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Thanksgiving Recap

26 Nov

In addition to the traditional fixings (my favorite dish this year was my sister Sarah’s sweet potatoes with goat cheese; recipe below), my family added a few new elements to this year’s holiday celebration.

First, a post-dinner haiku contest. Here are a few memorable ones:

Wild birds land on lake
Farm birds land on dinner plate
Wonders never cease

Potatoes and bread
The devil’s carbohydrates
Thank you, stretchy pants

Cozy in men’s socks
Watching trees dance in the grey
Wondering always

Taters, turkey, peas
Drop from my fork to the floor
Here kitty kitty
(I think this last one was adapted from a previously published poem, but it was performed with great enthusiasm by a 5-year-old, so we gave it the grand prize.)

After the haikus we had some desserts. This year we averaged 1/3 of a pie per person. Needless to say, we had a lot of leftovers.

From the left: classic pumpkin; gluten-free orange almond cake; chocolate/banana/caramel; and apple.

We also heard a variety of readings including poetry by Margaret Atwood and Paul Laurence Dunbar, a couple chapters from The Pushcart War (so timely!), an essay by E.B. White on subsistence farming, and a short remembrance of my mother’s mother. Kris read this poem by Mary Oliver that I quite liked.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Finally, we all brought books for an exchange and each got to take home a few new finds. I’m thankful for books!

Spanning high brow to low brow

Recipe to save for next year, courtesy of my sister:

Sweet Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Bacon

4 large sweet potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch
4-6 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pt heavy cream
8 oz goat cheese
salt and pepper
Chop and cook bacon. Remove bacon to towel to drain.
Cook onion in bacon fat, slow and low to caramelize.
Add cream and gently heat, add goat cheese, stir to melt.
Return bacon to pan once the cheese has melted. (Add a little cream or, alternatively, GF pancake mix to adjust sauce until it resembles homemade mac & cheese sauce.)
Layer sliced sweet potatoes with sauce (seasoning each layer of potatoes with salt and pepper) – 3 or 4 layers deep – in a 9×13 pan.
Bake, covered, at 325 for an hour or so.
Remove foil, broil for a few minutes to brown top. Could add a bit of cheese at that point, too.

Holiday Gift Guides

18 Nov

It’s gift-giving season, hooray! Here are some Everybody’s Invited-approved ideas to add to your shopping list this year, if you’re into it.

So weird.

For the Board Game Fanatic:

  • This vintage Mork & Mindy board game looks pretty amazing.
  • This awesome game table would be great in any boardgamer’s living room. Rotate the table to play checkers, backgammon, tic tac toe, go, crossword, or parchisi.
  • I’ve had my eye on this Giant Connect 4 game for awhile. (That particular version of the game isn’t available outside the U.K., but a slightly different version called Up 4 It is available worldwide.)
  • I love these Scrabble inspired pillows spelling out PLAY.
  • A low-cost but time-intensive option would be to make a custom board game. You’d be a hero!

For the Serious Foodie:

  • Every cook can use an all-purpose cookbook like How to Cook Everything or The Flavor Bible.
  • Make an apron. The Tip Junkie has a great round-up of free patterns.
  • Or, for an even simpler DIY project, try making and bottling your own vanilla extract like Annie Get Your Glue Gun.
  • A non-essential but fun small appliance. My favorites are ice cream makers, immersion blenders, waffle irons, and panini makers!

For the Globe Trotter:

  • Try a subscription to National Geographic so they don’t have to read it at the doctor’s office (is it only my doctor who subscribes?)
  • A custom vacation map would make a thoughtful gift for a travel buddy .
  • A Travel Hacking Cartel membership would be awesome for the serious traveler who wants to rack up frequent flyer miles.
  • To thoroughly inspire, try a copy of Endurance by Alfred Lansing, which details Shackleton’s adventures in Antarctica.
  • And of course, any serious traveler needs some packing cubes.

Happy gifting!

My Halloween To Do List

12 Oct

Also: Listen to Tracy Jordan's Halloween novelty song about cross-cultural celebrations, "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah"

Here’s what I have to do to get ready for my most favorite holiday!

  1. Acquire finishing touches for Halloween costume. (Hint: finishing touches include astronaut helmet and moon boots)
  2. Get lost in a Corn Maze with Celly and Meg. Maybe this one.
  3. Make gluten-free Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Icing for co-workers.
  4. Make Bourbon Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes for grown up members of family.
  5. See if I can carve my face into a pumpkin as well as GlueGunAnnie did (or maybe instead of my own face, I’ll do someone more awesome like Steve Jobs or Amy Poehler).
  6. Watch Michael Jackson’s Thriller video a few times.
What’s on your Halloween To Do list?

P.S. I have a lot of unfinished To Do lists lying around, so some things on this list may never happen. I want you to know that I am okay with this.

Happy Valentine’s Day

13 Feb

My family had a Valentine’s Day party last weekend, since I was home for a couple of days.


An explosion of pink. Notice the Valentine mailboxes on the mantle. We exchanged homemade cards. (Just like Elementary School!)
Yummy Ratatouille au Gratin.
We have lots of pictures of my dad carving birds. See also: Dickens Christmas.
Dessert X2
A little dressed up.

This was our thirtieth theme party. To commemorate the occasion, I had this poster designed by a talented woman I found on etsy. Everyone in my family got a 18″ X 24″ color poster. A good conversation piece, don’t you think?

Holiday Double Feature

28 Dec

I’ve been busy. So have you!

