Thanksgiving Wrap Up

Whew! What a beautiful day yesterday full of great food, family and glorious fall weather. There is so much for which we are thankful.

Before we turn our minds completely toward Christmas, I wanted to wrap up the Tree of Thanks and also share some fun photos from friends who made the turkey cupcakes!

Look! It's a rafter of turkeys! My friend Heather made these.

Periodically I will get interested in what the proper names are for groups of animals. You know, a “gaggle” of geese, a “pod” of whales, a “host” of sparrows and an “unkindness” of ravens…the list goes on and on. Turns out a group of turkeys can be called a “rafter” or a “gang.” Even though I tend to refer to any group of birds as a “herd” just because it sounds funny. Go ahead, say it. “A herd of turkeys.”

Here's another gang of turkeys made by Heather's sister. Heather forgot to mention the tails, obviously!

Thanks ladies for sharing your turkey photos with us!

And today I took down the Tree of Thanks. What fun we had filling out those little cards each night and hearing what our 4-year-old came up with to be grateful for.

Here it is completed...25 leaves each with 3 notes of gratitude. Lots of thanks to give.

Today when I took all the little notes out of their pockets and stored them away (I mean, really, how fun is it going to be to read those in about 20 years?) I read through them all again. I must admit I was surprised to see that my son had not listed any “stuff” in his thankful notes. There was one mention of his train bed – which was a labor of love by his dad and grandfather – and another mention of a new Spiderman book – which was a reward for really good behavior one weekend we were away. Otherwise there wasn’t a toy listed. Here are some of my favorites:

“I’m thankful for my toad, Fuego.” (There were notes for the cat and dog as well.)

“I’m thankful for the whole Earth.”

“I’m thankful for my baby and that he’s OK.” (This was after a trip to the ER with his little brother. We were all thankful for the same thing that night.)

“I’m thankful for my mommy’s good cooking.” (My husband swears that response was unprompted.)

“I’m thankful for Spanish class.”

“I’m thankful for a bike ride with daddy.”

“I’m thankful for God.”

I’m hoping that in this coming year I can see our life more like my son sees it. Grateful for the simplest things. The things I’ve long taken for granted.

And now, just four days until the advent-calendar-countdown begins…so I must go start untangling lights and find those stockings…

Turkey Pie and Turkey Cakes

Tonight we had turkey for dinner AND dessert.

Aren’t those cute? In an ugly-turkey-kind-of-way?

My son helped make them…and by “helped” I mean that he stood in the kitchen next to me while I made them and asked every thirty seconds if he could have a candy corn, or a sprinkle, or a mini chocolate chip and also “when will my turkey cupcake be ready so I can eat it?!”

That’s not entirely true. He did put on the little chocolate eyes and some of the sprinkles and tried to help with the fruit leather feathers, which were sort of sticky-tricky.  But mostly he was scavenging for stray candy pieces and waiting for his bird.

We found these cute little cakes here (along with a bunch of other clever ideas) and promptly went out and got the goods to copy them…and also the ingredients to make a Turkey Pot Pie, which was much more yummy than the cupcakes, in my book.

It’s been awhile since we had pie for dinner, and I was glad to have it back. What an easy and versatile comfort food…and timely for any leftover turkey you might have in your near future.

I used a store-bought crust, pre-roasted turkey and pre-chopped veggies. I can hardly even call this cooking, right?! And it got the stamp of approval from the four-year-old, which is always nice. Although he might have just been saying that to hurry me along to the turkey cupcakes. Whatever the case, it was a fun way to kick-off the last week before Thanksgiving…turkey all around!

To make the turkey cupcakes you need:

cupcakes, frosted and covered with sprinkles

Nutter Butter cookies – turkey body

White icing or decorating gel – “glue” for eyes and beak and wattle

Mini chocolate chips – eyes

Candy corn – beak

Multi-colored fruit leathers – wattle and feathers

Toothpicks – to secure feathers

And if you want yours to look just like mine, you should also throw a pair of four-year-old hands in the mix to insure the turkeys all look cross-eyed!

Turkey Pot Pie

Adapted from allrecipes.com

1 10-inch double crust pie

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 small onion, minced

3 stalks celery, chopped

3 carrots, diced

2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

2 cubes chicken bouillon

2 cups water

4 potatoes, peeled and cubed

2-3 cups cubed cooked turkey

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425. Roll out bottom pie crust, press into a 10-inch pie pan, and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onion, celery, carrots, parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the bouillon and water. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir in the potatoes, and cook until tender but still firm.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the turkey and flour. Add the milk, and heat through. Stir the turkey mixture into the vegetable mixture, and cook until thickened. Cool slightly, then pour mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Roll out the top crust, and place on top of filling. Flute edges, and make 4 slits in the top crust to let out steam.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and continue baking for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Let sit 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

Birthdays!!

