What's for Supper?

What’s for supper? Vol. 61: Mango Unchained

According to tradition, I didn’t do a food post last Friday, because it was the day after Thanksgiving and you already know the drill.

For the record, here was our menu:

Turkey with stuffing and gravy
Cheesy mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes stuffed with dates, bleu cheese, and walnuts
Roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash with a honey balsamic dressing
Hobbit bread
Cranberry walnut bread
Hot rolls (from frozen)
Cranberry sauce
Olives
Apple pie, pumpkin pie, salted bourbon pecan pie, and chocolate cream pie with ice cream and fresh whipped cream
Wine and apple cider
Very nice meal, and the house was packed to the gills with family. We began with a prayer:
kids-table
I wasn’t on the ball enough to send people home with leftovers much, but my father did score a loaf of Hobbit bread, which pleased him:
abba-hobbit-bread
A few cooking tips from this year:

You can make the gravy ahead of time and keep it warm in the crock pot, but don’t count on the crock pot to heat up cold gravy in a few hours! Heat it up first.

My mezzaluna knife justifies its existence through cranberry bread alone. The mixing bowl from my KitchenAid (it’s narrow and has a handle) and this knife keep the nuts and cranberries from bouncing and rolling all over the place.

Also, I can never get zesters to work, so I zested the orange using the fine side of the cheese grater, and then got the zest off by using a pastry brush. Fine, I couldn’t find my pastry brush, so I used a paint brush.

To make light, supple pie dough, freeze the sticks of butter and then grate them into the flour using a cheese grater. It’s so much easier to lightly incorporate it into the flour mixture this way.

I’ve never made chocolate cream pie before, and I’m not a fan of slopping chocolate pudding into a crust, but this recipe was very different: immensely rich, thick, and wonderful. The stirring part takes some patience, but is worth it.

I can’t find the pics I took of our lovely pies, but my daughter made a very pretty effect. For one, she cut out dozens and dozens of simple leaf shapes and laid them out overlapping in concentric circles, so the pie looked like a chrysanthemum. For another, she used a flower cookie cutter and covered the pie with flowers, leaving a few gaps. For the pecan pie, I left a wide lip with the bottom crust, which she snipped into strips with scissors; then she folded the strips over each other in pairs, so they made little x’s all around the pie, like a basket. Here’s a short video with 20 ideas for pie crust:

Before baking the pies, I brushed the crusts with beaten egg yolks, for extra color and shine, and then sprinkled them with coarse sugar.

People with tiny kitchens and no storage space can always have recourse to the dryer.

desserts-on-dryer
I guarantee you, this is more sanitary than the kitchen of a typical four-star restaurant, which yes I have worked in.
My husband, who is usually the Thanksgiving turkey man, had to work part of the day. I hate having to baste the damn thing every half hour when I’m busy running around moaning, “I need another oven! I need another oven!” so I assigned the job to my sons, who are at the perfect age to be . . .
moe-basting
 . . . natural master basters.
Sorry.
As you can see, I cook the turkey breast down for 3/4 of the time, then flip it over and finish cooking it that way. You still get nice, pretty skin, but it’s jucier overall if you let it cook mostly upside down. It does have an “executed frog” look in the oven, though.
I can offer zero “what to do with all that leftover turkey” recipes, because I only bought a 21-pounder, ::shame shame::, so we only had enough leftovers for sandwiches the next day; and then I did what I always do with the meaty carcass: I lost track of it. I think it’s still lurking in the back of the fridge. That’s the smell of Advent in our house: Fresh pine boughs, candles burning gently, and somewhere, somewhere, hidden sheltered in the night, a rancid turkey carcass.
The rest of the week was our normal crazy schedule plus what I can only describe as an extended crisis in my extended family, so we didn’t try anything fancy in the kitchen. I would appreciate any prayers you could spare for resolution! It’s been a very tough year.
Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Thank God for Aldi.


SUNDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, chopped salad

Korean beef bowl from Damn Delicious is such a reliably yummy recipe, and so simple.

Aldi had these chopped salad kits on sale for 75 cents, so I bought three. It had a bag with various chopped-up greens and cabbage, and separate packets of some kind of zesty citrus dressing, plus crunchy noodles and maybe almonds, I forget.

korean-beef-bowl-2

Very flavorful, and a nice change from the usual broccoli or string beans that I usually make for a side with this dish.


MONDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, frozen french fries

Once again, the crock pots are worth the purchase price and counter space just for pulled pork alone. Chuck it in the pot with a can of beer and some salt and pepper and garlic powder, and just walk away.

pulled-pork-crock-pot

I made about 4.5 pounds of pork in two crock pots, and let the kids add BBQ sauce if they wanted.

My cole slaw recipe is here.


TUESDAY
HAM NITE!!!!!!! Also mashed potatoes (we ate ten pounds of potatoes without batting an eye), spinach AND peas

You know what makes an easy meal even easier? Slice up the cooked ham before you heat it up.

ham-sliced-ahead

It warms up faster and you can just throw ham at people without them hounding you while you slice it. And then they go ahead and make Food Santa anyway.

irenes-food-face

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.
It’s made from a slab of ham fat, you know.


WEDNESDAY
Giant pancake! Sausages, and mangoes.

To cut up mangoes! Here is how you do it: Make your best guess which way the pit is situated, and cut off the “cheeks,” getting as close to the pit as you can. Then take a glass or a metal cup with a thin edge, and use it to scoop the flesh out of the skin, rather than trying to get the skin off the flesh. Then you can trim the skin away from the rest and use a paring knife to cut the rest of the flesh off the pit. You get much more intact fruit this way.

Giant pancake is not something I’m proud of, but it’s an okay  meal in a pinch. Mix up one full box of pancake mix. Dump it into a greased pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or so. You can add whatever you want: cut-up apples, raisins, chocolate chips, honey, cinnamon, etc. You could even stir in some jam, or maybe even sausage bits. Cut into wedges and call it a meal.


THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, carrots and hummus

Every time I make chicken burgers, I remember when I used to remove the breading from chicken burgers because I didn’t need the extra calories. Well, now I do. Winter is coming. It is nature’s way. I need chips, too.


FRIDAY
Ravioli and salad

I intend to boil the ravioli in a big pot of water. Bon appwhatever to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We have one job

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. She wanted—no, needed—everything to be perfect. She planned and prepped for days, chopping vegetables, rolling dough, scrubbing baseboards, and counting silverware. On the day of the feast, she was up with the sun, full of determination and manic good cheer.

As the day wore on, the good cheer waned and the manic levels rose. Pots boiled over and were turned down; ovens smoked and windows were opened. The clock ticked, and little by little, the meal started to come together. The guests would be there in a matter of hours. Could she pull off the perfect day? She really thought she could.

Then, suddenly: calamity. She ran out of butter! Real butter, creamy and fat, the fuel that makes the Thanksgiving engine run. She had to have some. She shrieked for her husband and sent him out to the store, with instructions to come back as quickly as he could with at least two pounds of butter.

Off he went. And he didn’t come back, and he didn’t come back. She grew more and more frantic and considered her options. She could cook without butter. No, impossible. She could just explain things to the guests. Unthinkable. She could burn the house down and move to Guadalajara. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Just as she began to search for her passport, her husband’s car screeched into the driveway. He was home, home with the butter! Hallelujah, the day was saved!

With trembling fingers, she snatched open the bag . . . and then fell back, the words of thanks dying in her throat. She croaked. She gabbled. She gaped.

There on the table was a three-pound tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

“Boy, the stores were crowded!” her husband said. ”I guess everyone was shopping for Thanksgiving. But I knew you would like this, because you just wanted two pounds of butter, and this is three!”

What the young woman replied, I cannot record here. But she did point out to her husband, possibly dozens of times, that, “It says right on the package that IT’S NOT BUTTER.”

Well, Thanksgiving happened anyway. The food was hot and bountiful, the guests were jovial, and if anyone noticed that the butter was not butter, no one mentioned it. It was a good Thanksgiving.

You may think I’m going to wrap this story up with a moral about how we ought to be thankful for the best efforts of our loved ones, and that what really matters in the end is family, peace, joy, harmony, and good intentions.

But, no. What I’m thinking is, “Seriously, it said, ‘IT’S NOT BUTTER’ right on the package. Right on there! And he brought it home anyway!”

Know who that reminds me of? Me. Not on Thanksgiving, but every week, every day. Every time I go to Mass, the last thing I hear is, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” God is telling us, “Look, you have one job. One job. Go and serve me.”

And I say, “Amen, Boss!” and off I go.

And then what do I do? I come back with a giant tub of “I Can’t Believe I’m Not Serving God!” And I jog back into his temple, all hopeful and proud with my ridiculous little package clutched under my arm, and I say, “See? Look what I found for you! Good, huh? Just what you asked for, right?”

