Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

The Rest of the Weekend

The Rest of the Weekend

So, I had three days off, no appreciable housework to do and no guests.

For a few minutes Friday morning, I honestly had no idea what to do with myself.

Then I remembered I had spinning to finish.  So I queued up the Netflix and finally watched North and South (the BBC version, not the cheesy 80’s American one) while I plied my yarn.  By the time the series ended (took me a while to get into it, but by the end I was fixated), I had finished a lovely yarn.

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330 yards of fingering weight in a camel/silk blend.  I wish you could feel this stuff.  I swear to god, it’s softer than kitten fur.  This was a test spin to see if I would like this for a post-surgery sweater.  OMG I can’t wait until January when I can order my sweater quantity!  I’m already knitting this up into a beaded cowl.  Pictures as it develops.

Once that was done, I decided to take on another craft project.  I had to run to the grocery store anyway, so I stopped at Lowes and got rubber grommets, dowels and teeny tiny cup hooks to do a proof of concept test for a twist on CD drop spindles.  Not bad for a test.

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These are far from finished.  I need to shape the dowels into something more attractive and at least wax them, if not stain them.  I also want to glue the CDs together for stability and glue them into the grommet, and glue the grommet to the dowel.  But I did try spinning with these, and was pleasantly surprised to find that while they’re a tad heavy (1.5 oz on the poplar shaft and 1.75 on the oak shaft), they spin fast and balanced and for a long time, all the way to the floor while I’m standing.  And even though I was spinning for a fingering weight single, it didn’t break the thread even with the weight.  They should get a little lighter as I shape the dowels, but in general I’m really pleased.

I took a break for dinner and invented a recipe.  Sweet Potato Salmon Patties.  I used the leftover sweet potatoes from Thanksgiving that I made from this recipe (which was EXCELLENT and which I will definitely make again).  For each cup of potatoes (I used 2), I added one large can of salmon and one cup of breadcrumbs.  You could use dried, but I threw some of the leftover rolls in the food processor and made fresh.  Add an egg and salt and pepper to taste.  If you have plain old mashed sweet potatoes, you could also add some garlic powder or any other seasoning that floats your boat.  Mix it together by hand and shape it into 4 patties, then fry them up in a little nonstick spray (or butter if you’re decadent) on medium heat, and voila.  These tasted great and were VERY filling.  And used up most of the leftover sweet potatoes.  Yay!

After that, I got on the computer to work on another art project.  See, I’m getting to the point where I want to open an Etsy store, but I need product.  The drop spindles will be one of the items.  I love that they’re done label side out, so you can buy one that reflects your personality.  I’m going to comb thrift stores and yard sales for CDs with interesting labels from now on.  But I need a logo for the store, and I want to sell labels and tags as well as some other paper goods, like project pages for knitting or spinning project binders.  I know I want my logo to be based on the paisley shape, but I wanted a personal one, so I started drawing my own.  I scanned the version I’d been working on into Photoshop and started playing with it, drawing shapes, building using existing shapes, and learning how to path text.  I ended up with this:

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I’m very pleased with it (although I think I may need to redraw the pentacle).  And I think I’m going to do the labels/tags with different quotes in the text paths when I put them up for sale.  So I’m excited about that!

Unfortunately, the rest of the weekend wasn’t as artsy as Friday.  Saturday I had to take Morgan into the city so he could do an assignment for his art history class, which wasn’t so bad, as it meant I got to spend an hour or so at Nikki’s (and she got to try the drop spindle.  She approved).  Then home to try a new recipe, Lasagna Rollups.  The idea was a thumbs up from everyone, although Hero wasn’t crazy about the spinach.  Sunday wasn’t much better.  I planned to spend the whole day in front of the TV knitting, but then the DVD/VCR player died, and since it was still Black Whatever, I figured I’d hit Best Buy and get a cheap replacement, plus I’d been needing to replace Hero’s lost phone.  So we risked Best Buy, which wasn’t horrible.  The first time.  But then we got home, and I found out that the Blu-Ray player I’d gotten for $50 was the wired kind, not the wireless, so I had to take it back.  Finally got that up and running (thankfully I’d been smart enough to buy an HDMI cable when we were there the first time), and it is pretty sweet.  I can stream everything right from the player.  Except DropBox.  But I think I figured out how to stream stuff to it from my computer, so we’ll see.  And then I realized that Virgin and Verizon phones have almost exactly the same packaging, and of course I’d gotten the wrong one, so back we went to swap THAT.  I’m so sick of Best Buy right now.  Got home and made another batch of cinnamon rolls and the one and only batch of turkey noodle soup (which was fabulous!), packed up all the remaining leftovers and said farewell to Thanksgiving and a hearty hello to Christmas.

