Finally

I can’t tell you how elated I am that cooler weather has finally arrived.  It’s a special kind of hell when you combine south Texas summers with hot flashes, bad enough that it has me considering moving north to escape the heat.  No joke–we even went through the list of states with no state income tax to narrow down the choices.  Tennessee is looking really good once hubby retires.  Right now with the reduced temperatures I’m content with where we live, but when the broiler of summer hits, we just might end up relocating eventually.

I’m happily planning the Thanksgiving meal, as this year will probably be the largest group we’ve hosted yet at around a dozen plus.  I know there won’t be too many more of these as college looms, job transfers, etc, so I’m enjoying every moment I can.  Since we have the largest house, and I absolutely love to cook (not to mention I’m really good at it), everyone is more than happy to come visit and be treated to the goodies.  So far the menu includes two turkeys, one roasted, one smoked.  Yep, we started the tradition around 15 years ago of smoking a turkey and everyone loved it so much we’ve done it ever since.  But I’m old school, absolutely love a roasted turkey, hence the reason we serve two.  Strange thing is, we hardly have any leftovers by the time everyone loads up a to-go plate, lol!  Along with that there’s the made-from-scratch cornbread dressing and turkey gravy.  Homemade cranberry sauce.  (I opt to use 1/2 cup brown sugar with 1/2 cup white sugar instead of a full cup white sugar, along with a pinch of cinnamon).  Trust me, you have to give this a go if you’ve never tried it.  You’ll be using the cans of cranberry sauce as doorstops from now on if you do!  Green bean casserole, stewed okra with tomatoes, a casserole with broccoli, rice and cheese.  A sweet potato casserole with a pecan, marshmallow and streusel topping.  Potato rosemary rolls.  (My newest find from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice cookbook–two days to make, but absolutely worth every second!)  Pumpkin bread pudding with butterscotch caramel sauce and vanilla bean creme anglaise (requested by my sister-in-law).  Rice pudding (requested by hubby).  And to round it all out, cranberry margaritas.  Any other appetizers, drinks, etc, will be provided by the guests.

Yes, I can hear you now–has she lost her mind???  Is she actually going to COOK all that?  Trust me, I absolutely LOVE to cook, and yes, I will be making all of that and will be thrilled to do so.  It’s my thing, ya know?  There are a couple of items that make it much, much easier.  The small (1.5 quart) and large (2.5 quart) version of this:

If you get most of the items prepared ahead of time and they just need to be kept warm, or hot, pop them in these nifty slow cookers and everything will be the perfect temperature all at the same time.  It gives you more time to enjoy the cranberry margaritas.  😉

The garden went very well this year.  The plant that performed the best was actually a volunteer–a seedling that established itself all on its own from the Italian Ice tomato I had last year.  It ended up taking up more than half of the raised garden box, yielding literally hundreds of tomatoes, and kept going through the broiler heat of the summer into the fall.  THAT is one heck of a tomato plant!  Some of the other tomatoes that performed well, the ones winning the best for flavor included A Grappoli D’Iverno, Rose De Berne, and Tangerine.  The best sauce tomatoes included San Marzano and Costoluto Genovese.  Here’s a sampling of my canning adventures in sauce as well as tomatoes, pints and half pints, as well as the ongoing harvest:

Any time I wonder if all the work and effort we put into growing the tomatoes was worth it, raised beds, organic fertilizer, irrigation lines, etc, all I have to do is open one of the jars I canned and the aroma and taste immediately let me know that, yes, it was worth it and more.  There will be no fall garden–I will clear out the boxes, dig in organic fertilizer and let them rest over the winter, getting ready for the spring.

I’ve already got a jump start on decorating–the Christmas tree is already up.  Yes, this is a first as I’ve never put it up before Thanksgiving before.  I guess I was feeling a little guilty for not really decorating for Halloween.  It was just too darned hot, and obviously the entire neighborhood felt the same way.  Many who always decorate didn’t, and some of those didn’t even hand out candy.  I managed to put out the dozen fake pumpkins as well as a lighted one, but that was about it, as well as handed out candy.  It just didn’t feel like fall, didn’t feel like Halloween, just…ugh.  It took me a grand total of fifteen minutes to put away the decorations.  So, to make up for it, I’ve decided to do Christmas on a grand scale–I’m pulling out every decoration I own and they’re going up somewhere.  Since I have several weeks to do this, I think I’ll be able to get it done.

We’ll be going light on the Christmas presents this year as we had a couple of unexpected expenses.  The upright freezer died, thankfully when I had very little in it.  It was out of the extended warranty by a year, and the compressor croaked.  After checking with a few repair places, they wanted more to replace the compressor than a brand new full sized freezer would have cost.  A-holes.  We waited for the Labor Day sale and got a new, larger freezer for less than what the repair would have been.  The downstairs TV had been acting up for a while, and it turned out to be another one of those ‘costs more to repair it than replace it’ kind of deals.  After milking it for more than six months, we decided to take advantage of the early holiday sales and bought a new one, this one with 4K technology that makes the standard hi-def seem like analog.  Since they were about the same price with the sale, we went for the updated version.  Considering the old TV was more than a decade old, I think we got our money’s worth out of it.  The new one will be delivered this coming week, just in time to get it settled in before Thanksgiving.

Well, hubby just got back from picking up some good barbecue from the joint down the street–turkey, chicken and pork ribs.  With the fire in the fireplace, it’s going to be a good evening.

Here’s to cooler weather, and all the enjoyable things that come along with it!

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