Category Archives: Family

Small Accomplishments

Our son informed us this week that our 7 month old grandson was pulling himself up to standing on the living room furniture.  “He looks so proud when he does it!” son reported. Oh, to be so proud for such a small (but essentially huge), accomplishment.

What small accomplishments are you proud of? When can small be huge?

 

Disaster Averted

I got a family recipe from the wife of my German cousin Wilhelm. It is a traditional Christmas bread called Bremer Klaben. Petra speaks wonderful English, but her written recipe is, well, interesting.  It is ok that the ingredients like raisins and candied peel and flour are measured in grams. I have a scale that will do that for me. I really like cooking by weight, not volume.

The recipe calls for 60 grams of yeast.  I always assume a reference to yeast means granulated yeast. 60 grams of granulated yeast is about 1/3  of a cup. This only makes one medium-sized loaf of  bread, so I surmised that she was referring to cake yeast, not granulated yeast. The granulated equivalent of cake yeast is 4 1/2 teaspoons. Can you imagine what would have happened had I not made the proper conversion?  Disaster averted!

Tell about disasters you have averted (or not).

 

Rich Beyond Measure

I made broth last weekend.  It is the Brodo recipe from The Splendid Table with 9 lbs of turkey wings and 3 lbs of beef bones.  It simmers for 14 hours. It produces a couple of gallons of golden brown goodness. We use it all the time, so we try to always have some on hand.  We  consider ourselves rich as we put the broth containers in the freeze “This is wealth”, we say.  Who needs more things when you have broth?

We have much to be thankful for besides homemade broth.  We feel especially rich in good friends,  good coworkers,  and in our community as a whole.  In this season of rampant consumerism, I think it is good to consider all the things that contribute richness to our lives.

What makes your life a richer, more satisfying one?

 

Epiphanies

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

I once considered writing a book of personal memoir. The title was going to be Epiphanies. Not everyone is familiar with that word, which comes to us from the ancient Greeks. Epiphanies are those moments of sudden understanding in which a nagging problem is solved or a blazing new perception reveals itself. A less fancy definition would be “aha moments.” The word has special relevance to Christians, referring to the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. My favorite example of epiphany in popular culture is that moment in The Miracle Worker when Anne Sullivan pumps water over the hands of little Helen Keller, teaching her how language is the key that will reveal the world to her.

For me, epiphanies are special, even magic. Of course, we all learn lessons as we experience our lives. Usually enlightenment appears after a slow, unremarkable, evolutionary process. Epiphanies, by contrast, surprise and shock us. Routine mental growth is like lighting a candle in the dark; epiphanies are more like skyrockets that explode to fill the skies with color and noise.

Epiphanies I experienced as a child are hard to date with precision. When I was a toddler—somewhere between three and five—my grandfather took me out for a treat. He bought us drumsticks, those ice cream novelties with wafer cones. Up until that moment delightful things seemed to appear and disappear randomly. But when Grandpa Clarence bought those drumsticks I realized that these and other treats existed all the time. They were part of the world. If you had this thing called money, you could exchange it for a drumstick. The world was more orderly and benign than I had understood before that moment.

I experienced an epiphany in third grade that I often remember. Our classroom had an American flag (just 48 stars back then). Large portraits of George Washington and Abe Lincoln hung on the walls. Our desks were bolted in place facing the teacher’s desk, which was mounted on a raised deck to allow her to look down on the little humans in her charge. Our teacher, Miss Maybe, called on a kid named Andy to deliver a report. Sitting in my desk on the right hand side of the classroom, halfway back, I grinned with relief. The voice in my head said, “Hey, that’s Andy up there, not you! He has to give a report and you do not. He’s Andy. You’re Steve. You aren’t Andy, and you don’t have to give a report!” I’ve always wondered if most people have a particular blazing moment when they realized they are a unique consciousness, not part of a larger group.

Not all epiphanies are so fun to remember. In the first year of my marriage, my erstwife and I spent a winter month housesitting the home of Arthur Naftalin, then the mayor of Minneapolis. On a sub-zero February afternoon my parents drove all the way in from their Orono home to visit us. After a delightful meal they left, walking down the steep driveway to where they had left their car parked on the street. I stood at a living room picture window to watch. When they turned up the sidewalk, my mother and father spotted me. As if they had rehearsed this move for weeks, they turned, smiled radiantly, raised their hands and waved goodbye, each one mirroring exactly the expression and movements of the other. Tears shot out of my eyes, and I staggered back into the privacy of the living room so my parents wouldn’t see me crying. Something about the moment—the crazy synchronicity of their goodbye waves—made me realize these two people I loved so much would someday exit my life forever. Of course, I had always known my parents would likely precede me in death. That abstract, dry fact became a moment of scorching awareness when they waved goodbye that afternoon.

Do you experience epiphanies? Can you share examples?

Leftovers!

Photo credit: Steven Puetzer / Getty Images

YA and I have done Thanksgiving with the same folks for all of her life so I don’t know about anybody else’s traditions, but at our festivities, everybody brings some Tupperware (or cheaper equivalent!) and then after the meal, we divvy up the leftovers. Our favorite leftovers include mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and sage dinner rolls.  YA wants the potatoes; I want the sage rolls.  Here’s my favorite leftover recipe:

Juju’s Sage Rolls w/ Cheese
1 sage roll (or two if you’re counting this as a meal)
1 not too skinny slice of cheese (your choice)
Butter (or mayo or mustard)

  1. Heat up the roll a bit, either in the toaster oven, the microwave or even the regular oven if it’s already on for something else
  2. Pull the warm roll apart (breathe in deeply while you do this so you get the sage smell)
  3. Slather on the butter or mayo or mustard
  4. Add the cheese
  5. Eat with your favorite day-after-Thanksgiving beverage!

What’s your favorite way to deal w/ leftovers?

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is a straight up-homage to the day. Not the turkey and football filled day, not the sweet potatoes and pilgrim hat day.  For those of us who don’t practice thankfulness as often as we should (including me), today is a day to help us do just that – practice thankfulness.

You’ve heard it before – what are you grateful for?

 

Spilt Coffee

At Caribou this morning Nonny and I spilt an entire cup of coffee while navigating the “add cream and sugar” part of the transaction. Very quickly two gals jumped in to help, with napkins and a little towel that one of them asked staff for.  Between us we wiped and wiped and eventually got it all cleaned up.  I thanked them profusely and asked them if they would come later to my house and do my kitchen floor.  One of them stopped at our table a bit later as she was leaving to say “have a nice day” and Nonny was surprised to realize that she wasn’t an employee.  I said they were both just innocent helpful bystanders – which had made me all the more thankful at the time.

What the last kindness someone did for you?