Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Thanksgiving, etc.

Actually, since I bothered uploading my pics chronologically, let's address that "etc." before the Thanksgiving part.

November was fun.

Charlie is talking more (and every word he learns replaces screams, so this is more a celebratory development than usual). His most frequently utilized words are "uhhhhhh!" and "pee!" for "up" and "please," both of which are exclaimed in pursuit of being picked up. He'll occasionally say "away" for putting his poopy diapers away in the trash and both "nuh" and "biky" while scouring the house for a beloved nuk/binky. His very most favorite phrase is "bye Da," which he uses not only after forcing slobbery farewell kisses on Kyle/Kyle's helmet, but also as a greeting or farewell to anyone. All affection (and no sense), that kid.

Are you jealous that we have gorgeous outdoor birthday parties in November? Living in a desert, mornings and evening are a bit chilly, but afternoons are balmy and blissful. Below, you see Erik about to score a strike on that unsuspecting stack of cups. He tends toward the less-than-coordinated side when it comes to anything athletic, so I was pleasantly surprised at his skill/luck.

They had all the carnival spoils about, including an inflatable castle jump house, giant bubble station, face painting, carnival games, and an opportunity to redeem tickets for cotton candy and popcorn...

... which became our lunch, along with cake and ice cream. That's cool, that's cool. I'm determined not to be that health freak mom that packs carrot sticks and whole wheat crackers for party snacks and denies her kids second helpings of birthday cake. Okay, I did deny them seconds.

Here's Ellie with her NEW bff/fiance Carter. Actually, though this Carter is also cute, she's not THAT petty. She remains perfectly loyal to Carter Paul and bugs me all the time to set a date to visit him.

Is it an alligator attacking a penguin or a penguin who ate a rogue alligator, or some strange hybrid? (Or just a quirky kid?)

Below is perhaps the greatest evidence that both Erik and Charlie have matured in recent months. Yup, I can no longer assert that each encounter between the brothers is a violent one, as two exceptions have now been captured and published (and might end up framed, just to remind me...).

There has been joy in more than one quarter since Charlie took up hugging as a pastime.

If only he'd give up some other beloved pastimes.

(I never thought I'd be that mom who only photographs her baby nearly-naked and slathered in food filth. Turns out meal time's the only time Charlie's far enough from the lens to get a clear shot (aka not being held).

Another trip to the Arizona Museum for Youth was overdue. Their rotating exhibit this time was all NASA.

This room was actually a super cool black-lighted area filled with glowing stars and planets that gave even me a thrill. Though I have sworn off elaborate birthday parties, I confess it got my wheels turning for an outer space party next May...

We took Noelani to Cafe Rio (the only one in AZ is not far from her house) for a belated b-day lunch. There she shared with me news of her belated birthday gift to me. But this was no ordinary gift, and certainly put the burrito I gifted her to the depths of shame. It is so unbelievably exciting I can hardly type it. Let me just spell it, as I made her do for me twice, just to make sure I'd gotten it right. Okay, here we go: D-I-S-N-E-Y-L-A-N-D! No really, I mean it! DDDDDIIIIISSSSNNNNEEEEYYYYLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNND! It will probably be in January or February, so count on hearing more about that. But shhhhh, it's a secret as far as the kids are concerned.

P.S. Cutest. This actually isn't the best pic of Makakoa because you can't tell how bright and beautiful his brown eyes are, or see his darling, toothless smile. At least there are the chubby cheeks!

Kjerstin and Mish saved Thanksgiving this year by braving Utah storms to spend the weekend with us! We were spectacularly grateful they came, and not just because they spared me the pain of cooking T-giving dinner solo.

On Wednesday, Kyle's Indian friend and his sister came over and she spent hmmmm seven hours (!!!) whipping up an incredible and completely authentic feast for us! She was so sweet to tutor me all along the way because, hey! The way to Kyle's heart is certainly through his curry bone. But the seven hour part...

Anyway, Charlie was pretty impressed with the spread.

And then there was Thanksgiving. Mish was on pie duty, and we went as close to scratch as is reasonable (meaning nothing canned, boxed, or ready-made) this year. What you see below transformed into pure pumpkin-y pie goodness under Mish's skillful hand. She also crafted a strawberry-apple pie that was other-worldly. I guess we were too full and happy to photograph them out of the oven, but holy yum. My mouth is watering at the memory of that pie. (The pumpkin pie was so good that Mish ate nothing else the next day. Until she retched it all up, that is. But I think she said it was worth it.)

