Baby Celebrations

IMG_4031 Opening Gifts

Sometimes things in life do not go quite as planned. We had this experience this past Sunday. We had planned for a beautiful sunny day to hold a Baby Celebration for my son and daughter-in-law and our soon to come grandson. What we got was a day that started out drizzly.

We had planned to set up tables and chairs outside and have everything ready to go by 11:00, so we could get started on the grilling of burgers and hot dogs.  What we got was drizzling till about 10:45, waiting till 11:00 to make sure it really was done dripping all over, and then scrambling to get things set up outdoors so we would be ready for the guests. We had planned to have this be a casual event; and it was a casual event so that went according to plan!

Lots of prayers were sent up, on my part, for there to be a couple hour break in the drippiness.  (I struggled with that prayer as we really need the rain in this area.) We did get a break and it was long enough to fit in everything we needed to.

The day, while not warm and sunny, was a wonderful day of celebration. Lots of laughter, joking, playing games (Corn Hole and Badminton) and opening gifts. It was a wonderful day to celebrate life, family, friends, and the celebration of a new life on the way.

 

There was plenty of food for everyone….(though the frozen fruit cup was a little bit chilly for the day). Grilled burgers and hot dogs, salads and a S’more table, more than made up for the slightly damp atmosphere.

 

We decided that we would still have our homemade root beer and floats. (It was National Root Beer Float Day on Sunday so we needed those floats!) They were great with the S’mores and no one seemed to mind having a chilly dessert.

 

I had bought the duck a few years back at a garage sale. At the time I purchased it I thought it was a floaty for a pool. I found out later it was a blow up baby bathtub! I am really glad I found a great use for it at the party. It made a great root beer and water bottle holder. (I must thank the mom-to-be for taking pictures of the set up…..I had totally forgotten!)

There was lots of mingling and catching up with family and friends during the afternoon. It was a time to retell old family stories and make new ones. I may be the mom of sons…but I am blessed by the women they have brought into our family! They were the drive behind the planning, food and decorations.

We did have a really good laugh when my daughter-in-law shared that my grandson had been quizzing them on their way here about what happens at a baby shower. He was firmly convinced that this was the day the baby would arrive and we were all going to be together to witness the birth and have a huge celebration! He wanted to know all the whens, whys, and whats on how that was going to happen. I am not sure what they actually told him…but it still makes me grin.

In the end….the day was perfect in it’s weather imperfection. It was a celebration that did not hinge on circumstances like foggy damp rain. It did not hinge on “if everything went according to plan”. In the end…the day did go as planned….people had fun, we celebrated and we enjoyed being together.

It was a day that celebrated family, life, new beginnings and love.  It was a day that celebrated blessings and what they really are. When it all comes down to it I guess that is what really matters…..and it was good.

 

The best times are always found
when friends and family gather round.
Unknown

If you so choose,
even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities.
If you so choose,
you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.
Ralph Marston

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/ralphmarst564358.html?src=t_unexpected

Celebrations and Community

IMG_3928 Golden Anniversary Cake

Last week was a week that was extremely busy with a variety of things to do. My husband and I walked beans, I washed a lot (did I say a lot?) of old pop bottles, we brewed a batch of homemade root beer and I had to make 7 sheet cakes for an anniversary.

The sheet cakes take time and by the end of the day I am tired…but they are kind of fun to make.  There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing them all lined up when they have been baked, frosted and decorated.

These cakes were for a couple in our church who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They had decided to celebrate by serving cake to the congregation after the morning service. The last couple years, people in our church are starting to do more of this rather than the traditional open house.

I think it is a really neat idea when someone decides to celebrate their major life events by sharing that special time with the church community. In our area that always includes food of some type. I am not sure if it is a Dutch heritage type of thing or just something we do in the Midwest.

Sharing with the church family creates such an atmosphere of community and fellowship. It is a blessing to watch people in our church basement, eating cake, drinking coffee and juice, and visiting together. The laughter and hugs of people reconnecting is something to see and even better to be a part of.

Watching Psalm 133:1 (How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!) play out before your eyes is truly a wondrous thing. People talking and children running around their parents and grandparents is a beautiful sight.

I think that often we don’t realize how much a smile or hug can impact someone else.  We don’t always see that there are lots of lonely people in the middle of a crowd. It is good to draw others in and encourage them…it is good to make sure everyone feels like they have a part to play in community. Relationships can be messy….but so rewarding.

