Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving Program

Last night, November 19th the kids joined the local Adventist church school children to present a Thanksgiving program. The week before was filled with practice at the school and at home to be ready for the big night.

It was a delightful humor filled event titled Did You Know?, consisting of information about past presidents, patriotic songs, musical pieces and a short play on the meaning of Thanksgiving. Christopher, Elliot and Gabriella all did a fine job with memorizing their speaking parts, joining the voice choir, the bell choir, and playing their piano solos.

The audience was drawn into the action as well, with a historical quiz on the presidents and other questions. There was a very good turnout for the event with around 70 in the crowd, all seemingly enjoying the entertainment at hand.

After the program's conclusion refreshments were served, all recipes being directly from first ladies/presidential families of years past. Our family unanimously found Amy Carter's peanut butter cookies to be the best recipe of the night!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Flying High with Grandpa Dennis

Yesterday we arrived home after church and potluck to hear a phone message from Grandpa Dennis stating that he was in his airplane and in route to our home for a visit. What a huge surprise! Grandpa Dennis and Grandma Lynette live near Wessington Springs, SD and we have only been able to see them once in the past few years. During this time Grandpa Dennis had earned his pilot's license and had been enjoying flying the friendly skies visiting family and friends. Grandma Lynette, from what we gathered, is still a bit cautious about her frequency of plane travel and for the most part is remaining a land traveler! (I'm with her, flying is not for me!)

Anyway, we were all most excited for the unplanned visit, and for all of us to see Grandpa's new plane. We cancelled our plans to spend the day with friends and awaited the arrival of Grandpa Dennis.

Around the expected time of his coming, Mike actually saw him fly over our house! He, Christopher, Elliot, & Gabriella hopped in the van and headed for the airport to welcome our much anticipated guest. Ruby was napping, so she and I stayed behind. Within 40 minutes I received a call from Mike who asked me, "Guess where we are?" Of course he and the kids were flying high with Grandpa over the city and looking for our house. When they returned home later I was given the exciting details of the flight by all on board.

We all enjoyed a lovely evening with Grandpa Dennis that included supper and a tour of the house. Ruby got to meet him for the first time (she was only 8 months old and asleep when we last saw him). She warmed up to him almost immediately and within no time was perched on his lap calling him "gampa". Gabriella wanted to read him many stories (to which we had to enforce a limit) and the boys enjoyed listening to the stories Grandpa shared about when Mike was a little boy. There was much laughter had by all, for Grandpa Dennis has a genuine warmth and humor that no one can resist.

All too soon, it was time to return Grandpa to the airport for his trip home ( 3 hrs). We parked near the runway so we could watch his take-off and he flew right over our van and away into the night sky. We watched him float away in the distance like a blinking star and were thankful for the very special surprise the day had brought. Grandpa, come again soon!

Our First Snowfall in the Woodlands

First Snow-Fall

THE sun that dim November day
Had failed to kiss the clouds away
From quiet Nature's furrowed face,
Where autumn tears had left their trace.

And, by and by, on fields of brown
The feathered flakes came floating down
From Heaven to this world of ours,
Like spirits of departed flowers.

And fast and faster through the night,
Till Morn arose on meadows white,
And o'er the landscape lightly stepped
Where tired Nature, smiling, slept.

__Albert Bigelow Paine

In the early morn on November 13, I was awakened by Elliot with such a level of excitement in his voice I could not fathom what would be the cause of it in my sleepy state... "It snowed out Mom, come see quick... the trees are covered in snow, hurry look out your window! Can we go outside to play in it?"

It seemed the three oldest children were awake and the house already a hive of activity as they all anxiously lingered in the hall outside my bedroom door for my answer. I told them that they could go play outside before we began our school day. Then there was a scurry of activity in the entryway closet while they suited up in boots and snowgear to dash outside to experience the most magincal of snowfalls... the first one of the year.

First Snow
Mary Louise Allen

Snow makes whiteness where it falls,
The bushes look like popcorn balls.
The places where I always play,
Look like somewhere else today.

As I looked out my bedroom window for the first time that morning, I too could not be but impressed with the beautiful view all around our home. The trees covered with glistening, white snow that reached down to the ground and covered all beneath it in a restful slumber. It was breathtaking. I went from room to room looking out the windows admiring the lovely, still peacefulness outside that made me feel as if I were dwelling in a December calender scene, like the many I recall viewing in years gone by. Living as long as I have, both on a farm and in the city - I do not ever remember such a glorious winter site from my very own window! I could not help but send up a quick prayer of thanks to God for giving us such a wonderful home, in such a perfect place for our children to grow up. It is most definite that living here in the woodlands, you witness the beauty of God's creation magnificiently every day, of every season.

