1125 Five Years Running

2006: 14 friends, 1 guest dog, 1 cat, 1 arm in a cast, 1 dropped cutting board, 2 sneaky surprise guests.

Photo by Keem

2007: 2 friends from Massachusetts and 1 from Illinois brave horrible holiday traffic to travel to DC, visit the zoo, play trains, and talk about DRUNK BEES.


2008: Day after Thanksgiving dinner, pork shoulder, colcannon, spinach quiche, fondue, queso, crafternoon

Photo by Soy

2009: Eating pie at Village Inn in Davenport even though we’re all stuffed from actual Thanksgiving

Just like last year
Photo by Soy

2010: To the farm! Featuring Baby 80

Thanksgiving Friendos


1124 Thanksgiving Prep


We’re leaving in the very wee hours of the morning to drive to Iowa to spend Thanksgiving with my family and also with the Wadsgreens – so tonight was very much about clearing the fridge, packing the bags, and doing a bit of meal prep since we’re likely to roll into Davenport just in time for dinner.

I would say that my grandparents are getting up there in years, but that would be an understatement. They’re old. My grandma was born in 1918, so her first Thanksgiving would’ve been just after Armistice Day. My grandpa was born two years later – his childhood on a farm in very rural Iowa might’ve looked like this:

1920' ish Iowa
Photo by drivebybiscuits1

This year we’ll have eleven at dinner: the two of us, my grandparents, my parents and my aunt Nancy, Eric, Jenn, Bill, and little Max. Mark will be celebrating with friends in California, but will be home for Christmas. Uncle Tom, Aunt Ann, and the little cousins will be with Ann’s family. Uncle Rich will be in Iowa City. There will be turkey and stuffing and Grandma’s mashed potatoes and butterhorn rolls. We will drink wine out of tiny glasses, and Grandma will fuss over the dishes if we don’t get the dishwasher started before she can get up from the table. It will be very warm in the house. These things never change, though this year I’ll be introducing two new dishes: sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese and carrot cake, both from Smitten Kitchen.

Part of the reason I love friend Thanksgivings so much is the lack of codified traditions. We each bring our own things to the table – literally and figuratively – and discard the things that don’t work. I love this. But I also love the traditions. I love the fact that our family recipes – boring and predictable as they can be – are ties to the past, to the years of shrimp cocktail before dinner, of being sandwiched at the dinner table between my aunt and my mom, of sneaking sips of wine after the meal. I argued against having a turkey this year, but I know I’d miss it if it wasn’t on the sideboard along with Mom’s cranberry sauce and the small cut glass salad bowls.

Going home for the holidays is expensive and time consuming – hours in the car, money for pet sitters and expensive tanks of gas and food on the road. Moods run thin, we eat too much, and sleep is compromised by unfamiliar beds. I dread the drive and the stress, and part of me will be relieved when we don’t have to make as long of a trip. At the same time, I treasure the years and years of memories, and look forward to the brief amount of time we’ll have with my family around the table. I feel tremendously blessed.


I was away from the computer all day yesterday, so I missed out on posting my list of the things for which I’m thankful. In no particular order:

  • coffee (as nurturing as mother’s milk for the over-tired adult)
  • a pretty freakin’ good life with a great partner, cool cats, and a new city that we’re really enjoying
  • relative financial stability, thanks to savings, a good job for SB, and part time jobs that keep me hoppin’
  • continued good health for my family, including my grandparents who are still navigating the stairs in their split level house at 91 and 89
  • finding friends and community through SELMA
  • eligibility for insurance as SB’s “Other Qualifying Adult”
  • losing enough weight in the last couple of years to fit perfectly into my aunt’s wool skirts from high school and my grandma’s party dresses from the 60s = major vintage clothing haul from the Bon Ton Fesenmeyer
  • connecting with friends over this long weekend – Jason and Sonya in Iowa (4th Thanksgiving in a row!), then (almost) the rest of the GSLIS crew in Chicago tomorrow night
  • a new brother in law and our first niece or nephew on the way for a spring delivery!
  • lots of options for local between the farmers’ market, the co-op, and Plum Market
  • a puffy fluffy green jacket to get me through the winter, especially as I hear it snowed this morning in A2
  • the safe arrival of Milo!
  • rediscovering knitting, improving the x-stitch, and figuring out my sewing machine
  • so many ways to stay connected to all the people we love in all corners of the country and the planet


Well hey there, kind readers!  It’s been way too long!  In my defense, I was trying to do NaBloPoMo, but then I failed at that, so I guess I really have no defense.  That’s neither here nor there.