I believe Ma had given me a few turkey-gut-sorting demos over the years, but somehow plunging your hand into the head (or was it the butt?) of a raw, dead animal and removing unidentifiable body parts requires a more active form of learning in order for the lesson to stick. I was a complete novice and required both physical and emotional support from Kjerstin throughout my first experience in turkey prep. Having transformed into a mostly vegan chef over the past months, this act was rendered a little more repulsive than I expected. I can't say I've missed handling raw meat.

But then, three hours later, BAM! We had ourselves a gorgeous, crispy, and perfectly moist dead bird. Seriously, this bird was lip-smacking good. Perhaps the cup of herb-infused butter I shoved between the skin and breast had something to do with it? And next time, I will not be so intimidated. It was pretty simple, just like everyone assured me.

Martha has a better picture (that will show up in a later post) that is actually so hypnotizing-ly good that I couldn't get the image or idea out of my head for days. Green bean casserole has always been a family fave. Only thing is, where were those green beans? I'm not actually sure if there really were certifiable veggies hiding under all that cream of mushroom and french fried onions.

I'm not meaning to dis the traditional green bean casserole. Like I said, it's always been a favorite. However, fresh green beans, fresh mushroom sauce, and fried shallot rings officially constitute my new favorite green bean casserole.

I used frozen cranberries to make a simple sauce. Nobody eats the cranberry sauce anyway, from my experience. (Revamped into pesto, however, the story changed! More in later post.)

Mish was a wise woman to recommend frozen Rhodes rolls. They tasted homemade and saved us a load of counter space and sanity.

Buttery, mashed sweet potatoes might be my fave. I was introduced to them at a Williams Thanksgiving dinner and haven't been able to stop making and devouring this dish regularly ever since.

Kjerstin made super creamy, chunky, flavorful mashed potatoes which were almost as essential to the festivity as the bird who gave its all.

Martha's sourdough cornbread stuffing recipe (followed loosely) was a winner in my book. Then again, what wouldn't taste good drenched in liquefied turkey lard?

Acorn squash made a pretty side dish, but couldn't compete with potatoes and gravy, so I'll skip it next time.

Kjerstin's first attempt at turkey gravy turned out perfect! This was another intimidating task, but she conquered!

This was more of an after-thought (otherwise it would've been doused in cream and salt), but corn makes Mish happy, and we aim to please.

Every Thanksgiving dinner of my memory has been delectable and supremely satisfying, and yet, preparing a feast for hours upon hours with my own bare hands truly does make food taste better. Kjerst and I were ridiculously proud of ourselves for pulling off the turkey, stuffing, and gravy, and every single dish was perfect. Really, nothing went wrong or yucky in the least. We loved it all!

But some people were especially fond of the turkey.

And even the turkey legs, in a manner that would surely make my Chinese, bone-cleaning mother proud.

And some people were just plain scary about the turkey.

And then it was over. But not really, because I still had to make the leftovers appetizing for the next week or so. Also not really because Thanksgiving is about more than just the grub, right?! Just to prove it, we spent the entire next day shopping!!!! Weeeeeee that is always a thrill. And then living it up at a Christmas light display and setting up the Christmas tree and stuff. Oh right, but Thanksgiving. Ahem.

I have actually been working on increasing my level and breadth of gratitude lately. I believe it just may be the key to experiencing relentless happiness. I have tried to replace feelings of dissatisfaction with reminders of my happy and abundant situation because I do live a charmed life, after all.

This year, I am grateful to be exactly who I am. I was born with every advantage one could reasonably desire, I was raised in a perfectly loving family, and now I have the privilege of trying to raise my own. Of course my life is far from perfect, but I've discovered that that's mostly the result of my own imperfections, not my circumstances or faults of those around me.

I am especially grateful to know that I am needed, not just by my immediate family members, but by God. I know He's put me here in this place of privilege not just to experience richness of life, but also to perform a particular mission that's important to Him. I am so honored and ecstatic to continue in this work. Even if, for now, that means diffusing endless skirmishes and washing peed-on bedsheets for nights on end...

Smiles and frowns between them, I am happy and I am grateful. It is good to be me.


Anonymous said...

I miss you.

Thanksgiving dinner looked AMAZING!!! Way to go on the turkey! Cleaning one out still terrifies me.

nimbus said...

My mouth is watering over the thanksgiving day dinner. Great post.

sara said...

Wow, that post made me hungry and exhausted. I think I'll take a nap and then eat. I didn't even cook anything this year for thanksgiving and I was worn out from the shopping. I hope you scored some awesome deals!

Marilyn said...

Okay, now i'm hungry. No fair.