November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving at the Farm

Our original plans for Thanksgiving involved a Morgan/Taylor-family road trip to Tennessee to visit Mr. Morgan's family. After our most recent road trip, we determined a 12-hour trip with Hamilton would not be prudent, relaxing, or fun for anyone. At this age he's not a good traveler for distances taking longer than about two hours. Sadly, we didn't see Mr. Morgan's family this Thanksgiving, so we're thrilled they've planned to come to us for Christmas!

With our Tennessee plans canceled, we decided to go to the farm for several days. Mr. Morgan took his outdoor cooker again to fry our Thanksgiving bird for the fourth year. Our dear friend David joined us on Wednesday, and we had a long-overdue reunion having not seen him since August.
Mom wanted a good picture of our whole family, so we dressed in neutral colors and picked a pretty spot in the yard as a backdrop.
I love Hamilton's expression in this picture; I'm sure he's responding to some crazy antics performed to draw his attention away from his truck for a few seconds.
Uncle Billy played with Hamilton and his truck, and he threw the tennis ball for Fatty. She was an instant fan of his.
Uncle Billy and Aunt Linda are so sweet to my children, tirelessly playing and entertaining each of them and bringing sweet, little gifts. Claire spent many hours of the weekend reading the book they brought her, and Hamilton has not stopped playing with or talking about his tiny trucks.
Mom had two beautifully decorated tables for our Thanksgiving feast, and we enjoyed all our delicious favorites.
We only lacked two cousins (and their spouses) from having all of Grandma's family together for the holiday. We don't often all get together, so it's a treat when we can. I know we endured about a dozen shots between all the different cameras, so everyone can't smile the whole time; but how do most of us look like Awkward Family Photos and my brother looks like a floor model?
Hamilton's favorite outdoor activity is riding in Mimi's wagon. We took turns pulling him all over the farm for many hours.
He tried to pull the wagon himself, but he quickly gave up when it only moved a few inches after enormous effort.

November 22, 2010

Dancing

Hamilton's always loved music and dancing, and he really gets into it now that he has more control over his body. Any song with a beat makes him start swaying his hips with a big grin on his face. He really enjoys dancing to a song off Taylor Swift's new album. I captured the cuteness on video the last time Mr. Morgan was playing her song.
video

Miss Gerry

My dear friends from home said goodbye to their grandmother yesterday. Mrs. Gerry Crisp had just celebrated her ninetieth birthday a few weeks before. Deb told me the celebration was wonderful; the daughters had outdone themselves with pictures and memorabilia displayed from each decade of her life.

Though I'm not technically part of the family, I've always felt like I was counted as an extra granddaughter. I'm welcomed at family functions, and "Miss" Gerry always greeted me with a hug around the neck and a kiss on the cheek. She often talked with me about tennis, since she knew I played and she was a fan. She always asked me about Charleston, my beloved city, for she loved the city too; but she'd lament that she didn't visit as often as she would have liked. I've always loved this picture from my wedding because it captures her loving spirit.
This past summer at Mountville's Fourth of July celebration, I saw Miss Gerry for the last time. She was so sweet to Hamilton, and he loved sitting in her lap.
We'll miss her especially at family events, though I'm thankful for the memories. May she enjoy her eternal rest with her Heavenly Father.

November 17, 2010

Delicious, Fatty Recipes

Last week I had several occasions to bake some treats. The eaters gave many oohs and aahs, so I wanted to share the recipes. Since both are Southern Living recipes, I knew they'd be delicous and take no credit for their scrumptiousness. I'd made these brownie cookies before, and they've always been good. Mr. Morgan began calling them "brookies" in honor of our favorite Bailey kid at Clemson.
I also whipped up a sour cream coffee cake, which was a wonderful accompaniment to the coffee and hot tea we served at a women's event. Southern Living no longer has this recipe listed on its site, so I found one online that looked really close.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 cups flour, all purpose
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup pecans, chopped
2 tsp cinnamon

Oven to 350º, grease and flour 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan.
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream sugar and softened butter; add vanilla and eggs. Mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a small bowl. To the creamed mixture, add flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture; after each addition mix until just combined.
Spread half the batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with half the brown-sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining batter and brown sugar mixture.
Bake 350º for 35-40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool upright in pan for 15 minutes. Invert onto a plate or cookie sheet, then invert again onto serving plate streusel side up. Serve warm or cool.
Today I'm planning to make chocolate chubbies. Though I've never made them before, I'm sure they'll be good; anything with tons of chocolate packed in can't taste bad.

