Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bittersweet






Today is one of my favorite days of the year.  The anticipation for a holiday is the best part; and I simply love the energy.  For at least today, the world and I are in tune.  Everyone is thinking about the things I love most, and for the most part people feel very warm toward one another.  I dare say this particular Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year is my idea of perfection.  Cool enough that I can use my deck as refrigerator, a light rain that makes the kitchen all the more ensconcing, and enough breeze to bring the now subdued and leathery falling leaves to life as they flit to the forest floor. 
I had a lovely morning driving around waving at people pretending I belonged there as I parked, left the car running, and stole shit from their yards and fencerows.  Barbie never ceases to amaze me with her intuition.  She sensed the devious nature of the errand and presumed the drivers seat as I clipped and loaded into the trunk.  She slumped down a bit as to keep a low profile but still drive the getaway car if need be.  Being half Border Collie, I don’t think that’s an impossibility.  Now the less picturesque part was when I walked my fat ass right into a patch of raspberry brambles.  Let’s just say whatever innocence was left in me is gone as those canes got places they shouldn’t have.  I felt violated.  I was so stuck I wondered if I might need to abandon my shorts and hurry back to my car, parked roadside in the brush.
Beautiful orange berries,, often found growing in fence and hedgerows. 

How very Ohio to enjoy--a surprise bovine vista 

As I was searching for and collecting bittersweet, I couldn’t help but admire the perfection of that very German word.  Did you know I speak German? I mean, to be fair, I speak like a slow, drunk 8th grader but enough to get by.  Anyway, I feel German is often written off as an ugly language.  People think it sounds like hacking or even less attractive actions.  The truth is German is straightforward and without adornment, but very sincere.   Which is why it is full of portmanteaus—devices not all languages embrace.  I am wholeheartedly a fan of the portmanteau, especially of bittersweet.  Such a simple, clear word with strong, evocative meaning.  There is nothing more bittersweet than a holiday.  We might visit with the memories of someone gone, reconnect with someone now outside of our everyday orbit, or be confronted by their mile-marker nature.  There’s always bitter and always sweet.  On this particular day before Thanksgiving, I am feeling some of the bitter but more of the sweet.  Perhaps if you are feeling the scale tipped the other way, remember you can’t have one without the other.  Embrace the bitter, but taste the sweet. 
The chaos of prepwork is almost over


Came across a Civil War monument on the 35 minute drive for duck eggs



A few relevant tips for today:
-Light a candle next to your cutting board when chopping onions.  It burns the gas they let off and reduces tears.
-If you get off schedule tomorrow, relax.  Have a drink-or scream into a towel if you’re an alcoholic-and remember that no one will die if dinner is late.  Give them whatever you can to tide them over and tell them to shut the fuck up. 
-The whole reason we do this is to gather, enjoy, and affirm whatever being American (or human) means to you.  You can still do that with runny gravy, dry turkey, and cheap wine.  Just not with burned stuffing.  Don’t burn the stuffing.  Don’t forget to take note of that in the mad rush before declaring Okay, let’s eat!  A tiny toast goes a long way.  I remember once on a Christmas Eve episode of Live, Regis Philbin said that one should always toast and always keep it under 59 seconds. 


How’s your prep going?   

86 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, Stephen,
    I am extremely thankful for your blog. Thanks for inspiring me to make my first Thanksgiving in 16 years of living in Europe. The silver is polished, the veg are prepped, the chestnuts waiting.
    My best to you, Barbie, and your loved ones, Robin

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    1. Thank you so much! I am sooo happy to hear that! Happy Thanksgiving!

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    2. ROBIN!
      THE BOOK CAME YESTERDAY!!!!!!!!!!!
      XX

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  2. By the way, I also will pick bittersweet tomorrow morning. And yes, I also speak German, being married to an Austrian, and so many years living in Austria. Xoxo R

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  3. Happy Thanksgiving, Stephen, Barbie, et al. May it be a beautiful memory in the making. Cheers, Ardith

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  4. Thank you for taking the time to post such lovely, seasonal photos (I miss them here in Florida), and thank you for the reminder to breathe and take them time to enjoy and be grateful for family and friends. Enjoy today and tomorrow.

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    1. Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving! Oh but so many beautiful things bloom in Florida in November and December! No climate has everything.

