November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend 2011

With my last final out of the way, I am now free to enjoy the Christmas celebrations and catch up on lots of things that have fallen to the back burner.  Like blogging about Thanksgiving, all the fun holiday happenings and maybe even the last of our trip to Disney World.

I often wonder how incredibly overwhelming it must be for friends to come in our door and be instantly surrounded by 8 kids all talking at once and hugging and kissing and sharing all the news of whatever happens to be the exciting thing of the moment.

No matter what she must think, our Aunt Dawn always manages to handle it without batting an eyelash.  Do you think that comes from her 20 years in the Navy?

Regardless, she made it for Thanksgiving and that gave us lots more to be thankful for.
Winnie was thankful that Aunt Dawn gets holding rights which means she gets a break from the loving embraces of brothers and sisters.
Elisabeth was grateful for her red party dress and someone to cuddle with while watching the Macy's parade.
I was grateful for someone to stir the gravy for a while.
As always, there were lots of laughs and a few tears. 
And of course turkey sandwiches.
On Friday, we shifted to Christmas mode since it doesn't look like we will be able to spend the holiday together this year.  Aunt Dawn did her part to give Winnie a complex or two.
But she let her know, that she still loves her and will hold her teething ring as long as there is a need.
After the girls had spent the day hanging lights outdoors, Aunt Dawn took Carmella out for her first sight of the musical holiday spectacular.  (There will EVENTUALLY be a post with pictures of this endeavor.)
We spent some time singing carols by the tree.  With sore throats all around, Dawn and Kaitlin serenaded us for a while.  Their best, by far, was an enthusiastic rendition of Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.
They even attempted a go around of Last Christmas just for Brianna.  One might think she didn't like it.
Dawn took advantage of dressing Winnie up.  A favorite pass time around here.  Some days she might have four different outfits on.
Voila!  She got everything in the right place.  Not a bad job since she said this is the first time she has dressed a baby since Brianna was Winnie's age.  Which, I can not imagine how on earth you got away with that hanging around here all the time.
We also made the fruitcake.  Oh, so delicious.  If you have not had this chocolate cherry fruitcake you must check out the recipe in this post.  And if you want to read about our  family fruit cake tradition you can check this post.  I highly recommend it if you need a good laugh this Christmas season or if you want to know a family that is wackier than yours.
What is a Christmas celebration without cookies?  While the girls tried to shut down the grid by hanging a million twinkle lights we made cranberry orange cookies... and a lot of others.
And after day two of the light hanging project we were again called on to see the handiwork of our little elves.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this photo.  They both look so content and peaceful in each others arms.
I roped Dawn into putting together the Advent wreath.  She is super creative and crafty... which can often mean you get a lot of work around here.
And certainly, there had to be presents.
This book is such a wonderful keepsake.  Dawn recorded herself reading Luke's Christmas story to the children.  They listen to this a billion times a day.
Nathaniel gave Dawn a piano lesson.  I seriously think you should take up the instrument, my friend.  You caught on so quick!
Brianna taught us how to make Moravian Stars.  To tell you how complicated these things are, even Dawn stumbled on them.  And we got it in our head that it would be a great idea to make one for everyone at church on Christmas Day.  We are going to have to get a little faster at it!
Aunt Dawn, the pin was a huge hit.  Elisabeth loves her princess coat now.
And I probably shouldn't tease her about this, because she was so upset by it.  But it was so funny... as a matter of fact we are still laughing about it... so I am going to anyway.  Allen convinced Dawn that she needed a new football team and she should be a St. Louis Rams fan.  Anyone who follows football knows that the Rams are pretty pathetic this year.  So Allen decided he was going to encourage her by sending her Rams stuff.  For Christmas he found an ornament.  She opened it and they volleyed insults back and forth for a while and then she was joking about breaking it.  So she tapping on it and we are all laughing and then it really does break.  Oh, my word!  We laughed so hard.  We are still laughing several weeks later.  Because that is funny stuff!  

Oh, and don't worry.  We found one that is shatter proof to replace it.
NFL St Louis Rams Gold or Blue Glass Ball Christmas Ornament
And before we knew it, Sunday morning was here, we were all crying and it was time to say goodbye, again.  

Dearest, friend.  The only bad thing I can think of when it comes to our visits, is that you always have to go home again.  This Thanksgiving and each day of the year, we thank God for the gift of your friendship, salvation through Jesus that makes us brothers and sisters, and the blessing of the time you share with us.  

November 29, 2011

Ginger Glazed Spaghetti Squash

Whenever I serve this elegant looking, but oh so easy side dish, ladies request the recipe.

4 pounds spaghetti squash

1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon chicken base or bouillon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon corn starch

1.  Cook squash.  If I already have the oven going I just poke some holes in the skin with a fork and toss it in.  You can also cook it in the microwave by poking the skin with a fork several times and cooking on high for 15 minutes or so.  When cool enough to handle, cut squash in half and scoop out seeds.  Use a fork to scrap out the squash.  It will look like spaghetti strands.
2.  Make glaze.  Mix remaining ingredients in a saucepan.  Cook and stir until thickened.  Serve over squash.
3.  To make ahead, put finished squash in microwave safe dish and store covered until ready to serve.  Reheat in microwave.

