Friday Food. December.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to create in the kitchen, but having quarantine foisting Thanksgiving on us let me make the entire Thanksgiving dinner which I hadn’t done in years. Although to be fair, I do a similar meal for Easter, Rosh Hashanah, and Christmas.

This year we did a few things differently. For several years my sweet potato pie became sweet potato casserole, so I went back to the pie version, and it was really good and brought me back in time. We ate it both as a side dish and a dessert (on different nights).

Another dish I made was a new take on my mother’s candied carrots.

Leeks and Carrots. (c)2020

Here are the basics, but use your imagination.

  • Wash the leeks thoroughly. They are like children in that they have dirt in all the spaces.
  • Melt a stick of butter in a pan. Add the leeks in and saute them for a little bit.
  • Pour in a bag of frozen baby carrots (or cut your own carrots into baby carrot size).
  • Once the carrots are defrosted, add some fresh ground pepper, and then add about 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1-2 cups of orange juice (the amount depends on the size of the pan.
  • Let it come to a boil, then lower to simmer, letting it simmer for about ten to twenty minutes. It can really stay on the low heat until the rest of dinner is ready.
  • Serve it with a slotted spoon so the plate doesn’t get too soupy.

The second dish I made just last week. We had cooked chicken tenders in the fridge and because my son cooked them, there was no spice whatsoever on the tenders.

I cut them each into threes or fours and threw them in a wok on medium, adding about half a small jar of Korean BBQ sauce.

I trimmed the ends off of fresh green beans and broke them in half, and added them to the wok, mixing the chicken and the beans until they were hot and incorporated with the sauce.

This was also a way to heat the cold chicken without the microwave. I spooned them over jasmine rice (although any type of rice that you like is the perfect rice).

Chicken, sauce, and green beans in the wok. Almost finished. (c)2020
Closeup of the serving. (c)2020

One thing I noticed in looking back, I didn’t cook either dish with oil. Oil has its place in the kitchen especially in sauteeing, but I just used the juice for the first one and the Korean sauce for the second.

As the year comes to a close, start the new year with experimenting with your food. In January, I’ll have some basics to share with you – resources that everyone can use and adapt to their own style and family.

The Other Side of Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving today is fraught with its past and the reckoning that is still to come in many ways.

For those of us who grew up in non-Christian households, Thanksgiving was and is the great equalizer. We can all celebrate it without the religious baggage and without not fitting in. We gather as a family, we express our gratitude and our love, and it’s the one day of the year that nearly everyone has the day off, at least until a couple of years ago when retailers began to open on Thanksgiving Day.

There are of course exceptions, but it is a day for everyone.

Of course, that is also not the entire story. From the Native American prospective, settlers coming to the new world caused trauma beyond belief. We are only beginning to open up and discuss and educate ourselves to be inclusive, but also to move forward as a country.

While I believe the original Thanksgiving story despite knowing its clear embelllishments, I think it’s important to distinguish between the Columbus and future expeditions’ theft of land and genocide and that early settlers and Native Indians, as they were known at the time, did work together, and to celebrate the help that the Native Peoples gave to the Pilgrims should be recognized. The Pilgrims, and other Native-friendly settlers wouldn’t have survived the new world without the help of the indigenous people already living here.

Here are two ways to begin educating ourselves:

Native American Tribal Map

Thirty Everyday Phrases that Perpetuate the Oppression of Indigenous Peoples

Travel in the Time of COVID

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Traveling during the covid epidemic offers several differing perspectives and our family seems to have lived through all of them. Should we go? Should we stay home? Stay local? Visit another state? For the better part of last year, we planned our August vacation to Canada. It became apparent that would not be an option. The Canadian border closed in the spring and remains closed.

We couldn’t help but notice that the rest of the country was not exactly cooperating in “flattening the curve”. It didn’t take long to make the decision to remain in New York State. We live here and we felt safe with the covid policies that the state has put into place.

Now that Thanksgiving is upon us, and Christmas not far off, if you are traveling, I hope you will benefit from our experience.

If you’ve decided to stay home, these will hopefully help you the next time you venture out.

Vacationing on COVID-time is *different*.

First, have a plan, have a second plan, and be flexible in all things. We decided on a location we’d only visited for a couple hours last year – Niagara Falls, located in western New York. We would spend one week; it would be an adventure. Customarily, we would change hotels mid-week. We did not. This was a direct result of covid.

