Tag Archives: Turkey

Just Add People

img_3172Tomorrow, the Odom clan will descend upon our home to celebrate Thanksgiving!  For the longest time, we have always celebrated the weekend before the holiday, on Sunday.  However, beginning last year we moved the gathering to Saturday to make it easier for several of our clan to travel.

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine.  For as long as I can remember, this was the holiday that brought the family together the most.  I still feel that way so even after the family leaves on Saturday, a small group of us will meet again at our home to do it all over again!

This year I found quite a few new things to add to my Thanksgiving decorations.  I was going though my boxes and decided some things needed to go and luckily I lucked up on a few new items at the thrift stores!  To begin with, I found this huge porcelain turkey several months ago.  I could see it as the centerpiece of my Thanksgiving table when I bought it.  Of course, after I got it home, it found a home on my teacart.

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Another item I found were a bunch of fall corn with long husks.  They were piled in a plastic container next to one of the displays.  I pulled one out and it had an original price tag of $10.99 on it…and I thought “$10.99?? That’s nuts!”  Of course the thrift store price was 99 cents so I bought everyone they had and thought I could use them as accent pieces on my table and buffet. A few weeks later I found a couple of small pumpkins and squash in orange in a large plastic container.  In fact this time the store was lined with plastic containers because they didn’t have room to put them on the shelves.  They have the words “Thanks to God” and “Give” written on them and as I looked through all the containers I found more and more!  So I left with about 20 of these pumpkins and squash at 69 cents a piece thinking they would look great in a basket!  I added the pinecones to give it a little texture.

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Target’s Dollar Spot section is also a good place for season finds.  You have to hit them early to get the best selections thought.  Let’s just say I’ve learned the hard way!  I found fall placemats that say “Grateful” on them and some plain ones too.  I was able to get an entire set for 12 people from two different stores.  They also had table runners – I picked up two.  They aren’t as long as I would like but when I showed my daughter, Anna Marie, the table she like it.  Target also had some plaid leaves and I figured they would come in handy.  Yep!  I placed them on my coffee table to accent the bronze pumpkins that I’ve had for a few years.  I think I got them at Target at one of their after season sales!

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The final new items are a table runner found at Big Lots for half off and a Target wreath for $2 that is hanging on my large mirror over the buffet.  With this, all my new items have been integrated into my Thanksgiving day décor and now all we have to do is…just add people.

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A Little Turkish Culture

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The “official” flyer for the Turkish Food Fest. This is the 3rd year for the event.

Three years ago I found out about the Istanbul Cultural Center in Hoover.  I was participating in the FBI Citizens Academy that fall and I met fellow classmate, Umut Gunebir, Executive Director of the Center. The following year, Umut invited me to visit the center to learn more about Turkish culture and events they conduct there.    So, of course, I liked their Facebook page so I could stay current with the center’s activities.

Last year, I heard the Turkish Food Festival was being planned and I was really looking forward to attending.  Unfortunately, the date turned out to be the same as my daughter’s wedding so THAT didn’t happen!  This year, no wedding, so I got an early start and headed over to the Center at 10:45 a.m. to check things out.

The crowds gathered early for the festival!

The crowds gathered early for the festival!

There was already quite a crowd when I arrived.  The smell of food was permeating the area and I was pretty hungry since I had skipped breakfast.  Turkish music was playing over loud speakers.  I wasn’t sure if I should go ahead and get food tickets right then or make my way around to see everything and take photos.  I chose the latter and landed at the vendor tables and started clicking away.  All the pretty hand painted bowls  pulled me in and every single one was unique!  Achmed, the vendor did not speak much English so the young lady at the next booth did some interpreting for us.  I had all kinds of questions about the ceramics and he was pleased to share details about how the pieces were created and how time-consuming the process was for the artists – from kiln to painting to kiln again.  I told him I would be back before I left to buy some of the items and he smiled and said he would give me a “good deal.”

Some of the beautiful hand painted Turkish ceramics.

Some of the beautiful hand painted Turkish ceramics.

Next I walked around checking out all the food.  It was a food festival after all!  Each table had signs describing the food being sold which was a nice touch.  The first food items included things like yaprak sarmasi (stuffed grape leaves) and kisir (Turkish tabooli).  Next came the big-ticket items  – gyros and kabobs – served in pita bread with lettuce and tomatoes on top of rice.  Along the last line of booths you could find Turkish coffee or tea to go with some scrumptious dessert items.  Things like baklava, cezerye – a carrot and coconut delicacy, elmali kurabiye (apple cookie rolls with powdered sugar), rice pudding and Turkish cinnamon cookies.  I think they need to create a sampler platter for next year!

Turkish cinnamon cookie and cezerye (with the flag pick).

Turkish cinnamon cookie and cezerye (with the flag pick).

