Not-yet-bright and awfully damn early on Thanksgiving morning, the puppy and I are holding down the fort, making sure the couch does not fly up off of its legs and smack into the ceiling. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. We are experienced and adept at this noble task.
Thanksgiving 2012 again finds us as the home team for our favorite holiday. Ever since we bought our home in 1992, it's square footage made it more conducive for large meals and gatherings than that of any relative. Our parents were getting on in years and no longer could host effectively and without the burden of the work (cooking and cleaning) really falling to us anyway. When Thing 1 and then Thing 2 came along, the die was cast as traveling with little kids sucks remarkably. Incidentally, both grandmothers remain with us to this day and are amazingly nimble and spry given their ages and genetics.
(Note: we accidentally got the classic shot of Thing 1 at about 3 months. A year and a half later, night after night we doggedly tried to recreate the scene with Thing 2. The results follow - Thing 2 is the baby with his Dad's unruly black hair, even then):
Our assembled throng for Thanksgiving ebbs and flows over the years, but generally we have accreted people like sand grains on the beach. Some different ones each year, but we never are lacking. Shortly after we were married in '91, Susan and I visited the outlet stores with some of our wedding money and bought fine china. I thought she was nuts when she wanted matching service for 24! "We have a family, not a battalion.!" Even though we had no place to store this china other than in its original boxes in the basement for years, we came home with a car trunk full of Mikasa.
When we bought our home, it was decorated in '70s Sitcom motif. Edith Bunker had gone rampant with wallpaper, Shirley Partridge had laid the linoleum floor in the kitchen, Rob and Laura Petrie had done the bedrooms and bathrooms, while the unfinished basement was vintage Sanford and Son. We had work to do, which we took on gradually as the money tree - which occasionally bloomed back in those days - allowed.
In 2001 with the money tree in full bloom (thanks Bill Clinton!), we undertook a major home renovation. Expanded the garage from one car to two, finished the basement (bedroom, playroom, library, full bath, walk-in cedar closet) and undertook a substantial main level renovation that included installation of a gourmet kitchen. That summer we ate every meal out on the deck, as the kitchen was uninhabitable, for drywall dust and carpenter's screws were everywhere. The fridge and microwave were on cardboard box panels, in out living room. We put the finishing touches on the project just as the planes hit the towers, and the blooming money tree went into immediate dormancy.
So along with our larger mortgage and business challenges, we had new double ovens, a warming oven, a glass cooktop, an island, and most of all, square footage as we had blown it out and cannibalized the former family room after ousting The Waltons from their seats around the fireplace. I should mention that this former family room originally had dark brown paneling, which made it - and the whole house- look small. For years we contemplated painting the paneling, and became inspired after a neighbor in the same subdivision painted theirs MASH-green.
So around 1998 or so and before undertaking the larger renovation, one day while home with toddler Thing 1 and infant Thing 2, Susan undertook to try her hand with painting the paneling.
That day I came home from work to find pink paneling. Now, not the pretty pastel pink you are thinking about. I'm talking blow-your-socks-off, inside-of-a-Pepto-Bismol bottle, exploded Bazooka Bubble Gum factory, hot electric pink. The Benjamin Moore people should be ashamed of themselves for selling any homeowner a couple of gallons of the stuff. The room also had pretty off-white carpet, which was not fairing well under the kid-mess-puppy-piddle traffic it was seeing. All of which was impetus for the project, or at least for its accelerated timing.
So with the expanded kitchen and new neutrally-painted drywall where the pink paneling had been, we were much better equipped for holidays such as Thanksgiving. From a web site I learned to prepare turkey on our gas grill out on the deck, which I have done every year since. That keeps all of our oven space (the double plus a warming oven) clear for side dishes. Our humble kitchen table and four chairs is spun 90 degrees, and extended with between one and three folding tables and card tables. Folding chairs (with ironed covers!) also make their appearance, and we have thick plywood overlays such that once a tablecloth is laid, the affair as a uniform look.
In this manner and within about 30 minutes, our humble kitchen transforms akin to the wardroom of the H.M.S. Surprise becoming a gun-deck within moments of the call to "Beat to Quarters!"
But in our home, Thanksgiving begins sometime in late summer, when Susan 818127 bored and irritated with the time I spend at the pool, begins recipe planning. Her inner Julia Child awakens (not a 70s sitcom star, but she should have been one) and by September our kitchen table is not uncommonly filled with clippings, copies and printouts of the latest exotic takes on stuffing, sweet potato casserole and the like. Each of these is seriously debated from the primary vantage-point of "Would our mothers eat it or scoff at it?"
By early November our fridge and freezer space (we have a lot of that too) gradually becomes filled with various unusual delicacies from the seven seas and various exotic land masses between. Jacques Pepin would be proud. Various dishes are prepared for Thing 1, Thing 2 and me to try, as trial balloons. They can be accepted, accepted with modification, retried with more extensive modification, or rejected. Susan is a far superior cook to Chet from Emergency!, who always seemed to be in mid-spaghetti cooking when Squad 51 was called out to provide Ringers Lactate or D5W to someone, as if we the TV audience were supposed to think those those two IV drugs were cure-alls for everything from appendicitis, to a broken leg, to chemical burns, to pregnancy.
Generally Susan's Thanksgiving culinary experiments work wonderfully well, and therein lies a bit of a problem. You see, through this, we're supposed to be doing the Sparky calorie-counting thing too. This year she did have more than a usual share of mishaps with forgotten ingredients, inattentiveness and re-dos, but still I have every confidence this year's meal also will be amazing. The 5 lbs I have picked up since the beloved pool closed on Labor Day (yes, I cannot tell a lie) so attests. BTW, this is the "why" of the "lose 8 by the end of the year." See my previous blog if you want to play.
As I wrap up this rambling, train-of-thought blog, some things to be thankful for Spark-wise, include:
1. The tools and insights to control portions and track calories, etc.
2. The social camaraderie that is Spark People. Even though we do not know one another in person and never will meet, we all are indeed in this together and there is strength in numbers.
3. That I (and therefore, you too) control what does and does not go onto my plate, and thus, into my mouth. And that what I can control today, is to drink lots and lots of the Sparky water. I'm starting now!
Remember what Less Nessman famously said one Thanksgiving back in the day, following a WKRP promotion gone wrong: "As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly!"
Bottoms up (with the Sparky Water) and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!