Monday, November 30, 2009

The Less-Than-Great Part Of Thanksgiving

This year we had some mild holiday drama. It isn't even close to the level of drama some people endure at family gatherings, but for us it was drama.

Wednesday morning, just as as I was getting ready to make pies, my sister stopped by my parents' house with the partially-prepared dish she was planning to make (along with ingredients and instructions). Guess what! She decided to tell us on that day that she and her husband wouldn't be coming to the family gathering. Really folks, she waited until the day before to tell us. So not cool.

I should probably note that even though we see each other a lot, these family holiday gatherings are still important. Or rather, they are important to everyone aside from the aforementioned sibling. Neither of them had their kids this year and everyone knew that. It was understandable that the kids wouldn't be there. Also, it would have been a completely different thing if they were going to see his family over the holiday. But they didn't. Oh no. They chose to go to a resort and casino and waited until the day before Thanksgiving to tell us.

Now, it's true that I'm irked, but it isn't because they didn't come. Instead, I'm irked because they gave such late notice and because it really hurt our parents. They'll never say so to her, but it did. My mom was already under the weather and this didn't help matters one bit. They were both really disappointed since family gatherings like this have always been important to both sides of the family.

The one consolation (aside from more leftovers for the rest of us) is that when extended family members asked where they were and my parents told them, you could tell tell by the looks in their eyes that they thought it was odd, too. Not much was said, but certain expressions along with the comments like "oh...okay" actually say quite a bit. When Thanksgiving is a chance to see extended family that you haven't seen in a year or more and you skip out to go to a casino, people notice.

Anyway, that's our mild version of holiday drama. Compared to other people's drama, it seems pretty lame, but this is drama for us. Of course, we'll all repress it to the best of our abilities. That's what we do. :D

Sophie's reaction to all of this:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Clearly, I Fell Off The Posting Wagon

It was a busy family-and-food long weekend, so I'll just post a few pictures of the Nom-a-licious foods I've been eating since Thursday. The first photo is the schedule I wrote up for Thursday morning.

This is the turkey breast roulade I prepared. It was soooooooo unbelievably good! I definitely will be making this again.

A close up of the caramelized butternut squash. It's really more appealing than it looks.

My dad's mashed potatoes staying warm in the crock pot.

My pumpkin bread is on the left and the banana bread my aunt made is on the right.

Why, hello there pecan pie! It turned out a little loose - I probably should have baked it for another 5 minutes - but it was very good.

A pumpkin custard pie. The little custard layer wasn't as prominent in this pie as it was in others.

All of the pies (plus the brownies).

There was other food, but that's probably more than enough pictures for everyone. I hope everyone had a good holiday weekend!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's Prep

Clearly, I haven't been great about posting every day. Anyway, today's tasks include:
  • Baking approximately 8 loaves of pumpkin bread, some with nuts and some without.
  • Baking cornbread for the stuffing.
  • Baking brownies for the third time in 4 days. I've barely had any. Apparently, my parents have been starved for good dark chocolate-y homemade goodness.
  • Mentally preparing for tomorrow's pie baking extravaganza.
  • Working out the times/schedule for Thursday's culinary wonders.
  • Pet the cats.
  • Clean, clean, clean, since my mother's back is worse.* I was hoping for a help with this, but it looks like it will be mostly me with some help from my dad. Maybe I can bribe my brother to do some of it since he's coming tonight.

*No, she won't go to the doctor. She's stubborn and hard-headed that way. She seems to think she needs to live through the pain. If I hurt for more than a couple of days, I'd be at the doctor's office immediately.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

And So It Begins

Or rather, it has already begun. As I mentioned the other day, I do most of the prep and cooking for Thanksgiving (and many other holiday meals). Nevertheless, my mom always gets stressed out about the whole affair. Not that she would admit it, but she does. Every. Single. Time. she ends up with a bad back during the week preceding an event. It's totally psychosomatic. The thing is, all she has to do is set the table. I do all of the cooking and baking - well, except for the mashed potatoes and that's because my dad likes to make those. She doesn't like to cook, so it isn't like I'm taking over the kitchen from her. As a kid I started doing a lot of the everyday cooking by the time I was in high school. By the time my grandma wasn't able to host these holiday meals anymore, I was able to do most of the work.

