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2017 Holiday Season in Full Swing

Perhaps it was the new Pumpkin Praline Pie that I took along with the pumpkin and mincemeat pies, or maybe it was because I gave too much information in my post about Mincemeat. There was a lot of Mincemeat Pie left over after our Thanksgiving meal. I chose to see the pie pan half full and enjoyed large slices for breakfast on Friday and Saturday.

Yes, beef is listed as an ingredient.

This one is a keeper!

My two sisters handled hosting the most anticipated dinner of the year with style and impressive calmness. When I checked on them three hours before fourteen guests were to arrive, they were playing cards. The family gathering was full of joyful (noisy) conversation, delicious food, and expressed gratefulness.

On Friday morning, my sisters were ready for our annual Black Friday outing. The three of us have made it a priority to drive to a nearby city for shopping and lunch each year. We head out later than most folks and make it home  by dinner time. It’s our day to catch up and enjoy being sisters. More gratefulness.

My husband’s large family gathered at a nephew’s home on Saturday for a celebration of football, food, and family. It was wonderful to see our two sons and our daughter-in-law at both family parties. The three days of Thanksgiving ended, and Dave and I journeyed home to be in church on Sunday morning. Ah, Sunday.

Designated days resumed on Monday, now known as Cyber Monday, a day to make on-line purchases. I took advantage of a 40% off deal on some Love and Respect books and also ordered some items my husband needs. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving became Giving Tuesday in 2012. The worldwide movement encourages support of non-profit organizations with some donations being matched by corporations. On November 28, on-line contributions to good causes totaled at least $177 million. Our donation went to the LIFE TODAY Mission Feeding Program.

Today is Wednesday – just Wednesday as far as I know, except that we are now “officially” in the Christmas season. I’ve been asked if I’ve put up my Christmas tree yet. No, however, I have put away fall decorations and set up our lighted village buildings*.

*Full Disclosure: This is from a previous year. We don’t have the cords strung and little figures in yet.

December will arrive on Friday, and Sunday will mark the beginning of Advent for the Christian Church. It’s time for me to make some choices about more than which gift to purchase. Each day of this season, I hope to do these two things:

  1. Choose to bless, not impress. This has become one of my life goals. Keeping it simple avoids stress   and helps me to use my own gifts and time to bless people without comparing my efforts to what others do. I’ve decided to spend less time on Facebook. I don’t need any more recipes or decorating ideas. Less, I believe, will result in more. More time for my second choice…
  2. Choose to seek and to serve Jesus Christ. As a believer who is saved by grace through faith in Jesus, I worship Him, not as a baby born on Christmas, but as the Lord and Savior who will return for me. He is the Prince of Peace, and I need his peace. I was reminded at a prayer meeting tonight that we can be very busy and fail to accomplish anything worthwhile. My choice is to be still enough during this season to hear God’s voice in prayer and to seek to know Him better through reading the Bible.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

 

 

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Make Mine Mincemeat

Next week, my husband and I will travel to my hometown of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, (not Sandusky) to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. This year’s gathering will be in a new location. My sisters have recently moved into a lovely new home and have offered to set the table for all sixteen of us.

Like all families and family traditions, ours have changed during my lifetime. Life’s circumstances bring in new faces and others are no longer with us. The place where we gather changes, too. The menu, however, remains almost constant so that each person’s favorite is included.  The turkey may be prepared by a new method, and we may or may not have a green salad or Grandma’s Frozen Fruit Salad. We have to have both mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, as well as stuffing and rolls. When it comes to dessert, it’s OK to add delicacies, but NEVER to take away Pumpkin Pie with Cool Whip or Mincemeat Pie.

I confessed in The Joy of Chocolate Pie and Friendship that I rarely make pie except for baking pumpkin pie for family holiday celebrations. In recent years, I have become the designated deliverer of pies on the fourth Thursday of November. This stems from the fact that I live several hours away from home and can’t make and transport hot dishes easily. So, pies it is. I’m always reminded to make sure I bring a Mincemeat Pie (pumpkin is assumed).

I suspect that our family is in a small minority in America that even knows what Mincemeat Pie is, let alone looks forward to indulging in it on Thanksgiving. During my lifetime, I’ve only celebrated a handful of Thanksgiving Days without the option of Mincemeat Pie. One was in 2011, while my husband was hospitalized. The others took place while we were separated from family in the far away state of North Dakota.

I asked my mom yesterday about how this dessert tradition began. She remembers finishing Thanksgiving meals with Mincemeat Pie as a child visiting her grandmother, as do I. To her recollection, no one in the family ever made mincemeat from scratch. History about mincemeat from the  None Such website confirms that likelihood: Ready-to-use mincemeat, first offered in wooden buckets and crates, is one of the oldest American convenience foods. Mincemeat has been steadily marketed in the U.S. for more than 100 years.”

