No Rest for the Weary

Posted: November 22nd, 2013 under Uncategorized.

I have been informed that I’m not posting often enough.   I thought (hoped) that posting to comments, answering questions there, etc., would keep the natives from expressing restlessness, but that didn’t work.    So…well…I can’t say anything more about the Other Story that’s with an editor.    I can’t say anything about the story for which I haven’t decided on a market.  I can’t say anything about the ideas churning in my mind for another CHICKS anthology.  So what can I say? Page proofs landed on me yesterday and must be checked and returned in good time.    I expect 16 or more at the table for Thanksgiving dinner and between now and the call to the table, I will be chopping, dicing, slicing and packaging for the fridge any prep work I can do ahead.   Friends are providing (variously) pecan pie, homemade cranberry sauce,  apple/sweet potato casserole,  green bean casserole,  some of the tableware, cheese & crackers, and rolls.   I am providing turkey, ham, dressing, gravy, creamed spinach and mushroom casserole,  corn & peppers casserole, pumpkin pie, gingerbread-apple-walnut loaf,  salad,  whipped cream to top the pies and cake,  extras like carrot and celery sticks, olives, pickles, fresh fruit for centerpieces and alternate desserts.  Also the table, tablecloth, napkins, chairs, plates, glasses, serving dishes and platters, and most of the flatware.

Prep for this started November 2, and continues at an accelerating pace.    I should have gotten to the silver polishing before I did.    The grocery shopping isn’t complete (I will buy the mushrooms, celery, and fruit on Monday.)    As always, the exact number is uncertain because two couples come from 200 miles away, and most of the rest from about 50.  Weather makes a difference.   Sometimes people get sick the day before.  Etc.

November 1 was the annual Requiem Mass with a lot of music to learn and sing.  This Sunday is a fiendishly difficult piece, “The Visions of St. John” on which I’ve spent some hours of work.    I’ve had extra trips to Austin for other reasons and will have some more in the next month (doctor visits, therapy on the neck, etc.)

So…what about CROWN?  Well, I’ll know more when I get into the page proofs.  They’re probably fine–most of the ones I’ve checked have been–but every once in a while the typesetting software hiccups.    I’ll try to be half done with them before Thanksgiving,  and then quickly finish up the weekend after.   I can’t say anything about the stories until a) they’re accepted and b) an editor says “Yes, you can happy-dance in public now.”

Hints about CROWN…hmmm.   I’ll try to get a snippet up this weekend.   I can dice only one onion at a time and then have to let my eyes recover.    I can say it answers many, but not all, of the questions that have come up.  I’m delighted to note that some have made close guesses and some have made distant ones.

The next books continue to play shy in my head.    I have good reasons to go either way.


  • Comment by LarryP — November 22, 2013 @ 4:51 pm


    Gad Go cook woman…that is the most important thing you can do right now, write later edit later. To the kitchen with ye, I help if I could but as I am a terrible cook I burn water Ied poison people..Happy Thanksgiving God bless.

  • Comment by Margaret Poore — November 22, 2013 @ 4:51 pm


    How lovely to have such a longstanding tradition for your Thanksgiving, although it certainly sounds like a lot of work! Would love to come be your sous chef if I didn’t live up here in Montana! May you have a blessed and happy holiday with your dear family and friends.

  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — November 22, 2013 @ 5:19 pm


    creamed spinach and mushroom casserole? Two of my favorite veggies – would you share your recipe, please?
    The BIL and his wife are hosting this year and all I am required to bring is some cooked cauliflower (because it’s one of the few veggies my son will eat) and a veggie tray and dip for appetizer.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 22, 2013 @ 5:48 pm


    Threadgill’s on N. Lamar in Austin makes this wonderful creamed spinach & mushroom dish–a standard side you can order. I love it and wanted to replicate it as much as possible, but I’m not good with white sauces so the first year I cheated and used condensed cream of mushroom soup as part of it. And a lot is “too taste” in terms of the spices. I make it in both a regular and a vegetarian form (vegetarian at Thanksgiving as we have a few vegetarian–not vegan–guests). The regular form allows sauteeing the onions in bacon fat; the other uses vegetable oil.

    But here goes. You need a pound of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, 8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, cut into small pieces and allowed to soften, a large onion, diced, 1-3 cloves of garlic depending on size and your liking for garlic, some heavy cream, a half pound to a pound of button mushrooms sliced how you like them.