Christmas?  Already?  Yeah, I know, my usual rule is no decorating before my birthday on the 17th, but we were out, and I’d just gotten paid.  I’d complained to Hero on our way home from BB that no one local was selling trees yet this year, and she suggested we go by the church that usually does tree sales.  I hadn’t seen any signs, so I doubted they would, but we went to check, and sure enough, this was their first day selling them.  For $30, we got a lovely 5 foot Douglas fir that was just cut three days before so it still smelled magnificent.  We set it right up in the living room so it could settle in, have a good drink and start making the house smell like Christmas.  The kids and I did the lights last night, and we’ll poke at decorating as they have time this week.  No pressure, just a relaxed easing into the holiday.  It’s so easy to do when the house is clean.  Doesn’t feel overwhelming.  For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to it!

Thanks Given

Thanks Given

Sorry for the long silence.  Thanksgiving took a lot out of me.  It was good, don’t get me wrong.  Probably one of the easier ones I’ve had in a long time.  But still, tiring.

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The snow came, and while it wasn’t too bad here, Gabe got hammered.  10″ of heavy snow, and trees down all over the county.  So they didn’t come down.  We’ll see them at Christmas, though.  And in the end, it made for a restful weekend where I didn’t have to entertain.

The food came out perfectly.  I’ve always gotten compliments on my turkey before, but the dry brining I tried made it just perfect.  I was worried that the poultry seasoning was going to be too strong on the meat, but it really just infused it and made it beautiful.  I literally did nothing to the bird except for adding half a stick of butter and about half a cup of olive oil and tented it, then cooked it at 375 for 5 hours.  Bear in mind that this sucker was 24 pounds.  When it’s free, you get as much as you can.  The only think I had to watch was the fat/juice release nearly overflowed the roasting pan, so I had to siphon some of it off halfway through.  Although that ended up as a plus, because it let me get an early start on the gravy.  I did manage to burn a batch of the cornmeal muffins (those puppies were just cursed), and I probably won’t keep the mashed potatoes in the crockpot again, because they lost their lovely texture, but otherwise I had no complaints.

After our traditional “grace” of going around the table and everyone saying something that they’re thankful for for the year (which the kids are getting better at.  No passes this year!), we ate semi-buffet style, and took our time.  Which was nice for me, because I couldn’t eat much as it was, and taking our time meant I had enough to at least try everything.  I got all my protein in, and sampled everything else in 1/4 cup amounts, although I still somehow found room for three cinnamon rolls.  An hour later when we got up from the table, we’d put a good dent in the food.  I think I’m getting better at estimating how much food we’ll need, although losing one hungry teenager did put a crimp in my calculations.  We cleared the table, and I got the kids going on the dishes while I packed up the leftovers and the Ex and his dad took naps in the living room.  I’m also getting better at dismembering a turkey.  I think the new knife helped.  I got actual slices this year instead of just shredded meat!  It was 5:30 or 6 before we were ready for pie and games  Ex and FiL left around 7:30.  I also managed to squeeze in spinning wheel lessons for Nikki.  I don’t think she’s been bitten yet, but it’s gotten her thinking.  And she did say she learn something about the mechanics of drafting, so just the little bit she did was productive.

I drove her home around 9, and oy.  Everyone from the city had apparently been out to the ‘burbs for the holiday and were all going back home at the same time.  The traffic all the way down was atrocious.  It took almost double the time it usually does to get to her place.  Which was okay, because we have great conversations driving in the car.  The traffic going back wasn’t bad, so I was home by 11.

