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In the shelter of hope

DSCN6784Have you noticed the snow drifting across my words?  It’s a Currier and Ives sort of feature that the happiness folks at WordPress provide; no shoveling needed.

We have, thus far, been spared any real accumulation snow here on the Cutoff and the sun is out today, smiling down upon us as we finish the last morsels of Thanksgiving (today it is turkey vegetable soup).  The last of fall is being swept under the carpets and the beginning of Christmas is starting to show.

I know some of you put up Christmas in one, fell swoop and your lights are already brightly shining. For some, it may take a while; perhaps just a sprig of green to honor the changing season. For my friends “down under”, summer has arrived, and for many I love, Hanukkah with its glowing candles will soon be here. Perhaps you do not celebrate the holidays or holy days of December, but, I think we can all embrace something in the change of the season, like a toasty fire in the hearth or a walk on the beach.

Here on the Cutoff, Christmas comes slowly, with candles aglow during our suppers of Advent and a theme of hope taking up residence. Trinkets and books have begun their appearance, coming out of boxes and drawers, while songs of good cheer are embracing our ears.  A Black Forest spruce magically appeared and is hugging the barn; a little something my Antler Man picked up this weekend and will bring in mid-month. He is being evasive about how tall it really is. The Christmas Room, thus christened by Kezzie two summers past, and magically festooned last November, will eventually host a chorus of angels and our woodland tree will alter the inner landscape of our lives, enveloping us in a sanctuary of hope.

Hope.

We were filled with much hope last December, as Tom healed from eye surgery, which went well, but whose results were not as good as we had hoped for. Still-in-all, he has been able to resume work and all activities, and does so with strong determination and abiding faith. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of a vitrectomy, epiretinal peel, and all the steroidal shots he has endured can lead to a cataract forming, which is just the case with Tom. The cataract has developed quickly and its aggressiveness is causing increased macular edema. While cataract surgery has become a common procedure these days, it is a bit more complicated for those with Type I Diabetes. Such is the case with my Tom. So, dear friends, I find myself, once again, petitioning for your good thoughts and prayers as Tom undergoes cataract surgery in the wee hours of Wednesday and my Antler Man and I spend our time in that place we have often found sheltering: hope.

Hope.

 

Hope

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It is currently said that hope goes with youth, and lends to youth its wings of a butterfly; but I fancy that hope is the last gift given to man, and the only gift not given to youth. Youth is pre-emininently the period in which a man can be lyric, fanatical, poetic; but youth is the period in which man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of the world. But the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged: God has kept that good wine until now. It is from the backs of the elderly gentlemen that the wings of the butterfly should burst.

Charles Dickens: Last of the Great Men

Basking after Basting

photo-2I’m sitting here, basking in the post-Thanksgiving glow, which is almost as golden as Thanksgiving itself. Who needs Black Friday?! Most of the remains of the day are put away, though glasses that held wine and Grandma’s Coronation silver-plate still need to be put in their designated drawers and cabinets. That can wait, for I wanted to share this most excellent, someday heirloom, photo of my oldest grandnephew, Scott, who will turn 11 on my 65th birthday, next week. Here he is, cheerfully demonstrating that while he will never quite catch up to me in age, he has already done so in height. Way-to-go, Scott!

Isn’t life grand?

Our turkey was golden, and the fresh cranberry relish that perfect combination of sweet and tart. Niece Heather’s roasted potatoes were simply sublime. Nephew Andrew gave our blessing, then plates were passed and stories flowed, Jennifer and Jason soon joined us, slipping in from another family engagement, and all felt right in this day of gratitude.

Marilyn asked if I would share a recipe, and so, I thought I would.  The cranberry relish is documented here, and has been a mainstay in our menu for three decades.  My turkey, well, my turkey is usually quite delicious, but, no special ingredients or methods, I just season and roast. If a few drops of white wine are around, it usually finds itself in the gravy.

This year, I decided to make Ina Garten’s Green Beans and Shallots for our vegetable and for its color. Ina never disappoints, and she doesn’t with this easy recipe.  As you may know, I’m an Ina Garten groupie with Barefoot Contessa cookbooks lined up like the kitchen guard (though there is just enough room for her latest book, in case anyone is pondering pleasing me for my afore-mentioned birthday).  It was actually our Jennifer who first made this dish, however, and it is now a favorite.  I did use the French string beans, as they rose to my attention at the market, but, I’ve used regular as well and they work just fine. I did the parboiling and set aside earlier in the day, so, just needed to store up with the shallots just before we sat down. I did not salt the water, but, did salt the pan for the shallots – and I parboiled longer that 1 1/2 minutes.

Green Beans and Shallots

1 pound French string beans (haricots verts), ends removed (can use regular string beans)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
3 large shallots, large-diced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 1/2 minutes only. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water.

Heat the butter and oil in a very large sauté pan (12-inch diameter) or large pot and sauté the shallots on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned. Drain the string beans and add to the shallots with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper, tossing well. Heat only until the beans are hot.

(from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style)

Yia Yia,

“I think you should take my picture with the sun”.

So, I did!

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Here’s to getting all the hugs you ever want, DSCN6696 DSCN6711 - Version 2

and that you find all the colors you need.
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DSCN6768Plentywood Farm.

It was a well known and well liked restaurant in Bensenville, Illinois, from the early 30’s into the ’90’s.  From nice dinners to wedding receptions, business retreats, funeral luncheons, and Easter dinner, it was one of those restaurants where one always felt comfortable, the food was always outstanding, and you left knowing you had a few dollars left in your pocket.

