Hooray for help! My sister is coming over tomorrow to help me disassemble more of the wood frames and get the boards loaded in the dumpster, and will be back Saturday for more. This weekend, my brother will also be up, to help with getting up the crap we gathered from when we put up the first run of a fence up between us and Redneck Neighbor, including digging out some mystery equipment that’s half buried back there – it looks like a piece of an engine, to be honest, but really, since people used the back of the property as a general dump, it could be anything. It’s like a treasure hunt, except it’s all crap and not worth anything. When my other brother was here a few years ago, he and I filled two dumpsters with junk we collected from the back end of the property. You name it, it was there: car doors, bikes, used baby diapers, broken dishes. We found the bottom spring frame for a bed back there, but it was buried so deeply, and in such an odd location, that we weren’t able to get it out. Looking at what I’ve done by myself thus far, we may need the dumpster folks to haul this one off and drop another for us: you never really realize just how much space you’ve devoted to gardening in raised frames ad how much original material there is until you start tearing them down to rebuild them with better material.
Once all the wood frames are removed – and I have to say that I’m looking forward to the first instance of a Florida wood roach crawling out as we’re pulling frames and hearing my sister scream like a girl – the metal frames will go up in their place. Then: time to top them all off with a mixture of topsoil and cow shit from the two mountains that we had dumped by the rear garden. Alas, I think we probably won’t reach the start of that point by the end of the weekend, given everything else, but I have two months before the season really starts here, and I, with or without help, should be able to top everything and get my irrigation lines relaid before it’s time to transplant.
The chickens, at just over three weeks, continued in their baby dinosaur phase.
Mostly, like any babies, they ate, slept, pooped, and required frequent changes of their dirties.
A new puppy, just in time for my sister’s 29th birthday, and my 40th.
He – Einstein – sleeps quite a bit, too. But only after he’s been running around like he’s on puppy uppers, playing as only puppies can.
We were also awaiting the arrival of yet another baby, who would continue that time-honored tradition of eatings, sleeping, and pooping.
Fortunately, she held off on making the birthday party really lively.
My sister and I had been letting our hair grow out so we could then have it cut off and donated to Locks of Love. We had decided that would be a fine birthday present for both of us.
That turned out well.
Although for some reason – and we didn’t realize this until well into the evening during the party when my sister pointed it out – mom and I were wearing the same color. Must be that whole spring thing.
I don’t believe I have ever attended a baby shower. This occurred to me while I was editing the pictures from the festivities. I know I have never cooked for one, although this is not something tremendously different than, say, cooking for thanksgiving or memorial day or any other holiday. A bunch of people, with varied tastes (some don’t eat pork, there are a few vegetarians, and so on), all gathered around to enjoy one another’s company.
There are times when people think I’m exaggerating the size of the family. Thanks to my sister’s impending newborn arrival, almost the entire family was gathered together. This is rare, as everyone has their own set of obligations elsewhere, and it’s difficult for us all to get together in one place. But since everyone adores Gabrielle, they came. This is the immediate family, their significant others, and their kids. Three generations worth of people.
By my count, there are 31 bodies there. Add in the other, non-fam people who showed up for the party, and you have 50 people in the house.
That’s a lot of people.
The massive amounts of food will be in another, separate post.
Or at least some files. Being able to take a bazillion shots with a digital camera means there are a bazillion images to sort through “later”. And by “later”, I mean “at some point, probably, when you’re bored out of your mind, taking a break from answering tickets and doing server/network maintenance, and have turned off the tv and disabled the news crawl on the computer screen because it’s all about Heath Ledger dying”. That kind of later.
Awhile back, I had posted a picture of our spidery neighbor, who hung around the front of the place all season. That spider put up a couple of egg sacs and then promptly did what spiders do a few days later. Died.
The eggs are still up there for now, although we’re probably going to have to get rid of them.
Newton likes the organic veggie juice that, coincidentally, my mom also likes.
I’ll add that while I will eat after the dogs when they have had something off my fork, mom refused to drink after Newton. Sissy.
And finally, say hello to my nephew, due in a couple of months. Yours truly will be cooking for the gaggle of girls appearing on the doorstep here for the baby shower.
