Saturday, December 26, 2015

William's Feast...
This is my sweet William.  The guy in the scarf. We have been married 28 years and he's my best friend.  I love hanging out with him- whether it's dinner and a movie or cleaning out a storage locker. I just don't want to be anywhere else.  He's always been a caregiver and he takes care of everyone who will let him. He's not afraid to get into your life, find out what you're needing and try his best to help you. He tends to think he's funnier than he really is which is funny in and of itself.  He sticks to what he believes is right and has a very good sense of logic. He's the father of all eight of my children.  A better Dad you couldn't ask for.  He's interested in his kids and is known to give really long lectures.  They say repetition is key to remembering things.  The proof is in the pudding and our kids are stellar people.   

 This is a Minion.  Just in case you didn't know.  Minions are adorable little creatures with a gleeful ambition of working for the world's biggest villain and dominating the world.  An oxymoron if ever there was one. 

William had a Minion feast.  He's "Gru" the world's greatest villain- complete with dark circles around his eyes. Ala Despicable Me.  It's a kids' movie.  When his guests arrived at the feast, they had to don their Minion costumes.  He thought that up all by himself. It was just hysterical. The goggles, head wear and mittens- because Minions don't have 5 fingers.  His table had a map drawn on it with strategies for dominating the world and yellow post-it notes with inspirational sayings on them.  Things like: "Not everyone has a death ray- but everyone wishes they did," "Rome wasn't built in a day- but it was destroyed in one" and " Even the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb has a silver lining."  I wish I could remember all of them.  He had posters- pretty pages from a calendar- hanging all over the room with things like "Nuclear holocausts can make beautiful sunsets" and "Go green- as in money!"  Advice the Minions could use to dominate the world. 

He said that they had made the attempt twice before but had failed.  They needed more practice.  He assured me that I wasn't going to like this one. I hid inside the kitchen under the ruse of holding the baby. I did get some pictures. He gave them squirt bottles with some water in little cups.  They had to fill the bottles- with their mittens on- and spray each other.  Practice.  It was a good thing they had goggles on.  His senior Minions had squirt guns to fill and use because they were more of a challenge and he had higher expectations of them.  


His menu consisted of Twinkies- 'cause they look like Minions- and chocolate chip cheesecake dip with graham crackers. He had chili dogs and fries for his dinner and chocolate cake for dessert.  Lemonade to drink.  I grossly underestimated the number of hot dogs needed for this crowd.  I made 40, but with Philip eating 6- and wanting more- well, who knew it would be a competition?  (We were playing charades the other night and I drew "Phil."  All I had to do was act like I was eating and everyone guessed it.)  But we had a great time in spite of the hot dog shortage. 

Just to balance all this talk of world domination, Will read Matthew 6:33. "But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you."  We have one job and God takes care of the rest.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Joe and Laurie's Feast...

This is our oldest son, Joe and his lovely wife, Laurie. Joe is a good man. He's as conscientious as they come. He's thoughtful and practical.  He has a soft spot for his younger siblings- worries about them and is concerned for them. He's a good older brother.  He enjoys watching people and laughing at them.  Not in a bad way, but in a joyous way.  If that makes any sense.  He's a manager of a flea market and, let me say, he has plenty of joyous opportunities. He's a talented artist and likes to play video games.  (I have to admit I'm addicted to watching him play Destiny.) For the most part, he's serious.  He enjoys the simple things in life. Give him a box of Capri Sun juice pouches and he's a happy camper. 

Laurie is a dear girl.  Everyone likes her.  She has a sunny disposition but she sweats the details.  She's an organizational wonder and actually likes to wrap presents. (Guess who was a big help to me, this year? She also does the stocking stuffing around here.  Christmas Eve and she's rolled up her sleeves and with her superb organizational skills and talent to tend to the details she plows through a mountain of candy and toys.  With 13 stockings, that's no small feat. The thought of it completely overwhelms me.) Laurie has a definite dislike for shopping unless it involves books.  She's a homebody.  Loves the library.  A talented writer.  A great knitter.  She's a natural empathizer.  My daughters love the stuffin' out of her.  And that's an easy way to feel about her.

