Remember when I wasn’t Martha Stewart?

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ll be giving you a follow-up to my post last year when I told you how I was no Martha Stewart and I shared some photos with you of previous years’ Thanksgiving name cards that I made for my guests.  I couldn’t share the ones I made in 2014 because my guests hadn’t seen them yet.

I was actually just going through my point and shoot camera the other day, and realized I still had the photos on there to show you later.  (Being as I typically use my studio camera, I tend to forget that I even have a point and shoot sometimes.)

Anyway, this is the little turkey that saved my seat at Thanksgiving.  This was the first time I ever used a pre-fab kit to make the place cards rather than making them from scratch, but I found myself running out of time as the big day approached.

Immediately following Thanksgiving dinner, Jeremy’s turkey fell to the ground, and our cat Dakota got hold of it.  By the time we rescued it, it looked almost as bad as a real Thanksgiving turkey after it had already been carved and picked down to the bones!

Let’s chat:  How early do you start planning for your holiday meals and guests?  Other than Thanksgiving and Christmas, what other large meals do you plan in advance?  Do you photograph funny things that your pets do to things around your house?  (That last question applies to everyone except my good buddy Mark Bialczak… I already know that he makes a very cool photographic anthology of his sweet dog Ellie B’s collections of things she shouldn’t have.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know most of my U.S. friends will be busy with Thanksgiving today, either enjoying food, football, friends, family, or some combination thereof.  Or perhaps they’re preparing for Black Friday shopping tomorrow.  (Or should I say tonight?)

So I’ll limit my Throwback Thursday to a photo of my plate from last year which is the exact thing I will be eating later today:

Starting at 11:00 on the plate, that’s filling (which is a homemade vegetarian version of stuffing), mashed potatoes, cheesy potato casserole, green bean casserole, and corn pudding.  (No, I don’t eat turkey or any meat except the occasional fish stick or tuna sandwich.)  The rest of my household will be enjoying these, as well as turkey, grilled herb chicken, cranberry sauce, cranberry-pecan-pineapple jello, stuffed acorn squash (we have another vegetarian in the group that likes that), pumpkin pie, chocolate lasagna (yes, I’ll have some of that!), peanut butter Oreo icebox pies (I’ll have some of that, too!), and possibly cherry cheese bars and cinnamon roasted pecans (if there’s time to make them).

So if you’re celebrating today, Happy Thanksgiving!  Also, if you’re participating, good luck and please be careful with Black Friday tonight and tomorrow!  And to everyone else, Happy Thursday!

Time to talk:  What are you eating today?  Will you cook it yourself or will someone else prepare it for you?  Do you do Black Friday?  If so, do you shop for yourself or for others?  Are you ready to start decorating for Christmas?

My Secret

I know many of you are getting ready for Thanksgiving this week, so I’ll make this short and sweet.  If, like me, you’re the type of person who washes your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, and if like me, you’re the person responsible for washing the dishes, you’ll want to know my secret.  (The fact that my dishwasher was manufactured sometime during the middle of The Cold War is the reason I wash the dishes before it does.)

To make cleanup easy for all those pots, pans, and casserole dishes that have baked on gunk, just add a tablespoon of fabric softener to the dish, then fill the rest with hot water and let it soak for a few minutes.  You won’t need to scrub anything at all.  If you don’t have fabric softener, hand lotion or hair conditioner work just as well, too.  It softens the gunk and helps it pull off with minimal work by you.

Talk to me:  Do you already utilize this trick when you wash dishes?  Do you wash dishes before you put them in the dishwasher?  Do you have any secrets that make cleanup easier?  How old is the oldest appliance in your house?

I’m No Martha Stewart

Have you ever watched Martha Stewart?  She can rip open a turkey and stuff it with her bare hands, then while it’s cooking, she tends to her garden, sews a new dress, and crafts some fancy place settings for her dinner party.