I don’t think we’ve used the Brandy and Rum type…

So, what is mincemeat? Again from the folks at None Such: Mincemeat is a combination of apples, raisins and citrus peel, blended with sugar and spices to make a delicious cooking and baking ingredient. Mincemeat is derived from old English recipes, and today remains one of the most popular holiday foods in England. The recorded history of mincemeat can be traced to the year 1413, when it was served at the coronation of Henry V of England. In the late 1600’s, mincemeat was served as a meat pie flavored with fruit and spices. These pies, with more fruits and spices and less meat, were served as desserts when mincemeat was brought to Colonial America.” According to Wikipedia, “In the mid to late eighteenth century, mincemeat in Europe had become associated with old fashioned, rural, or homely foods.” While the pie remains a Christmas tradition England, in the northeast United States it is often a part of the Thanksgiving meal. 

The first time I was required to bring a Mincemeat Pie to our gathering, I asked Mom how to make it, thinking it might be complicated. Her instructions were to pour a jar of mincemeat into a pie crust and bake it. I had success on the first attempt! The pie was delicious, however, I will admit that I’ve found it difficult to eat a whole slice after consuming my plateful of turkey and carbs. The richness of the somewhat heavy pie has given me a stomach ache on occasion. So, in 2015, I checked on Allrecipes.com for a different recipe. I was a little nervous to take my first Apple Mincemeat Pie to dinner and held my breath as loved ones tasted it. We all agreed that it was delicious. I’m not sure that it is preferred by the others, but I do like both the preparation and flavor of the pie. You can find the recipe HERE.

My pies from November 2015

I’ve purchased my jar of mincemeat and my apples and will be baking in a few days. This year I was delighted to see my grocery store also carry the condensed mincemeat again. I’ve used it in a delicious Mincemeat Cookies recipe and look forward to baking a batch, maybe for Christmas. If you like raisin cookies, you may want to print out the recipe I use and give them a try!

Mincemeat Cookie Recipe

 

 

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The Best Tuna Noodle Ever

A family favorite became a memorable meal in 2011.  Many readers will remember the November when my husband, Dave, had open heart surgery.  As Thanksgiving came around this year, my mind went back to 2011 when, instead of hosting my  family for a couple of days of celebration, Dave and I spent Thanksgiving Day in a hospital room.

We had traveled 3 1/2 hours to the Cleveland Clinic on November 1 and hoped to be back home by the ninth, giving us a couple of weeks for recovery before Thanksgiving.  But surgery was postponed from the fourth to the seventh so our surgeon could do a heart/lung transplant.  Then, when Dave’s post-op experience included complications, the hotel I was occupying became my home-away-from-home for nearly a month, and the Clinic’s Au Bon Pain did most of the cooking.

Dave’s heart valve disease had been detected 25 years earlier when our first son was just 3 months old.  By the grace of God, the surgery was not necessary until a point in our life when our boys were grown and it was possible for me to park the car at the hotel and spend the days at the hospital with Dave.

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View from the Heart Center

On November 7, Dave underwent a very successful heart surgery to replace two defective valves.  He was only 50 years old and in good health, yet he developed atrial fibrillation that kept him in ICU for a week.  Then, 10 days post-op, we heard the words tamponade and pericardial effusion for the first time and found ourselves back in ICU receiving plasma to thicken his intentionally thinned blood.  The same excellent doctor was able to get to the sac around his heart and drain off the “fluid” (blood) with only a tiny incision.  Dave went from feeling “lethargic” and being in considerable danger to giving me a thumbs up immediately after surgery.  That evening I found out what a true sigh of relief feels like!

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Normal Heart Rhythm – a Beautiful Sight

After the emergency, our cardiologist told Dave that he would learn why he’s called a patient, since it was necessary to very carefully and slowly thin his blood again to the level that would keep him safe from clots and strokes.  He hoped to get us home by Thanksgiving.  Dave had told me prior to our journey that he only needed me to do 3 things – be there when he needed me, pray, and get him back home.  With energy and an unsinkable optimism that could only come from the Lord, I became his cheerleader.  The encouraging visits, messages and prayers from precious friends and family members meant more than they could know.

We were patient, even when Thanksgiving came, because we did not yet feel confident to leave the watchful eyes of the doctors and nurses.  And we were OK – and thankful, even as I ate something from Au Bon Pain and Dave picked at the hospital version of a Turkey Dinner.  Later in the evening, our niece who works in the Clinic came by with some homemade pumpkin roll.  What a blessing!

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My Black Friday purchase from a Clinic boutique.

Circumstances prevented our sons from being with us on the holiday, but three days later we were on our way home where our younger son was waiting to welcome us.  The  day included a delay in discharge, a long wait at the local pharmacy, and some prescribed stops on the way home, and we arrived at dinner time.  But, rather than feeling exhausted, I was energized by the victory and offered to make a Tuna Noodle Casserole for the three of us.  What a joy it was to prepare and share that meal.

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