Friday Recap

Pumpkin pie on the beach in Hawaii – My sister’s wise solution to the blues

Thanksgiving is over, and it was a lovely day.  Mulder and I went for a very long walk in the morning, much longer than usual, and we were tired when we got home.  Too bad, because I still had some cooking to do.  Thankfully I had started the day before, or I wouldn’t have gotten it done in time.

We had all of the family favorites, which means there was way too much food and not everyone ate everything, but we all ate what we wanted.  Some at turkey, some didn’t.  Some at potatoes, some didn’t.  Some ate cranberry sauce, some didn’t.  The salad I made with Brussels sprouts, pomegranates, and apples was a hit, I think everyone tried that.  But we all laughed and enjoyed each other, and it was a nice time.  We had some delicious wine, and with dinner, champagne.  We decided to skip the pie this year, since we’re generally too full anyway.   I don’t think anyone missed it.

I’ve only spent one Thanksgiving with my Dad, but this being his first year gone, I missed him horribly.  I’ve spent many Thanksgivings with my Mom, and I missed her horribly.  I missed my grandma horribly.  I guess as you get older, that’s a part of holidays, missing people horribly, and finding a way to enjoy your day nonetheless.  I talked to my stepmom when we got home.  She didn’t have a horrible day, she said it was OK.  I think that’s the best things like this, things she and my Dad did together, are going to be for awhile.  My heart ached for her.  For all of us.

One of my sisters has been feeling pretty blue for awhile, having a hard time with losing Dad, (well, all three of us actually) and decided that she needed something to look forward to.  So a month or so ago, she came home from work and booked a trip for the family to go to Hawaii.  That’s what the picture above is from.  I hope it helps, and she is a bit stronger when they get back.  Sometimes you need a little sunshine.

Today I went to Stockton to see my cousin, who is up visiting from Santa Maria.  We went to Manny’s for avocado burgers for lunch, then went to the hardware store to buy smoke detectors for my Great Aunt’s house.  Do we know how to party, or what?  On the way home, I was talking to another cousin on the phone, and we were laughing about how we all grew up in Stockton, and couldn’t wait to get the heck out.  I don’t know how much you would have to pay me to move back there, but it would be a LOT.

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that if you are missing loved ones, that the memory of times spent together will help lesson the pain a bit.

Meatless Monday


Photo and recipe from Ambitious Kitchen

I was talking to our next door neighbor the other day, and the conversation turned to Thanksgiving. These neighbors are vegetarian, but their family that will be in town visiting are not, so I asked what she is planning to make. She said they would make a turkey for the meat eaters, and she was thinking about a recipe she saw online, for stuffed acorn squash. We have Thanksgiving with Ted’s family, and his mother is vegetarian (really, pescatarian), so I thought perhaps I would look at this recipe and see if it seemed like something she would enjoy. The neighbor sent me the link to the recipe, and I made it for our dinner a few nights later, to test it out. It was delicious. Really good.

Ted’s family holidays are generally an organized pot-luck, where everyone brings something, so no one has to do all of the work. Ted’s mom makes the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and gravy. We will bring sweet potato pudding, cranberry sauce, and a couple of different vegetables. I am thinking I will make this stuffed acorn squash as one of my vegetables. Ted’s mom can have 1/2 squash, as that is her main course, and the rest of us can have smaller servings. I’m also going to make a Brussels sprouts, apple, and pomegranate salad, and then for Ted’s dad, because he loves it, peas with pearl onions.

Here is the recipe for the delicious Stuffed Acorn Squash. (Link is to the source of the recipe) SO good.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Cranberry, Pecans, and Quinoa
INGREDIENTS
For the acorn squash:
2 medium acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed
4 teaspoons virgin melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Cinnamon

For the quinoa:
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 ¼ cups water
2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecan halves

For the goat cheese crema:
2 ounces goat cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons water

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.*

Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar to each squash half; use your hands to rub into the flesh of the squash, even on the top (but not on the skin). Sprinkle each squash half with a little bit of cinnamon. Place flesh side down on baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until squash is just fork tender.

While the squash roasts, you can make the quinoa. Add quinoa, water and thyme leaves to a large pot and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and cook for exactly 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from heat and fluff quinoa with a fork. Next stir in coconut oil, orange juice, honey and turmeric and stir to combine. Fold in dried cranberries and pecans.
Once acorn squash is done roasting, evenly stuff each squash with quinoa. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

While the squash is baking again, make the goat cheese drizzle: Add goat cheese, honey, apple cider vinegar and water to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Drizzle evenly over each squash half.