One of the longest lines for food was at the gozleme (Turkish flatbread and pastry) table.  A young man and his mother were hard at work making this tasty and traditional dish.  When I read there was feta in it, that’s all I had to hear!  Like a woman said behind me…”they had me at feta!”  I had to agree!  (Here is a recipe I found online for gozleme.)

One of the longest lines was for the gozleme - a traditional Turkish flatbread and pastry made with feta cheese. Yum!

One of the longest lines was for the gozleme – a traditional Turkish flatbread and pastry made with feta cheese. Yum!

As I waited for my gozleme to finish cooking on gas-fired sac griddle, I told the young man that his mother was the hardest working person at the festival.  He translated for me and she gave me a smile.  From the time I arrived, she was rolling the dough with the “oklava” – a very long and thin wooden rolling-pin.  As she finished rolling out each dough piece, she would hand it off to her son who would paint it with butter and add a feta and Turkish white cheese mixture before sealing it to cook.  I found out that the son was attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and majoring in Physics.  His mother had just arrived in the US and was staying with him for several months which clearly made him happy.  I loved how seamlessly they worked together making the gozleme.  It was well worth the wait and my last 3 food tickets.  Plus, I really enjoyed the conversation.

One of the beautiful henna tattoos I saw at the festival.

One of the beautiful henna tattoos I saw at the festival.

Activities for kids included inflatables and face painting and plenty of kids took advantage of this.  I was very interested in the henna tattoos.  I didn’t have time to get one myself but I was able to photograph a few people who did.  I asked the young woman who was in charge of the henna tattoos what purpose they served and she explained they are a way to adorn the body for special celebrations, just like wearing jewelry.  She had several designs to choose from at her table.  On my list of things to do one day – get a henna tattoo!  They are so beautiful!

By the time I left two hours later, the festival was packed!  The lines were long every where you looked and it pleased me to see this for the organizers.  A young man by the name of Huseyin saw me taking photographs shortly after I arrived and introduced himself saying he was the Social Media Director for the festival.  He asked how I found out about the event and I told him through Facebook.  The festival continued on Sunday and from the pictures people were posting, it was another packed house!  Huseyin mentioned they may be looking for a bigger venue next year because of the growth they are experiencing.  Food and cultural festivals definitely bring in a crowd!

Crowds of people enjoy delicious Turkish food at the 3rd annual Turkish Food Fest!

Crowds of people enjoy delicious Turkish food at the 3rd annual Turkish Food Fest!

Oh…and as I promised Achmed, I returned to his vendor booth and bought several of the Turkish ceramic bowls.  And as he promised me…he gave me a good deal!

Here are a few more photos from the event…

 

Turkey Day 2015

My first Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing - all by myself!

My first Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing – all by myself!

I have a confession to make…this is the first year that I’ve prepared an entire Thanksgiving meal by myself.  Yep…that’s right!  I’ve never in all my life done this…but this year I decided it was time.

We had already celebrated Thanksgiving with the extended Odom family last Saturday.  My brother-in-law, Terry, did the honors where the cooking was concerned.  We brought the “big” cookie and some great wine.  Before my sister-in-law passed away, she and my other sister-in-law typically did all the cooking.  We had quite a banter going back and forth about the food.  They would tease me because I didn’t cook and so I was always given the task of bringing the drinks and desserts.  This usually consisted of pies from Costco.  (FYI – This was before the big cookie made it’s appearance in recent years.)  I joked that my culinary expertise was so great that I had sold my pie recipe to Costco so why should I make them when I could buy them!  In reality, I told them one year not too long ago, that it didn’t make sense for me to cook since they were both so good at it!  It was the truth too, not just a line to get out of doing the work.  Their Thanksgiving menu was always fabulous!

Over the past few years, I’ve wanted to learn more about how to make our Zuniga traditional Thanksgiving meal – in particular the turkey and stuffing – so I asked my mother to teach me and my daughters what to do.  I took pictures of the process and also wrote the directions down – which I can’t seem to find now.  She loved doing this with us and we a blast learning her method of cooking.  Anyway, my mother went to Chicago this year to be with my sister and her family and since Eddie and I were going to be home with two of our three kids this Thanksgiving, we decided to get a turkey and make a traditional meal.  Rather, he bought the turkey and “I” made the traditional meal!

Deviled eggs...a little mayo, mustard and sweet pickle relish.  Delish!

Deviled eggs…a little mayo, mustard and sweet pickle relish. Delish!

I made the stuffing (or dressing) and stuffed the bird close to midnight last night.  I had enough for a casserole dish of dressing on the side.  I also made deviled eggs because these are a staple at every Thanksgiving meal!  The heavenly aroma of turkey woke me up early and my husband nudged me out of bed so I could check on the bird and turn the oven off.  We got up to make breakfast for the family – my daughter Anna Marie and her new hubby Ryan came by for French toast before heading out-of-town this afternoon.  While they were here, I made the other preparations… peeled potatoes, got the mac and cheese ready, green beans and almonds in a pan and finally, took a shot at making giblet gravy.  It was a little thick (I think I used too much flour), but it did the trick and everyone seemed to enjoy it on their food.

