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We had a lovely dinner party this weekend. Both chilis seemed to go over well, we had plenty of things to talk about, and our new friends’ kids were AMAZING. They were older than I thought they would be (middle school age rather than upper elementary), but they were super nice to Carla. And they were engaging and fun to talk to and super polite – helping clear the table and asking for things very nicely and just in general being the kind of children that make you want to know the parents’ Secret Magic.

This week, we have no exciting plans, which is fine and good. We have one rollover meal from last week, which we will eat tomorrow.

Note: We haven’t had this in a while. I probably won’t eat the chicken, but I can load up with chickpeas.

Here’s the rest of this week’s menu:

Dinners for the Week of March 6-March 12

Note: This is an old standby. The marinade is SUPER easy to make, and you just… put the fish in the oven. Very easy and tasty. I will steam broccoli and drizzle some of the broiled marinade over the top of it. Maybe there will also be some rice.

Note: I have had some zucchini in my crisper for… weeks, I think, and I really need to just MAKE IT before they finally get cranky and mush-up on me. They’ve been so patient and stalwart. I OWE IT to them to eat them. Also I owe it to my wallet and to my desire not to waste food. Have I mentioned what I do with zucchini? I chop them into half-moon shapes. I rough-chop a bunch of red onion or shallots. Then I sauté the zukes and onions together in a little bit of olive oil until they are cooked through and getting caramelized on the edges. YUM.

Note: We haven’t had this in a while, and I love it. Because I don’t eat the beef part of the dish, I amp up the veggie factor by tossing in some red and green bell peppers. We end up doubling the sauce, to account for all the veggies.

Note: Yes, I know we literally had this dish last week, but I am SO TIRED OF MEAL PLANNING and also it’s good and easy. The only problem is that the packages of zucchini noodles at my grocery store today were all WET. Ew. So I didn’t buy any. My grocery store also didn’t have any sandwich bread, so I will have to pop back in later in the week. Also also, the zucchini noodles are $6.99 a package. That is STEEP. I haven’t priced it out but I am pretty confident that buying the actual zucchinis would be MUCH less expensive. So I am strongly considering getting a spiralizer. This highly-rated spiralizer is (currently) $29.99 on Amazon… which is a LOT for a tool that will probably also require a ton of work. But it would only take two “Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles” meals to make up the price. (Oh. I didn’t mention that I buy two packages of zucchini noodles for this meal, did I? Yes. It is a lot of zucchini and a LOT of money.) But what if it is a Huge Pain to make the zucchini noodles myself? And $29.99 is expensive enough that I could just try it once and then give up on the thing. Plus, I don’t think I would use it for anything else, so it would be a one-trick pony, and you know the rule about buying single-use items for the kitchen… But I really enjoy zucchini noodles! And I also enjoy not paying $14 for a single vegetable for a single meal! Although… now that I am thinking of it, I might pay $10 for a pound and a half of hamburger, for tacos… and you add in the shells and the veggies and the sour cream, and it probably comes out to about the same on a cost-per-person basis. Maybe $6.99 for my own portion of zucchini noodles is TOTALLY REASONABLE. But then again… Ugh. I could go on waffling about this totally inconsequential topic ALL DAY, apparently.

Note: Yes, yes, this is another meal that we just ate. Whatever. It’s so yummy and so full of veggies and FLAVAH. I am now starting to worry a little whether I have enough shrimp for this AND the scampi though… Oh well! We shall power through! Maybe I will take a little trip to Costco and see if I can buy shrimp THERE. (Why am I so all-capsy today?)

  • Crockpot BBQ Pork Tenderloin with Baked Potato for Me, Green Beans for My Husband

Note: I feel a little guilty making this when I know it’s not my husband’s favorite… But I like it so much and it’s SO EASY. I have some little rolls I can defrost, and maybe I will pick up some coleslaw from… somewhere so he can make little sandwiches. He seems to prefer that. But I am not in the mood to make a huge container of coleslaw that he will eat a teeny portion of and then will languish in my fridge until I angrily/guiltily throw it out.

  • Out/Leftoevers

 

That’s it for the week! Next week, I am sure I will be suffused with tons of Meal Planning Enthusiasm and Creativity! 

What’s for dinner in your house, Internet?

