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Giving Thanks

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The old fashioned apple pie is in the oven, the cherry’s cooling down, and the Marching Royal Dukes played a glorious tribute to to The Sound of Music on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I have a feeling this will be a wonderful holiday season.

Yesterday Alex and I spent the afternoon in Georgetown Christmas shopping for one another, something we haven’t ever done before. I just love the city at Christmastime. Isn’t it the greatest? The nip of the cold, the rush of the crowds, the cheer that the sales clerks miraculously hold hour after hour. And the hot chocolate. It’s perfect.

There’s much to be thankful for this year. Family, friends, jobs, marriage, kittens, homes… it’s a good day to feel thankful. There’s also this blog right here. I’m thankful for all of you readers. I’m thankful for blog friendships and thankful for blog posts and blog pictures and perhaps I’m just oozing with gratitude. How about that?

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Now I’m off to Richmond to see more loved ones. Rich indeed.

Good luck with your turkey comas, everyone.

Life Moves Pretty Fast…

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…. so check your leftovers….

Between the 9 to 5 and the errands and the Christmas shopping and the sleep and the workouts and the extra jobs and the life we’re trying to live, sometimes things just sort of, well, fall to the wayside. Like grocery shopping.

Thank God for Thanksgiving leftovers. May they carry us through this week with ease, satisfying our empty stomachs with reheated wonders. Or… not.

You see… my husband ate the gravy. He thought it was the butternut squash soup. And he joyfully ate that glass of turkey fat and flour while catching up on The Walking Dead the other night.

And this is how I know life moves pretty fast, friends.

It’s surely moving fast when you don’t even have time to scan the fridge to make sure what you’re holding is the butternut squash soup and not the gravy. And it must be moving at supersonic speeds if you’re too busy multitasking to realize that, why no, this does not taste like butternut squash

The moral of the story? Check your leftovers before you reheat them. Mystery leftovers aren’t always what you think they are….

& know that a quick game of Falldown on your new iphone will cure even the worst stomach ache once said gravy begins to digest….

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(he’s obsessed, I swear)

It Happened… & We Survived

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Success. Great success.

We hosted Thanksgiving. And we survived.

Let’s go through the highlights on this Monday morning. Just because sometimes that is more fun.

* Having my sous chef (aka baby sister aka Sara) peel and slice practically everything and only cut her finger once.

* Nearly forgetting to make cranberry sauce, and then realizing that I was eyeballing ev-er-y-thing. I blame it on being sick.

*Oh yeah! Hosting my first Thanksgiving while getting over this flu/ cold/ sinus infection awfulness. So exciting!

* Forgetting the rosemary for the turkey and sticking it in his little butt.

* The green beans. The healthy green bean casserole recipe. Nixing the healthy green bean casserole recipe because it was way too complicated.

* Ice. Falling. All over the kitchen. No way to give those green beans an ice bath anyway.

* Alex’s contribution: Pigs in a Blanket.

* Turkey perfection & turkey carving perfection thanks to my dad.

* My brother’s legal apple cider moonshine concoction. Delish.

* Lions lost. Redskins won.

* My cousin’s cheese ball. Hand carved. Delish again.

* Leftovers…..

* Tryptophan comas.

I hope your Thanksgiving was just a fabulous as ours.

And now, for some pictures.

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So there was food…..

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& a large dose of Griffin’s….

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Pies, too….

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& then there was rest…..

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So let Christmastime commence, Charlie Brown.

To Be Thankful

Should be easy, huh? And while I can always come up with the standard list (family, friends, food, clothing), it’s tricky these days to focus your perspective in the right frame.

Today Alex finished a ton of rather monstrous house projects that had fallen into the “well, if nothing else, we’ll finish them before we put the house on the market again” category. It was stressful. Unlike my family, where we did everything from change our own oil at home to build rooms from scratch by ourselves, he’s learned pretty much everything on his own in the past three years we’ve owned our house. And he’s not a natural handyman. Oops. As in, he hates it.

