thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving. The ultimate all-American holiday. I will note however, “Thanksgivings” are also throughout history a common thing in many cultures after bringing in the harvest.

Pilgrims and Puritans who emigrated from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to the colonies of New England. Several Thanksgivings were held in early New England history that have been identified as being the first feasts including Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623, and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631.

However, there was a regional battle forever as to where the first Thanksgiving was held. Was it New England or in Virginia? You see, in 1619 the arrival of English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter. A Thanksgiving.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

Thanksgiving and as to what it meant carried on into the Revolutionary War Era. A lot of it involved proclamations and political wrangling which is well, an American tradition, correct? As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.”

Thanksgiving was observed on various dates throughout our history. Truthfully if you research it, the actual date Thanksgiving was observed varied from state to state. The final Thursday in November had become the customary date in most U.S. states by the beginning of the 19th century, and Halloween in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a presidential proclamation changing the holiday to the next to last Thursday in November, for business and commerce reasons.

Then along came President John F. Kennedy and his Proclamation 3560 on November 5, 1963, which said in part: “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God.” He wanted to bridge the gap between the North and South rivalries over who Thanksgivinged first.

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American. ~O. Henry

So now to our family and other Thanksgivings. By “our” I mean everyone out there. Are they ever the perfect holiday we envision from Currier and Ives prints? Or Norman Rockwell? Or the Hallmark Channel movies and reruns of The Waltons?

I know mine haven’t been but I still love the holiday. Some of my favorite Thanksgivings spent as a child were all of the ones we spent with family friends who moved from Pennsylvania to Bethesda, Maryland and then to Summit, New Jersey. The celebrations were large (lots of kids), loud (lots of kids and lots of adults laughing), and happy. The food was amazing and no one was expected to be perfect.

I think the best Thanksgivings are spent with those you choose to be with. Not those you feel obligated to be with.

Childhood Thanksgivings I found less fun growing up were the early childhood ones spent with my parents’ respective siblings. Suffice it to say, the adults really didn’t get along, really didn’t even know each other as adults, but felt free to judge each other. So the end result was stiff, and slightly uncomfortable Thanksgivings. The Waltons we weren’t.

As my sister and I grew into adulthood we also had Thanksgivings we spent with our cousin Suzy and her family. I loved those because Suzy made it fun. Then my sister married first so Thanksgivings were split between our family and her in-laws. I also had the Thanksgiving many years prior to when my sister married where my parents decided they were bringing Thanksgiving to my sister and a then boyfriend in New York City and I was adopted by a friend’s family for dinner. That was one of my favorite years and we did not even have turkey. We had a huge capon. If memory serves that was because my friend’s dad did not like turkey. And my friend’s growing up home was made for holidays. It was old and cheerful and warm.

Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often. ~Johnny Carson

For me there was an 8 plus year period of Thanksgivings I have mostly erased or have tried to erase from my memory. I call those the purgatory Thanksgiving years. The person I was in a relationship with had family outside Mechanicsburg and Allentown.

I loved the Mechanicsburg Thanksgivings because his sister in law and her mom were awesome. They loved holidays and celebrating holidays and it showed. Everything was festive and bright.

The Allentown Thanksgivings were somewhat awful as we were crammed into a skinny townhouse in a development on a public golf course with dark painted walls. The paint made already small rooms seem more close, and the sister who hosted had this trick every time like clockwork to let photos of his ex-wife fall out of a sideboard. Half of the Thanksgiving dishes and turkey were served in aluminum foil pans and the dinner plates were dirt brown Pfaltzgraff. These Thanksgivings were depressing and uncomfortable. The people were all basically unhappy and not particularly nice and you could feel it. You weren’t one of them and they got that feeling across.

After those years, and sprinkled occasionally throughout my life there were other kinds of Thanksgivings. These were the holidays spent in restaurants or clubs like The Merion Cricket Club. Those were fun holidays too, but part of the “thing” of Thanksgiving to me is how your whole house smells while cooking Thanksgiving dinner, combined with the smell of a fire in the fireplace or wood stove.

