Friday, November 29, 2019

Let's Talk Turkey

I suffer from a little-known condition known as Turkey Dysfunction. It presents as a total lack of recall about the steps involved in cooking a turkey, and, there is only one known cure: call Mom, STAT.

I know, I know, I'm a mom, but, that doesn't stop me from calling upon the wealth of knowledge that is my Mom. Case in point: yesterday, I had to text her on two separate occasions, once to ask if the turkey starts at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes, or thirty, and, once again to ask if the oven then gets turned down to 350 or 375.

Thank goodness she was available to reply.

In the event that I find myself unable to recall the specifics of turkey cooking next year, I thought I should go ahead and write myself a little reminder. Hence, this post. So, here is Turkey Cooking 101, according to Mom.

Step one: Make sure turkey is sufficiently thawed. This year, my turkey only weighed thirteen pounds, so, I transferred it from the freezer to the fridge five days before Thanksgiving. That was plenty of time, and, while there was still some crystallization in the cavity of the bird, the giblet packet and neck slid out with just a minor tug.

Step two: Place turkey in roasting pan. At this point, I gently wiggle my hand underneath the skin on the breast, separating the skin just enough to make room for me to follow with a good half stick of butter,  massaged into the breast meat and then another half stick, massaged onto the outside of the skin.*

*Not pictured, because my hands were coated in butter, which make handling a camera rather difficult. It also made my hands soft as a baby's butt. Bonus!

Step three: If you are on Team Stuffing Inside the Bird, now is your chance. Loosely pack prepared stuffing into the cavity. Place remaining stuffing into a casserole dish for baking separately, so that the whiners on Team Stuffing Outside the Bird are also happy (bet you can't guess which team I'm on). Insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the bird's thigh, tent the roasting dish with aluminum foil, and place in 400 degree oven for fifteen minutes (thank you, Mom).

Step four: After fifteen minutes, turn the oven down to 350 and bake turkey for about 20 minutes per pound of bird, assuming it is stuffed (15 minutes per pound if unstuffed). After the first two hours of cooking, baste turkey with pan juices.

Step five: Uncover the turkey for the final hour of cooking time, basting occasionally, until golden brown. Once thermometer reaches 165 degrees, remove pan from oven, tent with aluminum foil, and allow to set until slightly cooled.

Step six: Remove stuffing and carve the bird; start by removing the legs, followed by the wings. Next, cut the breast, down the center, removing east side in one piece, which, you will cut into slices, the thickness of which is dependent on personal preference. Remove remaining meat from the carcass, arranging neatly on a platter for serving.

Et voila! Perfectly cooked turkey for your holiday meal! And, you won't even have to call your mom!

But, seriously, call your mom, anyway.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

What a fabulous day! Not only did I get to eat my weight in turkey and stuffing (my favorite part!), but, I'm just about to break my self-imposed moratorium on sugar by indulging in pumpkin pie and ice cream. Because it's my birthday and I can!

Tomorrow, I'll write a full post about the day, but, for now, suffice it to say that I am surrounded with love, both in person and of the virtual variety, I've been totally spoiled with gifts, I'm well-fed, and, I could not feel more blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What's Up Wednesday, November 2019 Edition

Soooo, how is it that tomorrow is already Thanksgiving? Where did November go? I know I say this every month, but, time really is just flying by. And, it wouldn't be the end of the month without What's up Wednesday, so, as always, I am linking up with Sheaffer and Shay to share a peek into what's been going on in these parts.

What We're Eating

Despite my intentions to eat better this month, I have fallen victim to the siren call of carbohydrates; I prefer them in the form of bread, and, this month I've eaten plenty of it.

Staff of life, y'all!

I've also been enjoying the heck out of fresh pomegranates, which have finally hit the grocery store produce section. And, I did enjoy a delicious pasta primavera and an amazing artichoke dip at one of Queen B's favorite local restaurants, recently. The food was good, but the company was better.

