Summertime Picnic Sack Lunch

Ah, summer!  We have all been patiently waiting for spring to show up, much less summer.  But I thought it would be good to bring some summer thoughts into our head.  One of the good things about living in my childhood town Friesland was its smallness( population 300, think Leota but a tad bigger).  I could bike all over town and pretty much be only be about 5 minutes from my house.

Round, Round Get Around, I get Around

I liked how safe I felt biking around, walking around, or just hanging uptown by the Band Concert Wagon (I will explain this in a post this summer).  Friendly folks who watched out for you and then the folks who tattled on you when you did wrong or THOUGHT you were doing wrong.  But, that’s how small towns go, and for good or bad it was all part of the experience.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer was to pack a sack lunch, grab a friend and go biking around town to find a spot to picnic. In order for one to really call it a picnic you needed your sack to have a can of pop (pop is translated to soda in Minnesotan), I liked RC Cola at the time, so my lunch would contain one can RC.  Then( and this was the SUPER important part) I would have to have a good dessert.

But first, dessert

Photo Credit: EME

Most mothers frown on dessert being the most important part of lunch.  But desserts have secret powers, and every kid knows it.  It gave you status and the power to negotiate for something even better in someone else’s lunch.  It’s just like Donald Trump’s book “Art of the Deal”.  Sometimes you have to walk away to get what you really want. You know, play hard to get and then go in for the kill!

My favorite dessert was Hostess Ding Dongs.  I can still feel the thin foil that each chocolate puck of goodness gently wrapped around.   Slowly peeling the foil off was also part of the fun.  I loved to reveal the chocolate cover over the chocolate cake with the delicious white creme middle. YUM!  To others, it may have been a foil hockey puck, but to me, it was Hostess heaven!  Personally, my parents should have bought stock in Hostess, but that ship has sailed.

Of course, one’s lunch must contain a sandwich.  This could be a p.b.j., a bologna sandwich, good ole ham, and cheese, but NEVER, NEVER cold roast beef.  Refer to my article on  Cold Roast Beef Sandwich.

X marks the spot

We were not terribly fussy about where to picnic.  In fact, we would (not too often but occasionally) indiscriminately claim someones front porch as our picnic spot, and without permission just sit on their front porch and talk and eat.  Some major hangouts were the Friesland Elementary playground (the giant merry-go-round was fun, spin and eat your lunch), someone’s backyard in a makeshift tent,  down at the railroad tracks by the boys’ fort, the Katsma boys big tree house, or on the Band Concert Wagon.                                                                            Photo Credit: Clkr-Vector-Free-Images

I am sure we surprised a person or two with a group of young girls sitting on their front porch.  Can’t remember anyone ever saying “no”, but we sort of saw ourselves as having an eminent domain- there wasn’t much you could do to stop us.  Like a roaming band of raccoons, looking to eat and then leave.  We were good though and that probably saved us from being ousted.

Feltcha with a black heart

One property you never, ever stepped foot on was Feltcha’s.   Feltcha was an old Dutch lady who lived along and she was mean.  Feltcha had to have had some extrasensory detection for busy body kids roaming the town.  She carried a broom every time she stepped out of her house and she meant business.  “Feltcha with a black heart”.  That’s literally how she was known in town, and the adults knew her as that also.  Feltcha and her encounters with us will require an article or two, so stay tuned.  She was what little children saw in their nightmares.

The best part after finding a spot to picnic was settling in to eat and checking out what everyone brought in their lunch. After a thorough inspection of each attendee, lunch negotiations began and participants did their best negotiating.   Once you were finished with your “deal”, then chatter would start about what happened at our houses and Friesland “goings-on”.  Things like: how much money you had to go to Band Concert, who had the fastest bike,  who’s mom was mad at them, who was going to the swimming pool in Randolph and so on, were all hot topics of discussion. It’s too bad we don’t have more kids biking around making random stops on peoples front porches to picnic.  The late ’70s- it was just a different time, different attitudes and a different culture.

Heading home

Photo Credit: Open Clipart Vectors

As with most things in life, all good things come to an end.  If your mom said you could go picnic then you could about bet there were chores to be done and that required you to come home.  I guess that was the trade-off- you got to picnic but now you can work.  I also think it was a check-in of sorts to make sure you were alive, especially if you went down to the tracks.  The train generally came through between 11:30 am and 12 noon, so if you had said you’d be at the tracks your mom was on alert.

