Tag Archives: NaBloPoMo

The Thanksgiving Table

MEMORY
My childhood’s home I see again,
And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
There’s pleasure in it, too.

(by Abraham Lincoln in 1846 when he was 37)

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IN RECENT YEARS, MEMORIES OF PAST THANKSGIVINGS come to visit at Thanksgiving time, like welcome spirits, filling the house with smells, sights, sounds and stories of long ago times with family and friends around the family dining table. – When family gathers now, we share the old stories, visit familiar traditions and renew family bonds once again.

THE THANKSGIVING TABLE

MOM IN HER APRON at 6:00am –
she and turkey greet the sunrise;
women in the house don aprons after breakfast
taking directions to prepare the feast.
Young daughters and granddaughters set the table,
check the centerpiece,light the candles,
and sometimes stir a mysterious mixture –
then run off to play with siblings and cousins.

DAD CARVES THE SUCCULENT TURKEY in the kitchen,
separating meat slices – white to dark –
arranging artfully on the turkey platter.
Mom says carving the turkey is a man’s job –
and he performs the ritual with pleasure
as head of our family.

OUR THANKSGIVING table covered end to end
with food, family and friends;
Dad at the window end of the table
by the turkey proudly starring in our feast;
Mom at the other end, near the kitchen
to fetch a forgotten spoon.

THE SAME THANKSGIVING MEAL re-appears,
no trendy new dishes here to explain;
dishes of food artfully displayed
on the white tablecloth with the best Haviland
china, silver, crystal and cloth napkins.
A bowl of flowers and lighted candles
centers with food nestled around the table:
fresh green beans, mashed potatoes served in Mom’s
mixer bowl, dressing smelling of sage, corn,
a full gravy boat with tender pieces of turkey swimming,
sinfully rich sweet potatoes with the
heavenly aroma of brown sugar, butter and pralines,
cranberry sauce in the familiar glass bowl,
salads, hot rolls wrapped in a cotton bun warmer
decorated on the edges with Mom’s white crocheted lace,
and a pitcher of ice cold ice tea (sweetened of course).

WE HEAR COFFEE PERKING on the buffet beside the desserts:
cookies for the children and pumpkin and pecan pies –
butter pecan ice cream added later.
With bowed heads and hands clasped around
the table, each of us speaks of the year’s
greatest blessing – opening hearts of gratitude –
while family bonds tighten. Dad says grace and
finishes with a toast for health in the coming year.

WOMEN adjourn to the family room
for coffee and talk – while men tackle dishes
and clean-up in kitchen and dining room –
in gratitude for their traditions and sated stomachs.
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IN MY HOME, I have continued familiar traditions, and serve many foods shared over the years at the Thanksgiving tables in my parents home. I use Mom’s green bean recipe for perfect green beans, and serve turkey, mashed potatoes, lots of cranberry sauce, hot rolls, dressing and iced tea, pumpkin and pecan pies and cookies and ice cream.

I HAVE MADE A FEW CHANGES and additions over the years: reduced the calories in the sweet potato recipe, and served additional lower calorie dishes as options, for example, wild rice with cranberries; field greens salad with raspberries and toasted walnuts and goat cheese; sliced cucumbers with onions and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, basalmic vinegar and oregano. I also serve ham for some family members who prefer it to turkey and a wine option with the iced tea. The past 20 years, I have served my mother-in-law’s holiday pineapple salad (loved by my family) and occasionally make her delicious squash casserole dish – thus incorporating traditions and memories from my husband’s family.

THIS THANKSGIVING, we will once again gather together at the holiday table. I am thankful for traditions past – and blessed to be engaged in passing them on.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

My Top Ten Blessings This Thanksgiving

THANKSGIVING IS THE TIME OF YEAR to count our blessings, one by one – and I have many. It is our family tradition when we sit down to the Thanksgiving meal, for each of us to share at least one thing we are thankful for during the past year.

Thanksgiving at mother-in-law Nora's.  Traditional pecan pies and jam cake with caramel icing
Thanksgiving at mother-in-law Nora’s. Traditional pecan pies and jam cake with caramel icing, Italian crème cake, Hummingbird cake

AS I REFLECT ON THE PAST YEAR, I am so aware of new blessings that have come my way, since I retired from an academic career, and started freelance writing. I truly loved my work in the university and was unsure about leaving it. But, I found there are new life experiences to be savored. Oh yes! And it’s something for those who have yet to retire to look forward to.

TOP TEN NEW BLESSINGS I am thankful for this year:

1. A LEISURELY BREAKFAST with my husband and time to read two morning newspapers before starting the day’s activities.

2. SHOPPING DURING THE WEEK in uncrowded stores, when most working people are in their places of employment.

3. SCHEDULING ROUTINE APPOINTMENTS (e.g., medical and dental) in the afternoons, in case I want to sleep late or finish work at home first.

4. TAKING A TIME-OUT “Me Day” to do just want I want to do. If I want to read all day – it’s ok. I am so oriented to being productive, that it took awhile to feel comfortable taking an occasional day off.

5. SPENDING MORE QUALITY OF TIME with loved ones (e.g., enjoying family in new activities, learning more about family history, lingering at the table with friends).

