Saturday, November 30, 2013

Last day of Thanksgiving Nov 2013...Unexpected Surprises

Today is the last day of the 30 days of Thanksgiving.  Some of you are ready for this to be over as in "Will Deb please find something new to talk about??"  Others are a bit sad to see the 30 days of giving thanks end until next year.  I tend to land in that bit sad column.  I like to hear people being thankful.  I like attitudes of gratitude and the intentional expression of that thanks.  It sure beats stories of people hurting each other on Black Friday or ultra consumerism that is far too prevalent in our news feeds.

It has been a good exercise for me - the discipline of writing, the time to think about what I am most thankful for in this life.  Those are practices that are good all year round.

Well, today, the last day of this 30 days, I want to say that I am thankful for unexpected surprises.  Yes, I am aware that is a redundant phrase.  Thank you for that English tutor session.  I feel much smarter now. 

So I will revise that to just I am thankful for surprises.  Some folks hate surprises, even the good kind.  But not me!  I love a good surprise, especially the good ones or the ones that make me laugh.

Like this one.
Can you see it?  Not the little line of fuzz, but a bit to the right of that fuzz.  Here, let me try it this way.
Do you know what that is?  That blue dot?  It's not an Excel blue dot of circular reference.  It's a blue dot of confetti. On our living room rug.
And that's not a blue dot of confetti because we had a wild party last night.  Nope, that is a blue dot of confetti that is much older than last night.  It's from September of 2012.  September 30th of last year to be exact.  When we had S&K's gender reveal party to find out that J-man was a boy.  And it's not that we haven't run a vacuum between then and now (although that piece of fuzz to the left of the blue dot might make you wonder as well).  No, trust me.  G is our resident meister of the vacuum, so this spot of the rug has been vacuumed many times since Sept. 30, 2012.  As well as inspected.  By G.  Who is also our resident attention to detail meister. 
So therefore, he would have also been the one to see this dot of confetti.  Yesterday.  He is the only one around here who ever has found the dots of confetti.  Since B is legally blind, things like this are not on her radar, and I like details about some things, but not cleaning confetti.  Nope, gotta leave that to G.  And trust me.  He "loves" confetti.  Can't wait to include it in our next big party.  He "loves" it so much that my friend, PK, has suggested that I need to hide it in his suitcase every now and then...
Get how much he "loves" it?  So I had to laugh when he asked me yesterday morning, "Guess what I just found?" 
"Something that is over a year old," he says.
"And it doesn't smell?" I ask.
He points to the rug.  He's smiling, but I don't see it. 
Imagine that.
Until I get up close.  And I laugh from the sheer surprise and humor of it, and take a pic.  Cause what else is there to do but take a pic, right?
We had one other surprise yesterday.  We'd been out and about doing some shopping but nothing like Black Friday craziness.  We bought a Christmas tree stand, and were ending the day at the Shining Light Tree Lot where they sell trees each year to raise money for the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments, the folks who gave B vision therapy 21 years go.  We found a very nice tree (more on that tomorrow) and were helped by a man who has worked the lot as a volunteer since 1984 - almost 30 years.  How cool is that?  Gotta love that sort of dedication.
Well, we went inside the trailer and my eyes landed on this almost immediately.

Can you tell who that is?  This is me and B, circa 1993, taken at the Delta Gamma center all those years ago.  This pic has been used by them in a flyer and displayed ever since.  I was so surprised to see it still in use.

I also saw this.
That is also our little B, in a therapy session, learning about pouring liquids.  Can you believe it?  Of all the children they have helped through the years, we saw two pics on the trailer walls of our little one.  Now that's the sort of surprise that just makes you feel warm and wonderful and special inside and yet somewhat private all at the same time...because B is simply a child here - a child with needs like any other child - and there's a place who helped her then and keeps helping others today. 
"That's cool" as my son, S, said.
And B had to laugh when I showed them to her.  Especially as much as she hates to have her pic taken now, there's just a certain irony about it.
Thanks for reading.  Thanks for stopping by.  Thanks for sharing your thankfulness with me via FB posts this month.  Thanks for the surprises I've read in that time.  Good stuff.
Yep, I'm thankful to be alive and healthy and able to share stuff with folks.  Talk to ya tomorrow!

Friday, November 29, 2013

2 days left of Thanksgiving...Memories...Or The Top 10 Things I Learned on Thanksgiving Day 2013

I've told you before that I love learning...that I'm thankful for learning.  And memory is a helpful part of learning.  It's hard to learn stuff if we don't remember it.  (That really is quite the genius statement there.  Deep.  Ponderous.  Try to stay with me.)

So in my thankfulness for learning, I am also thankful for memories.  Yesterday - as a holiday - was a natural Memory Collector Day.  Any day is a Memory Collector Day, but we don't always have our Memory Collector Hat on for regular days like we do for holidays.

But rather than simply telling you I'm thankful for the memories we made yesterday as a family, I thought I would combine my thankfulness for learning with my thankfulness for memories in a Top 10 List.

Ready?  Ahem...clearing my the pronouncement...See?  It's in bold and centered so you know it's important.

