Thank you, pilgrims.

Thanksgiving is a big deal where I come from.  Growing up we would go to my grandmother’s house  and have the traditional turkey dinner and all the trimmings.  It was usually a pretty typical American 1980’s family dinner, with lots of microwaved cuisine and store bought mixes.   My stepfather’s mom lived in Jefferson Park, on the northwest side of Chicago, and as a child I remember her having an oil dripping rain lamp I was fascinated by that looked exactly like this:

Thanksgiving is always the last Thursday in November.  The day after, known as “Black Friday” is when the official Christmas shopping season begins.  For me, Thanksgiving is about spending time with the people you love, and eating a lot.  If your family is like mine, some one may even throw an ashtray at some one else’s head on Thanksgiving.  Since my family is 15,000 kms away, I invited all my friends and colleagues over to celebrate with me.

I started cooking on Tuesday.  This involved baking 2 loaves of wholemeal bread to be used for stuffing the turkey. Also I peeled, steamed and mashed the pumpkin for the pumpkin pie.

On Wednesday I made the pumpkin pie, sliced and toasted the bread for the stuffing, and started brining the turkey.

This is actually my pumpkin pie from last year. But it looked like this again this year.

Several people have requested the recipe for this pie.  I have posted it before, but here it is again!

On Thursday I prepared the stuffing, stuffed the turkey, roasted it, made the cranberry sauce, and also whipped up some jalapeno corn bread muffins and some guacamole.

The turkey, in all its beautiful glory.

I used Alton Brown’s brining & roasting instructions, and it was perfect. Last year I followed the Joy of Cooking’s brining recipe, and found that while the bird was good, the drippings were way toi salty to be used for gravy.  On the other hand, Alton’s recipe produced an amazing bird and delicious gravy!

Jalapeno cornbread muffins

I used Emeril’s recipe to make these cornbread muffins, but left out the cheese because I didn’t have any!  I used jalapenos that I grew from seeds last summer, and had been in the freezer for a few months.  They were spicy!

Guacamole and nachos

I didn’t have any cilantro so this guacamole was just mashed up avocado, chopped tomato and spring onion, some diced Thai chillies, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and minced garlic.  A little bit of cumin adds a nice Mexican dimension.

2 variations on cranberry sauce

My cranberry sauce (on the left) is basically straight out of the Joy of Cooking.  I was multi-tasking a bit too much and couldn’t keep my eye on how long it had boiled… so I took it off the heat before it had reached the right consistency, and I ended up with very runny liquidy cranberry sauce.  Brady’s cranberry sauce, on the right, is much more jellied and apparently Rachel Ray’s recipe, and I think it had grapes in it.   Both were made with frozen Sujon cranberries.  Since I didn’t have enough containers to hold all the leftovers, I combined the two in the end and now I have over 1 litre of cranberry sauce in my freezer.

"American" haute cuisine

Of course, what Thanksgiving would be complete without some classic American junkfood?  Thanks to Caroline and Brady for bringing Poptarts and Oreos.

Also on the table was a really nice platter of fried rice courtesy of Xai & Vahn, some Malaysian rice noodles and agar agar cakes from Rashidah,  a salad from Aien, an amazing green bean casserole from Marta, pecan pie from Grant, mashed potatoes from Alice, corn on the cob from Annalise, cheese and salami from Remy, and my special gravy from the turkey drippings.

Let's eat!

The thing that makes the gravy special is that I put some white wine in it.

Overall it was a splendid Thanksgiving full of wonderful people and wonderful food, well worth all the effort.  There were quite a bit of left overs, which I have been trying to use creatively.

I used the turkey carcass to make turkey stock.  I tried to pick the bones clean, then boiled it in 5 litres of water for about 2 hours, with some bay leaves and peppercorns.  Then I strained the stock with a sieve and put some of it in the freezer.  The rest of it I used to make Turkey fennel brown rice soup.  Which is done like so:

  • Use a rice maker or separate pot to prepare 1 cup of brown rice
  • Slice up a fennel bulb and 1/2 an onion and sautee until soft in 2 tbs of olive oil
  • Dice up the zest of 1 lemon, add to pot.
  • Add 1 or 2 litres of stock (turkey or whatever you have on hand)
  • Add left over turkey (or make it vegetarian)
  • Bring to a boil, lower heat, simmer until fennel is tender but not mushy.
  • Add 1/2 cup white wine, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, diced chili, and the brown rice and simmer for 1 or 2 more minutes.
  • Garnish with some fresh parsley or the ends of the fennel.

This is probably my current favourite soup, which I usually make with veggie stock and no turkey, especially when I find beautiful fresh fennel at the veggie market.

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Even professional designers find working with chiffon difficult.

I saw it in Project Runway!  My guilty pleasure.  Anyway, that makes me feel a little better that my attempt to re-create the Robyn Mathieson dress has thus far been a total failure.

I’m also planning on re-creating this skirt from Trenery ($150 for a polyester skirt made in China!??! WTF?! ):

But think I need to first make myself a pleating board.  Luckily I had found 2 great tutorials on just how to do that.  One from Burda Style and one from Made by Lex.  They seem simple enough, I just need some poster board and a big ruler.  Then I will be able to make kilts and tons of other awesome pleated stuff!

