The Hip Happiest Time of the Year

Aaaaah!

I hope you are all as cozy as I am this very moment. What used to be an awful, frantic three months of endurance has evolved into just doing what I love.

You have your fuzzy socks on, right?

I completely ignore Halloween and Christmas and stretch Thanksgiving out into as many weeks as I can get away with. It’s delicious.

I asked a girlfriend yesterday if she was ready for Thanksgiving and she made that face that I put on when words don’t do justice to the injustice of forced festivity.

Who uses the Grinch face for Thanksgiving? Who?

Her family is coming to her house, so she has to clean, cook, rearrange furniture – you know the drill.

She freely admits that they put zero pressure to perform on her lovely shoulders: she does it all by herself.

Now there’s a girl after my own heart!

I know you already saw this video clip on Facebook, but here’s the link anyway, if you want a good laugh.

This used to be me, my kids unanimously agree, although none of us thought it was funny back in the day.

Now I recognize my own special brand of crazy and embrace it.

I don’t do it because I have to. I do it because I like it. And that makes all the difference.

I have been fluffing up my house for two weeks solid and I am in my happy zone, let me tell you, even if it wakes me up at 3am to go over the bottomless list:

  • buy canned green beans; no snow peas
  • burp the vacuum; suck up drifts of dead ants in basement
  • get the giant beanbag up the stairwell; pretend it’s real furniture
  • bulk buy toilet paper and kleenex
  • remove half cord of wood from property and rake area: just because I can see it from my window
  • den curtains: red or ugly nondescript mud brown?
  • wall holes: repair or hide with houseplants?
  • Ecuador: send the kid or no?
  • basketball uniforms cleaned: hot or cold water?
  • blog: write one!! write two! get up right now and write them!!

I know there’s not a soul around who cares if I do a single one of these items.

But.

Remember the couches I was determined to buy?

Boom.

Hubby and I drove in circles until we made a kill two cities away.

I’m not sure why factories feel compelled to manufacture ugly furniture.

Maybe they chat with the clothing industry.

“Make it smoky blue. With fat nail heads. Everywhere. I want to see that sofa gleaming like Vegas when the lights go out. Also, it should render a person unconscious if they flop their head backwards against the cushions.”

I put a tab so large on my credit card (financing is for sissies) I expected it to melt in the swiper machine. This sofa is no small potatoes.

It cost a million dollars.

I plan to count, and when the millionth person sits down on it, we will throw a party, having finally gotten our money’s worth out of the behemoth.

Anyway.

I moved all the house furniture around and then carefully laid out the placement of our sofa sectional on the floor in blue painters tape. I needed a visual.

And we will keep this virtual couch until the real deal arrives and fills the air space.

I keep telling the kids to keep their feet off it. Were they raised in a barn?!

Don’t answer that.

Thanksgiving prep is my perfect alibi.

When else could I be shaking up the house like Yahtzee dice and no one raise an eyebrow?

Build it and they will come.

And they will.

All the family for Thanksgiving and then more family staying through the weekend.

They’re lucky to not be sleeping in virtual beds.

Today I was up to my elbows midwife-ing turkey giblets, because I cook my turkey the day before Thanksgiving. It’s not my original idea (thanks, Flylady) but it’s transformed the day into one with my family and a glass of wine instead of feeling like I’ve been chained to the kitchen (which is not a bad idea per se, but I can do that any day).

No one was hanging over my shoulder rushing me. I enjoyed my tea while setting out pie plates and slicing the golden bird of destiny.

With this tune running through my head:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

With the kids mingle-yelling
And everyone telling you
“What a careeeeer!”
It’s the most tea-chugging time of the year

It’s the hip-happiest season of all…

With those furniture needings
And virtual seatings
When friends come to call
It’s the best praying-est season of all…

There’ll be Facebook for posting
Your in-laws for roasting
And Skyping to friends in the snow (haha!)
There’ll be old Viking stories
And tales of the glories
Of recipes long, long ago…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

There’ll be movie line know-ing
Our pies we’ll be throwing
When loved ones are near
(throw more brandy!)
It’s the best family time of the year!

