Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving & After-Party at Hickory Hill

We celebrated Thursday with the boys. J went to pick them up while I stayed home & cooked & decorated the table. We got fall leaf confetti & turkey paper plates & napkins. I put cream-colored candles in the crystal candle holders my almost-grandma gave me. I put out the (now-unusable but still cool) turkey salt & peppers that belonged to my great-grandmother & were on the table every Thanksgiving when I was growing up. My grandmom gave them to me two years ago, along with the cut-glass compote she always put the raspberry Jell-o in. I also put out leaf/acorn salt & peppers we bought this year that actually work. By the time J & the boys got home at 11, the house looked very festive indeed. The boys were on good behavior, which was nice. Boot hung out with us in the kitchen for a while, then watched football while we finished cooking. Pie was friendly, but went pretty much immediately to his room to play X Box. He doesn't get to play live at his dad's, so he was anxious to re-connect with his game buddies online. He did come up every once in awhile to say hello & drink some olive juice. He has loved that since he was little and it's a special treat we don't often let him have. Funny treat, eh? The sodium worries us, though, so he doesn't usually get it & it becomes a treat.

We sat down to the table at 2, so we all had time to relax before we had to take the boys home at 7. Boot opted for a nap, as did J. Pie played video games & I watched the Macy's parade, which I had recorded in the morning. Our feast consisted of a turkey cooked Nigella Lawson's way (we debated the best way to cook it & I won), mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes, rolls w/pumpkin butter, cranberry sauce, raspberry Jell-o with raspberries in it, pumpkin pie, derby pie and peanut butter pie.

After we took the boys home, we drove back to our place and flopped on the couch with leftovers for dinner. J didn't have to work in the morning, so we got to bed kind of late and then lazed in bed in the morning. Then, we got up & ran some errands before coming home to work on an invite list for my graduation party. I then packed my bags (seems like I spend an inordinate amount of time packing & unpacking bags these days!) and loaded the car. I headed for my mom's in West Virginia and J headed east to pick up the boys for the weekend. Yes, we had them Thanksgiving from 9-9 and then for the weekend, yet their father wouldn't allow us just to keep them for the time between 9 Thursday and 6 Friday. An extra 6 hours of travel time due to his desire to spite J. What a petty little man. it's not like he actually enjoys their company.

I arrived at my mom's around 7:30, after stopping in Sissonville for blue cheese and finding that the bakery had the most adorable chocolate-dipped pretzel rods & candy canes. I hadn't thought of dipping candy canes, but I plan to now. I had to pick some up, along with a packet of cheese straws. I love good cheese straws! My mom had just arrived on the ATV when I drove up, so we unloaded my bags onto the ATV and headed down the road. The big hill is not nearly so scary when the road is dry! The mud really makes it slick, so I was happy not to have rain. It's also lots more pleasant not to get wet! When we got close, I could see the cozy kerosene glow coming from their house. I love that. I could also smell the woodsmoke from the stoves in the house & the shack.

We sat around & visited Friday night, having Boca burgers for dinner & listening to "This American Life." I'd taken a bag of magazines and an Advent calendar for my mom & it was fun to watch her go through that. I was unhappy with myself, though, for leaving the recipes I'd meant for her at home. Oh, well, I can send a package. Maybe I'll include some fudge or something. I'm hoping to have time to make fudge this week for my classes. My friend Mandi offered to share Paula Deen's recipe for fudge made with Velveeta. I am scared of that! Graham was very happy with the peanut brittle I made for him, so I bet some fudge would be appreciated, too. Just not with processed cheese food in it! I do want to try it, out of curiosity, but not when I am feeding it to other people.

My mom came over & slept in the shack loft with me. She'd gotten the fire going nicely, so we were toasty warm for the night. Of course, we weren't so toasty when we awoke in the morning to discover that the fire had gone out, but with the nice thick blanket she's got, we were fine. We went over to the house for breakfast, egg and cheese muffins my mom put together. I also got to go through a bunch of old photos and pick ones for my collection. She had a big stack of children's books to show me (Patricia Polacco, Cynthia Rylant, one by Toni Morrison about the end of segregation) and Graham had some photography books for me to see, too. They also checked out a Martha Stewart book about Halloween from the library for me to see. My mom has discovered that she really likes Martha Stewart's ideas & recipes. Yay. We both really want to make these little crepe paper pumpkins that you put treats inside. They are like the magical crepe paper balls that my mom made us for Christmas a couple years ago, spilling out little trinkets and candies as you unwrap.

