Thankful at Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is filled with food, memories and much joy.

Thanksgiving Day is almost here. It is one of the best days of the year. Preparing for this big day involves much more than cooking. Cleaning the house thoroughly and then ironing tablecloths and napkins are the first chores. If you are rolling your eyes at ironing napkins, I understand. It’s a once a year thing for me.

Our food choices have been discussed by all and some dishes have been eliminated but most have stayed. Green bean casserole was eliminated years ago. At least two people have to like the dish in order to make the menu. Mincemeat pie made the cut this year. I imagine some of you are groaning but with a lot of fresh apples added to the mixture I think it’s good.

Wednesday will mean my kitchen will be in chaos as three granddaughters will assist in making noodles and pies. I expect a fine coating of flour to coat the counters and floor. Think of it snowing inside and you’ll have the picture. I’ll make the pie crusts because I’m not ready to relinquish that job, but the girls can make the fillings. I’m excited to have them working with me and the mess will be worth it.

The best part of Thanksgiving is having my family here. I’m lucky to have many family members live close by. I give thanks for my blessings every day, but Thanksgiving is a day when I bask in them. Thanks be to God and may you feel his blessings especially on Thanksgiving.

Happy Halloween!

I continue to learn more Halloween history every year.

For many of us, Halloween is a fun holiday filled with costumes and candy, but it began as a harvest and new year festival called Samhain. The Celtic people also used this day to talk with their ancestors and to ask for guidance in the new year. They made bonfires and wore masks to ward off evil spirits that might have crossed over on this night. The Irish immigrants brought Halloween to America and discovered pumpkins made a much better lantern for their jack o lanterns than turnips. Unfortunately, some turned a harvest festival into something evil by performing satanic rituals and welcoming demons. That is truly scary!

Tonight children will carry bags and receive packaged candy. Prior to the 1950s, homemade treats and coins were given to the trick or treaters. Caramel apples, popcorn balls and cookies were popular treats. Candy corn was one of the first manufactured candies and was called chicken feed. The Goelitz Confectionery Company sold the boxes with a rooster on it in1880 and people are still enjoying these sugary pieces of corn.

Dressing in costumes and performing tricks or giving the treat of song was called mumming or guising prior to Christianity in the Celtic countries. Children had to earn their treat. After Christianity replaced paganism, children went souling and agreed to pray for deceased loved ones in exchange for a small biscuit or piece of bread.

People around the world celebrate Halloween. Ireland is the country where it originated and in addition to costumes and trick or treating, they eat barmbrack cake. This is a bread filled with fruit and surprises inside. These little surprises carry a meaning for the person. For example, finding a ring means a wedding in the coming year. In Scotland, sausage is eaten on Halloween and is known as their traditional Samhain food. I think candy is America’s traditional Halloween food!

I love seeing the costumes children choose and every year I still see witches, vampires, and ghosts. I just read they are still in the top five costumes. It’ll be a fun night if the rain holds off. Happy Halloween everyone!

Sin Eaters

Sin Eaters were believed to be able to receive the sin of the deceased.

From the 1600’s to the early 1900’s in the British Isles Sin Eaters were paid to attend a funeral and eat bread that was placed on the deceased and then ingest the person’s sins. Immigrants carried this practice to America and it is believed to have continued until the 1930s in Appalachia. The question one might ask is why?

The Catholic Church had taught the people that sin was absolved after a person confessed and asked for forgiveness. If someone died before having the opportunity to confess his/her sins, the family hired a Sin Eater to accept the deceased’s sins. However, the Catholic Church called these people (both those who did the hiring and the Sin Eater) heretics and blasphemers. The crime of sin eating was punishable by death. The practice comforted the living and it grew to include those whose deaths were not sudden. It also continued because it was believed that the Sin Eaters prevented souls from lingering on earth as ghosts.

Sin Eaters were useful society outcasts. No one would associate with them and they lived outside the villages. People believed they worked for Satan. After all, they willingly accepted the sins of many so they were overflowing with sin.

