The Sunday evening after Thanksgiving finds me with a messy kitchen, partially emptied suitcases, half clean load of laundry and one Christmas wreath hung outside. I also have a full heart. Almost 13 years ago, my younger sister Heather married her husband Matt. Little did Matt’s parents, Don and Marie (aka Papa and Nana), know they would also be adopting me and my siblings, along with Heather. I always say that Heather won the in-law lottery because Don and Marie are so great. As a result, I have been invited or invited myself to countless holiday dinners and special occasions. The early years included my three nieces and Matt’s brother’s three little ones running around like banshees, hopped up on sugar and excitement, in a Christmas Eve gift opening frenzy. Six children brought the latest toy to the next available adult for help opening. I have unwrapped tiny plastic rubber-bands, zip ties and twist ties off countless Barbie dolls and toy trucks.
This Thanksgiving, I planned on visiting my sister Rachel in Seattle (who also has really cool in-laws). I was going to build a ginger-bread house with my 3 year old nephew Lincoln. I expected this would consist of me decorating the house and Lincoln eating handfuls of frosting and candy. But plans changed. Marie’s mom, Grandma Great, passed away a couple days before Thanksgiving after a long illness. Marie was planning on over 20 people for Thanksgiving dinner at her house. Heather called in the reinforcements (me) to fly down to San Diego and help her cook Thanksgiving dinner so Marie and Don could rest, be with their family and make arrangements.
I expected a last minute flight to be crazy expensive and the airport to be insane. Thankfully, I was wrong on both counts. Fortunately, Marie already bought a turkey that was defrosted. Unfortunately, that was all she bought. Heather just loves (hear it with intense sarcasm) grocery shopping. Grocery shopping with three children is less fun. Grocery shopping with three children the day before Thanksgiving is a horror. But she took one for the team and made it happen.
I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and immediately went to work baking pies with Chef Lily and Chef Gracie. Food critic Anna laid in the middle of the kitchen floor and played with the wiener dog Molly. Lily and Gracie cranked the apple corer, peeler and slicer for apple pie and ate mile long slices of apple peels. Gracie whipped the filling for pecan pie. Heather made the filling for cherry cream cheese pie. Lily cut the dough for crusts and rolled them out. Lily also made “goodies” which are tiny cinnamon rolls made out of leftover pie crust. Anna licked the spoons. Heather and I also made lists and scheduled our cooking plan for Thanksgiving day.
On Thanksgiving, we woke up at 7 am to put the turkey in the oven and made coffee, the nectar of the gods. Matt peeled potatoes and took the trash out over and over. Gracie stirred bacon and onions for green beans. The dogs begged for treats. Basically, everyone pitched in and we got it done. Piping hot dishes and disposable plates were transported to Don and Marie’s where the guest count was diminished slightly. Gracie and I stuffed ourselves with appetizers and black olives. Then we ate dinner. Afterwards, we compared our “food babies” by sticking out our very full stomachs.
Heather and Matt and I shopped at Black Friday sales. The most fun was the people watching and shopping the discards people left in the aisles as they were standing in line. I displayed DVD’s and children’s pajamas in the liquor aisle at one store while we were waiting in line. I tried on Hello Kitty ear muffs with matching gloves at another store. One of us saved our place in line while the other two shopped and looked around. Then we switched it up. After waiting in hour at one store, we decided that we didn’t want anything in our cart enough to wait another full hour. So we left and headed to a couple other places.
The day after Thanksgiving, we slept in and compared notes with Rachel. Heather and Matt put up Christmas decorations while I took a nap (until the girls dog-piled me). Then I shopped with Gracie and Lily for jeans and school sweaters. We also picked up three matching t-shirts with wiener dogs on them. Gracie “I’m obsessed about this wiener dog shirt!!!!” It used to be that they wanted to go with me for fun. This time, I had to bribe them with Thrifty ice cream. Sigh, they’re getting big. The girls sang a new version of “Oh Christmas Tree” to “Oh Wiener Dog” and “Oh Beagle Dog”. It was awesome!
I arrived back home yesterday to a chill in the air and a cool house. Several batches of Roasted Italian Plum Butter, Cherry Pie Plum Fruit Spread and Caramel Pear Butter warmed up the house. It’s still a mess though. I should be cleaning, but I’m writing instead. This trip reminded me of how thankful I am for my family…and “goodies”.