We did many things outside: Niagara Falls State Park and the Falls, Broderick Park at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. Though I prefer indoor dining, we ate outside at restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream shops. We also visited three monuments that we may not have seen if I wasn’t looking for outdoor things to do.

Masks. You need more than one mask. Ideally, you should have one cloth mask for each day or at least two: one to wear, one to wash (and hang to dry).

Hand Sanitizer. Though you’ll find more hand sanitizer than you can ever imagine everywhere, a travel bottle of hand sanitizer is a must.

Hotels. I was very happy with our hotel. The prices did not seem to be any higher than a regular end of summer week. However, several amenities were not available or drastically changed. The pool and fitness center were closed, but vending machines and ice machines were available. I think they suspended the airport shuttle. We were required to wear masks in the public areas, hallways, elevators, and walking through the lobby. There were hand sanitizer stands next to every elevator on all the floors to use prior to pressing the elevator buttons.

The included free breakfast was a menu to choose items from, and then bring to your room, microwave, and eat there. It usually included a muffin, a fruit, water, milk, or juice, breakfast sandwich, yogurt, and other related items. There was no housekeeping unless you requested it. We did not. We chose to ask for necessary items at the front desk. These included new towels, shampoo, cups, toilet paper. They were extraordinarily nice and very accommodating. Considering the circumstances, I thought they did an excellent job.

Attractions. Many places were closed. Those that were open had restrictions. Masks required, hand sanitizer stations, 25%-50% capacity, 6ft. distancing between groups. Some displays – where placing your face close was necessary in order to see the item – were temporarily out of order. At interactive displays, we were provided with a sanitized mini stylus to use instead of our fingers. We returned them for cleaning when we were finished with the tour.

Due to reduced capacity requirements, several locations issued timed tickets. This combined with lower capacities meant that every day about mid-afternoon tours were sold out for the day, so this required going early, getting your ticket for later in the day and then coming back. Some places preferred that you buy tickets online and show the attendant the ticket on your phone.
Many places used directional arrows on the floor directing so people weren’t intersecting with each other. Many places would not accept cash. The Niagara Falls (NF) State Park as well as the NF Visitor Center only accepted credit/debit cards.

Contact Tracing. Many hotels, attractions, and restaurants asked for our name and phone number for contact tracing.

Restaurants. We felt comfortable at each location we ate at. One place, the Hard Rock Cafe, took our temperature. Due to lower capacity, we were required to wait…outside. If we got up to use the restroom, masks needed to be worn. Some restaurants had no menus and a QR code on the table allowed for viewing the online menu on our phones.

Shopping. Only some places offered samples, like chocolate or ice cream. Fitting rooms were closed as were some public bathrooms. A few places did not take cash.

One of the good things that I noticed was that as crowded as it was, it wasn’t that crowded. There was room to stand and move around on the Maid of the Mist boat ride, which is typically wall-to-wall people.

Because the Underground Railroad Heritage Center limited two at a time in the small gift shop, I was able to have a somewhat lengthy and very educational conversation with the attendant while I waited my turn.

People were both wary and friendly at once. There may have been a glare when you got too close to someone but it turned into a smile and a laugh as we both said “oops, sorry.” It was a delicate dance.

I didn’t know how much we needed to be out of our house. Overall, even with the changes and the restrictions, we still had a great vacation, and it was nice being out and about and almost-kind-of “normal”. Niagara Falls is one of those places that never gets old; we’re thinking about returning next year, although a trip across the border would also be welcomed.

Travel – Road Trip Snacks

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In the US, Thanksgiving is the biggest eating holiday of the year. And still, our kids want to eat on the way to dinner or in the days before while we’re traveling to Grandma’s or wherever you spend your holidays.

1. Pretzels. I personally love cheese doodles, but I never eat them in the car. Too messy. Pretzels are simple, fat-free, and easy to brush off when you get out of the car.

2. Bottle of water. The heat in the car can be very drying. Be prepared for complaints.

3. M&Ms. The candy that melts in your mouth, and not in your hands. (TM) Small, easy to carry, not messy if you don’t let them melt, and honestly, who does?

