out of the oven, of course, was that I could have cooked it with the breast side down. The presentation factor is removed from it anyway and it probably would be more delicious. Next year, maybe I'll try it. If I can remember.
Now, on to the real star of the day -- the gravy. I'm debating whether to do it right now while the juices are hot, or wait until this evening when Dennis can do some whisking. I'm leaning towards the evening option. I still have the casseroles to assemble and the pate to make. I can do those before he gets home and just have gravy to do later.
PLUS -- I have to get ready for the big highlight of the next few days -- sistah night! Tonight! Three of four sistahs are already in central IL. The fourth should be arriving soon! I am guaranteed to have a great evening. I should probably shower to assure the same for my sistahs! :)
Be well, all. And if I don't get back to post again -- have a happy Thanksgiving!

24 November 2008

To my fellow yarnaholics...

How do you ever figure out which project to do next? I have about a gajillion I'd like to do, and, more importantly, have done. Christmas projects are next, obviously, but I'd love to make Annalivia a hat/ scarf/ mitten set for church, and I'd love to make myself a winter hat with a big floppy brim and I'd love to make booties and clothes and a blanket for the baby and I'd love to make a yarn bag -- I actually need that -- and I'd love to try slippers and figure out something really useful for Dennis... the list goes on and on...
And somehow, I'm going to have to figure out how to fund this yarn obsession. Maybe gift certificates to Hobby Lobby and yarn stores should be the only thing on my Christmas list...
What do the rest of you yarn-addicts do?

Thanksgiving Build-up

I am so excited that Thanksgiving is this week! I kind of can't believe it, also. Where has the time gone?
We are having Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's house on Thursday early evening, but before that, late morning, the family is coming to our house for Pate (with the little accent on the e -- how does one do that, by the way?) and hors d'ouevres. I'm in charge of the food for that and then I'll be taking some food to Lil's also. Since I'm having a few problems adjusting to some new medication and have a doctor's appointment tomorrow and a guest arriving on Thursday morning, I've decided to create a schedule for myself to keep myself on track and make sure I have time to rest. I know none of you out there really needs this much info, but it helps me to be accountable, if only to Blogger. So, here it is.

Cook turkey necks/ drumstick, celery and onion to make broth for gravy and turkey. Strain, refrigerate.
Fold clothes currently piled on guest room bed. :)
Get out any new thanksgiving decorations i.e. the cornucopia.

Slice and blanche squash for casserole. Refrigerate.
Cook livers for pate. Refrigerate.
Make spinach artichoke dip. Refrigerate.
Vacuum upstairs, including guest room.

Set out cream cheese to soften for pate.
Assemble squash casserole.
Assemble corn casserole.
Bake turkey. Cool. Slice. Cover with broth, cover and refrigerate.
Make pate. Refrigerate.
Make gravy. Refrigerate.
Clean bathrooms, vacuum downstairs again.
Put out guest towels.
Go enjoy sistah night.
Put clean tablecloth on the table.

Make parmesan breadsticks.
Make bacon appetizers.
Set out pate, crackers, cheeses, dips, summer sausage, hot appetizers, peanuts, punch, juice, wine etc.
One hour before dinner, cook casseroles, reheat turkey, reheat gravy. Drive the five blocks to Lil's. Give lots and lots of thanks.

23 November 2008

Sunday Dinner II

Today, we hosted Sunday dinner again. Dennis got a ham from work for the holidays and rather than freezing it to use later, we decided to cook it up. So we had a nice dinner of spinach bisque, ham, scalloped potatoes, and buttermilk rolls provided by me, with jello and green salad provided by Mom and green beans with bacon provided by Lil. I also made pineapple upside down cake with whipped cream for dessert. We were all full. And now we have a refrigerator full of food going into this Thanksgiving week. I guess we don't have to worry about dinners and lunches for a few days.

I wanted to share two interesting recipes I ended up using. The first is for Refrigerator Buttermilk Rolls. The interesting part is that the dough can supposedly be made up ahead of time and then stuck in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. I even ran out of buttermilk and used the ol' milk-with-vinegar trick and it worked well, which makes this a keeper recipe, for me. The rolls, which I made in regular round shape, were very soft and light and tasty and delicious, especially with a bit of the homemade butter Lil provided. They'd be great hamburger buns, I think. I will try them with whole wheat next time. I thought someone may enjoy the recipe for Thanksgiving. It's always nice to find things that can be made ahead.

