Thanksgiving #1

Thanksgiving is pretty spread out for Sean and me this year. We spent Thanksgiving Day at home watching TV, then going out for sushi. Family Thanksgivings were scheduled for different dates.

Our first Thanksgiving of the year was really just mine. I was home in Kentucky for a visit from October 31 through November 8, and as we were celebrating Halloween, Connor’s birthday, and Daphne’s birthday, we decided to throw in a Thanksgiving dinner too. (Sean didn’t come on this trip as he had to work.)

I helped Mom decorate the dining room, setting up the dining table and the card table with placemats and accessories.

table and buffet decorated for ThanksgivingMom made her signature rolls (and I helped). She also tried a different, faster way of cooking the turkey.

rollsturkeyme and the finished turkeyI made the corn casserole, a tradition we’ve had since I was a teenager and we first got the recipe from a lady at church. These days Connor often makes it, but as this dinner happened on a Thursday during the school year, he didn’t have time. I also made the pumpkin pie. I forgot to turn the heat down after the first 15 minutes, but it seemed to turn out fine anyway.

pumpkin pieAt dinner I sat with the boys at the card table.

Logan and ConnorDinner was great. Mom, Dad, AJ, Faye, Connor, and Logan all came. (I got to see Ben, Manda, and Daphne the next day when I went up to the farm with the parents for Daphne’s second birthday.) While it wasn’t a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner, it was close: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn casserole, rolls, pickles, olives, pumpkin pie, and blueberry pie. An amazing spread and a wonderful time with family :)

Our second Thanksgiving of the year, the one with Sean’s parents, hasn’t happened yet. Stay tuned! ;)

The holidays are here

When Halloween comes around here in Augusta, it always seems too early. The weather has only barely cooled off, and the leaves haven’t really changed. A few weeks into November it finally, belatedly feels like Halloween, with crisp morning air, bright colorful leaves, fog rolling in across the river and Canal, and a few ghostly bare branches. But then it’s already time for Thanksgiving.

This year’s Thanksgiving was quite late in the month, making the transition a little easier. By the time it got here, I was ready for it.

Like last year, I decided to host. This time, I cooked everything. Cheryl is now living in Augusta again and was able to come, but she just had neck surgery and couldn’t move much. I told her to just come and not worry about anything else…not even to worry about being able to eat. I didn’t want her to feel guilty or obligated to do anything.

I worked out my menu well in advance. I studied Better Homes & Gardens’ turkey roasting guide for the bird. The side dishes all came from my 501 Delicious Heart Healthy Recipes cookbook. I made Green Beans with Caramelized Onions, which was said to be a good substitute for green bean casserole; Broccoli with Caraway Cheese Sauce; and Garlic Roasted Potatoes, a recipe I’ve used before. I also got my dessert from that book: Pear Almond Crumble, served with frozen yogurt and caramel sauce.

I started cooking at around 2 o’clock, getting all my ingredients out and arranging them by recipe and prepping and stuffing the turkey ad getting it into the oven. While I cooked I watched a couple Thanksgiving episodes of Friends, which was a great way to get into the mood. I also set up my laptop in the kitchen and did AIM video chat with Mom, so I could see everyone arriving in Kentucky and ask Mom for cooking tips. It was really neat, but it seemed to lock up the computer a lot, and I’m not really sure why.

As dinnertime neared, I realized I was running a little behind, but Cheryl and Reid ended up arriving an hour late, so it worked out. I held off on the cheese sauce and carving the turkey until they arrived; everything else was ready to go.

I’m pretty sure this was my first time roasting a turkey. Mom was really helpful with advice about the pan and setting the bird on onions since I didn’t have a rack. And I think it turned out great! I am pretty proud of myself.

I am also really happy with the side dishes. The green beans and broccoli were delicious, and the potatoes turned out fine too. The only thing I was unhappy with were the rolls; they didn’t rise properly. But they still tasted all right.

After dinner we relaxed in the living room for awhile, and I cleaned up a bit, until we were ready for dessert. I had put the pan in the oven right when we started dinner, but we ended up letting it stand for awhile while the food settled. Finally I spooned proper portions into bowls and added a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt and a drizzle of caramel. It was delicious–and only 4 points!

By using heart healthy recipes and only eating a small breakfast and lunch, I was able to enjoy Thanksgiving within my points range. I am pretty proud of that accomplishment, too.

While we ate dessert, Reid and I played Wii Sports. He ended up getting really good at bowling! Unfortunately his shoulder started hurting, so we had to quit. At that point we went ahead and made Miis for Reid and Cheryl so they can both play when they come over. It’s near to see them in the games when I play now :)

Finally the evening was over. We all hugged and they headed home. I felt very happy with how the day had gone.

