Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We Sprightlyfied It

I wrote about the mandate to make the back entrance sprightly and this gives an idea of what it looks like now. Cubbyholes a nice shade of Ariel to match the wallpaper and Caliban on the back door. My husband built the cubbyholes when the children were small. He had to hollow out the walls of the bathroom, that's the room on the left with the red door, in order to give depth to the shelves where the kids left their hats and scarves and gloves and baseball mitts and—you name it. In the past years it has been ours to fill, and I am making this announcement now. Nobody, that's nobody, is to use, take over, annex or otherwise purloin the two cubbyholes on the left. They are mine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In Thanksgiving for Thanksgiving

I've written about Thanksgiving before. Remember the post about John Theobalds and Sister Marie Charlotte? As I re-read it today, I realize I had forgotten to add that Sister and I made the waiting time pass more quickly with a bottle of sweet sherry.

Today I spent way too much time looking for photographs of other Thanksgivings past, so let me just say a word or two to remind me of this year's festivities. One of these days I will conquer the photos, but until then . . .

We were expecting one of the families from Washington and they arrived around lunch time (having spent the night in Breezewood), just in time for them all to go to the dentist. Why they should have a dentist who lives over 500 miles away eludes me. As we were preparing for dinner, I committed two more of the culinary stupidities which have made me persona non grata at holiday meals—see my last post on the turkey fiasco.  For Wednesday dinner I was making chili, while at the same time I was making pumpkin and pecan pies for Thanksgiving. I put one of the pumpkin pies on top of the stove where the air could circulate to cool it and then turned up the burner to get the chili to the right temperature. You guessed it. Fortunately my daughter in law asked if I really meant to have a flame under the pie and it was saved. No charred smell, cracked pie dish etc. Then I realized that the corn bread muffins I was making to eat with the chili should have been mixed with milk—not vegetable oil. Thank heaven for packages of crackers. More family members dropped by in the evening, but we got everybody to bed—and they stayed there until they smelled sausages next morning. We packed up and were all over at Liz's  in time for pre-dinner activities. It was a lovely day, so the traditional game of football took place. By the way, Jason Gay did a marvelous number on Thanksgiving football this year.

Food, wine, more food, more wine and pretty soon we were all home in bed, only to start all over again the next day with the same cast of characters at the Grosse Pointe Parade. This is where it got interesting. We had various cars and I was walking with Kate to her car when all of a sudden—I felt the ground coming up to meet me. I suspect it was a good thing that I did not put out my arms to break my fall. I have done that before and the resulting Colles' fracture would have been marginally worse that the jolted ribs and painful and spectacular bruising of my one of my lady parts. It still hurts and I cannot cough or sneeze (I now have a cold) without bracing myself.

So you can see why I stayed home while the kids went to see Lincoln that afternoon. They were most impressed. How wonderful it was that although the 14 grandchildren were home with me, they needed no supervision thanks to Emmanuel (15) and Patrick (14.)

Saturday was more of the same, this time with a trip to the Henry Ford Museum to see the Lego exhibit and some of the memorabilia of American history. Dinner at Kate and Ron's, then on Sunday the D.C. crew departed. We'd had all kinds of sleepovers and fun, but it was time for everybody to get back to school and work. It is almost a tradition that the first snow of the year falls after Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception, but the snow was light and did not extend across the route to Washington. The travelers reached home after ten hours. We were both tired, the laundry filled the chute from the basement to the second floor and not a scrap of food was left.

Can't wait for next year.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stuffing and Nonsense

Sunday is the only day we have a Detroit paper delivered. It is a good way to find out about the jail sentences of our former mayor, read articles like"Why Detroit's top lawyer can't stop fighting" and explore the Lions' habit of overcoming slow starts (they didn't overcome anything today.) Then there's Mitch Albom. But today the features were a re-hash of last year's columns—and the year before.  It is Thanksgiving, we we have our annual guide to surviving the holiday and hosting "this monumental meal." There are recipes for fool-proof mashed potatoes and make ahead turkey gravy and —well, you get the idea.

The stylist for the food section made the meal look tempting, but hardly in line with the USDA food pyramid. Actually, I think it is now the USDA food plate, but either way it does not advocate ginormous servings of meat with four carrots, however tastefully they are arranged at the side of the plate.

Things get worse when we move on to the magazine section of the paper. We find a recipe for Moistest-ever Pumpkin Pie Muffins. Forget it. Pumpkin is eaten once a year, in a pie, and when you think about it, pumpkin is only palatable when gussied up with large amounts of ginger, cloves, cinnamon etc. Don't even give me one of the much touted pumpkin lattes that Starbucks makes us think we need to feel festive.

Rachael Ray tells us she loves Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta and Apple-Celery-Onion Stuffing, but doesn't give us any recipes.

Finally we have Dr. Phil with his "tough, touching plan for holiday harmony." Ten rules to make our Thanksgiving perfect. I need to pay attention to #2: Grandparents, know your limited role. I must know my boundaries and not contradict mom and dad (and yes, I have been known to do that.) He goes on to say, "You don't negotiate when little Johnny is setting the cat on fire." Faygo, you're on your own.

