Thanksgiving Day Madness!

Here are words you’ll never hear from me:

“It’s Thanksgiving Day! Let’s go shopping!”

Which means, if you were hoping to run into me while out shopping on Thanksgiving Day, don’t count on it.

If you were expecting to see me screaming like a banshee as I race down the aisles of Walmart in search of that one of a kind, must-have-or-I’ll-die-deal, don’t hold your breath.

Maybe you thought you’d catch me in the wee hours of the morning, Continue reading

Hello, I’m Miss Autumn…

Hello, I’m Miss Autumn…

Autumn has arrived in San Diego!

How do I know? For starters, we’ve had our first rain in, well, forever. Because, I’m pretty sure the last time it rained was way back in–I can’t remember. We hardly ever get rain in these parts except in winter–and autumn, too, of course!

So autumn came a few weeks late this year, but now that it’s here, this is as good a time as any to let you in on a little secret:

Autumn and I go way back, and that’s the truth. Continue reading

Thanksgiving in Chicago

This sculpture seems to be holding court at the Art Institute of Chicago

Just got back from Chicago and all I can say is:

Brrr!!!

Talk about windy.  Sure, I know Chicago is known as the windy city. But I figured that was just a figure of speech. Much in the way New York City is known as the Big Apple.

I mean, everyone knows that NYC really isn’t an apple, right? There’s nothing about it that tastes like a Granny Smith or a Red Delicious, is there? So, I just assumed Chicago really wasn’t windy. At least, no more than any other city.

But, no. Turns out Chicago is 100 percent, honest-to-goodness windy. Wizard of Oz tornado-in-Kansas windy, though I didn’t see Miss Gulch flying by on a bike.

In fact, those Chicago gusts nearly knocked the wind right out of my sails, and any determination I had to face the crowds on Black Friday were immediately dashed.

Ready for the holidays at the Art Institute of Chicago

So, maybe skipping Black Friday was for the best. After all, I find that for every gift I purchase, I usually end up buying a second for myself.

Besides, there’s Cyber Monday!

So what did we do instead? For starters, we stayed in and puttered. We ate leftover turkey and all the fixings, caught up on our magazine reading, and chatted and laughed to our hearts’ content.

We watched TV and lamented that one of our favorite new series, 666 Park Avenue, has been cancelled. We had a moment of silence for Larry Hagman, an actor who could channel evil like few others, and who was pure perfection in his role of J.R. Ewing on the Dallas TV series.

We did venture out on occasion. Once to see the film, Lincoln, which was then followed by a lively debate on the complexities of the man and what it took to get the U.S. Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment–the one outlawing slavery–passed.

We also spent an afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago, saw the Chicago Symphony concert perform music from the Disney film, Fantasia, and dined at a very nice restaurant.

And, did I tell you it was freezing?

Of course, when the temps warmed a little, I got to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes, taking walks around a nearby lake.  Herewith, some photos from my trip:

A walk along the lake.

Signs of Christmas

And one more…

At the airport, a chance encounter with the The Blues Brothers.

So, what did you do last week?

The Further Misadventures of Henry

Henry, upon realizing the cupboard is bare.

Today, for the first time, I present two stories about Henry, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. That’s two for the price of one! Unusual, I know.

I, Cook, wrote Story #2.  Then, just as I was getting ready to post it, one of my readers, Robert, wrote his own story about Henry, on account that I’ve been sick (as everyone knows–thanks to my Sicko in Seattle post), and he decided that a little tale about the little king might be the thing to draw me out of my cold-ridden misery.  And, he was right. So, thank you, Robert!

Herewith, two tales about a dog who descends from royalty.

1.  Henry Fends for Himself, as told by Robert

Henry sat in his royal basket looking and feeling quite dejected. What am I to do, he thought to himself. Cook is ill and cook is not cooking. What will I do for lunch? The cupboard is bare, not a bone or a royal treat to be found.

Just then, a loud sneeze and a series of sniffles could be heard from Cook’s bed chamber.

There is nothing for it, thought Henry. I will have to mix with the working classes and do this thing they call shopping.

Getting out of the basket, he put his crown on its stand by his basket and made for the door. He opened his special doggie flap in the door and climbed through, muttering to himself. Humph!! Still no crown above the flap. Any cat or dog could use it, not realising it’s just for royalty.

