Monday, December 26, 2011

Being the Crazy Country Cousin at the Family Christmas

I hope my Christian friends have had a Merry Christmas, my Jewish friends are having a wonderful Hannukah, my African-American friends are having a good Kwanzaa...and, lest I forget, Happy Boxing Day!

My family (husband, 2 sons, daughter, dog) and I travelled from Kentucky to Texas to be with his Mother and her husband for the holidays. I needed to rest up a couple of days after our journey because I had to drive the entire 900-odd miles of the trip.

Once Friday hit, preparations began in the kitchen and the rest of the house for the Christmas-day feast. Twenty-three family members were expected. We knew they could all fit comfortably in Grammy's house because she had just thrown a Christmas party for 60-plus people the weekend before. Most of our apartment in Kentucky would fit in her garage.

My in-laws (on my husband's mother's side) are some pretty amazing folks. She is active in several historic societies (think DAR); her husband did two tours in Viet Nam, and lost both legs and an arm there, and came back to earn two PhD degrees, retiring only recently from the DAV. One of her sisters recently purchased a house for herself so she can be separate from her husband when he drinks too much. The other sister will not medicate for her schizophrenia, because she believes the doctors are trying to poison her. Despite this, she has managed to maintain working for the same company her entire adult life. Their children and grand-children have achieved similar worldly success.

And then there is me and my family. We chose to move from Texas (where I was working for the City of Fort Worth) to Kentucky. We chose to homeschool our children. I chose to work outside the scope of my degree (B.S. in finance, magna cum laude) because I realized it was not where my heart was. None of this makes sense to most of my in-laws.

The most fulfilling job I ever had was working with adults who have mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Success there is measured in the smallest of increments, and are things that most of us do without a thought, but these simple lessons can open worlds for people. Unfortunately, I was injured twice in 2010, while intervening when a client was attempting to hurt herself or others. I can no longer lift people the way I used to, and after surgery on my knee, have difficulty negotiating stairs. Most of the time, I don't dwell on what I've lost; but in the last few days, in the face of so much commercial's been a little harder than usual.

How do I move forward? I recommit myself to my core beliefs and philosophies. I review and reconfigure my goals as necessary. Then I give myself a little shove to get myself moving.

My core beliefs and philosophies: faith in God, commitment to family, using my talents and abilities to help people help themselves, nourishing my body and soul in a healthy manner. Your beliefs may look similar or not...and that's ok.

My goals revolve around: increased spiritual study, continuing to homeschool my children through the high school years, using my writer's voice to highlight causes near and dear to me, eating and exercising in a way to lessen my hereditary health risks, and feeding my soul with artistic endeavors. Your goals may look similar or not ... and that's ok.

Getting going? Uh, sorry, this one is pretty much the end, we all make a choice to get moving or stay still.

So what gets you going? Or keeps you going? And why? I'd love to hear your story!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blog Dare - A Favorite Holiday Recipe

a mom blog community

The prompt for today is "a favorite holiday recipe". Every year growing up, we made a variety of cookie recipes, usually the same ones every year, although the decorated sugar cookies made when we were young children were eventually phased out. We made Russian tea cookies, "vanilla" and chocolate sour cream cookies, and the recipe I'm going to share here today, "Lebkuchen".
Lebkuchen have to be made several days to weeks ahead and mellowed, because about 5 minutes out of the oven and those little suckers will break teeth! This is not the recipe my mother used, which was in a Betty Crocker cookbook she received for her wedding to my father in 1957, but it comes close. It is from


  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup diced candied citron
  • 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar


  1. In a medium saucepan, stir together the honey and molasses. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar, egg, lemon juice and lemon zest. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. Add the molasses mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the citron and hazelnuts. Cover dough and chill overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Using a small amount of dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into small rectangles and place them 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until no imprint remains when touched lightly. Brush the icing over the cookies while they are still hot and quickly remove them to wire cooling racks. Store in airtight container with a cup of orange or apple for a few days to mellow.
  4. To make the icing: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat to between 234 and 240 degrees F (112 to 116 degrees C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from the water and placed on a flat surface. Remove from heat and stir in the confectioners' sugar. If icing becomes sugary while brushing cookies, re-heat slightly- adding a little water until crystals dissolve.

While you are waiting for the cookies to mellow, you can use the link at the top of the page to find more great recipes from other members of the Blog Dare group at Bloggy Moms!