Aunties M & Em

Thoughts on Faith, Family, Food, & Fun!


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Christmas Movies & Cookies

Here in the Midwest, we were hit with the first winter storm of the season…complete with freezing mist and a little snow last night.  At my house, we got about 1/2 inch of snow, with the balmy high temperature of 7 degrees.  I spent today with Hallmark Christmas Movies, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Christmas treats.

But it didn’t start out that way…this weekend was supposed to be our family get-together with Mom’s side of the family.  We were going to drive up Friday night; I was going to start the marshmallows and make the dough for a treacle tart.  Saturday I was going to make the tart, S cookies, and cut up the marshmallows…and then spend the afternoon celebrating Christmas with my immediate family, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandma.

Yeah.  That didn’t happen.  The freezing mist moved into the area Friday afternoon, and my normal 45 minute commute from St. Louis’s Dogtown neighborhood turned into 3 hours of sitting, rolling, and sitting again.  By the time I got home Friday night, I had just about cracked up, and even if the roads had really been safe, I was in no condition to even be a passenger – I really, really don’t like driving in icy conditions.  And my drive time was peanuts compared to some of my other coworkers and friends!  Anyway…

So the travel plans changed to Saturday, and I was going still make the S cookies at the very least.  Until the whole family looked at the weather forecast and then the current conditions.  Mother Nature cancelled Christmas!  Well, okay, that’s dramatic.  Steven and I decided to make the most of the day before more freezing rain set in, and we were able to finish our Christmas shopping yesterday instead of today – yay!  By the time we went to bed last night, our church had decided to cancel services to keep everyone safe, so I knew I had a very relaxed day ahead of me today.

I woke up early, oh, say 4:30 a.m. and started watching Hallmark movies.  Every so often, Lori Laughlin would be featured with a Countdown to Christmas moment (7 days to go, y’all).  In it, she talks about holiday baking and how there is one particular apple pie that has to make every year…even if she was stranded on the moon, she’d figure out how to make it.  Lori goes on to say that it’s her way of still connecting with her dad, even though he has since passed away.

That simple statement had me thinking.  What is the one recipe I have to make every year, no ifs, ands or buts?  For me, it’s S cookies, which are a Nelson tradition…come heck, high water, or freezing rain, I will make S cookies.  I even made a batch shortly after our wedding (our anniversary is December 23), and mixed them by hand because I didn’t have an electric mixer of any kind.

But just why do I have to make them?  I had never really thought about it before…other than it’s just not Christmas without them.  But it really resonated with me when Lori said that when she makes the pie, it still connects her to her father.  It got me thinking, and I realized it’s one way for me to connect with my Grandma Nelson, Dad’s mother.  She passed away when I was two, so I didn’t really get to know her.  But she taught my mom how to make them, and in turn, Mom has taught me.

em-grandma-nelson-circa-1979

Em & Grandma Nelson, circa 1979

 

 

I wish I’d been able to know her…I know she was a great lady, and I would have loved spending time with her in her kitchen.  But I am so grateful that the people in my life who did know her tell me and Gregory (and my cousins for that matter) stories about her and my grandfather.

Unfortunately for you, dear reader, I won’t be sharing the recipe with you.  You’d have to be part of the Nelson family, either by blood or marriage, in order to learn…Dad doesn’t even know how to make them!  Mom and I didn’t teach Jessi until she and Greg were married…and she’s doing a splendid job of keeping it in the family!  I don’t know how far back that tradition goes, but I’m not willing to monkey around with tradition!

So now I’m ending this crazy winter-weather weekend with more Hallmark Christmas movies (why does A Royal Christmas have to start at 11 p.m.??  I can’t stay up to finish!) and sharing these thoughts with you.  Lori Laughlin shared one of her favorite things about the holidays, and it’s the same as mine: baking and making Christmas cookies and treats!  I love the comforting process of mixing the dough, forming the cookies, and sampling the broken ones (all in the name of quality assurance!).  And while homemade marshmallows are a new tradition for me, I love watching the sugar syrup and gelatin transform into luxurious marshmallow crème, and knowing that I made the perfect topping for my hot chocolate.

Merry Christmas to you all…and I hope Mother Nature doesn’t interfere with anyone’s Christmas plans from here on out!

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Facebook and a nice photo

Lately, I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to get our blog posts to be publicized on Facebook.  I followed the directions step by step to no avail.  Arghhh!!!  So this is actually a test (of my patience) to see if it will work this time!

For anyone who may be reading this without seeing it on Facebook first because getting it to publicize was another fail…. here is a photo taken by my hubby, John.  Isn’t it beautiful?  🙂

She has a happy sunflower face!

She has a happy sunflower face!

