Well, we did say that the blogging would be thin during the month of NaNoWriMo (aka November). I can report that K.R. Brorman, S.A. Young and I have all been writing like fiends and making significant progress not only toward the NaNo goal of 50,000 words each in a month, but also on the book series. When November is finally over and we’ve had a few days to do reconnaissance, the three of us are getting together for a working group session that, hopefully, will see the first manuscript draft (S.A. Young’s is first out of the gate) near completion. You will note that I used the word “draft” in that sentence. There is still a lot of editing and work to be done once there is a completed draft, but our dream is to publish Book 1 in the coming months, with Books 2 and 3 following as closely as we can manage.

So, did everyone have a terrific Thanksgiving? Cook too much? Eating too much seems to be a given, right? How about the time with family? Good, yes? Sometimes we can’t be with our natural families and to compensate we spend the day with other waifs like ourselves. Sometimes we spend such times with our “chosen family”. Included in this post is a piece of fiction depicting this kind of celebration. This is how I’ve imagined it might go …

He stood behind her digging his thumbs deeply into the taut muscles between her shoulder blades and her spine, working them clockwise and counterclockwise up her shoulders until he got to her neck, then gentled the circles as he continued up to where her neck muscles were trying desperately to hold her head up. Her moan told him he’d hit the spot that was causing her the most stress, confirmed when she stopped stirring the sautéed vegetables for the cornbread dressing and just hung her head forward for his ministrations.

“Thank you thank you thank you,” C.C. whispered and rolled her head back and forth.

“Why do you do this to yourself? It doesn’t all have to be perfect when they get here, they’re your best friends, like family. Everyone will be pitching in.”

“I know, but I do want it to be perfect, just because they’re so special to us. Anyway, I’m nearly finished and they’ll all be driving in any minute.”

“How about a glass of wine while you work?”

She turned and twined her arms around his neck, giving him a grateful smile and a lingering kiss. “I love you.”

“I love you more,” he kissed her again letting his hand slide caressingly over her bottom and then turned to the cabinet to get a glass for her wine.

When S.A. and K.R. arrived with their significant others, there was a flurry of hugging and coats handed over to be hung up. The women, as they tend to do on such occasions, took the covered dishes into the kitchen and discussed what else needed to be done to finish the dinner preparations. The men, as they tend to do on such occasions, repaired to the den and the big flat screen TV to pour drinks and watch football.

C.C.’s husband had put both leaves into the dining room table and it was set with the good china, silver and crystal. Small bunches of Fall flowers dotted the middle of the table, mixed with votives in amber glass. C.C. carved the big roasted turkey while K.R. made the gravy and S.A. dished up the cranberry-orange relish and took the dressing from the oven to the dining room. Her sweet potato casserole sat steaming on a sideboard, it’s crunchy pecan topping golden brown. They called the men to the table as K.R. added her special roasted brussels sprouts to the sideboard, next to the platter of turkey and the satiny gravy.

“We’ve got pinot noir and sauvignon blanc,” C.C.’s husband went around the table filling wine glasses. When he’d finished and everyone had a filled glass, he stood at the end of the table and raised his goblet. “You all could have been with anyone you chose today. C.C. and I are thankful that you chose to be here. Family is something we’re given, close friends are something we earn. Here’s to ‘chosen family’.”

“To best friends!”
“Hear hear.”
“Chin Chin”

In a time far shorter in proportion to the time spent preparing the food, first and second helpings were devoured. The conversations ran unabated throughout the meal, punctuated by frequent bursts of laughter. The men rose to clear the table allowing the women to linger over another glass of wine. They could hear the deep voices rumbling around the kitchen along with the sounds of water running, pans clanging and dishes being stacked in the dishwasher.

“I’m thankful that our men are secure enough in their manhood to do dishes because I couldn’t lift another finger at the moment.”

K.R. smiled over the rim of her glass, “And I for one am not inclined to look too closely to see how thorough they’ll be.”

“Nope. Doesn’t matter,” C.C. agreed.

When the basic clean up was done and the men repaired back to the den to wait for dessert, the women moved their chairs closer to each other.

“Well, my sisters-from-other-mothers, it’s been quite a year.”

“It sure has,” K.R. tucked a tendril of hair behind S.A.’s ear. “You wrote another book, girlie.”

“With help from my friends,” S.A. snickered then sobered, “Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without you guys.”

C.C. reached over and took her hand, “Our day will come.” She picked up a table knife and brandished it like a sword. The other two followed suit and they said, in unison,
“All for One and One for All!”

“So I have this fancy new gadget for the whipped cream,” C.C. demonstrated pouring the whipping cream into a canister, adding some superfine sugar and, because she’d used some in the pumpkin pie, a dash of Calvados. She screwed on the cap, shook the canister and then gassed it with the provided capsule of compressed air.

S.A. had arranged a slice of the “Adults Only Pumpkin Pie” on each of six plates, and K.R. had gathered dessert forks from the drawer. All three were standing close to see the miracle of the whipped cream when C.C. squeezed the trigger on the canister and a blizzard of whipped cream exploded all over the kitchen. Tiny globules of whipped cream showered down over their hair, faces, clothes, the slices of pie, the countertops … like confetti. Three thundering pairs of feet halted in the archway leading to the kitchen, as the men responded to the whoops of laughter that had reduced their wives to blithering hysterics. K.R. reached over to swipe some whipped cream off C.C.’s cheek and popped it in her mouth.
S.A. looked at the operating manual for the magic whipped cream device. “It says here to squeeze the trigger gently.”

C.C. snorted through her giggles, “Now you tell me.”

Here’s the recipe for the “Adults Only Pumpkin Pie”

Make your favorite pie pastry recipe (mine is gluten-free and I’ll be happy to share it, if requested). I add the zest of one orange, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the pastry recipe. Place the pastry in a pie dish and flute the edges. Line it with parchment and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Or you can use my favorite Reynolds product which is heavy aluminum foil on one side and parchment on the other. Place the paper parchment side down against the pastry and the foil will mold to the shape of the crust and hold it in place. Blind bake the pastry at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes and then remove the parchment and continue baking until the bottom is completely dry and the edges are light golden. If the dough bubbles up during baking, gently push the bubbles down with the back of a spoon. Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

For the filling you’ll need:
1 can of pureed pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of brandy (or 2 tablespoons of dark rum, or 2 tablespoons of Calvados*)
3/4 cup of lightly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of freshly ground cinnamon stick (or 1-1/2 teaspoon of pre-ground cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon table (sea) salt

In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, eggs, egg yolk, cream and liquor. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and spices. Whisk the sugar mixture into the pumpkin mixture and pour the filling into the cooled crust. Bake at 325 degrees until the pie is set around the edges and still slightly wet and jiggly in the center, about 1 hour. The filling will continue to set as it cools. Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack and then refrigerate for 2 hours, and up to 2 days before serving.

Serve with whipped cream:
You can make whipped cream your preferred way, you don’t have to use the magic whipped cream device, but you should add 2 tablespoons of superfine (or light brown) sugar and a splash of whatever liquor (brandy, rum or, in my case, Calvados) you chose for your pie.

*Calvados is a type of brandy made from apples in the Normandy region of France. A sip will warm you from your moist hairline down to the bottoms of your feet.