Christmas is the season of the year when people are the most generous. They not only give gifts to family and friends, but also to strangers and charitable organizations.
Unfortunately, due to the economy, charitable giving is down at the very time more people are in need. Perhaps you are one of those people. Or perhaps you aren’t able to give in the way you have in the past.
When I was in the fifth grade at Hope Lutheran School, we had to attend chapel every Wednesday. I remember one of the teachers delivered a sermon, using the analogy of a shovel. He said, when you give to God, God gives back. Only, he uses a bigger shovel. Meaning, the more you give to those in need, the more you receive in return.
I know I have lived a life that’s richly blessed. I’ve always had abundance, although some years I had financial difficulites. But through it all, I continued to support my favorite charities. And what I noticed was that my income often reflected my giving.
This principle of abundance has reflected strongly in my life in the last three years. I joined a church and made a committment to give a fixed amount every week. I’ve also continued to support charities such as Habitat For Humanity, Covenant House, and Orange County Mission.
What I found was that the shovel principle has definitely applied to me. Since I’ve been giving regularly, I’ve had so much work that I’ve had to turn away clients. And in this economy, with so much suffering around me, I don’t take my good fortune for granted.
If you’re thinking of cutting back on your charitable gifts this year, I’m going to urge you to rethink that decision. I’m going to ask you to think creatively about the ways you can give.
I remember hearing a sermon when I was young, where the minister outlined the three ways to tithe: time, talent, and treasure. If you don’t have much financially to give, you can still contribute something, even if it means tossing a few coins into the kettle of the Salvation Army bell ringer. It’s the gift from your heart that really matters, even more than the amount.
If you’re out of work, use some of your free time to volunteer. In addition to the help you give others, the satisfaction you receive from being of service will bring important meaning to your life, especially if you’re struggling with low spirits. Plus, you’ll find that there are always those who are worse off. Their troubles will put yours in perspective.
Think about the talents you have to offer. For example, many charitable organizations are in desperate need of someone with good writing and copyediting skills. Writing stories, articles, blurbs, and other copy could fill an important need.
Get your children involved with helping. Younger children can pick a name off a “giving tree” located at churches, malls, and hospitals. (I suggest you pick a child of a similar age and the same gender as your own.) Let the children choose the toys and/or clothes for the person and also help wrap and deliver the gift.
Older children can serve at soup kitchens, organize food or clothing drives at their schools, or donate part of their allowance to charity. Many times older children will gravitate towards a charity that feels meaningful to them or one that their friends are involved in.
And don’t forget to spread peace and good will to all. Being patient with a haried sales clerk, smiling at the shoppers around you, giving up your place in line to someone with cranky children are all ways to increase your Christmas cheer.
Some of you may be spending Black Friday shopping, but for those writers and avid readers surfing the web, for this last Friday of November, the noodlers would like to know your thoughts about scenes that include a lot of people.
What are the challenges in writing a scene with more than a few characters, such as a scene set during a Thanksgiving Dinner? What makes a highly populated scene work?
For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.
Let us give thanks: For generous friends with hearts as big as hubbards and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we've had them;
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;
For old friends nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;
And, finally, for those friends now gone, who like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;
For all these we give thanks.
Let Us Give Thanks from View from a Tree by Max Coots
This is Frankie- newest member of our family. He is a perfect gentleman cat who has completely won over the unhappy Jinx by being so nice, so social, so friendly, and always giving her whatever she wants. He's won us over too. And I went looking for an entirely different kind of cat. He has almost perfect brown spirals on his sides. I wish I could get a picture of his beautiful pale blue eyes but they just won't photograph well.
But back to my story.
My mom was a terrific cook, and she completely lived for holidays when she could cook her wonderful turkey and dressing and all the trimmings. Naturally we lived for them too.
We had a wonderful dog, a Weimaraner named Greta, who Dad had gone all the way to Minnesota from Illinois to get. And she was perfectly trained when it came to family meals. Never begged or snitched anything.
One year a friend of my father's promised to bring us a wild goose from his hunting trip. Mom had never cooked a goose before, but she got out all of her cookbooks and even bought a new one, and she pored over them until she had a plan. A menu that had us all but drooling in expectation.
