Saturday, November 8, 2014

November - Thanksgiving


     When November rolls around, what do you think of most?  Cold stormy nights, the end
     of Fall?  The winter ahead, Halloween's ended and another holiday event is on the horizon.

     Thanksgiving tens to make me think of festive turkey dinners with relatives. Lots of family
     members all coming together to share a meal.  It is also a time to share our thoughts on what
     we are thankful for - family, health, jobs, friends, good fortune, and the overcoming of hard
     times and our ability to pull throw rough patches in our everyday lives.

Abundant Blessing

We thank You for the turkey.
The gravy and the dressing.
Dear Lord, this table overflows
With Thy abundant blessing,
Let us always be aware
That all gifts come from You,
And may we serve Your heavenly will
In everything we do.

- Joanna Fuchs -

      National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation


         Traditionally, the White House begins the yearly Thanksgiving celebratory season with a ceremony, known as the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation.  This special ceremony honors one turkey of note, granting it the "presidential pardon", which spares the bird from being slaughtered.  the bird then lives out the rest of its life at the home of George Washington's birthplace.   Although the ceremony has been frowned upon by some, turkey farmers are quick to point out that the average lifespan of a turkey is 3 to 4 years, claiming that the birds are bred for eating and not retirement.  It seems that their flesh grows so fast that their heart, bones and organs can't catch up, and they are often found dead where they lived.  

     And, let's not forget to give thanks to the honored animal of this holiday, whose very life has
feed millions of people over the centuries - the turkey.  Often maligned as one of the ugliest birds
in the wild kingdom, the turkey has certainly been favored by many great chefs throughout history.

      Along with the Thanksgiving feast, there is a traditional history around family recipes in the preparation of stuffing that goes into the turkey, along with all the gravies, pies, home-made biscuits, eggnog, olives, cranberries, salad dressings and incidental side dishes, passed down through the generations of a family.  Many family recipes have been preserved in safekeeping for the holiday, with secret ingredients never divulged to outsiders.  Secret recipes are typical amongst families who insist on keeping the recipe cards guarded against "outsiders", to be passed down to a daughter or daughter-in-law, for future presentations.  

     There is an art form to making the perfect, non-clumping gravy, or the perfect pumpkin, apple or pecan pie.  Some baked items are prepared the day before or few days before, in order to get them out of the way of the major baking of the turkey on Thanksgiving, early in the morning hours.  From special sausage stuffing, to cranberry sauces with chutney, dijon or some other secret ingredient, there are so many delicious ways to bring the best meal to a family dining table, set with good china and glassware. Whether your rolls or side dishes are naturally gluten-free, grain-free or dairy-free, meals can be planned around the pickiest dietary needs.  Small serving dishes or colorful bowls often hold the other side dishes for the meal - black olives, vegetable dip (for those who can't wait patiently for the meal to begin), deviled eggs, sweet potato casserole or appetizers - can add excitement to the meal, as well as keep hungry people happy.  There's nothing worse than starving before a meal that has 2 hours left until serving time. Unless, of course, you burned the turkey.

     Aside from the main meal, another consideration involves presentation of the dinner table and the ambiance of the holiday in general.  The dinner table becomes a colorful cornucopia of Fall colors, from the rich wine color of cranberries, to the rich dark amber color of the turkey itself, your mouth tends to water in appreciation at the feast layed out before you, as you step into the dining area. Aside from the main meal, dessert items such as pies are often the finishing touch to any Thanksgiving meal and a favorite food for guests to bring to the dinner to share with others.  Sometimes potlucks are the best way to host a dinner party. If the host is responsible for the turkey preparation, potatoes and gravy, others can surely bring the after meal delicacies.  Pumpkin and apple pies, as well as mincemeat pies are often the favored deserts of choice. In Oregon, we love our Marionberry pies, grown locally here.  This hybrid berry is truly sweet and delicious-it's like a blackberry and boysenberry pie melted together. For those who don't want pie, they can still get a taste of the Marionberry experience with delicious ice cream. 

               Pumpkin Custard Pie                                           Apple Pie


                                                 Marionberry Pie with Lattice Top Crust                                            
     Hundreds of recipes have been passed down from generation to generation regarding the cooking of the turkey, the stuffing that goes into the turkey, all the accompanying dishes to go with the turkey (gravies, mashed potatoes, yams, pies, rolls, etc.) and even what to do with the leftovers. Hot turkey sandwiches smothered in gravy come to mind as the dinner serving the next day.  Many people complain about eating way to much turkey in the following week that they don't want to eat turkey again until next year, but I say bring it on!


     Another important aspect of holiday feasts such as Thanksgiving dinner, is the presentation of the turkey and all the favorite recipes that have been passed on from a beloved grandmother, aunt, mother, sister or dear friend. Table presentation is as important as the ambiance of the room in which the meal is to enjoyed.  From the simple Quaker table, laden with a gourd and pine cone and pine needles centerpiece, to more elaborate fare, decorations are key. 