The Top 10 Things I Learned on Thanksgiving Day 2013
# 10 - Don't ask for a roll taste test on Thanksgiving Day.
I have a go-to roll recipe from King Arthur that I found a few years back and quit looking for roll recipes after 25 years of looking.  Well, I knew that one batch wouldn't be enough, so I thought I would ask for a taste test of a slightly different roll recipe to see if I should have a new go-to roll recipe.  I had the whole family around...lots of taste testers available...why not?  Well here's why not.  Thanksgiving has sooooooo many other good things on the table, people want a roll as a vehicle for cleansing the pallet or sopping up gravy, but they don't have room for a second roll to do a true taste test.  Save roll taste tests for other days, Deb.
And speaking of rolls...
# 9 - Homemade cinnamon rolls and eggnog make a pretty good Thanksgiving Day breakfast tradition.
It's a new tradition for G and I.  While I knew I'd need to put together two batches of dough, I also knew that we'd really only eat about 1.6734 batches, so that could leave 0.3266 batches available to make just enough cinnamon rolls for two - ok, three since D was around yesterday morning, too, but you get the idea.  And eggnog is a holiday treat that we look forward to every year.  (Not D; he stuck with milk.) I didn't say that this Thanksgiving Day breakfast tradition would be healthy.  Nor did I say that we added any adult liquid with a rationalization that "it's 5 o'clock somewhere".  I simply said it was good - as in tasty but not too filling - and easy since the roll dough was already together anyway.  Can it be Thanksgiving Day again tomorrow please?
And while I'm still speaking of rolls...
# 8 - Make a batch of Angel Biscuits.
So a certain someone feels a little closer to home for Thanksgiving.  'Nuff said.
# 7 - Strawberry juice needs to be controlled when mixing with brownies.
All part of a pie experiment for A.  What I tried yesterday wasn't altogether bad - but we're not there yet.  I have a next idea to try, but this experiment is its own blog post, so stop back by in 2014 and we'll talk some more about strawberries and chocolate and pie.
# 6 - This works.
We have 3 different sweet potato tastes in our family - those who like plain sweet potatoes (with just butter and salt like a baked Irish potato); those who like sweetened sweet potatoes with golden brown melty marshmallows all over the tope; and those who like the sweetened sweet potatoes but with the crunch of toasted pecans on top.  So I put the above together in one dish.  I am a bake my sweet potatoes kind of girl.  I hate to peel sweet potatoes or boil them in their jackets.  Why bother when I have a perfectly good oven that will bake them while I go enjoy cinnamon rolls and eggnog with my honey?  Once they are baked, I let 'em cool (cause there's still cinnamon rolls and eggnog with my honey to enjoy), peel, add melted butter and mash.  I stopped right there to make the inner mound of the pic above, garnished only with sea salt.  Then I sweetened the remainder with brown sugar, maple syrup (just a touch) and just a touch of pineapple juice.  I piled all of that in the remainder of the dish, and then garnished with mini marshmallows for that crowd and toasted pecans for that crowd.  (I will let you in on a little secret.  I am almost positive that some folks took from all three.  Shh...don't tell.)
# 5 - Wisdom teeth surgery three days before Thanksgiving has some lingering effects.
I won't belabor this, but trust me when I say that K wasn't his normal self.  Poor guy. 
# 4 - Fireplaces need five stockings, not three.
And B makes a find Vanna.
# 3 - I have adult children who can cook a whole turkey.  That's a good feeling.
Last year, S&A made the turkey (not sure if it was their first or not), and it was quite tasty.  And this year S&K did the turkey (their first), and it was also quite tasty.  As a mother, that is a very satisfying sort of feeling.  They are well on their way to carrying on traditions of future family get togethers.  Not that roasting a turkey is a prerequisite to family get togethers, but there's just something good and hopeful knowing that they can manage a turkey without freaking out.
# 2 - Four generations represented around the table is a good thing.  That is a very good thing.  Something worth contemplating with a good thumb suck.
And the # 1 thing I learned on Thanksgiving Day 2013...
# 1 - My oldest son will step up and read the 103rd Psalm since he knows his mama will choke up if she tries.
And he even self corrects if he reads a part wrong...and the family was listening while he read, cause we caught it, too.  Good stuff.
Happy Thanksgiving leftovers everyone! 
We are off to find a Christmas tree today.  We are gonna have ourselves an ad-benture!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

3 days left of Thanksgiving...Psalm 103 and Family

It's Thanksgiving Day!  My favoritest holiday of all!  We will be going to S&K's new house for dinner, and they have posted pics on FB of all that they have been doing to prepare.  I can't wait!

Every family has their own traditions for Thanksgiving Day, their Mom's dressing, saying what each person is thankful for that particular year, their version of cranberry sauce - are you a jelly out of the can sort of family?  That you lay on its side and slice?

Please tell me no.  Please?  So we can still be friends?  This is the stuff I grew up on, and I couldn't stand it then, and I still can't stand it today.  I kinda sorta gag a little bit just looking at this picture.

I'm not even a traditional cranberry sauce kind of girl.  We make a cranberry, crushed pineapple and brown sugar concoction each year that I really love because it hits my sweet tooth just right with a hint of the tart that cranberries are so known for.  S&A are bringing the cranberry sauce this year and I think it is just about the most perfect accompaniment to the rest of the traditional meal.

One tradition that we grew up on for Thanksgiving was to read the 103rd Psalm.  For those who may not be aware, this is a passage from the Book of Psalms in the Bible, and it opens like this:

Bless the Lord, o my soul
And all that is within me bless His Holy Name
Bless the Lord, o my soul
And forget not all his benefits
My sister, J, and I can't hardly read this without our voice cracking and tears as we remember all of the times our parents (who are now both gone) read this at the Thanksgiving table.  One passage in particular from this chapter of the Bible gets to me every time:
But from everlasting to everlasting
The Lord's love is with those who fear him
And his righteousness with their children's children -
With those who keep his covenant
And remember to obey his precepts.
Their children's children.  I can't hear that phrase without recalling a story we heard many times as a child and growing up in my mother's family.  Her great-great-I'm honestly not sure how many greats belong here-grandfather would pray for his family - that God would "bless our children's children down to the 7th generation."  I doubt that he was asking God for the blessings to suddenly stop at the 7th generation.  He was instead asking for his family to be blessed as long as we were propogatin' and as an example to his sons and daughters to pray likewise as an example to their sons and daughters to pray likewise and so on.  And J&I, as well as our spouses and children and grandchildren are all part of that prayer...part of that tradition...part of that same family.  Does that make us perfect and not the least bit dysfunctional?  Wouldn't that be wonderful if that was the case?  But all anyone has to do is look at my life and know that ain't so much the case. 
But am I blessed? 
You betcha. 
Am I aware of God answering that prayer uttered over 100 years ago still today? 
You betcha.  Even when I was being served that yucky cranberry jelly stuff growing up.
Have a very blessed Thanksgiving!  Bless each other and if you are so inclined in your exercise of the religious freedom that we enjoy in this land known as America, bless the Lord and "forget not all his benefits."  Cause chances are - even if your table includes a can shaped food - you have experienced a lot of his benefits.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

4 days left of Thanksgiving....Help Part 2

As I was driving to work yesterday, a radio spot talked about donating to Goodwill and all of the help that they provide.  I had posted about being thankful for helpers, and I kept it very close and personal yesterday, and when I heard that spot I realized I had left out a whole other element of helpers.  So I'd like to spend today thinking about organizational helpers - how they help and how we can help.

