Thanksgiving truisms

There will be cheese. And sausage. And crackers. And olives. And candied jalapeños.

Start and end with cheese

The kitchen windows will be steamy and there will be two turkeys and stuffing and mashed potatoes and sweet potato souffle and creamed corn and collard greens and brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce and gravy. And leftovers for a week.

One of two

The pie to human ratio must be no less than 3 to 7. One must be apple.

Apple of course

The Michigan contingent will bring snow.

Thanksgiving snowfall

Everyone is welcome to the table. But not necessarily on the table.

Wallace at the table

Games are sometimes better when you make up your own rules.


Traditions are necessary.

330 : 366

Time will expand in strange ways so that 24 hours will bulge to contain a week’s worth of conversation, laughter, beer, games, food, football, hugs, YouTube videos, dog cuddles, goat cuddles, and cheese glorious cheese.

And time will shrink in strange ways so that 24 hours will fold into a tiny envelope that contains your guests’ arrival and departure in such a brief moment.

And time will shift in strange ways so that those who aren’t with us are still with us, and eight chairs become twenty, and the past is on our plates and in our mouths, and ten years backwards is ten years forwards. And the thing we’ve waited for all autumn suddenly appears, bright and red, in our own backyard.


Let’s raise a glass

The cocktail

The citrus

The drowsy cranberries

Here we are again, my old friend November. You’re a formidable foe, but you’re on the way out for another year and I’m still writing.

So, here’s to you, November, and your relentlessly grey skies, your bare branches, your frozen water bucket mornings, your summerish deceptions, your early dusks, your inevitable lurch towards winter. I raise a glass to you.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

For this Thanksgiving, M concocted a festive little cranberry punch for us, the very which I’m sipping as I write this.

We’ve tentatively named it the “Thanksgiving Cranberry Spatchcocktail” (spatchcocking being an old technique—renewed in popularity recently—for preparing a turkey where you remove the bird’s backbone and flatten it like an open book before cooking it).

M has graciously written up the recipe for us (below). May you drink it in good health. And may it make you pleasantly spineless for an hour or two.

Thanksgiving Cranberry Spatchcocktail

Yield: About 8 drinks

To prepare the drowsy cranberries

Note: If possible, make the drowsy cranberries a day or so ahead of time so they’ll be nice and potent.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
3 tsp orange zest
3 tsp grated ginger
1.5 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup light rum

  1. In a small saucepan combine the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, cloves, orange zest, and grated ginger.
  2. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Add the fresh cranberries to the sugar-spice mixture.
  4. Turn heat to medium and cook until the cranberries pop.
  5. Remove from heat and let stand for an hour.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to move the cranberries to a sealable jar.
  7. Use a fine strainer or cheesecloth to pour the syrup over the cranberries (discard the cinnamon, cloves, and ginger/zest bits).
  8. Add 1 cup of light rum to the jar.
  9. Seal the jar and let steep as long as you like.
  10. Chill well before using.

To prepare and serve the cocktail

1 bottle Prosecco
Light and dark rum, to taste
1 orange
1 lime
1 lemon
Mint leaves

  1. Pour the chilled syrup into a pitcher or bowl (reserve the drowsy cranberries).
  2. Add 1 bottle very cold Prosecco.
  3. Top punch with alternating small glugs of light and dark rum, to taste.
  4. Serve alongside: ice, mint leaves, the drowsy cranberries, thin slices of orange, lemon and lime.

The little things

Good morning

More leeks?


The gang's all here


All afternoon

It’s easy to be thankful for the big things: healthy family, food on the table, four sound walls, a roof, and heat. Tonight, to be sure, I’m thankful for all of those. And then some.

For the turkey that took hours longer to cook than we expected, but turned out delicious anyway.

For the dogs underfoot, stealing my seat every time I got off the sofa, and then putting their soft heads under my hands for affection.

For the cheese, oh lord, the delicious cheese.

