Countdown 365: #312 – Thanksgiving Day

TDay14Thanksgiving Day is THE day for gratitude and thanks.  However, I have been “counting my blessings” daily and so I want to use Thanksgiving Day 2015 as a day of gratitude for THAT specific day as it turned out to be a wonderful day from stat to finish.

The day would prove to be a very busy one, but one filled with joy points, family gatherings, and lots of food and fun.

Early Morning full moon on Thanksgiving Morning

Early Morning full moon on Thanksgiving Morning

The full moon glowed opposite the sunrise

The full moon glowed opposite the sunrise

I actually started the day off early to make an early morning visit to my favorite sunrise viewing spot at Jacobson Lake, only a few miles from my house. The skies were partly cloudy and still dark as I made my way to the lake. The moon was bright and full.  The air was crisp at about 46 degrees, but it was beautiful.

Behind me the moon was full and still glowing at 7 AM.  In front of me the sky was filled with dozens of shades of pink and orange at dawn.  The sun still had to make its way up above the

A jet streaks across the sky before the sun made its way above the horizon

A jet streaks across the sky before the sun made its way above the horizon

horizon, but, was already lighting the sky.  A jet streaked across the sky with its contrails glowing orange.  Canadian geese welcomed the morning…some took flight, others took a morning swim in the cool waters of the lake.

For me, this was a glorious and magnificent way to start off my Thanksgiving Day.  I stood by the side of the lake with a heart filled with gratitude for the beauty of this earth and for the blessing of being able to experience it with all of my senses.  And photos honestly don’t do justice.  But, here are a few from this early morning experience.

A panorama shot of the lake and skies just before sunrise

A panorama shot of the lake and skies just before sunrise

Geese in flight overhead at dawn

Geese in flight overhead at dawn

Geese hit the water for an early morning swim. It is wonderful to see them glide into the lake in tandem

Geese hit the water for an early morning swim. It is wonderful to see them glide into the lake in tandem

The early morning sky was filled with color

The early morning sky was filled with color

Geese swim by as they await the grand entrance of the sun

Geese swim by as they await the grand entrance of the sun

The sun finally makes an appearance as it peeks through the clouds on the horizon

The sun finally makes an appearance as it peeks through the clouds and trees on the horizon

Here comes the sun (I can hear George Harrison's sweet voice)

Here comes the sun (I can hear George Harrison’s sweet voice)

Glorious Thanksgiving Sunrise

Glorious Thanksgiving Sunrise

I sat in awe, as I often do, watching the glorious sunrise, listening to the cackle of the geese, watching the blue herons snuggle with the bushes to stay warm in the early morning cool.

I was physically and emotionally revitalized and ready to pursue the exciting family events of the day.  This solitary time with camera, wildlife, clouds and sun is something I crave.  Yes, I love music in my ears and I work in front of a computer all day.  But THIS is escape for me.  I love the open roads for the same reason. The world is glorious and God’s creations are magnificent.  And, on Thanksgiving morning, it was almost like a private worship service for me.

Sunrise on Thanksgiving

Sunrise on Thanksgiving

Turkey in brine getting readied for the Big Green Egg experience

Turkey in brine getting readied for the Big Green Egg experience

I left with a full heart and headed back home.  I had already put wood chips out to soak in preparation for grilling and smoking a turkey on my Big Green Egg. Originally, Julianne and I had planned to just go to a catered buffet for Thanksgiving this year.  No fussing, no dirty dishes, etc.  Julianne’s cousin Tregoney Shepherd, who happened to be in Louisville as one of the performers in the traveling Broadway production of “Wicked,” would be joining us for this brunch.  But our daughter Chelsea made it known that she was having a big get together and wanted me to smoke a turkey on the BGE.  Soon, Julianne had volunteered to bring a “few” things as well. So much for the “non-cooking” day.

Got the Big Green Egg smoking

Got the Big Green Egg smoking

We prepped the turkey the night before by brining it with numerous herbs, etc.  This has traditionally been our way of doing a turkey for a few years.  When I got home I warmed up the BGE and got it smoking good.  I actually heated up the grill to about 700 degrees to clean off all of the stuff that had built up and then cooled it back down to about 250 as we prepped for the turkey.

