Category Archives: Holidays

Easter, and More

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            Of course, for us Christians, we celebrate new life and Jesus. So naturally, we paint and hide eggs. Fortunately, Crystal and I no longer have young kids in the house. I was a great hider. On March 25th I turned 67. We would probably rediscover eggs in July, based on smell.

            So, a week after us spring chicks (my birthday, along with a few grandkids) are hatched, comes Crystal and my anniversary. Yes, as you might know by now, we were a couple of April fools. This year makes 43 years. What you may not know is that, when we lived in Greensburg, Indiana, some 20 + years ago, we lived next to a very nice family, with another couple of April fools: Crystal and John. That’s right, Crystal and John lived next to Crystal and Ron. They just celebrated their 42nd anniversary.

            It seems that all of us April fools have girls. They had two, Bridget and Lacy. Growing up, they were good friends with our girls. Along with another couple of girls who lived down the street, our house was always a little on the noisy side. I’m not saying that girls talk a lot…..But they do! To this day, I still don’t get how they can talk at the same time, and still understand each other? But it was a lot of fun.

            So that’s it. This time of year, we have spring birthdays (mine in particular), April Fools couples’ day, and Easter. That is hard to beat. We are all looking forward to our families Easter tradition. We get together at a Greek restaurant, “The Mad Greek”, in Columbus for a great, although non-traditional meal.

This was our recent Family celebration of us March Birthday kids

Wishing you all a wonderful Easter.

Category: Holidays

Thankful, for What?

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            Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. What’s not to love? There’s bountiful food, family, and football. My wife would add… and there’s a parade. This year, all I can say is…. Bah, Humbug! I made the reservations for Michelle, Alex, and my two wonderful granddaughters, Ayla and Ripley. Liz, Brad and their four progeny, Keylan, Jazmyn, Bradyn, and Elijah were coming. It would be another of our world-famous German Thanksgivings.

            Now it’s on to plan B, or should I say plan C for Corona. Oh, I will still make my sauerbraten, dumplings, red cabbage, etc. But today I cancelled the reservations and Liz’s family will drop by for brief food exchange. But at least we will see them. Our youngest daughter Lisa moved back home last week-end and is now living with us. We do like having her home.

            Maybe there are a few things for which to be thankful. OK, cue Tiny Tim. God bless us every one! I was worried that the change in plans would not be well received. While disappointment could not be hidden, we have a close  and fairly intelligent family,. There is still football, a bounty of food, and we are all healthy. I’ve also heard, there might still be some form of parade. We will undoubtable skype with Michelle and family. We will be warm and cozy in our nice 120-year-old home. And most of all, we all accept that mere time and distance will never diminish our love.        

            If nothing else, this holiday always makes me reflect on the ghost of Thanksgiving past. Growing up, this was a mom day. I remember Mimi waking up at the crack of dawn to begin the cooking ritual. Everything was made that day and from scratch. There were no canned cranberries from mom. She was always an exceptional cook, but this was her gold medal event. Except, possibly for the one time she put oysters in the stuffing, I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t perfect. She made enough food for the army; and there were just three of us. There was generally a short prayer before the gorging began. It was all wonderful. Sadly, as I reflect, dad and I generally spent too little time in appreciation before rushing back to the football game (especially if the Bears were playing).

            Mom seldom complained. She just washed dishes and bagged leftovers. I almost think I enjoyed those more than the first meal. And they lasted for days. I think mom was most thankful for her nice soft bed when it was over.

            I guess that is one more thing I can be thankful for. I had really good parents, and a very comfortable childhood. Today, after preparing a number of holiday meals for my family, I have a little more appreciation for what my parents gave me for all of those years. I was really lucky.

            I guess I still am. I am healthy, have a great family, am generally happy, have many freedoms (not present in other countries), and have more than most people in this world.

