THANKSGIVING WITH SLUSH FALLING

Shaken and Stirred – What’s the most elaborate, complicated meal you’ve ever cooked? Was it a triumph for the ages, or a colossal fiasco?


Once a year, half the population of the Blackstone Valley dusts off their driver’s licenses, takes the old buggy out of storage, and heads for downtown Uxbridge. It’s the day before Thanksgiving … and what the weather people call “a wintry mix” is plopping from above.

OPTIMISM THANKSGIVING 2013

The nasty, slushy, sloppy mix of ice and snow falling from the skies is the perfect finishing touch. Over all, when I think “holiday,” I think “expensive” and “work.” Sorry for my lack of spirit, but I think I’m one holiday meal over the line. Fortunately, the kids are doing almost all the cooking this year. If if were up to me, I’d send out for pizza, if anyone was open and delivering. Which they aren’t.

Fancy cooking has fallen victim to the years and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I used to make special dishes for the holiday. I have a bread pudding recipe to die for. Literally. It almost killed a guest one year when, despite active diabetes, he went berserk and couldn’t stop eating it. It’s that good.

I continue to make my cranberry-orange relish and cornbread. The relish is made entirely in a food processor. No one could call it complicated, but it’s a favorite. The cornbread is delicious, but ridiculously easy. It turns out that many fancy recipes are no better than simple ones. And not more popular, either. A lot of people prefer simpler food.

If you do make fancy food, you can watch hours — sometimes days — of kitchen prep vanish in a few minutes, sometimes seconds. It can be a bit disheartening. I used to wonder if anyone noticed what they were eating or if they cared.

Thanksgiving 2013 table

I used to make stuffed cabbage. It was as good as anything you could get in a New York deli or restaurant. The recipe took me years to perfect and its preparation was a multi-day event. It wasn’t difficult to make, per se. No special genius required. You merely need to be willing to do everything.

The secret to gourmet food is not skipping steps. Not taking short cuts. Not skimping on rich, expensive, caloric, high-cholesterol ingredients. You have to use the heavy cream; milk doesn’t produce the same results. Do use the entire dozen eggs, the whole pound of butter. Don’t cut back on sugar.

I can’t eat that way anymore and neither can most of us. Or shouldn’t. I’d like to keep my new heart valve for a few years.

So, other than wrapping almost the entire turkey in bacon (it’s just once a year, after all), it’s a pretty simple — large — meal. Turkey. Cranberry relish. Cranberry sauce. Stuffing. Veggies. Hot cornbread. Pies for dessert. No one had time to bake all the pies this year. Usually we have a pre-Thanksgiving  baking frenzy, but this year, we bought frozen apple, mince, and pumpkin, leaving only custard to make from scratch tomorrow. You can’t buy good custard pie.

Thanksgiving 2013 table 2

Oh, nearly forgot. Mashed potatoes. Mashed sweet potatoes. Gravy. We forgot to buy cider to drink with the meal. It’s too horrible outside to go back to the store and the roads are a parking lot. All the last-minute shoppers are out there.

I have no idea what we’ll serve in the way of drinks. Oops.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Whatever you eat, have fun. No fighting at the table.

UNCLE WHO?

Calling Uncle Bob – Have you ever faced a difficult situation when you had to choose between sorting it out yourself, or asking someone else for an easy fix? What did you choose — and would you make the same choice today?


I do not have an uncle named Bob. I had Uncles called Jack, Abe, Herman, Louis, Mickey, and Sam. I still have an Uncle Sam, come to think of it, but I’m pretty sure he’s not related by blood.

I cannot imagine under what circumstances I would have called any of these uncles to help me with anything at any point in my life, not even when they were still alive. Their current lack of aliveness makes them even less likely to be helpful in a crisis than formerly. It’s hard for me to picture big, bluff Uncle Abe, the guy who used to toss me in the air to make me giggle and scream, giving me advice on Men, Marriage, Career … or how to fix a computer.

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Or even asking him to read something I wrote to see if he liked it.

He wouldn’t have liked it. None of them would have liked it. Or understood it. Their brows would have furrowed and I am sure they would have found my interest in Such Matters perturbing and disturbing. At the very least.

