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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

frozen-colorful-leaves-picture-quote-do-your-best-598pxThis morning I laid in bed and got to thinking about motives. Not the kind of motive such as why Sally stabbed Stan with a butcher knife when she found him with the au pair, but rather the underlying motives guiding our behavior in any given situation. I wonder if these motives are subconsciously driven or if we actually are aware of what we are doing and move forward anyhow.

This line of thought actually developed from a conversation between my hair dresser and myself yesterday. As I mentioned in a previous blog, many a world problem is solved while seated in a salon chair getting your roots retouched.  My hairdresser, Emily, is a lovely young woman in her mid thirties with three children. The oldest, and only girl, is ten. Ten is a tween age, not really a teen as yet but not a little girl. A difficult time when your body is changing and vulnerability is high. Children truly can be the cruelest beings. Many memories haunt me about being teased for being chubby as a child. One such incident, involving an insipid little sixth grader standing behind me in line to sharpen pencils, stands out in particular. While in line I took a step back nearly stepping on his foot. Reacting as if I had, he yelled loudly “Look out, fatso! If you stepped on me you’d squash me flat as a pancake!” Being a true scorpio at heart, I wanted badly to step on him, and step on him real hard. Then, after I had succeeded in squashing him flat as a pancake I would have enjoyed inserting his already pointy little head in the pencil sharpener. That, most likely, is a conversation best left for my therapist. Sharp tongues can wound as deeply as sharp objects, perhaps more deeply.

Emily went on to explain she and her husband are of Italian descent. It is not telling tales out of school I don’t believe to say some Italian’s can lean towards having more hair on their bodies. Why this is I have no clue but I have had Italian friends over the years who have dealt with waxing their upper lips and some, like this young lady, were blessed with dark hair on their legs. After numerous incidents involving teasing about hairy legs leaving her little girl in tears Emily purchased an electric shaver and the girl began to regularly shave her legs. This, thankfully gave the teasers no ammunition with which to arm their tongues causing the teasing to fizzle out. Amazingly though the taunting stopped, Emily was rebuked by other mothers in her circle saying the girl was too young for such a process. Really? Perhaps the issue isn’t whether she’s too young to shave her legs but rather that we as parents aren’t instilling the importance of kindness and respect for others in our offspring? I’m just saying.

Meanness is not reserved for the under twenty set. I have a dear friend who is painfully blunt, bordering on mean at times. One does not always have to say everything entering ones mind, even if it happens to be the truth. For example if asked if a pair of jeans are flattering when they are not might it not be better to reply, “I really like the black ones better, or they are not my favorite” rather than something like “they make your legs look like pier pilings”. There is a difference between being honest and being unkind. The phrase “brutally honest” comes to mind. I prefer being tactful when confronted with such a question.

The other day I took my mother out for lunch and shopping. Dementia, for those not dealing with it, slowly robs the sufferer of their short term memory essentially erasing the memory bank a piece at a time. In my mother’s case she won’t retain something I’ve told her five minutes ago but might remember with incredible clarity something that happened sixty years ago. Boundaries in the brain become blurred and behaviors you would expect to see in a child often begin to surface. In a way, it allows you to grieve slowly. Whether this is less or more painful I’m not sure. However, I am blessed every day to still be able to spend such an afternoon with my mother and grateful for each bit of time I am allotted. After lunch I wheeled her about the parking lot in her wheelchair now a permanent part of our world since her hip fracture. We stopped to look at all the trees some still brightly decked out with fall foliage. She seems to find nature fascinating of late as if seeing everything with fresh eyes. Interesting. I left her smiling and happy at her board and care after a fun day. Arriving home I got a text from her caregiver reading, “sad face emoji, Your mother was sitting at dinner with the other ladies. When asked how her day with her daughter went she replied, ‘I didn’t see my daughter today.’ Isn’t that sad?” I sat there for a moment before responding wondering what on earth was the point of such a message?What I wanted to respond was “Why would you tell me that?”, because I couldn’t imagine the point. Instead of getting angry or allowing it to ruin my precious day I responded, “I am well aware that mother doesn’t hold a memory these days. However, she is there with me in the moment, and I am there with her. Whether she knows I was there or not, I know I was there. I take the memory with me and store it on her behalf. Life is as it is and like a lemon you must squeeze it hard to extract all the juice from it.”

It is important to think about what you are saying or texting. Texting in particular has no “voice” if you will. Sometimes I will reread something I have written quickly and realize it might have “sounded” terse or come across in a way I didn’t mean. Words cannot be taken back whether spoken or written.  Apologies can be offered and accepted but mean spirited intentions tend to hang in the air casting a shadow over future interactions whether forgiven or not.

Yesterday I finished up the last of my holiday shopping. The parking lot at the mall was a flurry of activity when I arrived. Cars lined up along the aisles waiting for parking spots to open up. After circling the wagons for a half an hour I finally snagged a spot about a mile from the store I was going to and was happy to have found it. A lady in a pick up truck with a wreath tied on the fender passed me as I was walking. Another driver going the opposite direction came fairly close to her and the pick up lady shouted a decidedly non-holiday like greeting out her window while offering her a one finger salute.  Horns honked here and there and irritated faces wandered about either looking for their cars in the sea of vehicles or headed into the mall. “Merry Christmas to all”, I was tempted to say but thought somebody might leave tire marks on me so just kept walking.

Inside the store people were milling about. One lady was spread out on the floor opening boxes of glasses and inspecting every one. Her husband, a tired looking man, stood next to her holding her packages and handbag probably with visions of a cold beer and a football game dancing in his head.

Finally getting through the line a lovely lady dressed head to toe like an elf checked me out. Friendly and conversational she wished me the merriest of Christmases complementing me on everything from my hair to the color nail polish I was wearing. Some people just find their niche and tuck themselves in it. Maybe she really was an elf? All things are possible in this marvelous universe.

Soooooo, hope your holidays are going well. Keep of good cheer. It takes more energy to be unpleasant than to create a smile. I don’t know that to be true but would like to think so.

