Children, Family, Holidays, Parenting, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

A Thanksgiving Tradition

I didn’t know that we would have a white Thanksgiving when I wrote my recent post for Lucky & Me. It’s been snowing since noon and all the trees are covered with snow. The kids were outside building a snowman this afternoon, and they’ve come in to warm up with hot chocolate and marshmallows. The turkey’s in the fridge and the pies are in the oven, and despite losing a few guests to the weather, we are looking forward to a day full of delicious food and wonderful company.

 

overtheriver

Over the river and through the wood,

To Grandmother’s house we go.

The horse knows the way

To carry the sleigh

Through the white and drifted snow!

Over the river and through the wood,

Oh how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes and bites the nose

As over the ground we go.

These are verses of the song my mother would sing as we traveled the interstate highway in our green station wagon, on our way to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving. We certainly didn’t have horses or a sleigh, but when my mom was a little girl her family did. They had a barn full of horses, wagons, carts, and a sleigh. She and her brothers would bundle up in blankets as their father encouraged the horses to race across the snow with the promise of a steaming mug of hot chocolate at the end of the ride. Her grandparents lived nearby and they could ride “over the river and through the wood” to visit. She often talks about those idyllic days, when the entire family gathered at every holiday, and no one lived further than could be traveled by horse-power.

When I was a little girl we lived in the snow belt of upstate New York and I remember my father shoveling the snow into piles that reached way over my head on either side of the path to our front door. My brothers and I spent hours playing in the snow: sledding, building snowmen and snow forts, making snow angels. Winter in the northeastern United States meant snow and quite often we had snow before Thanksgiving.

Perhaps this is why I always associate Thanksgiving with the cold – and love the cozy feeling of sitting in front of the fire, cracking open walnuts, with the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven, and the pumpkin pies baking. I love Thanksgiving. There are no gifts to buy, and the focus is on family, friends, gratitude, and counting our blessings. Yes, there is a big meal to prepare, often for 10 or more people, but the Thanksgiving menu, while extensive, is quite simple due to tradition. In my family, and many others, there is little creativity needed to plan Thanksgiving dinner.thanksgiving-table-2_thumb sticky

Turkey is a definitely required – although, we tried Turducken one year. I’m not sure if it was due to the departure from expectations, or unappetizing visual presentation of a boneless hen inside a boneless duck inside a boneless turkey– all filled with a highly seasoned stuffing– but it was not a hit. This year for the first time, I have ordered a farm-fresh turkey. On Tuesday afternoon, I will stop at the farm stand and pick up a turkey which was running around the farm just that morning. I can’t wait to find out if there is an improvement in flavor, or if anyone even notices.

We have prepared stuffing the way my dad likes it for my entire life. Dad prefers his stuffing without any sage or seasoning of any kind other than salt and pepper. So I take two loaves of white bread, toast the slices lightly, and cut them into cubes. On Thanksgiving morning, I saute onions and diced apples in a lot of butter, add the cubes, lots of salt and pepper, enough chicken broth to moisten, and if I’m feeling daring I put some into the turkey and cook the rest separately. I have read all the warnings about how stuffing in the bird is unsafe because you can’t be sure it’s cooked properly and therefore could give all your guests food poisoning, but stuffing is infinitely better if it’s soaked up the turkey juices so we take our chances.

No garlic smashed potatoes for us! We have a minimalist approach to mashed potatoes. Boil them until soft, add butter and cream, salt and pepper, and mash to desired consistency. For us, that means there are still some lumps to give texture. We don’t want our mashed potatoes as smooth as baby food.

canned cranberry sauce | seriouseats.com

Photo Credit: seriouseats.com

 

You won’t find jellied cranberry sauce in the shape of the can on my table. My mom always makes the cranberry sauce– just a couple of bags of cranberries boiled in orange juice with lots of sugar and a bit of cinnamon. Delicious! She also brings a dish of squash– nothing fancy, just a bit of salt, pepper, and some butter.

We do like to have a bit of green on the table. This year I might get creative and do a dish of Brussels sprouts with Balsamic vinegar. Don’t know how the folks will react, and I probably will have a Green Bean Casserole as backup. You know the one, it’s found on the Campbell’s mushroom soup can and involves canned green beans and French’s French Fried Onions. The recipe was developed by the Campbell’s Soup Company in 1955 and has been a staple in our family as long as I can remember.

Dessert is the one area where I can inject some creativity. Although it’s always pie and each guest has a favorite. My dad loves mincemeat pie, which his mother made when he was young, and at that time the pies were truer to their British origins and actually contained meat and suet. These days, a mincemeat pie is made with dried fruit, sugar, molasses, lots of spices, and perhaps some rum or brandy, but no meat whatsoever. I buy them already made, or if I’m feeling adventurous I have put together a crust with a jar of mince meat, but one day I might feel ambitious enough to try this recipe from 1798. Pumpkin pie is probably the most traditional Thanksgiving dessert, and the top request of my mom and son, so I always make at least one. And I always make at least one pecan pie– my personal favorite.

I have hosted our family’s Thanksgiving dinner for the last decade or more. This is one of the times when I fervently wish I had a sister! This year, we’ll be 11 at the table, and we are the epitome of the American blended family. We’ll have an 81-year span from the youngest (our 10-year-old daughter) to the oldest (my dad, intrepid at 91). We’ll include friends, family, step-children, in-laws, grandparents, parents, and siblings.