But I’m not her.  First of all, I refuse to touch a dead bird.  Ever.  (And in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t eat dead birds ever, either.)  I also don’t garden.  I’m allergic to just about everything outside and especially grass, so the last thing I like to do is get down in the grass to plant something.  I did take home economics in middle school, plus I lived with a grandma who sewed a lot of my clothes, so technically I do know how to sew, but I just don’t like it.  And finally, while I do enjoy doing art projects such as making crafts, drawing, painting, etc., I don’t like to keep that stuff in my house.  I think it has something to do with my Asperger’s Syndrome, but while I admire and appreciate the artistic efforts of crafts, I just don’t care for that kind of decor in my own home.

However, Thanksgiving is the one time a year when I throw caution to the wind and let my hair down.  Because in November, I start making my place settings and name cards for our Thanksgiving meal.

As many of you know, most of my family doesn’t speak to me, so besides my sister and me, we usually have one or both of my kids, their dates, and a bunch of friends.  So for years, it’s been my tradition to surprise everyone with what kind of place card they’ll get.  Then afterward, they can be thrown away and I don’t have to keep any of that craft clutter in my house.  So while this year’s place card will be a surprise, I’m going to show you some previous years’ work.

This time, everyone got a turkey pinwheel.  These were a lot of fun, and the pinwheel part was different for each guest and was made with a paper pattern that reflected their own personalities.  Almost everyone started blowing them right away, and it was funny to see who got overly zealous and broke theirs before their food was even served.

This time, everyone got a pine cone turkey.  They seemed like a good idea in my head, but making them was something else.  It wasn’t as easy as I would’ve thought to find pine cones that weren’t crushed, and I pricked my fingers a lot while I was gluing the paper feathers in them!  Plus, after I made them, I then started fearing they might have bugs in them which would get in the food.

This time, everyone got a pilgrim’s hat or bonnet.  I also made a sign for the door that said “Ye Olde Pilgrim Cookery – Didst Thou Bring Thy Appetite?  Signage By New World Printing Company,” and my sister sewed us both pilgrim dresses.  (However, we looked exceptionally dorky, so I won’t be sharing those photos!)  We tried to get my son to wear a pilgrim man outfit or even a hat, but he refused to take part in our insanity.  Also, we spoke only in Olde English which was pretty fun.  Or funny.  Or dorky, depending on who came.  But most of the guests seemed to like it, or else they were too polite to laugh at us to our face.  Either way, we had a good time.

So, while I admit I’m no Martha Stewart, she’s no Rachel Carrera either.

Let’s talk:  What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions?  White meat, dark meat, or no meat?  What was the last thing you ever made with your hands?  Would you ever speak in another accent in front of guests for an entire day?

A Farewell Salute

There’s only two weeks left until Thanksgiving, and for today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m remembering a friend who used to come to my annual feast.  Many years ago when I was eleven, my birth mom moved to my state and lived with me and my grandparents for a few months while she attended a technical school.  During that time, she befriended a young woman named Christine.  Sometimes, she’d take me with her when she went to hang out with her friend, and sometimes, she took me to Christine’s parents’ home and let me swim in their pool. Less than a year later, my birth mom moved away again, and I didn’t see much more of Christine or her parents again for the next few years.

Fast forward a couple of decades.  My birth mom moved in with my grandma, and they invited my sister and me out to dinner with them.  When we arrived at the restaurant, we ran into none other than Christine and her husband.  My birth mom and Christine renewed their friendship, and we all had dinners and game nights together pretty frequently after that.

Fast forward another couple of years.  Christine and her husband and my grandma and birth mom were planning to come to my house for Thanksgiving.  But a couple of days before the holiday, my birth mom started one of her drama-filled arguments with me, and refused to come. So Christine and her husband came without her.  And as it turned out, my sister and kids and I had a better time without her here.  After that, we started having Christine’s nephew and parents to our house each year.  It was always so nice to be around a loving family and see them interact in a positive way.

Besides spending Thanksgiving with these folks, I’ve had numerous occasions to do their family portraits.  And last year, I had the pleasure of converting their slides to digital photos. Christine grew up in a military household, and they traveled all over the world.  Her dad took photographs of the most exciting places.  And looking so closely at their old family photos, it was evident how much they all loved each other.  Even when I’ve met their other family members that live across the country, they come as strangers but quickly leave as friends.  They’re the kind of family that I’ve always wanted.  They don’t have the drama or the retaliation that my family has, and the love they share just engulfs them and spills out to those around them.  I love every member of their family.