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I got my hair done today in preparation for the holiday. You learn so much while sitting the salon chair. The girl next to me was getting the works done, hair, makeup and nails for her bachelorette party on Friday. The lady behind me had just lost forty pounds and was having her hair dyed in celebration of the weight loss. It’s not that I purposely eavesdrop, but the chairs are huddled together in a circle so conversations sort of hover in the air. Emily, my hair dresser, was telling me she has to attend three Thanksgivings every year. Seems her in-laws parted ways a decade ago in what was a contentious divorce. Each party has since remarried. So, Emily, her husband and three little ones go to dinner at her mother-in-law and her new husband’s home the weekend before Thanksgiving, then have dinner with her father-in-law and his new wife on the big day, followed up by a big celebration with Em’s family at home the weekend after. On Christmas this is repeated only with her family receiving top billing. After listening to her I was exhausted. I hope she has “fat pants” for the occasion. That’s a lot of turkey.

When Rick was with me we had turkey on Thanksgiving going with an alternate choice for Christmas such as prime rib or lamb. One year we even had lobster, a nod to my Canadian roots, which was totally decadent and delicious. For Rick, like many  people from what I understand, turkey was not at the top of his favorites list. I’m kind of with my mom in that I like turkey but view it more as a vessel for the stuffing to reside in and not the star of the meal. My day after turkey sandwich however, is a show stopper. Mayo, cranberry sauce, stuffing and turkey with a little salt and pepper. Yum and yum.

The tree will come out of the shed this week along with the sea of red and green bins in which all my decorations are housed. Last year being my first Christmas on my own was somewhat less than jolly, but I have regained some of my holiday spirit this year and am looking forward to putting up all my familiar holiday goodies on the day after turkey day. This is tradition for me, and in keeping with my traditions the day after Christmas they will once again be taken down. I know many people keep theirs up until New Years Day but by the time Christmas is in the bag, if you will, I am done with twinkling lights and wrapping paper. By then I am ready to put my feet up, have some hot chocolate, and take a rest before having to look at the upcoming year.  Some people still have their house lights on well into spring.  Others leave them up year round. Can’t decide whether they are just too lazy to take them down or they really, really, really like the holidays. I have one friend who left her tree up until it was nearly time to turn on the air conditioning.

Used to be a time I wouldn’t have entertained the thought of having an artificial tree. Always I insisted on having a fresh tree to have all the piney aromas in my living room. Flocked trees were my favorite, the type with the real clumped snow look to them that leave a trail of white all over your house both coming and going. I used to keep a lint brush by the front door for visitors who dared to venture to close. On several Christmases we took the children to the mountains to the tree farm. There’s something visceral about using an axe to cut the tree down then driving home singing Christmas carols with the tree tied to the roof of your car. Perhaps it’s left over from when our ancestors dragged home a kill to the hungry villagers.

Finally the weather is catching up with the season here in Northern California. People have been running around in shorts and tee shirts up until several days ago. The first snow is due in the mountain areas over the weekend. I am thankful to be down the hill from snow country this year. As beautiful as the world looks when the snowflakes begin to pile up on the tree boughs, driving in the aftermath is a pain and getting out of the steep driveway in my old house was downright dangerous to my well being. I’ve heard where I am in the lower foothills is occasionally dusted. An occasional snowfall is most welcome. The terrain is flat from here to my car where I live now, so I am far less likely to end up on my face. Twice while up in Grass Valley I went out to the car in the morning only to end up on my behind on the front porch. Now I am not against a good dance once and a while, but not before my coffee, in frigid weather, and definitely not when airborne.

Retailers are beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Unbelievably in the stores I found the Halloween 50% sale items on the shelf with Santa and his entourage. Maybe they should just combine the holidays having Santa riding in a pumpkin, eating a turkey leg?  They certainly don’t waste much time. Some of the Black Friday items were already on sale weeks ago. Pretty soon we’ll be celebrating it after Labor Day. I have so far bought one present and December 25th is one month away.  Though I love to be able to give to my loved ones it can be so stressful trying to figure out what to give and traversing the packed stores and endless lines. Most probably most of my shopping will be done on line. This year will be our little guys second Christmas. Viewing all this wonderment through his eyes will be exciting. That experience I am looking forward to the most. Also, we are blessed my mother is still with us. So many things to be thankful for besides what is wrapped under the tree.s

On a side note, I took my first clay modeling class yesterday. I have been trying to get into such a class since 1988. One thing or another always seemed to block my way. The class was three hours. That seemed like a long time when I signed up but have to say it went by so quickly when I was told it was time to hang up my apron for the day I was disappointed. How fun it was to learn something new and get my hands all gooey in the process. I made a snowman and a bowl which I shall show you once they’re glazed and fired.

Have a great day. Take a chance to learn something new or teach someone else something they haven’t experienced.

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eggs

Another holiday has surfaced. Bunnies and chocolate eggs line the shelves in the market, and Easter finery has being purchased and pressed to make a good showing in church on Sunday. Rewind a few years and my mother would have been buffing a sparkling shine on my Mary Jane’s and retrieving the obnoxious flower adorned hat from the box in closet. For this reason, and many others I am glad it is 2016.

Growing up in my grandparent’s house, Easter revolved around the three f’s. Faith, family and food. My mother stopped attending services during my formative years. Mainly, I believe, after a test of her faith when my father passed away unexpectedly at the age of twenty-five. My grandmother, however, could be seen seated somewhere towards the front of the church religiously (if you will) every Sunday morning. Always she wore a hat, dress, and hose. Her zippered bible was held tightly in her gloved hands on her lap, her head slightly bent in meditation. On most visits my small being could be seen shuffling and squirming in the seat next to her waiting for the sermon to end so we could get home to whatever delicious piece of whole meat was cooking the oven. The main meal was served at noon on the Sabbath. A light supper followed around 6:00 p.m. after my grandfather finished his rounds at the hospital. Trays were set up in the family room on the second floor in front of the small black and white television set, a recent addition. It got three channels if I recall, and on Sunday nights was tuned into “I Love Lucy” and “Ed Sullivan”, both shows my grandfather never missed unless called in for an emergency.