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My current mood is shifting somewhere between “can’t stop cringing about how awful high school was and how immature I was and how desperately sad it was that I actually thought high school was good at the time when upon reflection it clearly was NOT” and “bleak contemplation of the universe’s eventual and wholly unknown end which will lead to Absolute Nothingness, at least for me, and even if I’m lucky enough to miss the end of the universe it will be because I am already dead.”

And I am expected to make dinner, every single night, on top of all that. BLEAK.

Something I don’t think you know, probably because I have failed to tell you, is that Carla rarely eats dinner with me and my husband. RARELY. We are talking once or twice a week if we are lucky. Which means that I am cooking her dinner and then putting her to bed and then cooking dinner for myself and my husband. And she’s SO PICKY, which means that I expend a tremendous amount of energy thinking about how to tempt her to eat new foods and trying to figure out how to schedule the few foods she will eat so that she isn’t getting chicken dinosaurs three nights in a row, or whatever. YES, I feed my child copious amounts of chicken dinosaurs. SHE EATS THEM.

Sorry. I am apparently also feeling a little yelly at the moment.

Where was I? Oh yes. Rehashing high school failures, fretting about the acceleration of dark energy, moping about our endless need to eat.

So, here’s my hastily-thrown-together meal plan for the week which I came up with while sitting outside the grocery store this morning. Oh. We are also having Brand New (Potential) Friends over for dinner on Saturday, which could be contributing to my woe.

Dinners for the Week of February 26-March 5

 Note: The farro salad was so delicious the last time I made it, there’s no way it can possibly live up to expectations. But I’m going to make it anyway. I will roast the green beans and diced onions before adding them to the farro.

  • Tacos

Note: This is one of the few things Carla eats with any regularity. She has also expressed desire to help make the dinner, which should be fun.

Note: This dish was so good when I made it a couple of weeks ago, there’s no way it can possibly be as good this time. I’m really setting myself up for failure this week.

Note: As you may have sensed, I put this on the weekly menu when I am not particularly moved to strain my brain thinking of new, fresh recipes to try. Oh well. It’s an Old Reliable, even if it’s lost most of its excitement factor.

Note: We haven’t had this in a while. I probably won’t eat the chicken, but I can load up with chickpeas.

Note: Yes, basically we are doing exactly the same thing that we did the last time we had guests. My mom suggested my grandmother’s special salmon recipe, which my husband vetoed because fish can be… controversial. I wanted to do Lemon Chicken and My Standard Salad, but my husband is tired of the lemon chicken (which used to be our Go-To Guest Meal) and I am still not eating chicken and plus chili allows me to do everything in advance except serve the actual food. (If I made the lemon chicken, I would have to figure out when to put it in the oven, and then I’d constantly be fussing about whether it was done yet or not. Not really conducive to good conversation.) My husband will be making chocolate chips cookies.

  • Out
  • Leftovers

For Carla, my big plan this week is that I am going to try to get her to eat a hamburger patty; I bought some ground beef for the tacos and one of the chilis, and I am going to steal some to make her a mini burger. She has deigned to eat a meatball recently (just a bite or two, despite meatballs being one of her ENDURING FAVORITES a couple years ago), so I am really hoping I can get her to try the hamburger. Carla eats steak (on occasion), and I spotted two perfect Carla-sized (and Carla-priced) filet mignons at our meat counter today, so I am going to make one for her this week and freeze the other. We have a piece of salmon in the freezer, so I’ll try that one night. She used to eat salmon reliably every week, but when she had a brief bout of stomach flu this winter, it was right after eating salmon… and she’s been avoiding it ever since. (I get it.) I also bought her a tiny container of Hormel chili to try (prediction: she won’t), but I’m guessing I will end up making her chicken dinosaurs when our guests come over. And to round out the Carla Meal Plan, we’ve got tacos, chicken dinosaurs, and probably a “snack dinner” (with a bagel and cream cheese, some pepperoni, some fruit, some grape tomatoes). She gets a side of snap peas, broccoli, or green beans with each dinner, and I usually give her rice or bread, although we are working on eating plain penne. (She was penne at school, but not at home; she eats no other kind of pasta except food-colored spaghetti noodles.) There is also always fruit. Blueberries have been plentiful at our grocery store and delicious, but we also have a lot of apples on hand. So that’s it in this week’s What I Try to Get Carla to Eat. I wish we were having pork chops on a night when we could all eat together; Carla has eaten pork in the past, and I think if we all sat down together she might eat it again. Oh well. There’s always next week, when my family will inevitably require sustenance AGAIN.

