Turkey Trot

My in-laws took us to “Eat Like a Pilgrim” at Thanksgiving Point this year.  It’s supposed to be an “authentic” Pilgrim-y experience, and I think the emphasis is on the quotation marks.  Want to party like it’s 1699 at home?  Then do the following:

  • Put no forks on the table
  • Provide napkins the size of Rhode Island (men wear ’em on their right shoulders for easier hand-wiping)
  • Put a baby goat in a nearby pen, thereby ensuring that no children stay seated for longer than 2 minutes
  • All women wearing jeans will be put in the stocks
  • Halfway through, a thoroughly oily-chested Squanto should come in and macho-goad everyone into a tug-of-war contest
  • Serve a berry pudding with a lot of refined sugar.  Trust me, the 10-month-olds in your party will LOVE this.  In fact, mine screamed, banged her hand on the table, and occasionally grabbed my arm while screaming and banging if I didn’t stuff berries in her mouth every 15 seconds.

Unless you are suffering from a sinus-pressure headache (which I was) the evening can be rounded out with stately Pilgrim dancing.  Jeff’s History Face was on full throttle.  To tell the truth, I was rather impressed by the setup.  They even had a calligrapher on hand — a CALLIGRAPHER! — to write out whatever you wanted on little slips of paper.  In retrospect, I regret not taking the chance to get something like “PWNED” written in swirly whirly script.

But, anyway.  Real Thanksgiving was just as much fun.  It was at my parents’ house this year.  We ate this many pies (I made a chocolate chess pie, a mango pie [not pictured] and a pear-frangipane tart):

. . . which was pretty much the only photo I took of the entire holiday.  Oh, except baby Emmy!  She’s my little niece and apparently the only other thing I found as beautiful as pie:

Meanwhile, we gave Katie her own little bowl of whipped cream for dessert.  I love this picture; it’s the epitome of post-Thanksgiving stupor:

Annnd . . . that’s it.  No pictures of turkey, no happy people seated around a table, nuttin’.  I snapped this photo when I got home so I wouldn’t feel so bad.  It’s a display of Thanksgiving crafts and whatnot that I put on our mantel:

Eleanor made this little ceramic dish at school, of which she is rightfully proud:

In other news, during Thanksgiving weekend, the kids were taken to three movies in three days.  All Hail the Muppets.  For them, I am truly thankful.

The Turkey Trot

Here’s Eleanor’s “Thankful Turkey” that she made in kindergarten:

The words on the feathers are kind of random (peas?  peaches?) and I think she was picking them off of a board of suggested words her teacher made.  Thanksgiving had quite the impact on her class; over the past few days the favorite recess game is a holiday-inspired variation of tag.  As Eleanor put it, “The girls are all Indians, and Fiona is our pet turkey.  Then the boys are all Pilgrims and they try to catch our turkey and eat her up!”

It sounds like kindergarten hasn’t changed much since I was a kid, in some ways.

The funny thing is that even though all of my kids are in different classes — or different schools — they all brought home paper tipis they had made in class.  I mentioned this in my previous “100 thankful things” post, but here’s the picture of the display Eleanor made of them on the piano:

Love that bison piggy bank.

Thanksgiving proper was celebrated at Brian’s parents’ house.  Here is our festive spread — my mother-in-law, Kathryn, found these foil-wrapped chocolate turkeys and encouraged the kids to use them for name cards:

See the funny-shaped turkey in the center of the table?  Brian and I discovered a roasting method called “spatchcocking” — where you cut the spine out of the bird, then press it flat.  Because the turkey is much thinner this way, it takes much less time to roast — only about 70-80 minutes.  This ensures moist, tender meat and a crispy skin.  Brian loves this method, and rubbed a butter-rosemary mixture all over the meat before roasting, which I found fantastic.

After dinner we played games —  a literary variant of Balderdash called Liebrary (in which you make up the first lines of real books, then guess which one is real), and a marathon game of dominoes (dominoes being one of the few games the kids find just as entertaining as the adults).

Jeffrey got bored of games after just one round of dominoes, and wanted to go off to play by himself.  In his social skills class, we’ve learned that this isn’t behavior we should encourage; the rule now is that Jeffrey doesn’t have to play the game, but he can’t go off by himself, either — he has to stay with the group. Since Jeffrey had spent part of the weekend watching the BYU-Utah football game on television with Brian, he decided to stay with us and “call” the dominoes game like a sportscaster would.

“Eleanor passes a 5 to Mommy!” he cried, as Ella put down a tile.  “Mommy blocks it!”  Then, whenever someone played a double tile, “TOUCHDOWN!”

