Holidays are coming: Thankfulness and light

tg

Yes, I understand that sales are popping everywhere: online, in the stores, at the convenience stores, on TV. Yes I understand that Thursdays kicks off the official whirl of holiday gaiety, madness, and constant reminders to spend spend spend. I mean, that co-worker you barely know really needs to be re-gifted with that weird nutcracker Great Aunt Leticia gave you last year and your son’s current teacher desperately needs that cheap mug filled with 10 starlight mint candies and your mail carrier is seriously craving that $1 tiny piece of gourmet chocolate. Your cousin begged you for that $9.97 gift basket of one bath cube, mini bottle of body wash, that plastic fluffy scrubber, and useless sized loofah. I get it, the gift limit at the exchange was $10 and it was easy to grab the basket and you spent five minutes choosing between the lavender, pink, or yellow colors.

Heaven forbid that your child not get the latest $600 phone since all their friends will be getting one. And if you are blessed to have loving parents who are still alive, they specifically asked you for that $50 gift card to that restaurant they never go to. Hey, it was on display with other cards at the grocery checkout and we all know it’s the thought that counts. And be sure you schedule attendance at all the parties and open houses and cookie exchanges. Don’t forget that.

Several years ago, I was forced to get my priorities straight. I was home from being in hospital after surgery for cancer. I was not able physically to do shopping, put up decorations, cook tons of cookies that never all seemed to be eaten and grew stale and were thrown out to the birds, I had to send regrets to parties.  Thanksgiving was quiet and take Chinese food.

My husband pulled out of its box, a two foot fiber optic Christmas tree which fitted perfectly on the small table in front of the window in our family room. I was given by a friend, a special Nativity scene in honor of my being home and doing well. It went on the mantle of the family room. My family sent a gift card to a restaurant we liked and we used it to purchase our Christmas dinner: KFC fried chicken. My husband purchased a pie from a local bakery. Lights did not flash in our yard astounding people miles away. We didn’t have money for a pile of gifts so we made do with handmade cards with special wishes handwritten to each other.  We spent quiet time with each other and sang Christmas carols with each other.

It was one of the best Christmases ever. We delighted in the season of light and spent time with each other, a few friends who came to visit for a bit and who brought gifts of food and smiles. Silent snow fell and I wrapped myself in a quilt and stood on our front steps and looked up into the night sky. Silent night, holy night….

I am not tooting my horn here but you know, there really are better ways to spend your time and money. You truly do not have to spread darkness by arguing with sales people, pushing people out of the way to grab the last item on sale, buying something just to exchange because you have to. You can spread light by random acts of kindness, serving food at a shelter, getting toys for children in need, contributing to a fund that ensures children have warm coats for the winter, filling up boxes with food for the hungry, addressing cards for the elderly to send to their family, raking the yard of the neighbor you barely know but know he is laid up with a broken leg and his wife is 8 months pregnant, taking bags of food for animals at the local shelter, adopting an “angel” off an “angel” tree…the list goes on and on.

I am thankful this year for my family, for my health, for the love of God, for the kindness of people I know and for the kindness of strangers, for my friends, for plenty of food….I could list pages of what I am thankful. Light came into this world centuries ago without hoopla. His upcoming birth was not announced two weeks before Halloween, the Magi did not go to Black Friday sales to get their gifts as cheaply as possible, the shepherds did not arrive in the newest model SUV, the angels did not rock out to the latest soundtrack.

Simply, quietly, the Light of the World came to us. Because He loved us. So, what is your priority this year? What are you thankful for? How do you show your love?  How do you spread light in the darkness?

Thank you all for being my friends this year. Thank you for your prayers, good vibes, happy thoughts, sharing your light with me and mine. Thank you.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Melody Beattie

 

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A word on those Thanksgiving pre and post sales

kanzensakura:

My dear friend Huntie has hit the nail on the head. Are we more interested in sales and stuff than giving thanks for all our blessings? is our priority to decorate with glitzy glam instead of spreading light and love? What is your priority? What are you thankful for?