Best part of the day?  When I went to bed, the house, even the kitchen, was still clean.  Talk about receiving a dividend!  The rest of the weekend reaped the benefits of my commitment.

But that’s another post.  Or two.

Turkey Eve

Turkey Eve

That was a productive day.  I’m pooped!

Got started early, just because I had to get the kids to school at 7:30.  First up was the pies.

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I’ll be honest, I was not optimistic about that pie dough.  It was very crumbly, and I was sure it wouldn’t roll out well.  But I’d just heard a tip on the radio about rolling it out between two pieces of plastic wrap, so I tried that.  Wonder of wonders, it worked!  In fact, I think the plastic wrap helped keep it together when I moved it onto the pie pan.  I removed one side, then rolled the dough onto the rolling pin dough side on the pin, then unrolled it dough side down onto the pie plate.  With the plastic wrap still in place, I then was able to shape it in without tearing it.  Once I had it how I wanted it, I removed the plastic wrap and trimmed the edges.  It took a long time to roll out, but in the end I was very happy with that recipe (except for needing to double the liquid, but I think the vodka worked!).  I did the crust for the pumpkin pie, then went full out on the apple.  I was really missing those gigantic apples we got in New York in October.  Ten apples is a lot to peel.  My hands are still a little cramped.  But it was worth it.

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That may be the best looking apple pie I’ve ever made.

No time for the pumpkin, though, as I had to go do the grocery shopping.  By this time, the morning’s rain had turned to heavy, wet snow.

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Not that I was complaining.  But not really snowpocalypse.  At least not for me.  While I was out, we got the call that they were letting school out early (only an hour, which really?  At that point, why bother?).  I was a bit surprised that the store wasn’t more crazed, but it wasn’t bad.  I got everything without too much problem, and even finally found the gravy master!  My last bottle was about 18 years old and had given up the ghost last year.  One more stop to get gas and then it was back to the kitchen.

I threw a pork paprikash into the crockpot, since I knew by dinnertime I’d be a zombie, and then dove back in.  First up was the pumpkin pie, now that I had the evaporated milk I needed.

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Again, probably the best looking one I’ve ever made.  I even put tinfoil on the edges to keep it from burning!

Next up was the cheesy cauliflower.  Two heads of cauliflower and a batch of the Good Housekeeping Welsh Rarebit recipe and we were good.

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I made this while the pie was cooking and stuck it in the fridge to be baked off tomorrow.  The pie took FOREVER to bake through, so while I waited, I polished up my MiL’s silver bread basket.

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I love polishing silver.  It’s like magic.  This thing was almost black.  I had no hope of getting it shiny again.  I was wrong.

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Isn’t it pretty?

With that done and the oven free, it was finally time for the epic project of the day.  The squash.  You remember the squash, right?

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15 pounds of pure vegetal goodness.  Blue Hubbard squashes are hard to find, but they’re kind of special in my family.  My mom can remember her uncle growing them on his truck farm and her mother bashing them apart with a hatchet to cook them.  She took up the hatchet tradition, and my kids have their own memories of Grammy out back like a crazy woman, bludgeoning this poor, helpless squash with an axe.  But now that Mom’s in Virginia, it was my turn to take up the hatchet.

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It was a bit of a massacre.  In the end it filled two cookie sheets.

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Put it in at 350 for what ended up being about two hours.  It smelled marvelous, and ended up making about 10 cups of squash.  We’ll have half of it tomorrow, and I’ll portion out the rest for whenever I want a healthy side dish.  I love squash, so there’s no such thing as too much for me.

I took a little snack break and ended up with a lapful of mooching rabbit.

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She has absolutely no shame!

And that was the worst of the cooking.  I’d been very good about cleaning up after myself as I went along, so all I had left to do was bleach the counters and sweep and spot mop the floor before I could finally go and take a nap.  Bliss!