I also got a chance to sample the wares from a new pizza place in Hooterville. The pizzeria was recently opened by a friend of mine and it is staffed solely by youth with special needs from within the community. My friend's mission is to give opportunities to kids who don't typically get the kind of support that need in order to be employed, and, I strongly support her efforts. Plus, the pizza is amazing!

What I'm Reminiscing About

Tomorrow is my birthday! I turn 51, I still feel 30. Except for first thing in the morning. And, a few times during the day. And, at night...but, otherwise? Total spring chicken over here...anyhoodle, I'm reminiscing about the awesome surprise 50th birthday party that Hugh and the kids pulled off for me last year. It was an awesome celebration, with so many of the people I love in attendance. If a gal has to grow older, it certainly should be surrounded by the people she loves.

What I'm Loving

I spent last weekend with Queen B! We did some shopping, grabbed pedicures, and took in a play at the community theater. I always love spending time with my girl.

What I've Been Up To

I spent one entire Saturday setting up my Christmas village. That was ten hours, up and down a ladder, bending, twisting, lifting, and cursing (quietly, under my breath). The effort will be worth it once the Man-Cub gets home for Christmas; the village was always kind of our "thing", and, I struggled mightily to contain the cords and to plan the mini-metropolis without him.

What I'm Dreading

Yeahhhhh....already sort of dreading the day that I have to take down the village and Jenga it back into the boxes in which it is stored. Not exaggerating; puzzles are NOT my thing.

What I'm Working On

I'm slowly working my way through a professional online photo editing course. I also have an idea for a set of mini-sessions that I would like to offer, so, I am on the hunt for a location that will meet my needs and vision.

What I'm Excited About

I am one of those odd people who really gets excited about cooking a full Thanksgiving meal, and, tomorrow is my day. Thanksgiving is the second of only two days of the year that I don't mind getting up before dawn (Christmas being #1, I mean, obviously). I get up that early so that I can savor the peace and quiet of the kitchen before the chaos ultimately ensues.

What I'm Watching

Hugh and I finally caught up on our DVR line-up, including the last season of Yellowstone. I enjoyed it almost more than the first season.

I've also started watching Dolly Parton's Netflix series, Heartstrings. I love me some Dolly, not gonna lie.

Of course I'm also watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas, a lot. But, it's ok! I follow up the smaltz with a cleansing dose of Snapped or whatever murder mystery the fine folks at Dateline feel the need to investigate. It's called balance.

What I'm Reading

I finally finished When We Believed in Mermaids.

 It was really good, and, now that I have a little more time on my hands, I might have to read it back through. This is the synopsis from Amazon:

Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news…
Josie Bianci was killed years ago on a train during a terrorist attack. Gone forever. It’s what her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has always believed. Yet all it takes is a few heart-wrenching seconds to upend Kit’s world. Live coverage of a club fire in Auckland has captured the image of a woman stumbling through the smoke and debris. Her resemblance to Josie is unbelievable. And unmistakable. With it comes a flood of emotions—grief, loss, and anger—that Kit finally has a chance to put to rest: by finding the sister who’s been living a lie.
After arriving in New Zealand, Kit begins her journey with the memories of the past: of days spent on the beach with Josie. Of a lost teenage boy who’d become part of their family. And of a trauma that has haunted Kit and Josie their entire lives.
Now, if two sisters are to reunite, it can only be by unearthing long-buried secrets and facing a devastating truth that has kept them apart far too long. To regain their relationship, they may have to lose everything.

I also read The Noel Diary

It was a pretty quick read, but a good one. The synopsis from Amazon:

Bestselling romance author Jacob Churcher hasn't been home for almost twenty years—not since his mentally ill mother kicked him out of the house when he was just sixteen. When a lawyer calls, days before Christmas, to inform him that his estranged mother has passed away and left her house to him, Jacob returns not just to settle the estate but to try and reconcile with the past and the pain and abuse he experienced as a child. Also, maybe cleaning out her house will be slightly less depressing than spending the holidays alone, watching re-runs of Christmas classics.