It seems funny to think of Lucy as prime time at this juncture in my life. I’m sure both grandparents, gone a long time now, would be amazed at the advances in technology since the days when they were first introduced to the boob tube. Certainly there was no DVR, with only 3 channels it would have seemed overkill. All in all a simpler time to live. With World War II a distant memory, life settled into a sort of a steady pace. Certainly there were heinous events to deal with, but not like we see in our headlines today.

I was reminding my grandchildren recently my childhood was not without boogey men. The cold war came into being while I was still in pigtails. Regularly in school we were instructed to get under our desks during a bomb drill. The “Red Menace” overseas was a ghostly presence and spies populated the movies presented on the big screen as well as our neighborhoods and offices. What we’re dealing with now seems far more sinister, somehow. Although any threat to your homeland and well being can be viewed as such. The intention seemed clearer back in the day perhaps or the enemy more distinct. Whatever the case if I was overseas I would light a candle for those we have lost and remember how precious freedom is during this election year. One has to wonder when watching this political campaign what is to become of us after the election in November. Canada is always a good option for me. I’m still on the roster there.

Today, however, I am thinking happy and uplifting thoughts while my potatoes happily boil in anticipation of being thrown in the bowl with the celery, onion, and pickles to become my Grandmother’s Potato Salad. I have the handwritten recipe still in her familiar script, though I rarely refer to it these days having made the potato salad many many times over the years. Often I am asked for the recipe and have shared it, even going so far as to print it out in handout form so I don’t have to repeat it. Each time I hear back it didn’t come out as tasty as my version. Why that is can probably be explained simply by my familiarity with the ingredients or the weight of my cook’s hand over the bowl. Each cook has their own touch with a utensil. Once a lady gave me a look as if to say, “you withheld one of the ingredients, right”? Wrong. I would never do that for several reasons. One, it isn’t very nice, and secondly my name will come up when someone tastes it at a party or gathering when someone whispers “this potato salad sucks”, and someone whispers back “It’s Susie’s recipe”.

This year Easter coincides with my mother’s birthday which falls on the 26th. We will be celebrating with lobster tails and twice baked potatoes. Yummer.

I hope you and yours have a safe and fun Easter as well as the rest of an uneasy world. This is a repost for friend Amy.

These colorful bites add a little color to your table.

Colorful Deviled Eggs

13 large eggs (1 as a spare)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard, prepared
Freshly ground black pepper
Dash of salt
Bread and butter pickles for garnish
Paprika
4 Food colors

Place eggs in cold water to cover in large saucepan. Bring to boil and remove from heat and cover. Allow to sit for 20 mins. Run under cold water and peel.

Slice each egg in half lengthwise. Scoop yolks into mixing bowl (I use a small spoon to clean them thoroughly). Mash yolks against the side of the bowl with a fork until a coarse crumble.

Add mayonnaise, mustard, pepper and light salt. It is easy to over salt so taste and add sparingly. Set aside.

Fill four bowls 1/2 full with warm water. Place five or so drops of food coloring in each bowl to create four separate colors. Equally distribute the white halves in the bowls and allow to sit until color sets. Remove with slotted spoon and pat dry with paper towels.

Place yolks in pastry bag or cut one diagonal slice off the bottom of a large resealable plastic bag and squeeze decoratively into colored bottoms. Put a small nibble of pickle on top and sprinkle with paprika.

I like to add parsley to the plate for contrast.

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After the past few weeks I believe there should be a Guide to Surviving the holidays lining Barnes and Noble shelves. A simple “how-to” book offering the reader helpful tips to manage their time, their relatives, their kitchen, without leaving hair in the sink and turning to the wine rack for solace. As I don’t drink, or rarely imbibe, I might more likely look to the white box on the entry way table marked “See’s”. Ah yes, the dark chocolate nibble with the sprinkles on top does much my friends to ease a tired mind.

All the little wrinkles and imperfections in a family seem to rise to the surface during the holidays. Perhaps it is because we spend more time together in an excitement fueled party like atmosphere, or just memories of holidays good and bad are revisited, or old wounds or the love we share come to mind. I have no answers as usual, only questions about why this seems to be true.

My mother has determined I should write a book about our family. She feels it would fly off the shelves. Truly, looking back there is definitely some material for a volume or two, but I would have to write it under a pseudonym if I wish to continue living my life in my space.

We made it down to the Bay Area just before Christmas accompanied by many other travelers, and back again with my mother and her roommate in tow. As we age it seems the roles reverse in a way with our parents. Where they once watched over us, we are now tasked with keeping an eye on them. I adore my mother so this is a job I try to approach with much patience and joy. I know some day the memories I make with her now will be what I have to keep moving forward when she is no longer with me.

Getting everyone packed and ready to go was a project. I reminded my mom to grab the garage door opener as they were being picked up at the train station by a shuttle service on the way back and she would need it to get in. Five minutes later I found her standing in front of the open garage trying to close the door with her car keys. Okay. I find myself doing odd things these days myself, so I simply explained that pushing the little button marked “trunk” was never going to achieve the desired result of closing the door to the garage.

People have told me I am a fairly patient being. This is not entirely true. There are times when I want to throw my hands up in the air and run screaming down the street. For the most part I try to remain calm. Losing your temper or getting frustrated doesn’t feed the screaming baby, if you get my drift.

Once everyone was loaded in the car and my mother had gone back in the house her usual two to three times to retrieve items already in the car or check the stove I assured her was off, we got the sideshow on the road. I know it is show on the road, but in our case sideshow just seems more appropriate. The plan was to meet my son and his family on the way north for lunch. They would be coming south on the same freeway returning from a from a pre-holiday ski trip to Lake Tahoe. The idea was that if we left at approximately the same time of day, at some juncture we would pass one another. Wherever that location might be we were to stop and meet for a bite to eat. Now what could possibly go wrong with such a seamless plan as that? It might had been helpful if we’d named a general location. Yes, that definitely would have given us a leg up. At least we planned on leaving on approximately the same time of day. However, we hadn’t factored in the huge snow storm blanketing the Tahoe area, nor my mother checking the house fifty times, nor the road construction and holiday traffic. Nooooo, we didn’t figure that in. Soooooo, where we passed in the middle turned out to be along a line of highway undergoing road construction where you couldn’t exit the freeway. Swell. Thankfully we had cell phone communication so as they flew by us going south, we flew by them going north. None of us familiar with the area it took ten phone conversations and three near misses to finally hook up at Applebee’s for a bit of holiday cheer.

