Get a Flu Shot!

Preparations for the Christmas season aren’t the only ones you should be making this time of year. It’s also flu season so make sure you get a flu shot while you’re doing errands in the coming weeks.

Flu season usually occurs between October and March with the peak season in January and February, but since the flu shot is available now, why wait? I realize that getting a shot is not something to look forward to, but it really is worth it. The few minutes of pain from the injections is preferable to days of feeling ill. And, no, the flu shot will not give you the flu. That’s just an excuse some people use to avoid taking the shot. It’s true that your arm may be sore for a day or two, but big deal!

Even though you are not in a high-risk group, you should still get vaccinated. It’s worth it to stay well. First, check to see if you can get the shot at work or school. This could save you some time or money. However, if this isn’t an option, it’s also not an excuse. I’d suggest you go to Publix, CVS, or Walgreens. All provide the vaccine. You don’t even need an appointment. And everyone knows there are no shortages of locations. You can hardly drive a couple blocks without passing one or more of these pharmacies.

Best of all, the vaccine is not expensive – only about $30. You’ll probably spend more than $30 on meds, pain relievers, or a visit to the doctor if you get sick with the flu even once, and it’s miserable to go to work or school when you’re sick. Invest a little time and a few dollars and do yourself a favor – get a flu shot.

143

Mom

Advent Centerpiece

As a child, I enjoyed opening the windows on the Advent calendar revealing a different picture each day through the month of December. What a great way to mark the days until Christmas!

A couple of weeks ago, realsimple.com put a new twist on the Advent calendar idea. Instead of a calendar, twenty-five small boxes are wrapped and placed on a cake stand. Then each day in December a gift is unwrapped. Small gifts, Bible verses, or notes can be used to fill the boxes depending on who opens them.

The advent gifts make an attractive holiday decoration and provide a fun count down to Christmas. Thanks Real Simple!

 

The Twelve Dates of Christmas

A couple of years ago I read an article about a couple who set aside time during the rush of the holidays just for the two of them. Instead of The Twelve Days of Christmas in the holiday song, they went on the twelve dates of Christmas. This caught my attention since I am much more interested in experiences than collecting stuff…especially stuff like turtle doves and pipers piping!

When I mentioned this to your dad he immediately went to work to make this happen. He planned dinners out, movies, plays at the civic theater, and drives to look at Christmas lights. He asked if going to a work related Christmas party or the annual Kiwanis pancake breakfast counted as a date, and of course, I said yes.

We enjoyed these dates…even those spent Christmas shopping, because we knew those were times reserved for the two of us. Our Christmas date season begins after Thanksgiving and continues until New Years Day. This year that gives us six weeks of dates so we’ll average two a week. We’re planning a movie on Wednesday, a shopping excursion downtown one evening so we can enjoy the decorations on the square, and a play at the Civic Theater. We’re looking forward to a camping trip and dinner in St. Augustine during our break from school. As much as we enjoy these dates, I must admit we’ve never been able to squeeze in all twelve. But that’s ok. We’ve made us a priority and that’s what’s important.

I’d like to encourage you to plan your own twelve dates of Christmas. Don’t worry if you only make six or eight. The idea is to have fun…not add more stress. You don’t need to make these dates expensive. Plan to watch a Christmas movie each week. You can do this at home with some popcorn. Sit outside on a cool evening around a fire. Maybe even roast marshmallows. Drive around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. You can even give awards for the best decorations, the tackiest decorations, the most unusual decorations. Go downtown and walk along the river or lake and enjoy the decorations provided by your tax dollars. Look for free concerts. Run a 5k. Go for a bike ride.

Your dates can be simple or complex. You can do new things or your old favorites. The most important thing about your dates is being together. Scheduling time for one another. I hope you’ll get out a calendar, get creative, and plan special dates for the holidays.

143
Mom

Remember the reason for the season – part 2

Yesterday, I outlined all of the things I dislike about Christmas; but I want to assure you there are plenty of things I love about this time of year. I do not dislike Christmas.

I love other people’s decorations. I love Christmas music – both religious and secular. Go Tell It On the Mountain, Joy to the World, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing are among my favorite Christmas carols, but I also love Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Felix Navidad, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

I love Christmas Eve. Eating dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Opening gifts (yeah, I know, the same ones I hated shopping for) and seeing how much Grandma and Grandpa enjoy watching everyone open the garage sale items they’ve been purchasing for months. Then going to Christmas Eve candlelight services at 11:00 with music, communion, and time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday.

I love Christmas morning…getting up and enjoying breakfast, a fire, and music as we open gifts. I love watching Dad on Christmas morning because he’s still childlike – enjoying every moment of the morning, especially watching everyone open the gifts he’s carefully selected.

