Friday, October 17, 2014

Permission to Eat Pumpkin Pie

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching and the leaves softly landing, this time of year brings to mind one of my many favorite treats:  pumpkin pie!  In fact, I have already enjoyed a homemade delicious slice of the orange fruit (or is it a veggie?) while visiting my cousin Tammy just the other day.  As I gaze out my kitchen window at the W. Va. fall foliage, crystal blue sky, and puffy clouds passing, Thanksgiving 2001 was my induction into the Hott's "permission to eat pumpkin pie"!

Well, I don't know about where you grew up; but where I come from we traditionally had a pumpkin pie or two to celebrate the season with family.  It was in 1995 when I made my first holiday venture to the Hott Family Thanksgiving Traditional Dinner.  Surely there will be plenty of turkey and the favorites;... wonder if there will be a pumpkin pie?!

So, do you think there may have been one..... maybe two pumpkin pies?

Three pumpkin pies?


You're wrong!

Not 1.  Not 2, or even 3!

Mrs. Hott had personally baked,... from scratch, with REAL pumpkins --  28 pumpkin pies! 

And I am sooo not kidding you!  Following a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner, pumpkin pies emerge from everywhere!  Apparently, desserts always are hidden out in the "milk shed" until supper is over. Mrs. Hott lovingly manages her kitchen table much like a New York City traffic cop; allowing for nearly 90 family members to each sit for a meal not only on Thanksgiving but for each and every Sunday afternoon.  Once your plate is empty, you have to get up in order for someone waiting to eat to have a place to sit down.   Her farm house home is so crowded with relatives slowly inching their way, shoulder to shoulder, to the table.  Talk about a close family!

To this day, I am not sure from where all the food came!  Endless plates of fresh garden vegetables, mashed potatoes, home-cooked casseroles -- all from seemingly bottomless pots and pans!  It really is kinda magical, you know.  Or, a bit like Jesus feeding the masses with just a fish and five loaves of bread!

Finally when she authorized permission to begin dessert, there was formed a caravan of grandchildren carrying inside 28 pies of pumpkin among a plethora of other delicious delectable desserts!

So, as Thanksgiving quickly approaches this year I stumble across this picture of Mrs. Violet Hott (hotthubby Dan's mother), the matriarch of the family.  I LOVE this photo! Just look at her rosy cheeks (a face to rival Mrs. Claus)!          This is Thanksgiving 2001.  After six years of sitting at her table for the same holiday, it is this year that she allowed me to have pie early.  In fact, after a few brothers-in-law yelled at me and tried to get me in trouble with Mrs. Hott when I found a pie on the counter, with a twinkle in her eye she came to my defense!  I got pie first that year.

And, did Heath (another Hott nephew)!  Grandma Violet hid an entire pie just.for.him!

(Really, she did!  I saw him eat it and am still amazed!)
Eventually, Thanksgiving dinner outgrew Mrs. Hott's old farm house and the family now gathers not far away in Pennsylvania.  Pictured here is the 2005 holiday.  Yes, this is her immediate family.  All 165+ of them (really, I counted)! 

"I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies."  Genesis 22:17

You are never a stranger at the Hott Farm.  If you're hungry, she gives you food; if you are thirsty, she gives you a sweet tea; and if you're a stranger, well.... it's only for a second.  (Matthew 25:35)  

And, if you're lucky, you just might get permission to eat pumpkin pie early!  

Today, Grandma Violet is now 93.  After suffering from a stroke 4 years ago, she is surrounded by her rather large family for what I am told may be her final days.  As we remember our sweet angel, the strong, hard-working woman whose descendants span the hills of West Virginia to the shores of the Potomac, the mother of my sweet-loving Dan, number 10 child among her 13, please keep us all in your prayers.  Let her know, Lord, that like my early piece of pie, You are waiting for her at Your Thanksgiving table with her very own fresh slice of heaven.  

Among the crowded and noisy house, I found favor in my mother-in-law that day, when I thought she never noticed me.  Funny how in something like just a piece of pie there was an expression of her grace, not unlike Your grace, in the smallest smile or twinkle in her eyes, waiting for me.  As the woman who opened her heart to countless people with a just seat at her kitchen table prepares to pass from this world to Yours, please allow us to rejoice in her reunion with You as she receives her place at Your table. The legacy of Violet Mariam Smoot Hott is a story to celebrate.

