Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Cornucopia Rice Krispie Treats

After getting home from work this morning, I made a quick dessert for Mike to take to his mom's Thanksgiving dinner.  He thought the "Bugle" chip cornucopias on top of the Rice Krispie treats looked more like ice cream cones, but I think the idea has potential.  If nothing else, maybe they gave his family a needed laugh during a difficult holiday today. 
I thought about using the tiny "Runts" candies that are shaped and colored to look like different fruits, and maybe the little fruits would have given me the look I was going for here.  Anyway, for a quick dessert, these worked and are still cute enough to make me happy.  I added a bit of pumpkin pie spice and a few melted pumpkin spice chips (new to me--they're like chocolate chips but taste exactly like pumpkin pie filling [Ah, strange food science!]) to the Rice Krispies, but the finished squares only taste vaguely of cinnamon.  That's fine too. 
And now, off to work.  Happy Thanksgiving, and a happy day to you all. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Early Thanksgiving

Mike and I decided Monday afternoon to have a Thanksgiving dinner together on Tuesday.  Since I work this Thanksgiving and Mike will be home with his family for the holiday--their first Thanksgiving without his dad--we hadn't made plans to have a just-the-two-of-us dinner at all, and I had kind of figured I'd just miss Thanksgiving this year.  Monday afternoon, though, that seemed stupid:  I had the next day off and wouldn't see Mike again until next week, so why would we not just celebrate on Tuesday?!  Last night was our little Thanksgiving, then, and it was a sweet one. 
It was the second consecutive Thanksgiving for this favorite vintage tablecloth of mine, a brown patchwork print that looks like something Holly Hobbie would throw onto her own table for the holiday.  I love it so, and it survived Mike's red wine with no damage, so all the better.  
As I did a couple Thanksgivings ago, I went with paper plates, which made things a bit easier.  I think 2013's simple orange-paper-plated dinner remains my favorite Thanksgiving table setting so far--the orange was just so warm and vibrant, as it was when we had an orange Christmas breakfast table last year--but this year's table was cozy even if a bit muted. 
We had turkey cutlets--neither of us like dark meat, so we never bother with a whole bird--Marie's zucchini gratin, our mushroom stuffing--that I just realized the recipe for is still in my list of posts as a draft, so I'll have to hit "publish" on that one soon--quinoa with just a bit of butter and salt and pepper stirred in, buffalo cauliflower because Mike wanted to try it, and green bean casserole.  Neither of us cares much about potatoes or gravy, so we skipped them, and since Mike was diagnosed with diabetes this fall, we went easy on flour-filled foods and bread products too.  Our mushroom stuffing was mostly mushrooms instead of the more equal bread cube-mushroom ratio it's been before, and we had no side-bread this year.  For dessert, we split a slice of chocolate tuxedo cake from the bakery.  Mike will be having his mom's apple pie and pumpkin pie tomorrow, so he'll be splurging a little more then anyway.
We watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles over dinner, as has become tradition during our rather informal Thanksgivings here.  This was one of my and my younger brother's favorite movies when we were kids, and it continues to be, and now we all find ourselves quoting lines of it to each other throughout the year. It both tickled me and struck me as poignant to hear a few years ago that my brother and his wife were watching the movie while she was in the hospital to give birth to their dear Bianca--that this sweet film from our childhood was a part of those moments for him and his own family so many years later.   
Stuffed didn't come near-enough to the table for pictures until after Mike and I had eaten and cleared things away, but he was his usual impossibly soft and adorable self all day, napping in just about every chair and even softly snoring while he did.  Love, love, love.   
I added a chocolate turkey to our cake, as I did with our pumpkin pie on our first Thanksgiving together in 2007.  It took forever to find this tiny candy-turkey in the store; What seemed to be a hundred huge solid milk chocolate ones were displayed more prominently.  Is eating--or even just gift-giving--solid chocolate turkeys a thing that people do at Thanksgiving now?  At a Thanksgiving dinner I attended during my internship days in Wisconsin in 2004, one of the women invited arrived with a number of little foil-wrapped turkeys for all the children present, which struck me as such a thoughtful and fun offering, but the big--at least 6" tall--solid chocolate turkeys are new to me.  I'm sure they'd be gorgeous on a big-enough dessert or as part of a centerpiece, at least.  (And you can tell I work with children when Elsa's bust-topped Coronation Day cake is the first "big-enough dessert" that comes to mind.  :)
Mike did the dishes while I put away the leftovers, and another Thanksgiving had come and gone.
When I took my iced tea glass out to the kitchen sink, I found a soap suds heart dissolving before my eyes.  'One of my favorite found hearts, this one, and a fine finish to this Thanksgiving. 
A happy holiday to everyone celebrating, and a good day to you all.   

