It’s Okay to Overcook the Turkey

thanksgiving

This is a classic post from a bygone era. One where I used to post daily… sigh. Last night, as I sat with a warm dog on my lap and a snoring teen on the sofa next to me, a blinking cursor mocking me, I just couldn’t find words to write. That brought me to my blog archives looking for inspiration to break this writer’s block. I found this post and even years later it still holds so true. I hope you’ll find some inspiration or at the very least a message that it is STILL okay to overcook the turkey. 

 

Hands down, Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday. Why wouldn’t it be?  Let’s do the math.

Meat + Potatoes + Football x Pie {nap} = bliss (repeat) <— this is a formula for man holiday awesome

Me? I’m not the biggest fan. Why?

In my world Thanksgiving means weeks of planning, days of cooking, decorating, stressing and a history of storied foremothers to live up to. All of this for 20 minutes of pigging out, followed by an immediate dispersal to the sofa for the ensuing tryptophan coma.

Or am I missing something here?

Last night we got a call from my Mother-in-law. My husband’s Uncle passed away. He was elderly, but that didn’t really lessen the blow. It seems that this week is a favored time of year for fate welcome members of my family to their seats at the grownups table in the sky.

This got me thinking about my complicated relationship with this holiday.

My mom is the queen of the holidays. Before there was a Martha Stewart, there was my mom… with a tenth of the budget and a million times more personality.

Mom grew up with little to no family to speak of, bounced around from home to home, until she landed with the aunt and uncle who raised her. I think creating a Rockwellian holiday for her kids was her way of filling the need that no one ever took care of for her. I really was lucky to have that growing up.

That said, those perfect holiday decorations, meals and themes, sure are hard to recreate. Trust me, I’ve spent many years trying to. So many, I think I’ve missed out of much of the joy I could have been having with my family.

The funny thing is, as perfect as mom’s Thanksgivings were, my favorite parts were the odd things, the imperfections. The folklore of my family, the part that matters most to me are the things like…

My mom being famous for her strays. Where some people might a leave little turkey out for the neighborhood alley cats, her turkey always attracted the extra person to the table. I couldn’t tell you the name of many of them, where they came from or where they are now. They came, they ate, they left.

The year mom got so uptight dad couldn’t take it anymore so he let her have it in the face with a scoop of mashed potatoes (I’m sure I remember this wrong, but it’s how I recall it). The ensuing food fight was epic.

The other fights, those too are part of the tradition. One of my brothers is notoriously cantankerous, and it isn’t a holiday until he reminds us all of that. I’m usually the one who takes that bait, being a bit overly dramatic myself. Once the tension breaks, it’s like the best spa day ever.

Dad always does something wrong. I don’t think he even tries to fight it anymore. In fact, I suspect he secretly plots a new way to piss mom off every year. Most of us secretly root for dad, though we all know mom will win in the end.

Family is such a complicated thing, and I certainly can attest to that with my family.  You love them, even when you have a hard time reconciling all of your other feelings for them.  Sometimes our thankfulness for family comes in the form of thanks for showing us how we don’t want to do things. Sometimes it is a gratefulness for them allowing us the room to have our own imperfections.

This Thanksgiving I won’t be pressing linens, shining glassware or insisting that everyone dress for dinner. I might even opt for paper plates to make cleaning up easier. I give even myself permission to over-cook the turkey, just like mom does… and be completely okay with that.

In lovingmemory of Aunt Donna and her doll houses, Uncle Bill and the first time I ever learned about Cambodia, Aunt Paula and her sweet potato casserole, Aunt Carrol and Tryon Peake, Zio Serafino and fresh zeppole with honey

Lessons from Dogs

It was a cold and dreary one along the Chesapeake Bay. The weather brought with it a bit of unease and melancholia. I often find that spending some time alone with my dog on days like these helps ease some of that grayness.

Just me and the pup, that day. The kids had slept late and my husband didn’t feel like going out in the rain.

While feeding the ducks from the red brick lined sidewalk, a man approached. He asked if he could pet my dog. Gordon loves that, little attention junkie that he is.

While the dog did all his cute moves to get more scratches behind the ear, the man shared how much he loved being around dogs.  “Dogs never think twice about being nice. They seem to know if they are good to you, you’ll be nice back. Sad that doesn’t always work out for them.”

He thanked me, rubbed Gordy’s head and walked away only to turn around and head back. Gordon responded with an earnest shimmy of his tiny tail-nub.

