the thanksgiving gift

These past few years my blog has been my journey through my now not so new home county, Chester County, Pennsylvania . It’s also been whatever I feel like writing about at the time – what moves me, inspires me, what I want to share.

I have been a blogger for years, but out here I don’t think there are many people like myself who blog just because they want to write. So I am an acquired taste to many. I am also not a monetized blog, which is a rare species sometimes these days. With the blogging sometimes over the past few years I have had some incredibly negative experiences even with all the amazing and heartwarming and positive experiences of writing. As a result it may take me a few days when someone writes to my blog and is truly complementary.

So what I’m about to tell you is basically my O. Henry story for Thanksgiving 2017. (And as a related aside, if you have never read O.Henry you should. His stories are timeless and endure through the ages.)

Recently, someone wrote to me via my blog to tell me how much he enjoyed what I wrote about. And this gentleman, Chris, has really read what I’ve written. It always leaves me slightly in awe when I realize this because I write for myself. I enjoy the act of writing and expressing myself, it’s my art so to speak. And sometimes (sadly) along with the pleasant commentary , I get really ugly comments about my blog; it’s not always happy thoughts. That is the sad reality of the world we live in.

And this nice man also offered me an amaryllis bulb. And for a gardener like myself, there’s nothing better this time of year than paper whites and Amaryllis. I happen to love Amaryllis and the weird spring and fall made mincemeat out of my remaining Amaryllis bulbs and I actually didn’t have one started for Christmas. Someone from DutchGrown, a bulb grower and supplier out of West Chester had given him a couple of bulbs, and he thought enough of me a total stranger and fellow gardener, to offer me one. (And now I know about another bulb grower which is Chester County local too!)

2017 has been a crazy year for me being a blogger, so I showed the note to my husband, and he said that there is enough good on this earth that we can still take people at their word, even strangers. So today I sent a note back and said I would love to have an Amaryllis bulb and say hello.

I have to tell you I really didn’t expect him to come by today because it is Thanksgiving and he has a family, but he did. Sadly, I had hopped into the shower to get ready for family coming here for Thanksgiving. So he and my husband met instead. And now we have a new friend, well met.

There is that phrase about the kindness of strangers, and it definitely proves itself true here in this situation. And once again my travels through Chester county and my blog have introduced us to get another person we normally would not have met.

Chris, Happy Thanksgiving. This post is for you. Thank you for the beautiful bulb and reminding us what is important in this life. It is a true O.Henry moment.

Happy Thanksgiving dear readers and pay it forward this holiday season. Believe.

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thankful. grateful.

I am sitting in my kitchen waiting for my pumpkin pie to finish baking. The simple things, the traditions of Thanksgiving.

As I sit in my cozy kitchen I am also thinking about those less fortunate this Thanksgiving. In particular, the elderly who lost their homes and their memories in the devastating Barclay Friends fire almost a week ago in West Chester.

I am thankful and grateful for my friends,family, and neighbors . I am thankful and grateful more specifically for my husband and stepson. We have a happy home that makes me feel like I am the luckiest woman on the planet.

Thanksgiving has roots in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists shared a harvest feast with Wampanoag Indians. This autumn harvest festival is acknowledged today as the origins of our American Thanksgiving.

In 1863 during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln created in November the national holiday we know today. He proclaimed a national Thanksgiving holiday, and here we are!

A fun historical fact is Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of November. But during the depression in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to move the holiday up a week. Something about spurring retail sales. But public outcry caused Roosevelt to sign a bill into law in 1941 making Thanksgiving officially the last Thursday in November.

There are as many ways to make a Thanksgiving dinner as there are ways to set the table. The melting pot that is our country means there quite a lot of different nationalities and races putting their spin on Thanksgiving dinner. Every family has their own traditions.

As we come together tomorrow with either friends or family, remember those who came before us. Remember friends and family.

Say a prayer tomorrow on Thanksgiving for the United States of America. I do not feel the strife and anger from coast to coast is what the founding fathers or even those early Pilgrims had in mind.