Outside, he debated whether to head left or right, and decided right, as the sun would then shine on his good side. Trotting down the sidewalk, he came to a grocery store. He walked through the door and was promptly picked up and put outside again. After this happened three times, he sat and barked. How dare they not let him in! He was royalty, after all. Then, he spotted the notice on the door that said,

“NO DOGS EXCEPT BLIND GUIDE DOGS ALLOWED.”

Stupid sign, Henry muttered to himself, wondering, how can blind dogs read?

Dejected, he made his way home, and climbing through the dog flap, he smelt something nice. He smelt cooking!!!

Cook looked down at Henry, lying in his basket. “Henry, lunch is ready.”

Henry barked in joy and made his way to his bowl. He must have been imagining it. He must be cracking up!!!


2. Henry’s Thanksgiving in the Country, as told by me, Cook

This morning, I told Henry that it’s time to pack up his bags. For, I’m heading to Chicago to visit my daughter, my brother and his family.  It’s Thanksgiving soon and, while I’m away, Henry’s going to spend the holiday in the country. And, by country I mean he’s going to my friend, Trisha’s house, which isn’t in the country at all.

But, Henry thinks it is, as Trisha–or the scullery maid, as he calls her–has an ample backyard, with lots of room to roam and wonder. She also has a horse in a stable somewhere, which Henry has visited before. So, as I tell him about his impending trip, it’s clear he’s mulling it over in his head.

“Cook, will I be going to the horse stable?” he asks quizzically. Henry calls me Cook, because I’m the one who serves him his meals.

“No doubt about it, Henry. Will that be a problem?”

“I don’t fancy stables. Horses can neigh rather loudly, you know. Practically burst my eardrums last time. Got my paws all muddied while there, too. Bloody mess! Took forever to get them properly cleaned.”

“The scullery maid told me she drew you a bath after that visit, and you were just fine.”

“True, but how I suffered for it.”

“The point is, Henry, you got over it.”

“Did I?” He pauses, then inquires, “What about the Thanksgiving feast? Does the scullery maid know I only eat the white meat?”

“Yes, she knows, and she already said no.”

“Are you sure, Cook? Exactly what did she say?”

“Something about, over her dead—.”

“Never mind,” Henry replies, sulkily. “Noblesse oblige, I suppose. ‘Tis my duty to let her little wards have the good bits. “

“Oh, you mean her kids? So, you’re okay with going?”

“I don’t seem to have a choice, do I? Though, tell me, will the ranch hand be there?”

“Ranch hand? Oh, you mean Cowboy, the scullery maid’s cat. Yes, I suppose he will, seeing as that’s his home.”

“Dash it all! It wouldn’t be so horrid if the ranch hand remembered to bow in my presence. Oh well, what can you expect from the feline purr-suasion?”

“And Henry, word has it there’s a new member in the family. Seems as though the scullery maid has taken in a dog, too.”

“A horse, a cat and now a dog?? Should make for a rather chaotic visit, if you ask me,” muses Henry, adding, “So, when exactly are you returning?”

Sigh. Summing up every ounce of patience, I glibly reply,

“Henry, I’ll be returning soon enough and that’s all you need to know.”

“Fine,” he snorts. “Abandon me to the country if you need to, but please, whatever you do, don’t put this in your blog. I have a reputation to maintain. No one need know that you’ve put me in a mood or that I’m pulling a face. Especially not the scullery maid. Don’t want to start off on the wrong paw, you know.”

Henry prepares for his journey to “the country.”

“Yikes. Too late,” I say. “Already posted.”

“Is that so? Then, make sure they also know how utterly delighted I am, too. In fact, I’m going to don my purple fascinator to show my joy.  I’m going to the country! Maybe I’ll blog about it, too!”

“Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Henry.”

And just like that, Henry leaves the room to fetch his petite chapeau.

Happy Thanksgiving from Henry and me!

Now tell me. Whether or not you celebrate, what are your plans this coming week?

A Winner, a Baker & BF

First of all, congratulations to Annie of Annie Off Leash! She’s a winner!