Hope my mom isn’t reading this but…  I remember my brother and the Katsma boys hitching a ride to the bridge on the Caboose of the train.  That’s another story for a different time.  Whatever the case, it was fun.  Fun to be free and safe to bike, hang out and eat and just be a kid.  No TV, cell phones or video games- just plain old kid fun… and I really miss it.

Maybe we all need to make better use of our local park and picnic. Spend more time looking into faces instead of screens.  Talking to each other instead of texting.  Who cares if you don’t have a “picnic” looking lunch?  Just grab a bunch of stuff and go. Sometimes spur of the moment is just what the doctor ordered.

Michele

P.S. Always be Ready For a Picnic

The best way to start going on spur of the moment picnics is to have a picnic basket stocked and ready to go. Check out these through our affiliate links. We’ll receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. Our profits help keep this site going. Thanks



yummy fruits

How to Store Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

STORAGE WARS

I don’t know about you, but my biggest challenge as the cook is to keep my produce from spoiling.  Produce isn’t cheap and like all thrifty Dutch housewives, we like to get good use out of what we buy.  Too many times in frustration, I have had to throw out fruits or vegetables.  It has become an all-out-battle and I have dubbed it “Storage Wars“.

It’s interesting to hear what other people have tried in their preservation battles.  Let’s get down to the reason why fruits and vegetables rot.  Put on your thinking caps and brainy looking glasses, because we’re about to get some produce education. Continue reading

Hostess Honey Bun Saved The Day

My mother had had enough. She was sick of me and my brother fighting, and not getting ready for school. So without delay, she launched down the hallway to our rooms. The determined pounding of her feet let us know her last nerve had been frayed and we were on her “list”.

Photo Credit Free-Photos

A quick side note. I had a very active imagination as a child. I loved to read books late into the night. In fact, I positioned my bed right up against the door to my room. This way I could lean out of my bed and catch the nightlight from the hallway! HA! And, I could hear if anyone approached from either way. If I did hear someone, then I could stealthily slide my book under the top cover and feign sleep. The next paragraphs are dedicated to my childhood imagination, groomed by years of the late night reading.

Today there was no hiding! We did not have Mary Poppins making her way up the hall, no sir! This was a Momster (mom and monster)! A sleep-deprived infant toting toddler dragging mother, who was about to channel her inner ugly mother and my brother and I were public enemy number one.

If I Have To Tell You One More Time

Photo Credit Free-Photos

She stood between our rooms, her eyes darting back and forth between me and my brother, me and my brother. With teeth gritted, eyebrows raise she said “GET. DRESSED.” “GET. YOUR. SCHOOL BOOKS.” “PUT. ON. YOUR. COATS. AND GET. TO THE BUS!” The “get’s” had their g’s and t’s emphasized, and the s’s had serpentine tones. This exchange assertively delivered while burping my infant sister and assuring my toddler brother that his breakfast was coming.

If smoke could have rolled up from underneath mom it would have. As well as the gates of Hades open wide to receive the world’s most bickering brother-sister duo.

As quickly as she appeared, she had gone back down the hallway. Cooing to my infant sister with my little brother scurrying alongside. I glanced again to see the gate of Hades close and the smoke retreat back with it.  Phew!

I thought of asking if a breakfast invitation was included before our departure, but thought better of it.  Frantically I grabbed my clothes and put them on, tied my shoes and began fretting that I was going to miss breakfast.  I NEVER missed breakfast.  This was a first for breakfast withholding punishment.

This is the part where you leave

My brother finished dressing and met me in the hall.  I whispered that we should not worry about the ceremony of brushing teeth.  He was in total agreement, he hated brushing teeth.  So we walked together to the kitchen where mom was busy with breakfast for my younger brother.

A quick glance from her told us she was not budging.  There was no invite to the breakfast table.  With a sweep of her hand, she told us to get out and get to the bus.  We hesitated knowing it was Wednesday.  On Wednesdays, she always gave us 50 cents before leaving the house so we could buy a treat at the store on the way home after school.