NOTES
If you want to save time, you can make the squash and quinoa a day ahead of time. Once ready to serve, simply reheat in oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until warm and then make goat cheese crema and drizzle on top.

* My Note: I saw something from America’s Test Kitchen, where they said the BEST way to make acorn squash is in the microwave. It comes out tender and creamy. I haven’t decided yet whether I have the nerve to try that or not, I’m not generally a fan of microwaving food.

Dia de Difuntos

Dia de Muertos is a time to pray for and remember friends and family who have died.  It is traditionally a Mexican holiday, and a Catholic one.  I’ve never really paid any attention to it before, but the bright orange flowers reminded me of my Dad, and my Grandma died last year in November, so it made sense to me to buy some flowers and make a small alter with some pictures of Dad, Mom, and Grandma.  There are too many others that I could easily include…my Uncle Forrest, my Grandma Wells, my Grandpa Ward, etc.  For today, I’m keeping it to these three, the most difficult losses I have had to bear thus far in my life.

The marigolds that I bought came with a tag about Dia de Muertos, and had a quote that I liked.

“There is more time than life.”

The more I find that to be true, the less I like it.

Marigolds

Dad in New York, early 60s

Mom, 1990

Grandma, 1970s

My parents, 1987

Catching Up

It’s been a busy time, since last I stopped by here. The entire month of December is gone, and we’re a week into a New Year. So what’s going on?

I went to Portland for a long weekend in early December. It was my step-mom’s 70th birthday, and I went up to help her celebrate. Ted didn’t come with me, mostly because of his cat allergies, which means he can’t come inside (or at least not for long) most of the houses for our family. That can work fine in summer, we sleep at a hotel or house sit for neighbors, and we eat dinner in my parents’ back yard. That wouldn’t work this time, as it was snow and ice everywhere. Maya didn’t come with me, because while the party was on Dec 10th, her finals started Dec 12th, so she had to be here to study. So it was me alone. While there, I realized that I believe the only other time I’ve gone to Portland without Ted and/or Maya, it was January of 1988, when I went up to meet my sisters for the first time. They were 17 years old and in high school. I’m pretty sure that Ted came with me on my trips after that, and there were times when Maya and I went without him (cat issues, or work), or the three of us went. It was nice in a way, though I did miss them. I flew up on Thursday, and on Friday my dad and I went down the hill from the house to help get ready for the party. A neighbor, who has parties and fundraisers in her house often, offered the use of her home for the party, which was great. Dad and Julie live on a VERY steep hill, which is absolutely no fun when it is covered in ice. So to get down the hill can be tricky. We had walking poles, but it was so steep, we decided to slide down the hill on a piece of cardboard. That sounds more fun than it was. The ice was thin, and not at all smooth, and we felt every bump and rock on the way down. The cardboard shredded by the time we got to the bottom of the hill. My dad took this picture of me when I’m part way down. At this point, I’m frustrated, and thinking it would have been more fun to stay in the house with a cup of hot chocolate or something. This little puppy ran out to say hello and urge me on. It worked, the puppy was SO cute, it cheered me right up. The rest of the way to the house was still slippery, but we had our poles, and it wasn’t steep, so we were fine.
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I spent that evening with my sister and her husband, which was really great. They married in March, and we went up to celebrate in September. We’ve met her husband a couple of times, but this was the first time I got to spend time with just Melissa and Jason, and it was really nice to get to know him better. Saturday, Melissa and I did some Christmas shopping, and had lunch with Jason and some friends. Saturday night was the party, which was great, the ice had melted and everything was lovely. Then Sunday I came home. It was a fun trip.

What else…well, I caught a stupid cold. We had our annual baking day, which was fun, and I put together a box of cookies to bring to my friend Trudy. I used to deliver Meals on Wheels to her, but she went off of the route last year, when she moved from her home to an assisted living facility. I brought them to her on the Sunday before Christmas, and on Monday realized I was sick with a cold. Damn. It was a crummy head cold, which then went into my chest. I didn’t deliver Meals on Wheels that week, because I felt horrid, and also I worried about getting the clients on my route sick. I went again the Thursday after Christmas, and I asked another woman on my route, Dana, if she had heard how Trudy was doing. Trudy passed away the Tuesday after Christmas. Crap. I hope to hell I didn’t give her my cold. She was 101, and when I saw her last, she was not doing well. Not much appetite, not dressed, just taking it easy. Not really like herself. I am going to miss her, she was a real character and such a sweet woman.

