Monthly Archives: November 2008

Travelling down Thanksgiving Memory Lane


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It’s all the delight of Christmas with a third less pressure.  I’ve spent Thanksgiving in the deep recesses of a third world country, in the shadow of Capitol Hill, in the heat and the snow, celebrating life and mourning loss.  There’s something about Thanksgiving that speaks to our inner soul and sets off the homing instinct.

One of my favorite Thanksgivings was the first year that Craig and I established our home.  We had spent a fair amount on the wedding and honeymoon and had used up our vacation time to boot, so we were staying in Virginia.  I was secretly thrilled.  If I had gone home, I would have been relegated to junior sous chef, setting the table and keeping an eye on the bread to make sure it didn’t burn.  Nope, the time had come for me to assume the mantle.  It was Thanksgiving, I had a double oven, and it was time for me to become the official Queen of my Kitchen.  There would be nobody to boss me around – no grandmother to tell me the gravy was too thin or too salty, no eight-way arms negotiations to determine if the turkey was done and no discussion over whose family made the better green bean casserole.  It was MY show. (We’ll talk about my control issues another day.)

We decided that since it was our first married holiday and my first time to cook the meal, it might be best if just the two of us graced our table.  (Secretly, I think Craig was a little worried about inviting people over to share the meal.  I regularly set off the smoke detectors in the early days.)  So the week before the big day rolled around, I called my sister-in-law to get the recipes. You know..THE recipes…the ones that must appear on the table or it’s not officially Thanksgiving.  She was the keeper of said recipes because Mom and Dad were usually overseas and her house was party central.  She was so excited and encouraging (again, smoke detectors).  She read them off to me and I dutifully copied down every word.

Thanksgiving Day arrived, and I shooed Craig out of the kitchen, put on some tunes, and got to it.  I followed those recipes to a T, not altering a single instruction, amount or ingredient.  Four hours later, Craig and I sat down to a delicious meal…for TWELVE.  Yes, friends, Susie Homemaker didn’t think to look at the quantity and scale it down.  I had just fixed a meal large enough for my extended family that was showing up for dinner.  In Oklahoma.

Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around I think back to Craig’s eyes as we sat down to an 18 pound turkey and two 9×13 pans of stuffing, green bean casserole, squash casserole, mashed AND sweet potatoes, and two kinds of cranberry sauce.  We truly understood the word “bounty” (and “serving size”).

This year we are grateful for so many things.  As we pray around our laden table, I’ll offer thanks for our friends, our jobs, and for God’s mighty hand of protection over us.  Craig will offer thanks that I finally learned how to cook.  And then?  Please pass the stuffing.

Greenwood (and now Scates) Family Stuffing

1 8×8 pan of cornbread, cooked and crumbled

1 bag of Pepperidge Farm Stuffing mix

4 pieces toasted white bread, crumbled

1 can buttermilk biscuits, cooked and crumbled

4 stalks celery, chopped finely

1 bunch green onion, chopped (green and white parts)

1 stick butter

2 tsp. sage

4-5 C. chicken broth (preferably home-made)

Combine breads and sprinkle with sage.  Melt butter and saute chopped celery and onions.  Add to bread and sage mixture, and moisten with chicken broth.  (I add enough broth until it’s good and wet.  It’ll take more or less depending on how your bread is soaking up the liquid that day.)  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Serves (you guessed it) 12.

Mom, what’s birth control?

On the way back from school this afternoon, we took a detour by the pharmacy to pick up refills on my daily “don’t want to get pregnant this close to 40” pills.  I was talking to the clerk in the window, gave her my last name, and simply asked to pick up my prescription refill.  “For what?” she asked.  “Birth control” I muttered under my breath, trying to keep inquiring minds at bay.

Unfortunately, their selective spidey sense was on.  (How is it they can hear me whisper to the pharmacist when I don’t necessarily want them to hear, yet they can’t hear me when it’s time to clean their room?)  Sure enough, up pipes Baby C.  “Mom, what are birth control pills for?”

The pharmacist, trying to stifle a snort, could sense this might not be the time and place that I might chose to have such a conversation with my children, particularly with witnesses present.  Fortunately, there were Tootsie Pops, which she graciously offered and they readily accepted which diverted their attention.