I was thinking of checking out the Wellington Fashion Workshop  and maybe taking a class as they probably have a pleater board, and definitely overlockers and dress forms and real cutting tables, but as of yet I have not been.  That is also part of my strategic plan for the upcoming few months.  In the meantime I am continuing with my ukulele lessons (though rarely practising because I can’t tune the goddamn thing)  and other creative extracurriculars.

the aftermath

Ok, I am still recovering from Thanksgiving.  This year it involved over 3 days of cooking and more than 20 people squeezed into my tiny flat.  But well worth all the effort.  Photos and recipes and other stuff will be coming soon.

Since having a blog is all about getting to be narcissistic, I am going to copy herein a poem that my lovely former flatmate Emma Liu wrote me, following her first Thanksgiving experience in my home on Thursday:

today i’m thankful for You

for the colors and flavors in your laugh and smile.
for the food you make from which love and joy warmly shows.
for how simple and true you truly are.
for how sweet and sunny like honey you are.
for all the goodness you are able to gather.
for all the words that only famous writers know how to best thank you for moi.

thank you nicole~

curses!

I have just spent the last 6 hours trying to recreate this $300 dress I fell in love with after spying it in a shop window last week.

I went into the shop and tried it on yesterday.  I thought to myself “Maybe if I don’t eat for the next 3 weeks…” but then I looked more closely.  It didn’t look that complicated to me.  Just a simple shift dress with some fancy details.   I thought “I could make this.”   So I went to the fabric store and got 3 meters of silk chiffon.

My attempt has thus far been an utter failure.

It may not be evident from this photo, but what are supposed to be straight geometric shapes, are completely crooked and look as if cut out and sewn by a 6 year old child.

Some reasons why:

  • Fuck!  Chiffon is hard to work with!!  And I have never tried to before.
  • I don’t have a dress form.
  • I don’t even have a cutting table.  My bed is my cutting table.  How am I supposed to cut a straight line with this flimsy fabric on a bed??!!
  • I am a very lazy and unskilled seamstress.
  • Also, my sewing machine sucks.

Anyway, there are numerous other reasons why this is not working out.  I am going to just take a break and step away from it for the rest of the day.  Maybe tomorrow I will be able to make something wearable out of this mess I have wasted 6 hours and $30 on.

better living through technology

Ok, I am not particularly technology savvy, or technology incompetent.  I will admit to avoiding certain technologies (like Twitter) simply out of ignorance/conjecture.  However I know there are people out there who are even less tech competent than me and I want to share some of the more useful tricks I have learned to help manage my interactions with information and people via the international network.

There are a few different topics I could discuss, but today’s subject shall be the use of RSS feeds to keep up-to-date with the various blogs I enjoy reading.  Some of these are personal blogs, such as Amanda & Dain’s Earthship blog, and a news blog, like Pitchfork’s music news.

I’m a bit too scatterbrained to actually remember to check these individual websites on a regular basis.   So, if I don’t get these entries delivered to me I probably won’t remember to actively seek them out.  This is why I have discovered how to harness the power of various technologies to make my life easier.  The first of these technologies is Mac Mail, however you could probably use outlook or whatever mail client you use.

I have to maintain about 3 different e-mail addresses.  I have my McGill alumni “e-mail for life” address, my personal address, and my VUW staff e-mail.  I also have a VUW student e-mail I never check, and at least 1 old e-mail address I used from 2001 to 2009 that I just can’t bring myself to delete.    So, I like it that I can just open my mac Mail application and all of my e-mail from all of my gazillion addresses is delivered to the same inbox.  I have even colour coded it so I know which address it was sent to (blue for Gmail, green for Vic, red for McGill).  I hate using the webmail interfaces, especially since McGill and VUW upgradeD to some horrible clunky version of Outlook Express, and check 3 e-mail addresses every day using webmail is a pain in the ass.  So, I love my Mac Mail.

But the best thing about Mac Mail is that when I find a blog I like, I can click on the little “RSS” button, and then all of the new entries that are added to the blog are delivered right into my e-mail inbox!

This RSS function works with other e-mail programs and various “feed readers”, though I find getting all my information delivered directly to my e-mail is the best in my opinion. I also have my computer set up to automatically open Mail when I turn it on, so when I get up, I just have to push a button, go into the kitchen and put the kettle on, by the time I come back with my cup of tea all of the day’s information is conveniently displayed right in front of me.

I appreciate this technology in our ever inter-connected and complex world, where inefficient information seeking behaviour can effectively reduce your productivity.  Even if that information seeking behaviour is just reading about your friend’s knitting project.

So, I encourage you to click on that little “RSS” button there on the right hand side of this page, and the efficiency of your everyday information seeking behaviour will be significantly improved.  Which is something to be proud of.

In other news I have been listening to the new Shabaz Palaces’s album “Black Up” non stop since yesterday and it is fucking off the hook and I highly recommend it.

2011 knitting project #3

I can’t remember if I finished the oven mitt in 2011 or 2010, but regardless, I finally finished my first ever hot water bottle cozy.  Boy will I be prepared for Nana-hood.  The other day I was actually sitting on the sofa, knitting, while listening to talk radio as some muffins baked.

Anyway, here is my hottie cozy, which I finished just in time for the summer, and will largely go unused until May.  I am considering felting it… just to make it extra insulating.

These are the kinds of things one must do when there is no one to snuggle up against at night.  *sigh*