November 24, 2015

5 Tips to Hosting a Successful Thanksgiving

I set my Thanksgiving table this morning. I always do this...set it a couple of days early. So I can see my Thanksgiving theme for the year come to life, enjoy the short-lived beauty and graciousness of a well-set table... and think back upon the year and all of its gifts in the process.

Last year's tableau of succulents and pumpkins

I have a different Thanksgiving table inspiration each year.  Usually a garden based design that expresses itself in china selection, linens, centerpiece (obviously), place cards and other small embellishments. It does not escape me how fortunate I am to be able to dwell on such genteel.niceties....without the desperation and want and fear and grief that plagues so many in our human family. To have the gift of time and treasure and health to express my love for my family and my friends in this way.

I will share with you my finished table setting tomorrow, but I thought you might enjoy some images that served as my inspiration for Thanksgiving 2015. Interspersed with these photos are some Thanksgiving tips and tricks I have learned over the years. Now I know magazines, cooking shows and blogs will regale you with every in and out regarding turkey preparation, pumpkin pie, timing and scheduling your menu, and endless versions of classic recipes with a twist...

I however, just want to share some less well known holiday hints from hosting countless Thanksgiving feasts, that you may have not already read/heard/seen anywhere else. Little amendments your major Thanksgiving list of menu to-do's and when to DO them.

#1  Designate specific areas for depositing anything and everything as soon as guests and family walk in the door.  If possible, designate a traffic cop to show attendees where these stations are...otherwise everything (purses, reading glasses, bottles of wine, phone chargers...) will end up in the valuable square footage right next to the refrigerator which, as we all know, is the busiest, most crowded space in the house right now. In our house, the drink and dessert stations are AWAY FROM THE KITCHEN to help prevent congestion, tripping over pets, and dropping babies on their heads in front of the oven. (Yes, I did that one year....)

#2  If you want everyone to LOVE the food and wax rapturously about the culinary spread, don't serve appetizers that will spoil every one's Thanksgiving appetite. Nothing makes food taste better than actually being hungry... even ravenous. Hopefully, Mr Turkey and all the fixings will be worth the wait. (I do realize this is a controversial issue.... but I stand by my philosophy...)

#3  It is my firm belief that everyone who eats at your table should contribute in some way. Son can't cook? Let him provide the Wonder White Bread, iceberg lettuce and Miracle Whip for the inevitable turkey sandwiches later. No time to cook? How about bringing the Cool Whip for the pumpkin pie, the can of jellied cranberry sauce (you know you love it...), the bag of ice you will invariably need...and forget....or take-home containers for the left-overs and doggie bags?  Little ones can draw picture of turkeys and pumpkins and pilgrims on the place cards, or take pie orders.

#4  Our Thanksgiving is truly a collective endeavor. I provide the venue and table settings and various sides and desserts, (I am also the gravy gal). But other guests actually cook and bring the turkey, casseroles, pies, and traditional sides and desserts, wine and bread, etc.) My kitchen is not large, so I ask everyone to leave as much mess at home as possible. Carve your turkey, but leave the carcass at home, thank you very much (I know, I know, this is blasphemous...but who REALLY carves the big bird at the table...)?

And please don't bring your mashed potatoes in a bowl painted with daisies, or your cranberries in a Santa plate. Thanksgiving appropriate, (or disposable/recyclable) serving pieces are mandatory.

#5  Only essential personnel (i.e., those cooking) should be in the kitchen. (See "I have a small kitchen", above). Designate someone to fill the water glasses with ice, remember to take the butter out of the fridge to soften before hand, make the pot of coffee in advance (requiring only a flip of the switch after dinner...), put someone in charge of the music, put someone in charge of not burning the rolls, put someone in charge of keeping track of every one's wine glass, put someone in charge of not burning the rolls, put someone in charge of getting everyone to the table finally, put someone in charge of not burning the rolls...

without micro-managing, of course.

and remember, to pause, to breathe, to soak up the love of family... and friends who ARE family. 
To immerse yourself  in thankfulness and gratitude.

Tableau from Thanksgiving 2013

November 20, 2015

Thai Basil Flowers in Autumn Bouquet and Lance Hattatt

I love quiet mornings. 

I am decidedly NOT a night owl. I get far more done in the morning... and then have a dramatic drop in energy, motivation and interest come 2:00-ish. Consequently, I have been getting up earlier and earlier to have more morning in which to enjoy the quiet and enhanced productivity, along with the enjoyment of copious amounts of strong coffee. When it turns cold, Husband and I take turns making said coffee...and also making a fire in the kitchen fireplace. I usually come back upstairs to my office, supremely content in the knowledge that he is down in his "dad's" chair, sipping the coffee and soaking up the fire's warmth. THIS is happiness. THIS is contentment (especially if my house is clean...)  I know... a little Oprah-Deepak and goofy...but true nevertheless. Reason enough to love fall. That, and a heating pad in my lap as I sit at my desk, sip my strong coffee, and watch the darkness turn to light.