This was one of those times that I was grateful for A.D.D.

Hello, this is the principal’s office calling…

With three active boys, it’s a safe bet that at least once a week, I’m responding to a note from the teacher.  One stomped on his juice box at recess to see how far the liquid would go (can I get credit towards the science fair for that?), one decided to break out the Bakugan’s instead of writing his spelling words in bubble letters (hello – I’m not raising cheerleaders) and the other one is snitching food from another kid’s cafeteria tray (apparently sending in a healthy lunch is now turning him into a thief).  This week, Baby A exemplified less than stellar behavior, prompting a phone call from the principal.


I have the hardest time separating what my children do from who I am.  It’s so easy to see their misbehavior as a direct reflection of my parenting skills (or lack thereof).  As I was mulling the situation over, I was struck by what God must think when I exhibit behavior unbecoming of being His child.  How quickly do I let a word fly or a flash of anger go unchecked?  How often do I ball my fists and say “No, I’m not going to do that?”  How does it paint Him as my Father when I don’t express His love and concern towards others?

I am ever more grateful for His grace as I see my own less-than-gracious behavior.  I am encouraged that He still loves me, as I love my blessed little misbehaving squash blossom, and I am reminded that He is ever molding me, just as He is molding them.

Keep the cardiologist’s number handy

I love Mexican food.  It’s my go-to supper on those nights when I don’t know what to fix and the kids are STARVING and have to eat NOW.  I keep ziploc bags of taco meat in the freezer so that all I have to do is heat and eat.  Tonight, though, instead of the stand-by tacos, we took it low and slow, and had the best carnitas I think we’ve ever had.  Period.  It was the first time I’d tried to make them, and it was worth the time and effort. This recipe fed our family of five with leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Pork Carnitas

Cube a 2-3 lb. pork shoulder/blade roast into 1-2 inch chunks.  Make a mix of salt, dried thyme, dried marjoram, and a touch of cumin (I’m not an exact kind of girl) and sprinkle it over the pork.  Toss so that the pieces are seasoned.  Place seasoned meat in a ziploc bag and let it sit refrigerated for anywhere between 1-24 hours.

In a large dutch oven, melt 1 cup of lard over medium-high heat.  (Yes. Lard.  Hence the title of this blog entry.)  Brown the pork cubes in the lard.  Do it in batches if you need to.  Once browned, return the meat to the pot (the melted lard stays in there, too!) and add 4 whole cloves of peeled garlic, and 1 orange, cut into eighths (rind and all).

Put the lid on, turn heat to low, and let it go for the next hour and a half.

When you’re ready to eat, drain off all the liquid, and remove the garlic and orange pieces.  You can now either serve the meat in chunks, or you can do what I did and shred it with a fork.

We made tortilla wraps with black beans, yellow rice and the pork.  The kids inhaled it.

Other options:  Use the filling in wonton wrappers for dumplings or in crescent rolls for little pork purses.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Don’t like me too much

Overheard in the living room just now…

Baby A:  Tommy, are we brothers?

Baby C:  Of course we are, JJ.

Baby A:  Are you my friend?  Do you like me?

Baby C: I like you a little.

Baby A:  I like you, too.

Baby C:  Say “a little”

Baby A:  I like you a little, too.

Baby C:  Thank you.

Precious Things

We’ve lived in this house for three years without a mantle over the fireplace.  It has been a source of frustration because a mantle is a real focal point in decorating, and I’ve been itching to have another space to display some of my pretty things, hang stockings, etc.  We finally got around to getting a carpenter out to make one for us, and it was a great day yesterday when he came to deliver it.

He had nailed the last piece in place and I was standing back, trying to visualize a Thanksgiving arrangement, when Baby A popped in the room and said “Whatcha’ doing, Mom?”  I told him that the mantle was where we displayed our precious things and I was thinking of what to place there.  “I have an idea,” he said and ran into the other room, only to materialize with his Optimus Prime Battle Rig Blaster and climb up on the hearth and reach up high to place it front and center. Optimus was joined today by a Lego Indiana Jones and Anakin Skywalker.

It’s going to be a long holiday season….