November 10, 2010

Sixteen Months Old

Last Friday Hamilton turned 16 months old. I didn't think it was possible for him to be more vocal than he was, but he's definitely trying to say words and talking all the time. Often his words do not in any way sound like the real words, but I know what he means usually. He's still saying truck, but he's also added pumpkin, train, bird, sock, shoe, and bread to his vocabulary.

He loves exploring the backyard, and he's finally started venturing out of the grass and into the flower beds. Last week he found the secret path nestled between the fence and the bamboo.
He still loves school, and he gives me a goodbye kiss each morning I drop him off. He brought home a necklace made from pasta last week; and when I found it in his bag, he promptly put it back on, wearing it all afternoon.
He's getting much pickier about what he wants to eat, and cheese remains the only specific food for which he uses a sign. He still has only six teeth (four on top, two on bottom), so some foods are not liked right now because of their texture and his lack of back teeth. At least I hope that's the reason.

He loves for me to chase him around downstairs using a scary voice, so we play that game a lot. He now enjoys his zebra toy on the back porch because he's able to get on and off all by himself.
video
He still loves books and reading. He likes reading to himself, but he also likes to pick out a book, hand it to an adult, and turn himself around backing into the adult's lap. He doesn't always make it through the reading of each book, and he definitely has favorite books from the ones we get at the library. Recently he's enjoyed an I Spy book, The Little Engine that Could, a Thomas the Train book, and a book called Cowboy Bunnies. We visit the library at least every other week, so we can replenish our books. We usually make it for the library's story time, and Hamilton is surprisingly well behaved if he's wearing Rover, his harness and tether. Story time involves not just three books of similar topics, but also stretching and music with dancing.

Mr. Morgan installed a low-hung handle on the screen door for Hamilton. Before the handle, Hamilton would bang on the door or try to pry it open with his little fingers. As Mr. Morgan predicted, as soon as Hamilton discovered the new handle, he excitedly tried it out--over and over again.
video

November 6, 2010

The Artist

Claire's school now participates in an online art gallery for students' artwork. Claire loved seeing her artwork online when we first checked out the site. The cool thing is that friends and family can visit the site to view her artwork, and you can join her fan club and leave her messages on her homepage.

Here's how to view her artwork:
1. Visit http://www.artsonia.com/.
2. Type Claire2208 into the Find Artist/Student field.

Feel free to encourage our little artist, and I'm hoping to see more pieces uploaded soon!

November 4, 2010

Sixteen Weeks

I'm just over sixteen weeks along in this second pregnancy, and I had an appointment today with the doctor. I'm so reassured to hear the baby's heartbeat, especially since I'm not feeling any movement yet. And, the worst can and does happen to folks: At their appointment there's no heartbeat. I don't think I irrationally fear this happening, but I definintely think about it, especially in the days before my appointments.

I ponder how (I think) I'll feel if I get bad news and how (I think) I'll act or react. Perhaps playing the horrible scenario in my thoughts is my way of trying to control a bad situation. I do like to control things, and I also like to be prepared. I guess a "thought-rehearsal" is my way of preparing. But just a few moments into my hear-no-heartbeat "thought-rehearsal," I had to shake myself out of it. It was too bleak to think about.

Now that I've had my checkup, and everything is going fine, I'll relax and be thankful for good news at this appointment. My next appointment in four weeks will include an ultrasound, and we'll know whether Baby Morgan is a boy or a girl. Claire is hoping for a girl, though I think Mr. Morgan and I wouldn't mind having another boy. December 2 is my appointment day: The countdown is on.

Lo and Behold

Mr. Morgan relayed this story to me about his morning ride with Claire to school.
This morning as we were getting off the interstate I commented on how dark it was given the time. I said it felt like nighttime. Claire replied, "Yesterday I looked out the window at like 9:45 [am], and it was dark. I looked out five minutes later, and, ho and below, it was light out! It was so weird!"
I discreetly asked her again what she said--to make sure I got it right, and she said, "You know, ho and below. Or whatever."