Last weekend was my birthday, and it was beautiful weather, so Ted, Maya, Mulder, and I went to Pescadero, which is a little town at the coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. They have a bakery there that sells some amazing bread with artichoke hearts baked inside. So we ate delicious artichoke bread, then went to the beach to smell the salt water. It was a perfect day, and when we got home and cleaned up, we got dressed and went out for a delicious birthday dinner. Here’s Mulder at the beach.
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Now here we are, it’s a rainy Sunday afternoon. We’ve been watching the screeners that Ted gets for being part of the SAG-AFTRA Union. We’ve seen Lion, which we loved, and Fences, which was very good, and I liked it more than Ted did. We have a couple of others that we haven’t watched yet. Manchester by the Sea, Jackie, and likely one or two others that I’ve forgotten. We’re supposed to get La La Land, but it hasn’t happened yet. We’re also watching the new One Day at a Time reboot on Netflix, which we are really enjoying. Mostly it’s been a good winter so far, but I could have done without losing Trudy or getting sick. Next weekend we bury my Grandma’s remains, and my mom’s as well. My Grandma was cremated, and wanted to be buried in the grave with her first husband, my Grandpa Roland, who died when my mom was 5. We are going to bury my mom’s remains in with them, as well as a bit of my Uncle Forrest’s remains, and a picture of their baby Roland, who died a few weeks after birth. There’s good and bad to that. I miss my Grandma, and it’s going to be sad. I miss my mom, and that’s going to be sad, too. I miss my uncle. Blech, it all sucks. But on the other hand, 4 of the 6 cousins will be there, including my brother Richard, who I don’t see often, since he lives in Alaska. I’m looking forward to seeing him.

That’s it for now. Hoping you’re well.

Happy New Year – Friday Randomness

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Hey There Party People, what’s shakin’? December was a good combination of busy and lazy, and somehow in amongst the lazy I did not post even once. That’s pathetic.

In line with catching you up a bit, life here has been good, not crazy, not too different than it was before. We’ve had another month with dog-boy, Mulder, and he’s settling in so very well. We all adore him so much. He’s playful and loving and wonderful. He’s learning a bit of manners, learning to walk better on a leash, etc. He doesn’t jump on the furniture as much anymore. He doesn’t bark nearly as much anymore. He’s only vomited twice. He did wake us up barking Christmas Eve morning, maybe 1 A.M. Not good. But it turned out he was barking at the police officers who were here, because our neighbor’s house had been broken into. He didn’t bark during the actual burglery, but based on the layout of our houses, I doubt he even heard it. So he’s a good guard dog. And so darned darling.

Sometimes Ted and I get each other similar gifts, without knowing that would happen. One year it was cozy bathrobes. This year it was art for our walls, at least sort of. I say sort of, because while he bought me a photograph/print to frame and hang, I bought him a set of frames to hang record albums. This is big for us, because we have such different taste in art, we have a lot of trouble finding anything to hang on our walls. He likes abstract art, geometrical with contrasting colors. I like flowers and more girly type things. I have a theory that he likes the contrasting colors because he’s somewhat color blind, and I like flowers and portraits because I’m girly.  See the beautiful picture of San Francisco and the cloudy sky up there?  That’s the picture he bought me.  I love it. I think it’s contrasting enough for him and pretty enough for me, is why it works.  It was taken by a friend of his, who does great work you can find here, if you’re so inclined.

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I love Jacques Pepin and enjoy watching his cooking shows on PBS. He has a new one now, ‘Heart and Soul’ that I’m enjoying enough that Ted gave me the cookbook for Christmas. Yay! One of the recipes was this one, which is a deconstructed sushi. I decided to give it a try the other day, and it was delishious. Our favorite grocery store has a sushi counter (don’t they all?) and they sell the spicy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger, so I bought those to add. It was really good, but I think the trout roe that I bought was a bit too fishy for me, so maybe I’d save myself a bit of money and not use that next time. But overall it was good.

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What else…well, I turned 50. Ted threw me a lovely party with family and friends, and we feasted on delicious lamb curry, curried pumpkin, and roti. So so so good. My friend Marilee was in Canada and couldn’t make it to my party, but she sent me the most gorgeous bouquet of flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen orchids this way before, but aren’t they amazing? I love them. Here we are a week later, and they’re still stunning.

What else…We’re enjoying Downton Abbey, and I’m looking forward to getting the DVD in a couple of weeks so we can forge ahead and binge watch. It’s how I started watching D.A., and really my preferred method.