We are approaching Halloween and remember that people wore masks at this time so evil spirits wouldn’t recognize them or maybe be scared away. People also gave treats to those who promised to pray for a family’s deceased loved ones on Beggar’s Night. Going to heaven was very important to the people. I’m not sure how many people are concerned with that today.

October Surprises!

Roses blooming and surprising information!

As you know by now, I love my garden and even as the temperatures continue to go into the 30s my flowers bloom! I picked these yesterday so I could enjoy them inside. I can’t remember having flowers blooming in mid October before. October has held other surprises too.

My husband and I drove to Connecticut and then into New York a couple weeks ago to see a couple shows. In Connecticut, we saw 42 Street which was choreographed and directed by my brother-in-law Randy Skinner. The show was outstanding but one of the main characters was truly amazing. After the show, Randy told us the actor was blind. “How can he do it?” I asked. Randy said he didn’t really know. This young man sang, danced and literally was all over the stage. All I can say is God provided him with tremendous talent and showed him a way to use it.

In New York, Randy choreographed and directed an Irving Berlin show called Cheek to Cheek. This featured many of Berlin’s songs. He wrote approximately 1,250 songs and the surprise was he only played the black keys. Again I asked, “How?” Berlin had little education but lots of talent and determination. He was born in Russia, lived in poverty in New York and died a very successful man at 101. God showed him a way. Probably the most famous Berlin song is I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, but as I watched the show I remembered many of his songs.

Our drive featured beautiful scenery of colorful leaves and fields that had been harvested and some waiting to be. I’m a farm girl at heart and love seeing the fields and animals. There is something serene about them. I think it’s the same way people feel about the ocean when it is calm.

Hope you are all enjoying October and I would love to hear other stories like I have shared. God is good and his creations are clearly on display now.

Weedflower

The book Weedflower tells the story of a Japanese internment camp in Arizona.

Weedflower was written by Cynthia Kadohata and my students and I read this when I was teaching. At that time, I had no idea I would share two granddaughters with their Japanese grandmother. I recently bought the book for my granddaughters and thought I’d share some of the things I learned from researching Japanese Internment Camps.

Ten internment camps housed 120,000 Japanese who were removed from the west coast of America shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Transports began in February 1942. There were ten camps in the following states: California, Montana, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. The camp in Poston, Arizona, was built on a Native American reservation. This was the setting of Weedflower.

The book is written through the experience of a young girl, Sumiko, and is historically correct. The Native Americans did not want the camp and resented the camp having electricity and running water. The Japanese people were fearful of the Native Americans and believed they were savages because of the stories they had heard. Sumiko developed a friendship with a Mohave boy and a Romeo and Juliet story unfolds.

Interesting things I learned from my research: Canada sent 24,000 to 26 Japanese internment camps. Mexico also had internment camps and zones of confinement. As a result of the Japanese workers digging irrigation canals, Poston, Arizona, became an agricultural center. Men were allowed to enlist in the army and fight in Europe during WW II and 33,000 Japanese Americans did. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was composed almost entirely of second generation American soldiers of Japanese descent (Nisei) and is known as the most decorated unit in US military history.

Why is the book called Weedflower? Sumiko’s family grew and sold carnations, but she loved the weedflowers best and took the seed to the desert where they grew. I have no idea what it is, but I took a picture of a weedflower growing in an area where grass is struggling to survive. It’s my weedflower, but unlike Sumiko’s, it doesn’t have a scent.

Pie for Everyone!

Fruit pies were not eaten until the 1500s.

Summer is pie season at my house. Fresh fruit calls me to showcase it in a flaky crust. I read that Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) enjoyed fruit pies and cherry was her favorite. Early settlers brought their love of pie to America with them. They imported bees in order to have honey to sweeten their pies and maple syrup, molasses and cane sugar was also used. Pies were cooked in long narrow pans called coffins and coffins became known as crusts in the late 1770s. I’m glad that change occurred!