I have a friend, Jackie, who once told us, “Be the pebble.” I would encourage you to all be the pebble. Toss yourself into the pond of someone’s life. Create some ripples in the lives of those around you. When you do…..watch for the blessing.

 

“I alone cannot change the world,
but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” 

― Mother Teresa

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” 
― Dorothy DayThe Long Loneliness:
The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reliving My Youth

IMG_3929 Root Beer Making Supplies.JPG

This past weekend my husband and I did something that brought back memories of my youth, and also memories of us being young parents with three little boys.  What we did was decide it was time to brew some homemade root beer!

A couple things combined to make us decide it was time to give it a try again. My son built us this awesome rack to hold our brewing bottles of pop. We also are helping host a baby celebration for the upcoming birth of our newest grandson. We decided it would be kind of fun to have homemade root beer as one of the beverages.

IMG_3942 New Pop Bottle Rack

 

Somehow during the years, since we last made root beer, we had managed to bury the bottles and equipment in a back corner of the garage. My husband dug out the crates and boxes of bottles from that back corner, and I spent an entire afternoon cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning those bottles. I was never so glad to own a bottle brush, as that afternoon!

The bottles, themselves, brought back lots of memories for me. As a kid, my Aunt Jean always brewed root beer. We begged and pleaded with my mom to give it a try also. My siblings and I spent countless hours going through ditches, looking for glass pop bottles. (This was in the days before the nickel deposit for bottles….and long before pop cans.)

Once we had amassed enough bottles, my dad purchased a bottle capper and we were set to go. That root beer was some of the best around on a hot summer day. When we were kids; pop was a luxury and our folks didn’t purchase pop very often, so we savored every sip we took. It always had a slightly yeasty taste but we thought it was wonderful.

When our sons were small we inherited the bottles and the capper. Through the years we also gathered more bottles to add to the collection. The bottles ranged from 7 ounce bottles to 32 ounce bottles. It is kind of fun to see where those bottles come from. Places like Fort Dodge, Ia, Spirit Lake, IA, Sioux Falls, SD, Mississippi, and who knows where! It is rather like a collage of old pop bottles.

IMG_3939 Bottle Hodgepodge.JPG

Our sons fondly remember drinking ice cold homemade root beer on steamy summer days. My husband and I remember, not quite as fondly, the sound of a bottle blowing up in the middle of the night during the brewing phase.

The sound of a bottle blowing is slightly like hearing a cannon go off. At that time we lived on a different acreage and had the bottles brewing on their sides, on the steps in the upstairs stairwell. It took a long time to get the sticky, sugary root beer scrubbed off those stairwell walls. I do remember it smelled wonderfully to root beer for a long time.

This time my husband and I decided we should fill bottles in the garage as we could hose off the floor if we spilled too much. It worked great and was kind of a fun thing to do again. We ended up with 70+ bottles of root beer.

The real test will be at the end of this week when we do the taste test on a bottle. Hopefully, it is as good as we remember!  I have a feeling this is an acquired taste as this root beer always tastes a little yeasty. I guess there is a great reason it tastes that way; as yeast is what is used to carbonate homemade root beer.

I am hoping that the first sip will bring back memories of years past. Memories of time spent drinking root beer with cousins, time spent making root beer with our sons and new memories to be made with family and friends.

When I was looking for quotes on homemade root beer (and not finding any!) I discovered that August 6, 2017 is National Root Beer Float Day in the United States!  How amazingly cool is it that? That is the day of our baby celebration complete with homemade root beer for root beer floats.

“Life has an odd way of making things work out in the end.”
Unknown

“…root beer floats are the stuff that toasts are made of.” 
― Sandra D. Bricker,
If the Shoe Fits

  I am editing this post to add the recipe I used.  I had a request to do that so here it is:

Homemade Root Beer
1- 2 ounce bottle Root Beer Extract (I used Schilling)
 5 gallons water
5 pounds white sugar
1 large teaspoon dry yeast
1 cup warm water
Put the yeast in the cup of warm water with 1 teaspoon of sugar
Mix the extract with the rest of the sugar
Pour the rest of the water into a large bucket (not metal)
Add the sugar/extract mixture
Add the yeast mixture
Stir well
Bottle in clean sterilized glass pop bottles.
Cap with bottle caps (can get these from bottling companies).
Put bottles on their side in a warm place for 2-4 days.
Move to a cool place to store.
Chill well before serving.