Two of my pre-teen grandchildren were present, both what I would call “picky eaters”. One, as I recall, existed on hot dogs for an entire year, wieners being the only thing the child would consume. I have to admit parenting now as compared to parenting in the Paleozoic area when I was doing it, I would find most confusing. I never asked my children what they would they would like to eat. Rather I presented a meal worth eating and said “eat”. It seemed to work. Not that they liked everything. I would be overstating my amazing parenting skills was I to try to fly that past you. They did, however, have to at least try what was given them and if they loaded their plates were expected to eat what they took. Mom’s Rules. My son loathed peas. It was not that he hadn’t tried them, rather he had tried them often and found them revolting. There was no rhyme or reason to it, the child simply hated the little buggers. My husband decided that he was going to insist my son finish the peas on his plate. I suggested this was a bad idea but my husband persisted with the pea persecution anyhow. This, I felt, was not going to end well. The peas went down finally, but his body apparently had gotten the word from his taste buds that these little green intruders were not welcome. As quickly as they went down they reappeared, this time on my linen tablecloth. Insert “I told you so”, here. Thank you. I handed my husband a wash cloth and excused myself. My work there was done. I think kids should have the option of turning down a food they really cannot tolerate. If I found okra on my plate every night for dinner you would have to get in a large supply of linen tablecloths to handle the traffic. However, I also believe kids need to be exposed to new and different tastes and not limited to canned corn as a vegetable. Just my thoughts for the day.

These oatmeal cookies are crispy on the outside with a chewy yummy middle. They disappear like free money when I make them for visitors.

Hope your year has started out with a roar. Everybody’s in line for the Power Ball drawing as no one won again last night. I’m sure my little ticket has winner written all over it. I understand the odds of winning are as likely as me having identical quintuplets. Hmmm.

Brandy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

12 Tbsp. of butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. brandy
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup raisins
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract, and brandy. Mix until well blended.

In a separate mixing bowl whisk together cinnamon, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture in increments, mixing well with each addition. Add oats, raisins and walnuts and mix well.

Use two spoons to form balls and Place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down slightly with fork.

Bake for 15 mins. until golden brown.

Allow to rest on cookie sheet for 5 mins. before removing to rack to cool.

Makes a little over two dozen

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Heading toward the downhill slope I have my gifts mostly purchased, partially wrapped, and feel the weight of holiday shopping slowly oozing off my shoulders. As our family has grown, choosing gifts for everyone has become a process. I try to be creative, tucking little hints passed on from loved ones over the year in the storage center in my brain. My mother always proves the most difficult. A woman who is self-described as devoid of patience, if she suggests any items she might want quite often it will already have been purchased before you can retrieve a credit card from your wallet.

Mother and her roommate will be our guests for the holidays this year. I have decorated accordingly, bringing out the extra boxes I often leave untouched when just Rick and I are in attendance.  Turkey is on the menu, as I imagine is the case in a large percentage of American households. We had prime rib for Thanksgiving to satisfy Rick’s need for steed, and now it is on to moist stuffing, fluffy mashed potatoes topped with yummy gravy, and creamed onions. My taste buds are throwing a party as I write this. I will be baking my oft requested apple and cheddar pie, as well as a pumpkin pie for my mother. The apple pie is for Rick, not a fan of pumpkin going so far as to tell me my pumpkin pie candle when burning gives him indigestion. Really?

At last our parched hillsides are being treated to a welcome dose of water. Storms have been passing over with enthusiastically received regularity. Our yard looks like a leaf depository, with not a square inch left uncovered. I’ve given it the good fight but have finally conceded defeat running out of places to tuck the darn things once the “yard refuse” bin has reached it’s capacity. Neighbors have their own healthy supply so there’s no relief there so I accept the leaves as a part of living in the tall trees and move on to more pressing problems to concern myself with.

I have allowed the house to go to ruin until this week busy with a thousand other things. As I’ve aged my need for perfection 24/7 has blurred into the need for a clean house but not always a pristine one. My reasoning with this is that if I spent all last weekend cleaning the house to a sparkling shine, this upcoming weekend would be spent in the same pursuit as dust waits for no man. That being said, I will haul my pile of cleaning products out from under the sink on Thursday and begin the task of making the house suitable for guests (in particular my white-gloved mother). After a thorough cleaning Rick always says he finds himself left with a craving for salad. This probably attributed to the large bottle marked “Vinegar and Water” I carry around with me. Vinegar really is the most amazing substance. It works on windows, grease, certainly helps out oil on lettuce, excellent for cleaning blinds, and a myriad of other handy cleanup uses. I even use it to clean my floors. When you compare the cost of a jug of vinegar to the cost of window cleaner there is no way I’m not going to go for a more natural cleaner achieving the same desired result. Insert end of vinegar infomercial here.

I still have presents sitting downstairs in need of wrapping. Back in the day I was a proficient wrapper. Seriously, I could have been hired at a local department store on their holiday wrapping team. Always I made perfect corners, chose just the right paper and accessorized my gifts with little extras or extravagant bows. These days if the paper is on, secured with tape, and you can’t read what’s written on the box I’m good to go. There just isn’t enough time in the day for all the extras. Whatever did I do when I worked full-time? I’m surprised I found time to sleep. Maybe it is that I don’t move as quickly these days, or perhaps the folds in my brain require a little more effort to release information, I’m not sure. Whatever the case I don’t seem to find the hours for the minute details the way I used to. There was a woman on the news who shared a picture of her tree obscured by three hundred wrapped gifts sitting around it. OMG. My hat is off to her. Number one no way did my children open three hundred gifts but never would I have had the patience to wrap them if they had.

