Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Musings (or how the neck was almost cooked in the bird)

Hello friends,

How was your Thanksgiving? I hope it was full of love and laughter and delicious food! And although the big holidays tend to "steal" writing time, there's lots of fertile material in those gatherings. The funny things that go wrong, the quirky relatives, the cute kid stories, and the warmth of the day - all provide good fodder for your writing, don't they?

I made the meal again this year, for thirteen, including baby Isabella, who didn't actually eat turkey, of course, but who was passed around the table to cuddle while we took turns eating. The turkey came out the best ever, in spite of my early morning glitches. I scanned some recipes and emailed friends for inspiration earlier in the week, wanting to try something new. Frankly, although I've made the dinner for twenty-seven years, I felt like I couldn't remember squat about roasting the bird this year, and needed inspiration. Early Alzheimers? Sometimes I wonder.

Anyway, some of the new tricks I picked up included adding a few inches of turkey broth to the roasting pan, setting the turkey on a "rack" of whole carrots, and adding sprigs of thyme and sage and leftover raw onions to the cooking giblets. They all helped to provide the juiciest bird every, with one helluva savory gravy.

But I had a few glitches, as one would expect. More than a few, I guess. The blasted turkey neck was a super-sized version. The bird was twenty-two pounds, but I think they got the neck from a fifty pound monster. It was so gigantic, it was wedged and iced into the darned cavity, with one end stuck so hard I thought I'd never get it out! It took me twenty minutes of struggling, warm water, and a giant screwdriver to remove it.

The first roasting pan I chose was one millimeter too small, and no matter how I struggled wth that bird, I couldn't get the darned thing into the pan. So I had to switch to the larger banged up ancient pan, which of course was all dusty and buried beneath a ton of stuff in the cabinet.

The fridge was making a loud whirring noise, as if the fan had a bearing that was going bad, and this was on top of a gazillion other appliances that decided to break because, of course, it was Thanksgiving week. I couldn't stop the faucet from trickling water - no matter how I positioned the lever. It's still dripping as I write this. The microwave died a few days earlier. Not that I couldn't survive without it, but it is handy for melting butter, keeping dishes warm, and I actually make my home made cranberry sauce in there. We dug Alli's old one out of the basement, thankful once again for her moving home.

I think one of the reasons my brain felt so fried before the holiday was my fear that our woodstove wasn't going to work out. After paying $800.00 per tank of oil last season, we knew we couldn't survive this winter using the furnace. So last spring, we invested in a great stove from Lopi, the "Leyden." We used our economic stimulus cash for firewood and thought we were set for the season. But for the past two weeks, my daughter Allison and I struggled to get a hot fire going. It was so insidious, so gradual, and it coincided so perfectly with the unusual cold snap, that I thought I was going crazy. I questioned my year-old dry wood, scrutinizing each log as if it were the culprit. Alas, to no avail.

No matter how carefully I used my special method of fat wood sticks arranged on a nice handy firestarter block, no matter how I stood over the darned thing and prayed, no matter how I stared at it, more and more smoke kept coming out of the top loader each time I opened it, more soot built up in a shorter time, and I could NOT get it started or hot enough each day.

And of course each time this happened, someone would walk by and casually mention how cold the house was, or how the stove just wasn't going to cut it in the cold weather. I thought I'd explode, because of course those same thoughts kept rolling through my frenzied brain. Esepcially on last Saturday night, when my daughter Jenn was due to join us for a spaghetti dinner and the whole living room filled with smoke. It poured out of the smokestack over the stove - seeping out of every little crack and hole it could find. I shut the thing down, called my chimney sweep who sold me the stove, and did something that went against every fiber in my body.

I turned on the furnace.

At that point (duh), I knew something was dreadfully wrong, and realized that the draw must be compromised. Not enough oxygen. But how could it be blocked in a few short months of using it? Thank God, our chimney sweep - a wonderfully reliable and intelligent man - came last Monday to investigate. Sure enough, a screen he'd placed for us over the chimney years ago to keep animals out, had plugged with creosote. He removed the screen and cleaned the whole chimney for a well spent $118.00, about 1/8 the cost of a tank of oil, even now with the prices down. We now have our reliable, easy to start, phenomenally warm woodstove back. And we're opening windows to regulate heat again. That blessed, amazing, comforting heat is back!