But sadly this year, Christine’s dad passed away.  It’s going to feel empty without him at our table this year.  So I wrote the following to honor him and let him know just how much we’ll all miss him…

A Farewell Salute
By: Rachel A. Carrera

As I prepare for the
Thanksgiving meal this year,
My heart misses a guest
Who is no longer here.

His smile lit up the room
When he walked through my door;
I’m talking about
Lieutenant Colonel Rory’O More.

As he served in three wars,
He remained ever so calm;
He was in World War II,
The Korean War and also Vietnam.

He was a hardworking man
And he had two careers;
He served in the Army for
Over twenty-eight years.

Something else he did
That was really quite cool
Was for thirteen years,
He taught at high school.

When he met his girl
Who was sweet as a lily,
He took her hand in his
And he married his Milly.

Then he wanted some kids,
He didn’t want to postpone,
So he adopted three children
And called them his own.

First came his daughter;
He named her Christine;
Then with twins Elsa and Ricky,
His vision was seen.

If ever a man loved his family
And was so paternal,
It had to be
This Lieutenant Colonel.

He took his little family
And traveled the earth
As he proudly served his country,
His heart filled with mirth.

He adored his wife Mildred,
They shared more laughter than tears;
And they stayed together
For over sixty-seven years.

One more thing about him
That cannot be ignored
Is that while he served his country,
He also served the Lord.

On his last birthday he turned
Ninety-two years old,
Yet in his chest still pounded
A heart of pure gold.

Though this year he left us
To be with God above,
He left behind a legacy
Of wisdom and love.

I only got to see him
A couple of times yearly,
But this holiday without him,
He will be missed dearly.

He was a wonderful man of honor,
A fact no one can refute,
So to Lieutenant Colonel More
I give a farewell salute.

Time to talk:  Do you share your holidays with friends?  Do you prepare a Thanksgiving meal at home or go to someone else’s home or a restaurant?  Do you have anyone in your family that causes drama?  Do you have friends you are closer to than family?

Funny, I Don’t Feel Elite!

Back in the beginning of June, I was up to 1,000 followers on my blog here.  By then, I generally got around 55 to 80 likes each day and around 15 to 20 comments on average.  But into June and throughout the summer, my followers dwindled off.  At least the number of people who hit Like or commented decreased.  I figured perhaps people were busy with summer, kids being out of school, etc.

Fast forward to September when I tried the unpopular “Games” theme.  People actually started unfollowing me!  I averaged at least one per day of people who decided that Rachel is just too boring to follow any longer.

C’est la vie.  That’s wasn’t the first time in my life that despite my best efforts, people haven’t liked me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  Then came October when I hoped to pique people’s interest with my tales of E.S.P. and other such true stories designed to give goosebumps for the month before Halloween.  And wouldn’t you know it, some people still unfollowed me!

I’m guessing my tales are just too long to hold some people’s attention.  Or perhaps I’m just unlovable.  At any rate, I’d like to thank all of you who stuck it out and continued along this journey with me.  My theme this month will not be what I had originally planned.  I originally planned that because a lot of people travel for the holidays, I’d have a “Road Trip Follies” month and share some funny stories of road trips gone wrong.  But in light of all the haters, now my Thanksgiving month theme will be “Cornucopia.”  Not in the actual meaning of “horn of plenty” or “abundance,” but rather what goes into a cornucopia, as in a little bit of everything.  In other words, my theme will be no particular theme, but rather some of this and that.  I’ll try to be brief and hopefully not bore you.  I’m sure people will be busy for the next couple of months and won’t have time to read much anyway.

Finally, as of October 23, despite the one step forward, two steps back hits my blog was taking, I made it up to 1,337 followers and received the “1337” or “LEET” Virtual WordPress Trophy.  For those of you who don’t know it, 1337 is “hacker speak” for leet, which is a derivative of “elite.”  So thank you to all my new followers as well as all the original followers who have stuck it out with me.

Time to talk:  Did you know what 1337 meant before you got the WordPress trophy?  Have you ever unfollowed someone because they bored you or their posts were too long?  Would you be interested in my Road Trip Follies theme sometime next year?