            I know this year is a little different, but all of that is temporary. Maybe this is a great time to be thankful, and to be thanking God, that we still have so much. Maybe this is His way of reminding us that we are not really in control, but depend on Him.

            Well, do your best to enjoy not only Thanksgiving, but every day with which you are blessed.

German Thanksgiving the way it used to be. Picture form 2017.
Category: Holidays

Happy Weird Easter

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            So, Easter was a little different this year…Right? But kind of like the first Easter, when they put Jesus in the tomb and rolled a rock in front. That was the ultimate social distancing. Hopefully, none of us have gone to those extremes. But like Jesus, our solitude will also be temporary. This too shall pass.

            Did you know that Corona means crown in Latin? You would if you read our last blog. Somehow that seems appropriate for this season.

            This morning I got up early, as usual. Crystal and Lisa slept late, as usual. Lisa is visiting, by the way, for the duration. One of the many blessings of this time, if you choose to see it, is families coming closer together. I put a new battery in the smoke alarm, which was chirping all night. I did the dishes and made crescent rolls for breakfast, fed and petted the cat (she requires a lot of petting).

            Once joined by the girls, we watched a church service at Lisa’s church, and took communion (supplied by our church). Later, we will partake in a traditional ham dinner, with all the fixings, followed by a nice cherry crumb pie and vanilla ice cream.

            Yesterday one of our very nice neighbors gave us some very delicious sweets (pictured below). Unfortunately, they didn’t make it to Easter. All in all, we are doing very well. I hope all of you can say the same.

            One thing which might help, is something when under stress, I do frequently. Remember the other times you were under stress, and how, with God’s help, you got through.

            For me, and Crystal reminded me the other day, I had a horrible job. You know, one of those with a lot of responsibilities, and no appreciation. I was in charge of a waste water treatment plant for an OEM automotive equipment manufacturer. It was Easter Sunday, and we were visiting Crystal’s parents in Cincinnati. Since my boss had been reassigned, I was running the facility by myself. There was no one else who understood the complicated system of piping, valves, or chemical processes involved.

            So, even though I had a rare day off; we were working 10 hr. days six to seven days a week, I had to go to the plant. So, I got up early that Easter morning, drove the ninety miles back to Greenburg, Indiana, and switched the collecting tanks.

            Fortunately, that job didn’t last forever, but it made an excellent story for my interview at my next job, supervising an industrial plant. My new boss was very impressed.

            I’m not bragging. The point is that a lot of the things we go through, both negative and positive can work for the good. So while you meet today’s challenges, do you best to hold you head high, seek the good, and try to be a blessing. Remember, there is always someone who could use some help, a smile, or even some Good News.

Happy Easter 

Brownies with rose frosting from a loving neighbor

An Easter Message noticed during a walk at Lake Park in Coshocton, Ohio

Category: Holidays

Taking Down Christmas: by Crystal

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I don’t know about you, but taking down the Christmas decorations is not a happy task.  Putting up the decorations can be stressful, especially because before Christmas we have so much to do.  I tried this year to enjoy all of my Christmas activities, like writing our names in the cards, and making the newsletter, fluffing the tree up (Ron assembles and I’m the designated fluffer) and my quilted wall hangings, etc.  My daughter, Lisa, and I made candy and cookies together.  We only burned one tray, which happens pretty much every year.

I tend to put it off taking down the decorations in January (I usually don’t do it on New Year’s Day like a lot of people I know.) as much as possible.  I have several decorations, mostly from Hallmark, that are snowmen that sing and move.  I love those decorations. I am sure Ron is tired of hearing the music from them.  This year I got a Snoopy that dances, and a Gnome that sings “There’s no place like Gnome for the holidays”.  It dances in a circle and is so funny.  I will have real trouble stuffing that in a box to put in our garage.  Sometimes I wonder if the ornaments that are stuffed animals, or dolls, or the snowmen that sing, or teddy bears actually communicate with each other in the garage during the long time between January and December.  What would they say?