So, in typical Tina fashion, I’m sick. Surprised? I’m not. Let me paint the picture here. Alex is cursing the homeowner gods over caulking and nailing into studs and everything in between, I’m trying to clean for tomorrow’s party and I just crash. I mean, I pass out. On the bed, thank goodness. But, there I am. And there he is.

It was a rough day.

And on the eve of Thanksgiving, all we could think about is how we don’t have enough time, we don’t have enough money, we don’t have the right jobs, we don’t have the right house to raise a family, we don’t have, we don’t have, we don’t have. What do we have? House projects and illness. Been there, done that?

On the other side of all of that bickering, all of those awful thoughts, all of those emotional comments, Misha and Baci curl up on the couch in the cup of my lap and rest their heads on one another. And for just a moment, we could think clearly.

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Here’s what I’ve got for you. To help you be thankful:

While there will always be someone smarter, prettier, richer, luckier than you….

at the same time….

there will always be someone worse off than you…..

So instead of a list, I’m just telling you this:

I’m thankful for my life. I’m thankful that the largest stresses in my life are over extremely lucky career choices & who we will celebrate the holidays with & which cities will be best for us to raise a family & the whens and hows of carrying my future babies & how to save for their college & whether to bake a pecan pie or a cherry cobbler for Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my little family.

From all of us to all of you, have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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Granny

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(Throwback, much? This is from 2007 at my uncle’s ordination anniversary party. It was the first summer Alex and I dated. And the summer I took him to Michigan to meet the family. We’re young, huh? And there’s Granny and Uncle Jack. Looking awesome, as usual.)

Thanksgiving reminds me of my Granny. She’s not with us anymore here on earth. But growing up we’d always cart ourselves the 2 hours south to Richmond, Virginia for one of the holidays (sometimes it wasn’t necessarily Thanksgiving; maybe it was Easter or Christmas). And she’d be there at the door to give us a huge hug. And feed us. And, oh, offer us a fresca.

Fresca reminds me of Granny, too. She loved her fresca. And her wine. I suppose maybe we just have a lot in common.

So back to Granny. She isn’t my real, real grandma. She’s my real, real grandma’s sister in law. Which makes her, like, my aunt of some sort. We don’t pay attention to those things in my family. I have aunts and uncles who are probably cousins half removed and taken back a 2nd or 3rd time. It’s all just silly. We’re family. And she’s my Granny.

This is why Thanksgiving reminds me of Granny: Granny loved to throw a party. Oh, boy did she love to entertain. And seeing as this is my first holiday entertaining myself, I’m trying to remember all that she did to make each and every holiday feel special. And here’s what my terribly faint memory can recall:

* Granny always had gifts for us. She loved to shop. Oh, yeah, that’s right… maybe we just have a lot in common. ;)

* Granny always had food for us to munch on before the big meal. Forget spoiling our appetites. Holidays are made for good company and gluttony.

* Granny made sure your glass was always full. For me, this was always fresca.

* Granny decorated every inch of the house. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch. But the woman could decorate with such class and beauty. I mean, look at this wreath:

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(sidenote #546 for this post: I’m the oldest sibling, I swear. That would be my baby brother and my baby sister. They are just… giants. Mmmmkay?

*A few hours after the big meal, Granny fed us AGAIN. Now, this one may be just my parents feeding us turkey sandwiches, but this is how I remember it.

And here is the biggest reason I remember Granny whenever Thanksgiving comes around:

Many years ago, when we visited for Thanksgiving, the turkey didn’t taste the same. It was maybe a tad bit dry and a tad bit salty. And I remember sitting at the kids table with my cousins (okay, so they are like, 2nd/3rd/removed… I don’t care they are my cousins) and we were all like, “Wow, Granny’s getting old.”

Being a kid is so strange. We have no concept of time. Or age. Or truth. The turkey was probably just fine. But, sure enough, Granny was getting old. We didn’t see her aging year after year when we visited. She was always just our gorgeous Granny. We didn’t notice her slowing down. It took a Thanksgiving dinner before we realized it for ourselves. 

