Saturday, November 27, 2010

old dogs, new blogs and continuing education


homeschool mom: a field guide

     The other evening I ran into a woman I knew in a previous life... my homeschool mom life. I hadn't seen her in years, even though we both reside in the same town. She told me she returned to college to get her Masters' degree, hoping to keep her aging brain active and healthy. Now that I am no longer reading textbooks on a daily basis, that thought has crossed my mind more than once.     
     For the past few days, I have been attempting to learn more about all of the things associated with blogging, like fixing the computer when it freezes up, or what to do when I tell it to download a program and it politely declines.
     One of my sisters-in-law is a web designer. She talked me into purchasing several domain names that go along with my blog, but now that I own them, I can't remember what she told me to do next. I have tried to lure her to Georgia for a weekend of relaxation, (while secretly plotting a private lesson,) but she is busy taking care of my brother, moving to the country and shopping for chickens. I guess I'm on my own.
     A while back, I casually mentioned my blog to my technology-free sister. Me: "I started a blog during the summer." Her: "What does that mean?"  My husband, who is only interested in possible monetary gain, is not following me at all. It is so nice to have the support of your family. My eldest daughter is following via Twitter, which still confuses me. I'm not sure what she sees when she's reading what I wrote. All the symbols and limitations on post size do not encourage me to tweet.

lulu, our resident 'old dog'
     So, I continue to plug along, celebrating loudly when I figure something new out. See the picture behind the title? A mere forty five minutes... after I read the Housewife's post on picasa web albums. At the rate things are changing, I'd better get busy. I have a lot to learn!
The lesson here is, you can teach an old dog new tricks... I'm so proud!

romancing the bird

     Well, my favorite of holidays is upon us and I have been scurrying around like a squirrel hiding acorns for winter. A warm, walnut coffee cake was the star of our holiday breakfast. Two pies, one homemade pecan and a small store-bought pumpkin, ready for the big day. My daughter, never tiring of dress-up materializes clothed in fur and feathers. We wait impatiently for the Pilgrims to arrive.
         


     Four kinds of cubed bread, baguette, challah, whole wheat and pumpernickel were dried on racks for the dressing. I made a pan of plain dressing with only celery, onion and sage, as well as a more adventurous one with added diced apples, mushrooms, raisins, dried cranberries and pecans. The adventurous one turned out to be the fave.
     A spinach and romaine salad with candied pecans, crumbled goat cheese, diced tart apples and dried cranberries await a toss with Bacon-Apple dressing. Rice was steamed for the rice lovers, baby sweet potatoes tossed with a small amount of olive oil, then sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar and kosher salt and roasted in the oven. Sheet pans filled with croissants wait for a place in one of the ovens.
     Our formerly-feathered friend, Brother Tom as he's known in our house each year, is golden brown and waiting to be carved. He has been massaged with an herb-garlic butter paste scented with lemon zest and cooked in a brown-in bag. This is the only way I ever cook turkeys and they turn out perfect every time. He is stuffed with bunches of fresh rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley, plucked from my yard, plus an onion and a lemon. The house is filled with the most amazing aroma!    
     The Rowes, who are our Georgia family arrive with armloads of goodies. Green beans, squash casserole, mashed potatoes, two kinds of cranberry sauce, grandma's eight-layer chocolate cake and a pumpkin bread pudding with two sauces. Both sweet and unsweetend tea sit on the sideboard. I haven't even eaten and I can hardly breathe looking at the spread. None of us will need to cook for a week.
     It's Thanksgiving... gluttony is okay for one day, isn't it? Each takes turns saying what we are thankful for, then my husband thanks God for His love, patience and never-ending provision. We are truly blessed. As we got a late start, our dessert-only guests, in a progressive dinner of their own design, begin arriving with chocolate pecan brownie pie in hand and the din increases. Happy voices mingle with the mmm's and oohh's. Plates are scraped clean with a final bite of crescent roll. Coffee is brewing and desserts are plated. Have I mentioned how much I love Thanksgiving? I really think it should last a whole month! Don't you?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

