Friday, 26 November 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Our Thanksgiving mantle this year.   The candlesticks, metal pumpkins, and pilgrims belonged to my mother.   The iron cross was a gift from my friend Amber when my father passed away last year.

Our sweet girls.   I wish we could have found the brown shirt in both sizes!

Our Thanksgiving plate this year: oven roasted turkey, sweet potatoes and apples, buttermilk mashed potatoes, corn, peas, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, and green bean casserole (which I never ate until after I was married), and homemade rolls--Mama's recipe.   I got a phone call from a woman in another state this morning about these rolls.   She saw the recipe in Taste of Home and had a question about how I formed them in the muffin tins.   We do a full meal even though it's "just us."   I look forward to cooking this meal all year!

One of my cherry pies this year.

Too much Thanksgiving!   Poor baby boy fell asleep at the table.

Funny little memories:
The kids watched The Nutcracker Suite last night on PBS.   At one point, Joey said, "Look it's Herr Drosselmeyer."   C. responded, "Oscar Meyer?"

Joey's favorite thing to say after his first bite EVERY year: "Smithers, dispose of all this."

We decided to go to the park to look at the light displays tonight, but C. didn't want to go.   "We can't because they said, 'Don't go anywhere.'"   That's what the announcers said before each commercial break during the Macy's parade this morning.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

In Thanksgiving

Three children, beautiful, happy and healthy
Husband, faithful and loving, and provider
Answered prayers, not always in my time or to my understanding, but always toward good in the end
Needs--most basic--comfort, shelter, food--met by the grace of God & those not basic, but still necessary--good books, conversation, beauty in creation, art, music and recreation to refresh body and mind
Kindness, in the forms of the most simple and the most profound acts by relatives, friends, and strangers
Faith--a complete gift, unmerited
Universal, or Catholic, Church, where I can meet Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament
Life, given me by God, nourished and tended by my parents, brightened and enriched by family and friends

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

"Night Night"

My sweet baby boy caught at nap time "night night" with his dogs.   He doesn't like to sleep without both dogs and his Aunt Amber blanket.   He raises his arms to me and says, "Night, night," when he's sleepy and as I carry him to his crib, he pats my back with his sweet little hand.   Such perfect sweetness.   Such a blessing; my heart overflows.

Homemade Butter for Thanksgiving Dinner

My children did this the past two years, so I guess it's on its way to becoming a family tradition.   It's super easy and gives everyone a chance to have a turn.   They are so proud to pass "their" butter around the table.   I could go into the details, but one of the blogs I follow, My Montessori Journey, has a post with directions and pictures.   Why reinvent the wheel?   Enjoy and I hope this becomes a tradition in your home, too!

Thanksgiving Recipes

My mother did not have a stuffing, or dressing, recipe.   She just made it, without written directions.   After she passed away, I wanted to find a recipe that tasted like hers.   This one not only tastes like hers, but it has the added benefit of freeing up space in the oven on Thanksgiving day.   Use a disposable liner in your slow-cooker and clean-up is easy.

from Southern Living, November 2005

4 1/2 cups cornbread crumbs
1 (16 oz.) pkg. herb stuffing mix
2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans cream of chicken soup
2 (14 oz.) cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 eggs
1 Tbsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter, cut up

Stir together cornbread crumbs, stuffing mix, and next 8 ingredients in a large bowl.

Pour cornbread mixture into a lightly greased 5 1/2 - 6 quart slow cooker.   Dot with butter.   Cook, covered, on LOW 4 hours or until cooked through and set.

This recipe is great for small families or it can be used after the holidays if you traveled and couldn't bring back left-overs.   It's a holiday meal in a crock-pot.

from Christmas with Southern Living 2002

1 (8 oz.) pkg. herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 (3 lb.) frozen boneless turkey breast, thawed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
 1 (.88 oz.) pkg. turkey gravy mix

Coat inside of a 4 quart slow cooker with cooking spray.   Add stuffing mix, onion, celery, and cranberries.   Combine broth and melted butter.   Pour over stuffing and stir gently.

