Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Sunday Salon/Currently … Thankfully Reading, Christmas Music, and #turnonthelight

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We’re back from a quick (less than 48 hours!) trip to Philadelphia, where we spent Thanksgiving with both sides of our family. If you read yesterday’s post recapping that visit, you know this holiday had special meaning this year.

It’s also been an extended break from work for me; I’m off from work through Tuesday, thanks to an abundance of vacation days needing to be used before year’s end with still more time off at the end of the year. Nothing is planned for today except church and grocery shopping. Tomorrow’s fun includes a follow up visit to the vet — our cat had dental surgery two weeks ago and all of her teeth needed to be removed, except for two.  She’s made a remarkable recovery and is doing well so hopefully this will be an uneventful check up.

Thankfully Reading
ThankfullyReading2014Because of the Philly trip, I didn’t have a chance to participate as much in Jenn’s Bookshelves annual Thankfully Reading Weekend event as I would have liked. This is one of my favorite bookish happenings because it’s a no-rules, whatever works for you kind of thing. Since I’m jumping in late (officially signing up with this post as Thankfully Reading concludes) I’m extending my participation into Monday.

Here’s what I read this week:


As a Springsteen fan, I was pretty sure I would like Born to Run — and oh my, did I ever. At its conclusion, Bruce (I feel I can call him Bruce) writes that he hasn’t revealed everything about himself in this memoir, but you definitely come away from this feeling like you know him and his music in a whole new way. A must-read for Bruce fans and one that will be on my Best of 2016 list (in just a few short weeks!).

Springtime: A Ghost Story is a bit of an odd novella by Michelle de Kretser, an Australian novelist who was born in Sri Lanka. Frances is a 28 year old woman living in Sydney with her partner Charlie. She sees a ghost while walking her dog and … that’s about it. I liked the concept of a ghost story in springtime, but this felt more like an unfinished short story.

Last night I finished House of Silence, a debut historical fiction/mystery/romance novel by Sarah Barthels. This is a review book, so I can’t say much more until after its December 27 publication date.

I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I have several books in progress and another review book on the docket so probably one of those.

One thing I’ve been reading more of is The New York Times. I decided that something I can do in this post-election world is to support quality journalism by subscribing to the NYT. (We also subscribe to our local paper.)  They had a deal last week where a subscription was $10 per month. For that price, I can forego a few breakfast bowls or afternoon coffees at work.

Need a Little Christmas Now … 
Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, The Husband puts on Christmas music and listens to nothing else until January 2. (The two exceptions are November 29 and December 8 when he plays George Harrison and John Lennon nonstop, respectively, in honor of those two greats.) The Christmas music, though, usually drives me crazy. I can handle it in small doses.  Not this year. I’ve downloaded a bunch of new tunes from Spotify and am cranking up the holly right along with him.

#turnonthelight …
Our friends Jason and Rachel have launched The Holiday Lights Project  #turnonthelight to bring more kindness and joy into the lives of those around us.  They’re doing this in a big but quiet way, as is their style. They’re the folks who, while having breakfast at IHOP, pick up the tab for everyone in THE WHOLE RESTAURANT, not just the table next to them.  They load up gift cards with hundreds of dollars and hand it to a cashier, instructing them to pay for everyone’s coffee until it runs out. And they do this year-round.  (I know, because we’ve been the recipients of Jason and Rachel’s generosity many times.)

Obviously, we all don’t have the financial means to do this.  We certainly don’t. But we can all do what we can, even in a small way. (For example: since we weren’t going to be home for Thanksgiving, I donated some pumpkin pie filling and canned vegetables I’d purchased to the food pantry at church.) Jason’s post gives some inspiration for how we can all fight darkness with a little light, regardless of our status and station in life.

I hope your Sunday and the week ahead is filled with more light and less darkness. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take this opportunity to say how grateful I am for all my blog readers. Whether you’re a newcomer to the blog or someone who has been reading for the past eight years, I’m very appreciative for you and your friendship. Thanks for being here! 