Tell me what you’re eating this week, Internet.

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Just as a general note, if you or anyone you know need a Girl Scout Cookies hook up, Carla is selling cookies between now and February 2. If you don’t know any Girl Scouts and you want cookies, want to donate cookies to U.S. troops, or want to support an Internet child you don’t know, let me know and I will send you a link to her online order form.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Last week reminded me that I enjoy shrimp. In small quantities. So I am going to try not to lean on it too much while I am avoiding chicken. Hence the Zero Shrimp Recipes below.

Also, we didn’t eat all the meals I’d planned (one night, my husband had a surprise – to me, not to him – meeting, so we ate leftovers, and another night we spent all day Going Going Going, so we went out to eat instead), so I’m recycling two:

Note: I think one of the reasons this is a leftover item from last week is that I am scared of the spinach. I don’t particularly like spinach, and I have never cooked it before. But I am getting sick of green beans, zucchini, and broccoli, which we rotate practically every three days.

Follow Up: This was SO GOOD. The cod was lemony and delicious, and super easy to make. I think next time I might even skip the flour, just sprinkle the fish with a little paprika, salt, and pepper, and drizzle it with butter and lemon juice. Very simple but really yummy. I also had a few baby potatoes and a red onion and some mushrooms lying around, so I chopped those up and roasted them with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and some fresh thyme. I was afraid the spinach would be gross, so I wanted to have a backup vegetable. But the spinach was AWESOME. I used this Ina Garten recipe (I love you Ina) and it was so simple and really delicious. All in all, an excellent meal! Definitely will do this again.

Note:  I am also planning to do a homemade tartar sauce for my husband. (I prefer a bit of mayo mixed with sriracha, myself.)

Another thing is that I think maybe I need to be more… honest? is that the word? about how many days per week I am willing/able to cook. Especially when it’s a new-to-me meal.

This week, I am going out one night with my dear friend/mentor. And I think I’m going to give us a second night for leftovers/going out/what have you.

Here’s what’s on the meal plan for the remaining three days:

Note: I don’t think I have ever cooked flank steak. And my husband isn’t a huge fan of asparagus. So this meal could be a big loser, we’ll see. (But it’s NOT CHICKEN.)

Follow Up: This was pretty good! The marinade was easy and tasty and overall this was very simple to make. I was a little wary of using boiled asparagus in the quinoa, so I roasted it, Ina Garten style (a little splash of good olive oil, some salt and pepper, roasted for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven). It also turns out that we were out of quinoa, so I used couscous instead. Honestly, I prefer couscous so it worked out nicely. I think the biggest objection to this meal was the cut of meat, which was a bit fatty. Next time I could try a different cut of meat.

Note: This is a recipe I’ve made before, so I feel fairly comfortable fooling around with it. I am going to swap the chicken for pork tenderloin, and the carrots for parsnips andcarrots andred onions because I don’t really like carrots. Cooked carrots. Raw carrots are A-okay.

Follow Up: This ended up being good… if I scraped the mustard sauce off of the pork. I think in terms of mustardy pork tenderloin, I much prefer this mustard balsamic version from Jo Cooks.

My husband admitted that he does not care for cooked carrots either (a revelation), and Carla tried one — and one parsnip — and agrees that she does not like either. So we will be foregoing the cooked carrots in future

Note: I have some tilapia in the freezer from the last time I made this. So all I have to buy is broccoli and some shallots! Woot! Also, don’t let the “en papillote” thing deter you. This is SO EASY. And very delicious.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it when you tell me what YOU are eating this week, so please. Spill the beans. (Or chicken. Or spaghetti. Or whatever it is you’re planning for dinner.)

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We are all sick. My poor husband has gone back to work and Carla and I are draping ourselves pathetically across various pieces of furniture. I have given up trying to ban Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse from our home, and it plays endlessly in the background, rotting my child’s brain and fueling my nightmares.

I have managed to drag myself off the couch long enough to write 80% of the thank-you notes for our Christmas gifts. Carla needs to write three separate thank-yous to her teachers, who got her a book for Christmas, one to her babysitter for an unexpected gift of Play-Doh, and one to her grandparents for whom thank-you notes are Super Important. (I have taken their Supreme Importance to heart, as you see, writing them from my deathbed and all when I haven’t even been able to make Carla a breakfast heartier than “dry Wheat Chex in a bowl.”) She is signing the other cards, which I think is plenty. Getting her to write all the notes she needs to will be… a lengthy process. Please fill in the ellipsis with your own of all the other words I considered and rejected.

