Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Now and Then

So Thanksgiving dinner is over. It took a beautiful ride through Topanga Canyon to get to the beach and the restaurant that has become our regular spot. It is part of a chain that is connected to Hawaii, so the dishes have interesting touches like taro creamed spinach. The yams were flavored with pineapple and they offered something called poke which is a Hawaiian dish of marinated raw fish.

Since I’m a vegetarian, I didn’t eat the poke, but my family all raved about it. Of course there was the traditional turkey and I think roast beef. There was a wonderful selection of vegetables and side dishes that worked for me. They even had a vegetarian version of the stuffing.

We got there around 3 and stayed until almost 6. Our table was next to the window and I had a perfect view of the sunset, watching until the water had turned a dark blue and the sky had lost it last bits of pink.

It was very different from the Thanksgivings I had growing up in Chicago. While I was sitting there looking across the water to Catalina, I thought back to the first Thanksgiving my family had in a new apartment. We had moved just a block away because they were tearing down our old building in an urban renewal plan.

I loved the new apartment because it had a front balcony, a back porch and a little room off my bedroom that had a marble sink, which I have since learned is called a shaving closet.

Somehow my mother had managed to unpack all the boxes of books that lined the long hall and put them away and get the whole place settled for that first dinner. It snowed on that Thanksgiving, which seemed magical. The light reflected off the white and made the inside almost sparkle.

In those years I was in a children’s choir at the Unitarian Church. Every Thanksgiving there was a service at Rockefeller Chapel which is part of the University of Chicago. All the churches and synagogues in the neighborhood took part in it and sent their choirs. The day before there was always a big rehearsal and I remember walking home afterwards as it was getting dark.

My mother was too busy cooking to come to the service, but I loved being part of it. We wore bright red robes and marched in with the other choirs. There was such a good feeling that all these different beliefs got together to give thanks.

Then it was home with a stop. Everything was closed except for a small deli-grocery storey called Friedman’s. I remember seeing some U. of C. students ahead of me in line. They were buying egg nog and stuff to make spaghetti for their Thanksgiving dinner and seemed to be excited about having the non traditional meal.

At home, the apartment was warm and fragrant with cooking smells. My mother made everything from scratch. Thinking back I am amazed how much she got together for dinner. And since she worked, that meant she had to do it all the night before and the day of.

We always had company, though I don’t remember who came that year. At that time nobody thought about shopping. It was only years later when I worked at Marshall Fields during Christmas in the toy department did that Friday become a big deal to me. Nobody got that day off and it was the kickoff of the Christmas season.

That first Thanksgiving in our new apartment was also the last one when my whole family was together. By the next year my brother had gone off to college in Boston and it was too pricey for him to come home for the holiday.

Next week I’ll be going back to that apartment. I still love the front porch and the back porch and the shaving closet. I love that I can sit in the living room and it is as if the moments from the past have left some kind of imprint and I can see them replaying in my minds eye.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Revisions, bloody Revisions

This week is my monthly posting for Inkspot, the blog for authors of Midnight Ink.  The article is a reprint of a recent piece I wrote for the Sisters in Crime Guppies First Draft Newsletter.  In it, I share my process of writing (aka revising) from the first draft to the thirtieth!  Enjoy!


Tracy Weber

Karmas a Killer (4)And if you want to show me some love, you can preorder my newest mystery, KARMA'S A KILLER, now at Amazon Barnes and Noble.
Yee haw, yippee, and yahooey!

Check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Yep, it's that time again.  Tomorrow is the big day. 

I mentioned last year that my Thanksgiving then would be a small event.  This year it's even smaller.  The neighbor who'd joined us last year has moved away, so this year it will just be my husband, younger son and I together on Thanksgiving.  Well, the dogs, too, but they don't sit at the table with us.  They stay on the floor and beg.  No human food for them, though, since both have health issues that mostly relegate them to doggy food and treats. 

But this Thanksgiving is a harbinger of things to come.  Lots of relatives will be with us soon, starting right around Christmas and continuing into January.  They include in-laws and our older son and his family--our d-i-l and two grandkids.  Plus, our d-i-l's delightful parents will be visiting for a short while, too!  It helps that we live in California while they all live in the Midwest.  No big El Nino presence here yet, but even if it arrives it's hopefully easier to live with than lots of cold and snow. 

So, there are lots of things to be thankful for tomorrow and beyond.  Meantime, I'm also thankful for a fun and fruitful writing year--three books published plus one e-published so far in 2015:  BITE THE BISCUIT, my first Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, CANADIAN WOLF, my seventh Alpha Force paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne, and KNOCK ON WOOD, my second Superstition Mystery, plus the Kindle version of ONCE A CAVALIER, a time travel romance. 

I'm working on my next book under deadline, a Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and will then head into the next Barkery book.  Next year is likely to be busy, too--another year to be thankful for. 

And you?  What are you up to this Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Aunt Velva's Bean Salad

Aunt Velva’s Bean Salad

Two cans dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
Three hard-boiled eggs, peeled & chopped coarsely
Half a sweet onion, peeled & chopped
At least three sweet pickles, chopped
  Mix these ingredients gently in a large bowl
One quarter cup cider vinegar
One half cup sugar
One cup sour cream
  Mix the dressing well, pour over bean mixture, stir

This is especially good if prepared the day before and left to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.  If expecting a large crowd, use three cans of kidney beans.  To make it fancy, reserve one of the eggs, then slice it and layer it over the top of the prepared salad.

Aunt Velva wasn’t really my aunt, she was my great-aunt Ina’s son Glen’s wife.  Which makes her, I think, my first cousin once removed, by marriage.  In any case, she was country folk, kind and funny, and I adored her all my life, and made sure to leave a pebble on her gravestone when I was “down home” for the reunion a couple of weeks ago.  She taught my mother, a newly-wed, how to make this salad and my mother taught it to me.  The salad is delectable, and a very excellent heritage.

I hope you all have great plans for Thanksgiving, and that the day proves spectacular.  We’re going to spend it with friends at their house.  I’m bringing the bean salad.  And I’m going to roast a turkey on Friday, because I think leftover turkey is about the best part of the feast.  I’m going to have it spatchcocked in the meat department of the grocery store where I bought it frozen last week.  Spatchcocking is the removal or splitting of the spine of a dressed bird and then spreading it out to roast breast side up.  You can find directions on how to spatchcock it on the Internet, but I wouldn’t try it for a hundred dollar bill.  A turkey will roast in about a third (or less) of the time an intact bird takes.  And it’s jucier.  But it looks weird, and it takes up a lot of room on a platter.

Also on Friday a friend and I are going to my church to set up the Fontanini Christmas Crèche – this Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent.  Actually, it’s not just the Creche – Mary, Joseph, the Babe, a few shepherds and the Three Kings – it’s Bethlehem.  The baker, the rug seller, street musicians, the Temple, the carpenter, the blacksmith, a little vineyard, a green grocer, a sheepfold with shepherds staring upwards at “a multitude of the heavenly host” hanging on fishline from a circular wire frame.  I’ve been collecting the pieces for many years and when we moved into an apartment there was no room to display them so I donated them to St. George’s, which loves them and asked me to set them out every year.   Funny, I was never much for dolls as a child, but I love telling myself stories as I arrange the people and buildings a little differently every Advent.  This year, like last year, I’m keeping a couple of figures aside and inviting the youngest Sunday School children to “help” me find places for them.  I hope when I get too frail to do this, someone will take over for me.