It is safe to say that birthdays are a “gather around the table” event. They are honored with gifts and hoopla, cemented in our memories with photos and, these days, if the parents are really irresponsible, they can even make a TV show about your birthday.

We haven’t gotten crazy with birthday parties in our house…but I do make birthday snacks to send to school.

A little muffin with your monster truck?

This year was all about monster trucks, including the red velvet cake and most of the gifts. These monster-topped snacks were actually applesauce muffins with a thick glaze instead of cakes with icing.  The chocolate sprinkles helped make them look a little more like regular cupcakes.

And, let’s see,  last year I sent little mice. These were really fun to make.

Mini chocolate cakes with white icing piped on…mini ‘Nilla Wafers for ears, M&Ms for eyes, a mini kiss for a nose and long chocolate sprinkles for whiskers.

Let’s talk about birthdays…not the food part, but the other part. The tradition and celebration part.

The older our boys get the more I think about how much we, as parents, are in control of their experiences and memories…that the traditions we create will be the background for their childhood memories and the launching pad for their own adult perspective. Several years ago I was taking a class at our church and the instructor told us about the birthday breakfast tradition in her family. After hearing her explanation, I realized it was genius and promptly stole it as my own.

Our first Birthday Breakfast in '08

Her reasoning for the family celebration happening at breakfast was that it becomes nearly untouchable. I mean, even when the kids are 16 and 18 and wanting to have parties with their pals and take trips…are you ever going to have to give up the family birthday breakfast? Probably not. Chances are good that’s a meal they’ll still have at home.

Birthday Breakfast in '09...getting fancier with the pancakes.

Breakfast is one of the easiest meals of the day, too…and it’s not a stretch to get most breakfast staples to feel like dessert.  Hello? Belgium waffles. French toast…  a la mode.   See?

Also, decorating is a snap because you can do it the night before and have it be a fun still-groggy-stumbling-into-the-kitchen surprise.

Birthday Breakfast '10 with monster truck pancakes, chocolate chip hubcaps.

And then really fast-forward to the years where there are girl/boyfriends involved, wives/husbands and kids of their own – chances are still good that the birthday breakfast tradition will continue, if they live close enough.  The instructor of that class was telling us about it because she had just had a birthday breakfast that morning with her oldest son and his wife and their three kids and she was so delighted the tradition was holding up.

A mom can hope, right??

Not so sure about this whole party thing...

We’ve extended the breakfast celebrations in our house to the adults, too. (Confession: I’m a more savory breakfast kind of girl, so I usually request eggs benedict instead of monster truck pancakes…but really as long as there is caffeine, I’m happy.)

So, I’d love to hear about other family birthday traditions…really, do tell. I’m not above stealing ideas from you, too.

Rainy Day

I don’t make everything from scratch – far from it.  And sometimes the time spent in the kitchen is really about the time spent…and not about what comes out of the oven.  Like these:

Lemon and Blueberry Cupcakes with a lemon glaze
Lemon and Blueberry Cupcakes with a lemon glaze

We have a very, very fussy eleven-week-old in our house. He pretty much cries for the better part of every day. And while I’m learning a great deal about myself through this time, I’m also learning a great deal about my three-year-old. For instance, he’s very patient about some things and he’s naturally nurturing. After a particularly rough period today, I finally got the baby to sleep. There were one hundred things I would have liked to have done that I can’t do while holding him – things like cleaning the kitchen or sorting laundry – but, instead, I suggested we make cupcakes. My three-year-old looked so surprised…which told me I don’t do this often enough. He had played quietly with his blocks and some puzzle books for most of the day – all while listening, without complaint, to the baby scream. There hadn’t been a lot of mommy’s attention available to him. It’s muddy outside and we couldn’t get too crazy since the baby would only be quiet for about 20 minutes…something quick in the kitchen seemed just the thing.

Lemon cupcake

Nothing fancy here. Boxed lemon cake mix…because a three-year-old can mix in water and oil and eggs and stir to his heart’s content. His little fingers made quick work of placing the muffin papers in the pan. I scooped in the batter and adding blueberries to each one was a good counting exercise (there’s five blueberries in each one, by the way.) The glaze is lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar – he helped squeeze the lemon with the citrus press he sometimes uses as a drum stick.

Lemon cupcake

We laughed and made a little bit of a mess; he licked his fingers a lot and asked one million questions. He had my undivided attention for the longest stretch of time I could manage today. So, no, these cupcakes aren’t anything special…but the time spent in the kitchen was.