All-Purpose Festive Roast Turkey, Dressing, and Giblet Gravy

Start three days ago. Unfreeze the damn bird. I have it on the authority of the federal government of the United States of America that it takes one day per five pounds to thaw out a turkey.

If that boggles the mind as well as the laws of time, go to the store again and buy a fresh bird, like I did. You have 12 minutes. They close at noon.

Everything up to Putting the Bird in the Oven

Take the plastic wrapper off gingerly. Don’t shred the bird’s skin, unless you want your dish to look like roadkill, in which case you could have saved yourself two trips to the grocery store, already.

This wrapper has valuable cooking instructions to which you will probably need to refer for factual information, poultry poisoning safety tips, and the 800 number of the federal government home economist lady.

Reach down the bird’s throat and take out any little structural parts you find. They will probably not be roaming free but will be in an envelope like the Best Director Oscar winner. Reach up the bird’s … well, between its legs. You know, the other end. See if there are any organs there, and take them out too. Go ahead. This is not a trick.

Giblets look like the illustrations in your seventh-grade science book: Heart. Liver. Gizzard. Neck (not technically an organ). The turkey does not need these anymore, but they will really liven up your gravy and dressing.

Put the liver, the whole liver, and nothing but the liver in the fridge.

Put either one of the turkey’s open ends – cook’s choice – up near your kitchen faucet. Turn on the water full blast and give it a rinse. Rinse the outside, too – couldn’t hurt – and pull out any feathers that may have slipped past the fine turkey pluckers. Dry inside and out with paper towels.

My cookbook says, “If desired, rub salt inside the body cavity.” I will not say that I have ever had that desire, but it is probably a good idea, a good “cook-y” thing to do and will make you feel like you are doing something while you are collecting your thoughts, looking at your naked bird.

Yes, in four hours or so, you’ll be eating your little science experiment.

Most of this recipe is magic, with the reasons for many arcane procedures shrouded in our reaction to our mysterious Puritan past, like this next part: You’re going to place some quartered onions and celery inside the bird, through one of its … openings. When the cooking is done, you will throw them away. The Lord given and the Lord taketh away.

Now it is time for turkey yoga. Twist the bird’s wings around behind where its neck would be if the turkey butcher had not already taken its neck off and stuffed it up its “cavity.” The turkey will look like it is sunbathing, not a care in the world. Now tie its legs behind its tail. (This sounds cruel, but it’s not, because this turkey has already been dead for weeks.)

Put the turkey in a shallow roasting pan and roast uncovered at 325 for four hours for a 12-pound bird.

What to Do when your Bird Is Cooking (and It’s Not Relax)

Put the giblets (except the liver, which is still banished to solitary confinement in the refrigerator) into a saucepan. Add a stalk or two of sliced celery and a small onion, chopped. Salt lightly. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour.

Hard-boil three eggs in their own totally unrelated and separate but equal saucepan.

Add the liver to the giblet saucepan and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove and chop giblets. Throw away neck bones and vegetables (again with the wastefulness! Go figure.) Strain broth. Chop the hard-boiled eggs. Refrigerate broth and chopped giblets and eggs until needed for gravy and dressing.

Dressing for Success

Finely chop half an onion and a stalk of celery. Sauté them in a half cup butter in a big saucepan. Yes, use real butter instead of margarine once a year, for heaven’s sake. Why? Because butter tastes better.

Stir in one teaspoon of Poultry Seasoning – that’s an actual “spice” you can buy in a jar at the dollar store. Or, use sage. Salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in one small bag of cornbread stuffing mix and one small bag of herb stuffing mix, the good brand.

With a large measuring cup, bail some of the cooking liquid out of the shallow roasting pan.

Skim some of the fat off the top.

Are you with me? OK, pour about ¼ cup of the fat into another saucepan and throw away the rest of the fat. No, NOT the liquid broth under the fat! Just the amount above and beyond ¼ cup of fat. (By the way, the fat and the broth will be distinguishable on sight. Mine is.)

Put about a cup of the broth into the dressing.

Take the giblets and egg out of the refrigerator; divvy them up however you care to, and stir some in the dressing and save the rest for the gravy.

Smoosh the dressing into a 9×12 baking pan, and bake at about 375 for about 15 minutes.