Remove string from turkey breast.   Rinse turkey breast.   Place turkey in slow cooker on top of stuffing.   Combine salt, pepper, and thyme;  sprinkle over turkey.   Cover and cook on HIGH 1 hour.   Reduce to LOW and cook 5 to 6 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in turkey registers 170 degrees.

Remove turkey to a serving platter.   Stir stuffing gently in slow cooker; cover and let stand 3 to 4 min.   Prepare gravy.   Spoon stuffing around turkey on platter.

Tuesday Folder: Blessed Simplicity--Nov. 17

I am up late, writing this just- barely- late- Tuesday Folder post.   If this week had a theme, it was Blessed Simplicity.

The past week was busy and wonderful.   The weather at the beginning of the week was gorgeous--skies that were so pretty they did not even look real and perfect temperatures with no need for a jacket and a much welcomed and appreciated reprieve from the heat.   So, all conditions were right for park days--just our family and playdates with friends.   How perfectly lovely and refreshing to visit with a like-minded mom while watching happy children play together in God's creation.   Thank you, Lord for such simple blessings!

Playing horse races!

He's so loved that he doesn't get to slide alone that often.

Lord, help me to stop, slow down and enjoy these precious moments instead of rushing about to the next task.

The latter part of the week was all about PIE.   Women of our parish joined forces to host a fund-raiser over the weekend which included a book fair and pie sale.   God smiled down upon us throughout the entire endeavor.   Thursday, three of us made homemade pie dough.   Friday, the fun continued.   Over twenty women took turns at different shifts making fifty homemade pies.   We used both church kitchens; one was for cooking and assembling pecan pies and baking, the other for rolling out dough and assembling apple pies.  It was just so feminine and domestic to visit while rolling out dough.   Cooking events like this used to be so common amongst women and it needs to become a regular occurrence again.   Aprons, flour, laughter...simple and beautiful.

What might seem like a simple event had spiritual significance for me.   I was the organizer for the baking and I fully intended to arrive at the church at 6:30 Friday morning.   I was going to have all the prep work done and hopefully, have a few pies in the oven before people began arriving at 9:00.   That didn't happen though, and I arrived at church just past 9:00.   The first pies did not go into the ovens until after noon and we had a deadline of 6:00 for using the kitchen before a wedding rehearsal caterer arrived!   I must confess I began to despair.   Despair is so sinful, because it always shows a lack of trust in God.   I was trying to get it all done, by myself without trusting in Him and seeking His strength through it all.   I was too busy to pray.   How horrible that sounds and rightly so.   I had others praying for me, though, and praying for our work in the kitchen and finally, before those first pies were done, peace came to me and I acknowledged I had despaired.

Another reason for the peace?   The simple truth came to my mind: they're just pies.   Even if they didn't get done, they were just pies, with no real significance in the great scheme of things.   A further blessing came later in the day when there was a lull in volunteers in the "cold" kitchen.   I was left alone to clean, to "find God in the pots and pans," as Saint Theresa of Avila reminds us.   It was so peaceful to occupy my hands in the silence.  

As always, God worked everything out for good.  Just the right number of people showed up at just the right times.   Everyone jumped in  and started working with willing hands and cheerful spirits.   And by 6:00, 50 pies were baked and stacked in the kitchen.   Order out of chaos--isn't that always His way?

Then, last night I had a great time with my new bunco group.   I was not able to join the group when it originally formed because of my husband's class schedule and I have subbed occasionally.   When several openings occurred, I joined and last night was my first bunco as a permanent member.   Oh, the laughter we shared!   We also shared thoughts on our blessings and those things for which we are thankful.   It was wonderful and I left so refreshed.   Thanks be to God for beautiful women who refresh our spirits and inspire us to be better wives and mothers.   And thanks be to God for his blessed presence in all aspects of our lives, even the most simple.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Cheaper Than Therapy

Yesterday was a nice Saturday morning.   The kids spent fun time with Daddy (and hot Shipley's donuts) while I headed off to garage sales.   Being the first Saturday of the month, the front page of the classifieds section was full of sales.   Friday night, I picked those that looked most promising and entered them into the GPS (bought with profit from our own garage sale).   I didn't find much, but what I did find was worth my time.   One garage sale was held at the home of a friend, Ann, who passed away in March.   I was happy to find a coffee pot there; now I will think of her whenever I pour coffee for my guests.  

