Pictures from a Thanksgiving kitchen

Up too late, chatting with Claude and stirring cranberry conserve. When I look around the counter I feel like giving thanks for being mom.


Coco's Easy Corn Pudding for Thanksgiving

I've been making this easy Corn Pudding for the Thanksgiving table for at least 100 years. (Sometimes it feels that long, doesn't it?)

The Corn Pudding's simple, familiar flavors (think buttered corn-on-the-cob) mix well with the best of the season and help bring along both the younger, reluctant crowd while creating a bit of nostalgia for the older guard:


1/ 4 c. unsalted butter
2 medium onions, minced
1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour
4 eggs
6 c. frozen corn
2 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Butter 2 6-cup souffles or an equivalent dish. (If you are using a shallow pan -- like a Pyrex 9 x 13" you will need to shorten the cooking time. I've used both styles of pan with no problem.) Put dish aside.
  • Melt 1/4 c. butter in large skillet. Add onions, saute until clear and very soft. Mix in flour (make a roux) and cook until fragrant and beginning to turn a golden color (+/- 3-5 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl and let cool until lukewarm. (Tip: spread the roux out so that it cools faster).
  • Once the corn mixture has cooled enough to not cook a raw egg, add the eggs. Whisk to blend. Mix in corn, milk and salt. Season with black pepper too.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the dishes. Bake until a knife inserted comes out clean (+/- 1 hour). Spoon onto plates.
LEFTOVERS TIP: Warm this up and spread it onto leftover sandwiches! Or, reheat in the pan to serve on a plate with the works. But, you'll probably want to moisten it up a bit. Use water, milk or a pat of butter mixed in. Correct the seasoning with generous salt and pepper.

Not about the holidays:

Need a laundry lady
3 tips for your job search


Encore, gratitude!

Welcome Loulie's readers. I love Loulie's style and look forward to shopping at their online market this holiday season. The green Carrie bike basket is particularly chic, but I am always a fan of Scandinavian inspiration!

There is so much to be grateful for this year, including the simplest of foods on the table.

The tasty salt and the creamy butter, for starters;

The growers and distributors;

Those kitchen masters we visit at restaurants;

And the ones we call friends;

Our devoted sous chefs -- who do everything from shopping to prep to clean-up.

Finally, it is friendship at the table that I am grateful for. I feel so nourished when I pull up for a cup of tea with a friend. Did you ever notice how time expands under the influence of aromatic Chamomile tea and a friend?

Bitchy or assertive?

From 2007

Yesterday my friend Lauren asked me to blog about the difference between assertiveness and bitchiness. Ouch, Lauren, can you give me a trickier question next time, please? I’ll do my best to put out my personal approach to this question and leave it up to you whether I have said anything worthwhile. (But let me first reveal my bias toward slightly more assertive behavior only because in my forty years I have seen, repeatedly, how those who speak out, ask questions, and tell the truth, stay in touch with themselves and ultimately have a more satisfying journey toward their dreams.) It is never easy to be assertive, but it offers a real kick for your health...

Remember, assertiveness or bitchiness is always in the eye of the beholder, not the speaker. That means that depending on what someone’s got at stake in any given matter, a comment heard simultaneously by two people may be seem bitchy by one and fabulously assertive by the other. For instance, if your boss needs someone to message up about problems at work, he may appreciate an outspoken approach that combines preparedness and knowledge of business issues. If a colleague in the same meeting, however, feels threatened by you and your sharp mind and/or ability to speak up, you will have a hard time convincing her that you
aren’t a bitch no matter what you say at the meeting.

Bottom line: in any given scenario, some will find you bitchy and some will find you effective. And that is why the issue at hand is not whether you are bitchy or assertive, but how you feel about your behavior, moment to moment. The woman in the example above is feeling self-assured, and prepared, so she speaks up. As long as she
isn’t tromping on others’ rights and condemning her peers, she will, over time, become a valued team player. If, on the other hand, she is often working in an isolated manner, and appears repeatedly as a self-serving person, her peers and ultimately management will tell her fate.

