You know it was a good time if you literally only took one picture of the whole shebang and it was this total WORK OF ART (I suppose I decided that the vision of dear sweet Ravenel deglazing a skillet of aromatic and reducing roux that becomes the base of her incredible cider gravy while a boozy put of mulled cider bubbles in the background and Nick tears bread for apple and herb stuffing and a pecan pie cools off slowly by the woodstove was worth saving for posterity’s sake, and I suppose I’m not wrong). Out here in the world of the internet, though, while one hand laments decorative gourd season and the other pins gilded pumpkin tablescapes that could/should never exist outside of Martha, I sort of like that this was the only snapshot I thought to take. When you’re dancing in the kitchen, there’s no time to stop and stage photographs. But, because you asked, here are a few shots I scooped up from a few dear ones who thought to take a moment and capture some loveliness while I was making sure everyone had enough wine. And that the bird was ready at the same time as my hairdo.
Time flies when you’re having fun. And time also flies when it’s being blown along at a blustery clip accompanied by a 20 degree windchill. Thus this incredible week of my dreams begins. A whirlwind trip of wine and laces up to New York and back down to sweet, cold Virginny, where the leaves have been blown off the mountainsides and the hills look like brushed velvet somehow in the deep pile of their bare branches, and where 22 people are coming to our house for Thanksgiving. Today. It will the best possible time, one marked in between full moons on my almanac calendar, what seemed to be years away back in balmy September, and is now just here at the doorstep like an early guest and I feel like my hair is still in curlers. It’s what I’ve been waiting for…all of my favorite things- dancing in the kitchen, the noise of pots and pans and soul music and laughter and plenty of wine and dear friends aligned on the compasses of time and memory and family reunited-and-it-feels-so-good and pretty plates and feathers and, of course, about a million ham biscuits. And on this never-to-be-seen-again Thanksgivukkah, I’ve just got to say: infinite thanks and mazel tov, y’all. My heart is full.
My cousin Todd recently shared this picture of my grandmother, my mother’s mother, that I had never seen before. I don’t know if there aren’t very many pictures of her when she was this age or whether they’re just hiding somewhere waiting to be discovered, but the only other ones I’ve seen have been sort of formal portraits, best-outfit-posed-for-a-big-occasion shots. But this is different, candid, something wistful, is she on the deck of a ship? Who took it? She looks so very much like my mother here, impossibly tiny and incredibly beautiful. And, I mean, the dress, hat, and shoes are totally perfect and wonderful. I love it so.
Peaches in the summertime, Apples in the fall, if I can’t have the girl I love, I don’t want none at all. We’re in the thick of it right now, the sweet-hot afternoons where the orchards that line the country roads leading to our house burst forth in a rush of sun-warmed peaches that are so sweet and juicy, taking a bite, sinking your teeth right in, juice running down your chin, has you saying “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?” because you just can’t believe that something that truly incredible, miraculous, sweet and fresh and tart and mouth round just came right off a tree. My sweet little cousins came for a visit from the west coast, and we had a true southern summer day- swimming hole, fireflies, and fresh peach picking of course. On the agenda for tonight: pie.
Have you heard of Jubilee? You may think that it’s this nonsense with the queen, but in fact “Jubilee” is what it is called when you are celebrating a birthday that has a zero at the end of it and so you celebrate it for the whole year. JUBILEE!! My ever-lovin’-Mama thought that up, just in time for her 60th birthday, and sweet jesus if I don’t think it’s just about the best thing I’ve ever heard (perhaps since next year will be a Jubilee for yours truly?). Mama and I embark for points west together today, to bask in our nation’s magesty at Yellowstone and Grand Teton, hiking from bed and breakfast to bed and breakfast (like only Jubilee celebrating ever-lovin’-Mamas do). I’m signing off for the next week in the name of jubilee, but of course you can follow our adventures over on Instagram (@featherbyfeather).
awesome old Yellowstone image from here.
For me, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without making a large batch of celebrated Hornsby Family Egg Nog (made from scratch, served with love, fresh nutmeg, and ideally tons of fried chicken and warm biscuits with Smithfield Ham). This year the batch was perhaps the best it’s ever been- which is in no small part due to by the glorious gift of Araucana Blue eggs straight from Jay and Katie Rose’s chickens. Araucanas are a South American breed that lay thick-skinned eggs with yolks the color of setting suns. The shells of their eggs come in a range of beautiful delicate colors: pale aquamarine and celadon, eau de nil, sky, and light dappled ochre. See above. The fact that these chickens have beards, are named after lady blues singers, and are presided over by the Grand Plumed Rooster Alicia Jr. just makes the funfetti toned eggs all the more party ready. Which is a good thing since the nog calls for 30 of them (we triple the recipe for our holiday party, soooo, yeah). Talking about the eggs brings up the antipathy that many people have for egg nog- maybe you’ve only ever had store bought (oof), maybe you went to a party where some poor fool made it with gin (travesty), maybe raw eggs give you the willies (no help or hope for you, my friend), but this version, with its hand-written recipe and various and copious brown liquors is surprisingly, almost unbelievably light and fresh, sweet and smooth, spicy, silky, and secretly very strong. Here’s the recipe, straight out of the Hornsby family cookbook, “From the Kitchen at the Hornsby House”, written out by my Great Aunt Marian.Our family is one of barrel chested watermen-turned-oilmen-turned-land men, consummate entertainers, gentlemen raconteurs, merry pranksters, bon vivants, music makers and songstresses, and long time intimates of the marvelous stiff southern drink… when it would be Christmas at the Big House, laughter would shake the chandeliers, and instruments would be played until the wee hours. I always hope to have done them proud.
– I use Benedictine and Brandy (B&B) instead of Brandy and Southern Comfort
– Tripled, the bourbon comes out to a handle, Jim Beam is more than satisfactory (though Maker’s Mark is sweeter).
– You’re left with the whites of the eggs, make a frittata!