harvest salad & turkey day soup


     In my previous post, moms' night out, I regaled you with highlights of our fabulous evening. Lest you think I have forgotten the reason you are tuning in... the actual recipes, let me assure you that I did not.
Harvest Salad with Bacon-Apple Vinaigrette
Ingredients                                                                        
1 head Romaine lettuce, torn                                
1 bag, baby spinach leaves                                        
1 log goat cheese, sliced into rounds                          
1/2 cup dried cranberries                                           
3 granny smith apples, diced
crumbled bacon                                      
1/4 cup, candied pecans                                             
freshly ground black pepper                                       
for the dressing:
1 T. bacon drippings
2/3 c. salad oil
1 can frozen apple juice
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
2/3 c. sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/4 t. pepper
Directions:
Mix together vinegar, apple juice concentrate, and sugar in small mixing bowl. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add garlic, salt, paprika and pepper. Whisk in bacon drippings and oil. Toss romaine and spinach leaves. Place on salad plates. Arrange goat cheese on top of greens. Grind some black pepper over cheese slices. Add cranberries, apples and pecans. Serve dressing on the side. Use it very sparingly... a little goes a long way.
Turkey Day Soup
Ingredients:
6 c. turkey stock, heated and divided in half
4 to 6 c. red skin potatoes, diced
1 stick unsalted butter
2 medium onions, diced
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. turkey, cooked and chopped
salt and pepper
pinch of poultry seasoning
can of whole berry cranberry sauce
Directions
In medium saucepan, cook potatoes in 3 c. turkey stock until tender. Set aside undrained. Melt butter in deep stock pot. Saute onions until translucent. Sprinkle with flour and let brown a little. Slowly add the remaining hot turkey stock. Simmer 5 or 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Add potatoes with cooking liquid. Add meat, black pepper and pinch of poultry seasoning. Taste and season with salt. Simmer 15 minutes. Place soup in bowl, topping with a small scoop of whole berry cranberry sauce, just before serving.
     The idea to use the little disposable shot glasses as individual salad dressing cups came from a business lunch I attended with my husband last summer in Orlando. The hotel served us a huge salad and right in the center of the bowl was a slender little glass containing our dressing! Each cup is two ounces, so even the most ardent dressing-lover had plenty.

Friday, November 19, 2010

moms' night out


     For the ten years I have lived in Georgia, I have had the privilege to be part of a group of extraordinary women, with extraordinary families. FEFC, which stands for Family Education for Christ, is a multi-county, homeschool support group located in and around the Savannah area. As my last child graduated from high school in May, I now have the distinct title of Alumni Mom, as do many of my friends now retired from teaching. 
     In case you are uneducated on the subject of parent-led schooling, let me give you a little insight. Homeschooling is not for wimps or the faint of heart. It takes courage, stamina, love and patience, and is more successful when guided by the hand of God. It is difficult to do alone without a huge measure of Grace. 
     Tuesday night, I catered the annual FEFC Christmas Dinner, at which children, from toddlers to teens, are banished. This night is a lovely, low key affair meant to relax and recharge the batteries of these amazingly tireless women. I was asked to make a simple soup and salad menu. The ladies were bringing homemade desserts to share.
     I chose a fabulous soup that gave a little preview to the upcoming holidays. The recipe itself came, over fifteen years ago from a dear friend, Melodee. My family has come to expect it as an after-Thanksgiving tradition and like to cozy up to a bowl when the thermometer plummets.
     It has roast turkey, new potatoes and onion in a thick, hearty broth that resembles gravy. I place a small spoonful of cranberry sauce in the top of each steaming bowl just before serving. The salad compliments the soup, marrying the flavors of tart granny smith apples and dried cranberries, salty goat cheese and candied pecans with sweet and smoky Bacon-Apple Dressing.
     Smiling faces surrounded the dinner table on Tuesday, as tummies were filled and spirits lifted. The menu was simple, the homemade desserts lavish and tasty, a holiday craft table added a little fun, but the company of friends shined brighter than the brightest candle on the table.
     As we approach the week of Thanksgiving, I wish a meaningful holiday for each of you. That you will take a little time to be thankful for what you do have and completely forget to worry over what you don't have. A friend whose mother has terminal cancer told me that all the obsessing usually done over the perfect table setting, the napkins and name tags, the menu and party favors, has ceased to exist.
     The priority this year, is time. Time with her mom, with children and grandchildren, with close friends.  Time is a precious commodity, one that cannot be held in our hands. May your time with loved ones be blessed, may your stomachs be full and spirits overflowing.  Happy Thanksgiving! 



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

soup week blankets the world!