As some of you know, my youngest daughter was born legally blind.  There is a wonderful group of people here in St. Louis called The Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments.  This organization provides vision services and therapy for very young children with low vision.  This is a non-profit charitable group that offers these services at no charge to the families.  They are funded by donations.  One of their biggest fund raisers is their Shining Light Christmas Tree Lot.  If you are a real tree kind of person in the St. Louis area - and not necessarily a cutter down of your real tree - please consider stopping by and checking out their trees.  You will be helping out a great group of folks who quietly help many families in the local area, giving hope and practical help to very little ones who have to figure out this world from a low-vision perspective.
Another great organization that could use help is the International Justice Mission.  These teams work around the world to free people from slavery and sexual exploitation, especially children.  This is an underbelly of life that few want to look at, but it is real, and it takes courage and tenacity and fresh ideas to give people hope and a vision for a new way to do life, free from oppression.
The fact of the matter is, there are lots of places that can use help - whether you keep it local or think big and internationally.  I have only mentioned two, because I don't want to sound preachy, and these are two groups with whom I've had some personal interaction.  Besides that I know that this is a very busy season with baking and shopping and baking and wrapping and baking and visiting and baking and a little bit more baking - planning love and fun for others.  And that is all wonderful stuff, full of hope and celebrations.  At the same time, I am one who believes we shouldn't let the holidays rule us by making us overworked and over stressed and just plain crazy.  I really like the tenants and ideas expressed by this organization, The Advent Conspiracy.  They encourage relational giving and giving in ways that help others, such as Living Water or helping church leaders and pastors by providing quality message tools for Christmas services. 
I love helping - in all its various forms.  I cringe to ask for help just like the next person, but I know in my heart of hearts and when I'm thinking clearly that I need help - just like the next person.  I need to receive help and give help.  All the time.  So I'm thankful for help and helpers - from the little to the big.
Happy Thanksgiving again everyone!  Happy pie making and pulling out your mother's dressing recipe and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade like some of us have done since we were little kids.  I love Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

5 days left of Thanksgiving...Helpers

Today I am thankful for helpers.  Helpers are the best. 

The End.

I could end this post right there, because I'm not sure I will say anything better or more helpful (get it?) than I said above.  But I can at least mention a few helpers as a way of thanking them.

Like K.  My son-in-law.  I know his middle name is legally John, but I'm pretty sure his real middle name is Helper.  K Helper.  Yep, I'm sure of it.  He recently helped his brother-in-law with some car repairs.  He helps other family members with car parts and connections to car parts that leaves this mother-in-law never really asking about the legality of the origins of said parts.  K helps restore trains and "retired" military vehicles. K helps connect people with tools, guns, gun parts.  You name it, K probably has a connection.  He needs his own website which would not be the same thing as, a matchmaking service in Denver.  His most recent project was this table where we will dine as a family in two days.  And the two guys in the background?  Oh yea...helpers.  Aren't helpers great?!!
Like B.  My youngest.  She is spending the week at S&K's house, because K just had his wisdom teeth pulled yesterday morning and they are hosting Thanksgiving.  It just sorta sounded like S could use the help of her sister this week.  In fact B&S were helpers yesterday for a couple of good friends who needed some last minute childcare.  Yep, helpers are the best.
Like A, my daughter-in-law.  She and K may very well share the same middle name.  This beautiful lady loves helping so much that she devotes full-time hours to helping - some of the best kind of helping - families in need.  She helps older women - matriarchs in their neighborhoods - with friendship and laughter and whatever else they may need.  She helps parents and children who are going through tough time, teaching them, loving on them, sharing her talents and lovely smile with them.  She helps lead others in worship with her voice and heart.  A helps us with her wisdom and humor and love. 
And as long as I've chosen that pic, I will also mention S.  He and helping go way back, especially at church.  Even as a teenager, he would get up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning to head out to Chesterfield by 6 to help turn the YMCA into a church service - lights, sound equipment, music, video.  You name it. 
I could keep this going quite some time, because don't we see helpers everyday?  I haven't mentioned my other son, D, who loves to help set things up or run a TV camera.  I haven't mentioned friends who have helped me in countless ways, especially when you think about the fact that I've lived 52 years on this here planet.  Don't we get help nearly everyday?  Don't we also enjoy being helpers?
I will close with one pic just for cuteness - to help you on your collection of cute points for the day.  B & I got the privilege of helping S give the J-man a bath the other night when G was putting up baby gates.  I'm not sure how much help B&I were, but we sure had fun!  Maybe you could say that J-man is already a helper...helping to bring smiles and laughter...and Mohawk shampoo hairdos...
I do love babies!  Makes me excited all over again for Thursday and counting the days till we get back to Springfield to see the other grandsons! 
Helpers!  Good stuff.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

6 days left of Thanksgiving...SAP

Yes, that's right.  I'm thankful for SAP.

For some of you, you're thinking that I'm thankful for the sweet, thick syrupy stuff that comes out of a tree, and I'm telling you just how thankful because I've spelled it in all CAPS.

But some of you are just geeky enough that you know I'm not talking about a potential pancake topping.  I am instead talking about an ERP system known as SAP.

For those of you who thought this post was going to be about syrup, you're now a) ready to stop reading altogether; b) not sure what an ERP system is; or c) off in the kitchen making pancakes because this talk of sap and syrup has made you hungry and pancakes are much more interesting.

I get each one of those.  And any time > 6 years ago, I would have been right there with you.  So with that in mind, I will try to do my best to make this as un-geek as possible while still explaining why I am thankful for SAP.

