A family exercise in gratitude

As Thanksgiving approaches, lots of my friends do “thankful” activities with their kids. The idea is simple, ask the kids what they’re thankful for and display their answers — and yours.

This is our take on it. I decided to trace our hands and hang them like a garland in our dining room.

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Initially I planned on making the hands look like turkeys. In hindsight, that’s hilarious to me. I can’t believe I thought I’d be motivated enough to draw or glue little beaks and hats on these things. Hands take a lot of time and attention to cut out; you have to cut around FIVE fingers! By the time I’d cut out one hand for each of us, I scrapped the turkey idea and started wondering what level of detail I really needed to maintain. Would David would notice if the hands didn’t have thumbs?

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We each have a color, which David chose for us. The most fun part is that David gets really, really excited to put up a hand. Like everything in my life, I don’t stick to a schedule with it, so on busy days we don’t do it. But he loves choosing what he’s thankful for, and hearing what the rest of us are thankful for.

We let him choose whatever he wants. His first three things were: Caleb, watching TV, and going to Target.

Tom was horrified, “Well. I guess that means we’re doing something wrong.”


His answers make me want to keep up this tradition. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a chance to explain to him what it means to be “thankful” (it isn’t really a word kids are born knowing). And it gave me just ONE MORE excuse to go to Target.

This little one was eating a snack while I took photos, and she kept saying “CHEESE!” whenever I took a photo. And so, an action shot. Our dining room in use.

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Turns out, our garland of hands (rather than turkeys) was a happy mistake. One day David looked at it and said, “Mommy! Look! Our hands are together! That means we’re friends!”

He’s right, and I’m so thankful.

Forget everything you ever thought you knew about roasting pumpkin seeds

We didn’t get around to carving our pumpkins in time for Halloween this year.
To me, that’s terrible foreshadowing. If I can’t get ready for Halloween in time, then I might as well just forget about being ready for Christmas?

Even though our pumpkins weren’t ready for Halloween, I still wanted to harvest the seeds and roast them. I really, really love roasted pumpkin seeds. Maybe because I only have them once a year? Or maybe because of my secret recipe.

I posted my recipe for pumpkin seeds two years ago, and I mentioned that the secret to delicious pumpkin seeds is boiling them before you roast them; it really improves the texture.

Even though I still boil my pumpkin seeds, I was wrong. That’s not the real secret. The real secret is this: instead of just oil and salt, season them with the same stuff you use to make Chex Mix.

I learned this by accident. I had a bunch of roasted pumpkin seeds, and I’d just made a big batch of Chex Mix. And I thought, hmm…these two things could work together!

And they do, they really do. They work so well that you don’t even need the pretzels and Chex and all that other stuff. Turns out, pumpkin seeds, butter, salt, and Worcestershire sauce makes a decent statement on its own.

Next year, if you roast your pumpkin seeds, try this out. And if you don’t roast your pumpkin seeds, give them to me.
[The recipe I used is at the bottom of this post.]

My plan was to involve the kids as much as possible. From experience, I knew David wouldn’t want to get near the pumpkin goop, but I still wanted to him to participate.

I asked David to draw faces on the pumpkins and told him I would carve the faces.

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These are the faces he expected me to carve. I had my work cut out for me. And when I say “my work” what I mean is, I immediately started working to figure out how to get him to forget that I ever mentioned carving these faces.

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I cut the top of the pumpkins, and when David saw the pulp and seeds, as expected, he started squealing and dry-heaving in the corner. EW! YUCK! He said each time I lifted the top off one of the pumpkins.

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But, somehow, he rallied and helped me fish out a few seeds. He actually did a decent job.

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He DID forget about carving faces. I told him it was time for lunch. Let’s go inside! Then I threw the pumpkins in our compost pile. Maybe next year, David. When you can draw a decent triangle.

Mary Virginia was there, too; she spent most of her time on my lap. As if it wasn’t already hard enough to cut through a gourd, wielding a sharp knive with a squirmy toddler with separation anxiety on my lap makes the whole thing positively irresponsible.


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
– Separate pumpkin seeds from pumpkin guts and rinse under cold water
– Bring a large pot of water (and a few Tbsp salt) to boil. Add seeds and boil for at least 15 minutes
– Strain seeds and shake dry
– Preheat oven to 250

– Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for Chex Mix seasoning (I never really stick to these measurements exactly, I just sprinkled the seasonings to taste):

  • 6 T butter
  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 t seasoned salt
  • 3/4 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t onion powder

– Arrange seeds on a baking pan and toss with Chex Mix seasoning to coat evenly
– Bake for about an hour, tossing every 15 minutes
– In the last 10 minutes, increase oven temperature to 400 until seeds are golden brown

Store in an airtight container.

Scenes of fall

My mom mentioned the other day that the leaves were beautiful at home — one of the prettiest falls she can remember.

It occurred to me that now that I live in Richmond, a relatively flat city, I miss out on the fall colors in the mountains. When I was growing up I took the mountains for granted. I grew up in a place where, anytime you gave people directions, you always said something like, “it’s right at the bottom of the mountain.” Anytime we went anywhere we crossed some combination of Bent , Buck, Five Mile, Ferrum, or Windy Gap Mountains. But it was so normal, so I didn’t even realize I lived in the mountains until I moved away. I miss the mountains, especially in the fall.

Not that the trees don’t show off here at 166 ft above sea level, too. Not that fall in Richmond isn’t totally and completely beautiful.

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Here’s a trivia fact about me. My favorite tree is the ginkgo tree. I love the shape, and even the texture of the leaves. And in the fall, I love their monochromatic display. They transform from bright green to solid yellow, and when it happens, it looks like they’re glowing.

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Not that any of this changes my opinion of the season. I’ve spent the past few days shaking my fist because it’s freezing cold outside, it gets dark by 5 p.m., and strawberries cost $4/pint. All you fall-lovers? I hope you’re all happy.

On another note, happy birthday (a day late) to Tom, my partner in — among other things — hating cold weather.