So it was this morning (because yesterday morning involved a considerably less charming colonoscopy) I sat at my desk and pondered what to write about in my next blog post. Like so many things in life, the answer was right in front of me.

 Since I never really feel like my house is clean, unless my cleaning frenzy is topped off with a fresh bouquet of flowers.  (CLEAN HOUSE + FLOWERS = WONDERFUL  The mathematics of which I find irrefutable)...I have a garden fresh cuttings meets grocery store bouquet  on my desk, keeping me company as I write.

So as I was pondering AND enjoying my flowers, I thought you might like to know the composition of the arrangement, because it really is lovely, in both appearance AND fragrance....and in my favorite color combo purple and chartreuse. (If you would like to follow my PURPLE IN THE GARDEN Pinterest Page, or any other categories, go HERE).

As a hard freeze is forecast for this weekend, I couldn't bear the thought of all that lovely basil (Thai, Minette, and Genovese) being nipped in the bud...quite literally, as all of the basil has gone to seed. Like the fall color of 2015, the basil flowers have been especially fresh and vase-worthy this season.

So I put together a pretty little floral recipe of:






...very satisfying.

Also on my desk is a collection of small garden books I bought years ago. I am culling out books
I don't need/use to give to my garden library is getting out of control and is in dire need of thinning out. These little books by LANCE HATTATT are oldies but goodies and would make delightful stocking stuffers for the gardeners in your life.

Find them used and for mere pennies (really!) here GARDENING IN A SMALL SPACE by Lance Hattatt on Amazon and here THE GARDENING YEAR by Lance Hattatt. Look at others by this same British gardener (follow his blog here to find out more about him) while you are perusing. You will, of course, need to translate the ideas/colors/combos into an Oklahoma vernacular to successfully replicate them in your garden.

I pulled all of my copies of these little tomes from the shelf and have been looking at them sporadically,

in the quiet of my fall mornings.

If you have time, please join Linda Cavanaugh and me today for 4 YOUR GARDEN on NewsChannel 4 at 4:30.  Let's talk bulb planting tips and tricks. 

November 16, 2015

Beaver's Bend

Sunrise over Broken Bow Lake at Beaver's Bend State Park

Years ago,  in a high school sociology course, I remember the instructor saying that we are all a product of our own individual sets of experiences, backgrounds, culture and genetic heritage.

Such an obvious, simple  concept.....yet one I have thought of over and over and over again as the horror of the latest ISIS attacks plays non-stop on the news channels. 

Good god, I now think.....WHAT set of experiences creates such a large collective of people committed to such extreme nihilism, brutality, hatred, destruction...and HOW are they able to  draw so many others into this darkness?

In my Westernized, sheltered naivety, it is impossible for me fathom, to understand, to absorb. But neither can my brilliant son, who has lived in India for years, who works and lives with people from all over the world...of all ethnicities, religions, social and economic strata....

...who reads, and writes, and reads some deconstruct language, literature, life, longing...and then reflect it back to us in word and metaphor.

On a recent family trip to BEAVER'S BEND STATE PARK, in between hot dogs and apples, fishing and campfires, we talk of HIS experiences, his insights, his cultural history...

his, and our, great fortune, to live where we do and be who we are...

The Mountain Fork River

in the moment, immersed in beauty... 

if not understanding.  But certain in the knowledge,

that the trying is important.

November 6, 2015

Pumpkins, Gourds, 1955 Chevy Truck

God knows, life is messy. Full of scary, intimidating, sorrowful, frustrating, maddening things.

So why not create some moments to try and forget all that?  Pick a glorious Oklahoma Autumn weekend.

Get out your vintage 1955 Chevy truck, painted and buffed to perfection in a cheery tomato red.

 Head to your nearest Farmer's Market or Pumpkin Patch.

Carefully select the lucky few...or lucky many...

autumnal offerings to take home with you.

Roll down the window on the drive home. Nod appreciatively to those who give you
a thumb's up and a big smile in acknowledgment of your pumpkin-hauling cute truck...

and appreciate the notion that your efforts were able to put a smile on a face, and maybe inject  a colorful moment into what could be someone's gray day.

On the way home, have your cute wife call to give the neighbors a heads up that they may need some
help unloading a few things.

Ask the neighbor to bring her camera and get a few shots (neighbor did not obey and took many shotsof the cute truck, cute pumpkins, cute wife, and oh....cute puppy for a cute family photo.

(The sun was warm and slanted and a bit harsh, but the neighbor took some cute pics of the cute family with the cute neighbor's son unloading cute pumpkins.)

 Note how appropriate the cute old truck looks parked in front of the cute old 1930's bungalows.

With much laughter and puppy revelry, unload the pumpkins and mums and ready them
for placement.

 And THAT, quite simply (okay, not simple at all, but ever so beautifully crafted and staged)...

is how (along with a few cold beers of course) to spend a perfectly cute fall afternoon.