    ** for things that can be prepped the day before, refrigerated, then reheated on the day.

    **Saute the mushrooms in your choice of fat, set aside
    **Saute the diced onion, set aside. Just take the edge off the diced garlic (do not burn!) and set it aside.

    In a 4 quart pot (saucepan or soup pot) over low heat put the chopped spinach, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and a cup of cream, and start warming. Stir in the pieces of cream cheese. If it needs more cream, add cream in increments with cream cheese. Don’t get it too loose, but don’t let it seize up, either.

    Salt to taste, black pepper. It may take more salt than you think, but don’t go heavy to begin with. Not all spinach is the same.
    I add: a little ginger, a little allspice, a tiny bit of cloves, sniffing between additions until it smells “right”. Without any spices, it’s very bland and the cream taste dominates. The spices allow the spinach and mushroom to come through more strongly and in better balance, but I suspect the balance is different for everyone. And I also suspect that other spices could be used–I think I added a pinch of red pepper flakes one year.

    When it’s good and hot, put it in a serving dish or casserole. It can be reheated in the oven, but like most cream-based stuff it doesn’t freeze particularly well (tends to separate on defrosting.) I suspect some grated cheese on top, then oven to melt same would be good, but haven’t had time to do that on T-day. It gets a bit frantic.

    I suggest experimenting.

    Meanwhile, the chili is calling me.

  • Comment by Iphinome — November 22, 2013 @ 7:36 pm


    @LarryP something more important than writing? But think of all the wonderful words yet to be written?

    *walks away muttering ‘words words words’*

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 22, 2013 @ 7:49 pm


    Iphinome: And I learned a new word yesterday, “sneck”. In a latchstring-type latch, it’s the horizontal bar/lever that the latchstring, left outside, can pull up. I love learning new words, and that one is just…such a nice sounding word. I didn’t find it in my everyday dictionary, but in the Compact OED.

  • Comment by Iphinome — November 22, 2013 @ 8:43 pm


    @LadyMoon That’s really cool, I like it. Sneck.

    The sneck was pulled in leaving him no way to get through the door.

    Billy, stop playing with that sneck and come eat dinner.

    Sam snuck silently down the staircase sliding the snerk southward and slipping stealthily out of the shanty into the surrounding swamp.

    Lovely word.

  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — November 22, 2013 @ 9:08 pm


    @Iphinome: The sneck was pulled in leaving him no way to get through the door. doesn’t work – the sneck is the horizontal metal bar on the INSIDE that the latchstring can raise out of its slot to allow the door to open.

    @Elizabeth – thank you – will have to try this recipe as it sounds really yummy.

  • Comment by GinnyW — November 22, 2013 @ 9:40 pm


    The creamed spinach and mushroom casserole sounds great. It would make a pasta sauce if you let it get too loose.

    I was going to ask about the gingerbread-apple-walnut loaf, myself.

    You could have a recipe space.

    The nice thing about big Thanksgiving dinners is that there are leftovers. So you can mix and match, and put together some very quick, but really good meals after it is over. That is when all the before-work pays off.

  • Comment by Lise — November 22, 2013 @ 10:19 pm


    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and don’t worry about posting. Every post is a special treat I look forward to, but I understand you have lots of more important thing in your life than catering to us impatient fans.

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — November 23, 2013 @ 1:37 am


    Guilty. Back from the pity party and feeling slightly shame-faced. Like you, I cook a whole Thanksgiving feast, although for a smaller crowd. With a mandatory cross-country ski trip to follow.

    So I understand you when you say you have other, more urgent tasks. But I’m grateful for the crumbs. I’ll do the pumpkin chiffon pie tomorrow.

  • Comment by Richard — November 23, 2013 @ 2:28 am


    What is a pity party?

  • Comment by Jonathan Schor — November 23, 2013 @ 6:45 am


    Weary – take it at your own pace, you have to do the work and you have your own life to lead. We can wait patiently, if on tenterhooks, for the next work.

    And speaking of Crown – I got a nice new gold crown on a broken tooth this week – nice to be able to eat.

    Have a nice thanksgiving.

