December 12, 2014

Old Friends, New Friends... So Much To Be Thankful For

My precious friend, who lives 30 minutes away, went out of her way to drop by one night this week just to make sure we are still alive.  Because I haven't posted in way too long.  For the record we are alive.  Over the course of our conversation she mentioned she was waiting to see Thanksgiving photos.  Yes, I know.  Believe me,  I really do love you all.  And I really am thinking about you and praying for you.  And I am so very thankful for your texts and emails and letters.  They make me smile on days when smiling seems like a challenge.  I compose answers in my head but with a crazy schedule and difficult health issues somehow I never quite manage writing the replies.  I very much want to post.  Not just for you, but for me.  I have lists of posts I want to write and half written drafts.  But, alas, no real opportunity to sit down and do it.  
And time is passing so very fast.  Around here things are in full swing for Christmas.  The decorations are looking more beautiful than ever.  The stockings are hung.  The lights are ablaze.  We made our first batch of Christmas cookies yesterday.  And this weekend is our annual Cantata at Victory.  If we aren't already in the Christmas spirit, this always puts us over the top.  The children have been diligently practicing their music pieces and Carmella sings, "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" as she dresses her dolls in Christmas outfits. 
Even though it is late and seems a bit out of season I can't let Thanksgiving go unacknowledged.  I have so much to be thankful for.  And this year, especially, we need to focus on those things for strength and for courage.   
After my savior I can think of nothing I am more grateful for than my husband and my family.  We have faced so many hard things this year but we have faced those sleepless nights, scary diagnoses, and unknown futures together. 
This year our plans got shifted around a bit, due to a snowstorm.  We welcomed a day of snowmen and sledding but we were sorry Aunt Dawn had to delay her arrival by a day.  We shifted the dinner a few hours to allow for her travel time from Ohio.  But then our older cousins had to cancel because they can not drive at night.  We missed them so much!  But we were also very grateful to have Aunt Dawn with us.  God never takes away without giving a blessing in return.

We always have a crowd for the holidays and Thanksgiving more than any other.  This year we had 24 for dinner.  When our family is entertaining we rarely get time to eat as we all keep busy with preparations, serving and cleaning up for our guests.  Nathaniel fixed us a snack to have some quiet time together before our company started to arrive. 

We made these frosted cranberries last year.  I love them!  We love them.  Our guests love them.  And they are really that easy. 

Put cranberries in a bowl.  Heat maple syrup to just under a boil.  Remove from heat and pour over the cranberries.  Refrigerate for 12 hours or more.  Put the cranberries in a fine mesh strainer.  Allow to drain.  Use the syrup for another recipe.  Roll the cranberries a few at a time in sugar.  Allow to dry on wax paper.  We have made these a day ahead of time.  I let them sit at room temperature until ready to serve.  Hint... store them out of site (like in the school room closet) or there will be none left for company. 

 Planning and setting the table is one of my favorite parts of a party.  For Thanksgiving we always move the dining room to the living room and the living room to the dining room so we have room to extend the table.  We always like to find ways to use what we have in new and different ways to make a fun and elegant table.
I found the fabric for the red table cloth in Sicily some years ago.  We've used it every Thanksgiving since.  And yet I don't think the table has ever looked the same.  The bark came from the trees the power company took down a few years ago.  We cut some of them up for firewood this fall.  The bark that had peeled away looked so beautiful we decided we wanted to work it into our table setting.  The moss and woodland animals were leftover from Addison's first birthday party.  And the pumpkins are ones we've had around for sometime.  I love the look of the rustic pieces and burlap with the more elegant gold flatware, crystal stemware and china.
 I am fundamentally opposed to a kids table.  I like our family to be together.  Especially for special occasions.  We ended up with a larger group than we had anticipated.  We could have fit but it would have been very tight.  Samuel and Elisabeth were really excited at the idea of presiding as Host and Hostess at their own dinner party.  We built the Mayflower and the kids table was set up in the living room. 
They requested brown craft paper and crayons so they could draw pictures.  Which they did.  Samuel had the great idea of cutting the kids drawings out so they could take them home.