I was pretty worn out, and my lower back was sore, but I worked away at the kitchen little by little until everything was cleaned up and put away. It was such a good feeling to get up the next morning and walk into a spotless kitchen.

The day after Thanksgiving wasn’t traditional for me. Usually I spend that day eating leftovers and decorating for Christmas. This year, I relaxed, played the Wii, went out to lunch at Mi Rancho with Sean, stopped by Best Buy with Sean to get him a new mouse, went home and ordered some Ethernet cable, and finally got all dressed up and went to see the Nutcracker at the Imperial.

It was a really good performance, with gorgeous sets and costumes. I think this was my first time seeing ballet in Augusta. I was pretty impressed, especially by the special effects, though I feel the Lexington Ballet dancers are somewhat more precise in their movements. There were a few really talented dancers, though, especially towards the end.

A day later, I’ve still got the music in my head :)

Even though I had intended the Nutcracker performance to get me in the mood for Christmas, I’m still not quite there yet. Part of the reason is that I’m going to a Thanksgiving lunch with people from work tomorrow. Once that’s over with, I’ll be free to transition into the next holiday. Projects will be decorating my apartment and my office at work.

I originally wasn’t planning to to home to Kentucky for Christmas since I don’t have much time off, but I’ve been thinking about it and I would really be sad if I didn’t get to see my family. So what I think I’ll do is drive up after work in Christmas Eve, and drive back Sunday afternoon. I had thought about flying, but there is no direct flight from Augusta to Lexington, and hardly any direct flights from and to other airports. It’s just not worth the hassle. Plus, if I drive, I can easily bring all the presents :) This year, Sean will stay home, as he has plans to do some gaming the day after Christmas.

With that decision, I’m feeling more and more ready for my favorite holiday.

I’m also going to have a Christmas party. This year, I’ve been trying to observe all the end-of-year holidays more. I dressed up for Halloween, I roasted a Thanksgiving turkey for the first time, and now I’m going to host a Christmas cookie and gingerbread house decorating party. I’m going to invite dozens of people and let them bring their kids, and I’m going to set up decorating stations all over the apartment. It’s going to be a blast!

I’m glad I’m taking the time to really enjoy the holidays. It’s a lot of fun :)

Christmas parties

On Friday Sean graciously agreed to escort me to my office Christmas party, held at the Silver Palms Catering Hall in National Hills shopping center.

I ended up working later than I should have, due to trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible, and when I did finally clock out I still had to change. Once I was in my outfit I realized that my shoes were completely wrong. So on my way home I stopped at Payless to see if they had any tall boots.

They did, but not any that would fit around my huge calves.

Wondering what in the world I was going to do, I got home and dove into the closet. I finally just pulled on some hose and sandals, which sounds freakishly horrible, but just trust me when I say that it was much better with the outfit than the clogs I’d been wearing.

Finally we were off. We ended up arriving somewhere around 8. The party actually started at 7, and dinner had already been served, but people were still in line. We found the only open seats next to each other–at a table with the general manager of the station and the head sales guy–and grabbed some plates and loaded them up with pork, chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, squash casserole, and rolls. Sweet tea was already poured at our table.

The food was okay–not amazingly delicious, but decent. The tea was good, and that’s always important.

After eating, we did superlatives. Yes, just like high school. Last week everyone filled out a form voting for the most spirited, friendliest, wittiest, most intelligent, neatest, messiest, hardest-working, most dependable, most talkative, quietest, best hair, best dressed, and best all-around employee (male and female for both).

I ended up winning neatest and most intelligent. I guess all that office cleaning and rearranging paid off! As for being most intelligent, I don’t know…maybe people are mystified by my job. My prizes were a coupon organizer and a book of sudoku problems.

I actually can’t remember which guy was the neatest, but the guy dubbed most intelligent was my favorite weather guy Adam. He comes and hangs out when he can and we talk about the weather (shock) and married life and whatever else. I figure I’m in good company :)

Wes won friendliest, and Travon won best hair, and no one was shocked at all ;)

After that we had the drawing for door prizes. Neither Sean nor I won any of those, but then one of the sales guys, Robert, said “Merry Christmas” and handed us his prize of a Logan’s gift card!

I had described Robert to Sean as being “the flirty type, but not in a creepy way” while we were in line for dinner. When we got settled at the table, Robert came up and grabbed my shoulders and made one of his comments–I don’t even remember what. So I said, “I just told my husband that you were flirty, but not in the creepy way, and then you had to go and do that!” Teasing, of course. “I ruined it, huh?” he grinned back. And then later he goes and gives us his Logan’s gift card. What a guy.

After that it was time for the white elephant gift exchange. People fought quite a bit over the two sets of lottery tickets, and Wes and his girlfriend fought with Adam and his wife over a Rachael Ray cookbook. I actually can’t remember who ended up with it.

