It’s Almost Time…

tgpc2Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, probably because it’s about being together and sharing food, time, and memories, without any need to focus on material gifts and the like.

turkey tom 1I’ve always loved it. I can remember being a little girl and sitting in the living room watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, eating a bowl of grapes (a special treat, along with tangerines, for the holiday).

The big picture window would be all steamed up from Ma’s cooking in the adjoining kitchen, and the delicious smells of the turkey roasting, onions and celery sautéed in butter for use in the stuffing, and sage filling the whole room with a homey, delicious scent.

So…what are some of your favorite Thanksgiving foods, if you celebrate the holiday? I’m always looking to add something to our table, so please share in the comments! 🙂

Cozy Nights

cozyI love this illustration. It’s from the children’s book The Snatchabook, by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty, published in 2013.

It captures those magical possibilities that always delighted me as a child, when I’d imagine little homes in the woods where all the animals lived, snug and secure. In my mind’s eye there were tiny, warm beds covered in puffy patchwork quilts, and Mama animals of all sorts reading their babies bedtime stories in their cozy little rooms.

I’m ordering the book for my granddaughter, for when she’s older. Maybe her imagination will be sparked, too.

SnitzelAnother favorite – Mr. Snitzel’s Cookies by Jane Flory, for its magical elements of a never-ending supply of baking ingredients for cookies, cakes, and other delights, all earned from the simple act of being kind and offering a meal and a warm bed to a stranger in need.

November days like today – a little raw, gray, and rainy – bring out these nostalgic memories. I happen to enjoy this kind of day…much easier for me to get cozy in it, than in the blazing (though still beautiful) sun of summer. 🙂

How about you? Any favorite books from your childhood that sparked your imagination?

My Strange Way of Preparing a Turkey

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photo courtesy of Pillsbury

As promised in yesterday’s post, here’s a short post about a strange method of turkey preparation that is very old-fashioned but also really reliable for a moist, delicious turkey.

It was passed down from my great-grandmother to my grandmother, and then to my mother (who still roasts her turkey this way as well, when she cooks a turkey) and then to me.

My mother always called it “tucking in the turkey and putting him to bed”.

imageBecause we don’t use foil or a cooking bag, or anything like that. We use a portion of a clean but old-enough-to-be-cut-up bed sheet.

Yes, a bed sheet.

 

imageI should probably start by saying another way we’re weird is that once we stuff the turkey, we sew up with the edges of the cavity with waxed string and a needle. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the first lessons in hand sewing I ever had, watching my mother seal the stuffing into the bird each year. 🙂 I suppose it’s also what assured me that I could never go into the medical profession, LOL.

 

But back to “putting the turkey to bed”.

Once your turkey is stuffed and placed in the roasting pan, with whatever seasonings you want sprinkled over him, you take your portion of clean sheet and get it soaking wet (as in dripping) in hot water. imageSpread it over the turkey like so, and tuck in all the edges (that’s how you put him to bed 🙂 ).

Then take a little Crisco on your fingers and smear it all over the sheet. It will be a bit difficult, because the sheet is wet, and water and oil don’t mix too well. But trust me, it helps the skin beneath to brown beautifully, while keeping the turkey meat moist and flavorful. Pour some hot water into the bottom of the pan (pouring over the top of the turkey if you want), and put the whole thing into a low (325 degree) oven.

As the turkey cooks, keep the sheet as moist as possible by frequent basting with first the hot water from the bottom of the pan, and then, as time goes on, with the juices from the cooking turkey.

When it’s finished, the sheet will be browned and even crispy itself in places (to the touch…trust me, I’ve never tried to eat the sheet!), but once it’s removed, the turkey beneath is perfection.

It looks funny and seems strange, but it really works. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! 🙂

 

Getting Ready For Thanksgiving

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A practice run, with a Thanksgiving-style lunch

Some of you who have been here a while have probably figured out that I like to get into the various seasons. This often includes decorating.

Since Thanksgiving (and autumn in general) is my favorite holiday, I tend to do almost as much in-house decorating as I do for Christmas (I’m sure some posts about that will be forthcoming in the next month). 🙂

The picture above is from a week and a half ago, when my sister -in-law and her friend, my older daughter and her fiancé, and myself and my husband had lunch before my younger daughter’s performance as Ursula in The Little Mermaid at our local community theater.

Because I won’t see my sister-in-law on the actual holiday, and she was feeling down, as this will be her first year without her husband, who passed away unexpectedly in May, I decided to throw an impromptu “Thanksgiving luncheon” and do a little decorating. A kind of “special occasion” meal.

imageA couple years ago, I purchased these plates (because they were on sale, and I was finally getting a chance to host thanksgiving dinner for the first time, after years of traveling to either my parent’s home or my in-law’s home for the celebration).

