Different Black Friday

Or as long as Carter has been alive we have spent Black Friday at the farm. It was the perfect anti-black Friday place to be because lord knows there is not much shopping in Danville, Va, except if you needed a fur coat and then you went to Rippies. Our normal post Thanksgiving activities in the past were spending time with friends who came up to the farm, to take long walks, visit with my cousins and go for Mexican food for lunch where my father would tell stories.

I think my parents were relieved not to have farm guests, or cooking to do, so we stayed home today and did what regular southerners do on Black Friday, go shopping, decorate the house for Christmas and eat leftovers. Now the last thing I want to do on any day of the year is go to the Mall, certainly not on this day. If I must go, I go at ten in the morning on a Tuesday when no one will be there, but Carter had a ring she needed to return to Nordstrom and a watch that needed to get fixed and I wanted her to look at a few ideas for Christmas.

As we approached the mall I could see that there was not a parking place in sight. We drove to the upper back lot by Belk, where usually you can park in the first row and I had my usual parking luck as a car pulled out right as I turned in. Carter and I made quick haste to the watch guy and then off to the return desk at Nordstrom. Carter had ordered a ring this summer and two of the stones had fallen out. She still had the email receipt so the girl gladly refunded her money back on her card. It took less than a minute, no waiting. This was the reason I told Carter to buy the ring from Nordstrom in the first place.

We then looked at a couple of potential Christmas gifts. The nice clerk who was helping us told us that they did not stock something in the color Carter wanted, but that the manufacturer had it on their website and we should order it directly from them. I told her I was sorry not to give her the business, but she said, “It is more important for you to get exactly what you want, even if you don’t buy it here.” I have to say my dislike for shopping waned just a little bit today.

Getting out of the mall was almost harder than getting in as the number of cars looking for parking had increased. I was impressed that the mall security was out in force directing traffic. Maybe brick and mortar places have finally learned to deal with the things that make me hate them.

We went home and by this time the cold that Carter brought home from Boston was beginning to get the best of her. We canceled the rest of her afternoon plans and she went to bed for a good healing nap. That meant that I could begin the throwing up of Christmas around the house a day earlier than usual. Traditionally Thanksgiving Saturday is when I begin the decorating, but I need every possible moment this year. Russ did most of the work getting the first 25 boxes out of the attic.

Because it makes me most happy, I start with the needlepoint garlands. After putting up the greenery around the opening to the living room I discovered that one set of lights on the garland had given up the ghost. Shit! This meant a second Black Friday shopping trip to Target. Our Target had undergone a renovation and I had no idea where to find what I was looking for. Here’s a hint, extension cords are now in the same aisle as snow shovels, which is nowhere near the command hook or light bulb aisles, and far from the Christmas lights. There I just saved you twenty minutes.

I did get to go visit Carter’s sister E and Lynn, who usually wold be at the farm with us, so one regular Black Friday tradition remained a little. I skipped going to the movies with them so I cold continue working. After a good four hour nap Carter came up and talked to me while I worked. My house looks like more of a wreck as I have just started the process. Hopefully it won’t take me all weekend to finish. It was a different Black Friday than we usually have, but being together is the same and is really the only thing that matters.

Thankful for Small But Perfect

I don’t usually have anything that I can describe as small, except for the number of guests around our table today. It was just Russ, Carter, me and my parents and it was practically perfect. I made all the food except for Carter’s favorite creamed onions that my father brought.

For the last few days I have been cooking so there was not much left to do today.

I got up and took the turkey out of the brine and prepped it and made the dressing. Carter woke up and was furious that I had not left anything for her to cook, now that she is a full blown college cook. If only I had known she wanted to make the dressing I would have happily left it for her. I still had the Brussels sprouts to prep, but she was disinterested in that.

My parents arrived at 1:30 and while the many sides were heating in the oven we watched the National dog show. What a perfect non-controversial thing to do on Thanksgiving. We were pulling for the fox terrier for best in show, but the whippet took the top prize. Shay especially like watching the dog show. My mother wanted to know why the women trainers wore such ugly clothes and shoes. Maybe it made the dogs look better.

After the winner was crowned I went to work, carving the turkey, making the gravy, sautéing the sprouts. Russ helped put out the mashed potatoes, stewed tomatoes, gingered carrots, creamed onions, and dressing. Carter chopped the candy bacon for the Brussels and baked the rolls. It was a feast fit for fifty rather than five. Instead it will be breakfast lunch and dinner for every meal for the next three days.

Carter said a beautiful blessing, hoping for us to have a good rest of the year, her horizon is short so good luck to us in 2019. Then we sat down to dinner it was 2:35, just five minutes off my prediction of eating at 2:30. No fights broke out, no politics were discussed, no disappointments or disagreements, no eyes rolling, pure harmony.