The other recipe worth sharing, in my mind, was for the spinach bisque. It was very good and really, could be a meal all on its own. I made it because the ham ended up being small and I was worried we wouldn't have enough. We did have plenty, of course, but this bisque was probably my favorite part of the meal. I combined a couple of recipes to come up with this one. I think it would also taste delicious with a little tobasco or a tablespoon of dijon mustard added for a little bit more bite. It can be diluted with more chicken broth to make it stretch, or one could add even more spinach. It's very rich. Just pretend like it doesn't have any calories and enjoy. :)

Spinach Bisque
1 med onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced finely
2 T butter
1/4-1/2 cup white wine (can be omitted)
2 boxes of spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 pkgs cream cheese, softened and cut into smaller pieces
1 1/2 c. half and half
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
pepper to taste
Sautee onion and garlic in butter until transluscent. Deglaze pan with wine. Add spinach and cream cheese. Allow cheese to melt slightly. Add half and half slowly, stirring to make the mixture quite smooth. When cream cheese is entirely melted, add the chicken broth. Stir to make smooth again. Add cheddar cheese in batches, stirring until smooth. When cheddar is melted, add parmesan. Stir well. Season to taste. Heat through, but do not allow it to fully boil. Best when very warm.

21 November 2008

Pink hats

For my girls :)
Please ignore the fact that my daughter is about to taste a ginko leaf. Again. Annalivia's hat is cloche-style with a scalloped edge and an added ear/ neck warmer all the way around the sides and back of the inside. She didn't like it until I added the white edging and the flower.
Emmeliese's hat is an adjustable preemie hat. There's a set of eyelets further up that the tie could go in to make it larger. I wanted to make a small hat that would be soft and warm that could be worn right after she's born. The hospital's hats were so huge on Annalivia; we took a preemie hat for Daniel and it worked perfectly. Emmeliese's hat is being modeled by Annalivia's doll, Henry, who was just slightly larger than Daniel when he was born. I think the hat should fit Emmeliese in the hospital. Unless she has her brother's giant head, that is. :)

I've also got some gorgeous merino wool/ cashmere/ silk pink yarn to make something really special for Emmeliese. And I've got some fun fuzzy stuff to make Annalivia a hat and scarf and mittens to go with her new red wool church coat. So I'll be busy. And there will be more photos to come...

20 November 2008

It's an Emmeliese

Back when I was pregnant with Annalivia, Dennis and I talked a lot about names. We had another name chosen for Annalivia before I became pregnant with her, but it just wasn't right. Eventually, we found Annalivia and we both knew it was right when we heard it.

We also knew that our second daughter was going to be named Emmeliese. Emmeliese Elizabeth, to be exact. And from before the time that her elder sister was born, Emmeliese seemed very real to me. It was as though she was just out there waiting to come to us.

In fact, Emmeliese was so real to me that when I got pregnant for the second time, I was almost positive that it her. When the ultrasound tech said that we had a little boy, I was downright shocked. I thought for sure that he was Emmeliese. It took me a while to adjust to the idea of Daniel being Daniel. (This is yet another one of the reasons that we will always find out the gender of our babies, if possible. Knowing who is in there is a big, big deal to me.) Of course, now that he is here, I can't imagine our family without him. He has completed another piece of our family that couldn't be filled in any other way. And I am continually thankful that he is mine.

All of that being said, though, the sense that Emmeliese was out there has not gone away. Several times over the last few years I have dreamed about her. About two or three weeks before I became pregnant with this baby, I dreamed about Emmeliese again. I dreamed that I was calling out her name over and over again. And when I woke up I told Dennis I felt like I was calling her to me. And when, a few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant and Annalivia immediately insisted that she had a baby sister, I felt hopeful that Emmeliese had finally decided to come to us.