Our snowman with snow boy sings a song about the cutting down the Christmas tree. He might say:  “Gee are we back in the garage again?  It was such fun being out on the coffee table for a month.  We could see the beautiful tree with all the lights and toys on it.”

Snowman playing the piano:  “I know.  But didn’t that cat knock you off and pull on you onto the floor a few times?”

First Snowman:  “Yes; that happened, but the lady rescued me and had me sing again.  By the way why didn’t the cat knock you off?”

Piano Snowman:  “She tried and she has mitten paws and teeth, you know, but the lady stopped her in time; and I think she just gave up and pulled a little red stocking off the tree and ran off with it.”

A Teddy bear comments:  “Are you two complaining again?  I just take a long nap in between Christmases.  It works for me.”

Of course this probably isn’t really happening in the garage, but I can imagine that it could.  Well, I am going to stop writing now and make Snoopy and the Gnome dance and sing.  I hope you are having a good day and are enjoying January.  I do leave a few winter decorations up like my quilted wall hanging with the deer, and my snowman wall hanging in the bathroom.   I made both of those; and I like to see them on the cold winter days.  Our cat Ella, denies everything. She doesn’t know anything about those snowmen toys, or the missing red stocking.  She is telling me this while she runs off with one of my white socks in her mouth.

Ron

While I love my wife’s imagination, I really doubt the decorations are sentient. However, they did cause a disagreement. The Snowman and snow boy could only get through about a quarter of their song. Then they stopped. Crystal continued to try over and over again. It drove me nuts. I suggested we get rid of it. Crystal would have none of that. She hates to throw anything out. It’s still a wonderful decoration, she said. I thought, ‘it could decorate the garbage can.’ Eventually, I gave up. OK…the mechanism was completely inaccessible. I used all of my mechanical knowhow. I purposely and forcefully dropped it on the floor. Crystal was amazed when she came down the next morning and the device worked like new. She asked what I did. I told her, just a little engineering trick…….Please don’t tell her.

Ella attacking one of her favorite ornaments while the snowman and snowboy watch.
Category: Holidays

No German Thanksgiving

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            Thanksgiving was quite different this year. For the past three or four years we celebrated what our family called German Thanksgiving. Our celebration was combined with dad’s birthday on November 15th.   Instead of the traditional turkey feast, our family made all of dad’s favorite German dishes including sauerbraten, dumplings, red cabbage,  and of course, chocolate cake, etc. Dad and the rest of our family loved the tradition and the food.

            This year, however, marks almost exactly six months since dad passed. He would have been ninety-nine this last November. Somehow, the tradition didn’t seem as important any more. I miss my dad. I don’t miss the way he was during his last months, but as I remember him when we were both younger. As I told him those last days, I had learned a lot from him through the years, and I am grateful. I believe Crystal and I have passed a lot of our parents’ teachings on to our girls: the importance of honesty, responsibility, and respecting others just to name a few.

            As much as this year brought a feeling of melancholy, it was also a year to give thanks. Our family continues to grow. As we lost dad, Michelle and Alex brought our 7th grandchild, Ripley, into the world.  Our family is really close. The girls are always talking and planning. Sometimes they even include us in  their plans.

            Even though there was no German Thanksgiving it doesn’t sound like I’ll get away unscathed. Everyone’s favorite German meal will come between Christmas and New Year’s. I will once again spend three days marinating over ten pounds of beef for the main course. The girls will, as always, help with some side dishes. We will once again thank God for our many blessings, and enjoy our family fellowship.

            The Bible says “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2). Sometimes these seasons seem to overlap. Yes, we will remember our parents fondly. Yes, the time of mourning will continue for a season. But, it will not overwhelm our ongoing times of joy. Mom’s old world recipes will be enjoyed for many years to come. Someday, maybe you too can enjoy them. Our family cook book which includes family stories is coming close to completion. Their life stories will also continue, as our memoir is almost ready for the publisher.