SAP has changed my life.  Quite literally.  It has changed my language.  It has changed how I think about business.  It has changed how I think about people.

It has changed my language.  I now use words and phrases like org change management and negative regression testing and configuration and development, quality and production and vendor returns and workflow and system triggers and business process all the time these days.  Acronyms have become my best friend - MM, PP, QM, WM (not to be confused with Walmart), MRP, SD, FI, CO, MDM, RFC, ECC, ECD, ECQ, ECP, SLOC, RF, PIR and PIR (two totally different things), ABAP and the list can go on and on, but most of you have skipped on to the next paragraph already.  Yes, this is the way I talk now - verbally and in print.  Most of my Google searches these days involve words and acronyms like the above.  Hello, my name is Deb, and Geeks R Us.

It has changed how I think about business.  In all honesty, I wouldn't say that I have been guilty of silo thinking about business - where it's all about me and my department getting our things done and the rest of the organization is on their own once I throw it over the wall.  But since SAP is what I do for a living now, about all I think about is the business process - how an activity or business moves from one department to the next through the system (SAP) so that when demand comes in for a product that we sell, it gets purchased, built, inspected, warehoused, labeled, shipped, paid for and invoiced correctly.  And when we have a new way of selling that product or buying it or building it, I am part of a team of folks who sit and geek, I mean, think about how that new process will work.

It has changed how I think about people.  I remember 2008 like it was 9/11.  In fact, in my lifetimes on this earth, I "tell time" by the births of my children, whether I was nursing a baby at that time, my divorce, 9/11 and the SAP Project in 2008.  Truly.  And when I started 2008 I would have never imagined a day that I would have been typing in a blog about being thankful for SAP.  Because at that point I felt like I had been dropped in Germany without so much as a language dictionary, much less a Rosetta Stone.  And I also thought that this was a nearly impossible system to understand - it wasn't user friendly and it was so integrated that there was no way to change it - trust me, there were tears at night.  But now?  After having worked with it for almost 6 years?  I have come to realize that when we have a new process that needs to be implemented (another one of those common words in my language these days), getting the system set up correctly is only about 20% of the battle.  The other 80% is getting people trained and using it.  Adopting the new tools or way of thinking about a process.  That ugly word...CHANGING.  (Some of you feel the pain of that word, and think I'm being mean to even mention that SAP has changed how I think about people.)  But it has.  I don't mean any mean girl-ness in this.  It has simply made me realize that I need to be more conscious of the people side of system things.  It does us no good to design a process in the system, no matter how slick or well thought out, if people don't get it, use it, or work around it. 

It has changed how I think about people in one other, significant way.  The SAP community it just that - a community.  Almost a sub-culture in some ways, made up of people who have lived through a 2008 experience of their own so for the most part, they are open to teaching and helping each other out.  Sure, there may be the cutthroat folks out there, but most are more than willing to offer ideas, documentation, links, books, you name it, to help when you're faced with a new crisis or issue or process.  I will always be grateful for those who have patiently taught me, my first MM consultant, my first PP consultant, my capacity planning consultant, the team of folks I am blessed enough to work with everyday, others that I met in 2008 and are still friends with at least on FB (and who gave me one of the most extravagant birthdays of my life). 

Yep, I'm thankful for SAP.  It has changed my life in good ways - very good ways.  Given me a skill set that can bode well career wise and opened my mind to new challenges, new ideas and ways of thinking almost everyday. 

SAP Geek and Proud!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

7 days left of Thanksgiving...G, my husband

Thanksgiving week!  Thanksgiving is truly my favorite holiday of the year!  I love the time with family and friends.  I love the various elements of the traditional meal, and I love when our family has been small enough that we've said, "What do we want to fix, even if it isn't a full turkey?"  One of the best answers we ever had for that question was some boneless turkey breasts that we stuffed with a spinach artichoke and bread crumb mixture.  Yum-my.  I will post that recipe one of these days.

But the main thing I love about Thanksgiving is the thanks giving.  The intentional giving of thanks - that reminder that we all have things to be thankful for all the time.  For those who live thankfully, one day is never enough, so I have enjoyed spending 23 days so far, posting about various things and people for whom I am thankful.  Pie.  Our grandsons.  Our kids.  Pie.  Veterans.  Friends and favors.  Pie.  Technology and Excel.  Pie.  Health.  Pie.  New Ideas.  Pie.  Teaching and learning.  Pie.

And finally after 23 days of waiting, today I am going to write about why I'm thankful for G.  I think to keep this fun, I will list the Top 10 things I'm thankful for about G.

# 10 - He's got skills.  Landscaping skills.  Gardening skills.  Building skills.  Repair skills.  Painting skills.  G has made many positive changes around here like transforming the back yard from a jungle full of a noxious weed to a real back yard with soft grass.  Like making the cake board for S&A's wedding cake to installing baby gates for the J-man and coming up with possible solutions for the trickiest spot where S&K need baby gates installed.  Like painting almost every room in the house to adding cabinets and an under the cabinet microwave - which how did I miss until just this past week that this microwave has a soften/melt button?  It has changed my chocolate and butter melting life, I tell ya! 

# 9 - His neighborliness.  In some ways, he is the State Farm of our little neck of the woods. G has done more to meet our neighbors in the last two years he's been in my life than the 30 years we spent here before that.  Just this past week he has helped a family who lives nearby going through a tough financial time.  He supports our fledgling neighborhood association that includes being the head gardener for our community garden.   

# 8 - His companionship.  This may not sound like much to young folks, but those who have a few years under their middle aged belt get it.  I spent a number of years doing life without that certain someone to share meals with each evening, to watch a movie or Cards game with, to go with to the grocery store or Home Depot (see # 10 above).  The somewhat mundane things of life that are simply more pleasant when shared with another. 

# 7 - His helpmateness.  He helps me.  A lot.  With everyday things like laundry and cleaning and running errands and with not-so-everyday things like Pie Night and other holidays.  Helpmate is a very old-fashioned word, but it fits so often.  And really fits what I'm trying to express here.

