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As the overnight temperatures have begun to steadily drop across Tennessee, I realized that next week is Thanksgiving.

Not that I haven’t enjoyed the 70 degree-plus days that we have been experiencing, but crop pants and t-shirts don’t really scream fall for me. Especially after knowing what the mid-South usually has in store for the colder winter months.

The happy medium of sunny, crisp days of sweaters and boots, and evenings spent cozily under a blanket are the perfect foil to summer’s sometimes oppressive humidity and winter’s quiet frost.

And pretty close to perfection in my book, at least on the days between the cold snaps.

It takes a little longer for acclimation to 20- and 30-degree weather swings than it used to.

Some days I can waste an hour with nothing more than a cup of coffee, watching the wind gusts carry falling leaves and birds on the hunt over the now harvested corn in the field behind my house. Last week brought a red fox taking a shortcut through the backyard, and two young deer grazing on the back grass.

More often than not, Sarek - our now 7-month-old DoberDane - has been over there himself, always returning with an over-sized limb or dried corn stalk to mutilate on the patio outside my bedroom.

The corn he manages to leave behind has become a popular buffet for the cardinals in the mornings. And since they usually visit during morning nap time for the canines, they are pretty much left to eat their fill in peace, and Sarek’s afternoon jaunts to the field a convenient re-supply run. 

Everyone seems pretty happy with the deal, and Sarek has even learned the command for outside, quick to take his treasures somewhere more suitable for the inevitable destruction than the carpet in my bedroom.

The cooler weather has allowed us to keep all the sliding doors open as the cool breezes air out the house, and I worked on cleaning the worst of the dust and dog prints that I can never seem to get ahead of on the many windows that look out towards the back yard.

Extra time with outdoor cleaning has allowed Sarek some extra opportunities to explore, much to the chagrin of the squirrels and birds that try to sneak close to the house, and some that aren’t so close to the house.

Thankfully he hasn’t decided to chase any of the deer that graze in the nearby fields, preferring to bark (loudly and forcefully) from a safe distance on the outside stairs.

I have a feeling next fall could be a different story with this dog.

But with the pandemic craziness, election insanity and the chaos of regular life with a teenager and energetic large puppy, the realization Tuesday that I need to make Thanksgiving dinner in one week left me in more than a small state of panic and racing for my recipe box to start crafting the grocery list.

Everyone has their favorites, and I try mightily to weave both my family’s traditional favorites that are synonymous with my holiday memories to those of Vince’s family and the kids. Usually holiday dinners are a blend of the old traditions with a new twist, or just double the food with everyone’s favorite item making the menu. There are always enough leftovers to feed a small platoon of hungry soldiers.

Vince’s complaints about it being too much work usually stop when he realizes that the tasty bounty quite literally is just a short walk to the kitchen away.

While Thanksgiving has crept up on me, I am happy that 2020 continues to speed along, a mercy after the uncertainty this year has brought to so many.

Political division and uncertainty, social unrest, economic hardship and a public health crisis, for starters. A less superstitious person might ask what else could possibly go wrong... but heck, there’s still plenty of time for shenanigans and chaos before we can toss out the calendar for a new one.

So no, I won’t be the one to ask that question and invite the answer.

Instead I’ll just get back to making that list, and leave the world’s worries for another day.

Maybe Vince is right... four pies for seven people might be a little much... but for 2020 seems just about perfect.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at or by calling (209) 862-2222.