We all had to clean the thing- and we did it outside because cleaning fowl is a stinky business. But Mom did all the cooking. I was only allowed to do the extra things like setting the perfect table, sometimes peeling vegetables. It was a really big goose for a large family, and the preparations took all day long, but the final result was a beautiful sight. And the house filled with wonderful aromas that were different from anything we'd ever had before.
And so we gathered, all seven of us, and took our seats, napkins in our laps, ready for the best treat ever. Greta was probably salivating too, although none of us noticed her at the time. All we could think of was digging in. Dad carved. We passed our plates for the tantalizing meat. We passed around the dishes of vegetables, dressing, cranberry sauce, Mom's unforgettable Thanksgiving rolls. We said grace.
Then, like the big family we were, we dove in, all at once.
The first mouthful. In unison a huge groan of disgust roared forth. Shock registered on everyone's faces as we all looked at each other. Even Mom.How could anything that smelled and looked so fabulous taste so horrible? The most disgusting thing I think I've ever eaten! It was like biting and chewing a whole garlic clove all at once.
Poor Mom! "But I followed the recipe to the letter!" she said. I knew, because I'd read them with her, and she had done everything exactly as the cookbook said. It wasn't spoiled. It just tasted like pure wild garlic and onions. And the stuffing, my favorite part, was completely ruined by the giblets in it.
Dad did his best to console her, and even apologized. He'd heard sometimes wild geese feed on wild garlic, and it must have just recently had a lot of it. Mom thought maybe wild geese had to be cooked differently, but she hadn't found any recipes for game, so she'd used what she had. And we all agreed Mom was the best cook ever, so it couldn't be her fault.
So what were we going to do with the bird? Should we feed it to the dog? Greta sat a bit too near to the table for proper dog manners, her tail thumping wildly on the hard floor as we discussed the possibility.
Dad got up and took a slice of goose and laid it in Greta's dish. Sometimes we called her Hoover because of how she ate, sucking up food like a vacuum cleaner. We nearly changed her name for the way this piece went down.
And so Greta was taken out to her enclosure with a nice dog-sized helping of wild Thanksgiving goose, and we had vegetables for our Thanksgiving meal. And pie. The pie was great.
"Eat your peas," Mom said, like she always did. "There are children starving in China." I never quite understood that and quietly wondered if somehow those poor kids might like wild goose. But I always loved my vegetables and never failed to eat them. That year I was more grateful for them than ever.
And for a week after, nobody wanted Greta's attention because she smelled like garlic all over.
It’s that time of year again! Frosted cookies, pumpkin pies and gingerbread men with red sugary eyes!
As I’ve mentioned in the past, every year my sisters and I get together with our daughters and mother and sister-in-laws, and we bake cookies. Lots of cookies. After a long and wonderful day of stirring and mixing and tasting, we pack up plates of cookies for our friends and neighbors and always end up with enough cookies to freeze for the holidays!
I love cookies and it’s hard for me to pick my favorites, but I must say that the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate Hershey’s kiss in the middle are top on my list. I also love chocolate chip cookies packed with nuts and chunks of chocolate. I love adding extra dashes of cloves and cinnamon to the oatmeal cookie mixture…yummy!
The other day I looked in the Wet Noodle Posse archives for delicious recipes and found:
A wonderful recipe for Chocolate Nut Caramels Nut by Merrillee Whren: http://www.wetnoodleposse.com/archives/Dec_2004/stuff.html#recipes
Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies by Lorelle Marinello, Pistachio Fingers by Trish Milburn, Almond-Rosewater Cookies by Janet Mullany and more recipes here!
Cookie day with my family this year will be on December 6th and I would love it if any of you have a delicious cookie recipe that you wouldn’t mind sharing. Any type of cookie would be great. I could really use a fabulous gingerbread cookie recipe. Something chewy and delicious!
We're usually serious and contemplative at this time of year, remembering to be thankful for things like health, freedom and plenty of food. And I am, indeed, thankful for all of those things. But I thought it might be fun to have a list of totally frivolous things for which I am, nevertheless, thankful. So here goes...
1. The wonderful experience of escaping into a story on the big screen. I went to see New Moon yesterday and had the best time. I'm already looking forward to Avatar next month.