For the duchess potato recipe that went horribly wrong and yielded what looked like tiny white cow patties.

For the dinner roll recipe that also went wrong, but we laughed.

For the family members who enjoyed dinner even when it was late and not perfect.

For the goats fighting each other for a taste of leek and brussels sprouts trimmings.

For the clumps of snow that came in with the dogs.

For the intoxicating cranberry spice punch that M concocted. And the one with gin and roasted lemons that L mixed up.

For board games and Doctor Who Yahtzee.

For singing “American Pie” with my sister and my daughter, and doing the dance we made up thirty years ago.

For leftovers wrapped in corn tortillas.

For plentiful hot water and soap.

For listening to the old songs.

For Burton Cummings making us howl with laughter, singing:

When I was a boy I dreamed I was a jeweler
With a family business that was free and clear
Selling golden earrings to Mrs. Mickey Mantle
Trying to be gentle while I stuck it in her ear

For words, hands, brains. For salt, butter, wine. For hearts. For voices. For the quiet moment gathering firewood. For laundry. For the puppy playing catch with himself. For pecan bars. For the snow plow. For smoke curling up from chimneys.

For the half moon, the high clouds, the shy stars. The headlights passing by in the darkness, cars holding tired children in back seats, watching the moon follow them all the way home.

For each and every one of you. Thank you, oh thank you, oh thank you.

Too many to list


A List of Praises

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas,
Give praise with hum of bees,
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over.

Give praise with mockingbirds, day’s nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.

Give praise with the rippling speech
Of the eider-duck and her ducklings
As they paddle their way downstream
In the red-gold morning
On Restiguche, their cold river,
Salmon river,
Wilderness river.

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.
Far, far from the cities,
Far even from the towns,
With piercing innocence
He sings in the spruce-tree tops,
Always four notes
And four notes only.

Give praise with water,
With storms of rain and thunder
And the small rains that sparkle as they dry,
And the faint floating ocean roar
That fills the seaside villages,
And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood,
And with the angels in that other country.

–Anne Porter, from Living Things. Copyright © 2006

Thank you, Mr. Turner

Tonight's Feature

Thanksgiving eve and the snow’s coming down like it thinks it’s Christmas eve and maybe I should be writing the obligatory post about all I’m thankful for. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll just think it and you’ll know it already, because aren’t we all thankful for mostly the same things?

The kitchen is smudged with evidence of the day’s preparations: drips of brown butter ice cream (for this, I am truly thankful), puffs of flour, scattered crumbs, steam from the simmering pot of stock. At 7.30 this evening, I kicked off my shoes and flopped onto the sofa and turned on the TV.

We’ve had TV for a year now. It mostly doesn’t figure into my life, but I tell you, here’s something I’m thankful for: Turner Classic Movies. What a pure joy. Old movies, day and night. No commercials. Brando and Bogart, the Barrymores and Bette Davis. Hitchcock, Huston, Hepburn. Astaire, Ginger, Bing.

Cary Grant, for goodness sake.

Black and white, technicolor. Romances, musicals, mysteries, westerns. Given the chance, I’ll gluttonously feast on them all afternoon.

If only I had a snowbound holiday weekend coming. Can you even imagine how delightful that would be?

Before the storm

Black & Tan

Today was one of those days I was grateful to have work to tether my mind to. Sometimes I think my brain might just float away on a river of nonsense, scattered distractions, unnamed worries, named worries, enticing memories. But work is there, calling the wandering mind to heel over and over.

Disobedient brain, here’s a cookie.

For instance, I went to bed last night thinking about Ferguson, Missouri and a community with a broken heart. And my brain reminded me how lucky I was for that bed, those clean flannel sheets, that thick wool comforter, that solid roof, my family intact and alive. And when I began to settle into sleep my brain scolded me for being too comfortable when there is protesting in the streets. Cars on fire. People without jobs. Lost children.