Basically, there is nothing for her to stress out over, especially not at a meal with the family. Maybe it's because her mother was an excellent hostess. Grandma could pull of the holiday meals with her huge family and not break a sweat. She was the oldest of 8 and always had at least some of them over, plus their kids, grandkids, etc. What we do is much much smaller.

But really, all she has to do is set the table but she already has back pain and limited mobility. I should be accustomed to this by now - I guess I am - but it really makes me tired.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Scratches And Cheers

Yesterday I took the kittehs to the vet for their annual appointment. This was probably as painful for me as it was for them. Sophie, in particular, despises the cat carrier.

Further evidence of her attitude can be seen on my arm.

This is Dodger, the vet's dog. Yes, his name does come from Dickens

Plum actually seems to like her carrier. I suspect she likes the fact that she can hide in it. It's so dark that it is almost like camouflage for her.

Later that night, I went to my niece's birthday party. She just got her cheerleading uniform that day, so she was pretty excited.

That's all I have for today (and yesterday). I have a lot of work to do this weekend and I need to get back to it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Books For Maude

Maude recently asked" "Those of you who are comp teachers, do you have any book suggestions that might help me work through some of my struggles? I mean, is there a book out there like, So, You’re a Comp Teacher Now type thing? (the SB has a So Now You’re a Vegetarian book). Just please don’t suggest any Peter Elbow." Also, she's going to be a WPA starting next fall. So, I'm listing some books that she might find useful. Please feel free to add more titles in the comments.

At the risk of sounding like a corporate shill, I'll first suggest going to Bedford/St. Martin's Teaching Central Professional Resources site. They will send you free sourcebooks. Here's a list of some of the ones I like:
They also have some sourcebooks that tackle teaching literature and teaching developmental reading as well as more books that are about writing studies.

Other texts that might be of interest:
  • The Subject is Writing edited by Wendy Bishop. This book focuses on classroom practices.
  • Cross-Talk In Comp Theory: A Reader edited by Victor Villanueva. This is a nice overview of the field. Obviously, it doesn't cover everything, but it's a good starting point. Personally, I'd get it through the library and/or get the table of contents and find the original articles in your library databases. It's a nice resource to have on your shelf if you want to buy it, but there are more economical ways to get your hands on the contents.
  • The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook edited by Edward J. Corbett. Same advice as for the previous book. This one does focus more on teaching.
  • Engaging Ideas by John C. Bean. I tend to suggest this book for people outside of English studies, but it does have a lot of good practical advice in it.
I'm not as familiar with texts about WPA work. I do suggest checking out the Council of Writing Program Administrators and joining the WPA-L Listserv. If you're interested in the politics of writing programs, the book Textual Carnivals: The Politics of Composition by Susan Miller is good.

Of course, I need to mention Rebeccah Moore Howard's online bibliographies. Her list for Writing Program Administration is here.

I know I've left things out and I'll probably remember the "perfect" text as soon as I post this, but this is a good start. Everyone should feel free to add more suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Almost Forgot! (WARNING - Excessive Cat Photos)

Two days ago, on the 16th, was the anniversary of the day when I brought the Plum and Sophie cats home with me. Looking at old pictures, I can tell the Plum has definitely grown and even Sophie looks a little fuller in the face.

Obviously, Plum is still fairly petite. She weighs less than 7 pounds. She was a little crazy from the start. She'd run around like a crazy cat and try to run up the side of the walls, windows, and the limestone facing around the fireplace.

Sophie isn't much bigger than Plum - she's just under 8 pounds. When I first brought her home, she tried to hide behind the furnace, under tables, under the couch, etc.

She looks more confident now, doesn't she!

Now the kittehs spend their days reading zines by librarians. Such a rough life!

Like I said in the post's title, I went a little crazy with the photos.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Plans For Christmas

I'm being semi-bad tonight. I've been putting together my cat-hating sister's Christmas present. It is a photobook of pictures I've taken of her kids with my cats (plus a several photos without cats and several photos of just cats). It is titled "The Kittehs And Their Friends" and it is partially narrated by Plum and Sophie. I'm probably enjoying this a bit too much.