Great fun was had by all the kids and they ended up playing all morning outside and a bit in the early afternoon as well. A snowman was made, snowballs were thrown, sleds were unpacked and giddyness abounded. Additionally, moose tracks were discovered in the front yard, or so the kids are convinced, and they had the MN animal track identification guide out to show me how they reached their conclusions (I think it was a rabbit myself).

After their time in the white world outside had ended, hot cinnamon tea was served to warm chilly bones and the business of school work commenced. Sadly, by the days end nearly all the beautiful snow had disappeared, and the remainder was gone by the following day... now being only a faint memory as they patiently await the arrival of December snow whose blanket will cover the forests and spend the winter with us... and then some. Who knows maybe it will be a Christmas snow?

I don't know about you, but the first snow of the season always brings the words of Jimmy Durante, the narrator in the classic cartoon Frosty the Snowman. His words still chime in my memory and bring a warm glow to my heart after all these years....

"I supose it all started with the snow, you see it was a very special kind of snow. A snow to make the happy happier and the giddy even giddier. A snow to make a homecoming homier, and natural friends enemies. For it was the first snow of the season and as any child can tell you, there's a certain magic to the very first snow, especially when it falls on the day before Christmas. For, when the first snow is also a Christmas snow.... well, something wonderful is bound to happen..."

** The photo included in this entry was taken from our deck.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hogwild for Sabra Hummus

Okay Hummus fans (and those of you who aren't..yet), I have a testimonial for you!

Our family has always been a "hummus family"... it seems that you either are (you like the stuff, you eat it regularly, it's a staple in your diet, you bring it to gatherings, etc) OR you're not (never eat it, don't care for it, can take it or leave it sorta relationship).

All of the above having been stated and defined, I will share our recent discovery that has turned into an addiction...

It all began the first weekend of October when we had our good friends Jim & Jan (also a "hummus family") come to stay for a weekend. A few times during their visit they had mentioned bringing some hummus along on the trip and needing to be sure get it out of the vehicle and into the fridge, needing to remember to bring it home, etc. I recall thinking that they were very careful about their hummus and certainly were not going to forget it by any means when they departed. This really caused me to take a "mental note" because in my opinion the only good store bought brand of hummus was made by Holy Land Bakery in Minneapolis and it was hard to find (but was delicious when you did!). I, and my family had long ago given up on even tasting store bought hummus because it was such a dissapointment - and often just plain disgusting. We made our own weekly and loved it, and also enjoyed it on rare occasion at specific restaurants.

Now the time arrived for our guests to depart and once again the topic of the coveted Sabra Hummus resurfaced. Upon questioning I discovered that they felt this stuff was amazing - better than Jan's own recipe (and she didn't have to make it - even better), and better than any store brand - even the Holy Land's version. NOW they had my attention. They shared that they purchase it weekly or even more often and simply cannot get enough of it. At this point the cherished hummus assortment was unveiled and our family was permitted a taste test of the flavors they had on hand. There was no doubt - it was absolutely unparalleled in it's exquisiteness, a flavor and constistency like none other yet fallen on human taste buds. My entire family was amazed, then quickly troubled - Where would we ever find it here in Brainerd? Jim & Jan purchased theirs in Minneapolis. To have found such a treasure and then have it stripped from you in a matter of moments - ohhh despair! In pity, they left the remainder of their great discovery with us to enjoy, since they would soon be able to stock up on more once home. Needless to say it was devoured before they were anywhere near reaching their destination.. it simply called to us from the fridge ever more enchantingly than any puff, pastry, cake or cookie could ever aspire to.

Two weekends later, while entertaining my mother-in-law for a few days here, she & Mike made a run to rent a movie and grab a few groceries. I received a call with a very excited husband in a grocery store asking me if I could guess what he had found - yes indeed, in a grocery store we seldom shop at the amazing Sabra Hummus had been located! A few kinds were purchased and quickly brought home to serve as our movie viewing treat. It was just as good as we had remembered it to be. Since this very night we have visited that store regularly and purchased it weekly to enjoy. It has become a favorite item of each individual in our home, everyone with their own favorite variety. Now, when Mike and I have a video date night, instead of our long time snack favorites of many years (popcorn, Veggie Booty, Soy Delicious ice-cream, or milk chocolate) we enjoy Sabra Hummus and chips!

