Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Treasury

Blowfish family treasure  :-)

Typography, milkglass and talking turkey.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere but nary a pie in sight

The Monks held a vigil,

Even the angels got involved

I was thankful for the assist

Ancient Chinese functional art

From a poetic artisan

Engish design is definitely in the understatement

French curves grace a corner

A touch of English  whimsey

Teacart not in service for just we three

Everyone joined in the celebration

Some provided the music

While others held their beaks

Together they orchestrated the decor

Color was everywhere

Autumn naturals in place of cake

I never did get around to making pumpkin pies

But there were pewter crested mugs for  a petite centerpiece

And bountiful bouquets for the milk glass

Every room had a splash of color

Thankfully the Kitchen is still standing

Definitely the treasures are treasured here

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pilgrims Celebration

                                    Thanksgiving day bliss
                               Sights, sounds, aromas of joy
                                      United we stand

Thankfully we share
The blessings of this great land
In God we trust, still 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thankful Distractions

The Thanksgivings of my youth were very different from the Thanksgivings of my adulthood. The menu has not changed much over the years. The celebration has.

I grew up in a family with a lot of sibs.  My dad has siblings so does my Mom. Some years we were at gatherings so large I doubt I knew the names of everyone present. Often things were broken out into the "kids" table and adult table. In some locations the tables were not actually in the same room but all the kids were instructed to have manners, get along and don't interrupt the adults. I wasn't very old before I realized if we were "guests" then we didn't have to do the dishes. I am sure I liked that part but didn't love the  starched, itchy finery we all had to wear. Definitely a trade off.

Blowfish is an only child.
No sibs and no geographically close cousins. Mermaid is the only  child Blowfish and I were blessed to have. Her childhood Thanksgiving memories are very different than mine.  I always pine for my sibs at the holidays as I am acutely aware of what is being missed. Blowfish and Mermaid are oblivious. For Mermaids childhood Thanksgivings,  I  always made the effort to be well organized  before the day so on the day I would be available to her as a playmate. I could never bear the thought of her spending a holiday alone in her room reading a book.  We have enjoyed some great early adventures on a beach, gone for bike rides, raked and jumped in leaves our first year here at the Pond. There was a great benefit to having most everything done so there would be playtime while the turkey was roasting. A win win as playing with Mermaid was always so much fun I didn't miss the larger family presence.

 On the years when the weather did not lend itself to outdoor interests we played games or watched a movie.

I am not sure how it came to be but two of  young Mermaid's favorite  movies to watch were
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Both are about a hundred hours long with songs which will echo in your head for days and days afterward. It was a very long Thanksgiving the year Blowfish taught her about the rewind button. She was elated at the idea of stopping time to repeat  an experience.   I was less thrilled. Occasionally I would try to slide off the sofa to go check on things in the Kitchen but it wouldn't be long before she was urging my return because the "best part" is coming!!!! I was always very thankful for the good weather years.

We still have those movies but they are VCR tapes not DVD's. We did keep one TV with a built-in VCR  but it is in Blowfish's office and not in a space where we can all gather round.

This Thanksgiving our temperatures will climb close to 70 but we are also expecting  showers. Likely we will be inside more than outside. I've had a little ongoing debate with myself. Should I get copies of these favorites on dvd?  Now that we are all adults is this how I want to spend Thanksgiving?

How about it bloggers, would you get the dvd's or not?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chippendale Memories

I am one of those people with a strong visual memory. In my design practice this is an excellent resource. Sometimes in my personal life it can be a surprising source for an emotional ouch .

This week three things happened to trigger a slide show of memories. One was a quick search for estimating yardage requirements for a family's heritage  Chippendale camel back sofa.  The second  a chat with my mother, the third was emails from a  friend about the importance of  family treasures at  Thanksgiving gatherings.

Somewhere , in the home of one of my siblings,  there is an under bed storage box in which were placed my Mothers never organized, lifetime collection of family photographs. The photos go back as far as faded sepia  images of a great grandmother and as far forward as current within the past year or so.  They were transfered to this storage box from the bottom drawer of her dresser where they resided for decades. Journeys to see my mother over the decades have included sitting on the floor, rummaging through the pictures, retelling of family history . We always laughed a lot, cryed a bit  but mostly we  relived the joys depicted. When her health made it unsafe for her to stay home her dresser was loaded into  a U-Haul while Mom and the photos were delivered to  an Assisted Livng Residence. Mom and her lifetime of  photos were separated when she went from assisted  living to hospital to nursing home. Life in a hospital bed does not accommodate possessions.