The Pie That Made My Dad Propose (recipe in Aug 29, 2013 post)
The Pie That Made My Dad Propose (recipe in Aug 29, 2013 post)

6. FEELING AND LOOKING (and being) more rested. When I was working full-time, I had a demanding schedule that sometimes compromised my time to sleep. I don’t take naps, but am able to get a full 8 hours of sleep a night now. When I meet an old acquaintance who comments, “You look fantastic.” I reply, “It’s called being rested.”

7. HAVING LARGER BLOCKS OF FREE TIME available, so I can work longer on a project I have started (writing or home-based), rather than working on it in only short bursts of time. And I might add, the rewards are great when I complete a project I was eager to do.

8. SEEING A REAL OPPORTUNITY to plan and implement some of the “if only I had time” goals. When it really gets down to planning, there are some things I thought I wanted to do, that I no longer have a desire to do. But making a new “bucket list” is exciting – and working on the list introduces new adventures in my life.

9. THE SPONTANEITY to drop what I am doing and seize an emergent opportunity. The freedom to change plans midstream is an unexpected pleasure (e.g., meeting friends for coffee or a concert at the last minute).

10. THE OPPORTUNITY TO PURSUE new interests and develop new skills. Learning something new every day is my mantra!

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

WHAT IS ON YOUR list of blessings this year?

Sweet Potato Recipes for the Holidays: Part II

MY SEARCH CONTINUES for sweet potato recipes for the holidays to expand my culinary repertoire for using this vitamin packed and low calorie vegetable. In response to the public’s increasing interest in healthier fare beyond meat and French fries or mashed potatoes, vegetables are showing up more and more on restaurant menus and the sweet potato is one of them. Thank goodness!

WE SOMETIMES EAT OUT on Sundays after church. Today, we met our son at Long Horn Steak House for lunch. I chose a fabulous salad that would be a nice addition to a holiday lunch: spinach leaves, thinly sliced tart apples, toasted pecans, bacon crumbles, cranraisins, and sweet potato chips, drizzled with balsalmic vinegar. It was delicious – and the sweet potato chips on top added a crunchy flavor to the salad.

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I FOUND SEVERAL SOURCES for appealing sweet potato recipes that I want to share with you in this Part II post.

THE DECEMBER ISSUE of Southern Living (p. 181) has a recipe for sweet potato spoonbread that I am so anxious to try. The first time I ate spoonbread was at my mother-in-law’s house when I was first married. She was an excellent Kentucky cook who served real comfort food. I enjoy all kinds of bread – but this new spoonbread, with a crusty outside and custardy inside, smeared with butter and jam, was a new taste sensation for me. I remember she said she always used Martha White flour and white cornmeal. The sweet potato spoonbread is an old American recipe. English cooks make yorkshire pudding, and American cooks make spoonbread – a recipe dating to Native Americans, some say.

THE LOUISIANA SWEET POTATO COMMISSION has a mouth watering list of recipes of all kinds on their website to try, soups, salads, entrees.(sweetpotato.org/recipes) Many recipes sound special enough to star on the Thanksgiving table, for example, these dessert recipes sound so Big D delicious:

Brie and Sweet Potato Tart in Maple Pecan Crust
Sweet Potato Flan
Sweet Potato Souffle
Sweet Potato Bundt Cake
Old New Orleans Sweet Potato Rum Cake
Sweet Potato Cookies with Vanilla Icing
Sweet Potato Cheesecake

OK – DESSERT RECIPES HAVE A PLACE during the holidays, but what about entrée vegan recipes and healthy recipes with sweet potatoes? I found a small 35 page cookbook by Wendy Jordan, Healthy Sweet Potato Recipes (2012) that includes a few of these recipes. This cookbook is available as a book or Kindle download from Amazon for $3.99. (Amazon.com) Recipes are included for soups, sides, pastas, roasted dishes, etc. There are several healthy recipes I marked to prepare for the family taste test. Examples in her book include:

Asian Sweet Potato Soup
Grilled Caribbean Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potato and Pasta
Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potato
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole
Crispy Sweet Potato and Pear
Sweet Potato Wedges with Thyme and Garlic
Shrimp and Sweet Potato Salad
Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew

IF YOU HAVE A SPECIAL family approved recipe you want to share, I’m interested. So.. A salute to the colorful vegetable that is so good for us.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving: Soup, Sinfully Rich, Healthy Sides and Dessert

Today was such a busy day of errands that we didn’t even take time for lunch. At 3:00, we stopped at Jason’s Deli and ordered take-out of the soup of the day, along with one of my favorite sandwiches. I wasn’t sure the sweet potato and pork soup would be good, but I knew the sandwich of multigrain bread, roast turkey, philadelphia cream cheese, cranberry relish, onions and field greens would be great. We took our carry-out lunch home to relax and eat.

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I added some of my raspberry mustard to the sandwich and sampled the soup. To my surprise, it was delicious… I mean Big D delicious. I imagined this tasty soup could be a good evening meal with leftovers, using sweet potatoes, blended with vegetable stock, left over shredded pork roast, spinach and onions. I would have to experiment with the spices to try to recreate it.

When I was growing up, Mom prepared sweet potatoes often. She usually prepared some version of candied sweet potatoes, so my repertoire for using sweet potatoes was limited.