Even before this illness – which began Sunday as a scratchy throat and has snowballed to its present state of misery – felled us, my plans for dinners this week were… relaxed. It’s hard to get back into the dinner swing, post elaborate holiday meal planning. Plus, I am back on the calorie counting wagon, which makes me feel spiteful about dinners anyway.

Here we go. Perhaps in a few days I will feel well enough to plan meals for an entire week.

Dinners for the Partial Week of January 2 – January 7

Note: I am making this tonight because it is so easy. Nearly no effort, which is the most I can muster right about now. My husband and I pair this with basmati rice  (which I made last night) and caramelized onions (also a low effort item), and he also adds sundried tomatoes and feta cheese to his plate. Nothing green with this meal, but you could add a quick side salad if you were so inclined.

Note: I think this was on my meal schedule a couple of weeks ago and we ended up not eating it. Such flexibility is the benefit of having lots of chicken breasts in the freezer.

  • Mulligatawny Soup

Note: WordPress spell check is claiming that “soup” is not a word. It is, right? A word? And a food? Have I stumbled into some weird delirium? In any event, this mixture of meat and broth and other things is another super easy meal. Although I don’t think I have any pre-cooked shredded chicken in the freezer, which means I need to roast some before I make this. The recipe we use is adapted from Joy of Cooking, and it requires sauteeing mire poix (which I have pre-portioned in the freezer; you can buy mire poix from Trader Joe’s and just portion it out into freezer bags, or you can do a big batch on a day when you have time) with a couple tablespoons of flour and curry powder, adding chicken stock, shredded chicken, some thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaves, and rice, and then cooking for awhile. You can add warm milk at the end if you so choose. Very simple but hearty and delicious.

That’s it. On Saturday, we’re going out to dinner with friends. Sunday, we may have some friends over – if that happens it will be last minute and very casual and I am trying VERY HARD not to freak out about that, because I am neither a last minute nor a casual kind of person. Monday… well, we’ll figure it out when it gets here I guess.

What are you eating this first week of 2019?

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Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

This is the first year that we’ll have Christmas just the three of us. I am rather enjoying the quiet coziness of it all. We are all still in pajamas. There is lots of lounging going on. I tried to win Carla over to the joys of Home Alone, but it turns out it’s a bit old for her yet. Elf is on the agenda for later. My only job today – aside from copious cuddling, and perhaps finishing my book – is to make some rolls for dinner Friday; I will freeze them after I make them.

Family arrives on the 26th. We are not doing a special dinner because we will all have already had a big Christmas supper the night before. Thursday we go out to celebrate a birthday. And Saturday half of the family leaves, so the rest of us will either get take out or munch on leftovers. Sunday, the rest of the family leaves, which means that I will probably head to the store or scrape together some sort of Franken-meal from what we have on hand.

Still! There are meals to plan and make, so the post will go up!

Dinners (and Assorted Other Meals) for the Week of December 24-December 29

Christmas Eve: Avgolemono from America’s Test Kitchen (paywall)

Note: We have never eaten this before, much less tried to make it. I admit that I am deeply suspicious of a soup with egg in it, as I am no fan of eggs. But neither of us much wanted to make Mulligatawny soup, which was my Christmas Eve tradition growing up, and it would be fun to have our own soup tradition. We’ll see. It may end up that my husband eats it and Carla and I eat bagels or chicken nuggets. I mean, Carla has never once eaten soup as it is, so I’m not holding out much hope that tonight will be the night.

Follow up: This was NOT good. I can’t pinpoint why; maybe because it tasted heavily of chicken? Maybe because the lemony egg mixture you add to the soup gave the whole thing an unpleasant lemon-curd-with-chicken taste? In any case, I am not a fan. Even my husband, who eats pretty much anything, could not give this a thumbs up. I made a few of the rolls I prepared and ended up turning one into an impromptu pepperoni sandwich for my Christmas Eve meal.