Gravy 101

Do not wait until the dressing timer “Dings” to start your gravy. Jump right in.

Stir in ¼ cup of flour into the saucepan with the afore-separated ¼ cup fat. Salt and pepper to taste, which means “put some salt and pepper in, taste it, and if you think it needs some more salt and, or, pepper, proceed as you see fit. You’re a grown-up, aren’t you?”

Add in a little more than a cup of the liquid turkey broth. No, NOT the fat, which should be dispensed with already, but the liquid. The whole thing in the saucepan should be about a cup and a half, now. Cook and stir until bubbly. The gravy, not you! Cook and stir one minute more.

Dump in the giblets. Stir a little more until it is all heated through.

You, My Dear, Are Done

De-tent the turkey. Plug in the carving spouse’s carving knife. Swish the dressing out of the oven. Pour the gravy in the gravy boat.

God bless us, every one!


When the Peace Was Signed, A Letter Home

Trimbs, Germany

June 28, 1919

Dear Folks,

Well we only stayed one week in Andernach but it was a nice week lots to go to and that helps. The real dull part of the day is after supper which is five o’clock and it gets dark about 9:30. If you don’t have someplace to go it seems pretty long.

Just a few minutes ago a car came in from Hdqts. Saying Peace had been signed. Every body should be overjoyed but they don’t make any demonstration. In the first place, peace has almost been signed so many times that they can’t hardly believe it. Of course we all want to believe it.

Any way, we are going to have a big banquett tonight. I mean the Bolshevicks going to have some eats. (over)

[2nd page]
Baked ham, gravy, Potatoes fried with cheese, radishes lettuce. Peas with cream. Cakes. Pies. Ice cream & champagne. A few other things I can’t remember. We are going to have some time.

Sent over after some Germans to play for us in case they don’t get here we have a Victrola so you C we are stepping out. I forgot that we are going to have Egg omlettes. We poured the wine in a big bowl, put enough sugar in it then dump strawberries in and mash ‘em up and let it set a while and it makes a drink that Old King Solomon in all his Glory never had any better.

Well if it is true that Peace has been signed we will be home in two months any way if not sooner. Any way things will liven up now and that’s what I want action.

Well I must close I am full now had lemonade ice cream for supper and I just had to eat it.

With love your Son & Bro. Roy.

To Geo. M. Parker, Woods Bluff, Ala., Feby. 19, 1871

Geo. M. Parker, Woods Bluff, Ala.

Coffeeville  Feby 19th 1871

G M Parker

My Dear Son

Feeling a very deep interest in your present and future well being I am induced to write you a letter this beautiful Sabbath morning.

You are now entering upon your first experiment in business, and your failure or success will have an evil or a good bearing upon your whole after life & you can not now appreciate the deep anxiety I feel for you and I shall pray God to keep you from temptation and I would recommend you to read the 25th Psalm every night until you commit it to memory—and especially the sentence, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me.” I suggest the following rules for your guidance in business.

1st Abstain entirely from the use of ardent spirits.

2nd Be punctual doing everything at the proper time never putting off until the future, what should be done in the present time.

3rd Be exact to a cent in accounting for all the cash passing through your hands.

4th Never take any amount of money from the drawer great or small, for your own use but always call on Mr. Henson when you need money.

5th Keep a correct statement of money received for your private use & the manner of spending it so that your private cash account will exhibit your receipts and expenditures.

6th Never spend money to gratify a mere fancy, but be governed at all times (in your expenditures) by your necessities.

7th Lay by something every week if but 10 cents for the cause of benevolence and religion.

8th Habitually & daily look to God in prayer to aid you in carrying out the foregoing rules and attribute your success to him.

And in conclusion, I will promise to write my prayers with you daily that you may succeed in your present attempt at business. So as to gradually build up a reputation for capability and integrity as a business man, which can not be hastily attained but only by patience & perseverance.

And if you will observe the foregoing instructions which have been penned under the promptings of an affectionate father’s love, you will never have to look for business, but it will always seek you and your wages will always be equal to your services.

And may God preserve you and keep you from temptation & guide you by his Holy Spirit into Life eternal is my prayer.

Write to your Mother & Sisters often as they will greatly desire to hear from you.

