Musical Musings

I’ve had my mind on Mom so much lately but I have been unable to really write…until now.

This past Easter Sunday was the first anniversary of Mom’s last day here with us.

Last week, I kept thinking about the days leading up to March 31st of last year.  There were many emotions running through my mind that week.  I felt hope, yet sadness…doubt and feelings of loss…helplessness and relief…fear and heartbreak.  Talk about some heavy parallels with the journey of the Lenten Holy Week.

So, tonight, as I was searching the internet, I remembered a song we had heard this Easter Sunday titled, “You Make Beautiful Things” by Gungor.  I listened to it again with intention.  After reading about the band and exploring a bit of their blog, it got me thinking in many directions.  Funny how that goes, right?

First, it took me to the music that my brother played in the hospital last year on March 31st.  When my husband and I walked into my mom’s room, surrounded by my whole family, it was overwhelming.  Although we talked on the phone often, I hadn’t seen Mom in months and I knew this would be the last time I would see her again.

The music playing in the background was music she had played for countless hours when I was a young kiddo.  I hadn’t heard much of any of it for decades, and yet, as soon as a song began playing, the melody and lyrics would fill my head…and comfort me.

So, tonight, I found myself playing music…for me…for Mom…for some connection to her.

I could imagine my childhood home and my mother in it, making dinner or sewing, while listening to John Michael Talbot’s Come to the Quiet album.

John Denver had me stomping my feet and remembering so many road trips from years ago, taken as a family.  I could see the pine tree forests beside us and endless highway roads before us.

I still remember my mother, and her best friend, my godmother, who lived across the alley directly behind our house, talking about Cat Steven’s album Teaser and the Firecat.  I can see them passing the album to each other and imagine them talking about his lyrics while listening to the music.  I especially remember studying the album artwork as a child, fascinated by the colors and characters.

While on the way to church this Easter Sunday, Cat Stevens came on the radio, singing “Wild World”.  Our trip in the car was a short one, but it was plenty of time to hear the whole song…as if Mom was there with us, giving us a much-needed smile and embrace.

How does music do this?  How does it deliver you to a place and time so quickly?  How does it connect you beyond face-to-face encounters?

Well, it does.  It did that for me one year ago and it did again for me tonight.  And, it will continue to be a bridge between Mom and me always.  I love you and miss you, Mom.

 

Happy New Year!

Say goodbye to the old and in with the old…tradition, that is.

Among the many traditions of the holiday season, one beverage was king to ring in the New Year in our household.  It still is.

Patio Punch.

Mom, or one of my siblings, would make this fruity concoction on New Year’s Eve and serve it up from our crystal punch bowl.

We spent the whole evening playing board games and card games with a glass of this deliciousness in hand. You know the glass I’m talking about.  The little punch bowl glasses that hold about 3 ounces of liquid…yeah, those.

The punch would last all night…well almost.

We’d count down the last seconds of the current year and clink our punch glasses together in celebration of the New Year.

Then, the very next night, we’d repeat the whole evening all over again…punch, board games, card games and all.

Mom and Dad were good sports to spend New Year’s Eve with us kids.

Our oldest BSF learned of Patio Punch before she was 2 years old.  It was one of the first recipes she helped me prepare.  And it left an impression.  She hadn’t even really had much juice as a beverage before Patio Punch, so after that first sip, she was hooked.

Because we had used 7-UP as our fizzy ingredient that day, and my 1 year old was just beginning to really talk at that time, Patio Punch became known as “UP” instead of Patio Punch.

To this day, the kids call Patio Punch by its new name…”UP”.

So, this year, as we ring in 2013, we will break out the “UP”, or Patio Punch, as it is known throughout my family.  It is tradition.

And I’m all about keeping the traditions alive…if you hadn’t noticed.

Oh, by the way, for the adults, a fizzy substitution of champagne or a little splash of vodka goes very nicely with a glassful of this punch.

Patio Punch

Ingredients
1 envelope Cherry-Flavored Kool-Aid
1 envelope Strawberry-Flavored Kool-Aid
2 cups sugar
2 quarts cold water
6-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate
6-oz can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 quart ice cubes
28-ounces ginger ale
OR
for an adult beverage, use a combination of ginger ale and champagne
or a combination of ginger ale and vodka

Combine Kool-Aid and sugar. Add water and stir to dissolve. Add frozen concentrates. Chill until serving time. Pour over ice cubes. Pour ginger ale slowly down the side of bowl.