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Here at Home Tonight

"Go light somewhere," I found myself muttering to Stuffed today, just as Mom used to say to me and my brothers when we drove her crazy getting underfoot, as he ran from room to room trying one chair and another, then the cozy corner between patchwork cupboard and radiator, then a rug in front of the bathroom radiator. . . .I was working on my memoir-writing/index card-making, Mike was trying to concentrate while reading the paper, and Stuffed was racing, stopping, racing off again, changing direction. . . .Finally, I gave up and gathered fleece blanket, afghan, and a pile of pillows onto a chair to build a burrow for Stuffed.  And sure enough, within two minutes, he jumped up onto it, curled into a ball, and has spent the past few hours there, nose cuddled into tail, looking distinctly snugger than everyone else here tonight.  
A lazy indoors night here for all three of us, actually.  We ordered a pizza for supper for the first time in awhile, and I'm mixing up a batch of chocolate zucchini muffins after I write this.  The now-pelting rain is supposed to turn to light snow here in the next few hours, and I have both tonight and tomorrow off work, so I'm looking forward to making a blanket-and-pillow fort for myself soon and enjoying two cozy days and nights of reading and writing.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Mail

I only mailed out a few Thanksgiving cards this year, but it was still a treat to spend even that little bit of time catching up and placing Snoopy-in-Pilgrim-hats stickers on envelopes.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Today's Charming Thing

I called home to tease my dad after reading his and mom's latest letters (and gift of contents/treat labels for holiday baking ), "You signed your letter with your NAME!" I laughed, and he said, "What?!  Instead of 'Dad,' you mean?  Oh!!  I'm sorry!"  We had a good laugh that I had been downgraded--and via letter!  so cold!--and I am still smiling over it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

But We Have Flowers

One of today's Day-Off Projects is the dismantling of a decorating project that just never worked:  The flower-photo wall.  Until today, this wall above our armchairs--we don't have a couch--was a giant collage-type space of photos, silk flowers, and the occasional doodad--a little hand-painted Stuffed shape, for example, and various colorful hearts, even the hand-print/paw-print canvas we painted years ago--and it was always chaotic instead of merely colorful, and I just never really liked it.  In four and a half years of living here, I never took a single picture of this wall, and that tells me all I need to know.  'Time for a change. 
I do have a plan for the new-and-improved wall, but for now, it's simply time to strip, patch, and touch-up the paint on it.  I actually prefer it the way it is now--half-stripped--than I did when it was filled with all the flowers I had collected the past few years. 
And with the outside world in so much trouble today, it is a sweet respite from the terror-filled news broadcasts to slow down and notice again each of these bright blooms.  Have you watched this video of a man explaining the Paris attacks to his questioning toddler?  "They might have guns," he tells the little boy, "But we have flowers."  This world!  'So many reasons to weep for it and so much beauty in it. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An Ode to All the Sunset Watchers

I love my parents more all the time for their appreciation of beauty.  "Who wants to see something pretty?" Olivia Walton asks her family after finding her Christmas cactus blooming in The Homecoming, and every Christmas when I watch the movie--it is one of my favorites--I think of my parents.  "Dad!" I called into the house while Mom and I sat out on the deck last week, "You should come see this sunset.  It's gorgeous!"  It didn't at all surprise me to hear him promptly push his footstool away from his chair in the living room to come join us.  I love that not only wasn't I surprised that Dad put his crossword puzzle aside to look at a  pretty sky, but also that I'd called out to him already knowing that that would be the case:  It was a given.  I come from people who appreciate beauty.  This fireball of a sunset was only embers on the horizon after just a few minutes, making the watching of it with my parents all the sweeter. 
Not everyone does appreciate it, I have learned.  Not everyone jumps up to look when news of a striking sunset or sunrise or moon or vibrant Cardinal-in-a-tree is shared.  And what a sad and shabby way of living that has to be.  Whether it is the flash of the red bird against the snow-heaped branch or the flaming sunset over the neighbor's house, after all, it is flitting.  As Mike well-knows, one of my biggest pet peeves at work is my asking someone how his or her day is going and hearing in response an Eeyore-like "It's going."  Gah!  Typically, those who answer once with "It's going" answer every time with "It's going" too, I've noticed.  Life is just passing for them, and there they are just dragging themselves along with it, ball with chain.  "It's going."  GAH!  It's going, all right.  Shake a leg, wise up, this matters, this is it, come look at the *&$@%# sunset!  
A thank you to all of you, then, who share your home (and is Jane's home not the dearest!?  ), your yard ( that is one of my favorite photos that talented Lisa has shared over the years), your garden (bliss!), your holiday traditions (love!) and holiday tables (so cozy and colorful!  Cheryl's!  love!), your passions (and your smile, Margaret!), your party-planning (everything Melissa touches is lovely), your determination to become your best self (my favorite line of this post highlights why I so love Heather's blog:  "Life right now is about recognizing small victories so I took a moment, spiked a football and then got down on one knee and pointed to the sky."  Ha!  Writing that shines ), your poetry ( a favorite writer), your family (this story! ), your sunlight (gorgeous first photo, that!), your self-care rituals (and most-everything eighty-something-year-old Ernestine posts is an inspiration), your love of history ( a treasure-trove of research), your miracles and wonders (so much big-hearted goodness in Yankee's posts), and even your (darling) picnics. . . .Oh, I love it all, I'm grateful for it all, I could go on all day.  With every shared word and photo, you prove your life is not just "going."  Beautiful. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