 All this for $35.
A Tiffany-style lamp, a glass and silver-plate coffee pot and warmer/serving stand, 4 science books for the kids, Dr. Dobson's book I've wanted to buy, and a Southern Living Quick Meals recipe book

We needed a new bedside lamp and this was perfect.  It even came with a light bulb!

Everyone had a great morning and was refreshed for the coming week.   Mama always said going to garage sales was cheaper than a therapist!   And I only bought useful items for which I had a place.

Put It In Writing

I enjoy seeing family recipe books full of special recipes and pictures from each member.   It makes such a precious keepsake.   I would like to suggest to anyone who puts together such a collection to make sure you include as many hand-written recipes as possible.   It has meant so much to me to find cards and notes in cookbooks that were written by my mother and grandmother.

I have many of my mom's standard recipes, but there are a few I don't have.   There were some dishes that she just made for which she never had a written recipe.   We all have recipes like that, but it's worth the time to write them down.

Here a couple of my simple recipes that are standards at our family's table.

Pot Roast

I like to use a London Broil cut or a small chuck roast.

Cut slits throughout the roast, top and bottom and stuff with either:  garlic slices or a stuffing mixture made of finely chopped (food processor is best)  onions, bell pepper, garlic, celery, salt, pepper, dash of cayenne pepper.

Season all sides of the roast liberally with coarse ground salt, garlic salt, black pepper).   Brown all sides in a hot pan with about 2 Tbsp. oil, more if needed.    Remove roast and place on a bed of sliced onions in a roasting pan.   Use about 2 Tbsp. of worcestershire sauce to de-glaze the pan.   Poor sauce and yummy bits over the roast.    Cover and bake 1 1/2 - 2 hours at 325 degrees, depending on the size of the roast.   Slice in thin slices, against the grain, with an electric knife for tender, never stringy pot roast.

My husband prefers the pan drippings from the cooked roast be eaten without being thickened into a gravy, so we have it over rice or mashed potatoes.

Roasted Vegetables

The only vegetables we don't eat this way are corn and green beans.   My children love them and they fight over who gets the broccoli.

 Cut vegetables of your choice.   Make sure they are all close in size so they will cook at the same time.   I usually use sweet potatoes (unpeeled), potatoes (unpeeled), carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and bell peppers.   Toss lightly with pure olive oil and season with a mixture of garlic salt, sea salt, black pepper, paprika, and parsley.  Sometimes, I season with Konriko Creole Seasoning; it is not spicy.

Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.   The vegetables will stick if you don't grease the pan.   Spread veg. evenly on the pan and bake at 450 degrees 15 -20 minutes.   You know the broccoli and cauliflower are done when the tips are slightly singed.   The other vegetables will be tender, but a little crisp on the outside.   We never boil or steam broccoli anymore!

Canned Green Beans

Of course, the best southern green beans are fresh, cooked with bacon and red potatoes, but this is how my mother doctored canned beans for regular meals.

Pour no-salt-added green beans (undrained) into a saucepan with one chicken bouillon cube per can of beans.   Bring to a boil.   Cover, reduce heat and allow to simmer and cook down for at least one hour.   Two hours is even better.   Stir occasionally and break them up as they cook.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Not Our Ways: Saying Good-bye to My Childhood Home

I'm sorry--rude of me--you just needed someone to get mad with you, not a sermon!   This was the text message I received a few weeks ago from my dear friend, Gina.   I had called her earlier to share news of our day so far and we had to get off the phone before we were finished speaking. 

Our family made a 29-hour round trip dash to south Louisiana to close on my parents' farm.   Actually, the farm is technically not in south Louisiana because it's north of I-10.   There are some people who don't think it's still the south at all if it's north of I-10!  

