Thursday, November 24, 2011

Week of Thankfulness - Day Four

Happy Thanksgiving! I know that a lot of blogs will take the day off, but since I pretty much put these posts together days ago, I see no point. :)

I hope that everyone has a wonderful day with their families. My husband and I will be headed over to my parent's house around noon to (hopefully) watch the Lions win and (definitely) eat some delicious food.

But first, a few people that I'm so very thankful for...

My favorite Thanksgiving tradition started as a joke (I think).  I love country/Americana decor in my home.  My children, as you will see, are not always fans of my purchases, esp those that border on primitive.  About 5 years ago, after enjoying our meal (Ron and I, Jennifer and 'boyfriend' Luke and Scott and 'girlfriend' Heather present, Jeff was in Iraq), my youngest son Scott, announced that he had a new game to play.  In about 15 seconds, he gave instructions, "Everyone has about 5 minutes to go through the house and find the ugliest thing that Nancy has bought over the last year.  The person who finds the ugliest thing wins...GO!!"  Everyone jumped up from the table and scattered throughout my house, except Luke.  He looked a little nervous and I knew that it was because he didn't want to hurt my feelings.  Bless him.  I told him it was ok to go find his item.  To my surprise, when everyone returned to the table, Luke brought TWO!!  This "tradition" has continued each year since.  And each year, as I sit at the table alone wondering what things my family will bring back to the table, I thank God for my family who likes to have fun and that when we're all together, laughter fills my home!

1.  I am thankful that I still have both of my parents, Dot and Richard.  They are both active and in good health.  My mom is 76 and my dad is 78.  They have always been loving, supportive, and encouraging.  They continued this as I grew up, got married and had kids.  For 32 years, my parents have treated my husband like a king as well as a son!  The only thing they love more than their family, are my kids!  Jennifer, Jeff, and Scott are their only grandchildren and needless to say, they are perfect in their grandparent's eyes.  Even though we've never lived in the same state, my parents have always been involved in the day to day life of my family and came to MI more times than I can count to visit and/or attend special events.  I could not be more thankful for them!  They are the best parents and grandparents anyone could ask for!

2.  I am thankful for the special relationships I enjoy with each of my children.  I am thankful that even though they are all married, they still call or come over regularly to catch up and see what's going on with me.  And they still come to me when they need to talk or need encouragement or just to hang out.  My favorite thing EVER is being a Mom!

3.  I am thankful for the three new additions to my the last three years.  Jennifer married Luke in 2009, Scott married Heather in 2010 and this past May, Jeff married Ashley.  To sum them up collectively, they are kind, fun, smart, creative, talented, hardworking, good looking (of course) and perfect for our family.  I love each of them and am thankful beyond words that they are a part of my family!

Sausage Casserole:  A Ruark Family Favorite!
(not necessarily Thanksgiving, but we have it every Thanksgiving morning!) 

Side note from Jenny: This is the best sausage casserole you will ever have. 

1 pound bulk sausage
2 cans crescent rolls
fresh garlic
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup melted butter 
1. Ground sausage in garlic (to your taste, I used a lot!) and drain.
2. Mix sausage with pepper and eggs, then mix in cheese.  Set aside.
3. Press one can of crescent roll dough into 9x13 pan.
4. Spread sausage mixture on top.
5. Top with other can of crescent rolls, closing seams all around edges.  (I spread the crescent roll dough out on my counter and press it out to 9x13 size.  I fold each end to the center and then put it on top of the casserole and then press to the edges)
6. Top with melted butter and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  Top should be a light, golden brown.  Do not overcook.

In general, I just love the tradition of Thanksgiving dinner.  It’s so fun and meaningful to me to gather together with family and friends to enjoy fine food, fun conversation, maybe a game or two, and reflect on all the reasons we each have for giving thanks.

Three of the top things (there are really too many to narrow it down to a “top” three, but these are definitely things I’m thankful for…besides the obvious: knowing a loving God, being married to Jason – the sweetest bip of all, and my family and friends)

1. The new little tot that will be born into our family this coming March!   

2. The ability to have global communication with speed and ease these days!  Being far from my family, that’s one of the things I tend to take for granted.  

