An Almost-Perfect Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Table all set...
Flowers from Missy M
Ah.  The week after a Holiday is always an exercise in returning to normal, isn't it? 

We enjoyed a wonderful seven days "at home" with Missy M and our grand dogs, Ella Rae and Dixie.  We traveled to our favorite family places and did some of our favorite family things.  We ate all the traditional recipes on Turkey Day (photo, left), served in the traditional dishes (Meemaw's turkey platter; Mama Stewart's Haviland gravy bowl and cut-glass relish dish; Nana's cranberry sauce server; and our very own silver and china).  We toasted our good health and happiness with chilled Biltmore Estates Riesling (an new tradition...:).  We postponed dessert until Friday because we were too full from the feast on Thursday.  And, I almost made it through dinner without tears.  Almost.

The turkey had been roasting since early morn, causing the dogs...all 5 of them...to be famished and fussy by mid-afternoon.  So, while we were trying to enjoy a lovely meal at the dining room table, the Houndz were circling our feet like a shiver of sharks.  Someone remarked that they probably were looking for a push-over to share morsels with them.  I said they probably missed Nana dropping bits of her buttered rolls or bites of turkey like she used to.  And that's all it took...that one observation triggered a grief ambush, as friend LCM calls them.  I tried to control the flow...to no avail.  The tears will fall when the tears will fall...I should be used to this by now.  Up from the table...off to the bathroom.  Cry a bit, dry the eyes, rinse & repeat.  Sigh.

Let us speak of happier things.
Thanksgiving Cheesecake

As I said, we got a couple of day-trips into the week.  The first one was on Friday to Boone (mountains), where we usually shop a little at Mast General Store (Christmas sweaters, anyone?), enjoy a big family-style meal of fried chicken and fixin's at Daniel Boone Inn, and then go to one of the many choose n' cut Christmas Tree farms for "The One." This year was a bit different, since we neither ate at the Inn nor came home with a tree on top of the car...more on that later.  Still, it was a beautiful day, and we had a fun time.  And, by the time we made it home, we were all ready to try that cheesecake with fresh strawberries.  Yummy!  (Photo, right; recipe, below)

Next up, Raleigh on Saturday, for the NC Symphony's Carolina Christmas concert.  Beautiful music...the Cary Chorus....the debut of an original work...and even a singalong:  just right for stirring up the Spirit of the Season.  Then, post-concert, we indulged another tradition of eating Chinese food post-Thanksgiving:  anything but turkey!  We got our favorites at P.F. Chang's at the Crabtree Mall, then did a little shopping at the Container Store (which neither of us has "locally").  It was late when we finally made it home...but we elected to have "just a small slice" of cheesecake...this time with fresh blueberries for the topping.

We started Sunday off in leisurely fashion, making family fav pancakes for brunch.  Afterwards, we began the process of removing the Thanksgiving decorations, in preparation for some Christmas ones...to be added later this week.  Mid-afternoon, we were dressing to attend the Service of Memories when...

Do you know what a little, long-haired black dog looks like after a romp in the attic insulation?  It ain't pretty.  While I was putting the finishing touches on my make-up, Mr. T and Missy M were putting the boxes of Thanksgiving decorations away.  Ella Rae decided that was the perfect time to make a dash into the pink stuff just beyond the floored part of the attic where all the decorations are stored.  Of course, every time they tried to get her to come out of the attic...she just made another run-through...thinking they were trying to play-play with her.  What fun!

What fun, indeed.  Missy M stayed home to give ER several baths, to try to remove all the fibres from the little mutt-mutt's fur.  Mr. T and I headed on to the service, which is an annual Holiday offering by Cumby Funeral Home for families who have lost loved ones in the past year.  We were comforted by the words of the minister from Jamestown United Methodist Church, who took his message from the scripture: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." [Psalm 30:5]  For most of us in the chapel, it was still "night"...for there was much weeping.  For me, the tears fell as before...and of course, I had forgotten to bring any tissues.  You'd think I would learn...