Christmas Day:

Note: Neither of us has ever made a frittata. And, let’s be honest, it’s really for my breakfast-loving husband’s benefit. I don’t really like breakfast food, so I tend to defer to him. Usually for Christmas Day breakfast we make the Pioneer Woman’s overnight French toast. Last year we also made a savory strata. But that’s when there are more people at the breakfast table than the three of us. Carla will eat the sweet stuff, but nothing savory. So probably we’ll end up making her pancakes as per usual and my husband will end up eating most of the frittata and we’ll come up with something else for next year.

Follow up: This was delicious! I don’t normally like eggs, but this was very egg-light, with plenty of other tasty things. Our only complaint was that it seemed very salty. My husband and I agreed that next time we make it, we’ll add an extra potato, reduce the salt by at least 2/3s, and decrease the amount of bacon.

Note: Carla sometimes eats steak, so we are hoping that she’ll at least have a few bites of this Christmas dinner. When I grew up, our family tradition for Christmas dinner was a porterhouse spice roast, homemade Caesar salad, and lemony steamed broccoli. I LOVE that dinner. But a porterhouse roast seems overly ambitious for a group of three. Also, no one makes Caesar dressing like my dad, so I don’t really even want to try. Instead, we got a baby tenderloin and some mushrooms and we’ll be trying a new recipe. Who knows? Maybe it will become a family favorite!

Follow up: The beef tenderloin was wonderful — and super easy! You just smear it with some mustard and herbs and throw it in the oven. It cooks low and slow for a long time and then it is perfectly cooked and butter tender. We will definitely do this again. My mom’s mashed potatoes were, of course, amazing. And we ended up skipping anything green because we couldn’t agree on how to cook the beans.

Note: My husband loves dessert, and he is always super interested in the desserts featured on the Great British Baking Show. So we are trying a British-style dessert this year, just for fun.

Follow up: THIS WAS SO GOOD.

Wednesday:

  • Brunch: Bagels & Lox

Note: With cream cheese, capers, lemons, and onions. And fruit for the kiddos.

Note: Someone at my husband’s office has brought in this cranberry salsa a few times, and my husband is in love with it. I am deeply suspicious but I’m willing to try it.

Follow up: This was actually quite delicious! It’s super weird — a combo of flavors that don’t seem like they would work. But they DO and I found myself unable to stop. We ate this with Stacy’s pita chips, which are delicious in and of themselves.

  • Dinner: Tacos

Note: Easy and delicious. So what if it’s not typical Christmas fare? (For us. I don’t know your magical taco-eating life.) If my mother-in-law and husband hadn’t insisted on simplicity over fanciness, I would have made this pork roast from Food & Wine and possibly Ina Garten’s chocolate creme brûlée. Well, there’s always next time.

Thursday:

  • Breakfast: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, leftover frittata – whatever we can scrape together.
  • Lunch: Cold cuts and leftover smoked salmon
  • Dinner: Out

Friday:

Note: The BBQ pork is one of my all-time favorite SUPER EASY recipes. I throw a pork tenderloin, a roughly chopped white onion, and a minced garlic clove or two in the crockpot, then douse with my favorite BBQ sauce and a few healthy squeezes of Sriracha. Cook for 4 hours, shred, and eat. I eat my pork with a potato (which I liberally drench in sauce), but my husband prefers making little sandwiches, hence the rolls and coleslaw.

Follow up: The dinner rolls were easy to make and froze nicely. But they are NOT Parker House rolls, which is kind of what I was expecting. They are denser and… squishier than I anticipated. Still good though. Would definitely make these again.

Saturday:

  • This is where I completely give up on the pretense of cooking, not that I’ve been doing much of it. I can promise I’ll have been doing a lot of dishes anyway.

Follow up: Three loads of dishes EVERY DAY our guests were here. How is that even possible…?

Sunday:

  • Takeout????

If you’re bored this Christmas week, let me know what your traditional Holiday Meals include.

It’s beginning to snow – hooray! Happiest Christmas, Internet!

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One of the little things I find so pleasing about Thanksgiving is learning what everybody likes to eat on Thanksgiving. (This applies to all holidays, honestly.) Because I can’t stand ANYTHING besides the mashed potatoes and gravy, I am so charmed to hear people wax poetic about the dressing or express deep-seated passion for corn casserole.

It’s so fun and delightful to learn about how other people do the Very Same Things you do, isn’t it? I just love that.

That delight extends to everyday food, too. I am so curious to know what other people make for themselves/their families. There are so many different things to make! Just for dinner! And I find it rather marvelous that my husband and I have our Old Standbys and preferred flavor/ingredient combinations… while you might – probably, in fact! – have totally different things that you turn to every week.