    Candle and Corn Kernels in Glass Votives                      Small Gourds and Candles


     Whether your table settings are traditional, playful or artistic, you and your guests will delight in softly lit candles, place mats, cloth napkins and glassware, giving your meal a level of sophistication that brings out all the deliciousness of the meal and the camaraderie of close family and friends. A simple meal can be easily enhanced with just a few simple decorating touches.  Plants, candles, table runners and gourds are always a good starting point for any table, small or big. The bigger the table, the more decorating ideas are possible.  

      Maybe you would like to make your own special table runner, by incorporating your skill of knitting, crochet or some other handiwork.  Quilting is an excellent way to be creative, and it was surely one of the most traditional means of table decoration in the times of the Pilgrims, although most of the fabric scraps were likely from the worn out clothing of dresses and shirts.




Free Knitting Pattern

Diamond Table Cloth - by Ann E. Gallentine

     This lovely, knit Diamond Table Cloth pattern, by Ann E. Gallentine would be a wonderful tablecloth for any special get together.  The free pattern instructions and further information can be found at:  But, you'll need to be a quick knitter to get this done in time, or begin one for next year :) 

Place Cards 


     Table place cards are also a nice touch for the dinner table, with everyone's name done in gold calligraphy inks. Thanksgiving is also a time in which we reflect back on what has transpired in our lives over the past year, and all the good things we have to be thankful for.A fun idea is to get everyone thinking about 3-5 things that they are most thankful for, which they can jot down inside their place cards. Before, during or after dinner, each can state some of the things they are thankful for. This is an especially important lesson for smaller children, who may have never thought about blessings in their young lives.  This game also opens the door to asking your child what they are thankful for, from school friends to loving parents and siblings, maybe a new clothing, a new school experience, teacher, neighborhood, new house, their own bedroom, a new pet, etc.  Blessings come in big and small ways. Or, later over coffee and pumpkin pie, you can read everyone's thoughts, and
turn it into a guessing game, as to who said what.

Simple Place Card Ideas you can Make Yourself, with rubber stamps, stickers, color paper and crayons, or copy & paste from an internet site. Then write everyone's name on the front and numbering from 1 to 5 inside, where blessings can be jotted down.  Children will enjoy anything creative that engages their mind and hands.  Why not let them help you to decorate place cards for the children's table?  Colored paper and simple shapes can be cut out by an adult or older child. the tail feathers can be cut of colored paper, wrapping paper, or any number of things found around the house, such as newspaper, magazine print pictures, food boxes, etc.


                                                                   Activities for Kids

     Speaking of kids, there are additional fun activities that are available from many free internet sites, catering to kids ages.  Anything that gets them involved in creative activities will be a hit at your gathering.  And it keeps them entertained away from busy cooks and preparers of meals, which is a super good plan for busy kitchen moms.  One year, my daughter got the kids involved in coloring, stamping, cutting out colored paper and puzzles. Depending on their ages, there are many such things to keep them happy and out of the way of baking pans and busy feet.  And, they can take home whatever they make, to keep as a souvenir of their special Thanksgiving holiday event.



       Remember all those great color-by-number painting sets of horses that you enjoyed as a child?  I spent hours with these great art projects and would hang the finished product on my bedroom walls, enjoying looking at them every morning when I woke up.  I'm sure that my love of art and color theory probably developed from that time period. I would spend hours at my little desk, carefully painting between the lines with entirely inadequate, plastic bristle paintbrushes.  But it became a challenge foe me to perfect my steady hand, and I loved the process. This project would work well on heavy card stock or light cardboard. Photocopy the picture and transfer the design to the cardboard or stock ahead of time.  Your young guests will enjoy working on a fun Thanksgiving project like this, and it's a relatively quiet activity shared with other budding artists.  

      Many great puzzle, word searches, math problem solving and other games can be found online for free.  Simply photocopy the number of pages you'll need, or make one copy and get the rest printed off at the nearest copy store, like Kinko's.   The Dollar Store carries frames for a reasonable price and children love seeing their artwork displayed around the house.  Memories of special times spent with others are very important for developing children, too.  

Socializing children is quite easily done through play, with coloring being a quiet and creative
activity.  Adults and children can chat while they color and relay all the things that they are thankful for.  What a great low-stress, creative and fun way to share the Thanksgiving message to youngsters. And, the children can take their artwork home to place on the fridge. Take a picture and keep as a memento 
of the shared holiday time spent together as a communal festivity.  Okay, now go get your crayons!

Family Activites  

     On Thanksgiving, the television is one of the favorite hangout places in many homes.  Whether watching football, a classic movie or watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, everyone can
enjoy the day with family.  The floats are creative and have taken many talented people painstaking hours to create for our fanciful enjoyment.  Along with floats, are musical bands, baton twirlers, clowns, horses and a vast array of performers.  Macy's has been involved in Thanksgiving Day parades since 1924.  This year's parade is being held on Thursday, November 27, 2014 at 9am (EST) and will be televised nationally on NBC.