In that storage box are a series of family photos on my mothers beloved Chippendale camel back sofa. When we would have our photo rummages Mama would pick out a photo and exclaim " Look girls the sofa has on her green silk!", the same as she exclaimed over her children, our various Christmas ensembles or various canine family members . To my mother, her Chippendale sofa was a comfort in a life chock full of terrible losses. But not the sofa.  It traveled through so much of her journey she could never have thought of being without its comfort.

When I called my mother this week she actually picked up on the first ring. This is rare!  Often I must call the nurses station and ask them to send someone to put the phone where she can reach. I am always polite in these requests as I am keenly aware my mothers day to day life is in the hands of the staff on this unit, in this nursing home, in a city far from here. But I want to scream about how damn hard can it be to remember  the  darling little lady  in bed number two has all her wits in a failed body so the voices of children and grandchildren are amongst her few remaining comforts so how do they justify the deprivation??

But, as I said, this time she answered on the first ring. And promptly asked this question,
" Fishy, where is my French coffee table? Do you have it?"
" Yes Ma'am. I have it here at the Pond."
"Where is it?"
" It's in the sitting area of my suite"
" Do you love it?"
" Yes Mama, I love all your treasures ."

There was a long pause and then she said,
" I miss my sofa"
Ouch. I tried to not hear what I heard in my mothers voice but it was in there.
" Fishy, you know sometimes I lay here and try to picture my things but I just don't know where they all are."
" Goodness Mom, I can tell you they are all where we can enjoy them. I think I even wrote in one of my blog posts about  your things being in the homes of everyone I love so I feel a bit of coming home when I visit them. That I can feel your presence there with us at the gatherings."

There was a pause before Mama said,
" Do you remember a picture of your brother playing a guitar on the sofa?"
" I love that picture!"
" It was so funny to hear that sweet clear little boys voice singing 'The House of the Rising Sun"

For a long time I did not comment.  Couldn't comment. Could barely control my breathing. There was a kaleidoscope of images crashing around in my head of all the photos on the Chippendale sofa. Pretty little girls in mother designed and made Christmas outfits sitting on the sofa reading The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Teen girls dressed in finery with stiff hair and Jeanie makeup before  nervous dates  arrived with corsages.  One of our youngest siblings dolled up in a formal at age 5. A priceless image of both our parents on the sofa with the first born grandson. Grandparents at 39 and 42.  A family still whole.  Somewhere tucked away I have a picture of just my mother on her sofa after the great marriage fracture which broke all our hearts. In that picture she looks too fragile to withstand lifes hardships but somehow the comfort of the sofa is captured in the image as well. 

" Fishy, it is bothering me."
" What is Mama?"
"I cannot get an image of where my things are. All my children learned to read in the wing chair and since that went to your sisters it's been recovered so I don't even know how it looks. I can't picture it in it's place or how it's dressed".

Well, I sure wasn't going to tell her it was looking so tacky she would take a switch to anyone commiting such a crime against her precious wing chair. Nor was I going to mention her sofa remains in storage. Not proudly part of anyones home, not anyones comfort.  No longer the backdrop for all our family gatherings.

After a pause I said,
"Mama, what if I  take photos this Thanksgiving of all your things here at the Pond ?
Mermaid is coming home so while the turkey is roasting we'll be photographers.
I'll ask Blowfish to let me use his D80,  it takes the most beautiful pictures."

I could hear the smile in her response.

After our call I didn't move for the longest time. I thought about my  friend who wanted to use items from parents lost for the comfort of those facing a first holiday without them.  A lovely tribute to the parents, a lovely present for the guests, a comfort to the hosts and tabletop  incentives to share family stories along with the feast.
My  friend had looked for a unifying thread or theme for her table. I hope I helped.  At no point in time did I really have any association with her Thanksgiving plans and my own. Until this visit with my mother. Now I am eager to plan an entire holiday  around  my mothers treasures. As a tribute, and a thank you, to a woman who spends her days in a hospital bed  missing her sofa.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday's Heartbreak

My heart is broken,
my hopes are dashed,
my Sundays bleak.


Bryan Caswell will not be the next Iron Chef.
Which means he will not be filling my screen on Sunday nights.
He who " looks like a linebacker but cooks like a ballerina".
He who looks  really, really fine.

