Tag: Holidays

What’s Cooking: Pan Gravy and Carving the Bird

One of the best parts of Thanksgiving dinner is the gravy made from the pan drippings. Here are Alton Brown’s directions for making a smooth, not greasy dressing. It’s actually pretty easy. Now the last task is carving the bird, for which you’ll thank yourself for investing in an electric knife. It really makes it …

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Happy Kwanzaa

Thursday began the start of the seven day festival of Kwanzaa, a celebration of Black family, culture and community, that features traditional food, music, dance, story telling and a lighting of symbolic candles each of the seven days.

The folks at Huffington Post put together a video that explains the festival and it core precepts.

Principles and symbols

Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba-the seven principles of African Heritage), which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what Karenga called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” These seven principles comprise *Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:

  Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

   Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

   Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.

   Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

   Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

   Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

   Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed, corn (Muhindi) and other crops, a candle holder kinara with seven candles (Mishumaa Saba), a communal cup for pouring libation (Kikimbe cha Umoja), gifts (Zawadi), a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles.[8]

On This Christmas Eve and Tomorrow…………

As this Country Still Refuses to Sacrifice Themselves, in any way, keep in mind the soldiers deployed and their families here!

What’s In The Brown Paper Bag?

(I originally posted this item in December, 2009, at The Dream Antilles.  This is a short story by Luis Ramirez, who was executed in Texas on October 20, 2005. My thanks to Abe Bonowitz for passing this story along to me. The story doesn’t require any commentary, and I’m not going to give any. It’s a gift to all of you for the Holidays, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Solstice, whatever holiday, if any, you may celebrate.)

Mothers’ Day In Stir

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Albion Correctional Facility

Almost three quarters of the 2,422 women in New York state prisons are mothers.

So City Limits reminds us.

Women in New York State are imprisoned primarily at Bedford Hills and Albion.

Maybe we can pause for a second this weekend and think about some of these families– and families in similar circumstances wherever you live– in which the mother is behind bars and the children would like to visit.  This is particularly hard in big states, like New York, when the children are in, say, Brooklyn, and the mom is in Albion, some 400 miles away, a distance Google says you can drive in under 7 hours.  One way.

Mothers’ Day had some of its origins in the U.S. in the mid-19th century as a day to bring together families that had been on opposite sides of the civil war.  Not surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to have focused since then on re-connecting families separated by prison walls.

Maybe this would be a time to begin envisioning precisely that.

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cross-posted at The Dream Antilles and dailyKos

Sure I’ll take a side of Socialist Rhethoric with my Holiday Ham

Aren’t Holidays with the Family a hoot —

especially when “Fans of Fox News” see it as an Opportunity,

to test out their latest Socialism Fear tactics?

Parroting Winger Talking Points is one thing —

But claiming every Govt program is actually a dangerous Socialist Plot,

is really verging on the edge of lunacy …

Responding with civility and common sense — in between helpings of three-bean-casserole, and slices of ham —

can be Challenging to say the least …  

For Doctor King

The following MLK Weekend Essay is a reprint of an April 4, 2008 essay.

I’m thinking about times more than forty years ago when I sang, “We Shall Overcome.” I’m remembering how I felt when I sang it, holding hands, swaying, anticipation in the air. I loved the idea of walking hand in hand, black and white together, and at the same time there was always a tension, a tightness in my jaw and in the pit of my stomach, the presence of fear. The song’s purpose was to get ready to do what had to be done. I’m committed to nonviolence, I recall thinking, but there are those who are not. They shot James Meredith, and lynched Emmitt Till, and burned Greyhound buses, and unlike me, they don’t want me to be safe. Uncertainty about what will happen tightens my jaw, while my heart commits me to the cause.

Remembering these fears rekindles my old thoughts. I remember the policemen in the church parking lot writing down the license plate numbers as if it were the Appalachin Crime Convention. My mind flashes from people sitting in a restaurant who stop eating to stare and sneer, to the incomprehensible Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, to the repeated, threatening phone calls, to kids on a school bus yelling hate names through the windows, to the Klan and the police, and wondering how they were different. I think about the person who ran over my dog.

A Holiday Greeting

It’s that time of the year when I step back from my keyboard, post my usual, bilingual Happy Holidays message at my blog, and shuffle off for a week or so for an end-of-the-year break.

So this is a good time to wish all of you Happy Holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year.  Won’t it be great to have 2009 in our rear view mirror?

This is a time of year when I want particularly to remember all of those in the US who are imprisoned.  There are about 2 million people incarcerated.  My work in real life is being a criminal defense lawyer. I’ve done this work for more than thirty years, and I’m passionate about it (that is the subject of an upcoming essay in 2010 about Gideon v. Wainwright and me).  Sometimes I fail; sometimes my clients go to prison.  Some go for very, very long periods of time.  My clients who have been convicted and imprisoned, I have discovered, are not much different from me.  But their lives are far harder. The prison walls keep them in while they serve their time, but the walls also keep me and you out, isolating those who are locked up and making it likely, unless they are our immediate family or close friends, that we might forget that they are imprisoned.  Many who are locked up are estranged from their families, and if they’re not, they might be far away from them geographically.  So this time of year increases their suffering. There can, it turns out, be extreme loneliness even in the midst of complete, institutional lack of privacy.  And suffering can be increased even by monotony. Anyway, particularly at this time of year, I hope that we can pause for just a moment and remember those who are behind the walls.  And that they are just like us.  And wish for them happiness and a cessation of their suffering.

I’m thankful that every year there are stories like this one.  I wish there were more stories like this.