Last weekend the kids and I took a trip back to Moorhead to visit friends, attend appointments, shop and such. The kids stated that we simply MUST share our discovery with my very good friend Polly because she is a huge hummus eater and has a definite "hummus family". We planned to bring her a variety of kinds to try as a surprise. Ironically, while talking to her on the phone a day or two before going there the subject of hummus came up, she stated she had eaten TWO containerd that very day of it. Curiosity hit me and so I inquired as to if she had ever tried Sabra Hummus? Her response was immediate - "HAD SHE! YES, YES YES!!!" It was that very brand of hummus that she had inhaled two containers of single handedly earlier in the day. She went on to share how she, her husand and daughter could not get enough of it and nearly filled small grocery baskets with it weekly. She wasn't kidding... when we did visit her she had 8 or more containers in her fridge ready for us to feast upon, no need to convince me!

I have read over the ingredients in this stuff a number of times wondering what in the world make it so different. It has all the ususal ingredients in other brands and recipies... hmmmm? It is healthy (all the families mentioned above, including us, are health minded and would not be eating it otherwise), but I cannot help but wonder if there is some secret ingredient in it to addict the taste buds in such a way... why else would we all be such crazy nuts for it? Maybe because it's just plain old amazingly yummy! Try it for yourself and see what happens to YOU - but beware that I warned you of the possible consequences as described above with THREE normally very sane families :-)

Sabra Hummus website:

** No, I have not been paid to promote or advertise this product in anyway - despite the fact that I probably should be!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Good Old Fashioned Church Carnival & Cakewalk

Tonight the kids and I attended our church's yearly old fashioned fall festival (Mike was in Mississippi on a business trip, so he missed the fun). We entered the gymn to see an assortment of booths and activities to choose from, the kids were immediatiately excited to be part of the action as soon as I could get tickets.

I quickly delivered the cake I'd made to donate to the cake walk (a 4 - Layer Chocolate Barvarian Torte, a definite family favorite that gets made about once per year for something special), then got in line to purchase tickets and enter the doorprize drawings. We explored the various booths to plan our ticket purchases... hot apple pie & ice-cream, cinni-buns, root beer floats, supper plate, balloon/dart game, floating ducks game, old fashioned country store, little tykes automated train ride, dunking booth, book sale area, or cake walk?

The answer was clear - cake walk - this had been the event my children were waiting to experience all week. We figured if the 5 of us were on the wheel we'd have a pretty good chance out of 15 spots (yes Ruby got involved too and loved it)! First round, we didn't win anything, so we decided to go again, Elliot had set his mind to going home with a cake! The accordian player began playing and around we went until she stopped. Number 10 was called, and I was on it! I told the kids they could choose for me from over 20 cakes on the table. They decided instantly that the one we brought was the one we would return home with, since they thought it was the very best one there (talk about melting a moms heart...). There was much teasing and pretend protest from the other cake walkers who all claimed that THAT was the one they wanted, etc. etc... making the kids feel quite proud of Mom's cake AND the fact they had won it back to it's rightful owners. Too funny :-)

After that the kids had fun in various places...

Ruby loved to pick floating ducks and win small farm animals to add to her collection. She also tried to hijack the kiddie train several times, even though she was always given extra long rides anyway.

The other kids had fun all over the place, winning prizes everywhere - including ANOTHER cake ( a lovely bundt cake this time). We also found a special treasure in the country store area we were not expecting - a certain ceramic popcorn bowl no longer made to replace one that Elliot had received years ago for his b-day (since popcorn is his favorite food). It arrived broken in the mail and we could not get it replaced. We glued it together as best we could and kept it until we finally gave it up when packing to move - since it was unusable. NOW, here was an identical one in pristine condition for a few tickets - joy! Snatched up before you could spell p-o-p-c-o-r-n!

Christopher's proud moment of the evening was at the "Baptize the Pastor" dunking booth. He bought one ticket - had one ball and took him down with one throw.. splash!!!

Christopher & I also enjoyed looking through the books that the Adventist Christian Book Center had brought to sell. I purchased one as a gift and Christopher bought a very interesting biography he was intrigued by.

The close of the evening was the doorprize drawings. Amazingly each of us won a little something, which was fun.

In the end, there were LOTS of prizes and goodies to be had by all, and I don't think one child present left even close to emptyhanded! My crew is already asking if next year our family can plan and run a booth of some kind... I told them that we have plenty of time to come up with an idea!??