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Second Helpings

Before this tumultuous year, Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to Christmas were already emotionally-charged holidays for me and The Husband.  A lifetime ago, we got engaged during Thanksgiving week. After years of infertility, our twins were born on Thanksgiving Day in a scenario straight out of a Hallmark movie:  twins, Thanksgiving Day, the most incredible gift you could ever imagine.

And then, exactly one year ago today on Thanksgiving Day 2015, The Husband collapsed in the middle of dinner. We hadn’t even brought out the pie. I found him barely conscious in the bathroom and performed CPR right there on the floor. Dessert was replaced by a rush of paramedics, police, tears and two hospitals before 10 p.m.

Thankfully, he survived this unexpected (and somewhat still unexplained) event; it goes without saying that this year — not to mention the rest of our lives — would have been extremely different if he hadn’t.  Grateful is an understatement. In the face of some significant losses and challenges, we still have each other. That counts for something (a lot, actually).

Nonetheless, there was a push-pull effect to this particular Thanksgiving.  Stay home or spend the holiday with family in Philly?  Part of me felt like sheltering in place after the past 17 days since the election. The appeal and comfort of home far outweighed the prospect of politically-charged dinnertime conversations awaiting us on the opposite side of the state.

At the same time, I didn’t want to be home with the ghosts of last Thanksgiving sitting at the table.

We decided to do a quick trip to Philly — less than 48 hours in duration, with 12 of those spent driving. Some close relatives have had medical scares in the past month, and this would be an opportunity to spend some time with them. As if we needed any reminding, life doesn’t come with guarantees. Take nothing and no one for granted.

At a rest stop in the middle of Tr*mpland, we instructed the children that there were only two acceptable topics of conversation for this visit (and probably every other visit thereafter):  The Weather and How Is School Going?.

“What if [insert name of relative who likely voted differently than us] asks us about the election?” The Girl asked, a bit worriedly.

“You say, ‘on the advice of counsel, I decline to answer the question,'” The Husband replied, prompting a discussion of the Fifth Amendment, because that’s how we roll.

As it turned out, everyone behaved themselves as best as possible. No politics were discussed. Instead, we celebrated the kids’ birthdays (and a nephew’s) with both sets of grandparents. My sister-in-law made a delicious dinner. The cousins had a chance to hang out and laugh and reconnect with each other, reminiscent of the kind of holidays The Husband and I remember as children with our own cousins. It was the first Thanksgiving our extended family spent together in six years.

And best of all?

Everyone had more than enough pie.



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thanksgiving 2015: unplugged (or not) and thankfully reading

Thanksgiving 2014 - cropped

Thanksgiving, 2014

Thanksgiving 2015, and we’ve been experiencing some maddening Internet woes here on the homefront today. On, then off for a few minutes. Repeat at inconvenient intervals. Season with an impromptu shutdown of the laptop for an update.

A sign that we should be spending this holiday unplugged from our technology and more connected to the things that really matter?

Yes, perhaps.

(The irony isn’t lost on me that I’m writing this with the benefit of an Internet connection. For now.)

There will be some unplugged time today and throughout this weekend. I’m participating in the annual Thankfully Reading Weekend hosted by Jenn’s Bookshelves. I need to start Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann for a review, and I’m also still reading The Witches by Stacy Schiff. That one is taking me forever — it’s definitely a chunkster. I don’t have any goals for Thankfully Reading; it’s meant to be a low-key event, which are the best kinds of read-a-thons and challenges, in my mind.

Today I’m cooking dinner for The Husband, the kids, and my mother-in-law.  Started last night, actually, by making a few things ahead of time:  cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie. In the crockpot are sweet potatoes and carrots.  The turkey breast is already taken care of, courtesy of a gift certificate to Honeybaked Ham, and we have a Quorn turkey roll for the two of us who abstain from meat. Stuffing (two kinds — one regular, one gluten-free), mashed potatoes and biscuits still to come.