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  5. Live and learn, Stephen! I only knew the word "portmanteau" as a suitcase or valise. I know words are combined to make other words, such as bittersweet, brangus, etc....I just had no idea they were portmanteaus. How wonderful to find a completely new meaning for an old word that I have known forever. On another note, I have been enjoying your thanksgiving countdowns and especially the beautiful photographs! Ohio and Barbie are equally lovely. I will lift a SAJ cranberry cocktail to you tomorrow as I play with our border collies and wait for someone to grill my hamburger and serve it open face on cibatta bread topped with bacon, avocado, brie, and cranberry sauce. Peace and blessings as we gather together in thanksgiving.

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    1. Sounds delicious! Cheers! Thank you so much. You know who the real word of the day queen is Heather of Lost in Arles. She has taught me so many words! Apparently one must be kinda smart to go to Yale.

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  6. Stephen- I read but rarely comment on your posts but wanted to let you know I am thankful for you and your blog. Your posts always make me laugh and today's even brought a tear to my eye. Enjoy your holiday!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm so thankful for the fact that you read. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  7. Happy Thanksgiving Stephen!
    Wishing you a wonderful day & an even better time together with family and friends. Den xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Den! Time to gear up for the Christmas barbecue, right?

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    2. Absolutely. Kids can't wait as my husband uses wood fired barbecues unless there's a total fire ban in which the external gas bbq kitchen comes into its own. But before that, tonight roasting 2 ducks for my dear husband's birthday dinner accompanied of course with potatoes roasted using duck fat & steamed greens (to take the edge off all that duck & duck fat!) Am also making him orange poppyseed birthday cake. Xx
      PS have shown your glorious beautiful kitchen island to the family and said what do you notice? They all looked blank and I said no one has left a book, Star Wars gizmo, torch or whatever else they feel like on it. Was fanatical about the kitchen bench being clear of their stuff when kids were little but I think the kids and husband are trying to reclaim the space!

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  8. I really didn't have much hope that you would post a blog today, –– I just thought you'd be too busy doing the prep work.
    Very lovely post. I laughed (oh, sorry) about the raspberry brambles. Thinking about Ellie, that's bittersweet! Thankful to have known her through emails for a little while. Border collies are sneaky in appearance (behaviour, too?). so Barbie fit the role of clandestine chauffeur.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. Thank you so much! Happy US Thanksgiving to you! I've been thinking so much about Ellie. Believing she is wherever she wants to be today. I think she liked New Hampshire best for Thanksgiving. And it's the only day she likes Windsor chairs (me too).

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  9. Barbie in the driver's seat! LOL! what a darling little accomplice.
    and my literal belly laugh for the day... you and your raspberry branches um... where they shouldn't be.
    I think you should simply not be stealthy. walk up there like you OWN THE LAND!
    nobody will ever think to question you if you do that! it's the 'sneaky' ones they turn in! but then...
    maybe it's the 'living on the edge' that you enjoy! stealth on then!

    the pictures on this post (and every one really. but especially this one) are a FEAST in themselves!
    the one of your kitchen looks like a modern still life. I love the colors and the white. it's perfection!
    happy thanksgiving my own darling boy! and his little glam puppy Barbie! I toast to YOU both. xo♥

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    1. Thank you so much, Tammy! Oh that is exactly my strategy. There is nothing low-key about me so I figure I'll ham it up and trust I can hide in plain, obvious sight. Barbie, on the other paw, has a bit more shame. Thank you so much, happy Thanksgiving!

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  10. Oh, Stephen! I love your wit! So razor sharp and so out of the blue. Your lovely photos and styling and cooking tips and then a zinger thrown right in the middle! You know Ellie is laughing her head off too, because you both have(had) crazy funny sharp tongues. Very thankful for your humor! Hope all goes smoothly tomorrow. Jeane

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    1. Thank you so much!! Missing Ellie so much! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  11. Thanks for this. Lovely pictures and thoughts. Bittersweet - sure is the truth.

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  12. Bittersweet is life, embrace the good with the bad. Happy Thanksgiving

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  13. Stephen Andrew, if you didn't exist we would have had to invent you! Somehow!

    This post is such antidote to the negativity, disillusionment and worry so many non-Americans are feeling right now about the state of things in the US and for the future.

    You uplift us with your love of beauty, your down to earth humour and self-deprecation, your creative intelligence and insights into the people and world around you. Don't ever stop posting! You've made my day and I'm sure for many others!

    Happy Thanksgiving! To you and yours and all you readers! Best wishes, Pammie xxx

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    1. Pammie, this is so very sweet! Thank you so much! There is still some significant political acrimony but thankfully it is cooling off around here. I think the states that did officially go blue are having a harder time.

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  14. Thank you for your post. Love reading your post. Have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving day with your family and friends.

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  15. Your post was beautiful, Stephen, and well appreciated. I am so happy I discovered your blog.

