October 13, 2017

Ten Things You Might Not Know You Need This Thanksgiving

I think it's important you know right from the start that this post has nothing to do with the latest in turkey basters or brine injection systems.

I'm not going to tell you what to do if your turkey is dry. (Slice it thin and add some extra broth, I think...but I go with an herb-butter basted turkey breast every year and just skirt the dry meat matter entirely.)

On the other hand, if you find yourself needing one of these other Thanksgiving non-essential-but-nice-to-haves, here's what we're thankful to have on hand in our house.

1. If you need a Thanksgiving book that will become a family classic: Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember, by Barbara Rainey. This is our family's go-to Thanksgiving resource. Filled with rich details about the voyage to the new world (condensed version: this was no Carnival cruise), life for the Pilgrims (condensed version: this was no "woo hoo, we got away from jolly old England" vacation), and the history of Thanksgiving as a national holiday (condensed version: Sarah Josepha Hale was one determined woman), this instant heirloom also offers President Lincoln's entire 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation and journal pages for recording your family's personal thanksgivings. 

2. If you need a new appreciation for what the Pilgrims went through: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with The Mayflower Voyagers. Trust the Peanuts gang to tell the Thanksgiving story in their own fun-but-factual fashion. Even my teenagers love to watch this double feature. For one thing, it makes them thankful they weren't Pilgrims.

3. If you need Thanksgiving dinner background music: George Winston's Autumn album. Soothing, somehow seasonal music, and no lyrics to compete with conversation. May possibly encourage your dinner guests to linger at the table for at least a quarter of the time it took you to put the whole meal together. 

4. If you need the world's best pie crust: My mom's pie crust. A couple unusual ingredients push this over the edge into flaky-yet-workable fame. Think you can't make your own pie crust? With this recipe you can..and with this recipe, you'll be glad you did. You could fill this crust with almost anything, and it would give you something to be thankful for.

My Mom's Pie Crust {print}

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into smallish pieces
1/2 cup shortening, cold
1 egg
1/3 cup cold water
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Throw in the pieces of butter and tablespoon-sized "portions" of shortening and cut all these into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or a fork or two knives. Whisk the remaining crust ingredients and toss with the flour mixture until it starts to form a ball. Add a couple extra drops of water if it seems too dry. Divide in thirds, form into balls, wrap in plastic, and chill until you want to roll out and use. (You need to at least rest and chill the dough for an hour or so, but longer is even better.) You can also freeze your dough portions for at least a few months. Whenever you use it, roll it out and bake it according to the directions for whatever recipe you're using it with. 

Makes 3 (9") single-crust pie shells 

5. If you need a Thanksgiving banner even a "crappy crafter" (as the birthday card my sister gave me one year put it) can make: this gorgeous Thanksgiving banner from The Deliberate Mom. Truly, if I (personal hashtag: #idkhowtodiy) can make this, anyone can make it. 

6. If you need a plan for when the day doesn't go as planned: this post in which I recall the Thanksgiving I was surprised by good. 

7. If you need an alternative to "let's go around the table and say something we're thankful for": NOT, mind you, that there's anything wrong with doing that! I happen to love this tradition. But depending on the crowd you've got gathered, sometimes it's nice to have an option that doesn't require people to think on the spot. A couple years ago, I made Scripture place cards using the word "THANKS" as my guide. Each Scripture contained a word that started with one letter of the word "thanks." We went around the table, and each guest read the Scripture on their card. A little cutesy, but very Thanksgiving-y. It just so happened we had 6 people to go with the six letters, but you could adapt this idea based on how many guests will be gathered around your feast. And if you need a one-stop-shopping source for Thanksgiving Bible verses, you'll find a lovely collection here at Daily Bouquets

Click here for a printable version of this. 

8. If you need a classic Thanksgiving sitcom episode: "Thanksgiving orphans," from Cheers. (Warning: food-fight alert.) 

9. If you need a lesser-known-but-should-be-classic Thanksgiving sitcom episode: "Thanksgiving Until It Hurts" from Dharma and Greg. I'm already laughing just thinking about it. 