Mom made no further eye contact.  So with slumped shoulders and lowered heads, we walked into the foyer and grabbed our coats.  As I reached for the doorknob and glanced at the ledge by the door I spied our money for treats.  OH JOY!  Wait… how was this possible?  She must have left us money before our rivalry ruckus.  A little light of heaven shown upon us at that moment.

We greedily grabbed our money and made our way out the door, down the street, and to the store.  Walking up to the goodie shelf we scanned them for something breakfast like, and there it was.  The Hostess Honey Bun.  A taste of Hostess baked delight.  This was a small, cinnamon type roll with a good coating of frosting immortalized on top.  We knew we struck gold.

Glancing at the clock in the store we knew we had about two minutes to skedaddle or we would miss the bus. We paid the clerk and quickly made our way out the door.  A short stop at the trash can to remove the cellophane wrapper was all that stood between us and breakfast. We bit into the Honey Bun and relished every bite.  Between bites, my brother and I discussed our luck in having our treat money waiting by the door.

Lesson learned

The ride on the bus to school went fairly well.  The delicious, but sugary Honey Bun left us thirsty.  By the time we arrived at school we both made a bee-line for the bubbler (that’s Wisconsin talk for water fountain we can discuss this regional term some other time) and drank like camels.  We parted company and headed for our classrooms.

The ride home on the bus was uneventful, perhaps more reflective than anything.   I started feeling really guilty about ruining her day with our bickering.  My mom was a busy mom.  She basically had two families.  My brother and I were born in 1971 and 1972.  Then she took a 9-year hiatus.  Second thought… I would say she had a TOTAL lapse of memory and found herself right back at square one with additions in 1979 and 1980.  After that, she made sure the production line was shut down permanently.

Hopping off the bus we made the trek back home.  My brother and I walked into the house somewhat cautiously but were greeted by our mom with a warm smile.  We even got a hug.  When she asked how our morning went I stated ( I was the reporter/informer) that because she had left us money on the ledge by the door, for an after-school treat, we simply did the reverse and treated ourselves to a Honey Bun breakfast instead.  To which she raised her eyebrows and just said “Mmm.”  I was never really sure what her “Mmm” meant.  I’d like to think the “Momster” got a guilty conscious about sending her children off with no food.  A Friesland Hansel and Gretel, if you would.  So she left us the money to ease her conscious.

Just in case all this talk of Honey Bun has you hungry, they still make them!  I have yet to find a local store who has them, but you can ask your local grocer if they are able to order them or  Amazon.com has them available also.

 

Michele

 

Water Kefir a Culture of Good, Part 2

Here we are!  Part 2 of water kefir and I can’t wait to share the rest of the fun information.  We left off with me closing out the water kefir article with a history of water kefir, as well as the benefits of drinking water kefir.  Today we will finish up with water kefir production education.   I will direct you as to where to purchase water kefir grains.  You will receive my phone number to call me day or night with burning water kefir questions- umm… NO!  Ha, that was just a little test to see if you’re on reading autopilot.  Good thing you caught that.  I knew my readers are sharp people.  But seriously, I will tell you where you can get the swing bottles and materials for brewing and storing your water kefir.  As well as tips and tricks.

water kefir

Amazon Is Your Friend

Here is a list of items you will need:

  1. Water kefir grains
  2. HIC, Nylon mesh strainer 4 inch
  3. Swing top glass bottles 16oz 
  4. 17-inch long bottle brush
  5. Organic Sugar or Brown Sugar (I have used either, good results for both)
  6. Water filtering pitcher (at Amazon) Pur or Zero water (or Walmart)
  7.  Gallon size jars, 2- I use old olive jars (I really like olives)
  8. Wooden or plastic stirring spoon (NEVER USE METAL! It will kill the kefir grains)
  9.  Paper towel and  large rubber band
  10.  4 cup glass measuring bowl
  11.  Funnel

Being computer savvy will aid you in your water kefir pursuits.  Let’s start with going to Amazon.com.  If you don’t have an account, you will need to set one up- phone a friend if this is beyond you.  Once you have set up your account you can look up water kefir grains in the Amazon search bar, but you are specifically looking for 1/4 cup Live Organic Water Kefir Grains (Tibicos) Natural probiotics by Florida Sun Kefir.

