Thanksgiving

Wanted to share this little gem with blog readers (especially those smart enough to stay off Facebook, where I have also posted it!)

turkey block

While cleaning out mom’s house I found this linoleum block carved by my dad in 1959. Dad went through a ‘phase’ of hand printing cards on the old letterpress printer he bought and kept in the garage. Apparently this is the only one of his hand carved blocks he kept.

One aspect of letterpress printing is allowing each card to dry. One Christmas he made a complicated, multi-block design, a stain glass window with Mary & Joseph. Each individual color required its own block, and the ink of that color had to dry before printing the next. We had cards drying all over the basement floor and the cards went out in January! Dad, who in his ‘retirement’ years had a small printing business, had a computer before any of his ‘kids’.  I think he’d be happy to see how computer graphics can transform his block into cards today, and he would especially appreciate not having to lay the cards around on the floor for the ink to dry!

Dad, who died in his late 70s, would have been 94 Monday, November 25, also Mom and Dad’s 70th wedding anniversary. They were married Thanksgiving Day at relatives in Boston. Dad had time off after his graduation the day before from Midshipmen’s School in New York. Mom took a train from Seattle to Boston to be married……but that’s another story!

May your Thanksgiving be full of blessings, love and sharing with family and friends, and fond memories of Thanksgivings past.

Tea Anyone? Nature in a cup.

I’m sitting here having a cup of tea in a bone china teacup covered with tiny shamrocks. I do not usually drink tea in a cup with a saucer. Trying to find room in the cupboard for a few dishes brought home from cleaning out Mom’s house, I counted 25 teacups taking up precious space, not counting the pink depression glass ones, or the ones in the Japanese tea set my great-uncle brought home from the war for his mom.  I’m pretty good at getting rid of stuff, I make a haul to the local second-hand/charity store at least every few months, sometimes twice a month.  The teacups, awkward to store and rarely used, seem to survive each purge.

IMG_7895Looking up teacups on the internet, Wikipedia has a pathetically short piece, given that humans have drunk tea out of cups for thousands of years.  Other web sites talk about how to tell if you have a cup of great value; there are lists of ‘creative’ ways to use china teacups; and suggestions of how to collect them. Collect them!?!?!?!  Do people still do that! Yes! There are teacups on eBay, prices range from less than $10 to $85 for a wide gold-rimmed Royal Albert yellow rose cup.

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paper-thin, it’s amazing my great-uncle brought, or shipped, this set with a somewhat art nouveau white egret design home to his mom.

So….why do I keep them?

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two of a half dozen or so tiny cups I collected as a child

Growing up, I had a small collection of miniature cups, a mini version of my mom’s collection. I liked my mom’s teacups and enjoyed getting to set them out on the occasions we used them. I had my favorites.

My grown up collection mostly just happened. A few cups are my maternal grandmother’s, two from an aunt, several were mom’s. Before those came into my life I did buy a few. One of my favorites is from an antique store in Canada. Some how this random, unintentional collection grew to 25!

Not all my teacups are vintage, four were wedding presents, matching cups to our dishes, but that was 24 years ago so maybe they are vintage now too!

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a cup that matches our dishes, and a favorite one from Victoria, B.C., where you can still be served tea in a China cup!

I keep them because each cup is an ode to the beauty of Nature, a small piece of delicate floral art.  Some are a riot of bright, colorful flowers, gay bouquets seemingly pressed into the fine bone china.  Others feature just a few bold blooms, still others sprinkled with tiny blossoms. Some designs are elegantly simple, like a Japanese ikebana arrangement. Setting out just one cup is like putting a small bouquet on the table.

People take broken teacups and make beautiful pendants featuring the flowers, birds, animals found in the patterns. I can understand why.

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an unusual wide top cup with ripples in the china and a cup made in England but title “India Tree”.

China teacups are passe, few folks under the age of 60, have any in their cupboards, most folks over 60 have given a lot away, evidenced by the number of cups in second-hand stores.  Mugs have replaced teacups, mom rarely used hers, though the day before she moved from her house a year ago we had tea in teacups and she chose a few favorites to take with her. They live in a box in her closet.

With the revived popularity of tea, perhaps china teacups should make a come back. They connect busy lives to the cottage gardens and meadows of a time when even the busiest of folks had time for tea.

