What a crazy couple of weeks I have had! That said, this was the most wonderful, festive Thanksgiving I have ever celebrated, and I have my wonderful family and guests to thank for that. Here is the run-down...
I spent the week and a half leading up to Thanksgiving cleaning, shopping and painting to try to eradicate some of the spaghetti colored hand prints from my walls. Sadly, cleaning in my house, with my four kids, is like trying to move a large pile of sand with a spoon...impossible to accomplish and frequently resulting in a bigger mess than you started off with. I hoped to merely achieve a comfortable, homey atmosphere where you could walk from the couch to the table without hurting yourself on a small, sharp toy. In this, I was successful. I also got the kitchen and bathrooms into a state of visitor preparedness, scraping the toothpaste off the mirror, scrubbing the toilets with pumice to rid them of the chunks of concrete our hard water forms on the porcelain. Beyond that, my bedroom became the clearinghouse for the displaced mess, the baskets of laundry that had been washed and not put away, the dirty laundry that we didn't have time to process, and miscellaneous boxes of crap. I figured if I could just keep everyone out of the master bedroom, things would be ok. The one place that didn't get any better was the kids' room, and that was just filled with more kids playing and messing up, so that was no big issue.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving our old baby sitter, Leah, came from Kansas State. She is looking for a new university and had a tour scheduled for UNM on Wednesday. Her plane arrived Tuesday evening, Charles brought her home, and we fed her some lasagna and relaxed for a little while before hitting the sheets. It was so nice to reconnect with Leah, last time we had actually sat and talked she was a teenage girl, her boyfriend had gone to Iraq and gotten killed, and she has grown, healed, and become this incredibly vivacious, bright young twenty year old woman.
The next day, while Charles took Leah to her tour at UNM, I prepared for my friend, Scott, to arrive from Phoenix. It was to be our first face to face visit in three years, and I was so excited to share a holiday with him, and let him spend some quality time with his "Godkids". He arrived about 30 minutes before Charles and Leah returned bearing almost a full case of wine from the Black Mesa winery near Espanola. We had a nice little visit alone, catching up, while he got to play with Will for the first time. Will, being an excellent judge of character, was immediately best buddies with our friend.
When Leah and Charles came back it was bearing breakfast burritos, and we had a little lunch before the girls returned from their half day of school, and we would be off running last minute errands. Amanda remembered Scott well, Sarah remembered him less well but recalled how he played the guitar for them, and let them play it as well. Maddie didn't remember him at all, but over the course of the next hour would have him seriously charmed. We all drove into town, and headed for Costco, splitting up as we hit the door.
I found Scott in the toy aisle with Maddie and she was working him over pretty hard for a soft, stuffed Winnie the Pooh. I nixed the purchase, and told her to ask Santa Claus for one. We proceeded to the wine aisle, loaded up on some more wine, pies and other treats. After rounding up the kids and everyone we headed back for Edgewood and prepared for our first event, a nice appetiser dinner with Amanda's best friend Katie and her sister (also named Amanda) and their parents, Stan and Debra. Most of the dishes were Costco frozens...the mini quiches, the mini crab cakes...but also some cheeses, wine, juice for the kids, fresh veggies, and some dips. I did make a delicious roasted red pepper and green chile tapenade, which was wonderful on the crab cakes. Most of it was just relaxing and chatting though. The real work came in the morning.
I had been wise enough to do a little cooking before the big day, knowing that it would save me hours of work and stress. I had sweatted some carrots, onions and celery for stuffings, I made a nice cranberry sauce with orange juice, orange peel, vanilla, brown sugar and a little dijon mustard (it was crazy good). I also roasted about 6 heads of garlic in advance. But the real work lay ahead of me on Thanksgiving morning, so I woke up at 6:30 and headed for the kitchen.
First I mixed up a spice cake mix and put that in the oven to bake. I assembled a pumpkin mousse, and that was to be combined in layers in a trifle dish with whipped cream (thank you Paula Deen!) I should mention now that I spent two weeks watching Food TV in preparation for Thanksgiving, making notes and getting some wonderful ideas. I browned some italian sausage, tossed it into a baking dish with cubes of corn bread stuffing mix and added some of my prepared veggies and some chicken stock and set that aside. I also added some vegetable stock to a pan of corn bread stuffing and the veggies, for we had vegetarian guests coming too. I got out the turkey, rinsed and patted it dry, and prepared it using tips from Michael Chiarello and Giada diLaurentis, placing the bird in the roasting pan on top of alternating carrots and stalks of celery, then rubbing it down with a combination of olive oil and herbs, then inserting quartered oranges and onions and some whole sage branches into the cavity. I have to say the bird turned out incredibly good.
While Charles took Leah to the airport so she could share Thanksgiving with her own family in St. Louis, I made a corn dish, and some wonderful roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and set out a veggie tray, and got a quick shower, and learned that our front toilet had kicked the bucket. It refused to flush. This meant that our imminently arriving guests would have to go through the clearinghouse of Compton crap to get to the potty. Oh well, it is what is, right?
We had the most incredible group of guest joining us. The first to arrive was Al and Wendy, from down the street, with their adorable daughters, Lauren who is Maddie's best friend, and Rachael. Wendy had made from scratch a huge platter of cannoli. She even made the shells! I cannot describe just how delicious these were except to say that they were by FAR the best I have ever had. I love this woman. Shortly after their arrival came Charles's friends from work, Yosh and Murthi, and Murthi's wife (I don't know how her name is spelled but it sounds just like the French writer Camus) and their gorgeous little daughter Parnati. Yosh (who is Japanese) brought the most wonderful squash soup, and Murthi and Camus made some great dishes native to India. Charles's cousin Carmen and her husband Rick, and their wonderful daughter Lauren came next. Carmen made sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole, and brought more cranberry sauce and chips and dip. We also had some new friends join us, Jennifer and her husband Borgar (from Norway, now how is this for an international group?) and their perfectly sweet, cuter than imaginable daughter Ellsa. While everyone mingled and got to know one another I pulled out the turkey and started the gravy. I took the roasted vegetables out of the pan and put them in the blender with the drippings and ground them up, they had charred a bit and I figured that would be pretty tasty. I returned them to the pan with a little flour, made a roux and added chicken stock. It was so easy and the gravy was wonderful.
We all ate and ate, tasting all the wonderful dishes from all over. There was a massive amount of food left, I think, we could have fed four times as many people and still had plenty left over. But the best part was talking with everyone, sharing stories and ideas, watching those gorgeous kids chase each other through the house, and just relaxing after preparing the meal.
The group slowly broke up, and at the end of the evening we sent the kids to bed, and Scott, Charles and I began the serious work of consuming six bottles of some very fine wine and discussing the meaning of life, love, and what it was going to take to get him to move out here. I had to give in at 1:15 am and leave the work to the boys, who carried on for another hour. It was so great, Scott is one of those people that just makes you feel so loved.
In the morning we headed out to breakfast with co-godparent Amanda, she and Scott haven't seen one another in 7 years, and it was like not a day had even passed. We sat at breakfast for two and a half hours, before Scott had to get going, due back at work that day in Phoenix.
The kids, Charles and I did a little shopping before they dropped me off at my grandmother's house, as I had to work Saturday and Sunday, and would be staying with her. It was hard leaving the family after such a wonderful holiday together. But, alas, there are presents to buy and plumbers to pay, so work I must.
It is great to be back!