So here’s the scenario.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

“Hello?”

“Uncle Herman, hi. It’s Marilyn.”

“Who?”

“Marilyn. Dorothy’s daughter.”

“Oh, Dorothy. How is she? Is she coming to visit? I haven’t seem my little sister since … ” Long pause.

“Last month,” I offer helpfully. I’m nothing if not helpful.

“Yes,” he agrees.

“Uncle Herman, I have a problem. My laptop screen seems to have an intermittent connection to the keyboard and I can’t figure out how to fix it. Can I bring it over and have you take a look?”

“Sure Bubbala. Your Aunt just made a big batch of the jello you like so much.”

I really did love the jello Aunt Ethel made. It was never too hard or too soft — always perfect. And she used bunny rabbit-shaped molds so the jello wriggled and jiggled, as jello should. The taste of family.

Jello notwithstanding, I cannot imagine a positive outcome to this encounter. Although in his day, Uncle Herman was good with machines, especially sewing machines (he was a cutter and tailor, as were most of the men in my mother’s family in that generation), computers were … well … not his thing.

He could give it a good whack, which might cure the problem or finish off the computer forever. A simple, fast, and permanent fix. Not exactly what I had in mind, but a fix, nonetheless.

Or they could have served me jello and we would talk about this and that, forgetting the reason for the visit because seriously, when you have a problem, do you call your family to help you out? Really?

And as a final note of caution, quick fixes are rarely good fixes. Just an observation.

WHAT DOGS KNOW ABOUT WOMEN

Marilyn Armstrong:

Today’s a perfect day to reblog this one. It made me laugh. It made me laugh a lot and I have to admit, it did not make Garry laugh nearly as much.

Sometimes I think there is only one husband in the world. He comes in a variety of packaging options — size, color, age, ethnicity — but underneath, it’s the same guy.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

woman and dogThe other night I had an argument with the husband so I harrumphed up the stairs and went to bed early.  (Actually, I harrumphed up then back down then back up, since I had forgotten the ipad in the living room.  This took away a fair bit of the effect from my initial harrumph but it also allowed me to watch a new season of The Vampire Diaries in bed, so…).

Buster the Schnauzer did not have even a moment of angst over what to do in such a situation.  Without hesitation, my loyal friend followed me up the stairs, AND back down, AND back up.  As I settled under the covers, he sat upright on the bottom of the bed with a look that clearly said, “You are everything wonderful and perfect in the world and HE is an ass.” (Buster has a very expressive face).  As we shared…

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ONCE UPON A TIME

Spinning Yarns — What makes a good storyteller, in your opinion? Are your favorite storytellers people you know or writers you admire?


Fear According to Savage Chickens

Last night I dreamed about chickens. After a tooth-grinding review of how badly mistreated we have been by past employers — Garry’s and mine — somehow I slid sideways into an old house in the country.

It looked a lot like it does around here. A bit hilly and lots of trees. There was a movie star living in the house. She was supposed to be young, but her skin looked like the bottom of an old leather suitcase and was a trifle orange. She was going back to California where she seemed to believe she would be better off.

That left me with 200 chickens. The fowl were arriving (shortly) by truck. Healthy, young, hens and roosters. Enough to start a nice little chicken farm. Except I didn’t want to be a chicken farmer and I was pretty sure, neither did Garry. I couldn’t just leave the chickens to die of hunger, thirst, and cold. I’m a responsible person and I love animals. Even chickens.

I was still baffled over the whole chicken conundrum when I finally gave up, opened my eyes, and began my day. Coffee would banish chickens. Garry says it’s from “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and I was just caught in an old movie loop.

Sometimes, the absolutely best storyteller in the world has got to be my subconscious. I would never even consider creating a story involving me and chickens.

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Not counting authors since this prompt doesn’t concern that … who tells great stories? Garry tells wonderful stories. He has me mesmerized from the first word to the last and that includes when I’ve heard the story before. Our friend Tom is also a terrific storyteller. He makes us laugh. I don’t know if the story is true or maybe just a little true, but whatever, it is great entertainment.