    Your pictures remind me so much of Central NY where I am located. The homes, the landscape are so very similar. I love your posts because they are a reflection of what I experience each day. And I think you are hilarious.

    It's funny how things change over the years. This year I was in charge of the potatoes and pumpkin pies. Just as an aside, I am a type A personality. My DIL is not. So, I place the completed pies on the attic stairs, where it is freezing, to keep them before transport to my son's house. I go to the stairs to pick up the pies, which are on a large cutting board. I step backwards to exit the staircase and miss a step. Me and the pies go hurtling through the air, landing on the kitchen floor. Ordinarily, I would flip out because the pies are a mess. However, the new me (post cancer) contacts the local bakery to replace them. And I am not the least bit flummoxed. It is all about perspective. And no one will care if the pies are store bought, as long a we are together.

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    1. Thank you so much! It's funny how our weather is pretty much the same, just 24 hours apart. Oh I am so sorry about the pies! And hopefully the fall wasn't an injury! I'm glad you didn't have a breakdown! I might have...
      Happy Thanksgiving!

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    2. Fortunately, I only bruised my ego. And the shelf above your stove is gorgeous. What a glorious place to prepare the feats.

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  16. Happy Thanksgiving, Stephen. Thank you for staying in touch during your busy prep, not just staying in touch but finding beauty you see along the way, capturing and sharing. It is much appreciated. When I saw the red sky I said OMG out loud at work. I think people might be suspicious. I had a drama of sorts when my food delivery service (one of those that you order the meals and they are delivered in a box with the ice packs to keep the meat and everything cold). It was due Tuesday and didn't arrive because the (amateur) Fed Ex driver could not find my apartment/was overwhelmed with all the buildings in the complex. (What the?) I got a call from the local warehouse and offered to drive there to pick it up, even promising not to vandalize the place but was told they simply could not let me do that. I got in touch with the meal company and they were/are wonderful. They refunded me the whole cost of the week's worth of food. I said I would salvage what I could. Did I mention one of the meals I ordered was the stuffing? It was promised to my doorstep this morning; I drove there from work at noon to get it and refrigerate the contents ASAP. It was not there. I called Fed Ex and they delivered the box to my office a few hours later. The ice pack was still frozen and the meat is cold. I will use it. Wish me luck. Happy Thanksgiving! ~Nicole p.s. Did I mention it's my first official stuffing? I decided to buy a loaf of rosemary gluten-free bread because everybody is either that, lactose intolerant or dieting (a hobby for some -not me). I am going to make two batches, one with the gf and one with the ciabatta rolls that came in the kit. Wish me luck! And who doesn't eat cheese? ;)

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    1. To clarify (if needed) that the box contains meal kits with pre-measured ingredients and recipe cards for each meal. I don't get it every week but it surely has given me a new interest in cooking with new ideas and fresh, organic ingredients! When I read it again it seemed to say that I got cooked food, like Meals on Wheels. Too early for that. :)

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    2. Thank you so much! Oh how awful to have the stuffing delayed in shipping! I hear such mixed reviews on Plated/Blue Apron, etc. seems some people face frequent shipping issues and some have never had a provlem. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  17. My Aunt used to cut bittersweet. Lovely. I just finished prepping most of the dressing and blanching the green beans. I am taking a break and then will set the table. At least I ironed the linens last week. HappyThanksgiving and I don't know how you do all of this prep work.

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    1. Haha I loooooove it! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  18. Two words to remember before venturing into ANY kind of berry bushes, SAJ--ripstop rainpants! I speak from experience in my own yard with blackberry thorns harvesting berries in 90 degree heat. Ouch!!! You can grow your own bittersweet--we got ours through the natural history museum in Cleveland. Although the hunt sounds like part of the fun, esp. With Barbie as an unwitting accomplice...enjoy "your day" tomorrow!!!

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    1. Thank you! Oh I so should have worn proper equipment! Haha although luckily after the harrowing experience, I found a spot with much much easier access!

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  19. Happy thanksgiving to you Stephen. Hope you have a wonderful day, and loving the glimpse into your thanksgiving prep. Wow - that raid on the hedgerows sounds a little bit uncomfortable though... surely paying at the florist for things is going to be a little less painful??! Love the way that Barbie's in on the action though

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    1. Thank you! Oh I would happily pay for it but the problem is florists sell it already dried out and the color isn't as vivid. Also what makes bittersweet so lovely is its viney habit. They cut it to make it more manageable.

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  20. Whew! My prep is all done except for one thing I forgot that will be an easy addition in the morning. I even did some extra stuff I didn't think I would have time to do---that's a win/win!

