Doozy Week Ahead

This week is gonna be a doozy. Not only is there work and school, but we are packing. We are painting. We are moving. And we are hosting about 25 relatives for our biggest Thanksgiving feast ever. We are optimistic, but I think the baby is a realist. He knows his parents [*ahem*his mother] are a glutton for punishment!

Martin’s taken off work for the next two weeks and will be the family pack mule/work horse while I call in the honey-do list from the comfort of my office swivel chair.

TBT: Thanksgiving with Ninny

Today’s #TBT photo is from November 2005 when my mother and her parents traveled from Texas for a visit to Cincinnati, where we were celebrating Thanksgiving. It was the first time my maternal grandmother Ninny met Miss C as we had just moved back to the United States from Italy a few months earlier. Miss C was two years old.

Thanksgiving 2014

This wasn’t even a food coma. It was my pre-game warm-up.

 

We went up into the mountains to spend Thanksgiving with our friend Stacey and Company. They live up in the mountains of Northern Virginia, and their whole neighborhood was covered in a few inches of snow, which made for a beautiful scenic drive up there.  Her husband Bryan and five daughters prepared an amazing dinner, as well as cookies, pumpkin bread, and other treats. We brought along pecan bars, applesauce pie, and green bean casserole, and a few bottles of red wine.

We stayed overnight, which was awesome because it meant the kids got to play in the snow, on the trampoline, inside the giant blanket-pillow fort, wherever they wanted until they literally collapsed from exhaustion. Martin and I slept in the next morning, too, and the kids never disturbed us because they were off playing again as soon as they woke up.

Stacey, her cousin, and I ventured out for some wine tasting and lunch at some of the local vineyards. I ate so much that by the time we got home, I immediately pulled out my yoga mat to stretch out and jump-start my recovery.

It still took a few days. Oomph.

 

 

Doesn’t this look like a painting? Gorgeous.

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I honestly believe that my oldest daughter’s bedroom is the hardest one to pack. To her credit, it’s pretty organized, but why do they make stuff for tweens so small?? Hair stuff. Book stuff. Craft stuff. Jewelry stuff. School stuff. What-the-hell-does-this-belong-to stuff?!?!?

TBT: Thanksgiving

Today’s #TBT pic is from Thanksgiving 1985. I was four years old and loving my paper pilgrim hat and collar. This was at my Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Jim’s house where I enjoyed MANY a Thanksgiving feast over the years. Great memories!!

Where’s Martin?

Oh, look. I wrote a novel in November.

Honestly, I didn’t think I could do it, but being trapped in a vehicle for more than 10 hours on Thursday was very effective in boosting my number count.

The story itself is still not finished, but I’ll keep at it. Martin will be super annoyed if I don’t after he had to do all this research and character discussion, and read incomplete scenes and chapters this whole month.

Wait. Where’s Martin?

So I jump out of bed to share with Martin the good news about NaNoWriMo, and I run thru the house, calling for him, but there’s no answer.

Then, I look out the back door…

Metal detecting.

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I always get a kick out of people’s reactions when my mother and I are together. We do look a lot alike, don’t we? She and her partner Trev traveled from Oklahoma to be with the family for Thanksgiving at my sister’s house in northern Kentucky. It’s the first time in about 14 years we’ve all been together for Thanksgiving.

My sister’s house is already decorated for Christmas.

My niece does this whenever she’s unhappy about her environment. In this case, she was reacting to a kitchen full of relatives who were very excited to see her.

My plate of food this year: turkey, mac and cheese (twice!), potatoes, stuffing, veggies … WAY too much. But I filled my plate twice. Sooooo good.

My dad took this photo during our traditional game of Pictionary. We play this every time we get together. I love my family!

Thanksgiving With Family

Found the girls sitting on the floor vent to keep warm. Ahhh, such is life in an old Ohio farmhouse!

Don’t let that sweet photo fool you. Ugh. My parents’ grandchildren are so loud and rambunctious. They really need to do something about that. 😉

 

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Arrived at our next Thanksgiving dinner! We’re at a cabin near a pond in the Indiana woods. The campfire smells amazing.

Out for a walk before dinner!

The whole family and Martin’s metal detector.

The pond is slightly frozen.

View of the cabin from the other side of the pond. Can you see it?

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On Our Way

Three munchkins ready for a road trip! Which reminds me… I am grateful for the engineer/designer who thought of installing DVD players in minivans.

