I’ve been hard at work getting my to-do list together, planning my decorating, coordinating activities with my family, putting together our Christmas card, and trying to remember everything else I need to tend to.
As we begin the holiday hoopla, it occurs to me that we all need a few reminders to keep us on track this season. Here are the things that will be at the top of my Reminders List. Read more →
Though the entire world always seems to ignore the month of November and move right into December, November is the month of giving thanks. I’d like to take just a few minutes to share some things for which I am eternally grateful (in no particular order).
My husband and children
My Friends, near and far
Those who serve
My you all have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. God bless you, and God bless our land.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores.
I love food. I love eating food. Staying on Weight Watchers for the past eighteen months has been a Herculean effort because I don’t want to count my portions and limit my intake. I want to eat it all. I must say, I’ve become very good at the art of restraint–most of the time. But here we are, about to celebrate Thanksgiving, and I plan to throw caution to the wind and eat everything I love without guilt. I may have to work extra hard over the weekend, but how can I resist? After all, food holds such wonderful memories for me.
My grandfather was a waterman, which meant that fish, crabs, and oysters were a staple at every important family gathering. Crabs not in season? No problem; there were always soft crabs and crab cakes in the freezer. There isn’t a time, when I sit down to eat crabs, that I don’t think of my grandfather. And though my father was never a waterman, I think of him every time I eat my all-time favorite food, oysters. Absolutely nobody makes them as good as he does, though I’m trying to perfect his recipe. One recipe I perfected years ago was for my grandmother’s crab cakes. Never in my life have I ordered them in a restaurant. For those of you who have tasted only restaurant crab cakes, you have no idea what a bite of Heaven a real, no-filler, all-crab-meat crab cake is. Once you taste one, you’ll be spoiled for life.
Oh… baked pineapple. I can never eat this sweet side dish (who waits for dessert?) without thinking of my Godmother and how I wish we still lived close enough to see each other several times a year. I shared her recipe on here a few years back, and it’s worth checking out. It’s one of the foods that I can never get enough of, and I think it’s because it reminds me that not everyone who is family is related to you. Some are family out of love.
And that reminds me of my two best friends. Debbie makes the most mouth-watering bacon-wrapped chicken you’ve ever tasted, and Anne’s baked goods are so life-changing that I can’t choose one to highlight. Maybe the Texas Sheet Cake that she makes like nobody else does. Or the fudge puddles with creamy chocolate inside a peanut butter cookie creation. Or the brookies, Morgan and Jacob’s favorite, that none of us has been able to replicate. I’m getting hungry (and packing on the pounds) just thinking about them!
I guess the bottom line is that food isn’t just sustenance for our bodies. In some ways, it’s nourishment for our souls. It creates a connection, a memory, a return to a cherished place in time long ago. I can’t taste hot chocolate without remembering how my mother always, so lovingly, had it ready and waiting for us when we walked into the house on a bitterly cold day. My father remarked recently that bread pudding reminds him of his mother and the wonderful dessert she made, using day-old bread, when he was a boy. The smell of Southern Maryland stuffed ham takes me back to holidays with my extended family in St. Mary’s County and to my wedding. My father and grandmother spent days in the kitchen making the unique entree for our 300 guests. I really thought we had a picture of the two of them making it, but I guess that’s a photo that only exists in my mind, along with all of my other food memories.
They say you are what you eat, but I think it’s more like, we become who we are partly through the foods we eat and love. They help form attachments, create cherished memories, and serve as a reminder of the people we love and those we’ve lost. That’s why food and meal times often play an important role in my books. My novel, Whispering Vines, contains many recipes, some of them given to me by my friend, actress Bianca Roses, which her Italian immigrant grandmother was more than happy to share (thank you Nonna Nina).
So, on this Thanksgiving, I wish you all bon appétit. Enjoy every bite you take, and remember with fondness those loved ones whose recipes have been passed down through your family. Let this meal and this time together create memories that will last a lifetime. And have another helping of pumpkin pie for me. I’ll be limiting myself. Maybe.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Meand Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016.Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.
Sometimes I wish that Thanksgiving came after Christmas rather than before. That’s because I think that this time of year is often the time that we focus too much on what we don’t have and forget how much we actually have to be thankful for. We spend one day saying thank you for the people in our lives and supposedly for all that we’ve been given, but as soon as 6:00 rolls around, many people are out the door, cussing people out in parking lots, trampling over others to get through the door first, and pushing and shoving their way to the all-important, can’t live without, deals. After just a few short hours, we’ve forgotten all that we have and only care about what we think we need.
When did we become a people who value what we don’t have more than what it is in our midst? Is saving a few dollars really worth more than spending time with family? I understand the frenzy, the excitement of getting the bargains, standing in the long lines to find out how much the savings will be, arriving back at home to carry in bag after bag of goodies; but I don’t understand the mentality that has gotten us to where we are today. I used to be a big Black Friday shopper. Mom and I would get up at the crack of dawn and drive to wherever the best sales were. We were among those standing in line when the stores opened at 10:00 in the morning. And then we got up even earlier when the times changed to 8:00am. Mom bowed out when they started opening at 6am, but Rebecca and I were still game. And then Ken drove us the year that the stores opened at 4am. But before we knew it, stores were opening at midnight, and a few select ones decided to open at 6pm on Thanksgiving. Now, most stores open before the pumpkin pie has even been served. That’s when the thrill of the shopping adventure lost all its luster for me.
