Fakesgiving – Food and Friends to be Thankful For

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Back in the early 90s, living in Florida away from family was tough.  We couldn’t always take time off during the holidays, so we spent quite a few Thanksgivings and Christmases by ourselves.

We invented Fakesgiving as a way to celebrate when we had family or friends with us.  My dad and stepmom came down one year a month before Thanksgiving, and I was so excited to have the visit, we made Thanksgiving dinner.  We coined the term Fakesgiving, and have been doing it ever since.

Through the years, some recipes have been really successful.  Others, not so much.  We’ve had guests bring things that I can’t imagine not having on the table, even when those guests can’t be with us.  Below are some of the recipes that are always repeat guests o the table.  If you don’t see one you think you’d like, let me know.  I also do sweet potatoes with pecan topping, kielbasa and sauerkraut, stuffed mushrooms, and more!

broccoli casserole

Broccoli Casserole

  • 1 pound broccoli, cut into pieces (or one bag frozen – which is way easier)
  • 1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb.) salted butter, cut into pieces
  • Pepper
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed (1/3 of a 12 oz. box)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mist a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Steam broccoli until crisp-tender, 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water.
  3. Mix soup, eggs, mayonnaise, cheese, butter and pepper in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and combined.
  4. Drain broccoli; spread evenly in baking dish. Pour cheese mixture on top. Sprinkle with crackers. Bake for 30 minutes.

creamed corn

Crockpot Creamed Corn

  • 3 bags (12 oz each) Green Giant™ Steamers™ Niblets® frozen whole kernel corn
  • 4 packages (3 oz each) cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  •  Spread corn over bottom of 3- to 4-quart slow cooker. Top with cream cheese cubes.
  • In small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients; pour over corn and cream cheese.Cover; cook on High heat setting 2 to 3 hours.
  • Stir well before serving. Corn will hold on Low heat setting up to 2 hours; stir occasionally.

sausage stuffing

Sausage Stuffing

  • 1 pound mild or sage breakfast sausage
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped celery
  • 10 cups cubed French bread or white bread
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried leaf sage, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • dash freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups chicken broth

Lightly butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Heat oven to 350°.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking up and stirring frequently, until sausage is no longer pink. Use the same skillet and melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread cubes with the herbs and seasonings. Add the vegetables with the butter and the drained sausage. Stir in chicken broth until well moistened, but not mushy. Pack gently into the prepared baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and broil for about 3 to 4 minutes, or just until browned on top.

2011 – What I Learned This Year

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I could sum up my year in one word.  School.  I feel like the entire year was consumed by my educational aspirations.  But aside from all the -ologies I studied in 2011, I’ve learned quite a few other things.  With a year that saw me recovering from last fall’s bout with MRSA and then a stay in ICU battling kidney failure, I had lots of time to reflect on things – the good, the bad, and what was more important.

So here goes:

I learned that it’s perfectly okay to be sad about the things I’ve lost.  My sister, who died way too young; my dad, who fought for the last ten years of his life to make sure he snatched every bit of joy and happiness he could in the time he had left; the five babies I never got to hold or cuddle or sniff the tops of their tiny heads.  I know now that it’s okay to still find myself in a puddle of my own tears over not having those things.  But it’s even more important to celebrate and appreciate the things that I haven’t lost.  I have three amazing daughters, who can melt my heart with their beautiful smiles and warm me on my coldest days with their giggles.  I have a husband who loves me – cherishes me – and through all of his own battles, always manages to make me feel like his number one priority.  I am blessed with an awesome sister, terrific parents and step-parents, and extended family and friends that I adore.

I learned that it really does take the worst to make you truly understand and appreciate the best.  The worst snowstorms help you appreciate the warmest days.  A bad grade on a test makes you truly grateful when you get an A.  A bad eye day for Jim makes a good eye day such a gift.  Laying in bed in intensive care helps you to remember to find gratitude when “it’s only a cold” or “it’s a small cut”.  I’m going to bitch way less about how sore my nose is when I get a head cold and be happy instead that they discovered Puffs with Lotion!

I have finally figured out what a “good” doctor is.  I’ve had the same primary care doctor for almost 30 years.  While I’ve appreciated everything he’s done for me, I never really appreciated what a good doctor he is.  He’s funny.  I don’t mind going to see him, because I feel I will surely be entertained, but this year, when we needed balls to the wall, he stepped up to the plate.  And you already know that I truly believe I found God’s gift to medicine when I found Dr. Veitia.  So if you’re in the area, and need a primary care doctor, it’s Dr. Gary Heck.  Looking for a phenomenal surgeon?  Dr. Nestor Veitia.  And you’ll love them as much as I do when you meet some of the other doctors that are out there.

