Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving ~ The Food

Every year I spend the weeks up to Thanksgiving poring over the November foodie magazines carefully selecting and compiling my menu. I base my choices on flavor combinations, ease of preparation and the ability to get the best ingredients possible.
This year?
Not so much.
Work demands had me stretched/stressed to the max and I found myself running to the grocery store on Sunday morning just grabbing the items I knew I could make something out of. A couple pounds of sweet potatoes, Yukon Gold's, and an 18 pund turkey were just some of the things that filled my cart.

This year Google became my holiday lifesaver.
I googled "Best Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe" and "Best Stuffing Recipe" and selected the most appealing of the top picks.
The classic Green Bean Casserole is a must for my son as my mother's Corn Pudding recipe is for my daughter.
Some simple mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, cranberry jelly and it was a wrap.
My father brought an apple pie and I had baked a pumpkin pie at 4am that morning.

I felt unprepared and nervous because I did it all on the fly.
On his way out the door my father gave me an extra squeeze and announced that this might just have been my best Thanksgiving meal yet.

And in a serendipitous way, of course it was.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving ~ The Decor

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.
This is probably because one of my favorite past times is creating amazing meals to share with great people.
And that's what Thanksgiving is all about, right?

The fall season is also my favorite time to get swept up in the spirit and to decorate.
As the autumnal colors begin to make their appearance, my home takes on a cozier, homey feel.
Year after year I use the same elements to decorate, occasionally adding a new item or two to my repetoire.
I truly believe that when we buy what we love we "curate" our own collections filled with beautiful things we will cherish forever.
My ceramic turkeys are both found and gifted, and I began collecting them in the mid 1990's. This year I placed them on cloche pedestals in my wrought iron conservatory.
The wheat sheaths have held up for the better part of a decade since I pack them up with a lot of TLC, and the gorgeous Wedgewood tureen was once a gift from a very dear friend. I popped them in an old wooden tray to add some visual interest to the top of my buffet.

This year I discovered the gilded pheasants on an evening excursion, passed them up, them ran back to the store that same night in my sweats because I couldn't imagine letting them slip away.
I couldn't dream of letting the two engravings I found at a little, local antique store slip from my grasp either. I have been looking for years for engravings such as these and struggle to find ones that are "just right". The frames on this pair were perfect for my dining room and the sweet woman even gave me 20% off the ticket price!
Of course they are not just for the fall season, they will hang there in their glory all year through.

I take great pride in setting my table and these turkey dishes have been in my buffet for a very long time.
In fact, there is nothing fancy about all of the tableware I used ~ it is used time and time again, for casual dining or for the times we "step it up" a little. I constantly mix and match and use them all. 
The simple addition of fresh flowers and a new tablecloth were enough to make my old wares sparkle for this; most cherished of all, holiday.

How do you decorate for Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Surviving Sandy

As most of you know, I have lived on the Jersey Shore my entire life.
I vividly remember Hurricane Gloria in the 80's, wading through waist high water to my little rented cottage in the early 90's after a superstorm Nor'easter, and I even blogged about surviving Irene just last year.

For the past 7 years I have lived on the other side of the bridge to Seaside Heights, the town first made famous as a location for MTV Beach Houses, more recently for the show Jersey Shore and in the past week on all your televisions and in your newspapers for the mass destruction it has seen.
I live in the same neighborhood I moved to at 9 years old in a modest house just up the street from my childhood home.

As a small child I lived close to Long Beach Island (LBI) and growing up I have always known in the back of my mind that one major hurricane or "superstorm" could wipe out our beautiful barrier islands.
I just never thought I would see it in my lifetime.

My home has a lake across the street from it that is fed ultimately by the bay and requires us to have flood insurance. Ironically, I have never worried about the lake flooding. Knowing this neighborhood the better part of my life, I have always joked that if the lake floods then we all have way worse things to be concerned about!
Our concerns were over the huge trees surrounding our house. They are so big that they could fall completely through my home down to the foundation. On Friday October 26th I was off from work and called a tree guy to come out and take a look at them. He insisted 3 of them needed to be totally removed and we agreed on him trimming up all the others to address any limbs that could cause the house damage.
Saturday morning his crew arrived and spent the ENTIRE day here removing them.

The peace of mind was much needed, but as Sandy barreled up the coast and the predictions were very grim, it offered little solace.
We bought water and canned food.
We removed everything from our yard that could become a projectile.
We taped every single window.
I gathered every piece of critical paperwork and packed a suitcase into the trunk of the car in case we needed to leave in an emergency.
We set up camp in the safest part of the house.
We made sure we had candles and flashlights at the ready.
Then we waited.

All day Monday we watched the tree tops bend for mercy from her destructive winds.
You try to keep your mind off what is happening outside but it is completely impossible.
With every gust or whistle of wind one ear is perked up, waiting to hear the sound of something falling while you silently pray it doesn't hit you.
Late Monday night we heard the dreaded boom.
We opened the front door and saw something large and tree like in the darkness sitting on top of our lampost.
Completely helpless, we shut the front door and went back to waiting.

When daylight finally made her long awaited appearance we were able to peer back outside and see what Sandy had left behind.

It wasn't a tree, but rather a giant limb that took out the lampost. The post itself is wood and cracked completely through.

A large evergreen uprooted directly across the street on the neighbor's front lawn.

That is the ONE limb behind my husband that took out the lampost.

Another giant limb.

One of our fence gates blew completely off but we were able to find it in one piece and reattach it.
Other than the lampost needing to be replaced we were amazingly fortunate to have only clean up to do. We were the only block in our entire development that did not lose power!
What a miracle!

I cannot begin to tell you all how real the images you have seen are.
My baby brother's home here in town is only a block from the bay and flooded. My brother is a linesman for one of our state power companies and kissed his family good bye Sunday morning to be at the station waiting to mobilize. My sister in law had the presence of mind to evacuate with my nieces to her sister's house an hour north. And we are so grateful she did.
While they fared better then most of the homes in their neighborhood that are either gone or condemned, they did lose their furnace, A/C and will need extensive repairs to ductwork and piping due to the salt water. Their garage is a total loss and they are without power.
Her parents live directly on the water and were fortunate enough to only lose the ground floor of their home, garage and vehicles. They have a second home on LBI that they do not know the condition of, but are expecting the worst.

On Tuesday my sister in law and my nieces came here to stay with us for the duration.
My brother left work Tuesday night so he could take care of his own home and help his father in law but had to head back Friday morning. The linemen are working 16 hour shifts to restore power and they live here on the shore as well so many are like my brother - juggling it all.

Gas stations are really out of gas, most people are without power and it is freezing cold here now too.
We are hearing about a powerful Nor'easter coming our way on Wednesday that is threatening additional flooding, high winds to batter our weakened trees and possibly snow.
There is no school here - our high schools are now shelters with no end on the horizon.
It seems odd to see Halloween decorations still up everywhere, but we missed the holiday completely and our governor has declared that tomorrow the kids can Trick or Treat.

Our towns have been forever changed -  whether by destroyed landscape or in the grit and resolve of the people - the Jersey Shore will never be the same.

People have called, texted and emailed to see how we are and time and time again I have likened us to living in a "bubble". Having power, heat and an unscathed home is a complete luxury. The more I venture out from my little row of houses the more horrified I am.

I thank God every day that my family is safe, that we have each other and that I get to look at these little faces first thing every morning.
I am truly blessed.

If you are compelled to do so, you can contact the Red Cross or look online to find ways to help.
Trust me, it is much needed and will be much appreciated.