But I had been wrong before. After all, I thought Annalivia was a James and Daniel was Emmeliese. So on Monday, when we had an ultrasound, I was prepared to be excited if this baby ended up being a William or Peter or John or whatever.
But -- it's not! It's her! She's actually here with us and we are sooooo excited to finally get to meet our little Emmeliese Elizabeth, if even in utero! Her big sister is particularly thrilled. When the ultrasound tech told her the baby was a girl she started jumping up and down and clapping. And when I asked her what she thought Emmeliese would look like, Annalivia said, "She'll be wearing a beautiful, long dress..." And Daniel has his own song for her, "Baby Liese, Liese, Liese".

Obviously, Emmeliese is already treasured in our family. Today I had another ultrasound. It was really neat to see her little face and her legs and arms. I keep thinking of Psalm 139, " For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." She is indeed fearfully and wonderfully made and she is just beautiful already.

We are soooo grateful, thankful, and very excited about what is to come!
Hooray! It's an Emmeliese!

19 November 2008


We are not animal people. And when I say "we", I mean, Dennis and I. We are not animal people for many legitimate reasons including allergies, but the biggest reason is that neither of us are fans of the prospect of cleaning up the feces of those who don't share our DNA. Our children, however, have not thought out the whole cleaning-up-after thing and are, therefore, animal lovers. And what they really want is a cat.
Enter Sarafina. Kalin gave me this cat for my birthday when I was in seminary, since it was obvious that I was never going to get a real cat. Annalivia adopted her later and named her Sarafina, after a white cat in a movie she has. When she goes to sleep, Annalivia arranges Sarafina at the foot of her bed like a real cat. Unlike a real cat, when Annalivia kicks Sarafina off the bed at night, Sarafina just lays on the floor quietly. She hasn't taken any revenge that we've detected.
But the person who has become the real owner of Sarafina is Daniel. He plays with her constantly. And he takes her everywhere. Everytime we leave, we have to make sure Sarafina is with us. "C'mon, 'Fina!" he yells. Then he makes her meow in loud, bark-like sounds. Sarafina is a good travel companion. The only time she has caused any distraction is when she was lobbed into the front seat accompanied by Daniel's screams of protest. I am pretty sure Annalivia was behind that.
We have told our kids that one day we will live on a farm or someplace where kitties and maybe even a doggie can live outside. Then they can have lots of animals. And presumably, they'll be old enough to clean up after them. In the meantime, there's Sarafina. And she's a pretty good substitute.

16 November 2008

My second completed crochet project

A hat for my goddaughter who stopped by yesterday. It was another very fast project. I added earflaps and scallopped edges. I made it very ruffly in front and less so in back. I probably should have taken more time to get a better fit, or made larger earflaps. I hope it will work for this winter at least.

14 November 2008

My first completed project

Ok. I don't mean to be over-dramatic, but I think the universe has shifted. I have actually completed an artistic project. (Those of you who know me can now pick yourselves up off of the floor.) I owe it all to the miracle called crochet.
I think I might be addicted to crochet. Seriously. Dennis caught me creeping out of bed at 12:15 this morning and asked where I was going. "Just downstairs." He asked what I was going to do. "Ummm....just some stuff."
"Let me guess," he said. "Does this 'stuff' involve YARN?"
Last night after puzzling over the heel of the stockings for a few hours, I decided to start a project this morning that I thought I could finish quickly. I had bought this yarn to make a hat and scarf for Daniel and decided to start the hat. I found this wonderful woman's video tutorial on how to make a circle. I studied it and and also watched her video for a how to make a beanie, then I struck out on my own. I made the circle first so that the hat would have a larger, flatter crown to fit my son's giant head. (43 hours of labor. I'm just sayin'...) Then I made short rounds and towards the end, just went back and forth to make the earflaps. The flaps can be worn up or down, and the ties are just a simple chain.

It is definitely not perfect, but it is DONE! And wearable and pretty cute, I think, especially when on his little (or not-so-little) head.