With a shyness in his eyes, he said he hated to ask but he was homeless and hungry and wondered if I had some change to spare. Without thinking twice I handed him the only cash I had with me, a twenty.

I tend to be very wary of panhandlers having seen more than one head off for a fix. He could have been intending to do the same thing but I realized in that moment it wasn’t my place to judge. I could do a nice thing because it was nice and leave it at that. I could remember the lessons from dogs… and not think twice about being nice.

A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. ~ John Grogan

Heading back to the car I heard someone call, “Hey, Gordon’s mom!” I looked across the street and it was the same guy with a big bag full of sandwiches from a local shop down the street.

He beamed at me and said, “thanks for understanding.” Sometimes the lessons from dogs are the ones that teach us how to be better humans. 

Essential Oil Sage Tea for a Sore Throat

Tis’ the season for coughs, colds and sore throats (again.) To honor this most meh of seasonal occurrences I’ve revived this post written at some point in a fevered state last year. The upside is that I’ll now be prepared for the impending germs with an essential oil sore throat tea to stave off my demise.

Sage and Citrus Essential Oils Tea For Sore Throats

I’ve come to the conclusion that I live in a 2,800 square foot petri dish. Oh, it’s not so bad in the summer or even in spring, but come winter germs swarm the place like the biblical plague. At some point sucking on zinc lozenges, rubbing oneself with camphor goop, and crossing of fingers starts to lose its effectiveness. So, now what? Essential oil tea!

Thanks to my pal Barb – brilliant blogger, awesome travel companion, and a ringer for any scavenger hunt- I’ve started to explore the world of essential oils.   Oh, what a world!

There are people out there who freely espouse their views on the ability of essential oils to treat everything from a bug bite to a mangy cat. (cue: put Windex on it) I pretty much just thought of them as a great way to make it smell like I’d just cleaned house. A diffuser is a nice addition to that homey feel of home. Turns out, I was wrong. 

Yep, I just publicly admitted to being incorrect. Take a screenshot NOW!

Somewhere in all of this, my Italian mother-in-law gets some credit as well. She’s always “prescribing” one herb or another. Ah, but she never figured out sage could help with a sore throat. One point for me!

Putting on my Professor Sprout hat here for a little lesson in herbology. Sage or (Salvia officinalis) has antibacterial qualities. For centuries it’s been used as both an astringent, and anti-inflammatory. When you’ve got a sore throat you’re likely dealing with inflammation, maybe even a bit of bacteria. Salvia officinalis to the rescue with an herbaceous, fragrant, easy to make tea! 

Sage & Citrus Essential Oil Tea (For Sore Throats)
Serves 1
Essentials Oils make this DIY tea a perfect salve for a sore throat.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
2 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
2 min
Ingredients
  1. Sage - 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped. 1 teaspoon dry
  2. Citrus Essential Oil - 2-3 drops
  3. Honey 1 teaspoon
  4. Water
Instructions
  1. Bring water to a boil. Steep sage in water for 2-3 minutes. Add honey and oil(s). To keep the full, healthful effects of the oils, you don't want to over-heat it.
Notes
  1. Honey is essential as it helps coat the throat. If you can't have honey, replace it with agava nectar. You may also add 1 to 2 drops of sage oil if so desired for a stronger tea. Don't want to drink the tea? Allow it to cool and use as a gargle.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom https://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Note: Most natralpaths and traditional doctors warn that sage tea should not be used by expectant mothers or those breastfeeding.

Wellness, Travel & The Brooklyn Bridge

The Journey of a 1000 miles begins with 1 stepThere wasn’t a ‘bucket list’ back then. Just a kid in a small desert town who dreamed of seeing the world beyond the craggy outcroppings of cacti and monolithic boulders standing sentry on the winding road to civilization. Perched atop the endless list of places I longed to go was – New York City. 

It wasn’t so much a siren song of skyscrapers, iconic skyline, or the bright lights of Broadway that called to me. It was a bridge – the Brooklyn Bridge. I’d doodle its arches in the margins of my American History book, and snip photos out of magazines and books.  Something about this 1870 ‘modern’ marvel spoke(speaks) to me.

We’ve all got that something(s) we’ve longed to see and do. I longed to walk the foot path of the Brooklyn Bridge. It took a decade (or several – gulp) but – after a marrying a native Brooklynite and taking countless trips to Manhattan – I can now say I’ve walked the footpath of the Brooklyn Bridge.

