THANKSGIVING WEEKEND RECAP

November 30, 2014

thanksgiving2014

a feast so nice, I made it twice

I’m in complete denial of the fact that twelve hours from now I’ll be in the middle of first grade main lesson. This break shaped up to be everything I wanted it to be and I just don’t want it to end. I’m already dreading kissing that baby goodbye, the familiar pit in my stomach having returned after taking a few days off, long enough for me to entirely reconsider our present arrangement.

Being at home has been good, real heart warming and such. This family of mine is something else, tantrums and all. Eleven and eight is just about as far apart as three years can get, is what I’ve come to think about the whole situation. That it’s a phase doesn’t make it any more tolerable, however, so patience can be tested and often is. But between the erratic sleeping schedule of our precious nine month old and the seemingly constant bickering of the elder siblings, we all managed to really relax over the Holiday weekend. Even B was able to unplug from work for a few days, something that very rarely happens, which made everything that much more cozy and delightful.

We watched our fair share of seasonal flicks:

Christmas Classics, Volume One
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Arthur’s Christmas
Elf
A Muppet Christmas Carol
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

We ate more than our fair share of festive fare:

Mashed Potatoes with Broccoli, White Carrots, and Chives
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Leek and French Lentil Gravy
Butter Lettuce Salad with Persian Cucumber, Black Olive, Purple Carrot, Pomegranate Seed, and Avocado with a Shallot Champagne Vinaigrette
Stuffffing
Cranberry Sauce
Dinner Rolls
Pumpkin Pie
Maple Bourbon Apple Pie
S’mores Bites

Most of my time since Wednesday has been spent in the kitchen and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. And yes, everything was delicious. Which is why I made almost all of it again from scratch on Saturday, mostly because there was a surplus of cranberry sauce and no leftovers left, but plenty of on-hand ingredients. Including the most important ingredient of all, time.

Oh, spare time. You elusive unicorn. How I have reveled in your luxury.

Also, one of my dearest friends for nearly twenty years came and spent the weekend with us. And to top things off, we got our Christmas tree this afternoon. She doesn’t have a name yet, but she’s a beauty.

I might not have gotten my act together in time to set up our Advent wreath or bake any molasses cookies, but the scent of evergreen is swirling through the air and it’s beginning to look a lot like you know what.

Hallelujah!

THANKSGIVING EVE

November 27, 2014

forsunandrain

a blessing from Jade’s second grade class

It’s just before midnight, which means that by the time I’m finished writing this, my pumpkin pie will be fresh out of the oven and it will officially be Thanksgiving.

Prep Day was every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be, surprisingly much less chaotic, even. I might actually serve our meal on time! Although, I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I had intended. One of these days I’ll figure that part out. But for now, I’m pleased just to have things so neatly organized. I’m anticipating another fun day in the kitchen pulling everything together, especially the part where my daughter and I set the table.

And then we feast!

As is customary on this occasion, I present unto you my Thankful List.

My family, above all my family. I am so lucky to share my life with my sweet mister, a man so kind and hard-working, who cares for me and my children in such a beautiful way. The three little spirits that chose me to be their mama are my biggest inspiration, and my proudest accomplishment. Being a mother is a fundamental part of my identity, and watching these three grow makes me happier than anything else on Earth.

Our life here in San Diego is beyond my wildest dreams. Our house, our neighborhood, our school, our friends, all of it is just so good. Granted, it’s obscenely expensive and a lot of hustling is required in order for us to stay, but we’ve lived at the same address going on fifteen months and I’m so grateful to get to have this experience.

There are a million different little things like late night sewing, strong coffee, good comedy, the sound of my children laughing, the way B’s neck smells, I simply could not list them all here. But it is these little things that conspire to make my life so darn lovely, and I’m never not aware of what a lucky girl I am.

I have been challenged this year in many ways, but none so agonizing as day my tiny guy was born. Those nine days, and the nine months that followed, taught me about faith and resilience, opening my eyes and my heart to the delicacy in each and every moment. I am a different person than I was before I was put under anesthesia, and it’s hard not to be grateful for something, even something awful, that I believe actually bettered me.

Before I go, I want to let you in on one of my little secrets. The night before Thanksgiving, I put a whole bunch of vegetable scraps (like the ones I gathered while prepping the stuffing, salad, and gravy) into my crock pot along with a handful of fresh herbs and a sprinkling of some spices, cover it all up with water, turn that sucker on low, and let the savory aroma of fresh vegetable stock filter through my house all night long. When we wake up, the air will be positively intoxicating, and I’ll not have cooked a darn thing yet. It’s a great way to get the day started, in my humble opinion, as there is definitely something rather wholesome and fulfilling to a house smelling so delicious.

With that, I’m off. Wishing you and yours a very cozy and very yummy Holiday!

READY, SET, CELEBRATE

November 26, 2014

piecrust

last year’s pie in progress, which will definitely be making a repeat performance this year

Cue the carols and pop the champagne, it’s Prep Day!