We’ll see if I end up posting here more than I did last year. I certainly HOPE that I do, but I’m not going to make it a resolution or anything like that. Happy New Year, everyone.

Giving Thanks for Cranberry Sauce

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I’ve spoken here before about Thanksgiving, about how as a child, it was my least favorite holiday of the year.  (I should clarify that I am only talking about the years when I was in California…I don’t remember much about Thanksgiving in Alaska, but I’m sure it was lovely and fine.)  My entire family (on my mom’s side) is obsessed with weight.  My grandmother decided at a young age that she was NOT going to be fat like her parents and aunts, and pretty much has been on a diet ever since.  To the point where now, at age 92 and weighing in at about 88 lbs, she will still make comments like, “Well, since I ate that brownie, I’ll have to starve myself tomorrow.”  It’s digusting.  She raised her kids to be obsessed with weight as well, putting my mom on a diet when she was about 10.  It backfired, and the combination of her obsession and family genetics put all of her children into the overweight/obese category, though my aunt Colleen was much thinner than my mom or my uncle.

As might be expected, the conversation at family gatherings was often about dieting, about what one should and should not eat, what works and what doesn’t, on and on and on.  And all the while, of course, there’s turkey and stuffing and potatoes and candied yams and gravy and pie and fruit salad and cranberry sauce and rolls.  Please eat, enjoy…with an undertone of, you wouldn’t be so big if you didn’t enjoy quite so much.  Ugh.  Add to that the chain smoking by both of my grandparents, and throw in a big helping of my grandpa’s acid tongue and sarchasm, and you get the idea.  No family gatherings were particularly wonderful or happy, but Thanksgiving seemed to me to be about food food food, and with this family, that was not a good thing.  Plus most of the food wasn’t good.  Turkey was dried out, mashed potatoes from a box, brown gravy from a packet, cranberry sauce from a can, yams from a can.  Almost nothing was fresh.

I did always like the fruit salad and the cranberry sauce, canned though it was.  Actually, I liked the mashed potatoes and gravy from a box/packet, if truth be told.  It wasn’t until I was older and tried these things made from scratch that I realized that my grandparents’ cooking was like living in Plato’s cave, eating shadow versions of dishes, and there was a real world out there with delicious versionis of these same foods.

I remember the first time I tried cranberry sauce that wasn’t canned.  It was 1993, and Ted and I were newly married.  My mom had moved to Alaska that summer, though Richard and his wife had not moved up there yet, and were still in California.  Richard and Kathy were married the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and my mom had flown down for the wedding.  Generally we have Thanksgiving at Ted’s parents house, but we decided that year to have Thanksgiving at our apartment in San Francisco.  Kathy asked what she could bring, and I don’t remember if she brought pie or something else, but I do remember that she brought cranberry sauce.  It was a revelation. SO good.  Not overly sweet.  Fresh tasting.  I begged her for her recipe, and she looked at me, stunned.  “It’s on the back of the bag”, she said.  “1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, cranberries….cook over medium heat until the cranberries pop.  Chill.  That’s it.”   I think she felt that day about the same as she did when she told Richard they were going to make mashed potatoes, and he grabbed the box of powdered potatoes, while she grabbed fresh potatoes from the produce aisle.

Ever since that year, I’ve made this version of cranberry sauce, with a few exceptions.  One year I tried a savory version, which I did not care for.  One year I added a pinch of salt, which was fine but not really any different.  This year, for Canadian Thanksgiving in October, I tried a new recipe.  I don’t know what motivated me to do so, but I did.  It’s very similar to the one on the cranberry bag, but has less liquid.  You start out over low heat with the sugar, cranberries, and only 2 tblsp of water instead of a cup.  When the sugar dissolves, you have plenty of liquid, so then you turn up the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries pop.  I found the recipe on Food Network, and they added a strip of orange peel, which I don’t fancy.  Some commenters used 2 tblsp OJ instead of water.  Result?  A lovely cranberry sauce!  Not adding as much water gives you more concentrated cranberry flavor.  Also, I used a bit less than a cup of sugar.  Maybe more than 3/4 of a cup, I’m not exactly sure.  Delicious. So this is the cranberry sauce recipe that I’m making for today’s Thanksgiving feast.