13 November 2008

Another thanksgiving

Today, my sister Lil and her daughters came over to spend some time after the eldest daughter got done with Kindergarten. Annalivia had invited her cousin over to watch Sleeping Beauty. There was not much watching going on, but they had a good time. And Lil and I got to sit and chat while I worked some more on my crocheted Christmas stocking. Lillia also got hooked (hee, hee, hooked, get it?) on crochet so I might have a co-conspirator when it comes to figuring out how to do it once she gets hooks and yarn. And everyone in our family might end up with several scarves for Christmas.
After she and the girls left, I felt thankful again for the blessing of family being near. The difference in our lives three months ago and now is so profound. I feel as though I'm a branch grafted back onto the family tree instead of a little shoot trying to put out roots elsewhere. I honestly believe that some people are of the variety that grow better in their own soil and some of us really need the lifeblood flowing to the other branches to feel most completely ourselves. I am in the latter category, I've realized. And I'm thankful, thankful, thankful that I'm here to experience all of this.
Also -- I've moved my thankful list offline. But I've still been doing it -- just in case anyone thought yet another lofty goal had been scuttled aside, as is generally my way. :)

12 November 2008

A new project

I'm learning to crochet. Long ago, my maternal grandmother, Ga, made my family Christmas stockings. They were wonderful -- all about the same shape, but all different designs, personalized with names, big enough to fit toothbrushes and socks and books and cd's as well as a larger gift, stretchy enough so that when an orange was put in the toe they hung down another foot... They really were everything a Christmas stocking should be.

The last few years, we've not used Christmas stockings. But the house we are renting has a beautiful fireplace and I want my little ones to have the same sort of experience opening their stocking on Christmas morning. Ga has been gone 11 years now, so I can't ask her how she made them. However, I know they were crocheted and thanks to the miracles of the internet and YouTube and this brilliant woman, I'm forging ahead on my own. I hope to get one done for Daniel and Annalivia by this Christmas. And hopefully, I'll have the other three finished by Christmas 2009!

11 November 2008

On Veterans' Day

For this Veterans' Day, I'd like to share one of my favorite recordings made in 1941 when the country was at war. Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee in one of her first studio session recorded an interpretation of the Rodgers and Hart ballad, Where or When. Rather than giving it the full-blown bravado of later more popular recordings, this oneis introspective and sensitive. It speaks to the mood of a nation wondering where or when or even, if, the next encounter with loved ones would occur.
I and most I know have never experienced such sacrifice. But every day, we are the beneficiaries. Most days we are blissfully unaware of the work that has been done so that we many enjoy the liberties we enjoy. But today, we have no excuse for ignorance.
Thank you, Veterans, for your service. It is not enough to say it, but thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
"May the wreaths they have won never wither and the star of their glory never grow dim."

10 November 2008

Fake flowers

This summer, before I left the pastorate, a daughter-in-law of a church member came to church to give us a demonstration on how to arrange fake flowers. It was interesting and we made several bouquets for the chancel of the church, but I sort of filed the info under "Things I now know and won't ever use."
Fast forward to the last couple of weeks when I went to a couple of the big craft stores in Peoria and noticed that all of the fall flowers were on 50%-75% off clearance. I found some big hydrangeas, which happen to be one of my flower weaknesses, and then it occurred to me that I know, sort of, how to use those! So I bought some others and came up with these bouquets with the help of two vases from WalMart.

This one is on the library table in our foyer. It is perfect for the space. I like the colors and the fake berries. And I especially like the hanging, spindly leaves and things. My favorite thing is the hydrangeas.

This one is in the entryway right by one of the front doors. Again, it is about the perfect size and you can't tell in these photos, but the leaves hang down and the fuzzy things are a lot more green and protude out. And the eucalyptus has more green in it, too.

I have always kind of been a fresh-flowers only type of snob, but I gotta say -- I like not watering things. And I like that these arrangements are going to last. And I like that I was actually able to arrange them, which I have never, ever been able to do with fresh flowers.

So... fake flowers for me. For now.

The things I get away with

Yesterday, after lunch, we ran over to Peoria to get Daniel a nice looking winter coat at Old Navy. I like it when they cut their coat prices in half, which they have recently, so we found a coat that will work for pretty much all-of-the-time and then got back in the car to head home.
It was around dinner time and Dennis and I were not hungry at all, but Annalivia said she wanted to eat. Then she volunteered that she wanted a "roast beef sandwich from Arby's." We had passed an Arby's on the way to the store and were going past it again, but I was thinking it would be better to just eat at home. So I said, "Annalivia, if you wait til we get home to eat, you could have OATMEAL for dinner..."
To which she responded enthusiastically, "Yay!!!"
And we came home and she and Daniel had oatmeal with brown sugar and milk for dinner. With seconds and thirds.
I'm not sure how I ended up with kids who count oatmeal as a big treat, but I'll take it. It's nice to be able to get away with something every once in a while.

