Tag Archives: Family

Counting Blessings

25 Jan

We all have two families. One we were born into, and one made up of people God put in our path.

I am the big sister, the oldest grandchild. I do everything first. I’m first to be married, should be first to have a baby. The next generation is only a glimmer in my husband’s and my eyes – an unformed hope for the future – so far. But I have kids, lots and lots of kids that bless me by letting me into their lives.

There’s my niece, who draws pictures that show I’m more glamorous in her imagination than in real life, gives full-body hugs, and has a laugh that lights a room. My nephew, the surfer-blonde who is crazy talented and is learning to play by the rules so he can be free to do what he loves. The mad-scientist brothers who we are convinced will someday try for world domination. The two little boys who are obedient to a fault and know they unequivocally loved by their parents. And my high schoolers. The ones I have, the ones that have moved away. The ones whose hurts are larger than life. Whose dramas are epic, yet last only an instant. The ones who share my spontaneity and will drive with me to LA and back in a day to ride a roller coaster. The ones who are solid and secure in who they are, and the ones who try on a new identity daily. The ones I love, who force me to grow the more I care for and mentor them.

I have a huge family that I was blessed to be born into that I love. But I love my God-given family just as much, and thank Him for choosing me to be so blessed.

Haloo, Martigan!

20 Dec

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We didn’t think we’d find a dog this quickly. But you know what they say, when the world closes a door, God opens a window.

We’ve been trying to adopt a dog since October. We’ve wanted a dog since I wrote My List, and between now and then we lost a dog, gave back a dog, so, yeah, this dog has been a long tine coming. But Martigan is perfect.

He’s funny, fuzzy, and non-sneezy. He loves us, loves Logan, and loves kids. He hates riding in the car, which honestly I find rather funny. He’s part cat, soft as a bunny, and super smart. Already house trained, but keeps bringing his toys outside and sticks inside. He’s young – only one – and brings a much-needed energy into our lives. I didn’t expect to hit the doggy lottery so soon, but I’m so glad we did. I’m grateful and humbled, and happy to finally have a dog who’s not sick, and who’s the right fit. Hooray for keeping a goal crossed of f the list, and praise God for a new puppy!

Update: Our last dog, Westley, found the prefect home, who signed the adoption papers the day we adopted Martigan. Thanks DPS for making two families more complete.

I Love My Crazy Family

5 Dec

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Friday Five – Childhood Christmas Joys

2 Dec

photo via Pinterest posted by Nicole Kraus

This week I’ve been working on being intentional; in my marriage, in my appreciation of the season, and in preparing my heart and spirit for Christmas. In the spirit of preparing for the Christmas Season, this Friday I wanted to share five things I remember fondly from times of preparation for Christmases past. And fair’s fair…if I tell you mine, I want to know yours!

