Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving ProDUCKtion

Thanksgiving week...Whew!  So much went down that I would love, love to blog about.  It would be both therapeutic and good comedy but these things were to personal for me to share with the masses.  You are probably thinking: Umm...you just blogged about your boobs.  My boobs are mine to share or not.  These other personal stories belong to my house guests and I will keep them theirs no matter how badly I would like to divulge.  So I will tell my Thanksgiving tale but there will be some holes.  Hopefully, I can weave it in such a way that it will still end up making sense. 

Scene I Act I

The festivities began on Tuesday last week.  Aaron's family was scheduled to arrive that evening.  I was thrilled their arrival would not intrude on Baking Day because this Baking Day was to be crucial to our Thanksgiving meal.  We planned to make as many of the sides and desserts as we could so that everything could just be re-heated on the big day. 

Baking Day started off pretty stellar when Caren greeted me by asking if I had any whiskey.

"I ran out last night,"  she explained.  Riiight.

I thought it was some hard core Mountain People thing.  She clarified that she needed whiskey to make home made Bailey's.  So we were off to a great start!  I learned to make home made cranberry sauce (which is both easy and delicious) bread stuffing, and cornbread stuffing.  Kathy is our Crust Queen so she made pie crusts for all of our pies.  The innards of the pies were a joint effort. 

My bread stuffing went smoothly enough and was pretty easy to make.  I needed the cornbread stuffing for Aaron's Turducken that he had decided to try and tackle this year. 

I screwed it up.  I'm not going into the details but it was bad.  Kathy tried to act like it could be saved.  Laurel winced a tad and said it had "bite."  Caren took a bite and suggested we feed it to the birds.  I was so ticked.  It is hard for me when I mess up on baking day because I am rarely making something just for me and my family.  Half of the Thanksgiving sized portions were going to Caren's family.  Not only that but I just wasted a bunch of organic ingredients. 

I carried my tray of cornbread-poop out side and fought tears as I crumbled it out onto the ground.   Part of my tears and anxiety was caused by the caffeine in the Bailey's spiked coffee we'd been drinking the rest is because I still had sweet potatoes and green bean casserole to make and the day was mostly over.  Family was on their way and I still had a few more things left to do at the house.

When I returned to the kitchen the other ladies were packing up their things to go.  Caren had a glass of red waiting for me. 

"Sit.  Relax.  It's only Tuesday.  You can make the rest later.  After you've had your wine we will remake the cornbread casserole."  Dear wise Caren!

Note to self: no coffee on Baking Day.

The second batch turned out super yummy!  Plus, Caren added bacon from Laurel's hog to it.  (Mountain People.)

I finally gathered my goodies and went home.  As I walked home, I couldn't help but notice that the cornbread I left for the birds had yet to be touched...

I was so happy that I had started a crock pot stew before heading to Baking Day.  I walked in and dinner was ready!  I had about an hour before the kids got home for some finishing touches in the house.  When Aaron's family arrived the house was filled with a savory aroma, candles were lit and a fire was roaring.  I love to set a scene!  It was a lovely evening.

Scene II

Wednesday I woke up at the crack of dawn and pressed my face to the window looking for any sign that my next guest was near to arriving.  I had been much anticipating this visit with my friend Shalah.  There were no cars out yet but there was snow.  Yee haw!  I had been praying that it would snow for our guests.  Nothing stuck but it was still fun to watch it fall while snuggled down in a blanket, next to a warm fire. 

Every hour I fogged up the windows again, looking for signs of Shalah. 


After about my 3rd time to the window she text that she was on her way.  On her freakin' way!  It was 9 in the morning!!  Unacceptable.  I told her to leave at the crack of dawn.  She had began her trip the day before and stopped in Raton, New Mexico.  That was hard enough for me, knowing that she was only about 3 hours away!  Oh the angst!  Plus she was missing the snow.  She finally arrived at 12:30.  The snow hung on just a touch for her.  I scolded her for her late start and for following GPS directions instead of mine.  Then there was hugging and squealing and I ushered into my home. 

Sitting on the couch with my Shalah was such a joy.  Moments were surreal.  She was really here!  Wine and laughter was in abundance.  In fact UPS showed up to deliver our wine club wine.  I seriously could not have arranged it any better.