It will be an abundant, delicious meal on this, a bit of a difficult holiday.  The past five months have brought several significant challenges and stress, and as the year quickly draws to a close, there’s some real apprehension about what 2016 will bring.

I’m trying very hard to look past all that — beyond what’s been lost and what lies ahead — and trying to focus on being grateful, for now.

To stay plugged in to what truly matters.


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Currently …Birthdays, Burghosphere, and Books

Chocolate cake

Currently …
Sunday evening, at the end of a busier than usual weekend. The highlights: a dentist visit for an 8:45 a.m. root canal (there’s no better way to spend a Saturday, let me tell you) and a Sunday afternoon hanging out with some of Pittsburgh’s best bloggers at Best of the Burghosphere, which I’ll post more about tomorrow. Afterwards, The Girl and I stopped by Half Price Books for some birthday shopping. As much as this may surprise some of you, I’d never been there before today. It’s now The Girl’s favorite store (and one of mine, too).

Celebrating …
We’re celebrating the kids’ birthdays this weekend. Hard to believe they are 14. We kept things fairly low-key with one of their favorite dinners (a simple version of pasta with chicken in alfredo sauce) and the chocolate cake, pictured above.

Reading … 
I finished two books this week, which is practically unheard of for me — especially given the slow pace at which I’ve been reading.

M TrainAccidental Saints

M Train by Patti Smith, which I enjoyed. This has a very free-form quality to it.  If you’ve ever been part of a writing workshop and the instructor says to write for ten minutes about whatever comes to mind, that’s what this feels like.  (It’s not so easy writing about nothing is the first line and at times this feels as if you’ve stolen a glimpse at a page written in Patti Smith’s notebook.) Non-linear in structure, M Train is what I would describe as a “writer’s book” and it isn’t going to appeal to everyone. It meanders, often in an esoteric way.

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, who is the pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver.  I picked this up at the library after hearing a great interview with the author on NPR’s Fresh Air.  This was more … I don’t know … religious? theological? than I expected. (Also a bit too self-deprecating.)

Not Reading …
Another week, another DNF.  Despite my appreciation for its author, I’m finding the characters in Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood to be somewhat boring.  I’ve been listening to this collection of linked stories on audio but it isn’t holding my attention. Back to the library it goes.

Anticipating …
Thanksgiving, which comes with a few additional vacation days from work for me.  Plenty of time for Thankfully Reading Weekend!

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currently … november 15

Paris Peace Sign

“Peace for Paris” by Jean Jullien  

Briefly …
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, my instinct has been to hunker-down and reduce my social media and news consumption this weekend. It all feels too much, too overwhelming, heartbreaking, and scary. Like most of us, I simply can’t understand such hatred that compels people to commit such horrific acts against innocent people. It is unfathomable and it makes me want to never leave the house again.

Listening …
I borrowed several short story collections on audio from the library (Hemingway, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Pilgrims, Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorders and Other Stories). While doing errands on Saturday — a much-needed oil change for my car, the weekly grocery shopping — I happened to turn on “The Bad News” from Moral Disorder, which was certainly ironic. It’s about a middle-aged couple and their somewhat dismissive and nonchalant attitude about the bad news in their morning newspaper.

“I think of bad news as a huge bird, with the wings of a crow and the face of my Grade Four school teacher, sparse bun, rancid teeth, wrinkly frown, pursed mouth and all, sailing around the world under cover of darkness pleased to be the bearer of ill tidings, carrying a basket of rotten eggs, and knowing- as the sun comes up- exactly where to drop them. On me, for one.”

Reading … 
The WitchesStill working my way through The Witches.  I’m on page 54 and it’s due back to the library on Tuesday, so I’ll probably need to return this unfinished and wait until it’s available again. This seems to be the story of my life lately.