So then we started having holiday dinners at the country club. And they were absolutely fabulous but never the same. Then, we got older and busier. We didn’t make it down as often. Then, sooner than we could see it coming, Granny wasn’t doing too well. Then, even sooner, Granny passed away.

This was a few years ago. Around Easter. I think it’s fitting, seeing as she brought the family back together again. And what did we do? Why, of course we had one big party. We ate and we drank and we did just what Granny would have wanted us to do.

So as we near Thanksgiving and the rush of holidays to follow, I think about Granny. We don’t make it down to Richmond much anymore. We sure mean to. We sure want to.

That’s my honest truth about family and the holidays. The whole “we sure mean to, we sure want to” bit. Gosh, it’s difficult to get together. But, nonetheless, in honor of Granny, I’ll be sure to have a case of fresca for the taking on Thursday afternoon. 

And, hopefully, the food will be even half as tasty as what her and Uncle Jack would prepare.

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Family Traditions: Old and New

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I must preface this post by saying I am not the type blogger you will go to in order to maintain your trim waist over the next month and a half. This is my favorite time of the year and I indulge. And by indulge I mean I blasted Mannheim Steamroller through the house while I did laundry, drank spiced cider with brandy alongside my dinner and now I’m finishing my meal with some eggnog ice cream. And writing you this post……

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Ahem. Where were we, Tina?

Thanksgiving. Ahhhh yes. Turkey Day.

Somehow I ended up hosting this year. “Wake up Call “You’re a Housewife” Number 46: You host Thanksgiving.” Four more days. I suppose if you judged me for that egg nog ice cream earlier, you probably feel my stress and pain by now.

Becoming a grown-up is funny. You plan to hold onto everything from your childhood that means the world to you. But, at the same time, you actually have permission to begin your own traditions. It’s a great place to be if you ask me! So here we go.

My Ancient Family Traditions…. all of our Thanksgiving traditions center around our ability to eat. Irishmen who can eat potatoes like the famine is still upon us. Sweet teeth that request not only apple but also cherry, pecan, pumpkin and blueberry pie. German wine. Green jello (more on that one later, I promise). And, of course, the expected tryptophan coma, curled up on the couch watching Little Women.

My Newfound Family Traditions…. so how do I add to those traditions in my new role as hostess? Well, a few traditions presented themselves to me and I’m happy to call them my own now. First order of business? My husband’s odd request for Pigs in a Blanket while he watches football waiting for the turkey. I’m not angry about that one. No, this seems like a great idea to me. Second order of business? Proper apple cider. Last year when we prepared the hors d’oeuvres part of our neighborhood Progressive Dinner trifecta, I made the king of all mulled spiced ciders. So that one must stick around. And, lastly, a good turkey trot. My baby sister recently jumped on the racing bandwagon and decided we should all work off our dinner in the morning. Well, I bowed out this year because I am a wee bit nervous about having everything ready for my little fête  However, Alex and I have already made it a tradition of running the 3 1/2 mile parkway in our neighborhood every Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Rain, sleet, snow or shine. We’re out there. And it feels great.

So Happy Thanksgiving to each of you! It doesn’t matter how new, how old, how weird or normal your traditions are. Traditions are what keep us coming back year after year to celebrate. So now it’s your turn to share a special facet of your holiday with The Sisterhood. Join Sheila, Kristin and I by choosing something from the list below and linking up!

+ Thanksgiving Family Traditions
+ Favorite Recipe
+ Fashion for Turkey Day – What do you plan to wear?
+ What Thanksgiving means to you in one word
+ Your “Pinterest” table decor muse
+ A photo of something you’re thankful for
+ An inspiring quote about thankfulness

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Costa Rica… En Mi Corazón

In my mind I had this perfect plan for revealing our honeymoon on the blog. It’s right there, in my iPhone calendar under November. A whole week of memories. One year later. A Thanksgiving Special. Because, well, I give thanks for my husband and my life with him, and our honeymoon. And also because we took our honeymoon over Thanksgiving.