Your father affectionately,

Jacob Parker

Onward and Upward

When the worst thing that happens on the first day of class is that you, The Teacher, trip over your fancy new high heels and fall flat on the ground, you know it’s been a good day overall. I ended up with a skinned knee and bruised pride.

I teach first-year public speaking at a four-year university. So, I made an object lesson of my spill. Sometimes bad things happen! You keep going, knowing that everyone else can relate to you. I’m sure there was some fear in the students whose inner dialogue I imagine as “OMG, our teacher is a loony-bird.” And they would not be wrong, exactly.

Now, a day later, every part of my aged frame aches, and my right knee is screaming at me. But I’ll keep going. I’ll stand up and I’ll wear my high heels again. I will survive! I think my joke of “short woman syndrome” was lost on them, but I kept smiling. I kept communicating.

Truth? The  Fall was a bit before class started, and there were only two students in the class at the time. So, the three of us had a moment. They were concerned (but I still imagine them wondering what kind of loony-bird they had drawn for a teacher). I stood up easily although, as I said, a tiny bit worse for the wear. I stood TALL.

Because I have an enormous fear of public speaking, yeah, I focus every bit of extroversion I have  and most of my “spoons” of energy on my few hours of classroom instruction time each week. I get good ratings and we have good class sessions for the most part. I have to admit my favorite part of teaching public speaking is the part where the students speak. The obvious reason for this is that this is time that I do not have to speak.

So, I stand in front of students on the first day and I allow myself to be vulnerable about my fear. I don’t sound pathetic because I have focused on keeping it together. When I smile, it’s genuine. I tell them this fear is common to most of us, even true extroverts. I tell them that they might hear my voice shake. I tell them that I fell down in front of people! They look a bit puzzled, but interested. They haven’t given up on me yet. That’s good.

On a deep level, I carry shame about stunts like my sudden unplanned descent. But I know that Shame lies to us. So I put on a good smile, which is my true intention, my true choice, and I tell the truth. I tell them we’ll have setbacks and we’ll find a way to laugh at ourselves and we’ll all learn together. We’ll get up and we’ll go on.

I am happy to be teaching public speaking. I am happy that I don’t have to wear high heels every day, or any day. I am comfortable in front of my students in a university T-shirt and jeans and sneakers.

Over the next few months, I will hear speeches about why marijuana should be made legal and about cosmetics routines (it’s a YouTube thing). I’ll hear speeches about football concussions and video games. And students will sometimes fall on their faces, performance-wise. But I will always help them up. I care about them and I have confidence that I can lead them onward and upward.

“Onward and upward!” has been my byword for several years. I’ll keep it, because that is my true choice.

Everything Is Fine, Indeed

The world is fine and made of good people. I have a nice warm bed, someone to snuggle with, a full pantry,  gas in my car, a vacation from school and work, but school and work to go back to. I have cool electronics, a sweet cat, a funky apartment, fun hobbies. I can cook. I have a new grandboy, enough clothes, songs in my heart. I know I’m a moral person. I know I can improve. My teeth are decent. My eyesight is decent. I have a good education. I have meaningful roots with extended family. My dad is still alive. I have good kids and good siblings. I have ideas of things I want to do or learn and places I want to go, at least in books. Everything is all right.

Names I Love

My favorite names this week come from a family where the children’s first names are Darwin, Galileo, and Waco, all born between 1893 and 1898. I want to know those wacky, learned, non-conformist parents!

What are some surprising names in your family lines?

Bits and pieces

  1. Hurray! My county of research is not a “burned county!” A burned county is one of hundreds (?) across the country where we have lost records over the decades because of various courthouse fires. So, hurray! Gentry County, Missouri, is not a “burned county.” It is, however a “cyclone county.” Cyclone county?  New term. Yes, we lost records because of a windstorm in 1883.  (,_Missouri_Genealogy)


2. To clear up any confusion, Kansas, Oklahoma, is in Delaware County.


Mover? Or Sticker?

Looking at my ancestors I see two groups: the movers and the stickers. The movers are the ones who pull up stakes. They are either pioneers, moving to newly opened lands, or they move to communities already established. They nearly always move for economic reasons—better land, better jobs. Sometimes their moves were tied to military involvement. Sometimes they move because other family has moved to the new location first. The stickers are the ones who stay and become established. They have families and businesses and may become political leaders in an area. They live lives that are entwined with institutions for decades.

