Category Archives: Blog Posts

Thanksgiving 2020

What if today we were grateful for Everything", Charlie Brown and Snoopy | Snoopy  quotes, Gratitude quotes, Inspirational quotes
What ‘s really important.

This week we celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving, a traditional festival of the harvest going back to the 1600s.  This year, though it is especially difficult for many to remember what we have to be thankful for, when we are faced with a pandemic that robs us of health and life, and forces us into isolation away from friends and families to protect ourselves.

For my family, my daughter doesn’t have enough leave time to join us this year (she’s serving in the Air Force), but my husband and son will be here, and at some point we’ll contact the extended family digitally.

Very few of us are not affected in some way by the current crisis, but what we should try to remember is that this day, Thanksgiving, is not about our problems, but the blessings we have been given.

The early settlers, most notably the ones who settled Plymouth in early 1620, went through a great deal of hardship-starvation, disease, and death, not to mention complete isolation from everything they had known in Europe-before they invited their neighbors for that defining harvest celebration.  However, they persevered.  They survived, they continued, and they prospered.  

We, their heirs to this dream we all share, can do the same.  We can endure: we can outlast this crisis: we can triumph again.    Hopefully by this time next year, this illness will be beaten back and the fear and isolation will be a distant memory.  For now, we go on as best we can, and find new ways to make this holiday memorable, even with the necessary limitations place upon us.

Happy Thanksgiving and blessings to you all!  Keep safe, and be strong. 

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Happy Veteran’s Day!
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today we in the USA celebrate our veterans, past and present. Today we remember the sacrifices they, and their families have made, to keep us safe, to protect our borders, to prevent incursions from terrorists, and to keep the peace.

A number of members of my extended family have been part of this important group of our citizenry, including my daughter (currently serving in the Air Force,) as well as my husband, father-in-law, stepfather, and several uncles (all former members of the armed forces.)

I am sure you will join me in thanking them for their service, especially those on duty in the current environment of global crisis and political upheaval. May God keep them safe, whether they are serving inside the borders of the US or on foreign soil, and bring them home safely again.

A Different Halloween Celebration

Contemplating keeping your little ghouls and goblins home this year?  It’s hard to imagine simple things like trick-or-treating in a world where we all wear masks outside the front door everyday just to stay healthy. However, that doesn’t mean we still can’t make the most of the holiday.

If you’re planning on staying home for Halloween this year, your family can still enjoy the night with a few simple at-home ideas.

Deck out your space.  If you don’t plan to go outside, bring your carved pumpkins and dangling bats inside.  Dress the room where you plan to spend the evening with candles and black cats, skulls, and anything spooky; either store bought or homemade with the kids.  Turn down the lighting and pull up a playlist of haunting tunes to set the mood.

Let the kids dress up (and join them if you dare.)  Costumes can be fun anytime, and you don’t have to worry about your little princess or pirate being too cold indoors if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

You can make the best of the holiday by spending it together, no matter what you do! Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

Plan a scary menu.  Easy-to-make snacks like these can add to the party atmosphere, and there are countless recipes available with a simple search.  Don’t forget to include candy!

These Cresent Mummy Dogs were always favorites at my house: https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/crescent-mummy-dogs/d52a57d7-ab8a-4a1c-8dae-f9f90d03b912

So were these Spider Cookies: https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/spooky-spider-cookies/eb21cebc-c130-4715-aa3f-0e607aea3d27

Bring on the entertainment.  When your little goblins are ready to settle down, consider putting on a not-too-scary movie for them to watch.  Here are a few favorites of my family.  (You can always watch something scarier after the little ones are in bed if you wish.)

Ichabod and Mr. Toad-this cartoon classic from 1949 is one I grew up watching every year with my family, and shared with my own children.  This double feature has a group of madcap animals in a grand adventure, followed by a light-hearted but still spooky version of Washington Irving’s classic Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  While there are chilling moments, the animation should not be too scary for children over 7 or 8.  This is currently available on Disney plus.