WHEN I BEGAN COOKING in my own home, I made the candied version too, but less often, and in recent years, frequently serve baked sweet potatoes with a little butter and salt. I also roast them in the oven with other vegetables with some olive oil, salt and pepper … or cook them in the crock pot with pork chops, orange juice, onions, ginger, honey.

WE COULD EXPECT TO SEE on Mother’s Thanksgiving and Christmas table, her sweet potato recipe that she called her “sinfully rich sweet potatoes” – and it was too. I don’t know where this recipe came from, but it has been a staple in the family for many years. Sure it had its share of calories, but it was the dish that some family ate for dessert, or even breakfast, if any was left over.

Ina’s Sinfully Rich Sweet Potatoes

3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter (or margarine)
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup pecans

In mixer, beat sweet potatoes, white sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, butter and vanilla. Pour into greased 2 quart casserole. Mix brown sugar, butter, pecans and coconut till crumbled and sprinkle over potatoes. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. (I have lightened the calories in the recipe by substituting half and half for some of the butter, and Splenda and Splenda brown sugar for some of the sugars.)

I CHECKED MY FAMILY’s OLDER COOKBOOKS published from 1907 to the 1940’s and found no recipes for sweet potato soups. When I searched on the internet, I found dozens of recipes for sweet potato soups, with a wide diversity of ingredients. . They seemed to be grouped into savory soups with garlic, onions, celery, chicken stock using leafy tops of celery and other spices, milk… or with lentils and spinach… or curry and carrot. There are also slightly sweet soups with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, maple syrup, brown sugar. My daughter says she recently had sweet potato soup with coconut milk.

AS I CONTINUED TO EXPLORE other recipes on line and in contemporary cookbooks, I began to realize just how versatile this tuberous vegetable really is. There is sweet potato risotto, sweet potato pie, sweet potato cookies, sweet potato pancakes. Sweet potato fries are showing up on a number of restaurant menus now. And the list goes on. Health.com lists 25 healthy recipes using sweet potatoes, like quesadillas,

THE VERSATILE SWEET POTATO is one of the oldest vegetables known to humans and is a major staple in many parts of the world. It was often quoted that Christopher Columbus introduced the sweet potato to America. DNA testing has produced other information, says Michaeleen Doucleff (www.npr.org/…How the Sweet Potato Crossed the Pacific Way Before the Europeans). There is compelling evidence that sweet potatoes originated in the western coast of South America.

SWEET POTATOES ARE LOADED – and I mean really loaded with nutrients and vitamins – vitamin A and C, some calcium and iron, lots of fiber and low calories. The versatile sweet potato will surely find a place on my holiday tables… in various forms.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE sweet potato recipe?

Writing Holiday Poems by the Fire- 1, 2,3: Just for Fun

I have been playing around today writing short 1-2-3 poems about the holidays – just for fun. Please join me by adding yours to be enjoyed by others during this holiday season. Anyone can do it… It’s only three lines – one word, two words and then three, to express a thought about the holiday season.

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The
blessings of
Thanksgiving are now.

Hugs
mend hearts
and enrich lives.

Family
reminds us
we aren’t alone.

Shopping
makes me
a hungry debtor.

Gratitude
for life
warms my heart.

How
many friends
are you bringing!

Just
one roaring
fire fuels romance.

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So
many Santas
in this town!

We
always receive
a new nightgown!

My
Christmas wish
has come true.

I
wanted laughter
spilling from you.

Christmas
is coming
ready or not.

Reward
is in
the gifts given.

Wanting
peace on
earth is universal.

Is
creating peace
on earth impossible?

Sun
on snow
makes crystalline stars.

Pumpkin
pie tastes
like grandma’s house.

Family
life can
sometimes be chaotic.

Belonging
is the
best Christmas gift.

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Faith
brings something
bigger than me.

A
family that
sings together rocks.

Christmas
trees carry
glitter and memories.

A
child’s giggle
peals joy and mirth.

Thank
you for
my life’s blessings.

Silent
Night, Holy
Night…quiet night.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

PLEASE ADD YOUR OWN 1-2-3 POEMS FOR OTHERS TO ENJOY.

A Message for Christmas: The Gift of Happiness

ARE YOU A CLIPPER TOO? I occasionally clip an article or note, from a news source or research article, that I want to read again, or share with someone else. Three years ago, I clipped an article from the “Charlotte Observer” (Dec 18, 2010), that delivered a positive and powerful message – especially for the Christmas season. I shared it with a friend that I thought might find it particularly meaningful. This holiday season, the message merits repeating, as we engage in a whirlwind of activities in the build-up to Christmas. The author is Lynne Hinton, minister and author. She has graciously given permission to re-print her message as a post on the blog, Womenlivinglifeafter50.com. Thank you Lynne.

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THERE IS A LINE FROM A MOVIE that I can’t get out of my head. One character, a light-hearted woman, is trying to encourage her friend, a more melancholy character. They are on vacation together. After a few days, she tells her solemn friend to be joyful, because good things are coming her way. Her friend replies, “That’s easy for you to say; you have the gift of happiness.”