The farm is on a little over sixteen acres of rolling land.   There are old massive pecan trees scattered throughout the property, a pond, several barns, and the brick house we called home.   Normally, I would insert old pictures of the place here, but my scanner is not cooperating; I'll add them another time!   We moved there right before I turned four and we moved away the summer before my senior year of high school.   So, there are lots of memories associated with that home, although I haven't lived there for a very long time.  

I have to remind myself and re-convince myself that selling was the right thing to do.   I have managed the place as a rental property for the past five years, after I became my father's legal guardian as his dementia worsened and his health declined.   It is not easy to manage a property long-distance with your own young children and home already under your charge.   And as I have learned again and again over these past few years, the memories aren't really there; they are in our hearts and minds.  

So, I prepared myself for my Big Moment of Closure.   I was to walk through the empty house, alone, and say my "good-byes."   I had not seen it completely empty since we moved away.   I had braced myself for this Moment.   Then, we drove up the driveway, to the back of the house, and saw the breeze-way crowded with the Buyer's belongings.  "Okay," I thought, "the real estate agent said he asked if he could go ahead a move a few boxes in the garage since his storage unit would not hold everything.   I guess the boxes spilled over."  

We piled out of the van and walked up the sidewalk.  Through the french door I could look into the kitchen and tell the buyers had already set up housekeeping.   A package of bread was in the middle of the counter, along with small appliances, and a key rack holding three sets of keys.  As we walked through the house, we were met with similar sights: toiletries on the bathroom sinks, beds set up and made in two of the bedrooms, large appliances plugged in and filled, and my old bedroom in the process of being painted pink.

To say I was shocked would be accurate; to say I was livid would be an understatement.   Long story short, I signed something without reading it completely and I probably have no legal recourse and even if I did, it wouldn't be worth the expense of a Louisiana lawyer.   Plus, I have no desire to fight with anyone.   Little as it's been in the proverbial "grand scheme of things," I've gone through enough in my life to make me avoid drama.

We had to hurry back to a near-by town for the closing--a closing which would normally take 30 minutes took almost 2 hours thanks to a story-telling title lawyer.   The buyers said it would be okay if I went back to the house and picked some pecans.  

So, we headed back to the farm.   It was so nice and quiet and there was a nice light breeze.   It felt like fall and it brought back memories of my favorite season there.   We picked pecans under the family's favorite trees.   The girls swung on a tree swing in the backyard.  Thomas played with toy tractors and trucks scattered in the yard.   That was the most bittersweet moment.   I cannot begin to express how happy it would have made Mama to see Thomas in his overalls, playing in the backyard.   I took lots of pictures, though and even took my own turn on the swing.

Sweet girls swinging.  Mama would get so tickled by me in my swing.   When I was in elementary school, John Anderson had a hit with the country song, "Swinging" and I would sit in the backyard singing the song as I swung.   Come to think of it, we had a cow named "Charlotte Johnson."   Most of our cows were named after country music song titles.   Seriously.   Elvira, Bobby Sue, White Dove, Cajun Baby,...Daddy's idea.

I share my mother's tendency to melt at the sight of a little boy in overalls.   A pair was always her gift of choice for new baby boys and I carry on that tradition.

On the way back to the title office for the last paperwork, I called Regina and told her what I found when I arrived at the house.   She felt badly that I had not had my Moment of Closure, but then she went into one of her classic scripture-filled, heart-felt, and  inspirational pep-talks.   She reminded me that God's ways are not our ways and later I might be able to see why God allowed the Moment I planned for to turn out differently.   She was thankful for the moments I did have and the new memories with the children I created there.   Then we arrived at the office and I had to let her go quickly.

Thus, the text message apology when none was required at all.   As He has done so many times, God used wise friends to speak to my heart.   I had my beginning of closure and then peace descended upon me--in God's time, not mine and I left my childhood home with much more gained than lost. What a blessing that He's in charge because I can really make a muddle of things when I try to take over.   Thanks be go God!