The Witches.  The original 1990 movie based on a book by Roald Dahl focuses on a young boy who accidentally spies on a convention of witches and overhears plans to turn every child in England into mice.  Angelica Houston plays the head witch in this movie which features Jim Henson monsters and is available on Netflix.

Image from Rotten Tomatoes.

Hocus Pocus.  This movie from 1993, also available on Disney plus, features three witches who are accidentally brought to life in their Salem home, now a museum. They proceed to craft a plot to harvest the life essence out of children to seal their return.  The three who resurrected them must find a way to stop them before dawn following Halloween night.

Monster House.  In this 2006 movie, available on Hulu, three children must battle against disbelieving adults as well as an evil house that is possessed by an evil spirit to save the lives of unwitting trick-or-treaters who dare to knock on its door.

Image from Rotten Tomatoes.

Whatever you choose to do, be safe and have a great night!  Happy Halloween!

How Will You Celebrate Fall (In a Year of Crisis?)

How do you show your appreciation for the season? Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

While the weather is definitely starting to cool off here in the Midwest, and a number of leaves are already falling to the ground, many of the other usual signs of the season are muted this year.  I have seen a few of the neighbors changing the décor on their front porches, and there are pumpkins for sale in the local grocery stores, but, not much else. 

There are less Halloween decorations and costumes available, less talk about the season on the news, for obvious reasons.  This year we are under a quarantine, which means even in areas that do allow for trick-or-treating it is unlikely that many will feel safe allowing their families’ participation, not without justification.

I remember when my children were young, the year of the awful events of 9/11, and the nation was gripped by terror.  That year, following those eye-opening and life-changing tragic events, many families were in fear of going out, of taking part in normal events.  We flew American flags in defiance, all the while waiting for the next attack, the next crisis. 

When Halloween came around that year, fearing for our children’s safety but not wanting to deny them the joy of the season, we stayed home and invited the extended family over for our own celebration.

All the children came in costume, and the adults were assigned different rooms, hallways, and corners of the limited space with a bag or bowl of candy to give out so the kids could “trick-or-treat” before we had a party with games, food, and creepy music.  Later, we would recall that Halloween as one of the best we ever celebrated, despite the fear that inspired the planning.

The point I wish to make is, don’t let the current situation get you down.  Yes, we are under threat, yes we must take precautions, but that does not mean you cannot enjoy the season.  If it makes you happy, decorate for fall.  Festoon your space with mums, pumpkins, and what have you (I already have a few of my own in place.)  While circumstances dictate we must adhere to a certain amount of isolation, we can still enjoy ourselves and allow our kids to have fun and make memories that will last.

However you decide to celebrate, or even if you choose not to, I hope you get the chance to enjoy the beauty of the crisp air, the brilliant colors, the tantalizing aromas, and the sweet tastes of the season.  Happy Fall!

It’s Labor Day Time Again!

This coming weekend marks American holiday Labor Day.  Though the official holiday is Monday, September 7th, for many the celebrations will begin this Friday and continue throughout the extended weekend.

Photo by Aaron Schwartz on Pexels.com

What a year it’s been!  At this time last year, most of us were planning to celebrate this American holiday in our own style-with family and neighborhood gatherings, cookouts, and fireworks shows.  What a difference a year can make!  Now, many of us fear, not unreasonably so, to venture out unless absolutely necessary.

Labor Day, officially a federal holiday celebrating the efforts of American workers, and unofficially the” last hurrah of summer,” means many things to different people.  Some take it as a welcome break from work, as federal and state offices will be closed, as well as many businesses.  For others, it’s about shopping the big sales, or an excuse to party, or just a last summer blowout as children are returning to school.

This year, though many schools are finally back in session, albeit many are using a method of staggered attendance, the holiday doesn’t have quite the same meaning.  Many, my husband included, are still working at home and will be for the foreseeable future. 