Not Reading … 
Decided to give up on Fates and Furies. I lasted for just over 100 pages and just couldn’t take anymore of these characters.  I just couldn’t. I hated almost every single one of them, especially Lotto. Several instances in the plot just irked me, too. I know that the second half of the book is supposed to be much better, but the promise of a reading payoff in another hundred or so pages was too elusive for me.

This is a novel that I really wanted to love, which makes this especially disappointing. I am a big fan of Lauren Groff’s writing and I’ve really enjoyed all of her other books. (See my reviews for Delicate Edible Birds and Arcadia; I read — and loved — The Monsters of Templeton but didn’t review it.)

Starting to think about Thanksgiving dinner.  It will only be five of us this year — my mother-in-law will be visiting for five days. I’m starting to buy a few things here and there at the store and mapping out a plan for cooking as much as possible ahead of time.

Promoting … 
Web Banner Best ofIf you’re in the Pittsburgh area, I would love to have you join me and my fellow Pittsburgh bloggers for Best of the Burghosphere on either Friday, November 20  at 7 p.m. for the 21+ party or on Sunday, November 22 at 1 p.m. for a family-friendly event. Both events will be held at the fabulous Most Wanted Fine Art; more details are here.

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Currently …November 8

Currently …
Sunday evening.  Another weekend gone. I had a dentist appointment early yesterday morning, thanks to a broken tooth caused by a piece of popcorn. It wasn’t even one that had an unpopped, hard kernel. Apparently, this tooth had enough issues that it wouldn’t have mattered what I was eating. There was a big filling in the tooth and apparently, a new cavity underneath that was hitting the nerve.  So, yet another crown is in my future.

Watching …
Sunday Night Football, baby. Our Philadelphia Eagles are taking on one of our main rivals, the much-hated Dallas Cowboys. And of course, there is yet another domestic violence situation with yet another NFL player. As you might imagine, I have a few thoughts on the Greg Hardy situation. If I do wind up doing a post on this, it will be another rendition of my usual NFL-domestic violence rants.  Their hypocrisy on this issue irks the hell out of me, to put it mildly.

Reading …

Accidental Saints

The Girl and I spent some time at the library yesterday afternoon — she enjoys an Anime Club program there — which allowed me to have a few uninterrupted hours to read. My book of choice was Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I heard her on Fresh Air (“Lutheran MInister Preaches Gospel of Love to Junkies, Drag Queens, and Outsiders”) back in September. This book is a series of reflections on her experiences with the people she serves in her congregation and her approach to the Lutheran faith. This is due back to the library on Wednesday with no renews.

Fates and FuriesI’m also reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, which is getting a great deal of buzz. I love Lauren Groff’s writing and have been a big fan of hers for quite some time. As of right now (80 pages into Fates and Furies), I can say that I like Delicate Edible Birds,  The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia better. I’m not liking too many of these characters, which may very well be the point. We’ll see.

Finally, I’m still reading The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff, but haven’t gotten too far with that this week. I’m enjoying this very much.

Blogging …
Sadly, I lasted all of three days with NaBloPoMo this year. I had hoped that I would be able to keep this up for — oh, I don’t know, at least a week? — but that wasn’t the case. While I like (and sometimes need) the discipline that writing a daily post requires, I don’t like writing half-assed posts just for the sake of hitting publish 30 days in a row, which is what I would have wound up doing.

Anticipating …
Thanksgiving. I will have a few extra days off, thanks to some vacation days that I need to use, and my mother-in-law will be visiting. I’m not sure what we will actually do, although I know we’re hoping to go to the Heinz History Center to see the Mister Rogers’ exhibit. I’m also starting to pick up a few things at the grocery store in preparation for our feast.

ThankfullyReading2014One of the highlights of Thanksgiving weekend is Thankfully Reading Weekend, hosted by Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves. I love this event because it is so low-key, which is how Thanksgiving weekend should be. I’m definitely planning to participate again.

Hope you had a great weekend!

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weekend cooking: thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 - cropped

at the table. thanksgiving, 2014. photo by m. firman

WeekendWeekend Cooking - New Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.


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