I love Christmas dinner. Good food, smiles, laughter, games, relaxation. No more pressure, just enjoying one another. A day of love. Dr. Seuss summed up the reason for the season in his book How the Grinch Stole Christmas,

“And the Grinch with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

I think he got it right!

It seems that reading the Christmas story from the Bible should be required for a message reminding you to remember the reason for the season, but actually, I think you’re more likely to watch this You Tube clip from Charlie Brown’s Christmas in which Linus recites the Christmas story from Luke, but feel free to read Luke chapter 2 yourself if you prefer.

 

Yes, I may seem like Scrooge or the Grinch at times during the Christmas season, but I do love this time of year especially when I can avoid the hustle and bustle and remember the reason for the season.

143

Mom

Remember the reason for the season – part 1

The Monday after Thanksgiving…I think it’s safe to say the Christmas season has officially begun.

I know that on more than one occasion you’ve heard me utter the words, “I hate Christmas.” I don’t really hate Christmas. I’m not a Scrooge or the Kranks or the Grinch. I’m not mean or selfish or against fun, but there are a lot of things I do dislike about Christmas.

I dislike Christmas decorations in stores in October. I enjoy Halloween, and I love Thanksgiving. Christmas music and displays set up in October or November detract from these special days.

I dislike shopping and shopping and shopping. I dislike shopping for many reasons and spending too much money is only a minor one. I dislike the crowds. I dislike trying to buy gifts that others will like. I dislike worrying about whether or not I treated everyone fairly. I know it shouldn’t matter how many gifts or how much was spent on each, but I still worry about these things. Does a gift look too cheap or too expensive? Too big or too small? Is it something the recipient wants? If not, will he be honest and take it back instead of keeping it just to make me happy? Gift giving is way too stressful.

I dislike decorating. I love others’ decorations, but I just am not interested in putting up lights, a big tree, and knick-knacks all over the house. I used to love this, so I’m not sure what happened, but I’m all for a small tree, stockings, poinsettias or Christmas cactus, and other simple decorations. Maybe I’ll enjoy decorating again, but not for now.

The delivery of the national Christmas tree at the White House signals the official start of the Christmas season.

I dislike being asked what I want for Christmas. I mean it when I say I don’t want or need anything. That doesn’t mean that I won’t appreciate gifts I receive, but I’m really happy with anything…homemade gifts…cards or notes that you write…books…clothes…gift cards…donations made in my name…anything…or nothing. Yes, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Kindle and the TV you bought me (or us) for Christmas, but expensive gifts are not required or expected.

While I know you would never tolerate this response to the question, what do you want for Christmas, I think this quote by the author Oren Arnold, is nearly perfect,

“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service, To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.”

Of course Arnold says his inspiration for writing comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John so I guess that explains his perspective.

Now that you know what I don’t like about Christmas, tomorrow I’ll try to convince you I really am not Scrooge. Until then, let me remind you to remember the reason for the season.

143

Mom

Top Ten Reasons Thaksgiving is My Favorite Holiday

10. No pressures of decorating or gift giving.

9. Watching football games – even when I cheer for more losers than winners.

8. Dessert – pumpkin pie, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookie brownies, Rice Krispy treats, apple pie, cherry pie, lemon meringue pie.

7. Staying in town and avoiding traffic or airport congestion.

6. Playing games and winning (for a change) and playing some new games as well.

5. Traditional Thanksgiving Friday dinner – ham, potato casserole, field peas, stewed apples.

4. Traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner – turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, dumplings, green beans, cranberries, fruit salad.

3. Eating on the deck enjoying perfect fall weather in Florida.

2. Spending time with my brother’s family, sister’s family and parents.

1.  Three days with my husband and all three daughters and the men they care about (and this year two dogs as well).

 

French Toast Recipe

French Toast Grandma’s namesake recipe requires a few changes to the more traditional recipe that appears below. First, she prepared her egg mixture with more milk, closer to 1 cup – no vanilla or cinnamon. She also cooked it at a higher temperature. She never placed the dipped bread in the skillet until it was hot. Another big difference…Crisco. Grandma melted the Crisco in a cast iron skillet and cooked the French toast quickly. Usually she cut the bread in half so she may have made the original French toast sticks. The final difference, instead of using pancake syrup, she made her own concoction. She melted ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup white sugar, and ½ cup water in a saucepan and then poured the warm syrup over the toast.

French Toast Recipe

Ingredients:

4 eggs

½ cup milk (may increase to 1 cup)

¼ teaspoon vanilla (optional)

¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

8 slices of bread

Crack eggs in pie plate or shallow dish. Add milk and beat with a fork. Add vanilla and/or cinnamon if desired.

Heat the skillet or griddle to medium heat.

Place bread, one slice at a time, in the eggs mixture letting it soak up the egg for a couple of seconds and then turning to coat the other side.

