Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

It’s beginning to feel a lot like….autumn.

Over the last week in the lovely Garden State, a cooler breeze started pushing through, and I couldn’t help but get a bit excited. Fall is in the air, and with it, the haze and smog and humidity of summer seem to be blowing away. We’re not quite out of the warm weather yet, but the first hints of the fall crispness are here.

I love the fall. I love being able to put on jeans and a sweater for the first time of the season. I like digging out my light jackets and hitting the trail to enjoy the fall foliage. I enjoy turning on the TV and watching a Penn State football and drinking a beer. I’m not usually one to light a lot of candles, but during the fall, I love filling my house with autumn scents, like apples and cinnamon. And though it might be a bit juvenile, I still like to tromp through the fallen leaves on my walk to and from the train station.

I am also obsessed with “fall flavors.” Nearly every year a group of friends and I go apple picking. The orchard also maintains a country store with excellent produce and fresh-baked goods. One of my favorite things to get there are apple cider donuts. While these are available year round, in the fall, they make them in front of you and serve them hot. They are to die for. They also sell apple cider by the glass, either warm or cold, which is a lovely way to wash down a donut. I always buy at least a gallon of cider to take home with me, and I spent many a night during grad school writing a term paper with a glass of hot apple cider by my side. I was excited to see that Dunkin Donuts is selling apple cider now. I’m definitely going to have to wander over there and check it out. I’ll also have to make a trip to Starbucks to get a pumpkin spice latte.

For me, fall always brings a sense of excitement and possibility. Perhaps it because I’ve still spent a majority of my life where the year starts in September, or maybe it’s just that the temperatures cool and I finally have a bit of energy after languishing in the hot summer sun. Whatever it is, I always find myself making plans and experiencing a sense of rejuvenation once fall comes around. I know that spring is considered a time of rebirth, but I experience the same feeling in the fall. Two seasons are down and there are two more to go for the year. Halloween and Thanksgiving will be here before I know it and Christmas isn’t too far away either. Fall gets me excited for all of these events. I’m ready to gear up for the end of the year, just as long as I have a delicious hot fall beverage in hand.

It’s time for another Our View From Here book club. This time, we’ll be reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Check it out next week when we discuss what we thought of the book and feel free to comment on our posts about what you thought about it!
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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I’ll talk about shopping next week but today I want to explain why I love Thanksgiving.  My reasons for loving this holiday are the same as most people in this world. This is the holiday where I get to just relax with family and eat good food. We never seem to have the crazy family drama you see in movies or hear about on TV. It really is a time for us to gather together and catch up.It’s even better because there’s no extra work involved at least not on my end. I just need to arrive at my Aunt and Uncle’s house prepared to eat all the goodies laid out for the day. My family’s Thanksgiving traditions have morphed over the years due to changes that inevitably happen in people’s lives. The holiday has always been celebrated in New Jersey with my mom’s side of the family (except for that one year my mom was on call at the hospital and we hosted Thanksgiving here but I digress).

When I was younger we went to my grandparents house down the shore (yes the shore). The adults gathered around the huge dining room table and us kids (4 of us) would be at a card table off to the side. After dinner, some folks would sit and watch football others would be off playing while others cleaned up; I think. My memory of exact events are fairly fuzzy since we’re talking single digit ages. When I was 10, my grandmother passed away and with that a new Thanksgiving tradition was adopted.

Thanksgiving moved from the shore to Mount Holly, NJ with my Aunt Nora and Uncle Walt. My Uncle Walt was actually my grandfather’s cousin but they grew up together and were like brothers so Uncle he is and always shall be. The house in Mount Holly was a beautiful old house from the 1800s? I think. We’d arrive and there was always a fire going in the fire place. Uncle Walt had MS so he’d be parked near the fire in his wheel chair excited to have everyone coming over and Aunt Nora was busy in the kitchen. The house in Mount Holly had no TV this made for some of the best Thanksgivings over the years. Everyone sat in the living room and talked. Uncle Walt would share stories from his travels over the years. Aunt Nora would discuss adventures from England (where she was from). The whole family would catch up on events from the past year. They didn’t have a big dining room table like Grandmom and Pop pop’s house so we filled our plates buffet style and would either sit at the small table tucked in a corner of the living room or off tray tables. We were all still in the same room by the fireplace and would continue chatting. Even though all we had to pass the time with just each other’s company and conversation these dinners always flew by. As the years went on Uncle Walt had complications from his MS and it became too much for Aunt Nora to host everyone at the house. My Uncle Walt has since passed away and Aunt Nora moved back to England. She’s sold the house in Mount Holly but I will always have a special place in my heart for it and the family gatherings we had there.