Dinner was good, a recipe I’ll definitely make again.  Morgan was disappointed there wasn’t more, so yay!  Now he’s downstairs doing the last of the dishes, I’m all caught up on Agents of SHIELD and Sleepy Hollow, I finished spinning the singles for my latest spinning project and the bread for the stuffing is in the oven for tomorrow.

So that’s it, the worst of it done.  Tomorrow is just roasting the turkey and boiling all the things.  I may have to run out for a couple of odds and ends, but I’m thinking all in all, tomorrow will be a fairly mellow day.  We’re still waiting to hear if Gabe and Owen will make it down.  Fingers crossed.  They’ve gotten 9″ so far and are still under a winter storm warning until 1, so no idea how much more they’ll get.  But he’s going to wait until morning to decide.  Hopefully NYDoT is on the ball.  The kids really want to see their cousin!

Breaking Bread

Breaking Bread

So, Sunday was bread day.

It got a little…over the top.

But it started with cleaning.  Hero had Odyssey of the Mind and Morgan had a game that afternoon, so the last push on the playroom had to be that morning.  And surprisingly, it didn’t take that long.  Maybe an hour, hour and a half to get the floor all picked up, donations put aside and trash out.  The back part of the room is still stacked with stuff, but it’s tidy now.  Much of that is good storage boxes that I didn’t want to get rid of until I had a better sense of what we needed to store, so I can start getting rid of those now.

Because, guys, that’s it.  That’s my masterlist all but done.  Now it’s the narrow-focus, target specific cleaning/organizing jobs.  All those weird little spaces that everyone has where things collect until you know what to do with them.  That’s where I’m at.  Time to revist all my lists.  Although I have to get index cards made up for the playroom now.

I had just enough time before taking Hero to OM to throw together the first batch of dough.  The infamous cinnamon roll dough.

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Not a complicated recipe, but not very detailed.  Which is part of why I have had so much trouble with it over the years.  But knowing what I do now, I set to work.  I have to ask Mom if I’m supposed to cream the sugar and shortening before I start adding things, but it seemed to turn out well with a little tweaking for moisture content.

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Stuck that in the oven and then ran Hero over to her meeting.  Got back and started the oatmeal dough recipe, as that was also a double rise dough.  Finished that just in time to check the cinnamon roll rise.

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I think it liked it.  Punched that down and added the oatmeal dough to the oven for it’s first rise.  Then on to the cornmeal dough.

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Things got moving fast at this point, so I forgot to take many pictures.  The cinnamon roll dough was ready to go to work by the time I got the cornmeal dough done, so I knocked it down, cut it in half and realized I didn’t know how thick to roll it out to (and Mom didn’t answer her phone).  My cutting board is about 10″x14″, so I rolled the first half out to that size, buttered it (brushing the butter on instead of pouring it on so as not to get it too thick) and then I used a fine strainer to put the sugar and cinnamon on to get an even layer that also wasn’t too thick.  I got two nice pans and a pie plate with some to have for dinner that night as my test subject.  They got put aside for their last rise.

Then I knocked down the oatmeal dough and started on the cornmeal rolls, which only needed one rise.  I wanted to do something different with those, so I decided to try cloverleaf rolls with them.  So I hunked up the dough, rolled it out, cut it into 1″ pieces, rolled them into balls, dipped them in the leftover butter from the cinnamon rolls and dropped them into greased muffin tins.  Took all three of my 12 count tins plus a 6 count that we’d have with dinner that night.  Those got set aside to rise.  Finally the oatmeal dough was ready, so I took that out and preheated the oven.

The oatmeal dough got yet a different treatment.  I quartered that, divided each quarter into thirds and then rolled each third into a snake, which I then braided.  Then with my bench knife I hunked each braid into 6-8 pieces, pinched the ends off and put them on a parchement lined cookie sheet.  As an afterthought, I think I didn’t roll each piece thin enough, and I think the oatmeal dough was too coarse for this application.  I should probably have switched with oatmeal and cornmeal dough applications and would have had better results.  But they’re still interesting!

