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Posts Tagged ‘thanksgiving’

 

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New York is the no. 1 Thanksgiving destination — four years in a row now. Crowds of all ages were ebullient despite the coldest Thanksgiving weather in 117 years. I really hadn’t taken in what a humongous block party the city would be.

I managed to get a few photos of Macy’s Parade participants getting ready and a Brunhilde dressing up just because. But it was impossible to get near enough to the actual parade to see the bands or anything not floating way high up. Folks in the know brought ladders. Next time, maybe.

The police, first responders, and other security experts seemed to anticipate every eventuality and the parade went smoothly. Besides huge sanitation trucks blocking streets, there were trash cans and mailboxes locked to prevent dangerous deposits. That’s what we’ve come to, Dears. Let’s just be grateful that human ingenuity continues to find ways to let us carry on.

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Wishing all good things to you and yours. We are in New York to have Thanksgiving with my sister and brother-in-law and Suzanne’s family. Among the things I’m thankful for this year are a few odd “even though/nevertheless” items. Even though the world is very troubled, nevertheless I’m grateful for all instances of kindness and goodness I see. Even though my sister has a bad cancer, nevertheless I’m grateful that she’s doing very well under treatment.

Someone wrote on twitter last week that many extended families are too divided to eat turkey together this year. But we owe it to ourselves and the world to focus on the things we have in common. There’s nothing new about having to avoid politics and religion in big family gatherings. We know how to do that. There are many more things we have in common with others if we’re determined to find those things.

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Photo: Jason Margolis
Signs & Shapes co-owner Scott Bowen with seamstress Tami Dahir. The Mom & Pop shop in Omaha, Nebraska, makes costumes and parade floats for customers around the world — and their only advertising is word of mouth.

Where do those gigantic Thanksgiving Day parade floats come from? Quite a few probably come from Omaha, Nebraska, according to Public Radio International program The World.

Jason Margolis reports, “Signs & Shapes’ space in Omaha is just about the coolest factory you’ve ever seen — a huge warehouse filled with dogs, ducks and astronaut costumes being stitched, then inflated and tested.

“ ‘The company was started in my dad’s basement, my folks’ basement, just about 30 years ago, and we started as distributors for inflatable signs,’ said Scott Bowen, the company’s co-owner.

“The company eventually expanded into props for plays, parade floats and inflatable costumes. Today, Signs & Shapes exports to 74 countries. …

“Lee Bowen, Scott’s father, who helps run international sales, explained how they find their foreign customers: ‘Word of mouth. … We don’t do any advertising.’

“Signs & Shapes relies on reputation and having a niche. If you want a high-end inflatable that won’t pop when your mascot is bouncing on its head in front of 20,000 people, call Omaha. …

“Scott Bowen has been at the export game for a while now and says the export process has become ‘quite easy’ for his company. Business is going well, but still, Signs & Shapes only has 25 employees. And Bowen said they’re limited in how much they can grow.

“ ‘We need seamstresses with a really high level of sewing intelligence that can look at a pattern of a couple of hundreds of pieces that’s never been made before, and put the whole thing together accurately,’ says Bowen. ‘But [they also must] have a business or commercial mentality in terms of speed.’ …

“While letting the product speak for itself has become the company’s best marketing strategy, they can’t take credit for some of the coolest stuff they make due to non-disclosure agreements. It can be a highly secretive industry.

“In a back room, airbrush artist Shane Perrin put the finishing touches on a mascot as Scott Bowen looked on.

“ ‘He’s had stuff on Broadway stages, the biggest amusement parks, huge international sporting events,’ said Bowen, who can’t name many of the actual places or events where Perrin’s work has been on display. …

“If you’re watching a Thanksgiving Day parade Thursday and see a float that you really, really like, chances are a group of folks in Nebraska may have had a hand putting that together. Or not.”

More at PRI, here.

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Dear Readers,

I’m wishing you a good Thanksgiving, with lots of laughter and no stresses inherited from past generations or bygone holidays — just relaxing,  enjoying the people around you. and eating well.

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Did you catch the NY Times article before Thanksgiving featuring a special recipe from every state? Asakiyume says she made the wild rice recipe and the persimmon pudding, “both of which were fabulous.”

Since my husband and I lived in Minnesota for a few years in the 1990s, I had to check out that state’s recipe. If you listen to Garrison Keillor’s radio show A Prairie Home Companion, you know that food in the “hot dish” capital of the world is often a little … different. (“That’s different!” as the book How to Talk Minnesotan teaches us to say when we’re feeling skeptical.)

Anyway, the Minnesota Thanksgiving dish is grape salad. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be delicious, but some of the other state recipes look positively luscious.

Here is the grape salad recipe. It gave me a chuckle.

  •  pounds seedless grapes, removed from stems and rinsed, about 6 cups
  •  cups sour cream
  •  cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup toasted pecans (optional)
  1. Heat broiler. Put grapes in a large mixing bowl. Add sour cream and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, making sure all grapes are well coated.
  2. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart ceramic soufflé dish or other baking dish. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over top. Place dish under broiler as far from heat source as possible and broil until sugar is caramelized and crispy, about 5 minutes (be vigilant or you’ll risk a burnt black topping). Rotate dish as necessary for even browning. Chill for at least one hour. May be prepared up to 24 hours ahead. Just before serving, sprinkle with toasted pecans, if using.

More state recipes here. Save the collection for a special occasion — or next Thanksgiving.

Photo: David Tanis/NY Times

More here.

