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November 23, 2002
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Erie Cafe, Erie Library, Vitamin Cottage, and Turkey Dinner

9:47 pm: I made a Thanksgiving dinner tonight. The turkey we bought last week was totally thawed, so it was time to cook it. It turned out to be the best bird I've cooked in a long time. For the first time in a long time I actually wanted to eat the breast meat.

The night was a little exciting. Jet got up a few times. I ended up with him at 5:30, nursed him and then took a while settling him into his car seat while I laid on the couch in the livingroom. We settled in for a good sleep there. Next thing I knew, I was hearing waking noises I our bedroom and John got up. It was 8! Jet was still asleep in his seat, and I tried lying down in our bed.

It didn't help that I knew that Jackie Chan Adventures was on right then. I finally heard Jet crying as he woke up, so I just put on my robe and glasses and watched the cartoon before showering and getting dressed. That's when we headed into Erie for breakfast. It turns out that a local family had taken over the building from Swanky Frank Jr.'s and was making a go of making it into a restaurant.

They've been open for eleven days, and were only doing breakfast and lunch. The lady running the place had her mother doing the cooking, the kids were running errand for them, and they had one other lady helping out with the waitressing. They had an uncle running a bakery that was supplying all the baked goods, and when we walked in they had pulled all the booths out that Swanky's had put in. Instead, they'd gone back to the small tables and chairs that the espresso place used to have. So it was far more open. That was nice.

We settled ourselves, got to order pretty quickly. Jet happily played with toys we gave him. The baked goods looked so wonderful. They had apple fritters, cinnamon rolls, pumpkin bread, dozens of cookies, croissants of all flavors, and half a dozen pies. The aromas from the grill promised good things as well. John ordered a standard breakfast. I ordered a half order of biscuits and gravy and a cheddar and sausage croissant to try both the breakfast and the bakery goods.

They were all excellent. Jet ate an entire pancake, the cantaloupe garish from both our plates, a strip of bacon, and one cookie garnish as well. The biscuits and gravy were savory and rich and had excellent texture. The croissant was spicy, meaty and had a crisp crust of cheese. Yum. John liked his breakfast and instead of hash browns they had potato pancakes that were very tasty with onion and good seasoning. It was very yummy.

While we were there, the kids came in and discussed going to the children's library. It was around the corner and John talked with all of them about where it was. That was cool.

From the restaurant we went to the bank to let John do something there. Jet played with an antique safe for a while before finding the drawing table and a tin of crayons. He sat down and started drawing. It was impossible for us to take him away from there immediately, so we settled in ad watched him draw for a while. I finally said to him that we were going to leave in a minute and watched the clock in the bank for the whole minute. I even told him when there was half a minute and then fifteen seconds, and when it was time to go, he was fine with it and we went.

This time thing is pretty cool.

From there we headed to the post office, and Jet and I took our time going in. Jet liked pointing out the rocks and smiling at everyone that went by, including a lady with a walker. She complimented him on his smile and he gave her a bigger one. He then helpfully pointed out the rocks by the side of the path. She laughed. John got his package mailed and Jet was happy to follow him out.

From there we headed to the kid's library. It was in a small, white house, and there was a bronze statue out front that surrounded a red granite bench. There was a boy and a girl, each with a pile of books, reading. Jet walked right up to the statue and patted the girl's book and then the pile of books by her. Eventually we headed inside.

It was tiny, but nice. There were boxes of baby books. There were three shelves worth of toddler books, and half a dozen shelves of young adult books. There were representatives of a good number of the series that I loved, but there were some gaping holes as well. There were, however, three sets of the Harry Potter books. I may well have to donate a set of hardback Susan Cooper, Dahl, and Lloyd Alexander books.

But there were lots of books there. They were only able to open for two or three hours a day, as they only had a certain amount of funding and only so many volunteers. We got to talk to the volunteer that was there today. She was fun to talk with and we spent a good hour there. Jet was just in heaven. He pulled books out with abandon and had John or I read the majority of them to him. He like playing with a Winnie the Pooh book with balloons on it.

We had a great time there. Jet got pretty tired after running around so much. When we got him home, he went right to sleep while nursing.

I went out while John took care of insulating the shelf under the window shelves over the sink. John and George had replaced the old, battered shelf with a clean piece of Plexiglas. It leaks cold, though, so John added insulation, today, and it's now water tight and warm. With the five day storm that's coming up, it'll be good to keep the house warm.

I went out to Vitamin Cottage and bought a bunch of things that I'd had on my grocery list. Grapefruit, cheeses, bananas, and celery for stuffing. I also got quite a few things that weren't on the list. One of the things I'd called them about yesterday. I really like Oregon Chai; but their normal mix is just too sweet for me. I found out, yesterday, that they had a version that had less sugar, and I called Vitamin Cottage to ask if they had the less sweet stuff. They set aside two quarts for me. So I got those.