            As we enter another Christmas season, be sure to give thanks for all of those in your life who contributed to making you who you are. Look forward with hope and anticipation. Seek peace. And always try to be a blessing to those around you.

God Bless You

Ron and Crystal

Christmas 2010 (This was a German Christmas Meal) Mom, Dad, and Family Happy
Category: Holidays

Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree: A Liz and Brad story

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By Crystal Meinstein

            Every year Elizabeth and Brad and their five children go to the tree farm in Coshocton, Ohio to cut down a fresh Christmas tree to display in their home.  This year they are moving around the middle of December (YIKES), so they didn’t know if they were going to cut down a real tree.  On a very warm day early in December, Liz decided that they should go get the tree.  She mistakenly believed that only a few people would be getting their trees this early. Also, she invited her friends with their new baby and foster children,her sister in law and mother in law to go.

            Approaching the Christmas tree farm, they saw the longest line of cars they had ever seen in all the years they have been cutting down their own tree.  The line was slowly moving forward.  Elizabeth, Jazmyn (16), Bradyn (10) and Elijah (8) decide to go look for trees instead of waiting in the line with Brad.  Elizabeth has Addy, who is one, along with Jazmyn and the boys climbed the hill to look at trees.  Jazmyn, who is very artistic, found the perfect tree right away.  The problem is you have to use an electric saw to cut it down and they were all being used.  So Elizabeth followed someone else(feeling like a stalker) who had one of the saws, and watched them cut down their tree and then asked if she could use the saw.

            Elizabeth ended up with her friends’ new baby in one arm and Addy in the other, waiting until they could move the tree to the car. Then she got a text on her phone from Jazmyn. I guess she used her third, ‘mother arm’, to answer it. Apparently, Jazmyn had gone to the out house on the farm and the door stuck.  She couldn’t get out.  Elizabeth didn’t know what to do.  So with both children in her arms, she tried to find one of the adults to help.  Jazmyn, who was nervously waiting in the outhouse; was stunned when a strange man kicked the door open.  The man was also surprised and apologized.  But Jazmyn thanked him for saving her and letting her out of the outhouse.

            Brad and the boys carried the tree to their car. They strapped it to the roof and transported it home.  However, because they are moving soon before Christmas, they decided to not decorating the tree.  So according to Elizabeth, Brad is trying very hard to keep the tree alive so they can move it to their new place.

            Ron used to take the girls for tree cutting when they were young. However, recently its been strictly artificial for us. Ron and I bought a new tree a few years ago.  This tree comes in three parts and you have to “fluff” it, separating the branches to make it look like a real tree.  It is much smaller than our oldtree which we had to build one branch at a time before fluffing.  I had trained all of our girls and Keylan and Jazmyn to help put together our old tree. I come from my parents’ philosophy: Everything you teach your children and grandchildren to do, they take with them to use in the future. 

            This year I was fluffing and decorating the tree with lights and ornaments all by myself.  Our new cat Ella, tried to help me by knocking the ornaments off the tree. She played with them all over the downstairs.  Her favorites are a stuffed yellow Woodstock and a small green stocking.   The other day she brought the green stocking back to me so I could put it back on the tree and she could knock it off again.   Ella also likes to put the small decorations in our shoes.  Ron made her a seat on the window ledge, right by the tree. This helps her to reach more ornaments.

            We recently visited Lisa in her house in Kentucky. She has a new tree this year and guess who helped her to fluff it out and put on the lights?  Yes, it was me.  I must have been an elf in a former life also a psychiatrist, chauffeur, baker, teacher, nurse, janitor and more interesting occupations.

            Good luck decorating your house and/or office this year.  I don’t seem to have the energy to take everything down until the middle of January. Now I am in the process of wrapping the presents, sending out the cards,and making cookies.  Where are those elves when you need them?  “Meow”   No,Ella, not you.

Our Tree and our Christmas cat Ella.