BEFORE SEEING THE FILM, I never really thought of some people having a gift of happiness, while others do not. I see now the truth of it. There are some folks who just seem to have the gift of joy and lightness of being, while it appears that the rest of us have to work to be happy. I know this, because I am more of a “glass half-empty” kind of person. I don’t come by my joy easily. It takes work – spiritual and emotional discipline – for me to be happy.

AS THE HOLIDAYS APPROACH, I have been thinking about the gifts I will give and receive that I hope will bring pleasure to my friends and family. We always want our presents to be enjoyed by our loved ones. Aren’t we looking for that present of happiness so we can buy it, wrap it up, tie a big red ribbon around it, and hide it under the tree?

PERHAPS THERE IS ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK AT GIFT-GIVING this year. Perhaps the best gift we can give to those we love, is to do the work, so we can become people of joy. If you think about it, happy people are much more fun to be around then miserable people.

I’M NOT SUGGESTING selfishness. I’m not promoting spending the money we were going to spend on others on ourselves. I am suggesting that we make the effort to be the people that others want to be around. I am suggesting that the best gift we might give away, is finding and fostering our own emotional health.

WHEN WE ARE HEALTHY AND WHOLE, hopeful and joyful, we give happiness away. And when that happens, others often make the same kind of decisions for themselves.

WHEN WE SEE HAPPY PEOPLE, we want to be happy people.

BE A PERSON OF JOY. Give yourself, and those who love you, the gift that will matter most. BE HAPPY.

The Family Storyteller: Before It’s Too Late

WE ARE EXPERIENCING A TEMPORARY cold front in the South, prompting memories of the magical snowy days of my youth in Indiana and West Virginia (although we are not expecting snow in Charlotte NC).
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AS THE HOLIDAYS DRAW NEARER, my thoughts drift to family members who are no longer with us for gatherings of the clan as in past Thanksgivings and Christmases. When I was a young adult, I gave little thought to the temporal aspect of life, as if we would all be here together for years to come – holidays at grandmother’s house – then mother’s house – and then – the gathering was at my house. As we come together, we celebrate, eat and share family stories – usually funny or touching ones -and we laugh and bond as a family.

I WAS FORTUNATE that Mom was a born storyteller with an exceptional memory. She shared much of her growing up and my siblings and I learned about not only our family roots, but the townspeople and the issues of life in the generations before us. What a treasure!

NOW, AS AN OLDER ADULT, my interest in family history is piqued even more, likely because I am a little closer to the end of my journey (not for many years yet, I hope) – and maybe too because I value the importance of connecting the generations. There are lessons to be learned, even from unproductive decisions made by someone in the past. In Mom’s last years, I made a greater effort to ask questions and write notes on history she shared. Although – now that she is no longer here, there are so many things that I wish I had asked her.

AS THANKSGIVING APPROACHES, and we become engaged in the hustle and bustle of holiday activities, it may be prudent to take time-out to invite…. to question… and to listen to the older adults of our families, to learn where we came from, and our ancestors journeys along the way.

WHEN I TAUGHT A UNIVERSITY GRADUATE COURSE in life span development, I frequently gave an assignment for the students to complete over the holidays. They were asked to interview the oldest member of their family, or the oldest family storyteller (not all folks have the gift of remembrance). To prepare for this interview, they were to prepare a timeline. They wrote the years of the family member’s life and beside the years, wrote major events that were occurring (war, disease epidemics, new inventions, politics, etc)… Then they could begin at the earliest memories and ask how these events influenced the family (e.g., you were 14 when the polio epidemic was at its worst. What do you remember about it?).

THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS are family holidays, and various things stimulate recall of holidays past. I remember with deep affection, family and close friends that are no longer here to share this holiday season with us. I am grateful we traveled together for a time. My life is richer for knowing them. As I reflected recently on the blessings of our family (and a few close friends), I wrote two poems to try to capture a few of my thoughts.

Someone Left the Window Open

Someone left the window open and they are slipping through,
One by one – and two by two.
Drum majors of a parade,
loving grandparents marched on
leaving us behind
to find a way to make our lives rewind.

Uncle Don, who drove me everywhere
looking for little pink pigs –
like ones in my storybook;

Betty Davis, a dear childhood friend,
named for a movie star,
who survived polio to be felled
by its re-awakening in later years;

Uncle William who lived a formal life
as a Presbyterian pastor,
till he retired in Asheville
and put away his suits for denims and blue grass;

Aunt Erm, Dietition for Cumberland College,
who oved the game Sorry and
made memories with her fruitcakes and jam cakes;

Aunt Verna, who loved books and learning,
and cared for her community in New Bern
as county public health physician;

Aunt Maggie, who liked brandy alexanders’s,
managed her own business in Charleston and
parachuted from a plane in her 80’s;

Aunt Shirley, who enjoyed taking care of her home
and sang country songs
while she washed the dishes;

Aunt Fanella, twin sister of my father,
who kept the family connected
and her faith strong;

Dottie, my 6 foot tall college roommate,
who had a big heart, a hearty laugh,
and was a wonderful nurse;

Sweet Alice, my university officemate,
loyal to her friends,
who found love in late life;

Mother-in-law Nora, loving mother and grandmother,
and beloved teacher
who taught first grade for 52 years.