I owe her my sanity.

My parents had the first model Toyota minivan death trap back in the day. Road trips meant removing all the seats in the back so we kids could build forts with the suitcases and better smush our faces against the back window to better horrify the drivers behind us. THAT was entertainment.

The line is out the door at our DD. Martin just texted that inside is packed. They all still have their race bibs on.

America really does run on donuts.

The Shenandoah Valley. Gorgeous.

Cows AND snow in West Virginia.

Most comfy traveler in the family. She never complains.

 The “golden castle” in Charleston

We made it to Kentucky.

What an amazing Kentucky sunset!

And we’re here! Cincinnati! Arrived at the grandparents just as my father pulled the pot roast out of the oven. My timing is impeccable.

Food, Family, and Friends

My hometown. The Queen City.
This past weekend was the first time since 2007 that we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family in Ohio.
At nearly the last minute, Martin and I decided to pack up the minivan and head west. My stepmother Linda was out of town, traveling with Grandma MJ to visit with a relative, but my Dad still whipped together a Thanksgiving pot roast and feast.

The beginnings of something wonderful.

 

While I prepared a few dishes on Thanksgiving, Grandpa and Martin took the kids on a walk through the Cincinnati suburb of Mariemont. An ancient Indian village was recently unearthed there, and Grandpa wanted to show them the area.
Once they returned home, Miss C got to work setting the table. She made name cards for each plate, too, and had each of us write inside what we were thankful for about that particular person. It’s something I started doing for our Thanksgiving dinners here at home the past few years, and she wanted to keep it going.
I was so proud of her!
 

Grandpa and Jaz

Miss C arranged this with some help from Lola, too.
Of course, we had more dishes than that shown here. 😉

 

After dinner, Martin and I snuck out to see “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis. You probably already heard about that movie. You probably heard great things about it. And you probably heard great things about Daniel Day-Lewis and his performance.
All true.

Go see it.

Martin and I on the Newport Levee.

 

The following day, we gathered with Jill, Greg, my niece, and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins for another dinner. I think at one point in the evening, there were more than 30 people in the house.
Our kids were in heaven, too, because a third of the crowd were age nine and under, and there was an abundance of toys.
There was also a hilarious game of Pictionary, which is a family tradition. My family is awesome at that game. The humor. The ability to read minds and intentions. Just awesomeness.
We didn’t get back to Grandpa’s house until late that night.

Food coma after two Thanksgiving dinners.

 

Bubbles!

Photo by Miss C of her and Lola playing with airplanes on the back porch.
 

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On Saturday, Martin and I got treated to a couples massage, thanks to my Dad, who arranged it for us.
About a year ago, my Dad reconnected with his childhood neighbor Rob, and learned that Rob and his partner Steve are certified massage specialists, and they turned a room on the second floor of their house into a spa room.
And not only that, but their house is also the house where Rob grew up (it’s been in his family for more than 100 years), completely renovated and restored, and it is only three doors down from where my Dad grew up. In fact, Rob’s mother and my grandmother were friends, and my Dad spent a lot of time in Rob’s home, as they all had siblings who were the same ages, and often played together.
In fact, as Rob was walking us through the house, he pointed out areas where my Dad often napped as a kid.
That was really cool. In fact, we spent a good half hour before the massage talking about the history of the house, the area, some stories about the neighborhood, family history, and how Martin and I met and ended up living in Washington DC.
The massage itself was awesome. Both Martin and I have done a couples massage before — remember that time Martin was on a television in a bathrobe? — and while that one was nice, we both agreed this was the better experience.
Of course, the connection with my Dad and family history played a part of that. But I also think it’s because Rob and Steve are the type of people who just radiate good energy. After the massage, we hung around just a little bit longer, chatting about Europe, real estate, careers, social media, and whatever else came to mind.
We left feeling we made new family friends, and a reservation for the next time we’re in town.
We ended that date night by doing some Christmas shopping, but not before grabbing dinner at Mecklenberg Gardens, the German resturant in Cincinnati where we held our anniversary vow renewal ceremony. I was so disappointed when I learned their chicken spatzel dish is only a part of their catering menu, and not their dining menu. We served that at the vow renewal and I’ve had dreams about it ever since. (Not even joking.)
I almost ordered a vat of it anyway.
But instead, I got the Portabella Spaetzle, which was delicious as well. Plus a hefeweizen. And the Mecklenberg Pie, a pecan chocolate chip crust with a mocha filling topped with a mocha mousse that is perfect shared with a handsome date and a steaming cup of coffee.
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During our last day in Cincinnati, we went downtown to attend the CinciDeutsch Christmas Market. It was the first year for such a market, and we wanted to check it out.