2. Farmville, that crazily addictive farming game on Facebook.
3. Entertainment Weekly -- for my weekly dose of what's going on in the entertainment world
4. Whoever thought of putting TV shows on DVD. I'm currently on the 5th season of Gilmore Girls.
5. SyFy -- Thanks to this channel, I get regular doses of fun sci fi shows like Sanctuary and Stargate Universe.
6. Movie soundtracks -- I have lots.
7. The Bed, Bath and Beyond sales circulars that include 10% off coupons.
8. Twitter feeds from some of my favorite celebrities like Nathan Fillion and Misha Collins -- those guys are a riot.
9. Junior Mints
10. That J.J. Abrams decided to do a Star Trek movie. I saw it twice in the theater and already watched it again after buying the DVD last week. Tremendously rewatchable.
What about you all? What non-essential, totally frivolous things are you thankful for?
Noodlers continue the Giving Thanks theme with the following blogs:
Monday, November 23rd: Trish Milburn/Tricia Mills TBA Tuesday, November 24th: Theresa Ragan TBA Wednesday, November 25th: Delle JacobsEat Your Peas Thursday, November 26th: Karen PotterHappy Thanksgiving Poem Friday, November 27th: Q&A: What are the challenges in writing a scene with a lot of people, such as a scene set during a Thanksgiving Dinner?
One of the most wonderful aspects of Thanksgiving is the time we spend around the table with family and friends. Many books and movies include a feast scene, especially when there's a holiday setting.
One of my favorite feasting scenes comes at the end of the television special and movie The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I love this scene because of the theme of forgiveness. I love how the Grinch comes to understand the true meaning of the season and is welcomed to the Who feast despite his previous behavior. He even carves the roast beast!
What is your favorite feasting scene from a movie and why is it your favorite?
Thanksgiving Napkin Rings in Eight Easy Steps (makes 8)
Materials: 1 spool of 1 ½ to 2 inch wide wired ribbon in a fall color 1 snap spool of Kreinik gold metallic cable thread (3 ply twist) 1 small spool of all purpose cotton-polyester blend thread that matches wired ribbon 1 sprig of silk fall leaves
Tools: Needle Scissors
These napkin rings are easy to make and look quite elegant. Get ready for the compliments!
First, unless you have these materials handy, go to your favorite local craft store to purchase your ribbon, metallic cable thread, all purpose thread that matches your ribbon, and sprig of silk leaves. Some great wired ribbon choices would be chocolate satin (like I picked), pumpkin velvet, or olive taffeta. Wired ribbon holds its shape better than regular ribbon. Keep in mind that the beauty of these napkin rings is in the quality of the ribbon you choose; so if you’re going to splurge, splurge on the ribbon. The chocolate wired lustre satin ribbon I chose runs about $4.99 per 12 foot spool. When selecting silk leaves, pick ones that show veining for the embroidery portion of the craft. I chose the Kreinik gold cable for the embroidery, but copper or silver would also be pretty.
Instructions: 1. Cut the smallest silk leaves from sprig.
2. Snip wired ribbon into eight 7 inch long pieces.
3. Cut a foot long length of 3 ply metallic thread. Separate strands. Thread needle with 1 strand of foot long metallic thread. Don’t use pieces much longer than 12 inches to ensure less fraying and knotting. 4. Center silk leaf in the middle of one piece of wired ribbon. Starting at the bottom of the center vein, outline stitch the veins on the leaf. Left-handed crafters will stitch right to left and will keep the thread below the needle. Right-handed crafters work from left to right, keeping thread above the needle. Bring needle up into the leaf at the beginning of the bottom center vein. Put the needle down into the leaf along the vein at about ¼ of an inch. Without pulling the gold cable all the way through, push the needle up through the vein about half way down the length of the previous stitch. Now pull the gold cable all the way through. Continue in the same manner, following the leaf vein up and out. Besides outlining the leaf veins, these stitches secure the leaf onto the ribbon.