Kate’s Old-Fashioned American Christmas

What Elves Really Do at Christmas



I have mentioned that I am an elf. Mama Elf, in fact, and that’s Papa there in the photo. Our children are Dipsy Elf and Elfis (thank you very much, complete with blue suede elf shoes), we do “line maintenance” at the mall during the holiday season where there’s always a long line of parents and kids waiting patiently to sit on some Santa’s knee and inform him of their heart’s desire – and get their picture taken so Mom and Dad can make Christmas cards to send off to the relatives.

We don’t work for the photo ding, though. We work for the mall itself. Pays much better. For the first two years after we’d moved to these mountains Papa and I provided the entertainment at a Christmas theme park in Cherokee, the only steady work we could find in our field in a new state and fairly unpopulated region since we determined to leave the city life behind. Six shows a day, seven days a week, 26 weeks a year from Memorial Day through Halloween. It was grueling, but did get us the ‘in’ we needed to market our elves to malls closer to home, and that allowed us to keep our curly toes in the profession we’d pioneered in North Florida all those many years ago.

We didn’t start out as elves. We started as clowns. Hubby and son as juggling partners, daughter as set designer and fill-in for balloon sculpture and face painting, me as last resort. I refused to learn to juggle because they would have sold me in the birthday party lineup, and I had my hands full already. I made the costumes, built the puppets, maintained the props, wrote the skit scripts, stage managed the rehearsals, and kept the calendar schedule up to date. Which was quite tricky in a region of more than 2 million people. Birthday parties, resorts, country clubs, company picnics, civic events, stage shows at festivals and night clubs and so many other venues. During the summer there was such a demand for your basic birthday party clown that we hired up to a dozen of the kids’ college friends and paid them $20 an hour (out of the $100 an hour we charged) after training, which was our son SkyPup’s department.

On Gratitude

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

A ritual and a practice.

At our house, when we have Thanksgiving dinner, we like to stop eating and talking to go around the table clockwise so that each person present can say what s/he is thankful for.  When we first decided to do this, some of our guests felt this was awkward, perhaps embarrassing.  But we don’t start with the guests, so they can get an impression of what expressing gratitude feels like. Those in our immediate family understood this and were comfortable enough with it.  After all, at birthdays, we like to go around the table to tell the person celebrating the birthday our many appreciations of him/her.  So on Thanksgiving, it’s a natural enough question, “What are you thankful for this year?”  The answers aren’t always surprising.  We’re thankful for being here another year, for our health however it might then be, for family and friends, for the lives of those now departed, for whatever abundance we may have received, for creativity, for our pets, for our relationships, for our businesses, for our politics, for our dreams and aspirations and hopes, and so on.  You get it, you can probably feel it even reading about doing this.  It’s a Thanksgiving ritual we love.  Feel free to try it out.

I always loved Thanksgiving because, however it was intended or begun, it seemed to be about gratitude.  For years I’ve had a practice I’ve done.  Sometimes I do it every day.  Sometimes I do it once a month.  Sometimes I don’t do it for a long time.  It depends.  What do I do? I make a list of the things I am thankful for.  I number them as I write them down, and I feel my gratitude for each item as I write it before going on to the next.  So, I write, “1. my good health, 2. the life of Dr. King, 3. compassion for my seeming enemies, 4. the novels of Cesar Aira.”  And so on.  Until I reach 50.  I do this, writing and feeling, until I have a list of 50 items or more that I have enjoyed and felt my thanks for.  When I am feeling pinched, stressed, exhausted, depressed, or any other “negative” emotion, it seems to take me a very long time to find items, to write them down and really to feel them.  When I am feeling expansive, relaxed, rested, optimistic, or any other “positive” emotion, it takes me virtually no time to write and enjoy the list.  Why do this exercise?  Because it’s almost magical.  And it lights me up.  Feel free to try it out.

Was it Meister Eckhart who wrote, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”  I agree.

May all of you have a happy Thanksgiving.

El Dia De Los Muertos

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

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La Catrina in Mexico City

A brief, incomplete, somewhat opinionated guide to a wonderful holiday:    

The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos in Spanish) is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage (and others) living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. The celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November, in connection with the Catholic holy days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day which take place on those days. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.

Join me across El Rio.

Dr. King’s Greatest Speech

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I don’t think it’s the “I have a dream”  speech, either in its Washington, DC, or earlier Detroit versions.  I think Dr. King’s greatest speech was given on April 4, 1967, to a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City.  It’s “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”  Exactly, a year later, on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was murdered in Memphis.

Dr. King’s holiday is a day when I hope we can pause for a moment to remember Dr. King, to read this timeless speech of four decades ago, and to recommit ourselves to the struggle for peace and justice.  And most important, I hope we can find ways to re-dedicate ourselves to action for peace and justice.

It’s also important to remember on this holiday not the sanitized, uncontroversial, bland version of Dr. King that the traditional media now commemorate.  The version who gave the “I have a dream speech” and did nothing else of importance.  To the contrary, it’s extremely important to remember the Dr. King who was wiretapped and surveilled by the FBI and state governments, and who was constantly attacked in the media as a Communist and an outside agitator and a revolutionary.  And the Dr. King who was despite his courage in actual physical danger, along with his wife and children, for every waking minute of every one of his days.  And the Dr. King who was threatened quite publicly with lynching and bombing and shooting so regularly by racists, white supremacists and reactionaries of every stripe. And the Dr. King about whom so many Americans expressed their outspoken hatred and contempt even in polite company, at the dinner table, and in their houses of worship.

Join me at the Riverside Church.  

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