These grills are fabulous because they have what they call the convEGGtor™  which provides for indirect Convection Cooking on the Big Green Egg.  These allow heat to efficiently radiate within the dome while preventing the flames and heat from over-cooking the food.  I put this in the grill and added the soaked Pecan wood chips and the grill was ready for the turkey!

FireintheHoleThese get nice and hot and provide a great balanced method of cooking almost anything.  We have cooked pizzas, veggies, pork loins, steaks, Portabello mushrooms and even cantaloupe on them.

You can see by the photo on the left that they are flaming and warm.

It was ready for the turkey!!

 

 

Turkey on the BGE

Turkey on the BGE

I opened the grill for a great shot of the BGE doing its job smoking.

I opened the grill for a great shot of the BGE doing its job smoking.

At Copper Roux with Tregoney

At Copper Roux with Tregoney

Once we had the grill going, it was time to get ready to head out with Tregoney for the Thanksgiving brunch.  We made arrangements with Bayou Bluegrass Catering, which offered a Thanksgiving Buffet that started at 11 AM at their Copper Roux facility. It was a nice experience and NO DISHES AND CLEANUP!

The Thanksgiving Buffet had many traditional offerings, but there were also some southern accented dishes such as their green beans with bacon, collard greens, Cajun spiced turkey and gravy, corn pudding and shrimp with grits. There were also many amazing desserts.

Salads aplenty at Copper Roux buffet

Salads aplenty at Copper Roux buffet

Enjoying buffet at Copper Roux

Enjoying buffet at Copper Roux

Some of the amazing desserts at the Copper Roux buffet

Some of the amazing desserts at the Copper Roux buffet

We left the Copper Roux fairly full.  I tried not to overdo it and I avoided the things I knew I would get at Chelsea’s later in the day.  We hurried home where I checked on the turkey, which was basically done.  Julianne prepped a couple more things for Chelsea’s shindig and then we all took some brief naps before heading to Chelsea’s at 5 PM for their festive Thanksgiving affair.

Ugh...an undesired Thanksgiving tradition continues with a trip to Kroger

Ugh…an undesired Thanksgiving tradition continues with a trip to Kroger

Over the past three to four years it has become an unfortunate Thanksgiving tradition that I end up making two to three trips to Kroger for forgotten or needed items.  Due to our advanced preparations and our going to the buffet, I figured for sure that I would not have to make a trip.  But alas, I ended up keeping this unwanted tradition….

Seems like there is always something that gets forgotten or is needed at the last minute.  This time it was creamed corn, pumpkin pie spice and aluminum foil.  Thank goodness it was a nice day!!

Joined my granddaughter Autumn in the tradition of a Thanksgiving "Turkey Hat"

Joined my granddaughter Autumn in the tradition of a Thanksgiving “Turkey Hat”

After the naps we were off to Chelsea’s.  Ultimately, there were going to be 30-40 people show up for this one.  Her husband Jorge and his brother Luis have an extended group of Mexican friends that are almost like family.  We have gotten to know many of them.  This was a mixture of American tradition with Mexican flair.  We brought our smoked turkey and there was a Mexican spiced turkey there as well.  Along with the pumpkin, pecan and apple pies, there was also a tres leches cake.  Chelsea also made this tasty warm fruity Mexican punch called “ponche” which was wonderful.

Mexican Ponche was delightful.

Mexican Ponche was delightful.

Our smoked turkey from the Big Green Egg

Our smoked turkey from the Big Green Egg

Mexican spiced turkey

Mexican spiced turkey

Some of the spread, including spicy deviled eggs with jalapenos

Some of the spread, including spicy deviled eggs with jalapenos

Chelsea's famed Googleberry Pie (actually using an old family recipe from my wife's family)

Chelsea’s famed Googleberry Pie (actually using an old family recipe from my wife’s family)

Thanksgiving Hat Fun with Tregoney, me, Julianne and Chelsea

Thanksgiving Hat Fun with Tregoney, me, Julianne and Chelsea

Pot of Ponche with pineapple, apples, raw sugar cane, and more.