But as it turns out, the house holds more than just difficult memories, Jacob’s mother had become a hoarder and he must excavate through two decades worth of clutter. As Jacob digs through the detritus, like an archaeologist, he uncovers many puzzling items including a diary left by someone named Noel, a young woman he has no recollection of, who stayed with Jacob’s family during her pregnancy. That’s not the only echo from the past. Jacob has an unexpected visitor, Rachel, a woman looking for the mother who put her up for adoption thirty years before. United by their quest to make sense of the past and rewrite their futures, Jacob and Rachel begin a search for Noel. Along the way they find more than they possibly imagined, including grace, forgiveness and a chance at love.

Currently, I am reading If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisters. 

It's really disturbing. I wonder what it says about me that I can't put it down? Don't answer that. The synopsis from Amazon:

After more than a decade, when sisters Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek hear the word mom, it claws like an eagle’s talons, triggering memories that have been their secret since childhood. Until now.
For years, behind the closed doors of their farmhouse in Raymond, Washington, their sadistic mother, Shelly, subjected her girls to unimaginable abuse, degradation, torture, and psychic terrors. Through it all, Nikki, Sami, and Tori developed a defiant bond that made them far less vulnerable than Shelly imagined. Even as others were drawn into their mother’s dark and perverse web, the sisters found the strength and courage to escape an escalating nightmare that culminated in multiple murders.
Harrowing and heartrending, If You Tell is a survivor’s story of absolute evil—and the freedom and justice that Nikki, Sami, and Tori risked their lives to fight for. Sisters forever, victims no more, they found a light in the darkness that made them the resilient women they are today—loving, loved, and moving on.

What I'm Listening To

Sirius XM rolled out the Hallmark Music Channel and I've already heard Baby It's Cold Outside approximately one million times. I'm not complaining; I find Christmas music to be soothing. Thanks to carols, I've cut my road rage by 50%. I reserve my right to the remaining 50% as it is directed at the idiots who fail to utilize the passing lane for its' intended purpose. It's called a passing lane for a reason, people!

What I'm Wearing

I wish I had a better answer, but all I can think of in this moment is the bra that I am wearing, and, not because it's a great bra, but, because it is clearly trying to kill me. Whatever genius came up with the underwire needs to be strung up by his toes. And, yes, I'm confident it was a man.

What We're Doing This Weekend

I'm planning to draft the service of both Hugh and Queen B; there is a tree to decorate, lights and garlands to be strung, and halls to be decked!

What I'm Looking Forward to Next Month

Christmas!!! The Man-Cub will be home on the 19th of December and we travel to Mayberry for Christmas on the 23rd. My side of the family will all be together, which hasn't happened in a few years. I'm really excited about the gingerbread house decorating and ugly sweater competitions that we are planning, as well as to the traditional making of popcorn balls.

And, that's it for this edition!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Mothers and Daughters

The day that Queen B was born, and the doctor laid her on my chest, I envisioned the type of relationship that I wanted to have with her; that vision included a true friendship once she was old enough to require less "parenting" and more mature nurturing. I'm so thankful to say that we have that kind of relationship now that she is an adult.

Oh, don't get me wrong, we definitely went through the typical adolescent angst to get  here, but, here we are, nonetheless,

This weekend, Queen B came down to spend the weekend with me while her father was away at yet another officiating assignment. We spent the majority of Saturday in pursuits dear to both of our hearts-shopping, eating, having our feet pampered, and enjoying a play at the community theater.

I can't think of a way that I would have rather spent the day, and, we topped it off with a sleep-over, girlfriend-style.

I am so blessed to have these moments with my first-born; they are everything I envisioned and more and I could not be more grateful.

Friday, November 22, 2019

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

The Hallmark channel isn't just for television; Sirius XM kicked off the musical version of it at the end of October. I, however, refrained from dialing it in until November. What restraint I showed, amiright?

