Saturday, November 30, 2019

Saturday after Thanksgiving

It is the last day of November. I can hardly believe it! Thirty days have September, April June and November. Thirty days at a dizzying speed in a month that typically drags.

This year, just a few hours into November, I got this uncomfortable feeling that the month would not let me just coast. It immediately posed challenges. Then, two weeks into the month,  I was stunned at how inconsequential events could catapult you and toss you into uncharted waters and raging seas. Three weeks into the month, I had to find my way home again. Four weeks into the month, the family gathered with love and gratitude, and the kids played, and the oven got crowded again with tins and sheets and pans. And I trimmed Ed's beard and he no longer looks like a sailor lost at sea. Or, in the alternative, Santa Claus.

In other words, the month started with a tremble, moved through an earthquake and finished with a lullaby.

And today, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, that lullaby grew into a full blown operatic masterpiece.

It was not a complicated day. The two young families gathered at the farmhouse for brunch. Big deal, right?

Well, it is a big deal. Our big holiday together is behind us. Today, it's just us being us, with each other. Me making a frittata (with spinach, tat soi, and clamshell, trumpet and pioppini mushrooms. And cheese, of course). And baking cinnamon rolls. And mini pancakes for the kids. Oh, and bacon, because it smells so good on a cold wet day.

It's my last day with Primrose and I watch her extra closely, to get my fill of her at this beautiful age.

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She has a special spot in our hearts, though of course, they all do. Special spots, overlapping, as daughters and their daughters and son spend precious free minutes together.

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(Sparrow is the family sous chef. We see him as the next competitor at Junior Master Chef. Well, except for the fact that he is a terribly fussy eater. Perhaps we don't rise to his standards of excellence...)

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Brunch. Happy, happy brunch.

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(Snowdrop discovers the penguins on her napkin. Snowdrop does love penguins...)

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(Primrose, grateful that grandma remembered the mango and the degree of ripeness was just right...)

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There's still a little time for play. The two toddlers find a common love: trains, with room for passengers.

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Snowdrop has reconsidered many of the little kid toys ever since her brother rolled them out on the play mat, but putting in and taking out characters into things that move? That's just too yesterday. She chills on her mom's lap.

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(Sparrow's dad loves baseball caps. It looks like the little guy will form attachments to them as well.)

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(She has that "little kids and grandmas! what are you gonna do with them" expression...)

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Time to put on your shoes, Primrose...

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That's me, happy to have had this magnificent set of hours with the whole brood here once more, at the table with two inserts stuck in to accommodate us all, and a beautiful table cloth that my friend Bee and I picked out in Paris...

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Life is always a tad more complicated than you may want, so I should note, for the record, that November ends with a lullaby alright, but with an asterik. My mom hasn't been feeling well lately. The kids had a good visit with her and Ed and I spent the day trying to fix some of the technical challenges she is facing, but, we cannot fix the fact that she is not feeling well.

What was that? A lightening flash outside? Pounding rain? Oh, November! You really are hellbent on inserting bits of trouble this year, aren't you?!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday after Thanksgiving

I love the day after Thanksgiving! You're still with family, you have great leftovers for the week ahead, and you fashion your own traditions. Important ones, slowly transitioning you to the next holiday.

But first, there are cats and chickens to feed.

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And farmhouse baby baths to give, and prebreakfast bowls of fruit to eat.  (Give her mango and she'll love you forever!)

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And grandma's lap to visit.

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We have this floating holiday tradition (it moves between holidays, depending on when all kids are in town): breakfast at Hubbard Avenue Diner.

There's a bit of a wait. That's a given.

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Finally, at the table. Cousins into cousins.

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(Sparrow keeps an eye on things...)

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Here's another tradition and this one is always between Thanksgiving and Christmas: a visit to Clasen's bakery. The one with the giant gingerbread house.

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... and with my favorite holiday cookies!

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One more destination: to the Christmas tree store across the street.

 ("Pick an ornament, Primrose! No, not that one! No, pick something else! An owl? Yessss!")

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The young family is looking for a small tree for the living room. We like this one!

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What's not to love about this day?!

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A pizza supper at Lucille's... (where the holiday lights are incredible!)

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Best day of my life, says a little one afterwards. A spontaneous outburst, perhaps because everything felt so family driven and so very special!

I'll end with a photo of the two of us at the farmhouse. I know, I know, the old sailor could do with a beard trim. One of these days. Perhaps when my head isn't so filled with the deliciousness of family comings and goings.

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Thursday, November 28, 2019


It's about family. Friends. Far and near. People: it's about people. Some of you may have many at your Thanksgiving table. At the grocery store, I was waiting to buy one slice of ham. Just one. I thought it could add something to the green bean plate. A woman standing next to me said -- oh, I'm having thirty for dinner! That's probably too many, isn't it? There was a note of both defiance and triumph in her voice. As if more is better.

More is not better. (And thirty is a little over the top, but hey, who am I to judge...) No one is counting. Your Thanksgiving should be as big or little as you want it to be. But no one is counting.

Our farmhouse Thanksgiving day begins with kitchen work. None of it is taxing, none of it is rushed.

I make the cranberry cornmeal muffins that should have been done yesterday and, too, the cranberry dressing. Simple. With orange stuff.

