Ladies Who Lunch – The T Room

P1010791Let the annual Christmas luncheon begin!  All the SoCal coworkers convened at The T Room in Montrose for a lovely meal and delicious teas. The new White Christmas tea was a big hit…very light and flavorful.

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Yes, I do like tea ware. I can’t help it!

P1010790The women who run The T Room are always so welcoming. And look at this spread!

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My former office-mate, OneL, and I. Miss chatting with her daily, but not driving down to the office is pretty fab.

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Peachy brought her daughter. She was born two months after I started working there, so I always know… She’s about to turn 16 already!

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Secret Santa gifts abound. Fun tokens of our appreciation for one another.

Feeling lucky to have found such interesting work (I am an info geek, I admit it) and such a compassionate company to work for.  The only things missing were the lovely faces of the other two staffers who are in Massachusetts and Toronto!

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Scenes From a Feast

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Well, anyway, a couple of scenes. This is my contribution (along with an Thai peanut cole slaw) to the feast. I adapted some stuffing mix to make a vegan dressing. Didn’t have any veg stock, so I cooked up about a pound of mushrooms with lots of garlic, onion and celery. Added water to make the needed amount of stock. I kind of loved it!

Note the bumps on the lid of the pan. DBeans tells me that that’s to keep condensation from messing up cornbread if cooked in this pan.

P1010679This pan, by the way, with its modern vegan stuffing, was made by my maternal grandfather, Burle Best, in the foundry where he worked. He brought one home for his wife and both of his daughters. I love it!

(Note that Kitty also has a red tea pot on her stove.)

P1010685The loverly little vegan pumpkin pudding my fabulous sister Pegerty made for me. She also made a couple of regular pies and a sugar free pumpkin pudding for her hubby. She had two kinds of soup and a huge pile of roasted veggies waiting for me when I arrived in Indiana. We feasted for days.

P1010689The fabulous hosts of our family Thanksgiving this year.  AR and DBeans made it a comfortable, welcoming gathering with great food. Vegetarian, except for the turkey. The gravy AR made was astonishing.

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Let the games begin!  Back at Pegerty’s for some Aquire while the next generation cleans up. This getting older thing has some benifitis.

Happy Holidays!

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There!  I said it!

There have been harvest feasts like  Thanksgiving since way before Europeans stumbled into North America. Likewise spring celebrations of rebirth and fertility.

Winter festivals probably began shortly after folks figured out that the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer on the winter solstice. Religions hang their banners on these astronomically and agriculturally significant dates because lives really did depend on figuring out when it was safe to plant or about time to hunker down for a lean season.

I love the lights, the candles, the symbols of various faiths that celebrate stories that have comforted and guided groups of people for centuries.

Call me an atheist softy–my spiritual feelings revolve around nature rather than organized religion–but I think it’s important to stop the tumble of our daily lives to express gratitude, and love and wonder at the continuous unfolding of the universe.

Here’s to the best of our faiths and philosophies rising to the surface in the dark midwinter.

Happy Holidays.

An OC Thanksgiving

 

 

We took the forest route from Acton to Pasadena on the first leg of our journey to spend Thanksgiving with the California Cousins.  Hydra drove back and turned around so I could get a shot of this tree, which he has grown fond of during his weekly drives to Glendale to ATF Citizens Academy sessions.

I was thankful that I was not one of these bicyclists.  I respect what they’re doing, but can’t say that peddling up ten miles and then screaming back down doesn’t hold any charm for me at all!

The appetizer spread that Hydra and I brought.  I will post the recipe for the mini quiches and mini rosemary/chive corn muffins in time for the next big holiday, I promise.  I am going to buy another mini-muffin pan.  Trust me, anything made in a mini-muffin tin increases in appeal exponentially.

CuzM leads the traditional holiday telephone call to the Michigan Cousins during which we compare outside temperatures and attempt to make them groan out loud.  Redwing was in Florida this time…foiled!  (Note the glasses on the webcam for that personal touch.)

CuzP’s latest stained glass work. It really shimmers in the light!

Elsewhere in the yard: rumor has it that the birds don’t actually use this birdhouse. Wonder why?