It’s not what he asked for. It’s a substitute. It says right on the package that it’s not what he wants. And God opens the package, and he says…

“Close enough. Come on in, thou good enough, faithful enough servant. Come on in to the feast I have prepared for you. Sit down with your family in the home of your Father, and let us have a meal together.”

And that, my friends, is why we celebrate Thanksgiving. Not because we have it all together, not because things turned out perfectly, not because we never disappoint each other, or because we always please God. We celebrate Thanksgiving because God loves us even when we fail—especially when we fail.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love is everlasting.

***
***

This essay was originally published in Catholic Digest in 2013.

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What’s for supper? Vol. 13: Women Who Love Soup Too Much

whats for supper

SATURDAY
CHILE RELLENO CHICKEN SOUP; CORN BREAD

Saturday is the only day I came close to cooking anything interesting. THIS WAS INTERESTING.

The recipe I used called for roasted poblano peppers, which I’ve never used before. The supermarket’s labels weren’t clear, and I wasn’t completely sure the peppers I chose would be hot enough. They sure looked pretty, though, especially after roasting, which I did under the oven broiler:

food blog roasted peppers

Then I took off the seeds and stems and as much of the skin as possible, and put them in the blender, still worrying that it was going to be too bland.

As soon as I opened the blender lid, everyone’s eyes started to water and everyone’s nose started to run, and everyone in the kitchen started to choke and gag. It was spicyin the same way that the Grand Canyon is deep: Technically, that’s an accurate adjective, but you don’t really grasp the full import of the word until you’re standing at the edge and you can’t actually breathe for a minute.

I started to feel a little nervous about my soup at this point. But at least I knew I had the right kind of pepper.

So I got the rest of the ingredients in and let it simmer for a while, and once it was heated through, the retching subsided, and the kitchen smelled less like, “I said, LET MY PEOPLE GO!” and more like, “Perhaps we can market this as a homeopathic remedy for sinus patients.”

By the time I mixed in the cheddar and the cream cheese, it smelled like the place that poblano peppers go when they have been very, very good.

Verdict: I ate about three gallons of it. I had to steel myself before every spoonful, but it was magnificently worth it. If I serve it again, I’ll have something cooling to eat in between, like slices of mango. We made do with bananas.

UPDATE: Thanks to some sleuthing from my  Facebook friends, I now know that these were most likely scotch bonnets, not poblanos. That explains a thing or two.

The corn bread, I made a double recipe of the one on the side of the corn meal canister, but I decreased the sugar a bit.

food blog corn bread recipe

Also, if you run a pat of butter all over the top of the corn bread as soon as you pull it out of the oven, it gives it a nice sheen.

I like this cornbread recipe because (a) you make it all in one bowl; and (b) everything is in half, quarter, or whole cups. So if you have one of those kitchens where you know you have six or seven sets of cup measures scattered around somewhere, but all you can find is a quarter cup measure, you can still manage fine. If all you can find is a third of a cup, though, you are oodscray.

 

SUNDAY
FAMILY BIRTHDAY PARTY!

Left the kids with three pizzas and Damien and Corrie and I went to my brother Jacob’s house for his birthday, where we had chicken and broccoli divan with rice. Must get my sister-in-law’s recipe — it was delicious. A happy day.

food blog jacob party 1

 

I hope when my kids grow up, they will have parties like this together, with tons of food and tons of kids, and a very pleasant doggie.

I brought four apple pies.

food blog apple pies 1

I’ve been having the worst time with pie crust lately, so I made a streusel topping, and it turned out fine.  I also made twice as much as I need, so I have the extra stored in the fridge for later.

Streusel topping:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter

Rub the dry ingredients into the butter and cut with a butter knife until it’s all crumbly. Sprinkle over pies and bake as usual. 

For Thanksgiving, I’m gonna try again to make a decorative crust, though. Here’s a short video with 20 ideas for decorative crimps on pie crust. A few are brilliant:

Also, I want that green bracelet.

 

MONDAY
BEEF BARLEY SOUP; BISCUITS (from a can)

I never get tired of this soup. Basic recipe here. This week, I used steak (which was cheaper than soup meat, in the quantities I wanted); canned tomatoes, red onions, mushrooms, barley, beef broth, lots of garlic and red pepper flakes and freshly -ground black pepper. Don’t forget, barley isn’t like pasta, and takes a good forty minutes to cook all the way through.