One of my warmest, fuzziest childhood memories involves this pine wall that was opposite my bedroom door.   Christmas Eve was the only time we left the tree plugged in overnight.   I can remember waking up early Christmas morning, bounding out of bed and seeing the warm colorful reflection cast upon this wall by the twinkling lights of our tree.  


Our pond.   The polled Hereford cattle liked to wade out to the middle on really hot days. 

These tree roots seemed much bigger as a child!   We climbed them as our "steps."

Our little farm lay at the end of a country road and this was the view, approaching the house.   At night during Christmas, you could see our trees shining in the picture windows of the dining and living rooms.   I was able to watch for the bus from the living room window and just walk out the door and step onto it.

Trees, glorious trees!  

The old camellia outside my bedroom window.   The renters cut it back, unfortunately and changed the shape.   Luckily, they didn't remove it completely the way they did our other bushes and perennial plants.   When we were little, my friends and I would play Joker's Wild (a game show from the 1980s) on this tree.   There were two limbs in the back that had been trimmed back and you could pull them and let go just like the levers the contestants pulled on the show.   Another person played host and if you won, she would tear off leaves (money) and give them to you.


 My childhood home.   The gardenia by the front door is gone.   To this day, I describe a warm humid morning as a "gardenia morning."   The first warm, humid days of the last weeks of school coincided with the blooming of that fragrant bush I stood beside as I waited for the bus to stop in our circle driveway.   Mama had antique roses along the right side of the house and massive old azaleas were on the left side.   Our renter once saw a snake in a flowerbed so she tore out all the plants:( .


Yard, right side of house, pasture beyond.   Surprising to see how the renters let the fence rows grow up.   We used to mow under the fence that now just appears to be a line of trees and bushes.   I can remember midnight badminton games with Regina, under the dusk/dawn light, using the space between two tall crepe myrtles as our "net."

Really, need I say anything about this picture?  Hot Krispy Kreme donuts, brought from the back, right off the line.   

Good ol' Louisiana pecans, a mixture from Mama's favorite tree and my favorite.   Hers?   Because they tasted the best; they had the highest oil content.   Mine?   Because that tree had the biggest pecans.   I had to pick enough pecans to fill an ice cream bucket each day after school and so I chose to pick under the tree with the biggest pecans!   I'm thankful I live in a place where pecans are grown

 The Mighty Mississippi--Now, that's a River!

Anticipating Advent: Our Jesse Tree

It's hard to believe that we are only a few weeks away from the season of Advent, the time of waiting and preparing for the birth of Christ.   In addition to the traditional Advent wreath, several years ago, our family began the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree.   The Jesse Tree, named after Jesse, the father of David, traces the story of salvation history from Adam and Eve to Jesus.   A new ornament is added each day during the season of Advent and the family shares the scripture story illustrated by that ornament.

I have enjoyed watching Joey lead our family in the nightly scripture study.   The children love helping put up each new ornament and listening to its story.   

There are many options for a Jesse Tree.   I made ours out of a piece of  white felt and purple ribbon.  I like the way this option shows the ornaments in chronological order.   I think that our children will remember these ornaments as we celebrate each year and it will be a visual reminder of the order of events in salvation history.

Close up of the first few ornaments of the tree

I wrote the number of the day, the scripture reference, and the row number on the back of each ornament.   I plan to laminate these and use velcro to attach them -- some day!
The tree, ornaments, and scripture pages store easily in a 2-gallon zipper storage bag.

You can print out these same color ornaments to make your own Jesse Tree.   Here is the link:

You can find more elaborate ornaments and kits for making your own on various websites, also.

Also, here's the link to an excellent article about focusing on Christ during Advent and Christmas.   I like that it reminds us to slow down and prepare our hearts for Christ.   I share it with the parents in our parish Baptism preparation class and it's a great annual reminder for me.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Comes a Time

"Comes a time when you've got to get down on your knees."  