I’ll be thinking of Kathy, and thanking her for introducing me to fresh cranberry sauce.  I’ll be thinking of my mom and all of the years when she would come to California for a month, and Thanksgiving was during that time and she would spend a week with us.  I wish we were able to do that this year.  I’ll be thinking of my grandma and how much I love her, even if a visit with her means coming home smelling like cigarettes.  I’ll be thinking of my grandpa and how much I loved him, even if he was a mean old man.  I’ll be enjoying a lovely day of delicious, freshly made food, laughter, music, wine, and fun with our new dog, at Ted’s parents house.  I do have a lot to be thankful for.  (I considered changing that to the more gramattically correct, “I do have much for which to be thankful” but I don’t like it, so I didn’t.)

I’m also making my Grandma’s fruit salad, sweet potato pudding, and as an appetizer, shrimp cocktail.

If you’ve not tried fresh cranberry sauce, or if you have only tried the version with 1 whole cup of water, give this one a try.  It’s delicious.

Cranberry Sauce
Ingredients:

12 0z cranberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tblsp water or orange juice
1 strip orange or lemon zest, optional

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday!  This is the last year of my 40s, and next year I’ll be 50, which seems so much older than I feel.  Then again, with the arthritis that’s been plaguing me, I am feeling a lot older than I did 6 months ago.  Oh well, I’m treating myself to a prednisone, which should help somewhat and allow me to have energy for the things I want to do today.  Which include:

  • Going to breakfast with Ted and Maya.  We’re going to a place in Pleasanton that is known for its omelets.  I love eggs, so this seems like a great idea to me.
  • Going to San Francisco, to the Yerba Buena Center for the arts.  I thought of going to the Legion of Honor or the DeYoung, but neither of them have exhibits I really want to see right now, and we’ve been so many times…so we’ll go somewhere new for a change.  Fun!
  • Shoe shopping!  A DSW opened in our neighborhood a few months ago, and we’ve not yet gone.  I’m not sure what I’ll find, but hopefully there will be something interesting or comfy or pretty (or all three, how would that be?)
  • Nice dinner.  Ted’s making duck, per my request.  We’ve never cooked duck at home, so this will be a treat and an adventure.
  • We may or may not stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year.  It’s rarely my favorite thing to do…I generally like sleep more, but who knows?  Could happen.

I’m looking forward to my birthday gifts, which are mainly in the form of delayed gratification this year.  My brother got me Season 5 of Downton Abbey on DVD (can’t wait!), but that isn’t released until near the end of January.  Ted got me the annotated biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is on back order and I’m not sure when it will come.   My parents sent me money, which I am going to use to go to the hair salon.  That won’t be as long of a wait, I just need to make an appointment.   I got a gift certificate for a massage for Christmas, which I haven’t used yet.  I haven’t decided WHEN I want to use it, yet.  Maybe on a warmish day, as the spa is connected to a gym, and they have a nice outdoor pool.  The shoes, should I find them, the breakfast, the day with my family, the duck, those are all no-wait treats, and I know that I’ll enjoy them mightily.  One nice thing about a New Year’s Eve birthday is that I always (at least since I left hotel work) have the next day off.  So that will be nice.  Oh, and Maya has a job now, which means that she has spending money, and bought me very nice Christmas gifts, and there’s something under the tree from her for my birthday, which I look forward to opening.  (A birthday near Christmas often means birthday gifts under the Christmas tree!)

There’s something about birthdays that tends to make one reflect a bit, and a birthday on the last day of the year likely enforces this proclivity.  So I’m reflecting today on all of the things I am thankful for…my beloved husband and daughter, my family, my friends, my home, my job, my health. I feel so fortunate to have so much.

I miss my mom every day.  I miss her on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and the anniversary of her death (which sometimes falls on Father’s Day), more than ordinary days.  But the day I miss her most is my birthday.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps because of everyone on Earth, she knew me the longest.  We were together before I was born.  She knew me for all of my childhood, my ups and downs, successes and failures.  I’ve lived with Ted now longer than I lived with my mom, which is a crazy thought.  So likely he knows me more than she did, or at least, the adult me.  But there’s something about that mother/child relationship that is unique.  I miss her uniquely.