There are few things in life for which I will get out of bed at 5:30 in the morning after going to bed around 3 or so. Since I’d not done a lot of the things I had wanted to do earlier in the week, there was quite a lot of prep and cooking to be done on the big day. I hauled myself out of bed and got my thoughts together.
One of the benefits of getting up before the sun is watching the sun come up over the barn and trees. On this particular morning, the colors were even more striking, as we were expecting rain and this lent an extra vivid start to the day.
The colors faded rapidly as the clouds moved in, and that was my hint to get started on what would be the real show of the day: the food.
Our family gatherings for Thanksgiving tend to be huge. Between family, friends, and assorted guests, in the past we’ve had up to 80 people at any one meal. This year, we were expecting to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 people. Between moves, sudden other engagements, scheduling conflicts, and miscellaneous issues like flat tires, we wound up with a much smaller, much more intimate gathering: 12 people, four animals.
This, when you think about it, can be a good thing, really. At times when there are dozens and dozens of people wandering around, sometimes it’s difficult to really touch base with some people you might not see very often. Now that we’re living further out in the country, it makes it doubly so.
The amount of food I’d planned did not change. That is, after all, one of the joys of a holiday like Thanksgiving: leftovers. Fewer people equals bigger doggie bags.
As I was spending most of my time cooking, one of my sisters wound up with the camera for much of the evening, so many of the photos here were ones she took throughout the festivities.
Mom had the right idea to start the day: coffee first, before anything.
Through the window, we could see the rain beginning to fall. Since we weren’t really planning anything outside, this was not weighing too heavily on our minds.
Fat Man was up first. Like Little Boy, he had spent a luxurious evening soaking in the brine. After a shower…
he was ready to meet his match: aromatics.
I like to keep it simple, and I don’t like to stuff my bird with stuffing (dressing, to those of us down here). Aromatics only, please, along with a good dose of this
under the skin. Finish with a nice rub of various spices, and the big guy is ready to go.
Except that we discovered a 20 pound bird will not fit into our standard roasting pans. A little improv, maestro, if you please: a giant steam tray, with racks in the bottom, made for a nice bed for the bird. And then, another problem: no twine. No problem.
Some judicious use of cheesecloth to tie the legs, a little tuck of the wings underneath, and we were okay to go.
Low and slow: the bird went in for his marathon cooking at 8 AM.
After some hours, his tan was shaping up nicely.
Not to mention creating some great drippings for gravy later.
Little Boy went on the smoker about half an hour after the big guy went into the oven for roasting. But the day is not just all about turkey, of course. There were also rolls to be made.
Fresh, day-of-event, pull-apart rolls.
Seriously, though, it’s the people. What would happen to all the food if they weren’t around?
Susi and Samir took a stroll about the grounds.
Gabrielle stayed inside and kept us company.
While Ricky and Mom also took a stroll outside and then came back in…
Gabs showed us how she was enjoying the mushroom turnovers.
Then she showed us all how to be quietly beautiful.
Ricky was very serious, or just looked like he was about to go into a coma, probably because he and Gabs had been at his mom’s earlier for an early dinner.
Barb arrived, alone, a few hours after her own early dinner with her group.
Frank arrived, either a bit out of focus, or the recipient of my sister dashing around snapping pictures right in everyone’s face. Probably the latter.
Angie looked fabulous, as usual.
All, right, I hear you: enough with the people. Where’s the food?
Tarragon pickled mushrooms and onions, crabcakes, mushroom turnovers.
These didn’t last long.
Or even those.
We also had assorted other stuff: sweet potato casserole, shrimp, stuffing (with and without sausage), mashed potatoes,apricot glazed carrots…
broccoli gratin , cranberry compote, brussels sprouts, those aforementioned rolls, crabcakes, and pickles. Everything was labeled.
Because you have to know what you’re eating. The ham is hiding over there on the right. The butternut squash soup is in the crock on the left.
There was also focaccia, which disappeared before a good picture could be taken, a hawaiian dessert that mom made that likewise disappeared, cinnamon raisin bread…
assorted cookies, fudge, pie.
After stuffing ourselves and watching more football, things finally broke up and everyone went home, no doubt to sleep and then get up in the middle of the night to tear off a piece of turkey as a midnight snack.
Overall, a highly successful evening. From this dinner, and for the next four days, I ate turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry compote, and gravy. Over and over, for each meal. Not a bad way to get some food into yourself.