  • Comment by David Watson — November 23, 2013 @ 8:46 am


    Arrrgh! Family commitments will prevent my having Thanksgiving dinner at Elizabeth’s for the first time in years. No doubt I’ll enjoy my family get-together, but I’ll miss the easy cameraderie of Elizabeth’s table, not to mention four different kinds of pie! Arooooo!
    Eat Hearty, my friends. DRW

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — November 23, 2013 @ 11:25 am


    Do take time to savor the Thanksgiving moment Elizabeth.

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — November 23, 2013 @ 2:02 pm


    A pity party, Richard, is someone sitting alone in the corner feeling sorry for themselves while all around them there is a terrific party going on.

  • Comment by june — November 23, 2013 @ 2:38 pm


    Thanks for the new word, good luck with the Dinner. I too am working on Thanksgiving, and a birthday the day before. Complications, no dairy and need to take or make in Kansas City. Hate to travel with food. But, on the up side, shopping for non-dairy is over and started today with the cooking. Hope yours go smooth and everyone is able to be there. June

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 23, 2013 @ 3:49 pm


    It is difficult to plan for feasts now that so many people are on special diets. Luckily, my only “limitation” is vegetarian friends, but at least they aren’t vegan, so I can include dairy and eggs. We will have five or six vegetarian dishes, plus the desserts all qualify, and the meat-eaters will still have ham and turkey and gravy. My stuffing/dressing has butter, but no broth or eggs, so I bake one lot of it specifically for the vegetarians, and have a separate spoon for that casserole.

    If I also had to deal with dairy-free and gluten-free, I just could not do it. And cooking at home and taking food–that’s a lot of work, esp. to be sure you can keep it hot/cold enough. So I admire you for it, and wish you the best of luck with it.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 23, 2013 @ 3:57 pm


    Back from the last supermarket trip. I would normally make an early-morning trip Monday, but we’re expecting unsafe-road-weather from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday, so I made it today. (The Monday trip is usually for the fruit for the centerpieces, celery, parsley, milk, and cream. Then I come home and start chopping and dicing and packaging. Tuesday I bake what needs baking: pies and/or cakes. Wednesday is setup day: laying out the tables, getting everything ready to do final decorations Thursday morning after the turkeys go in the roasters. Thursday morning is up before dawn, assembly of the dressing, starting the turkeys, then…the gallop to the finish. Guests and contributors start arriving about 9:30 am; the regulars all help out with the final bits, putting things in dishes and so on.)

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 23, 2013 @ 4:12 pm


    The gingerbread apple walnut loaf. This started with my great-grandmother’s old church cookbook, which had a recipe for a gingerbread-apple upside down cake. I made that a lot of times over the years and it’s really good.

    But…it’s fiddly to make if you’re short of time, because it’s totally from scratch. Eventually, my pride in cooking cakes from scratch yielded to the temptation of box gingerbread and box brownies. With a little help, they’re good–and easy. Then Williams-Sonoma advertised a fancy loaf pan a few years ago, with a pumpkin design molded in the bottom. I didn’t want a pumpkin loaf. I wanted to try a gingerbread apple loaf…and what about some nuts in it?

    So: using a box gingerbread (our favorite is definitely Krusteaz) with some additional spices (ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves) I add about a half cup of finely diced crisp apples–I don’t like Granny Smith that much, but some do. I use Braeburn or something rather like that, in a small dice, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup, and a half cup of finely chopped walnuts. The amount of spice to add is very much a matter of taste. I recommend trying it out…I can tell by smell when it’s right for us, and I mix the spices with the dry gingerbread mix, then add the eggs & oil & water. Stir in the apple bits and the chopped nuts, pour into a greased and floured loaf pan and cook at 350F until the knife blade or bamboo skewer comes out clean. It’s even better the second day, and benefits from whipped cream.

    The apple adds a tiny bit more liquid as it cooks, so this comes out very moist, and too much of the apple can make it more moist than I like (again, this is a personal-taste issue) so I would start with less and try it until you’ve got it where you want it. On the spices–in general, however much you add, the ratio should be cinnamon (2), ginger (1), allspice (1/2), cloves (1/4). If you like nutmeg a lot, you can try a little, but cut back on the allspice.

    When we make gingerbread alone from that mix, we add the spices, plus a little black pepper, and replace 1/4 cup of the liquid with dark molasses. If you overdo the spices, you’ll know it, and if you overdo the molasses you’ll have a flat, very gooey slab that tastes pretty good if you put enough ice cream on it.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 23, 2013 @ 4:14 pm


    Oh–I’m sure you could do this with any from-scratch gingerbread you wanted, as well, so it’s just a matter of time. When I’m stretched with all the other prep and baking, a box start saves my sanity and energy.