4. Twizzlers. A punch of sugar without the sticky fingers.

5. Popcorn. Also not messy, easy to brush off and clean up, but be sure to remember that bottle of water!

Travel – Scavenger Hunt

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​Last week, I shared Kids’ Travel Bags for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Today, I am offering some suggestions for one of those items in the bags: the scavenger hunt sheet. It is below the cut, and permission is granted to download and print it for your own use with your family.

One of the things the past seven years of Gishing has taught me is that there are many ways to interpret something. It’s allowed me to rethink my concept of the scavenger hunt for one thing. Rather than collect things only to get rid of them at the end, I’ve really incorporated the idea of re-purposing, finding and documenting, and being a force for good, whether that’s as a Good Samaritan, doing good deeds, or making the world better through my time, talent, and treasure, and of course through civic responsibility. All of those things will be different depending on the hunter’s perspective.

I planned a mini Scavenger hunt for my kids for our most recent vacation. This is not an easy task as they are somewhat spread out in age: 13, 14, and 22, as well as personality and tolerance for this sort of thing.

Some items were be for collection, although not many. Most were photos or videos and journaling. It was a lot of fun, and it kept them busy for our long drive. Hopefully, it will help in your Thanksgiving travels.

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November – Gratitude – Photo/Art

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Traveling to Vermont for Thanksgiving with family. (c)2018

Fireplace on a cold Thanksgiving night. (c)2018


Thanksgiving Dinner. (c)2018

November – Gratitude – Reflection

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The last two years have been clouded with so many political things, and the next two will also have much more to come, but I am grateful for the outcome of the election, the blue wave, and the thoughts that maybe we can work our way back to where the country not only should be, but where the majority of the country wants it to be. I’ve been inspired by so many new faces and listening to many intelligent voices on my new passion of podcasts that I feel cautiously optimistic that we can get through this time.

While I haven’t written that much for Nanowrimo, I have still done a lot of writing for my space here, reading my good morning journal as often as necessary, and have some other ideas and writings plotted out in the bare bones.

I went on a beautiful retreat for Thanksgiving reflection and am looking forward to another on Mary the day after my birthday. 

I am grateful to be hearing better than I have in a few years. The number of times that I say “what” have gone down exponentially thanks to a pair of hearing aids. I’ve also gotten a lot of medical things taken care of with more to come in the coming weeks, including at a ridiculous early time tomorrow. I am still seeing my therapist and trying to use all the tools in my basket; my mental health is definitely stable and good. My kids are healthy and happy in school, and we have a home, heat, and food and with the snow starting early that is indeed appreciated. Whatever else we may want, our needs are well taken care of.

Looking forward to Thursday with our family and thinking about the family not there, whether too far away or no longer and especially that whether together or apart, we are still a we.

Wishing you many blessings at this holiday season, and grateful that you are all in my life.

September – Back to School – Reflection

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​It’s not so much the month of September that I love but what it brings combined with the back to school season. While October is my favorite month (more on that tomorrow), ultimately this is my favorite time of the year from September and Back to School until the end of the year. I find it more of a renewal time of year than the January new year or spring when we all come out of our winter cocoons and spring clean.

We have a much more focused energy on fall cleaning, getting ready for the rest of the year. Clearing out the clutter for homework spaces and new school supplies (one of my weaknesses), earlier dinner and groceries in the house, bath schedules, physical, but also mental space.

It’s time to settle down and ease into our semi-hibernation.

We’re also getting ready for the holidays. Getting it clean and straightened and maintaining it for the myriad of family gatherings that are happening between now and the end of the year. Our outside gets decorated for Halloween with pumpkins and caution tape, spiders and witches. We move our decorating talents inside for Thanksgiving. Cornucopias, squashes, oranges and browns, table runners and lap blankets. Fall is applepicking, apple pie, chutney, tarts, or just a cold, crispy snap of an apple in the orchard.

I always find the Jewish New Year a time to reflect, think, and read. No work means settling down with a cup of tea, a buttered slice of challah and a pile of books. Yom Kippur brings the fasting and the prayer; time to atone and forgive; asking for forgiveness and offering it. Forgiving ourselves.

For us politicos, especially this year, we’re gearing up for an election, getting out the vote, promoting our candidates and our values.

School supplies, the Hogwarts Express, leaves changing colors and falling gently to the browning grass, Christmas card lists, buying stamps, printing return address labels, designing Halloween costumes and cosplays, Thanksgiving shopping and organizing recipe cards.

If we could carry fall with us all year, the world (and our worlds) would be a better place.