      Parades always remind me of an earlier period in my childhood, when the family got together
and took the bus into downtown Portland to watch the Rose Festival Parade, in June.  When I think
of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, it makes me shiver, knowing that the weather is generally very cold at that time of the year.  So, I have to give props to those of you who are brave enough to venture out into the cold air to support the float makers and all the folks involved in  riding on the floats and making the event a huge success and tradition for others. One day,I'd love to take my family to the event and enjoy the festivities.

Cold Months Ahead

    Speaking of the weather, it has been frighteningly cold here in the Portland area. In fact, today, (Saturday, November 15, 2014) it is currently 32ยบ on the SE side of town, in the Clackamas area. Hopefully, later today, the temperature will improve enough for me to take our new dog, a 3 year old Dachshund, out for a walk. Ruby sleeps most of the day and I wonder if that is normal,  She doesn't seem to like playing with toys, either. But she loves her walks.  She needs to get bundled up because she's a "shiverer".  I never thought I would own a dog that needed to be dressed up, but she seems to like the additional covering.

      Now that Ruby has become a part of our family, I have been researching various dog sweater patterns for small dogs.  There are so many wonderful patterns, most of which are also free.  The one pattern that I really like is a cable knit, Celtic style pattern from GARNSTUDIO.  Sizing for the sweater is as follows:

XS for a Chihuahua (chest = 11-12.5"/28/32 cm)
S for a Bichon Frise (chest = 15-17"/40/44cm)
M for a Cocker Spaniel (chest = 19-20.5"/48/52 cm)

     If you have a dog within these dimensions, and knit this garment for your special little gal or guy, please let me know how it turned out. I'd really love to see your finished garment.  Next garment I think would be interesting, is pants of some kind, to cover the bums and legs. Tricky design idea, eh?



Thanksgiving Mystery Reading

     One of my favorite activities during any holiday is to read books that are either related to a
particular holiday, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, or to read new releases during a holiday month. This is one of my new traditions. So, in that vein, cozy mystery reads that center on the Thanksgiving holiday are especially enjoyable to read.  Here are a few good choices:


Ruby the Dachshund

Ruby, the Dachshund     

      On Tuesday, Election Day as it turns out, my daughter and I went to the Oregon Humane Society to look at available dogs for adoption.  We intended to adopt a medium size dog, but there didn't seem to be any available that didn't have serious dental or other medical issues. When we approached one of the kennels, this darling little Dachshund came running up to my daughter and licked her hand. The card on her cage said that she shied away from people, so we took this as a good sign that the little dog was ready to be adopted, and we fell in love with her.

     According to the OHS helper, not much was known about this little dog, other than that she had come from another shelter in California, to the OHS. She had been there only a week before we happened by.  Her age is guessed to be 3 years old, based on her dental  record.  She had recently been spayed and was suffering a slight case of "kennel cough". Fortunately, we were able to get some free medications to take home for administering to her.

     After all the paperwork was filled out, my picture was taken and, I'm assuming (based on the agent's disappearance for a short spell), that a background check showed I wasn't an animal abuser, we took her home. But first, we stopped at the local PetSmart, to stock up on supplied (food, food dishes, bedding, etc.) She slept well the first night on a dog pillow we had not been using, a few fleece covers and a stuffed dog with floppy ears. The next morning I took her outside to do her thing, including 3 separate walks throughout the day, just to get her to pee. But, she was holding out on me and no such luck.  The next day we took her to PetCo, where we found the most practical and functional, pink raincoat with Sherpa turn down collar. Since she lacks a full furry coat of hair, I wanted to make sure she would be warm on her walks. I am confused about why she prefers cat food to dog food, and sleeping on the couch instead of on her favorite cover. So, we moved the cover to the couch. She is training us well and we think we are beginning to see the markings of a diva.

We had to rename her because the name she was given at the OHS, Lucretia, which didn't seem like a dog name. We ran through many names: Pepper, Honey, Penny, Daisy, Lucy, Ruby, Sophie and Nala. My daughter commented that we got her on Tuesday, Election Day. And then it hit me - Tuesday. Her new name would be Ruby. As in Ruby Tuesday, a song made famous by The Rolling Stones in 1967:

Going on Day 3, Ruby has adjusted nicely to us and the 9 cats who live here. Our cats are very accommodating, having been raised and trained in a loving home of peace and tranquility. And, being an avid knitter, I am already scouting out suitable knit patterns to make more sweaters to keep Ruby warm, as Winter approaches. It's been very wet and cloudy here lately (a total turnaround from Summer weather which was hot and insufferable).  Here's one of the sweater patterns I found from Ravelry contributor, Karen Roman. I love Hounds tooth patterning-what else would a hound dog wear? Dachschund is a German word, meaning "Hound Dog".

Houndstooth, of course! 

   DROPS Design offers a fabulous cable pattern sweater for smaller dogs that is a lovely classic.
   Sizes range from XS - S - M. Knit on a US 6 (4mm) circular needle. The yarn they used was                Karisma from Garnstudio, but any yarn that gives you the proper gauge will also work. I would          suggest a worsted weight or Aran yarn, as cables will provide warmth against increment weather
   when walking outdoors.

New PINK Jacket for cold weather ahead

Halloween 2014


                                                       She loves her sleeping buddy                                          

       Car rides are scary !