 

 

 

Preparing For Gathering

Cupcakes

Triple Chocolate Fudge & White Almond Raspberry Filled Cupcakes

Today was one of those days that seemed to be busy with a hodgepodge of “stuff”.  I spent time preparing for a bride/groom wedding shower that, as an aunt, I am helping host. This means, we are in charge of lunch, games and whatever else needs doing.

These showers started out being for couples on my husbands side of the family; due to being a small group. I am not sure how the guys feel about being included, but I think it adds a lot of fun to see the guys’ perspective on things.

One of the things I had to make was cupcakes. As of today, I can check them off my list of to-dos. They are some “canoey” work….but they are fun to decorate. We have some who cannot have gluten so I also made some of those. (It is really helpful to have a little  help from Betty Crocker for that!) I bought a yellow gluten free cake mix and turned them into lemon cupcakes with a recipe I found on Pinterest. (Lemon Cupcakes)

Gluten free.JPG

I also got to prepare for my kids to come home, for a time, this weekend. The oldest son and his family will be spending a night here! I cannot wait to see them. It was time to sweep, dust, vacuum, and change bedding upstairs in anticipation of the weekend.

On Sunday the kids will all be here for Sunday dinner. We will celebrate Mother’s Day and we are also going to have a “grand reveal”  to find out what our newest grandchild will be. We will find out if we should purchase pink or blue items for this newest addition to the bunch.

I am not sure what my youngest son and his wife have planned for this big reveal….all I know is my son said they needed “lots of room”. Knowing how they love target  and clay pigeon shooting, I would not be surprised if it somehow involved shooting! I guess I will have to be patient and wait to find out.

Some of my preparations involved washing towels (you have to have clean towels when the kids come home) and hanging them outside to dry. After I got them hung on the clotheslines I wandered over to the garden.  Easter weekend my husband and I were able to get our potatoes planted. When I checked them today I was pretty excited to see they were starting to come up. Some places I could even see rows!

Potato Plant

Yukon Gold Potatoes

 

Now the busy work starts…..weeding, hoeing, watering and mulching those potatoes. I mowed the lawn today, but didn’t have time to bag the grass to be used for mulching…..maybe next time! Maybe next week will be a little slower pace….maybe. About the time I think that life will slow down; something else pops up and keeps us running.

It is a fun kind of busy….these last few days. It is a busy that is filled with anticipation of seeing family and getting together. It is the knowing that our time together will be too short; but it will be so full of laughter, stories and love. It will be a time of new memories being made and the re-telling old ones.

I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day this weekend. May you be surrounded by your family. If they cannot come home make sure to give them a call and let them know you care! May you have time to make great new memories.

If you don’t have children….be the “cool” uncle, aunt or neighbor that all the kids want to hang out with. You have no idea what you mean to those kids! Everyone has a need to belong and know that someone cares about them.

May you be blessed this weekend and may you be a blessing to those around you.

 

“Our family is a circle of strength;
founded on faith,
joined in love,
kept by God,
together
forever.”
-Unknown

Cherish your human connections:
your relationships with friends and family.
Joseph Brodsky

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/josephbrod119970.html?src=t_friends_and_family

A Day For Thanks

Thanksgiving Decorations.JPG

There are days that I wish would not end.  Yesterday was one of them. We spent it celebrating Thanksgiving. The day was gray and chilly but it turned out to be a wonderful day spent with loved ones.

The day started fairly early as the rice stuffing needed to get into the 16+ pound turkey and get in the oven. While that was in the oven and sending out a great Thanksgiving aroma, my husband and I set up tables and chairs, put out plates, glasses, napkins, silverware, and of course the candy corn sprinkled on the tables. We did discover that if you do not purchase your candy corn and candy pumpkins by Halloween you have a very tough time finding them in the store for Thanksgiving! (Note to self…..purchase earlier next time around.)

My side of the family came to our home yesterday. The traditional turkey, stuffing, squash, corn, and pumpkin pie was served. We also had a few non-traditional things such as ribs, a pasta salad, cream cheese pie and a Skor cake. (see previous post for some of those recipes.)

