Posted in Family life, Food, holiday

Thanksgiving Tips and Why I don’t make Gravy.

For some people, 2020 will be the first time they have prepared a Thanksgiving dinner rather than bringing a dish to share. It can’t be any worse than my first time making a turkey.

The hubs and I had been married a little over a year and had moved into our third residence. We had new jobs, little money, and no vacation time so traveling 10 hours to visit the “close” parents was not an option. My mom felt bad enough that she flew from Chicago to Newark, NJ to help us out. For three people, we had a 15 pound bird.

Helpful hint #1 – Unless you are feeding 5 or more, get a turkey breast or a 7-8 lb bird.

Naturally, the hubs and I had to recreate ALL the dishes both sides of our family made so we could both have the taste of home. This meant two types of mashed potatoes, two types of cranberries, and two types of stuffing. This also meant we ran out of cookware and places to set prepared food in our tiny kitchen.

Helpful hint #2 – For a small group, streamline the menu. Pick your favorite 5 or 6. In our household of 4, we have turkey, cranberry relish and each person picks one other dish. You can always make a different side dish for the inevitable left overs.

My mom alternated between shaking her head at the hubs and my folly and giving us helpful instruction gleaned. She gave me the task of making gravy from the pan drippings while she coached the hubs through some other task. Her instructions to me went something like “heat in the pan, add cornstarch, whisk until smooth and thickened.”

So I whisked, and I whisked, and I whisked. I got the gravy smooth but there was a problem. “Mom? It’s not thickening!”

“Add some more cornstarch.”

So I grabbed the box and poured in some more. I whisked, got the gravy smooth, but it still didn’t thicken. Mom and I repeated our dialogue to the same effect. I made four additions.

When she finished her project, she came over to check my work. She picked up the yellow box I’d been using. She put her hand on my exhausted whisking arm.

“Honey, no matter how much powdered sugar you add, that gravy isn’t going to thicken.”

Helpful hint #3 – Cornstarch and powdered sugar are not interchangeable.

It’s been over 20 years, but I am still not allowed to make gravy.

If you have a helpful hint for preparing a small scale Thanksgiving dinner, please feel free to share in the comments. It’s a strange year for many of us, but we can all learn something new and we can all use a good laugh.

Posted in First Friday Five

First Friday Five: 4th fun

It’s not too late for my American based readers to have some Fourth of July fun.  Here are five things I love about our national birthday.

1. Fireworks.

2. Eating corn on the cob and either BBQ or a burger.

3.  The abundance of free concerts. Whether you crave patriotic, oldies, chart toppers or jazz, you can find a free concert near you. As a bonus, most include fireworks.

4. Beer.

5. The chance to feel connected to other people in my community. We may not agree about politics or morality or how to spend money on a day-to-day basis, but on this day, we can agree on something. And that would be fireworks.

Thanks to http://www.Beachfrontbroll.com for the footage above.

 

Posted in company, On Writing, organization

Rules for house cleaning

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in my life.  I spend far too much time cleaning the house and not enough time daydreaming and writing.  To alleviate this dire situation I’ve developed a new set of guidelines for keeping the house cleaner and lessening the time I must spend doing this dreaded chore.

1. No shoes in the house. Leave the dirt, leaves and pollen outside.

2. Don’t let the children eat crumb producing foods like crackers inside the house.

3. Dont let my husband eat crumb producing foods inside the house.

Is this my future?

4. Prevent litter box tracking.  Train the cats to use the toilet (and flush). I anticipate this will take about eight years.

5. Insist everyone, cats included, wear dust mop socks when inside.  This should keep the floors cleaner, but may result in increased laundry.

6. Remove all toys with small pieces from the home to reduce the likelihood of stepping on a wayward Lego or worse, sucking a child’s “most important piece ever” into the vaccuum.

7. Ban all craft projects involving glitter.

8. Throw out everything prone to shedding.  Oops – cross that out. I refuse to cut my hair even though I am the most shed-prone.

8. Invent “Hover Slippers” so no-one has to walk on the grimy floor.  Sit down at computer and write the next novel.

Posted in Blog Hop, Food, Giveaway, Reading, Winter Fairy

Holiday Gifts of Love

CWelcome to the Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop, one of many hops run by the fabulous Carrie Ann Ryan.  Be sure to comment so you can be included in the grand prize drawing and for your chance to win an adorable  Penelope fairy custom made by Sweet Baby James Stitches.

While you’re hopping, chances are I’ll be baking or candy-making.  Spending time in the kitchen with my children (ages 9 and 5) and husband is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.   We will bake at least five types of cookies and deliver them to neighbors, while keeping a tasty portion for ourselves and Santa.  Baking together makes a huge mess, but the joy on their faces is too good to miss.  We’ll start with sugar cookies.  Then, we’ll move on to Mint or Kiss Surprises, Chocolate Crinkles and Oatmeal Butterscotch. For something new, I think we’ll try a recipe I found for chocolate-chip-peppermint-crunch cookies.  Somewhere in there, we’ll dip pretzel sticks in white chocolate and turn them into snowmen with gum drop hats and fruit leather scarves.

By the end of the day (days? Sometimes we make the dough in advance), we’ll be covered in flour and have sugar oozing from our pores, but more importantly we will have laughed, created a precious memory and shared some happiness with special people in our lives.

I’m pretty sure young Eloise, the budding ballerina at the center of my romance WinterfairycoverWinter Fairy will be busy making cookies this weekend too.  She’d also love to win the custom fairy since it looks like her ballet teacher, Penelope.  You can meet Eloise, her father Carson and Penelope in Winter Fairy, available now in ebook and paperback at Amazon, iTunes, B&N and more.

The Rafflecopter giveaway allows extra ways to win the custom fairy. Sorry overseas fans. I can only ship to US addresses.

Let me know your favorite cookies to make (or eat) in the Comments below. Be sure to include your email to be entered to win one of three grand prizes including your choice of a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet, a $200 gift card to your choice of Amazon or B&N, or a Swag Bag (swag is US shipping only).

To get additional entries to the grand prizes, click here and visit other participating Authors and Bloggers. There are over 200 giveaways in all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in South, Spring, strawberries, Strawberry Shortcake, u-pick, Uncategorized

Strawberry picking

I took my children strawberry picking.  We’ve been eight times already.  I estimate we’ve eaten close to forty-five pounds of strawberries since the season started about a month ago.  And why not?

Fresh sun ripe strawberries seem downright decadent. The fields at Lilley Farms, our favorite U-Pick, are loaded this year.  We have our pick of plump juicy berries, red all the way through.  There’s no need to add sugar when the berries are, to quote my eight year old “luscious.”

Hope for continued indulgence appeared a numerous tiny green berries, hidden among dark green leaves.  Our last pick was bitter-sweet. Mixed in with all the beautiful berries were ones that rotted on the vine. The sight of uneaten berries saddened me.  Someone missed enjoying their deliciousness.  I’ll do my best to prevent other strawberries from meeting the same fate.

What’s your favorite u-pick?

Our beautiful bounty