Brother-in-law Don,
who went at life in a run,
and took good care of my sister;

Dad, a talented man
who loved big band music, dancing-
and all competitive games;

Mom, who loved her family
and her home in Madison –
lived to 91 – still interested
in politics and new experiences.

Someone left the window open,
and we keep slipping through.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

The Family Storyteller

Our family storyteller knows.
Stories – old and true:
hardships overcome,
milestones reached,
loves that endured,
passions unrequited,
adventures undertaken,
family secrets held,
laugh-out-loud episodes,
family builders, dreamers
and schemers known,
lessons learned,
worth of our land revealed,
challenges met,
history witnessed,
heritage passed on.
We thought
there was time.
To listen.
Too late.
Our legacy lost.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

AS WE GATHER FOR THE COMING HOLIDAYS, may we have the foresight to engage our own FAMILY STORYTELLERS to enlighten our lives.

Come Walk With Me in November

COME WITH ME on a two mile walk on the Greenway – and on a short cut back home.

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Entrance to Greenway
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WE GREET SEVERAL WALKERS, although it’s early for the late afternoon walkers. Everyone we pass waves and smiles, and some stop to chat briefly – such is the way in the South. We meet so many interesting folks this way.

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THE LEAVES RUSTLE like twisting saran wrap and we leave the path to walk among them. My husband says it reminds him of childhood memories of Rice Krispies – snap, crackle, pop.

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WE PASS SEVERAL PEOPLE on bicycles. We decide to bring our bicycles next time for a real workout.

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WE EXIT THE GREENWAY to our shortcut street back home (This leg of the greenway continues on for 15 miles.)

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WE MEET A COLLEGE STUDENT walking her new puppy. The dog’s name is Tansy and is a rescue dog from one of the Native American reservations out West. I remember reading about the great need to adopt dogs since the economy has been struggling. Many families in America and Europe have been forced to give up their pet animals (dogs, and even horses) because they could no longer afford to feed them.

WE NOTE THAT THE COLOR OF THE DOG’S FUR appears to match exactly the beautiful red hair of his mistress. We comment about it and she laughs – “I know,” she says. (Sorry, she didn’t want her picture taken.)

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AS WE APPROACH THESE TREES, they remind me of candles lit from within and burning bright – or multi-color pom poms at a football game. I don’t know what kind of trees they are, but I call them candle trees when we see them on our walk.

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A LONELY SCARECROW left over from Halloween keeps vigil over his family’s house.

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Almost back home.
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HOME AGAIN, I work on menus for Thanksgiving – as I enjoy a slice of pumpkin bread and hot tea.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

WHAT COULD BE A BETTER TIME-OUT THAN A WALK? DO YOU AGREE?

Remember Veterans Day All Year!

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the unveiling of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Park in Mint Hill, NC- was an impressive occasion. Honest emotion was freely shown on the faces of the Korean vets in attendance as some of their stories were shared, and gratitude expressed by the General Consul of South Korea. The memorial honors all North Carolina veterans of the war called the forgotten war.
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FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!
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WE SALUTE ALL OF OUR VETERANS on this special day set aside to recognize their service to our country.
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THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE to protect our freedoms to choose and to live our lives.
My prayer is that we will remember our veterans all during the year and their needs for support as they return to civilian life.
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No longer forgotten. We also will never forget the service and sacrifice of those we lost in wars past.
WILL IT NEVER END?
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Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Christmas Morning Bread

BAKING THIS SWEET BREAD with Fruit and nuts for Christmas morning breakfast has been a holiday tradition in our family for several years. I make several batches weeks ahead and freeze – pulling from the freezer on Christmas Eve to thaw, and re-heating for a few minutes in the oven. NaBloPoMo Day 11.

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I BAKE THE LOAVES IN MINI LOAF PANS, as that gives flexibility to pull out just the amount I need from the freezer. Christmas Morning Bread is delicious served with a dish of fresh fruit in a beautiful glass bowl, yogurt, juice and coffee. This is a satisfying and quick early morning repast until after Christmas gifts are opened. Then it’s time to prepare a BIG Christmas brunch.

THE CHRISTMAS MORNING BREAD is also a delicious way to share one of our family traditions with neighbors and friends. I wrap the loaf in saran wrap with a colorful bow, and deliver it a day or two before Christmas in a small basket or tin. I attach a note wishing them Happy Holidays, mentioning that we serve this sweet bread on Christmas morning.

ALSO – I HAVE USED THIS RECIPE TO MAKE CUPCAKES and frost with a cream cheese icing to create small gifts to give during the holidays. For example, a hot cupcake and a cup of cocoa to the mailman on a cold December day when he arrives with our mail in his mail truck. I have been asked for this recipe many times. So, here it is – one of our family traditions for you to experiment with and improve with your own ideas.

Christmas Morning Bread

2 boxes nut bread or cranberry quick bread mix (I use Pillsbury)
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup water
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped in small pieces
zest of 1/2 of an orange
orange peel from 1 orange (cut in long narrow strips – cut away the white part)
3/4 cup mixture of any 3 of these fruits: fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, drained crushed pineapple, drained and chopped mandarin oranges, blackberries. Select for a variety in color and taste.
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or cardamom

Coat fruit and nuts with small amount of dry nut bread mix, so they will not tend to float to the top in baking. Combine gently but well, using large spoon the bread mixes, beaten eggs, yogurt, water, orange juice and spice. Fold in fruit, nuts and zest. Don’t beat.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes in loaf pans. Reduce time if made as mini loaf pans or cupcakes. Test for done with tester.