"Joe's Diner" was the theme of their feast.  "Flo" met us at the door with a tray, popping her gum and a note pad. She was dressed for the part of waitress in practical shoes. The table was covered in red and white table clothes with a couple of glass vases and tacky pink roses. Fifties music was playing and the pass through doubled as an order window.  Joe was "slinging hash" in the kitchen.  Flo called everyone "Hon."  The silverware was wrapped in napkins.  Extra napkins in a dispenser.  

She passed out the menus where all of the food was in diner slang.  It was up to us to decipher it. "Italian Breakfast"(pepperoni rolls) were the appetizers. "Murphy in a Bowl"(potato soup) was the entree with a side of "Bossy on a Board"(roast beef), "Noah's son on Bread"(ham), and "Thanksgiving Leftovers"(turkey) sandwiches.  

She'd be popping her gum as we ordered and then holler out to the Joe what to cook- something about driving it through Wisconsin(american cheese) or the Alps(Swiss) and through the garden(lettuce and tomatoes.)  It was so funny to hear what she would be yelling out next.  And just as funny to hear the short-order cook grouse about how she needed to slow down. A bell would ring "Order up!" and out came the food in plastic baskets lined with checkered paper- complete with a dill pickle spear.  All on a round tray, of course.  
The drinks were just as imaginatively named.  I'll let you guess what we drank: Atlanta Special, Atlanta Skinny, M.D., Moonshine, English Winter, Baby, and Adam's Ale.  I think Phil had high hopes for Adam's Ale- it was just tap water, though. His order of M.D. was more satisfying.

Dessert was "Spots"(chocolate chip cookies), "Clouds"(macaroons) and "Fat Santas"(two chocolate chip cookies with icing in between.) 

Her gifts were coloring pages and crayons.

See? They have talent for details. We had a good time "dining out" and the service was great.  We highly recommend Joe's Diner. 

William read James 4:17. To know what the right thing is, and not doing... well, that's wrong.  Think how much happier we'd all be if we just do what we know is right.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bekah's Feast...

This is Bekah and she's 14. She seems older than that. She's a very dear girl.  A true introvert, she'd rather read than have to deal with people. She mostly just smiles at them and hopes they'll go away. Unless you happen to be in her close circle of family and friends.  Then she's all fun and giggles. Chatty and humorous.  She's easily embarrassed and never has a quick come-back.  She'll just think of it later and wish she could have thought of it sooner. She rocks the "messy bun" and, even though you can't really see it in the picture, she has a streak of fire engine red in her hair. She's her own person with her own sense of style and she isn't afraid to put it out there. Bekah is extremely creative.  I promised to show you an example of her Zentangling and here it is.  It's all free hand.  She's doing an entire wall in her bedroom.  She has the patience for detail.  All in all, she's a lovely person, inside and out.

Bekah had a "Mad Hatter Tea Party."  That's from Alice in Wonderland for the non-readers.  She set the table with twinkle lights and half a dozen teapots(yes, I have that many- don't judge me.)  There were stacks of teacups and saucers sitting on doilies- both crocheted and paper.  Her place settings, sitting on doilies, were from four different china patterns(yes, I have that many- don't judge me.)  There were hands of cards and pocket watches on saucers scattered around the table.  Cards hanging from the ceiling- red cards. Red and white tapers. She really stuck to her theme. She had place cards with a number and a key hole drawn on it.  When she invited her guests in, she handed them each their own key with a number attached and they had to match them up to find their seats.

For her gifts, she had wax bottles with the words, "Drink Me" by them. (Anne, do you have wax bottles in the UK?)  Bekah had sausage balls, summer sausage, colby jack cheese and crackers for appetizers. She had sausage gravy, kielbasa(almost had a sausage theme going on, but she knows what the guys like,) biscuits, scrambled eggs, and orange wedges.  She had bottled orange soda and root beer.  I thought she might include tea in her tea party, but while she knows what the guys like, she knows what she doesn't like. Her dessert was "tea cakes" (6 different types of Little Debbie snack cakes) piled high on a platter.  

I wish you could all be here for one of our feasts.  The mood at the table is always so happy and packed with laughter.  I don't think a dozen people could enjoy themselves more.  This mother's heart glows to see how much our children enjoy each other's company. We sit around the table just goofing off and I can tell that everyone is as reticent to leave as I am to have them go. It's such a blessing and I thank God for it and hope I will never take a single one of these precious souls for granted.