Happy Thanksgiving!

tableHappy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! Our Friends to the North celebrate Thanksgiving in much the same way we in the U.S. do. Get together with family, eat some turkey, stuffing, sides, maybe a pumpkin pie. Very nice. My loyal readers will remember that my darling husband, Ted, was born in Canada, and has citizenship there, though he’s not claimed it in any way at this point. Because we are a family that enjoys celebrating life when we can, we like to have a Thanksgiving feast in October, just us, and then again in November, with Ted’s family (my parents came to California last year and joined in, which was wonderful). So I spent the day cleaning and shopping and cooking. Set the table with our wedding china, crystal, and silver. I vowed years ago to start using it more often, but when I said those words, I lied them.  (My little homage to Dr. Seuss there…anyone know which story?) So we haven’t broken out the good stuff all together in years. You know what? It was really nice. The table looked beautiful, the food was delicious (even if I do use Stove Top stuffing rather than making my own), and we had a really nice evening.
Here’s the menu:

We had flowers and candles and wine. It was lovely. Generally, we have Canadian Thanksgiving dinner on Monday evening, but this year it made sense to do it on Sunday, which appears to be more authentic anyway. So yay us! It was a little strange, though, as it got up to be almost 90 today, and the talk is about the Giants and their World Series dreams.

It’s Sunday evening as I write this. The Giants just lost game 2, but it’s best 4 out of 7, and it’s currently 1 game each, so don’t give up yet. (I pretend to care, when one of our local teams get this far. Truly, of course, why would I care? The players don’t know me or care about my victories and losses, so whatever.) Ted’s celebrating Thanksgiving by watching “The Walking Dead”. Ugh. I think I’ll read my book, this is far too gory for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

* The formatting here is bugging the crap out of me. I’ve fixed this list 3 times, and it keeps getting wonky. I’m going to have to ask you to just ignore how wrong the spacing is on the bullets here, if indeed they are rendering strangely on your screen. For me it’s fine once, then a mess again.

** I had a bit of trouble with my cranberry sauce.  It’s early in the year for fresh cranberries, but I found frozen.  I didn’t have time to thaw them before boiling with sugar and water.  I don’t know if I didn’t boil them long enough or what, but after a couple of hours, they still hadn’t jelled.  I read online to add a little pectin, which I didn’t have.  I remember reading that apples have pectin, and I’ve made strawberry jam with strawberries, sugar, and apples, so I diced up about 1/3 of a Granny Smith apple and threw that in, cooked for maybe 8 minutes, and then let it cool.  I had to put it in the freezer to get it cool in time for dinner, but it worked.   Whew.  Thanksgiving is NOT Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce.

Merry Christmas to All!


It’s morning on Christmas Eve.  I was watching Tim Minchin sing “white wine in the sun”, my favorite secular Christmas song by far, so I thought I’d share it with you.   Gifts have been purchased, delivered, and wrapped. Cards and packages were mailed early last week. Cookies have been baked. The house is decorated. Our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of Cinnamon rolls (from a tube) is in the fridge, as well as the ingredients for our contributions to Christmas dinner. Ted is at work, and Maya is still sleeping. I’m not sure I can face the grocery store today, and I didn’t plan a Christmas Eve dinner, so it’s looking more like Chinese take out tonight. Sounds good to me.

I know I have other things I could be telling you, but for the life of me I cannot right now remember what they are.

Oh, I know! How about Utah??? Perhaps it is wrong of me, but I love that Same Sex Marriage is now (at least for the moment) legal in Utah. The Mormon Church there got all involved in California’s ban (since declared null and void) a few years ago, and I’ve always resented them for it.   And how awesome is this picture?
Boy scouts delivering pizza to county workers, workers who are working through lunch breaks in order to serve the thousands of people rushing to get married. In Utah. It’s a Christmas miracle, I tell you.

Also, Ted’s job requires that he join the SAG-AFTRA union, which means that he becomes a voting member for the SAG Awards, and we get to watch a bunch of nominated films for free in the comfort of our own home. Sweet, huh? So far we’ve watched a couple of depressing movies…1st was ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, and next was ’12 Years a Slave’. Both really well done, but not exactly your feel good films of the year. It’s interesting to me how they are delivered…’Dallas Buyers Club’ arrived as a DVD in the mail, while ’12 Years a Slave’ and several others are delivered via iTunes, which I don’t like as much, because we don’t have Apple TV, which means we have to watch it on the computer rather than the TV. Oh well. It’s still fun. I guess I know what we’ll be doing this winter break…watching movies.

I’m currently hooked on the ‘Divergent’ books. I finished the second one last night. The first (Divergent) I got from the library, but the waiting list for the second was months long, so I ordered it for my Kindle, which was actually really nice. I don’t have a lot of experience with the electronic reading, but I liked it. Now I want the 3rd book….I hope Santa’s listening.