# 6 - His care.  About the little things and the big things.  About the details and the big picture.  I have a job that he doesn't necessarily understand, but he always listens and cares what I'm going through on any given regular day or the somewhat bigger days.  G is a strong believer in a husband's role as a protector.  That may feel like an old-fashioned idea these days, but I like it - even when he's asking the dr. if I should really do Pie Night when I have a frozen shoulder.  Oh yea...he asked...I was going to conveniently "forget" to mention Pie Night to the dr., but G ratted me out!  But I know it was all about protecting me from any further injury.

# 5 - His support and encouragement.  G believes in me.  He may not always get me, but he believes in me.

# 4 -  His fudge and his peanut butter fudge and his little Butterfinger snacks.  I love Christmas, too!  And making all of the Christmas goodies with G make is that much better.

# 3 - His smoking.  He smokes the best stuff.  Ain't no tobacco around, mind you, but there is cherry wood and pecan shells and ribs and rubs.  And smoke.

# 2 - His family.  I have enjoyed love and acceptance and laughter and hugs and grandsons and music and memories and State Fair food and Smoky Mountains with new family members from 84 years to 1 year olds. 
And the # 1 Thing I'm thankful for about G...he loves me.  Is he perfect?  Nope.  Am I?  Nope.  Just ask G.  He'll tell ya.  But he loves me, and we're figuring out this married life thing together.  And I'm thankful for that.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I know folks will be extra busy this week, so you may not feel like taking a few minutes to stop by and read this little blog, so I want to take this moment to wish you and yours a most wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  Such a great time to recall who you are thankful for and why.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

8 days left of Thanksgiving...Goodness! and Mercy!

I just finished cleaning and drying the last of the chargers and the knives and the pie servers from Pie Night.  I think that the Pie Night leftovers that I took to work were 96.73% gone by about 9am yesterday morning.  People told me that they heard my laugh when I first arrived so they started heading towards my cubicle.  Now keep in mind that these were people who sit on the other side of the office.  Apparently my laugh carries...and I managed to carry it on to my oldest daughter...At least it's better than being recognized for my criticism, right?

And why didn't I have the cleaning and drying all done before going to bed Thursday eve?  Grandma Walton wouldn't have approved!

But I have two very good reasons why this didn't get done until today.

First, after every one else had left, a sharp, young man who is a daddy and a doctor (Dr. B) sat down and just started bringing us up to date on his life, and we didn't stop talking until well after midnight. 

I LOVE conversations like that.  Goodness!  And mercy! 

And people wonder why I do Pie Night?  It's for stuff like this. 

Some of my best memories of visiting R&E in Springfield are the late night talks we get to have with R about his life. 

That?  That. That is the good stuff, baby. 

This young doctor has dreams that are so much bigger than only medicine.  Medicine is but one tool in this man's tool box.  If...nay.. when he is able to make his dreams a reality, I will be able to say, "I knew him when..."

Second, we got a chance to take care of little J-man last night while Mommy went to see the new Hunger Games movie and Daddy had to work.  If you think doing dishes beats spending time with this little one and catching a bit of baby laughter, you are sadly mistaken.  Dishes can wait.  Period.
Goodness!  I do love this stuff.  Mercy!
And yes, you're right.  I have used those two words a lot - because I'm thankful for both.  And they came up in our conversation with Dr. B.  He was talking about asking other young people to follow him.  We do a lot of following these days, ya know?  People follow blogs and tweets and leaders - and even old girlfriends at which point it becomes stalking, but I digress.  Back to following Dr. B.  When he was talking about that, I told him this little story we heard recently.
Psalm 23 is one of the more famous ones, that is often quoted at funerals and gravesites. I've heard people talk about the "Lord is my Shepherd" parts or the "even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil" part.  And a sweet, supportive friend of mine often uses the phrase "my cup overflows" when she shares stories and pics of her family despite some chronic health issues, and you know she means it.  She knows her cup overflows!  But I don't recall ever hearing anyone talk about the last verse in this passage - the "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" part. 
Until a few weeks ago at church.  A pastor was visiting from Africa where his church has done a LOT to take care of orphans due to how prevalent AIDS is there.  He talked about how goodness is not easy to define, but we know it when we see it.  And he was also talking about how being and doing good should be good enough.  Our culture prizes things like greatness and excellence but good?  We don't so much prize that - yet one of the best rewards we can receive is to be found as a "good and faithful servant"...where good and pursuing goodness are good enough. 
He closed out by asking if we see goodness and mercy following us when we look back across our life?  Have we left a trail of goodness and mercy?  For others?  For family? 
Good questions.  Good pursuits.  Goodness and mercy.  And if we pursue those so that they follow us, that's good, and we leave a trail behind us of both.  And that is something to be thankful about.  Whether anyone follows our blogs or our tweets or even joins our teams to pursue big dreams, we will have spread goodness, mercy, joy, help, love, peace, gratitude, creativity, fun, hope, growth. 
Good stuff.  Goodness!  Mercy!

Friday, November 22, 2013

9 days left of Thanksgiving...365 days to Pie Night...

The Morrison Family 4th Annual Pie Night is now in the history books. 

And what a night it was!  But before I tell you anything about the pies of the people, I have to share what I received via text at 11:40am from my son-in-law, K.  I have said for a couple of years now that Pie Night is one of the holiest nights of the year, since there really just isn't any other night of the year quite like it.  Remember when I said that one of K's gifts to this world is humor?

And what else is a mother-in-law to do but send this back about noon?

Don't you just love the creative process?  One person records a lick (that's musician talk there) and then another person gets down the next lyric until before you know it, you have this. 
A singing anyone? 
And this.  Is how traditions get born.
Now for the pies and the people!
Double - er...quintuple French Silk anyone?

Ah...Tiramisu...velvet Kahlua on the tongue...

Biggest surprise of the night.  This Grand Marnier Pecan Pie.  Keeper.  Definite keeper. Even one young man who doesn't normally like pecan pie was wonderfully surprised.  Do it!

Our Fruit pies for the year...