Will spoke on James 3:17,18. "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." Think about each of those words...What a world we would live in if mankind lived by these qualities.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

John's Feast...

This is our fifth son, John.  He's 19. Doesn't he look friendly?  'Cause he is.  He's very handy to have around.  When I need a new quilt hung, he's my man.  One of the quilts requires balancing on the top of a tall ladder, but it doesn't seem to faze him.  I usually compile a list of projects for him to do around the house and when he has some time off work, he flies right through them. He is an ardent student of the Bible.  If he thinks that his day will be too busy to get away to study, he'll get up before dawn to make sure it's done.  (I could learn something from that.  But I'm afraid my brain doesn't function that early in the morning.  I'd never remember what I read. But this is about John...) Let's see... he likes woodworking and forging.  He recently forged his own ax head. He can rewire about anything and his job is assembling furniture.  See?  Handy.  He loves his younger siblings- all children for that matter- and he's a bit of a pied piper. He organizes regular movie nights where the kids all cuddle on one couch- despite the fact that I have four. Oh, and John's favorite music is Gregorian chants.  He has a naturally sunny disposition, and is a joy to be around.

He had a coffee feast.  John loves all things coffee.  He set the table with five different coffee makers- yes, we have that many and no, I don't drink coffee. But several of the kids do.  (I know lots of trivial facts about the health benefits of coffee and John is constantly trying to make a believer out of me.  I'd like to join in, I really would.  People look so... adultish... when clutching a hot cup of coffee. But I will remain a child and sip on my tea.  But this is about John...) Scattered about the various coffee pots were Keurig cups, creamer cups and lots of shiny coffee beans- see, the shiny ones are better because they have more oils in them.  He had twinkle lights dripping from the chandelier over the dining room table with coffee cups hanging from them. His meal had three different types of coffee and hot cocoa for the non-imbibers. He had chocolate chip scones for his appetizer which I hear are very good with coffee- he threw in chocolate crescent rolls because one of his sisters particularly likes them.  He had chuckwagon casserole(which is like mac and cheese with hamburger and tomato sauce with cheddar cheese on top) and cheesy garlic biscuits.  For Dessert, he had three different types of ice cream- including coffee flavor, but everyone opted to wait until after the movie to try some.  We were all just so full! Some people still haven't eaten any. He had Capri Sun pouches to go with dinner and those are always a big hit. 

His gifts... well, he paid for them, himself, so they were a bit on the extravagant side. When I mentioned that the whole point was to keep it simple, he just replied, "Who says?"  I let him win that one.  He got Milano cookies for Joe because they are his new favorite since Abe's feast.  Laurie, the writer, got a very nice pen.  Abe got a new calendar to record his woes of dish washing. Bekah got a set of permanent markers to do her Zintangling with- I'll post a picture of that when it's her feast day. Eva got a very nice water bottle with lots of flavor packets- John is actually trying to wean Eva off the coffee.  He worries the caffeine might not be the best on her old ticker.  William got a set of pens- medium points because he likes how smooth they are. And I got my own canister of Redi-whip because... well, how embarrassing, but I love to squirt it directly into my mouth.  I shared some with Esther(14m.), this morning, and she thought it was pretty cool, too. 

It was a wonderful time.

William spoke on the end of James 2. Show your faith by your works.  People should be able to know what you believe in by how you act. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Abe's Feast...

This is Abraham and he's 12.  Abe is a very good boy.  I doubt you could find a "gooder" boy. He never does anything to get in trouble.  No, really.  He's just good.  He does whatever I ask of him.  He's cheerful about it. He does hate doing the dishes and I can't hold that against him. But he does a very good job of it.  Every three weeks, he has to do the dishes for a week.  No dishwasher with 9 people.  It doesn't take a skilled mathematician to figure out that's a whole lot of dishes. He puts frowny faces on his calendar for that week, but that's the sum total of his rebellion.  Abe's very smart.  He was giving me some obscure facts the other day and I asked him how he knew that. He says, "I don't go looking for information, it finds me."  He's quiet and contained.  Grown up for his age.  He's a good companion, easy going and easy to please.  You would really like him. 