A little side note…

We don’t own a punch bowl.  Never have and not sure I have room for one anytime soon. Therefore, we make our glasses of Patio Punch on demand.  I mix the Kool-Aid, sugar, water and frozen concentrates in a pitcher and keep it in the refrigerator to chill.  When someone wants some Patio Punch, I add ice to a glass and fill it up a little less than halfway with the Kool-Aid mixture.  Then, I add about the same amount of Ginger Ale or 7-UP to the glass and stir.  This way, we can have fizzy punch whenever we like.

That Smile

I had a “mom look” tonight.   What is that, you ask?  Well, although I couldn’t see my reflection, I could just feel the look I was wearing.  And it had mom written all over it.

It was a long, tiring day of sick kiddos, of sick me and of dwindling energy reserves on my part.  The BSFs were in their PJs.  The youngest was already settling down for the night in bed while my husband read a book to our older BSF in the glider chair.

I found myself clumped in a slow-release…in a relaxing position at the foot of our BSF’s bed.

I closed my eyes, listening to the creative editing and funny voices my husband was using while reading the book.  A smile came upon my face.

Here it was.

Eyes closed.

Satisfied smile.

It was Mom, through and through.  It was as if I could see through her eyes while my eyes were closed.

This was that face she wore…eyes shut…gracing a satisfied smile…most often while in the company of her most beloved family and friends.

I was soaking up all of this and the tears began to stream.  My husband didn’t understand where it came from, but it was clear that something had sparked a “mom memory” in my mind.  He didn’t have to say a word.  He just knew.

And now, Mom, I really know why that look manifests.  Thank you for this gift, momma.  I love you!

 

Whooped Cream

I’m pretty sure my mother did the same thing I do.  With six children, you can’t please every palate, every time.  So, in order to keep everyone happy, my mom didn’t make spicy foods often.  As I grew up and experienced foods outside our home, I learned that I loved spicy foods.

So, when I made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving Day today, I debated in my head about which spices to add to the pumpkin puree mixture.  As I made the pie, the BSFs were standing next to me on their Learning Tower (a fancy answer to dragging a chair over to the counter), and I decided to go the safe route.  I added the exact amount of pumpkie pie spice recommended by Libby’s on the can.

I knew that I might disappoint one adult or another with that choice, but the BSFs would likely prefer a mild flavored pumpkin pie.  After pouring my first pumpkin pie mixture into an empty pie shell, I found that I happened to have some left-over pumpkin pie mixture, so I added it to another empty pie shell and made a mini-pie of sorts.

This was my opportunity to introduce pumpkin pie to the BSFs for the first time this year before Thanksgiving Day itself.  Everyone in the family had a little piece of pie this afternoon.  It was a big hit with the BSFs.  I enjoyed it.  My husband did, too, but he felt it was missing something in the spice department.

I explained what I had decided to do with the spices…that I opted to use pumpkin pie spice instead of the individual spices of cloves, cinnamon and ginger.

And, that is when I realized what I should do.  I needed to whoop things up a bit.

The next item on my Thanksgiving to-do list was making fresh whipped cream.  So, I decided to add the spices to the cream to make up for the spice discrepancy in the pie.

My husband mentioned that a little spice, like cayenne, might be nice.

So, here is what I made.  And, YUM!

 It made the pumpkin pie.

These are the ingredients I used, but you can experiment and include what you love the most.

Spicy Cayenne Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Ingredients
1 pint Heavy Whipping Cream
1 to 2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar (depending on how sweet you prefer your whipped cream)
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Cloves (depending on how spicy you want it)
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Ginger
1/8 tsp Cayenne (more or less depending on how spicy you want it)

Use an electric mixer for this job. For best results, chill your mixer bowl and whisk in the freezer prior to mixing the whipped cream.

When the bowl and whisk are sufficiently chilled, whisk the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in the mixing bowl on the medium-highest setting.

Beat the mixture until just before it begins to form peaks. It may look a bit frothy.
Add the remaining ingredients of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and cayenne. Continue to whisk until peaks are firm, as you see here.

Take care not to over-whisk the mixture, as the whipped cream will take on the stiffer texture of butter. It will still taste wonderfully good, but the whipped cream will resemble whipped butter instead.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s the Great Pumpkin!

This is my favorite time of year.

With Thanksgiving Day fast approaching, I know our Fall days are numbered.

We took advantage of this lovely afternoon to explore the inside of a pumpkin.

Granted, in October, we carved a pumpkin for Halloween, but today’s purpose was to really look inside the pumpkin and explore its offerings.

First, we cut the pumpkin open and scooped out the pulp.