There should be a name for that sensuous moment when the first ingredients start to sizzle and the sound, smell, and sight envelop you in a cloud of fragrant soup anticipation.

food blog soup meat

I Googled “sensuous vs. sensual” just to be on the safe side, but let’s be honest, it’s kinda both. I really like soup.

My only comment about the biscuits is that some people live in houses where otherpeople hear the oven timer beeping, and they just turn it off and walk away without telling anyone that the timer went off. This is not in the best interest of the biscuits.

food blog irene biscuits

 

TUESDAY
HOT DOGS; CHIPS; RAW VEGGIES; LEFTOVER APPLE PIE

Tuesday was a blur. Much of this week was a blur.  My  husband said, “When I think about your afternoon driving routine, I just get mad!”  I did chop up a giant platter of raw veggies, which we ate for three days for lunches and snacks as well as dinner. I’ll spare you the story of the French onion dip with the hole in the bottom, and of all the poor French onion dip-related decisions I made while leading up to the discovery that it was moldy anyway.

 

WEDNESDAY
NACHOS; HOT DOGS; AVOCADOS; GRITS

My 13-year-old son was in heaven. Nachos and hot dogs? Nachos AND hot dogs????

Also, grits are the best. Little butter and salt? Num num num.

 

THURSDAY
GRILLED CHICKEN AND SALAD; HARD BOILED EGGS

Chicken breasts were $1.77 a pound! Haven’t seen it that low for years. I made a quickie marinade out of veg oil, wine vinegar, garlic powder, salt, fresh pepper, and dried parsley, and was really surprised at how tasty it was. Just douse the chicken in the dressing and put it under the broiler for 20 minutes or so, turning it once.  Let it rest a minute, then slice it up and serve it over a green salad.
This is my Meal of Great Virtue, with the lean meat and the fresh greens. The kids compensate by smothering it in creamy dressings.

I don’t know why I made eggs. I think I just noticed we had six boxes of eggs in the fridge, and that seemed silly.  Anyway, we got all protetin’d up for the night.

 

FRIDAY
I GUESS SPAGHETTI

I’m pre-resting on my laurels for all the wonderful things we’re going to have for Thanksgiving. I’ll probably do a food post sometime before Thursday next week, in case people want to share recipes before the actual day. That makes more sense, right?

Question of the week: Do you like Thanksgiving? Why or why not?

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Dear Simcha, Vol. 2

irene pie

Dear Mr. Pfischurr, if that is indeed your name,

I was thinking of sending a small I mean very very large sustaining donation to EWTN last year, but then this year I noticed that you’ve been writing for the Register for something like four years, and that certainly explains a thing or two in the downturn in quality that I have definitely noticed a lot; and my accountant, that I definitely have because I am a wealthy donor, feels the same way.  It’s stealth liberals like you who are responsible for at least 90% of the souls who have been lost since the Council of Trent. I don’t know how you sleep at night.

P.S. You have yellow teeth, ha ha, why don’t you get a real job?

In His Name Plus Lots of His Blood and His Mother and His Mother’s Blood,

Albigensius Maximus

Read the rest at the Register.

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Dear Simcha, Vol. 1

Happy Thanksgiving!  I know that many of you are very busy and/or really depressed today.  Some of you are alone, and many, many more of you desperately wish that you were.  So, rather than tax you with a challenging or insightful essay, I thought I’d take this opportunity to clean up my inbox and answer a few of the questions that people have asked me recently.

***

Dear Simcha,

By this time of day, I’m supposed to be basting the turkey for the fifth or sixth time so it will be golden and delicious in time for our Thanksgiving feast.  But I haven’t even defrosted it yet, because I spent all of yesterday watching Benny Hill and drinking the rum I bought to make rum raisin bread pudding.  (I also ate all the raisins, which is a separate problem.)  So now I have eleven guests coming in a matter of hours, and all I have to offer them is 22 pounds of solid turkey ice.  I can’t even get the bag off.  I think I may still actually be drunk.  I’m so ashamed.  What can I do?