Not coincidentally, the title of this post is also the title of one of the most frequently played songs on the channel; I don't hate it. I'm not quite as big a fan of Baby It's Cold Outside, which is another frequently played song, but, that doesn't stop me from singing along when it comes on.

Anyhoodle, here are a few recent favorites.


Candles by Sand + Fog.

I'm currently burning the Apple Cider scent, and, it's amazing. I have a couple of Christmas scents waiting in the wings, and I'm looking forward to burning them as well. Each candle comes in a glass jar with a decorative wooden lid, making them perfect for re-using once the candles are burned down. They're regularly pretty pricey, but,  I've purchased all of them at a discount at the Marshalls in Hooterville, and, saving money is always a favorite.


Kate Somerville products

I first discovered Kate Somerville in my FabFitFun box several months ago. I was so impressed with the Retinol & Vitamin C Serum, I purchased the Wrinkle Warrior Eye Serum, and, when I also loved that; I grabbed the Goat Milk Moisturizing Cleanser and Moisturizing Cream (these have been life savers, considering the fact that perimenopause has made my skin a flaky, dry mess). I just got the exfoliating moisturizer, but, I'm willing to bet that I will love it, too.


Kindred Goods Snow Lilly & Vanilla Perfume

I picked this up at Old Navy a few weeks ago and I am loving it. The scent is neither too sweet nor at all cloying, and it lasts for the entire day. It was also free, thanks to the rewards points that I had accumulated by using my Old Navy Visa.

I don't consider myself to be a huge perfume person, but, considering that almost everything on this list is a favorite because it smells good, I might need to reconsider.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Your Perception Does Not Inform My Reality

Have you ever had someone tell you something about yourself based totally on their perception of you, rather than on anything factual about you?

That would be my day, today.

It was interesting, not to mention insulting and more than a bit dispiriting.

Perception is informed by our own experiences, biases, and values, and, as such, is highly subjective. Perception cannot create facts, so, to ascribe a trait to a person based solely on your perception of them is, at the very minimum, presumptuous. In this case, I feel justified in saying it was bullshit-level arrogant.

I don't however, hold any animosity against the person with whom I had the interaction; it's quite obvious that they were speaking from a place of deep, deep insecurity. Or, that would be my perception, anyway.

Yeah, see how that works?

Monday, November 18, 2019

How to Assemble a Christmas Village Display in Ten Easy Steps

Saturday, I decided to set up my Christmas village. I hadn't set it out since the Man-Cub started college, and, since it's one of his favorite holiday decorations, I decided that this was his year. The effort required to set up the display demands that we have it up for long enough to fully enjoy it, and, since we are planning to be in Mayberry for Christmas, I didn't want to wait until after Thanksgiving to assemble it.

I've been collecting pieces of the Dept. 56 Dickens Village for decades now; my earliest pieces go back to 1988, and many have since been retired. I currently own twenty-five buildings and twenty accessory pieces in the series, a fully functioning carousel, a working fountain, and an animated skating rink, as well as a forest-worth of trees and bushes and numerous generic filler pieces, such as lampposts, fences, etc. It takes quite a few boxes to store the village and more than a bit of time to construct it.

If you've ever considered starting your own collection, or, already own one and are interested in some tips for assembling your display, read on!

Step One: Transfer  boxes from the attic, garage, storage unit, warehouse....wherever you store your village. Stack them in an area of your home that creates the most opportunity for creating tension in your marriage; this will ensure that you construct the village in a timely manner.

Step Two: Set aside a realistic amount of time in which to construct your miniature city. I've found that one hour for each two or three items is sufficient. I wish I was kidding.

Step Three: Dial up the Hallmark Channel; you'll need the cheesy schmaltz to fortify you for what is to come. As an aside, coffee liberally spiked with Baileys, a bottle of wine, or a few shots of whiskey are also recommended.