    LOL at your crotch caught in prickly bushes! Serves you right for sending me that email earlier that you found bittersweet (knowing I couldn't find ANY).....

    Have a wonderful day, Stephen. I know you will. Drink a toast for me, too, will ya? xo Diana

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    1. Excellent! I got all my cooking done yesterday too and it makes for such a nice day! Now just to clean and reheat. Cheers! Next year I will ship you a box of bittersweet! There was no time this year!

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  21. Thank you for this lovely post Stephen and I love the bittersweet brambles...so pretty.
    Your prep looks so organized...not as chaotic as my Canadian Thanksgiving prep looks by a long shot...our bungalow kitchen is tiny so when the dishes are stacked up and the food is crowding the counters it appears daunting...I would not scream into a towel but have been known to sip a wee glass of sherry to fortify me when faced with the big clean up!
    Happiest of Thanksgiving wishes to you and your family and I hope your dinner is delicious.
    XO

    BTW
    I ordered Ellie's Thanksgiving cookbook after seeing Gracie's post this week...

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    1. Thank you so much! I made sure to take that photo right after I had loaded the dishwashers! Sip away! The Thanksgiving book is absolutely fabulous!

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    2. MY ENTIRE DINNER IS HER THANKS GIVING BOOK!
      THIRD YEAR............EVERYTHING DELICIOUS!XX

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  22. Your prep chaos is awfully attractive! Is that one of your cocktails on the counter? I've got the dressing, two pumpkin pies and an apple crisp done. And the cranberry relish. I was hoping to have my Betty Crocker make-ahead potatoes made today but not going to happen.
    The day after Thanksgiving is my very favorite day of the year. The house (should be) clean and we can coast eating leftovers.
    Thank you for your funny and wise post and beautiful photos.
    Mary

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes it is! It's in the industrial size! It is so nice to get everything cleaned back up after the upheaval!

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  23. PS....a little known fact (from my father). Raspberry bushes and blackberry bushes have thorns to protect their berries. Raspberry thorns grow out thus preventing you from reaching in too far. Blackberry thorns grow to the inside. You reach in to get the berries and get raked by the thorns when you pull your arms out. Remember that next time you are stealing berries. lol

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    1. Haha thank you! I think my ass caught both as some came off easily and others seemed to dig deeper when being pulled off!

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  24. This post was so sweet! And I loved the photos. Can't wait to see what happens in your life tomorrow. I'm sending you an email with photos.

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  25. What a beautiful post. I think bittersweet is my new favourite word: you've infused it with new meaning. Have a very happy Thanksgiving.

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  26. Dear Steven Andrew Jones,
    Thank you for being who you are. The only thing that could be better than reading your blog would be having you for a friend and neighbor. You are hilarious and kind and a damn good host. If wasn't married I'd want to marry you, what a hilarious fun life that would be. You are the best.
    Love and joy to you and yours this Thanksgiving.
    P.S. I adore Bittersweet, the plant and the word.

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    1. Haha thank you! Happy Thanksgiving! Several would verify this fact, a relationship with me is a depreciating asset! Haha

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  27. Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear Stephen. Hope your day is spectacular! I look forward to seeing your photos.

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  28. Oh my, you are a genius at organization to be able to pull off such a lovely blog post -- and great pics -- on the busiest day of the year! Yes, once you reach "a certain age" or live enough, every holiday is bittersweet, but I believe our happiness depends on where we choose to focus...the bitter or the sweet, same as we do on the palate. I'm choosing sweet this year, even if there is election talk at the table. I figure that's why 12 oz. wine glasses were invented. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! (We will be having some awesome honey for our dinner rolls which will make things *extra* sweet and makes me extra thankful for you, my friend!)

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    1. Thank you so much! I totally agree with you. It really is a choice we all make. Not that there aren't still some pangs of sadness but choosing to move forward and still celebrate! Hope yours was fab! I'm sure it was!

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  29. wait one damn minute....................is that your kitchen?????? oh dude you must show more more more!

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  30. Oh, I love bittersweet. A thoughtful explanation to a simple, yet beautiful part of our world.
    I was knee deep in preparing for my first Thanksgiving, and I have to say, so far so food.
    Baked two pecan pies, made a batch of sweet potato cornbread, and prepared the bread for our stuffing,
    Turkey has been brining for two days, so I'm on track for dinner tomorrow between 3 - and 4.
    Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving, free of fuck-ups. 😉

    xoxo,
    Tim

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    1. Thank you! Hope to hear how your first Thanksgiving went! I'm sure it was fabulous! All the food sounds so good!