100 Things to be Thankful About (part 3)

68.  The Periodic Table of the Elements.  Quite useful in its own right, but it also inspired Daniel Radcliffe to do THIS:

69.  The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Yeah, it’s cheesy and commercial, but for some reason I just love it.  How can a person have something against giant puffy balloons?

70.  Hoberman Spheres.  The very cool, very fun 21st-century version of a Slinky.

71.  When my kids take our Hoberman Spheres and wear them on their heads like giant rainbow Afros

72.  Ukulele/accordion duets

73.  How Jeffrey sometimes refers to a ukulele as a “rainbow banjo”

74.  “A room without books is a body without soul” — Cicero

75.  Playing a really powerful fugue on the organ, or jazz standards on the piano

76.  A really hot shower, especially if it’s been a few/couple days.  (Although, according to Lynne Rae Perkins, you should never make decisions right after a shower like that.  Your outlook on life is just too optimistic and you’re bound to do something a little too spontaneous and freewheeling.)

77.  $5 pizza at the end of an exhausting day

78.  Watching little kids run around haybale mazes, scolding each other for cheating

79.  Pumpkin pie with real whipped cream

80.  Vintage Fisher Price Little People.  I love collecting them from thrift stores, my kids love playing with them.  My favorite has to be the Merry-Go-Round.  William loves putting a boy Little Person inside it, then saying “that’s me!” every time it comes around.

81.  Apple pie, apple cake, applesauce, a big dutch pancake with an apple-cinnamon compote on top

82. My mother’s “secret” recipe for potato rolls.  They are excellent for dunking in hot cocoa or making sandwiches with leftover turkey.  I made three dozen of them today, and the first dozen disappeared within 15 minutes of coming out of the oven.

83.  The Big Bear — this is a giant beanbag chair we have with a cover made of brown furry plush.  Today the kids decided to “pretend it was bedtime,” which involved putting on pajamas, stripping all sheets and blankets off Jeffrey’s bed, and then roll the Big Bear back and forth on the mattress while shrieking.  (And then what happened?  See #77)

84.  What’s Up, Doc?

85.  Baby boy bellybuttons.  I have a vintage 2007 model.  They are so choice.  If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.  And then blowing bubbles all over it.

86.  Singing showtunes while doing the dishes

87.  Sock-skating across hardwood floors

88.  Today all the girls in Eleanor’s dance class got to wear “Ginny dresses,” these long billowy dance outfits that look like frilly old-fashioned nightgowns and were designed by the founder of the dance school.  The skirts are generous and swirl out when the girls twirl and skip.  Eleanor’s was lavender-colored and puffed out like a marshmallow while she danced.  It was so sweet!

89.  Sleeping in, being woken by little kids running around the room, climbing on the bed and smothering you with kisses

90.  Watching Anne of Green Gables or The Gilmore Girls while folding laundry

91.  The best road trip playlist ever

92.  The “blue flame” — when what you love to do intersects with what you’re really good at

93.  A big potluck dinner with all your best friends

94.  Pom poms on baby hats (submitted by Brian, who just finished knitting a baby hat)

95.  David Bowie’s “Golden Years,” probably the coolest song ever recorded

96.  People who are good at forgetting all the stupid embarassing things I’ve said over the years

97.  The way the bark of Ponderosa pine trees smell like vanilla

98.  The Ted Danson Game — in which celebrities’ names are inserted into popluar song lyrics (“You make me feel like Ted Danson!”)

99.  The Too Stupid to Sleep Club — invented in college whenever my friends and I stayed up past 1:00 a.m. talking (the record is staying up until 5:30 a.m.)

100.  Peace, Prosperity, Pancakes

100 Things to be Thankful About (part 2)

34.  William’s hilariously adorable mispronounciations.  We even made a SONG about it!

35.  The bottomless pit of mittens and hats known as the hall closet

36.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

37.  That one guy I knew in high school who loved the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so much that he actually CARRIED A TOWEL AROUND WITH HIM IN HIS BACKPACK.  And by “backpack,” I mean LEATHER BRIEFCASE.

38.  Stacks of brand-new glossy magazines

39.  My children’s literature pie night group.  We get together once a month or so at a Marie Callendar’s and discuss new books while gorging on pie.  Good heavens, it keeps me sane knowing I’m not the only one in the world who gets excited about picture books

40.  Children’s cheeks, whipped apple-red from playing outdoors

41.  Root beer floats — made with a 1:1 ratio of ice cream to soda

42.  The IKEA Real Sweedish Cooking Cookbook — probably the world’s quirkiest English translation of a cookbook.  It includes the phrases “The Swedish Christmas table is a trencherman’s El Dorado” and “Behold!  The Full Monty of the Swedish herring plate!”