The seeds were gathered, the pumpkin cut into pieces and the flesh scraped clean.

We rinsed the seeds in cool water until all the pulp was washed away…

and, then, we set the seeds out to dry in the sun.  They looked so perfect and pretty.

Then, we baked all of the pumpkin pieces that could fit inside my largest baking dish.

Once the perfect, pretty seeds were dried, we cooked up a sweet pumpkin seed snack.

These were perfect, pretty and sweet.

Since we had some left over pieces of pumpkin, and some extra pumpkins that were picked over by the birds, we shared our bounty with the horses.

Now, we must decide what to make with all this cooked pumpkin.  I see some muffins and pie in our future.

Spirited Pancakes

Halloween is around the corner and my older, “boo-tiful” BSF keeps asking for pancakes….

for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We’ve had pancakes three times this week already.

So, while putting together a batch of pancake batter, I got a little creative with my spoon.

We’ve been practicing the alphabet letters daily and the spelling of the word “B-O-O” all month long, so it seemed natural to spell the word out with pancake batter.

I added a ghost to the mix, too, just for good measure.

With the remaining batter, I made a regular, round pancake and topped it with orange & black sprinkles.  Upon contact with the griddle, the sprinkles melted into the pancake to create a light sugar-coated crust.

When pancakes were requested yet again this week, I added some orange soft gel paste to the batter and spooned pumpkins onto the hot griddle. The results were an orange-hued pancake on the inside and a giddy and pleased kiddo at the kitchen table.

These pancakes were a hit with the whole household.

I used to make pancakes with a box mix, just to save time, but a couple of years ago, I began searching for a recipe that was more flavorful than a box mix, and that cooked up fluffy, delicious pancakes every time. I found it.

As well, I bought myself a modest non-stick griddle. Now, making pancakes is a happy affair. I don’t burn them…every…single…time…like I did when I made pancakes in a skillet on the stove.

Ah, the simple joys of life.

Happy Halloween…and Happy Pancakes to you!

Fluffy Pancakes

Ingredients

3/4 cup milk
2 T white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 T white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 T butter, melted
cooking spray, if needed

Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into “soured” milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Alternately, heat a non-stick griddle to 350F degrees. Pour 1/4 cups full of batter onto the heated skillet or griddle, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

*You can create your own free-form designs using a spoonful of batter and your imagination.

My Source:  www.allrecipes.com

Butterscotch, Pumpkin and Spice

As soon as I can sense the first long shadow of the Fall season, I break out in a happy dance.

Then, immediately afterward, I start to dream of ways to make the house smell delicious…to smell like Fall.

So, when we got together with family this week for a play date, I was so excited that I had special reason to bake.

Of course, I can bake anytime, but I enjoy sharing the baked goodness more.

I opened my pantry and started thinking of winning combinations that would also say, “Hey, Autumn.  Welcome to my mouth.”  It may disturb you to know that these words actually went through my head.

Well, I began to pull out items that I thought may go together.  In hand were a box of white cake mix, a box of butterscotch pudding, and a can of pumpkin.  And, as I often do, I searched the internet for a recipe that incorporated those items into a baked good.

Thank goodness for Google!

And, here is what I found and made.  Let me tell you, it is divine.  It speaks to me.

This recipe whips up a baked good of cake consistency, but, for all intents and purposes, I consider it a baked bread or muffin.  I know.  I know.  It is a cake.   Because I prefer to eat it for breakfast, I am going to just pretend that it is a breakfast bread.   Oh, and some cinnamon buttercream icing really compliments the Fall flavors of this “breakfast bread.”

Yeah, that just happened.

Come on.  Who eats cake for breakfast?  Ok. Don’t answer that.  I give you permission to call this a breakfast bread or brunch muffin or mid-day snack or birthday cake or whatever.  Just bake it in whatever pan you prefer and call it what you like.  It is just plain delicious.

Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding Cake

Ingredients

cooking spray
1 package white cake mix
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 package (3.4 ounce) instant butterscotch pudding pouch
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (this temperature is not a typo). Spray your bread pans with cooking spray or place paper muffin cups into muffin pans or do a combination of one bread pan and one dozen regular sized muffins.

Mix all of the ingredients – the cake mix, pumpkin, pudding pouch contents, eggs, water, oil and pumpkin pie spice – together in a bowl or mixer until all ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into your prepared pans. If filling muffin cups, fill each cup 2/3 full.

Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake…uhem, bread…comes out clean or with moist crumbs.  Let it cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans.