I also got a can of powdered soy milk, as I don't go through soy milk fast enough to buy it fresh and have it stay that way for early as long as I like. I need to get something that I ca store ad just make when I need it. It's much cheaper, takes less packaging, and I found a 'light' version that doesn't have all the fat and sugar the normal soy milks have. I really liked that. We'll see if it does what I want to the chai that I got. I mostly use soy milk for chai, or for smoothies when I go back to doing that, but that isn't often enough to go through it quickly enough to beat the expiration date on the cartons. The Parmesan led me to find the Stilton as well, both of which are mildly expensive. So I spent a bit more than I thought I would. Ah well. I probably have six month's worth of soy milk, now.

From there I headed to Target, ad took care of a slew of bathroom and Jet's bathing things that needed getting, including a toothbrush for Jet. He's taken to biting my finger hard whenever I try to brush his teeth with the baby toothbrush. So I needed to get him something he could bite and still get his teeth clean. Playskool makes the cutest, softest brush I could find.

Jet loved it when I got home with it and he brushed his teeth for a good twenty minutes while I unpacked stuff. John went outside and gathered up dead leaves with his leaf vacuum. It's also a blower, but it can go the other way as well, and it works really well for cleaning the yard up.

I put Jet on his bar stool and he watched me intently as I put the turkey together for dinner. Since all the frozen birds that Safeway had were brined birds (8% solution incorporated in them), I didn't bother with brining. The last time I brined one of the Safeway birds, I got early a bathtub's worth of liquid coming out of the bird when I roasted it. Instead, I followed The Best Recipe for the roasting, omitting the stuffing, and started the bird on its breast, instead of the traditional breast-up posture. I really like how that method works with chickens, but I'd never thought to do it with a sixteen pound turkey!

So I did. 400 degrees for an hour with the bird's back in the heat, then 250 for two hours, and then I flipped the bird with much wrestling. I used wads of paper towels for insulation. Then back up to 400 degrees, a probe in the breast, and when it hit 165, I let it stay in another ten minutes to be sure that the internal temperature stabilized, and then I pulled it and let it rest while the stuffing, green bean casserole, and gravy got finished.

No potatoes, bread, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin pie were evident. We didn't really need the full deal, just the turkey, stuffing, and green beans were plenty. Especially when I made the gravy. I have learned from all my turkeys in the past. Rather than doing the gravy in the roasting pan, I poured it all out into a separating cup, and the poured a can of chicken broth into the roasting pan.

I then heated the pan on the stove and deglazed it, getting all the good stuff into the broth, which darkened it by several degrees. that I put into its own measuring cup, for easy pouring. I cleaned the roasting pan as thoroughly as possible. The separated drippings, I poured into two ramekins. The first to get the head of grease off into then the second with all the juices, and then I had a separating cup filled with grease.

That's when I brought out a clean wok, and put a tablespoon of flour and a tablespoon of turkey grease for each cup of stock/liquid I had into the wok. I then cooked the roux and stirred it a lot with a whisk until it's nutty in scent. I took it off the heat and added some of the liquids. Stirred a lot and I had a perfectly smooth paste where I could gradually add the rest of the liquid. I got a great gravy. It got even better with pepper, and a slow bubble simmer for the next twenty minutes as we finished the casserole and the stuffing in the oven and I started to carve the turkey.

The turkey surprised the heck out of me. It was perfectly moist, and every bit of it was done. The normally rare thigh joints were completely done, and the wings were crisp but not yet jerky. The breast sliced perfectly because it was moist and juicy. No dry flaking or fibers just ripping away because they were dry. I've never wanted breast meat before, but I actually wanted this stuff.

And it was great. It was seasoned through, moist, tender, flavorful, and will probably make excellent sandwiches tomorrow.

While I had the bird in the oven, Jet stole a stalk of celery and chewed on it vigorously. He ignored a cookie, his apple, and even a candy bar for the big chunk of chewable celery. John and I think he's teething again, upper right eye tooth is poking hard at Jet's gums, and it's hard for him to deal with. Occasionally, Jet will come up to me and point at that tooth and go, "Hurts! Hurts!" I give him a cold chew toy and he grabs it and goes off happily chewing at it. That's likely what making for the restless nights.

Jet made up for eating celery by ignoring our dinner completely. John finally made him ramen, and he ate half of it before starting to fling it in all directions. After that Jet revved up for just a while before asking to sit in my lap. He laid his head on my arm and proceeded to fall asleep. Oops. So I laid him out to nurse and he took to that quite well and went right to sleep. It's ow well past the hour mark, so I think he may do okay tonight. We'll see.

John and I packed all the food up. We'll have leftovers for this week and I've frozen packets for the coming winter as well. Hee. A few good diners, some hash, and maybe a casserole or three, and the first half of the bird will be easily gone. I guess we got the sixteen pounder for four dollars because it was so cheap. But I'm very glad that it turned out surprisingly well. Yay for good food!

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