Boiled peanuts and boat rides….Thanksgiving down south…
November 28, 2011

Things were pretty civilized Thursday am at BWI....

Most of you know I traveled back to Alabama for Thanksgiving…the first time I’ve done so since I moved to Baltimore in the 80s….suffice it to say…it’s been a while. And it was amazing. Relaxing, good times, good weather, boat rides, cooking, hanging out with the fam…just a fabulous long weekend. I attempted to recreate the weekend for you in pictures….

Intense fog over Smith Lake in the distance ….

Sign down the road...none of us are sure what a turkey shoot is...

I was the lucky one…arriving on Thanksgiving Day…dinner is already cooked!! Love the table my sister set(all from foraging, not buying)…and I did make the pear name tags!!

Ok, I did buy the pears, but we ate them later...

I was tempted to buy some boiled peanuts…I am a recent convert to the treat….and look they’re right there, just open the can!

So easy right? Just open the can...

But in the end, we boiled our own…..though it takes HOURS(seriously). And as we couldn’t find green peanuts(ours were dried, but not roasted)…they were good, but could have been better I think.

My first time actually boiling peanuts....they're not bad!

"Confederate Roses" my sister put by the bed....

And we actually went for boat rides on the lake, it was so warm out….

My nephew Allen, and my daughter are ready to go...

Tommy enjoys the ride more than anyone....ears flying..note the AU collar.

When in doubt, wear pearls.....

And there was a precious antique store that’s opened up just down the road….they had some amazing things in there…and a great eye for display. Love the lunchboxes….just like the one my Father took to work every day.

So cute, mounted in multiples!!

My daughter fell in love with these owl cookie jars...

And we all love these coffee cups….the joke is, Crane Hill is really just a four way stop, with a little store there….Love it.

Crane Hill folks wish all of you happy holidays!!

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Thanksgiving vagabonds head home…dragging their food with them…
November 23, 2011

This Thanksgiving I am doing something I haven’t done in years and years….I’m going home…to Alabama. I know many of you will find that odd, if not unbelieveable, that we’ve never gone back for Thanksgiving. But when the kids were younger, we always wanted to be home for Christmas, and it was just too hard, and too expensive to try and do both. But this year, we’re on the road down south.

My sister called and asked did we have any favorite dishes, so she and my other sister wouldn’t leave anything out. So sweet to ask, but as I told her…we have been Thanksgiving vagabonds for so long…we haven’t been able to latch onto anything really…something we can’t live without. The various Thanksgivings we have had(not in any particular order of preference): cooking at home, driving to Pennsylvania for dinner in a restaurant and staying at an awful cabin in the woods(we also got lost on the way to dinner-big argument best forgotten), driving to Philly(parade and dinner in restaurant), driving to NYC(dinner in restaurant and Macy’s parade), dinner at friend’s house, dinner at a restaurant here in Baltimore…..and so on, and so on. We’ve done just about every variation you can think of,  except Thanksgiving on a cruise ship(an idea for next year?).

So this year we will meet my sisters and some various members of their familiesnot everyone can make it, of course…my nephew has new baby twins in Florida, my son and the lovely Jennifer will be in Pittsburgh…but my daughter is going(hurray!!) and other nieces and nephews and kids will be there…and I can’t wait. Seriously. Can. Not. Wait.

Love Smith Island Cake with Reece's Cups!

In the spirit of carting food across the country with me… because as my husband says, “There won’t be any food where we’re going, of course“….funny…I am picking up a Sugarbaker’s Smith Island Cake. It’s one of my faves, made with Reece’s Cups in the icing( so incredibly decadent and delish)…and it will also be my younger sister’s birthday cake, which we will celebrate that day.

Jan was born the day before Thanksgiving..about 6 weeks early…how inconvenient is that?! And as dinner for all the cousins was to be at our house(for reasons unknown to me my pregnant Mother was hosting everyone), the turkey was in the freezer and forgotten in the rush to get to the hospital. We were shuttled off to my aunt and uncle’s house where we were served ham sandwiches…with ketchup on them. I’ve never forgotten the culinary horror of not wanting to eat them, as we did NOT put ketchup on our ham sandwiches. My uncle said, “I guess you’re just too excited to eat, right?” We nodded yes…polite(starving) southern girls to the end.

Ah, memories of Thanksgiving past....it rarely looked like this!

And in the spirit of nostalgia, I’m fixing something my late Mother always called “Cowboy Dinner“….perfect for the cook in a hurry.  She would brown some hamburger meat, saute green pepper and onion, then add some pork and beans(maybe a little ketchup and mustard for seasoning?)….and voila…Cowboy Dinner. As kids, we loved it. As adults, it will be interesting to see what we think today of this childhood memory. Or maybe I’ll fancy it up a bit(who knows?).