  1. Advent Calendars
    We had two that I remember. One was two layers of cardboard with cut out doors. Each door had a number on it, and when you opened it a part of the nativity scene was revealed. The other was a tower of tiny drawers. Each one had a number, and each held a tiny prize. A chocolate, a pair of stick-on earrings (remember those ladies? Childhood gold.) I think I knew even then that those surprises weren’t there accidentally or magically – that my mom had taken the time to select each one to delight her girls. The one with the drawers caused a bit of anti-Christmas -spirit contention in our house, as we didn’t have much so had to share the prize calendar, taking turns on who got the gift each day and who opened the door on the Christmas scene. Torture to a six-year old, but it taught me patience, tolerance, and the value of waiting.
  2. Driving Around to Look at Christmas Lights
    We didn’t have many Christmas traditions – especially as the years passed and the family ties started to fray – but driving around to look at Christmas lights happened for enough years in a row to make a deep impression on my childhood Christmas memories. My dad would pile us into the car, bundled up in puffy jackets and hats, and we’d drive to the more upscale neighborhoods that boardered San Bernardino, the car heater intermittently sputtering or blasting, depending on what we were driving that year. When we spotted a likely looking street (meaning you could see the glow from down the block) dad would pull in and sloooowly drive down the row so my sisters and I could press our noses against the glass and ooh and ahh. If we were lucky the street turned out to be a cul-de-sac and we could enjoy the lights each way, without switching from window to window in effort to not miss anything.
  3. An Eclectic Christmas Tree
    None of our ornaments matched. Each year mom would get out the cardboard boxes containing our ornaments and we’d pull apart balls of tissue paper looking for the unique bauble inside. As we unwrapped each one, either mom or dad would tell us the story of how they got it. As soon as I was old enough to have memories from previous years, I remember exclaiming over each one as it was revealed “oh, I remember that one! That’s my favorite one. I want to hang it!” I’m sure my parents loved that, especially since we must have had at least sixty ornaments, all of which were ‘my favorite’.
  4. Palm Trees Decorated with Ornaments
    I grew up in SoCal. ‘Nuff said.
  5. Putting Out Cookies for Santa
    My mom always listened to my opinion on what type of cookies Santa would like best. Some years I thought homemade was best (oatmeal chocolate chip was a personal favorite), other years Oreos were the haute cuisine of cookies. I obsessed over the note I wrote to santa and carefully placed the cookies, milk, and carrots on a plate. (Unpeeled, unwashed. Hey, they were reindeer.) I counted how many he ate the next day, analyzed the nibbles on the carrot (apparently reindeer aren’t very hungry creatures) and poured over the note Santa always wrote back on the note I left for him like it held the secrets to the universe. I never noticed that Santa’s handwriting – on the note, on the present tags – looked a lot like the writing on the tags on gifts marked ‘from mom and dad.’

What are your favorite memories from Christmas past? Post them in the comments or on your blog (and drop me a line so I can visit) and share your memories!

Gameplan For a Perfect Thanksgiving – Redux

25 Nov

You know how yesterday was supposed to go, so let’s just see how we did, shall we?

8:00 am
Zzzzzzz zzzzzz “Get out, hooligan doggies!” zzzzzzzz…

9:00 am
ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

10:00 am
Wake up, realize that no one set an alarm to get up in time to implement game plan, sleepily roll over for ‘just five more minutes’.

10:35 am
– Stumble out of bed, realize that during grocery shopping for Thanksgiving feast we somehow managed to overlook the need for milk and cereal.
– A. starts cleaning the kitchen because he rocks at life.

10:55 am
– Run to corner Starbucks for bacon gouda breakfast sandwiches and fortifying cups of caffeine.
– Tip $3 to assuage guilt over patronizing a store on Thanksgiving.
(Totally against our principles, stores should be closed on Thanksgiving to let workers be home with their families, not stay open to cater to the hopelessly unprepared. *ahem*)

11:15 am
– Return home with hot breakfast.
– Convince A. to step away from the sink and enjoy his coffee with me.
– Both of us open books and enjoy our coffee for 30 minutes.
– Look at clock and agree that we’re taking the ‘downtime’ I planned for between 12:30 and 2:00 now. “As long as we get cleaning and prep done by 2:00, we’re golden!” we say, and settle in to finish our chapters.

12:00 pm
Clean
– A. transforms kitchen and counters into gleaming showroom kitchen. Begs me not to mess it up with my cooking.
– I attack guest bathroom and decide, while I’m at it, that I may as well clean ours as well. No use letting toilet-cleaning rubber gloves go to waste.
– Go on de-cluttering rampage courtesy of my ADD brain and clean wrappers, tags, and odds & ends out of places that guests will never go, like under my master bathroom sink.

1:20 pm
– Realize that there is exactly 40 minutes until major part of cooking needs to commence, and we have no prep work done.
– Call A. into bedroom to fix the bed and help shove unfolded laundry back into the hamper. The room will just be a coat and purse holder, they’ll never know the difference.
– Ask A. to please take care of tidying the living room and dining room so I can start on prep.
– Walk into living/dining room and realize that he already did all the tidying while I was preoccupied under the sink.
– Award A. 10 points on the Best Husband Ever Scoreboard.
– Decide to forgo vacuuming so we can both focus on prep work. (Can’t win ‘em all.)