I just made an appointment for Thursday to donate blood. Blech. I’m dedicated enough that I do it once in awhile, but I’m not dedicated enough that I do it whenever I’m eligible. Far, far from it. You can donate maybe 6 times a year, but I only muster up the courage once or twice.

Last and most certainly least, I was walking the other day and saw a big beautiful lemon tree in a neighborhood yard. I asked if it would be OK if I were to pick a couple of lemons, and they graciously said yes. While looking for one to shove in the cavity of the chicken that was that night’s dinner, I came across this mutant lemon, and I had to pick it and bring it home so I could show you. The tiny lemons are actually normal sized. Then there’s the one that’s about the size of a grapefruit. And then there’s mutant. Ted thinks it looks kind of like a bird, but I say it looks like it’s giving us the bird, so to speak.
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Merry Christmas to All, and to all a Good Night.

Veterans Day

Take a moment to thank all of the Veterans this Veterans’ Day, for their patriotism and service. There is a sad, lovely poem written during the First World War, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian soldier and surgeon, after he witnessed the death of a friend. Lieutenant Colonel McCrae died of pneumonia during the war, in 1918.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

The picture is my Great Grandfather, Percy Herndon, in his WWI uniform. This is before he married my Great-Grandmother, and the woman in the picture is his sister, my Great Aunt Julia, for whom I was named. Aunt Julia died before I was born, but she was a large and important presence in my mother’s life. My Great-Grandfather served in Russia, and came home safely. He married my great grandmother, and they had 5 children, 3 of whom lived to adulthood, and all 3 of whom are still alive today. (My Grandma and Great Aunt, who live together in Stockton, and my other Great Aunt, who lives a bit north of Sacramento.) I didn’t know him growing up, as he died right after we moved back to California from Alaska. But I know him through stories, and I wish I had known him better.

*The above is recycled from the last two Veterans’ Days. I love the picture of my Great Grandfather and his sister, and the poem is so moving.

Shopping on Thanksgiving

The other day, one of my Facebook friends mentioned that she thought Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving was a horrid and evil idea, and people that do so need to re-prioritize their lives.  (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the idea.)  I thought about it a little bit, and I decided, no, it’s not evil.  What if you are unfortunate enough to be part of a family where the day is to be ENDURED, and you have to choke down your food and get the hell out, asap, before Uncle Billy starts making racist comments, Grandpa starts criticizing everyone and making sarcastic comments, Grandma starts talking about diets, the cigarette smoke is drying out your nasal passages and your contact lenses, and really, JUST LET ME GO!  What if you don’t have any sane family or friends with whom to spend your day?  What if you don’t want to go to a movie?  There surely must be people like this out there.  My grandparents’ house was just such a house, and Thanksgiving was my very least favorite holiday ever.  Of course, I had my mom and my brother to go home with, and we were happy in each others’ company, but what if what we really wanted to do was to go to the mall?  So I spoke up and defended such unfortunate people, suggesting perhaps that they may need our understanding more than our scorn.

After that, I started wondering what it is about stores being open on Thanksgiving that bugs people so much.  I mean, there are restaurants that are open, hotels are open, hospitals are open, movie theaters are open, some grocery stores are open.  So why the anger at department stores?  Then I realized, after looking at Nance’s post, that it doesn’t have so much to do with the sacredness of Thanksgiving and the family unit, as much as it does the hyper-consumerist pressure that is put on us, to buy buy buy, spend spend spend.  The fact that capitalism falls apart if companies don’t continue to grow, and many retail establishments make the majority of their money in December, puts an enormous amount of pressure on us.   There’s no such thing (or perhaps it’s just very rare) as a company that makes $8,000,000 a year, and is happy with that.  They pay their employees the same amount year after year, and the employees are happy with that.  Everyone has enough to live the life they want to live, so there’s no need to go crazy and try to keep making and buying MORE product.  For one thing, employees live in the real world, where their bills generally go up every year.  Health care, gasoline, groceries, clothing, utilities, it all goes up.  It’s seldom that you pull out an old checkbook and say, “Wow, my cable used to be expensive, and now look how much cheaper it is!” (unless you’ve changed your service, of course)

While I never did like the idea of going to the mall on Thanksgiving, I understand a little more why it’s so galling to people to know that it’s out there, that news reports are going to start yammering about consumer confidence (which, for anyone who has lived through a few recessions, can cause stress about job stability), the commercials are going to start in earnest, and the pressure to make everything absolutely perfect for everyone is going to become just too much.  I can’t keep up, I don’t try, and honestly, I don’t even want to.  But some of us do get sucked into that pressure, and it’s exhausting.