November 3, 2010

Playing in the Yard

Every Monday that we pick up Claire from school, the kids and I head to West Ashley for Claire's piano lesson. When Hamilton was little, he'd sometimes nap in the car while we waited, and I would read or nap myself. Now that he's older and mobile, he enjoys playing in the Wheelons' yard during Claire's half-hour lesson. Last Monday I took Mr. Morgan's t-shirt quilt and some books, so I could sit while Hamilton played. We ate our afternoon snack, read books, looked at trucks and Spanish moss, and found many sticks of all sizes.
We often hear airplanes overhead about which Hamilton gets so excited. And now he recognizes trucks on the road, and he's learning the word! I have neglected to look up the sign for truck, so he's been mimicking my saying the word. It doesn't sound exactly like truck, but it's close enough for me to know what he means. His pointing to a passing truck (as in the video below) also helps me know what he means.
video
He wasn't sure what to think about the bit of Spanish moss he found in the yard, but he definitely wanted me to see it. I quickly discarded the insect-riddled plant once Hamilton forgot his interest.
video

November 2, 2010

A Look Back

Now that Halloween has passed, I can appropriately post about Thanksgiving. I've been working on a Thanksgiving vignette ever since reading my November issue of Real Simple, which included vignettes from several authors. I sent my draft to my writers' group for their feedback at our last meeting, and I've finally gotten around to finishing my vignette after processing their edits and comments.
The Thanksgiving Job
Until three years ago, Thanksgiving with my family involved working at our family-owned-and-operated Christmas tree farm. Since the long, holiday weekend was also opening weekend for the farm’s Christmas season, Dad needed all hands on deck, which included not only all the family members but also many community friends. Every kid in our community grew up hearing tales of working at the tree farm, and most wanted to be part of the action.
As a little girl I was charged with easy, menial tasks like cutting baling twine or running to get this or that for Dad. As I grew older, I sawed down trees, dragged cut trees from the fields, and helped load them into cars. I made popcorn and sold hot chocolate and Cokes to customers in my early teens, and I “worked inside” in later years making wreaths and garlands as younger workers took over the snack stand. On really busy days, I was an official greeter, welcoming customers and directing them where to find their special tree on our 30-acre farm.
Mom always “worked inside” the Christmas tree house chatting with customers, decorating wreaths, and making bows. Thanksgiving Day usually found Mom splitting her time between the tree house filling customers’ orders and our own house making sweet potato soufflé and broccoli salad for Thanksgiving dinner.
Many families came to pick out their family’s Christmas tree after their Thanksgiving dinner, but my family’s dinner was always late—after dark, after the farm was closed, and after everyone showered and changed. We’d gather around the Thanksgiving smorgasbord with Grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, and occasionally friends. Many times Dad would tear up telling us how thankful he was for our Heavenly Father, a good growing season, his family, and his health. Sometimes we’d go around the table to share the specific things for which we were thankful.
We’d eat dessert late into the evening, as we caught up on the day’s football scores between the bombarding commercials of not-to-be-missed deals available the next morning. Rarely did we venture out early for shopping on Black Friday, for we were exhausted after working hard all day, knowing we’d be working at the farm all day Friday and Saturday too.
Now on the farm Dad grows landscape trees, which allows us a more normal Thanksgiving. I always enjoyed our busy Thanksgiving routine—working hard, eating late, never traveling—but the calmer, more typical Thanksgivings we’ve enjoyed the past several years have been a welcome change. We’re still together as a family, and we still eat tons of delicious food; but there’s more time to rest and relax, play games, and visit with my beloved family.

November 1, 2010

Trick-or-Treating

We invited the Hardees-Whites and the Johnsons for dinner and trick-or-treating on Sunday night. The little boys didn't know what was going on, but they sure enjoyed holding the candy.

Our Costumes

Several weeks ago I asked for ideas for fun, couple costumes. Saturday night was our party, and I worked most of the afternoon to collect all the stuff for our costumes. We dressed as Jack and Kate from LOST. Mr. Morgan looks much more like Jack than I look like Kate (especially pregnant), so I had to wear a ridiculous wig. But the party was nice, and seeing lots of other couple costumes was fun and festive.

Costumes, Friends, and Pumpkins

We had a fun morning at the pumpkin patch with our dear friends the Hardee-Whites and the Johnsons. The boys enjoyed riding in the wagon around the farm, and we took a hayride around the fields too. We picnicked in the shade by the pond, and we all picked out pumpkins to take home.
Here are the mamas and the boys in the middle of the pumpkins.
Hamilton loved the hayride, and he kept excitedly pointing to the tractor that was pulling us.
This is the best picture I could get of all the costumes; the boys don't stand still for long. Hamilton is the bumble bee, Arthur is the chicken, and Grady is the farmer/cow wrangler, who didn't care for his cowboy hat.