After one huge plate we all were full. People helped to do the clean up and we still were too full for dessert. I cut two slices of pies for both of my parents and put them on a foil pie plate and they were out of here at 4:30, while it was still light and they could get back to the farm before it gets totally dark.

Carter went to take a nap and Russ is snoring sweetly napping with Shay snuggled up. The house is clean, the dishes done, the food put away with enough leftover for everyone to feed themselves when they feel hungry again. A practically perfect Thanksgiving.

I hope that you and yours had a good day, have something you are thankful for and did not have to sit next to the crazy relative at your meal. Happy Thanksgiving!

Midnight Airport Traffic Hell

In all my twenty-five years of living here I must have gone to the RDU airport to either fly out myself or pick someone up at least five hundred times. That makes me fairly familiar with everything about that airport. Yes, over the years it has changed. Terminals have come and gone, some slower than they should have, parking has grown and we lost a hub, but gained competition from better airlines.

One thing that has always been a positive about our little airport was the ease to get in and out of the place. Apparently I had never been to pick someone up on the the Tuesday before Thanksgiving before. Carter’s eleven PM arrival was more than an hour late last night, something we were well aware of. This meant that Russ and I had to stay up well past our bedtime, but neither of us wanted to forgo meeting Carter. She also wanted Shay Shay to come pick her up too.

We left home just before midnight for the quick trip. There were hardly any people on the road and we got there in record time. We breezed onto the airport property with little traffic until just about where you make the left hand turn into the parking deck, suddenly the night sky was lit up with a sea of red tail lights, not going anywhere. Terminal 1 had its fair share of drivers trying to pick up the, but the through lanes to get to terminal 2 were a dead stop. It was a scene out of La Guardia during a full airport renovation.

Russ and I thought there must be an accident. No, just thousands of parents trying to pick up their college students and families awaiting grandma. I could not believe that at 12:30 at night, when no one is being dropped off for departure, the airport could be gripped in such gridlock.

Carter texted us that there was a plane in her gate, so even though she had landed she wasn’t coming out soon. We told her not to meet us outside arrivals, but to come out upstairs at departures. It was a good plan because it was the arrival traffic lanes that were not going anywhere. We were stuck in the traffic for a good twenty minutes, but once we pulled off to the departures level we pulled right up to Carter standing outside. “What took you so long?”

I don’t know how we are going to be able to avoid this scenario in future years, but wow, I have rarely seen such a jam at midnight anywhere. At least she is home safe and sound with us. She got a hair cut and we went and got our nails done and now she and her father are off to see Hamilton. I have cooked the rest of the day and am ready to go to bed early. Of course that midnight airport run was worth it, but only to get Carter home for a few days. No one else qualifies for enduring that hell again.

The Waiting

I haven’t seen my girl since I left Boston in early September. Not that I haven’t had photos and face time videos, but I haven’t had my arms around her to give her a hug. Russ had father daughter weekend two weeks ago, but not me.

Shay and I have been waiting patiently all day. Cleaning the house, shopping for the turkey meal, cooking pies, just waiting for what I am thankful for.

Carter is scheduled on the last flight out of Boston tonight. I know it is always a risk to take the last flight out, but she had a late class. Now she waits at Logan for her delayed flight. I wait at home doing my best to stay awake for an after midnight pick up, but of course I won’t sleep until I see her. Shay too has been moping around all day waiting for a Carter. I know she will jump for joy when she gets to see her girl.

I hope all your family and friends make it home to you to give thanks. The waiting is hard, the time together is short. Cherish your time together.

Cleaning out the Fridge Cabbage and Apples

Making room for Thanksgiving in the fridge and the freezer is an art, one I should have started on last week or even last month. I am trying not to buy any non-thanksgiving food for a couple of days so I am forced to use what we already have. This makes for some interesting meals.

I found a smoked pork roast in the freezer. Actually I found two. They were a buy one get one free from the Nahunta Pork Center. If you have never been to the “largest pork display in America” it is worth the trip to Pikeville, NC. The nice thing about this pork roasts is they are fully cooked, having been smoked and they are sliced.

Looking at the vegetable bin I found half a head of red cabbage and an old Granny Smith apple. Looked like a good German meal to me.

I made a mustardy apple and cabbage base on which I put the lightly sautéed pork. Turned out to be a very yummy dinner that did a good job of using what was on hand.

Apple and cabbage

1/2 head of red cabbage thinly sliced

1 Granny Smith apple thinly sliced

2 slices of bacon

1 t. Caraway seeds

3 T. good dark mustard, I used Friendly Market Vidalia Onion Mustard

2 T. Sriracha

1 t. Apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Fry the bacon in a big fry pan to render the fat. Once cooked set aside to crumble on top of the cabbage at serving.

