Creating Thanksgiving Memories

It’s Saturday morning, a sunny, wintry chill in the air. One child is at a birthday sleepover, the other watching daddy play his new video game (insert giggles from downstairs and demands to, “ooh, get the moose, get the moose!”)  I am blissfully wrapped in a blanket pondering the upcoming Thanksgiving Day menu.

It’s pretty simple, really. And absolutely tear-free, unlike holiday baking forays of past. There was the year in Hawaii… Ah, cooking a holiday feast in a single-wall construction house in the heat of the day, window AC units blowing to capacity. I mistakenly used butter in my apple pie crust recipe. Rookie move. Long story short, I retreated with my tail between my legs to the bathroom and had a good “I suck at pie-making” cry, while my husband lovingly tried to resurrect an all but dead glob of dough.

More recently – the not-quite-done turkey disaster. The kids and I celebrated the day with neighbor friends. My husband, Kevin, then assigned to Offutt Air Force Base (Omaha, Neb.) had duty on Thanksgiving and wasn’t able to join us. My one job? Cook the turkey. (I also made green bean casserole, but that’s a no-brainer.) I cut into the turkey after hours of cooking and basting, and realized to my horror that it wasn’t fully cooked. Thankfully, my friend Beth had made a wonderful ham and Thanksgiving was saved, no thanks to my lack of holiday cooking prowess.

On any given day, I can pull off a pretty good meal. On holidays, I fall apart. I’d like to feign ignorance as to the explanation for that. But, I know full well why. It’s because a week before the big day, I put together this grand plan, complete with activities, main meal menu, snacks, drinks, etc. And somewhere between waking up and turning on the football game, my plan fizzles.

This year, Norman Rockwell’s not invited to our holiday scene, and I’m abiding by the KISS adage. Kevin will make the turkey (see above), I will pull together the green bean dish we all love (without cream of mushroom soup), heat up the Bob Evans mashed potatoes everyone enjoys (I’m a mashed potato snob, so this requires a shift in attitude – but good golly I LOVE this microwavable delicacy.) Instead of making Bobby Flay’s deliciously, but ridiculously complicated-looking pumpkin pie with cinnamon crunch topping and bourbon-maple whipped cream, the kids will help make Eagle Brand’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie. (It has “perfect” in the title – how can I go wrong?)

Oh, and who can forget the jellied cranberry? We’ll all stand in a circle, around the plate, watching in amazement as the gelatinous cylinder slowly descends from the can, making that sucking plop sound. As it successfully jiggles on the plate, we’ll throw up our hands in cheer! (It’s a crazy tradition, but it’s memorable, and it’s all ours.)

We’ll have cinnamon crunch bagels with hazelnut cream cheese for breakfast, thanks to Panera; watch the Green Bay Packers (our fave!) wallop the Detroit Lions; eat our fantastically simple yet amazing dinner at halftime; and draw straws for which movie we venture out to see – Hugo or Arthur Christmas. (My vote’s on Hugo. Paige and I have been reading the book…)

It’s an ultra low-key plan, but the kind upon which childhood memories are built. When I was a kid, our holiday dinners were a big event. Lots of aunts and uncles, cousins, football, and grandma’s famous pies. My favorite memory? The year grandma forgot to add sugar to the pumpkin pie. The adults were gathered around the dining room table, the kids at the kitchen breakfast bar – almost simultaneously after the first bite, we all looked at each other in confusion. Finally, a brave soul wondered aloud what was different about this year’s pie. We had a hearty chuckle over grandma’s realization that she forgot to add the sugar. The perfectionist in me cringes, but I can proudly say I carry on the occasional holiday cooking snafu tradition.

What are your Thanksgiving plans and memories? Extravagant or simple? Traditional or contemporary?

My Favorite Things. Starting Now.

This week, I’ll reluctantly surrender the part-time social media, writing, public relations, everything-communications gig I’ve been fortunate enough to do from home. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve found myself in a “what to do today?” conundrum. But here I am, resilient and ready.

My best strategy for avoiding daily online shopping? Recently, a friend (you’re awesome, Amy!) posted this as her Facebook status: “In challenging times, creative people get creative…” It was exactly the message I needed to see at just the right time.

Guess it’s time to get creative. Starting now, here are a few of my favorite things to keep me busy and creative:

Learning to make biscotti. Peppermint, to be exact. I recently bought a box of these at the Metropolitan Home Cooking Show in D.C. (I should have bought at least a dozen!) Bellas Home Baked Goods makes an amazing rendition. However, I’m frugal. And spending $7.50/box plus shipping isn’t going to cut it. After all, I need to support my kids’ new-found hot chocolate and peppermint biscotti habit – without a paycheck.

Making homemade marshmallows. You know the kind – fluffy, big, monopolize-the-hot-chocolate-cup variety. Sure, it would be easier to drop by Williams-Sonoma, but then I would fall in love with a shiny new baking sheet. And a sharp knife. Ooh, look – Star Wars-shaped pancake makers… See? Homemade it is!

Sewing Christmas gifts. I can’t elaborate much on this one without giving away my gifting secrets. Theoretically, there’s plenty of time to whip up some handmade _________ (fill in the blank).

Painting the house. I’m on track to paint every. single. wall. I lured my husband to the computer one night (sexy, yes?) to view my newest paint-color obsession. He quickly retreated, hands to the sides of his head, yelling as he escaped to the hallway, “Painting is not a hobby!” Well, not if you loathe it, it isn’t. I, however, appreciate a change of scenery. Sherwin Williams’ Truepenny awaits the adjoining kitchen and dining room walls.

That should do for awhile, don’t you think? What are some of your favorite things?

Dear Diary

Starting a blog feels a lot like writing a public diary.

Dear Diary,
Today I started a blog. I miss my mom. Hope it’s nice outside tomorrow….

Seriously though. I just heard on the news (so it must be true) that numerologists say this once in a lifetime (longer, if you happen to live to be over a century old) occurrence of 11-11-11 is a springboard to goodness; anyone pursuing their dreams, starting today, will see them come true. Just like that. Now wasn’t that easy?

So here I am. Starting a blog. On the seemingly most appropriate day possible. My dream? I have a vague idea and it involves writing for Mac Life magazine. A girl can dream, right? In the meantime, I’ll grab whatever rewarding gig comes my way.

Stay tuned for ramblings about my new favorite things, thoughts on boxed wine, writing a new life chapter and more.