Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009: A Time To Share

Thanksgiving for the Gilmores was a time for sharing with friends and strangers and giving thanks around the table for God's provision and even abundance in our lives. We started with our annual Wednesday night cooking extravaganza. Each year Meilani takes more ownership on the process. This year she was jumping with delight at the chance to cook with Mama, Nama, Nana and Daddy.
She got her hands right into the stuffing and even into the raw turkey. She was not afraid of the mushy, goopy stuff. Nama led the brigade on making (whole wheat!) stuffing and preparing the (two!) birds. Meilani named our turkey Sally.

Nana Maria is the pie queen. Meilani helped roll out the crust for homemade pumpkin and blueberry pies. They also made whole wheat crescent rolls from scratch. These are perfect for dipping in our Butternut Squash Soup. We all fight of the last crescent roll.

Even 9-month-old Giada got her hands in the dough.

As usual, Daddy was the master chopper for that finicky butternut squash. It's so worth it for the soup that we eat for our first course. Here's our complete menu.

Thanksgiving morning we ran in the Turkey Trot 5k at Woodward Park in Fresno. It's become a tradition for our family. Dad and I ran together. Ericlee ran ahead at his fast pace. Nana, Meilani and Giada cheered us all on. Then we all came home for a brunch and a fabulous afternoon nap and a little football. At feast time, Papa Doug helped watch Giada while we got everything on the table.

This year Ericlee's parents and my parents joined us around the table. Paul and Michelle spent the holiday in Portland with Michelle's family. We missed them!

After dinner, we continued our tradition of making paper turkeys and passing them around the table to write little notes of thankgiving and encouragement to each person. This was a tradition we had when I was a kid. This year Meilani was really into it - decorating her turkey and dictating notes for each person. She even make a turkey for Giada to pass around.

Our greatest joy this Thanksgiving was sharing some of our leftovers with the homeless the day after Thanksgiving. While most people were out shopping, Ericlee piled us into the car with care packages and we delivered turkey dinners to some of the homeless on Fresno's streets. We were blessed to hear some of their stories and see their joy in sharing the meal. We hope to continue this tradition in the future. As we reflect on how much God has blessed us this year even through adversity our desire is to share more with others.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Preschool Field Trip: F is for Fire Station

This Fall we started some preschool activities with Meilani at home. A friend turned us on to Brightly Beaming online and we started the Letter of the Week program. Meilani is only 3 but she's hungry for learning and reading so we thought it would be fun to jump into some non-structured, low-pressure education. Each week we champion one letter of the alphabet. We make it fun by creating pictures of the letter in glitter and thinking up words that start with that letter. Nana and Papa help us with ideas when they can. (Papa likes to come up with the advanced vocabulary words, while Nana is great at helping with the crafts.)

We take a weekly trip to the library and look for books on animals, countries and other things that start with the letter of the week. We also print out coloring sheets from the internet and practice writing the letter of the week. I've found that a lot of informal time talking about the week's letter and a little bit of formal teaching time goes a long way at this age.

We have also taken a few field trips to make a certain letter memorable. For the Letter F, I arranged a field trip to our local fire station and invited some of our other preschool-aged friends and mamas to join us.

The firemen crew were super cool and showed the kids all the tools they use to fight fires.

Meilani got to sit in the big fire truck with her friend Sam Brant. They thought they were big stuff up there.

One fireman showed off all the fire gear needed for a fire. The firemen time themselves and race to put all this heavy gear on. We were impressed.

Even us mamas enjoyed this "Letter F" field trip. (Ah, the things we'll do for free outings with our kiddos.)

The fire sirens woke up all the babies and scared some of the kids. But when we got in the car Meilani informed Mama that she was going to be a fire woman when she grows up.
We'll see...on to letter G.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Cooking Club enjoys ethnic food lesson from Ethiopian friends

We just had our October Cooking Club adventure. This month we focused on Ethiopian food in celebration of the adoption of Nathanael Benedict. Stacie's friends, Emebet and Desta, came to teach us the authentic version of these yummy recipes. They even brought some spices all the way from Ethiopia.

Using these "raw materials," we set to work on three vegetarian dishes - a cabbage-vegetable dish, a yellow split-pea dish and a spicy red lentil dish. We chopped and peeled, sliced and diced all the foods first.

Then we moved to cooking the three dishes. Emebet worked side by side over the pots, showing Stacie what to do while Cori and I tried to get all the steps of the recipes typed into the computer. (We wanted to make sure Emebet and Desta didn't sneak in any extra spices in the pot without us knowing.)

As the food was cooking, the rich layers of spices wafted all the way out to the street. Emebet even warned us to close the closets and cover our hair if we didn't want those permanent smells. We loved them! The finished meal was served on injera bread we bought from a woman in Fresno who makes it regularly.

We were so grateful for Emebet, our great teacher. She said she wants to come back to Cooking Club to learn Italian cooking. We're game! For more details and the Ethiopian recipes, click here.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cooking Club: Picking Pumpkins & Fall Flavors with Friends

Fall is a favorite time of year in our family because it signals the start of "the holidays" and a chance to enjoy traditions. One of our "traditions" is going to a Pumpkin Patch each year to pick out pumpkins. This year we decided to make the trip to the Pumpkin Patch a whole-day excursion and part of our monthly Cooking Club. We had some friends join us, The Freelands, along with Stacie and Nathanael. We jumped in our cars and drove 40 minutes to Reedley to Hillcrest Pumpkin Patch.

This Pumpkin Patch was well-worth the drive. Not only did they have an abundance of pumpkins to choose from, they also had a corn maze, a train, a fish pond, tree swing and more. Meilani poses here with her friend Tiana, who also went to Haiti with us this summer. This was also the first time I got to hold Nathanael! (Note the proud Auntie smile.)
First stop: the train ride. The cool part was this little "boxcar" for the kids to ride in. Aeniah, Ashton and Cale are all smiles that they get to ride like cattle in a boxcar.
The parents actually got to enjoy some adult conversation while our kids (minus the babies) were all caged up. The sun was shining - a perfect day for making memories.

Giada, who is now 8 months and her buddy, Nathanael, who is 9 months, enjoyed their first train ride too. They played in the bottom of our train car and practiced standing up. These two will be walking soon - look out!
The three mamas pose here - Brandy, Stacie and me - with that handsome fellow, Nathanael. I feel blessed to have Brandy and Stacie in my life at this stage as we walk the mama journey together and share a heart for missions and love for orphans.
One of Meilani's highlights was this giant tree swing. "Higher, higher" she would squeal to Daddy who was pushing her. She has that drive for a thrilling ride.
In this family picture, you can probably tell Giada's favorite part of the day was playing with the pumpkins. She tried to pat them, suck on them and carry them herself. Such joy in a little face!
After we picked out our pumpkins, we rode back to the Freelands house where we started a Fall-flavored dinner. The Cooking Club menu this time included: Cheese and Whole Wheat Crackers, Chicken with Cinnamon Apples, Pumpkin Party Soup and Apple cupcakes for dessert. Yummilicious! If you're interested in the recipes from our Fall Flavors Cooking Club, check them out here

We had a few less cooks than we usually do for Cooking Club but Ericlee and Nathan willingly lended a hand with chopping the myriad vegetables for our meal. Giada was "hands-off" while mama led the cooking party.