43.  Someone to mock a cheesy bad movie with

44.  The excitement of picking out a gift that is “just right” for someone — especially a little kid

45.  Sidewalks waxed with layers of leaves

46.  Someone who looks around the crowded room and decides they’d like to sit next to you

47.  Candles that smell like fresh-cut pine trees

48.  All three of my kids came home with paper tipis they made as part of a unit on Native American lifeways.  They are all sitting on the piano together, a little paper village, and Eleanor also dug up her bison-shaped piggy bank and set it beside them, like it’s the village pet or something.

49.  The whistling sounds the wind makes as it blows over my chimney

50.  Big-holed, crisp-crusted sourdough bread, studded with roasted cloves of garlic

51.  “Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”  (2nd Kings 6:16)

52.  “Lead you down the primrose path,” “Sweets to the sweet,” “Every dog will have its day,” “hoisted by his own petard,” and other common sayings that all came from Hamlet

53.  “Over the River and Through the Woods,” currently Eleanor’s favorite song to play on the piano, dance to, and sing (although not all at the same time)

54.  A cheese plate put together by someone who knows what they’re doing.  (Especially if it includes St. Andre’s Brie)

55.  Oh, come on.  You have to try the St. Andre’s triple-cream brie.  It tastes like butter, but in all the right ways.

56.  Jeffrey’s endless list of grandiose plans — to build an airplane out of junk he finds in the garage, to buy a WWII-era tank and put it in the backyard, to write a play with a cast of about 98 people

57.  The inherent paradox in Jeffrey’s little-boy love of off-road vehicles, paired with his horror of learning that people use them to go off-road.  “What?!?” he cries, “They go off the TRAIL?  But they’ll BUST THE CRYPTOBIOTIC SOIL CRUST!”

58.  Hot buttered toast with honey on top, especially as it’s described in The Wind in the Willows:

When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.

59.  When I was in fourth grade, I read that passage from The Wind in the Willows and insisted on making myself hot buttered toast for breakfast every day for weeks

60.  Johnson & Johnson’s no-tears baby shampoo.  I love bathing my kids in it, and the way it makes their hair smell afterwards.  On bath nights I end up sniffing their heads so much that they complain.

61.  Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park

62.  This German drink my family used to get in gasthouses when we were stationed overseas.  It’s made with one-half Fresca, one-half Coca-Cola, and for the love of me I can’t remember its name, but trust me, it’s delicious.

63.  The version of “Turkish Delight” my third-grade brain came up with when I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I imagined it tasted like Samoas, the caramel/coconut/chocolate cookies sold by the Girl Scouts.  This is probably the main reason I get so excited by Girl Scout cookies every year

64.  My children’s recent discovery of the classic Saturday morning ritual: waking up early, watching cartoons and eating cold cereal right out of the box

65.  Playing the Shirts’ family version of Apples to Apples

66.  Waiting for a storm, gathering up spare candles, flashlights, and fuzzy slippers for everyone

100 Things to be Thankful About (Part 1)

  1. Brian’s awesome snow sculptures.  We had our first real snowfall Saturday night, and right after church Brian took the kids out to build.  This is what they made, although the photo doesn’t do it justice:

See?  It’s a backhoe made of snow!  William is overjoyed to have his very own toddler-sized “digger.”  He’s spent long hours sitting in that little seat on top, singing “Dig, dump, dig, dump” over and over again.