A 4 pound squash  yields 10 1/2 cups servings.  Each serving= 9 g carbs

November 28, 2011

6,000 Twinkle Lights

One of the most common emails I get is how do I get my kids to do something that doesn't involve a screen?      Here's a little tip.  This Christmas season give them some Christmas lights and see what they can create.

After seeing this...
at Hollywood Studios in Disney World...
My girls decided they wanted to recreate the magic in our front yard.  Who would think a trio of girls would get so tickled about exterior illumination?  But there you have it.  The day after Thanksgiving it was off to Home Depot, where they bought a lot of lights.
And then they spent three days stringing them.  Allen thought he would save money by switching to all LED lights this year but judging by the number of trips to Home Depot for more lights and extension cords, I don"t think he gained any ground.
When Brianna ran out of  places the little ones could reach, she told them to stand on the hill and shout Merry Christmas to the cars passing by.  Which they did... for hours.  I was inside baking cookies, but I knew by they were working hard by the number of car horns I heard.
They had to call Pa in for technical support on the synchronized music.
But eventually they had it all up and going.

We were called outdoors several times to check the progress.  One time we had some egg nog to toast the holiday season.  Notice the bare feet.  It was really warm Thanksgiving weekend.
When they ran out of places to put lights on the house, they turned to the train.
Which looks fabulous covered in colored lights.
I knew they were putting up a lot of lights.  And I saw the finished product.  But I must tell you, the full impact hit me when I came home from class the night after they finished the job.  I sat in the driveway chuckling to myself for ten minutes.  It was really something special.

I love my girls festive spirit.

I love their enthusiasm for what brings joy to others.  I got such a kick out of watching them run to the window to watch cars slow down or stop in front of our house to check out the fruit of their labors.

And I love knowing that at least in some way they have captured the lesson I have been trying to teach their whole lives... "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right."

All in all, not quite 5 million dancing lights, but 6,000 is nothing to sneeze at.  And after all you need to have something to look forward to next year, right?

November 26, 2011

It's Not Quite Rustic

As much as I love tradition and as much as I love a live Christmas Tree, sadly we have too many allergies to have one in our house.

On Thanksgiving Day, Allen announced he would be going shopping on Black Friday because he thought we should get a new Christmas Tree.  As much as I hate shopping and even more so on Black Friday, what was I to say when he asked me to go along and pick out a tree?

I suggested that if we were going to pick out a tree, we might as well make it a family affair.  So we all piled into the four wheel drive sleigh and headed to... Home Depot.

While Pa perused the selection of LED prelit trees, the rest of us played around checking out decorations.  Samuel thought this Eeyore was so cute, he asked me to take their picture together.
And then  Aunt Dawn decided to see how much Emma really loves her.
And everyone else thought that was so cool, they had to find some funny hats to put on.
And then she decided it is never to early to start scaring Carmella.
As I wandered behind this gang headed to the car, I couldn't help but giggle.  What a sight... Allen, eight kids, 1 microwave, an ash can, a million outdoor lights, ten poinsettias and a Christmas tree.
We found another use for the vacation trailer.
It's almost the same as hiking out into the woods and cutting one down but instead we get to eat lunch while the men do the work.
Does this look like complete chaos?  Well, it is.  We have so many ornaments it is always a complete disaster when we decorate the tree.
Yet somehow, we manage to get it all up.
How many Wachters does it take to put the angel on top?  Three.  Pa to lift the little girlie.  Elisabeth to hold the angel and Mama to hold the tree.
Ah, sweet success.

November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Ideally, I would have liked to put this post up before we got started on our Christmas posts, but with a final and Allen away, and a bunch of sick people around, we do what we can, when we can.

We just love Thanksgiving.  It has got to be my favorite holiday... or at least tied with Christmas.

I love all of us in the kitchen cooking together.  Teaching the kids how to prepare our favorite recipes.  Aedan made Aunt Helen's Holiday Mashed Potatoes last year and requested to make them again this year.  He really gave her a run for her money.  
I love the decorations.  Brianna decided to make these name cards she found in Martha Stewart Living.  Wednesday night she roped the girls and Aunt Dawn into helping her with the project.  Aren't they adorable?
I love the centerpieces... like this one with Azalea cuttings.
I love pulling out the linens, china, crystal and silver to set a beautiful table.
Oh, and the gravy.  I love the mushroom gravy.  I don't love that it takes an hour of stirring to make it, but it is so worth it.  Especially, when everyone takes a turn stirring.
I love the company.  The family, the friends, the noise of merry making.
I love neighbors dropping by for dessert and a little baby fix.
I love that Katherine, who happens to be an elementary school teacher, got us all making turkey crafts.
I love that she said mine looked great, even if it looked nothing like a turkey.
I love never knowing which friends will join us for dinner and meeting the new people they bring with them.
I love the late night leftover turkey-dressing-gravy-cranberry sauce sandwiches on rye bread... whether you are still stuffed from dinner or not.
In case I forgot to mention it, I love the food, family and friends that make this Thankful Day something extra to be thankful for.