We have a great country and the politicians who want to screw everything up be damned. We have a lot to be thankful for and we can’t allow them to define who we are. They work for us. And if they aren’t working for us, we replace them one election at a time. From the smallest Borough all the way to the White House.

Happy Thanksgiving. Be grateful for what you have, don’t expend negative energy coveting what you don’t have. Enjoy the day.

Thanks for stopping by.

holiday decorations

I always decorate my chandeliers for Christmas. I decided to do them for Thanksgiving as well this year.

The design style started with a strand of cranberry colored wood beads that I bought a while back at a barn sale. When I looped them through my chandelier the rest of the design sort of came to me.

So I bought an additional two strands of beads for this chandelier and the craft store also yielded pinecones strung on twine, which saved me time and effort.

I think the effect is simple and pretty but not too rustic. When it comes time to decorate for Christmas I will add birds and some hanging snowflakes to this and it will look just beautiful.

My husband of course seems to think I am just trying to get a “jump on Christmas” as he put it. Now that isn’t exactly true, but I will not deny that this helps me get some of my pre-decorating done for Christmas.

If you are interested in beads like this, as well as a pre-strung pinecones you can also find them on Amazon and eBay and Etsy. They are not terribly expensive and I think it gives such a nice look.

Happy day before Thanksgiving!

deluxe pumpkin bread

Let the madness begin! Almost time for Thanksgiving! This morning I made the cranberry orange relish and this afternoon, pumpkin bread.

I somehow managed to pinch a nerve in my neck/shoulder so it has been slowwww going.

Here is the recipe for the pumpkin bread:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, cloves, cardamon

3 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 cup canola oil

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar – I prefer light

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup diced dried apricots

1/2 cup dark raisins

1/4 cup minced candied ginger

In one mixing bowl combine all the dried ingredients

In a second mixing bowl combine all the wet ingredients with the sugars.

When the wet ingredients and sugars are mixed, stir in the dry ingredients. Then fold in the nuts and dried fruit and candied ginger.

Pour into two greased and floured 8″ x 4″ loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 50 to 55 minutes (or more- today my oven took 1 hour and 5 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

YUM!

dear thanksgiving night drunk driver,


Dear Drunk Driver,

Thanks for the added tension on the roads this evening.  Like many others we were just driving home from a family Thanksgiving dinner and encountered YOU on 76 West (Schuylkill Expressway).
When you sober up in the morning  and you wonder HOW all that driver’s side damage occurred, I can tell you. You bounced off the center concrete barrier on the westbound side of the Schuylkill. MORE THAN ONCE.  We played dodge ball with what we believe was your driver’s side mirror as it flew by our car, narrowly missing our windshield.
If you look at the above drunk driver, that fuzzy bright ball in the center is YOU.  At different points of time, until we lost track of you, whether you were in front of us or behind us, or next to us (and we had to drive on the shoulder at one point  so you didn’t hit us), you were not just weaving a little, but sailing left and right as well as riding the center line like a slot car.
I did something I have never done before drunk driver because it had been so long since I had seen such a horrific drunk driver – I called the PA State Police. 
It was a busy night for PA State Troopers on the Schuylkill Expressway. Once past City Line Avenue, we passed several accidents east and westbound. So dear drunk driver, I don’t know if they caught you but I sure hope they did.
More than anything else, I hope you did not hurt yourself or anyone else.

on the eve of thanksgiving 

The day before Thanksgiving and I’m starting preparations for dinner tomorrow. I’ve learned little tricks over the years like making the broth for the turkey out of the turkey gizzards and neck is easier done the day before.  Once that broth starts cooking my kitchen is filled with the smells of Thanksgiving for the first time.  

Along with the smells of Thanksgiving come memories.

Memories of Thanksgivings past.

I actually woke up this morning thinking about Thanksgivings of my past.

When I think of the holidays I always think of my late father as well as my late brother in law because they both loved Christmas and Thanksgiving. When they were both alive Thanksgiving could almost be exhausting because they were perfectionists, but the meals were awesome!  

I have some very fond memories of Thanksgivings at my sister’s house in New York before my brother-in-law died. They have a beautiful dining room that is almost a square in shape so my sister uses two small tables that are round versus one large table.  I think after both my father and brother in law being lost within a few short years of each other it has taken us a while to get our Thanksgiving groove back.

