16 November 2016

You Can't Fuss With Your Mouth Full

AB's Sweet Potatoes from a couple of years ago. We'll see how the rebels do this weekend before we decide if we want to repeat this design..  ;) 

This year is mine and Paul's eleventh Thanksgiving to be married and the eleventh year we'll gather around our dinner table for a meal full of good things with people who make our hearts sing.  Paul is not a cook, but he's a smashing good conversationalist, and I'm proud to play cohost with him year after year, weekend after weekend, moment after moment.

In the midst of the insanity that has been public American life for 2016, I think it's especially important that we pause and give thanks. That we make a pretty table, and prepare enough food to feed an army, and then gather the army, and then laugh.  We should remember that thanks is nonsensical without an object - and that object is the Creator God of the universe.  We can all sit around and lament America, but, friends, I live in a world in which the question, "Which Microplane makes the most sense to grate the fresh nutmeg?" is actually being pondered. There are a multitude of cheeses, fresh fruits, meats, and chocolate.  And did I mention the cheese?  It is all ridiculous, prodigal, absurd.  And when we let it pass by, or sully it with a lack of gratitude, well, we've entered absurdity from a whole different angle.  We've problems a plenty, but last I checked, our blessings outweighed our problems.  And that's not the case for many in the world today.  So, eat.  You can't fuss with your mouth full.

We're traveling to visit dear friends for Turkey Day proper, but we'd not feel we'd done our filial duty if we didn't host a spread here, so a bunch of extended family are all coming on Sunday Afternoon for a 4:00 meal of epic proportions.

Last year, I ruffled everyone's feathers by having no turkey and none of the traditional sides.  There was some embracing, but mostly the people were displeased.  The men especially fussed - you don't realize how a man likes his traditions until you alter things.  And, then the, "But where are the sweet potatoes?" will cut you to the quick. 

You can view last year's menu, as well as back to 2009, if you, you know, you are in desperate need of Thanksgiving inspiration and have a bunch of time on your hands.  


To Twenty Sixteen:

Pick Up Food 
Prosciutto Cups with Ricotta and Fig filling
Roasted Spiced Pecans
Crostini with Caramelized Onions, Braised Pears, and Whipped Blue Cheese

Cauliflower and Roasted Garlic

Main Dish
Turkey... ;)  I'm still debating what to do.  We've done grilled and liked it.  We've done slow roasted over night in the oven and liked it.  We've done traditional in the oven and liked it.  We've done fried and loved it but hated the mess.

The Side Board

The two standards return and the six in rotation continue...

Cornbread Dressing - My Mama is bringing the dressing. Thank heavens. This is *the* dressing, and we won't ever do anything else, I don't imagine.  It came, I believe, from my paternal grandmother - neither of my grandmothers was  a very good cook (funny isn't it?), though I think both of their mothers were great, and they taught their daughters some things.  Including this dressing.  I think Mama messed with it some when I was growing up, but, it hasn't changed much for sure.  Celery, Onion, Two different cornbreads, pepper out the wazoo, as they say.  Or at least as Mama says.

Sweet Potato Casserole - I'm bringing it back.  Sticking with the half marshmallow, half pecan topping. It reconciles all different view points, and goodness knows we can use some reconciliation.
1) Scalloped Swiss Potato Gratin - I still can't spell it right.  How many p's?  How many l's?  One never knows.  This recipe is a standard in the rotation (not every year but most), and it is one of Paul's and Ma's favorites.

2) Spinach Gratin - My Stepmother is bringing this, and she's simply thrilling in the kitchen, so go team.

3) Salad - Arugula, pears, candied walnuts, goat cheese.  Yes, we're repeating a featured ingredient from an appetizer - pears - but, today in the mail came eight picture perfect Harry and David Pears... and who doesn't obey Harry and David?  If they're still firm on Saturday evening, I"ll poach them a bit.  I did a cider vinaigrette recently for a dinner party that was one of my favorite dressings I've ever made... and I'm certainly using it again.

4) Glazed Carrots - Honey, Butter, Simple Goodness

5) Proper Corn Pudding - The nytimes doesn't win some journalistic prizes, but it does have a great article on Thanksgiving food from each state from a couple of years ago.  I wasn't excited about the Mississippi recipe, but I've never done a proper corn pudding, and the one they published as the recipe from Virginia looks like the real deal.  So, I'm trying it - water bath and all.