     Shortly after I declared it to be soup week here at nutritionista diaries, I noticed a post from The Church Cook's blog for a Leek and Potato soup recipe. If you would like to see The Church Cook's blog, go to: thechurchcook.blogspot.com. She is located right down the road from me in Savannah, Georgia and like me, spends much of her time feeding the faithful congregation of her church.


the housewife

     This morning, my friend, The Housewife, located in Tennessee, posted a recipe for Corn Tortilla soup. For a glimpse into her fascinating, but snarky world, go to: domesticemancipation.blogspot.com.
     Both soups sound fabulous! And these blogs are two of my favorites. I am excited to have others participating in this tiny little event being celebrated mainly in my own little blog-world. And I am happy to have more recipes to try.
So many recipes, so little time!

chickin lickin': four soups to crow about

     Now that we have learned how to make rich, delicious stock, what do we do with it? Well, it is autumn, the very best time of the year to me, a perfect time to make things that are comforting to your soul! I don't know if you have the same reaction, but when I smell the rich stock simmering, then taste the flavors of the vegetables and other ingredients together, I am reminded of my childhood. The feeling of coziness, being safe, happy, without a care in the world. With the crazy pace of our daily lives, it may only last a skinny minute, but I'll take what I can get.
     The following soup recipes, using homemade chicken stock, will get you started. Don't have homemade? Well, I'll let it slide this time. Use a good quality, canned stock, if you must. But next time the rotisserie chickens are on sale, get a few and throw them in the freezer. Then make your own... I promise, you'll be glad you did!
Chicken Chili-Stew
     This soup came into our family, like many other dishes, as a Weight Watcher recipe from one of my mom's friends. My mom, a lifetime member, prepared this frequently. Our family loves this soup and yours will as well. It is very easy to make and is great for a busy weeknight meal. I add cornbread and, you guessed it, a salad. My favorite go-to cornbread is still the economical Jiffy mix in the little blue and white box. I throw in a small, drained can of mexi-corn and bake it up. We rarely have leftovers.
Ingredients:
2 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, any color… yellow is sweetest, green is the strongest
1 pound cooked chicken (frozen, fajita-seasoned breast meat is a fast and delicious option.)
2 cans stewed tomatoes
2 cans, fat free, chicken broth or 4 cups, homemade stock
1 can pinto beans, drained
2/3 c. salsa
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cumin
½ t. salt
Black pepper to taste
In large pot, saute onion, garlic and bell pepper until soft. Add all other ingredients. Simmer 30 minutes and serve.
Chicken Gumbo
     One of my favorite soups as a child was Chicken Gumbo. For some reason, you cannot talk me into eating slimy okra and tomatoes, but add chicken stock, rice and a few chunks of chicken and I'm all over it! We did eat the Campbell's canned version, but my mom also made homemade Chicken and Gumbo.
Ingredients:
1 quart chicken stock
1 onion, chopped
1 pound cooked chicken
1 c. frozen green beans
1 c. sliced, fresh okra
2 cans stewed tomatoes
½ c. raw rice
salt and pepper
Directions:
In large pot, saute onion until soft. Add remaining ingredients, except for rice. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add rice, cooking until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Italian Bread Soup
Ingredients:
2 T. olive oil
2 oz. pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
½ t. red pepper flakes
2 c. day-old crusty bread, cut into large cubes
1 can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
6 c. chicken stock, preferably homemade
Salt and fresh ground, black pepper to taste.
Pinch of sugar
Fresh basil leaves
Heat oil in large saucepan. Brown pancetta, red pepper flakes, garlic and onion. Add bread cubes and turn in oil until coated. (Bread also helps to thicken soup.) Add remaining ingredients. (The pinch of sugar neutralizes the acid in tomatoes.) Simmer for 20 minutes and serve. This soup is great as a first course, instead of a salad. You can also make it a meal by adding a salad, if you like. And if you are one of those 'Where's the Beef' kind of people, don't whine... just add a little meat to your salad.
Chicken Noodle
Ingredients:
1 t. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs, celery, diced
2 c. diced, cooked chicken
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 c. egg noodles
salt and pepper
pinch of poultry seasoning or sage.
Directions:
Place oil in deep stock pot. Heat, then add onion, carrots and celery. (You may have heard of this being used together frequently. The combination of onion, celery and carrots is a classic seasoning mix called by the French, miripoix. Pronounced, ‘mir-i-pwoh.’) Saute until translucent. Add Chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes. After simmering, add chicken and ½ cup egg noodles. Cook until noodles are tender. Season with salt, pepper and sage. Congratulations, you have a winning bowl of chicken noodle soup!