However, for many, including the adults in my family, it is still a paid holiday we intend to enjoy.  While we are planning a cookout, we will be having a smaller crowd this year, and any shopping we do will probably be accomplished online.  Still, the day gives us a perfect excuse to pull out our smoker, and prepare too much good food, which will furnish leftovers for a few days at least.

Labor Day also means that autumn is just around the corner, and I’m already looking forward to cooler temperatures, putting up fall and Halloween decorations, and planning autumn treats to bake and share.

While the world is a vastly different place right now, we still can take joy in the day and wherever else we can find it.  I choose to be optimistic that things will get better.  In the meantime, we need to continue about our lives as best we can.  This means planning as near a normal holiday celebration as possible, and rejoicing in the time we have as a family.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Amy

Making the Most of Your Staycation

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

As I was driving home from work one night this week, I heard the radio announcer call our current times “The Era of the Staycation.”  How apt and how current he was.

Due to the coronavirus that is impacting us all in so many ways, people are staying home.  Some of us are working at home, others have lost their jobs, and some are simply choosing to stay home because of health concerns.  Many recreation facilities and events that we might normally visit or attend at this time of year are closed, either temporarily or for the duration. 

Whatever the reason we are not venturing out, we are spending the time and possibly the money we would normally put towards a summer vacation in the security of our own homes.

Since we are staying home, many of us are choosing to make upgrades to the place we live 24/7.  We are spending our resources on sprucing up our spaces; with paint, with landscaping, with pools and recreational equipment.  In short, we are making our homes a vacation destination tailored to our needs and desires.  If you have a large budget to make upgrades, think how best to spend your dollars so that whatever changes you make will add long-lasting value and function to your home.

If you don’t have a large vacation/remodeling budget, there are still things you can do to make your enforced staycation fun, memorable, and happy for entire family.  Even minor changes, such as paint or houseplants can give your space a new look.  Try “shopping” around your house for furniture, art, pillows, and lighting that might look better in another spot, or simply refresh your scenery. 

Plan activities to set the mood for fun and relaxation.  Let the kids camp out in the backyard, and consider moving the TV to a patio for family movie night.  If you don’t have a fire pit, you can always make s’mores in the microwave to eat on your deck or balcony.

To get a completely new view, try sites such as https://artsandculture.google.com/ where you can take virtual tours of parks and museums from your computer or blue toothed TV.

The choices for a staycation are limitless; all it takes is a little imagination and effort, and of course, those closest to you for a truly memorable vacation at home!  I hope you get to enjoy one soon!

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

An unexpected rain storm after a week of sunshine and warm summer weather prompted me to make one of my family’s favorite simple but filling comfort food recipes.  I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

1 32 oz. carton chicken stock (or broth, if you want a thinner, more soup-like dish)

3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1 ½ lbs.)

1 can condensed cream of chicken and herb soup

¼ tsp poultry seasoning

1 can (16 oz.) refrigerated biscuits

2 medium carrots, chopped (1 cup)

3 celery ribs, chopped (1 cup)

Directions:

In 4 or 5 qt. Dutch oven, heat stock, chicken, soup and poultry seasoning to boiling over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low.  Cover; simmer five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Increase heat to medium-high; return to low boil.

Flatten biscuit dough by either rolling on floured surface or by hand.  Either cut into strips with a pizza cutter or tear into pieces about 2 inches wide and long.

Add vegetables and dough pieces a little at a time to boiling mixture.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover; simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent dumplings from sticking.

Ladle into bowls and serve warm.

A Moment of Beauty

A simple thing of beauty.

A few days ago, my daughter bought a pack of sparklers to share following a family celebration held on a warm evening in our backyard.  She insisted I take one in hand which she then lit for me, and watched as I held it on our deck in the near dark.  I was hesitant, only because I had never actually held one before.  But when my sweet daughter offered, I couldn’t refuse.

I had never held a sparkler in my hand before.  I’m a grown woman, just turned forty-nine, for the first and only time, thank you, but I have always harbored a small fear of those tiny sparks of fire, undoubtedly left over from childhood.  My parents, bless them, were like many, slightly overprotective, and instilled in me a heavy dose of caution in respect to campfires, matches, and by extension, fireworks.