When my sister and I were really little I remember going to my Uncle  Jackie’s and Aunt Connie’s house for Thanksgiving.  

All of my cousins, us, aunt and uncle, and Mumma and Poppy. Due to family drama I don’t have very many memories of very many of these Thanksgivings. But those I remember being much more fun than the Thanksgivings we spent at my father’s sister’s house.

My aunt, my father’s only sister, has never been an easy woman to read. I have always felt she didn’t like me very much or my mother and was jealous of my late father. She did seem to like my sister. Her daughters well, they were fine to get along with when we were little, but as we all grew up we did not have much to say to each other and still don’t to this day.

I have a distinct memory again of when we were very little, and my Aunt Theresa and Uncle Serge lived in Paoli.   Paoli was still a bit rural in spots.  I remember they lived down a really long driveway in a white farmhouse. It was a really cool farmhouse and I seem to recall it was Victorian in nature. I don’t know that anybody has photos of it anymore but I have a distinct memory of a Thanksgiving there.

It was a big crowd for dinner and I remember that the kids had their own table set up outside the dining room in the front hall by the staircase. I remember that we ate black eyed peas as one of the dishes.  My uncle is Cuban, and I also remember his mother was still alive.

Many years later we all tried the Thanksgiving together again with them when my grandmother – my father’s mother – was still alive. At this point my aunt and uncle had settled in Chestnut Hill where they still live today. I remember that Thanksgiving is being technically beautiful but emotionally cold. And I remember their dining room in their house in Chestnut Hill was quiet and dark, even in candlelight.

I remember other Thanksgivings we spent with our family friends the Cullens. They had been our neighbors in Society Hill when we were really little and they first moved to Bethesda because Mr. Cullen’s job took him to Washington DC, and then later they moved to Summit, New Jersey because his job eventually took him to New York City.

Growing up the Thanksgiving dinners we had with the Cullens are among my happiest memories of Thanksgiving as a child. Those were the holidays that were alive and boisterous and fun. Mr. Cullen was a tall Irishman with a big chest and a wonderful voice. And he was funny and he would say funny these things and you could just see the twinkle in his eye. Mrs. Cullen is still one of my favorite people on the face of this earth.  She is one of the brightest people I’ve ever had the privilege to know and she is also probably the closest thing to Julia Child I will ever know as a home cook. 

The thing about Thanksgiving dinners with them is it bought out the best in everyone. Although Mr. Cullen like my father, died years ago now, the family remains dear friends.

I especially liked the years they lived in Maryland because we would go down there for the weekend pretty much, and I would be able to wander around Georgetown while we were there and discovered fun things like Kemp Mill Records. That was this awesome record store in Georgetown where I listened to artists like Al Stewart for the first time.

We had other Thanksgiving dinners that were just our family and smaller that were equally memorable. It was always fun getting the table set with my mother and laying out the flatware and the china, making sure the crystal glasses were all sparkle and no smudges. The good smells eminated from the kitchen all day until dinner time.

Other memories of Thanksgiving include when I was in my early to mid 20s and my girlfriends and I would always go to West Chester for years the night before Thanksgiving. We would go to the Gobble Off at the Bar and Restaurant in West Chester.  I have written about this before, it was just that much fun. Now we’re all purported grownups with our own families and that seems so long ago and far away. There were other night before Thanksgiving nights out with my friend Pam in Manayunk. I forget what the name of the restaurant is where we all used to meet in those days but it was a lot of fun as well. Pam would get all sorts of people together from high school and she made the evening fun!

Along with the Thanksgiving memories are the years that were like being banished. It was because of a prior relationship that I used to have to go into Central Pennsylvania basically. It was like being a stranger in a strange land and sadly these were the people that were almost my in-laws. I just never quite fit. That made it hard before any of the other stuff.

They weren’t bad people. One sister-in-law probably because she wasn’t related to the siblings by blood I liked in particular, still do. Before she divorced her husband (my ex’s brother) I honestly did enjoy going to Thanksgiving at her house up around Mechanicsburg. She and her mom were all about tradition and it was festive and warm. But the majority of the years I spent going to another almost sister-in-law’s house outside of Allentown. That was not so much fun.