 When guests arrive it always excitement as we reconnect with friends from near and far.  Aunt Dawn arrived just in time for appetizers and cocktails.  We also had the blessing of reconnecting with a family we've not seen for a long time.  It was an extra treat for our boys to make new friends with their kids, who they were meeting for the first time.
 And then there are friends who are so dear to our hearts they have become the family we look forward to seeing on our doorstep for any occasion.
 No one stands around long before being put to work in my kitchen.  Brianna made an excellent cranberry cocktail with cranberry syrup, lime juice, ginger ale and a few other ingredients I can't remember.  It was good anyway. 
 So good, Steven decided to take over as bartender.
 The food sure is good, but it is only the catalyst to the best part of holidays... the people who gather at the table are what I live for.  As we were planning our guest list we realized how our table truly represented what America and this Thanksgiving holiday is all about... people from all backgrounds, cultures and even various religions coming together in celebration of a God greater than all our parts and the way He has touched each of our lives in unspeakable blessings.  We had friends from Poland, Africa, and France as well as Alabama, Ohio and upstate New York (which, let's face it, is really a foreign country in itself).  Now that's a mix worth writing home about.  Conversation was lively and full of laughter, to say the least.    During the evening I heard talk from the Bible, geography, hunting, movies, books, politics, running, high cholesterol and the diet changes that come with being over 40.  I just love when a guest list comes together so perfectly your guests can't stop saying, "We had such a good time at your party."  It really makes all the effort worth it.
With all that being said, let's just get down to the centerpiece of Thanksgiving... the menu.
Cranberry Lime Cocktails
Gosia's Cheeseboard
Stuffed Mushrooms
Crystalized Cranberries
Smoked Turkey Breast with Herb Rub
Sausage and Cranberry Dressing
Aunt Helen's Holiday Mashed Potatoes
Mushroom Gravy
Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Carrots with Harrissa
Cranberry Relish
Sour Cream Apple Pie
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tart
Pear-Cheddar Pie with Rosemary
Cherry Pie
Elderberry Pie
Peach Pie
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chili Chocolate Ganache
 I like to serve dessert in the family room by the woodstove.  It's a great way to get people to relax and mix up the conversation a bit.  It never takes long for the children to get some pool going.
 Followed by air hockey
  After a very stressful and exhausting week the girls and I enjoyed relaxing and getting in a game of air hockey ourselves.
 Lilano and Samuel were fast friends and were not parted until the Owana's car pulled out of the driveway.
 And ditto for Aedan and Pascal
 I hate Apples to Apples but my older kids love it and they love to have a crowd to play. 
 I love that what was a horrid basement when we bought this house has turned into what we envisioned... a place for the kids to enjoy time with friends... a place filled with love and laughter
 a place where strangers and friends, young and old all feel comfortable kicking off their shoes and settling in for a good time
 And as always the case at our gatherings...
 ... babies were passed from arm to arm for hugs and squeezes and tickles and stories.
In this year of trials beyond anything we could have imagined, we indeed have so much to be thankful for and not the least being good food and good friends.  Bless His name!


  1. Hmmm, yes blogging. I used to do that too.... :) As always the food looks amazing! And I have to side with you on this one - I hate apples to apples!

  2. I hear you on the not having time to blog part! I have to say, that after all these years you are still my favorite blogging family.I love the fact that you have so much personality, even with a large family - the beautiful table settings, gourmet food, beautiful home and wonderful children, always well dressed. You are a wonderful inspiration. Big hugs.
    By the way I have a question, I know you've mentioned child training books and wonder what you recommend? Besides Baby wise.

    1. Hello!

      It is always so good to hear from you. I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. Addison has had quite a setback and we are living in crisis mode right now. I typically read email while I am nursing him but I can't reply on that tiny keyboard very easily so things get pushed aside. I do hope you are your precious little ones are well and prospering in this new year.

      In regards to child training books... there are lots of good ones out there and I would say it depends what you are focusing on.

      The ones I find myself referring to moms the most, in no particular order, follow. Please note that I do not advocate any one across the board. I can think of no book which I agree 100% with the author and just because I agree with some of their ideas does not mean I agree with everything the author teaches. And just because someone has good child training ideas does not mean I agree with their Biblical views. As with anything it is up to you to read and discern what will work for your family.

      Shepherding A Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp

      The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

      ESP Character Training by Kim S. Doebler

      Baby Wise, Child Wise etc.... by Gary Ezzo

      And my absolute favorite for both parent and child... The good old book of Proverbs--to accompany the book of proverbs I love the Proverbs curriculum by Rick and Marilyn Boyer

      Pearables also has some need character training curriculum that are great to do with your child.

      Thanks for keeping in touch and I hope you find this helpful.

      Warm Regards,


  3. oh and I love the basement, hopefully ours will look like that someday!

  4. Blogging is lacking in my neck of the woods as well. Spending time with family and friends, face to face, takes priority. Looks like you had a great Thanksgiving. Love the table decorations, ,especially the bark and the woodland characters! And the mayflower was just perfect. :) I haven't been reading or writing blogs in quite a while, but yours was the first on my mind when I logged on tonight. Thanks for praying for your followers. You are prayed for, too.

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