While breads are baking, simmer orange peel strips in saucepan with 1 round Tablespoon sugar till orange est is transparent and tender. Cool on wax paper.

Mix powdered sugar, orange juice and butter. When fruit breads are partially cool, drizzle icing on loaves, sprinkle with chopped pecans. When serving, arrange candied orange peel on top to decorate.

WHAT IS YOUR FOOD TRADITION on Christmas morning?
Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Oatmeal Cookies with Cognac Infused Cranraisins

NaBloPoMo Day 9. TODAY, THE UPS DELIVERED A BIG BOX of pecans, fresh from the pecan orchard harvest in Georgia (sunnylandfarms.com). I buy pecans (and walnuts) in bulk, when they are harvested in October and early November, and at their peak of freshness. The nuts keep their freshness best in the refrigerator or freezer. The small bags of nuts in the grocery grow stale in their little bags – and there is no comparison to the taste of those nuts and freshly harvested nuts. I freeze the pecans in small bags, so I can remove just the amount I need.
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THE PECANS ARE HERE, so I decide to put on my baking apron. I typically plan several baking days in November to make cookies, muffins, fruit pies and cake layers (to be assembled later), to add to the freezer – so I have a lot of different sweet treats for the holidays – ready to go.

MY THOUGHTS DRIFT TO my Aunt Shirley and her oatmeal cookies. Aunt Shirley was married to my mother’s brother Steve. When I think of her during the years I was growing up, I think about her in the kitchen with a smile and a song. When she came to visit, it wouldn’t be long before she was in our kitchen cooking up something. She loved her home and her kitchen – and was the only person I ever knew who truly enjoyed washing dishes. “I just love to see them shine and my kitchen put back in order”, she would say. She would wash dishes and sing along with the radio. She also was the only person I knew who loved country music- (we had big band and popular music on at our house most of the time).

I HAVE VARIED the oatmeal cookie recipe many times, such as adding peanut butter or butterscotch chips. I like to make them, as it goes so fast, dropping them from a spoon to the baking pan – no rolling or cutting. I decided to create something different today. I view cooking as a creative process and more enjoyable if I have fun with it.

I PULL OUT THE OLD RECIPE for oatmeal cookies that my dear Aunt Shirley made so many times. This recipe comes from her cookbook, The Modern Family Cookbook by Meta Given, J.Perguwson and Associates, 1942. Her cookbook easily falls open to page 412 with the oatmeal cookie recipe. I decide to punch up the recipe with a little cognac, brown sugar and cranraisons.

Oatmeal Drop Cookies with Cognac Infused Cranraisins

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cups rolled oats
3 Tablespoons milk
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup cranraisons
Cognac to cover cranraisins

PLACE CRANRAISONS in a glass cup, add cognac to cover, microwave for 1 minute – then set aside. Cranraisins will be plump and juicy with cognac flavor.

SIFT FLOUR, measure and sift again with salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Cream butter with sugar. Add slightly beaten egg. Mix well until smooth and light. Add oats. Add milk and flour gradually, stirring after each addition. Add nuts and now plump cognac cranraisins and mix well.

DROP COOKIE DOUGH from a teaspoon onto a buttered baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just starting to brown.
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THANK YOU AUNT SHIRLEY for your cookies, the memories and your love for the children of our family.
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WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE COOKIE MEMORIES?

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Godiva Chocolate Liqueur Pumpkin Bread

CIMG0756I LOVE CHOCOLATE! I really do love chocolate!

ONE CHRISTMAS several years ago, my Mother altered her annual pumpkin bread recipe by adding chocolate chips. I loved it!..

LAST YEAR, as I was preparing to make pumpkin bread for the holidays, I remembered her chocolate chips recipe. I decided to amp it up a few notches more by adding cocoa and Godiva Chocolate Liqueur. I am making it again this year, as it was a big hit – (although I likely gained some weight eating too many pieces).

MY BROTHER MILT frequently brings Godiva chocolates when he arrives for Christmas. It is well known in the Marquis family that chocolate is a favorite of so many of us. I developed this recipe using Godiva Chocolate Liquor for extra flavor for all the chocolate lovers – and of course named it for Milt.

YOU CAN ADAPT A FAVORITE PUMPKIN BREAD RECIPE or use a box mix, jazzing it up with various rich and spicy and chocolate flavors for the holidays – I added pumpkin puree and an additional egg as well. In this recipe, I used World Classics Pumpkin Spice Muffin and Bread Mix I purchased from Trader Joe’s. My recipe can be doubled and it freezes well. I typically make it in mini loaf pans and freeze them, so I can pull one or more out as I wish based on the number of guests present.

THIS IS GREAT IN THE MORNING WITH COFFEE or in the evening after dinner.