Step Four: Get started. Realize two minutes into the first box that damage must be repaired and prepare to do battle with the glue gun. Burn fingers, immediately. Switch to Gorilla Glue. Glue fingers together. Thank yourself for thinking ahead on the Baileys/wine/whiskey.

Step Five: Bemoan the janky condition of the original packing boxes that the village pieces came in, assuming you kept the boxes, which, you should have, although, if you didn't, no judgment. But, you really should have. Anyhoodle, nothing an entire roll of packing tape won't fix.

Step Six: Stare at the space where you will construct the village. Spread pieces out across every flat surface available.Feel overwhelmed by the chaos surrounding you and wonder where to start. Decide to Google examples from other village builders. Go down the rabbit hole that is You Tube. Resist the urge to purchase a warehouse full of foam sheets and a hot tool with which to make awesome landscaping pieces; remind yourself that it took a Herculean effort just to get the boxes out of the attic. Log off the computer.

Step Seven: Spend the next ten hours arranging and rearranging pieces. Curse your inability to accomplish any degree of efficient cord management; fear burning down the house. Dismiss this as an irrational fear. I mean, right? Make a mental note to move the fire extinguisher into a more accessible location. Just in case.

Step Eight: Place the final tree into the display. Step back and observe the fruits of your labor. Realize that your back is killing you, your feet hurt, and you are starving and semi-dehydrated. Dose yourself liberally with ibuprofen and another glass of wine. Maybe eat some cheese; you've earned it!

Step Nine: Clean up your work space. Return the original packing boxes to the storage boxes; accept the fact that you have no chance of winning an international Jenga contest. Throw hands up in frustration, apply the vacation-packing method to the boxes by sitting on them, suitcase-style until the lids close.

Step Ten: Enjoy your village. Try not to cry when you think about disassembling it six weeks from now. Drink more wine.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Empty Nest, Full Heart

It occurs to me that I haven't done an update on the children in quite some time, and, now seems like as good a time as any to do so.

Queen B has had quite a few exciting changes in her life; for one, she got her first, as she describes it "big girl job". She's working at the mental health facility in Neighboring City. The job comes with benefits, a great starting wage, and, an actual ID badge (hence, the "big girl" status). I'm not entirely clear on what her job duties entail, but, I know she is already rocking it and I could not be more proud.

Another big change for Queen B came in the form of Katie moving out. I'll get to the changes that spurred the move for Katie a bit later in this post, but, as for now, I'll just say that, for Queen B (and, Mikey, who, bless his heart, is still living in the basement) it's an adjustment. The girls have lived together for five years, so, it really is a huge change. Queen B is looking for another roommate, and, while she knows that it is an opportunity for growth, she's also going to miss having her bestie right next door.

The Man-Cub is rocking the college life. He recently got a job washing dishes in a restaurant that a friend also works at, and, while he is digging the paycheck, he's not completely enamored of the actual "work" part. Not because he dislikes washing dishes, but, because his schedule keeps him out late, which makes it hard for him to fall asleep at night, which makes it hard to get up in the morning. In short, he's adulting and adulting often sucks. It's great practice for the Real World that awaits him following graduation. And, as always, I am ridiculously proud of him.

The Cub is also looking at a change in address; he'll be moving out of his current house and in with some friends at semester break.

And, that brings me back to Katie, who, officially moved out yesterday (she's been planning the move for several weeks now, which gave both girls some time and opportunity to wrap their brains around the change). Katie got a new job at the hospital in Hooterville, so, to spare her having to commute two hours of the day, she is moving in with her older sister and her husband. I'm as proud of her as I am of my biological kids, and, I know she's going to do a great job in her new position.

So. My kids are growing up. They're facing a lot of change and they are dealing with it maturely and with grace. I could not ask for better than that. After all, they'll be responsible for picking out our old folk's home someday.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Cause for Celebration

I just submitted my second-to-last FAFSA to the federal government.