6) Butternut, Burrata, Hazelnut Orzo - I'm making this up.  As I go.  But, what the hey - if it flops, we won't be low on food.  And we need a little adventure.  And how cold it flop?  And on and on I go - where I stop, nobody knows.

On The Table

Gravy - Every year, I ask my stepmother for her gravy recipe.  And every year, she dutifully sends it to me.  And every year, hers is better than mine. I'm plotting -I'm going to have all the ingredients ready and require her to make it when she walks in.  Don't tell.

Cranberry Sauce - You know - I've messed with it over the years - ginger, cayenne, kumquats - and its never been bad.  But, I've never thought, "Oh my!  We must never go back to regular ol' cranberry sauce again!"  So, this year, we're doing regular ol' cranberry sauce.  Cranberries, sugar, water, maybe some salt and pepper?

Eason Homemade Pickles - Sweet, Spicy, All The Time

Canned Spiced Peaches - I dare you to make me stop.  Double dog dare you.  I open one can all week... and it will remain this one.

Bread Basket - Rosemary Biscuit Muffins (me) and Sourdough Bread (Stepmother)

Dessert Cart

Honeyed, Salted Chocolate Pie - I saw it somewhere and decided it needed a try.  I'll let you know.

Cheesecake - Stepmother.  Can't wait.

Apple Pie - I've never made an apple pie in my life.  Horrors.  Or, as we Southern women say, Horrahs.  I think it's likely time.  If anyone has a must do, send it on!

Plum Spice Cake - An old family favorite.  I haven't made it in years and years.

It should be a sufficiency, as my dear grandfather used to say.  And hopefully larrupin, as he also used to say.  Regardless, it will be a blessing.

24 August 2016

2015: Christmas Time Review

Ada Brooks
Book:  Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
TV Show:  Fetch with Ruff Ruffman
Movie: Inside Out
Music: The General by Dispatch
New Skill:  Baking
School Subject: Math
Thing to Wear: jeans and a tshirt
Food: Flourless Chocolate Torte
Color: Pink
Activity: working in the kitchen
Memory:  Seeing the Lion King on Broadway with Ba and D and all the food on the trip. 

Book:  E. Aster Bunnymund by William Joyce
TV Show:  Ultimate Spiderman
Movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Music: Elvira (by the Oakridge Boys)  or O Come O Come Emmanuel or anything by Pentatonix
New Skill:  Pole Vaulting with a stick he found in the woods called his staff.
School Subject: Math
Thing to Wear: Sumo footy pajamas
Food: Good Beef in General, especially that steak we had in August. 
Color: Blue
Activity: Climbing
Memory:  Watching the Rebels beat Mississippi State and just knowing we beat Alabama and LSU. 

Book:  "All the Magic Treehouses" by Mary Pope Osborne
TV Show:  Odd Squad
Movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Music: Christmas Hymns
New Skill:  Reading real live chapter books all by himself
School Subject: Math
Thing to Wear: Sweatpants and an ole miss shirt
Food: Cheese Ravioli
Color: Blue
Activity: Playing with Seth (his bestie who moved away this year)
Memory:  Going to the Beans' new house all by myself and building forts. 

Elsa Gray:
Book:  But Not the Hippopotamus
TV Show:  Sesame Street (Particularly Elmo)
Movie:  The Adventure's of Winnie the Pooh (The only movie she'll sit and watch).
Music: Elmo's World Theme Song
New Skill:  Talking
School Subject: Colors
Thing to Wear: Dresses
Food: Yumby Chocket Tandy
Color: Pink
Activity: Dancing.  Definitely. 

a tiny tidbit

An old family friend of ours just wrote a book, which was based on a compilation of letters her mother wrote while enrolled at Blue Mountain College in the mid 20th century.

My family founded Blue Mountain in the late nineteenth century, and she thought it would be fun for me to write something for the book's dust jacket.

I had a bit of fun with it.  I am thankful for my strong mother and grandmothers, for my strong daughters, and for many southern sisters who have taught me, through many hard lessons, that strength is not about being the loudest or being perceived as important or right.  Strength is wisdom and joy, despite your external circumstances.  It says so right there in the Proverbs, and it says so right there in our lives.

It comes with opening your arms and home and welcoming people into your life - not with building walls to keep them out.