I might have stuck my hand in this apple pie....walking quietly away...

Little People!!!  Shall we dance?

This appears to be the only pic of the Grape Pie I managed to capture - the rectangle one in the middle.  Surprisingly tasty bit of drunk grapes with salted caramel.

More little people!  This one spent a great deal of time understanding the mechanics of the car seat.  Heady stuff, I tell ya.

And yea...little people...even one only about 2 months old.  This may or may not have been the first time J-man noticed his mama holding another little one.  Wait?  What?  No!  She's MY mama!!!

The whole gang!  The 2013 Morrison Family!

And this is proof that we are now officially the Morrison Family Pie Night.  P-dub said so. 
I have got to close and get pies packed up to take to work.  Have I mentioned how much people where I work love pie night, too?  Pie Night always has to be on a school night so I can take the leftovers into work the next day.  If the employee handbook had a section on location specific benes, I think the argument could be made that Pie Night leftovers is a location specific bene for The 8515.
Happy Pie Night everyone!  I love creativity!  And am thankful for it!!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

10 days left of Thanksgiving....0 days left to Pie Night!

It's here!  Pie Night is here!  The Morrison Family 4th Annual Pie Night is TONIGHT!!!

Did you know that we Morrison's hail from Scotland?  It's true.  When Daddy was in England  serving in WWII, he did some genealogy work, and was able to trace the line back in Scotland to 910AD when a Roman soldier settled in there.  J&G have traveled to Scotland a couple of times if memory serves me right, and the last trip, they made a point of visiting the land where the Morrison clan settled - described by J&G as "hard-scrabble land" - near the coast.  J is also quite the amazing seamstress, so on this trip they stopped in at a shop to find out more about the Morrison plaid.  I am not a Scottish history buff, but clans would have family plaids as a means of family identity and kinsman ship.  Maybe by next year's Morrison Family 5th Annual Pie Night, I will have a table runner or other means of incorporating the Morrison plaid into the d├ęcor, but on a whim last night I put together these little signs with a small swatch of the Morrison plaid as part of the graphic.  I am not the graphic artist that my son, S, is but I do sorta like where this is going....
You know one thing that I love about Pie Night besides the pies?  That sense of family identity and kinsman ship that Pie Night brings - similar to the Scottish plaids.  What's not to be thankful about that?  The family that we have modeled our Pie Night after - the Kirkland's - have a strong sense of that family identity and belonging.  You can't hardly mention the Kirkland's without thinking of 2 things - music and Pie Night.  I love that!  I want my own kids and grandkids and great grandkids to experience that sense of family identity and belonging...and Pie Night is only one part of that, but traditions help to build that.  And I want other people to feel like they belong, too....that for one night a year at least, they are part of the Morrison family. 

My mama would like that.

So how is Pie Night prep going?  Pretty well despite the 2-hours I lost at the dr's office yesterday that kept me from getting downtown to meet Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. 

Collective sad sigh moment everyone.

But follow it up with a collective happy "yes!" that P was able to pick up my copy and have it signed!  Yes!!

I believe that the oven was on from 11am to 8pm yesterday - and mercy!  The heavenly scents!  I am not quite sure why this year is different, but I am keenly aware of wanting to stick my fork into each pie RIGHT NOW!!  Or that I wanted Pie Night to be last night! 

11 hours, Deb.  11 hours...

G just about bought out the local Walmart on pie servers last night. 
6 of the pies read "Done" in the status column of "Pie Night 2013.xlsx".
The custard pie is one of those in the "Done" column.  See that little arrow/cross-like shape in there?
It's pretty small.  Here - let me use Snag-It to point it out...please don't make me do life without Snag-It.  Thank you.
That there little arrow/cross-like spot was the only place in the whole pie where little bubbles were coming to the surface before I slid it in the oven.  At one point it sorta looked like a gingerbread boy or a heart - not a Valentiney heart heart, but a real heart heart.  But by the time I pulled it out of the oven, this spot had become a cross-like/arrow shape.  I'm not quite sure why or what it means, but if you are the kind who looks for signs in things, here is one for you to ponder.
The Blueberry Pie is also in that same "Done" column.  Sigh....sigh...fork now please!
As are the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies filled with Maple Buttercream for any little people that show up...

And the grapes are nicely macerated and drunk on brandy ready for the Grape Pie to be assembled in a little while...
Oh, and I have to save room for the Tiramisu Pie!  Oh.  My.  Word.  I won't show you a pic of it till tomorrow, because it's not quite in the fully Done column, but shut the front door.  The taste and feel on my tongue from licking the bowl...and the beater...and the spatula...were almost worthy of Cunetto's House of Pasta, the place on The Hill that P and I use as our Tiramisu benchmark. 

Is it time to EAT pie yet???? 

More pics tomorrow!  Happy Pie Night everyone!!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

11 days...Humor...and pie...

Or humour.  Depending upon which side of the pond you call home.

I am thankful for humor.  I don't want to live life without laughter.  I just don't.  And I have found that even in the craziest situations, there is generally something to laugh about.

My son-in-law, K, is almost always able to find something to laugh about.  It is one of the gifts he brings to this world.  But even when he's joking - like asking for a Double French Silk - I take him just seriously enough...

I talked about this idea a few days ago here.  I thought I'd give you a quick update on how this is going before I move on to my story about humor and pie.