Abe's theme was a romantic candlelit dinner for... 12. He had the table dressed with a white damask tablecloth, crystal candlesticks with tall white tapers, and a small vase with white roses.  Romantic piano playing in the background. Twinkle lights all around.  It was beautiful.  He invited his guests in by saying, "Welcome to the feast.  Those nearly in labor can come in first."  (Mary is 42 weeks pregnant and is actually at the hospital, today, thinking about having a new grandbaby for Will and I.)

Unfortunately for Phil, it was a gourmet restaurant and what are they known for?  Small portions. The appetizer of a tiny scoop of jalapeno popper dip on a Ritz cracker was beautifully presented on its only little plate with an artistic flourish of pepper jelly around it.  The salads were hysterical.  They came out on their own plates- sitting on it was a 2" square of lettuce, a slice of cucumber, half a chip of carrot and a tiny sliver of bell pepper- all stacked neatly one on top of the other.  It came with a side of a single crouton topped with it's own bacon bit and a drop of salad dressing.  In spite of the size, everyone remarked on how tasty it was. The main dish was 6 spaghetti noodles, a teaspoon of sauce beside it and a tiny round of Italian bread.  He garnished it with a little baby spinach leaf, because both stores were out of parsley.  Dessert was a small spoonful of chocolate "mousse" with a Milano cookie beside it. He had 4 bottles of sparkling grape juice- both red and white- chilling in a big pot. Abe was dressed in a crisp white shirt as he waited table for his guests.

Do I need to say that our family is full of big eaters?  The fact that we have "Feast Days" kinda gives us away.  A couple of the kids said they had a weak moment when he brought out the dessert.  Was that all?  It was all very good, but rich people are crazy to eat at gourmet restaurants for a mere appetizer of a meal.  Abe wasn't gonna leave them hanging.  He marched out pots and bowls and dishes full of food and set them on the hutch so that everyone could eat buffet style.  Joe went straight for the dessert. 

I almost forgot his gifts.  He found these little favor boxes that looked like a tuxedo.  Tucked inside was a tiny bottle of bubbles.  Bubbles were floating across the table and the 14 month old thought that was great fun. As did we all.

William moved on to James 2 and focused on the verses about not showing partiality- not something we think of much, but we do that sometimes.  We can be guilty of treating some people better than others.  Oughtn't be.

P.S. I washed the dishes- there were so many!  I just couldn't do that to the boy after all the hard work he did to prepare a special feast for the family.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Phil's Feast...

You may not recognize this guy from feasts past. Phil is our nephew. My older brother's youngest son.  Follow me?  He's from Arizona and he moved to Indiana last summer.  This is his first feast season with us and you can imagine his bewilderment at the first feast.  He's 19. The biggest questions on his mind were "When can eat eat?" and "What are we going to eat?"  The secrecy was cruel.  He's very much a tummy driven kind of guy.  I'm pretty sure he's never missed a meal in his life. And around here, he's been known to eat two dinners because he just can't make it to 6:30 for our regularly scheduled meal. He's a very pleasant young man. He laughs a lot.  When he's happy, nervous, scared.  He just laughs.  Almost a cackle, actually.  We've had a very mild autumn and my kids blame him for it.  They figure the Lord is trying to ease him into a colder climate.  He just thinks it's cold. My kids are still in T-shirts. He never, ever discusses his feelings, but that's something he's going to have to get over if he spends any time with his Uncle Bill. Phil has his own flooring company so if you need tile, hardwood, laminate, carpet or vinyl, he's your guy.  You'll be hard pressed to find a more dedicated worker.

His feast... well, it was a first.  I had the day off.  He wanted to do the shopping by himself and the meal prep by himself. Okey-dokey- I handed him $50 and he was off.  This made the other kids nervous, but I had faith in him.  He had a "Bachelor's Feast."  The table was hysterical.  Styrofoam plates and plastic forks- no dish washing.  His beverage was Dr.Pepper in cans.  Again, no dish washing. Our gifts?  Rolls of toilet paper.  No, I'm not kidding.  When asked why, he said he had 7 bucks left in his pocket and toilet paper comes with 4 rolls in a package and that would work out for 10 people. Economics. Weird that my kids were actually excited about their own roll of toilet paper.  His appetizer was milk bones.  Again, no joke.  I asked if milk bones were safe for human consumption and he said he'd been eating them all day... I wasn't convinced and abstained. The main course... 6, yes SIX, pounds of bacon, 30 corn dogs and a huge pot of instant mashed potatoes.  You know, stuff a bachelor likes to eat and can cook on his own.  I can say unequivocally that my children have never sat down and eaten all the bacon they wanted.  They did last night.  And there were leftovers.  Again, a first.  His dessert was Little Debbie bear claws. We all had such a good time.  All in all, I'd say his first feast was highly successful. 

