Friends Who Are Family

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I have spent all of my adult life living more than eight hours from where I grew up.   This means that my family has never been able to bop over to chat.    It means I have never made a Sunday family dinner, or the monthly family birthday party. It means that my friends have stepped in when when tradition would say it would be your family.    I have been blessed with friends who are family for me.

As we approach Thanksgiving I want to give thanks to and for my friends.

To my lifetime friend, who no matter how long it is between phone calls, and even longer times between when we get together you are there. It is like we just connected last week, time seems to not matter for us.   You get me.   You make me laugh  when I don’t know I need it. You provide insight about myself sometimes I don’t recognize.   You challenge me and make me a better person.    I hope I have been as good of friend to you as you have been to me.

To my little sister friend, who is all grown up now.  Who’d have imagined when as a college student and you decided to rent a room from me that this would result in a friendship that was more like sisterhood. You never cease to amaze me with your drive.   Knowing you has helped me to realize it is never too late, or you are never too old to explore new things and dream a new dream.

To all my Thanksgiving family friends.   RangerSir and I have never been alone on my favorite holiday of the year.    Thanks to all my friends in Minnesota, Colorado, Michigan, and Montana who have be part of the the many dinners we have shared with you.

Thanks to all my creative friends who have been with me for all my creative endeavors.   Your support and encouragement have meant the world to me when I was full of doubt.

Thanks to my family who are not only friends but also family.   I am lucky that I have brothers who rock and never let me forget who I am or where I came from.

Thanks to RangerSir, who is not only my husband, but my best friend.

This holiday season I just want everyone to know I am thankful for having you in my life.

 

 

 

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Thawing Turkey in the Refrigerator

I put a frozen turkey in my refrigerator on Sunday and on Friday it was still frozen.    Everyone now days recommends that you thaw turkeys out in the refrigerator.   Based on the weight the consensus was that it should have been thawed by Tuesday.   Let me assure you on Friday it was still frozen.   Agh!   I planned to put in the electric roaster Friday at noon and serve it for dinner that night to guest.  I was wasting gallons of water trying to thaw it out in the kitchen sink in time.

All my life growing up and most of my adult life turkey was thawed out on the kitchen counter.   I am not sure what caused a changed and made the counter method no longer acceptable.   I never remember anyone betting sick from Thanksgiving turkey or the stuffing inside it.  We practiced good clean kitchen technique and food handling.   It isn’t to say sickness was not possible,  but we were careful and smart and it worked for us.

Whoever everyone is that recommends that refrigerator method, I have tried it now a couple of times and can tell you it isn’t working for me.   I am going back to the kitchen counter and lots of common sense for my next turkey dinner.

My Favorite Holiday

Not Christmas but Thanksgiving.   I love Thanksgiving because it is a holiday everyone can embrace.  It has nothing to do with religion or buying gifts.  Rather than separating us by our beliefs or economics,  Thanksgiving allows us all to come together.      It has everything to do with acknowledging good fortunate and  how blessed you are in life.  There is so much to be thankful for, the love of our friends and family, food on our table, shelter from the seasons, a job when so many don’t , our health for so many don’t, our country,  and I could list so much more.   We each have been given so many gifts.   It is one day set aside to encourage us to say Thanks.   That by being a holiday it hopefully forces us to take a time out and include a little reflection on how blessed you are.

I love that Thanksgiving is a secular holiday. I have over the years have celebrated with great joy and reflection with my family, friends and acquaintances of so many different religious persuasions.   We have hosted people in our home of many different faiths: Jewish, Islam, Christians,  Muslim, shamanic believers, agnostic, and no faiths at all, atheists.   In this time of such strife, that we came together in a single home and reflect on our blessings, was in itself a blessing.  We always said grace and everyone at the table contributes with something they are thankful for.   Imagine all of us praying together, not in the name of one religion or another but as humankind.   It  gives me hope that the rest of the world can work toward not fighting in the name of religion.  That is truly something to be thankful for,  the love of humankind.

Kiddie Table

My Montana family that we spend the holidays with is all grown up.   What that means is there is no longer a kiddie table at Thanksgiving.  That is a huge milestone for  the kids.   It is a bigger deal than getting your driver’s license because that does not automatically move you to the adult table.  There is some secret magical criteria that only moms get to see that tells them when their youngsters are ready to graduate from that table reserved for all the kids.

When I was a kid growing up the kiddie table was made up of my cousins, my brothers and me.   My grandma’s house was a tight fit and I can remember years where if  it was not too cold out that the kids would relegated to the picnic table in the back yard.   If it was too cold for that we would be sent to the front room as not to disturb the men watching football on TV. I did not get to move from the kiddie table until I had moved away from home.  I wonder what that says about me?

The kiddie table was a great bonding time for the cousins.   We did not all live close to one another so we only saw each other at major holidays.   We quickly found old bonds and made new ones.   We did things that you could only do at the kids table, tell jokes, burb, laugh until Kool-Aid came out your nose, and try and one up your cousin.  You could be loud, not worry about proper manners, play with your food and con someone in to eating that stuff that your mom put on your plate you hated.   There were lots of things that you only  could experience at the kiddie table.

I on the other hand have never had children.  Not being a Mom I did not understand how you decided who was sent to the kiddie table and who went to the regular table.   When it came time for me to start hosting Thanksgiving I took the easy way out, one table.   I put the kids and adults all at the same table.  They were all mixed up, no kids end or segregation.   In retrospect I never gave a thought about a second table and if it would have it more comfortable for my guests.   Did the kids find the conversation boring?   Did adults not get to relax because they were worried about if their child would behave?   I wonder if I was doing a disservice to the kids who joined us as they did not get to chat up a storm and be goofy as my cousins and I once were.  Or was I giving them a boost by including them in the adult world?  Someday I will ask my nieces, nephews and the friends they brought with them to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, was the lack of kiddie table good or bad move on my part?    Maybe the fact they brought their friends with them Thanksgiving at our home says it all.   Maybe it wasn’t normal, but was worth sharing with your friends; good eats and good times.