So I began with chocolate meringue using Helen Fletcher's Italian meringue recipe, and once I added the cocoa, I started to panic.  The meringue lost a bunch of volume, so I'm sure that I did something wrong, but I went ahead and piped it in hopes it might work.  I made one filled in circle and 2 rings.
Reminiscent of Mickey Mouse, don't ya think?
And then I dried them in a 200 degree oven for about 2.5 hours until they were crips.  Since they seemed to retain their shape ok, I thought maybe I hadn't ruined the meringue like I was afraid had happened.
I went to bed and had a bad dream about losing G in the Las Vegas airport and our cell phones got swapped, and I was afraid he would never hear me calling my cell phone from his phone, especially if he didn't have my phone in his otter box woke me up, y'all.  Feel free to talk amongst yourselves about how to interpret this dream.  But at that point, I figured I might as well go ahead with the next phase of this Double French Silk endeavor.
I stacked the 2 rings on top of the filled in circle and then took some of the leftover meringue to glue it all together.  And then put it back in the oven at 200 degrees to dry another 2.5 hours and went back to bed until 3:30.  This time I didn't have any bad dreams.
But wait!  This case/crust isn't finished yet!  Last night, I painted the inside with melted chocolate to serve as a seal for the French Silk chocolate filling that I will add tomorrow.
So let's see....that is a chocolate meringue crust (1), a chocolate coating (2), some French Silk filling (3), with some whipped ganache (4) and whipped cream roses all over the top and finally garnished with some shaved chocolate (5).  So the argument could be made that this isn't a Double French Silk, but a quintuple French Silk - if you were a math pi genius (pun intended, not a typo), which I suppose I am since I made a point of counting the chocolate-ness of this pie adventure.
Are ya feelin' the love, K?  Have I told you lately that I'm glad you're part of our fam?  And that your cake snob skills are coming along nicely?
Now for my humorous story.  At least I hope you find it humorous.  This is a story that P shared with me when she got off the plane after a recent visit with her grandparents who live in Florida.  And it has to do with pie, and it has to do with her pie choice, so I have to share it, right?  P recently called me her "sensitivity coach", and I hope I tell this story in such a way that I don't lose that title, but here goes.
See this pic? 
Can you tell what that is?  It's an apple on the left, and a cookie cutter on the right in the shape of a hand. 
But let me back up a bit.  My son, D, and my friend, P, both stand in the Same Pie Every Year camp.  They want the same pie - apple - and the race every year is to see who can declare it earliest so that the apple pie is "theirs" that year.  And I have tried to satisfy the other with a Dutch Apple (good) or a Peanut Butter Apple (ok, but not a keeper or a repeater in my book).  You get the idea.  But it's never quite the same as the pure Apple Pie.  So this year, I decided that I would make 2 Apple pies, one for each of them.
But how would I distinguish which pie belongs to whom?
Until P told me this story, and then I had my answer!
P's grandfather is older.  I've forgotten now whether he is in his late 80's or early 90's, but the actual age is somewhat immaterial.  The main thing is the main many in their upper years, he is battling some dementia.  I mean no disrespect to that hardship, I promise you, but sometimes - even in the craziest of situations - there is humor to be found.  And such is the case in P's grandfather.  He didn't want to get his hair cut.  He didn't want to wear that shirt, he wanted to wear his some color and some color plaid shirt, but he couldn't find his some color and some color plaid shirt.  You get the idea.  P was dealing with a 4-year old in many respects.  They don't call it your second childhood for nothin', folks.
Well P's mother does the primary care giving for both of P's grandparents, and she told P this story.  A few weeks ago, P's mother, I will call her "M" for Mom, had baked an apple pie and set it on the counter to cool.  M went back to her bedroom while it was cooling.
M hears a knock on her bedroom door.
"Is that your pie?" P's grandfather asks.
"Yes," M replies.
"Is it apple?"
"Yes, it's apple," M replies.
"Well, I think I stuck my hand in it," P's grandfather states and quietly walks away.
Uh, what?  Huh?  Are you scratching your head about now like I am?  Good.  It's not just me.  And I promise you I mean no disrespect to P's grandfather or anything by this story, and I hope no one turns me in to the AARP sensitivity league, but I just think it's funny in a very sweet, cute, dementia sort of way.
So when I found the little hand cookie cutter, I had to buy it.  Right?  And I have to cut out little hands in the top crust of P's pie.  Not D's pie, but P's pie.  Right?  It's a must, right?
One more time.  On the pic.  And I set an apple next to it for perspective so you could see just how stinkin' cute this little cookie cutter is.
1 more day to Pie Night!  Aren't you glad pie is so fun and even has its humorous moments?
Sensitivity Coach - in hopes I haven't lost that title....




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

12 days left...People and their pies

12 days left of the 30 days of thanksgiving, and 2 days left to Pie Night, and today I am thankful for people, especially those in my life.  Even those who aren't able to join us for Pie Night for whatever reason, not the least of which are distance or simply the size of our home.

Like J&G.  I've known J since the day I was born.  She was 14 years old when I was born, and we look a lot a like.  Mother often said that J and I were twins born 14 years apart.  She is a great big sister - the epitome of thoughtfulness and empathy and loving kindness.  When I was 7 years old, I got to be her flower girl when they married.  And now J&G have been married 44 years.  They are wonderful examples of oneness as a couple.  Rarely do I mention one of their names without saying both of their names.  They live just far enough away that they haven't yet made it to a Morrison Family Pie Night, but perhaps one of these years.  Whenever they do, my guess is that they would each choose a somewhat unusual pie...but that's just a guess, mind you...

Like R&E and their boys, A-man and O-man.  BUT!  Have no fear!  We are taking Pie Night to them in December!  So far we have an apple pie, a banana cream pie and a blueberry pie on the menu.  And Grandpa G has said "Yes!" to more homemade ice cream!  Yea!!!

I could name a bunch more people for whom I am thankful that I'm not making a pie for this year or even yet.  Like J&G's girls and their families.  Or like friends who won't be able to make it due to a couple of health issues.  I love and am thankful for each of these people no matter when I get to make a pie for them.

But on to a few of the folks who are coming to pie night...a bit about them as individuals and their pie choice.