Milt’s Pumpkin Bread with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur/strong>

1 box pumpkin bread mix (I used World Classics Pumpkin Spice Muffin and Bread Mix.
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/8 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (can use dark)
3/4 cup pecans, chopped in small pieces
1/4 cup pecans, ground to tiny pieces

Glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon Hershey Cocoa
1 Tablespoon butter, softened
1 tsp Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

PREHEAT OVEN to 350 degree. Beat eggs well and add pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, Godiva Liqueur and water.

MIX WELL BUT DO NOT BEAT. Fold in chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Pour into a regular sized loaf pan or three mini loaf pans. Bake for 55-60 minutes or 30-40 minutes for mini pans. Check with cake tester and remove when done. Do not overbake so bread is moist.

WHILE LOAF IS COOLING, mix powdered sugar, cocoa, butter, Godiva liquor and vanilla for glaze. Blend and spread on warm loaves. Sprinkle ground pecans on top whil glaze is still soft and press down gently to settle nuts in glaze. Sprinkle on a few chopped nuts.

TO SERVE, sprinkle cocoa around the outside edges of a pretty plate and place a slice of the pumpkin bread in the middle. Serve with a dish of cold peaches with vanilla whipped cream and coffee (or a small nip of Godiva Chocolate Liquor for the real chocoholics).

Hope this works out for you if you try it.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Fall in the City of Trees, Crockpot Roast, Limoncello Cupcakes and a Dog Named Casey

I am continuing daily blogs in November toward the goal of sharing some of the recipes and traditions in our family for 100 years during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I welcome your sharing of traditions and comments about the blog topic.  

Today was a semi-cloudy election day in Charlotte, NC.  We will have a new mayor tomorrow.  The trees are  nearing peak here.  So spectacular that we saw Fall colors come alive in the mountains and then come home to the city and see Fall come again…. Awesome!

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THIS SCENE IS NEAR MY HOME in Charlotte, North Carolina, and on the path of our two mile walk we travel several times a week. Most of our walking is on the greenway, but we take this shortcut through a nearby street to our house.  My parents lived in an apartment near here when they sold their Indiana home and moved to be closer to family.  Each time I walk it, in my mind’s eye I see Dad, walking his dog Casey down this street. I put my thoughts about them into a poem.

CASEY
You came into his life when his need for you was great –
at mandatory retirement age, he couldn’t envision
life without work at the electric power plant.
You arrived in a box just after his 70th birthday,
a tail-wagging, face-licking snauser –
and he named you Casey.

Your demands were few – Alpo, TLC and exercise,
he gave you plenty of each and
you gave him reason to look forward to the day.
Your daily walks kept him in shape.
You slept on his shoes while he played solitaire,
then wrestled on the floor, followed by
an afternoon nap with you tucked under his arm.
When bath time rolled around
you hit the showers together.
You stood patiently in the shower stall
after your bath, waiting for him to shower.

He loved music, and you learned to sing with him
pointing your nose in the air and howling along
as he sang your favorite song, “Home on the Range”.
You rode in the Lincoln on his daily errands
even sleeping in the car while he attended
Presbyterian church with Ina.
He slipped food to you under the table, although
as a young father his children were forbidden
from feeding pets at the dinner table.

Your master entered his 8th decade of life –
you grew old in dog years and slept
at his feet for the last time –
while his memories dimmed with dementia.
He missed the faithful companion
who had enriched his life –
– as long as he could remember you.

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This is one corner of our back yard, as seen from the back of our house.  Charlotte is known as the city of trees and we have our share t enjoy.

It is now November and I am engaged in planning our calendar for the coming holidays.   I am also getting out some of the decorations for Thanksgiving month.  I will show those tomorrow.  Another busy day.  We had crock pot roast, cooked slowly with onions, potatoes, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, mushrooms and some white wine I had on hand.   I make some lemon cupcakes with limoncello icing for dessert.   This time I just used a box cake, and added lemon juice and yogurt to the mix of other ingredients for the cupcakes – and the touches of icing is just limoncello, confectioners sugar and some powdered lemonade mix (crystal lite) for tartness.

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MY HOLIDAY PLANNING IS UNDERWAY. HOW IS YOURS COMING?
Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

The Holidays are Coming and It’s TIme to Get Organized

I’M IN! I have signed on to the challenge of NaBloPoMo month to write a post each day in November. I am starting a cookbook project this month, tentatively titled: 100 Years of Christmas Recipes and Traditions in the Marquis Family. I have recipes for five generations in my family, and will be sharing some in posts, along with the stories and traditions that have been passed down. I will, of course, be including some of my thoughts and ideas as well. These posts will necessarily be first drafts of course, to be edited later. As a new blogger, I appreciate your encouragement and comments in my journey and welcome your joining the conversation as the holidays approach, to share your traditions on the daily topics. I expect to learn much about my family, blogging and writing (and hopefully some of your traditions as well) during this engaging November exercise in creativity.

IN MY FAMILY, we don’t think about Christmas as just one day. We begin to plan for the winter holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas no later than November 1st – so our planning covers activities for the period from November 1st – January 1st. There is a lot of excitement in the air- and early November is the time to get organized! I don’t want to ever be so rigidly organized that I can’t live a spontaneous life. And there are days when I set aside all plans to participate in something unexpected or maybe just have a do-nothing day because that is what I want to do. The holidays with all the expectations and hoopla can be very stressful, leaving us to feel pushed and pulled in all directions.