1:30 pm
Prep
– A. gleefully attacks reducing helpless day-old sourdough baguette into cubes and oversees their subsequent toasting in the oven. Put him in charge of browning sausage while he’s standing at the oven.
– Congratulate self on giving him the task most likely to involve grease spatters, meaning I can’t be blamed for messy stove top.
– Work on dicing mise en place, bragging to A. about my awesome knife skills.
– Get aromatics chopped and into roasting pan.

2:00 pm
– Turkey comes out of fridge and into pan to throw off the chill.
– Pre-heat oven to 325°
– Realize that I’ve forgotten about cranberry sauce and vanilla bean whipped cream, which both need time to set in the fridge before dinner.

2:10 pm
– Throw cranberries and orange juice into a pot, decide to use some of the vanilla bean simple syrup I made the night before in sauce instead of sugar and water.
– Set A. to removing stems from green beans. Assure him I will join him soon to peel pearl onions.
– Throw heavy cream into vanilla bean simple syrup and whip.

2:20 pm
– Realize that excessive simple syrup use has prevented cream from whipping. Put bowl into fridge to set; resolve to refer to topping as ‘vanilla bean froth.’
– Sauté remaining stuffing components. Process moves like a dream, thanks to beautifully prepared mise en place.

2:40 pm
– Pour stuffing into prepared casserole dish, cover, and set aside as a job well done.
– Taste cranberry sauce. Addition of vanilla was inspired, as cannot stop licking the spoon. Even anti-cranberry sauce A. proclaims it delicious. Put sauce in fridge as a job well done.
– Join A. at the table to half and peel tiny pearl onions.
– A. begs to switch jobs, as he’s in green bean snapping hell. Point out that he only has a handful to go, and wouldn’t he enjoy the feeling of triumph at finishing what he’d started?

2:50 pm
– Curse teeny-tiny pearl onions and their thin, papery skins that stick like glue to their overrated flesh.
– Give A. a kiss as he starts on prep-work dishes. Point out to A. how nice the stove looks, as am learning to clean as I go.

3:00 pm
Bird goes into oven. At last, we are back on schedule.

3:15 pm
Put on festive Pandora station and change for guest arrival. A. hops into a much-needed shower, as smells faintly of 409 cleaner and green beans.

3:30 pm
Put pot of coffee on, and waltz around non-vaccummed-but-still-pretty-darn-presentable living area lighting candles and a fire.

3:40 pm
– Realize we have forgotten lunch thanks to late lie-in brunch, including pre-game mimosa. Briefly consider adding a shot of bourbon to coffee, but decide against as haven’t eaten anything in hours.
– Put water on to boil for green beans.

3:55 pm
Mothers arrive simultaneously, bearing appetizers and festive decorations. Fall on salame and brie like the starving hostess that I am.

4:00 pm
– Stuffing goes into oven, on schedule.
– Blanch green beans, but decide to wait on making pearl onion balsamic glaze, as we’re still an hour out from eating. Decide this part of plan was flawed and move on.

4:15 pm
Get nervous about possibility of whole dinner waiting on green beans and decide to go ahead and glaze them.

4:30 pm
– Check turkey. Legs are done according to thermometer, but breast has a good 20 degrees to go.
– Take legs out and tent with foil, putting breast back in oven and turning up the heat slightly.
– Tell family dinner will be 30 minutes later than planned.

4:50 pm
– Turkey breast is up to temperature, so out it comes, onto the cutting board to rest.
– Turn oven up to 400° and uncover stuffing to crisp.
– Start gravy with A’s ever-present and much-needed help. Them’s roasting pans be heavy!

4:55 pm
– Notice smallest dog climbing up the side of the dishwasher, licking frantically with a drugged-out look on his face. Realize that turkey juices have pooled on cutting board and are dripping down the side of the counter.
– Kick turkey-drunk dog out of kitchen and wipe down counter, stuffing paper towels under board to staunch juice flow.
– Register that A. is saying to me that something was covered in turkey juice and asking if I wiped it down. Think he’s talking about the dishwasher and reply in the affirmative.