5. Repeat Step #4 for all remaining ribbon pieces.
6. Flip ribbon inside out, fold ends about ¼ inch, press right sides together and hand stitch folded ends.
7. Repeat Step #6 for all ribbon pieces.
8. Flip ribbons right side out, and you’re ready to set your table.
Merrillee here who is thankful for a lot of things, especially my faith and family, but I'm also thankful for things like airplanes. This is a photo that I took a few years ago on a plane ride from Portland, Oregon to Spokane, Washington. As we left Portland, we ascended through the clouds and this is what I saw out my window. At that point, I was so thankful that I had my camera with me. I'm thankful for cameras, too. No one was there to tell me the name of the mountain that is protruding through the clouds, but it might be Mt. Hood or Mt. Shasta. The spectacular sight completely amazed me. This photo is only one of the reasons I'm thankful for airplanes.
My family is spread out all over the United States. When my little brother had his fiftieth birthday, I would have missed it if there were no airplanes.
I also would have missed this sunset. I took this photo from his back porch.
If not for airplanes, I would never have been to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships
or the Greek Isles
or traveled to Denver for my very first book signing or get to see my daughters and their husbands. They are flying here for Thanksgiving.
And last but certainly not least, I wouldn't get to see my precious granddaughter on a regular basis.
What modern convenience are you thankful for? Merrillee
Holiday Family Gatherings-- Putting the FUN in Dysfunctional
My family is loud, funny, moody, talkative, expressive, exhausting, invigorating, stressful, delightful... I think you get the picture. A mixed bag, that's a blast to open.
We're spread out all over the US--from the Pacific to Mountain to Central to Eastern time zones. Boy, it's a bummer when my dad forgets about that and wakes you up on the only Saturday you have to sleep in all month. :-) But he calls with love.
And that's the big bow keeping our "mixed bag" tied together and looking pretty-- Love.
Through all the comedy film highlight reels of family disagreements or fiascos, the lost child at Disney (don't worry, we found her, getting the ride of her life on a circa 1940's car, driving down Main Street calling out for us on a megaphone), the adolescent attitudes, the aging process and all it's delights ... you name, or write about it, and we've probably experienced it... when push comes to shove, I know my family has my back. They know I've got theirs.
Did you ever see that Disney show called "Even Stephens"? The siblings were at each other's throats more often than not. Yet let one outsider try to pull a punch, and the entire family rallied around each other. Just like mine.
So, are your family get-togethers reminiscent of "Leave It to Beaver", "The Brady Bunch", "Roseanne", or a conglomeration of several?
I'd love to hear about your crazy family, or your normal family (though, who's to say what exactly IS normal?), or what you're looking forward to doing for FUN with your dysfunctional family this holiday season.
I'm thankful for my crazy bunch, and even excited for the 14 hour drive to see them. :-)
1. Thank you, Harlequin, for supporting genre fiction for over 100 years. Mills & Boon, the UK branch of Harlequin, celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2008, and Harlequin is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Think of all the pleasure readers received because of this commitement to genre fiction. My The Vanishing Viscountess was a featured book in Mills & Boon's 100 year celebration, and The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor was a featured book in Harlequin's "Diamond" anniversary. In honor of their 60th anniversary, Harlequin has released some of its vintage books, and vintage office products to go witht them. These are available in bookstores and at eHarlequin.
2. Thank you, Harlequin, for embracing romance fiction. "Harlequin Enterprises sell over 130 million books worldwide each year - approximately 4 books per second" (from Mills and Boon Australia ). By embracing romance fiction, Harlequin has spread the joy and optimism that are hallmarks of the genre. They have sent the message out over and over and over that love can heal; love can triumph over adversity. They've provided models of what good romantic relationships should be, based on respect and equality.
3. Thank you Harlequin for providing the means for so many authors (Amanda and me, included) to tell their stories and to make money for it. Harlequin has over 1,100 authors worldwide, and has given such industry giants as Nora Roberts an opportunity to break into print and hone their craft.
4. Finally, thank you, Harlequin, for giving me my chance. The day I received "The Call" from Mills & Boon was one of the happiest in my life. Not every day does someone make your dreams come true.