We went out & raked leaves, too, gathering piles on a blue tarp and hauling them to the big leaf pile. Graham was up on the rooftops doing the gutters while we did that. He got some cool pictures of the buildings from the roof of the house. Bobo was busy relaxing in the center of our ring of leaves. He is so cute! They continued to work on gutters and my mom was holding a ladder for Graham. I noticed Bobo sitting in grey and white splendor right on the top rung of the ladder as Graham cleared leaves. When I went inside for my camera, he ran down the ladder and moved on to his next activity. Pity. It would've made a great picture. While they finished up the gutters, I went in & finished my book pile. I'm glad my mom loves children's books as much as I do.

We headed down to Lenore's around 5 for dinner & a movie. I was sorry I'd forgotten to bring "The Lost City" but Graham had gotten "To Have and To Have Not" from Netflix and it was fun to see that. I'd never seen it before. My mom & Graham had just read the story & were blown away by how much Faulkner altered the story for the screenplay. I was impressed that the film had Hemingway as author of the original book and Faulkner doing the screenplay. I didn't even know Faulkner did screenplays.

Before the movie, my mom and I made dinner. I did a pumpkin potato pie from Rachael Ray's magazine (and boy, was it good) and a chocolate pecan pie (I forgot the Jack Daniels for derby pie at home, so I considered subbing rum but forgot to stir it in before dumping the filling into the crust-twas good anyway). My mom did a salad with iceberg lettuce (Lenore can't have spinach or more exotic lettuces because she's on Coumadin), chopped pears, blue cheese and walnut pieces. After the movie, my mom and I got out our flashlights & got back into our boots and hiking mindsets. It's hard to imagine doing that hike every Saturday night at midnight or later just to get home after going to dinner and watching a movie! I managed okay both directions, but I was glad to climb up in the loft & read when we got back! When I awoke to the sound of rain Sunday, I uttered a little prayer of thanks that the rain held off until our hike was past. Walking that sloppy road in the rain, with the orange clay mud adhering to your boots and making them slick and heavy, is no fun. It's those nights that I am especially grateful when Graham has gone ahead and lit the lanterns, because they are the most welcome sight in the world when you're wet and road-shocked!

We visited over a bagel breakfast, then got to work (play!) on making popcorn & cranberry garlands while Graham worked on organizing all their information on gas wells. The gas company wants to drill a well very close to their house and because my mom & Graham don't have mineral rights, they don't have a say. However, they want to know as much as possible about it so they can hold the gas company to the standards they are supposed to follow. It makes me sick to think of all those beautiful woods being desecrated for the sake of another gas well. There is one along the road to Hickory Hill and it seems odd that they have to have another so close by. I am praying that they somehow decide not to drill after all. Odds are way against that, but miracles do occur. Graham showed me pictures they took on a "field trip" to a gas well being drilled and it looks awful. My mom compared it to something the White Witch did to Narnia and Graham mentioned Sauron.

Viva joined us on the couch as we strung the garlands. Luckily, she was more interested in pets and sleep than in playing with the string. Had it been Bobo, we would not have had it so easy! When we'd finished, we went over to the garden and hung the tied-together garlands on a cedar tree for the birds to munch. It looked so festive & pretty! Then, we took a lunch of popcorn with nutritional yeast, cheese and cranberry sauce over to the shack while Graham napped. We sat by the woodstove, ate and talked. Too soon, it was time for me to pack up & leave. Graham got my things wrapped in plastic & loaded on the ATV for the ride out. They are so organized. I wouldn't begin to know how to live out there. The ride up the big hill was plenty nerve-wracking with the slippery mud, but we made it just fine (and with not too much mud on our pants). I was glad, though, to have a hood on that covered my eyes! We bid one another farewell. It was easier to leave knowing that we'll see each other again in just a couple of weeks. She's coming for my last week of school & my graduation. Yippee!

On my way back through Sissonville, I had to stop at Tudor's Biscuit World. They are usually not open when I am going through, so I took advantage of the hour and got a sausage biscuit for the road. My drive home was fine, just dull and rainy. I don't like going home to Cleveland from there. The route home to Dayton was always so much more interesting, lots more to see. Oh, well. 77 is not such a bad interstate at least.

I was happy to get home to my darling wife. It seems to be a smart idea to try & steer fairly clear of the kids for now, while Boot is being largely oppositional and grumpy, but I sure do miss J. We spent the evening working on my graduation party invites (which I need to mail today!) and getting her packed for the national sales conference in Chicago. I was happy to climb into my own red flannel sheets, under my own pretty comforter, next to my own wonderful wife! I used to go visit my mom and mourn having to go home. Now, I miss my mom, but I have great things to come home to.

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