Thankful for the Midgets

Here we are in the throes of Thanksgiving. I love this month. I love having everybody over and sampling their cooking and playing “Take 2” with scrabble tiles. I even love the dirty dishes, as you know. I love the weather and that we can go for a saunter in the sunshine and sit in the jacuzzi at night under the stars with just a little bit more pie.

That one is a new tradition. We put as many people as we can in the spa until there’s no more water in it.

“Why not?” is what you should be asking.

One year I was inspired to go a little bit outside the usual box for Thanksgiving. Normally when I suggest such a thing, my family responds with a great deal of eye rolling and long exasperated sighs.

“There goes Mom again,” they say sadly, “can’t just eat turkey and get on with it. Has to make a production out of stuff.”

This is why I’ve been serving spaghetti for twenty years instead of chicken cordon bleu and veal with wine reduction sauce and capers. Because they’re a lot of barbarians, that’s why. Not a grain of culture among them.

I snuck it in anyway by using a bribe they couldn’t resist: fire.

Even a caveman will hold still and stare at fire.

Our large group spread out in a circle in the living room and everyone held a candle with a drip catcher on it. I lit mine and said something I was thankful for. It could be anything large or small, personal or general. No pressure. Just mention something and we’ll give you an ‘amen’.

It so happened we had been in a major car crash that year and although our car had been totaled from three directions, all five of us basically walked away untouched. So I started us off with something obvious.

The flame was passed around the room, each person lighting his candle from the previous one, mentioning his gratitude and passing the torch, so to speak.

I gave myself a mental pat on the back. Just once I had finally managed to implement one of those cool ideas from Martha Stewart, Pinterest, or the glossy magazine articles that tell you how to make family memories.

**sigh** said the cockles of my heart. They were toasty.

The flame had almost completed the circle when it was tiny Tim’s turn. I could see he’d been thinking deeply about his moment of fame and when the spotlight finally landed at his feet, he took a deep breath and enthusiastically blurted out,

“I’m thankful for the midgets!”

Hey, there’s no judging here.

Even the midgets got a hearty ‘amen’ and smiling contentedly, he lit the next guy’s candle.

This was not my personal tiny Tim, this was someone else’s, but he’s going down in our own family history as the kid who reminded us to think outside the box.

Especially if there might be midgets involved.

I’d like to leave you with a last thought as you work your way through your next piece of pie.

One of my favorite books is “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom.

It’s a tale of her family during Nazi occupation and her experiences in the prisons as a 52 year old woman.

Her elder, frail sister is leading a prayer circle deep in the rotting barracks and tells Corrie to be thankful for everything, even the fleas that are tormenting them at the moment.

Corrie scoffs at the idea. How can she be thankful for what seems like a horrible thing?

She finds out later that the reason their nightly prayer circles go unhindered and unpunished is specifically because their brutal captors can’t stand the fleas.

The fleas were allowing their thanksgiving to occur.

Here’s to an abundant and overflowing year.

May you pause once in a while to be thankful for it all.

May you have bounty enough to share with the next guy, whether its midgets or fleas or simply the flame of inspiration.

Talking Turkey

What will be on your Thanksgiving table? I am more grateful for the people around it than for what lands on it. Rich is the man with a simple meal surrounded by great love. It took me years to understand this.

Which makes every day Thanksgiving.

Traditions are lovely, if they add to the love, so if some secret modifications occur, hey, who needs to know?

I am about to blab all of my turkey day short-cuts. I will understand if you decide not to eat the apple pie after all, but I have learned the hard way that life is too short for a great many things. And making your own pie crust is one of them.

I somehow always end up making the turkey. Early in my marriage I was asked to do it and there are few things more intimidating. You’re wrestling with a 25 pound naked headless bird that is supposed to feed your in-laws in just a few short hours while six other dishes need to be started.

The anxiety levels alone radiating off me should have cooked the thing.

All you know is that if you screw up, not only will we all have food poisoning but I will go down in family history…probably legend…as the one who ruined Thanksgiving.

Is there a Girl Scout Badge for suffering? No. There isn’t. Listen up.