I didn't learn to love Romance by sneaking my mother's Harlequin books, like so many of us. I didn't realize what a wonderful wealth of fiction there was at Harlequin until I started writing and actually started reading Harlequins. (I found some of those early Nora Roberts books and loved them!) I always sign up to judge the series categories of the RITA contest, even though, you know me--the world's worst read romance writer--, I don't read much more than my friend Darlene Gardner's Superromances nowadays. And Harlequin Historicals, of course.
What role has Harlequin played in your life? I'll bet it's touched you somehow!
Noodlers continue their Giving Thanks theme with the following blogs:
Monday, November 16th: Diane GastonThanks to Harlequin Tuesday, November 17th: Priscilla KissingerFamily Get-Togethers—Even the Dysfunctional Ones Wednesday, November 18th: Merrillee WhrenThankful for Airplanes Thursday, November 19th: Maureen HardegreeThanksgiving Napkin Ring Craft Friday, November 20th: Q&A: What is your favorite feasting scene from a movie and why?
For our second Friday of Giving Thanks month, I couldn't help but think of food. That might have something to do with the fresh cranberries, sweet potatoes, and frozen turkeys starting to fill the bins of my local grocery. Or maybe it was the tower of canned pumpkin that caught my eye as I pushed my grocery cart down the aisles this week.
I was going to write about something serious today but I'm not feeling at all serious. Instead, I’m feeling thankful for creative people who make me laugh. I think it’s very cool that YouTube provides a venue for creative people to express themselves, and I’m especially grateful that I get to enjoy it.
So instead of trying to be serious, I decided to share some of my favorite YouTube videos.
To start with, have you seen the Simon’s Cat series? I think “Cat Man Do” was the first one posted a year ago. It’s been viewed more than eleven million times!
Simon’s Cat “Fly Guy” was posted three months ago and it’s already been watched more than three million times.
If you go to YouTube.com and do a search for “Simon’s Cat,” you’ll get the complete list of all his videos. Great fun, and now there’s even a book!
And are you, like me, one of the more than thirty-one million people who have watched the JK Wedding Entrance Dance?
This video went viral this summer, resulting in a Today Show appearance by the entire wedding party.
And the TV show The Office did a fun take on this when Jim and Pam got married a few weeks ago. The gang at The Office have a long tradition of playing pranks on one another, and their colleagues’ wedding was no exception.
Ah, yes. Love and laughter. They work for me every time.
There must be millions of videos on YouTube, and I know I'm barely scratching the surface. Do you have a favorite YouTube video? Please share, because I would love to watch it!
1. Use a high cotton content paper or notecard. Think simple and elegant.
2. Handwrite your thank you. Handwrite the addresses on the envelope, too, rather than use printed address labels.
3. Write a rough draft on scrap paper first.
4. Be specific about what the gift is and why you are thankful. If the gift is a critique, then tell the person who wrote it what specific advice you found helpful and plan to use to improve your writing. If the thank you is for birthday money, tell the giver how you intend to use it.
5. Keep your note succinct. Most thank you note stationary provides an expanse of 4” x 5” in which to express yourself. If you keep the thank you from three to five sentences, you should be okay. Leave enough room for your signature, too!
6. Be sincere in your gratitude. If you don’t plan to wear the sweater Great Aunt Margaret knitted, don’t lie. Thank her for the love and care that went into every stitch.
7. Revise your draft.
8. Proofread for grammar and punctuation errors. Correct them.
9. Pen the final draft on your nice stationary.
10. Don’t wait too long to send your thanks. According to most etiquette gurus, thank you notes should be sent within forty-eight hours. With wedding or graduation gifts, thank you notes can be sent as late as four to six weeks after the event.
I was blessed with parents who placed a high value on education. They sacrificed for private-school tuition, and donated hundreds of hours of volunteer service, and spent an incredible amount of time transporting us to the best possible schools.
Occasionally, they'd supplement our school days with additional programs--music and dance classes, foreign language tutorials, symphony tickets, college extension courses, travel opportunities. One of my favorite family traditions was the annual Christmas-break visit to a museum.
Two sets of extracurricular lessons I'm especially grateful for are those my mother arranged for me the year I was in the seventh grade. She felt that some practice with public speaking would help me conquer my shyness. And since she'd always wished she could sew, she decided I should learn that skill.