1. 2010 Great Cookie Bake-Off

For the past several years, my mom, sister, niece and I have been putting together holiday treat packages for our friends and family. It takes a whole day (plus a lot of preparation), but we like it anyway because we are not afraid of hard work. “Great Cookie Bake-Off” is a bit of a misnomer, since we’ve done all sorts of things, from peppermint bark, to meringues, to homemade caramels. But we like the sound of it anyway. This year we wanted to try something different, so we added a couple savories to the mix.

Here is 2010’s menu:

Spicy Mango Chutney
Curried Almonds
Coconut Candy
Chai Fudge (recipe on this page)
Coconut Curry Cookies
Chai Tea packs (see Liza’s recipe)

Can you smell the chutney?

2. Christmas Brunch

On Christmas morning, my mom and I made brunch for the rest of our family.

Winter Parfaits (homemade granola, yogurt, blood orange, pomegranate arils, and candied lemon peel)
Crepes! (Savory: ham and cheese; brie and apple. Sweet: nutella and banana; lemon and sugar)
A nice big salad.
Oh, and sausages.

Parfait means perfect.

Always raising the bar.

(Both photos by Sarah.)


Thanks, planet!

17 Nov

Guest post by my sister Sarah.

Mmmm...leftovers. By Flickr user kthread.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and celebrate the abundance of what our planet has to offer. Consider these ideas when planning this year’s feast and lower the environmental impact of the day.

  • Buy local and organic ingredients – and in the case of the turkey, cage-free is the way to go. Or be even more eco-friendly and put the kibosh on meat all together by creating a sumptuous vegetarian meal. Check out this great resource for vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes. If possible, source your ingredients within 100 miles of home and if catering to a large crowd, buy ingredients in bulk so as to cut down on wasteful packaging.
  • Break out the good china – using disposable plates and tableware may be the easy way out when it comes to cleaning up, but when else are you going to use the good stuff? A little KP duty post-turkey won’t hurt anyone, and the planet is sure to benefit. And if you’re loading a dishwasher, make sure it’s at capacity before running it.
  • Use those bodies – keep in mind that you’re oven is likely to be in use for the better part of the day and the added bodies in your home will also increase the temperature inside. Forego the heater in favor of these heat sources and if it gets too warm, open a window instead of cranking the AC. Better yet, take the crew outside for an actual game of football rather than the more passive televised version. And you’ll save energy by not turning that television on!
  • Get the kids in on the decorating – fallen leaves, pine cones, acorns and tree boughs all lend themselves to creative art projects, centerpieces and other fall-harvest themed décor. Check out these easy instructions for making leaf placemats.
  • Non-toxic cleaning – we know you want your house to sparkle and shine for your guests but the planet will be grateful if you use non-toxic cleaners. Try baking soda and water to scrub sinks and tubs or vinegar and newspaper to make the windows shine. And ditch the paper towels for reusable cloths.
  • Eat the leftovers – the best place to start is by not making too much food in the first place. The next best thing to do is to turn leftovers into sandwiches, soups, salads or other dishes so that they don’t go to waste or you could donate them to a homeless shelter or food bank. And if you can’t make it through them before they go bad, be sure to compost them.
  • Be thankful to the planet – show your gratitude for the Earth by planting a tree.

Check out Sarah’s previous green-themed guest posts:

Halloween Tailgating: A trick-or-treat alternative

29 Oct

My sister told me that she and my niece are participating in something called “Trunk or treating” this Halloween. Neither of us had heard of it before this year. However, this form of “Halloween tailgating” is becoming increasingly popular, which makes sense when you think about the fact that it actually solves many trick-or-treat-related problems – from rural trick-or-treaters who have miles between houses to urban New Yorkers and their doormanned buildings – and it is safer than traditional trick-or-treating to be sure. (At least no one seems concerned about razor blades in popcorn balls anymore.)

All you have to do is gather friends, family, classmates or any community group in a school or church parking lot and decorate trunks of cars and truck beds with a Halloween or autumn-themed design. Then hand out treats (or tricks).

I asked my sister how she’s transforming the trunk of her Prius into an “Enchantment Under the Sea“-inspired underwater treat dispensary (Note: I approve of this theme!).

Here’s what she said:

  • Spread blue cloth (curtains, sheets, tee-shirts or table cloths) in the bottom of the trunk and hang over the back seat/headrests.
  • Stretch fishing net across the trunk and prop costumed crustaceans throughout. We had lobsters, crabs and starfish dressed as ghosts and witches complete with paint brush broomsticks. Ours happened to be plastic but we didn’t, and wouldn’t, buy them.** Other ideas for manufacturing these include construction paper, papier mache, or a simple salt dough.
  • Plant a “treasure chest” in the center filled with treats. Spread sand, rocks, shells, drift wood and other beach-y items around the treasure. You could set this up on cookie sheets for easier clean-up.
  • Carve a fish shape into a pumpkin or two. Alternatively, paint a pumpkin blue and then add a gold fish for a pumpkin fishbowl.

**Regular readers will recognize the “green” meme in my sister’s guest posts, and here it is: they repurposed a number of objects in their Halloween Under the Sea Party. For example, the “water” was their old blue curtains that have been torn to shreds by their two cats. The lobsters and crabs were rescued from the Trader Joe’s dumpster where they were headed after the manager decided to change the décor. Many other found objects were utilized. The pumpkins were organic, the paint was nontoxic. The pumpkin seeds were roasted with butter, maple syrup, ground ginger, cinnamon and allspice to make a tasty snack. The candles are soy. See what I mean? So many opportunities to make eco-friendly choices.

In case you missed the reference, the Enchantment Under the Sea dance is a "rhythmic ceremonial ritual" that played an important role in the first two Back to the Future movies.