Tag Archive | nut cups

Gratitude for Thanksgivings Past

Mim - Blue Sky - adj


One day last week when Mim and I were out walking Floey, Mim asked me, “Are you looking forward to Thanksgiving this year?” I thought for a minute, and then replied, “Not really. I’m not dreading it, but I’m not excited about it. We don’t really have any special plans. Oh, we’ll have a nice dinner at home, but we’re not expecting a house full of friends and relatives, like has been the case for many Thanksgivings in the past. But Mim’s question got me thinking about Thanksgivings Past…

We don’t have a family Thanksgiving tradition that we’ve followed for years and years. We usually have a big turkey dinner, although Mim just reminded me of one Thanksgiving on the farm during our B&B days when we spent the day cleaning up the yard and we put a pizza in the oven for our big dinner when the work was done.

When we lived in Chicago we established a tradition for several years of having a big family dinner in our two-flat. Mim’s mom came down from Minnesota and spent a week or so with us. My mom and dad came down from Cambridge and spent the 4-day weekend with us. My brother and his family and my sister and her family all came down for the day.

Family at Thanksgiving in ChicagoWe fixed the traditional turkey dinner and served 20-25 people. We arranged our dining room table and several folding tables into a T-shape so that we could all fit around the “same table.” Our downstairs neighbor joined us and contributed the stuffing. It was a fun family gathering, although a bit chaotic to get that many people seated together in a moderate size dining room. My mom gave me a double set of stainless steel “silverware” for Christmas after our first Thanksgiving in Chicago so that we wouldn’t have to borrow from our neighbor next time. My mom felt that everyone should have enough china and silverware to serve a sit-down dinner for as many guests as they invite, even if it’s 24 guests – regardless of the size of their dining room. You can always squeeze a couple more people around a table, but everyone needs their own place setting.

Since Mim and I have lived in Wisconsin (since 1992), we haven’t had a regular pattern for Thanksgiving. Sometimes we’ve gone to my brother’s for a Thanksgiving dinner; sometimes to my sister’s; sometimes both! Sometimes we’ve hosted family and friends of our assisted living residents. All of these Thanksgiving dinners have been times of being thankful for good food and for the wonderful people who are a part of our lives.

My happiest Thanksgiving memories of all come from the time when I was a child and I was helping my mom get everything ready for the big dinner. Usually there would be about a dozen people all together for dinner. My first job of the morning was to crawl under the dining room table to unlatch the lever so that the table could be pulled open for two leaves to be put in place. Next Mom and I would put on the lace tablecloth together. Then I set the table with the “good dishes” and silverware. My next job was to carry up folding chairs from the basement and set them around the table, interspersed with the regular dining chairs. If needed, I added the piano stool and organ bench. Two kids could sit together on the bench.

roast turkeyMom never thought she knew how to roast a big turkey, so the Cambridge Bakery took care of that for her. All we had to do was have someone go to the bakery to pick it up when we were ready to eat. That was Dad’s job. Mom fixed all the rest of the food – potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn, squash, green beans or peas, cranberries, fruit salad, clover-leaf rolls, and pumpkin pie. The beverages were apple cider (from a cousin’s apple orchard in Lake Mills) and coffee.

nut cupsJust helping Mom get all the food ready was fun. We worked together well. She told me what to do, and I knew how to follow directions. But the absolutely best job of all for me was filling the nut cups. That’s what made Thanksgiving special. Nut cups. I don’t know why that tradition has fallen out of favor these days. It’s a real loss. The nut cups themselves were small paper cups covered in brightly colored crepe paper. Mom always picked up bags of M&Ms, candy corn, candy pumpkins, Brach’s bridge mix chocolates, and a can of peanuts.  I carefully counted out an equal number of every piece of candy and every peanut as I filled each nut cup. I had to be fair. Then I placed a nut cup at the top of each plate to the left of the glass.

candy corn and pumpkinsWhen we hosted Thanksgiving dinners in Chicago, I carried on the nut cup tradition. I couldn’t find crepe paper nut cups in the stores anymore, so I made some square ones out of construction paper and put a Thanksgiving-themed sticker on each one. They also doubled as name plates so we could politely tell each person where to sit. The ingredients were the same except we substituted foil covered chocolates for the bridge mix and mixed nuts for the peanuts. (The Georgia Nut Company outlet store was just down the street from us.)