BUT, HAVING SOME DEGREE OF ORGANIZATION, assures me that I will finish the goals I set out for myself. Pre-planning also lets me decide what I choose to do, and eliminate what I do not want to do – ahead of time.

THERE ARE TWO GUIDING PRINCIPLES that have served me well over the years as a busy working mom and professional woman.

1. I read a quote somewhere that I keep posted over my desk.(It used to reside on my refrigerator.) “I can accomplish more in one day than most people can in one week, because I am organized.” I have seen some of the lists my grandmother Marquis made. She was a mother of six and bookeeper for the family business. My mother made to-do lists – and my sister does too. Technology has greatly aided our ability to plan. I use apps to make lists and to keep a calendar. I do use a paper calendar for Christmas pre-planning.

2. Many years ago, when I had accepted my first administrative position, I read in one of the organizational guru’s books that successful executives had one thing in common: they decided at the end of a working day what they would tackle the next day of work. When they cam to work the next day, no time was lost in deciding what to do – she just started at the top of the list for the day. I have continued this practice for many years and look forward to quiet time at the end of the day to decide what I will do the next day.

SO, LET’S BEGIN our organizing for the Christmas season. In a very busy holiday season, things run so much more smoothly with investing time in pre-planning. Then we can enjoy the festivities with much less stress. The first thing to do is to organize my calendar.

CALENDAR:
I USE A LARGE CALENDAR, with space for writing notes in each cell, and enter the following information:

1.- SOCIAL EVENTS we will be attending (e.g., Nutcracker, Christmas symphony concert, plays) and social invitations we accept from family and friends, as they come in.

2.- ENTERTAINING we want to plan for at home during the holidays (e.g., tree trimming party, dinners, receptions)

3.- THE DATES SPECIFIC GUESTS will be visiting overnight (with names and number).

GIFT LIST
I USE AN APP ON MY iPHONE to make a list of each person that I will be buying a gift for this season. The phone is always with me, so I can add ideas as they occur to me, or check my list if I am out shopping, and I see the perfect gift. When I purchase it, I add the amount paid, so I can see what is complete and what is left to buy.

MENUS FOR SPECIAL DAYS
1.- I PLAN THE MENUS for each entertaining event, as well as for the days guests will be staying in our home during November and December. Thanksgiving and Christmas eves and days, I plan menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening snacks – as well as the days we will have overnight guests. The menus are typed for each date. If I am preparing a special recipe, I add the cookbook and page number for easy reference. Having the menus posted in the kitchen lets guest know when meals will be on the table so they can plan their day, and you can easily assign willing guests to assist in preparing selected foods.

2.- I MAKE WEEKLY SHOPPING LISTS from the menus. It takes a couple of hours to plan all the menus and weekly shopping lists, but investing time early is SOOOO worth it. I no longer have to struggle about what to cook or what to buy at the grocery. The planning is done.

BAKING
I PLAN SEVERAL BAKING DAYS to prepare foods I can make ahead and store in freezer for the holidays (e.g., variety of cookies, holiday breads like pumpkin breads, Christmas eve bread, basics for pumpkin soup A and other entrees that can be made ahead and frozen). If unexpected guests arrive, I always have something to pull out on short notice. I love baking days! I put on some Christmas music and cook and bake and sing to my heart’s content. This is a special time to be creative – maybe prepare some new and unusual foods, as well as old-time favorites the family will be looking forward to savoring once again.

WHEN THIS PRE-PLANNING IS COMPLETE, I am ready to enjoy the remainder of the holidays. The many free spaces on the calendar give me multiple choices for when I want to shop, put up the tree, decorate the house, write the Christmas cards, visit the frail family members, go caroling and so on. Based on the plans already on the calendar, it is easy to look over and decide when there is time, and desire, to add something that comes along that looks like fun. Trust me on this. Hanging in there to complete pre-planning is really worth it! Now we can enjoy the holidays.

DO YOU HAVE OTHER SUGGESIONS FOR PRE-PLANNING?

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

100 Years of Marquis’ Family Christmas Traditions and Recipes

OK, I’M IN!  November is National Blog Posting Month, requiring a post for each day in November.  NaBloPoMo will be a challenge, but I have signed on to the task.  I have just started blogging: womenlivinglifeafter 50.com. 

I HAVE BEEN THINKING about a project that I will dust off and begin in earnest this November  – posting every day with some narrative or photo related to the book. I have collected stories and recipes for a couple of years in anticipation of writing this book.   I now have recipes for the Christmas holidays for five (5) generations of my family.  I thought it might be of interest not only to the extended Marquis family, but perhaps others to write them down, along with the stories and traditions that have been passed down in the Marquis family.

I’LL COMMIT TO beginning this project by writing each day in November a post that could be incorporated into the final book.  It might be a family story, or tradition that was passed down through the family, or a favorite recipe – or even my own experience related to specific holiday events.   The subtitle of my blog is “Learning something new every day.”  No doubt, I will learn a great deal in the process of writing this history. 

I HOPE YOU WILL be interested enough to stay tuned in November, sharing your encouragement and your comments about the posts.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

 

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