Oh we used to go to the city shows when I was little.  I remember sitting on the tailgate of our pickup truck or standing on a hill or in a parking lot, wherever we could find the best spot to see the fireworks shows the city would produce.  I would stay close to my parents, ears firmly covered with my hands, while we watched and oohed and aahed at the vivid colors on display.

Later, I recall watching firework celebrations with my own kids, though larger crowds in our adopted home city often made actually getting to a show and finding room to watch more awkward or problematic.  We did manage though a few trips to see fireworks from the Reds stadium downtown, and once on a memorable family vacation to Florida.

I stood and watched that little sparkler as the long stick burst into crackling flashes, a ball of light similar to the head of a dandelion, ready to be released into the wind.  I held on tight to the end as it burned down, a personal firework at close range, though without the bright colors and loud boom that accompanies the larger ones.

How could something so beautiful, so innocent, hold so much secret meaning.  Though it lasted only a few moments, that ephemeral flare was a reminder that life is fleeting, and deserves our full attention.  We should make the most of the time we have; as families, as communities, as human beings.

In this day and age, fear and uncertainty are plagues that haunt us all.  It is more important than ever that we take the time to see beauty, to enjoy the little moments, to share in new experiences when we have the opportunity.  We need to live in the moment, like most of us have always aspired to do anyway.

I have you have some special moments of your own as we move into this weekend, a special holiday for those of us in the U.S., as we celebrate Independence Day on Friday.  Make the most of it!

Amy

100 Years of Stories-Agatha Christie

Who doesn’t love a great mystery? This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the “Queen of Mystery’s” first novel, A Mysterious Affair at Styles, which I reviewed last year (see my review here. ) While the bestselling author of all time is no longer with us, her stories survive and even thrive, as reprints, as well as inspirations for movies and televison shows.

Even those who have never read her novels have most likely heard of The Murder on the Orient Express, which was last made into a movie in 2017, and the official author’s website contains a listing of many current and classic productions based on her amazing work.

Born in England in 1890, the daughter of an English mother and an American father, the young Agatha Miller was an avid reader who created imaginary characters and wrote poetry even as a child. By age eighteen she was writing short stories, but did not begin writing detective fiction until World War I, when her husband, Archie Christie, was posted to the War Office in London.

In the 1920s she became a sensational news story for her personal life as she disappeared for several days soon after Archie asked for a divorce. When she was later found, she claimed no knowledge of where she’d been or even her identity for a time. She eventually recovered but that event was never successfully explained, though much has been speculated. That particular time in her life was even made into an episode of the BBC show Dr. Who, which features the author and includes elements form several of her books.

The late authoress was known for writing intriguing characters, including a number of heroic and intelligent female detectives and adventuresses, most notably Miss Marple and Tuppence Beresford.

I myself have read numerous of her books, and have reviewed several of them on my Goodreads site.

A Quick and Easy Summer Dessert

Hello everyone! For the past week we’ve been enjoying summer weather in the Midwest-temperatures soaring into the high eighties and low nineties, interspersed with pop-up showers that go as quickly as they come about!

To combat the heat, I created this really simple dessert recipe, which my daughter liked so much she demanded I write it down, so now I’m sharing it with you. Enjoy!

Amy

Mixed Berry Trifle

Ingredients:

16 oz. frozen pound cake, thawed

3 cups berries, (I use a mixture of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries)

1 4 oz. pkg instant cheesecake flavor pudding

Milk

8 oz. container frozen non-dairy topping, thawed

Directions:

  • Slice thawed pound cake into cubes, layer one third into glass trifle bowl or other large bowl.
  • Spread one third berries over cake. 
  • Beat pudding mix with milk according to package directions, spoon one third over cake and berries.
  •  Repeat layers with rest of cake, fruit, and pudding. 
  • Top with Cool Whip, and chill for at least 30 minutes to one hour before serving. 
  • Refrigerate leftovers.