This is one of my favorite quotes from the movie, I Remember Mama, adapted for screen from the play of the same name.   It is based on one of my favorite childhood novels, Mama's Bank Account.   In this scene, Mama is consumed with worry and frustration as her youngest child lies in a hospital recovering from successful surgery.   At that time, parents were not allowed to see their children for the first twenty-four hours following surgery and Mama cannot bear the thought of not being there when her baby, Dagmar, wakes.   So, home, and to her knees, to scrub the floor, pray, and wait for a solution, which does indeed come.

Pope John Paul II reminded the world often of the dignity of all work, especially that of manual labor.   As a young man, he was a laborer in a work camp during the Nazi occupation of his native Poland.   It was a different environment compared to the artistic and intellectual one of his home, but he recognized the dignity in the men and the work they accomplished with their hands.   He never lost that respect and tried to help others see it during his pontificate.

I found myself going to my knees earlier this week when I was so busy and trying to figure out how to solve various problems of the week.   I scrubbed my kitchen floor by hand and was rewarded with the satisfaction of a job completed.   An actual finished product with instant satisfaction.   As a teacher, I did not see instant results of my efforts and knew that some results might not even be seen until future grades.   Now, as a mother, results are even fewer and the space even wider.   I know that the seeds I am attempting to plant may not bear fruit until my children reach adulthood.

Not only do you witness results and the completion of your efforts, but work of your hands helps to clear your mind.   It is cleansing to the mind and the body.   I remember seeing my mother pull weeds from her flowerbeds,  pick pecans, or clean when she had something pressing on her mind.   When my mother lay in ICU, my father told me that he just wished he could go out and haul some hay, or bush-hog a pasture.   Even in his state of dementia, his mind was going back to the pattern of previous years.

He was a university Professor, but we operated a small cow-calf program on our little farm.   We spent weekends working with the cattle and maintaining fences and pastures.   I was a girly-girl who would have preferred having a tea party or at least lounging in a chair with a book.   Male chauvinism was a popular theme of television programs and movies in the 1980s and I often lamented the fact that my father did not subscribe to that ideology!   No, I was expected to help with chores such as picking pecans, lawn work, feeding cows, and other simple tasks associated with country living.   My maternal grandparents were hard-working people who had spent much of their lives on farms in Oklahoma.   There was not one of the proverbial "lazy bones" in their bodies and my mother shared their work ethic.   I am so grateful for their example.  

When my dad became a dean at another university we moved from the farm.   Absence made me appreciate the chores and duties of my former home.   My mother and I maintained the yard in our new home.   We spent countless hours together, mowing or planning, planting and maintaining flower beds.   When I had a big college project or student teaching unit to plan, I would head out to the yard to think.   With my hands busy, my mind was free to ponder and problem-solve.   Some of my best papers were written after yard work.

Now, my work is usually in the realms of cleaning and cooking, especially baking.   Completed loaves of bread or a finished pie is a satisfying sight and occasionally, I try to incorporate practices like kneading and rolling in sets of three to remind me of the Holy Trinity or making the sign of the cross in the dough.   Women of previous generations often incorporated these spiritual reminders in their household tasks and I am just beginning efforts to make them a part of my routines.

"...down on your knees."   Not by coincidence is it the position for scrubbing a floor, but also the posture for prayer.   So, while I was able to be satisfied with the results of my labor,  I was also able to busy my hands and clear my head to listen to God.   I'm thankful that as an adult, I now appreciate the gift of the dignity of work and its place in the spiritual life.     I pray that I will seek God in the simple tasks of my daily life.   St. Joseph, the worker, pray for us.

Work is a good thing for man--a good thing for his humanity--because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes more of a human being.Laborem exercens

Take a Picture of It

Stuff.   It's no newsflash that most Americans just have too much stuff.   Everyday, people wheel big plastic bins out of discount stores and there are whole stores and businesses designed to help people organize their stuff.   There is a series on A & E called Hoarders which follows the extreme examples of people with an actual disorder that causes them to hoard things, even garbage and perishable foods.

