I don’t know why, but I love the Cranberry books. Cranberry Christmas, Cranberry Thanksgiving, Cranberry Easter, we even have a Cranberry Halloween book while my family doesn’t really even “do” anything for Halloween. I just love the stories, the characters, the artwork.
But I also really love cranberries: they are just a delicious, pretty, little tangy fruit. Ha! I remember loving a particular cereal when I was a kid that had cranberries and walnuts in it. It felt like a very grownup thing to enjoy, and I thought it was super special when my mom would let me put a box in the cart when wandering the grocery aisles with her. (Have I mentioned that I am a second generation homeschooler? I did ALL the errands by my mom’s side, and sometimes we were even bold enough to run errands before 2pm… that was our kind of brazen rebellion back in the eighties and early nineties of California living.) My mom was big into country style shabby chic arts & crafts… and for a handful of years she partnered with a friend to do a Christmas market they called Cranberry Corner. I’m not sure I have ever asked her exactly why she chose that name. But I still remember it! And I remember the ambiance of that annual event, the pungent smell of cinnamon & a tart sweetness. Perhaps it was a cinnamon-cranberry candle burning in the back! My mom was also keenly into potpourri at the time. It was the nineties, after all.
I also have always loved my mom’s homemade cranberry sauce. Nothing particularly unique about it: just fresh cranberries with sugar, water, and some kind of orange flavoring – usually zest. She also occasionally made cranberry muffins and put dried cranberries in our trail mix or granola. I was never a big fan of raisins, but I sure enjoyed their cousin, Craisins. Yummers.
So here I now find myself continuing to love cranberries. But my kids don’t have the same affinity for them. So I’m trying to find ways to incorporate some cranberries into my kids’ holiday traditions. This year, I made a cranberry-pecan coffee cake for Thanksgiving Day morning. It paired perfectly with a side of crispy bacon and a hot latte… well, the kids had milk, but the latte is my favorite. Anyway, that is definitely a recipe we would enjoy again. We have had homemade cranberry sauce twice so far this season (including once when I added a splash of frangelica liqueur, which was a lovely touch). But I still want to try something else.
I think I may need to whip up a batch of cranberry orange muffins to start our Saturday with some zip. And then to pair with a pork loin roast tomorrow evening for our second Advent dinner, I think a cranberry apple chutney might work really well. And if I have any cranberries left that make it without getting gooey in the fridge by next week, I would love to try a cranberry balsamic chicken with cranberry brie bites on the side and cranberry apple upside-down cake for dessert.
It’s time to plan and prepare some more meals. It is just more part of the joyfully domestic life as a full time keeper of home, with seven people living here full time. There are no fewer than twenty-one meals a week which need planned and prepared to some extent. Perhaps breakfasts are mostly haphazard scavenging by the children on most days, but I need to be sure we have muffins or eggs or cereal or oatmeal available. That in itself takes some level of planning on my part. Lunches are often quick things to cook or compile, often just the heating up of leftovers and adding a side of fresh fruit and a cup of milk. But dinners can honestly be the bane of my existence sometimes. I go through seasons of loving the dinnertime routine… but often it is a rotation of cookery that simply feels like work without the pleasure. I know my people need fed well, so I do my utmost to use healthy ingredients and prepare tasty meals. But it honestly CAN get to be a bit monotonous and predictable and uninspired. Sometimes I ask a friend for new ideas. Or I will even just call my sister-in-law and ask, “what’s for dinner?” A friend of mine had dedicated a category of food for each day of the week (Tuesday is tacos, Wednesday is chicken, Thursday is soup or salad depending on the season, Friday is pizza, Saturday is leftovers, Sunday is takeout, Monday is meatless…) just to have a starting point. When I was preparing for my fifth child’s arrival, before I even knew that bedrest was looming on the horizon, I compiled a list of our family favorite meals and posted it on the fridge. So if I ever felt too sick to come up with ideas based around food myself, I could just have a family member glance at the list for inspiration and we would move forward with it… sometimes with Mommy sucking on peppermints while trying not to smell anything meat-based or heated and seeking to avert my eyes from certain things because they would absolutely turn my tummy just on sight. (Honestly… blackberry jam and ground beef are pretty much ruined for me for life.)
But so much of holidays are based around foods. So how do we maintain beloved traditions while not letting the grow stagnant? How do we make holiday meals our own? How do we incorporate our children into the planning, the preparation, the cooking, the work AND the delight?
For my part, I take what I loved from my childhood and mix it with what my husband tells me he loved from his childhood. And we take a few things from each… then we try out different things on our kids like guinea pigs. I try to log what is delighted in while tossing aside what wasn’t anyone’s favorite. Sometimes you know it is an instant hit (like when Grandmama makes homemade donuts for everyone after cutting down Christmas trees on family property… and all ten grandkids devour them, declaring it to be a new annual must), while other times it takes a couple of tries to know that it has made the cut (like hosting weekly Advent meals… not because of any particular recipe, but because the energy of a mama wavers & wanes from time to time thanks to motherhood and hormones and any number of other things).
So I am learning. Growing. Trying. Often succeeding. And praising the Lord for the lot of it. He is good. I am only fourteen years into my own specific homemaking, but I helped my mother before that, so I might be a couple of decades into it. And honestly, sometimes He gives me something as simple as a cranberry to remind me that this is good. From stories to memories to recipes ~ these are the things of which memories, traditions, cultures are made.