To make what may seem like a change of subject but is closely linked in my brain: I felt so heartened by the suggestions on my most recent meal planning postthat I have soldiered on for many months. I downloaded a recipe/shopping list app that I still haven’t really gotten the hang of, but aside from that, I’ve just been going on as before: long lists of recipes on my phone and on my computer; an unwieldy email chain chronicling my week-over-week meal plans; not infrequent despair that my family’s desire to eat regular meals – much like dishwashing and laundry – never ends.

Well, now I am going to try something new: posting my meal plans on this here blog. New to me, that is; I enjoy many blogs that regularly post their weekly meal plans and have been reading them and getting inspiration from them for years.

Perhaps you will find this wildly boring; in which case, perhaps ignore Tuesday posts (I go shopping on Tuesdays). Or you could probably just wait a few weeks until I grow weary of this particular project.

But perhaps you will find inspiration among my meals. Or at the very least, a little frisson of delight that we are so similar or so very different.

Meals for the Week of November 27 through December 3

  • Pre-packaged marinated pork chops with broccoli

Follow Up: We have another package of these pork chops, so I will have to eat them again. They weren’t bad, just a bit bland.

Follow Up: This continues to be delicious. I think next time I will do an extra onion.

Follow Up: A good, easy dish. I roasted everything at the same time for about 30 minutes, and then broiled the pork for another five. I added garlic cloves to the root vegetables and my husband did not like them — he said they overpower the subtle flavor of the parsnips.

Follow Up: I did in fact serve these with black beans on the side. These turned out to be pretty tasty, although the chunky nature of the canned chiles is not appealing to me. Also, this was WAY more complicated than it should have been: I needed three separate pots to cook everything, plus the roasting dish, plus the bowl in which I blended the second can of chiles — and that doesn’t even count the sheet pan on which I baked the chicken. If I can find a way to modify it so that it’s not so multi-steppy, maybe I’ll do it again… I wonder if it would be good if I simply mixed the chicken and white beans together in a bowl and used that alone as a filling? If I only had to make the sauce, I might do this again.

Follow Up: Delicious. I used some zucchini noodles instead of bean sprouts, which was pretty good.

Follow Up: This continues to be easy and delicious. The worst part is trying to time the beans to be done at the same time as the salmon.

Follow Up: Somehow I totally screwed up the spice level. This time, I used three tablespoons of each spice (except salt — 1 tsp, and cardamon — scant 1 tbsp) and it was WAY too overpowering. My husband and I couldn’t even finish it. And it was really salty. Maybe do 1 to 2 tablespoons of each spice next time, a half tablespoon of cardamom, and a half teaspoon of salt?

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Halloween is not even a week in the rear-view and I’m already dashing headlong into Thanksgiving preparations! It’s coming up in two weeks, people! This is not a drill!

This morning in a fit of… something, probably lack of desire to exercise… I took down and put away all the Halloween decorations and replaced them with my meager Thanksgiving decorations.

I love decorating for the season, and I really enjoy Fall Décor specifically, but I have a very hard time paying $25 for a wooden pumpkin, even if it’s handpainted, and even if I really like the pumpkin and pine for it each year at this time. Oh well. I keep it in my Etsy shopping cart for annual admiration, hoping each year that the shop will have a massive sale and I’ll be able to get it for $10.

You know who has surprisingly good seasonal décor? Michael’s, that’s who. I usually spend a morning in early fall, or, as seasonal buying seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, in early summer, wandering through Michael’s, admiring the stuffed scarecrows and fabric owls and tabletop gourds. Would my life be vastly improved by tabletops gourds? Probably not, but I imagine them in my life just the same.

(photos from Michaels.com; although they are all on DRASTIC sale they are not available online and very possibly not available in store either; cute nonetheless)

I don’t really know what more I NEED, by way of fall decorations. I have a plain orange pumpkin that I use to bridge the decorating gap between Halloween and fall. I have a table runner with leaves. I have a small wooden pumpkin. I have a small wooden “gratitude tree” from which Carla hangs little paper leaves on which she’s written things she is thankful for. I have a wooden welcome sign for my front door in the shape of a leaf. I removed the jack-o-lantern faces from the pumpkins, so they are sitting on the front stoop, pretending like they were meant to be fall pumpkins and not Halloween pumpkins. I have two or three ceramic leaf bowls that I can never really figure out how to incorporate; they are not quite deep enough to be candy dishes, so I think I generally use them to hold cashews or pistachios when we have Thanksgiving guests. I have a plastic Thanksgiving plate and bowl for Carla, although she may be too big for them. I saved the fall window clings from last year. I have some small wooden leaves that I don’t know how to use – but I’ll find a way, mark my words; I used small wooden pumpkins on all the windows for Halloween and they are fall-ish enough to stay through Thanksgiving.  I have a couple of fall hand towels.

