Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner, Weekend, and Kicking Off Christmas!

I started my Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday night. I was trying out a new pie crust recipe for the pumpkin pie, so I wanted to make sure I made it early enough in case it didn't work out. It did! Even the dough tasted yummy! (Shhh.... no, I was *not* eating pie crust dough!)

Thursday (aka T-day), I'd like to say I woke up early and made a big breakfast and was cooking away from the crack of dawn. But then my entire family would laugh their butts off and call me a liar! So the truth is, I slept in until about 10:00.... *then* woke up and began my cooking for the day :) I made the pumpkin pie first because my oh-so-strange husband likes his pumpkin pie cold. As in, has been refrigerated for a few hours before he eats it. Anything to make him happy! I only made one pie this year because last year I made two and no one ate the second one. At all. Not even for leftovers. I did, however, buy (*gasp*) a Sara Lee apple pie.... "just in case".

I prepped for my stuffing early in the day as well. This is a granddaddy of stuffings, I must say. Although no, there's no sausage in it. Next year I'll add that. I used 5 kinds of breads, though: pumpernickel, white, wheat, bagel, and rye. I bought them all on the discount bakery rack. In the past I've bought them several weeks out and frozen them. I dice all the bread in to 1 in. x 1 in. bite size pieces. The recipe says to "tear" the breads, but I like how diced bread looks better. I have tons of bread leftover to make another stuffing, and bread crumbs. The recipe is from the Taste of Home- October/November 2009 issue (by far one of my most favorite issues), and was submitted by April Greenwood. So first the recipe from the magazine, and then I'll write what I changed or substituted.

~Scarborough Fair Stuffing~
10 cups (torn or diced) assorted breads. - such as what I mentioned above
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh sage
2 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
2 tbsp. minced fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 can (14.5 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions: In a large (**my note: very large!) bowl, combine the breads, herbs, salt and pepper. Combine the eggs, broth, and butter; add to bread mixture and stir until moistened. Transfer to a greased 13"x 9" baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350* F for 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160*.

My changes: I did not have any fresh herbs. I used all dried herbs and didn't measure them, just eyeballed it. When using dry herbs versus fresh, you don't use the same amount as in the recipe. You have to convert the measurement. I also didn't use rosemary because I don't like it. I mixed it all *in* the baking pan instead of a bowl. My large bowl was being used for something else, and 10 cups of bread is a lot!

My turkey, for those who are wondering, is cooked in this. Yes, really. I even found an ad for a 1951 Westinghouse Roaster. The one I have was my Granny's. She always used it to roast turkeys, hams, etc. And so do we! It still works great.

The food was delish, the family all loved it, and I even got sweet Husband to clean up after me. As per tradition, we rounded off our T-Day evening with a family viewing of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Yes. Really.

Husband and I woke up at 1:45 am to get ready for some Black Friday shopping. He wanted to get to Wal-Mart by midnight to check out the cheap-o movies, but I wanted a little sleep. We got to Wal-Mart around 3:00 am, but the movies were mostly picked over. Shucks! That's really what I went out so early for. We *could* have waited for 5:00 am at Wal-Mart to see what movies they were bringing out, but had other stores to hit. The only one we really wanted that we didn't get was How to Train Your Dragon for $9. We finally got home around 10:00. We'd hit up about 7 stores and ventured in to the mall. We didn't see any big fights or fun stuff that makes going out on Black Friday worth it! Got some really good deals on things we'd either been needing for awhile, or wanted to get the kids for Christmas anyway. I don't mind shopping in the crowds. It doesn't bother me a whole lot. And when I got home I took a long nap!

The rest of the weekend has flown by far too quickly. Being the only weekend I've had off (with father-in-law's funeral being an exception as it wasn't a "fun" weekend) since I started working full weekends in the beginning of September. Not getting that down time with the kids and my husband every weekend has made me appreciate this time with them even more.

We were fairly productive in getting most of our Christmas decorations up, too. Both inside and out. We got a lot of cleaning done, played games together, made decorations, decorated cut-out cookies, went to a Christmas parade, and the boys had hockey practice. I got to sleep in three out of the five days! Now that, in itself, is huge!