And, it comes with the carrying on of our traditions and our people and passing that on to the next generation.  We are not immortal.  But our names and our recipes and our traditions and our kindnesses will live on long after we are gone.

And that is strength.

Here is what will be on the book:

20 November 2015

Gobbling up the Gratitude

Ten years of Thanksgiving at the Forster home.   My Forster home.  Oh, how my heart swells with gratitude for the man who made me a Forster and for all the blessings God has seen fit to dole out upon us along the way.

This is our tenth year of marriage and our tenth Thanksgiving meal to host together.  I didn't write down the first three, but here are the most recent six, if you're curious and you have 42 minutes to read them (though, I can't imagine that's what you want to do with your 42 minutes).  


It is so very nice to look back and see what we did when -when I had energy and when I was tired; when we were traditional and when we were edgy; when I had lots of help and when I went it alone.

This year is different - they all are - but this one feels more different.  We very recently lost a dear, godly man, my step father, and so we are giving thanks in the midst of grief.  Even before this loss, we had decided to be a bit non traditional in menu this year, and now it seems even more fitting.  We will raise a glass to D, and eat good things as we give thanks to our Creator. 

To the menu: 

30 July 2015

To my friends who have had abortions

Dearest friends, 

I love you. God loves you.  

You feel judged right now, during this flurry about abortion.  I get it.  Completely.  When the world is up in arms about something, and you see it in your past, it hurts.  It stings like lemon juice in a paper cut.  And naturally so.  I'm sure all the big game trophy hunters feel judged right now too. 

You are not being judged.  You are not being judged by me, for sure, but are you are also not being judged by the larger pro-life movement.  This movement, and this moment, is not about judging you.  
It feels that way, for sure. And I'm not trying to take that away from you, but I want you to grant the benefit of the doubt here and trust that I'm genuine when I say that for the vast majority of "us", you are not being judged.  

This is what is being judged:  The practice and practitioners of abortion.  Is it rare? (No).  Is it legal (Apparently not, even with our embracing of it through our laws; even they are too stringent to be followed).  Is it safe (for whom?).  And, yes, is it moral?  (No. Value attaches to human life at its beginning.)  

I sin most every day.  So does everyone around us.  God is not pleased with that sin.  I am not pleased with it in myself, my children, or anyone I know.  And likely, neither are you.  

I am puffed up with pride, I am unkind to my husband, I am impatient with my children, I am uncharitable to a myriad of folks, I fall into gossip, I am a glutton, I am lazy.  And if I list all my past and "bigger" sins, well, it wouldn't be ladylike.  But, if you want to have coffee and believe I am a real-live sinner, I'll be glad to give you a clear picture.  

But, in the end, I am forgiven.  And I am better than I was.  And so can you be.  As soon as it is asked, forgiveness is granted. This is the gospel, friends.  Jesus Christ came to die for sinners, and through Him the Father forgives all.  And abortion is no different.  It is not a good thing.  It is a baby in there, a fact admitted by even the most callous of the Planned Parenthood doctors.  "It's another boy," one practitioner said in the most recent of videos released this morning.  And killing babies is bad.  But it is far from unforgivable.  All is forgivable.  Go, find Jesus, and be free and forgiven. 

But, please hear me. I am not angry at you for having an abortion.  I have been in a situation to contemplate it myself, and I understand the darkness and fear that puts you in that position. I have loved and respected many women who have had abortions.  I am not angry at you.  And you need not confess to me. 

I am, however, angry at the folks who have lied to many women and told them that this was good.  I am angry that they are tearing apart little people and selling their pieces and parts. I am angry that our lawmakers are chickendung and won't deal with this.  I am angry at myself for not being outspoken.  I am angry at people in the prolife camp for at times acting ridiculous and sullying the name of the position.  I am angry at the Church and many myriad of institutions for failing to support women, for employing shame and judgment and apathy, rather than justice and mercy and grace and support.  I am angry at men for failing to be fathers.  So, if you hear anger from me, know where it is directed. 

It is red-hot anger at times.  But, I am not angry at you.  I promise. 

Anne Lamott, who has a way with words, tweeted today that she stands with women, with the born, with Planned Parenthood.  

Well, Anne and I have a few things in common, though I can't get my hair to do quite like that and I'll never be that cool and she keeps misspelling her first name.  But, she's got it wrong here.  Love is not avoidance of truth; and, the gospel requirements of mercy and justice don't begin with children who are wanted or who are twenty-nine weeks gestation or who have taken their first breath.  The gospel requirements of justice and mercy extend to all those created imago dei, and that means the poor, the orphan, and the person who is so small he is still living inside someone else's body. 