I”d like to say that in 2011, I figured out the meaning of life.  Well, at least my life.  I haven’t.  But I have made huge strides in figuring out what was important.  Family, friends, health, education, and Mickey Mouse.  If you discover the joy in all of that, you don’t really need to know the meaning of life – you just need to enjoy it.

School Friends, Teachers, Tutors – and the Christmas Shopping List Grows Longer!

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With three daughters, all of whom have friends and teachers they like to give holiday gifts to, it seems that the holiday budget has to grow to nearly the size of the national debt in order for me to accommodate all the people on the list!  The kids also like to give a little something to the grandparents that’s just from them.  Add to that the people I always find at this time of year that I’d like to give a little something to – like the two girls who tutor me in chemistry and save my sanity.  And the guy who works the tutoring desk who asked me the other day if I knew the DMX song that was playing in the tutoring center (I did not) – he earned a spot on the list by insulting me when he said, “But you’d probably know it if it was Tony Bennett, right?”  He gets the burnt cookies.

But what is a mom with a budget tighter than that chunky monkey Santa’s squeeze down the chimney to do?

Let’s go to my old favorite standby – Oriental Trading.  The place has everything you could ever want to make your own inexpensive gifts!  Something cute I found that would be great for Grandmoms and teachers is this adorable gingerbread man necklace.  It’s festive for the holidays, and you can make 12 of them from one kit – that’s just over 50 cents each!  For the teacher, add a $5 Starbucks gift card, and she’ll have something handmade to help her remember your child for years to come, plus she gets a little treat while she’s out doing her own Christmas shopping!  You can find this and MANY more gift ideas at www.orientaltrading.com.

For your teenagers friends, think along the lines of something your own teen would like.  Perhaps have him/her choose a collection of songs they like and make each teen a CD that they’ll all enjoy listening to.  Teenagers also love photos of themselves with their friends, and you can find frames of all sizes and shapes at the dollar store.  Buy a simple frame, grab some wooden letters that spell out BFF at your craft store, have your teen paint them, then glue them to the front of the frame.  Print out your teen’s favorite picture with each friend to put in the frames, and viola – the perfect gift for around $2.50!

Younger kids get a kick out of snowman soup!  Again, hit up places like Oriental Trading or the dollar store, and find some inexpensive holiday themed mugs (Oriental Trading usually has plastic ones at $10 per dozen.  In each one, put a single packet of hot cocoa mix, a chocolate kiss or two, a candy cane, and a few marshmallows.  Wrap the whole thing in cellophane, and tag it with this little poem:

Snowman Soup
Was told you’ve been real good this year.
Always glad to hear it!
With freezing weather drawing near,
You’ll need to warm the spirit.
So here’s a little Snowman Soup
Complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water, sip it slow.
It’s sure to do the trick!


These also make great party favors for your holiday parties, and if you are going to make a bunch, skip the mug and put the ingredients in a holiday treat bag, twist tied at the top.  You eliminate the cost of the mug and save about .75 per gift!

Never underestimate the value of Christmas cookies and holiday fudge.  I know we all say a dozen times a year “If I eat one more Christmas cookie, I’m going to explode!”  But we usually say it as we are snagging another cookie.  What other time of the year are you going to have this many fabulous treats in front of you?  As someone who is lucky I don’t burn the slice and bake variety of cookies, homemade treats are one of my favorite gifts!

I hope this helps you save a little in your holiday budget for you to do something nice for yourself this Christmas season.  Splurge on some fuzzy slippers you can wear while sipping your snowman soup and noshing on those Christmas cookies.  You know you deserve it!.

 

 

 

If You Could Take One Thing With You…

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So, as you’re well aware, especially if you live somewhere that the six o’clock doomsday hour has already passed, God saw fit to spare us miserable mortals for the time being, allowing us yet another day to mess things up.  Well, damn.  I had an awesome outfit chosen for the looting party I’ve been invited to on Facebook for the day after, when those of us not among the chosen were going to get us a five finger discount on some HD TV.