Homemade Water Kefir

Go ahead and add one to your cart.  You will receive 1/4 cup of water kefir grains, a 4×6 brewing bag (this is for flavoring your water with cut-up fresh or dried fruit), a business card from Florida Sun Kefir and a handy directions card. (NOTE: these water kefir grains are sensitive to cold, they are lovers of warmth.  Unless your regional temperature is above 25 F, I would wait to order them, especially if you have an outdoor mailbox).  Florida Sun Kefir has 4.6 stars out of 5.  They are very prompt with sending out the order and always answer my questions about water kefir.  They also will provide you with a website you can go to, to download a water kefir tutorial pdf.

Next item on your list to get is the swing top glass bottles 16oz., these are for the carbonating and storage of the water kefir.  Then you will need a 4-inch nylon mesh strainer, this aids in the straining of your kefir grains from the kefir water brew.  A 17-inch bottle brush if you do not have one.  The rest of the items, brown sugar, plastic/wood stirring spoon, brown sugar or organic, gallon size jars,  paper towel, and rubber band, should all be common items in your home.

Water Kefir 101

You just got a notification that your water kefir grains have arrived!  Your heart is pounding as you rush to the mailbox.  Grabbing the package like an NFL quarterback grabbing a football, you tuck and run making it in record time to your kitchen.  Everything is set up and ready to go in the kitchen.  Carefully you open the package and remove the little container of water kefir grains.  Aww… those little grains are so cute and they smell yeasty (that’s good!).  They look like little globs of jelly, all bouncy and looking happy.

You begin by warming 4 cups of filtered or spring water.

  • IMPORTANT: Not using spring water or filtered water will aid in draining them of important nutrients.  Adding the organic sugar or brown sugar to the warm water you stir the water with a plastic or wooden spoon to help dissolve the sugar.
  •  IMPORTANT:  The sugar MUST BE DISSOLVED completely.  If not, the whole sugar grain will actually make the kefir grains sick and eventually die. NEVER NEVER use a metal spoon to stir your water and sugar

With the sugar dissolved and water at room temperature, you pour it into the gallon size glass container.  Following that, take the water kefir grains and gently drop them into the glass jar with brown sugar water.  The grains will peacefully settle to the bottom.  Take a paper towel and place it over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. This will prevent dust and debris from falling into your water kefir brew as it ferments.  Next, place the jar in a warm room (70-85 F, 76 F is the sweet spot) out of direct sunlight.

  •  IMPORTANT:  Direct sunlight will KILL your kefir grains.

Sweet or Tart

With your jar of water kefir grains fermenting in the sugar water, you must decide if you want sweet kefir or tart kefir.  For sweet water kefir, you will ferment just one day.  For more tart (acidic) water kefir you will ferment for two days.  Before I continue on, let’s tackle the issue of alcohol percentage in water kefir.  According to an article, I read online from The  Water Kefir People,

“water kefir is classified as a non-alcoholic beverage” and “federal law classifies non-alcoholic beverage as having less than .5% ABV”.  

Obviously the longer you leave it to ferment, the more alcohol it will begin to contain.  Most people don’t ferment beyond two days.  I like my water kefir a bit more acidic, so I let it ferment two days.

Now that the water kefir has fermented, strain the grains and kefir water through the nylon strainer into a gallon size glass jar.

  • IMPORTANT:  NEVER use a metal strainer.  The metal will kill your kefir grains.

Set aside the nylon strainer with the water kefir grains and take the gallon jar with the water kefir brew and pour it into the swing top 16 oz glass bottle using a funnel. Fill the swing top bottle up to the shoulder (once 4 cup recipe will yield 2-16 oz swing bottles) and then take your fruit juice of choice (I like Welch’s Grape Juice) and fill it up to the neck, leaving “headroom” just like you would in canning.

Oh So Good

Place the two swing bottles on the cupboard counter for the carbonating or “second fermentation”  for 12 to 24 hours.  After which you will place them in the refrigerator to chill and then you may drink!  AH!  Tastes so good and good for you!