I stand with women.  I stand with the born.  I stand with the unborn.  I stand with those who have left the life of abortion-provider.  I stand with you.

I do not stand with Planned Parenthood, and neither should you, friend.  A mistake doesn't forever tie you to a monster.  A brief moment of culpability does not shackle you for life.  There is not scarlet letter upon your chest.  And if you feel as though there is, come visit me.  I'll be glad to make a batch of something ice cold and tell you about how wonderful it is to burn that red A in the comfort of a Savior's redemption. 

It's over.  Be free. Rest.  And, above all, be thankful. 

all my love,
Ann Lowrey

22 April 2015

Nine Years

Wonderful people surrounded us then and surround us now, rooting us on. 

Mawiage.  Mawaige is what brings us togever today.  Mawiage  - that blessed awangement, that dweam within a dweam.  

A few years ago, I wrote a letter to the children about marriage; I posted it here.   I'd still say all of it, though, with four and half more years has come four and a half more measures of wisdom.  Just eleventy thousand measures left to gain. 

Paul and I have been married nine years today, and we are learning, daily, what it is to be married.  I imagine we'll be learning that until sixty-six years from now, when we've reached our diamond anniversary.  And then we'll die happy and not care anymore about learning how to be married.

He's been making that face at things I've asked him to do for nine whole years now.  

One principle about marriage that has struck me recently is the bravery it requires.  Father Ollie Rencher, who married us those many moons ago, preached our wedding homily on courage and bravery.  Because we were twenty-one years old and courage is an acceptable homily topic, while the stupidity of youth is not.  We were so stupid, though Ollie didn't say it or mean it.

 Marriage is bravery, though.  It is courage.  It is not the bravery and courage of knights or generals.  It is the bravery of the martyrs.

The courage of marriage is a willingness to  die daily.  I married a good man - like a shockingly good man - much better than I, and he dies to self every day.  He loves his church, his children, his cities (both the one we live in and the one for which he works), his friends, his house.  He loves me more though.  And the bravery comes when we'd rather have a different order of priorities. 

I love my children, St. Augustine School, my friends, my church, but I love Paul Forster more.  Or at least I'm called to love him more. 

Bravery is daily arranging the priorities correctly.  Why is this courageous?  Because sometimes we don't deserve that love.  We aren't loveable.  And to love someone is to be vulnerable to him.  And so, every day, whether Paul is awesome or not, loving him is putting him above all else and therefore making myself vulnerable to his non-awesomeness.  And doing that with the joy required, well, makes the knights and generals look a little bit pale and pitiful. 

We said marriage vows nine years ago today, and we meant them.  You know, like children mean promises around Christmas.  But, every day since then, we've had to mean them again.  It is only through an undeserved measure of God's grace that we can enter into the terrifying gap of the permanent reordering of our priorities.  But, it must be done. 

There have been many days in which one or both of us have chickened out.  Many, many days.  But, by and large, we have miraculously,

bravely gone where many men and women have gone before.  New every morning.   And this brave entering has returned to us a measure of happiness that no one deserves. 

Today I give thanks for a homily that rings in my ears, for a husband who looks at me as a partner in all things, and most for a Lord who has chosen to bless the idiocy of a couple of kids. 

Cheers to Paul William, the best husband in the galaxy. 

18 April 2015

Battle Picking

As a young(er)  mother, I often heard the chorus, "You have to pick your battles."  I still hear it all the time.  I say it pretty regularly as well.  I read it on many a facebook status and as the moral of the story in quite a few essays - both in the parenting world and elsewhere. And, I've been noticing something... and thought, why not add to the conversation.  ;)

I have done some etymology hunting, and it's not really clear, but the phrase means what you'd think it means.  To do an effective job, you cannot be stretched too thin.  You have to choose which places to put up a fight, because if you choose them all, you will exhaust your resources and lose the war.  In actual warcraft, these resources are men, weapons, money, food.  In parenting, the resources are primarily emotional. 

If we fight every battle at the same time all day, we will exhaust ourselves emotionally.  We will strain our relationships with our children, and we won't have enough left in us to smile, or love our spouses, or fight the next day's battles.