But, let’s just say today HAD been the day.  And on your way up to Heaven, God said, “Choose one thing from your life on earth – not something living, because frankly, I don’t do diapers, I don’t walk dogs, and I don’t want to have to set yet another place at the dinner table – and bring it with you.  It’ll be nice to have that memory of home, and it will reduce the chances you’ll moan and complain about your accommodations or the food if you have something to keep you company.”

What are you bringing?

I’ve thought long and hard about all of my worldly possessions.  I have photographs that I cherish, jewelry that I love, books that I would never want to be without.  It’s been really tough to decide on just one thing, but after much thought, I’ve chosen my item.

I’m taking my pink Walt Disney World Moms Panel jacket.

I know – I hate pink, for the most part, so why would I want to spend eternity with only a pink jacket?

Here’s the rationale:

Disney World is where I have some of the most wonderful memories of my family.  Brighid as chef of the day at the Crystal Palace when she was four; Eilis learning to walk at EPCOT when she was a year old; Granuaile at 8 months old looking directly into the eyes of the Santa at Downtown Disney; and my honeymoon with the one and only true love of my life.  The jacket will remind me of the holidays we spent at Disney World, the occasions we celebrated, the meals we all ate together, laughing and joking – not worrying about cheerleading practice or dance classes or a scout meeting.

The jacket will also remind me that I was a competent and qualified enough writer that I was able to write answers that helped at least a few people plan a vacation that would give them some of the same wonderful feelings I get when I think of my cherished family Disney memories.  I can say that being on the Moms Panel was a true highlight of my 46 years on earth (okay, the end of the world is surely coming now – I’ve put my age out there in print!).

And the jacket is a symbol of the friendships I’ve made.  The weekend that I got that jacket, I met the 15 people who will be friends for life.  They are the people with whom I bonded more quickly than I have ever bonded with anyone else (except Jim).  When I look at the jacket, I will think of when we met; our weekend in Chicago; my visit with Joanne in NYC; Margaret’s birthday weekend at WDW.  And I will cherish every Facebook conversation, text message, and Tweet that we’ve shared.  Not to mention the bonus friends I’ve made as a result of being on the Moms Panel – Moms Panel Erin, Jud, Anthony, the other Moms Panel members, and those Skurvy Monkeys.

So, while I rarely ever wear the jacket; pink is not my color; and I would hope that I could find the darn thing in an instant if God said I could take it with me, the one thing I would want to depart from this mortal soil with is my jacket.  And all the memories that come with it.

 

Suicide is Painless – Except for Everyone Left Behind

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This is not the first time our family has been touched by suicide.  When Brighid was in elementary school, the brother of a friend killed himself because of bullying.  Just about a year after that, the father of another of Brighid’s friends killed himself to avoid scrutiny of some of his business practices.  It’s painful on levels you can’t imagine unless you go through it.  It’s the feeling of having your hand out for someone and barely being able to touch the tips of their fingers before they are swallowed up by the sadness.

The first time Angela came to my house, it was with Sandi and a book about relationships.  It wasn’t the typical relationship book – you know, noted psychologist and relationship expert Dr. So and So.  It was Steve Harvey.  Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man was going to be Ang’s guide to a great romance.

Angela spent all the time I knew her looking for something.  She married at 19 because she had dual citizenship between the US and her native Brazil, and she thought she could be helpful to someone.  In the beginning, her eyes gleamed when she talked about him, a broad smile crossed her face.  But it wasn’t the happiness and contentment she had hoped to find.

Over the next few years, she cried out for attention, landed in hospitals, battled with demons.  But it always seemed like she was going to find the right path.

Most of my conversations with Ang were at the drive through at Starbucks.  But I’d go in the afternoon, on my way to get the kids at school, when I’d be the only one at the window.  Ang would hang out the window, breathing in the outside air, and chat with me about men, about her health, about life in general.  When she said she was leaving Starbucks, I congratulated her; wished her the best with her new life; and hoped that it had meant she found true love, real passion, and the contentment that always seemed to elude her.

She didn’t.  Her spirit remained restless until the end, when the seduction of an instant and permanent peace was too great.  It pulled her in, held her tightly, and it didn’t let go.

Angela walked to work often, and one day, on our travels through the area, Jim saw her standing at a light, waiting to cross a busy intersection to get home.  He had me turn around at the first light to go back and pick her up, but by the time we got back to where she had been, she was gone.  Before we could help her find a way home.

She was gone.

I hope, Angela, that you have finally found it – the peace, the contentment, the comfort that you didn’t find here.  Rest in peace.