German Thanksgiving and Dad’s 98th Birthday party

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Dad turned 98 years old on November 15th. He is having more problems. But we got together as a family and celebrated a combined celebration which we call German Thanksgiving. We didn’t make a turkey dinner. Instead using mom’s recipes, I made all of dad’s favorite German foods featuring Sauerbraten, dumplings and red cabbage.  Crystal and I, our girls, and grandkids definitely share the excitement dad and I once had when mom made them for us. It was a wonderful thanksgiving combined birthday celebration, commemorating dad’s nearly one century of life.

 

For me, it was also a time of reflection. Until recently I hadn’t realized that dad was born exactly two years and four days after the Armistice was signed ending WWI. His life and my mom’s began in Germany under the shadow of that ‘war to end all wars’. Even though I don’t remember much history, a subject I hated studying when I was young, I do remember learning about the horrors of trench warfare and the extremely punitive nature of the Treaty of Versailles which followed.

 

My parents have both witnessed to me about the prolonged years of oppression and poverty suffered by the German people. This led directly to the call to nationalism which led to a second ‘war to end all wars’. Of course, according to Hitler, the demise of the homeland was largely the fault of a minority group of which dad was a part. It didn’t help that dad’s family had been in Germany for over 300 years or that many had died fighting for Germany. Two of dad’s uncles died in WWI. None of that mattered.

 

Fortunately, after dad and his family escaped to America, they were safe for a couple of years. Many of dad’s relatives weren’t so fortunate, killed outright or dying in the concentration camps.

 

Of course, dad joined the American army and returned to Germany where, after the war, he met mom. That eventually led to me. So….happy ending?

 

The point I wish to make is that, in a long and full life, my father has seen so much change. As we recently celebrated Veteran’s Day, I wonder if any of today’s youth in this world of Amazon and smart phones can really picture that time.

 

I was recently reminded of an old poem which might help.

 

In Flanders Fields

By John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

I want to take this occasion to thank my dad, Crystal’s dad, and all veterans for their sacrifice and the gift of our freedom. If we fail to guard it, it will be taken away.

 

From all of our family ages 1 year olds, Ayla and Addy to Dad, at 98 years old,

Happy Turkey Day!

Dad opening presents 11/17/2018

Dad’s Grandfather Herman Meinstein and his wife in Dad’s hometown of Zirndorf Germany circa 1900.

Christmas Thoughts and Traditions by Crystal

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When I think of Christmas, I think of the cards, the nativity, decorating the tree and the house, getting together with family, baking, etc.  We send out our Christmas cards with our newsletter and often photos too.  My mom always sent out tons of Christmas cards mostly with notes or newsletters, but even then she would write a personal note in many of the cards.  We helped her get the cards ready to mail as a family.  She would set up an assembly line in our living room. We each had our area: Jeannette would sign cards because her handwriting was very nice and legible, Mom would write the addresses on the envelopes, one of us would put the stamps on, and another one would put the return address labels; and often fold and stuff in the newsletter and then seal the envelopes.  Then the envelopes were separated by zip codes and rubber banded before being taken to the post office.

We also decorated the house.  When we lived in Roseland, Illinois my mom would tape the Christmas cards we received on the Venetian blinds.  I didn’t understand why nobody else did that in their living rooms. Card traditions were carried on in our next home in Dolton, Illinois.

Even after Ron and I were married, whenever we visited my parents at Christmas, my mom would show me the cards she received and we would read the newsletters and notes.  Often, they were funny and we would laugh about them.

My Dad also did this with me after my mom died.  My mom sent cards to everyone, but my Dad’s policy was to wait until he received a card, and then sent one out.  For many years, my Dad sent out cards and a newsletter that he wrote.  He also wrote letters to friends and family.