So how does Wellness play into this story? Spurred by the inspiration that’s come from watching my friend and fellow wanderer, Elena of Live Do Grow,  evolve on her wellness journey, I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am on that path.  To be honest, I’ve pretty much been sitting in the car in the parking lot when it comes to my wellness journey. Walking the bridge got  me out  of the ‘car.’

Brookyn Bridge - New York CityStanding at the halfway point it wasn’t just the slight rumble of the cars zooming past beneath my feet, or the Statue of Liberty looming in the haze down the East River, that took my breath away. It was the walk itself. How did I get to a place where walking got me winded? Okay, so maybe the how doesn’t matter as much as where I ended up on the other side of the bridge.

My feet may have been in Manhattan, but my mind was back in that proverbial parking lot plotting a journey.  I have to find my way onto that path.

I’ve been wearing a Garmin VivoFit off and on (okay, more off than on) since the Verizon Buzz team sent me one in February.  The first week or so I was super excited about it, then… well… life. Something about having it track that fact that I mostly sit on my tail and type for hours on end just wasn’t motivating.  Go Figure.

When we stepped out of our hotel in downtown Brooklyn, it didn’t even register that I was wearing it.  Dozens of photos, lots of laughs, a bit of winded breathing, and maybe a blister or two (seriously, why did I wear sandals?!) later, a blinking beacon from my wrist told me I’d walked over 9,000 steps. I’d had fun and felt great doing it too – blisters not withstanding.

Brooklyn Bridge Foot PathSo much more than fulfilling that childhood longing to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, that walk brought be to the first real step on that journey. There is room in everyday, no matter how busy, what city or country I find myself in, to take at least one more step.

 

 

 

 

Coney Island Nostalgia

coney island Home to the first enclosed amusement park in America, the famed Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest,  and the site of countless American tales Coney Island, New York was once billed as “Heaven at the end of a subway ride.” After decades of neglect, this once vibrant seaside attraction has been given a major facelift, but has that caused it to lose its historical charm?

My first trip to Coney Island was almost two decades ago when my husband – a Brooklyn native who grew up blocks from the famous boardwalk— and I spent a quasi-honeymoon weekend eating Nathan’s, watching a guy hammer a nail into his nasal cavity and holding on for dear life in Deno’s Spook-A-Rama. For a kid from the California coast, this place was a dirty, gritty, run-down piece of nostalgia. You could almost see actual fleas in the Flea Market. It was every stereotype I’d imagined Brooklyn to be… and I loved it!

In the years since that first visit, many of the things that gave Coney Island its uniqueness have vanished. The Nickle Empire, a nickname it earned back in its heyday when visitors could enjoy a knish and rides for five-cents each, is quickly becoming a Jackson Hole. {try to get out of there without spending at least $20} Gone are the rickety stalls selling oddities and baubles, carnival games with chipped paint facades and character. In their place sparkle the glowing beacons of chain stores and restaurants.

Come to Coney Island, eat at Applebees?

My youngest daughter sitting in the same spot her dad loved growing up, but seeing a far different Coney Island
My youngest daughter sitting in the same spot her dad loved growing up, but seeing a far different Coney Island

As Goliath thrill rides designed by the same folks responsible for Six Flags crowd into the new Luna Park, I wonder how long the Cyclone has left {not that I’d actually ever get on the thing}. It’s not that the “new” Coney Island won’t be a wonderful place in its own right, but rather that with the gentrification of the area comes the end of an era.

Certainly, there must be enough chain restaurants to sustain the appetite of those who love an afternoon outing at Applebee’s, endless breadsticks and bottomless appetizers. As dubious as eating fresh oysters from a stand on the Brooklyn boardwalk may sound, I’d still rather give those a go when in Coney Island.

The thought of heading to Whalburgers for fries in the shadow of the Cyclone is simply bonkers. Then again most people in Brooklyn are Mets fans and might not have a problem with South Boston’s own serving them up meat on a bun. You Yankees fans should be ashamed.

It seems that progress is steaming along down Surf Avenue. Sigh

Coney Island Mermaid ParadeI suggest you go visit Coney Island now. Soon the only mermaids marching in the parade may be Disney princesses and not Drag Queens.

 

Travel. Eat. Drink. Write. REPEAT