The entire car ride up my ex would berate me about one thing or the other. Usually he yelled. Why was I wearing what I was wearing? What I could say and what I couldn’t say, and basically the entire duration of our relationship he didn’t want me getting too close to his family and didn’t share the few friends he had.  It was always an unpleasant ride up. By the time I got to his sister’s house I was a bundle of raw nerves.

When we got to his sister’s house, which was a townhouse development on the edge of a golf course, we would circle around for parking and eventually find the spot he deemed suitable. Then we would haul in my contributions to the meal. And we generally speaking, well that was me.  

When you got inside the townhouse you had the welcoming smell of a Thanksgiving dinner.  Unfortunately you were also met with some pretty somewhat bitter and somewhat dissatisfied middle-age women all divorced older than myself. The nieces and nephews were nice when they were in town, but I couldn’t hang out with the kids I was one of the grown-ups.  

One of the most amusing part of those Thanksgiving dinners in exile was the way every year the one sister magically made photos of my ex’s ex-wife fall out of the drawer or a book somewhere.  And I also never understood why they went to the trouble to cook a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner and have people around the table and not put the food out in nice containers. They put the disposable aluminum pans and plastic containers and what not right on the sideboard.

The Thanksgivings I spent in exile so to speak made me appreciate my friends and family all the more.  Not every Thanksgiving is perfect, we’re human they are not supposed to be. And even on the Thanksgivings that don’t quite end up the way you envision there is always good. Or at least humor. 

I think we all have this goal to become like a Norman Rockwell painting for one day. The problem is we can’t help but fall short because we are actual people not subjects of someone’s artistic mind’s eye.

I love hearing about my friends’ traditions.  I woke up this morning thinking of someone I used to know who always spoke about making creamed onions in a sherry cream sauce every Thanksgiving.

Now sprinkled in between all the homemade Thanksgiving dinners were a couple club and restaurant made Thanksgiving dinners.  Those were beautiful dinners and we had a lot of fun, but it was sort of anti-climactic because you didn’t wake up the next day to Thanksgiving leftovers and that is part of the fun of Thanksgiving.

I think Thanksgiving is a holiday is something I enjoy more the older I get. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I think part of it has to do with feeling somewhat like I have come into my own. But I do love Thanksgiving and even more so, Christmas. I am the crazy person that likes to put out the china, iron and do up the old table linens,  and decorate and cook.

We all have a lot to be thankful for, even if it is not always immediately apparent. Hearth and home are powerful motivators. My wish for this Thanksgiving is as a country we start to put aside all the political divisiveness of this recent presidential campaign, and remember what it is to be an American.  

I don’t know about you but I am tired of all the hate and violence. I am tired of the protests. I am tired of the anger. It’s exhausting even to avoid. I hope everyone takes a breath tomorrow and enjoys the company they are with. tomorrow literally is the day to be grateful for what we have and who we have in our lives.

Well I have to get back to my meal preparations, because when you’re a kid you don’t realize the preparing Thanksgiving dinner actually takes a good couple solid days of work!

Wishing all of you my readers, a safe and happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

preparing for thanksgiving 

I purchased some absolutely beautiful cranberries from Pine Barrens Native Fruits this year and today I made the Cranberry Sauce.

Cranberry  sauce is so easy to make. All it is for me is 2 dry quarts of cranberries, 2 1/2 cups of orange juice, cinnamon sticks, crystallized ginger minced, 2 cups sugar , other assorted spices including cardamom,ginger , nutmeg , and powdered cinnamon. True that I add a pinch of salt, and to quartered navel oranges skin on. I also add a couple tablespoons of fruit pectin to help at jell  even more.

I cook it down by close to half and then I remove the orange peel (The fruit by this time has basically cooked off each quarter of  orange ) and cinnamon sticks and then I jar it.

I don’t do the canning bath for this. When the jars are cool I tighten the lids and refrigerate it.  I basically only make enough to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas and then I make a fresh batch the following year.