Give up spending that last hour with my parents and siblings? Skip spending the evening with Ken’s family? No way! The girls and I hit a few stores that first Black Friday that saw sales the evening before, and it was a waste of time. Nothing worth buying was left on the shelves, and better deals could be found online, so we went home and hauled out the Christmas decorations instead. It was sad, and my girls still lament not being able to take part in the tradition that my mother and I kept up for years and years. You see, it wasn’t really the deals. By Thanksgiving, I usually have all of my Christmas shopping wrapped up (quite literally). I was rarely doing the bulk of my Christmas shopping. I was finishing up a gift here or there and looking for great bargains, but what I was really doing was participating in a tradition that Mom and I looked forward to every year. It was about making our plan, devising our method, and sharing the experience – together. You see, that’s what really mattered. It was a day that we spent together. As the girls grew older, they joined us and came to understand that it wasn’t about getting the deals; it was about finding the fun and being together.
While I still sometimes regret not joining in the fun, I don’t regret the decision to stay with my family and relish our time together. My father is turning eighty, and I don’t want to miss a single minute of the time we have together. My girls are almost grown, and my nieces and nephews are looking more like young adults every year. When I look back and recall my favorite memories, those Fridays with Mom will be on the list, but not at the top. They will be part of the fun stories that I recollect and tell my grandchildren someday, but I won’t hold them sacred. The memories that I will always cherish, that I hope will never fade, are taking our silly family picture that Mom uses in her Christmas card, watching football together, playing board games, poker, and dominoes for hours on end, and going around the table before we eat to tell at least one thing for which we are truly grateful. And there’s no price that can be placed on that.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.
When I was a little girl, I attended my first major Broadway musical and spent the following few weeks memorizing every word to every song. I’ve never stopped singing those songs and enjoyed watching Rebecca and then Katie play roles in school and community productions of the same play. As a child, I’m not sure I realized how many lessons I was learning from the little orphan girl who took in a stray dog and softened the heart of a grouchy, old millionaire, but I have always remembered and adhered to her words “the sun will come out tomorrow.”
As I watched the morning news on Saturday, I saw updates on the terror attacks in Mali, new terror threats to Brussels, and sparring politicians across this great nation. But here is the thing that struck me the most – the people of Paris gathered in the streets this past weekend for a public street party to show the world that they will not stay home, that life goes on. Almost fifteen years after 9/11, we can all attest to that. Things change, people are lost, the world is shaken, but the sun still rises, and human beings continue living, striving for the best, reaching for the stars, and living the good life as best they can.
For every eight people who leave this world, there are nineteen babies born.
There are approximately 13,000 terror attacks somewhere in the world each year, but 2.3 million weddings per year take place in the US alone.
Somewhere in the world today, a child is having a birthday party,
a school is welcoming grandparents,
multi-generational families are giving thanks,
a group of friends are worshiping together,
a family is taking home a new pet,
a farmer is tending to his field,
and a concert is being attended.
People are still climbing to new heights,
steering toward the goals,
breaking new strides,
and celebrating their achievements.
And every single night, we go to bed with the knowledge that no matter what happens in the world, the sun will come up tomorrow.
Oh, the hustle and bustle of the holidays! Is there any sweeter sound than the melody of family gathered together to celebrate a holiday, or any occasion? We have had the same Thanksgiving tradition for the past twenty-one years. We head to my mother’s house (about two hours from our home) the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at whatever time the girls’ afternoon activities end. This year, it was after Katie’s evening piano practice (Christmas recitals begin on Sunday!). We met our oldest, Rebecca, halfway to Mom’s. She was able to get a ride with a friend at college, about three hours from home. As soon as we entered the house, the smells of Thanksgiving were already in the air: pumpkin bread, chocolate chip bars, Southern Maryland stuffed ham, and Mom’s famous ham and bean soup just for my husband to have for Wednesday’s lunch. For those who have never had the pleasure, stuffed ham is like eating a little slice of Heaven on earth.
This morning, my three nephews arrived to join in the fun and laughter shared by my three daughters and my niece. I thought they were supposed to get quieter as they got older, but no, the raucousness never ends; and what a beautiful sound that is! Later today, they will make gingerbread houses to take home to display throughout the holidays, and Mom and I will begin cooking the turkey. By the time we go to bed tonight, the smell of turkey will fill every corner of the house.
When we gather around Mom’s dining room table tomorrow afternoon, we will all take turns thanking God for what we are most grateful. That includes the presence of every person at our table and those no longer with us. Then we will feast on turkey and stuffing, sweet and mashed potatoes, Grandma’s famous rolls, a plethora of vegetables, and (my own favorite) my father’s incomparable fried oysters, fresh from the Bay. One of our traditional favorites at every holiday meal is my Godmother’s baked pineapple, a delicious mixture of pineapple and other ingredients that melts in your mouth. See below for a special treat for you, my readers!
Once we have finished eating and cleaning up the dishes, we say goodbye to my family and head back across the great Chesapeake Bay to spend the rest of the day with Ken’s family. We arrive just in time to eat again! This time, our choices include pumpkin pie, homemade cookies, cheesecakes, and my double chocolate chip pound cake. The day usually ends with a rousing long-distance run of Dominoes, from the double fifteen down to blanks! Christmas decorating will begin on Friday as the holidays have officially begun. There will be a lot of eating, a lot of driving, and a lot of family togetherness, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s these times for which I am most grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Godmother Judy’s Baked Pineapple (as mentioned in my upcoming novel, Picture Me – Sarah Book Publishing, Spring 2015)
6 pieces of toasted bread, buttered 1 15oz can of crushed pineapple
1/2 cup of sugar 1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Heat oven to 350.
In a greased 2 quart casserole dish, combine the pineapple and its juice with the sugar, egg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Add slices of toast, torn into small pieces. Stir and mix well until all bread is coated with the pineapple mixture. Cut the remaining toast into small squares, and arrange over the top, covering the pineapple mixture. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!