I will note one Thanksgiving decades ago when my mother had invited SO many we couldn’t handle the crowd my parents made reservations at a restaurant in Radnor called the Greenhouse. Now you know I am dating myself to the late 1970s because that was when we did Thanksgiving there. When you did Thanksgiving at The Greenhouse you could order your own turkey for your group if your reservation group was large enough. And it was a really cool place literally in old greenhouses and a converted stable portion dating back to the 1760s which some historians still say once housed George Washington’s horse. Not George, just the horse. Today the location is known as 333 Belrose and is owned by a high school friend.

Now as the years have past and life and time have moved forward, Thanksgiving has changed again. It’s like an ever evolving holiday in our lives. I truthfully love cooking Thanksgiving. It’s also a time for me to play with my vintage linens and dishes and is the one time of year that vintage ceramic turkey sees the light of day as a centerpiece.

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow, which may mean every day, or once in seven days, at least. ~Edward Sandford Martin

Some Thanksgivings now are just our little family and sometimes expanded with other family and friends. This year it’s a smaller gathering so there will be lots of leftovers!

Right now the turkey gizzards, neck, and vegetables are burbling away on the stove as I make the broth I will use later. The cranberry sauce is made, and so are the sweet potatoes and butternut squash. The potato and squash purée will go into the oven to warm up after the turkey comes out to rest. There will be a pumpkin pecan pie but I am unhappy with the pie crust.

“When you love what you have, you have everything you need. ” ~ Unknown

I am grateful for my life and my family so I love the true celebration of Thanksgiving. A lot of our family and friends are farther flung this year celebrating all over, but celebrating the day wherever they are.

So I hope all of you out there have a terrific Thanksgiving. I will leave you with something to think about. I was thinking about the world we live in today, and specifically the tone of many politicians in this country and rhetoric that is nothing short of anti-immigrant. Think about those first Thanksgivings in this country when the Native Americans served feasts to what were then illegal immigrants from Europe.

“We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.” ~Albert C Barnes

what’s on your thanksgiving menu?

What is everyone cooking for Thanksgiving?

Here is my menu:

Hors d’Oevres:

Smoked Trout with horseradish dill sauce on party rye bread

Fromager d’Affinois with garlic and herbs and crackers

Dinner:

Fresh turkey with homemade herb stuffing with shallots, onions, and sausage

Green salad (spring mix and butter lettuce and homemade vinaigrette)

Roasted sweet potato and squash purée

Homemade cranberry sauce

Dessert:

Pumpkin pie with pecan topping

I am setting a vintage table with my old school ceramic turkey as the centerpiece with candlesticks. I am using vintage plates including my super cool vintage ceramic turkey platter sourced from the Smithfield Barn at a Gas Works in Frazer pop-up shop (there is a pop-up coming up by the way!) and my chandelier is decorated with strung pine cones and wooden “cranberry” beads and these two primitive bird cut-outs sourced from Life’s Patina in Malvern and one of their pop-up sales!

And our son is home from college, so it doesn’t get better than that!

Happy almost Thanksgiving!

kitchen tip: start a “stuffing bag”

What is that old adage? Waste not,want not?

I have a kitchen tips for the holidays that I am going to share with you. And it’s very simple.

Everyone knows homemade stuffing tastes better. And the problem with using a pre-packaged stuffing mix is it’s loaded with sodium and preservatives.

So what I like to do is create a “staffing bag.”

Everyone always has bread that goes stale. Don’t waste it. Cut it up into little cubes put it in a Ziploc bag and put it in your freezer until you’re ready to make your stuffing.

When you are ready to make your stuffing pull the cubes out of the freezer and put them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment and let them thaw. Then pop them in to the oven (heated at 350°) for a few minutes to dry them out a little more. And by a few I literally me like five or six and keep an eye on them so they don’t burn if your oven runs hot.

This is an easy kitchen hack and it beats bread either getting so stale and going to waste OR turning moldy and going to waste.

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.

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!