Thanksgiving chocolatesBack to Mim’s question, I guess what’s special about Thanksgiving this year is that I took time to remember all my Thanksgivings Past.

In yesterday’s JESUS CALLING devotional reading, Sarah Young wrote that Jesus told us:

As you sit quietly in My Presence, let Me fill your heart and mind with thankfulness. …

As you go through this day, look for tiny treasures strategically placed along the way. I lovingly go before you and plant little pleasures to brighten your day. Look carefully for them, and pluck them one by one. When you reach the end of the day, you will have gathered a lovely bouquet. Offer it up to Me with a grateful heart. Receive My Peace as you lie down to sleep, with thankful thoughts playing a lullaby in your mind.

The tiny treasures I’m discovering today are all kinds of wonderful Thanksgiving memories – especially nut cups!



Spring Cleaning

Part of my mom's set of nut cups.

Part of my mom’s set of nut cups.

When I was a little girl, I really liked the week every year that my mom set aside for spring cleaning. The best time was the day we took all the beautiful things out of their places for washing. The three places that housed the most treasures were the china cabinet and buffet in the dining room, and the shelves built into the back of my parents’ closet.

Nothing made me feel more special than drinking hot cocoa from one of these cups.

Nothing made me feel more special than drinking hot cocoa from one of these cups.

First, we emptied the china cabinet, which held the most beautiful treasures: a porcelain set of nut cups, a blue and gold teapot, hand-painted plates (frequently used for serving cookies), crystal water goblets and sherbets, and an iridescent, porcelain demitasse set – that I thought was a child’s tea party set. (Mom reinforced that thinking by using those little cups and saucers to serve me hot cocoa sometimes when I was sick with a cold and needed something to brighten my day.)

Second, we cleaned out the buffet. That held the good china (which we used whenever we had company) and Mom’s collection of vases of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The vases would be well used again for cut flowers throughout the upcoming summer.

Third, we removed all the treasures from the closet shelves. That’s where we stored a wide assortment of functional and non-functional pieces: pottery pitchers, dainty one-of-a kind cups and saucers, a few Depression glass pieces, and a brightly painted pottery rooster.

Mom's prettiest teapot.

Mom’s prettiest teapot.

My mom and I worked together well. She handed me each piece, one by one, and I carried it to the kitchen. She told me the background of each piece as she gave it to me. Many of the pieces had been wedding presents. I remember her laughing when she handed me the colorful rooster and said, “People give the goofiest things for wedding presents. I just don’t know what they were thinking.”

When the counter was full of these dusty treasures, Mom washed each piece, and I dried it and carried it to the dining room table to continue to air dry. Then, we went back to taking out more pieces to be washed. When everything had been washed, Mom wiped down the shelves. We took a little break to be sure the shelves were good and dry. Then we reversed the process – I carried each piece to Mom for her to put back in its place. Everything was sparkling clean, and the treasures looked even better.

Last week I read about spring cleaning in Mornings with Jesus 2013: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul, one of the books I’m using for devotional readings this year. The scripture referenced was Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is – what is proper, pleasing, and perfect.”

Lisa Watson, the writer of this particular devotion wrote, “Spring has arrived and with it the never-ending pull to cast off the winter blahs, and to get my house in order by doing some serious spring cleaning. The Lord speaks of renewal as well, but He isn’t talking about our residences or any earthly pursuits. He is referring to the renewal of our faith; our commitment to our spiritual side, and a cleansing of our mind, body and soul.”

I’m thinking about what it means to do some spring cleaning of my soul. Perhaps it means I should take a day every spring to take out all the spiritual treasures I’ve accumulated over my lifetime, to dust them off and think about how God has taken care of me over the years and given me so many blessings – people in my life, experiences, opportunities . . . And to think about what God may be preparing me to do next, to “continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is . . . “

Mom's china cabinet. It's in our dining room now, filled with Mom's china instead of all the other treasures it used to house.

Mom’s china cabinet. It’s in our dining room now, filled with Mom’s china instead of all the other treasures it used to house.