3. Things that make life cozy, like wood stoves, sweaters, scarves, soft blankets, and warm drinks.

One of the things I love to eat is pumpkin pie!  Kind of a traditional/boring answer, but I can’t help it, it’s delicious!  The one I make is just the recipe on the back of the Libby’s Pumpkin can – with a little whipping cream (and Starbucks Thanksgiving blend coffee!)….so good!!!

You can find the recipe here (or on the back of the Libby's Pumpkin can :)).

A few years ago my family started making gingerbread houses together - usually the day after Thanksgiving. While there is stiff competition on the best house, we have a great time sitting around the table laughing and telling stories.

1. My husband graduates with his Master of Divinity on December 7th. He has worked so hard and I am very proud of him.

2. I am able to stay home and take care of our incredible baby girl, Elizabeth. I love being with her and seeing the small changes day by day.

3. My flag football team finally won the championship. Go Norfleete!

Corn Casserole is a favorite. It is so easy and oh so delicious!

You can find the recipe here

Some of my favorite traditions are the Thanksgiving parade, spending the whole day together on Thanksgiving,  including waffle extravaganza and singing Thanksgiving songs.   

For a perfect pumpkin pie recipe, go here

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week of Thankfulness - Day Three

One day until Thanksgiving! Are you prepared for tomorrow?  I know I'll be grocery shopping (most likely with every other person in Canton), trying out some new recipes, and making place cards for my family's Thanksgiving. Also, I'll be tending to my husband as he's healing from having his wisdom teeth out...poor guy. He's doing well, but will not be enjoying anything more than mashed potatoes and corn casserole tomorrow (although that doesn't seem all that bad...).

But anyways, continuing on with the Week of Thankfulness - Day 3. Ashley, Heidi, and Kailee.

Getting together with family. We don't really have any other traditions! I guess eating turkey is my favorite thanksgiving tradition.

My husband's patience with me; my job that came at just the right time; a reliable vehicle and a roof over my head.
GRAVY - I'm in love with gravy. Any holiday that honors gravy is a good day. 

Random side note from Jenny - If I draw Ashley for our family Christmas this year, she will only be receiving gravy related products. 

Helping my mom cook in the kitchen. I can remember when I was a little girl & had to have a step stool to lend a helping hand (oh who are we kidding? I'm pretty short & still use a step stool ;-p). There were so many memorable conversations between my sister, my mom & me!

1. My body...I know that sounds weird but I was just thinking today how thankful I am for my health. I am fully able to exercise, walk down the street, use my arms, hands & even my booty to push open doors when my hands are full. ;-p  I waste too much energy critiquing my body when I have so much to be thankful for. It's far from perfect...but I'm healthy & for that, I can't be grateful enough.

2. Hard times/struggles...another weird one. This past year has had many ups but also a lot of downs. As hard as it is to see this now...I know I'll learn so much through these hard times. I'm thankful for life circumstances that push me & develop character because...ultimately I want to be someone that lives with wisdom, discernment & can demonstrate God's love.

3. People...pretty broad, huh? I'm just so thankful for the people in my new husband, my family that shows me unconditional love, my friends (like Jenny Haddad :-)), the elderly lady that gives me joy just by her smile because it shows a life lived & lessons learned, the children that remind us to laugh & dance with total abandonment.

Random side note from Jenny - I may or may not have bribed Heidi to put my name in the above paragraph. You'll never know.

Pumpkin Dessert...

Find the recipe at here at

Growing up, my brother played hockey, so we were never in town for Thanksgiving. Where other people have the fond memories of their entire family crowded around a table eating turkey and stuffing, I remember curling up in the back of our van watching movies as we traveled for hockey tournaments. There were a few years we spent Thanksgiving in Niagara Falls, and I remember eating dinner (on the Canadian side, since everything was open!) at this burger place and watching the lights reflect off of the Falls. This would continue on once I became a flight attendant--I grew accustomed to Thanksgiving in foreign locales. I may never have known the typical Thanksgiving "traditions", but I'm so thankful for the opportunities I had to travel and spend the holiday with my family in out-of-the-ordinary locations. Besides, the expected turkey dinner is overrated. :)

1. Grace. The older I get, the more I realize that grace makes the world go 'round. We all make mistakes, and the ability to show myself and others grace is not something that should be taken for granted. 

