AFTER THE TURKEY

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I’ve learned a lot over the years. By my calculation, this is my 49th year of making Thanksgiving, not counting a few years when I was a guest at someone else’s table.

I remember when the torch passed and my parents no longer wanted the job. Suddenly, they were just as happy to eat my food. I knew at the time this was a significant change in our relationship, that something important had changed.

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Since then — 40 years later — I’ve been making holidays. Although my son does the cooking, or most of it anyhow, he still doesn’t know how to make the holiday. How to set a table, figure out which dishes to use. Which flatware. Whether or not to put out the “good” glassware (but unlike me, he knows on which side the forks go versus the knives).

And despite them being among the easiest recipes in the world, no one but me can make the cranberry sauces.

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Things I’ve learned after 49 years of family dinners:

  1. Don’t get a big centerpiece. It takes up too much room and will be in the way when people are trying to converse.
  2. Not only do place settings not have to match, making each setting different is a very cool “look” (though I didn’t do it this year).
  3. No matter how many people you have coming to dinner, there will be much more food than even the hungriest crowd can possibly consume.
  4. Don’t save the mashed potatoes. No one is going to eat them.
  5. The turkey will be fully cooked at least an hour before your calculations say it will.
  6. If you cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 180 degrees, it will taste like sawdust and no amount of gravy will make a difference.
  7. Buy a fresh turkey, not a frozen one. It’s worth it. Fresh turkey tastes so much better!
  8. Put a clear plastic cover over your good tablecloth. Your guests won’t mind and gravy does not come out completely, no matter what formula you use to treat the stains.

When I’m feeling ambitious, I get more creative with table settings. I have a lot of “fiesta ware,” bright, solid-color dishes that mix and match with other pottery. I’ve given away my 16-place-setting porcelain. Storing it took up more space than I was willing to devote to something I used maximum twice a year.

I don’t buy expensive stemware. It’s not that kind of crowd.

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I don’t bother to point out no one is going to eat that much food. Don’t mention that nine pies for seven guests is a bit much. My daughter-in-law is Italian. I’m Jewish. My husband is Black. Excessive food is a cultural and genetic mandate. Please eat. Please overeat. If you don’t leave the table feeling slightly ill from over-consumption, I haven’t done my job.

The good news? I can put together a nice looking holiday table in under 20 minutes. Add on another half hour because I have to wash everything. I haven’t used it since last Christmas and dust will have its way. Still, that’s pretty good.

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Gone are the big floral displays, the fragile serving dishes. The stemware broke and was never replaced. Ditto the serving dishes. A nice table is welcoming. A super fancy, overwhelmingly elegant table is less so and can be off-putting.

Less fuss means I don’t end the holiday exhausted and cranky. I might just survive through Christmas. Imagine that!

FIFTY THINGS – A WORLD FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE

Share Your World – 2014 Week 47

Since this is Thanksgiving in the USA this week, I thought I would celebrate all week.  There is only one question this week and here it is.  I haven’t made a list like this in a long time.  I used to do it fairly frequently.  I hope you want to play along!

List at least 50 Things You Enjoy.  Here are some categories to inspire your thinking.

  • Activities
  • Restaurants
  • People
  • Foods
  • Games
  • Drinks/Beverages
  • Desserts
  • Paintings
  • Web Sites
  • Writers
  • Famous lines from books/movies.

I have too many things to list individually and too many categories. Or not enough. Sometimes there is a thin line between the two.

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I’ve had to give some thought to this to see if I could stay focused on important stuff and not end up with a list full of trivia.

Stuff I Do

  1. Laughing with people I love (You know who you are and I couldn’t live, wouldn’t want to live, without you.)
  2. Reading
  3. Listening to audiobooks
  4. Writing
  5. Taking pictures
  6. Hanging out with dogs
  7. Movies and television and anything Star Trek, or with horses.

Eating Out

  1. Japanese food and Wanakura
  2. Chinese food

Favoritest Authors

  1. Gretchen Archer
  2. James Lee Burke
  3. Kim Harrison
  4. Jim Butcher
  5. Jasper Fforde
  6. Douglas Adams
  7. And many others, too numerous to name!

Let Music Fill the Air!

  1. Folk music
  2. Country music
  3. Classical music, especially orchestral and piano
  4. The Beatles
  5. Tom Paxton
  6. Judy Collins
  7. Credence Clearwater Revival
  8. Really, that’s just the tip of a huge iceberg of music.

Munching

  1. Crystallized ginger
  2. Cheese
  3. Mango
  4. Kiwi
  5. Pears
  6. Peaches
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Salty, crunchy things
  9. Spicy things
  10. Hot pepper jelly
  11. English muffins
  12. And more and more and more!

Furry Creatures

  1. Dogs
  2. Cats
  3. Horses
  4. Pretty much anything with fur or feathers!

Literature

  1. Science fiction
  2. Fantasy
  3. Urban fantasy
  4. Anything that makes me laugh
  5. History
  6. Police procedurals
  7. Mystery
  8. Time travel
  9. Audiobooks
  10. BOOKS!!!

