Thanksgiving at the Houseproud homestead was wonderful: there were five of us, and we talked and ate and drank and looked at travel photos and talked with the Mister’s parents and drank some more and then we ate some pie. We didn’t take pictures of the groaning table of food, but trust me when I say that it all came together as a warm and lively family dinner should, thanks to help from all comers (a special shout-out to Edna Louise, who helped prep endless amounts of food at the start, and to Michael Michael Michael, who helped dry an entire kitchen’s worth of dishes at the end). The stars of the dinner were the wines from Yorkville Cellars (one of which was an amazing sparkling petit verdot) and from Sean Thackrey (two Pleiades of differing vintages, both jammy yumminess). The carnivores feasted on braised heritage turkey (in a chile-tequila braise) and the vegetarians feasted on cheese and roasted mushroom tarts. What else did we serve? We served sides from Deborah Madison’s fabulous recipes in November’s Sunset magazine! We had her winter squash soup with red chiles and mint, her jumble of sweet-and-sour onions, a green bean dish based upon her broccoli romanesco with green herb sauce, pan roasted sweet potatoes (sans coconut oil and sesame seeds) and a “buttermilk” skillet cornbread (loosely based upon this recipe by Madison, sans buttermilk and with the substitution of a bit of masa flour). Our salad course was a delicious warm spinach salad (with mushrooms and walnuts), prepared by Edna Louise. The pie was from a shop in San Francisco, courtesy Michael Michael Michael, and it was buttery goodness incarnate. The day’s bar tending services were provided by the Mister; warm winter tights, excellent hair-care products, and a small Trappist fruitcake were provided by Mum-of-mine (I was the sole beneficiary of Mum-of-mine’s largess, but sometimes that is fitting and right).
And with that ode to gluttony, let me offer the first of this post’s tips from the Houseproud homestead: braising turkey’s the way to go, people. Please keep in mind, however, that turkey breasts off the bone cook in mere moments, unlike breasts left on the bone. Yes, this is a blindingly obvious statement, but … um … I kinda forgot about that in the heat of the moment last week. The good news is that although the breast meat dried out (sob!), it came back to life when I sliced it thinly and doused it in its delicious braising liquid and thusly served it forth. And I’m happy to report that the braised turkey legs and thighs were flipping amazing – perfectly cooked and tasting of rich deep meatiness. All in all, the turkey was yummy this year, which is good, as the Mister and I have been eating said turkey for the last week. Let me repeat myself: thou shalt braise thy turkey – at least the legs and thighs. That’s tip number one. Good, yes?
The second tip from the Houseproud homestead is this: use a thimble when hand sewing layers of fabric together. If you do not use a thimble, you will get interesting new scars on the tip of your middle finger and thumb on your dominant hand (which for me is my right hand, in case you were wondering). The new scars were worth it, though. Please feast your eyes upon the picture of the fall wreath that got finished 15 minutes before Thanksgiving’s official start time. I am super pleased about the way the wreath turned out. Amusingly enough, the part I like the best about the wreath are the leather leaves that I created at the last minute. Along with adjusting the location of the leaves (yet again), I think the flowers need stamens. As I said in the caption above, though, I’m done with the wreath for this year. Next year, next year, next year: I have to leave something to fuss about for next year, don’t I? Anyway, take a moment to click on the photo, and zoom in on the leaves. Aren’t they cool?? They were inspired by stylized leather / vinyl leaves that I saw at Redux. The leaves I made are an attempt to be botanically accurate – the leaf at the top of the wreath is a maple leaf, and the leaves on the sides are magnolia (the lighter, smooth leaves) and oak (the darker, jagged leaves). The leaves were cut out of scrap leather that I either purchased at Redux or that I had in my stash. But I am going on about those leaves, aren’t I? Ignore the leaves, and focus on the second of this post’s tips: thimbles are your friends when you are sewing by hand.
The mention of Redux, however, leads me to this post’s third tip: why not buy locally this Christmas? And while you’re at it, why not seek out goods made in the USA? To get you started thinking about this, here’s a list of my favorite places to shop for gifts in Alameda: Redux, Dandelion Flowers and Gifts, Modern Mouse, and (ahem) the Alameda Marketplace. [Do keep in mind that I’m working at the pantry shop in the Marketplace for the next few weeks, and that I am ever so slightly biased (!) when it comes to the Marketplace.] These four places are my go-to shops for gifts and treats in Alameda. All four have well-curated selections of goods, all try to offer things that are made in the USA, and all offer items at different price-points. They also offer owners or staff members who would LOVE to tell you more about their goods – these are people who are really interested in what you are looking for and why you want it. These types of places don’t just sell things; they offer advice and counsel, too. There are bookstores like The Escapist Comic Bookstore and its wicked twin sister, Dark Carnival, that might have books that you didn’t know you wanted – just ask one of the staff members what’s on their “must-read” list and get ready for some fabulous suggestions! And the same is true at places like Alameda’s Books, Inc or San Francisco’s Omnivore Books on Food. (Sure you can order books directly from Amazon, but Amazon doesn’t offer you people like Books Inc’s Elizabeth, who will recite Kipling to you if you ask nicely.) What about lovely gift shops like Elmwood’s Tale of the Yak or Rockridge’s Maison d’Etre? A good local store will be staffed by people with personalities and quirks, and that’s a good thing. Oh, enough already – you get the gist of the Houseproud homestead’s third tip: when you can, shop at locally-owned business. And when you shop at those businesses, encourage them to offer goods made in the USA. By shopping locally and asking for USA-made goods, you and your money are creating market demand, and ain’t that powerful??
[Speaking of powerful, I am typing the last of this post to the tune of icy cold rain making skittering sounds on the living room window. It sounds cold – brrrrr!]
And lastly, Houseproud homestead tip number four: store fresh bread in cloth bags. Oh, if only I had a decent photo to show you of the light-weight muslin bread bag that I made this week! Alas, I do not. You must trust me on this, my dears: store fresh bread in a cloth bag and it will stay fresh longer. I bought a baguette on Wednesday, put it into the muslin bag I’d made, and as of this evening (Friday) it was still edible. It’s remarkable, really: the cloth keeps the bread from drying out (as it will in a paper bag) or from getting soggy (as it will in a plastic bag). Any thin cotton or linen bag will do, really – I tested the theory first with a simple (thin) cotton shopping tote and it worked like a charm. I’m still tweaking the bread bag that I designed, but I hope to have pictures to show you of the new and improved version for next week’s post. Until then, I leave you with a photo of the Houseproud homestead’s cozy-covered TV. (The dratted thing dominated the room before I slip-covered it, but now it just blends into the wall.) Keep cozy yourselves until next we meet, my pets!