Monthly Archives: November 2008

Have a Fabulous Holiday Full of Food and Love…

…and football, if you’re into such things!

I’m going to be off-line until next Tuesday at the earliest… Even more than a premature jonesing for my daily internet fix, which I have survived many times, this is the first time in my life that I feel like I am actually going to miss my internet community.  I’m going to miss reading all the amazing, funny, original and/or wacky things that the blogs I visit provide me on a regular basis, and I’m going to miss sharing my world with my regular readers, and also the thrill of seeing that a new face has dropped in.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful time.  I will be looking forward to when we meet again.

Love, 

Elena

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Repost: Thanksgiving Ingrate

Okay, since y’all didn’t disown me the last time I pulled a fast one like this, I’m going to do it ONE MORE TIME.  (All caps means it’s a promise!)

Thanksgiving Ingrate

Americans love to get presents and be the center of attention, which is probably why most of us claim our birthday as our favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is also near the top of the list because it brings together four of the greatest joys in life: feasting, family, a four day weekend and, of course, football. It is a day which allows us to cure momentarily our chronic case of the gimmees and just be grateful for what we already have.

Despite Thanksgiving’s huge popularity, there are a few Americans who, though their hearts may swell patriotic and their stomachs appreciate the traditional meal, nevertheless harbor a secret resentment toward the beloved Turkey Day – I speak of those late November birthday babies.

Oh, we are a sorry bunch. When next year’s calendar comes out we must look ahead to see how close the fateful day comes to impinging on our specialness. If Congress had just left the date of Thanksgiving in the early fall, as it was when the Pilgrims originally celebrated it with the Wampanoag Tribe in 1621, we of the November 22nd through 28th set could be guaranteed chocolate cake instead of pumpkin pie with candles. If they’d just left well enough alone when Colonial Governor John Belcher declared Thanksgiving be November 12th in 1730, or when President George Washington proclaimed in 1789 that Thanksgiving be observed on the 26th of November, more of us could consistently have pizza for our special birthday dinner instead of green beans and cranberry sauce. Admittedly, even with such arrangements there would still be some whiners among us. But there would be far fewer and most importantly, I, being born on the 24th, wouldn’t be in their midst.

Our annual “birthday roulette” began in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln established that Thanksgiving be celebrated annually on the last Thursday of November. This custom held until 1939, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in an effort to stimulate an American economy still reeling from the Great Depression, declared that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the next to last Thursday of November, thereby giving Christmas shoppers an extra week to spend money. Some states protested, refusing in 1940 to go along with FDR’s “Franksgiving” celebration. (It should be noted that Texas, not wanting to be rude, decided to make a holiday of both weeks.) In 1941, Congress compromised by declaring Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November, which is sometimes the last Thursday, sometimes the next to last. Either way, it always threatens to land on my special day.

Of course, in 1970, being newly born, I couldn’t care less, but I did manage to ruin my parents’ Thanksgiving. I was born on a Tuesday and, in adherence to the medical wisdom of that era, my mother and I were to be released two days later on Turkey Day. Right in the middle of a football game, my father got the call to come pick us up from the hospital. Originally from Detroit, my Dad is a loyal fan of the Lions, who have played football on Thanksgiving since 1934, a full 32 years before the Dallas Cowboys tried to steal the spotlight by starting their own Thanksgiving game tradition. My mother graciously permitted him to come get us during halftime.

The Lions were playing none other than the Oakland Raiders that year – I was born in Hayward, California, a mere ten miles down the Nimitz Freeway from the Oakland Coliseum (now called “McAfee”). The game was tied at halftime, so it must have been quite a dilemma for my Dad: bring home the new baby, or watch a nail-biter between our hometeams. I like to think he was rewarded for his familial loyalty since the Lions went on to win 28-21.

My mother didn’t fare so well, having missed the feast, though she did get some leftovers. But that’s just not the same as sitting around the table with all the fixings, the all-important centerpiece being a golden roasted turkey. North Carolina contributes greatly to the event, being second only to Minnesota in turkey production with 39 million annually. (There is even a town named Turkey about 70 miles south of Raleigh on Hwy 40.) Those who love sweet potatoes with their bird owe some gratitude to North Carolina for growing 702 million pounds of the tasty tubers, the most of any state and almost twice the amount of the runner-up, California.

Occasionally, people attempt to include some new-fangled culinary innovation in the holiday fare, such as the vegetarian’s “tofurky,” which is tofu sculpted then baked as though it might replace a juicy fowl, and “turducken,” the carnivore’s delight out of Louisiana consisting of a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. But no matter which new dish enters the scene, we still refuse to turn away from our traditional meal.