This will be the first Christmas without Dad.  We miss seeing him.  Even when he was in the nursing home, he appreciated our visits.  We would talk to him and laugh with him.  I miss holding his hand and telling him that I love him.  He was a really good Dad.  We spent a lot of time with Mom and Dad and I am very glad that we stayed close to them.  I know that their influence and example made us who we are today.

So I come from a family of people who write letters and send cards. Sticking with tradition, these days I tape up our cards on the walls, and doors in our Victorian house. I notice that visitors and my girls and my grandchildren will look at them when they come over.

My three girls, granddaughter Jazmyn and I will have our cookie bake soon and carry on the tradition that started with Mom.  This year we will have two little girls, Addy and Ayla, in high chairs joining in the fun.  I remember when Elizabeth was in my old wooden high chair at Mom’s cookie bake and also when Michelle was and Lisa was there too.  We would give them some dough to play with and eat while we made the cookies.  Mom gave cookies to everyone she knew and even people she didn’t know very well.  It was her way of spreading God’s love. Mom showed love to people all year round, but especially at Christmas time and we are carrying on her legacy.

Ron’s Corner:

Christmas traditions are funny. Often no-one knows where they started or why we feel obligated to carry them on. Maybe it reminds us of happier, more care free days when we were young and in awe of the season. Maybe we feel obligated to pass something on to our children. Or maybe, in some way, we feel we are honoring our parent’s efforts and love.

My experiences are somewhat different than Crystal’s. I really had nothing to do, but enjoy. Mom did most of the work. Oh dad and I would go out and pick the tree and I suppose he mailed the cards and letters and shopped for special foods and for mom’s presents. Of course, he drove us to downtown Chicago every year to enjoy all of the store window decorations and the huge Christmas tree inside Marshall Fields.  But honestly he and I were both spoiled. Mom did all of the heavy lifting. She did most of the shopping, cleaning, decorating, wrapping and all of the cooking and baking. She wrote all of those cards every year most with hand written notes. Usually she hosted a tea party for her neighbors and friends during the Christmas season which they totally enjoyed.  We never went around with trays of cookies, but inevitably were visited by a number of friends, neighbors and even dad’s business associates. I swear, none would ever be allowed to leave empty handed or hungry. Mom wouldn’t allow that to happen. Occasionally, they would stagger ever so slightly as result of mom’s eggnog. Crystal insists it was more nog than egg.

Even for our girls, Christmas often meant a trip to Chicago and a Mimi Christmas. Mom was still putting on a show into her eighties; though I remember her for the first time complaining about how hard it was becoming to roll out the lebkuchen (German form of gingerbread). The girls and older grandkids enjoyed the Christmas decorations, German cookies, five course dinners, presents wrapped beautifully, and singing Silent Night with Mom and dad on Christmas Eve. They would sing at least one verse in German.

While Crystal and I have hosted a number of Christmases, along with Larry (Crystal’s brother) and Linda (Larry’s wife and Swedish version of mom) as well, our girls seem excited, even grateful to continue Christmas traditions with us and at their homes.

So this year, Crystal and I will be especially grateful as we celebrate the Lord’s birth with warm cookies, friends and family. I’ll bet Heaven has some really wonderful cookies. No eggnog required.

Enter a new member in her new home for her first Christmas. Aylla with mom and Nana Crystal

 

German Thanksgiving (by Crystal)

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It’s November and all of our girls and grandkids and son in laws and Ron’s Dad and I are planning for German Thanksgiving which is taking place on Nov. 18,  at our house in Warsaw.  When we were a young couple, Ron and I sometimes had two thanksgiving dinners. One would be at his parents’ house in Oak Lawn and one would be either in Dolton at my parents’ house or at my Aunt Carol’s house in South Holland.  I don’t know how we did it, and when we had Elizabeth, we brought her with us and then when we had Michelle we brought her with us. Then we moved to Michigan and would drive seven and a half hours, sometimes on Thanksgiving Day, to be with the families in Chicago.