Service of Memories...
Gifts for the Grieving
 We were all given two gifts (photo, left) as we exited the service: a brochure on dealing with grief through the Holidays and a lovely ornament with our loved one's name.  Both will be helpful in the coming weeks, I have no doubt, as we follow the suggestions we were given.  I have already found some comfort in a quote in the brochure, Coping With The Holidays: The Road to Recovery:

"I thought I was doing much better.  The pain had subsided; I could laugh again.  I was beginning to spend time with friends.  My eating and sleeping patterns were back to normal.  Then, I had to face my first holiday without him.  I felt the familiar effects of grief wash over me and it was just like the healing process had never even begun."  -- Anonymous
While I don't feel that I am all the way back to Square #1, I do feel that I've been sliding back down the slope this last week.  More tears.  Less sleep.  That hollow, empty feeling of finality.  But reading that quote helped me see that I'm reacting to loss like others do.

Also in the brochure:

"Writing...will help you express your feelings.  When writing, be entirely honest...; it will help you gain control over your feelings.  Clarifying your thoughts will help you feel less overwhelmed..."
So, here I am.  Writing.  Expressing.  Clarifying.  And, all after midnight.  Ah, well...it's a process, right?  No doubt, I shall sleep better tonight than I have in days.

Another reason I was so glad that we attended this service was that we got to see and hear Thom Gill, a volunteer who sings and plays guitar regularly at Hospice Home of High Point.  He is an angel, and I am glad I had another opportunity to tell him how special he and his music are/were to us.  I hugged him after the service, and we chatted for a while about his music ministry.

We returned home, thoroughly drained but with more peace...only to walk into the final chapter of Doggie Chaos.  Missy M had decided to give ALL of the dogs baths!  Since Duche$$ refused to get into the tub, she got her "bath" in the shower.  The good news:  all the dogs were clean and fresh-smelling.  The bad news:  all the dogs were still a wee bit damp...and I don't think there was a dry towel to be had.  A small price to pay, to be sure...

Cheesecake, anyone?

=========================================================
*Thanksgiving* Cheesecake

Crust:
Graham cracker crumbs to equal 2 cups (about 1 1/2 packets)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pecan halves/pieces
1 stick butter, melted
Filling:
4 8-oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T. lemon juice
Toppings:
Fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, etc.), sliced and sugared
     or,
Canned cherry pie filling, chilled
Whipped cream
Chocolate sprinkles

A minimum of two days before you wish to serve the cheesecake, make the crust.  I use the Cuisinart to pulverize the graham crackers and the pecans, although you can put them in a large ziplock baggie and crush them with a rolling pin.  Add the melted butter to the crumbs.  Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a greased springform pan, pressing the mixture up the sides.  I use a greased glass for this part.  Place the pan in the freezer overnight. [You can do this step several days in advance, if desired.]

One day before you wish to serve the cheesecake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and make the filling.  In the bowl of your mixer or Cuisinart, beat the bars of cream cheese until softened.  Add the sugar, and beat well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the sour cream, the lemon juice, and the vanilla, incorporating well into the cream cheese mixture.  Pour the filling into the frozen crust.  Wrap aluminum foil around the base and sides of the springform pan, and place it into a larger pan (cookie-sheet size, but with sides of at least an inch).  Put into the oven.  Pour hot water into the larger pan, creating a "bath" for the cheesecake.  After 10 minutes, lower the temperature to 350 degrees; bake for an additional 1 hour and 30-40 minutes, or until the cheesecake has risen and has a lightly-browned top (which might be more or less time, depending on your oven). Turn off the oven, and allow the cheesecake to rest in the oven for another hour.  Remove from the oven. Let cool on a rack thoroughly before placing into the refrigerator (overnight).



Prior to serving, remove from the refrigerator 30-45 minutes ahead of time.  Run a sharp knife under hot water prior to making each cut.  Top the cheesecake slice with fresh, sweetened fruit; chilled, canned pie filling; or chocolate syrup, chips, or sprinkles...and a large dollop of whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Refrigerate any leftovers.  Yield:  10-12 slices 
[Don't even ASK how many calories are in each slice!]

*We have had this cheesecake almost every Thanksgiving at our house. 

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