He who looks really, really fine and,
makes really fine food?
Not, buffet food.
Fine food. An up and coming Food and Wine 2009 spotlighted chef. Recognized for his cooking, not his looks. Really.

An honest to God handsome, talented chef.

The man has charm.
The man has a great smile.
The man has respect for his fellow chefs.
The man has  passion for his food.
The man has a desire to prepare and provide an awesome experience for those who eat his food.
The man has a  James Beard Foundation Award.


I don't intend to sound critical but if I were judge Donatella, this vision in chefs whites would not have been the one out the door. I don't know that I believe an Iron Chef  should excel in cupcake arranging or buffet lines.

I understand Chef Caswell is well respected for his fine Gulf Coastal seafoods.   His fine Texas Que. His fine balancing of flavors . Flavors ingeniously balanced like a fine ballet. We all know ballerinas are amazing atheletes so to me a linebacker- ballerina- chef sounds very Iron Chefish.  What were they thinking ???????

 Chef Bryan has hair,  no visible tatoos or piercings , speaks well and serves up that fine smile along with those exquisitely nuanced victuals.  Now, because a panel of judges have no sense, this Sunday night vision is lost. Lost!!!! To millions of  woman who have spent  Sundays in service to God, in service to the traditional Sunday dinner expectations, in service to those who cannot emerge from the sofa  whilst never ending football is broadcast. Those women who finally by 9pm get to take a seat and enjoy the present of a fine looking man rippling those muscles under his chefs coat in order to flip a heavy skillet of yummms with a
quick perfection. Forfeit the pleasures of watching this fine man-chef  herd succulent meats around the flames until perfection is achieved? Did those judges not appreciate how beautifully his offerings were presented? Cinderellas prince could not have served up the glass slipper with any more grace or style.
 It's outrageous!   Do those judges not see us panting for his food?

Maybe we should take a branding iron to those judges?
There should be some just punishment for a panel of judges who
would callously  dash the fantasies of millions of women !

Is there a better fantasy than a fine looking, sweet talking,
easy going, gifted chef serving up charm and  dinner?
Not at my house.
Not any day of the week.
Never On Sunday

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Family Tales

Over on our friend  PamOKC's  blog she has a posting up which mentions her Dad having once been dismissed from camp for "borrowing" a school bus to take a girl on a date. I would just love to hear the telling of that family tale. No doubt it makes the rounds at family gatherings accompanied by lots of laughter.

This got me to wondering about all the family tales which will be told over the long Thanksgiving weekend. I am one who believes the teling and re-telling of  family lore is one of the strongest glues for binding the generations together. I adore large, multi-generational gatherings and always take a moment to be still and record the images, sounds, joys of the event . These memories sustain me during the times when the distances are too far for hugs.

I wondered if we, The Troll Family of Bloggers,  would be sharing our family folklore  after our gatherings?
Maybe. Maybe not.

Here at the Pond, one of my favorite stories is about Blowfish.

As a bit of background it might be helpful for y'all to know Blowfish is known for his tendency to focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is not his style. Once something captures his attention  that is ALL he thinks about.  Another thing , Blowfish is pretty seriously a foodie. That man purely loves food of every description.   More importantly you will never meet another individual who  focuses more acutely on the entire process of  food. Thinking about it, shopping for it, prepping for it, anticipating and then lingering over it.  He is even one of those people who likes to know what's for dinner at 6am so he can spend the day looking forward to it. He is serious about his groceries and is blessed to have always had one of those super efficient metabolisms that allows this indulgence.

As  a young man Blowfish served his country in the National Guard.  He was assigned to a tank battalion with initial training somewhere in NY state and then speciality training with a mechanized batallion elsewhere.
As he tells it, his time in service to his country was mostly about how to get food. He had never experienced a period in his life where he did not have full access to kitchens, bakeries, delis, butcher shops or restaurants.
When he talks about  his time in the service  it always starts with, " I've never been so hungry ..."

So there came a time when his tank corps was assigned to a joint training exercise somewhere along our northern borders. I've heard camping out in the snow, sleeping under a tank and having no privacy for personal activities was not within Blowfish's comfort zones. None of those were as offensive as constant hunger. There came a day when  he and others were standing around in the cold being hungry and miserable.
A fellow guardsman mentioned how annoyed he was standing around freezing his vulnerabilities while the stars were in a nearby town chowing down in what was reputed to be the best deli on the continent. This remark captured Blowfish's full attention. Where was the deli and what had they heard about the food?