I am feeling a sense of relief that Thanksgiving is upon us this year. We have lots to be thankful for– our family has endured illness, surgeries, and even death in just the last couple of months– and now, everyone is mending well. The kids are all doing well at their various pursuits, and we even have a baby coming– due on Christmas Day. Thanksgiving Day is an annual reminder for us to slow down the pace and spend time with loved ones. And to remember that we are truly blessed!

What are you thankful for? | GeminiHealthandNutrition.com

Photo Credit: GeminiHealthandNutrition.com

 

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Children, Family, Halloween, Holidays, Parenting, Uncategorized

Halloween Update – Keeping a Pop Star Warm

I’m happy to report that a costume decision has been made and executed! Our girl will be a pop star for Halloween and the main costume has already arrived. What I learned when shopping on Amazon for just the right pop star look, is that there are many different versions, and each comes with only some of the items shown in the photo. So you have to read the product details and fine print very carefully to know what accessories you’ll receive, and which you need to purchase separately to complete the look. Our preferred version of a pop star is from the ’80s so she has a lacey ribbon in her hair (included) and fishnet gloves (also included – but for good measure we ordered another set of four).

This costume does not include a microphone but don’t worry, Amazon will suggest oneGirls '80s Pop Star Diva Costume for you as an item many people purchase with this costume. And there are many types of microphones from which to choose. There are the old-fashioned hold-it-in-your-hand microphones, which come in black plastic, glittery gold, some are even inflatable. But for the true pop star look, you can purchase a headset microphone. It comes in black, white, or pink and for $8.94 they will send one of those colors to you– but you won’t know which one until it arrives. That was ok with us as any of them would match the colorful top and bright pink skirt…(Read more on LuckyAndMe.com)

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Family, Halloween, Holidays, Parenting, Uncategorized

Halloween Decisions for Lucky & Me Blog

Halloween is coming! On LuckyAndMe.com, I recently wrote about the the time Phoenix dressed as Rapunzel for Halloween, and the decisions we face getting ready for Trick-or-Treating. Please check it out and let me know how you feel about Halloween in the comments below.

Tangled

 

My husband says Halloween is the best holiday. You don’t have to buy any gifts and everyone has fun. But I find that Halloween is very complicated– at least with a child in the house. Other holidays fall into one of two categories: Either they are religious, and have rituals which define the day and its activities, or they are simple commemorations, like Columbus Day, with fewer decorations and customs. Religious holidays usually involve family and not friends, and are therefore less complex from a social standpoint. Commemorative days don’t carry the emotional weight of other holidays and the celebrations and activities are more simple.

Halloween, on the other hand, is celebrated with friends and neighbors and can be fraught with comparisons and even competitive. Every greeting at the bus stop, church, or grocery store includes, “What are you gonna be for Halloween?” Like many kids, our daughter has changed her mind several times since we started talking about Halloween– basically since the school year started. Some of the ideas are simply flights of fancy– first she wanted to be a piece of Candy Corn so we talked about how to make it– orange tights, an orange hat, and somehow we would devise the main part out of fabric. But then, someone told her she was like the Phoenix– having survived a fire as an infant she had literally risen from the ashes. I made the mistake of searching for Phoenix costumes online, and quickly learned that they are not for children and are more appropriate for Mardi Gras than trick-or-treating… (Read more on LuckyAndMe.com)

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Children, Orphans, Social Good, Uncategorized

Save The Children

I used to travel for work and frequently went to Sri Lanka, where there is no foster care and many children live in orphanages. I wanted to help so for a few dollars a month I sponsored a girl whose father was dead and mother was unable to care for her. I was luckier than most sponsors, because I could actually meet her. However, the facility where she lived was several hours drive from the capital where I worked. I saw her as often as I could, but sometimes I couldn’t spare the time to go down south to visit her.  During those trips, I visited the infants and toddlers at an orphanage managed by the same group and located near my office.

Those babies broke my heart. They had been placed at this facility due to nutritional or health needs that required special care. I was assured that their care was better than the care in any other orphanage in the country – and it probably was. But no amount of institutional care could meet the love and attention needs of these babies.

As I walked into their room, those who were able would pull themselves up in their cribs and reach out for me. The infants who were alert, but too small to stand up, followed me with their eyes. The sickest and weakest would not respond to my presence at all. I would pick one baby up and hold her for awhile and the staff would urge me to put her down, saying  “If you hold her too much, she will cry more.” I’d put that infant down and pick up another. I was never sure whether it was better to hold one for the entire time, or hold as many as possible so they could all get a chance to feel my love, no matter how fleeting.

The staff would tell me stories of how the babies came there. Some had been abandoned – and luckily found in time. Others were signed over by their mothers at the hospital upon birth. Still others were the children of children – their mothers girls of only 13 or 14 who had been raped by their fathers, uncles, brothers.

And these babies were the lucky ones. Yes, their life would be difficult. They would most likely live in a succession of orphanages until they aged out at 16 – penniless and facing an uncertain future. But they would survive. Other babies would not be so lucky – they would die before they had a chance at life.

Every day, 18,000 children worldwide die from disease, violence, malnutrition and other preventable causes.  Sri Lanka has made great strides in reducing the mortality rate of children under 5 years old from 21 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990 to 10 per 1000 in 2012. But in many other countries, the rate is much higher. In India, which has also reduced their child mortality rate, the number in 2012 was 52 per 1000. And in Nigeria it was 124. That is why I applaud the work of Save the Children and their Millenium Development Goal 4 which aims to reduce these deaths by two thirds by 2015, through campaigns to improve medical care, nutrition, education and effect policy changes.  You can learn more about these efforts and progress toward this goal here. Please spread the word about Save the Children and help save a child today.

 

 

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