Pot of Ponche with pineapple, apples, raw sugar cane, and more.

There was fun and music (Jorge set up his DJ equipment and we listened to Christmas music on the back deck drinking the ponche and enjoying the festivities in English and Spanish).

It is always fun to join Chelsea and her family friends.  Though there is a great deal of Spanish being spoken, we are still able to communicate.  We have been to so many of these that many of the friends are almost like family, giving us hugs when they visit.

Julianne and I typically leave before the REAL fun begins. Many of them have a few beers or some wine and the dance music begins.  They party and dance late into the night with traditional Bachata dancing and perhaps some other kinds.  They all know how to party hearty and it is all in good fun.

As for Julianne and I, we returned home, put the food away and crashed.  It was a long, yet wonderful Thanksgiving day.  Friday would bring family to the house for more family feasting and fun as our three children and their kids would spend the afternoon with us.

Truly grateful for Thanksgiving and the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends.

 

 

Christmas Music – Some of My Favorites

Antsy McClain Christmas

Antsy McClain Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year.  We think of others and give gifts.  The colors of Christmas are everywhere.  And then there is all that Christmas music playing everywhere…from the bouncy notes of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” to the heavenly sounds of Handel’s “Messiah,” there is the old. Turn on the radio and some stations are playing Christmas music 24/7.   Such is the case in Lexington, with TWO stations dedicated to all Christmas all the time in December. WGKS (KISS FM 96.9) and their 12 Days of KISSMas along with WMXL (Mix 94.5) and their MixMas both play the classics and a few more recent tunes.

KISS FM 12 Days of KISS-Mas

KISS FM 12 Days of KISS-Mas

MixMas

Mix 94.5 Mix-Mas

Though I love the classic Christmas songs I grew up with, such as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” Johnny Mathis’s rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” and a couple dozen others, I get tired of hearing the same versions on BOTH stations, with little variety between the two. I am refreshed by listening to our Public Station WUKY-FM, which is an Americana format when NPR is not on the air. During the Christmas season they mingle in many fun renditions of Christmas tunes not typically heard on the pop stations such as a recent version of “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” by Aimee Mann.

But, I have my own “eclectic” mix of Christmas favorites (mingled with some of the classics I hear on the 24/7 stations). I have a 1 TB Hard Drive dedicated to my MP3 collection (nearly 100,000 mp3s) and, within that is my collection of over 4000 Christmas songs ranging from the 1940s to the 2010s. Following are some of my favorite albums and tunes from over the years….

SOME OF MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS ALBUMS (in no particular order)

AntsyMcClainAntsy McClain – Merry Christmas from the Trailer Park

Antsy’s Christmas album has a refreshing twist of redneck humor mingled with some sentimental tunes and Christmas favorites.

 

HoeyGary Hoey – Ho Ho Hoey Christmas (4 different CDs)

Gary Hoey is a fine rock guitarist. His remakes of some classic rock songs are fabulous, but his rocking versions of Christmas classics became so popular that he now has four albums. Definitely worth a long listen on a snowy winter night!

TSOCoverTrans-Siberian Orchestra

Founded by rock producer, composer and lyricist Paul O’Neill (who has managed and produced bands such as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Joan Jett and the Scorpions) in 1996, he, along with members of the rock band Savatage created a music spectacle of classical music melded with rock music and then a stage show that beats ALL stage shows (and I have seen them perform). The band has a Christmas trilogy and all three of their Christmas albums are classics!

SetzerBrian Setzer

Brian Setzer was the brains behind the new wave rockabilly group The Stray Cats. He broke out on his own with the swing band Brian Setzer Orchestra and has three rockin’ Christmas CDs that’ll surely get you up and dancing!

 

ChicagoChicago

Chicago has been one of my favorite groups since its beginnings in the early 1970s. In 2005 they released their first Christmas CD and a second one was released In 2011. These CDs offer the fresh sounds of Christmas with the bands famed horns and alluring vocal arrangements. Great music for a hot chocolate and nice fire in a snowy December evening.