I wasn't interested in sewing, and I really didn't want to stand in front of strangers and make speeches. I whined and complained and made a preteen fuss over both after-school activities. But my mother was stubborn--and she was right, as mothers so often are. By the end of the year, I'd discovered I had a talent for speaking, and I'd begun to compete in city-wide forensics tournaments. I'd also begun a lifelong love affair with needle and thread.
Since that time, I've spent thousands of happy hours creating costumes, gowns, quilts, curtains, and upholstery. I designed and made my own wedding dress and veil, and one for my sister, too. I find fabric stores every bit as tempting as bookstores.
There's a box in the attic filled with medals and trophies I won in speech contests, and some of my happiest teaching memories are the afternoons I spent with my high school Speech & Drama students. After so much practice, I've never been uncomfortable speaking to a crowd of any size.
So thanks, Mom, for the lessons. They gave me far more than knowledge and skill--they brought me contentment and confidence.
Isn't it odd how we seem to devote one day a year to being thankful and then forget to give thanks the rest of the year. We all get busy and begin to take things for granted. But sometimes it's nice to slow down and really think about what all we're thankful for on a more regular basis. For example, in just the weekend alone, here are the things I'm thankful for:
1. Warmer-than-normal November weather -- It's been beautiful the past few days, allowing me to get in some yard work and nice walks around the neighborhood. And the longer it stays warm now, the shorter the winter will seem.
2. My laptop -- I do most of my writing on my laptop, and just this weekend alone it's allowed me to finish up a chapter on one book and get a proposal put together for another series to send to my agent.
3. The scent of cinnamon that seems to be in all the stores now, putting me in the mood for the holidays. Same with holiday decorations.
4. Homemade pizza -- Yesterday was the hubby's birthday, and what he wanted was the homemade pizza made from his Mom's recipe. So that's what we had, and it's the best pizza around.
5. My TiVo -- I've said it before, and no doubt I'll say it again, but I love my TiVo. It allows me to record shows I like while I'm working. Then, when I finish up my writing for the day, I can kick back and watch, zipping past all the commercials. This weekend, I've fit in Extreme Makeover Home Edition, two episodes of Heroes, Smallville and the season premiere of The Seeker.
What have you experienced in the past few days that you're thankful for?
Noodlers continue exploring Giving Thanks month with the following blogs:
Monday, November 9th: Trish Milburn/Tricia Mills TBA Tuesday, November 10th: Terry McLaughlinLessons Wednesday, November 11th: Maureen HardegreeTop Ten Tips for Writing Thank You Notes Thursday, November 12th: Lee McKenzie TBA Friday, November 13th: Q&A: What foods can’t you pass up on the Thanksgiving table?
On this, our first Friday of Giving Thanks month, noodlers are curious about which novels and what characters our readers are most thankful for. What novels and characters make you want to shout thanks to the person who wrote them?
I, for one, am thankful for Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and the characters of Claire and Jamie. Her writing transports me!
When it comes to holiday movies, Christmas may have other holidays beat. But if you’re looking for a Thanksgiving movie to put you in the proper frame of mind for your holiday gathering, here are a few to consider. Some of these films feature the actual holiday; others provide a theme of “being thankful.”
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving—Charlie Brown and the gang learn the true meaning of Thanksgiving after Peppermint Patty boldly arranges for everyone to celebrate the holiday at Charlie's house
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles—Caution** f-bombs at the rental car counter unless you get the sanitized version. En route to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his family, easily annoyed businessman Neal Page finds his first-class plane ticket has been demoted to coach, and he must share his flight with obnoxious salesman Del Griffith. A sudden snowstorm in Chicago forces the plane to land in Wichita. Unable to find a room in any of the four-star hotels, Neal is compelled to accept Del's invitation to share his accommodations in a cheapo-sleazo motel. Driven to distraction by Del's annoying personal habits, the ungrateful Neal lets forth with a stream of verbal abuse. That's when Del delivers the anticipated (but always welcome) "I don't judge, why should you?"-type speech so common to John Hughes flicks. The shamefaced Neal tries to make up to Del, but there's a bumpy time ahead as the mismatched pair make their way back to Chicago, first in a balky train, then by way of a refrigerator truck. We know from the outset that the oil-and-water Neal and Del will be bosom companions by the end of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but it's still a fun ride.
