Sunday, November 27, 2011


Next Thanksgiving I am running away, hopefully with my husband, and possibly with a few others who might like a different kind of holiday celebration. What has prompted this shocking view of what has always been a favorite holiday of mine? Simple. For the second year in a row I have planned a traditional meal for up to 25 guests only to be sabotaged by such mundane occurrences as illness, family drama or the weather.

I get it, I really do. One doesn’t schedule sickness or the weather, and “stuff” happens. But when it happens the “day of” after the 22 lb. turkey is dressed and in the oven, the green bean, sweet potato, squash and onion casseroles assembled, potatoes peeled for cooking and mashing, two kinds of stuffing, homemade cranberry dressing ready to go, and specialty rolls for twenty plus people purchased, the cost in toil and treasure mounts up. For the same cost a group of several could easily go to a nice restaurant or other venue and enjoy a hearty meal.

Getting back to Thursday’s dinner. Two of Murphy’s laws played a role.

1. If anything can go wrong, it will.

2. If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the first one to go wrong.

Lots of things went wrong, starting with the one causing the most damage - the legitimate cancellations by various invitees. Wanting all sixteen guests to sit at the same table I had put two tables together and, along with my daughter, set the table with the best china, crystal goblets and silverware, placing specially purchased holiday décor on every surface. This, of course, meant six table settings needed to be removed because of the cancellations.

The 22 lb. turkey was in the oven at the appointed time, but did not comply with the cooking directions or the meat thermometer. Scheduled for a 5:00 p.m. dinner, it was far from done, and was finally served at 6:30 p.m. - the inner part still looking too red for me. All side dishes, ready for 5:00 p.m., spent an undue amount of time being kept warm, and getting a bit dry in the process. With all the turmoil several appetizers were forgotten as was the homemade cranberry sauce.

Three of the guests were a 4-month old, a 17 month old and a two-year old. They were amazingly good all in all, the latter two discovering each other and getting along well. But their stomachs were geared to 5:00 p.m., so anyone understanding children, will also understand a certain amount of unhappiness with the revised schedule. It was not my finest hour in the kitchen, but everyone ate their fill and expressed appreciation. Probably I am my worst critic.

Adding to the confusion was a drenching rain causing flooding and damage in a room where my daughter was staying temporarily. Since weather, namely snow, played a huge role with our 2010 Thanksgiving meal and its cancellations, it seems like a sign that I should give up mega dinners and do something different.

Looking ahead to next year, here is a thought. A short drive to picture pretty Leavenworth will surely get us in the mood for the holidays. I checked online for a good restaurant and this is what I found at J.J. Hill’s restaurant in Icicle Inn. My taste buds are already getting prepared for 2012. Does anyone want to join us? Start planning today.

Our Thanksgiving Day dinner next year could look like the one below for this year!

Start with sun-dried tomato and basil crostini with smoked Gouda cheese,
fresh fruit and fresh baked breads with creamy butter.

Enjoy a crisp fresh salad with our special recipe dressings from our salad assortment along with our apple slaw, holiday pasta salad, fruited gelatin or
Warm up with a bowl of winter squash soup.

For the main course: J J Hills Fresh Grill special roasted turkey or cranberry glazed slow cooked ham, apple and cranberry cornbread stuffing sautéed seasoned green beans with bacon and onions, pineapple baked sweet potatoes, creamy mashed red potatoes with chef made turkey gravy, and sweet roasted winter squash

Wonderful desserts include pumpkin dessert with fresh whipped cream, chocolate decadent cake with raspberry Melba sauce, streusel topped berry pie, apple bread pudding with rum sauce, and more selections

Coffee and tea service, soda, or milk.

Pricing per person:
Adults: 27.95, Children six to ten 15.95, three to five 9.95, two and under are free
sales tax and gratuity not included.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving." ~H.U. Westermayer

It's that time of year - a time of thanksgiving.

A time for communing. A time of forgiving.
Of starting the dinner with a heartfelt blessing
Then gorging on turkey, and gravy and dressing

Adding cranberries, 'tatoes, and two kinds of pie
It's a feast, beyond measure, that none can deny.
Start dieting now so you can eat what you will
forgetting remorse as you eat to your fill.

And if there are those with no place to go
make room at your table letting everyone know
that your home is a place of compassion and caring
on this day of conversing, well being and sharing.


Sunday, November 13, 2011


The news is shocking – the rape of a ten year old in a football locker room at Penn State, as witnessed by a coaching assistant. That this abuse took place a dozen years ago, and is apparently only one of many other instances of unreported sexual abuse in following years, adds to the disbelief and horror. That the alleged perpetrator was a highly respected coach is even more difficult to stomach. It’s the hot topic on every news program.

Perhaps the only one who gains is Rick Perry, whose recent embarrassing debate performance is temporarily on the back burner at CNN, MSNBC and FOX. Millions of people are transfixed by events unfolding at this prestigious university and involving its equally prestigious coaching staff. Arrests have been made and high level heads have rolled, from a nationally famous head football coach to a well respected college president. There is endless chatter about how the football program should be penalized, that the season be ended and that no possible post-bowl game be allowed. The latter I have a hard time understanding. This has nothing to do with the young men who have worked hard on the field, and hopefully in the academic arena. They should not be punished for the behavior of individuals long before their time. On the other hand, this should be used as an object lesson for all of us on the importance of getting involved when we see wrong doing.

In the meantime we ask ourselves "How could this have happened?" Criticism of the football assistant who saw, but did nothing to stop the abuse, is rampant. That he didn’t call the police immediately has added to public ire. That folks reporting the incident up the chain of command, and somehow never following up, is beyond understanding. That rumors have circulated for years about the abuser, but no serious investigation was ever made is even more galling to those of us who value children and their need to be protected from danger.