The first pies were meat pies and and were eaten in Egypt. These had a single crust that could have originally been made from reeds. The early crusts were not edible. This was true for centuries because they were designed to hold the filling. Hand pies were meat pies that had thick crusts for workers to carry in England in the 1800s so taste was not a consideration. The Romans created the first top crust and in the 16th century was used to hide a surprise for guests of royalty. The nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence was based on fact. Live birds and other critters were baked in pies to impress the guests. (Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.} If a bird flew out of my pie, I’d never eat pie again!

A recipe for American pumpkin pie is found in American Cookery written by Amelia Simmon’s in 1796. It was called pumpkin pudding and was baked in a crust. Apple pie became known as America’s favorite due to soldiers in WW II writing they missed mom and apple pie. It is almost apple pie season and the types of apples that are best for baking can be found online. Cortland apples have always been a favorite, but I use a variety.

Many are familiar with the saying eat humble pie. Humble pie (originally umble) was a poor man’s pie frequently made from deer innards in medieval times. To admit you were wrong means is to eat humble pie.

The peach pie in the picture tasted as good as it looks. Labor Day will require more pies. It’s just not a holiday unless there’s a pie!

The Clothes We Choose!

Our clothes can make a statement.

Like a lot of people, I have a closet full of clothes but I tend to wear the same things repeatedly. My daughter walked into the kitchen the other day and said, “I hope you don’t wear that out of the house!” I informed her it was one of my work shirts. I was baking and when I bake I get flour everywhere. Kids! Funny, I can remember telling her she wasn’t allowed to wear something outside of the house when she was a teenager. We were both concerned with people’s impressions.

Some clothing immediately identifies a person’s profession. Some might tell a little about their personality and some I’m afraid tells our age. I wear jeans, but they look nothing like my granddaughters!

With school about to start, kids will be selecting their first day of school outfit. Everyone wants to make a good first impression. The outfit is intended to instill confidence. Adults repeat the first day outfit experience when they dress for a job interview. We all know the truth. It’s not the clothes; it’s the person. The best advice I remember receiving was be the person you want to be.

Becoming the person you want to be doesn’t mean what profession you want to pursue. It’s something deeper. What kind of a person do you want to become? Any career counselor can advise on training and education in order to obtain a career, but they don’t teach how to become the kind of person you envision.

Who teaches that? For me, it’s the church. I know church attendance has declined, but since the world has gotten so crazy maybe people will find their way to church and God. A church where the Gospel is taught and God’s love is felt is the kind of church I attend. The comfort I find in church is like wearing my favorite warm sweater. God is the great comforter and not only listens, but encourages. If anyone is searching, I urge you to look for a pastor and church where you will feel God’s presence. He does love us!

Life is Like a Garden!

The needs of a garden are similar to a person’s.

I love my garden and so do the weeds, rabbits and deer. I spend a lot of time tending it, and I enjoy doing it. The quiet time spent in my garden gives me time to think and reflect on life. I realized that the events that occur in a garden can be compared to life’s events.

Everyone experiences surprises in their life. Some are good and some are not. A visit from a deer is not a good surprise for the plants. Having their buds eaten deprives them from showing their beautiful blossoms. Illness and accidents alter many of our plans and may keep us from showing what we are capable of producing.

Plants need water and sunshine and so do we. Plants also need to be divided and weeds need to be pulled so the plants can thrive. That’s where people may have difficulty. Pulling weeds out of our lives is not always easy. It’s not always easy in a garden either. Sometimes a shovel is required.

Identifying the weeds is step one. Weeds that interfere with a person’s life can be an attitude, another person, a habit or even a job. Pulling out the weed changes the entire look of the flower bed and it changes lives.