 

 

The way I will always remember Pa 2 and family dinnersIn fact, this picture is of the last Thanksgiving I celebrated at the homestead, with my father at the head of the table. It was the year before he died, and this happy scene is one of the ways I will always fondly remember him. This is pretty much what our table looked like most nights, in terms of people around it, when I was growing up, and my father was always the warm, steady, strong center of our large and lively family of girls (with a few males thrown in, eventually, as we brought home beaus or married). Another picture similar to this one is featured in Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven (which has  around 20 photos that are related to and sometimes inspired the novel’s scenes sprinkled throughout), so if any of you end up getting a copy of the book when it comes out, you can see if you find it. 🙂

Anyway, back to the reason for this post. Is there anyone else out there who just enjoys putting on a fancy meal once in a while – not where the food is necessarily fancy, but where you like to set a pretty table, or have things just look extra nice?

I’m hoping that maybe there are a few of you out in blog-land who have opinions about this one way or the other. So please share in the comments.

I’ll be sharing about something else that many find a little weird, in regards to how I prepare my turkey, in a future post, so stay-tuned! 🙂

Remembrance – and Rhapsody In Blue

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Pa in 2005

Today would have been my father, ” Pa’s”, 85th birthday.

Pa, around 3 years old

Pa, around three years old in the early 1930’s

Pa was a wonderful man who had a difficult childhood with a loving mother (who hailed from Germany), but an alcoholic father. He spent his first decade growing up during the Great Depression. Life was difficult, and he was forced to drop out of school before graduating…but he valued education, and so he completed his diploma and became the first and only person in his family of origin to earn a Bachelor’s degree. He was almost forty years old when he achieved that goal, but he never gave up. Continue Reading…

Tom The Turkey And Thanksgiving Traditions

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Tom Turkey From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I may have already mentioned it, but it bears repeating, LOL.

Among other favorite things about the day is the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And my favorite parade “float” is Tom the Turkey.

There is just something about him – the colors, the old-fashioned feel of the float, or maybe even because he debuted for the first time in 1971, when I was first old enough to watch and remember what I saw – but he makes me happy.

In my family growing up, my parents (who were big on little traditions or rituals, if you haven’t been here long enough to have read some of those posts) had some for Thanksgivibg as well.  One ritual we observed faithfully each Thanksgiving morning, was the watching of the Macy’s Day Parade while eating bowls of grapes.

Yes, I know that sounds a little strange, but here’s the thing: in the 1970’s when I was a kid, we had a big family, plenty of food and clothing (almost all of it homemade) and books, but not much extra for more expensive “treats”. Apples and bananas were reasonably-priced back then, but not so much grapes. So that was what we looked forward to while we watched the parade. Oh, and tangerines, because they were also “in season” and more reasonably-priced.

Some of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving revolve around this tradition. My mother would have gotten up very early, around 4:00am, to saute the onions and celery in butter, that were to go in the sage dressing with which she’d stuff and sew up the neck and big cavity of the turkey (it was usually a 20-pounder at least, and she used a big darning needle and cotton thread….a process I still use myself when preparing turkey). The result was that the house smelled delicious by the time the parade began at 9:00 or so.

I can remember sitting on the old sofa with several of the younger of my sisters around the living room, and Pa in his chair, while Ma and my older sisters came in and out as they worked on other tasks to get ready for the big meal. The picture window would have steam from all the cooking, and the lovely scent of sautéed onion and celery, sage and turkey, simply filled the air. We all ate our grapes and tangerines and enjoyed the show. The Rockettes were another favorite, as well. But we always turned off the parade BEFORE Santa Claus came in…because we also had the tradition of no Christmas music, decorations, or discussion until December 1 at earliest! In hindsight, I think it was a great idea. Time and the seasons get rushed far too often as it is. But as a child, it took some fortitude to follow the “rules”. 🙂

My own kids still follow the same traditions, and they enjoy them almost as much as I did (though they get to have grapes a lot more frequently in this modern age!)

So, those are a few of my traditions. Anyone have any of their own to share?

Autumn Decorating

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My mantel, decorated for autumn…the candles – and angel candleholders – work for Christmas, too, so I get a lot of mileage out of them 🙂

I used to only go all out decorating inside the house for Christmas.

But more recently, I’ve brought my love of Autumn indoors and a few years ago, purchased some leaf garlands, wreaths, and candle tapers in appropriate hues. Sometimes I get them out before Halloween, and other times, like this year, they don’t make it onto mantels and walls until the beginning of November.

I can’t help wondering how many others like to decorate for autumn in their homes. There must be some, otherwise, the stores wouldn’t carry the items I’ve found. But I only know one other person, personally, who does this kind of thing. I hope I’m not too weird (but I’m afraid it’s pretty likely that I am…and for more reasons than just my decorating proclivities!). 🙂

pumpkinsI’ve gone to the store to buy ceramic, composite, and otherwise formed and decorated “harvest” pumpkins (the darker orange one of these, from Big Lots, is on my dining room table on an autumn table-runner as a centerpiece at the moment)…

 

harvestAbout five years ago, I even picked up some “Pilgrim” figurines at the grocery store that are similar to these. These are a little more ornate, but they’re made of similar composite (not plastic but not ceramic either) material that makes them not too easily breakable (important when you have cats that chase each other and sometimes knock things over).

So now my house is all decked out for Thanksgiving, which I guess is a good thing, since I’m cooking again this year, and there will be at least six – and maybe ten – at the table. It’s my favorite holiday, though, so I can’t wait.

How about you – other than the traditional Christmas/Hanukkah times, do you like to bring any of the seasons indoors?