Monday, November 15, 2010

zesty beef soup: a perfect model for other soups

     One way to increase your recipe repertoire is by using a basic recipe and changing the key ingredients to make an entirely new dish. This also helps to avoid the boredom of preparing the same thing over and over. Plus it makes you look very smart and accomplished in the kitchen!
     The following recipe is one that can be used to create an infinite number of soup variations. By using a different stock and meat combination, the style, taste and characteristics of the original are transformed into a brand new soup! I am including two ground beef variations. Whether making your own stock or buying one at the store, many options are readily available. In the organic section of the supermarket you can find not only beef and chicken stocks, but also vegetable, seafood and mushroom stocks. These are rich, not watery and ready to serve.

zesty beef soup
Ingredients:
1 quart (or 2- 15 oz. cans) beef stock, preferably homemade
1 pound, lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 bag, frozen mixed vegetables (a mixture such as corn, carrots, and green beans)
2 cans, Italian stewed tomatoes
1 t. dried oregano
½ c. uncooked noodles, any type
Directions:
Brown ground beef and onion in large soup pot. Drain and return to pot. Add all ingredients except noodles. Simmer 15 minutes. Add noodles and cook until tender. Serve with salad and bread for a healthy, hearty meal.

variations
The quantities in this soup recipe make it easy to substitute other items for a different result. As long as you stick with the amounts used, the sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity. This recipe serves four hearty eaters or six smaller appetites. Since most of the ingredients are cooked, canned or frozen, it can be easily doubled or tripled.
southwestern beef
Substitute plain or southwest style stewed tomatoes for Italian tomatoes in original recipe. Add 1 can of chili beans instead of mixed veggies. Omit oregano and add some cumin and/or fresh cilantro. If you wish, you can use rice instead of noodles or pasta.

minestrone
This Italian vegetable soup is meatless. Start by sautéing the onion and one clove of minced garlic. Add one quart of vegetable stock or water, 2 cans Italian stewed tomatoes and 1 can of cannelini (white) beans. Carrots, potatoes, corn, zucchini, peas and green beans can be included. Just keep the amount of veggies roughly equal to one another. Add a few pieces of chopped, fresh rosemary. Ditilani (small, cut) pasta works well with this soup, but stars or alphabets are fun, too.

Note:  If you are not a fan of the cow, this recipe can be altered. Ground turkey may be used instead of the pound of ground beef in any variation. Frozen, fajita-seasoned chicken breast is readily available in the freezer section of the food stores. This meat gives great flavor to Mexican or southwestern inspired dishes, is quick and convenient. You will want to adjust broth selection to match meat. Any soup can be made into a meatless or vegetarian meal. Vegetable or mushroom broth is an alternative to chicken or beef stock. Beans are a great source of protein and can be a substitute for meat.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Food Maven's favortie veggie soup: it is soup nazi-good!

     I am a soup person... some are not. I could eat homemade soup several times a week. My husband is one of the nots, but I am hard at work trying to convert him. When I succeed, this soup will get all the credit.
     My twin flame and fellow blogger, Michelle, swears that homemade soup, topped with fresh spinach and parmesan will cure anything that ails you and my entire family would unanimously agree.
     This is my favorite soup and I make this on a regular basis. It doubles and triples well. I have also served this to 100 or so, hungry church members. They slurped it up, returning the bowls empty without whining about hating veggies or soup not being a real meal. So, if you are whining for any reason while reading this post, stop it.
     If you are a vegg-e-phobe (technical term,) please try the fresh spinach at least ONE time. It wilts, resembles a harmless leaf of basil and will taste like everything else in the soup. Pile on the parm to disguise it even more. This is a great way to fool yourself and other picky people you know into eating healthy green things. Your heart and arteries will thank you. When serving as a meal, add a nice salad and a hot, crusty loaf of bread.