  • IMPORTANT:  BE VERY CAREFUL when opening the swing top bottles.  The carbonating can put lots of pressure in the bottle so take your bottle over the sink and slowly release the pressure by “burping” your bottle.  We have had many “eruptions” from super carbonated kefir brews.  Which require mopping the floor and wiping down the cupboards.

As you continue to build your confidence in water kefir brewing you can experiment with a variety of juices, adding fresh or dried fruit to the first fermentation, as well as different methods of brewing with just plain canning jars with plastic lids, or any glass jar that can be sealed without a metal lid.  It’s fun to have hobbies that are inexpensive, fun and beneficial to your health.

Let’s Wrap This Up

On occasion, you will notice that your water kefir brew isn’t very carbonated, or the taste is lackluster.  Should that be the case, you will need to give your water kefir grains a rest and feed them.  This is easily done by hard boiling two eggs.  Remove the eggs from the shell, and take the shells and place them in a gallon glass jar with water kefir grains and the sugar water.  This is the same sugar water you would make to start your brew.  Let them feed in a warm, shady place for a day or two.  Then strain the grains from the water and pick out the eggshells.  Then proceed as normal and resume your usual brewing routine.

If you have to go out of town be sure to feed your water kefir grains.  Make up the normal sugar water for brewing and add that to a glass jar with your kefir grains into the refrigerator.  Then upon your return revive them with the feeding of eggshells and resume your normal brewing routine.  Please note that as you brew with your grains they will grow.  So keep in mind that you may no longer have a 1/4 cup of kefir grains- this will affect your recipe.  If your grains grow you’ll need to separate them and share the love of water kefir with your friends.  Just like the Amish Friendship Bread starter!

Lastly, sometimes your kefir grains just “die out” so from time to time you’ll need to reorder a new batch of grains.  That’s it my friends!  As always, here is to good food, good friends and a good life.

Michele

Water Kefir A Culture Of Good

if you don’t know where to start, go back to the beginning

While on vacation in Grapevine, Texas, our friends the Vande Zande’s introduced us to water kefir.  At first, we were a bit hesitant.  So I put the Vande Zande’s through a question decathlon.  By the time I ran out of questions to ask, Char had given us each a shot of the kefir water in a small glass.  Staring at the water kefir while I rotated the glass around, I inquired as to what flavor we were drinking and she said she made white grape and mango.  We were given white grape.  So taking one last look at Brad (he knows my ingestion of fermented products has very small margins), I lifted my glass and drank it down.

At first, the fizziness took me by surprise.  The bubbles danced on my tongue and the flavor of white grape really came through.  Delicious!  It was nice and cool and that felt wonderful after an 88-degree day walking around Waco, Texas.  It did not have the “alcohol” aftertaste that I thought would occur.  In fact, there really wasn’t an alcohol taste.  The fermentation duration was short, therefore it had not yet reached a stage of possessing intoxicating elements.  Lastly, I was waiting to see if my stomach would concur and moments later… happy stomach!   As you grow more mature, one becomes a bit hesitant in trying new stuff that might upset the delicate balance of your intestinal life. As all good hostesses, she awaited my analysis.

“Well, what do you think?” said Char.

Both Brad and I gave the “thumbs up”.  For the rest of our stay there, we had water kefir with every meal.  It gave me a wonderful option to kick soda to the curb. So I set my mind to order some water kefir grains, poly mesh strainer and the “flipper” glass bottles for storing the water kefir in the instant I got home.

On your mark, get ready

First I would like to start you out with a brief history of water kefir.  Then we will talk about what it is made up of, what benefits there are in drinking water kefir and lastly how to start “brewing” your own water kefir.

You may be wondering how to pronounce kefir.  I have had found three pronunciations.  The first would be to say “keh-fear“, the second would be to say “key-fur” and lastly “keh-fur”.  There was even a poll out on the web on how to say kefir.  I consulted the Cambridge Dictionary (a go-to for those wanting more sophisticated phonics) and found that pronouncing it “keh-fear” seemed to hold weight in both British English and American English. Just delivering this phonetic quandary to you has frazzled me. So I will leave it to you and your regional dialect to decide how you shall pronounce it and what syllabic emphasis it should receive. Let’s move on to more fun and interesting things about water kefir.

get set and go!