Sometimes the movers can become stickers. And vice versa.

Elijah Webb Fuller was a mover in early life. He was born in Virginia, migrated west (and North) to Illinois, and then to northwest Missouri. His life covered half a continent. He started his family with Almariah Chowning in Illinois with the birth of Minerva Jane Fuller. But the rest of their eleven children were born in Gentry County, Missouri, where all grew to adulthood. When Elijah and Allie settled in Gentry County, they settled. Some of the children turned out to be movers and some turned out to be stickers.

I don’t know—yet—why this Fuller family moved to Gentry County, Mo., from Coles County, Illinois. I do know that there were other Fuller families who also migrated. As yet, I do not know the exact connection. Talitha Cumi Fuller, who married John Keller, also made the same move, but she and Elijah do not appear to be siblings. Her father, Henry Fuller, also came from Russell County, Virginia. The connections remain murky at this time, generally for my own lack of investigation, though other researchers may know the ins and outs of these Fullers.

Elijah’s daughter Sarah Mariah Fuller (middle-named after her mother) married William Stam, whose family had also migrated southward but from Wisconsin. This Stam family and several others moved to the new Oklahoma Territory when it was opened, although they were not part of the original “Sooners.” My grandmother, their daughter Clara Ann Stam, was born in 1905. She always said she was “older than Oklahoma,” which attained statehood in 1907. She and her husband migrated along with oil-field jobs in the 1930s, but when my father grew to school age, they became stickers. She lived in their house in Haskell County, Kansas, for more than fifty years.

My father’s paternal grandfather was a mover most of his life. Born in Ohio, raised a family in Iowa, reportedly died but really married a young girl in another part of the state and started a new family, divorced in South Dakota, sold tamales on the streets of St. Joseph, Missouri, moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he branched into the popcorn wagon business, selling popcorn, gum, and peanuts on Main Street until the day he died.

What are you? A mover? Or a sticker? Or a combination?

A Suitcase Full of Pictures

I found a suitcase full of pictures at a consignment store.

“What is inside,” was my first question. It soon became “Who is inside?”

Images: Lost and Found  (Click to watch video.)

I couldn’t wait to meet them.  I couldn’t wait to figure them out and to find out why they were lost.

Four sisters.  Or four cousins?


There was so much. They reminded me of my own family. I had to find out. It was like a big-city high-rise with millions of stories, and I had this suitcase with three generations of stories.

Oh, little child!  Who were you, and who did you grow up to be?

To figure out family groups, I sorted the pictures, which put them in chronological order. Black and whites. Color. Polaroids. Double-prints. And so many more.

People with Names

A breakthrough! The oldest picture I found had names.  Who was Great-grandmother Woods? Was Bryan Woods the baby of the family? Did the suitcase belong to Susie?


So many babies … over so many decades. They go to school. They learn to drive. They honor their elders, and they love their families.

Four cousins. Or were they sisters?

It soon became apparent that the genealogical detective work would be easy but time-consuming. Nevertheless, I started looking at names on the backs of photos. LaVirga Shipman Woods’ name came up over and over again.

Everyone Loves Pictures

Everyone loves old family pictures. Everyone wants to be in “Grandma’s Brag Book.”


But there are so many more places to find our families:

  • Letters
  • Diaries
  • Bibles
  • Military papers
  • Greeting cards

We love … and yet we let go ..

Someone has said goodbye to this family before.

“It’s been so nice knowing you. I hate to see you go. But as you must, my best wishes for your happiness in your new home go with you.”

Where is your family history?

Is your family history in your home or in a suitcase in a consignment store?

Diaries from the 1880s, bought on eBay. Letters, photos, family narratives–someone abandoned them.  Old Bibles, vintage pictures, old manuscripts. The notebook was bought for a dollar.

I had to wonder about my family, and I’ll bet you wonder about yours.

Where are my pictures?

Where is my family history?  Will it be preserved?

I found a family in a suitcase at a store.


Video produced by Lisa Reed, under the academic direction of Shannon Carter, Ph.D.

(c) 2016, Lisa Reed