Women, so studies reveal, are the multi taskers of the two sexes. Men, it seems, are more likely to focus on one thing and do that well, while we ladies are able to watch the soup on the stove, do a load of dishes, talk on the phone, and let the cat out while balancing the checking account. Makes me celebrate my femaleness. In a world where I’m assigned numerous tasks, was a left to study them one at a time undoubtedly a meal would only show up once a week.

Sometimes I find myself standing at the stove wondering what I want to create there. So many meals have I prepared over the years it can prove daunting some days to keep it fresh (if you will) and interesting. To this end I read a lot, watch cooking shows, and experiment on an unsuspecting Rick to keep us well nourished and not yawning over our plates. I would like to suggest that while creating puppies in a petri dish perhaps they could come up with something new in the area of edibles. I am running out of surprises with the present assortment of foods and would find it interesting to have a new vegetable or meat source to work with. Where is the suggestion box for that lab? I need to drop them a quick note.

So, I carry on with my quest and offer up my version of an old favorite comfort food. When I was young i often had tomatoey little nuggets show up on my plate. My grandmother served them with a steaming pile of mashed potatoes and a vegetable. I always thought that odd, two starches but in truth can you have too many starches on your plate?

Oven Baked Porcupine Meatballs

1 1/4 lbs. ground chuck
1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup water
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. salt
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together ground chuck, rice, onion, 1/2 cup water, egg, pepper, garlic powder, celery salt, and salt. Form into 1 1/2″ meatballs. Brown meatballs in large skillet over med.-high heat. Drain on paper towels.

Put in casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Mix together tomato sauce, sugar, water, and parsley. Pour even over meatballs turning them to coat well. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 45 minutes covered. Remove foil and continue cooking for 15 mins.

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The end of last week I took my trusty leaf blower down from its hook in the garage. Goggles in place I went after the leaves in my yard. By the time I was done I had filled four large leaf bags. I heard on a newscast leaves are actually better left untouched. A bed of 2leaves, so it seems, provides an excellent habitat for a large variety of insects. This being true, our backyard is literally Mother Nature’s playground. There isn’t one square inch of it not topped with a cover of leaves. This year has proved particularly prolific with the dry conditions created by our seemingly never-ending drought. Surrounded by trees on all sides, aside from the abundant leaf population, we worry about the trees toppling over due to dry roots, etc.

Over the weekend a winter storm moved into our area bringing with it much-needed moisture accompanied by some pretty impressive winds. In one area a tornado touched down doing some fairly significant damage to several houses. Outside I watched as a whole new crop of leaves twirled and swirled to the ground erasing any clues of a recent cleanup. Sigh.

On the plus side, fall colors are resplendent this year. The trees in our yard, not to be outdone by their neighbors, have put on a gorgeous display. 3Our maple turning up the heat with bright reds, and the Chinese maples showing a gorgeous second.

When I lived on the east coast I lived in Wakefield, Massachusetts. A sleepy little town surrounding a beautiful lake. Autumn there was the fodder of many a painting with colors so brilliant when reflected in the calm water of the lake the visage could bring tears to your eyes. My children, toddlers then, tucked in their woolen coats and hats loved to walk along the paths by the lake. A canvas bag accompanied us on our fall walks. Particularly lovely leaves were tucked inside. Once home we would press them into books or make designs with them to decorate the walls of their bedroom.

Our house there was of some historical significance. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, a plaque with a brief synopsis of the house’s history was affixed to the front. Built in the 1800’s. Owned by a prominent family. Often I would step outside to find strangers armed with maps of the area, reading the text written there. On meeting they occasionally asked me questions. Even after research at the library, I knew little beyond what the plaque offered. Some of the house’s secrets the owner imparted to us, like the young wife who died there giving birth to her first child. The rest of the old buildings secrets remained hidden in the dusty corners leaving only what was noted on the plaque as a source of information.

Old houses intrigue me. Details prevalent in the older buildings, are left out in the structures you see today. The Wakefield house had window seats in both the master bedroom as well as the living room. To the right of the window seat in the master bedroom was a large porthole style window with a latch that, when open in the summer, invited a lovely breeze into the upstairs area. The closet in the upstairs hall was constructed solely of cedar. It was the perfect place to store coats and sweaters as moths are not fond of the scent of cedar so are likely to stay away.

Downstairs a large hearth dominated the living area. In the 1800’s, the owner told me, the people living there had cooked their meals in pots hanging over a fire in the hearth. The metal grooves where the bars hung were still visible on either side. Wow, are we spoiled these days, huh? Cooking over a fire, no microwaves, no fast food, frozen food, processed food. Back in the day, if you wanted a chicken for dinner you picked up the axe, chased it around the yard, and thanked it for its service to your table. Most probably I would have been a vegetarian.

My grandmother grew up on a farm. Her attitude was very mater-of-fact about such things. Cats roamed the property to keep rodents and other small critters at bay. Cats earned their keep on the farm. They did not reside on their owners lap waiting lazily for a treat before getting down to preen themselves. The treat, as she would have told me, was my great-grandmother hadn’t deposited the cat as a kitten in a burlap bag and lowered it into the river. With no vets readily available to neuter cats back then nor money to pay them, the litters had to be culled. One feline could turn to two and two to a hundred in the blink of an eye.

Pets among the livestock weren’t encouraged either, I was told. Tom the lovable turkey, or Fred the affectionate piglet might show up surrounded with potatoes and carrots on a platter come the holidays. I would have been a petless vegetarian apparently.

I always pictured myself on a farm. Well, without the getting up at 3:00 in the morning, the endless hard work, the bad crop years, insect infestations and the lack of amenities. Never mind. Let’s leave it at I admire people who choose farming as a way of life. Indeed it is just that. You own the land the land owns you. My experience working on a farm in Manitoba about fifteen years back gave me a brief but memorable glimpse into the life of people who grow the food we find on our supermarket shelves. For one week I woke at midnight to fertilize crops. Bouncing along the uneven furrows in a tractor I believe my kidneys actually relocated to behind my right ankle. I rode one of the farms three wheelers to feed the cows. At one point I helped load cows on a trailer (a procedure they are not in favor of) looking up at the business end of the beasts hoping to avoid being kicked or trampled or worse. The worse being cows when frightened tend to release all their bodily functions (I’m trying to be delicate here). One does not want to get in the way of this natural process if at all possible.