  1. My elbows don’t bend the other way.  (Think about it.)
  2. The way numbered lists don’t reset themselves in Microsoft Word.  (Geez, WordPress — what is your problem?  This should be #3!)
  3. Reading Lists — better even than CPR for keeping dead authors alive
  4. Fluffy pillows bobbing about on white sheets, like pats of butter in fresh cream
  5. Red candles in crystal candlesticks
  6. The “Thanksgiving” wreath that I procrastinated putting up until today, which means it will get a whopping 6 days on the door until we haul the Christmas decorations out this weekend.
  7. Butter pecan cookies.  I’m making them tonight for William’s preschool “harvest feast” tomorrow.  (You gotta love a Lutheran preschool.  They know how to feast.)
  8. The way Jeffrey strutted around Great Clips after getting his haircut on Saturday.  He was thrilled because the stylist put a palmful of gel in his hair to “spike” it.
  9. How, on regular days, Jeffrey has bedhead that cannot be put down by any amount of gel
  10. Mitochondria.  They are completely separate organisms, yet they live in our cells and help them make energy.  And in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door, they are also hyperintelligent creatures who can TALK to GALAXIES.
  11. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn — currently my favorite book, but this is always subject to change
  12. The way William and Jeffrey have gotten into the habit of “offering me their arm” whenever we walk through a parking lot, like miniature 19th-century gentlemen
  13. The Salt Lake Public Library basement book sale
  14. Eleanor’s awesome skip-spin-jump, a dance move she’s created that could probably take down a moose
  15. Canyonlands National Park — especially the Island in the Sky district
  16. Knitting.  As a woman in one of my knitting classes once told me, “Knitting is the new yoga!”
  17. People who think that knitting could be the “new” anything . . .
  18. .  . . or yoga, for that matter
  19. Mini meatloaf and rosemary-roasted new potatoes, served with salad on the side (our dinner tonight)
  20. Jeffrey just lost his two front teeth.  I’m teaching him the “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” song, and it is more adorable than I can say.
  21. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  22. Rubber-bottomed slippers from Land’s End.  They are indestructible — and I can wear them to pick the newspaper off the front porch
  23. Getting teary-eyed during commercials for Disneyland, realizing that the emotional swing is owing to pregnancy hormones, and pinching my leg to stop the vicious cycle
  24. Fuzzy newborn-sized sleepers with yellow duckies on the tummy
  25. How, in her bedtime prayers, Eleanor prays “that there will be turkey and mashed potatoes and peas for Thanksgiving”
  26. Jeffrey’s current obsession with Roman soldiers.  They were paid with silver coins called denarii.  What?  YOU DIDN’T KNOW?!?
  27. My apparent inability to understand the rules of football.  This saves me the trouble of pretending to care about football
  28. Squeezing still-warm chocolate ganache directly into my mouth — a level of culinary excess that must be experienced to be truly appreciated
  29. Digging up movies on Netflix, and the pleasure of knowing that I’ll never have to go inside a video store again
  30. Hot spiced cider, peppermint-flavored hot chocolate, and an endless supply of graham crackers
  31. Jeffrey just told me that we are “this close” (holding up fingers to demonstrate) to Christmas, so we should start buying more Nutcrackers
  32. These four amazing, crazy people that I live with

Twice Thanksgiving

This was the first year that my parents told me not come to their house for Thanksgiving. 

Oh, yes.  But not out of spite or harpiness, but simply because my parents have decided that this was the year that all married children eat at their in-laws’ houses.  Next year, we’ll all be back at home.  (My mom said “we get the odd-numbered years, because we’re so odd.”)

So . . . dinner in Provo.  Brian and I were in charge of making my family’s luscious secret-recipe rolls, and acquiring a fancy cheese plate.  Oooh, fancy cheese!  My heart rejoiceth at the thought of thee!  Cheese is REALLY something to be thankful for, no?  Brian’s family had never had a cheese board as part of Thanksgiving; Brian and I got the idea beacause our friends from Pittsburgh, the Seppis, always began holiday meals with one.

Brian and I spent an evening sniffing wedges at the Harmon’s quite excellent cheese counter, and this is what we picked:

  • Morbier — this is a cheese with two layers, separated by a fine border of ash.  The bottom part is from the morning milking, and the top from the evening milking.  It was voted the favorite.
  • Mimolette — a carrot-orange, medium-strong hard cheese.  We bought it for color.
  • Onetic Tomme Noir — a mild white cheese with a black rind.  I found the day after that it makes the best turkey sandwiches.
  • Stilton — the classic British blue cheese.
  • Sage Darby — white and green cheese that we bought again for color.  I think the sage flavor was a little overpowering.
  • French Bouche — a creamy soft goat cheese
  • Barely Buzzed — a locally made cheese; the rind is rubbed with crushed espresso beans and lavender
  • Cahill’s Porter – a white cheese with chocolate-brown marbeling, it’s made with beer.  Its dramatic coloring is in weird contrast to its mild flavor; it was good, but we were disappointed.

And yeah — there was turkey, sweet potatoes, and whatnot.  We stayed up late playing “Sets & Runs,” which I believe is not so much a game as a way to torture your mind.

After that, came Thanksgiving Two: my mom called everyone up last-minute and invited us up to West Point on Friday night to eat leftovers together and play games.  Because all of my siblings were there, and we were eating a full Thanksgiving spread (oooh, heavenly shrimp salad!) it was like we just had two holidays in a row.  After eating, we all stayed up late playing Rock Band.  (I achieved a not-too-shabby 28 phrase streak with “Pinball Wizard.”)  Jeffrey had fun playing on a disconnected bass guitar.  Patrick and Erich rocked the guitar solos.  My 13 year old brother pronounced “Blitzkrieg Pop” as “Bla-gitz-krieg.” 

And much thankfulness was proclaimed by all.