It's actually a present for her whole family. I have a lot of photos of the kids on their own, with the cats, and with human family members. I've been meaning to get prints made up for them so this seemed like a fun option. One of the kids has a birthday this weekend, so I'm hoping to get a few more photos, but most of it is set up and ready to go. It didn't take me long to put together, so I might make another one (with some alterations and no narration by cats) for my parents. I should have a good chance to get some newer photos of other relatives on Thanksgiving.

The only part that really bothers me is that I'm reminded once again that there are two members of my immediate family who aren't a part of many of my photos. They're always hiding from the camera. Sometimes I can sneak a shot and it will turn out, but it's really frustrating. One is my mom, and I really do want more photos of her. She freezes up in front of the camera and most of the time, if she doesn't have a forced smile, she's frowning. Sometimes I can catch a good photo of her, but she makes it difficult for me. I guess I need to learn to be sneakier.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Random Stuff And More Thanksgiving Prep

First of all, I cannot believe last night's Colts-Patriots game. OMG!!!!

In other news, I've already expanded my Thanksgiving menu. On top of all of that, I'm also making a roast beef tenderloin with rosemary and fennel that I've made in the past. So, that will be a turkey roulade made from the butterflied breasts of a very large turkey and this tenderloin. I'm also roasting the turkey's wings, legs, and neck so that I'll have good drippings for gravy. Obviously, people can eat the legs and wings if they like, but I'm planning to roast these a little early so that I can make the gravy earlier than normal. I always feel rushed when it comes to the gravy. I suspect this is because once my family realizes that the turkey is out of the oven, there's pretty much a countdown until it's time to eat. The idea of waiting for the meat to rest and waiting while the gravy is made doesn't go over very well with this hungry horde. The meat will get to rest, but the gravy will be ready to go this year. That this excites me is probably a sign that I get too into the meal prep on holidays.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Candied/Caramelized Squash

Here's the recipe for the squash dish I mentioned in the previous post. Basically, instead of candied sweet potatoes we make a similar recipe with squash. No marshmallows are involved! It is super-yummy.

  • 2 medium/large butternut squash* cooked tender and chunked**
  • 2-3 dashes of salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 pint cream
  • 3-5 Tablespoons of butter


Place the chunks of squash in an 8x11 or 9X13 casserole pan. Sprinkle salt on top. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Scatter a pieces of the butter across the top. Pour the whipping cream into the pan. Bake at 375 F for about 1 hour.

It should come out caramelized and the cream and brown sugar will be the consistency of a syrup. If it is hasn't evaporated and thickened, you can cook it longer.

*Or 3 small or whatever combination in takes to fill the casserole pan.

**We normally just roast them in the oven the day before. I just split them in half, place them cut-side down on a buttered pan, and roast until cooked. The skin will be easier to remove after the squash has roasted and then cooled. I like the squash a little more firm, but other in the family roast it longer so that it is softer. Either way is fine.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Caterday Appearance By Chewbacca

But first, the kittehs enjoying the enclosed porch:

And now for a little Chewie:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Menu Planning - Thanksgiving Edition

I've been thinking about my Thanksgiving menu. I could roast a turkey -

I've done it plenty of times in the past - but instead I'm going to do turkey roulade this year. I made one last year but didn't have a chance to get a picture of it. It will contain lots of sage, prosciutto, peppered bacon, and shallots. I still have plenty of fresh sage leaves on my plant.

Anyway, I like doing the roulade because that means nobody is stuck in the kitchen after the meal dealing with the carcass. Clean-up is much easier. There will be cornbread stuffing for the purists, as well as mashed potatoes and gravy. I will make fresh cranberry sauce. Again, here I need to go basic for the purists. Caramelized butternut squash is definitely on the menu. I will need to figure out something green because my mother thinks that the meal must contain a green vegetable.

I will be making pumpkin bread, as usual.

For dessert, there will be pie. I'm not sure yet if I'll make pecan pie.

The same is true for the pumpkin ice cream pie with gingersnap crust. I'm considering it, though,because a few people who aren't fond of pies in general do like it.

The traditional pumpkin-almond custard pie is a must. Multiple pies will be baked.

I'm sure I'll think of some more things, but this is what I have in mind so far.