09 November 2008

Return to Sunday Dinner

I realized today -- I have simple dreams with simple themes. Home and family are central to most. A comfortable place to live, special traditions, several consecutive nights of uninterrupted sleep... these are the thoughts that set me afire.

Today, I got to realize a long-time dream of mine which was to host a family Sunday Dinner after church. Since college when I interned at a little church in northern Illinois where four generations worshiped together and ate together every. single. Sunday. after church, I have wanted to do so with my family.

We're not up to every Sunday...yet...beware, family... but today we got together after church. I thought it was wonderful. We had pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli with cheese, homemade bread from my sistah, Lil, and old-fashioned three-layer buttermilk chocolate cake for dessert. I got to set the table with a white tablecloth and put out the cloth napkins. We used silver. We even got out the china gravy bowl. And we ate together.

Today, it was only Lil's family and Mom as our guests. Gramps, Grammy, and Freespirit Uncle, in from Arkansas, had their portions to go. Dad was on a boy scout campout all weekend. But it was such a gift to join hands around the table, eat leisurely, have mom wash dishes :), and enjoy the conversation while the kids played, mostly peaceably.

Afterwards, when the families returned home, I sat down and reflected on it all and found myself incredibly moved by the simple act of being able to be together. So many families are not afforded or do not afford themselves such opportunities. So many families do not enjoy being in the presence of each other. So many families are burdened by togetherness. But, we... well, we are blessed. Incredibly, inumerably blessed.

Honestly, I could do this every week. To me, it's a simple dream come true.

05 November 2008

On being a conservative now

Last night, as the election results were rolling in and it was clear that Barack Obama would be our president-elect, Dennis said to me that he felt sort of sorry for me that in my first election as a baby-con, I experienced being on the losing side of the presidential election. Then he pointed out that I had been on the losing side of the previous two elections also. Sweet of him, eh?
Actually, I'm 0-4. I've never picked a winning president. And while this is rather pitiful, in many different ways, what it has afforded is the unique position of being part of the losing side and listening to the verbage of the losing side. And I have to say, I'm honored to be part of this losing side this time.
I believe that conservatives have responded, in most part, with grace and honor to this election defeat. I have read and heard many friends' opinions that conservatives are mean-spirited, selfish individuals. And most of us, they suspect, are inherent racists. I believed the same thing back when I was a liberal (which, for the record, was last year). I was wrong. And my many friends who believe the same thing, if they will admit it, are wrong, too.
I was realizing yesterday as I wrote my thankful list, that there are many, many, many people on both sides of the conservative/liberal divide who have a deep appreciation, gratitude, and commitment for and to our country that goes beyond which party is in power. This gratitude is not coupled with a blindness to our failings as a country, but is a very real evaluation of the assets, strengths, past, present and future of the country and a belief that those things overpower and overcome the liabilities, weaknesses and errors we have experienced and will experience.
I will confess, as a liberal, I was not one of these people. I said I loved my country, but I really believed that America was, if not THE problem in the world, at least A problem in the world, that we had brought more suffering on others than we had alleviated, that most of us, if left to our own devices make selfish and self-serving choices, etc...
When my candidates lost in the past, I did not hear other liberals speaking of hope for the future. I did not hear others talking about the strengths we exhibit as a country. I did not hear promises to continue to serve, continue to strengthen, continue to love our country. In short, I never had the sense that our patriotism went beyond our self-interests. If our candidate was not in power, something was very, very wrong with the world.
This time is different. I know that there are conservatives who will go on attack, but most of the conservatives I have read and spoken to are expressing their hope for the country, their resolution to pray for the country and for our president-elect, and their appreciation for the historic nature of Obama's election. Most everyone I know is glad, glad, glad that an African-American family will be in the White House. They rejoice in that. I have heard that religious conservatives are vindictive and judgemental. I found these links here and here at Holly's and I would urge you to read them. Though they express a sadness in some of Obama's choices especially in regards to abortion, I think they also express very aptly what many conservatives will follow up with action, especially through prayer -- a desire for our country to be strengthened, united, and strong.
McCain's concession speech, to me, communicated this commitment. I knew before the election that he would return to the senate and serve the country he loves the same way he has in the past. He confirmed that with the words that follow. I remain glad to have supported such a man.