So with Thanksgiving approaching I will be thankful for these hard working humans who plant small seeds in the ground and care for them until they harvested and sent to be part of our feast whether it be turkey, tofurkey, ham, or whatever your traditions are. Oh, and a special shout out to the fine vineyards here in California. What would Thanksgiving be without a glistening glass of wine!

This soup is full of creamy deliciousness. It is rich, so I serve it in cups rather than bowls topped with shredded Parmesan.

Spinach and Artichoke Soup

4 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
5 cups chicken broth
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
6 oz. spinach, washed and broken into pieces
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in large deep skillet over med. heat. Add onions and cook 5-6 mins. until soft. Add garlic and cook 1 min. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 mins.

Deglaze pan with wine. Reduce heat and continue cooking until liquid nearly evaporates. Whisk in broth. Bring to a boil. Cook for 1 min.

Add cream cheese. Cook and stir until cheese has completely melted. Add artichoke hearts and spinach. Cook 6 mins. until spinach has wilted. Add lemon juice cheese, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shredded Parmesan sprinkled on top if desired.

Serves 4-6

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As the big day rolls into sight, Santa must be loading up his sleigh and checking his spark plugs in preparation for his big night. This time of year always brings to mind a story about my daughter when she was young.

As I’ve mentioned countless times I’ve traveled a lot in my life, having notched close to forty moves on my belt over the years. At the time my children were preschoolers we lived for three years on the east coast in a small bedroom community called Wakefield, Massachusetts.

Our home their remains one of my favorites. Built in the late 1800’s, it was imbued with character, as old homes often are, boasting several porthole style windows on the second floor as well as a large bay window seat in the master bedroom that framed the view of the lake across the street. Many hours were spent there during the summers reading to my children, or reading myself, often nodding off with the smell of gardenias from my garden wafting in through the open windows in the afternoon breeze.

As winter moved in pushing out the heat, we battened down the hatches. Storm windows went up, heaters were checked, and  shorts and flip-flops were stored to make way for snow gear and fur-lined boots. It was cold, bone chilling cold in New England that time of year. The thermometer often hovered well below zero. When the first snow came, however, it was a post card picture. Pristine drifts piled along the banks of the frozen lake and the colorful scarves and knit hats of the skaters were visible from our bedroom window. Our children learned to skate on that lake, got their first sled from Santa that second Christmas, made snow angels and built their first clumsy snowman in the front yard in Wakefield, just as I had in Nova Scotia, when I was a girl.

During the winter of my daughter’s fourth year a bitter cold moved in in mid-December and brought an icy wind for company. Standing in the kitchen the mat would move across the kitchen floor as if pulled by an unseen hand as the wind seeped in from under the door. Firewood was piled high beneath tarps along the side yard.  That year we consumed several cords. Snow quickly turned to slush on the roads as the temperature traveled up and down the thermometer between storms.

The week of Christmas itself the weather turned particularly raw, a heavy dose of snow blanketing the state. Outside a steady sheet of white blew diagonally beyond the window pane. Originally having made plans to travel to Nova Scotia for a few days, we decided instead to ride out the storm at home with the children tucked warmly inside.

That year we had cut down our tree, a large symetrical fir that dominated one side of the living room. Even though the room itself had unusually high ceilings for an old home, the tips of the angels wings perched on the top branch nearly reached out to touch it. Being on the other side of the country from our families, we had started our own traditions for Christmas Eve. Dinner each year was steaming bowls of  hearty beef stew, warmed loaves of French bread, and salad. Afterwards the children were bathed, dressed in warm pajamas, and allowed to open one present each from beneath the tree.

Filled with anticipation of Santa’s arrival, it was a chore to settle them down. After a book and a cup of hot chocolate lids would begin to droop, and with old Pooh Bear and Mrs. Beasley in tow they reluctantly allowed themselves to be tucked into bed.

A steady whistle echoed down the chimney that night as if to remind us of the storm lurking just outside. Inside, however, was warm and cozy. The lingering smell of stew hung in the air mixed with a hint of peppermint from the candy canes hanging on the tree. Large oak logs crackled happily in the hearth, stopping occasionally to spit a spark or two on the rug. Candles projected flickering shadows along the walls, and “Silent Night” played softly on the stereo.

Having bathed and slipped into warm pajamas, I began my nightly routine of clearing and rinsing dishes. A small tug on my pajama leg prompted me to look down only to find my little girl standing at my feet. Opening my mouth to admonish her for being out of bed, eyes wide, she shook her head putting a small index finger to her mouth and took my hand.

Guiding me around the corner, we climbed the old stairs noting their familiar creak on the fifth step. Once at the top we made our way down the long hallway to my room. Without turning on the light switch, the only illumination once inside came from the street light shining in through the the open drapes. Not a sound being said, she walked to the window seat and gestured for me to sit. Hopping up beside me she pointed outside. On the street corner below bathed in the lamp’s glow stood a rather corpulent man of some years. A long white beard rested over the buttons of his heavy tweed overcoat. On his head he wore a felt hat, and on his feet black leather boots with silver buckles. Glasses were perched on the tip of his nose, and over one arm rested a wooden walking stick. With eyes now the size of dinner plates, my little girl mouthed the word “Santa”.

We sat for a long time watching him there. As though waiting for a ride, his head turned from side to side occasionally, but for the most part he just stood there allowing the snowflakes to gather on the shoulders of his coat. Finally, unable to stay awake any longer she allowed me to carry her back to bed. I returned to the window a short time later to find him gone and the snow quickly filling the holes where the impression of his boots remained. One wonders. For me, I’m putting cookies and milk out just in case.  Have a great holiday everyone!

Dutch Baby with Maple Sausage and Cheese

4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. butter
8 maple sausages, cooked and cut in 1/2″ slices
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
2 scallions, chopped fine

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together milk, eggs, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add flour, whisking vigorously, until smooth and slightly lumpy. Allow to rest for 5 mins. and then whisk again.

