Monday, November 27, 2006

A Hickory Hill Holiday

Thanksgiving morning, we were up early for breakfast with the kids before they were picked up by their father. Then, we hit the road for my mom's place in West Virginia. I had already loaded the car the night before, so we were able to get there by 2. After delivering our bags to Graham at the top of the hill, for ATV ferrying back to their place, we commenced cooking at Lenore's. Lenore, my almost grandma, is a sprightly 85 and is perfectly capable of cooking, therefore did not mind that we took over all the cooking, a treat for her. We, in turn, adored her for cleaning up after us.

My vegetarian mama had prepared the turkey, the first time she has cooked a turkey since I was 3 years old, with advice from their neighbor. As we came up the walk, we were greeted by the scent of roasting turkey...mmm. J took over the turkey-sitting process when we arrived, basting and checking regularly. Between the two of them, they produced an enviably golden and juicy bird. I got down to business setting up a cheese (including Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam, a triple cream that absolutely rocks!) and apple (fragrant and wonderful Pink Ladies) tray. I also made hot artichoke dip and set out some Triscuits and Wheat Thins to go with that. We also had olives, sweet pickles made by another neighbor, baby dills and watermelon pickles for munchies while we cooked. My mom made the stuffing and mashed potatoes, J prepared the sweet potato-banana mash that her plant just started making (adding walnuts glazed with brown sugar to the top) and I made green bean casserole & a gorgeous salad with pears, candied walnuts, blue cheese and dried cranberries. My mama had already made the traditional raspberry Jello with raspberries (I was given the always-used cut-glass compote by my grandmom, along with the turkey salt & peppers that belonged to her mother in law, so we had it in that) and cranberry sauce ahead of time, while I had prepared a derby pie the night before. We had wonderful visiting, then a delicious dinner.

Around midnight, we began the long trek from The Homeplace to Hickory Hill. Luckily, there had been sunshine all day and the clay mud had dried up a smidge. It was still treacherous walking, especially down the big hill, but none of us fell. By the time we had gotten back to the guest shack and my mom had gotten the woodstove going at a safe, steady burn, it was 4 or 4:30 in the morning. We had fun chatting, as J slept in the loft above us, but that was a late night! Other than trips down the ladder to use the pee bucket, we spent a restful & cozily warm night in the loft, not awaking until after 9 & staying in the loft reading until 11! I am reading East aloud to J right now. It's a wonderful YA book based on one of my favorite fairy tales, "East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon." I think the author is Edith Patou. My mom came in to tend the stove & listened for awhile, too.

Speaking of good books, I have been reading some fantastic fiction lately. I recently read Neil Gaiman's American Gods (and also listened to his Stardust), Charles de Lint's Widdershins and Rita Mae Brown's The Hounds and the Fury. J is reading de Lint's The Onion Girl, which I want to read when she's finished, and I have just started a book my mom & Graham loaned me. It's by the diva of the Poundy website, which I have yet to explore, Wendy McClure. If the book, I'm Not the New Me, is any indication of her usual writing style, the website must be great. I can hardly put down the book. I'm also working on Candles Burning, a ghost story started by Michael-whose-last-name-I'm-blanking-on and finished by Tabitha King when he died, leaving an unfinished manuscript. Love it.

Once we had emerged from the loft, we had coffee with my mom in the garden while Graham had his noon nap. Then, we visited inside with them and with one of the neighbors. He is making a hope chest for his daughter, who is getting married in January, and my mom & Graham are making the hasp for him. It was fun to hear him talk about the woodworking projects he has done. His whole family is just good. They are kind, good-hearted people. My mom, J & I headed back through the woods to the car around 5. We poked around Lowe's for awhile, then had dinner at TGIF. I love being able to treat my mom to dinner out. She got a big portabella sandwich and J & I had steaks. The service was spectacular, as is often the case with the Cross Lanes TGIF. I had to speak to the manager about it. The food was good, too, but the service was just stellar. I love that. We got a stellar reception at the hotel, too. The manager knows us from our wedding there & put some champagne on ice for us when we arrived. Very sweet. We watched a few minutes of Shrek 2, wanting my mom to see Antonio Banderas' turn as Puss in Boots. Then, we visited in the hot tub until it closed, which was simply luscious.

In the morning, we had breakfast in the lobby & eavesdropped on the people who were in town to go to the dog track. Just typing dog track makes me cringe. I feel bad for those dogs. After breakfast & check-out, we did some shopping. I was thrilled to find a couple pairs of non-stretch Levi's on sale at Goody's & a pair of good hill-trekking boots for $15.00, as well. I had been borrowing my mom's, which scrunched my feet a little. Why, oh why, are they hardly making any women's jeans these days without that damnable Lycra touch??? I HATE stretch jeans. They make me feel like I'm in my pajamas!!! Boot says I should just get men's because they're not doing that with men's.

We stopped by TGIF for a quick nib. It took a little longer than we expected, so I went to meet my mom at the hotel & took her back to the restaurant with us. After we ate, we went to the Clay Center in Charleston to see "Wishes," a holiday-themed art display. It was very cool & the gingerbread houses smelled amazing! We looked at the permanent collection, too, and checked out the Sesame Street body exhibit downstairs briefly before they closed. We had so much fun!

For dinner Saturday night, we were down at Lenore's & had leftovers. I remembered to make the hot fruit punch recipe I'd brought along. I suspected that it would be the same as the "fruit tea" I had tasted (and loved) in Tennessee. It was and it was also the "Russian Tea" that J had as a child on family vacations to a cabin in Bruce Mines, Ontario. We had our dinner as we watched "Bruce Almighty" and we are lucky no one choked. It's such a funny movie. I'm not a huge Jim Carrey fan, but he can be just hilarious & he certainly is in this. After we cleaned up, we did the dread hike again. It was easier this time, perhaps due to my new boots or maybe because of the extemely lovely weather drying out the road somewhat. If the neighbors would be more sensible about the road, it wouldn't be as bad, but they make such deep ruts with their trucks and trailers full of atvs that the road can't drain properly. Those guys only use the property for hunting, so they don't get that they are wrecking the road for people who actually live out there. I wish I had the money to fix the road (and maybe buy the neighbors' property from them!) for my mom & Graham. My mom didn't have to stay in the shack babying the woodstove as long, either, but we still got to sleep late.

We spent time visiting Sunday morning, then loaded up the ATV & started the hike. My wishes for the ability to teleport always get amplified when I am staying with my mom. I am so grateful to Graham for taking our things back & forth so we at least weren't hiking with big bags to carry. We stopped to say hi to the neighbors & B.J., the woodworker, presented us with a beautiful spice rack he had made for us. My mom had ordered it & was going to pay him for it, but he wouldn't accept any payment. That's just the kind of people they are. Sweet. Our drive home was somewhat dreary and long with no lunch break, but we arrived in plenty of time to welcome the rapscallions home. They retired to their room promptly, as is often their wont when they return from visitation. They'd already had dinner, so it was just J and me eating the chicken scalloppine and penne with vodka sauce I made. It was the first time I ever made vodka sauce. It was different from the bottled kind...and better. Boot tried it & said, "Good job, Daria!" He is really starting to branch out in terms of his food tastes. The whole meal was so easy, too. We then watched a cute movie called "April's Shower" before retiring to bed.

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