Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving is More than Turkey...Sometimes...

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Mostly because it is all about eating and, let’s be honest, if it involves consuming large quantities of food, I’m there! But, after looking back on the last few years, I think Thanksgiving has been the standout holiday.

I could go all the way back to my childhood when we would go to my Grandma Marybelle’s house and she would cook everything throughout the day while I played with my cousins in our refrigerator box that we pretended to be a house. Or how we could go to my Grandma BJ’s house and having to eat dessert on the step going into the living room with my cousins because we weren’t allowed to eat on the furniture like the grown-ups. But, I think some of my favorite memories are from the past four years.

My senior year at Berkeley, my Aunt Bev and Uncle John asked me to join them for Thanksgiving in Chicago. My cousin, Julia, was going to Northwestern and they were going to fly out and do dinner in her apartment. They would pay for my flight and I could stay with Julia and it would be my graduation present. Who am I to say no to that?! So, they booked me a flight from Oakland and I met them at Midway. It was so much fun to sit in the car for two hours in traffic and just chat and catch up with them! I know the traffic part doesn’t sound good, but we talked about so many different things and I had so much energy out of pure excitement, I couldn’t have asked for a better time. On Thanksgiving day, Aunt Bev cooked an AMAZING meal, and all she asked was that we stay out of her way. Then, before dinner, she and I went for a walk. We’ve done this for as long as I can remember, so even thought it was 27 degrees outside, it made me so happy to know that no matter how much changes, some traditions still remain intact. During dinner, the conversation went everywhere, from politics to life after college to explaining to Aunt Bev what “breaking the seal” means. Sitting there with all of them, I couldn’t have been more grateful to have them as my family members and to be spending my Thanksgiving with them.

The next year, I actually posted about it…so read it here (click on it…) But the bottom line was it was the most fantastic dinner, a lot of fun and games, and we got a great surprise in the form of Lisa being pregnant.

Last year, I had a yen to travel again, so it was off to New York to spend the holiday with my sister-from-another-mister, Cierra. She and I have been friends since freshman year of high school and, after she moved, I will take any chance to go see her. Her mom offered to have it at her apartment and Cierra’s sister came with her dad and his wife, along with Cierra’s boyfriend and his parents. Add a co-worker of Cierra’s and we had a full house! The dinner was scrumptious and we went ice-skating after. I had never been ice-skating in my life, and there could not have been a better time to go! We went to the rink at Bryant Park, everyone rented some skates and we just got out there. Cierra helped me along and I got the hang of it. And I only fell once! I can’t say the same for everyone in our group, but I can say that we all had so much fun! I might not have been with my blood relatives that night, but I definitely consider them family. (Also, while in line to skate, I got on the phone with the family at home and, in what is scarily becoming a tradition, my cousin Cheryl informed me that she was pregnant with her second child. I’m not going to lie, I said a little prayer that I wouldn’t be the one next year.)

That brings us to this year. I was worried at first that I was going to do nothing, just work and not have turkey or family or anything. My grandparents moved into an apartment and no longer have the space to host one of the huge gatherings of years past, and everyone seemed to be going somewhere or doing something. My Aunt Bev mentioned once that they were going to San Francisco, but no formal invitation was made. Then, on my second visit to Grandma’s new pad, I found out that my cousin Lisa and her husband (my favorite cousin) Derek would be coming down. From there, I pretty much invited myself to come down as well and stay for a few days to hang out. Since I live with my parents, they are kind of a package deal, so they were coming as well. This would make it a small gathering, with only 7.25 of us. (The .25 being Lisa and Derek’s adorable 17-month-old son, Blake, the one Lisa, two years ago, announced she was pregnant with.)

Then, the most amazing thing happened. My friend Torrey and her husband (still weird that my friends have husbands…), Stephen, were going to be in town and wanted me to come with them to Knott’s Berry Farm. I haven’t been to Knott’s in a very long time and I was more enthusiastic about the hanging out than I was the amusement park. But, like the trooper I am, I went…and had a BLAST! The rides were pretty great and, even though a lot has changed since I was last there, the cute shops and crafts were still there and fun to look through. The best part was that, even though this wasn’t Thanksgiving, it gave me just one more thing to be thankful for.

On Thanksgiving, I did something incredibly typical: I forgot the main ingredient in the appetizer I was supposed to make. I literally got to Grandma’s, put my stuff down, and jumped back in the car to go buy mushrooms. After successfully getting the mushrooms and putting them in the oven in the oven, I headed with Lisa, Derek and Blake to the park to burn off some of Blake’s restless energy. I have to say, I admire the kid. He is not afraid of ANYTHING. The big slide? No problem. The ladder that he could fall through? Awesome (even though Mom and Dad stopped him.) The big kid swings? Bring it on (even though he had to sit on Mommy’s lap.) After getting back, we proceeded to consume massive quantities of food. Between my appetizers (stuffed mushrooms and 3 different kinds of cheese balls...super delicious if I do say myself) and the dinner itself, I was stuffed fuller than the turkey. As it should be. The best part came the next night, though, when I went out to dinner with my grandparents and Derek and Lisa. We ate at an Italian place my cousin Maddy suggested and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. (Sorry, Grandma) After that, we went back and I just hung out with Derek and Lisa.