At a very young age we women are conditioned into receiving (and asking) for cues from others in order to behave appropriately. Do you like me? Am I pretty? Am I
lovable? These are the common questions of young girls … young ladies … and, unfortunately, older women as well.

But if we are on a satisfactory path, a key shift in our development may come sometime between thirty and fifty. This shift will land the authority for our behavior within us, not outside of us, so that when we act or speak, we are more fully in charge of the intentions we carry.

A quick glance around any office may reveal a key difference between women who are powerful and women who are bitches. What is the difference? Assertive, effective women are generally fair, consistent, and knowledgeable, and they exhibit compassion for others even when the other is an adversary.

Effective women have authority over themselves and try to keep the focus on business or personal goals. They conduct their affairs transparently, saving certain topics for appropriate settings. Women who are assertive do not talk about others maliciously, and usually hold themselves to a very high standard of conduct. That said, somehow the most effective women I know are also: fun, creative, and terrific mentors.

In closing, assertive women
aren’t perfect; but they do know themselves well enough to know when they have behaved like a bitch. And then they do what is most effective: apologize and commit to doing better next time.


November, softly


I feel timid lately
In between and vague
Perhaps it is that change in weather
Or daylight's slower tempo.
November brings a change in heart
Reminding me that this season
Always lasts through winter.



Forgiveness feels better

Pack up the Halloween costume and before the candy is eaten, we are organizing pies and borrowing chairs from neighbors to accommodate extra guests crashing the Thanksgiving party.

That's if you're lucky!

In the unwritten American family story -- the story that started with the Mayflower -- Thanksgiving kicks off the eye-rolling season. The grudge parade gets going, and before you know it, assorted old roles and disappointments end up featured in the weekend celebration as prominently as a decorative cornucopia centerpiece.

Whatever the rub (and I don't mean the rosemary and sage herb rub on the turkey's back) I mean the pain on your plate, you need a plan. This season I won't be stuffing the pain, or passing it on a serving platter to others. This season I am going to try something else: Forgiveness.

But what is forgiveness? According to Psych Central,

Forgiveness is letting go of the need for revenge and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment. ... Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.

What forgiveness is not:
  • Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending it didn’t happen.
  • Forgiveness is not excusing. (We excuse a person who is not to blame. We forgive because a wrong was committed.)
  • Forgiveness is not reconciliation. (We have to make a separate decision about whether to reconcile with the person we are forgiving or whether to maintain our distance.)
While forgiveness can be difficult, holding onto grudges allows more stress to take root in your body. But let's be real: Anyone who's ever held a grudge knows that grudges come in pretty handy.

In fact, I notice that grudges allow me to hide from the strong feelings of fear and uncertainty that true forgiveness brings. Sort of like ... If I really let this (her/him/it) go, then what? What does that really mean? Who will I blame? How will this redefine me?

I know forgiveness feels better but ... sometimes it is harder ;-)


Wii love to play together

Last night we joined the ranks of 2-TV families. This was a big step for me as I am pretty stingy with screen time and feel that TVs, like bathrooms, should be shared during one's early years.

There were two forces behind the big acquisition:
  • The au pair doesn't like the same TV shows as her host parents
  • The kids are dying to play the Wii at home, instead of at their friends' houses all the time
Home should be fun, no doubt. My challenge is determining exactly how much fun home should be. I expect I'll be writing more about this in the future. ...


When the spirit moves you

I haven't gone to church in a while. That's unusual for me. I like church, even while I dislike some of the politics, the crowd, or the sense of righteousness that often accompanies churchgoing in general.

I grew up going to Catholic mass. (Now, when I attend, it is an Episcopal service I attend.) As a child, we usually hit folk mass. I loved singing along. I also loved spotting Mr.Jr.Crush with his family in a nearby row. I had a terrible crush on him and folk mass was my special occasion to feel closer to him. Dad would stop and pick up donuts after church, so a sweet sugar high was the perfect ending to the morning.