Blowfish swears he never gave a thought to anything  other than food. 
The single focus thing.
He marched right over to the nearest tank and fired it up and headed for the deli.
Blowfish swears he did this because his options were to ride or hike through the snow.
He swears it never occured to him to  not go to the deli, because he was hungry. Really hungry, had been cold and hungry for days so  there was no way he was going to suffer anymore if there was a deli nearby.
For him, it was that simple.

In Washington, it was a bit more complicated when Canada called to inquire why we had invaded their country with an armored tank? The diplomats and the military brass scrambled for an explanation while Canadas counterparts screamed their displeasure and intentions.

Meanwhile back in town, Blowfish  thoughtfully parked his tank in the square so as to not hinder traffic and made his way to the deli where he ordered a hero and a quart of chili to go. While waiting on his order, dressed in fatigues and heavily armed, happily munching on a pickle he was oblivious to the reactions all around him.  Once served, he returned to his ride, climbed aboard and headed back to camp. Apparently he was so busy eating he failed to notice the sirens, flashing lights and police escort flanking his tank. His focus was elsewhere.

When finally this international incident was tracked to it's source, the embarassed head of the batallion summoned Blowfish to ask what the devil  was he thinking when he invaded Canada with an armored tank? The answer was,
" Sir! I was hungry and I heard there was a really good deli in town. Sir!"

Of course, here at the Pond, part of what makes this family tale so funny to us is it is so Blowfish.

We usually follow up this telling with various accounts of  his single focus escapades, pour some more wine and laugh a little harder. Blowfish is always a good sport about these tellings, along as we don't run out of food.

So do you have a family tale to share?
I would love to read it :-)
You are welcome to leave your family tale in the comments here or,
 leave a comment here to let us know to come to your place for a fine tale.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

God Bless America

I stood in line to vote today.
The predicitons were for high voter turn out based on the number of absentee ballots disbursed.
I have, on rare occasions, cast my ballot this way. For the first W presidency I was out of the country and anxiously awaited news of the outcome. Mostly what we all heard about was the Florida chads and Al's declarations.

My preference is to go in person. To be a physical part of the process. When Mermaid was younger I would take her with me and stress the value, obligation and  importance of every vote.

 Every vote!
I still believe in this.

I found the mix of folks working the precinct and waiting in line  interesting .
I was especially drawn to an elderly woman, beautifully dressed, beautifully groomed and heavily dependent on a walker to earn each hard won step forward. She was accompanied by a grandson, maybe 14 or 15, who was clearly  concerned for her. At one wobbly move forward, where the entire population in the room feared she might pitch face first onto the floor, hands came from every direction in immediate assistance . All were offered with a nod and a smile with no mention of need, or risk.  I loved that moment. To me it was a shining example of  "united" people. Very Musketeer, one for all and all for one.

Directly in front of me was a woman, slender, fit, forty-ish, wearing jeans a hand knitted sweater, a pony tail and no makeup. She carried with her a sample ballot which she reviewed over and over again. I think her stumping point was not about a candidate but about one of the four ammendments. There were  poster size copies of these ammendments along with explanations  taped to the walls around the room. She kept reading them. I thought this a good thing as to ammend a state's constitution is no lite matter. One of the ammendments is to prevent the feds or entities like the UN from ever having the ability to prevent the citizens of this state to hunt or fish. Another says ballots to unionize may not be secret. The others were about reserve funds, how much and how can they be used by the state. All important to get "right".

A bit forward of me in the line was an elderly black couple. That isn't remarkable in and of itself but was noteworthy because they were the only ones. Last election , my predominantly white middle class precinct, had a full representation of black, hispanic, and  asian voters. Today, not so much. That set me to wondering if this one small precinct was an indication of loss of faith by minorities? I guess tomorrow we will know.

I spent my day in two cities, receiving  nods or thumbs up from strangers who spotted my
 " I Voted!" sticker.  I am sure there is a keen sense of awareness in all of us about the importance of this day. Whatever the outcome, America is facing grinding years of hard, hard choices and tough corrections. I just kept thinking today it won't be quite so hard if  we find we are not as polarized as the media tells us we are. If in our core we are a nation of peoples who would not let the grandmother fall, no matter her voting intentions.

Tonight, I will watch some of the returns but not all.
Tonight I will not go to the pub to stand with others to learn the outcomes of local elections.
Tonight, I will get into my cozy clothes, make a fine cup of tea and escape into a movie, or a book or blog .
Because  tomorrow I might need all my energy to scream.