If you are a parent of a college student and aren't:

A) Wealthy by virtue of a fortunate birth (generally, into a family with Old Money)

B) Wealthy by virtue of early investments into start-up companies (Netflix, Facebook, Google, etc.)

C) Wealthy by virtue of a generous insurance settlement (hopefully not based on the loss of life or limb)


D) Wealthy by virtue of a record-breaking lottery win

then you probably know the pain that is the FAFSA.

Having felt the heartburn generated by completing the FAFSA a grand total of six times now; I feel like an expert, not only on the requirements of the application, but on the merits of Tropical Flavored Tums, which, while tasting like fruity chalk, have the least overwhelming metallic aftertaste of all the antacids I've tested.

So, to say that I am happy to be done with this particular responsibility of parenting again for another year would be vastly understating my emotions, and, we can't have that.

Dance party!

Monday, November 11, 2019

When You're Thankful and You Know It, Clap Your Hands

When I think of all the things that I am most grateful for, I always count my friends twice. I know how fortunate I am to have them in my life, and, I say a prayer of thanks for them every day. This weekend, I got a chance to spend time with Jules, who, you may remember, is one of The Girls, my lifelong posse of besties.

Jules and I spent an evening in, reminiscing about the past, musing about the future, and catching each other up on the present. We looked through old albums, bemoaning the fact that there are so many people in our old photos whom we can not, for the life of us, remember clearly. Names escape us, despite the photographic evidence that we once found these people entertaining enough to hang out with, so, we did the logical thing; we called in reinforcements, by texting and messaging the rest of The Girls, as well as some other college friends. I'm sad to say; even with that level of support, we still came up short on several identifications. Oh, well.

Thanks to a heroic effort on Hugh's part, we were able to watch an ancient video on VHS (he literally went on a search for our old television set that has a built-in VHS player, wrestled it out of the armoire it was stored in, and hauled it downstairs so we could watch). The video is a compilation of the trip that we all took to Las Vegas in 1993, just prior to my, and Reece's weddings, and both of the rehearsal dinners and weddings, as well as Jules' wedding.

There was a lot of back-and-forth with The Girls during the viewing and a ton of laughter, as well as a few misty-eyed moments. We were reminded of things we had forgotten, as well as of the fact that, as much as we have all grown and changed, our love for each other remains as strong as ever. Stronger, actually.

Jules had to leave yesterday, and I missed her the minute she pulled out of the driveway. I am grateful for every chance that I get to spend with these amazing friends of mine, as well as for the technology that allows us to be "together", even when we are far apart.

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out- Walter Winchell

Monday, November 04, 2019

Recipes From the Porch: Creamy Sausage Tortellini Soup

It's been a while since I posted a recipe, and, while this isn't necessarily one that I would serve on the porch, I figured, why the hell not? It's easy, filling, and utterly delicious. If I were to serve it on the porch, however, I would do so on a chilly day, wrapped in comfy quilts.

The ingredients:

2lb Italian sausage (I use a half and half mix of hot and mild)
16 oz package cheese tortellini
8 oz package cream cheese
5-6 cups fresh leaf spinach
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans diced tomatoes (I use the ones that are flavored with garlic, basil, and oregano)
Handful of fresh oregano
Parmesan cheese
1/2 Cup half and half (not pictured, because I am an idiot)

Step one: Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain excess fat from sausage after browning.

Step two: While meat is browning, roughly chop fresh oregano.

Step three: Crack open the tomatoes and throw them into a crock pot.

Step four: Add cream cheese, tortellini, sausage and oregano to tomatoes.

Step five: Pour in chicken broth and top with spinach.

Step six: Heat on low for 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally. About an hour in, remember that you totally forgot the half and half, go ahead and throw it in now, or, go back in time and don't forget it in the first place.

Step seven: Serve in big bowls, with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Crusty bread is also recommended.

Highly, highly recommended.