The baking plan was to par-bake everything and then freeze it, to be finished off the day of.  Unfortunately, I forgot to lower the heat of the oven to account for my darker muffin tins.  So the cinnamon rolls came out as planned (although I think I rolled them a bit too thin.  I blame Mom.), but the cornmeal rolls cooked all the way through and one of the pans all had dark bottoms.  *sigh*  The batch in the aluminum pan cooked as intended, though, so those will at least be okay.  And the braided rolls came out exactly as intended, ready to be baked off as needed.  Anything I don’t use for Thanksgiving will make interesting sandwich rolls.

The production in all its glory:

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That’s a lot of bread for 9 people.  But I know the cinnamon rolls won’t make it through dinner.  I’ll probably have to make another batch for soup night.  Darn.

Got those packed away in the freezer, cleaned up the kitchen, and had just enough time to throw together pie crust dough before I had to get Hero.  I decided to try Ina Garten’s pie crust recipe in the food processor.  Meh.  Well, so far.  It’s still in the fridge, so we’ll see what happens when I roll it out.  As with most pie crust recipes, it was too dry, but I’d learned the trick for dry pastry dough.  Vodka.  It gives you the liquid you need in making the dough, but evaporates in the baking so it doesn’t leave your pie crust flat.  Good thing, too, because I ended up using about twice the amount of liquid called for.  I think next year I’ll go back to my old Good Housekeeping recipe and the hand pastry blender.  But tis done, and I have two batches of dough wrapped in plastic wrap and in the fridge for tonight.  Tonight will be pies and turkey brining.  In between dragging Hero hither and yon.  Again.

But I got a call from Gabe this morning.  The weather forecast is calling for 12 inches of snow up their way on Wednesday night.  He’s not sure they’re going to be able to make it down.  Since we’re supposed to get 3-5″ (or a dusting, depending on who you listen to), now I’m panicking that my plans for Gabe to help me do the front walk should maybe get moved up.  It’s 70 freakin’ degrees here right now, and it will be warm tomorrow as well.  With some focus and quick work, Morgan and I could get the sidewalk dug tonight, maybe even get the whole thing laid while the ground is still soft.  Because it’s going back down to lots of cold weather after that.  And I can do the pies on Wednesday, since I’m home all day for exactly this purpose.  And since the house is mostly clean, I don’t have to do that then, so…

Morgan’s not going to be happy…

It’s What’s for (Thanksgiving) Dinner

It’s What’s for (Thanksgiving) Dinner

Tired of hearing me go on about my house cleaning?  How about a week of me cooking?  (I promise obsessive fandom is coming.  Only 27 days until The Hobbit!) Thanksgiving is actually one of my favorite holidays to host.  It’s just a meal.  And it’s not even that hard a meal, once you’ve done it a couple of times.  The menu is kind of pre-set based on your culture and experience.  People want the same things they’ve always had for Thanksgiving.  No surprises.  In our house that means:

  • Turkey
  • Celery butter stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Squash
  • Cinnamon rolls
  • boiled onions
  • glazed carrots
  • Apple, pumpkin and lemon meringue pie

The only places I get to be inventive is with the side dishes.  I usually try to do something green and something just different.  I’m sick of getting stuck with a ton of leftover Brussel sprouts, though, so this year I’m doing cauliflower.  Still trying to decide whether to do cheese cauliflower or roasted parmesan, though.  And I’m adding mashed sweet potatoes this year, just because they’re better for me.  And I get to be a bit creative in how I prepare things, so I’m tweaking the turkey prep this year (I’ll tell you about that on Monday). As it’s Saturday, I’m doing my weekly deep clean.  I’m off work on Wednesday, so I can spruce up any little things, but I want the bulk of it done today.  Which isn’t as bad as it has been in past years.  No shoving stuff in boxes to hide it until we can deal with it later this year.  I’m not going to get the front hall floor scrubbed, but we don’t hang out there, so I’m okay with that.  For now.  But there will be some mopping and a lot of dusting.  And dishes.  Lots and lots of dishes. So brace yourself.  I’m going to be blogging my Thanksgiving prep.  Could be fun.  There will be an axe involved, so there may even be bloodshed!  Stay tuned!