It sounds like more than it is.

Oh! I also have a handful of colorful cloth leaves that I usually toss onto the Thanksgiving table. But this year, I used putty to stick them to my kitchen walls.

I don’t know if I love it; give me a day or so to think about it. (Who am I kidding? Now that they are up they aren’t coming down unless the putty gives up and they fall off themselves.)

What else could I possibly want, right? Especially because I am picky about decorations. I don’t like anything that’s made out of that scratchy material – what is it, sisal? I don’t like anything with words (my “welcome” door sign notwithstanding). I don’t generally like turkeys or pilgrims. Really, I’m a leaf and pumpkin girl, and I tend toward wood. And there are only so many wooden leaves and pumpkins a person can scatter about her house without feeling like they’re closing in.

It’s not just the decor that has me in a frenzy; it’s the food. Thanksgiving is so early this year! My parents arrive a week from Friday, which is very exciting but also makes me feel a little panicked. I need to come up a meal plan for while they’re here. The one thing I know for sure is that we’ll have this chicken, mushroom, and wild rice soup for dinner the night before The Big Day. At least I have already ordered my turkey – which reminds me, I need to call and request that my turkey arrive a day earlier; DONE. – and I have dusted off my Thanksgiving Timeline. That helps a teeny little bit. I can’t really do much more until my first round of Thanksgiving shopping.

I am feeling a little bit devil-may-care this year about the food. If you know me at all, you know that I am a Huge Kitchen Control Freak and do not like anyone else in the kitchen with me. But I am also realizing that I don’t actually like any of the food on Thanksgiving – except for the garlic goat cheese mashed potatoes and gravy, which I make by the bucketful – so why should I care so much about working myself to exhaustion while insisting on making the entire meal without ANY help from my family lovingly preparing it all on my own? My mother and father both like to help. Why not let them? Such a novel idea! However, jury’s still out on whether I will actually be able to turn over the reins.

While I am throwing Thanksgiving caution to the wind, I am also contemplating doing things differently. Perhaps if I made a pie I actually like – apple, maybe! or a fall version of this plum torte that I have been dreaming about since I made it this summer – I would enjoy pie! Maybe if I made some sort of wonderful Brussels sprout recipe or a delicious mushroomy mac and cheese, I would be able to fill my plate with more than my traditional pile of mashed potatoes and a slim slice of turkey!

This is not new; I have contemplated doing things differently in the past and then stuck with our family traditions. Therein lies the problem, of course: our traditions are so ingrained beloved that we’re not going to change them. Which means that I wouldn’t be lessening the cooking load at all. I am still going to have to make dressing, because it’s my husband’s favorite. I am still going to have to make pumpkin bars, because people want something pumpkin-y at Thanksgiving. And I don’t know that I have enough bandwidth – not to mention enough oven space – to add something else to the mix.

So probably all this wild and reckless and altogether deviant thinking won’t go anywhere, and I’ll do what I’ve always done. It’s fun to think about, though.

The one shake-up I am contemplating that stands the best chance of actually happening is the gravy. I love gravy so very much. And the last time I made it, it was amazing. It was this deep mahogany elixir of the gods that I would have been happy to drink by itself. But it’s finite, you know. And you have to share it with the other people at your Thanksgiving table.

So I’m wondering if I might try to make some gravy in advance. I keep seeing suggestions for doing this, and it doesn’t look terribly hard. I mean, you have to procure chicken or turkey parts/carcass in advance, which troubles me a little. But I could probably buy some chicken wings or legs for not too much money and roast them for the gravy. And I would still make gravy on Thanksgiving Day, don’t you worry. This plan is designed to produce EXTRA gravy, not less work. I want to be eating mashed potatoes and gravy well into December, is what I’m telling you.

Well, I have a little time left to fit it into my Thanksgiving Timeline. If it works out, I’ll let you know.

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