But Costa Rica keeps coming to me in my daydreams. It keeps creeping up on the computer screen thanks to some habitual fingers that have memorized the clicking pattern and location of our honeymoon photos. Costa Rica keeps popping up on Facebook, thanks to a handy dandy “like” button pushed down on Finca Rosa Blanca and Tabacon Resort and Spa. It keeps coming up when it rains, when it’s hot, when the sun sets in sherbet smooth hues of oranges and reds. 

It keeps coming up.

And so I needed to write about it. Considering we’re just on the other side of summer vacation (an amazing break from reality at that) and we’ve been traveling quite a bit recently, and will travel again soon, I know that our honeymoon is not coming up due to wanderlust.

No, it’s not wanderlust. I can’t exactly pinpoint it. Do I miss it? More than anyplace else I’ve visited. But that isn’t all of it. Alex and I have our little routines that take us from day to day, weekday to weekend, mornings to evenings. We graze through each day with our routines, woven in and out of each other. Yet, some days, while I know we are together, I know that we aren’t together. And it’s that bond, that isn’t broken, just…. well, forgotten in the rhyme and rhythm of our routines, that keeps drawing me back to Costa Rica. After all, you can find the word "rut" if you look reaallllly hard into the word "routine".

But no, I’m not going to spoil your Thanksgiving treat. I have many memories and, believe me, I won’t be forgetting anything between now and then. Doesn’t this happen to us all? Sometimes I worry that my life is strewn together with a bunch of days, months and years that separate each great adventure. I grow tired and restless. I lose sight of my life today, the beauty of my routine, the blessings of ordinary life. And with that loss of sight, relationships and friendships are difficult to foster. We get in ruts. Routine ruts. So, perhaps, it truly is wanderlust after all.

But, until Thanksgiving, here’s a few old Costa Rica posts to keep you happy:

Siesta

Let the Rain Fall Down

For All My Relations

Our Tico Vase

You’re the Honey and the Moon that Lights up my Night

The Carnivorous Beast in Me

*photo’s provided courtesy of Tabacon and Finca Rosa Blanca.*

For all my relations

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On Thanksgiving Day, Alex and I found ourselves in the depths of the Tabacon Spa, breathing in Grandmother Fire as the volcanic rocks ignited.  Our senses were calmed by the smell of herbs and the rush of the hot springs in the distance.  The fire danced, cracking and snapping in an unpresuming, welcoming way that only fires can do.  A few yards away was our temazcal, our womb.  On hands and knees, as this is the only way to enter such a small, confined space, we placed our foreheads to the ground.  For all my relations, we prayed.  We cleanse for all of our relations.

There were ten of us in the sweat lodge for a complete hour.  Our only light source came from the spark of the volcanic rocks as we poured buckets of herbs and water over the bellybutton of the womb.  Drums pounding, voices chanting, the room grew hotter and hotter.  We cleansed our minds.  We cleansed our bodies.  We healed from within.  In all honesty, we nearly died.  It’s uncertain how hot temazcal gets.  I can tell you this, it was more mentally challenging that anything I’ve ever encountered. 

It was our honeymoon and we came by choice to temazcal on that day.  Now, the incentive of a free session, included in our resort package surely sweetened the deal.  I was expecting moreso of a sauna.  What we got, however, was a mesoamerican rite.  How appropriate for Thanksgiving, away from our loved ones, to be meditating and cleansing our souls.  The rocks of our new life together, of Tabacon, of the volcano where we shared our first excursion as husband and wife, bathed us in their warmth and cleansed us with their powers.