2. The journey. Regret can kill dreams, and in the season of life that I'm in, it's important to realize that where I've been before has directly influenced where I'm at in life now. It wasn't always pleasant, but I'm so thankful to be where I am in this moment, today.

3. My best friend, Val. I know I'm totally cheating on this one, but I feel as though it needs to be said, because it's been something that's heaviest on my heart. My best friend Val recently had her first child (a beautiful baby boy named Michael), and complications from the birth could have resulted in her losing her life. As I sat in her hospital room recently watching her hooked up to tubes and monitors, the very real fear of losing her was almost overwhelming. She's home now and on the (very long) road to recovery, but I'm so thankful for her life, and the tremendous place she has in mine. 

Anything pumpkin is deliciously necessary for Thanksgiving (and fall in general!), and my Aunt Judy's pumpkin squares are no exception! Super easy and ridiculously good--enjoy!

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup melted butter
3 eggs
3 cups pumpkin pie filling
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Pour one cup of yellow cake mix into a medium size mixing bowl; set aside.
3. Combine remaining cake mix, 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 egg; mix well. Press into the baking pan.
4. Combine pumpkin pie filling, 2 eggs and milk in a medium size mixing bowl; mix until smooth. Pour evenly over the crust in the 9x13 inch pan.
5. Pour the sugar and cinnamon into the mixing bowl containing the 1 cup of yellow cake mix. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks crumbly. Sprinkle this mixture over the pumpkin filling.
6. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the bars come out clean. Let cool before cutting.

The Week of Thankfulness is almost over! :( I've had a great time and I hope you have, too. Do you have a new recipe you're trying out for tomorrow or are you sticking with one of your favorites?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Week of Thankfulness - Day Two

Alright, let's keep everything moving. I've loved re-reading everyone's answers as I put these posts together. It's really made me think about what I have to be thankful for and I hope it's done the same for you all.

A popular pin on Pinterest (because you know I have to mention Pinterest at least every other post) is the saying "What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"

Such good food for thought. And a good reminder to be thankful.

Week of Thankfulness - Day Two. Heather, Debbie, and Kauri.

My grandmother's sausage and cornbread stuffing. It's made from scratch and always requires a double batch at McClure thanksgivings (and puts Betty Crocker to shame!). We heap it on our plates with a little turkey and mashed potatoes on the side, and it's always the first of the leftovers to run out. When so many meals come frozen, instant, and ready-to-eat, you can't beat homemade!

3. My New(ish) Car

I  have to say how thankful I am for my Focus I purchased in March over Darth Vader (aka the temperamental '99 Saturn). It is marvelous to know I will actually arrive at destinations instead of breaking down en route with a sputtering engine. The pink lights in the cup holders and floorboards are also a plus. :)

2. Subbing Jobs (-really!)

After a completely discouraging summer job hunting, I am actually happy to say that subbing is working out and keeping my 9-5 hours full.  Bonus: For the first time since the age of 15, I do not have any "homework!" No completing assignments and studying for classes, or planning materials and grading papers for a classroom. I have time again to read, take a pottery class with my Mom, and have watched more new Fall series then ever (although that last one probably isn't the most impressive use of my new-found time)! I have to say, as long as I don't have the dream job, I will enjoy the perks and appreciate that I have an income when so many don't.

1. My Awesome Marriage

I know we weren't supposed to state the obvious, but, I have to say that at the end of the day, I'm glad I come home to Scott. Knowing we have a future together means I will always have a reason to be thankful every year...and Scott would be the first to agree :)

In all honesty, I haven't actually tried this one yet, but am excited to based on it's level of simplicity and incorporation of powdered cheese and salt:

1. Pop a bag of plain popcorn.
2. Toss with 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 3/4 cup of finely grated Gouda, 1 tablespoon of paprika, and salt (to taste).

