Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Slept in today for the first time in a week. If the last two days hadn't been so hectic and overwhelming, I might feel more guilty about ignoring my blog throughout them. However, now I have my cup of coffee and my cinnamon roll (made from scratch Thursday morning), and I'm ready to write.

We hosted Thanksgiving Dinner this year. My parents moved to the area about seven months ago, so they joined Mark's parents and us. My little brother, Brian, and Sally married five months ago and had Thanksgiving lunch with her parents in north Houston, then joined us for desserts and games. All told, we had eight people for dinner and ten for desserts and games. For a little perspective on eight people eating at our house, here's our dining room.

We enjoyed a few firsts this year:

First time to smoke the turkey (somehow, we managed not to get any photos of the actual turkey in the actual smoker). Mark used lemongrass, rosemary, wood chips soaked in Jack Daniels, white wine, and pretty much anything else that sounded good. The turkey was juicy, flavorful, divine. Perfect.

First time to celebrate with my parents at our house; I think it's only the second Thanksgiving we've spent with my parents since we've been married.

First time to celebrate with my brother and sister-in-law, and first time to have them and my parents over at the same time.

Julia's first Thanksgiving; why yes, that is two vegetarians posing behind a turkey.

First time to make everything from scratch.

Mark insisted on putting a plastic "lid" on the turkey even though it was too small to really trap any heat and it looked like the turkey had enjoyed a particularly libatious time in the smoker. The salad placed front and center is not just adorned with flowers, either. Those are nasturtium, an entirely edible, slightly spicy flower that Mark grows in his garden specifically for salads.

That's right, everything. I made a batch of whole-wheat tomato-basil rolls and mini-loaves Wednesday afternoon. These have a crap-ton of basil in them, so they taste best after sitting for a day or so. They were divine by Thursday evening. Thursday morning, I woke early and made another batch of bread dough. I used half the dough to make cinnamon rolls (there's only one left, and the girls are asleep; I wonder if Mark wants to take care of it), and the other half to make whole wheat rolls. A little later, I taught Julia how to make a batch of bread, and we used half of that dough to make a spinach and feta roll-up (cinnamon roll style, but not sliced) with tomatoes, cream cheese, and walnuts. Julia used the other half to practice her bread-rolling technique and made four more mini-loaves of whole wheat bread. Even after sending everyone home with bread, we still have enough to last us a while.

In the midst of the bread-making, I also made a double batch of butternut squash soup. I had eaten butternut squash before, but never in soup. I worried that it would taste horrible, have a bad texture, rise up in anger and destroy us (I've always thought butternut squash looks like a little alien baby pod. Just saying'), etc. Obviously we have not been destroyed. The soup on the other hand . . . decimated. I think it was the most delicious thing I ever have put in my mouth. Well maybe not, but I love being delighted by new foods.

I peeled and boiled sweet potatoes, chopped nuts, and mixed up a batch of sweet potato casserole. Mark smoked the turkey (starting at 7:30 AM), Julia made red-skinned mashed potatoes, and I rounded it all off by making a chocolate chess pie, two buttermilk pies, and two lemon meringue pies.

I made sweet iced tea, southern style, to drink and asked family not to bring alcohol. After dinner, my brother and Sally arrived, and we sat down to play Curses. We almost didn't play because as I set it out, my mother said, "Oh honey, Brian still has to go to the storage shed and then back to San Antonio tonight; I don't know if we're gonna have time to play anything." As I started to put it away, Brian came into the room and said, "Curses? Sounds like my kinda game! Let's play! Will my time in the Navy give me an advantage?"

If you've never played Curses, go out and get the game right now. It's a very simple game with two decks of cards. One deck contains challenges such as, "You are an anchorman; predict the weather;" or "Sell insurance to the person sitting next to you." The other deck contains curses such as, "You are a leprechaun; whenever someone touches you, protect your cards and yell, 'You're always after my Lucky Charms!'" or "You are Count Dracula. Speak like a vampire: 'I want to suck your blood,' etc."

For each turn, the player first pulls a challenge card and performs the challenge. Then the player pulls a curse card and gives it to another player. That player must perform under the curse throughout the rest of the game including through his or her challenges, getting up to get a glass of water, breaks, etc. If a player breaks a curse and gets caught three times, the player is out of the game. Last person out of the game wins.

We played for about an hour; I had the vampire curse, the "speak like a french person" curse, and the "speak in a high-pitched falsetto" curse. It was hilarious. I also had to imitate everything my brother did (cause of great hilarity when he tried to kiss Sally), and Julia had to keep her wrists stuck to her chest all the time. Sally couldn't bend her elbows, but she had to pinch her nose whenever she spoke. So every time she wanted to talk, she'd jump up and run to my brother, who would hold her nose. And I had to imitate everything he did (poor Sally).

Eventually exhaustion and impending travel won out, and everyone departed. We had a lovely time though, and even after staying up late to clean up the house, we were in bed by midnight.