Add the caraway seed to the bacon fat and cook on medium heat for one minute. Add the cabbage and apples to the fry pan with the seeds and using tongs, turn the mixture over in the fat to coat it while cooking for about two minutes. Add 1/3 cup of water and 1/2 t. Salt and cook the cabbage and apples until tender, about 10-15 minutes, until the liquid is out. Add the mustard, sriracha and vinegar and mix well and continue cooking for another three minuets. Taste for salt and pepper

T-Day Prep

For as long as I can remember we have gone to the farm for Thanksgiving. My father cooks and cooks and cooks. I usually bring a few things that I can make in advance. This year my parents are coming to our house. I know that at 80 doing all that prep is a lot of work, because hell, at 57 it is a lot of work.

Yesterday I made a crack pie. If you don’t know what that is I will tell you it is the most delicious complicated pie ever from the brilliant Milk Bar in NYC. The recipe is four or five pages long, and includes ingredients I have to order from Amazon, but is so worth it. If you want it I can take pictures of my book and send it to you. Even better buy the cook book called Milk Bar.

Today I started my stewed tomatoes. They are incredibly easy, like the opposite of the pie. It is three ingredients, whole canned Italian plum tomatoes, salt and sugar. You dump the tomatoes in a stock pot and cook them on the absolute lowest heat your stove will go until they have reduced by 75%. Yeah, you have to stir them every once in a while, but other than that they are no work. At the very end you add a little sugar and a little salt to taste. They keep forever in the fridge and reheat on the stove or in the oven and are addictive. It takes about six hours to really cook a big pot down.

An unnamed In-law once served me “stewed tomatoes” one Thanksgiving. They were whole tomatoes from the can, run over a candle for two minutes. I swore that I would do my best to educate all of America on what Stewed Tomatoes really were from that travesty.

I also made homemade cranberry sauce yesterday. Only easier than the tomatoes because it is fast. Cranberries, orange juice and sugar. Cooked a few minutes until they pop and chilled.

So making pies, cranberry sauce and tomatoes is nothing new as my contribution to Thanksgiving. Now I have to think of all the things my father usually does. Yesterday I took my frozen turkey out and put it in the fridge to thaw. I like to brine my turkey for 24 hours so I need my turkey ready on Wednesday.

Fearing my fridge is too cold and my turkey will still be frozen I put it in the sink in a water bath. I just have to remember to move it back to the fridge tonight.

Mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, gingered carrots, creamed onions all can wait for closer to the day when Carter is here to cook. I know my mother will wonder why we have more than one vegetable, but we like the leftovers and Carter has turned into a great cook at college.

Today I needed Russ for the most important Thanksgiving job, cleaning the ceiling fan blades. Apparently I cook so much that the ceiling fans collect any dirt that exists in the air. Thankfully Shay was available to supervise Russ removing and replacing the blades while I washed than down with a bottle of dawn. This just leaves polishing everything and setting the table.

I think it is about time I took over this job from my Dad. I am not going to wait until I am 80 to pass it on to Carter. She is ready to do it all now if only she were home, well the cooking. The cleaning is still up to me, Russ and Shay.

Shay’s World Is Right

Russ has been away for two weeks. He has a client in LA and he was there week before last. Then over last weekend he was having father daughter weekend in Philly. Then he went from Philadelphia back to LA. I was not sure that going back to fires was a great idea, but there is no stopping Russ. He did tell his people not to come with him so he must have thought it might be a problem. Sure enough the air quality was off the scale bad all week, but thankfully the fires had gone slightly south of where he was.

Getting to LA from here has gotten somewhat easier, but getting home is still not the greatest. So Russ worked a full day yesterday and had a very late night flight to Atlanta that was only three and half hours long, not enough to get much sleep. Then a long Atlanta layover and home just before eleven in the morning with two hours sleep all night.

I was thrilled to have him home, but no where near as demonstrative in my showing him as Shay Shay was. Just jumped practically over his six foot five head when he came in the door. Two weeks without Russ is a long time for Shay. Every night she would listen for the sound of the garage door going up. If an acorn fell on the roof she would run to the top of the stairs to see if he was walking in the door. I had to endure her snuggling up against me as her consolation prize, knowing she had one eye open all night waiting for Russ.

After a shower and some lunch Russ took a good nap this afternoon and Shay was right there with him. Staring lovingly at his face with a look that said, “Are you really home, or is this a dream?”

I can only imagine her happiness when Carter comes home Tuesday. She has been away three months. Shay still goes and stands at the top of the steps to her room and listens to see if she is home. This week is going to be the highlight of her year. All her people under one roof for the first time in a while. It’s a dog life.