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a seemingly very old, and quite delicate, made in Japan cup

I’ll keep my cups for now, stacked in precarious Alice-in-wonderland stacks behind cupboard doors. On a gray winter day, I can peek in, see the garden in my cupboard, pick one, and have a cup of tea.

(If you thought this post would be about tea, a very good topic for a cold winter day, I apologize. That’s a good idea and perhaps a future blog!)

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In Defense of November, and Sweet Potato Soup

November, the month so many people love to hate (here in the North), stayed true to form and began with a cold rain. The romance of autumn wears off as bright colored leaves, stripped from trees by November winds, turn brown underfoot, and begin the process of decay.  What remains in gardens looks sad…squash and beans that didn’t quite mature while the weather was more favorable, begin to rot on their vines in the cold and wetness.

In the Northwest November is traditionally one of the rainiest months. In the 70s, while living in Oregon, I remember a November when all 30 days had significant, measurable rainfall.  It was a dark month!  There have been equally wet Novembers since, the last record breaker was 2006 with 11.6 inches of rain by November 15th.

Quotes from poets and writers about November seem mostly to be about darkness, death, cold, rain and snow. December, though days are shorter, is welcomed because there are reasons to celebrate and eat rich foods! A month filled with holidays of light, December brings the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, after which it’s all up hill to the light of spring – sort of.  Personally, I find January the dreariest of months.

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I feel it is time to defend November.  After all it’s ‘my’ month. Female readers of the baby boom generation may remember little china angels one would get for their birth month. My ‘November angel’, found tucked in a box in the attic, has symbols of abundance and a very sweet face. Not an angel of darkness at all!

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Orcas Island, November 2010.

Perusing my photo library, I find stunning photos over the years of November days, low winter sun providing dramatic lighting for beautiful sky shots.  Definitely a month of transition. Many photos show trees still in vivid color, taking their time to let go of leaves, yet there are also many late November snow scenes. We have a peach tree that stays green until November, then turns gold. High bush cranberry bushes are in their peak of  pale yellow and red coloration. And Osier Dogwoods, though windblown, are festive with leaves of red, maroon, and shades of green.

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sweet potato, leek and apple soup with goat cheese

And did you know November is Sweet Potatoes Awareness Month? (Not to be confused with Sweet Potato Month in February, I could find no explanation for why sweet potatoes have two months).  If there is a vegetable that needs an awareness month it is the sweet potato.  Most stores, and many people, call orange sweet potatoes yams and lots of folks think they are a potato, which they aren’t.  (Here’s some info to clear up any confusion)

IMG_5068My latest quickie soup is Sweet Potato, leek & apple soup. My first batch had 2 or 3 medium orange sweet potatoes, a parsnip, the upper green part of a leek and a chopped apple. After everything is cooked soft (add the apple half way through) blend the whole batch into a thick creamy soup.  Variations included a yellow sweet potato in place of the parsnip; or add cashews for richness and additional thickness. In today’s batch, half of a chopped onion and pre-cooked brown rice gave it a little more zing and substance. I season it primarily with my homemade curry powder and/or churna mix, any cumin rich blend seems compatible with sweet potatoes and helps the tummy to digest this ‘heavy’ food.

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…in November…the season that follows the hour of the dead, the crowning and majestic hours of autumn, I go to visit the chrysanthemums …They are indeed, the most universal, the most diverse of flowers.

I love reading the above quote from Belgium poet Maurice Maeterlinck, an ode to November’s flower, which fills florist shops and grocery stores and survive in early winter gardens.  As a young person I felt a little cheated having ‘my’ birth month flower be something I didn’t then consider beautiful, (I did love the giant, yellow, pompom mums I wore to homecoming games.)  My favorites were among the flowers of spring and summer.  But I grew to love chrysanthemums and look forward to seeing the variety of colors and shapes available this time of year. The rest of the year there are the ubiquitous daisy-like chrysanthemums, but the rainbow of golds, shades of purples, and light and dark bronzes, makes one appreciate why the chrysanthemum is Japan’s national flower, which they celebrate with a Festival of Happiness!

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High Bush Cranberry peak in their rich red coloration in November.

What isn’t there to love about a month that gives you a great excuse to make a pot of soup, buy some flowers, and curl up with a good book while the wind blows and the rain falls. But be ready to venture out when the skies clear. November is a month where things are swept clean, and you really can see the forest through the trees. It’s big holiday lasts only one day, and it’s purpose is to celebrate gratitude!

Happy November!

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