It's just so hard to image a Thanksgiving (or any) dinner without her...and all the pumpkin pies.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why I Love the Apple Butter Festival


Beautiful Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, hosts an annual fall festival where the community pours into the streets to make, of all things, a delicious blend of locally grown apples and well, sugar.  Joined by travelers from around the country to stir the mysterious golden blend of goodness, apple butter is cooked in enormous kettles over a blazing old time fire.


I was nine years old when the Apple Butter Festival began as a fall event to bring tourism to my artsy little "home among the hills".  Now, my youngest Hott child is also nine.


Now it's Monday morning and our purchase of a pint of apple butter is nearly empty from a weekend of sharing it's ooooey sweetness on everything from wheat toast, warm bread, bagels, and yes, even bananas!

Throughout the 41 years of celebrating old town traditions from stirring apple butter, turtle races, parade, crafts, funnel cakes, and egg tosses, we always treasure the times we are priveledged to share the Apple Butter experience with our "newbies" -- or, first time participants!  This year was no exception.  And, it is always my honor to show all who ride to Apple Butter breakfast at First United Methodist at a ridiculous 7:00 a.m. and those who venture back to my house after a long day of festivities the above picture.

See that old guy?  Well, that's my Pap!

Pap Pap, or otherwise known as Marlin McBee LOVED the Apple Butter Festival.  He would stay down town all weekend sportin' his favorite hat and stirrin' the huge kettles till he was nearly 90 years old.  I was delighted to share the Apple Butter Festival Memory Book 25th Anniversary Edition with our new family members once again this year.  Pap managed to make the glossy cover as well as a few other featured photographs, even with then Governor Arch Moore!  Cousins and kids in the family are featured in turtle race memories as well.

From my Pappy at 90 to Levi at 9.....Tradition.

Tradition.  I guess among all the crazy things that have evolved over the years at the Apple Butter Festival, from beard contests to hog hollering, one thing always stays the same -- Columbus Day weekend I can roam around my home town and always find an old friend from 40 years ago.  As we stop along Fairfax Street and reminise about old high school days and farting brothers, it is always fun to see the new traditions developing as well.  We catch up on the latest babies being born; accomplishments of our children; share family stories.  And, for some reason, it never fails, my crazy family manages to provide updates for the Apple Butter Festival Turtle Race.  Want to know what happened?  Find a Hott/McBee!  Because likely, they were all there.

It's a tradition.

2014 "newbie" Rob with Crystal, Grandma, PapPap (Bobbie McBee) Isaac,
Levi, and Cotton Eyed Joe, a turtle campion!

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, 
either by our spoken word or by our letter."  2 Thessalonians 2:15

Tradition.  That's why I love the Apple Butter Festival.  Tell me, why you love it; or, if you never been before, maybe we'll see you next year and start a new tradition.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why I Love School Sports

I'm still taller!  Well, maybe not (keep reading)!

Last night was the Warm Springs Middle School's final Cross Country Meet.  Following yet another season of trials and tribulations for hard working young athletes, I saw this picture just now on facebook (Thanks Ken Reed!) and I still have goosies!  This 49-year-old-grey-haired-hott-mama-of-4 will forever treasure this photo.  Ken captured Isaac's dimple -- a rare event that only emerges when Isaac is truly pleased with himself.

Why is he so pleased?  Did Isaac finish in the top of the race?


Did Isaac receive a medal for his speed?


But he finished!

He finished the cross country season a first time runner in the sixth grade.  He finished each and every practice and meet telling mom, "I had fun!"  Our solo "techie" kid finished the season with a new understanding of being a part of a team, showing encouragement to his teammates. He finished the season running his best mile ever last night.  He finished every meet with an improved personal record.

At 10 years old, he finished with a smile on his face! (See the dimple?)  That's why I love school sports.

And when he was finished his race last night, his first act was to offer water to his fellow team mate, who also ran with endurance.  (But his friend, Erin, got there first...hahaha!...go figure!

(Leaning on mom, Isaac really is taller....)

"...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1)