Signed, Filled With Regret

Dear Filled With Regret,

Lucky for you, I’m an avid historian, so I can save your sorry hide with my expertise!  It’s a little known fact that turkeys aren’t even an authentic Thanksgiving main course, so it’s actually quite acceptable to serve something else.  Forget that boring old bird.  Instead, call yourself a purist and dish up what the original Pilgrims probably had for their main course:  a couple of juicy wild eagles.  If no eagles are available, swan is an acceptable substitute.  Just don’t forget the traditional eel-and-poopberry compote for a side dish.  And they drank hot tar from wooden cups.  Hope this helps, and bon appétit!  Or should I say (since French had not yet been invented in Pilgrim times), Huzzah!

***

Dear Simcha,

I’m eleven months old.  My mother is fairly useful, and I’ve gotten accustomed to her smell.  She can even be kind of funny sometimes, like with that noise she makes when I grab her lips and twist them around. But she has one really bad habit, and I don’t know if I can tolerate it anymore.

Sometimes, when I’m awake, she puts me down.  On the floor.  For minutes at a time.  She does this even though she knows perfectly well that the floor is a completely inappropriate and demeaning location for someone of my social standing (I basically run the household).  Also, it’s harder to bite her nose when she’s not holding me.  I’m at my wit’s end.  What do you suggest?

P.S.   Also, she sometimes tries to put socks on me.  Socks, in November!  How am I supposed to deal with this level of idiocy?

Signed, Benedicta

Dear Benedicta,

The main thing you need to keep in mind is that your mother really loves you and is trying her best, but that, because of the demands of her current schedule, she has the physical prowess and mental acuity of a damp Kleenex.  She knows, deep in her heart, that putting you down is the wrong thing to do, but she feels that she can’t help herself.

What she needs is someone to help snap her out of her pathetic, self-pitying state.  Have you tried screaming?  If that doesn’t work, have you tried screaming more?  I really think you should try screaming, followed by some more screaming.  Good luck!

P.S.  Don’t forget that thing you do, where you put your little head down and then look up with your big, brown eyes.  Once she reassembles herself from the puddle she instantly becomes when she meets your gaze, she will want to pick you up, because you are a cutie wootie wootie, oh yes you are, and Mama loves you very much, oh yes she does.

***

Dear Simcha,

We’re having relatives over for Thanksgiving.  We are polar opposites on just about every issue, and every other year, the feast quickly devolved into a screaming match, and everyone went home furious.  Grandmama has convinced us to patch things up and get together again this year.  We’ve already agreed not to talk about politics, but there are so many other divisive topics of conversation.  How can I be sure that we will have a peaceful and pleasant day?

Signed,
William Makepeace Crackery

Dear Bill,

Don’t underestimate the healing properties of just the right menu.  Here are a few recipes that might just do the trick, and will give you the happy, quiet holiday your battered soul needs.

***

Hey –

Leaving the office in a few minutes.  Will meet you at Mom’s.  Thanks for making all eleven kinds of pie.  It’s so much easier to choose which one I want when I can actually see them, you know?  Oh, some guy was selling puppies out of his trunk, so I picked up a few.  You’re so good with words — you can name the one with bowel problems.  See you soon!

love, D

Dear D,

>>The following address has permanent fatal errors:  simchafisher@gmail.com
(reason: 540 OY-001 (FEH0-GRR4-FU23)
In order to avoid being placed on a permanent block list, please reconfigure your message so that it includes no puppies, and more gin.

[This post originally ran at the National Catholic Register in 2012.]

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Go forth and get Me butter, says the Lord.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. She wanted—no, needed—everything to be perfect. She planned and prepped for days, chopping vegetables, rolling dough, scrubbing baseboards, and counting silverware. On the day of the feast, she was up with the sun, full of determination and manic good cheer.

As the day wore on, the good cheer waned and the manic levels rose. Pots boiled over and were turned down; ovens smoked and windows were opened. The clock ticked, and little by little, the meal started to come together. The guests would be there in a matter of hours. Could she pull off the perfect day? She really thought she could.

Then, suddenly: calamity. She ran out of butter! Real butter, creamy and fat, the fuel that makes the Thanksgiving engine run. She had to have some. She shrieked for her husband and sent him out to the store, with instructions to come back as quickly as he could with at least two pounds of butter.

Off he went. And he didn’t come back, and he didn’t come back. She grew more and more frantic and considered her options. She could cook without butter. No, impossible. She could just explain things to the guests. Unthinkable. She could burn the house down and move to Guadalajara. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Just as she began to search for her passport, her husband’s car screeched into the driveway. He was home, home with the butter! Hallelujah, the day was saved!