Oops, out of room. You see what I mean? But it could also be just a few things … because I like reading and that covers all the genres, authors, audiobooks, and everything else. There are so many way to do this.

Rather than saying I love books or reading, I could say I love that little crackle a brand new books makes when you first open in and that whiff of printer’s ink.

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I should mention that not only do I love taking pictures, but I love cameras. And autumn, because that’s my favorite time to take pictures.

I could start naming all the people I love, one at a time and probably run out of room before I got to anything else. Or start listing favorite movies and TV shows. I never even got to them and I have a whole bunch of movies and shows I love.

There is a lot to love in this world of ours, in this period of time we call life. I’m glad to still be here, on this earth, in this world, with all of you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

WHERE’S MY WIFE?

As we were packing up to come home — really, I wasn’t packing so much as stuffing my belongings into a duffel — I was bummed. At having to come home to reality.

Reality is full of telephone calls. Details. Bills. Thanksgiving is next week, Christmas just a month after. Holidays and gifts mean money. Which is always a problem and inevitably ups my anxiety levels to absurd heights.

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As if the holidays aren’t enough, it’s also “open enrollment” for medical stuff. I need to take a hard look at Garry’s drug plan. And I need to be sure I’m in the best Medicare plan I can afford. I think the Blue Cross PPO I’ve got is as good as is available, especially considering its modest price.

Nonetheless, I need to check. If I find out I missed the boat, I’ll have a year of kicking myself before I can fix it.

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Then there is The Cell Phone. By now, everyone knows how I feel about cell phones. I no longer have one of my own, having had it turned off. Garry and I share one. Mostly, it’s his, but sometimes I use it too.

Which is fine, except it’s an iPhone 4 and more than 2 years old. It didn’t have good audio when it was brand new. Time has not improved either the phone or Garry’s hearing.

I’m looking at Amazon’s Fire phone now that they’ve dropped the price. Both Garry and I have Kindle Fire tablets and like them. We’re happy in the Amazon universe, so it might be a good fit for us … if AT&T won’t flatten us with fees and charges.

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Logically, it should be no big deal, but the way taxes are structured, it will be. I don’t understand people who actually want a new phone every year. I hate the whole process, the expense, learning the new equipment.

What a pain in the butt! Moreover, just to make it worse, Massachusetts requires we pay taxes on the full price of the phone no matter what the actual price. Which right now is 99 cents with a 2-year contract.

Garry’s existing contract with AT&T expires on December 20th, so I have to call. Find out what all of this will really cost. It’ll be 99 cents for the phone, plus a $40 “upgrade fee,” plus taxes. And who knows if the plan we have will be valid with a new phone.

By the time all is said and done, it’ll cost us hundreds of dollars … and Christmas is just around the corner. It makes me want to scream.

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There’s more. Lots more. Doctor appointments. Medication issues. Veterinarian trips. Dental work for Nan.

I need help. I’m overloaded, freaking out, tired. Stressed. I need someone to take care of business so I can relax. I need a go-to person to deal with the loose ends of our lives.

I need a WIFE.

WHAT I BOUGHT ON BLACK FRIDAY

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Honestly, I was in the mood to buy something. A camera, a lens, a widget, gadget, cool electronic toy. I was eager and ready. But wherever I looked, the stuff on sale was something I already own … or something I don’t need or want. I’ve already shopped for my family and close friends, so there are no gifts on my list to be bought.

So I looked. And looked. And looked again. Finally, I found exactly what I needed on Amazon — and snapped it up. Greenies tooth cleaning dog biscuits for small breeds. I was thrilled to find it on sale for 20% less than I usually pay.

That concluded my Black Friday shopping. Garry and I bundled up and went to enjoy the annual lighting of Heritage Museum and Gardens.

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo. Thanks to all of you who came and visited. Congratulations to all of us who stuck it through and made it to the end. It has been an experience … and a lot of fun! See you next year!

THANKSGIVING 2013 REDUX

The turkey was delicious. The baked potatoes were perfect. The meal was enough for everyone to eat seconds, thirds and probably fourths, but no one made it to the end of one. The leftovers should feed everyone for at least two days.

In this family, we do not fight at the dinner table, especially not on Thanksgiving when we have gorgeous food to eat. You don’t let the food get cold while you argue. Argue before dinner or, if you can stay awake, after dinner. At the table, eat. We all grew up being told: “Don’t waste food. People are starving in … (fill in current location of famine) … “

Growing up in my family, there were two cardinal sins:

  • Wasting food.
  • Defacing books.

Although each of us grew up with different parents and traditions, we all emerged from food-obsessed cultures. On Thanksgiving … really, at any meal … we eat. With dedication, appreciation and purpose.

Happy Leftovers Day, one and all!