I cook my thawed turkey (yes, I pulled all the bits out of the middle first) breast down in a plastic oven bag in a tray. I throw garlic and rosemary and thyme from the garden in it and on it. I cook it on 350* somewhere between 2 and 3 hours, depending on it’s weight. The bag directions will tell you.

But I will tell you to do this the day before Thanksgiving.

Yep. It’s wonderful. I take my time, no party pressure to hurry. When the bird’s done just right, I leisurely carve it. I take my largest metal pan, lined with foil, and arrange slices and wing joints in it and then seal it all up. I pop it into the fridge.

I pour the juices into a large tupperware and refrigerate.

The next day, I will take both items out. I put the fat chunks that have floated to the top of the tupperware and spoon them inside my turkey pan. Use some dripping juice if you think you want a little more moisture, just don’t end up making soup in there.

Pop the turkey pan, all sealed back up with foil, into the oven at 300* for about an hour and a half from when you want to eat. The fat will melt as the turkey warms and your house will smell amazing.

Polite guests will wonder why you’re sitting around chatting and drinking Pinot Grigio instead of fighting the turkey in the kitchen.

Because you worked smarter, not harder, that’s why.

If you wanted to pull out your Martha Stewart, that was yesterday. When you took the turkey carcass left over and put it into a stock pot and made broth for the freezer. And when you simmered the giblets in a pan and then saved the chopped up bits and the broth to make gravy. Which I didn’t make. Because enough years of trying went by before I decided to cheat on that one, too.

I set up two big crockpots.

One holds a twin-pack of ready made gravy from Costco, up to 1 and 1/2 cups of the turkey juices from that tupperware we used, and the giblet bits. People who wanted giblets are satisfied and people who don’t, won’t know they’re in there.

The other crockpot holds boxed stuffing mix made with the giblet broth. To this you could have added literally anything to make it more realistic. Chopped apple, celery, dried cranberries, whatever your great Aunt Mable insisted on.

She will never know the difference.

To cheat or not to cheat…that is the question.

To tell or not to tell…that’s a no brainer.

Sitting at the Kid Table

Does anyone out there know the feeling of being the oldest child? The firstborn, not only of your own siblings, but of a whopping 25 grandchildren?

It came with a whole other level of expectations, one of which was: you’ll never be old enough to sit at the adult table for Thanksgiving.

Ever.

Your job is to stay outside with the other 24 kids and babysit. But it was couched under, “There just aren’t enough chairs to go ‘round, dear.”

The kid table was always outside and the adult table was always inside.

The concept of “separate but equal” was proclaimed yearly and with heart-felt emotion by the parents, who insisted we would lack nothing of the culinary delights piled high in the kitchen.

I do believe they thought I believed them.

That somehow, I wouldn’t notice that the table indoors was laid with fine china, gold forks, fancy linens and wine glasses. That I actually enjoyed sitting in the yard with paper plates, lots of napkins, and little JimBob throwing his mashed potatoes at little Thelma Lou.

Understand, that if they let you move, a precedent will be set in which eventually all 25 “children” will end up sitting with the adults.

We can’t have that now can we? There wouldn’t be enough chocolate cream pie.

There’s just enough for the adult table.

But not if we have to share with everyone.

And you have to draw the line somewhere.

This is just one of the treasured conspiracy theories that we pass around today, some 25 years or so later, at the “not kid table”. My cousins and I get together once in a while and play, “Do you remember?” and surprisingly, we do.

Not that I’m bitter.

It’s one of the great many things I promised myself I wouldn’t be carrying over into the next generation.

At least not at my house.

Oh yes, commence the “I have a dream” speech please, and add some “When I’M a grown-up….” Put plenty of “always” and “never”s in it.

And then come over for Thanksgiving, which happens to be my favorite holiday.

We run with a “the more, the merrier” motto and if you show up with a covered dish of some kind, you’re welcome to sit anywhere you please.

I encourage my kids to sit with me.

You’ll find them over there, at a table they proclaim to be strictly “kids only”.

They’re laughing and carrying on and only occasionally throwing the mashed potatoes.

Pass me that chocolate pie.