Enough food for an army!

Enough food for an army!

My brother-in-law and sister-law, Allen and Rhonda came over to join us for our Thanksgiving meal.  It was a small group but it was really nice and relaxing once we got our plates fixed and sat at the dining room table to eat, talk, laugh and share stories.

Pumpkin pie and apple/cranberry pie were the dessert choices.  I’ll have one of each please with a little whipped cream!  It was a great day and I’m tired now but it’s a good tired.  I feel great about being able to make this wonderful meal for my family and we have plenty of leftovers for tomorrow and the weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!  I hope you and your family had a wonderful day together too!

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My Thanksgiving Table

My Thanksgiving Table this year...

My Thanksgiving Table this year…

Tonight I’m looking at my Thanksgiving table and anticipating tomorrow when we will gather together and enjoy a wonderful meal and each other’s company.  This year will be a little different.

We’ve already had our “big” Thanksgiving family gathering in Jasper – this past Saturday.  Tomorrow, it will be me, Eddie and two of our children.  We’ll add my brother and sister-in-law too.  Hopefully a few of the nephews will be able to join us at some point.  It will be a small gathering, but it will be family and I’m so thankful we have one another.

My “married” daughter – Anna Marie – and her new hubby, Ryan, will join us for a Thanksgiving breakfast tomorrow morning, which is something new to us.  We’ll be having French toast!  So maybe this will be a new tradition?  I don’t know but whatever the case, I’m just thankful they are able to spend a little time with us tomorrow.

So tonight, I’m going over my menu for tomorrow and getting as much done ahead of time as I can.  I’ll be making a turkey without my mother this year.  My mother is enjoying the holiday with my sister Laurie in Chicago this year.  The eggs are boiling as I write this – so we’ll make some deviled eggs tonight.  We’ll also make the stuffing tonight too – sorry, but when you put it in the bird, it’s stuffing to me!  (I know…I know…in the south it’s called dressing…)

A portion of my Thanksgiving table centerpiece...I found a new wine to try tomorrow too - Cherry Tart Pinot Noir!

A portion of my Thanksgiving table centerpiece…I found a new wine to try tomorrow too – Cherry Tart Pinot Noir!

In the end, we will be together as a family – whoever can be here – and we’ll enjoy the time together.  We’ll add people to the table along with the food and it will be wonderful.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!  Enjoy your time together…and blessing to all.

Found these old timey cards at World Market a few years ago and have been using them as napkin rings...they add a certain something to the table, don't you think?

Found these old timey cards at World Market a few years ago and have been using them as napkin rings…they add a certain something to the table, don’t you think?

Bring the Big Cookie Saturday

IMG_0286At every Odom gathering, there is never a shortage of food.  Even those years when we said we would keep it simple and not go all out, we did.  We just can’t help ourselves!

Eddie and I are generally in charge of bringing desserts and so we’d go by Costco and pick up their pumpkin pie, apple pie and assorted cookies.  Sometimes we’d mix it up and throw in a key lime pie.  Honestly, there was never a shortage of sweets either!

Then one year I decided to bring a cookie cake from Great American Cookies.  These cookies have always been a hit with our kids.  Heck, they’ve been a hit with me too!  So we took the cookie that year and you guessed it, it was hit with everybody there…not to mention the cute turkey design for the occasion!

This year, we were in the process of planning our Odom get-together at my brother-in-law’s house in Jasper via text message when he texted – “FYI y’all bring the big cookie Saturday.”  Our reply…”you got it!”

And so, I think it’s safe to say that a new Thanksgiving family tradition has been born…the Big Cookie!  Oh…and we sometimes have it at Christmas too!

 

Family Traditions

Odom cousins - Thanksgiving 2014 - on Mimi's swing in Jasper, AL.

Odom cousins – Thanksgiving 2014 – on Mimi’s swing in Jasper, AL.

Family…like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.  I love this quote…

This time of year, I start thinking a lot about family traditions.  I’ve often thought that some day I would write them all down from what I remember doing as a child and add all things we did when my own children were little.  The one constant though all this is family.  Whether the tradition remains today or has morphed into something different…we do these things because we want to connect as a family and make it a part of our story.

Family traditions can bring you comfort and strengthen the bond you have with your family.  They teach you the value of immediate and extended family and how to take the time to be together.  Creating and maintaining traditions is easier when your children are young.  It becomes a little more challenging when they get older and get married or move away.  It definitely becomes a juggling act at that point!  Some traditions run their course…like breakfast with Santa and going to the annual lighting ceremony at the local mall.  These traditions are driven by age.  Others change because the dynamics of your family change.