#5 Delegate. "It doesn't kill you to order a pie instead of make one". I'm on pie duty this year. (My daughter is hosting and there are 27 of us.) I'm a lousy desert maker, but whipped cream covers up a multitude of sins. Back to the cooking section of the paper. Shall I make "Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Pie with Brandied Ginger Cream?" No. And I'll avoid the "dough without disasters" problem with what I have heard described as "store boughten crust." I certainly will not emulate the 22 ingredients in their pie, though maybe the vodka and brandy would give the pies a certain je ne sais quoi.

Finally, Dr. Phil attempts to endear himself to us with rule #9, Don't set the bird on fire—like I did. Come on, Dr. Phil, not that old business of leaving the sack of gizzards in the turkey. I don't think you have ever been it a kitchen.

How do you think I got out of hosting this monumental meal? I dropped the turkey on the floor (and the five second rule worked quite nicely.) And guess what? In a few weeks we can read the whole business all over again. Just substitute "Christmas" for "Thanksgiving."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

September 3, 1925-June 9, 2012

Mary Flo Whalen, September 3, 1925-June 9, 2012

Quite a life. We went to Billings, Montana this past weekend for a memorial mass and a celebration of Flo's life. Those of her children who could be there picked out her head stone, adorned with a cross to memorialize her faith, which meant so much to her and with the pine boughs of her beloved state. The inscription read, "Wonderful Mother of Ten." And was she ever. That meant so much to her. Ernie tells the story of one of her last stays in the hospital. The nurses asked her what they could write about her on the white board by her bed, and that was what she wanted everyone to know.

America is a big country and her children were spread from coast to coast. When she was in a position to visit them, she packed up her bags and off she went. Becky was in Iceland. Flo went to Iceland. Robert was in Israel. Flo went to Israel. Her knitting needles were never still and her grandchildren were the recipients of sweaters and hats and anything that could be knitted.

We drove to Montana with our children several times. Nebraska was long and flat, but what memories we have of South Dakota and the Black Hills. Wall Drug and Mount Rushmore became woven into our family lore. And when we were actually in Billings there were the obligatory trips to Little Bighorn, Red Lodge  and Yellowstone. In later years we flew out to weddings and now to her memorial.

There was such an outpouring of love. Flo always loved her sewing group (in her case knitting, and we met one woman who brought her ironing along.) Flo spent the last years of her life in another state she held dear, New Mexico and she reluctantly sold her big house. But miracles do happen and the family which moved in to 2312 loves the house. They embarked on an enormous re-modelling job—much of the original structure has changed, but the additions were in the style of the original. Michael and Aimee graciously invited us all to a reception in their house and looked on as we explored the changes which elicited stories from Shannon about the windows she had climbed out of in the night in her childhood. So while the physical structure of the house has changed, the hospitality which was a hallmark of the Whalen house is still there, carried on by Michael and Aimee and their four children.

I'll miss her for so many reasons—not least writing letters to her. She loved receiving and writing letters and it is such a loss not to find mail from her in the mail box. As we prepare for another family celebration, we will lift our glasses high. What's a party without Flo and her lovely smile and a martini?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Third Time's a Charm

This will be the third time that we launch a daughter down the aisle. I should be an expert by now, except that is seventeen years since the last wedding and this one is being organized on short notice. I'll give it my full-time attention after we take care of another family situation this weekend.

It is not so much the flowers or the cake or the hotels or the "mother of the bride" stuff that scares me, it is the fact that before every wedding he who shares the house decides that the wedding cannot take place without some domestic upheaval. He was convinced that the last wedding would not be valid unless he unearthed some of the countless photographs of his ancestors we have in boxes, got them perfectly and appropriately framed and hung them in just the right spot. Woe to any bit of household repair I needed done. The wedding before—well, I forget his plan, but I do remember I was up on a ladder painting our bedroom cream with terra cotta moldings. I was working then, so I am sure I had better things to do and I didn't plan on doing any entertaining in my bedroom anyway.

This time around we needed a "sprightly back entrance". This entailed stripping off some wallpaper and re-painting walls and woodwork and cubby holes. But this was the problem. You can't see it very well, but it is the door leading down to the basement. Many years ago I had painted it a nasty browny/beige and over the years we had  used it to record the heights of our grandchildren and a few nephews and nieces and what have you. But it needed painting in a slightly off-white color to match the background of the wall paper which is going up top. Not just any off white—the man who mixed the colors called the sprightly green Ariel and the white Caliban. The darker green on the outside of the door is Prospero. Personally I don't think Caliban should be white, but . . .

Anyway, my job was to record the names, dates and heights so they can be transferred to our newly painted door where the tradition will continue.

We actually got a painter to do this and I must say, it looks pretty sprightly.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Feathers, fur and bling

Individually they are good for my daughter Lucy. Two together are better. Three in combination are best. Put them together with the role of a glamorous actress in a 1930s play noire and she is over the moon.

So any one who will be in the vicinity of southeastern Michigan in the next couple of weeks knows where to go for a delightful theatrical experience.

And did I tell you she just announced her engagement and will be getting married? In January.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

And Another Birthday in November

Here's Evelyn, cousin to the afore-mentioned birthday celebrants. She just missed joining them in October and celebrates her tenth birthday today. She's the oldest of three girls, an incessant reader and she adores the family cat, a large, fluffy, bright orange feline. Liz announced today that Evelyn wants her bedroom painted to match the cat. Such a change from the days when she shared a room with her younger sister, Caroline and everything was pink and purple and frilly.