Closing out November

A few photos and notes to finish out November, December has arrived so very quickly. We celebrated our usual Thanksgiving, John in Huntsville with his family, Leslie’s husband, Mike with his family here in Knoxville and the three sisters, the last of the Smith family, celebrating with an early meal at Copper Cellar.

This was our 3rd Thanksgiving at Copper Cellar. We move restaurants every few years when we believe the quality of the Thanksgiving offering goes downhill or at least as we remember it from the prior year. With this in mind, next year should be a “move” year because we were not so pleased, but we may hang for another year, the crab bisque and smoked salmon still linger pleasantly in my memory.

Three sisters, me on the left (middle), Leslie slightly behind me (youngest) and Carol in front (oldest).

Carol has had some health issues recently and has spent weeks in the hospital and healthcare rehab. She is now on oxygen full time with no apparent option to get off. Another reminder that taking care of oneself to the best of one’s ability is important.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, John and I drove to beautiful Maggie Valley, NC to select a Christmas Tree. The drive has become a much-anticipated event to kick off the beginning of our Christmas season. On this day, smoke and fog hung low in the nooks and crannies of the Appalachian Mountains. Each season is dramatic in these mountains, but I believe I like winter best.

We have been visiting this farm, Mehaffey Christmas Tree Farm for three years now. Two years ago, we cut our tree from the land to the right of the path where John and Katie are walking. This year we noticed new sprouts, trees for future generations.

“This is it!” John walked immediately to the tree he thought would be best.

John and Katie waited patiently for me as I walked about the lot to be sure this was the tree I wanted. Honestly, I walked around because I wasn’t ready for the trip to be over so quickly. This was indeed a perfect tree for us so we had it cut and wrapped for the drive home, but any number of trees would have been perfect. Trees are sold by height and the pole John is holding is a measuring pole.

The picture below is looking back over the valley with the mountains in the distance. This valley is dotted with family Christmas tree farms.

Our perfect tree

By default, watering the tree is my job and for me, a very manual process. I get down on my hands and knees and eyeball the water level. These days I can get down to the floor with no problem but crawling back up is just a little harder. The addition of a heavy, metal tree stand, with a large bowl, will keep me from crawling on the ground twice a day to water (as I did last year).

We set the tree up as soon as we arrived home and then promptly decided to let the tree open up for a few days, or at least that is our excuse for waiting a few days before adding lights.

Always colorful lights for me, since my earliest childhood Christmas memory.  The pink lights on the light strands are a plus. Ornaments will be added soon although we swear every year, we will leave them off.  This year we will have a 19-month-old so hmmm…

Katie’s chair normally sits where the tree currently resides.  We have moved the chair to the dining room, same view, different angle.

With the end of November also comes sunset season. I am always pleased to glance out my kitchen window and see the long, bare branches of our neighbors’ trees, lit from behind by the colorful rays of a fading sun. Sunrises as seen through the living room window aren’t too shabby either!

And lastly, my sourdough starter has been “put to bed” for a few weeks while I focus on keeping a thirsty Christmas tree watered. But before I put the starter to sleep, I baked. My latest King Arthur Baking catalog inspired this effort. I baked two “flavors” of bread, olive and fruit. The loaves were rustic, made without forms and the cuts (vents I guess) are rough. The olive loaf has kalamata and green olives with chopped walnuts and rosemary. I immediately wrapped and froze this loaf for later.

Olive and nut loaf on the left, fruit and nut loaf on the right.

The second loaf, fruit and nut sourdough, well, I cut into it immediately. We have been on a panettone kick the last couple of years and I wanted to see how the two compared (or at least that’s my excuse). Panettone is light and sweet like cake with intoxicating vanilla notes. Fruit and nut sourdough is heavier, more like a stollen without icing. The fruit I used: dried cranberries, dried apricots and lemon and orange peel. The nuts: almonds, pecans and walnut mix. Yum, perfect, toasted or not! I have a King Arthur sour cream fruit pound cake recipe I will try before Christmas so as not to waste the rest of the dried fruit.

Inside the fruit loaf.

That wraps up November, with camping and other stories yet untold but December is on the move!

This entry was posted in Aussie, Baking, Christmas, Family, Food, Katie, Life, PetLife, Uncategorized, Winter and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Closing out November

  1. Will Skelton says:

    The bread looks great! I’ve always thought about doing sourdough starter but never go around to it. And did you know there’s a new sourdough bread company based in south Knoxville, and their bread is as good as I’ve gotten anywhere, You have to order and pick up at a couple of breweries.

    • smithposts says:

      SoKnox Sourdough is pretty darn good! We have had bread and pizza dough. If you decide you want to work with starter, let me know. Happy to give you some of mine. I have neglected it (in the frig) for weeks and it still comes back to life.

  2. Laurel says:

    I love that you continued walking around the tree farm because you weren’t quite ready for the outing to be over with. I would do the same thing, even if I knew the perfect tree had immediately been found. The tree is beautiful with the lights. And your sourdough breads look fantastic! Happy holidays!

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