With gratitude

 

This year more than any other continually challenged me to remember all that I have. On this day of giving thanks, I share the following entries from my mental gratitude journal.

Friends who feel like family. Near and far, I love you.

Everyone who helped (whether I asked for it or not) get me through two bad and unlucky injuries; three months in a wheelchair would have been horribly lonely not to mention on the edge of impossible without you.

Friends and family who encourage my writing, get my jokes, and listen patiently when I say,“last night, I had this dream..”

Hugs from my boys, growing into curious, caring, open-minded young men who still like to spend time together —and often with me too. (Though the younger one is pushing it with his insistence that the world looked like a black and white film way back when I was born.)

The honor of witnessing the union of Rachel and Sandra and seeing the looks on their kids faces as the deal was sealed.

My Latvian grandparents —dead more than 20 years— who rejected fascism and escaped tyranny en route to gaining passage to this great nation. (I’ve been wearing my grandmother’s ring as a reminder.)

Shelter. Creativity. Resources. Health insurance. Good skin. Wine. Fall foliage. Books. Yoga. Cats.

And while I’m at it, freedom of the press. Freedom of speech. Freedom to make my own health decision. The right to vote. A passport that can get me nearly everywhere.

The list goes on, but my pie needs to come out of the oven.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Eve

I like to feed people. It’s my way of expressing love. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I can’t imagine a better way to give thanks to those who are important to me than to make them lots and lots of delicious food.

I started baking on Tuesday. I made pumpkin cookies with brown butter icing as sort of a decoy dessert for the boys while I made the prime time offerings (and kept them off limits until Thursday).

Yesterday I baked three batches of cornbread muffins for use in the cornbread, caramelized onion, sage and pork sausage stuffing (a departure for me which represents a hybrid of recipes from my friend Lexa, the high maintenance Martha Stewart, and Chris Kimball of America’s Test Kitchen). I also made a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake because Colin has never had cheesecake, and frankly I don’t like pumpkin pie.

I had a long to do list for today: bake the apple pie, prep the traditional mushroom turnovers, prepare the stuffing, brine the turkey. Done. Done. Done. And done. I feel like there should be more “dones” because each recipe had numerous steps and/or components. But now I’m finished way ahead of schedule. Run of show is sketched out for tomorrow. Wine graces my glass. Life is good. A shower would make it even better.

I have a small crew for tomorrow’s festivities. The boys, my sister Meghann, my DC sister Rayanne, and Nancy and her crew for their second dinner. I would welcome double the numbers but I’m thankful that I get to be surrounded by these important people in my life.

But they better bring their appetites. I have lots of love to express.

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My Thanksgiving with George Clooney

Photo by chelseachronicl

Poor George. He flew all the way to California in cargo. I’m sure it isn’t how he’s used to traveling. So he was a little cranky this Thanksgiving in Northern California, where the weather was perfect and my sausage and apple stuffing was divine.

Dad thought he could out-gruff George, but that didn’t seem to go over well.

Photo by chelseachronicl

    So then we tried a softer approach. We opened a lovely chardonnay from Nickle and Nickle. I offered him a taste. But he declined.

    Photo by chelseachronicl
    Even by the end of the wine-fueled night, when it was time to take a photo with my brothers and our significant others, he didn’t crack a smile. He didn’t even hold me particularly close.
    Photo by chelseachronicl

    If George Clooney continues to act this way, he just might get left behind in Hawaii, whether My Night with George Clooney becomes a roaring success or not.

    on being thankful

    My friend Nancy has this nice little tradition on Thanksgiving. As we sit around the dinner table, in lieu of saying grace, and before we stuff ourselves silly with enough food to feed a small nation, we each share those things, tangible and not, for which we are most thankful.

    Yes, it gets sappy. But there’s no better time to tell those around you that you are grateful to have them in your life than when you are poised to shove a gazillion calories into your system.

    I won’t be with Nancy for Thanksgiving this year, but it wouldn’t be the season if I hadn’t been thinking about my list.

    I’m thankful for beautiful, challenging, intelligent, funny children who bring me great joy, even when they are exasperating.

    I’m thankful for good health, even if I complain about aches and pains once in awhile.

    I’m thankful for a career that allows me to work on issues I care about and be surrounded by smart, innovative thinkers.

    I’m thankful for a community of dear friends whose strength I draw from, whose love I rely on, and who make me laugh during even the most stressful of circumstances. They’re also good at giving a good kick in the pants when one is needed and offer a shoulder, shelter or a glass of wine when that is what the situation necessitates.

    And since I’m not limited by having someone sitting next to me at the dinner table waiting to go next, allow me to continue. I’m thankful for my family. An imminent vacation in Hawaii. Good wine. Nice shoes. Clean water. The right to vote. George Clooney. Freedom of the press. A perfectly crisp fall day. Public education. Paved roads. The laughter of children. Dark roast coffee. Baseball. Truffle salt. The calm before the storm. Cashmere. Nice people. Healthcare. Snow. Purring cats. Songs you know the words to after years of not hearing them. Good kissers. Gin. Shooting stars. A riveting book. End of the day meetings that get canceled. Salted caramels. Ibuprofen. Good hair days. Sunsets.

    And that’s just off the top of my head.

    Next?

    my very first turkey

    https://i0.wp.com/www.coolestpicture.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/2441818832_aa89a2ffa2.jpgI know that it seems very department store of me to be thinking past the next holiday (though I’m not quite as bad as retailers who have been on Christmas since Labor Day) but for weeks I have been unable get my brain off of Thanksgiving. While it is undeniably my favorite holiday (is there any other day that is so centered around food?) this year I am particularly excited because for the first time, I’m going to host.

    There is just one little detail that plagues me. I’ve never cooked a turkey.

    I know this lack of large fowl experience will shock anyone who knows that I love to cook, although I will admit I did not always have a strong kitchen reputation. When I was married, many of friends didn’t realize I like to look, let alone that I can cook. My ex-husband often (okay, always) did the cooking, thus the number one question when we separated was not “what happened?” or “how are the children taking it?” but “who is going to cook for you?

    (For the record, the second question was usually, “do we have to wait so late to eat now that you are cooking?” as ex was notorious for putting dinner on the table well after 10:00pm.)

    I have certainly rediscovered myself in the kitchen these last few years, but do remain grill-averse. I firmly view grilling as a man’s job; after all, it’s called manning the grill for a reason. But anything else in the kitchen, I can do. And do well. I think. I haven’t cooked everything. I haven’t cooked a turkey.

    Thanksgivings past have found me at BFF Nancy’s house, and last year at my dad’s. But this year, I want to host (by the way Nancy, is all this okay with you?) and I can’t wait. Except my brain might explode from all the turkey recipes I’ve read in the last few weeks. The pressure is on to prepare the best, and I want to exceed my own expectations. When it comes to the sides, I know I’m good. Mashed potatoes I make better than anyone. And stuffing? I have a great sausage stuffing recipe. Brussels sprouts with bacon, green beans with caramelized shallots, homemade cranberry sauce. Check. Check. Check. And of course, I can’t forget the traditional family appetizer and both of my sisters’ favorite Thanksgiving food: mushroom turnovers.

    But turkey? Should I brine it? Should I stuff it with the stuffing or cook the stuffing separately? Should I order one from Whole Foods? (Kidding.)

    Consider this post a plea for your experiences, ideas, recipes and guidance. Consider this post a contest. The one who submits the best sounding recipe, the one I ultimately use, has an invitation to join us at our table.

    I can’t guarantee how the turkey will come out, but I promise the wine will be very very good.