One more thing happened, but it was yesterday. I guess I should be thankful for the fact that it didn't happen on the holiday. It's the reason why I'm frantically writing this column at the crack of dawn on Sunday, my posting day.
A tiny chip of wood flew up from my coat after I loaded some wood onto the racks in the morning. It landed in my eye. I babysat my two rambunctious grandsons yesterday (they were FULL of it), and when they left I collapsed. And all day long, even though no one could see anything in there, my eye throbbed and wept and swelled up to the point where I finally had to lie down with a cloth over it and just not try to see.
Couldn't read. Couldn't get online to write this. Couldn't watch TV. I lay there and listened to two movies we'd seen before, Meet the Parents and Father of the Bride. LOL. At least I could picture what was happening in my mind!
I woke this morning with a monstrous headache from the inflamed sinuses caused by the eye injury, but thankfully, the pain was gone! The human body is an amazingly rejuvenative creation, isn't it? I still look like Quasi Motto, with one eye half as big as the other. But I can see!
Anyway, I hope your week, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, was even keeled and less eventful than mine. And of course, I realize that all the ridiculously minor things I'm cronicling here are just that - little idiotic frustrations that pass and are fixable. The enormity of my blessings doesn't go without notice - I'm walking, I can see again, I have family that loves me. I don't have cancer, I'm not in a line for food at a shelter, and I have a roof over my head. I am truly thankful for everything. ;o
Warmest regards to you all. Remember to take pleasure in the little things, and if you love to write - write like the wind.
- Aaron


Marta Stephens said...

I was wondering what had happened to you yesterday when I didn't see any e-mails from you. Ouch! The tiniest speck always feels like a boulder in the eye. Glad it cleared up.

Also glad your Thanksgiving was memorable. Your story did make me sit up though. Neck? Hmmm Our bird didn’t have one ... or ... no, I couldn't have left it in. :()

Kim Smith said...

Wow Aaron, so glad it all turned out okay for you. Happy Holidays, dear friend! BE sure and take some pics of that cold white stuff. I won't get much more than rain down here :)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Heh, Marta. Did you taste something extra crunchy in your stuffing? LOL. Yeah, I basically was incommunicado from Wed. night til now. But back in the saddle, of course!

Kim, thanks so much! And you can bet I'll take snow photos - all winter long. Love the white stuff. (at least to play in!)

Marta Stephens said...

Yesterday afternoon, it was 47 degrees out. Cold but it would have been a great day to rake up a few more "end of fall" leaves from the ground. Thought we'd do it today.

Wrong! Mother nature had other ideas. Woke up to a blanket of snow--huge flakes falling right now!

That's life in the Hoosier state for ya.

PS: This is the day Sam gets the call from Marc about a missing person. ;)

s.w. vaughn said...

Oh no! Your poor eye!!!

Well, you certainly can't say your holiday weekend was uneventful. LOL I'm so glad you have heat!

Try to enjoy your Sunday. :-)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Holy cow, Aaron, that's seriously. Hope you're okay?

I'm always asking my husband & son to please put on safety glasses when they go for wood. Jamie had a chip fly into his eye yesterday. I didn't say "I told you so," but I wanted to.

Now they have a new toy: an electric wood splitter. They take it into the bush when they go for the snags. They set the splitter on the tailgate. There's a safety button and an arm. You have to bend over, pull down on the arm & press the button. That's great because if they let go of either, the splitter stops.

The only problem is to get that close, they have to lean close to the log being split. Sometimes a piece will snap off & fly up.

Makes me nervous.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Lawd! Well, those kinds of stories make good "remember the year when...." to tell with family and/or friends *laughing!*

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marta - we had snow on the ground this week, but now it's warmed up to the forties again. Looks like your weather has once again headed our way!

Joylene - I don't blame you for worrying. Man, it's amazing what things can happen in a split second. I should get some safety goggles and follow your advice!!

Kathryn, you're so right. Even now I'm laughing about the day, but still consider it a "great" Thanksgiving, all in all! Hey, I was HOME! I LOVE being home with the family. It's the biggest blessing of all. ;o)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

S.W. - we had a great day yesterday, although I had to drive Melanie up to the city to meet her ride home. Poor thing - a six and a half hour drive took them 10.5 hours 'cause of the traffic! But at the home front all was calm - Alli and I went for a walk in the rain. Got soaked, but had a ball. Man, I really need to be retired... it felt so good to have time off this weekend. ;o)