Melt butter in 10″ ovenproof skillet (preferably cast iron). Add scallions and ham, cook 5 mins. Pour milk mixture into skillet. Place in oven until pancake is puffed and golden brown 17-20 mins. Without removing from oven sprinkle with cheese and turn oven up to broil. Broil until highly puffed and brown. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

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Most of us have holiday traditions which we hold dear.  In our family, the tree is decorated the weekend after Thanksgiving and taken down the day after Christmas. Turkey is served for the former and prime rib for the latter. Whatever you grow up with, is probably what you cherish and pass on to your children.  With each generation this expands as we marry into other families and combine our traditions with theirs.

If I’m expecting guests for a holiday meal, I always like to extend them an invitation to share a dish their family enjoys. Over the years this has produced some interesting results.  One year, we had a couple bring a basket brimming with bran muffins. In her Midwestern family, bran muffins were an integral part of their Christmas dinner.  Now, I like bran muffins, but must admit previously hadn’t associated them with the holidays. In retrospect, with the properties inherent in bran, perhaps digestively this could prove to be a sound idea. Another year, two sisters brought a tuna casserole topped with rich melted cheddar cheese. Their father had been a commercial fisherman and sometimes with little money at Christmas, this was what their mother made.  The cheese, being a luxury, was their treat.

We’ve had some fun experiences over the years with guests as well.  A couple my husband worked with brought a huge tray of rumaki one year to our Christmas party.  I love rumaki as a rule. However, to be honest while still recognizing her effort, these looked like small rodents that had met a sticky end by blowtorch and then been stabbed with a toothpick. Once in your mouth, almost impossibly, they tasted worse than they looked. Yet miraculously, their numbers grew smaller on the plate during the evening. Surveying the aftermath the following morning, I found these inedible little bundles tucked beneath couch pillows, stashed behind leaves in potted plants, and my favorite, scattered in the cat litter box.  Obviously, a personal statement. 

Another time, Sug, a lovely neighbor lady of mine in her mid nineties and almost legally blind, offered to bring her green jello mold. I accepted it gratefully, but on closer inspection noticed the jello appeared to have Fruit Loops and chocolate chips in it. Feeling this was begging for a taste test, I took a small bite. I was spot on about the Fruit Loops but what I had originally thought were chocolate chips were, in fact, black olives. I issued a quiet disclosure to my other guests. People gave this dish a wider berth than a barrel of toxic waste. Not ever wanting to hurt Sug’s feelings, I donated most of it to the garbage disposal.  Receiving her empty dish as she left she was delighted that everyone enjoyed her contribution. 

Another thing I find odd is when people bring something as a hostess gift and then turn around and take it home with them.  I’ve had people actually give me wine as a gift, drink most of it while at my house, and take the rest home as a “boozer bag”.  One Christmas we had a huge potluck at our house, sixty or so people.  It was so much fun and everybody brought amazing food.  A couple had contributed a particularly beautiful fresh fruit salad platter.  In the center was a four slotted assortment of cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts, and walnuts.  Yum.  Coming in they informed us they had another party to go to later in the evening. I thanked them for their contribution and said I would put the fruit out with the desserts and was sure the other guests would enjoy it.  On her way out the door she picked up the still wrapped plastic tray, thanked me for inviting them and moved on to the next party.  I assume she had volunteered for a fresh fruit platter with assorted nuts at that party as well.  The gift that keeps on giving.  

My husband’s uncle, who enjoyed his Christmas cheer provided another story.  Mike believed in starting his spiked egg nog early on Christmas Day, declaring it had eggs in it so technically could be considered brunch.  Living alone, he was often a guest at our table, and occasionally under it, depending on his level of celebration.  One year he was well on his way to a good time and was seated next to a table with a lit candle on it.  Deep in conversation, and well anesthetized, he didn’t realize that the sleeve on his jacket was on fire.  You could say he was relit.  Fortunately we got it out before he was well done. 

One Thanksgiving I had thirty people for a sit down dinner.  I got two birds and a ham, and cooked all but the larger bird the day before.  There was a lot of food, but when I’m cooking all day I often enjoy the leftovers more the day after then the meal the day of.  Dinner was a big production that year, with family members contributing casseroles, rolls, and pies.  After coffee had been served and before putting up the leftovers, I suggested that everyone help themselves so they too could enjoy a repeat performance on the following day.  I went in the kitchen to begin the clean up process and get the first load of dishes in the dishwasher.  Twenty minutes later I returned to find the bone from one drumstick completely denuded on one plate sitting in a greasy pile, a mashed potato bowl that looked like it had been licked clean by a labrador retriever, one roll slightly burned, a half a bowl of cranberry sauce, and a small tureen of gravy, with unfortunately nothing to pour it over. Shortly whoever had taken the last of the dark meat came back for that. Really?  In all fairness there was a piece of pumpkin pie left, although not a dollop of whipped cream. A person with a conscience had left one chocolate chip cookie with a bite taken out of it for us. My husband, who was the Dagwood of the day after Thanksgiving sandwich makers, was devastated.  I went out the next day, purchased another turkey and popped it in the oven.

No matter what, I still love it all.  Family issues, rude guests, irritated shoppers, all of it.  Wouldn’t miss a minute. 

Another tradition for us is brunch on Christmas Day.  Breakfast truly is my favorite meal.  I’d rather go out to brunch than dinner any day.  This particular dish is a bit of work but worth the trouble.  I like it with a sunny side up egg or two on top.  This sounds harder than it is to prepare. You can do it. Enjoy!

Swiss Rosti with Bacon and Gruyere

6 larage russet potatoes, peeled
6 scallions, chopped and divided
4 slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup leek, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
Olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2-3/4 tsp. black pepper
4 oz. Gruyere cheese

Cook bacon in non-stick skillet until fat is rendered and bacon is beginning to brown. In side dish put 1 Tbsp. green slices of scallions.

Add remaining scallions and leeks to skillet. Cook with until bacon is crisp and leeks are done, about 5 mins. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Pour bacon fat into small bowl and reserve skillet. Add enough olive oil to bowl to bring it to 3 Tbsp. Add butter to mixture. Place 2 Tbsp. of oil/fat/butter mixture in skillet. 2 Tbsp. of oil/fat/butter mixture in a small bowl and add bacon/leek/scallions. Reserve 2 Tbsp. of oil/fat/butter mixture in another small bowl.