10. If you need a quote about gratitude that puts everything in perspective: "Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God's accomplishments. To rehearse God's accomplishments is to discover His heart. To discover His heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up." (Max Lucado)

Now it's your turn: what do I need for Thanksgiving that I don't know I need? 
Please let me know about it, either in a comment or over on my Facebook page
Blessings on all your Thanksgiving preparations!

**This post may be been shared at some of these blog link parties.**

September 28, 2017

13 Things To Say To Your Kids When They're Having a Bad Day

The other day, I got this text from my college freshman daughter:

"Didn't go so hot."

She was checking in with me about the Psych 101 quiz she'd just taken. The one she'd nervously asked me to pray about when she left for school that morning.

I responded to her message by assuring her of my love and telling her it would be okay and encouraging her to just do the next thing she needed to do, the best that she could. 

And then I ordered her a jacket she'd been looking at online. Because, retail therapy. (Also, because she needed one.)

When kids are hurting, moms want to make it better. So we pray...and pray some more. We worry...and worry some more. But there are also things we say--things that aren't new or groundbreaking but that are timeless classics for one reason: they work.

If someone who calls you "mom" is having a bad day, here are some go-to phrases you might want to have in your maternal arsenal. Don't let their simplicity undermine their power. I've said these things over and over, and often, not long after I've said them, my daughters have told me, "I always feel better after I talk to you." Which is pretty much the highest mom compliment I ever hope to get.

1. I love you.

2. I'm praying for you.

3. Take a deep breath.

4. I'm already proud of you. 

5. This is not your whole story.

6. Do you want to talk about it?

7. I'm here for you.

8. Just take the next step.

9. It will be okay.

10. I know you'll be able to figure this out.

11. Is there anything I can do to help?

12. I really, really love you.

13. How about some ice cream?

What would you add to this list, mama? 
Leave your wisdom here in a comment or over on Facebook
While I wait for it, I'm going to round up some ice cream.

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog link parties.**

September 13, 2017

Almond Poppyseed Muffins

Every so often, I work as a catering assistant, and here's one thing I learned right away: by the time the night is through, whatever we're serving will inevitably become The Thing I Most Want to Eat in the World.

At a recent wedding, the cake was an almond poppyseed affair, and the minute I was able to swipe a sample from a layer that had been cut and served and whisked away to our prep station, I began fantasizing about this cake. Specifically, about eating it. More specifically, about eating quite a lot of it.

But since neither a wedding nor a wedding cake were in my near future, I needed to apply this combination to something that would fit into regular life. Enter Sunday-morning breakfast. I often make muffins for my family while we're rushing around trying to get ready for church and negotiating face time at the house's "best" mirror. 

I don't make muffins for breakfast before church because I need one more thing to do on Sunday mornings (a.k.a., the time of the week when the members of my family generally like each other the least but must, by the time we pull into the church parking lot, pretend we like each other the most). I do it because making them on Sundays means I have leftovers for Mondays (a.k.a., the day of the week we most need mood-enhancing baked goods for breakfast).

After tasting and obsessing over that wedding cake, I tweaked one of my favorite muffin recipes and ended up with something that had the soul of the cake but the applicability of something I can legitimately serve for breakfast. 

My family liked them quite a lot the first time I made them, thanks for asking, AND we managed to make it to church on time with a minimum of discord. Which is as much of a Sunday-morning miracle as I'm likely to see again anytime soon.

Almond Poppyseed Muffins {print}

2 cups all-purpose flour (sometimes I substitute 1/2 white whole wheat flour, but don't get too grainy with these...you'll lose the wedding cake-esque quality)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (yes) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon poppyseeds
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt OR ricotta cheese
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray OR line with cupcake liners.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and poppyseeds in a large bowl. (I love to use my batter bowl for this, along with about a zillion other kitchen tasks.) Make a well in the center and set aside. 

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients (egg through extract). Pour into the well in your dry ingredients, and gently fold everything together just until you don't see any more dry mixture. Do NOT attempt to de-lump your batter. Lumpy muffin batter is happy muffin batter, and it will make you a happy muffin-eater.

Divide your batter among 12 muffin cups, and bake for 12-18 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out mostly clean.

Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack. Enjoy while warm or cool completely before storing or freezing in an airtight container. Makes 12 muffins.

Previous post that might have something to do with this one:Four Kitchen Tool Must-Haves Plus One I Just Really Like

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