Looking back at these last few years, it doesn’t seem like these Thanksgivings were eventful or dramatic. But, honestly, I feel like that is how the holidays should be. Spending time with family and the people you care about and making sure that the ones you aren't with know how thankful you are for them. It sounds so simple and boring, but if that is how I spend every holiday for the rest of my life, I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, and yes my prayer was answered. I did not have any special announcements to make this year.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The fruit I love laboring over...

I love pomegranates. I didn’t always, but leave it to Berkeley to expand my horizons.

What I knew of pomegranates before living in my co-op was that it was a fruit that made juice that is delicious in martinis. However, my first fall in Berkeley, my taste was expanded. The kitchen manager ordered them and I took one look and said, “What the hell do you do with that?” My friend Angelica took it from me, cut just far enough to break the skin, and then ripped it open. I was amazed at how something that was all rough and tough on the outside could be so pretty on the inside. (Metaphor for my life, anyone?)

So, that night, while watching Law and Order SVU, I started picking all the seeds out. Angelica told me that you could eat the whole of the little seed, even though the white inside was a little tangy. I put them all in a container and saved them for the next day. I took the container to class and munched on them throughout the day. I couldn’t believe that I had tried something new and had found new love.

After moving home, I really couldn’t get pomegranates. They are a little too exotic for my usual supermarket and so I had to wait until the fall to find them anywhere. Then, when I did, it would be for a short time, not great quality and cost a lot of money. But I would still buy one, take it home, and take it apart while watching TV. For days afterwards, I would munch on these seeds.

Last night, I was at Henry’s, which is like a Whole Foods with Trader Joe’s prices. They had a whole bin of pomegranates that were not only inexpensive, but looked fantastic! So, I bought one. After dinner, I sat down in front of the TV, opened it up, and started seeding it. My mom said, as she always does, that it looked like a lot of work for very little fruit. I looked up, smiled, and said, “But when you love something and put work into it, just a little goes a long way.”

Happy Fall!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Everyone loves a slutty pumpkin...

Halloween has never really been my thing. I might go to a party or get dressed up for work, but rarely do I put much effort in. Last year, I was Peggy Bundy, a costume I came up with the day of the party. The year before, I was working and dressed up as a bank robber because one of my co-workers was going to be a cop and we thought it would be funny. The year before that, I went to Santa Barbara and partied pretty hard, but my construction worker was neither inspired nor original.

This year, I really thought about it and, while I didn’t want to spend $100 on a costume to wear for one night to a house party, I didn’t want to just throw something together. After going to several Halloween stores and looking through tons of websites, it came down to two costumes. While the beer maid would have been a good (and very appropriate) choice, I didn’t really want to spend the night fetching my friend’s beers. So, I decided on Elvira.

I’m in no way a shy person. Nor am I uncomfortable with my body. However, when I got the dress and tried it on, I became both of those. I was not sure how I would keep my boobs in or if I would have the courage to actually leave my bedroom. The dress was more revealing that my bathing suite and the idea of people seeing me in it was pretty horrifying. To make sure that I would actually grow some balls and do it, I started telling everyone I met. I’m sure I annoyed several people, but if I hadn’t raised everyone’s expectations, then I probably would have copped out and done something lame instead, like a softball player. (Yes, that was my 5-minutes-before-work-costume for today, but at least I dressed up! And dressing up for work doesn’t count!)

So, after telling everyone I met and even having one of my friends tell a certain person I wouldn’t have told just in case I ended up looking more like a cow that the Mistress of the Dark, I had to put it on. Much like many of the things I don’t really want to do but force myself to, I kind of fell in love with it. My makeup wasn’t perfectly straight and the wig was kind of cheap and I didn’t have the fake eyelashes I needed, but this was one of the few moments where I looked at myself and went, “Wow.”

It wasn’t because my boobs were out or because the slit came so far up my entire leg was out. It was because I had done exactly what a person is supposed to do on Halloween: get dressed up and make yourself into another person. For one night, I was wearing something I would never dare wear again with makeup that was much too complicated to do regularly. And I had a blast! Everyone loved the costume, but best of all, I loved it! The party was a ton of fun and I have to say, it was one of my best Halloweens.

So, while I’m not a total Halloween convert (Just say no to haunted houses!!), I have to say this year, I definitely lived.