Since we last checked in, we made our first actual trip to Baltimore – Shane for the SPARC meeting, and me (along with Sipes) to meet Shane to see Iron & Wine at the worst venue in the history of venues (other than the always-stellar Murat Egyptian Room.  I’m eager to go back – to Baltimore, not the Ram’s Head LIVE! – when the weather’s nicer so that we can actually explore a bit.  I’m also craving more Icelandic yogurt from Carma’s Cafe.

Then! Sonya and Jason came down from Boston for Thanksgiving weekend!  They braved a terrible, terrible drive for a couple of days of hanging out, crafting, and excellent food.  Shane made an incredible pork shoulder for our non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and then Tina joined us for the first Helpful Paws Collective Crafting Bee, and we prototyped a few things for our Etsy shop.  Amidst all of this, we spent quality time with Harper, Sappho, Michigan, and Iko.

And Then! we drove down to Harrisonburg for Thanksgiving dinner number two with the MacDonalds, Andy, Claire, and Dan.  Sarah made maybe the best turkey either of us have ever had, as well as a slew of delicious side dishes.  Claire tried some meat (her first in years!), and we spent an exceptional amount of time watching YouTube videos, especially:

This week we’ve mostly been catching up – on sleep, on homework (did I mention that I’ve scheduled my defense?), on the mysterious contents of our crisper (which I fixed!), and on the season.  We had our first serious bout of snow flurries last night amidst our fun Caturday with Sipes – brunch at Commissary DC, shopping at the Craft Mutiny Holiday Booty Market, Katamari, drinks at Fireflies, and then a serious amount of Planet Earth and music videos (remember those?) with Sipes and Adam.  We also managed – OK, it was totally me – to double-book ourselves and so had to miss out on fun with David & Mary Clare.  😦

And now it’s the end of the weekend, and we’re both wiped, but we did manage to put up our tree and wrap our presents and listen to Christmas music.

Thanksgiving Eve

In the years I lived in Champaign, Thanksgiving Eve was always the best night to go out.  The sorts of people who go out on Thanksgiving Eve can be generally broken into two camps: those who are home for the holiday and happy to be out seeing friends and loved ones, and those who are avoiding either the friends/loved ones or don’t have them to begin with.  In short, it’s an ideal night to go out if you want to have one drink with people, or if you want to sit at the end of the bar with your beer and read your book for a while.  I miss that.

It’s Thanksgiving Eve here in Alexandria, and our apartment is humming with laundry and dishes and puttering as we get ready for Jason and Sonya to arrive in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  We’ve dispensed with tradition, so tonight we made no pies, prepped no mashed potatoes.  Instead, we hit Rustico’s happy hour, where we split a fantastic grilled cheese, then ran a few errands, visited Michigan and Iko (two of our four pet wards for the weekend), and made pumpkin ice cream for dinner #2 over the weekend.  Even though it’s been a 3 day work week, it feels like it’s been a loooong 3 days, and I’m delighted for 4 days off.

In the morning I’ll post my list of thanks, probably over my morning cup of coffee for which I’m ALWAYS thankful.  What are you thankful for this year?

Hey thanks!

Today we’re back to work after a long and fun-filled Thanksgiving weekend.  Pictures are forthcoming, but I just wanted to mention how wonderful it was to be surrounded by friends all weekend long.  Thanksgiving is my most favoritest of holidays, and this was the first year in five that I didn’t spend it with my family.  Having friends visiting and to visit went a long way towards diminishing my sadness.

Jason, Sonya, and Keem arrived VERY early Thursday morning and stayed through Saturday morning.  We had our fancy Thanksgiving meal Thursday night – turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, lingonberries (in place of cranberry sauce), and pie.  We did the prep work and dishes around a drawn-out game of trains, so the whole evening felt relaxed and fun rather than stressy and prep-y and clean-up-y.  For once in the history of Thanksgiving, we made just the right amount of food, as all the leftover save one slice of turkey were gone by the end of Friday’s lunch.  We had other small adventures – a failed trip to the zoo in the midst of a windstorm, a Thanksgiving pizza, a trip to the National Gallery – but mainly it was wonderful to pretty much just pick up where we left off the last time we were all together, which was almost a year ago, before J&S moved to Massachusets.

After delivering Keem to the Metro, Shane and I picked up Andy and drove down to the MacDonalds’ for Thanksgiving #2.  Darren and Hannah had driven down from Philly the previous day, and the seven of us enjoyed another dinner, more games, and a great deal of silliness.  Sarah, Hannah, and I have celebrated Thanksgiving together since I moved to Champaign in 2003, so it was nice to carry on that tradition, though it will be harder as we continue moving further apart.