Ron’s mom was an excellent accomplished cook.  She made German, French and American dishes and really outdid herself on holidays.  So our girls grew up eating many different types of food.  Ron learned to make the traditional German dishes from his mom.  So this year he is making sauerbraten, bread dumplings, red cabbage and beet salad.  Michelle is making a flour-less chocolate torte and Savoy cabbage (Ron’s recipe). Ron’s mom use to make tortes especially chocolate ones. I am making pecan pie, and Ron will make his cranberry apple pie.  Elizabeth is making 7 layer salad and Lisa will probably make deviled eggs.

Ron’s father’s 97th birthday is Nov. 15th, which is also the anniversary of our first date (Ron never remembers).  We are bringing him from his apartment at Sunrise on the Scioto in Upper Arlington.  We are combining Papa’s birthday party and our Thanksgiving celebration.  Our granddaughter, Jazmyn, is making a Happy Birthday poster.  She and Lisa will decorate with balloons and streamers.

Even our son in laws, who had never eaten most of these German dishes before they joined our family, are excited about German Thanksgiving.  All of the girls are going to want leftovers.

This year we have two little girls added this year to our family.   Addelyn, aged 9 months, is Elizabeth’s fifth child and Ayla, 8 months old, is Michelle’s first child.   Both of them will be in high chairs at our celebration. We still have Ron’s wooden high chair for one of them.  It will be a full house with four generations of our growing family, full of laughter, yummy sounds and children’s voices. Throughout my life, Thanksgiving Day has always been a big celebration with family and delicious food.  Many times we had dinners with 24 or more people of all ages attending. Since Ron joined my family, he has experienced the bigger group, very different from his parents and him alone.

Now that Michelle lives further away in Kentucky, we really cherish this special time, we can be together to eat and catch up and have fun.  We usually play silly games in the house while the grandsons and Ron play outside the house.  We will come together and have coffee and dessert before the girls pick up the children, pack up some leftovers, and go home, happy and full of German Thanksgiving food.

Ron’s Corner:

In case you haven’t guessed November 18th was picked out of convenience. When you have grown children with families it’s not always easy to get them in the same place at the same time. We choose sauerbraten because it’s one of dad’s favorite dishes and all of my girls (Crystal included) love it. For those not familiar, it’s a sweet-sour German pot roast. The meat is marinated in a vinegar/spice mixture for about four days prior to cooking. It is finished with a generous amount of Ginger Snaps (yes the cookies). If you get a chance, try it.

Today is November 20th, and I am pleased to report that German Thanksgiving went off as planned. Our family got together without incident. After giving thanks we ate. Kids played, babies crawled and enjoyed the commotion, adults talked. At the end, a lot of very full and happy people departed as planned. Dad couldn’t get over the effort and love in our family. Sometimes we have to remind him that it is his family too and started with him, Mimi and of course Crystal’s parents. As Crystal said, Mimi was a wonderful cook. One of my main motivations for learning how to cook is that, the thought of living without some of the specialty dishes for which she was known was too painful to consider. In an effort to keep traditions alive, I am working on a cook book to preserve many of our family’s favorites. There will be more details in upcoming posts.

Some might say that celebrating Thanksgiving on the 18th was silly. Those same people probably say bah humbug around Christmas. However, in one sense I agree with them. We are all so fortunate and have so many blessings that celebrating on the 18th or even on Thanksgiving Day is silly. We need to be giving thanks every day.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

November 18th 2017 or German Thanksgiving / Dad’s 97th B-day party

Category: Holidays

Halloween, Then and Now

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As a kid of the sixties, it was always my favorite holiday. OK to be fair my real favorite was Christmas, but Halloween was the start of the holiday season. And what was not to love? There were costumes, house to house pillaging for candy, the rustling of leaves in the crisp fall air and the Halloween Festival at Gasteyer School. Every year from the age of six to eleven I couldn’t wait for the festival. It was magic. The normally boring classrooms were transformed into magical game and event rooms. This was the big PTA fund raiser and a big hit for the entire Oak Lawn, Illinois community. Kids talked about it for weeks.