Oh, and did I mention the snow?! Ya, it snowed. A LOT! Though it could be worse, I realize. This picture was just the beginning...

Monday, November 22, 2010

A year of thanks

This year I have a lot to be thankful for. Some down times, too, but those don't slow me down. They help me grow. A few times along the way I complained instead of being thankful. I didn't thank God for His blessings, I questioned Him. He sees my heart, though. He knows I will come around and see the blessing eventually.

My year of thankfulness:

JANUARY: Finally got our official orders out of Fort Polk and headed to Fort Drum.

FEBRUARY: Left an empty house behind us. The longest we've ever dwelled in one residence since Husband and I were married. Thankful for the memories we had there.
Saying Hello to New York and thankful for the new adventure.
But one of the greatest parts of this month was meeting my sweet Melissa (and children) for the first time. I've "known" her since about 2006-ish. If not before. We chat online and text almost every single day. Meeting her in real life on our drive from Louisiana to New York, even for just a few hours, was one of the best parts of my year. Thank you, Lord, for that opportunity.
Also, getting an accepted offer on the amazing house we live in was a huge high point for this month.

MARCH: Spending a month in a vacation house where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario. My soul is always so complete when I'm near water. (Probably having something to do with being an Aquarius!) Watching the thick winter ice slowly melt, seeing gorgeous sunsets every night, living carefree from all of our "stuff" since everything we owned was in storage.
The very last week of this month we stepped in to the second house we will own, and began making it ours.

APRIL: Started working at the YMCA in our town. Was originally hired to be a gymnastics coach "helper", and ended up taking over the program!

MAY: I always love May. Two of my favorite boys have birthdays in May (Drew and Husband), and the month between spring and summer makes my heart happy. God is visible in so many ways with new life all around us!

JUNE: I'm so grateful my parents were able to take a trip out to see our new house and new town and new state! We really had a lot of adventures in the week they were here. Also thankful they were in a position to take Louisa back with them for a few weeks. I fondly remember all the time I spent with my grandparents over summer and winter and spring breaks.

JULY: Getting the entire Brott family together, minus one, was a huge blessing! All the cousins playing and having fun for one weekend was a beautiful sight. Thank you, Lord, for bringing us together for one last big family weekend with Dave.

AUGUST: Blessed with the courage, strength, and ability to go back to school! And not just school, but the Culinary Arts program! Thanking the Lord for the chance to use Husband's GI Bill, and for a husband who wants to see me succeed!
Loving my big boy 5-year-old and so proud of all the things he can do now that he's so big!

SEPTEMBER: So grateful all three children got a very good start to school this year. All three have great teachers, are doing extremely well, and are happy. Couldn't ask for more.
A 13-year-old who is well behaved, knows who she is and doesn't let people change her, and is a wonderful big sister. Thank you, Lord, for my sunshine!

OCTOBER: Thankful for the amazing show of colors God gave me. Fall in Nothern New York did not disappoint. My drive to school and work every day made me slow down and just pray, think, and be grateful.

NOVEMBER: Dear Lord, thank you for all the time I've had to spend with my father-in-law. Thank you for letting me help out where and when I was needed. Also, thank you for the chance to see my own dad on his birthday.
Grateful that Husband has the chance to hunt again. He's missed it on the years he couldn't go with his dad.

DECEMBER: (I know it's not here yet, but I have a huge thanks when it gets here.)
Beyond thankful for my story that's being published. I talk about it a lot, but it's my dream come true. Also thankful for the gift of humility that God has given me.

All year long I'm thankful for the people God puts in my life. Everyone has a purpose, a reason for being around me. Everyone helps me grow, makes me think, prays for me when my faith is low, holds me up when I'm feeling down, and gives me high fives when I'm feeling well.
As always, thankful for the chance to be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a friend.... and the Daughter of God.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

~Dave Brott~ Nov. 19, 1948- Nov. 5, 2010

On Thursday, November 4, we got a call from Husband's mother letting us know that Husband's dad, who had cancer, wasn't doing well. He didn't wake up for more than about 5 minutes at a time, and she seemed worried. Husband spent the night debating on whether or not he should switch his airplane ticket headed for Wisconsin on the 19th (for one final hunting trip with his dad), and leave that weekend. No need. Friday morning at 7:30 am, my mother-in-law called back. Father, Dave, had indeed breathed his last breath. Now we needed to cancel the plane ticket, pack up the family, and drive out to Wisconsin.

