Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I remember having a Christmas tree growing up. We had one every year – even real ones sometimes. They were pretty. They had lights. They had ornaments that had been around forever. But…

There was the year the cat climbed the tree and the whole thing, cat included, hit the floor in the middle of the night.

There was the year all of the ornaments from the bottom third of the tree ended up broken because the cat found out that she liked the way it sounded when they exploded on the hardwood.

There was the year that it was really cold, so the dog came in to spend the night. He was so thrilled that we had been thoughtful enough to bring a tree in just for him to mark.

When Patric was little, I always put up a tree. It was fun to pull out all the old ornaments and decorate it with him. It really was. Put on the CD of Christmas carols, make some hot spiced cider, turn on the lights — it really gets you into the spirit.

We have a very nice fake tree with boxes of lights and old ornaments up in the attic. Every year I think about bringing it down and putting it up in the living room — I could probably even find an outlet to plug a power strip into so we could light it up.

But… Then I think of cats. Not just any cats — ours are, well, special-needs. Seriously. A straw becomes hours of entertainment. A shadow is a mortal enemy stalking them with murderous intent. Their own tails are evil that must die – if they can manage to catch them. A tree with shiny things on it wouldn’t have a chance. Even if we went with unbreakable ornaments, I have no doubt whatsoever that the tree itself would end up on the floor and in pieces that would not only be irreparable, but which would most likely result in an unplanned and expensive trip to the vet for likely surgical removal from our equally special-needs dogs.

Grumpy helps Paul proofread this post.
Grumpy helps Paul proofread this post.

I read this. It made us think of our dogs. Except that we decided that we have two simple dogs.

Fluffy uh... poses.
Fluffy uh… poses.

So. No Christmas tree. For reasons that should be obvious at this point, no sit-down dinner without judicious use of closed doors and loud music to drown out the piteous sorrow of starving, mistreated orphans who might be forced to resort to cannibalism just to survive the next hour of hunger pangs. The evil squirt bottle of holy water is not enough to deter them from meat. Breakfast in bed? Hah! Fine china? Seriously? The leaded glass sidelight at our front door that managed to survive for a hundred years was unable to withstand the roiling fury of our dogs having a moment.

Bubba disdains the spray bottle.
Bubba disdains the spray bottle.

We have lots of cool art, lots of cool knick-knacks. We have 3 gorgeous mantles over the fireplaces in our nice old house. Any time we set anything on them, we wait, listening in peak-eared dread with squirt bottle at the ready, for the sound of pattering little kitty feet in places where they shouldn’t be, quite possibly accompanied by the sound of breaking glass. We have learned that if it lasts for a week, we’re probably safe. Probably.

Bear in mind that I haven’t even bothered to bring up the clumsy, body-size-unaware stage of a 16 year old boy. There’s just no need to go there at this point.

So, no nice things. We talk the big talk — once the boy grows up and once these animals have met their natural fates and none of them are to be replaced, then we can enjoy our nice things. It won’t happen. We’re gullible people. If we weren’t we would be in this mess in the first place. There’s a reason we have to run away from commercials about needy children and animals. Don’t get me started on those shelter dogs with Sarah McLachlan in the background. Luckily, we don’t watch a lot of TV when it’s not on Hulu.

We don’t regret it at all. We can be creative with our art. We can have nice dinners with a little more planning than most. One of these days we may even be able to figure out how to have a Christmas tree, but we can always drive around town and enjoy all the effort that other people put into Christmas decor.

After all, there are other nice things.

The Thanksgiving Turkey That We Were Able to Eat at a House That Is Not Ours

Cook Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

We have learned that we can provide the sides for a lovely meal at someone else's house. This is not such a bad thing.

Don't let the juices in the bottom of the roasting tin go to waste. Separate the juices from the fat and use them to moisten your dressing (it should have time to bake while the turkey is resting). Use the fat for gravy. Let the turkey rest the full time. This is the part of cooking (and it is still cooking) that keeps the juices in the meat. If you slice into your bird as soon as it comes out of the oven, your first slices of breast meat will be delicious, but when you go back for more, the meat will be dry.

And don't let the carcass go to waste. Turkey bones make wonderful stock. I even use the cavity fillings to flavor mine - just be sure to strain it thoroughly before putting it away.

Any herbs are wonderful with a turkey prepared this way. Limit the ratio of rosemary to the other herbs since rosemary has such a distinct flavor. Any aromatics add delicious flavor in the cavity.


  • 16-pound fresh turkey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • For the cavity:
  • 4 small yellow onions, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3 stems fresh thyme
  • 3 stems fresh basil
  • 3 stems fresh oregano
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Gently separate the turkey skin on the breasts and thighs from the meat, keeping it in place.
  3. Rub 3 tablespoons of the olive oil onto the meat under the skin. Slide the herbs under the skin, distributing as evenly as possible.
  4. Rub the outside of the turkey skin with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt.
  5. Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the onions, garlic, peppercorns, and herbs with the olive oil, tossing to coat. Spoon the mixture into the cavity of the turkey.
  7. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes. Baste the turkey with oil and juices that have dripped into the roasting pan.
  8. Reduce the heat in the oven to 325. Continue cooking the turkey for 2 to 3 hours, basting every 20 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 165 at the thickest part of a thigh.
  9. Allow the turkey to rest, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes before carving.

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