This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Sen. Obama and my old friend Sen. Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years...

I would not — I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century. Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it...

Tonight — tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Sen. Obama — whether they supported me or Sen. Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

04 November 2008

Recipe: Easy, delicious pasta sauce

Sometimes I hate to cook. I admit it. We eat out more often than we should as a family and we are constantly trying to figure out ways to make tasty, simple meals in the easiest possible way, while cooking from scratch. I know that processed food is not great for us. So, for the most part, I've tried to get rid of processed shortcuts and use the real deal.
One processed product that I just will not give up, though, is jarred pasta sauce. I have tried to make my own from scratch and frankly, the work is too much. We generally buy Ragu on sale and I can get if for a few cents more than a can of similarly sized tomatoes. Ragu is pretty healthy, as processed foods go. But I will admit I don't like it straight from the jar. Here is how to doctor it up and make it really, really delicious. My mother taught me this secret which is to use wine. You boil the sauce so that the alcohol cooks out of it, but it will leave a wonderful flavor. I think one might be able to use white grape juice also, but I haven't tried it. I use the wine and it never fails to be delicious.
Delicious Pasta Sauce
1 lb bulk sausage
2 jars of pasta sauce -- I use Ragu Roasted Garlic and Mushroom and Sauteed Onion
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of red wine -- I usually use Chianti or Valpolicella
Brown the sausage in a large pot. Get it really brown. Drain the fat, if necessary.
Pour in some wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape up all the delicious brown stuff on the bottom. Pour the rest of the wine in and bring to a boil.
Pour in the jars of sauce and the cans of tomato.
Bring to a boil, then turn down and let simmer for a few minutes, or as long as you like.
I also like to cook 2 boxes of pasta to use with this and my favorite pasta to us is Rigatoni or Ziti. Combined, this makes two round casserole dishes of pasta. The first night, we eat one and save leftovers for lunch the next day. I pour the rest of the pasta in the other, top with mozzarella and freeze it for some day in the future. On that day, I'll pull it out of the freezer, put it in the oven, covered, at 350 and let it cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly. It's wonderful and still involves a minimum of pots to clean.
There you go -- easy, peasy, delicious pasta sauce to make two-for-one pasta. That's the kind of cooking I can bear.

Election night video

Enjoy this way-too-catchy song while waiting for the returns.

HT: The fabulous Miz Booshay

Thanks: Election edition

41. I am thankful for the United States of America.
42. I am thankful that we consider freedom to be an inalienable right.
43. I am thankful that we are free to vote our consciences.
44. I am thankful that we have men and women who are willing to serve as our elected representatives.
45. I am thankful that we live in a time when all of us have access to lots of info about our elected officials.
46. I am thankful that I can be a campaign volunteer from my living room.
47. I am thankful that tonight, our country will be done voting.
48. I am thankful that regardless of the outcome of the election, many people will go about serving this country tomorrow and the day after that because their patriotism goes beyond political party.
49. I am thankful for the dedication and sacrifice of those enlisted in our armed forces.
50. I am thankful for the endurance of their families.
51. I am especially thankful for my friend, Scott, who is in the Sudan right now.
52. I am thankful for Jessica, his wife, and their children who welcome him home.
53. I am thankful for the way he has chosen to dedicate his life to service of our country despite a near-PhD and the lure of a more secure life.
54. I am thankful for the many others who try to make life better for themselves and those around them.
55. I am thankful for teachers.
56. I am thankful for pastors.
57. I am thankful for those in the medical profession.
58. I am especially thankful for those tending Grammy this morning.
59. I am thankful for civic servants.
60. I am thankful for scientists.
61. I am thankful for engineers, especially my engineer.
62. I am thankful for those in service positions.
63. I am thankful for those who do work others do not want to do.
64. I am thankful for volunteers.
65. I am thankful for students and learners.
66. I am thankful for the opportunity to become what we want to become.
67. I am thankful for the men and women who could not and sought a better future for themselves and others.
68. I am thankful for the knowledge of our country's history.
69. I am thankful for generations of gratitude passed down among its citizens.
70. I am thankful for current scholarship that continues to teach.
71. I am thankful for those who encourage thoughtful and rigorous examination of where we have been and where we are going.
72. I am thankful for a family who engages the world thoughtfully and with rigor.
73. I am thankful for family members who have extended grace in the midst of my own confusion, confrontations and affrontations.
74. I am thankful for the freedom to pass on these values to my children.
75. I am thankful for the commitment of my community to creating a safe, healthy place for children to grow.
76. I am thankful for the innocence of youth and the wisdom brought by age.
77. I am thankful for nice weather for this election day.
78. I am thankful for early voting procedures.
79. I am thankful for absentee ballots.
80. I am thankful for this election.