I couldn't tell you much about my spiritual education as a child, just that I was taught that there was "right" and "wrong," that I should resist evil, and that I loved wearing white for my First Holy Communion. My mother made my beautiful dress for that day. My father bought my corsage. My Godmother chose the cross I wore. I felt holy and lovely and part of things greater than my small, awkward life.

Never superior or chosen, just part of things greater than myself.

Church these days feels a bit more complicated, of course. Still, I am drawn to sermons, to music and to light. While at times I am cynical, I still have faith that we are part of something greater than our small lives. The majesty of it all.


When a woman sets her mind to something ...

I'm impressed when I meet a women who has put her mind to building a professional life that suits her mothering style and is starting to see some benefit to that effort. Usually, I am impressed because before she sees any upside, she's had to wrestle with self doubt, change, and uncertainty for a good long while long enough to cause her to wonder whether she is on the right path.

There are so many angles to consider on this topic — financial concerns, childcare concerns, parenting preferences, spousal support, field of interest — that it is difficult even to showcase a few success stories in this blog without realizing that you've over simplified the issue and need to
give space to at-home moms that inspire too.

So, why not together get a link list of women who have set their minds to something. It could be a business or a personal goal. It could be anything that inspires! How about you? Are you wanting to put your mind to something? Use the comments to send it in ... I'll get us started:

There is a women at work who is mother to three adult children. One of these children, a daughter, has serious special needs that demand a lot from her. She has a son in Iraq, her second daughter moving home with an infant, and a full time job in accounts payable. She inspires me because she is full of life and laughter in spite (or because) of the complexity of her life. She is also a wonderful cook and shares delicious baked goods with our office frequently.
Click on comments form to contribute your "When a woman sets her mind to something ..." inspiration:



A poem for sunrise after America elects a new President

Promises, promises
The hope arrives
Turning again
Our American eyes ...

Rising up
Our cycle anew
Waking the people
Along with you

Peace and patience
Stay at our side
The incline is steep
The water so wide

Let us pause for this moment
While the day breaks on
Acknowledging that in nature
Power lives beyond

This single moment
In pursuit of tomorrow
Enduring bad weather
Transforming great sorrow

- Coco


Now, to act: Cast your vote

Historic day. Much has been said ...

For anyone nostalgic about the years leading up to Election Day, take a quick spin through Brooks' selects from Campaign 2008. You''ll recognize Elizabeth, Hillary, Huckabee, Michelle, Barack, John, Joe, Sarah, Mitt and more!


The trouble with sugar and carbs

This always happens: A day or two after Halloween I want my family off sugar. It's not that we are gorging on Halloween candy, or that we have lots of cakes around the house. It is that our energy is too high for the activity levels we keep this time of year, with the cooler temperatures and the shorter days curbing our enthusiasm for the outdoors.

You know it is the truth when I say that sugar lives to turn up the volume — to amp up the energy level in the body. So, if I am giving my kids sugar but not giving them ample opportunity to dash around and burn that energy off, I am subjecting myself to drama in the house.

Both of my kids are reactive to food. Minutes after eating French Toast or Pancakes (with true maple syrup), they will become highly aroused, impulsive, jumpy. (We've stopped preparing these foods for breakfast because the fistacuffs and noise levels became unbearable.) When I served milk and bacon along with the pancakes I noticed the problem was slightly less pronounced. The protein slowed the reactions down but the meal still wasn't creating a true balance in the body.

A better solution (and I'll be putting it into play this week) is to organize a few more whole foods for the morning. A wonderful hot morning food without sugar is popovers. My friend Eliza turned me onto them a long time ago and we just love them fresh out of the oven.

Other good ideas are homemade granola, nuts, Smart Bars. I might even get the Irish oatmeal going on the stovetop. Oh, and I can't forget that Kefir drinks also help create a soothing balance.

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