You may very well have had a turkey as good as this one, but you did not have one that was better.  So tender and moist.  Maybe CuzM’s nickname should be changed to The Turkenator.

About to start the feast.  Just wanted you to know that The OC (Orange County, CA) is not all about reality shows, South Coast Plaza and The Nixon Library.

Celebrating December 3rd

The homestead (spring 2010) from the back yard, which is where I spent most of my time.

The garage on the right was built in the 1990s, to replace the one that burnt down in ’68.  Sliding glass door and deck were also later additions.

Two score and ten years ago today–December 3, 1960–my parents and siblings moved into their new house.  They’d lived on the land for a few years already while saving for, designing and building their home.  The old house became our garage.

Ever after, we celebrated this anniversary with a special meal that marked the beginning of our Christmas season.  Each of us would receive an  ornament for the tree and something interesting to eat that was all ours.  For me, a jar of maraschino cherries.  For Brains a jar of olives.  Pegerty and I had fun finding weird things to put by Mom’s plate…pickled watermelon rind,  preserved kumquats.

My sister, who would have contributed to this post if her Internet connection hadn’t been down for the past week (shudder!), told me that the day they moved house was icy and cold.  Northeastern Indiana winters are like that, yeah.  Wrestling the refrigerator across the twenty foot space between houses stuck in her mind.

The view from the deck, looking past a birdhouse Mom hand painted.  I have one on my front porch in Acton.

My mom was 8 1/2 months pregnant with yours truly.  I joke that I held out for indoor plumbing.  The old house had a working kitchen sink, but otherwise they relied on an outhouse that stood in the back yard till I was about eight. It was pretty cool not to have to go all the way into the house when my cousins and I were out there playing.

NPR’s Morning Edition recently did a fascinating series on siblingsOne episode in particular struck a note with me, as it discusses various theories about how siblings turn out so different from each other.  It’s kind of amazing that my sibs and I share so much.  Their little nuclear family was purring along just fine–they were 11, 9 and 8–by the time I came along.   When they were little, Dad worked in a factory and Mom stayed home.  By the time I was in elementary school, Dad co-owned a service station with his brother and Mom was working as a school secretary and going to college to become a teacher, which she accomplished with flair.

Brains, Mom, moi, Texaco, Pegerty and Dad, August 1987.  The last time we were all together, as Dad died in 1990.

I treasure my two brothers and sister almost beyond words.  They are all creative and smart, and each of them nurtured in me an interest in an art form.  Texaco is an amazing photographer and fine artist.  Pegerty is a wonderful writer and sketcher who spent a lot of time playing teacher with me.   Brains took his music seriously, exploring lesser known bands and instilling in me the importance of buying and appreciating albums rather than relying on number one hits.

You’d think we’d be more different from each other than we are.  I guess the most obvious thing is that they all had kids and I didn’t.  But there’s something substantial at the core that we all share.  I think we approach others with kindness, and that probably comes from our smart funny mother and our witty sociable father.

So the Christmas season starts for me today.   It’s December 3rd, and I guess it’s the day my family gives thanks for each other and for what our parents were able to build for us and in us.

As my mother’s been known to say over the years, “Aren’t we lucky?”

Thanksgiving Weekend

I cooked a meal for more people at once than ever before.

What did everybody get up to for the Thanksgiving holiday?  Is this anyone else’s favorite holiday?   Four days off in a row and it’s all about family, friends and being a little collectively introspective.

We traveled down to the cousins M&P’s house in Laguna Hills for Thanksgiving, with our Trader Joe’s cooler bags stuffed to the limit.  We do the appetizers for the family holidays.  I’d do those cute little stacks of stuff on a cracker if we didn’t have to haul it all 100 miles.  As it was, I made artichoke dip, sliced up several kinds of cheese, and relied on TJ’s vast selection of hot appetizers for the rest.

There was no ethnic food theme.   My only criteria, really, is to try to get things that all need the same temperature.   Sometimes it’s 375.  This year it was 400…we had bird’s nests (Asian onion cake things), mushroom tarts, and spanikopita.  Celebrating the bounty of multicultural U.S.A.