I think today might be my favorite day of the year, if I had to choose just one. Fact is, there is absolutely nothing at all that warms me to the core the way spending hours in the kitchen cooking for the people I love most does, especially when the meal I’m preparing happens to be our Thanksgiving Feast. It is perhaps the only occasion that requires meticulous planning and expert execution in terms of my culinary prowess, which is to say it’s the one time I feel even a little bit like a real chef, my not-so-secret aspiration.

I headed to the markets early this morning, fully prepared to brave absolute chaos as penance for my procrastination, when instead I was treated to the most charming and fortuitous shopping experience ever at both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and if you’re a Central San Diego local, you know exactly how truly special an event this was. Parking spot directly across from the front entrance? Check, check. Every ingredient I needed (and then some, ahem)? Check, check. No lines and friendly cashiers? Check, check! Bonus points to the cute old ladies at TJ’s, whom I was more than happy to assist in locating the green beans. Did I mention that I was alone? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!!!

Homeward bound, laden with delicious abundance, this is when the Holidays really begin. The next 24 hours will be spent carefully and lovingly crafting a positively royal spread to be enjoyed by the finest of folk, followed immediately by Christmas movies + cookies + the decking of our halls. It just doesn’t get any better, it really doesn’t.

I have so so so much gratitude bursting forth from my soul for all the many blessings that have been showered upon me this year. Yes, it has been a painful year, quite literally so, but it’s also been the kind of year that is transformative. I can’t remember the last time I cooked Thanksgiving in the same kitchen two years in a row because I don’t think it has ever happened before. We are so fortunate to call this place home, and even more fortunate are we to have added a new place setting at our Holiday table, for one Roux Huckleberry, the most scrumptious baby in all the land. You can bet I will be nibbling on him for dessert tomorrow, thank you very much.

The time has come for me to throw on my apron and get to work. I’m trying my hand at plant-based pumpkin pie, a special request from my eldest child, along with all of our favorite festive dishes. And stuffing. Stuffffing. Lots of good things in store for our bellies, my friends, and I wish the very same to you. Happy Thanksgiving!

NOTE TO SELF

November 24, 2014

poinsettia

Well, we didn’t make it out the door in time for jazz class Saturday morning, on account of too much hot cocoa and too many cookies, which I think might be the eight year old equivalent to a hangover? We partied preeeety hard Friday night, not one but two Christmas movies, and I stayed up extra late finishing the gift she and I made for her friend, the birthday girl. Mama + Daughter Date Nights are some of the very best, just saying.

I found myself with a few extra minutes on my hands this morning, which I put to good use by sitting down at my computer while sipping an extra cup of coffee, a rare luxury these days. Oh, Pinterest! How I’ve missed you! It’s the little things, really. The weekend flew by, and I blame it all on the fact we were busy busy busy. But here we are, Monday morning, with no school routine to speak of and how gloriously extravagant it feels to still be in my pajamas at nearly 10 AM. It helps that said pajamas are a pair of these, the coziest pants of all time. I might not ever take them off, actually. Sorry, B.

I’ve only two things on the agenda today – clean my house top to bottom, and brave the holiday crowds at the markets to gather the last of the necessities for Thursday’s feast – neither of which sounds particularly appealing. I’d much rather spend my day lazing about, making a mess in my studio and avoiding people altogether. There is nothing worse, in my humble opinion, than a parking lot during the Holidays. What is it with drivers? I miss my life as a cyclist every single day, but never more than during this time of year!

I realize none of this is particularly interesting, which, to me, is precisely what makes it so compelling. There is a kind of sweet, calm energy pulsing through my home, and it’s rather lovely to have nothing else clouding my brain for a change except how deliciously simple things can be if I choose to see them that way.

THANKSGIVING BREAK STARTS NOW

November 21, 2014

hotcocoa

When you’re a teacher, even an assistant teacher as I am, there is no greater sense of accomplishment than arriving at the end of the last school day before vacation. All Fridays are special, but the Fridays before a long holiday are the stuff dreams are made of. I’ve been eagerly anticipating today for exactly such a reason, and I’m here to tell you that yes, it is as glorious an occasion as I’d expected.

We’ve got a busy weekend of dance classes, baseball tournaments, birthday parties (Happy Birthday, Mareluna!), and errands ahead of us, but first things first, I say. There is but one way to properly welcome the Holiday Season, and that is by sipping hot cocoa and nibbling on cookies while watching a Christmas movie.

It just so happens that I managed to perfect the most delicious dairy-free hot chocolate, which might actually be just the most delicious hot chocolate, period.

Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut Milk
High Quality Dark Chocolate (I used a 56% since I was making this for my daughter, but I think it would be superb with an even darker chocolate)
Maple Syrup
Dandies Marshmallows

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk coconut milk until evenly heated through but not boiling or scalded. Add a few pieces of chocolate, and continue whisking until well incorporated. Sweeten to taste with a splash of maple syrup, top with a few marshmallows, and cozy up with your loved ones. Pro tip: anything made to the accompaniment of Christmas music tastes better.

It’s called the most wonderful time of year because it is!