  • Comment by gustovcarl — November 24, 2013 @ 12:04 pm


    The spinach & mushroom casserole sounds great!
    Onions: try swim goggles or a swim mask while cutting. A radical solution: I once saw a picture of a couple of Army cooks wearing gas masks while prepping onions.

  • Comment by ellen — November 24, 2013 @ 4:02 pm


    Hahaha, you’d HAVE to resort to gas masks cutting onions for an army….:-) I’ve tried swim goggles myself, and had my husband rolling around the floor laughing:-) they did help though, can’t use them lately as I have to wear my reading glasses so i can see what I’m doing, which doesn’t go that well either…:-P

  • Comment by Margaret Middleton — November 25, 2013 @ 9:12 am


    [grin] I just copied-out that gingerbread-apple-walnut loaf description, backstory and-all; even the bit about too much molasses in the gingerbread.

    I think I can get Krusteaz gingerbread mix hereabouts…

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 25, 2013 @ 9:20 am


    My husband ordered some online last year because after the holidays the local stores won’t carry gingerbread mix. So if you can’t find it locally, I’m sure you could order it online.

  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — November 25, 2013 @ 9:57 am


    @ellen (23) For wearing eye protection with glasses, try a snorkling mask – large enough to go over the glasses and the rubber edge should seal enough over the bows to keep most of it out.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 25, 2013 @ 10:14 am


    I can do two onions without too much pain (usually) this way: Make the first cut on the stem end and quickly place that flat surface down on the cutting board. Slice down vertically through the root end; place one half, with the bit cut side down, on the cutting board and run cold water over the other half’s cut side while peeling back the skins. Then place that one’s larger cut surface down on the cutting board while making the other cuts and dicing. Make cuts slower than the TV-chefs, because the quick chopping seems to spread the stingy bits farther. Immediately move the slice/diced onion pieces to a bowl at least 3 feet away, or drop into pan to saute. Repeat with second half. Repeat with second onion.

  • Comment by AJLR — November 25, 2013 @ 2:05 pm


    ‘Sneck-up’, meaning ‘be quiet’ or ‘shut up’ is the only way I know the word in the UK and I haven’t heard the phrase in decades.

    Love the recipes, thank you! I hope you all have a lovely and relaxing Thanksgiving, with all prep having gone smoothly.

  • Comment by genko — November 25, 2013 @ 7:41 pm


    If you hold water in your mouth while chopping onions, it inhibits the tears. This also works to inhibit coughing fits.

  • Comment by ellen — November 26, 2013 @ 1:52 am


    thanks Kerry @26 I’ll have to try that!

  • Comment by Gareth — November 26, 2013 @ 5:26 am


    Sneck – my dictionary says Scottish. Also has sneck-drawer – One who lifts the latch – an insinuating or crafty person.

    Lovely word.

    Have a great thanksgiving to all. We’ll raise a glass to you from the UK.

  • Comment by Iphinome — November 26, 2013 @ 10:46 pm


    I understand your ladyship is quite busy this week but if you do have a moment to spare online…

    Behold, the 16’th century rooster helmet

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 27, 2013 @ 9:16 am


    Iphinome: Gorgeous…and ridiculous…simultaneously. Someone really thinks he’s “cock ‘o the walk” doesn’t he? (I can just hear someone murmuring “Bock-bock-bock-bock…” out of his limited sight range and then looking innocent when he turns around.

    Everyone: Have a great rest of the week. Today’s the last day of prep, with more chopping, snipping, mixing, and baking involved, and then tomorrow comes the chaos of the morning followed by the Great Eating.

    So far this morning, there’s a load in the washer at the other house, a load about to go in here, yesterday’s baking moved to the fridge in the other house, the table cleared for work on the next round of cooking here, and I’m off to the races, as it were.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 27, 2013 @ 9:40 am


    Thanks, Gareth. I like sneck-drawer too.

  • Comment by Richard — November 28, 2013 @ 3:41 am


    Today we give thanks for people such as Elizabeth, whose generosity and accomplishments we admire. Happy feasting, you’ve earned it many times over!

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