Here’s wishing  all of you have a lovely holiday…that you have either family or friends with whom to share a meal…and if it’s just you…cook yourself something extra nice. Be nice to Uncle Joe, even when he says something truly jack-ass, laugh at Aunt Mary’s story you’ve heard a thousand times…Oh, and come home safe, ’cause we miss you!

It’s About Making the Effort…not Perfection!
November 21, 2011

It’s always one dilemma we face at Thanksgiving dinner….what to do with the table (besides throw a cloth on it and slap down some plates and silverware). Here are some ideas that may inspire you to try something a little different this year. The one below I adore…bare, blonde table, dark plates and all those clear wine bottles minus their labels… are so elegant looking. All white candles at different heights make it.

SO simple but so lovely...

Again….not complicated or expensive but original..and so personal with the old black and white family photos…brilliant…and what Thanksgiving is all about. Love the pear place card holders….I may copy that this Thanksgiving. Again, bare table.

A few pears, some old photos, and you're in business!

Here’s another one with no cloth…just runners, which you could buy or make in about 5 minutes from a remnant.

Pretty...love the roses and the colors...

I like this one too…the green cloth and orange napkins are cheery, and most likely not expensive….pine  you can pick from the yard to give a seasonal touch(and free). It’s just all very soothing and seasonal. I would love to sit down at this table, wouldn’t you?  Notice the candles are lit, even though it’s daytime. I really hate candles on a table that aren’t lit.

Very serene, and contemporary....

And remember, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about making the effort.

Thanksgiving Karma…..
November 25, 2009

It's not Thanksgiving without a big plate of Wonder Bread!

Ah, yes…tomorrow is the really big day….the family gathers together at a beautifully decorated table (oh my, where did you get those big pine cones?) with the house smelling deliciously like roasted turkey and dressing. The children are well-behaved(and well-dressed…no tee shirts) and appreciative of your efforts(“This is delicious Mom“), no one is tipsy…or mouthy…or late…no one say, “I usually put marshmallows on top of my sweet potatoes.” I’ve never actually attended the above feast, mind you, and maybe it exists only in movies or in my mind.

Truth is, tomorrow is a work day for many people…police officers, firemen(or women), doctors and nurses, and yes…news people have to work. So that already puts a little kink in the quest for perfection. In the perfect Thanksgiving no one ever says, “Will you shake a leg on the pie  honey, I’ve got to get to the hospital/police station/BGE/newsroom!”…whatever.

But even though yours truly will put in some hours at work, I’m all good with it. Tomorrow morning I will enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and begin what for me, is the arduous process of transforming butter, flour salt and ice water into pastry dough…where are you Optimus Prime? The one think I’ve been asked to make for the dinner I’m attending, is apple pie. And against my better judgement, I’m doing it from scratch this year. No Pillsbury-already-flatttened pie dough(how do they get it so round? that’s one of my big problems..asymmetrical pie dough), no canned apples-yech-it will be done by my very own hands, though I’m pretty certain….no, make that 100%… Stone Mill Bakery can make a better one.

I did buy an extra dessert, a banana cream pie from Atwater’s…I know, I know, nothing about banana cream pie screams Thanksgiving, but I think it’s nice option for those who might like something different from pumpkin or apple. At least I know that pie will be delicious.

After I make my apple creation, I may try to catch up on Mad Men episodes…as someone was describing the finale this morning, I realized I never saw it! Oh, Don Draper…you never disappoint. There’s a guy who truly does “live in the bubble”.(Ever see that 30 Rock? Hilarious…)

We’ll head over for dinner about 5…eat some fabulous food, talk, relax a little, and then I’ll head on to TV Hill to do the 11 PM news. And be thankful for a good job…and for someone who graciously feeds me Thanksgiving dinner…and for a warm home…all that stuff. While Thanksgiving won’t be perfect, it never is really, and that’s ok too. It’s Thanksgiving! Try to have a lovely day, no matter what it’s like…do something nice for yourself…let a couple of irritating things a family member says to you just  ROOOOOLL off. And smile. And if you have some leftover good karma…send it the way of my pastry dough.

Spreadsheeting Thanksgiving….
November 19, 2009

Why does my turkey never look like this?

It’s only a week away people…ONE WEEK AWAY!!!! Are you ready? Your Aunt Ida’s recipe for stuffed potatoes at your fingertips… new way to brine your turkey all set….yams ready to roast??  No? Better get it together….

Here’s my situation….I won’t  be cooking Thanksgiving dinner and I will be working part of that day, so a lovely friend who takes in people(flotsam and jetsam like me and the fam) at Thanksgiving, has invited us to share her table. Thank you Betsy. And yes, I will make an apple pie(from scratch), and a surprise dessert(which I will not even attempt)….I stumbled on the most fabulous chocolate caramel sea salt tart at Atwater’s in Belvedere Square  the other day. I know some of you will flinch at the thought of  sea salt on a chocolate tart, but salt and chocolate have a real affinity for each other. The salt somehow makes the chocolate’s sweetness that much more enjoyable. Trust me..it’s delish.