At my best, I tell a good story. I run on too long and I’m not good at wrapping it up and finishing before the audience needs another drink, but I’m good for the yarn’s first three-quarters.

Story-telling is the glue that makes friends want to hang out with each other.

It’s not booze, movies, or video games. Certainly not texting. It’s stories. The tales of our experiences, things we remember, times and places and people we’ve known.

I keep wondering what young people will do when they realize you can’t live forever with just a cell phone for company? They don’t seem to have a clue about having conversations or telling stories to each other. From whence will their stories emerge?

Our stories are our personal mythology. Will our children and grandchildren have stories? Or anyone to tell them?

It worries me. It really does.

GUILTY PLEASURES – REDUX

Grateful and Guilty – Whether it’s a trashy TV show, extra-pulpy fiction, or nutrient-free candy, write a thank-you note to your guiltiest guilty pleasure.

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This prompt is 100% rerun. And this response is the identical (except for a teeny tiny bit of editing) response I made the first time around, on June 23, 2013. I keep saying: if you are going to re-issue the same prompts, I’m going to republish what I wrote in response. Not that anyone from WordPress pays the least bit of attention to what we write. You guys up there think we are really not very bright, don’t you.


No matter how sophisticated we become, how many degrees in film, literature or the arts we obtain, we keep our guilty pleasures. By which I mean the movies, books, books, and television shows we know aren’t great — and may be really dumb.

It doesn’t matter. We love them anyway.

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I have a whole bushel of them, ranging from television shows about vampires with glowing eyes (Forever Knight), to reruns of the original Lassie. I’m a sucker for any movie featuring a non-human, be it cat, dog, horse, or sea creature. I’ll watch pretty much anything in which Candice Bergen starred or was at least featured. I’ll watch anything from any season of any Star Trek, even if I’ve seen it a hundred times.

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I love comedies by Mel Brooks, even the bad ones because they make me laugh. Ditto the Zucker brothers for the same reason. If you can make me laugh, you’ve got me. Sometimes, I watch things that are unintentionally funny … Xena, Princess Warrior comes to mind. I don’t know whether it was supposed to be funny, but it made me laugh until I cried.

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My lists of favorite movies, books and television shows are a study in contrasts. I love The Lion In Winter and The Seventh Seal. I love Airplane and Hotshots Deux. I never miss a run of Best Of Show or A Mighty Wind. Or the original version of The Haunting.  From the sublime to the ridiculous, I will watch or read whatever grabs my fancy or makes me laugh without discrimination.

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It’s one of the reasons I think that “awards” like the Golden Globes and the Oscars need many more categories. How can you put a screwball comedy against a serious drama and have any kind of sensible outcome? It would be like having a dog show that included camels and goats. It wouldn’t matter how beautiful a goat or camel you have entered, it would never win Best of show.

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What makes you laugh? What cheers you up when you’ve got the blues? Are you a secret fan of Gilligan’s Island or Love Boat? Time to come clean!

SO LONG, IT’S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW’YA

Cue the Violins – If your life were a movie, what would its soundtrack be like? What songs, instrumental pieces, and other sound effects would be featured on the official soundtrack album?


Is it possible to be hung over without drinking or drugs? If so, I am. Too much talking and laughing. So this is going to be very short.

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Backtrack of the Weavers singing “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know’Ya.”  Add some more folk tunes. “Lonesome Traveler” comes to mind. At least one performance of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.

The Beatles “When You’re 64.”

And another cup of coffee. Maybe two.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Sparkling or Still — What’s your idea of a perfect day off: one during which you can quietly relax, doing nothing, or one with one fun activity lined up after the other? Tell us how you’d spend your time.


What day is today? I don’t mean the date. The day of the week. Because I don’t know anymore. That’s life in the slow lane … also known as “retired.”

Me and Cherrie

Unless I have a doctor appointment or errands to run, everyday is a day off. The best ones are those spent in the company of friends, laughing, remembering, sharing. Laughing over things no one else would laugh about, sharing stuff no one else knows about. Or cares.

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And that’s perfect enough for me. I’m not sure there is anything that could improve on that experience … except maybe an infusion of expendable cash and a theme park with killer roller coasters.