I wasn't sure what to do with the kids, but decided not to tell them and send them to school for a partial day so that we could pack, and process the news, in peace. I wrote notes to Drew and Hunter's teachers letting them know what happened, and asked them not to say anything to the boys yet. Louisa had already left for school when we got the call.

We picked everyone up from school halfway through the day. Louisa guessed as soon as she saw us in the office. I felt bad for Drew and Hunter because they thought we were going on a fun adventure when they saw the truck all packed up. An adventure, yes. Fun, no. Drew cried a lot when we told him, Hunter didn't quite understand.

A grueling 20 hour drive straight through got us to Husband's mom's house in the north woods of Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon. His sister was already there, along with some of the best family friends you could ask for. Now for the hard part, funeral planning. It was a long week of meeting with the funeral director, pastor, florist, etc. Buying food for incoming company was on the list as well. My mother-in-law spent every spare minute on the phone trying to contact people, inform people, and cry with people.

Backtracking for a moment to how Dave died, I'll say that it came much sooner than anyone expected. We knew he had cancer. We knew he probably wouldn't be cured. But what we didn't know was how far it was progressed and how fast he would go.

Going forward to the funeral itself, it was a long two days. The wake was on Thursday, November 11 at the funeral home. Everything was nice, as nice as a wake can be. I had put together six picture boards, so it was good to see everyone enjoying those. Friday the 12th Dave was finally laid to rest. He was buried with military honors for serving the United States in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam era, including one tour of duty. I do have to take a moment to say that I have never been prouder of my husband than the moment I saw him stand and salute the flag draped over his father's coffin. To have the honor, and privilege, to salute the flag of a man you look up to as much as Husband looks up to his dad, priceless. Heartbreaking. I cried tears of sadness, and tears of pride. All the deployments, homecomings, ribbons, military honors, nothing meant so much to me as that moment.
I've seen a lot of death, I've been to a lot of funerals. I've grieved and cried, but more importantly I've grown and learned. Each time I take away a bit of wisdom. The sad and tragic deaths where we just don't understand why, and the deaths you see coming or expect, they all teach us something. Do we take that knowledge and grow, or do we stop living and stop seeing what's around us? That's the test. As a Christian, I *know* I will be reunited with my loved ones again. As a strong person who's seen a lot of death, I know I'll make it through each and every time. In tact, whole, and that much wiser. Sure, I give a piece of my heart every time, but that doesn't mean there isn't enough of my heart left for everything else that's still ahead of me. It just means that a piece of me lives with my loved one, until some day I see them and can reclaim it again in my Father's Kingdom. Death is not the end. I firmly believe that. It's a beginning, and one that many of us work hard for.

All week long I felt God working in me. Giving me strength, grace, and compassion when I needed it the most. I have yet to fully grieve for my lost father-in-law, of whom I have always felt a close connection. But until I'm ready, I hang on to the signs that God gave me. During the week we spent preparing the funeral, God was with us, showing us His love in signs like a beautiful bald eagle perched fearlessly atop a tree above our heads, sunny 60 degree weather where the kids could run outside and enjoy the Brott family land, and a beautiful scene like this one as we left Northern Wisconsin to head back home. (Yes, the beautiful weather gave way to snow just in time for us to leave!)

My father-in-law was a good, loving, hard working man. He raised my husband to be a good, loving, hard working man. For that I am forever grateful. My husband is so very much like his dad, and for that I am proud. I am raising two amazing boys who will carry on the Brott name. For that I'm honored. Dave is now resting in heaven with his daughter Tabitha, his mother, and the father that died so young Dave barely got to know him. For that I praise the Lord! Thank you, Lord, for giving us Dave. The smiles, the jokes, and the wisdom will stay with us forever.