Add the dipped bread to a hot skillet or griddle with melted butter or vegetable oil.

Cook until the bottom is lightly browned and then turn and brown the other side.

Serve with butter and syrup.

Of course, Granddaddy would not have eaten his French toast with syrup. Instead he treated it more like eggs…pepper instead of syrup.

Enjoy!

French Toast Grandma

One of my favorite Thanksgivings took place in Helen, GA.  During the 1990s, we loaded up the family, food, decorations and met with grandparents and cousins “over the river and through the woods” to celebrate the holiday. This particular year stands out because my grandmother joined us from Indiana…quite a feat! We wrestled her away from the remainder of the family so she could spend the holiday with her Florida grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This hadn’t happened since we moved to Florida in 1968.

Of course, Grandma couldn’t just be a guest. Everyone wanted to partake in her cooking and she enjoyed preparing her award winning recipes for us. As strange as it may seem, the meal we all remember the most was not Thanksgiving dinner or her mouth-watering desserts, but breakfast, and especially her French toast and homemade syrup (just brown sugar and water, but a new treat). Every morning we gathered at the main cabin for Grandma’s special French toast.

Some of the younger cousins expressed confusion because we called two women Grandma. In fact, Danny, who was three at the time, walked in the room and pointed to his Grandma and Great-Grandma and proclaimed, “two Grandmas”! However, by the end of the weekend, he solved the problem dubbing his new Grandma, French Toast Grandma.

The name stuck! Great-Grandma loved her new name, and in fact, she signed all cards and letters to her Florida great-grandchildren French Toast Grandma for her remaining years.

Let’s eat French toast tomorrow morning!

Black Thursday

A couple of weeks ago I received a petition from Change.org asking me to help employees at Target. Since Target decided to push ahead their traditional Black Friday shopping, the stores plan to open at 8:00pm on Thanksgiving Day. The employee who started the petition asked for public support so she and other Target employees could spend the holiday with family.

Of course, if the store opens at 8:00, employees will report at least an hour earlier so if Thanksgiving dinner isn’t eaten by 3:00 or 4:00 an employee couldn’t possibly celebrate with family and going out of town will not be realistic. Wal-Mart made a similar announcement a week or so earlier and their employees threaten to walk out. Apparently Toys-R-Us and Sears have joined in the nonsense. Both advertise Thursday hours and door buster sales. Just what we need!

Certainly some people must work on Thanksgiving. Hospitals and nursing homes can’t close for the holiday. Police officers, firefighters, and others charged with public safety need to be available. However, do grocery stores, malls, or other retail stores need to open on Thanksgiving? Isn’t 6:00am or 4:00am on Friday early enough for consumers to begin Christmas shopping?

Black Friday may be replaced by Black Thursday, but the word Black has a new meaning. Originally, Black referred the day retailers began to turn a profit and therefore get “in the black”. The new meaning signifies the death of Thanksgiving. My suggestion to those required to work in retail on Thanksgiving is to wear black to work that day or accessorize their uniform with black.

As for me, signing the petition is just the start. I’m committed to not making any holiday purchases at stores opened on Thanksgiving. No Wal-Mart, no Target, no Toys-R-Us, and no Sears from November 22nd until January 1st. And who knows, maybe I can break the habit of shopping in these stores permanently!

Let’s talk turkey!

During Thanksgiving week, we’ve been known to answer the phone “Butterball hotline”, as a fun way to poke fun at the turkey talk line provided by the Butterball Company.  Preparing a Thanksgiving turkey creates a lot of stress for cooks all across the country and the people at Butterball provide assistance and encouragement to ease that stress.

I’m here to tell you that you can cook a turkey. It’s not that difficult. Don’t let the pressure of Thanksgiving shake your confidence. The directions are on the wrapper. You can follow directions.

The trickiest part? Plan ahead. You need plenty of time to thaw the bird (a couple of days in the refrigerator). Cooking takes between three to four hours. You can’t rush.

Don’t hesitate to consult the Butterball website at www.butterball.com for tips. Your question can probably be answered by checking the FAQs, but they even have a link for new cooks to assist with every detail of hosting a Thanksgiving feast.

I just hope you don’t call and ask a question so absurd that it makes the list of most ridiculous questions asked. I thought you might like to read some of these bizarre questions. Hope they bring a smile to your face!

Is it okay to thaw my turkey in the bathtub while bathing my kids?

Can I brine my turkey in the washing machine?

Can I use my oven’s self-cleaning cycle to speed up the cooking process?

If I cut my turkey with a chainsaw will the oil affect the taste?

Can I take my frozen turkey into my sauna to thaw it faster?

Of course, another good way to avoid the stress of preparing the Thanksgiving turkey…go home for the holiday. Let your parents cook!