Preparing for Thanksgiving Festivities.

I am armed and I am dangerous. In one hand I wield a avocado-color Pampered Chef® knife, in the other I hold a bowl full of uncooked sweet potato. I am ready for action, it’s Thanksgiving eve and I have some recipes to complete, birthday presents to wrap (my dad and my niece Rosalie), and I have to pack. We are heading eastward to visit family tomorrow morning… early in the morning.

Tonight I am alone, tonight I have to accomplish my tasks without complaint. And because I am an only child, I will also have to over achieve. “So what’s on the menu?” you may wonder. I am prepping some garlic mashed sweet potato to bring to my parents house on Saturday. I thank whoever posted this recipe online. And I will also attempt a Pumpkin Chiffon Cake, “thank you” Rachael Ray for that contribution. Neither recipe has been tested before, but I am confident that both will work. When I cook, I live on the edge. I modify recipes that would make some only whimper, I double batches, or reduce fat and I don’t even bat an eye.

So far I have claimed the life of a head of garlic. Smashing it against my cutting board I peeled every last clove. Only a pile of garlic skins remain. This garlic sacrifice was roasted in the oven with olive oil for half an hour. Meanwhile I begin the mountainous task of scrubbing, prepping and peeling the sweet potato. Potatoes are chilling in their bowl and I reach for my trusty peeler. A delightful wedding gift that has pulled me through many a holiday now. I look down (please cue screeching record) and realize that the blade is gone. I am holding a peeling handle. Without the peeler essence. I will have to peel those potatoes by hand, with a knife?! No this cannot be.

Let’s explain something right now, I tend to overreact so now I am starting to work myself into one of those famous panicked states where the contents of my utensil drawer have now be dumped onto the counter. Like a miner digging for gold I sifted through the pile to find something, anything that resembled my peeler blade. A mere 15 minutes later I have success. I leave the mess on the counter, a mixed bag of Valentine’s day cookie cutters, egg slicer, pumpkin carving tools. All the holidays have thrown up onto my counter.

We are back on track (there is a God.) Potatoes are now corralled in the pot and we are waiting for those to boil.

Onto the chiffon cake and all of its glory.

I am an expert, mixing the ingredients and folding the whipped egg whites into the dry mix. But realizing that for much of this time I was wearing some pumpkin goo in my hair, puts me right back at novice (Giada De Laurentiis wouldn’t let this happen.) These are the nights I am happy I am toiling away alone. No witnesses. Well except for the pets… but they don’t speak English.

While the cake is baking I am reviewing my list, walk dog (check), pack presents (check), make mashed sweet potato (check), make cake (semi check), and then I get to the part of the list that makes me a bit ashamed… “make a list of things to bring.” Yes, I made a to-do list and wrote on there to make another list. Stop judging me. I feel accomplished when I can cross it off.

My list is getting impressively long and I have to start packing. Relaxing and “me” time this evening should never have entered my brain nor my vocabulary, neither is happening tonight. Must. Over achieve. Thanksgiving tasks.

*Ding*. The pumpkin chiffon cake is ready. Oh, that is one sexy looking baked good. “Let it rest for 5 minutes, then invert the pan and set it over a narrow-necked bottle.” Yeah, this will be interesting. Apparently, I do not live in a home with narrow-necked bottles, or perhaps I’ve emptied them all by now. So instead the chiffon is resting inverted in its pan teetering precariously on a can of green beans. Who knew green beans had so many uses?

Most people wouldn’t think to recount an average evening in a blog. But I am not “most people” and this wasn’t some “average evening.” It was Thanksgiving eve and I had a lot to do and quite frankly I always have a lot to say.

Going against all Holiday logic.

As an only child I have rules, laws and other things to keep my life in complete order at all times. One of the rules is that you enjoy the holiday at hand, you do not start celebrating early. For example, when celebrating Halloween, you wouldn’t be pulling out the ceramic turkeys, pilgrim decor or other “tchotckies.”
Same goes with Thanksgiving, it’s like the step child of the holiday world. It’s not as popular with the kiddies at Halloween and it is always overshadowed by the Colossal Christmas.