03 November 2008

A month-ish of thanks

There are only 25 days until Thanksgiving! Every year, I find myself at Thanksgiving's door wishing I had spent more time being aware of all the blessings of life. I often read Ann V.'s gratitude lists at her blog and feel inspired to join in, but tend not to move forward in a concrete way. This is the year of changes, however, and I feel the need to reflect on what is and has been and is to come with gratitude. So, I'm going to fill my blog with my thankful lists during November, hopefully every day. If you find lists difficult to read, (I confess, I do, sometimes) I apologize. And if any of you decide to do the same at your spots, please let me know. I'd love to stop by. And I promise I'll read your lists. :)

  1. I am thankful for the time change that had everyone in the house up and ready to leave for preschool with plenty of time to have breakfast and enjoy our walk.
  2. I am thankful for the walk to the school that forces me to have a little exercise and allows Daniel to look at the big trucks zooming by on Main Street.
  3. I am thankful for the way Annalivia points out the trucks to her little brother and is excited by his reactions.
  4. I am thankful for the money to buy bright red mary janes for her little feet.
  5. I am thankful that Annalivia generally doesn't argue about what she should wear to school or church or out and about.
  6. I am thankful for Annalivia's teachers.
  7. I am thankful that she enjoys and looks forward to school.
  8. I am thankful for enthusiastic stories.
  9. I am thankful for full-body motions to accompany narrations.
  10. I am thankful for her vivid imagination.
  11. I am thankful for a good night's sleep -- early to bed and no children interrupting.
  12. I am thankful for little and big kicks from the baby, even when on a full bladder.
  13. I am thankful for this beautiful house to live in.
  14. I am thankful for cheap rent.
  15. I am thankful for a porch to enjoy.
  16. I am thankful for comfy porch furniture.
  17. I am thankful for Portia, our guard pig and the fact that our children love her, too.
  18. I am thankful for a sweet neighbor.
  19. I am thankful for a good, reliable van to drive.
  20. I am thankful for preschool papers and Thomas coloring books.
  21. I am thankful for the high school marching band that played us home almost every day of September and October.
  22. I am thankful that Annalivia and Daniel like to sing.
  23. I am thankful that they both like to sing by themselves and with each other.
  24. I am thankful that there is homemade bread leftover from yesterday's potluck.
  25. I am thankful that there is still plenty of Lillia's apple butter.
  26. I am thankful that Daniel likes to play with his trains by himself.
  27. I am thankful that he knows how to ask for help when he needs it.
  28. I am thankful that he has room/s to play.
  29. I am thankful for the train table that provides so much fun.
  30. I am thankful for books that entertain, too.
  31. I am thankful that my children climb up on my lap when they "need some love".
  32. I am thankful that they think it is hilarious when we play the same games again and again.
  33. I am thankful that I am here right now.
  34. I am thankful that I am not worried about whether I've not done something for my job.
  35. I am thankful for a husband that is ok with me being with our children.
  36. I am thankful for a husband who does laundry and dishes without complaint.
  37. I am thankful that we live in a time when our water is heated automatically.
  38. I am thankful for such miracles as a washing machine and dryer and laundry soap.
  39. I am thankful for such treats as good-smelling fabric softener and cleaning supplies.
  40. I am thankful for time to reflect on those things for which I am thankful.