I think it was really good for both of us to have a lot of relaxing and fun time with friends after being pretty lonely in VA so far.  The only down side is that everyone had to go home.  😦

Thanksgiving recipe #2 – Swedish Apple Pie

Swedish Apple Pie

1 C flour
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
1/2 C sugar
2 t ground cinnamon

Cut butter into cubes. Combine all ingredients with a pastry blender or food processor until crumbly. Set aside.

Pie fixins:
4 C sliced apples
2 heaping T flour
1 C sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1/2 t vanilla
pinch salt
3/4 C sugar
1 premade or from scratch pie crust

Preheat oven to 400F. Place pie crust in pie pan and pierce a few times with a fork. I like to prebake the crust for a few minutes until it’s set, but that’s totally a personal preference. If you’re all fancy, you can use pie weights. I find that prebaking is helpful as the crust is less likely to fall.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sour cream, egg, vanilla, salt, and sugar until smooth, then stir in apples until coated. Pour into prepared pie crust and top with streusel. Bake 15 minutes at 400F, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake 40 more minutes.

I know that sour cream in apple pie sounds weird, and that the cinnamony goodness you’re used to is notably absent, but please, just trust me on this one.

Thanksgiving Recipe #1 – Kay Fesenmeyer’s Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

I’m fairly sure I’ve posted this recipe before, but it was specifically requested at Thanksgiving, so I’m posting it (potentially again) anyway. I have “official” directions, but I never follow them anyway, so here’s my best approximation.

6 medium potatoes (~2 lbs?)
4 oz sour cream
3 oz cream cheese, cut up
2 T butter plus more for greasing
1 t onion salt
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 – 1/2 C milk

Peel, boil, and mash the potatoes. If you’re lucky enough to have a Kitchenaid mixer or a food processor, pulverize the potatoes in there, and leave the mixer/processor on. Add the sour cream, cream cheese, 1 T of butter, and the seasonings to taste. My grandma swears by the onion salt – I’ve replaced it with garlic salt, and am thinking about trying other seasonings as well. I really do mean “to taste” here. Spoon the potatoes into a greased casserole dish.

Here’s the nice thing about this recipe: at this point, you can either put the potatoes straight into the oven, or you can refrigerate them for a day or two. This makes big meal preparation soooo easy because the potatoes can be made the night before and then baked with the main entree.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut up the remaining butter and top the potatoes with the butter and milk – start with 1/4 C, but if the potatoes look dry, add more. Bake uncovered at 350F for one hour, stirring twice.

A couple of notes:

  • Light sour cream or light cream cheese (or neufchatel cheese) is fine, but fat free is not. It’s a consistency thing.
  • I always err on the side of too many potatoes as these always go quickly, and as a result it’s good to have extra enriching ingredients on hand.
  • You can generally buy cream cheese in little bricks – this is an easier option than scooping it out of a tub.
  • In case there isn’t enough fat already, I’ve had good luck with stirring in about 1/4 C shredded cheddar cheese after the second stir.
  • I’ve been meaning to experiment with other seasoning options. Let me know if you try something cool and different!
  • good things

    Thanksgiving has come and gone, though it has been much celebrated around these parts. My family’s most unique tradition is Turkey Notes, which are small rhyming poems written on each guest’s placecard. The poems are almost always eye-rollingly silly, but my family loves them, so we continue to do them, year after year. This year mine was about Sid, and Shane’s was about Herky. With my friends, however, we usually go around the table and list the things for which we’re thankful. I haven’t had a chance to share that list yet this year, so here, in no particular order, are a handful of things for which I’m thankful:

    • ShaneB and all the joy and good things he’s brought into my life this year
    • a great job that I love, even if some days are very hard
    • my family and an awesome crew of friends
    • the impending end of the semester
    • Project Runway and Tim Gunn
    • veggie breakfast sausage
    • Basil’s safe return, and the advent of Sid
    • We love Katamari
    • yellowbike (and maybe RAGBRAI in the new year??)
    • my healing arm
    • Bonnaroo

    What are you thankful for?

    It is Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of things, I really should make a list of everything for which I’m thankful. There have been many blessings – and many challenges – this year, and I have many things to list here. Right now, though, I’m too tired to think, and so I will instead retire to my parents’ couch. I hope your holiday, if you celebrate it, was full of the things that really matter – peace and quiet, friends and family, memories of the past and memories for the future. Many blessings and great love to you, my friends.