We could smell the gluhwein and spiced almonds as soon as we walked into Fountain Square.

After finishing off the hot cocoa, wine, funnel cake, and almonds, and chasing some pigeons and watching the ice skaters, we walked over to the Westin Hotel to see the giant tree in the lobby. Then, we settled down into a horse-drawn carriage, and got a tour of the main blocks in the city. The coachman even pointed out some historic buildings and architecture details I never noticed before, even though I spent most of my life in that city.

And while we were stopped at a red light during the tour, a car pulled up alongside us and the occupants leaned out the window to wave to us and say hello.

It was Rob and Steve, our new friends from the day before!

As they drove away, Martin looked over at me and shook his head.

“That always happens here! Is there anybody we DON’T know here in Cincinnati?”

And I told him nope.

Because Cincinnati is really a city full of family and friends you know … and friends you just haven’t met yet.

The tree in the Westin Lobby.

The girls LOVED the carriage ride and asked if we can do it again next year.

Statue for Cincinnati native and former President William Henry Harrison.
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Thank You, King Tut

Thank you, King Tutankhamun.
If I could kiss your mummified teenage face, I would. My daughter is in love with your story. So much so that she refuses to put down her chapter book about you. 

Because of you, she’s reading to herself for the sake of enjoyment. Not for an assignment. Not because I asked her. Not for any reward.
She’s reading because she thinks it’s cool how the ancient Egyptians pulled out the brain through the nose with a hook when they made the mummies. She found it amusing how they believed the heart, and not the brain, was the center of everything. 
Thank you.
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Kara: Domestic Goddess and Superfriend.
Not only am I grateful for King Tut, but also for my friend, Kara. We spent Thanksgiving with her family in Maryland. 
Kara and I met each other earlier this year through our mutual friend Suzanne. We hit it off immediately, and why wouldn’t we? Not only is Kara probably the sweetest, most gregarious lady around, but we both grew up in the Midwest, we both have two girls and a boy (although her kiddos are older), we both have scrapbook rooms, we both live(d) the nomadic military lifestyle (her husband is still active duty), we actually have a LOT of military friends in common, we love to gossip, and we were both really bummed when Suzanne moved away with her family.
Then Kara and her family recently moved, too. This could have been another bummer. But the stars aligned, and the military put her just five minutes away from my work’s new office, which is just over an hour away from my home. 
Remember that part about Kara being the sweetest? 
When she realized I was going to have to make that long commute a few days a week for work, she offered — okay, no, she ordered — me to bring baby Jaz to her so that I wouldn’t have to be so far away from him. As a nursing working mom, this has been a godsend. 
But not only that, I get to see Kara all the time now. It’s a wonder we don’t yet have matching tattoos. (That’s totally her line, by the way.)

Kara’s son Cameron and his Legos. 

So naturally, our families joined together for a feast. Her brother-in-law and his kids were there, along with some other of her military friends. With all the kids around, my girls were in heaven and we barely saw them the whole night as they played outside, watched movies and basked in the attention lavished on them by Kara’s girls.
Needless to say, there was a ton of food. (There would have been more if a certain someone — this girl — didn’t leave her vegetable dish in the fridge during the mad dash out of the house. Whoops!
Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, broccoli, rolls. Pumpkin cheese cake. Zucchini bread. I even got introduced to old-fashioned potato candy, made by one of her friends, which was insanely good and not at all good for you.
It was a wonderful evening. 
It’s been three years since we had Thanksgiving with others, due mostly to Martin’s work schedule and not being able to travel to family. While I love decorating and preparing the dinner for Martin and the girls, it was so nice to hang up the apron and relish in another’s culinary expertise while talking, sharing, relaxing and laughing.
Mostly laughing.

Wine. Of course.

Carbs galore. You can’t blame me for pulling on the maternity pants again, just to be on the safe side.

Kids table. 

The obligatory photo of my Thanksgiving plate.

Playing hide-and-go-seek-the-zombie with the big kids after dinner.

Opening her birthday gift. That’s a handmade felt bow with buttons right there!

Martin and Jaz in post-dinner recovery mode.

Love.