We stopped on the way to pick up my paycheck–I wasn’t about to fight traffic out of town the night before a holiday so I worked from home Wednesday–and grabbed a cup of Starbucks for which we tipped a ridiculous amount.  I always make sure to thank them for coming in on the holiday.  I worked in restaurants on Thanksgiving a couple of times in my youth and it was actually a lot of fun.

Good time with the cousins and their friends.  I told her a few days later how much we appreciate the relaxed atmosphere at their house every time we’re there.  They do a lot of work, but they don’t get uptight.  I’ve learned from watching them that the best thing you can give your guests is the impression that you are not stressed out by their presence in the least.

We ventured out early in the morning on Black Friday, to take advantage of the store wide 20% discount at Bed, Bath & Beyond.  We’d had our eyes on some things that would help us be better hosts and were going to get them one by one as we acquired coupons.  We bought some padded folding chairs, chair pads for our wooden chairs and a set of really nice TV trays.  Stopped by Target for paper plates, etc. and were very impressed with the organization there.  The line was long, but we were moving almost the whole time.

The rest of the day was cooking and cleaning and continuing the reorganization of our library.   Once we had all the books out of that room so the laminate flooring could be put down, it was hard to put them all back in.  When we first moved in we were so happy to have all the books in the same room, but in the past decade we’ve gotten into music and have been wanting to create space to invite people with guitars to visit.  So in the interest of being more friendly, we are going to donate some books to our new local library, give some away, and move some to other parts of the house.

We invited a handful of people to come up for turkey and the trimmings on Saturday.  Didn’t even think of it till a few days before, but we figured we’d give it a whirl.  We invited people to come up around 1-2 in the afternoon, sing for their supper until it was served around 5:30, and stay afterward if they felt like it.

I cooked the turkey, stuffing and potatoes the day before, and finished up with gravy, shredded Brussels sprouts and appetizers, etc. the next day.  When something became a hassle, I just moved on.  I made homemade mozzarella rather than homemade pies… that won’t be my choice next time.  Cooked a meal for 10 people and it came out hot and apparently tasty.  There is talk of this becoming a tradition!  I hope so!

There are still books in the library, but only along two walls now.

I’m never sure how people feel about having their pictures on my blog, so here’s a shot of Capo’s guitar as he takes a turn around the song circle.  He and BikerChick stayed overnight with us.  A lot of people headed back down below by ten o’clock, but  a few were still playing and talking till after midnight.

We had a nice time with Capo and BikerChick on Sunday morning.   She headed off for a bicycle ride around Palos Verdes and he stayed a while later talking.   In the late afternoon, I started a fire in the fireplace and sat in my big wing back chair and wrote.

What a great weekend!   All the work we’ve done to transform the library into a place where 10-12 people can form a circle with guitars paid off!  Our only regret is that we can’t just make it an open house and invite everyone at once.  We have to keep it to a reasonable size.

I do find myself seriously considering how many people we could get into a song circle in the living room if we pushed all the furniture into the library leaving only a path from the front door…

 

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

Cowgrrl and Historian have variant reactions to Hydra’s pearls o’ wisdom.

Yeah, we set the iPod on shuffle and went wild!  This is the dinner party in full swing.

The food turned out great.  Not really my fault.  Good recipes.   Historian and Cowgrrl were interested in the whole cheese making process and liked the mozzarella.   The baked brie with mushrooms and thyme might have been my favorite.  Really worth the effort.  Didn’t end up doing either of the soups, which was okay because there was SO much food.   It’s not all on the table in this shot.  By the time it was all there, I was ready to eat.  Took photos of the other main dishes, but none of them came out.  Oh well.

We had a nice dinner, took a walk around the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights, came back for ice cream and Historian’s home made almond/fig cookies.   Stayed up till about 11:30 talking and sampling songs.  Wanted them to hear “Sham-a-Ling-Dong-Ding” by Jesse Winchester.

Kale crisps and garlic pita chips.  Easy peasy recipes.  The kale crisps were a surprise hit.  They have a fairly bitter finish, but they’re kind of addictive.  They’d be great crumbled on top of a soup at the last minute.  If anyone made potato soup around here…

We stayed up till about 11:30, then toddled off to bed, where Hydra and I watched Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in bed and I had a flashback to watching it with Nursely back in the 1870s….er 1970s.