Thanksgiving Leftovers…

file5241262572135Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, a time to take a step back from all of the busy minutes in my life and to give thanks for all that I have. I have usually been surrounded by family, who have travelled some distance to share in our once-a-year gathering. Laughter and smiles have been as plentiful as the food and other goodies that tempt beyond imagination!

Our hosting the Thanksgiving festivities began many, many years ago when all of our kids were young and before they were grown with kids of their own! The fun always began on Wednesday—Thanksgiving Eve—when my tradition of cooking one turkey on the Weber charcoal kettle began. It would be blasphemous for me to even think about using the oven to cook them! I come up short in many departments, but I must pat myself on the back that my holiday turkeys always are delicious and perfectly done “to a turn” (a kind relative’s words once).

IMG_2774Of course, I can’t let it go with just one turkey. I arise early on Thanksgiving morning and do the same thing all over again. Thus, two turkeys for our menu, allowing for plenty of delicious meat for the dinner and those crucial sandwiches later on for the next couple of days. Now that’s the beauty of the Thanksgiving feast, I think.

This Thanksgiving gathering is also the time when our garage becomes “Thanksgiving Central.” You know, the place where we can be found with the football and hockey on the TV up in the corner and the keg of beer chilling away down below, next to the the table laden with snacks and leftovers—not to mention pies and other tempting delicious desserts.

If the weather is cold (it usually is), our son has his propane heater that quickly heats things up and we don’t even need coats or jackets. On those few occasions when the weather has been unseasonably warm and pleasant, that’s an added bonus to add to our list of things for which we are thankful.

I can’t really remember exactly when this whole family ritual began, or why it seemed to catch on year after year. Like all traditions, it began once and we did it again the next year, and the next, and right on to the next, family and friends showing up and making it a very good time.

This year’s gathering was much smaller, many of the nephews not being able to make it because of their own “grown up” family traditions and responsibilities. And some day, we will no longer host the event, but with so many memories, we will always have much for which we are thankful!

Was your Thanksgiving a good one? What Thanksgiving traditions do you have?

A Thanksgiving Come & Gone…

Sketch of Thanksgiving in camp (of General Lou...
Sketch of Thanksgiving in camp (of General Louis Blenker) during the US Civil War on Thursday November 28th 1861. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, now…Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone, and family I see once or twice a year have returned to their homes in Ohio, Nebraska, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. Our little spot here in northern Illinois was virtually bursting with life—young, old, and in between—beginning Wednesday afternoon.

All of the preparations and planning seem to have whisked right on by at light speed, with excellent results. The two twenty-pound turkeys and dressing I cooked on Wednesday and Thursday turned out perfect, along with the all of the other culinary delights that Carolyn put together for our traditional Thursday meal.

As we all were gathered together, each of us sharing wonderful conversation, many laughs and smiles, and thoughts of what all was going on in our lives, I realized just how much I have to be thankful for. And I have made it a goal to write more often about those many things and no longer take them for granted.

Carolyn and I have been hosting this “gathering” every year for longer than we can recall (at least 25 years, at last guess), and we look forward to it every year. And every year, family from near and far makes the trip to our humble abode, resulting in a few days of silliness, snacks, cold drinks, delicious meals, conversation, and college football and Blackhawks hockey on TV.

Today—Sunday—like all Sundays at the end of Thanksgiving weekend, seems empty and much too quiet. The leftovers populate the fridge, and the washer seems to be in overdrive, catching up on bath and dish towels, almost as soon as the last traveler is packed up and headed out of our driveway for their return journey to home.

Just the two of us, alone in our quiet house once more, we go about the tasks of getting things put back together. I spend a good amount of the morning getting all the card table chairs, tables, and plastic cups and plates back in the Thanksgiving box to haul to the shelf in the basement, where it will rest until next year at the same time. Then I help my son, who has come up from his home, load up his truck with the remaining things we had borrowed from him. He and my two grandsons eat some leftover pizza from last night but can’t stay long as there are things that they need to get done down at their house.

Through it all, there’s a sense of relief that the weekend was a success and that everything “worked” as we’d planned. Yet, at the same time, there is a feeling of melancholy that it’s over much too soon. Watching the Bears’ game doesn’t make it any better, either, as they squander opportunities to win, eventually losing late in overtime.