I started out with a Talking Tony doll from Scarface, but Don took that and I ended up with a shower radio, which no one took from me.

While I was doing that, Sean tried the cheesecake, which he said was “okay”. I rejoined him at the table in time to watch Frank from sales sing two Elvis songs, and then they started the music and people started dancing.

Sean and I took that as our cue to leave…it’d been a long night. Even if we were late. Parties kind of take it out of us. So we circled around Bonita and Krusher, who were doing some crazy dance in front of everyone, said goodbye, and headed out.

When we got home, Sean showed me how much he appreciated the outfit I was wearing :>

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to another Christmas party. I was on my way home from a busy day: first a salon visit for my regular Brazilian and then my first-ever eyebrow wax (which I think turned out okay), and then a meeting with Robert (not sales Robert, the Robert I used to work for) to discuss the menu guide. We got a lot worked out, and then I headed down the street to Zaxby’s to pick up dinner. As I headed down Fury’s Ferry to go home the long way (Evans to Lock to Industrial/Belair), my phone rang, and it was the Brookemeister.

She gave me a sob story about how her mom and sister-in-law had stood her up, and would I go to her office Christmas party with her? So I said sure. I ate my Zaxby’s at home with Sean, then made sure I was presentable before heading over to Brooke’s place. She was wearing a beautiful black dress and looked fabulous! After she made several trips back into the house for forgotten items, we headed over to the Quality Inn on Claussen Road.

The difference between the hotel’s reception hall and the Silver Palms was striking. This room was decked out in Christmas trees, and the lighting was low and intimate. There was a dance floor in the corner with strobe and colored lights. I liked the atmosphere a lot better than that of my office party, which was just a huge open room with the lights up all the way, and little to no decorations. The Silver Palms did have real tableware, while the caterers at the Quality Inn–who were actually from Fatz Cafe–simply provided styrofoam, but still.

(I wouldn’t take this as a knock against the Silver Palms by any means. I’m sure the individual companies had people in charge of how the rooms looked. You also have to take into account that my office party was a non-denominational “holiday party” and Brooke’s was an unapologetic Christmas party.)

Since I had already eaten, I didn’t try the food, but it looked pretty good. There were chicken fingers and mashed potatoes and gravy and rolls, and I saw something that looked like either meatloaf or salisbury steak, but I could be mistaken. I did partake of the sweet tea, which was good.

Brooke introduced me to a bazillion people whose names I will never remember. We sat at a table with a girl named Alyssa, her fiance Dave who is former Army, and her mom and dad, whose names I forget. There was also a guy to my right and his girlfriend(?), who was very very late. The biggest character at our table turned out to be Dave, who shared with us some rather interesting terms he’d probably learned in the Army. Sorry, Mom, but I have to share one: “Shut your cock hole.” The best part was when Brooke responded to this with, “Wait, guys said this to each other?” and everyone cracked up.

There was a prayer before dinner, and after dinner they did awards for people who’d hit milestones in their years of service. I thought for sure they were going to mention their outgoing records retention librarian, but nothing was said about Brooke and her imminent move to England. I guess 7 1/2 years isn’t enough of a milestone :>

After that the dancing began. Brooke went up to attempt the Electric Slide; I watched the purses, like a true wallflower. After Brooke came back, we watched more people dance for awhile. Then a slow song came on and pretty much everyone (who had a date) got up to dance, and Brooke and I decided to head out. We’d spent almost two hours there, which is pretty respectable!

“So, what now?” Brooke asked me in the car.

“Let’s drive around and look at Christmas lights.”

So we made a pit stop at a gas station so Brooke could hit the head and get some Tylenol (and I succumbed to a moment of weakness and purchased the most adorable little penguin in winter scarf and cap you have ever seen), and then headed over to the myriad neighborhoods off Pleasant Home, Flowing Wells, and Columbia Road. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures–driving slowly through a neighborhood and having to stop every few seconds kind of precludes using a camera–but we saw quite a few lovely displays.

After we’d exhausted those neighborhoods, I headed up Columbia Road, down through Walnut Grove, and then around to the home of Sean’s friend Paul’s mom and stepdad, whose house is always ridiculous at Christmas. It did not disappoint by any means. (Here’s a picture from last year. This year there was a full-size Santa standing under that arch, dancing.)

By then it was after 10, so most people were turning off their lights. I took Brooke back to her house and stopped in at her parents’ briefly before heading home. I finished off my lovely evening with the rest of my Zaxby’s and the Prince of Tennis live action movie (which could have been better, but was cute nonetheless).

I’m thinking about starting some Christmas cookies today, or at least getting a plan ready. Wednesday is Treat Day at work, and everyone’s supposed to bring something. Cookies would definitely be good!