Water kefir is a century old drink, whose origins are speculative and lacking documentation.  According to a youtube video by St. Michael’s Kefir, there are four possible areas where water kefir got its start.  These areas are Mexico, Caucasus ( the Caucasus is a mountain system in West  Asia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.) Tibet, and Japan.

Kefir requires sugar for its growth and production of the brew, so any centuries-old culture making water kefir needed to be near the tropics.   It was thought that after the conquest of Mexico the Spanish brought it back to Europe through the transatlantic trade.  In addition, European soldiers returning home from the Crimean war of 1850,  brought with them a drink similar to water kefir.   Regardless, water kefir has spread worldwide,  “splashing” onto the scene in the U.S. in 1853 by a Kentucky local. [Source: St. Michael’s Kefir, youtube]

animal, vegetable, or mineral?

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

As you can see by my picture above, the kefir grains look like little jelly globs.  They are bouncy and slippery.  Once they hit the counter or have pressure applied to them, they easily split apart.  Kefir grains are just a happy group of bacteria and yeast living together.  Kefir goes by several other names like California Bees, Sea Rice, Water Crystals, Ginger Beer, and Tibicos.

Why would you want to drink kefir water?

Great question!  Water kefir is an excellent alternative to soda.  It provides you with gut loving probiotics, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.  Aiding you in digestion and keeping your intestinal life moving right along.

There are several things I like about kefir water.  First I like its fizzy pop feel.  I like the fact that it is a great probiotic to add to my diet and it is a great alternative to sugary and diet soda.  I have drunk kefir water right along with sandwiches, salads, meat and potatoes supper, as well as breakfast. My favorite flavor of kefir water is grape with apple coming in second.

I look forward to seeing you back here in two weeks.  We will go over where to get your kefir grains, the recipe for water kefir production, maintaining health grains, as well as helpful tips and tricks.

Michele

 

Have you tried water Kefir? What is your favorite flavor?

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Catastrophe Number Two

THAT DARN CAT!

That darn cat!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  If you read my articles faithfully, you would have read about my  “Kitchen Catastrophe” with brownies.  Well, as luck would have it, the cats have struck again.  This time they upped the game.  But before I can tell you the rest of the story, I have to take you on a short “rabbit trail” of storytelling sorts.

This is how it all began

I signed up late last year to take an online baking class( more on this later).  As part of the class, our instructor Tessa Arias from Handle the Heat has been sharing with her students baking products that she recommends.   One of her recommendations was to get a Cuisinart 1 1/2 quart ice cream maker.  I really like ice cream, so I jotted it down on my list of products to watch for on sale.

Continue reading

fruitcake

The Fruitcake

Fruitcake

I love fruitcake! But I am betting you don’t.  Well, today is the day dear reader.  I am going to change your mind about fruitcake.  Before you exit out of this blog article, just give me a chance to win you over.

 

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

We all have our stories to share about the dreaded fruitcake.  You know the kind, it comes in a decorative tin or wrapped neatly in some holiday plastic wrap.  The cover of the tin has some idyllic Christmas scene of a horse and sleigh with happy riders decked out in winter garb.  They are probably “happy” because they threw their fruitcake out of the sleigh two miles back or like Hansel and Gretel, chiseled pieces out and threw them out along their route to make their return easier.  Perhaps they used it to defend themselves from would-be sleigh robbers.  One good hit to the head and your down for the count! Continue reading

Christmas Memories

the most wonderful time of the year

Photo Credit Free-Photos

Christmas memories are probably some of the most vivid memories I have.  There is something about being a kid that just engages all the senses and ingrains them deep in your mind and soul. My favorite memories all have to do with the “community” of Christmas.  Most everyone was into the “spirit” of the Christmas season.

At school, you practiced your part, memorized all the great Christmas hymns and some secular songs.  You ate lots of goodies that represented Christmas.  Pictures were drawn about Christmas, crafts made about Christmas.  Your Christmas program clothes and your Christmas pajamas.  Kids talked on the bus about what they thought they were getting for Christmas.  Some even went so far as to sneak peeks at moms Christmas present stash.