We shared that hour with complete strangers that were in no way alike.  There were the couple from India, who brought their Hindu rituals to our temazcal, unsure of how this would fit into their beliefs.  They sang with beauty and they shared their spirituality.  There was the retired, found new age husband and his wife who, suddenly, without warning, sometime in the 3rd door, began chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum”.  We all joined in.  To the other side of us, were the young couple.  He came from a long line of Native American descendants.  He remembered being in a sweat lodge with his grandfather when he was ten years old.  She was utterly miserable in the heat.

The honeymoon was perfect, as I’ve said before.  It was luxurious, adventurous, sexy and relaxing.  Not a day goes by that I don’t spend even a few minutes recalling tiny little soundbites of the trip.  I smile and my heart races as I reminisce.  Every once in awhile my memories take me back to temazcal.  What happened in that tiny beehive of a womb is unclear.  It was the type of experience that leaves you speechless, your thoughts on overdrive yet, at the same time, empty.  It was about spiritual growth, physical cleansing and strengthening our bonds with earth and one another.

I will never experience Temazcal again.  Call me a wimp.  I am not one for heat.  The Shaman would say I am unbalanced.  I have too much fire.  True, my ayurveda is pitta.  Too much fire.  Yet, perhaps that is why I keep going back to my memories.  The grandmother fire.  The volcanic rocks.  I sit and I medidate.  Then, eventually, I fall over in exhaustion and heat.  I try to slow my breathing.  I follow the beat of the drum and the whoosh of the water as it burns on the rocks.  I breathe.  For all my relations.  I pray.  We ask for the door to be opened.  All I see is grey smoke.  It takes a full minute before I look out and onto the twilight of the evening.  Out of the womb I crawl. 

For all my relations.

*Filed under Married Life, Wanderlust Life*

You’re the honey & the moon that lights up my night

Don’t let us fool you- this is just a major ploy to avoid family holiday politics over Thanksgiving.  Except…. dad’s going to be in Germany with grandma, sis decided to tag along, mom’s got seriously fun plans with her friends, brother’s going to be with his girlfriend… no, I guess it doesn’t hold up.

So, here it is 11pm, finally dumping laundry load #3 into the washing machine- not like we’re going to need these sweaters where we’re going.  Everything always hits the fan right before something exciting occurs.  This time, our hot water heater goes out (something called a thermal coupler… anyone?  anyone?), Alex comes down with one of those “I swear it’s not strep” sore throats, parent teacher conferences need to get done and oh, by the way, we’re out of cat food.  I think it’s safe to say we’re ready to escape.

Here we go.  American Airlines- we’re begging for one of those "Congrats! Since it’s your honeymoon…" upgrades.  Fodor- show us what you’ve got.  Frommer- we hope these maps are accurate.  Baci and Misha- I’m bringing you home a baby sister.  We’ll call her Jaguar.  Play nice, she’s rather big.  Ticos, please make my harness extra tight before sending me down the zip line.  And lastly, keep the poisonous snakes away.

Here’s to a blessed 1 month anniversary, hidden away in our own pocket of God’s earth. Nothing matters except for the warmth of our laughter as we dangle our feet out over the edge of our future. Looking back on the depths of our love, we’re greeted with a new sense of history.  In the stillness of our embrace and the passion of our gaze, here we are.  And here we begin.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

*Filed under Married Life, Wanderlust Life*

Giving Thanks. Progressive Dinner 11.11.11

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We are fortunate enough to call our neighbors our best friends.  The relationships we’ve fostered over the past few years together are of the type that last a lifetime.  As a way to mix up our standard pizza, beer and wine nights, we plan progressive dinners for the holidays.  Each house is responsible for either appetizers, the main dish or dessert as well as a special beverage to go alone with it.  This time, we had appetizers.  I spent 3 days looking up apple cider recipes before deciding to dump the kitchen sink into the pot.  We’re talking everything from cinnamon sticks and brown sugar to whole cloves, brandy and rum.  It was amazing.  Sipping homemade cider while surrounded by your best friends is the perfect way to give thanks.  Happy Thanksgiving, from us.

*Filed under Social Life*