Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hello Kitty!

Actual holiday gift-making is underway! Rather than wringing my hands about not having time to get through my entire list of gifts I'd like to make, I'm just jumping in, doing what I can, and enjoying the results.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Scenes from the day

I realized that this was our very first Thanksgiving with just us three, and it was wonderful.

(I have been cooking our turkey on the grill for over 22 years and it comes out perfect every time -- juicy, flavorful, golden. AND you get the use of your oven for everything else! If you want instructions just let me know -- it can be done on a charcoal covered grill [with a dome top -- a Weber] or on a gas grill -- again, as long as the lid is big enough to close down over the bird.)

Dean declared it to be a pajama day, and so for him it was.

I close with two tips for you. First, it is wonderful to have a notebook in which to record all your holiday/special meals -- jot down who was there, what you served, what you did. I started mine the year we were married, 1989 (that's Thanksgiving 1989 on this page), and have notes from pretty much every year:

(sorry -- I make all low-res images to ease loading, but it makes this hard to read..)

And next, I have a binder with copies of all the holiday meal recipes I use, along with my notes on them. This makes it easy to pull out the recipes you need for the particular event, and to have all your favorites in one place. I include recipes for using up leftovers, too.

I feel so joyful about the season on which we have embarked!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I don't usually take too many pictures in the kitchen; the lighting isn't conducive and I'm generally so wrapped up in the doings that I don't think to record them.

But Dean, at the stove, making his world famous cranberries -- that was worth recording. And I kept going for a little while
at various points in the happy chaos
with too much going on at once but everything going well. I've cooked the Thanksgiving Feast every year that we've been married (21) and quite a few before that as well. Ken and Dean like the menu just as it is, although I made chocolate chip gingerbread bars for dessert because Dean isn't an apple pie guy and three people did NOT justify two desserts (I do have some restraint).

Dean's cranberries are ready for tomorrow, and so am I.

Love and joy come to you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And now, we return to sanity

I'll admit it.

For the first time ever ever, I was seriously contemplating getting out super early on Friday to do some shopping. Joann Fabrics tempted me with a flier filled with those "door buster" specials designed to get you into a shopping frenzy.

It helped me to read an article about how retailers trick you with this stuff; when the fine print in the ad says "limited quantities" they often are REALLY limited, so that you are almost assured of finding that the crazy unbelievable deals will be sold out (unless you're willing to camp out overnight, which I most certainly am not). That they dazzle you with deals on stuff you don't really need, and get you into the buying state of mind so that you really rack up the bill at check-out time so that you feel it was worth your while to get out so early.

Instead I will be where I belong. Home, maybe in bed, maybe up with my first cuppa, and maybe even setting out to make some things with the unbelievable amount of crafting supplies I already own. We've designated Friday as "At Home" day (another reason not to sneak out!), and we're going to relax and enjoy and not feel guilty about all the stuff we're not getting done. We'll live off the fat of the leftovers and maybe even get a fire going in the fireplace.

Sounds better than having to vie for a parking space at 5:30 a.m.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What makes it "Thanksgiving"?

I've been mostly having the conversation inside my own head, because really it's so much quicker and easier.

What is it that constitutes the Thanksgiving Experience, especially given that Thanksgiving this year will be the 3 of us at home?

I decided that polishing silver and ironing table linens still mattered (much to the amusement of Ken). Butter pats are molded, in the freezer, in the traditional acorn and leaf molds (because, really, what's not to love about a pat of butter in the shape of an acorn?). An olive tray didn't make the cut, because it was mostly the company that went for the olives, and Dean helped me decide that placecards really weren't completely sane.

Spanikopita didn't make the cut mostly just because of how labor intensive they are, although I think I will get them on the appetizer tray for Christmas.

Otherwise, although I'll attempt to cut down some of the portions, the menu is pretty much what it always is. I can't give the boot to cranberries, or stuffing, or turkey and gravy (of course!), and then once you're there you've got to have the mashed potatoes and the sweet potatoes with the specially made pecans on top are my particular favorites.