For me one of the highlights of the day was our devotion time. All 22 of us stood in our kitchen. It was full of people, it was crowded and it was wonderful. I found the neatest Thanksgiving scripture cards from Kim Marsh-Weed over at Good Enough. Before my husband opened with prayer we had everyone read their card.

We served the food buffet style (that just works the easiest with this crowd) and after everyone had eaten their fill we were sated. Isn’t that a great word? Word prompt chose that one for today.  I love the meaning “to fill, to satisfy, to gorge, to quench….” Pretty much explains a thanksgiving meal. It also explains great relationship. ….spending time together till you are filled, satisfied and quenched.

successful-chicken-capture

 

We spent a lot of our day satisfying our love of being together.  Some of the group just sat and talked. some decided they wanted to shoot some clays. My nephew’s wife decided her goal for the day was to catch and hold one of the girls. She accomplished that goal in a very short time. It is a good thing my girls are so tame!

No matter which group you were in…talking,resting, chicken capture or shooting, there was laughter, lots of chatter and an abundance of good natured teasing.

 

For some reason everyone who wanted to shoot remembered their shells but no one remembered to bring extra boxes of clays. My husband and son went and rummaged around in the basement and found a box of rabbit clays….the kind that you are supposed to have bounce along the ground. They decided to use them like regular clays and throw them.

After making their way out back of the barn they soon discovered that those clays did not react like regular ones. There was some confusion when clay after clay flew into the air, guns were fired and intact clays hit the ground. It didn’t look like anyone was hitting anything.  Comments were made, “There is no way we are this bad!”, “We are better than this!” and “I think I need glasses.”

retrieving-clays

After shooting through the whole box they decided to go and retrieve any unbroken ones. They discovered most of them had chips  but had not broken when they had been hit…..mystery solved….they were better than that!  To be honest I think they were all pretty relieved to find out they were not such bad shots after all! They also thought it was kind of neat they could reuse the clays!

Everyone started to get cold as the day was gray, damp and cool. They decided it was time to head back to the house and find some hot coffee and dessert; as the turkey and stuffing had settled and left room for sweets.

There was such a sweetness to this day spent with family. It came to a close much too quickly. Fortunately the memories will last a lifetime. We spent much of the day, today, rehashing yesterday. It was rather like replaying a movie over and over and it was so much fun to redo it in our minds. Days like this just add to the bond that holds people together….shared fun, shared stories, shared joys and shared heartaches all rolled up with love.

I am going to end this post with part of the devotions that we did yesterday. I read an email that I had received way back in 2010 from a lady in her 90’s. ( I was always amazed that she learned how to work a computer at her age….it gives me great hope for the coming years!)

The e-mail was titled, “I Wish You Enough.”  It was the story of a father and daughter at an airport as the daughter is set to leave. It was probably the last time she would see him on this earth and he wanted to wish her a life filled with just enough good things to sustain her.

The e-mail ended with the sentence, “They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.”

This is my Thanksgiving wish for you all. May you be blessed and I wish you enough…….

I Wish You Enough
I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.
Bob Perks

 

 

 

Walnut Whip Wednesday

Walnut Whips & Handmade Card.JPG

I have been watching my mailbox ever since my friend, Mrs. Cobs, told me she was sending me a package, containing walnut whips, all the way from England. I felt like a kid at Christmas every time I went to the mailbox to see if they had come.  Today they arrived!

At noon I saw the mail man come, saw him put items in the box and then turn around on the yard and drive away. I hoofed it out to the mailbox, full of anticipation, and there it was…….a well-wrapped brown package with my name on it.

I give credit to Mrs. Cobs in the wrapping department. If there were a package wrapping Olympics I am quite sure she would win gold, hands down. Her wrapping skills rival those of my youngest son, who is a firm believer in the use (or over use) of strapping tape and duct tape for his Christmas packaging needs.

I must confess I also love strapping tape….maybe it is just the way it makes the package shine when it has been encased in this wonderful stuff.  Or it could be the fun of watching the recipient struggle to open said package and finally have to resort to the use of a scissors, knife, box-cutter, or some other sharp object.

Anyway, I have strayed from the topic.  I hurried back to the house, package in hand….and some other mail that was not near as exciting as my package. Once opened I found, not only, the walnut whips but an absolutely beautiful handmade card as well!  I have another friend who also makes cards.  I call her “the glitter queen”….for obvious reasons.  I believe she may have to share that title with Mrs. Cobs.

