Be Thankful

This Thursday, just two days away, here in the US, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving and am sad to see it become a lost holiday. What with Christmas shopping being pushed earlier and earlier — why Black Friday deals are already being advertised — and the day itself morphing into Turkey Day — the whole point of a day devoted to being thankful is pretty much lost.

The beauty of Thanksgiving is, in my opinion, that it is a secular holiday devoted to giving thanks for the good things that we have. And especially here in the States we have a lots of good things for which we can be thankful.

It’s easy to piss and moan. We humans are natural complainers. It’s much more difficult to be thankful.

I love America. It’s the best place to live. Sure, we have problems. Nevertheless, we also have a surfeit of blessings. Good things abound in the United States. And I have been blessed richly and abundantly.

So this Thursday, all you here in the States, don’t worship the turkey. The day isn’t Turkey Day. It’s Thanksgiving. A secular holiday set aside so we can count our many, many blessings — wherever they come from.

‘Tis true I’ll feast on a turkey. But what I’m really thankful for is not the turkey but that I have plenty of food and the money to buy more. I’m rich, even though I’m not. Which is the blessing I’m most thankful for.

Be thankful. It’s the best feeling. Right there with being happy.

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Mincemeat Pie

Mincemeat pie (or mince pie) is a holiday tradition on many tables and, like fruitcake, one either loves it or hates it. I love both! The Yuletide would not it be the same if it weren’t for mincemeat pie, fruitcake, and even the occasional plum pudding.

So what exactly is mincemeat? Historically, way back in England, to mince meat was to cut meat into a very fine dice. In today’s British English, mince meat is the same as American ground beef. Although technically a grind is even finer than a mince.

And because there was no refrigeration many centuries ago, minced meat was preserved for the long winter months by mixing it with sugar and spices. This mixture was then used by baking it as a meat pie for the main course of the meal.

Over time, fruit was added to the mixture: apples, raisins, and currants. Suet was also added, along with alcohol to preserve the mixture longer.

Today’s store bought mincemeat mixture is basically fruit and sugar. No alcohol. None Such brand does contain beef, but it is way down on the ingredient list. I’ve used None Such in the past and I can assure you, you can’t taste the beef. Just a sweet raisiny, apply, spicy mixture of doggone goodness.

This Yuletide, I’m using Crosse & Blackwell Mincemeat. There is no meat in the Crosse & Blackwell mixture. Just heirloom Pippin apples, raisins, orange peel and juice, sugar, vinegar, salt, spice, and tapioca syrup — which makes this brand suitable for vegetarians.

I’m interested to see how the two brands compare and will let you know.

Of course you can make your own mincemeat. Recipes abound on the Internet. I’ve found a few that look very interesting and next year I may make one of them. Many years ago, I made a green tomato mincemeat that was truly delicious. And recipes for this mock mincemeat are plentiful on the Internet as well.

Mincemeat is a wonderfully spicy concoction that can be eaten anytime and anywhere. I like it in place of jam on toast.

If you’ve never had mincemeat, I encourage you to try it. It is an English tradition that dates back to at least the Middle Ages and is an American tradition that dates back to the first colonialists. You just might find a new tradition for your own holiday table. And if you already like mincemeat, you know what I’m talking about.

As always comments are welcome! And until next time, happy reading!

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Christmas in Minneapolis

Minneapolis, Minnesota is home to Justinia and Harry Wright, sister and brother private detective team. It also happens to be my home.

Minnesnowtans are well acquainted with winter. The cold, the ice, the snow. The traffic jams and snow-clogged streets. Ever try parking at the curb-side meter when the snow is three feet high and the curb is nowhere in sight?

While many of us prefer to worship at the feet of Helios, there are those intrepid sons and daughters of the original settlers in whose veins the blood of ancient Norsemen flows. And they love the winter. Positively love it. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and snow angels.

However, I don’t think I’d be far off if I said everyone loves the Yule season. Therefore, in the spirit of the Yuletide, below are pictures of downtown Minneapolis from the 1920s to the present. Happy Holidays!

mpls 1920s

1945 mpls copy

nicolet mall 1960s

The picture below is how I remember Nicollet Mall looked when I first moved to Minnesota. Nicollet Mall in the ’70s.

mpls1970spowers-christmas-tree copy

Screen-Shot-2013-12-02-at-11.31.39-AM

metrotransitbus

Carl Nesjar Ice Sculpture 2014 xmas

20081221-0002

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White Christmas

At least in Minneapolis we’re dreaming of a white Christmas. Unseasonably warm weather and rain have vaporized our snow. NOT that I’m unhappy about it. We had a couple weeks of snow and I’m ready now for spring.

The weather prognosticators tell us very cold weather is headed our way after Christmas. Night temps going below zero. With no snow, that will be hard on the plants.

At times, I wonder what the Advent and Christmas seasons would be like without snow. No chance of even having snow. I’ve visited family at Christmas time who live in no snow zones. The time away from the cold and snow was welcomed. But to live in a place where snow never fell, that’s a sleigh of a different color. Although those family members assure me they don’t miss having to shovel at all.

But with no snow, there would certainly be no frosty cold made moan in the bleak midwinter. Jack Frost wouldn’t be nippin’ at my nose and while the weather outside might be frightful, I wouldn’t be singing, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

The Christmas culture is inextricably tied to snow. Santa may have come one winter in a whirlybird, but it was an experiment that apparently didn’t catch on. His sleigh continues to be the preferred mode of transportation. Although one look out my window and I’m thinking Santa might want to reconsider ditching the whirlybird. Or at least consider using an ATV.

Weather aside, and even religion aside (because the yuletide existed long before Christianity), this time of year is to be with and remember family. Whether actual family or those who are considered family. We humans are social creatures, even the most misanthropic of us. That’s the point of A Christmas Carol. Scrooge becomes “normal” again. Our ability to form large social networks has enabled us to thrive as a species. To the point where we’re endangering the survival of where we live. But that’s the subject of another post.

I wish you all a happy Christmas (in all its symbolic richness) and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. We all want to hope and dream and, with those we love, to see those hopes and dreams come to fruition. May it be so for you and yours.

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