Originally posted on Chasing Rabbit Holes:

Are you as baffled and biased about all the advertising as I am, seeing the early “Black Friday” sales, sales that start on Thanksgiving, or even as early as Wednesday? My gut reaction is to weep that such a day has become so corrupt and the antithesis of its original purpose: to give thanks for our blessings. Mind, I worked Black Fridays in retail and it leaves its mark, sometimes literally, depending on the sale. We used to watch the crowds lining up outside the glass doors and just shudder. The doors would open and the herd surged in. I distinctly remember jumping and ducking behind a counter for cover. P’shaw. Amateur hour now. Now it’s a fine art to get the best of deals and be able to really pull off some scoops. I get it. But couldn’t you have left Thanksgiving intact?

While we’re on that subject, Christmas…

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My Purpose-Driven Life

kanzensakura:

Wiley is wise and wonderful. Go visit him. You’ll be glad you did.

Originally posted on Wiley's Wisdom:

It’s a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. But a pressure exists in our society to figure it out sooner rather than later and I can’t say I agree with that. What are you going to be when you grow up? We ask it of our little people, who (more often than not) respond with some pretty big ideas. They want to be a lawyer. Or a writer. Or (better yet) a balloon maker (this was my mom’s dream job at the tender age of four).

Then they start school, and the ideas change. The dreams continue to evolve, but the question doesn’t go away. What do you want to be when you grow up? A lawyer? A writer? (At this point you have matured enough to rule out balloon maker as a profession). Then comes college where the pressure sounds the worst. What are…

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Holidays are coming: Old fashioned cheese wafers

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public domain clip art

I got, as we say in these parts, a hankerin’ for these. Cheese wafers? Never had them? Well, I think you have met your new favorite snack addiction. Buttery, savory, cheesey, crunchy…perfect served with champagne, cocktails, beer, whatever punch, as an accompaniment to soups and salads, to munch on while sitting and watching the glow of the fireplace and relaxing. I love these things. It is one of those things you try to hide from yourself but, dang it, you remember and haul them out and finish up the tin of them. My Grandma Ninny made steady batches of these from Thanksgiving through Lent. She kept them stored in cake tins. I always keep mine stored in wide mouth, tightly latching glass cannisters.

Some people cut into strips, make without the pecans, make without the pecans but press a pecan half into the top for a festive garnish. it doesn’t matter – it’s all good. A few of these tucked into a spiffy mug or bowl or put on a plate and covered in plastic wrap with a bow on top just drawls, Howdy! Happy Holidays to a neighbor or hostess, coworker, teacher, bus driver, whatever. I like it best to keep for myself, to be perfectly honest. And here in the South, cheese wafers or cheese straws are ubiquitous and show up every where for every occasion. Even in this day and age, every Southern woman has at least two recipes for these. And in this day and age, so do many Southern men.

About the cheese: You can use pre=grated bagged cheese. I don’t recommend it. That stuff is dry and doesn’t have the same flavor or texture as freshly grated cheese. I like to use a good brand of extra sharp cheddar cheese. I hope you try these and enjoy them. I think you will be surprised at how good they are and I think, you will also be surprised at how much you like them.

Cheese Wafers
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter cut into slices
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese – 8 oz. block
2 cups flour
several dashes of hot sauce
Optional: 1 cup crushed Rice Krispies or finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put into a large bowl, the sliced butter. Add on top, the grated cheese. Let sit and soften then mix butter and cheese with hands until blended completely. Add flour and hot sauce (and optional Rice Krispies or chopped pecans) and continue to mix with hands until dough is formed. Roll mixed dough into balls about the size of large marbles and place on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten balls with a fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until just lightly brown around edges. Cool and remove from baking sheet. Store in airtight container. Can be frozen in airtight container for later use. Great served with cocktails, champagne or to accompany soups and salads. Makes 5 dozen.
NOTE: on waxed paper, press out dough and cut into strips using one of those fancy fluted pie crust trimmers, if you absolutely must have cheese straws instead of cheese wafers.

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Winter’s Coming: Sensual Fruit Crumble

Do I have your attention? I’m sure I do. Now, how is a crumble, that most humble and homey of fruit desserts sensual? Well, having fixed this many times during the past few years and observing the “behavior” of the fruit involved, all I can say is: the cranberries pop! and the sugar melts…Okay. Maybe not, but it is good.  Tangy and full of juice – perfect with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or with a cold glass of milk.

You can of course use different fruits according to season. This is a crumble using autumn/winter fruits. If you don’t use the cranberries and only use apple or apple/pear, then add about one fourth cup of apple juice and a teaspoon of lemon juice and adjust cooking times and sugar content. You can also add a nice splash of pear or apple brandy along with the vanilla as well. Not only a sensual, but an extremely adaptable fruit crumble.