I will begin with D.  I love this lady. She and I have been through war together.  If you've ever been part of an SAP project, then you understand what I mean.  I have the utmost respect for her.  We have the best talks.  We don't often get to chat, but when we do, they always edify me.  Besides, she has a J-man in her life, too, so we always have these little guys in common!  She lands in the camp of the same pie every year - her mother's custard.  It is a simple, unassuming, old-fashioned pie - one that hangs out in the background, supporting the other shinier pies, but that doesn't make it any less tasty or worthwhile.  It is one of those comfort food pies that we all need from time to time.  I love getting a chance to make this pie for Ms. D each year.
My son, S, chooses a different pie each year.  In 2010, he chose a Chess Pie - very similar to the custard above.  S tends to choose pie relationally or exotically.  That year he chose relationally for he remembered having chess pie made by a friend's mother back when he was about 12 years old.  As it turned out, I didn't make that pie for him.   This same friend's mother made it for him, which made it just that much more special.  In 2011, S chose Mexican chocolate cream, a chocolate and coffee pie with a hint of heat - and he found the recipe for me, which is always helpful when choosing exotically.  In 2012, he Eggnog with Brandy, and I'm afraid to say I have almost no recall of that particular pie.  I remember loving the Mexican chocolate cream - that little bit of warmth on the back of your mouth with the sweetness of the chocolate and espresso - but I don't remember the eggnog one.  And for this year, S has chosen a Grande Mainer Pecan. 
Speaking of which, how cute are these?  I love that companies offer these.  They are just perfect for folks like me who aren't really drinkers or don't really have a bar, but need just a few tablespoons of a particular adult beverage maker for the flavor to be "there" if you know what I mean.  A patient man from a another country (I didn't ask) sold these to me, and I thought about taking his pic, but I didn't...
I will close with one other people I really like.  (Yes, I am aware that sentence isn't grammatically correct.)  Little people.  Pie Night just wouldn't be Pie Night without little people.  I never want to have a Pie Night without little people around.  If they are too little for pie, that's ok.  We look forward to having one that size Thursday night!  And if they are too little to choose a pie, that's ok, too.  I like to have little whoopee pies on hand for little people about J-man's size.  And if they are old enough to point to a picture of a pie to choose one, whether they ever eat or like the one they chose, that's ok, too.  Little people are just too special and people are little for such a short amount of time, that you love and appreciate them for right where they are.  Yep, I really like little people, and am very thankful for them.
People and their pies - oftentimes we can get a glimpse into the specialness of each person by the pie they chose.  But most importantly, I hope they feel loved when I get to make them a pie they chose.
Because ultimately the Morrison Family Pie Night is all about family and friends.  The people.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

13 days left...It's beginning to look a lot like Pie Night!

You know it's getting close to Pie Night when...

...the Excel file "Pie Night 2013.xlsx" rarely gets closed on my laptop.  When I logged in this morning, this is the view that immediately showed up.
This is because we went Pie Night shopping yesterday.  This is because when we got home, and after we had managed to find a place for everything (pay no attention to what is behind that curtain!), and after I had put the homemade ice cream ingredients together, I did the first step in this recipe.  I took a 1/2 cup of a sweet red wine and simmered the blueberries in it for close to the 45 minutes that the recipe mentions.  You'll start to think that it's not going to work this time.  But you let it simmer on low, and you stir every 7.3 minutes, and finally, magically, mysteriously, you stir the next time, and you start to see hope.  You start to see that when you draw your silicone spatula through the mixture this time, there are glimpses of a path left behind the spatula.  But you know it's not "there" yet - so you let is simmer another 7.3 minutes, and when you some back, the pathway is a little larger.  Do you take it off now?  Do you go a little longer?  You choose longer, because you want to be sure.  And now you are getting the pathway you remember and love.  You let it cool.  You splash in a dash of blueberry amaretto syrup and tuck it away in the freezer. 
And life is good.

...when you realize yet again that your house and refrigerator really are too small for Pie Night.  But you know that the people you've invited manage to adjust and thankfully no one has taken you up on the offer of the empty lot next door for any bar fights.  But your refrigerator is stuffed to the gills, and you have to tell your youngest daughter, B, that she will have to limit how many apple juice boxes she can store in the fridge until after Pie Night.

....when homemade ice cream is tucked away in the freezer.  (There is apparently a lot of tucking going on in our freezer right now.)  I am very hopeful that homemade ice cream becomes a new Pie Night tradition!

Speaking of which, here is the recipe we found before S&K's gender reveal party.  I have tweaked it a bit, so here is how we made it yesterday.
Since our freezer only makes a gallon, we've only used the 4 quart version, but here is what I do a bit differently to boost the flavor and creaminess. 
Oh, and just for those who were here for S&K's gender reveal party, what we serve for Pie Night will not be blue, which was our first glimpse that the J-man would be the J-man and not the A-lady.
4 eggs
2 1/4 c. sugar
1 vanilla bean - seeds removed
Beat the eggs until foamy.  I use my Kitchen Aid.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until thick just like the recipe says. 
2 cans evaporated milk
3 cups half and half
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
6 - 7 t. vanilla (I know that sounds like a LOT, but this is really to taste, and you want it to be a bit higher and more vanilla-y than you'd expect because the freezing process will make the vanilla less lively - which is a nicer way of saying it than that the freezing process will deaden the vanilla flavor a bit.  That just sounds way too morbid!)
1/2 t. salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk (nope, I didn't use the name brand.  I used the private label stuff.)
Mix and let chill while you are chilling your ice cream freezer and dasher.  Or really while your ice cream expert is chilling your freezer and dasher.  Turn it over to this expert and let them do what they do so well, and try to stay out of their way for fear that ice cream is like plants.  It KNOWS that you don't know how to mix ice and salt to reach the right temp, just like you have a brown thumb.  Which is slightly better than a black thumb, since you can at least grow herbs somewhat well - just like you can mix together the ice cream base, but not turn it into that magical, elusive concoction that makes ice cream ice cream. 
And when it has been churned, and when the churning has stopped, pour it into your largest container (or multiple smaller ones), lick off the dasher and the spoon, cover the top of the ice cream surface with plastic wrap and tuck it away in the freezer for the Morrison Family 4th Annual Pie Night.  As long as you have tucked it away with THAT designation, then you know you won't dig in before then.  Right?
This stuff really is good - and it stays good up to 2 weeks. 
18 pie crusts
5 dozen eggs
5 pounds of butter
Blueberries simmered in wine
1 gallon of homemade ice cream
Apples and pecans and coffee
Oh yea, it's beginning to look a lot like Pie Night!