Coarsely grate potatoes on a cuttin board (as if for hash browns). Using an old, clean dish towel (potato juice will stain) place batches of grated potates and wring to removed moisture.

Place potatoes in large bowl and add 1 tsp. salt, pepper, and bacon mixture. Toss to cover evenly.

Heat reserved skillet over medium med-low heat. When skillet is hot, add potatoes and press with spatula to make even layer. Tent with tin foil and cook for 10 mins. rotating skillet frequently until bottom of potatoes are golden brown.

Run a plastic spatula under potatoes to loosen. Place large plate over top and using oven mitt invert onto plate.

Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in skillet. Slide Rosti back into skillet browned side up. Tent again and cook 5 mins. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheese and cook uncovered until bottom is browned, cheese melted, and potatoes cooked through.

Remove from skillet and sprinkle with salt if desired. So good.

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After my husband passed away, I found myself a single mother in my late twenties with two children, seven and eight.  The responsibility of being the sole provider, both in the physical and emotional sense, could, at times be overwhelming.  If you made a decision that effected their lives there was no one else to run it by, so often I just crossed my fingers and believed that I was doing the right thing, or, at the very least, doing the best I could.

Their dad passed away in May of that year and, although things had settled into a normal routine, getting ready for the holidays soon approaching was difficult.  There was a life insurance policy that was on its way to help but wouldn’t arrive until the first of the following year, so I made do on my salary as best I could.  My parents, as always, were very supportive, but I had a certain need to stand on my own feet and not lean on them unless I had no place else to lean. 

I had found us a condominium to rent.  The landlady had been a single mother herself, so she cut the rent and allowed me to move in without a huge deposit.  For that, I was truly thankful.  Between the rent, utilities, food, and just basic upkeep for two children, money was tight.  At the time, believe it or not, I’d never had my own bank account, depending more on my husband to take care of the finances. Although I had always held down a full-time job I obviously had little financial savvy, so I kept my money in an envelope in my top dresser drawer and managed my bills with money orders. 

Managing to save enough money out of my checks to make a decent showing under the tree, I deposited the last of it in my trusty envelope and left for work one morning.  Arriving at the house with the children after work I found the front door jimmied and many of our possessions, including the envelope in the dresser drawer, were gone.  The police came and took a report, but apparently the likelihood of ever seeing any of our things returned was slim to none.

That weekend was about a seven weeks shy of December 25th.  I remember putting my children to bed, and getting in bed myself, pulling the covers up to my chin and wondering what I was going to do. 

On the day following, which was a Sunday, my daughter was in the front yard riding her bike and I was vacuuming the house (those were the days when children played outside, in case anyone takes offense).  She came in shortly after and pulled on my shirt to get my attention over the noise of the vacuum.  I turned it off and leaned down to see what she needed.  In her hand she held a large wad of bills.  Immediately I asked where she’d gotten the money and she told me she’d found it in the ivy out in front of the complex.   After counting it, we totalled $150.00 in small bills.  Her first question was how we would find who it belonged to.  Okay, I wanted to justify that perhaps it was just an answer to a prayer, but with that small face looking up at me, I made a decision.  We went door to door in the complex itself asking if anyone had lost anything valuable recently.  We posted signs in the laundry room, and in a last ditch effort to find the rightful owner contacted the police.  I was told that if nobody claimed it for a certain period of time, it would come back to us. 

Amazingly I got a call the alloted of time later informing me that it had never been claimed, and the police officer who’d come to house to take the report actually delivered it to me personally.  There are so many angels out there in the world.  Now I had the money to buy a few toys and some much needed clothes, but the tree was proving an issue.  I had a few ornaments and a couple of strings of lights, but trees were expensive and I had to make a decision to let the tree go in lieu of having something for them to open, so that’s what I did.

About four days before Christmas I was in the kitchen baking cookies and dicing slightly stale bread, celery, onions and mushrooms  for stuffing for the bird sitting in the refrigerator.  The doorbell rang and my little girl went to answer it while I dried my hands, catching her just around the corner.  “Mommy”, she said, “the tree’s here”.  Taking my hand she dragged me to the front door where I found a beautiful six foot tree surrounded with boxes filled with ornaments, lights, and an angel to go on top. 

I asked everyone I knew if they’d done it and nobody took credit.  I never have known where it came from, but whoever did it definitely enriched our Christmas in a way they will never know. 

Life sometimes, offers up miracles, when you feel you’ve tapped out your resources looking for one.  So, that’s my Christmas story for today.

As a child in Nova Scotia we harvested the chestnuts from the ground on the school yard and along the route home and my grandmother roasted them, or used them in stuffing. This is my version of hers. She was a tea-tottler so sherry would only have been added in case of emergency. Smile.

Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing

10 lb. fresh turkey
1/4 cup butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Chestnut Stuffing

8 bacon slices, diced
1/2 lb. fresh chestnuts, cooked, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/8 cup sherry
1/2 lb. button mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/2 bunch of watercress, finely chopped

For the stuffing: Saute bacon, onion, and mushrooms in skillet over low heat until fat is released. Add the chestnuts and cook over medium heat for 10 mins. until bacon is crisp. Add bread crumbs.
salt and pepper to taste.

Move to a large bowl and cool thoroughly. Add beaten egg, watercress, sherry, and salt and pepper. Mix well.

Clean and dry turkey. Salt and pepper cavity liberally. In chest cavity place two peeled white onions.

Spoon cold stuffing into neck end of bird. Pull skin over and secure with skewer.

Mix together softened butter, garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and pepper into a paste. Slather the butter over the bird adding salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place turkey breast side up on rack in roasting pan. Roast for 3-3 1/2 hours until a long fork inserted in thigh has juices run clear. If bird is getting too brown during cooking, tent with aluminum foil. When cooked, let stand tented until ready to serve.

As a note, this is a good site for how to cook the chestnuts. http://homecooking.about.com/od/nuts/a/chestnuttips.htm

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