Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas at Thanksgiving Candy

Sam’s brother, Isaac, will be home for Christmas this year, so we wanted to do Christmas with the Jacks.  Also, Abby just had a baby so they aren’t going anywhere for Thanksgiving this year (they usually do Thanksgiving with Jason’s family), but might be going somewhere for Christmas.  Those things combined made us think Thanksgiving with the Moores would be a good plan.  When mom got really sick it seemed like a really good plan.  So, next week, we are heading to my parents one more time.  Tiffiny Jack (my sister-in-law) is having Thanksgiving in Florida with her grandparents, too. So, Tiffiny, Julie and I got together to make Christmas candy a month early.  We traded what we made so that we ended up with a very good assortment of candies.   I decided to make a three candies from my childhood.  I made peanut butter cups, nut goodie, and english toffee.  

Here’s how I made the peanut butter cups:

Peanut Butter Cups
1 package chocolate chips (milk chocolate if you prefer, I like dark chocolate)
½ C Peanut Butter
½ C Butter
⅓ C graham cracker crumbs
⅓ C Peanuts, finely chopped
1 C powdered sugar.

Melt the peanut butter and butter in a sauce pan, stir in the cracker crumbs and peanuts, then stir in the powdered sugar.  Set aside.  Melt the chocolate chips (be careful not to over-cook!).  You can either put them in a pan (chocolate, then peanut butter mixture, then chocolate again) lined with waxed paper, or you can do what I did, and make individual peanut butter cups in mini muffin cups.  It takes forever, but they’re pretty great!

Nut Goodie
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz. butterscotch chips
1 C peanut butter
1 C roasted peanuts
1 cup butter
2/3 cup light cream
3 ounce package vanilla pudding mix (NOT instant)
2 pounds powdered sugar (7-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the first 3 ingredients together in the microwave or on the stove.  Do not over-heat, just melt slowly.  Line a pan with waxed paper, or use individual mini muffin cups.  Fill the bottom of the pan with a shallow layer of the chocolate/peanut butter mixture.  Set aside to cool.  In a sauce pan, melt together the butter and cream.  Add vanilla pudding and cook until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and mix in powdered sugar until thick and smooth.  Add vanilla.  Spoon this mixture over the first layer of chocolate.  Add the peanuts to the remaining chocolate mixture and spoon that over the vanilla pudding layer.  Put in fridge or freezer to set up.  Cut into squares and serve (if using the pan method).

English Toffee
1 package chocolate chips
½ C slivered almonds
2 C butter
2 C sugar

In a heavy sauce pan, heat butter and sugar over high heat, stirring constantly.  It will melt and mix together, then  it will start boiling and boil for quite a while.  Once it gets up to about 250 degrees it will begin to change color to a light brown.  Allow it to change color and then remove from heat and pour immediately onto a buttered cookie sheet.  After just a few minutes, pour the chocolate chips over the top.  As they melt, spread the chocolate around.  Sprinkle nuts on top and allow to cool and harden.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Hello, Grace. We will be good friends."

     I wish all my long absences were for more fun reasons.  Life goes from being fairly consistent and not very exciting (work, clean up the house, make food, watch tv) to being fairly full of conflicting emotions (hope and sadness are probably the front-runners).  Mom’s cancer has spread to the point that it has a grip on most of her abdomen.  Most recently, it has caused excess fluid to build up around her lungs, constricting their movement and not allowing her to get a full breath.  Sam and I went to spend the week with my parents in case this doesn’t get better.  I wanted to be able to have some time with her, to help her and dad.  It was so good to be with her.  She is so hopeful and full of faith that it is easy to be hopeful around her.  There were a few things that were pretty hard to see that week: watching your mom struggle for breath, wheezing and convulsing trying to get air is awful.  She has a pretty huge wound where the cancer has eaten away her right breast and one day I had to dress the wound.  It is just so painful to see my mom like that.     As hard as all that was, it was still really good to be able to spend time with mom.  I still believe that God wants to heal her and that he can and I hope that he will.  I would love for my mom to not be in pain anymore and to have her life back.  I miss her.  
    There was some beauty in last week.  My older sister was due to deliver her fifth child while we were there.  She said that if nothing had happened by Thursday (her due date), her midwife was going to help her “get things moving” (caster oil?  ew...).  On Monday night, Abby came over with her sister-in-law and my good friend, Nicole and her twin sister Natalie.  We watched a movie called “The business of being born”.  The movie was all about natural birth with a midwife vs. hospital birth.  It talked about the medicines hospitals give to induce labor and what they do to the baby and the likelihood of a c-section delivery.  They also talked about the mortality rates for hospital births.  It was interesting to see the statistics and think more about what I would want to do in the future.  The movie talked about how there is a fear surrounding birth, and I realized I had felt that!  I want a baby, pretty badly, but there is that fear of delivering.  All you ever hear about it is “Oh it hurts so bad!” And you see women giving birth in movies or TV shows and they always seem so angry and afraid, like they’re furious with their husbands for making this happen to them, or their husbands aren’t there and they have to face this alone.  So I thought about that some, but didn’t really know what to think of it all.  And then Tuesday came...
    Tuesday afternoon we were all sitting around watching some movie on TV.  Mom was in and out of reality, catching some sleep when her breathing would allow.  The rest of us were half-paying attention.  The phone rang.  Dad answered the phone and “oh really?”-ed and “okay”-ed for a while and then said something about “baby” and gave a thumbs up.  We instantly perked up.  Once he got off the phone he said Abby was in labor, but it was slow for now.  He said she would call when things were getting closer.   We waited and waited and waited and finally we gave up and went over there anyway.  Her labor was speeding up and slowing down and frustrating her quite a bit.  We waited for quite a while, and then we decided to not waste more of mom’s portable oxygen tank and also to let mom get some rest before the big event, so we left and went home.  At around 9, Jason called and said we should probably hurry and get over there.  Abby does water birth, and she had just got in the tub before we arrived.  The contractions were getting stronger and closer together and we all waited in anticipation of meeting the new baby.  About an hour and a half later, things built up to a breaking point and Abby was exhausted.  She told me once that you get to the point where you don’t think you can do any more, that you can’t possibly push again, or handle another contraction, and then you know you’re almost done.  She hit that point, and then she was done.  

    It was beautiful, and full of the strength and grace that beauty possesses. Being a part of the birth was so communal (mom called it tribal) and as far from fear and anger as I can imagine.  I am so grateful that I got to be a part of that before the birth of my first child.  So, after all that pain, hard work, waiting, anticipating, we got to meet her.  At 10:46 pm, November 1, 2011, we welcomed Abigail Grace Shalom Howard into our family.  She has dark hair and dark eyes.  She weighed 7 lb, 7 oz and was 19.75 inches long.  She’s beautiful.  She’s perfect.  
    Abby held her first.  She held her until she needed to get cleaned up and warmed up, and she passed her on to mom.


When mom could finally let her go, I got to hold her. There is something so incredible about being the third person this baby has ever met.  “Hi, Grace.” I said “I’m you’re Aunt Hannah.  We are going to be good friends.”


And we are!

Abby expected her to be a lot bigger than she is, so most of her clothes are too big.  That’s why her sleeve is in front of her face. I think she’s waving hello to you.
    So that’s what I did last week.  I loved my mom. I loved my dad. I met my new niece.  I had a life-changing experience.  I was filled with range of emotions at once.  It was a good week.