My mom (Mimi) usually baked a cake for the cake walk. It was like musical chairs. Everyone would step from number to number until the music stopped. Then a spin of the wheel would reveal who got to pick a cake from the large cake table. I think I was seven or eight when I got to pick a cake. It was chocolate, of course. I ever so proudly and carefully carried the cake home in the dark to give to my mom before returning to the school for more fun. There were game rooms, where you could win valuable prizes like pencils, crayons, and you guessed it, more candy. The gym was open for games involving basketballs, bean bags, and volley balls.  There was also the room, which every parent hated, where a good toss of a ping pong ball would score you a pet gold fish. They generally had a life expectancy of slightly longer than the trip home, before joining all of their fishy friends on the other side of the toilet bowl.

By 1965 I was at the top of the ladder. As a sixth grader I was a school elder. At eleven years old and a patrol guard I was practically an adult. As such, I was honored with an inside look at my favorite room of all, The Haunted House! For a young child, this was a rite of passage and a test of bravery. You could brag to your friends. ‘Naw I wasn’t scared.’ Or you could talk about the kid who cried. But this year was special. I got out of class to help set up the room. Curtains hanging from cloth lines would hide the numerous workers. One would lie on top of the closets with the rubber spied on a fishing line to dangle in front of hapless victims. Another would have a wet sponge on a stick for a quick jab to the back of your neck or a girl’s legs. Others would jump out in ghoulish costumes. To my great disappointment, I discovered that the bowl of worms was nothing more than spaghetti. Although, when I think about some of my friends, I would guess that by the night’s end there had to be at least a few real worms in the bowl. The eye balls were only pealed grapes. I ate a few when no one was looking.

Even though I had lost my Halloween innocence I gathered my courage, donned my pirate costume and joined Tim and Tom to walk the streets and gather our quota of goodies. Back then, everything seemed safe. Kids old enough to find their ways home could go out unattended. There were no real demonic overtones to the holiday. Horror movies, which I loved, like Frankenstein and Dracula were non reality based and had at least semi-positive endings. Candy didn’t need checking. Communities had networks of moms, who were vigilant of any potential threats.

Today, however things are a little different. As I think of the world our kids and grandkids have grown up in I cringe. Security at schools has become far more important than fun. Reality has infiltrated fantasy. Crystal and I were on vacation in Florida around 1978. At the insistence of her old friend we saw the movie “Halloween”. When Jamie Lee Curtis screamed Crystal screamed louder. I screamed louder than her. She was grabbing my sun burned shoulder. The point is, that movie wasn’t like my old horror films. Today horror is real and vigilance is the order of the day. Our kids today suffer from an all too early loss of innocence. Trick-or-treaters still come to our house in substantial numbers but generally parents aren’t too far off.

As my girls grew up I still shared their enjoyment. I would dress up, mainly for their benefit, as a mad scientist to take them trick-or-treating. Generally a neighbor or friend would join us. Today, I notice that while most of the little monsters and princesses have elders watching over them, some are on their own. I attribute this to parental apathy and neglect, which unfortunately is prevalent nowadays. I worry that these kids are no longer safe.

I have to admit that those days of seeing my own kids, with their eyes widened by the many spectacles and bountiful treats was as special to me as to them. Today, while some churches have offered safe alternatives, trick-or-treating seems as popular as ever. So this Halloween, should the opportunity present itself, offer to help out some overburdened parent. If not, at least remain ever vigilant and report any suspicious behavior. Our kids deserve to remain innocent and safe for as long as possible and to enjoy the Holiday. Have a happy Halloween.

A princess, a Hawaiian girl, and their pet bunny. Lisa (bunny) was about the same age as Liz’s (princess) and Michelle’s (Hawaiian Girl) daughters (Ady and Ayla) are now.