Photo: David Tanis/NY Times

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We decided on a restaurant for Thanksgiving this year, which was a daring thing to do with a two-year-old. He spent a good bit of time under the table. We read Mo Willems books about Gerald the elephant and his friend Piggie a few times. The waiter said he was reminded of himself at age two. He was a bundle of energy, he said, and that is how he has the energy to wait tables and bar-tend at two restaurants.

Erik expressed the spirit of American independence by having steak for his first year as a citizen. The rest of us had the turkey feast that Mill’s Tavern provided.

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Thanksgiving-in-Prov-RIEarlier this month I wrote about a restaurant founded on gratitude. I liked something the owner said: “gratitude spills over,” meaning if someone does something nice for you it makes you feel like doing something nice for someone else. It got me thinking more about  gratitude, and I decided to make a list.

Suzanne’s Mom is grateful for: A peaceful neighborhood to live in, shelter, food, clothing, other people, a way to make a living, music, art, theater, books, poetry, nature. And especially, my family and a baby who lights up with a megawatt smile when I arrive, a one-year-old who wants to snuggle on the rug with a book, and a three-year-old who exclaims with wonder, “Grandma! Are you my daddy’s mommy?!”

Photo: AllSeasons4Tenants

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I was pushing the stroller this morning, singing the old Thanksgiving hymns (“Come Ye Thankful People,” “We Gather Together,” “We Plow the Fields and Scatter the Good Seed on the Ground”) and thinking of harvests.

So today might be a good time to blog about harvests and drought-resistant crops.

“Scientists are developing faster-maturing and drought-tolerant varieties of corn and cotton,” writes Madalitso Mwando at AlertNet, “holding out the hope of much-needed relief for thousands of farmers across Zimbabwe.

“As planting season approaches amid concerns about successive poor harvests, research into drought-resistant seeds is gaining momentum …

“Zimbabwean farmers have suffered a succession of poor harvests with yields far below what the country needs, forcing the agriculture ministry repeatedly to revise its projections for harvests.

“Farmers and their unions blame the cyclical uncertainties of their sector not only on a lack of up-to-date farming technology, but also on their inability to obtain seed varieties that can survive the low rainfall caused by climatic shifts.

“The Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC), in partnership with the University of Zimbabwe and Biotechnology Research Institute (BRI), has developed a drought-resistant variety of maize (corn) seed called Sirdamaize 113.

“Farmers have had to wait between 150 and 180 days before harvesting their traditional maize crop, but the center says the new seed takes only 136 days to mature.” Read more.

I hope a bountiful harvest was represented at your dinner table today.

With gratitude to blog readers for reading,
Suzanne’s Mom

Photograph: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters/File
Martha Mafa, a subsistence farmer, stacks her crop of maize (corn) in Chivi, about 378km (235 miles) southeast of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare.

 

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Everyone is getting ready for Thanksgiving around here. John’s family has left for Syracuse to join culinary forces with my daughter-in-law’s family. My husband and I just arrived in Providence, where we will celebrate with Suzanne, Erik, my sister, and my brother-in-law.

Big cooking starts early tomorrow. But I already made the From Scratch Club’s cranberry sauce that was such a hit last year. (I found it on their WordPress blog.)

So as not to repeat myself too much, I am just going to share a link John sent me that captures the leaping-for-joy spirit that should be the essence of a holiday that is basically about eating a lot of food with people you like. And then maybe taking a nap and dreaming you are flying.

Check out the wonderful pictures at http://imgur.com/a/NAwjl

This is just one.

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We’re hopping an early Acela train Wednesday to join Suzanne, Erik, and other family members for Thanksgiving.

I’m assigned to make cranberry sauce, stuffing, and a squash dish. Although I have already placed my ingredients order and can’t use the recipe I just saw at another WordPress blog, you might like to. It’s a maple-citrus-ginger-cranberry sauce.

The blog in question is the public face of a collaboration in Upstate New York, the “From Scratch Club”: “We are a small group of women, living within the Capital Region of NYS (Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs) striving for a sustained connection to the whole food we, our loved ones, and our communities consume.

“We meet twice a month for food swaps, and maybe even a food-related adventure, field trip, cheesemaking party or potluck. Once a month we participate in community outreach at various local farmers markets in our area.”

These ladies understand that the key to enjoying great cooking is to have others to share the results with.

Consider Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is mostly about preparing lots of food and bringing groups of people together to eat the food and talk and not rush off to anything.

This year at Suzanne’s, my sister and her husband will join the fun. Also Erik’s cousin and her family, who have just relocated from Sweden to the U.S. It’s great that little kids will be part of the festivities.

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I’ve been thinking about angels and how almost anyone might be an angel at any moment in time. An ex-con who rescues a baby from a burning building is an angel to that baby’s family.

When I read this Boston Globe essay by Carlo Rotella (Boston College director of American Studies) I thought that — even though they all mispronounced his name — the people shouting encouragement as he ran a grueling marathon were angels to him that day. Especially a stranger he calls Mustache Man.

“Thank you, Mustache Man of Lowell,” Rotella writes, “and the rest of you no-r-pronouncing Samaritans along the race route. You said my name, badly, when I badly needed to hear it.”

And I’m thinking of a particularly nice thing that happened to me some years ago, after a dark time with chemo. Two completely unconnected friends chose Thanksgiving Day to acknowledge some little favor, which I learned was more than “little” to them. It was such a treat to receive their e-mails, one from China! I felt touched by two angels that Thanksgiving.

P.S. I hope it will not detract too much from the high-minded tone of this post if I do a kindness for Suzanne and point to the angel wing at Luna & Stella, the company that gives me permission to blog on “anything that interests me.”

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