At church, you practiced Saturday afternoons for the big Christmas program that invariably someone either threw up or made the Christmas program director want to pull out her hair out. Christmas Eve comes and sleep doesn’t.  So many thoughts about what is under the tree?! And what fun you will have with cousins and family. And finally, you drift off to sleep and you wake up and… IT’S CHRISTMAS!

santa Claus is coming to town

You bolt from the bed and grab family as you go because no one can open any presents till everyone is there!  At last, everyone arrives in the living room only for mom to announce breakfast must be eaten first.  Good grief mom! What she doesn’t know is we polished off all the Christmas cookies last night before bed, there is no way any of us are hungry!  But rules are rules, so you go to your place at the table and you inhale your bowl of cereal.  All the while giving the “hurry up” eye to the rest of your clan.

Dad finally closes the feeding frenzy in prayer and it becomes an “every man for himself” as we leave the table.   Mom yells that all teeth must be brushed.  So, like a heard of wild buffalo we head into the bathroom.   A friendly boxing match begins for control of the toothpaste tube. Toothbrushes barely touching three teeth are thrown back into the drawer.  No one would be getting a star on their chart today for flossing, no sir!

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas

At last!  We are all assembled.  A scene from Norman Rockwell to be sure.  Eyes are wide with anticipation.  This is a pinnacle moment.  Hours have been spent pouring over the JC Penney’s catalog, the Sear’s catalog since September. Notes left, highlights made followed with arrows and circles so that Santa would not be mistaken.

Then, it is your turn to receive your gift.  Your heart is beating, hands are clapping in excitement.  You are ready to wildly rip off the wrapping paper and your mom stops you and tells you that it is polite to read the card first. You sigh.  The card envelope is opened, the card carefully is withdrawn and read. There, now the gift can be opened.  Paper flys and tada!  Yes! YES!  A Holly Hobbie General Store by Colorform.  I was in love. This is still the best gift I ever got as a kid.  I still wish I still had it! Check this out for some nostalgia:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGaF2YfpSUI

It really didn’t matter what anyone else got, you just were happy with your gift!  Mom and dad sit on the couch taking in the sight of happy children at peace. Well… for the moment anyway.

God rest ye merry gentlemen

We always spent Christmas Day with the Syens family.  Grandpa Syens always held court in the living room with sounds of the football game.  The ladies gathered in the dining room, and like prison guards, they patrolled this area making sure the kids and the guys kept the fingers out of the food in the kitchen until it was officially time to eat.

Like rats, we kids would slowly make our way into the kitchen and steal nibbles. Sometimes we would receive requests from the guys in the living room.  Carefully we would sneak into the kitchen and make a plate of requests.  If we were lucky we could make it through the dining room undetected.

Once the meal was eaten we would gather to open our presents and then run off and play.  The ladies would begin the assembly line of cleaning up the table, dishes, and distribution of the leftovers.  The men would continue to watch the game or fall into a food coma.

do you hear what I hear?

Photo Credit Jill 111

I like to think that I have matured in my celebration of Christmas.  For me, it has become a time of reflecting on the past year.  Taking an inventory of where I am at- as compared to where I was.  Allowing myself and others room to make mistakes, as well as grace and mercy to make it right.  To remember we only have this moment, so love deeply and forgive generously.  Holding all my expectations, hopes and dreams loosely.  Love people where they are at, not where I want them to be.  Celebrating life’s beautiful things and the wisdom to view everything else in light of eternity.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!  May the joy of His season fill you and carry you throughout the next year.

Michele

 

 

 

 

Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile

The Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile!  Have you ever seen it driving its way around America? Well, I have not only seen the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile, BUT I HAVE RIDDEN IN THE OSCAR MAYER WIENER MOBILE.  WHAT!?  Yes, you read that right.  I did ride in the Wiener Mobile and it was my good friend Kristen Christian’s wedding party wheels.  Try to contain your jealousy, green is very unbecoming on you.

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

This is how we roll

Imagine if you would… a wedding party of 10, rolling out of the church parking lot in the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile.  Complimentary Wiener Whistles were handed out by the Wiener Mobile drivers as we boarded.  Huh?  Wait a second.  Wiener Whistles?  No complimentary Oscar Mayer wieners on a bun!?  Graciously I took a whistle and joined the chorus, all the while wishing I had a deliciously grilled Oscar Mayer wiener.  Maybe kazoos would have been a better choice? Continue reading