I woke up in the dark this morning, thinking about cranberries and turkeys and that my child was safe in her bed. And that a snowstorm, borne on a nor’easter, is headed our way. Should I pick up the turkey today instead of tomorrow when the roads might be stopped with snow? My brain reminded me that I hadn’t figured out dessert yet.

Snowy roads. Families packed into station wagons and mini vans, headed though those hills and woods to grandparents’ houses. Families with lost grandparents, lost parents, lost children. We should have scheduled a hay delivery for last week; now we’ll have to contend with the snow. We should have been kinder to each other. We should have filled the car with gas. We should have held on tighter.

When I was small, first and second grade, I went to a school where my sister and I were two in a handful of white children. My best friend was black. Most of my friends there were black. Except for Sharon who lived in the apartment above ours and who had a box type camera (the kind that you looked down into to take the photo) and who let me use it to take my very first picture (it was of her).

Work to do. There’s work to do. Bend your mind to it.

My teacher at that school was Ms. Hunter and she was a force. She was scary and loud and the kindest teacher I ever had. She had her hands full with a mixed class of first and second graders and when she had had enough of our rambunctiousness she’d tell us to sit down and button our lips because she was on the WAR PATH.

Outside the walls of our classroom, there was a little dirt path worn into the grass where we kids would scamper behind the bushes, playing hide and seek. I wasn’t sure what a war path was, but I pictured that path and Ms. Hunter pacing it back and forth, pretending to be angry when all she wanted to do was hug some sense into her unruly pupils.

Oh yes, Thanksgiving and the shopping list, and that email I was supposed to send last week. And a friend is coming over today with her three splendid dogs to walk the wooded path behind our house.

We left that school in the middle of a school year. At that age, you didn’t exchange addresses and phone numbers. I often wonder what happened to Ms. Hunter and my classmates. Did she have a happy life? What happened to my classmates? Did they end up in sunny suburban classrooms the way I did? Are they safe?

Okay, enough wandering. This project needs to get done today. Clients are waiting on me.

This evening we lingered after dinner and talked about Ferguson. The fifteen-year-old at the table feels injustice keenly and oh do I love her for that. I hope she holds on to that fire and does something good for this world. She knows for sure what we all knew as children: that fairness is worth demanding.

I finished that work somehow. And got the turkey and the cranberries and chestnuts. The coals in the fire are glowing blue, they’re so hot. “Uncle Albert” is on the stereo and my mind is speeding back to another time and another place, far from Ms. Hunter’s war path.

Snow’s expected tomorrow noon until night. The reports say we could get up to 16 inches.

Please, everyone, be safe.

Thanksgiving: Sweetness and peace to you all

Clouds above and below

Geese and brief blue

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

–Wendell Berry

Thanksgiving is all about traditions

It’s that time of year again, when we gather with those we love for a long weekend of overeating, marathon dish washing sessions, playing board games, taking dogs on long walks, drinking margaritas, and revealing embarrassing secrets (usually after drinking the aforementioned margaritas).

Last year’s theme was guilty pleasure songs. This year, we’re sharing our guilty pleasure movies.

How well do you know us? We challenge you to figure out which guilty pleasure belongs to which of us (Laurel, Hyla, Michael, Rebecca, Adam, or Liz). Make just two correct guesses and we’ll send you your choice of either some homemade goat cheese from us or some caramels from Sweet Lolo’s. And while you’re at it, let us know your guilty pleasure movies.

Are any of these on your list?

The Abominable Dr. Phibes
(1971), starring Vincent Price

(1980), starring Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck, and Gene Kelly

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
(1954), starring Howard Keel, Jane Powell, seven brides and seven brothers

Thoroughly Modern Millie
(1967), starring Julie Andrews, James Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, John Gavin, Carol Channing, and Beatrice Lillie

Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery
(1997), starring Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, and Michael York

Mr. Holland’s Opus
(1995), starring Richard Dreyfuss, Glenne Headly, Olympia Dukakis, William H. Macy, and Jay Thomas