Pieces of April—Family outcast April Burns lives in a beat-up apartment in New York's Lower East Side with her boyfriend, Bobby. In order to spend some time with her dying mother, Joy, April invites her conservative suburban family to her place for a Thanksgiving feast. She discovers that her oven is broken the morning of the big day, so she goes around her tenement building trying to find a sympathetic neighbor with a working oven. Though she doesn't know them, neighbors Eugene and Evette offer the use of their oven, but only for an hour. While she frantically tries to complete the meal, the family drives in from Pennsylvania sharing less-than-pleasant opinions about April's lifestyle. Dad Jim tries to think positively, while daughter Beth flaunts her good-girl status and son Timmy captures it all on film.
Pay It Forward--Pay It Forward movingly conveys a simple yet profound message: We all share responsibility for making the world a better place. That's the lesson young Trevor McKinney of gleans from the social-studies class taught by Eugene Simonet. So he comes up with an ingenious concept: When someone does you a favor, don't pay it back, pay it forward -- in other words, do a favor for someone else. Trevor's enthusiastically implemented idea yields remarkable results, but not all of them are beneficial.
This is my all-time favorite brownie recipe. It's easy and will earn you many a compliment.
Brownie Recipe (Based on the Recipe from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book)
Ingredients: 4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped ½ cup salted butter (1 stick), chopped into pats 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 ½ cups granulated sugar ¼ teaspoon salt ½ cup flour
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan. DO NOT USE A RECTANGULAR PAN! Place the butter and chocolate in a sauce pan and melt over low heat. Stir frequently. Once the butter and chocolate are melted and combined, take the sauce pan off of the heat and set aside for a few minutes to cool. Once cool, add vanilla, sugar, salt, and eggs. Stir until combined and glossy. Add flour to the chocolate mixture in sauce pan and stir until incorporated. The batter should be thick. Spread batter evenly in square pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out BARELY CLEAN. If the toothpick is totally clean, you’ve over-baked the brownies. Cool, then cut into 16 squares and enjoy!
Most days are a blur for many of us. We don’t cross off everything on our lengthy “to do” lists, and these do’s carry over to our lists for the next day. As it is Giving Thanks month here at the posse, crazy as it sounds, I wanted to add one more thing to my list, something I don’t often scribble amid the grocery shopping and bank treks—counting my blessings. How often do we slow down enough to realize how much we have to be thankful for?
As a group, the wet noodle posse is thankful for the writing contracts we have, the agents who represent us, for the readers who enjoy our books and short stories, and for our families and friends who support us in our creative endeavors.
As an individual, here are the top five things I am thankful for today: 1. family 2. friends 3. health 4. a sound roof over my family’s head 5. a local dance supply store calling Grishko for me last night and getting them to send a few pairs of my daughter’s pointe shoes, needed for Nutcracker in three weeks. They’re on back order at my usual on-line store. Whew! Thank you, Center Stage!
How about you? What’s on your list? What are you thankful for?
If all thoughts turn to holiday celebrations in December, then surely many turn to Giving Thanks in November. Thanksgiving, officially celebrated in the U.S. at the end of November and in Canada in October, is unofficially celebrated all over the world in many cultures for successful harvests, for the end of long droughts, for surviving an illness, and even for finding or keeping a job in a depressed economy.
Giving Thanks essentially is about finding the good in our lives and being grateful for it. Sometimes that includes roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, a televised parade in NYC, and a tryptophan-induced nap. Sometimes it doesn’t!
Please join the Wet Noodle Posse as we explore the theme of Giving Thanks throughout November. We’ll provide our top ten tips for writing a thank you note, we’ll discuss lessons in thanks, and we’ll share recipes that’ll garner thanks. Feel free to borrow those recipes for your family feast.
Monday, November 2nd: Introduction to Giving Thanks Tuesday, November 3rd: Five Things to Be Thankful For Wednesday, November 4th: Brownies: A Recipe Certain to Garner Thanks Thursday, November 5th: Movies with a Thankful Theme Friday, November 6th: Q&A: What are some novels and characters you’re thankful for?
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