So to my Facebook friend, you were right.  If you have a horrid family, then go home and read a good book, but leave the craziness alone, for just a few more days.  You’ll likely be happier for it.

 

Good Advice

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Many years ago, I received what I consider to be very good advice. I was talking to my boss. Ted and I had been together for 7 years…it was the anniversary of our first date, which we had always celebrated. But now we were married…so should we still celebrate our first date? So I mentioned to my boss that we had always celebrated our date-a-versary, but it felt strange now that we were married. He said something like, “Life can be hard, and sometimes is very difficult. We should celebrate life’s joys whenever we can.” I liked that advise. I still like that advise. Life is indeed sometimes very difficult. It can throw things at you that are not fair. Life is also, at the same time, wonderful and full of many happy times and moments, and these should be celebrated.

In the spirit of celebrating the joys in life, we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Ted was born in Ontario, and his family moved to our little city when he was 1, maybe 18 months. According to Canadian Law, he is a citizen, even though he hasn’t lived there in many a decade, and relinquished his citizenship as a child.

In years past, I’ve tried making several different recipes for roast turkey breast. They were all good, but somehow, seemed just a bit dry. This year, Ted mentioned that he actually prefers dark meat, which somehow I never knew before. So I did a search, and found this recipe for stuffed turkey legs. I went to the store, where they had turkey thighs and drumsticks, but only separately, not still connected. So I bought the thighs, which the butcher said would be much better than the drumsticks. Then there’s the sausage. We don’t have boudin sausage around here (I think it’s a Louisiana thing), and the butcher at the grocery store didn’t know which of what they have might be the same. I decided to use calabrese sausage, based on the color, which was closer to white than the red of the other sausages in the case. I had read that some boudin sausage is white. Also, the butcher said he thought it was the best tasting sausage they sold, which reaffirmed my decision.

Confession, I’ve never made homemade stuffing before. There are many restrictions in the family (some vegetarian, some who don’t eat pork), which means no sausage, no bacon, etc. So we generally go with something similar to Stove Top, which is actually pretty good, though perhaps sometimes a little gloppy. This stuffing, however, is not gloppy, and is full of flavor and really delicious.

Boudin Stuffed Turkey Leg
Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 boneless turkey legs
  • 10 feet butcher’s twine

Boudin Stuffing

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, cut in small dice
  • ½ cup celery, cut in small dice
  • ½ cup carrots. cut in small dice
  • ½ cup chopped toasted pecans (or candied pecans)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 pound spicy boudin, removed from casing
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 6 slices white sandwich bread, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large saucepan over medium heat with the cooking oil. Add vegetables, pecans, garlic and dry spices in the cooking oil, and cook until vegetables are just translucent. Add boudin and stir. Once boudin begins to stick to the pan, add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.When stock simmers, adjust seasoning and add diced bread. Allow to cool. (At this point, mixture can be stored up to 4 days.)

To stuff the legs: Lay the de-boned leg quarters out flat, skin side down. Divide the boudin stuffing into two portions, and spread the portions evenly onto each leg. Roll the meat up jelly-roll style, keeping as much stuffing inside as possible.

Cut the butchers twine into 12-inch pieces. Tie the pieces of twine around the stuffed turkey legs every few inches to keep them rolled tight. Once the turkey legs have been tied, season them with salt and coarse black pepper.

Roast the legs in a pre-heated 375-degree oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

The result? I think this is the best Canadian Thanksgiving yet. The sausage was delicious, the turkey moist and flavorful. Really, really good.

20 Years!

First Dance003

Wow….20 years ago today, Ted and I were married. I used to say it didn’t feel that long, but I guess I’m feeling older now, and the details sometimes fade a bit. Funny how that happens. What I do remember is that it was a very hot day, that we were surrounded by family and friends wishing us well, and that it was a lot of fun. I remember at the end of the ceremony, wanting to do it all over again! Then there was the reception, which was a LOT of fun, and I’ve not been to another wedding with so much dancing, or such a lovely view.

The other day I told my coworker that we were celebrating our 20th, and he asked me, “Are you ready for the next 20 years?” Interesting question, isn’t it? I’m not the type to renew my vows, because I kind of think if you did it right the first time, why do it again? Then again, that WAS a pretty awesome party…that might be fun to do again. But what he was getting at was a more basic question, and my answer is an enthusiastic YES. I’m so glad that we’re on this trip together, and I’d do it all again.

Here’s our first song from our reception…what a fun evening that was.