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The Madison young family comes in time for a late morning snack. Sort of a second breakfast (somewhere in there, I think there was a first breakfast).

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There is the parade to watch. There are books. There's food. Lots of food.

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("There's Santa Claus!")

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For me, there is the lovely warm hum of kitchen work.


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And in the early afternoon, my younger daughter arrives with her family!

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Primrose! You're getting to be such a grownup girl!

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Back in the kitchen, my daughter lends a hand. As does Sparrow...

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(Showing Snowdrop how to grate a nutmeg...)

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I'm a little preoccupied with the coordination of the meal. The veggies (brussels sprouts, green beans, corn) have last minute components. The stuffing and potatoes have to bake in the same oven as the turkey. Temperatures have to be adjusted. And so I only give an occasional glance to the activity in the other room...

(the dancing)

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Though I do pause to take a picture of the awesome threesome!

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Finally. The turkey is ready. The dark meat took significantly longer to reach the desired degree of doneness, but I am able to to stall everything so that it would all come together more or less at the same time.

It's both exhilarating and a relief when the meal is finally placed on the table and everyone sits down.
This is, after all, the whole holiday, right there, at the table, with the people you love so much!

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Dessert is easy! Pies. Not baked by me!

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And there you have it: the most heartwarming holiday of the year. Everyone is an equal player. Everyone belongs. And I am so very grateful to have all of them there today.

So, maybe you were at a meal with 29 others. Or perhaps your Thanksgiving merely meant that you talked to a bunch of family members on Facetime. It's all good. Indeed, beautiful to the core.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wednesday of Thanksgiving week

The morning begins with the two of us heading out to the barn together to try to figure out what happened to Peach. The brown chicken. Old, but reliable. She hadn't shown up last night for the ritual of locking up the coop at dusk. Ed and I searched everywhere for her, flashlights spanning the barn walls, favorite bushes, the garage -- nothing.

This morning, we hunt in the barn with the help of daylight. The five remaining cheepers come out, demand their corn and go about their business. What happened to your sister? You guys are so... corn focused!

We think we hear a quiet chirp, but the winds are high, the chickens are squawking their displeasure at the weather and the cats are meowing because we didn't feed them first. We're about to return to the farmhouse when Ed throws one glance behind a bunch of boards. We'd checked there before, but what we had missed was a small platform. Peach was there alright, wedged solid between boards. In other words, stuck. She must have tumbled down and then eventually fallen asleep. She would have surely died there had Ed passed the spot in our final search.

Chickens are really really slow witted about their surroundings.


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It's my day of cooking, but it starts slowly. Ed and I are feeling chatty about issues big and small. The cooking waits until it can wait no more.

Goal for today? Season and prep turkey. I've had the bird split up this year!

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Make gravy. Yes, really. A day ahead. A super duper gravy that has you roasting extra turkey wings with aromatics of mushrooms, ginger and garlic. It is the most complicated gravy I've ever made. It takes up the better part of the afternoon.

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The recipe calls for for tossing the extra turkey wings after I'm done milking them for their essential flavor. No way! I mine them for shreds of turkey meat which Ed and I use for a supper of stuffed turkey tortillas. Shhhh! Don't tell anyone we ate turkey the day before Thanksgiving!

What else? Make stuffing.

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Pick up pies. That's right  -- pick up. Not bake. Pick up.

There are other things on my list. Muffins. Cranberries. Prep this, prep that. But I don't get there. I end with the gravy and the stuffing.

I mean, there's always tomorrow, no?

Happy, happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tuesday of Thanksgiving week

There's no room for foolery now. I get down to business.

The calm moment is still there during the morning walk to the sheep shed...

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... and at breakfast...

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... But immediately after, I make inroads on my grocery shopping. For the meals of Thanksgiving day. For the weekend eating too. People coming and going, Here for one meal, gone the next. You have to keep that calendar of events straight!

Check off that list:

Sage, who doesn't need sage for this day! rosemary. -- no, I grow that. Thyme.
Eggs. Cheepers aren't laying, so eggs.
Yukon gold potatoes. Hmmm... Are they the same as plain old "gold potatoes?" They better be!
Black peppercorns. Pink, too, if I find them. Nah... That's just too fussy. Unnecessarily jacking up the price of things.
Green stuff: brussels sprouts, green beans, celery, parsley.
Ginger. Ginger?? Ginger.
Mushrooms and onions and garlic -- a holiday trilogy.
Extra turkey wings! (For the gravy. Ed will snack on the remains.)
Dairy: milk, buttermilk, butter, cream. And I'm not even baking! Much.
Good white bread. I like that directive! Better be "good!" I ask at the bakery -- is this good? She glares at me. Happy holidays to you too!
And then there are the other meals. Oatmeal, granola, wheat bread, cheese. More eggs. Spaghetti. Chips, nuts, cookies. Oranges.

Turkey!!! Cut up into five pieces this year, because Bon Appetit insists it's the only way to get it right!

The list is long.

I wanted to start in on the cooking today as well, but, the shopping took forever and in the afternoon, I had these two little peanuts to mind.

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Sweet moods, both of them.

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Can you cook a full Thanksgiving meal in less than two days? We shall see!