Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving for Three

Due to a variety of extenuating circumstances, good, bad and otherwise, the size of our family left in the great Northwoods for our annual Thanksgiving feast was reduced quite spectacularly this year. I have had a variety of Thanksgiving experiences, large and small, but this one still fit into the “new” category.

My father, my uncle and I were three bachelor(ette)s left alone for the holidays. I had such an intense week of things running up to the holiday that I had seriously threatened that, if left to me (and obviously, it was going to be left to me), Thanksgiving dinner was going to consist of either 1) macaroni and cheese and Spam, or 2) Chinese take-out.

My mother, calling from far, far away admonished me to at least take them out to a restaurant in town that does Thanksgiving meals. That sounded like I would actually have to take a shower and brush my hair, which really seemed more work than getting some food on a table at home. I suppose there was the option of picking up an actual Thanksgiving meal from said restaurant, but if there’s one thing I’m not crazy about, it’s a stranger’s version of a Thanksgiving dinner on my plate, even when all of the necessary pieces are there.

Miraculously, the day before Thanksgiving (on what was technically a “day off” for me), I suddenly got motivated. (Granted this motivation was in large part due to a stupidly forgotten work task on my part that required me driving the 20 miles in to work to do one measly thing.) I made a mental list (a written one would have been too much like committing to a course of action) and drove to a store and grabbed shopping cart.

The meat section had me flummoxed for a while. I don’t cook meat (I eat it, I just don't cook it). I’ve really never done more than a chicken breast. There would only be three of us. Even a small turkey would be huge...a turkey breast left no opportunity for dark meat...leftovers are good...but...thawing, cleaning, cooking, meh. Not appealing.

Then I saw the little Cornish game hens. Two for $6. One each. Decision made. Done.

So, Thanksgiving morning I made my presence known in my parents’ kitchen. We cleaned up from my father’s bachelor week, and I set to work making something happen. And, amazingly, it did.

Nothing fancy. I didn’t go out of my way to spice up the recipes with anything I wouldn’t normally use. But there were Cornish hens (that actually turned out pretty well for my first attempt at really cooking meat), mashed potatoes (with skins left on and not whipped, thank you very much), stuffing (okay, I cheated and go pre-seasoned bread crumbs), cranberry sauce (that at least was homemade with local cranberries and my own recipe), homemade bread (well, a half-loaf leftover from the weekend before), apple pie (that mom made and left in the freezer, figuring if we had nothing else, we’d have that), and two pumpkin pies (I just couldn’t let the holiday go without making a pumpkin pie, especially when it’s so easy). Oh, and green beans and assorted raw veggies.

And fortunately I didn’t have too critical of an audience to work with. The three of us would’ve eaten raccoon, probably. My one big slip was timing in getting everything on the table - thought I had it down, but then decided the chickens needed more time. Ah, well.

So, my first solo venture in the kitchen at Thanksgiving was not discouraging. Still not thrilled about the idea of taking on a turkey some day, but we people will generally just eat, even if it’s not gourmet and half burnt. There’s something to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Week in 42 Words

Sunday: To play is to pray twice.

Monday: Tested remedies for accidental meeting overdose.

Tuesday: To sleep, perchance to dream of...

Wednesday: Murphy’s greatest invention was the computer.

Thursday: A stop at the pasty shop.

Friday: To progress does not imply progress.

Saturday: Snow, rain and butternut squash soup.

Monday, November 01, 2010

77 hours

In honor of the near-77 hours I was without power this week, I'm going to do a seven-quick-takes Monday to get things rolling again.

1. Obviously #1 is the fact that we're celebrating being back on the grid. The massive windstorm from Tuesday and Wednesday went out with a whimper by Friday. After that it was hard to believe it had ever been windy at all. I hauled all of the recently-cooked meals out of my freezers and found room for everything in my parents' deep freeze on Thursday. Then I found room for me, and when my sister and her boyfriend flew in for my cousin's wedding this weekend, we found room for all of us. No worse than Thanksgiving. But I was still glad when Wisconsin Public Service called and texted me on Saturday morning to tell me my connection to the civilized world had been restored.

2. Storms are good for the adrenaline. And they alter circumstances and it's interesting to see how one responds to them and to their consequences. One thing I've learned about myself is that I respond quickly to a sudden change in events and can move through the moment efficiently and effectively. However, once derailed from my original track, it takes me a long time to return to what was "normal" before. Makes going back to regular work rather challenging.

3. The storms were followed by more excitement this weekend. My cousin Erin got married, and Sarah and her boyfriend Scott flew home. I haven't seen them together since they left for California, and it was fun having them around again. When it rains, it pours: Erin's wedding, Scott's birthday and Halloween. Mom cooked up another storm in the kitchen (really, with all of us in there it was ready to be declared a Federal disaster zone, but whether it had been an earthquake or tornado or both is still being debated), and produced two massive lasagnas, garlic bread, huge salads, a carrot cake, two apple pies, and pumpkin ice cream. And whatever candy we raided from the trick-or-treaters' dish. Sarah produced enough friends to help eat it all. High moment from the Halloween invaders:

Scott, dressed as a "Extreme Weather Golfer" greets a young Harry Potter at the door. He then informs Harry Potter that he is actually the Dark Lord in disguise. He insists Harry must tell him a riddle to win his candy. Harry does, and Scott-Dark-Lord doesn't know the answer. Young Harry shouts the answer and, "I vanquished the Dark Lord!" He then kicks Scott in the shins.

4. Tomorrow I leave again for yet another training and meeting. I haven't slept a whole week in my own bed since early October. Last week I could've been in Washington, D.C., for work, but instead was displaced due to a windstorm. I'm beginning to think I should get a hotel perks card. Except now I'm not scheduled to go anywhere until January.

5. I found a wallet that I'd lost a month prior. It was in my office, which is where I thought it must be after having thoroughly dismantled my car in search of it and nobody made any charges to the credit cards. It fell down into a pile of curricula I was supposed to be reviewing. If I'd gotten around to doing my homework sooner...

6. Tomorrow is Election Day. I do have a landline, but am never home to hear it and have only received two robo messages. I share my parents' mailing address, so I don't get political junk mail. I don't watch TV. Ever. I listen to NPR. The only political advertisements I am subjected to are those being constantly covered by NPR programs. If they would just shut up about them I could live in a perfectly happy little bubble.

7. It's 30 degrees F outside and about 50 in here. Why is there still a mosquito in my house?