Biased as I am by the holiday’s total disregard for my basic civil right to be the Birthday Queen of the Universe, my favorite part of the traditional spread is the appetizers. This is not to disparage my family’s cooking talent; on the contrary, my mother and grandmother are the best cooks around. No, this is to say that when you skip breakfast to try to save your appetite for the big dinner, you’re going to need some serious appetizers. I mean really, when has a turkey ever been ready within three hours of when it was supposed to be done? Those always seem like the three longest hours of my life, as the aroma of slowly roasting bird teases my nostrils and the warm rolls waft waves of irresistible scent that follows me through the house. That appetizer plate with the various deli meats, cheeses and pickled vegetables is the only thing that keeps a person from going mad and eating the couch.

And during our Thanksgiving feast we must be surrounded by our loved ones, who will often travel long distances to celebrate with us. This is all fine and dandy, but try arranging a birthday sleepover under such conditions. As a kid I always knew that for every member of my family that arrived for the holiday, there was one less friend still in town to come over and bring me presents.

So you see, those of us who came into this world within a few days of Thanksgiving do not get a break from the gimmees, and in fact have our special birthday desires so thwarted that we aren’t very grateful for anything.

On the other hand, this uncivilized selfishness never prevents me from thoroughly enjoying the cornucopia of treats that Thanksgiving has to offer. And I’ve decided, this year, I’ll be a big girl about it and hope that the holiday is a truly special day for everyone.

Horton family appetizer plate:

Arrange on serving plate in artistic fashion:
Salami, Black Forest ham, pastrami (cut in triangles)
Sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, Danish fontina (cut in squares)
Black olives, green olives w/pimientos, dill pickle spears, pepperoncini
Contents of a jar of spicy pickled vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, pearl onions, etc.)
Garnish with fancy cut green onions and radishes
Crackers: Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Ritz

This article originally published in
The Lake Magazine November 2007

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Top Five: Thanksgiving fixin’s

Since we are fast approaching the biggest food day of the year (well, for some of us, anyway) I thought it would be fun to get the drool going by listing the top five things we are looking forward to…

Mine are:

  1. gravy
  2. pumpkin pie
  3. green beans with onions and bacon
  4. rolls
  5. appetizer plate eaten while watching football!

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Austin Powers in North Carolina

Okay, I know I’ve written about this before, but I never get tired of it.  Cracks me up every time.

I’m just glad that I learned right when I got here two years ago that “shagging” refers to a beach music dance that originated in South Carolina, because I’d always just understood the lewd way it was used in the Austin Powers movies, and the conversation I had today with a total stranger in line at Goodwill would have been a lot less funny and a lot more creepy.

I’m standing in line and a well-dressed gentleman of about 60 approaches.  He is carrying four or five Hawaiian-style shirts.

“Planning a trip to the beach?”  I joked.  I like to pass the time chatting with people in line, especially when the lady ahead of me had cleaned out the entire stock of cheap vases which forced the cashier to wrap each one in its own blanket of newspaper.

“Nope,” the man answered, looking down at his shirts.  Then he looked up at me.  “They’re for shagging.”  

I stifled a giggle.  “MMmmmm…” I said.

“Do you shag?”  he asked me.  I scanned his face, and it was completely straight, innocently awaiting my response.

“Uh, well, no, I haven’t had the chance yet.”  I swallow down a chuckle.  I am a veritable shagging virgin!  “But it’s definitely on my list of things to try.”

“Oh, you should.  Shagging is a lot of fun… and great exercise, too!”  

“MMmmmmm…” is all I can say as I purse my lips hard so as not to burst out laughing.

Have these people never heard of Austin Powers?  What if I’d just gotten off the boat from the West Coast?  A transcultural misunderstanding of horrific proportions might have come to pass.

Ahhh, good ol’ North Carolina.  We shag unashamedly here!  Out in the middle of the road, if we feel like it!  It’s a jolly tradition that is passed down from generation to generation here!  

At least he didn’t offer to give me a shagging lesson.  I’d’ve had to wollop him but good.

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“Each instant…”

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“Each instant is a place we’ve never been.” — Mark Strand

And here you are with me.

Even though as you read this, I have gone off somewhere else, to another place.  But I was here in this moment of now once, as you are.  I was aware of the letters on the screen, how they were coalescing neatly into words that you recognize, that trigger “Aha!” because we’ve seen them all before.

The familiarity of the words does not prevent them causing an almost imperceptible shiver down the spine at the moment we realize the mysterious dance of human communication.

Each word I write has been used countless times before, worn along the edges so that they slide effortlessly into your mind and fall into the groove of understanding, but you’ve never heard them exactly as I say them to you now.  Each time is the first time that you look at the screen today, at this hour, with the new experience you have acquired since yesterday.

This instant now is another place we’ve never been, many thoughts away from the first sentence, where you took my hand and I yours and we walked a ways.  We ended up here, in this other place, this new instant, looking each other briefly, perhaps affectionately, catching the awareness there inside the eye, before saying farewell, until next time.