And in the sense of sharing  Thanksgiving with those who are far away from home this holiday….Xeorox, bless their little copying hearts, has provided an easy way for you to send a free printed postcard to military personnel overseas. if you go to LetsSayThanks.com , and it’s in three dead-easy, quick steps…and you don’t have to provide any personal info, not your email address or anything. I just sent one. I liked it.

And for those of you who may be preparing one of your first Thanksgiving spreads, or feel like everything just gets all out of control and flonkerbot on that busy cooking day(I remember the first year I cooked the whole meal by myself, and I didn’t start anything until Thanksgiving Day…with one oven. We didn’t eat until late that night…so sad.), the lovely Jennifer of  ExcelRainman  has created a Thanksgiving Meal Manager spreadsheet  that you can download for free(mac or pc), to get the Thanksgiving beast under control. Recipes, shopping lists, timetables…..it’s all there. That girl is so organized. The beast growls no more.

Guess what I did this weekend??
November 9, 2009

And this isn't all of them.....

It was one of those uber-exciting weekends where there was just SO…MUCH…WORK…that all you really wanted to do was take a nap, but nooooo. We’ll have none of that.  Raking and bagging leaves is at least good exercise, so that’s something a little inspiring about it…and the gutter looks better, now that the leaves won’t get wet and impacted into something akin to a brick over the winter. Done.

Sigh... my dream closet....

Less exciting  was getting all the summer stuff  of my small closet(yes I know, some of you have closets large enough to not require this seasonal craziness but I don’t, OK?). So the winter stuff is in….and the summer stuff is on the bed in the guest room. Hmmmmm. Guest room closet is full of …something… so I guess it’s to the basement we go. It’s kinda dark down there, but now that I have a dehumidifier, it’s no longer damp. And there are closets, but I haven’t  kept clothes in them for years. That’s because after one really damp summer, I schlepped down to get some winter things and they were…wait for it…covered in mold. Yech. Ok, maybe not covered…but there were splotches, ok? Some things the dry cleaner saved, others had to be thrown away. But now dehumidifed, it should be ok, right? And it  is winter, which is dry anyway. I’m going for it. Will let you know next spring if it worked out.

And then, I’m expecting guests this weekend…the lovely Jennifer’s parents whom I love, her sister(who’s equally lovely), and possibly her Grandmother are in town for a little after wedding party for the Baltimore crowd. Yes…wedding II.  So I know they’ll be at our house at some point this weekend, and those of you who share my insecurities will understand there’s a little angst associated with this. I’m truly excited and happy about them being here, since we can’t go to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving(I have to work)…but in spite of all my trying to be all laid back and cool….that really isn’t me. That’s just my cool facade. The inner real me wants everything to be P-E-R-F-E-C-T. And it won’t be…it never is. But maybe, just maybe ….it’ll be good enough. If my summer clothes don’t get moldy.

A Grits Thanksgiving??
October 28, 2009

Glorious Grits yes...but dressing??OK, I told you yesterday about how my Mom had saved two things from the Birmingham News….the first was about my childhood pediatrician having hosted the illustrious Julia Child for a week…and the second was all about grits.

It/s true, you know....

Glorious, glorious grits…I always feel sorry for people who say they don’t like grits…and always feel that if they had good grits, prepared and served the right way(mainly with butter, salt and pepper and never with sugar)…they would understand this basic, economical food of the south. Just think polenta. And I’ve carried grits way beyond the breakfast table, as most of you know. Grits cooked with chicken broth and finished with a little heavy cream and parmesan cheese are  worthy of any dinner table. My sister in Gulf Shores got a tip from a chef about the cream part…he suggests pouring cream over the top of grits after they cook, and let it sit there while you finish everything else, and then just stir it in when you’re ready to serve. It works.

But grits dressing for Thanksgiving?? (And for those of you who call it stuffing, let me tell you, in the south, it’s called dressing) This I have never heard of, but a new cookbook called…..that’s right…”Glorious Grits” says it’s not only possible but desirable. Yes,  all the recipes are about grits, including one for Sausage and Grits Dressing-here’s a link to the recipe.  My first thought…how can you take some gloppy grits and turn it into dressing? How?

The answer: cook grits and chill them. If you’ve ever put leftover grits in the frig, you know they turn into something akin to rubbery hockey pucks. Very firm. In this recipe you cut chilled grits into cubes and then roast those cubes until they are crisp and browned. So I’m thinking it’s kind of like a cornbread dressing? I may try it.

Nothin' better than hot grits

And there some other good recipes to try on the link…Shrimp and Grits with Succotash, Coconut-Crusted Polenta Cakes with Triple Berry Sauce, and Grits Bruschetta with Tomato Salsa. So get your grits on this weekend…and do yourself a favor one morning.  Cook a bowl of grits…NOT INSTANT…although quick grits are ok…add salt and pepper, and plop a pat of yellow butter on top. Sigh as it melts into golden rivulets. Enjoy.