 

The Pie Baker

Oh She Glows Blog is full of great instructions and photos.

I have loved to bake pies all my life.   I would rather bake a pie than any other dessert or sweet.    I have tried all sorts of pies over the years.   I honestly have not single favorite pie, and  I am always trying something new.  I love them all, old recipes and new recipes alike.

Last year my experimental recipe  was a pecan pie that used real maple syrup. I was trying to find something that made a great pecan pie without ending up with a gooey sweet filling.    It was a great result much richer and smoother than my traditional pecan pie.   It was definitely a keeper.

This year I happened to have two sugar pumpkins on hand and decided to try my hand at homemade pumpkin pie.   I remember as a kid my mother once had done this and the pumpkin was very moist and it present problems.    Like everyone today, I went to the internet looking for an option that looked promising.  The first thing that I found out is that the pumpkin in the can is likely not pumpkin, but some other kind of squash.   Now my interest was definitely piqued. Was there a difference if I used real pumpkin?  Will anyone notice?  I found an option that looked good on the Oh She Glows blog.   I have finished roasting my pumpkins, run them through the food processor until smooth as anything you will find on the grocery shelf.   I put it in a food mill and let the excess water drain out; lesson learned from my mother.  It now sits in my refrigerator ready for pie baking tomorrow.

I will post again later after the pie has been baked and ate by the family.   The other pies I am bake this year besides pumpkin is the requisite chocolate, an apple and a banana cream.

The Pulls of the Holidays

The holidays are a busy time and they pull us in many directions with our time, our emotions, and even our personal economics.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s day we find ourselves planning  major meals, one, two, three.   If you host the meal it is not only the planning of what you will make but also getting your guests to bring the right combination of dishes to round out the meal.   We also worry about how to seat the people we have invited.  I used to always rent hall tables and chairs, that made it easier for me. Some of us also struggle with making our family and then the in-laws side on a single day.  Others of us struggle geographically to be with family who are great distances away.

Gift giving that goes with the holidays is another pull.   Gift giving is very emotional as we want to give something that the receiver will enjoy receiving.  Sometimes this isn’t as easy as it sounds.   If you live a great distance away from your family most of the year then knowing what they want isn’t as easy as remembering you dad saying a new socket set would be nice when he was working on the lawn mower, or hearing your mom say that her friend just got a nice new fleece jacket.  That distance generally results you asking for a Christmas list.    Those lists have been edited if we give or receive the list based on what you think is the right price point for that person.

In the best of economic times the holidays stress everyone’s budget if you have one or not.   We spend extra money at the grocery helping to buy the ingredients for things we only buy once a year.  Those dishes we make only once a year require  ingredients we don’t stock in our pantry.   We buy gifts for friends and family. Even if you make your gifts, you must purchase the supplies to do so.    These seasonal expenses  makes us work to balance out those bills we must pay every month.

No matter how carefully we plan, the holidays will pull us in many directions.

To Grandmother’s House We go

Currier & Ives Classic

This time of year makes me think of the seasonal classic song, “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go…”  Growing up Thanksgiving was a  wonderful holiday and gave  me some of my best family memories.  It was a holiday all about family, gathering and being thankful for our blessings.   

Our family gathered  at Grandmother’s house, and most traveled some  distance to make it home for the holiday.  Our family only one town away from Grandpa & Grandma’s place so we would arrive first.  The highlight of the day was to hear my Grandma say with a smile in her heart that  the Rosses have just pulled in, that the DeMoney family was here, Ron & John were unloading or that the  Virtues with the boys had arrived.   She loved it when the whole  family came home.

Our family gathering included much more than my grandparent’s  children and grandchildren. It would also include like-family friends like Aunt Hermine and Uncle Raymond who were not actually family, but to us they were.  Then there were  work co-workers and other friends who did not come for the full day, but would stop by later in the day to check in like Alice and Buck, who each had their own family.

My Grandma loved to cook. Most of the cooking for this holiday fell to my grandma.  She would cook the turkey and ham, the potatoes, stuffing and of course all the pies.  The rest of the family would bring side dishes.  This resulted in a feast fit for a king, but in no way would all fit on a small kitchen table. So as much of the dinner as possible would be on the table, with overflow on  the counters  and  the stove.   You would pick up your plate and move around the kitchen filling your plate in the finest smorgesboard style.

Grandma and Grandpa’s house  was little house with a kitchen, a TV room and a living room.  This holiday would stretch it to the  limit, sort of like frat boys stuffing a phone booth.    There was no Norman Rockwell gathering at a single table.   No sir, the men came first and filled their plates and returned to the TV room to watch the football game.   The kids came next filling their plates with mothers asking their children wouldn’t they like to try this salad your aunt brought or that you could not only eat mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.   Then the kids  would head to the front  room with words of caution not to spill, or one year we ate outside at the picnic table.   The women would then sit down at the kitchen table and fill their plates and catch up on the world.

It was a grand time where the whole family reconnected.  Men bonded in their man way in front of the TV.  The women talked and talked.  The kids we were a big enough group to play any game that we choose.

My grandparents are both gone now, along with my Aunt Linda.  The family is no longer geographically close enough that we can all drive “home” in a day, we have scattered much wider.  The cousins are now all grown up, with children and a few grandchildren.  We may not gather together any longer, but we are still all wrapped with the warm memories of Thanksgivings past.