With trembling fingers, she snatched open the bag . . . and then fell back, the words of thanks dying in her throat. She croaked. She gabbled. She gaped.

There on the table was a three-pound tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

“Boy, the stores were crowded!” her husband said. ”I guess everyone was shopping for Thanksgiving. But I knew you would like this, because you just wanted two pounds of butter, and this is three!”

What the young woman replied, I cannot record here. But she did point out to her husband, possibly dozens of times, that, “It says right on the package that IT’S NOT BUTTER.”

Well, Thanksgiving happened anyway. The food was hot and bountiful, the guests were jovial, and if anyone noticed that the butter was not butter, no one mentioned it. It was a good Thanksgiving.

You may think I’m going to wrap this story up with a moral about how we ought to be thankful for the best efforts of our loved ones, and that what really matters in the end is family, peace, joy, harmony, and good intentions.

But, no. What I’m thinking is, “Seriously, it said, ‘IT’S NOT BUTTER’ right on the package. Right on there! And he brought it home anyway!”

Know who that reminds me of? Me. Not on Thanksgiving, but every week, every day. Every time I go to Mass, the last thing I hear is, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” God is telling us, “Look, you have one job. One job. Go and serve me.”

And I say, “Amen, Boss!” and off I go.

And then what do I do? I come back with a giant tub of “I Can’t Believe I’m Not Serving God!” And I jog back into his temple, all hopeful and proud with my ridiculous little package clutched under my arm, and I say, “See? Look what I found for you! Good, huh? Just what you asked for, right?”

It’s not what he asked for. It’s a substitute. It says right on the package that it’s not what he wants. And God opens the package, and he says…

“Close enough. Come on in, thou good enough, faithful enough servant. Come on in to the feast I have prepared for you. Sit down with your family in the home of your Father, and let us have a meal together.”

And that, my friends, is why we celebrate Thanksgiving. Not because we have it all together, not because things turned out perfectly, not because we never disappoint each other, or because we always please God. We celebrate Thanksgiving because God loves us even when we fail—especially when we fail.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love is everlasting.

***

[This article originally ran in Catholic Digest in 2013.]

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Our Black Friday tradition

Hey, I don’t think it’s immoral to shop on the day after Thanksgiving, or even on Thanksgiving itself.  It’s depressing that so many people do it, but Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, so.  (Yes, I know that the first Thanksgiving feasts in the New World were to thank God. I just mean that it’s not a feast day or a holy day.)  Buying a nice present for someone you care about doesn’t mean you’re some kind of hardened consumerist swine.  Some people don’t have lovely family or happy associations with Thanksgiving day, so they’d just as soon be shopping — or working and making time-and-a-half.

That being said, I have never had any desire to shop on Black Friday or on Thanksgiving.

We just have a nice meal on Thanksgiving, and lately have started a new tradition on Friday:  we make Jesse Tree ornaments.  I know Advent is preparation time, but if we don’t prepare for preparation, nothing gets done.  Since we stopped homeschooling, it’s very hard to find time to do family activities; and yet somehow, when we have a day off school for whatever reason, we often end up just lying around playing on the Wii and eating cereal.  So, yay, a tradition!

There are any number of Jesse Tree readings and ornament patterns available online.  What we do is find one that has a reading for each day, assign a symbol to each one, and then the kids divvy them up.  Then I go to the “craft area,” which is a hideous jumble of felt, pom poms, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, glitter, beads, etc., and just dump everything in the middle of the table . . . and the kids get to it.  Big kids make elaborate figurines, little kids make sticky bundles of junk.  No judging!   Anything goes, as long as you can hang it.  The purpose is not to have an artistic finished product, it’s to have a nice time making it together, and to help us move into Advent mode.  (And if any Jesse Tree ornaments come out especially nice, they get saved as permanent Christmas ornaments.)  Oh, and pro tip:  foam meat trays are versatile.

Then we put everything in a box, and when Advent comes, we take turns reading that day’s reading, and whoever made the day’s ornament gets to hang it up. One year, I cut a branch off an evergreen tree and stuck it in a pot full of rocks in the living room.  One year, we hung the the ornaments from the ceiling in a line, leading up to where the Christmas tree would be.  One year, very short on room, I cut a bare tree branch and bolted that to the wall.  It has that gloriously weird, almost-festive Catholic look that unmistakably says, “SOMETHING is going on, but it ain’t Christmas yet!”

What about you?  Do you have any traditions for the day after Thanksgiving?