In the Woods

Like my dad, I call autumn my favorite season.  It is funny how peoples' favorite seasons rarely seem hard to guess correctly.  Aunt Laurie is a spring, and Mom is most definitely a summer.  Oh, sweet fall, though!  As Dad and I were saying last week, we would have it last until about the week before Christmas, then enjoy winter--even a blustery, freezing, and deep-snowed one--until oh, maybe a week after New Year's, and then move right into spring.  No gradual thaw, but just:  "Today, spring!"   (Remember in Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter how in bed in the wee hours of an April or May morning after the months of one-blizzard-after-another, Laura realized the wind was no longer howling outside and she could hear water dripping from the roof's eaves?  "The Chinook is blowing!" she yells to Pa, and he answers that he hears it too and that spring has come.  Oh, yes.  That's the one-moment-winter-and-the-next-moment-spring season-change we're wanting.)  And no more of the wishy-washy "springs" we've had lately that seem to be a week of warm temperatures when snow is still on the ground that causes us all to chatter about "What a nice break this is, after being so cold for so long!" but then the welcome "break" from winter becomes  a stretch of days in the upper seventies and then Mike and I have all our windows wide open during Easter dinner and our air conditioners on for the "summer" that is now beginning in May.  No, a true spring.  And then a proper summer next, with warm becoming hot and then turning hotter and then even humid, and right when you can't take the humidity anymore:  Fall!  Well, Dad and I aren't in charge, and no one's asked, but that's our report on How a Year Should Be. 

Last Monday afternoon while Dad stayed inside with Mom, I spent some time walking in the patch of woods behind their house and hardly wanted to go back indoors.  Fall color is past its peak at home, but enough remained to awe me.  The creek Dad dips his watering cans into for his gardens through the summer reflected mostly-bare branches and was lined by the mosses' and ferns' deep green and the surprising remainders of leaves glowing ruby and gold.  Birdhouses that Dad had built and painted barn-red were vibrant in the gray branches of a few trees, while patches of orange Chinese Lanterns dotted the woods like twinkling string lights at the bases of others.  There was enough of a breeze to sweep the pine needle and soil scents through the air but not so much as to make picture-taking impossible.  The only sounds were the bubbling of the creek and the leaves brushing against the trees.  The sun was setting as I finally turned the corner to head back into the field behind Mom and Dad's house, gifting me with the shadow pictures I so love, and a last heart-shaped leaf was awaiting me beside Dad's compost pile before I climbed the deck's steps and came in to change into pajamas for the night.  Glorious fall.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

On a Blue-Check Sick-Bed

I returned yesterday from a longer-than-usual visit with Mom and Dad.  Mom is recovering from surgery, and with each day of that recovery, one of this fall's biggest worries wanes a bit more.  She has an outpatient surgery scheduled for spring, but to have one hospital-stay down and one procedure to-go is better than where we were a week ago, so we will focus on that for now.  And eat our weight in pumpkin muffins.  My brothers have been keeping Mom supplied with gluten-free groceries, and the muffins, rolls, and macaroni have all been hits.  I arrived Sunday with a basket of magazines, a handmade scrapbook, and a few other other goodies--and Halloween treats for my dad, nieces, and nephew--and set up camp in the living room with Mom, sleeping on one of the chairs at night while Mom slept on the couch.  Sweet Mom, who always gives so much of herself to everyone else, has been showered with flowers, baked goods, visits from her beloved "grandbabies," and oh! the most wonderful mail.    We kept lit in the living room a pumpkin-scented candle Aunt Laurie had sent in a pre-surgery care package.  We made cinnamon rolls from a gluten-free pizza crust mix my younger brother had given her.  We smiled over a get-well card my older brother's kids had drawn for her.  We enjoyed a visit with my dancing queen of an almost-two-year-old niece.  We enjoyed Dad's laundry service.  And the early November weather was mild enough for Mom to get some fresh air out on the deck, albeit still cuddled-up in a blanket, and for me to take a break and enjoy some walks around the yard and in the woods behind her and Dad's house.  We watched movies, old "Barney Miller" episodes--we share a Hal Linden crush--and the most striking sunset, and I myself found hearts, of course, while resting on the deck's steps, and while walking in the woods, and even while packing to come back here:  A red heart sticker we hadn't noticed before appeared stuck to the kitchen floor.  "Well, I'll have to think about that one," Mom murmured as she looked down at it during one of her required laps around the house.  "  I have no idea where that would have come from."  She had just told me the day before that she hasn't had any stickers to add to her letters and envelopes in ages, so stickers could be a Christmas idea for her, if I needed any ideas. . . .  I couldn't bear to scrape it off of the tile.  Mom can ponder it while she completes her daily laps, and assuming Dad won't notice it if he mops the floor, I will enjoy seeing it again when I return home in three weeks to help Mom put up the Christmas trees, to try our hand at gluten-free crescent rolls, and to give Chef Dad a break from cooking supper.  Here's to every good heart that graces our journeys, and let us not take any of them for granted.