I modeled a darling black dress at Plentywood Farms,. It was festooned with white polka dots and smart, red piping with a red leather belt. Me? Modeling? My last time on a runway was as a fallen angel of the Lord for the Christmas Pageant, and we all know where I landed in that attempt.

This “walk” was for a Newcomers Club fashion show.  The dresses we modeled were from Honey Girl, in Elmhurst. I liked the dress so much, I bought it with the discount the store offered. I really felt good in it, and wore it for quite a few years, amazed that I not only modeled it, but, did so without falling off of the runway. That was my first time in Plentywood Farm.

Tom wanted to take me there shortly after the “fashion” show. I think he was miffed that he couldn’t attend.  We went for our anniversary later that same year, and returned there on several others.

We celebrated a New Year’s Eve with our good friends , Jeri and Kyle; one of several New Year’s we celebrated with them. It was the restaurant of choice for confirmation celebrations, funeral luncheons, wedding showers, and just a night out when Ma came to watch the girls.

Plentywood Farm was a large, rustic building with several annexes:  warm and inviting, all. It gleamed in the sunshine and glowed in the candlelight and never, ever disappointed. There was even a little county store on the grounds, where one could by county styled items – and their fresh-baked bread.

The photo is of a rendition of Plentywood Farm in one of my Ford Treasury Cookbooks. Although we never ate there on Thanksgiving, it always had the aura of “Over the River and Through the Woods” to me – and I wanted to share it with you. It is one of those places that someone from the area will say “remember Plentywood Farm?”  and chorus line of memories will ensue.  In fact, it just happened today at an event I attended.

The restaurants you’ve mentioned in your comments are sadly not in the books. I will, however, try to post a restaurant that might illicit a memory for you, every once-in-awhile.

Off I go to make some cranberry relish.

 

The River is Wide

I love the slow anticipation of the Advent season, and the quiet reflection it affords.

Maura O’Connell. The River is Wide. From YouTube.

Thoughts . . .

I’m still a wee bit under the weather.  Actually, it’s more like a wee-wee bit under the weather, which occurs each time I cough, which is most of the time right now. So, enough of my lack of bladder control, my coughing and sneezing and general malaise. This, too, will pass.  Until then, I thought I might share an older post as we here in the States prepare for Thanksgiving.

Turkey Lurkey and Henny Penny, first posted here.

412926_betterhomes19711I have a fear of turkeys. Frozen turkeys.

It started when I was 26 years old. It was my maiden voyage in the fine American culinary tradition of roasting the Thanksgiving turkey. I come from a long line of extraordinary cooks and married into a family of equal expertise. Big shoes to fill – and I only wore a size 5½ myself. The pressure to roast a good turkey was on.

On a crisp November day, on my way home from a day of teaching first graders, I stopped at the grocery store, which was a newly opened Jewel Grand Bazaar. A precursor to the big box stores of today. At four in the afternoon, it was already crowded, and parking my 1972 green Ford Pinto hatchback took a few passes down the rows to find a parking spot.

Once inside, I grabbed a cart and selected produce, then dairy, bakery, then canned goods, saving a space in the cart for Turkey Lurkey. What a pair we were that afternoon. Henny Penny and Turkey Lurkey. My mom and Tom’s, as well as his sister, Maura, were all bringing accompaniments, but, this bird and his stuffing were my responsibility. All mine.

I’d never bought a turkey before. This was long before Mr. Google could answer any question asked. With my 1972 red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens spiral bound cookbook as my guide, I picked out a frozen turkey, the biggest one I could find, loaded it onto the cart, and headed to the checkout, confident that the twenty-two pound gobbler would feed our guests and yield plenty of leftovers.

Bill paid, groceries bagged, I loaded up the hatchback of my Pinto and headed home as dusk settled in. Rush hour traffic was in full throttle, but, I only had a few miles to go and was thinking about all I still had to do to prepare for our first Thanksgiving hosting.

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving, from when I was a child, but, never more so than when I was young. Do you remember a time when we only had turkey for Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas dinner? We had our Thanksgiving meal, maybe turkey sandwiches later, leftovers a day or so more, and that was it. The scents and tastes were put in abeyance until the next year.

I was thinking about these things, I am certain, as I drove home. Anticipation and great expectations as I listened to the news on the tinny car radio (I was a news junkie even then).

Suddenly, the car in front of me stopped. I slammed on my brakes, just in time, and checked my rearview mirror to see if I was about to be hit. In an instant, I saw it, hurling at me at 35 miles per hour with me at a dead stop. My life actually flashed before my eyes, as did all my Thanksgivings and a few misgivings as well. It was two or three seconds of pure terror as 22 pounds of frozen turkey hurled, straight from the hatchback, over the back seat, and straight toward my Farah Fawcett coiffed hairdo!

Turkey Lurkey catapulting like a shot out of a cannon toward Henny Penny. I truly thought the sky was falling!

The back of my car seat stopped that frozen fowl. Stopped him mid-flight. There I was, saved, in a backhanded sort of way by foul play in the last second of the ’72 turkey tourney. The car in front stalled, the driver behind me staring, mouth agape. I can only imagine his view from his steering wheel as he witnessed a turkey on the loose in, of all cars, a Ford Pinto.

I managed to get this year’s turkey, all twenty pounds of frozen poultry promise, into the cart, into the car, out of the car, and into the freezer. It is now in a slow swoon in the refrigerator.

I thought about the turkey of yore each and every step of the way.

I still have the 1972 red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

The 1972 Ford Pinto hatchback , dubbed “the horsey car” by Jennifer in her toddling days, eventually went on to greener pastures.

 

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