Always remember that home is where the heart is … and there’s no place like home!
Auntie M


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10 Ways to Celebrate Harry Potter’s (and J.K. Rowling’s!) Birthday

One of my favorite new (to me) blogs is Three Chic Geeks. Basically, they took all my fandoms and neatly wraps them up in one geeky/nerdy fabulous package. Love it!
Anyway, today Critique Geek shared some ways to celebrate the birthdays of Harry Potter and his wonderful creator, J.K.Rowling. I especially love her tenth suggestion…check it out!

Three Chic Geeks

Happy Birthday Harry & Jo

Today marks the 33rd birthday of that messy-haired boy with the funny looking scar with whom many of us grew up. It also happens to be the birthday of Queen Rowling, the brilliant mind that brought us the HP universe and everything we love about it. In order to commemorate this special day, we’ve compiled a list of ways to celebrate Harry James Potter, Hogwarts, and the magic of friendship.

Plus there ain’t no party like a Hogwarts party cuz a Hogwarts party don’t stop!

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PLAAAY BAAALL!

It’s that time of year again, folks.  No, not tax time…though, as a friendly reminder from me to you, next Monday is April 15th – time to get your taxes filed!

Today is the St. Louis Cardinals home opener!  Since no one has declared Opening Day a “St. Louisans-Don’t-Have-To-Work Day”, I listened to the festivities on 1120AM KMOX.  I know I’m only in my mid-thirties, but listening to games on KMOX really brings me back to being a kid…growing up in central Illinois meant you either watched games on TV or listened to KMOX.  I’ve listened to countless games, and never have I been so moved than today.

Stan “The Man” Musial passed away in January of this year.  He is synonymous with the Cardinals, and with being a St. Louisan.  I work in St. Louis, and drive by Busch Stadium each day.  I remember seeing the Stan statue completely surrounded by gifts and tributes to “The Man”, and how touched I was that his family was willing to open up their grieving process to the millions of Cardinal fans around the world.

The Opening Day ceremony started with the entrance of the Clydesdales, then a tribute to Stan.  The starting lineup was introduced, then another moment of silence in honor of all those we have lost, including the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary last December.  I started tearing up with the initial tribute to Stan…and pert near lost it at the end, especially when the National Anthem was played by the Gateway Harmonica Club…Stan was a lifelong member of the club.  The Cardinals have always been a classy organization, and it really showed today.  They are planning a bigger tribute to Stan at Friday night’s game, and man…I wish I could be there!  Does anyone have a pair of tickets they’d like to give me?  Anybody?

I actually looked forward to my drive home tonight, knowing that I would be able to look into the stadium as I passed it.  Granted, it was a tiny view, and I had to focus on the task at hand – safe driving.  But I could smell the food…I could just barely see the fans decked out in red.  Attending a home opener is definitely on my bucket list!

Even though the Cardinals lost (okay, “got their butts handed to them in the 9th inning” is more appropriate), it’s still been a great Opening Day for me.  Today is the first of many afternoons where I’ll get a peek inside Busch…a peek inside America’s pastime.  And right now, I’m watching The Sandlot, probably my second favorite baseball movie ever (A League of Their Own is my absolute favorite movie of all time), remembering when Dad used to take me and Greg to see the Cardinals play in old Busch and how we’d take our gloves, even though there was no way any ball was getting hit that far up…when we used to go to games in Springfield, IL, first Cardinals, then Sultans (the club in town now is the Springfield Sliders, and is part of the Prospect League).

You know, football may be the most popular sport in the country, but baseball will always be America’s pastime.  To me, no other sport measures up to it…the history of the game, listening to the play-by-play, the sound of a bat knocking a ball out of the park, the smell of hot dogs and beer…  Sitting close is awesome, but I think Alabama had it right when they sang, “There’s nothing like the view from the cheap seats.”

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Doing what she loves to do

Missy_FranklinSometimes we complain, but there is something beautiful about getting up before everyone else to get better at what we love.  – Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin on getting up at 4:45 a.m. for swimming practice.

This evening on ABC News I was watching the piece on Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin competing in her high school swim meet.  She was so full of joy doing what she loves to do – be in the water and swim faster than everyone else!  The journalist asked the coach of the opposing team if she thought it was fair that an Olympic gold medalist was competing in a high school meet.  Without hesitation she said it was wonderful and that the girls on her team had been looking forward to swimming with Missy.  She said it was the closest they would ever be to Olympic glory and they were excited about it!

I just thought that was so cool.  Mind you, Missy lapped all but one of the swimmers in the pool with her and won one of her races by 20 seconds!  No jealousy or feelings of anything about it being unfair though.  Very classy girls! 

This little story, tagged on at the end of a news program, was so inspiring to me.  It’s making me think… am I doing whatever is necessary to get better at what I love?  Hmmm… I think there is always room for improvement!  🙂

If you missed it on TV, the video from ABC News may be viewed here.  I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Auntie M


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The Wild Blue Yonder

Today is Veterans’ Day, a fantastic opportunity to thank the veterans in our lives, and to remember those who are no longer with us.  I would like to take this time to thank the servicemen in my family: my Papa, Uncle Jim, Uncle Jerry, Darren, Eric, Brian, Jordan, Christopher, and Jonathan.  (If I have left anyone out, it was not intentional.)  With this in mind, I wanted to share one of the things Steven and I did this year.