For my Zuniga family, Thanksgiving has always been the major holiday to celebrate.  Before my parents moved to Alabama, I would make the  trip to Chicago every Thanksgiving to spend the week with my sisters and parents and do so many of the things we always did together over the 10 years that I lived there.  Traditional activities ranged from shopping at Oak Brook Mall and hoping there would be a little snow, getting up to watch the Macy’s Day Parade while the turkey was still cooking, then fighting to get the first taste of stuffing from the turkey.  This was always a battle with my youngest sister.  I would sneak into the oven with a spoon and sample the dressing when no one was looking – beating my sister to the punch – although I’m sure my mother knew!  At some point during the visit, we would watch WGN’s family classic movies.  Those movies were the staple of every Sunday afternoon in the Zuniga household when I was in high school.  Certain sounds and smells bring it all back.  Certain music does too as we would gather around the piano and play and sing along.  All the Zuniga sisters were in choir and we all knew the same music.  My grandmother used to say we could have been the Lennon Sisters – she and my grandfather loved Lawrence Welk!

My husband (Eddie) has always been adamant about attending the traditional Odom family Christmas lunch each year.  It was the one time of the year we got to see his father’s extended family all at once.  The lunch was originally pulled together for his grandmother (Mama Odom), and when she passed away, the Aunts decided to continue the tradition.  Eddie made sure we were represented each year.  If one of the kids had a conflict due to sports or scouting activities, he would take the kids available and make the trip to the lunch and see everyone.  Now so many of the children are married with children of their own – a whole new generation of Odoms are enjoying the gathering.  I do hope it continues…

My sister Kanista with my girls, Emily and Anna Marie – Thanksgiving 2004 in Birmingham, AL – having a girls lunch at Cantina at Pepper Place.

On the Zuniga side, when all my sisters used to travel to Alabama for Thanksgiving with their young children, we would spend Wednesday before Thanksgiving having lunch and shopping and then come home to get things ready for our big dinner.  The husbands would take the kids to a movie and spend the day with them and give he moms a break.  As the nieces and nephews got older my sisters began staying home – they all live out-of-state.  Soon it was just me, my mother and my aunt (mom’s sis) and my girls having lunch and doing a little shopping.  When my Aunt passed away, we just stopped going.  It just didn’t feel the same.  In recent years, my mother has mentioned missing the “old days” when we all used to spend that day together.  I understand her longing for something that held such great memories.  It’s hard to move on sometimes, especially when something was so enjoyable.  We resurrected the tradition a bit these past few years with mom and my girls and added something new.  We’d come back to my house and get turkey preparing lessons from mom.  It’s been fun for my girls and I know my mother has been thrilled to pass along her turkey making expertise to all of us!

Making Thanksgiving turkey with Nana! My girls learn how to make stuffing!

Making Thanksgiving turkey with Nana! My girls learn how to make stuffing!

One of the first Mimi Swing Photos I took of the Odom cousins...

One of the first Mimi Swing Photos I took of the Odom cousins…

When my youngest child Emily was just a year old,  a major tradition emerged with the Odom children.  I began taking pictures of my three children (Charlie, Anna Marie and Emily) and my twin nieces (Kate and TJ) on their grandmother’s outside swing.  We would take “the Mimi’s swing” picture at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas – any holiday when we’d all get together.  But for some reason, Thanksgiving was the one holiday that really stuck.  Over the years, we’ve added the older Odom grandchildren, great-grandchildren and significant others to the photos.  This year at Easter, we even added my niece TJ via iPad when she couldn’t make it home.  It was that important for the kids to have everyone present and accounted for on the swing no matter what the holiday.  I love this swing tradition so much and especially at Thanksgiving!  Seeing the way the family has changed and grown over the past 21 years is priceless to me and I know it is to my brothers-in-law too, as we all get older and look back.

The Odom cousins in Mimi's swing - Thanksgiving 2014 - TJ, Kate, Anna Marie and Emily - Charlie always standing in the back!

The Odom cousins in Mimi’s swing – Thanksgiving 2014 – TJ, Kate, Anna Marie and Emily – Charlie always standing in the back!

One thing is for sure, family traditions evolve and change, that is a given.  But I have a feeling we will always be taking a swing picture of the Odom kids at Thanksgiving.  And for that, I will always be thankful…

Ten years of swing photos - I had this framed for my mother-in-law (Mimi) and it hung into her house until she passed away in 2011.

Ten years of swing photos – I had this framed for my mother-in-law (Mimi) and it hung into her house until she passed away in 2011.

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Leaning how to make mom’s Thanksgiving turkey with my girls in 2013. Mom and I had just finished stuffing the turkey!

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Thanksgiving turkey making shenanigans with Nana…although I don’t think my mom knew what they were doing in the background!