Ingredients:
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, sliced
2 cans, fire roasted tomatoes, undrained
1 lb. bag, frozen cut green beans
1 lb. bag, frozen kernel corn
1 tsp. italian seasoning
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
fresh spinach leaves
shaved parmesan cheese

Heat oil in large, deep stockpot. saute red pepper, garlic and onion until soft, add carrot slices. Cook until vegetables begin to brown. Add remaining 7 ingredients. Simmer 15 min. place fresh spinach leaves in bowl. Ladle soup over. Top with shaved parmesan.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

the love of books, the love of cooks

     "One of the delights of life is eating with friends; second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends. People who like to cook like to talk about food.
     Plain old cooks (as opposed to the geniuses in fancy restaurants) tend to be friendly. After all, without one cook giving another cook a tip or two, human life might have died out a long time ago."   -Laurie Colwin, in Home Cooking
     There are many, many books that I love... too numerous to list, really. But few things make me as happy as a cookbook. I read cookbooks for relaxation, for research, for menu ideas and as a bedtime story.
     More, even than cookbooks, though, my passion runs deep for books that combine essays with recipes. And the trifecta of all books is a travel essay written by a foodie, that includes recipes.
     As my eyes take in the words on a page, my mind wanders through events and stories from the author's life, then BAM! Smack in the middle of the plot, a recipe appears! Isn't that great? A little zing of excitement runs through me every time.
     I love food, I love people who love food. I love to talk about, think about and write about food! Am I scaring you, just a little? Well, I'm not alone. There are thousands of blogs on numerous websites devoted to eaters and eating. There are entire sections of bookstores with shelves full of food essays, written by celebrity chefs, cookbook authors and everyday folks, like you and I.
     A few years ago, a friend told me about an author. Cheryl told me that I would love this author and she was right. Laurie Colwin wrote quite a few novels, worked as an editor and wrote two, non-fiction collections of essays on her love of food, among other things. The titles of these are Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, and More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen.
     I love her sense of humor and style of writing. Some of her phrasing and statements struck such a chord with me, I felt like she knew me and I her. She was speaking some of the same things I have thought or said or written. Laurie is a home cook and proud of it. She celebrates happy memories intertwined with favorite meals. And like me, Laurie likes to feed people.
     As I read more of her book, I was curious to know about her life. I googled her bio and read the information. Among the facts of her illustrious life was my sad discovery that she died suddenly from a heart attack in 1992, at the young age of 48, just before her last two books were published. I felt as though I had lost a cherished friend. 
     It amazes me on a regular basis, that no matter our differences, we are all very similar. By reading the words of someone I never met, I feel a stronger sense of who I am. I realize that we all have the need to feel comfort, to feel safe and to feel loved. For many of us, those feelings tied to our childhoods, shape our adult likes, dislikes, hang-ups and passions.
     For me, food and eating brings good memories rushing back. The simple act of preparing a family meal for six or one hundred keeps me filled with contentment. Thanks, Laurie, for pointing out the origins of our passion for food! It reinforces my belief in the importance of both great cooks and great eaters!

 "No one who cooks cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers."
-Laurie Colwin

Thursday, November 11, 2010

veggie lasagne

     I recently catered a housewarming party for my husband's boss. I suggested serving a dual entree, one with meat and one without. As the entree was an Italian pot roast, marinated overnight in red wine and herbs, then braised in the oven, the vegetarian selection I chose to accompany it was a Vegetable Lasagne. It is light, doesn't employ a tomato sauce or heavy ricotta filling. A bechamel, or white sauce is the base for the dish and can be made with milk or half and half.
     This lasagne is very easy to make. I prepared the components separately, then assembled it later. There are three separate vegetable layers. A layer of fresh, mixed mushrooms, such as baby portobello, crimini, button, shitake and oyster. They are sauteed with garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice. The resulting flavor nearly made me cry! I love mushrooms almost more than chocolate. Well, okay... I did say almost.
     The second layer is canned or fresh, diced tomatoes and onions, simmered with a little fresh basil. The third veggie layer is fresh spinach, sauteed with garlic, until wilted. Cheddar and parmesan cheeses combine to give this dish a little richness. I used two percent cheddar to reduce the fat.
     A few weeks later, I was given the task of preparing a dinner for our church choir's Fall Kick-off. A mere 50 people were expected, so I felt brave enough to serve something unexpected. (When you live in the South, any main dish with vegetable in the name, unless it is deep fried, will be completely unexpected.)
     The lasagne was so well received by the previous party guests, I decided to let it stand alone as the star of the choir dinner. I served it with a colorful green salad, garlic bread and some light, mini desserts, fresh fruit and coffee to finish. I hope you will try this lasagne. It is delicious. Even the veggie haters loved its flavor.
Vegetable Lasagne
Ingredients:
3 cups bechamel (See recipe in previously posted bechamel mucho)
2 T. olive oil
1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
1 onion, finely chopped
3 leaves, fresh basil, torn into pieces
1 1/2 pounds, mixed varieties of mushrooms, wild and cultivated, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of half a lemon
1 large container, fresh spinach
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 c. cheddar cheese
2-3 c. parmesan cheese
no cook, dried lasagne sheets
Directions:
Make bechemel. Heat oil in large saute pan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add tomatoes and basil leaves. Simmer for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan, set aside in bowl. Add another teaspoon of oil and tablespoon of butter. Cook mushrooms for 2 minutes, adding garlic and lemons. Saute on low until all liquid has been cooked out. Season to taste and set aside. Cook spinach and remaining clove of garlic in 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Toss until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