On September 16, we attended the Scott Air Force Base (SAFB) air show.  SAFB is located near Shiloh, Illinois, and holds the air show pretty much every year.  Including my college years, I’ve lived in this area for 16 years, and this was the first year I attended the show.  What on earth was I waiting for?!  It was amazing!

We had decided to attend the air show several days before we went.  The first thing I like to do when planning an outing is some research.  Having lived in this area for more than a decade, I already knew and understood the value to the surrounding community, but I wanted to get some more information on the show and the base itself.  The base was originally named Scott Field when it was opened in 1917, as one of the first aviation stations built to support the US effort in World War I.  From the start, Scott has enjoyed the support of the local community, who “hosted dances and receptions, established a library branch on the field, and invited soldiers into their homes for Thanksgiving dinners” (source: Scott Factsheets).   Scott Field, in turn, hosted its first air show, called Field Meet and Flight Exhibition, on August 17, 1918 and invited the public.  If you haven’t done the math yet, SAFB is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year!  Currently, Scott has roughly 7,900 active duty, National Guard, and Reserve personnel assigned.  It also employees over 5,000 Federal civilian employees.  The base also creates local jobs indirectly – more than 6,500 jobs!  I didn’t grow up in a military family, so I have always been intrigued by living so close to a military base, and what that means to the community.

The Air Show itself was very interesting.  Once we walked from parking to the show (it felt like a million miles, but I think it was just 2 or so), they had different planes parked on the airstrip, and you could tour some of them!  We walked through only one, a cargo plane, and the most surprising thing I saw was a pine tree-shaped air freshener!  I don’t know why, but it just cracked me up.  You could also get up close to lots of different planes, such as fighter jets and antique planes.  They even had Air Force One!  No tours through it, though…  Oh well!

The pinnacles of the show were the in-air demonstrations.   The announcer described everything, from the type of plane to the pilot to the maneuvers.  We saw a parachute squad, a B2 stealth bomber, and more.  The headlining group, though, were The Thunderbirds.  One word – Amazing.  Now, I’ve watched Top Gun dozens of times, and am always amazed at the maneuvers the pilots pull off in the film.  But to see, hear and feel it in person…wow.  There’s nothing like it.  In fact, my emotions caught up with me.  The announcer would talk about how the pilots might use a particular maneuver in combat, and the truth of it all hit me.  On that day, I was able to see the pilots complete maneuvers that they had been trained to use in defense of our country.  In defense of me and you.  All of a sudden, the tears came at the thought of their sacrifices…and not just the potential for the ultimate sacrifice, but sacrificing time with their loved ones while I was spending time with mine.

Attending the air show was an amazing adventure, one that I will surely repeat in the future.  If you live anywhere near SAFB (and we saw a bus from Kentucky), you should attend the air show at least once.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Note: For some reason, I can’t figure out how to upload my pictures from Flikr…so here’s a link to the set: SAFB Air Show 2012.


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Until Rio 2016!

Fireworks at the Closing Ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympics

The Olympics Closing Ceremonies were Sunday night, and while I’m sad to see them end for this year, I am looking forward to Rio!  This year’s Games were fantastic and memorable, not to mention groundbreaking.

Perhaps the biggest story of this year’s Games was all about the women athletes.  For the first time ever, each of the 204 countries in attendance had at least one female athlete.  59 of the 104 USA medals were won by women, and 29 of those were gold.  Making its debut was Women’s Boxing, with the first gold medal going to 17 year old Claressa Shields, who hails from Flint, MI.  (You go, girl!)

I watched Oscar Pistorius, the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics, run in the semifinal for the 400m.  While he didn’t qualify for the final, I was in awe when Kirani James of Grenada, who did win the heat, asked to switch name bibs with Pistorius after the race was over (James would go on to win the gold medal in the 400m).  My heart went out to the German diver who did a “reverse bellyflop”, resulting in straight zeros for his score.  I also watched Gabby Douglas experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Kirani James was one of 7 athletes who won the first medals for their country…ever!  Michael Phelps won his last medals, totalling 22 for his Olympic career, more than any other athlete in history.  I shed tears with Misty May-Treanor and Keri Walsh-Jennings when they won their third consecutive gold medal in beach volleyball.

This was an awesome year for the athletes…and the Opening/Closing ceremonies were pretty awesome, too!  I loved how the ceremonies were a lesson in the history of British literature and pop/rock music.  “So tell me what you want/what you really really want”…the Spice Girls reunited was what I wanted…and the Ceremonies delivered!  I am excited for the Rio de Janiero games in four years, and can’t wait to see what progression the games make in the meantime!

Spice Girls perform at the Closing Ceremonies to the London 2012 Olympics