As a teacher the whole scenario is particularly troublesome and hard to comprehend. Our country has very specific laws to protect children and they are clearly spelled out state by state on the Child Welfare Information Gateway web site. Do the smart people at Penn State not know their resonsibilities and their options? If the young man was fearful for his job, it would have been a simple matter to call the Child Welfare department and report what happened. The burden is then on them to investigate and let the authorities know the nature of the problem or crime. I myself once had to report a case of suspected physical abuse to Child Protective Services (CPS) even though it was scary and I was worried about possible reprisals from hostile parents. I knew what I had to do, and I knew whom to call. In Washington CPS is found under the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

In discussing this with a teacher friend today, we agreed that protecting children, even beyond the school grounds, is important. She told me that one day when coming down I-90 from Snoqualmie Pass she observed a small child running along side a slow moving car. Fearing that something was seriously wrong she pulled in front of the other car forcing it to stop. The parents were in the car, with the child outside trying to get back in. The mother was very angry at my friend for butting in. She was “teaching her child a lesson” and this was the punishment meted out. My friend told her there were better ways to handle the situation and that the parents were risking their child’s life. Afterwards she followed their car, got the license number, and called first the police who said they could do nothing, and then CPS who also was unable to assist without more information. She called the police again, and finally they agreed to go to the address indicated by the license number to see what they could do. My friend was indeed taking seriously the need to report this child abuse. If only the young teaching assistant had had the courage to do the same! For it does take courage as well as a strong moral conviction.

Mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect include health care workers, school personnel, child care providers, mental health workers, persons connected to the court, law enforcement officers, members of the clergy, government employees connected with families, employees of orgnizations that receive federal funding, and more. The CWIG has a complete list of each state's requirements. Another site that has valuable information is the Child Welfare League of America . I say that each of us should be mandatory reporters of child abuse, and if you see such a thing happening, you must act. If you cannot physically do so in the moment, you can at least report the transgression to your local child protective service.

We all know the somewhat trite saying that "It takes a village to raise a child." Never is it more important than when our children are at risk. As members of our national village we must step in to right these wrongs!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


"One of the delights of life is eating with friends; second to that is talking about eating; and, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends." Laurie Colwin "Home Cooking"

Yesterday was special. We were meeting the parents of a delightful young woman who our son greatly fancies. Her family was visiting from California and we jointly decided on a get acquainted dinner at our cabin, literally a stone's throw away from the high tide line on the Strait of Georgia. This particular young man has waited all of his 40+ years for Ms. Right, and we have stood by, hands clenched and mouths firmly shut as some nice but unsuitable girlfriends joined us at various dinner tables. This one was a "keeper" according to all who had met her on Labor Day weekend and we set about to do our part in planning a great evening.

Since good food helps with a good impression, and sparing no cost, we decided on a menu of prime rib roast, twice baked potatoes, mixed veggies, French bread, and green salad. Marsala mushrooms, sauteed onions, sour cream and chives would be available for toppings. Blueberry cream cheese pie would be the finishing touch. We prayed that no one was a vegetarian.

Since my stepsons are all chef wanabees, they usually take charge in the kitchen when in town. In their absence we needed to step up and get the job done well. After determining we would go for "medium" we consulted our memories, cook books and the internet. Vaughn set off to buy the roast, a better roasting pan and a meat thermometer. When he returned we talked about how to best prepare an 8 pound roast (at $9.00 per pound), and Vaughn decided he was going to go by internet instructions and the new meat thermometer. I, Mrs. Worrywart, wanted to also check the meat market personnel at Haggen's and QFC. Therein lay the rub. The instructions were different. One meat expert said to take the roast out when the thermometer reached l35 degrees and let it sit for ten minutes to continue cooking. A meat lady at another store said to let the thermometer reach 160 then take it out for half an hour. These instructions were based on a 4-6 pound roast. Ours, at 8 pounds, was in the 6-8 pound range. Internet instructions varied. So this is what we did:

We preheated the oven to 450 degrees and put the salted and peppered roast in our new roasting pan for 15 minutes. We turned the temperature down to 325 degrees and continued to roast the meat for about three hours total. When Vaughn removed the roast from the oven the thermometer said l55 degrees. He covered it and let it continue to "cook" on the cutting board for another half hour. My tender heart rebelled at the sight of blood (juice, my husband called it) trickling over the edge of the cutting board and landing on the floor. In the best of times I have to have my meat VERY well done and liberally doused with catsup. The rest of my family likes the meat walked though a warm room. Ugh!

In the meantime, our guests arrived with smiles of delight, commenting on all the delicious smells emanating from the kitchen, and bearing a homemade pecan pie. Wine was served, appetizers were consumed, and conversation was spirited. I had set the table with the remaining roses from a bedraggled garden. Candles lit every corner, and a cheery fire blazed in the fireplace. Perfect ambience for a perfect dinner. And it was a perfect dinner. Absolutely everything went according to plan, and the roast could not have tasted better anywhere, even at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

As a new social connection was formed I thought about the importance of eating and entertaining in building relationships. Would this one become permanent? Only time will tell, but we love our son's lady friend and her parents are charming and friendly. We even discovered that most likely a study of our various family trees will show a blood connection between this family and one of our other daughters-in-law. We smile at the thought. This really goes beyond 6 degrees of separation!

After our guests left we continued to bask in candle glow, the dying embers of the fire, and a sense of hope for the future of this couple and those of us, who stand by in support. This is family at its best. A blended family at that. For this I thank my husband who cheerfully makes all things possible and continues to be a role model for greatness as a person and as a parent and step parent.