We're still going to spend Wednesday cleaning the house, although I imagine I'll have to work past a certain number of, "but it's not like anyone else is coming!" comments; well, Ken will mostly handle the cleaning while I mostly handle the cooking.

I think it's important for your own little family to know that they are the reason to celebrate, and that the effort gets made whether others are coming or not.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Around the World

We've returned from a brief trip, one that we planned when we felt that we all needed something to look forward to, one that we planned at a time when taking Dean out of school for a few days didn't seem too daunting.

We really wanted to get some Christmas on, to jump-start the holiday season with a bang.
We also really wanted to see some new scenery, experience some warmer temperatures.

We wanted to enjoy some great art and architecture, and alsoSee some wildlife up close.

We also wanted to eat a wide variety of foods, and Dean in particular wanted to expand his fish and vegetable intake.

We were up for a little shopping, browsing, seeing what was what in the shops.

We wanted to immerse ourselves in local cultures, even when we were a little weary from all the walking.

Are you on to me? We escaped to Disney World. It was our best trip ever -- largely, I think, because I've learned to relax and when I'm relaxed, the ripple effects are tremendous.

Now we're getting our Thanksgiving on, which will be a holiday at home for the three of us. We're fairly giddy about it. I'm loving all the joyful sights of the holidays all around blogland; for now, everyone seems to be reveling in preparations and anticipation, even if we didn't *ahem* quite get the year-long jump we'd dreamed of.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The most valuable commodity

And so another magnificent Halloween blows in with the falling leaves and scatters just as quickly. Dean's costume this year was pretty straightforward in terms of the sewing/construction, but he loved it and was a big hit while trick-or-treating.

(Typecast in the class Halloween skit....)

We took the big leap this year, and let Dean go off with his two best friends. They traversed a street that goes all-out; the street is closed to traffic for three hours, the homes are all decked out and people go to such lengths as to put up cotton candy and popcorn machines in their yards. The street isn't particularly chock-full of homes, but it's the quality over quantity issue at work.

(Heading out to hit up the neighbors before the official outing)

The whole trick-or-treating scene is kind of complicated out here. In many areas, including the street where we live, the houses are very spread out and there are rarely sidewalks. So aside from the usual risks people associate with the endeavor, there's a higher risk of being hit by a car or tripping somewhere along the unlit roads (that's the other wrinkle).

Kids and parents compensate by often choosing other neighborhoods to visit -- ones where there are sidewalks, and homes in reasonable proximity, and street lights. And it goes over pretty well in those neighborhoods. Rare is the house that's shut up and dark -- the norm is a decorating extravaganza to rival the winter holidays. In fact, I felt bad last night for the homes I passed while driving that were trying so hard to attract trick-or-treaters but were unlikely to receive any because of their location. I wish we lived in one of those prime trick-or-treat neighborhoods because I'd love to spend the evening watching the parade come right up to our door.


After he and his friends had been out for only an hour, I got the call from him that they were done. But what they wanted was to spend the rest of the evening hanging out together, and they were all invited to one of the family's homes. I was kind of surprised at first; we'd spend hours, and hours, and hours as kids, going as far and wide as we could to collect the most pounds of candy possible. Give up after an hour? No way!

But as I thought about it, I realized that for Dean and his friends candy really isn't a very precious commodity. They are all being raised in homes where it's not a big deal to have some candy -- not that any of them are rolling in it, but it's more or less available when they'd like it. They don't have to hoard it. But what they don't have nearly enough of is time with each other -- and that's what they yearn for. We don't live on the same street as his best friends; we all don't even live in the same town. The boys don't come home after a day of school and then spend the afternoon to early evening in each other's company every day, and they don't spend all day of every weekend together.

The proposition is completely flipped. The one thing we DID have growing up was constant access to and time with friends. But now that's the most valuable commodity.

I love that they just inherently got it right. They loved dressing up, they loved the street scene and the trick-or-treating. But they knew what they valued most, and so that's how they chose to use most of their time.

Dean's already thinking about what he wants to be next year. And I'm working to figure out when he can invite his friends over to play.