Frost with prepared cinnamon buttercream frosting.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

2 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 Tbsp milk

Mix the melted butter, vanilla, powdered sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl. Add the milk, one Tbsp at a time until you reach the consistency desired. Mix by hand or by mixer until incorporated and smooth.

My Source:  www.allrecipes.com

Nursing Days Are Over

After getting my BSFs to bed late last night, I knew they’d sleep in a little bit this morning.  I took advantage of that time to read my email.  A post from www.carrotsareorange.com, titled “Weaning A Toddler,” caught my eye.

How timely this was for me. My almost 20 month old has been down to one feed a day for weeks now. When I read this particular post this morning, I decided that this was the sign I needed to finally choose today as the day I stopped nursing.

It is bittersweet because as much as I’m happy I was able to nurse my sweet baby for this long, she is my last baby and I’m going to miss this special time that we, as mother and child, have had together.

I’m grateful for the post that came to my inbox today.  It helped me, tremendously, with a tough, but timely decision.

Not only was it timely, but it made me think of my momma today.  She breastfed her children.  I don’t know for how long and I don’t know if it was the same happy experience it was for me.  We never talked about it really…but I’m grateful I was able to give this gift to my children…to myself.

I will miss this special time with my baby, but I celebrate another milestone.

Happy End-of-Breastfeeding!

Now, excuse me, as I enjoy a lovely craft brew.  It is a celebration, after all.

 

It happened…

Today.

Yes, today, it happened.

Nothing could prepare me for it.

I heard the two little words I have dreaded hearing all my motherly life.

All three years of it.

Yes, you can giggle right now.

See this adorable little thing?

This little baby, turned preschooler, said it, as plain as day…at the pharmacy.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d hear her utter these words until at least five years old, but it happened.

Today.

Did I mention that?

While on the rare occasion that I go shopping with anyone other than the my BSFs and my husband, we went to the corner drug store with Grandfather.  It worked out in the most surprising and pleasant of ways.  I was so tickled that we could all ride together to run some quick errands.

So, back to those two little words.  My three year old, big girl, who can imaginatively play anywhere and anytime, blurted out, while we were waiting and sitting in comfortable chairs at the pharmacy with grandfather, for less than 2 minutes, mind you, the most repulsive words this mother could hear…

“I’m bored.”

Seriously?

Since these words are not uttered in our house, I can only surmise that she has learned them from someone at school.  Surely, whoever has said this in her presence has an older brother or sister since that is the crowd who is usually bored.  At least that is what I tell myself.

“I’m bored.”

Oh, boy.

And, so, it begins.

Get Ready For a Whole New World, Out There, Baby!

She picked out her outfit for tomorrow.  The dress is ironed and hung.  The shoes and socks are laid out.  Her school supplies lay waiting by the door.

She’s sleeping soundly, now.

In fact, the whole house is asleep. Everyone is asleep, but me.

I’m awake, thinking about another first on the list of milestones.

Tomorrow is my older BSFs’ first day of real preschool.

I say real preschool because, although she attended a once or twice a month class last school year, this year, she will attend preschool with a regularity that requires me to write out a real schedule.  I must remember more than just my appointments.  As well, I must add more events to my calendar to schedule in the irregular stuff…class parties, school-related evening activities, snack days, etc.

My late-night musings are just reminders that my BSF is growing up. Each and every day.

There are no tears. Not from me, and not from my BSF. Well, at least not yet.

In fact, she tells me that her first day at preschool will be a “wonderful day”.  No doubt, it will be.

I am nostalgic for the self-initiated play dates that used to dot my free and flexible calendar. Now, I’m imagining car pool, names written with indelible ink, meeting classmates’ parents, newly learned vocabulary, sick kids and sick days, phone calls or notes from the teacher, new friends and more.

I keep thinking, “Is she ready for this new world?” It’s more like, “Am I ready for the world that awaits her?”

I pray that she is…that I am.

So, as I say my bedtime prayers tonight, I will also pray a slightly modified bible verse for my BSF.

I pray that this new world is kind and patient.  That it is filled with and envelopes her in love. I pray that jealousy, boastfulness, anger, rudeness and resentfulness make few sizeable appearances. I pray that justice dominates, and that she feels the equity, especially when it doesn’t work in her favor. I pray that her trust in others is not shaken.  I pray that she doesn’t give up easily, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and that she works through the tough stuff, just as love does.

For all of you who are sending your “babies” off to school for the first time…or the second time or for the last time…I pray the same prayer for your child. Some days, it can feel like a whole new world, out there.