5:20 pm
– Gravy is divine. Resolve to never, ever lose this gravy recipe as long as I live.
– Stuffing comes out of oven, golden and aromatic. A Team Aylesworth success.
– A. begins to carve turkey. Breast is golden and moist, absolute perfection. The legs on the other hand…despite a good temperature reading, the legs are totally red in the middle.
– Briefly argue with A. about how turkey is not a steak and there is no way we can eat a pink bird. Console A. about missing out on dark meat until later, and put the stupid legs back in the oven.
– Thank the Good Lord that I got a large turkey breast so there’s plenty of meat for all, despite disappointing legs.
– Set green beans out. Realize that beans have turned an unappetizing shade of brown, due to sitting in balsamic glaze for extra time while turkey cooked. Tastes fine, so warn family that while beans look very much dead, they still crunch and taste quite good. Dubious family decides to risk it.

5:30 pm
– Sit down with family and enjoy a sumptuous feast with perfectly paired wine.
– Take (finally) cooked legs out of oven and start planning for leftovers.
– Notice that taller dog is obsessively licking the head of my smaller dog. Realize the thing A. told me was covered in turkey juice and asked if I wiped off 35 minutes ago was my dog’s head, not the dishwasher. Pull turkey-drunk dog off of smaller dog, who looks confused as to why he can smell turkey but not find it. Wipe his juice-matted head off with a towel and contemplate dunking him in a sink-full of water, but realize that sink is full of dishes. Resolve to give him a bath tomorrow.

6:00 pm
– Start food-coma recovery process, on schedule.
– Give dogs bits of turkey with baked potato and pumpkin instead of kibble. Dogs are delirious with happiness and proceed to lick their bowls for a full 10 minutes after food is gone.

6:30 pm
Take dogs for a walk to shake off the coma. Happily am joined by A, my mom, and sister’s boyfriend, who we enjoyed getting to know better on the walk. Lovely young man, very happy he’s dating my sister.

7:00 pm
– Returning walkers and happy dogs come home and are greeted by fresh eggnog, lovingly prepared by sister while we were out.
– Sister realizes that she read the wrong directions for sweet potato pie, and will actually take another half hour to cook, and another to cool. No one complains, as we are all happily patting our newly acquired food-babies.
– A. comes over and starts to rub my shoulders. Realize he’s angling for Husband of the Year Award, and tell him he’s won it, hands down.

8:00
Eat homemade pies, courtesy of my middle sister, that are so good they make me want to cry. Promptly put in an order for sweet potato pie for my next birthday.

8:30 pm
Enjoying guests far too much to have them go home, so settle into a game of Munchkin with mom, sister, sister’s boyfriend, and third glass of wine.

9:30 pm
Realize that no one enjoys playing munchkin but sister and self. Mothers start to trickle out, while sister and boyfriend conspire to win the game in a tie, leaving me out in the cold.

10:00 pm
Settle in to watch Dr. Who with sister and very cool boyfriend, who I’m slightly cool towards thanks to game-winning conspiracy.

11:00 pm
Bid final two guests good-bye. Tell A. I’m not even remotely sleepy and suggest we put on something easy, like Dirty Jobs. Proceed to fall asleep ten minutes after D.J. starts.

12:15 am
A. picks me up off the couch and takes me to bed. I ask him what happened on Dirty Jobs. “They got dirty,” he answers, and tucks me in before climbing under the covers next to me. We whisper sleepy congratulations to each other, as we both feel this was our most successful Thanksgiving ever. A true team effort. Easy cooking and clean up. Everything tasted absolutely delicious, shady-colored green beans notwithstanding. We feel close and loving, and say so before drifting off to sleep with our turkey-scented dogs curled contentedly at our feet.

How was your turkey day? Did everything go according to plan, or was it a ‘best laid plans’ kind of day? 

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