May the places you go and the instants you live today feed your soul.

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New Feature: Top 5 lists

I love to play the game “Top Five…” which is of course inspired by the novel “High Fidelity” by Nick Hornby (upon which was based the 2000 movie of the same name starring John Cusack).  I want to play it here on a once-a-week basis, and hopefully some of my readers will be inspired to add their responses in the comment section!

RULES:  

  1. Your list is not set in stone.  If five minutes after you get off the computer you remember a fruit you like better than kumquats and want to go back and modify it, that’s perfectly okay.  So don’t avoid answering just because you think we’ll hold you to your answer forever and ever.
  2. Answers on a list are in no particular order, unless you indicate otherwise.  In other words, you don’t have to think of your five favorite pizza toppings AND THEN decide which one should be #1, because order will be assumed not to matter.
  3. If you need to add a #6 and #7 because you just love too many actresses and don’t want to hurt any of their little feelings by leaving them out, feel free.  Go nuts.  As long as there is a little space left over in cyberspace for the rest of us when you’re done, knock yourself out.
  4. If you HATE the thing, like say the list is Top Five favorite flowers and you wish all flowers were extinct, then you can indicate at the top of your list that it is your Top Five Despised flowers or some such.  

(As an aside, does anyone have an opinion on whether I should provide my list when I announce the Top Five? Joy shows such great restraint in not answering her own Question of the Day right away over on her blog but on the other hand, someone has to go first, so I figured I would just start us off.)   

Now that we’ve established the rules of the game… wanna play?

In honor of Nick Hornby, let’s start with your Top Five Books.

My Top Five Books:

1. Escape From Mexico by Lewis Horton

2. West with the Night by Beryl Markham

3. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tse

4. Les Bouts de Bois de Dieu (God’s Bits of Wood) by Sembène Ousmane

5. Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Okay, I guess I might have honored Hornby a bit more by including him on my list… suffice it to say that I love all the books of his that I’ve read!  I highly recommend them!  He would be #6… I swear!

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A place in the world

Yesterday I got the idea in my little head that it would be fun to be an online moderator for a new site I joined for mothers in my local area.  They have all kinds of forums that have eaten up more of my day than blogging lately.  One of the forums is called “Natural Living and Attachment Parenting” and they had an announcement about needing a moderator.  I emailed the woman in charge of the site, and she informed me that the position has been filled.

I may live a pretty straight and narrow life these days, but I’ve been known to hang out in alternative-land.

I was a vegetarian for about five years, and would still be now if it weren’t for all these carnivores I live with clamoring for charred flesh.

I lived without a car, using my bike and bike trailer or the bus for all my transportation, for 9 windy rainy wonderful years.

I’ve baked my own bread, fried my own tortillas, made my own clothes, costumes, quilts, cloth bags to carry groceries in, even went so far as to crochet some little bags to put veggies in so I didn’t have to use the plastic ones from the produce section.

I breastfed each of my kids for three years (it’s sad that this is considered alternative.)

I shared sleeping quarters with each kid for at least three years.

I homeschooled my first child until 8th grade, my second until 5th grade, and my third is now homeschooling “first grade.”

I had natural childbirth with midwives and lived dirt poor so I could stay home with my babies.

I’ve lived without tv, phone, bank account or credit cards, I even lived for a time in a house whose only heat was a woodstove, and then I lived for a few days in February without wood.  No better way to wax alternative than not to be able to feel your toes.

I shopped and worked at health food stores for years, trying out all the funky “new” foods that the rest of the world considers staple but Americans find so fascinating, like millet and tofu.

I recycled, reduced, and reused, including finding half-broken furniture and such and repairing it with materials bought at a thrift store or yard sale.

I’ve had an organic garden, composted, grew veggies, mulched with my lawn clippings.

I’ve used a clothesline, canned my own jam with blackberries I picked, crocheted my own afghans and cured illness with home remedies.

And I drank microbrews as long as I could afford to!

And that doesn’t even include all the weird things I’ve done in the name of following my bliss.

I got it into my head when I saw that announcement that I might have a place to share all this, to make my experience be useful to someone, to be needed.  I might have an incentive to stop my slow slide into the disposable convenience of mainstream complacency and regain some of the habits, skills and attitudes that made me feel so self-sufficient and conscientious.  

Of course, I can still post and comment in the forum.  The truth comes out that I just wanted a bit of spotlight, I wanted to alleviate a bit of my new-in-town floatiness by having a place I belong.  I feel way too  much disappointment for a fleeting idea that just came to me yesterday.

So I look at all the projects that I have neglected in the past couple of weeks, developing conversation classes, translation, studying to qualify as an interpreter, and I decide to attack them with renewed vigor.  

Here I go, clicking to put a check mark in the box next to “vigor” and pushing the “renew” button.

And here comes the inspiration…

Wait for it…

Wait…

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