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  31. Re cutting onions: use a very sharp knife and you won't have as many tears. It keeps the irritating juice/gas in the onion.
    Happy Thanksgiving, I'm sure it will be a huge success. Your guests are lucky people.
    I can't wait for the post-game analysis.

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    1. Taste of France- I tried your sharp knife Tip. It was very helpful. Need to buy candles in the future for chopping onions.

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    2. Thank you! Yes I think much depends on age of onions and sensitivity of chopper. My knives are very sharp but I still am awful about tearing up! Haha hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!!

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  32. Happy Thanksgiving SAJ!
    I'm feeling inspired to do some Grand Theft Floral and while I'm sorry for your interaction with the raspberry bushes that is hilarious. Also Barbie in the driver's seat, what an accomplice.
    Hope you have a really wonderful day XX

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  33. OH, your photos are just stunning - nice captures, all. We have bittersweet here on the farm so I don't have to poach. :-) And I seriously doubt you have a fat ass, which would have made the brambles more tolerable.

    That maple cheesecake I shared on my blog came out absolutely superb... you must try it sometime when you're in the mood for cheesecake.. wow, great recipe.

    Have a wonderful day, Stephen - we are indeed blessed, aren't we? For so many things.

    XO

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, we really are. I so wish I had a good spot for bittersweet! I just don't. The maple cheesecake sounds sooo good. Might need to make that sooner than later.

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  34. I am thankful for you, Stephen. Your humor, honesty, beautiful photographs and perspective on life. I am so glad I found you through Ellie....I really miss her. Have a wonderful, blessed day....you deserve it! Nan

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    1. Thank you so much, Nan! I know this was a hard holiday for you this year and I so admire that you still celebrated. I hope you all shared some wonderful memories of your dear sister in law and had a wonderful evening!

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  35. Happy Thanksgiving, Stephen. I'm always thankful for a chance to glimpse Thanksgiving done right. All the best! (And I hope you've survived the brambles unscathed.)

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    1. Haha yes I made it out! Thank you so much! Hope you got some good time with your lovely new grand baby!!

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  36. Your kitchen is so beautiful. I agree with Janet- please show us more. Xo R

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  37. Happy belated thanksgiving! Hope it was a lovey day. I in my older years am appreciating German a lot more - French sounds better but actually German has more words for things. I used to go often to Austria and the one word I love so much is - waldeinsamkeit. One of my favourite words!!

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    1. Thank you! Yes it does! That's what I love about German. It is such a big language with so many precise descriptors!

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  38. I hope YOUR DAY was GRAND...................you put SO much into it!
    I spent three days in the kitchen cooking.........I KNOW!
    But at least I have another meal maybe TWO and I did make THREE DESSERTS............
    One SON did not join in as he went to the GIRLFRIENDS FAMILY.
    SO, YES, a bit BITTERSWEET for me as well..................
    But I had SOME LOST BOYS at the TABLE and that made me SMILE..............meaning friends of the SONS.
    PLEASE watch CLASH of THE GRANDMA's on SUNDAY night on the FOOD NETWORK!SANDRA SALLIN will be FEATURED!!!I think YOU will ENJOY THIS SHOW VERY MUCH!
    Beautiful POST.................BEAUTIFUL YOU!!
    XX

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    1. I will watch it! Thank you so much! I'm sure your Thanksgiving was just fabulous! So sorry one of the boys wasn't there! Maybe soon they'll be hosting and inviting both sets of parents! Haha am I rushing them?

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  39. Thank you for the gorgeous pictures! Bittersweet is so apropos for the holidays, and this year in particular. Re: onions. I am a from scratch person, but I have been buying pre-chopped onions in a 3 lb. bag and keep them in the freezer. They don't work for every dish, but sometimes, knowing I don't have to chop the damned onions makes my soul lighter.

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    1. Thank you so much! That's a wonderful idea about the onions. I'm such a control freak I'm not sure I could do that but I might try. Chopping onions is always my least favorite part of prep! Especially for Thanksgiving considering you need like 25!

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  40. Gorgeous photos! You live in such a picturesque area. Your kitchen is to-die-for! I love the gourds arranged on the vent hood. Happy too that Barbie is such an awesome co-pilot. Give the spoiled wiggle-bum kissies from Odie.

    I speak German too! It's my mother tongue actually. I had three sets of German visitors this summer, and I had to dust it off. Ouch. Es tut weh! When I'm in Germany, it takes me a good week before I start talking to myself in German and dreaming in it, too.

    Bittersweet sums things up perfectly...

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