Holiday Help

Happy Thanksgiving!  I am so excited!  I’m finally finished with my Thanksgiving table centerpiece.  I’ve been working on it for days.  My husband has been quietly observing this activity. He asked me, as he walked around the table last night, “Why are you going so crazy here?”

I said, “Jonna told me to.”

Then he weirdly asked, “Do you always do what Jonna says?”  I looked at him.  He should know better by now.  I said, “Of course, if I can.  Why wouldn’t I?”

I mean look at this centerpiece!

Isn’t it crazy?  You can see now why I would do anything Jonna tells me to do.

But, Jim’s question got me thinking about the way we celebrate holidays.  If you think about it, even if you’re alone in your kitchen, you’re probably getting help from a lot of women – grandmothers, mothers, aunts and friends.  For instance – I make Aunt Jane’s creamed onions (may she rest in peace) Cousin Jan’s corn pudding and Jim’s mom’s stuffing.  My sister makes my mom’s stuffing for my brothers. Yes, we have two stuffings – that’s a long story.  And for the gravy, I start by boiling the gizzards and neck the way my mom used to do.  She’s also resting in peace.  And then I follow the recipe for roasting the turkey that was handed down from Jim’s grandmother’s cook, Bernice.  In fact, by the time I put dinner on the table, many women have had a hand in the creation – it’s the work of many beautiful voices.

Which brings me back to Jonna, my loudest voice -she’s never let me down.  She’s Martha and Ina rolled into one.  And because she lives in Los Angeles, and I in Oakland, she’s just a text or phone call away. In fact, this whole centerpiece thing started when I texted her from the store where I was buying the table cloth.

I sent her this picture first…






She texted back, “A little too busy for me, but if you can see it in your room, get it.”  She didn’t like it.  I could tell.  I moved on.

I sent her this picture.






Seconds later I got this text:  “Better.”

I knew it.  But it’s not just tabletops.  Jonna can solve just about any culinary crisis. She can coax me out of a dinner party menu meltdown, she can pick the final ingredient for a salad I’m making that will send it over the edge and she always has the right recipe for the right moment.  Like the one she texted me while I was on the way to the grocery store yesterday.  I had called her with a new inquiry. I asked her, “What are we doing about cranberry sauce?






It turns out we were making relish instead. I made it.  I’m sure it will be a hit, just like most of the things she tells me to make.  Her grilled artichokes drive people wild.  Her Caesar salad dressing has ruined bottle dressing for my daughters, Katie and Margaret.  Her croutons send my son over the edge.  Then, there’s her pork chop recipe that I made for every dinner party I had for about two years.

Anyway, back to the centerpiece.  This is what Jonna’s centerpiece looks like.  Are you kidding?

But neither this centerpiece, nor mine is actually complete.  Jonna says, like her grandmother used to do – in a sort of piece de resistance maneuver -we are to place bunches of grapes in the cornucopia before our guests arrive for Thanksgiving dinner.  The grapes are ready.

And so this year Jonna’s grandmother’s voice joins the chorus of beautiful voices I listen to – and that I’m thankful for – on this Thanksgiving Day.


P.S.   Late last night I got this text from Jonna:  My pies:






Trying to be like Jonna is REALLY HARD WORK.    I sent this back to her:  My pie:






I know.  It’s the Chocolate Cream Pie that I bought, ready made, from Nation’s Burgers.   It’s still good though.

P.S.S.  Please send me pictures of your holiday centerpieces!

7 thoughts on “Holiday Help

  1. My centerpiece has already died so no pic …. but I LOVE LOVE LOVE yours. Beautiful! Jonna’s pies are gorgeous too — a whole new level — so pretty!

    P.S. We also had Nation’s pies yesterday — lemon cream, apple and berry.


  2. Hi Joyce,

    What wonderful stories! Thanks for letting me share all your adventures vicariously. Your Thanksgiving centerpiece is so beautiful. I’m envious of your creativity. Hope to be able to get together with you and Jim again soon. Early Thanksgiving was great fun!


  3. Sue,
    Thanks so much for reading! I served those great nuts at Thanksgiving. Do you think you could send in the recipe?

  4. Happy to share this recipe from The Union Square Cafe:

    1 1/4# unsalted, assorted nuts
    2T coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
    1/2 t cayenne
    2 t dark brown sugar
    2 t kosher salt
    1 T melted butter

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    2. Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven until they become light golden brown, about 10 min.
    3. In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter.
    4. Thoroughly toss the warm toasted nuts with the spiced butter and serve warm.

    Yields 5 cups…Enjoy!

  5. Thanks so much Sue. Everyone– these nuts are ridiculous. I caught my son in his room with an entire bowl on Thanksgiving day!

  6. Enjoyed your giving thanks to all who created your dinner. How true it is! We all have our stash of recipes from our mothers, sisters, good friends, in- laws, etc. Many have passed away, yet they live on in our creative hands. Making my father- in-law stuffing every year brings forth the memory of him and makes me smile.

  7. It’s a great thing bringing those loved ones back through their food.. Isn’t it! Love ya!

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