Ever since then, we have Thanksgiving at my Aunt Bobby & Uncle Bob’s house outside of Trenton, NJ. The house was originally built around 1900 and my Aunt and Uncle put a bunch of money into fixing it up. It’s another beautiful house. We don’t talk around the fire like at Uncle Walt’s house but I love Thanksgiving there just the same. They have a huge TV so football games are not missed and always on. My Uncle Bob is the chef. He enjoys doing the cooking and creating fantastic food for us. The holiday here is always relatively laid back and relaxing. We have to split up between two tables because being an old house there isn’t a room that can hold a table large enough for all of us. We all catch up at some point over dinner, or football, or investigating what wonderful things my Uncle is cooking up. Inevitably after dinner my mom and her sister end up in the kitchen talking shop since they are both operating room nurses. At some point in the evening, my cousin’s husband will ask me when I’m going to find myself a guy and have some kids.  This is the only stressful point of the whole holiday for me. It reminds me that I’m single and I don’t need reminders. Fortunately, my other cousin is also not married and still living at home so the issue isn’t pressed that much and we can move on to other topics like football. Every other year we’ll depart from my Aunt and Uncle’s house and meet up with my sister at her in-laws for a second round of desserts. It’s like a little encore Thanksgiving after the main meal. These are always good visits that make the holiday that much better.

Our Thanksgiving’s have changed a lot over the years but I’ve loved every version of the holiday. They’ve all been different in their way but no matter what, they were a great time for the family to get together and catch up over a fantastic meal. How can you not love that?

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In Memoriam: Thanksgiving

Am I the only person that remembers the quaint holiday of Thanksgiving? You might recall that it’s the day most people have off from work between Halloween and Christmas. The one that doesn’t require presents or costumes?….Still doesn’t jog your memory? Ummm….it’s the day before Black Friday? Remember? …There it is! I knew you’d get it.

I feel increasingly bad for Thanksgiving (you may recall from a previous post that I have an issue with actualizing inanimate objects and concepts). Ever since people started stringing up lights and going all out in decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving has increasingly gotten the shaft. I guess it just can’t compete with the costumes and candy of Halloween or the presents and lights of Christmas.

In my mind, Thanksgiving is the ideal holiday. It’s one of the few left that hasn’t been overly commercialized. You don’t have to worry about presents or spiffing up the house with decorations. You don’t have kids ringing your doorbell all night looking for candy. Unless you’re the one cooking the dinner, all you really have to do is show up somewhere, eat, drink and be merry. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Then there are the leftovers….pumpkin pie for breakfast, turkey sandwich for lunch and a second go around of turkey and all the fixings for dinner. Excellent.

I also think that Thanksgiving is a holiday where people are the most real. No one’s trying to fake that they really like that ugly sweater they just received and no one feels forced to go to a religious service. Thanksgiving gives us a time to relax with one another, catch up, maybe watch some football or play a pickup game. In any case, of all the holidays, I think Thanksgiving is most about togetherness (yes, I’m sure many of you have Thanksgiving horror stories and I’m probably being overly simplistic and naïve, but I’m feeling sentimental and warm-hearted toward Thanksgiving right now so just work with me here).

Poor Thanksgiving. No one appreciates it anymore. Everyone is just rushing to get to Christmas. I’ve even heard some stores (Sears, I think?) that will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Really? Is it too much to ask to have one day where Christmas and the need to shop and buy the perfect gift is not shoved down our throats? Well I am not jumping on that bandwagon! I plan to give Thanksgiving its proper due. Until the day after Thanksgiving, I will scoff at people who already have their houses decorated for Christmas; scowl at the Macy’s Christmas windows and tree on my way to work; mute the TV commercials advertising Christmas specials; and shake my fist at those festive red Starbucks cups. After Thanksgiving, I’ll be as jolly as a fat elf drunk on eggnog, but not a moment before. Long Live Thanksgiving!