Carolyn has busied herself with handling the wash and bringing me the clean things to help fold. We even get all of the autumn decorations—outside and inside—taken down and stored away, making room for the Christmas things very soon. Eventually, Carolyn and I take some time away from our cleaning up duties and heat up what remains of the leftovers and watch Criminal Minds, which was DVR’d from last Wednesday.

Late in the afternoon, I finally come into my office, which for the past several days has been where my daughter and her husband have had their Aero bed, suitcases, and their kid’s suitcases. I hurriedly look back over things on my desk from when I was last seated in front of my MacBook and realize that I’m a bit behind in my blog posts. But I did manage to reach my goal of over 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo these past weeks, and I’m thankful for pushing hard during the first weeks of the month to get that word count up and climbing every day. This makes me smile and kind of brightens the day once again.

Now with the busy-ness of November behind me, I can get squared away for the month of December and get back to some sense of a daily writing routine. And there is still much to write. But for now, I’m simply focusing on those many things of which I’m thankful. I hope everyone else has plenty to be thankful for, as well….CortlandWriter

The Week After…

English: Oven roasted turkey, common fare for ...
English: Oven roasted turkey, common fare for Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What a great Thanksgiving it was here at the old homestead! The food, of which there was plenty, was delicious and the friends and family who joined us for a few days were fun and enjoyed themselves. So, the cleanup has been ongoing the past couple of days, and I’ve spent a great amount of time trying to make up for lost writing time during the holiday. Today, already, I’ve written over 3,000 words and currently am around 36,000 words for my NaNoWriMo novel. It’s coming along, and it’s not too bad a read for a draft. Should be interesting as I push to finish it by Thursday.


I will check back in for an update as that time inches closer….CortlandWriter


Thanksgiving Week…my favorite!

Weber on fire
Weber on fire (Photo credit: brendonjford)

Well, we’ve reached my favorite holiday of the year, and not just the day (Thanksgiving), but the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday leading up to it and the Friday and weekend that follows it. Over the years it has become a special time here at our home, first for many, many years in Naperville and now out here in the countryside of northern Illinois.

I can’t remember the last time I spent Thanksgiving at some other relative’s house. It has always been here at ours, mainly because we love doing it every year and our location puts us between the folks who live in Ohio and Nebraska.

As the years have wound and twisted along, we’ve watched the kids (ours and my sisters’) grow from little ones into “married-with-their-own-kids” people! The fun and tradition–usually full of laughter and all sorts of nonsense–has been a staple here year after year.

Some years have been fully attended; others have been minus some. Now that the younger kids have grown, married, and moved to their various places on the map, it isn’t as easy getting everyone back the way it was when we were all younger. But time marches on, and our Thanksgiving Week is getting into full swing tomorrow (Wednesday).

The turkeys have been thawing in the fridge and the first one, a twenty-two pounder, will get going on the Weber charcoal kettle early tomorrow. I’ll get up and do a smaller (fifteen pounds) on Thursday morning. There will be, it goes without saying, plenty of wonderful turkey for the dinner and those tasty sandwiches later on! There will be lots of cold beer to enjoy in the garage–our sanctum–and many a tale and yarn will be spun with those around us.

Meanwhile, I have accumulated over 30,000 words on my novel for the NaNoWriMo project. Shooting for a completed 50,000 word novel by the 30th of this month. I’m feeling good about it, even though I’m fighting for every piece of “writing time” between now and then. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the days ahead and savor the turkey and the goodness of family and friends who will begin gathering tomorrow.

Metra train No. 1292 arrives at Naperville sta...
Metra train No. 1292 arrives at Naperville station (a bit late) on this late Tuesday afternoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Thanksgiving to you, readers!…CortlandWriter

The Road Leads to Our “Gathering” & Other Turkey Tales…

It’s Getting Closer…

I write this on a gray and misty November morning, two days before Thanksgiving. It’s quiet here in our little place, in our little corner of northern Illinois, and I know that during the next 48 hours, there will be laughter and chatter and all kinds of sounds that seem only to happen during our annual Thanksgiving “gatherings.” During the next two days, there will be tables to set up out in the garage–our “headquarters” for the occasion–and coolers to be readied for leftovers, and oh, so many other tasks to finish. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have already begun many of these “preparatory” tasks, such as beginning to thaw the two large turkeys that will be my charge beginning mid-morning on Wednesday when bird number one will take its rightful place upon the Weber kettle! Bird number two meets the same fate very early Thanksgiving morning. The distinct aroma of charcoal will waft about, signaling that the Thanksgiving “gathering” has officially begun.