I opened the box of walnut whips and then just had to open one of the individually wrapped whips that were inside the box.  It looked just like a little beehive with a walnut on top!  I had planned to take a photo of the walnut whip once I had taken a bite out of it so that you could see and appreciate the wonderful marshmallow crème inside. After that first bite the thought of stopping to take a picture flew right out of my head!

These little bits of deliciousness are really, really good. Marshmallow crème covered in the smoothest of chocolate and topped with a walnut.  I found it to be a great sweet treat to eat while drinking my tea. If there were ever a candy that looked like it had taken the time to primp, a walnut whip would be that candy. It is a fancy bit of goodness with it’s little walnut topper.

Maybe we will have to convince our local grocery stores to stock walnut whips.  I have a feeling this might not be a USA thing and that is really sad. Locally we have a candy distributor that specializes in candy from all over the world.  I may have to try persuade them that these would be a worthy addition to their line of candies.

My husband was amazed that someone I have never met in person; took the time to purchase walnut whips, make a beautiful card and then send it all the way from England!  I am finding that this world holds many, many wonderful people.

I am also finding that blogging has put me in touch with many of these amazing people. I would encourage you to go on over and have a visit with Mrs. Cobs. (⇐click on her name and it should take you right there. You will be glad you did.)

I would be poorer, indeed, if I had never “met” these fellow bloggers! You are all a blessing to me and my prayer is that you are blessed in return.

And to quote Mrs. Cobs, “Love and squidges to you!”

A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg
even though he knows that you are slightly cracked

~Bernard Meltzer quotes

Somebody Turn the Light On!

Tea and Banana Bread.JPG

Oh. My. Word.  I had such a senior moment today that I can hardly believe myself!  I had spent the day baking and decorating sheet cakes for our church. (We are celebrating Pastor Appreciation Month this coming Sunday), baking muffins for an all day meeting tomorrow, and banana breads to just have on hand.

My husband and I were sitting and waiting for our after dinner tea to be done heating in the microwave and smelling the wonderful smell of banana bread baking in the oven when the buzzer sounded.  I leapt out of my chair and went to take the bread out, opened the oven and thought, “What in the world is wrong with the banana bread?”

I made the mistake of voicing this thought out loud in front of my husband.  His first question was wondering (also aloud) if I had forgotten a certain ingredient.  He began naming ingredients (some that don’t even go in banana bread). I told him that I had remembered ALL the ingredients and that forgetting one would not make the bread “goopy and undone-looking”.

As I was standing there looking at the breads that were just sitting there looking goopy while they sat in their loaf pans in my oven , it occurred to me that the timer buzzing might, just might have been the microwave for the tea. It was a light bulb coming on kind of moment! (I wonder if it used to be a candle-lighting moment before there was electricity?)

I am pretty sure that my husband sometimes really wonders about the state of my brain. He is probably very sure that at times someone has snuffed most, if not all of the candles out that were supposed to be lighting all those deep dark areas. Hopefully he just thinks that I do it to keep him on his toes.

I remember going to a conference where the speaker was a woman. She had a solution for some of these less than stellar moments….always keep a can of corn on the step.  That way if you go up or downstairs for something, forget what that something was and don’t want to admit to that fact….you can always carry the can of corn along with you and look like you really do know what you are doing.

Unfortunately I think that strategy requires not wondering aloud what is wrong with the banana bread. My theory is that we can only hold so much information in our brains and then we need to kick some tidbit of information out to make room for more.  I am pretty sure that is the only way multi-tasking works.

Sometimes our lives just get too busy to keep everything straight and we mess up. When these oops moments happen we have two choices….we can see the humor in it or we can beat ourselves up for doing something wrong.  On this one, I am choosing humor. If you are like me, in the past, you have spent too much time picking the other choice.

Life really is too short to spend in second-guessing yourself so take a deep breath, realize that some things are not a life altering moment and go light a candle to brighten the darkness.  Who knows…..you may even brighten the day for those around you and sharing your experiences might make life easier for someone else.

Light Your World.JPG

A human being is fashioned with innumerable qualities
which makes a soul shine in the darkness like a candle lighting up
every nook and cranny of the universe
…A human is a soul carrying a flame forever.

Malika E Nura quotes 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/candle/