Happy Thanksgiving! And I'm Freeeeeeee!
Thanksgiving is Bobby's and my holiday in the Family Holiday Cycle, so it has been a busy week for us. On top of that, it was the last week of my first semester, so I had two major essays due today that I have been working on for the past three weeks. I am writing this now because I just turned in the last one, and this is (one of) my promised rewards. :)
So ... first things first: Thanksgiving. Went great. Bobby and I love to cook and love to experiment even more with recipes, so we really enjoy having the honor of cooking for Thanksgiving each year. Our respective families contributed dishes as well; Bobby and I handled the rest.
The menu was (and, as always, I am happy to share recipes!):
Pumpkin cheese soup served in pumpkin shells
"Medieval" turkey (and Quorn "turkey" for me!)
Crispy green beans
Maple-glazed squash medley
Sweet corn saute
Spicy nutmeg carrots
Candied sweet potatoes (Dad)
Mashed potatoes (Mother-in-law) with Everybody Gravy* (Dad)
Sauerkraut and sausage (Grandmother-in-law)
Homemade apple sauce
Whole grain bread and white whole grain bread (Panera)
*A term I coined while still a very strict vegetarian for gravy that everybody--even the vegetarians!--could have.
German chocolate ice cream pie (chocolate ice cream topped with caramel whipped cream, toasted coconut, and toasted pecans in a chocolate graham-cracker crust ... all homemade [of course])
Butter pecan ice cream pie (butter pecan ice cream topped with butterscotch sauce and pecans in a vanilla cookie crust ... all homemade again!)
(Yes, you can tell that my passion is homemade ice cream since the ice cream desserts always get a much lengthier description than anything else that we cook!)
Apple cake (Mother-in-law)
Apple pie (Grandmother-in-law)
Pumpkin pie (Grandmother-in-law)
Because homemade ice cream is a rather involved process (mostly because it requires multiple steps of cooking and cooling, which takes time), then I started on the desserts last Sunday. I made the three ice cream mixes--butter pecan, chocolate, and Tahitian vanilla (for Bobby to take to a work party)--and then, throughout the week, made sauces, pie crusts, and began assembling all of the pieces. The German chocolate is the family favorite and is requested for just about every occasion, to the point where I refuse to make it in the summer under the pretense that it is too heavy for warm weather ... in reality, I would never get to experiment with new recipes if my family had their way! The butter pecan pie was a new recipe, though I have made butter pecan ice cream countless times for my father-in-law, so it was more an excuse to try a butterscotch recipe. The conclusion was that the butter pecan pie was good, but the German chocolate was still the favorite (go figure). Dad, however, like the butter pecan pie better, and judging by the fact that Terrell had three pieces, I think he did as well, so I think this one will be requested a lot too.
New recipes for dinner: first of all, the pumpkin cheese soup. Bobby found this one on Epicurean; the soup is served in miniature pumpkin shells for bowls. The pumpkin in the soup, of course, comes from these shells before they are bowls, so it is nice in that the cute little shells don't go to waste. We garnished the soup with garlic croutons and a little bit of shredded Colby cheese. The family loved this soup, and many went back with their little pumpkin bowls for seconds. I really enjoyed the soup as well, but pumpkin/squash-based soups are some of my favorites; I knew that I would.
The spicy nutmeg carrots were a new recipe. Carrots aren't my favorite veggie, but I really liked them here. The spices really worked well to hide the dirty "root" taste that I don't particularly like about carrots.
The maple-glazed squash medley was also a new recipe, also from Epicurean. In the words of my father-in-law, it tasted like a party in your mouth. It did! This one is a keeper, and it made a beautiful presentation as well, since the squash comes in such an array of different colors.
The other cool thing about our dinner was that the turkey and the veggies were all local. Bobby and I made up our minds early in the year that we wanted to do this, so we bought enough of different veggies in season (like the sweet corn) to freeze it for Thanksgiving. Others--like the squash and apples--are in-season now and came from local farms.
The turkey, which I named Sarah, was also from Manchester.
Because our menu was a little on the ambitious side, Bobby and I have been shopping and chopping for Thanksgiving all week. It was worth it, though; at one point, as Bobby and I went last to fill our plates, the noise from the dining room was complete *silence.* We had actually silenced our families! That is a feat along the lines of silencing the Niagra Falls!
Otherwise, our family misbehaved as expected. Highlights included my explaining the biopsychological basis for foot fetishes (I knew I got that degree for something!), looking up butt beads on Wikipedia, and loudly singing the song "Dominic the Donkey," which--if you are not familiar with the lyrics--goes something like,
Chingedy-ching! Heehaw! Heehaw!
It's Dominic the Donkey!
Chingedy-ching! Heehaw! Heehaw!
The Italian Christmas donkey!
I must say that it is quite a whiplash to go from showing your family pictures of butt beads on Wikipedia to singing children's Christmas songs that feature copious animal noises. And this was before we started pouring the alcohol!
In all, it was a fun night. Bobby and I retired to the basement after everyone had left (and we had finished cleaning the dishes) and put on Home Alone and fell asleep about halfway through.