PTXPentatonix

The A Capella group Pentatonix took the Pop world by storm after winning the TV show “The Sing Off.” This group of five has made A Capella an “in” thing with unique videos of renditions of favorites from three decades. Their Christmas CD is amazing and their videos are too.

MannheimMannheim Steamroller

Mannheim Steamroller was the creation of composer/record producer Chip Davis (who was also the creator of the famous 70’s era song “Convoy” by a made up artist named C.W. McCall. After a few albums albums that contained a blend of baroque classical music, light jazz, and rock, he forged ahead in 1984 with his first Christmas album called a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. The band has since produced a number of Christmas albums and, like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, they tour the country during the holiday season with live shows.

HerbAlpertHerb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Christmas

Herb Alpert was an iconic name in the 1960s with his Latin-flared mariachi-style music.  He had a string of hits and later made it possible for him to create the record label A & M (the A was for Alpert and M for partner Jerry Moss).  A & M signed groups such as the Carpenters.  His Christmas album from 1968 remains a classic in my books!

dr dimento christmas vol vi335Dr. Demento’s “The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time” Christmas

I have always loved Dr. Demento (and I even have an autographed photo and a personalized iPod greeting from Dr. Demento!!) Having grown up a big fan of Dr. Demento in the 1970s, I have grown to love these “classics,” which I am noting below

SOME OF MY FAVORITE NOVELTY CHRISTMAS SONGS (in no particular order)

I am such a big fan of novelty Christmas songs that I am including some below.  Yes, I still love many of the classic songs, but these Christmas Novelty classics are always fun!!

Single_Elmo_&_Patsy-Grandma_Got_Run_Over_by_a_Reindeer_coverGrandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo and Patsie

Written by Randy Brooks, the song was originally performed by the husband-and-wife duo of Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire in 1979. In the lyrics, a family matriarch gets drunk from drinking too much eggnog and, having forgotten to take her medicine and despite warnings from her family, staggers outside into a snowstorm. On her walk, she is trampled and killed by Santa Claus and his reindeer.  Always a fun laugh.

GaylaPeevey_HippopotamusI Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Peevey

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is a Christmas novelty song written by John Rox (1902–1957) and performed by Gayla Peevey (10 years old at the time) in 1953. Peevey was a child star from Ponca City, Oklahoma (and yes, I have been there!!). When released nationally by Columbia Records, the song shot to the top of the charts and the city zoo acquired a baby hippo named Matilda. It is a Dr. Demento Christmas staple, and is currently available on Dr. Demento’s The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time Vol. 6: Christmas.

spike-jones-all-i-want-for-christmas-is-my-two-front-teeth-rca-victor-78

All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Spike Jones & His City Slickers Band

This song was written in 1944 by Donald Yetter Gardner (1913-2004) while teaching music at public schools in Smithtown, New York. He asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas, and noticed that almost all of the students had at least one front tooth missing as they answered in a lisp. Gardner wrote the song in 30 minutes. The song was originally recorded by Spike Jones & His City Slickers on December 6, 1947, with lead vocal by George Rock and was released on a 78 RPM recording. 

12-DAYS-FEATUREThe Twelve Gifts of Christmas by Allan Sherman

Allan Sherman was an American comedy writer and television producer who became famous as a song parodist in the early 1960s. His first album, My Son, the Folk Singer (1962), became the fastest-selling record album up to that time. His biggest hit single was “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh“, a comic novelty in which a boy describes his summer camp experiences to the tune of Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours.  His Twelve Gifts of Christmas was released in 1964 and skyrocketed up the charts. Sherman, who was Jewish, made it really fun!

WhirlingDervishesYou’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch by the Whirling Dervishes

I started off with a cover of the Grinch and am gonna finish with the same.  I love the song and the Whirling Dervishes do it great! They were an alt-rock band from Westfield, NJ, that was big locally through the late 80s-early 90s.

I am closing with their song….