I use fertilizer to help my plants grow. My personal fertilizer is prayer. Talking to God is uplifting and I highly recommend it if you don’t regularly pray. Seeing God’s creations in the garden is a great starting point. Praise comes first and then prayer. August has arrived which means summer is going quickly. Enjoy the plants of summer and consider pulling the weeds in your life that are keeping you from blooming.

What’s Inside?

Everyone has hidden treasures and sorrows inside.

I remember being in a group and was asked to share something no one knew about you. I was appalled and didn’t think anyone would share, but they did. Some were serious events that were shared and others were funny. I think I shared castrating my cat in cat anatomy by mistake and the instructor telling the class he thought it revealed I had deep seated psychological issues against men.

Many of us have scars on our body and we can tell others what the injury was but people can’t see the scars that are inside. Those are the ones that frequently don’t heal and some of us pick at them to make sure they don’t heal. Asking God to help us forget and forgive is the only thing I know that works.

We all probably know people who never appear happy. They complain about others, their job, and various others things. When they enter a room, a cloud of despair is with them. It is difficult to even talk with someone like this because nothing positive seems to get through the doom and gloom. I don’t know the scars that are inside, but I believe God could help heal. I know he helped me heal my inner wounds.

I believe we all have gifts to be discovered and shared. We need to feel good about ourselves. So much time is spent on electronics, I wonder if both young and old are finding time to discover or remember their inner gifts. Would it make them happier?

I’m not much for making lists or keeping a journal but I know many are. Keeping a gratitude journal helps them have a positive attitude and to have a relationship with God. I just thank God every day for all my many blessings and this time of the year I praise him for the glorious nature that surrounds me. My garden, the baby birds in our tree, the rainbow and the beautiful moon this week have all filled me with gratitude. One of my gifts is the ability to appreciate God’s glory!

Summer Solstice comes with warnings!

The longest day of the year is a day to be wary of evil spirits!

The seasons have always been dictated by plantings and harvests. Bonfires were built to boost the sun’s energy and to ward off any demonic spirits. Flowers and herbs were worn to ward off evil spirits and St. John’s Wort is thought to be very powerful. The name of the herb is attributed to John the Baptist whose birthday is celebrated around the summer solstice.

When Christianity spread through northern Europe, pagan customs and Christians beliefs were combined. This affected the Celtic Calendar. There are four quarter days for the four seasons, but the Celts had four Cross-Quarter days that are in the middle of the season. For example, February 1 was considered the first day of spring (not March 21) and Christians called this day Candlemas. I wrote about Candlemas in a previous post.

Lady Day was March 25 (spring equinox) and was the day for hiring men to plant. The church called this the Feast of Angel Gabriel in celebrating Gabriel’s visit to Mary and announcing she’d be the mother of the long awaited messiah.

The summer solstice (Midsummer Day) marks the midpoint of the growing season. Bonfires are still lit today in some communities to ward off evil spirits while St. John’s Day is celebrated with festivals and prayer. The importance of having a good crop to harvest has not changed. It was also a time for weddings. Couples met on May 1 which was celebrated because it was halfway between the spring and summer solstice. They then married on Midsummer Day. The couple had six weeks to get to know each other!

August 1 is the halfway point between the summer and fall equinox and was called Loaf Mass because it celebrated the harvest of wheat. Farmers took the first loaf of bread to be blessed by the priest and then broke the loaf into four pieces. The pieces were placed in the four corners of the barn to protect the wheat that was stored there. Festivals continue to be held to this day.

The fall equinox is known as Michaelmas and it is the beginning of harvest. The angel Michael is celebrated and festivals are held. It also was the time for elections because it was a time when people gathered.

October 31 was Samhain and many believe this was the Celtic new year, but I also read many believe February 1 was their new year. Meat was slaughtered at this time for their winter supply and of course bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits. Fortune tellers predicted what the new year would hold for the people.

The year ends with Christmas and the winter solstice. Since today is hot and humid, I’m thinking the cold of December sounds pretty nice. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Cross-Quarter Days.