Why two turkeys, cooked on two separate days? The first will be for those wonderful sandwiches throughout the holiday. The second will be the one served at dinner on Thursday. Sounds as though we’re “working backwards,” but it’s just another one of those traditions around here that always seems to work well. I always cook the turkeys on the Weber charcoal grill, thus freeing up room in the kitchen. Plus, it allows me more time outside in the garage–“headquarters”–where there’s cold draft beer to enjoy and football on TV. Sometimes, it seems, the preparations–the “getting ready”–are better than the outcome of it all. Half the fun is getting there, or something to that effect!

By 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, turkey number one will be ready to hit the grill and begin its journey to deliciousness. Every forty-five minutes or so, I’ll add a few coals to maintain a steady, even temperature. My twenty-pound bird will take about six hours to cook, and since both birds will be stuffed with my famous dressing, there is a definite need to make sure things get cooked all the way through. We’ve all read and heard the warnings about not stuffing a turkey when using the charcoal grill. And though there might be something to this, I have never shied away from loading it up every Thanksgiving holiday. (Knock on wood here!)

Once the turkey has been placed in the Weber charcoal kettle, it’s time to relax and chat with whomever might have arrived already. The weather forecast this year indicates that it’s supposed to be rather pleasant and comfortable–and dry–so that only adds to the flavor of the occasion and the fun involved in getting the turkeys cooked for one and all. I’ll get up early on Thanksgiving morning and get right to work on bird number two. I’ll follow the same steps, except the cooking will begin much earlier to allow for a dinner start of 2:00. Each year the birds seem to taste better and better: moist and tender and flavorful!  

It’s work, but it’s fun. I would not stop doing it for anything.There have been many fine memories grown around the charcoaling of our Thanksgiving turkeys. Those “garage tales” are such an important part of what has become our annual “gathering.” I think back many, many  Thanksgivings and smile when I recall those who have been with us and shared in our “gathering” and feast. Some still make it each November; others have, for one reason or another, had to miss from time to time. We welcome relatives and friends, and friends of friends, and anyone else who might have no other place to go. There are nephews and nieces and cousins and in-laws and outlaws. There are grandmas and grandpas, great-grandma, too. There are sons and daughters and grandsons and kitties and doggies! There are young and old and somewhere in-between. There are those from Ohio and Michigan and Nebraska, happy to meet right here in the middle–northern Illinois!

The Thanksgiving road winds and meanders to our house, and we’re very much looking forward to the arrival–safe and sound–of the pilgrims who will travel her. How I love this time of year and Thanksgiving! Safe and happy Thanksgiving, all…MLA

Thanksgiving Season Has Arrived…

As I write this, a long freight train is slowly making its way eastward, passing brown, empty fields which, not so long ago, were resplendent with beans and corn. The harvest here in northern Illinois is all but finished as we wend our way ever deeper into November. In my recent drives through the countryside, I’ve noticed a few last-minute gleanings taking place. Yesterday (Saturday) was perfect for any of these last-ditch efforts: dry, clear, and mild. And I am always amazed how the landscape and countryside is completely transformed once all of the fields are “down”–put away for the winter, as it were! It is then, I think, that the approaching season of Thanksgiving has really arrived. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and one which has truly become a family tradition year after year. For some reason many years ago, the tradition for my siblings and their families to assemble at our home every Thanksgiving weekend in Naperville, Illinois, began. Perhaps it was our central location: halfway between Ohio and Nebraska? Whatever the reason, Thanksgiving was to be at our home. And that proved to be very interesting down through the years as the little kids grew and the older folks aged gently and the tradition continued. It has always been a much-anticipated event. The fun and nonsense and family togetherness have been the main ingredients of our annual gatherings.

Now that the sons and daughters, nieces and nephews have grown and have married and have kids of their own, our Thanksgiving Weekends, the last few years, have been a bit less attended. I still do two big stuffed turkeys on the trusty Weber (charcoal only!), and there is plenty of cold keg beer out in the garage that we somehow manage to finish off without a problem. 

And as the freight train disappears far off to the east, sounding its whistle at the Airport Road crossing, I think back with many fond memories of Thanksgivings past and look ahead to a few more….MLA