William read the last verse from James 1- "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: To visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world."  Sometimes we make things more complicated than they really are.  Help the helpless without expecting anything in return and be clean.         

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

 Feast Days!!!

The moment we've all been waiting for has arrived.  How thrilling!  For those of you who may not be familiar with our feast day tradition... 

Quite a few years ago we decided that the season was filled with too much "Give me, Give me!"  So we came up with the Feast Days as a way to encourage the "Serve you, serve you!" that needs to be in all our hearts.  We drew upon the example of Queen Ester and how, by serving meals to her King and also her enemy, she changed the fate of an entire nation. 

At the end of each November, the children draw a number from a bowl to determine the order of their feast- we have about two feasts per week leading up to Christmas.  Each child meets with me, individually, and we secretly plan a special meal to serve to the family.  They give special attention in choosing foods they know the other children love. On the day prior to their feast, the two of us go out for lunch together and then shop for their feast ingredients.  They choose simple, inexpensive gifts and decorations- spending no more than $12, usually. Everything is hidden and, on their big day, the kitchen and dining room is curtained off and the cooking and decorating begins.  (The children tend to choose a theme for their feast to simplify the meal planning and the decorating.)  When all is ready, they invite their guests into the feast with great ceremony.  Will reads some scripture and after a prayer, the child goes around serving each person the meal. Clean-up is their responsibility, also.  It's a real treat for all of us. So without more ado...

Eva's Feast...
This is Eva.  She's 16 and a real peach.  She's a very sweet and thoughtful girl.  Conscientious and friendly. She has a natural concern for others- no matter their age. She's been described as a "work horse."  That's true, in spite of her small stature.  When others give up, she keeps going.  Reminds me of her Daddy that way.  She's emotional but not sensitive, if you can imagine that combination. She's a very talented artist and makes bookmarks with these incredible, imaginatively dressed dolls on them. Eva is a blessing to be around.

She had a Pinterest themed feast.  If you don't know what Pinterest is... well, I don't know what planet you're from, but you can google it.  Eva says it's a website for virtual hoarders.

Eva and her sisters love Pinterest.  They find a lot of artistic inspiration there and have "pinned" hundreds if not thousands of items. So everything for Eva's feast was found on Pinterest. Her table was set with pretty lights and pine.  Pinterest has thousands of beautiful table settings.  She made place setting cards with screen names on them- every one had to guess what their screen name was. For some reason the guys all wanted to sit at the "2HOT4U" seat. That was her seat and a joke to see who thought it was theirs. For her gifts, she made little bows and arrows from popsicle sticks, dental floss and Q-tips.  You know the guys loved that, right?  A bit disconcerting to eat a meal at a table with Q-tips flying past you. 

The dinner started with three appetizers: Mexican pinwheels, and Mini corndog muffins, and Cherry cheesecake dip. Three new recipes and they were all a big success. I think the mini corndog muffins were the favorite.  We had Curry Chicken with rice and Naan for dinner.  Strictly speaking, I don't think we got those recipes from Pinterest, but I bet you could find them there if you looked.  Her beverage was "Grinch Punch."  Green with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 
Her dessert was a real crowd pleaser.  Chocolate bowls filled with fresh fruit.  Everyone was amazed by them and had to hear how she made them.  She blew up small balloons and dipped them in melted chocolate, let them set up and then popped the balloon.  Tada!  A perfect chocolate bowl.  You should have seen the kitchen- and Eva- when a couple of them popped.  Splattered chocolate everywhere.  But the final result was worth it. 

Will read from James chapter 1, and spoke of how trials are blessings in disguise if we allow them to be.  All in all, it was a great beginning to our yearly Feast Days.