Seriously, five minutes and done? Smoky Gouda Popcorn sounds like a perfect pre-holiday-meal munchie to me!

I love that my in-laws celebrate Thanksgiving on the actual day and my parents celebrate it on that Saturday. This way everyone in my family is able to see one another without any conflicting schedules and we also get two fabulous meals! I also love how at the Thanksgiving celebration on my side me and all my siblings discuss our Christmas plans and how we'll do gifts and all that. It gets me in the mood for that wonderful time of year!

1. I'm thankful that I'm able to stay home full-time with our sweet 14 month old boy, Lincoln.

2. I'm thankful for a warm, cozy house as the weather becomes chilly...and to be sipping a hot 
beverage. :)

3. I'm thankful that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is in theaters. (haha, I know that's so cheesy and you know I'm joking, Jen...well, half joking :)

I love this apple crisp recipe:

-10 cups all-purpose apples, peeled, cored and sliced (Granny Smith work well)
-1 cup white sugar
-1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 cup water
-1 cup quick-cooking oats
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 cup packed brown sugar
-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Place the sliced apples in a 9x13 pan. Mix the white sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and ground cinnamon together, and sprinkle over apples. Pour water evenly over all.
3. Combine the oats, 1 cup flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and melted butter together. Crumble evenly over the apple mixture.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes.               

My family moved from Michigan to Tennessee when I was in the 6th grade (and my brother was in the 8th). All of our extended family lived in Michigan, so holidays were lonely. My mom decided to start a new tradition of our family going to the local soup kitchen to spend time with those who were also without family. It was amazing to me that we could be arguing about something that seemed really important on the way to the soup kitchen and then after serving together as a family, what seemed important previously was minuscule. 

Four years ago, I implemented the new family tradition of participating in a local walking/jogging event on the morning of Thanksgiving. For two years, my family participated in a walk that raised money for the homeless population in Chattanooga. Last year and this year, a friend and I are participating in a local running competition. Although my family does not participate in the race, they stand on the side lines, cheering us on. 

1. That I get to work with college students (as a counselor and instructor). Their hearts are so teachable and they really want to dive into concepts on which I lecture. As adults, we are so often overwhelmed with life that we only want to know what is necessary in order to make our lives better. Students at the college where I teach have open hearts and minds and desire to learn for the sake of learning.

2. That I love the process of cooking and the experience of eating, which encourages me to love my curves. I work at a treatment center for eating disorders on the weekends and am saddened by the patients’ fear of food and therefore, their inability to enjoy planning meals and savoring the flavor of food. When I am in a healthy frame of mind, I would never want to sacrifice my curves for the joys of cooking and eating. Cooking and eating are often where I experience community with others. 

3. That I was given the gift of a sense of humor. As a counselor, I am a pretty intense person who is constantly over-analyzing everything. My sense of humor balances that intensity. I can recount so many times in life where I have had a socially awkward interaction with someone and am almost sprinting to my car or office afterwards so that I can burst into laughter. My aim is not to be laughing at others, but let’s be honest, there are some interesting people and interactions that we come across on a daily basis.

Although I am a fan of savory foods, I am including this recipe as my favorite because my dad always requested that I make it on Thanksgiving. He passed away almost three years ago, and I can still hear him say, “Kauri Renee, will you make a Peanut Butter Pie?”

So, here’s the easy and tasty recipe in honor of my dad: 

Peanut Butter Pie
1 graham cracker crust
8 tsp. peanut butter
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. Cool whip
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
4 regular Reese’s peanut butter cups
Chocolate syrup
Cream the peanut butter, cream cheese and confectioners sugar together (I do this with a hand mixer). Fold in Cool Whip. Crumble 3 Reese cups into mixture. Scoop into shell. Drizzle chocolate syrup on top as well as sprinkle the last crumbled Reese cup on top. Refrigerate. 

I love my friends. :) Feel free to share what YOU are thankful for...and try to think beyond the obvious (God, family, friends)!