I like best those desserts that are simple and full of fruit. My favorite birthday cake is apple pie and for my birthday this past weekend, I fixed apple pie. And it is all gone and very happily enjoyed!!! I hope you enjoy this crumble and I am sure you will agree with me on one thing – it’s good!!!

Autumn Fruit Crumble
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
2 firm-ripe pears such as Bartlett, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 apples such as Gala, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I use Macintosh)
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup chopped nuts – walnuts, or pecans or almonds (optional)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Directions
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Stir together fruits, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla and place in a buttered shallow 2-quart baking dish. Stir together oats, flour, salt, nuts, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps. Scatter over fruit and bake until juices are bubbling and topping is golden brown, about 30 – 40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. Serves 6

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Winter’s Coming: Chicken Paprikash

I grew up in an old and established neighborhood. At the end of our block was the granite stone wall separating us from the Duke University East Campus. The wall was high enough to keep out dogs but not kids dropping their dogs over and running with them on the lush grass beneath old oaks. It was also low enough for adults to shinny over and walk about in peace or picnic or for teens to find a quiet place to smooch under the moon.

The wall also did not separate visiting professors to Duke and when housing permitted, to move into our neighborhood and to share their culture with our Southern culture. When I was around seven, a Hungarian professor moved into the empty Bailey house along with his wife, kids, mother, and goat. The goat sometimes liberated himself and roamed about. Luckily for us, the professor’s mother was often the one to come and retrieve him. An ample and friendly soul, she soon knew everyone and everyone knew her.

Thanks to her, we all became lovers of Gulyás, cheese strudel, dobos cake, stuffed cabbage, Flódni, and….chicken paprikash. Some of the foods we knew but with a different angle instead of Hungarian. She always said, our country may be small but our food is vigorous! And it was.

This week, a local grocery had an amazing sale on whole chickens. Other than roasting, I pondered what to do with the one of several chickens I bought. A cold blustery day I thought, roast chicken…booooring. And then, it hit me – spicy, warming, rich chicken paprikash. Perfect. I cut one of the chickens up and even now, this lovely dish is simmering on my stove top in my cast iron dutch oven. If you or your family likes all the chicken pieces, whole is the cheapest way to purchase. There are a zillion videos on You Tube showing how to cut up a whole chicken. All you need is a good sharp knife. Don’t have one? Really???? Get one. And get some good Hungarian paprika.

For the paprika in this recipe, don’t use your grandmother’s paprika unless your grandmother is Hungarian. The red stuff on most grocery shelves that is mainly used to sprinkle on deviled eggs, the top of potato salad or anyplace you want to add a bit of red color is not the same thing as good quality, smoked, sweet, peppery Hungarian paprika. it is a little bit of an investment, but you will be so glad you invested time to find it and money to buy it. You’ll never go back to bland “paprika” again. You can also purchase online.

There are variations on this dish, of course. A friend of mine from Philadelphia used bacon grease and served over broad egg noodles. Many people do not use the bacon grease and serve with dumplings or spaetzal. However, this is a happy red dish that will warm you inside and out. Eat with a sweet white Hungarian wine or lots and lots of water. Thank you Pieter for this recipe, which you said was handed down from your grandmother.

Chicken Paprikash
2 tbs. bacon grease
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 tsp. salt
3 tbs. paprika
1 (2 to 3 pound), whole chicken, cut into pieces, skin intact
1 cup water
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomatoes in juice
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1(8 ounce) container sour cream (can use low fat)

Directions
Heat bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt, and paprika. Stir together and saute until onion is translucent, using low heat so as not to burn the paprika.  You may need to add a bit more grease or a touch of butter. Add chicken pieces and pour water over all. Cook over medium heat for 1 hour, adding more water if necessary.

Stir in tomatoes, reserving liquid. I use whole tomatoes and coarsely chop before adding. You can also used diced tomatoes. Stir tomato liquid into a medium bowl with flour and sour cream; mix until well blended, then slowly add mixture to chicken, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture is thick. Serve with noodles, dumplings, or spaetzal. Serves four.

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Fish scale clouds: iwashigumo 鰯雲 haiku

Iwashigumo
swim in autumn sky – birth day
almost at an end

copyright kanzen sakura

copyright kanzen sakura

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