Yesterday, I found this wonderful post at the blog, Small Notebook for a Simple Home.   I think it uses a convincing  image to convey the need to simplify the collection of sentimental items.

This is a topic very close to my own heart.   My mother was not a hoarder, but she was a collector.   I grew up in a beautiful home, thanks to my mother's creativity and eye for antiques and decorating.   People would actually call my mother to ask if they could bring a friend over to tour the house.   It wasn't grand, but it was full of interesting things, artfully arranged.

Over the years, the collections grew and we moved to a larger home with incredible storage.   We had 13 large closets, 3 of which were deep walk-ins.   One of them had built in shelving and was large enough that we could store our artificial Christmas trees in their boxes.   That meant that it was easy to add to the collections, especially Christmas decorations because there was ample storage space.   Then, my parents retired and moved to a home of similar square footage, but less storage.   The garage became a storage room, waiting for a garage sale to clear its contents.   There was just too much at that point.  And my mother became more stressed as a caregiver to my father in his early stages of frontal-temporal dementia.   She did not have the time or will to manage it all the way she once did.

So, when we were faced with the task of finishing the clean-out of the house this summer, we were overwhelmed by stuff.   I remember how excited Amber and I were, when, on the last day, we opened a drawer of a little cabinet and it was EMPTY.   It was the first thing we had opened that was empty.

We kept pieces of furniture that were meaningful and useful, antiques, photos, etc..., but we simply could not keep it all.   "Take a picture!" became our motto.   I lined up everything that tugged at my heart strings and took pictures of it all.   I saved some paper items to scan and preserve digitally.

How sweet are these greeting cards and picture book from the 1950s?   Why can't things still be that pretty and charming?

Some of my school days "art." ;-)

 I felt very guilty about throwing out so many things, especially items from Mama's cedar chest, but I did not want to face a future being paralyzed or burdened by stuff.   I was amazed at God's tremendous grace as I looked at the huge pile of things I actually threw away.   I did not have the strength to do that on my own!

The task is not entirely complete.   One half of our garage is still full of items, including about 20 bins of Hallmark Christmas ornaments and other items I wasn't quite ready to part with.   Also, there were things I knew Mama would have wanted to see get the best possible price at auction.   That doesn't matter to me at all.  No amount of money could make up for what it's costing our family in time and most importantly, peace of mind, to try to manage all of this. 

 Storage unit or treasure chest?  Yes, the precious nature of mementos can get lost if there is too much.

I'm ready now.   Recording thoughts and treasured moments in this blog has been an important part of the process.   My parents and my childhood are always with me in my memories and I don't need to clutter our home with every single item from my past to keep those memories alive.   I want to be surrounded by people, not just things.   I want to treasure some special items from my our past while we also make room for our little family to create its own memories.

All Hallow's Eve & All Saint's Day

The children had such a fun night Sunday.   We live in a very quiet neighborhood, where many of our neighbors are retirees who enjoy seeing our children dressed in their costumes.   In the past, we've used the same costumes for both All Hallow's Eve and All Saint's Day, but this year, we gave the girls the chance to choose separate costumes if they wanted them.

Joey and I have such sweet, simple memories of trick-or-treating.   I also have special memories of the annual hot dog roast held at Mrs. Carmel's house.   Her children and I would watch the pile of limbs grow over the month of October.   I looked forward to that special evening for weeks and the taste of toasted marshmallows still takes me back to those times.   Our children made similar sweet memories this year!

An angel, Minnie Mouse, and a friendly gator!

Ready to head out!

 Then came Monday night and the big celebration of All Saint's Day.    Our parish held a wonderful party and the children had so much fun learning about quite a few saints.   There were crafts, games, food, and fun with friends.

Saint Cecilia & Our Lady of Lourdes

Saint Joseph--This costume was made by our friend Leslie for her boys and I was so excited when she handed it down to us!

T with his godmother, Kimberly

Her favorite part of the party: time with her friend!

She won a beautiful saints picture book as a door prize.   "Mama, I've never won anything like that before!"

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