Annie is the lucky reader who is getting my first giveaway–a beautiful Art Meets Glass original, pomegranate pendant, created by Marsha Anderson. So, Annie, please email your mailing address to monicastangledweb@gmail.com, so it can be shipped out to you. And, thank you to everyone else who participated. I so appreciate you tweeting the news!

Thanksgiving was at my house this year. Once a year, I cook to my heart’s content, and this was it. I made just about everything from scratch, which is why it’ll probably be another year before I do anything like this again. The best part was that I decided to bake the bread for our meal, something I haven’t done in over 15 years!

Here's what my Grand Champion Dill bread looked like just before baking.

Some people think baking bread is a daunting task. I know, because I used to be one of them. And I don’t know why I stopped (blame it on not enough time in the day), because baking is such a pleasure. It’s soothing, relaxing and rewarding. Now, I do not own a bread machine, as I don’t consider using one to be really baking.  If you ask me, it feels a bit like cheating.

I prefer the old fashioned way. I take the temperature of the water before I mix in the yeast. I let my dough rise several times. I split it in thirds and make long strands, which I then braid together. Brush on egg yolk, then I pop it in the oven.

Voila!

I’ve baked this bread before and the recipe I used, Grand Champion Dill Bread, is from the 1979/80 issue of Better Homes & Gardens Creative Ideas: Baking Ideas. If you happen to have that issue around, as I do, it’s on page 16. If not, please see recipe below. Let me tell you, the aromas while it’s baking are absolutely heavenly and the bread itself, piping hot from the oven, delicious.  I was afraid I might have forgotten how to bake bread, but, happily, it all came rushing back. Like riding a bike. So, I may be baking bread again soon.

Now, here’s how I managed BF (Black Friday).  My son and I went on a reconnaissance mission. Which means, we gathered by his computer to review the Black Friday circulars at a website devoted to just that (bfads.net). We then made a list of what we both wanted and, while I manned our secret headquarters (aka, my home), he plunged into the night, to stand in line at Best Buy.

Traveling incognito, he arrived a half hour before opening, and quickly discovered the parking lot was already full. He was about to yell, “ABORT, ABORT!,” when suddenly he realized there was parking available across the street. He then fell in line, with about several hundred BF shoppers, a line that wrapped once around the store. By 12:15 a.m. he was in, and our mission was underway: to search out the items on our list.

Meanwhile, my job was to be on standby (like one of those phone operators in India). Periodically, he’d call me to have me check prices online, verify product codes, and check availability. Isn’t technology amazing?

I only had two items on the list we made: the latest Harry Potter film just released on DVD, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. It was on sale for $9.99. Also on my list, a blu-ray disc player selling for a low $39.99, which we knew would be a long shot as, at those prices, they always go fast.

Success! More or less. Despite being told they were out of the blu-ray disc players, he found a lone one, discarded in another aisle, no doubt by someone who had changed their mind. As for the DVD, he picked up the right one, then at the last minute, he switched the it  for a version that claimed to be in 3-D, as he had recently purchased for himself a 3-D television and wanted to try it out.  Unfortunately, in the excitement of the moment, he didn’t notice that the 3-D version was actually part one of The Deathly Hallows and not part two.

The upshot was that I got to lounge around and relax with a movie on TV while he ran around like crazy gathering his purchases.  He did say that everything was nice and orderly and the people, including the customers, were rather helpful. The worst part? The line to pay. It took him over an hour to get through that line.

So how about you? How did you spend Thanksgiving and Black Friday?

Grand Champion Dill Bread

1 package active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water

1 cup dairy sour cream

1 beaten egg

1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon dill seed

1 tablespoon dried dill weed

1 teaspoon salt

4 to 6 cups unbleached flour

1 beaten egg yolk

In large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Stir in sour cream, beaten egg, butter, onion, sugar, dill seed, dill weed, salt and 1 cup of the flour. Beat with spoon till well blended. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can with a spoon. Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. Continue kneading till smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl; turn once to grease surface. Let rise till double, 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours. Punch down; divide in thirds. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Roll each third to an 18-inch rope. Place on greased baking sheet; braid. Combine egg yolk and 2 teaspoons water; brush atop loaf. Bake in 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Makes 1 loaf.