To assemble lasagne:

Begin by spraying the bottom and sides of a deep lasagne pan. Spread a thin layer of bechamel in bottom of pan. Place a layer of pasta sheets on top of bechamel, overlapping slightly. Cover with mushrooms, then another layer of bechamel. Spread a little of the two cheeses over. Make another layer of pasta. Spread spinach over, then a layer of bechamel. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat with another pasta layer, topping with tomato and onion mixture. Pour bechamel over, sprinkle with cheese. Add a final layer of pasta, repeating the bechamel and ending with sprinkled cheeses. Dot top with a little butter. Bake about 20 minutes covered with foil, in a 400 degree oven. Uncover and bake 10 minutes to brown, watching to make sure it doesn't burn.
Let stand 5 minutes before cutting to serve.








YUM!


Monday, November 8, 2010

thanksgiving: the rodney dangerfield of holidays

     Just as the Halloween frenzy fades, Christmas decorations are allowed to blatantly take over the world. Visions of sugarplums are dancing well before the beginning of December.
     The overhead speakers in every store chortle a selection of distorted carols. And my favorite of all the holidays, the humble, loveable underdog is again, getting NO respect.
     As I contemplate the menu, consider nature-inspired tablescapes, count available tables and chairs and pencil out a guest list, retail stores are exploding with holly and ivy. Even a few of my friends are mulling over the question, "Is it too early to put up the tree?"
     I am horrified, first by the thought of putting up a Christmas tree in early November and second, at the callousness of these otherwise lovely people. I just want to stand up as tall as my five foot-three frame will allow and shout, "This is the Thanksgiving police. Step away from the tinsel!"    
     What about the Pilgrims and the Indians? The endless types of pie, the savory stuffing and the rice and gravy?? It's TURKEY gravy, people. It's pure gold!
     What about deep, red cranberry relish with grated orange peel, tiny little brussel sprouts sauteed with garlic and whole fingerling sweet potatoes, oven roasted and sprinkled with brown sugar, cinnamon and sea salt?
     What about the smiles on the faces of beloved family around our table? What about our tradition of including orphaned friends who have no one to dine with? What about being thankful to God for just one day, before we get sucked into the great commercial vortex?
     A multitude of websites report varied and sundry versions of the first Thanksgiving, with stories of a happy, communal harvest feast contradicting one of a savage affair complete with after-dinner scalping told from the perspective of a Native American writer.
     "In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November." http://www.history.com/  
     In 2010, life moves quite a bit faster than it did in 1621. We jump from one frenetic event to another, guided by commercial gods who instruct us on infinite ways to accumulate more. Gluttony has almost become a sport... Television shows are devoted to it.
     Seldom do we as individuals attempt to stop and smell the turkey! We forget to be thankful on a daily basis. Thankful for our health, of getting up one more day and breathing in air. Thankful for our disfunctional families that alternately drive us insane or fill us with joy and wonder.
     Thankful for the country in which we live, for freedoms purchased with the blood of many brave souls. Even thankful for our seemingly inept government officials, which WE, the people put in places of power.
     So, in spite of what the rest of the country is doing, I will be here organizing the acorns and pinecones, stacking the firewood, ironing the napkins, picking out the pecans and calling people I love.
     I will light candles, get out the serving platters, fill bowls with candy corn and whole hazelnuts. I will bathe the dogs, shake rugs, fluff pillows and get out folding chairs.
     I will eat too much, talk a lot, listen more, play in the yard with the kids, take a little tryptophan induced nap, and say, Mmmmm too many times to count. I will be very, very thankful for one whole day... before heading to the woods on Friday to pick out my tree.
     It's Thanksgiving season, y'all... Santa can wait;)