Because, as though cooking a massive dinner for nine wasn't enough to occupy me this week, my first semester ended this week, so I had two major research papers due. Luckily, both were on medieval literature topics, so both were quite fun to work on. The first, for my "English Literature: Beowulf to 18th-century" class, was on the political and social causes of the fourteenth-century alliterative revival. This has always been an interest of mine, so I sort of pulled out all the stops in terms of research. I'm quite proud of the paper that resulted, which ended up using eighteen sources, many of which I hope to go back and study more thoroughly once my second semester is over.
The second essay was for my Writing, Research, and Analysis class (which I took my first semester since it sounded boring and I wanted to get it out of the way). This class is expected of everyone at the university, so I was the only English major in the class. Most of my classmates confessed, on a pretty regular basis, to be intimidated by my studies, which was rather ironic since most of them were studying homeland security and public health and other topics that I find intimidating! And that certainly carry a greater penalty for mistakes!
I had mixed feelings about the class (unlike Beowulf to 18th, which I loved). It essentially aimed to teach how to write research papers. Ummm ... yes, I write research papers for fun. Some of the ideas were things we used to do in middle school, like taking notes on notecards numbered by source and organized by topic. Or drawing "graphic organizers" to organize an essay, which will forever take me back to the 8th grade, when we were preparing for a now-obsolete test called the MSPAP that used copious "GOs," so every class tried to mold every form of thinking into a "GO" model. Like, "Let's look at causes of the Civil War ... using a GO!!" I'm sure these things work for someone or else they wouldn't keep cropping up, but I honestly find the concept itself to be too rigid, tedious, and time-consuming to make it worthwhile for organizing basic information; I get nothing more from these highly stylized systems than I do scribbling an outline or a statement of purpose at the top of my essay or on a scrap of paper except that one takes fifteen minutes and the other takes one minute. Pre-writing, to me--if I use it at all--should not require a separate work session in and of itself. The only pre-writing-type endeavor I use that takes time is moving my notes around in a word document so that, when I'm writing the essay, I can simply scroll down my notes page and have the notes I've taken more or less in the order in which I'd like to use them. In this case, I save much more time than I spend in having my notes organized as such.
I sort of felt like already having a Bachelor's degree (which means that I've taken and passed upper-level classes that, presumably, required research essays) and having a Writing minor on top of that sort of meant that I'd mastered the content of this class. I mean, as a Writing minor, I had to take classes on expository, argumentative, and creative non-fiction writing. Or: I had three full classes that discussed what was covered, briefly, in this one.
The value of the class, for me, lay in my ultimate goal of teaching English and having to stop and think about how and why I do things as a writer. I mean, I've been writing since I could hold a pen; if any learned behavior is second-nature to me, it is writing. But it won't be second-nature to my students, so I tried to note ideas and techniques that could help teach writing to new writers.
However, I am slightly bitter at the same time at having to pay for a class that was very little use to me and which mostly rehashed the entire purpose of my Writing minor. *sigh* Such is university life, I guess, but I'm not on scholarship this time around; I want to wring every ounce of use out of classes that I am paying dearly for. (And I already paid the university $100 as well to review my transcripts for credit, so it's not like they have the excuse of ignorance!)
Anyway. So, for this class, we had to write an essay concerning the subject we are studying. The whole class was basically structured around bringing this essay to fruition, one week at a time. It was an eight-week class. The only reason I ever spend eight weeks on an essay is because I am a hopeless procrastinator.
But, again, I thought that I'd make the most of it by at least studying a topic that interested me. So, this essay was about the critiques against the Tudor monarchs in Thomas More's Utopia. Being me (read: ambitious), I wanted to do a similar survey of multiple Tudor-era authors, but ... the essay could not be longer than 1,700 words. 1,700! Seriously, that's flash fiction by some author's standards.
So I focused on More because 1) I'd already read Utopia (for Beowulf to 18th) and liked it and found fascinating, at the time, the political/historical allusions in it, 2) the "meaning" of Utopia is still (and probably always will be) contested, so it was possible to argue a point rather than simply regurgitating information (yuck), and 3) Thomas More is just a flippin' interesting guy. (Tangent: His character was my biggest complaint in Season One of The Tudors (we haven't seen Season Two, which--last Bobby heard--comes out on DVD in January; the House of Felagund does not get paid television channels) because he came off as less "complex" than "schizophrenic," imho. But, in reality, More is a minor character in that series, and I don't know that anyone could "get him right" without devoting an entire series to him. And only sad medieval- and Renaissance-literature fangirls like me would probably find that marketable.)
Anyway, because Thanksgiving was rather late this year, I was confused into thinking that I had a week off before I start my next semester. Nope! I start on Monday. So all the big plans I had to get stuff done for the SWG and SCA and beta-reading and so on will have to share my attention with schoolwork again sooner rather than later. My classes for the next semester are Women Writers, English Literature 18th Century to the Present, American Poetry, and African-American Literature. I am looking forward to all of them and only dreading American Poetry; I am not very comfortable with poetry beyond the Renaissance! I am going into that one hoping to focus more on literature I've neglected terribly and learn a lot.
So it seems I'm only freeeeee! for two more days, but I plan on making the most of them!