We abstain from acknowledging the impending Christmas holiday until December 1st. So why are we so stern? My Dad’s birthday is November 30th, and we have to finish celebrating that special day before the tinsel and the angel every make it out


Stocking #1

of the box. Save for watching the movie Elf. That movie should be thoroughly enjoyed and quoted year long.

But tonight was a different situation. I broke an important rule. I went to Target on a whim and I *gulp* bought some impulse holiday stuff. I almost feel like I am a teen who just bought her first pack of cigarettes, bad, bad, very bad. I walked in to get a baby gift bag and walked out with a tinsel star and two stockings. Seriously? what happened to my universe, what happened to my order? What am I even walking down the holiday aisles, what is wrong with this picture?! Am I filling some sort of holiday void?

Stocking #2

I am becoming one of those people, and you know who you are, one of those caroling in September, sugar-cookie baking in October, Christmas-light-exterior-home-decorating in November, taking-the-tree-down-on-December-26th weirdo!

So I have two options,  #1. I can continue freaking out (which I do oh so well.) or #2. I could pack those offending holiday items away until December 1st and pretend like nothing ever happened… so what will I do? I think I’ll choose #1. At least for the rest of the evening.

Halloween, definitely a peculiar holiday

I’ve had the benefit of enjoying this adopted holiday since I was seven year old. It didn’t take long for me to don a costume, grab a bucket and recite “trick-or-treat” to a bunch of strangers for candy back then. The payoff was great, lots of free candy. And for every year that I have scrounged around for a costume, dusted off Halloween decorations and dealt with the innards of my pumpkin I can’t believe that Halloween lives on. We’ve become a society that fears strangers, a world where you won’t want to walk the streets at night, a place where we lock ourselves away from society and keep to our own familes. And then comes Halloween. The one night a year (or two if you live in the West Michigan burbs) that you throw all caution to the wind and embrace those old traditions.

Let’s set aside the history and the traditions and focus on a few simple thoughts.

Things we do on Halloween that would be frowned upon during any other time. When logic is set aside, so let’s review, shall we?

1. We decorate our houses. We decorate our houses with ghosts, goblins, witches, mummies, vampires, werewolves. The one time a year when it’s okay to proudly display rotting corpses on your front lawn and to stretch large quantities of flammable fake spider webs across our home. But they look so real.

2. We create jack-o-lanterns. Again, let’s set aside the history of the jack-o-lantern and focus on the fact that we buy pumpkins, scrape out the mush, goop, and miscellaneous innards. We hunt through the muck to fish out seeds that we then season and bake. We put candles inside our newly hallowed out gourds and light them on fire then leave them out there. Gulp. Alone.

Playing the part.

3. We dress up. We wear torn clothing, fake blood, fake chins, fake ears, fake noses, fake boobs and take on a persona of our own. Worse yet, we encourage our kids to do the same (minus the fake boobs, they really are too young for that.)

4. Trick-or-treating. Whether we collect the candy or we hand it out, it seems to be the only day a year that it is ok to go to a stranger’s house and get candy. At night, by ourselves.

5. We eat the candy. A lot of it. Yep, after we get candy from strangers we come home account for our winnings and eat large quantities. Amounts that we couldn’t get away with any other time of year. We do so without a second though. “Ohhh, is that a Twix. You gonna eat that?”

Let’s recap the Ramseyer Halloween experience.

Betty Francis & Paul Kinsey

Halloween 2010 was no exception in our house, we decorated the place in all kinds of creepy crawlies, fake spider webs, orange lights, we carved the obligatory pumpkins, scooped out guts, carved some scary faces and then put lit candles inside and left them unattended on the front porch. Next we dressed up as Mad Men characters, filled a large bowl with play-doh and candy bars and left our door unlocked and we stood in the doorway freezing our butts off waiting for kids we don’t know to come running up. (It was awesome) We had a two-year old trip over our front door and fall into our house. I ended up picking him up and setting him back outside. Fun, “where are your parents?” We had kids cheer for play-doh, cheer for Reese’s peanut butter cups, cheer for being jacked up on sugar. More groups of kids stopped by, on and on it went. My candy stash was diminishing. In fact supplies  were gone by 7:37PM. Halloween 2010 was a success.

Next year we’ll cover our house in flammable spider webs, carved pumpkins and witches and repeat this tradition all over again.