That evening my BIL, Matt, wanted to treat the family to dinner for his dad's birthday.  The restaurant of choice was Casa Bonita.  Casa Bonita is no ordinary restaurant.  They have shows every 15 minutes.  I imagine this place is an ADD's dream.  There is a pirates duel, gorillas, sky divers and more.  There is also an arcade, in case you get bored.  Upon arrival they immediately herd you into lines and hand you a menu.  Once in line, you really can't leave.  Drew announced that he needed the restroom but we told him there was no escape.  While in line someone comes by to take your party's order.  You inch on a little more until you get to a cashier who rings up your ticket and sells arcade tokens that Uncle Matt had to of course purchase for his nephews.  Inch on a little more until you get to the trays and silverware.  Up a little more and there is an assembly line of sorts.  Our party of 8's plates were all there waiting for us.  Oops...wait..where's the All You Can Eat Beef Plate?  No worries!  A plate of Mexican Beef entrees slides out of the kitchen.  This started some concern about the quality of the food we were about to eat.  Maybe the concern should've started back in line where they trapped you like a rat.  Maybe it should've been piqued when I noticed the Help Always Wanted signs they had posted while we went through the line. 

Once we had our food things moved fast.  We were quickly ushered through the restaurant (nay...the CARNIVAL) to our table.  At the end of the table is a flag.  Like a Panchos flag!  You raise it when you want more.  Looking at my plate of gruel I was pretty certain that I, for one, would not be raising the flag.  The kids were up and down from the table to watch the various shows.

"This man dove off of a 20 foot waterfall,"  Drew announced, "and he LIVED!"  So the entertainment was good. 

Matt also pulled out all of the stops and had a mariachi band come to play a Happy Birthday song to his dad.  After the song they moved about one table over to play it again, then down about two more tables to play it yet again. 

Matt had been to this place once when he was 6 years old.  I see now why he remembered it so well.  It is scalded into my brain.  Forever. 

(This is where there was another adventure that I can't share happened.  Just imagine the fun one can have upon ingesting Mexican food.)

Scene III

Turducken.  Aaron had declared that he would be making Turducken earlier in the week.  He did his research and his time had come to execute his plan.  He began by deboning the chicken and duck.  This was done Wednesday night.  I think after the adventures of Casa Bonita he was ready to knife something.  It proved to be very cathartic for him.  He first worked on the chicken.  By the time he got to the duck he was nothing less then jovial!  Matt and Shalah were armed with cameras, prepared to document the making of a Turducken.  Aaron lifted the duck by it's wings and danced it about for the cameras.  With very little coaxing, he next posed with his head in the place where the ducks once was.  It was hilarious!  It was even more amusing that this was my oh-so-serious Aaron.

Thursday morning Drew woke me up with, "Happy Thanksgiving mom.  It's Giant Meat Day!  It's my lucky day!" 

Shalah and I took a walk around the "hood" and reviewed what was left to be done for the meal.   This made me realize that I forgot pecans for the sweet potatoes but knew where Caren kept hers.  I went to her house to grab them and noticed my cornbread from two days before were still on the ground.  Undisturbed.

Back at the homestead, I set out some snacky foods and made the prosciutto asparagus puffs again.  Aaron was not only baking a  Turducken but also frying a turkey.  The timing of it all was crucial and so he kept asking us when we thought dinner would be served.

"2-ish,"  I said.

"3:30,"  Shalah countered.

After the snacks were out and being snacked, I moved on to the green bean casserole.  I washed and snapped the green beans and added cream of mushroom soup and those crunchy onion thingys.  Just as I finished prepping the casserole Aaron entered the kitchen and asked, "Are those green beans raw?" 

Usually I use canned green beans but the goal this year was to do nothing from a can or a box.  Canned green beans are pre-cooked.  Once the casserole is made it has 30 minutes in the oven before ready.  Who knew how long it would take if we put raw green beans in.  Matt, with his uncanny way of always catching me in a low point, was there with his camera and snapped the very moment.  I am looking down into the dish with this new realization, feeling a little burn in the eyes again.  Behind my back, Shalah is giving Aaron the "shut it" sign with her hand.  Aaron is grinning ear to ear, amused by my kitchen skills. 

Shalah shewed them both out of the kitchen, pried the casserole out of my hand and redirected me to some potato mashing.  That I can do.  I don't know how she fixed it.  I think she rinsed all of the ingredients off of my beans.  Whatever she did it worked and I found solace in the soothing rhythm of mashing taters.

The meal was finally ready...at 3:30. 

Both of Aaron's turkey's were great!  He accomplished a Thanksgiving culinary fete! 

After we were all stuffed to our gizzards, we agreed that a hike was in order.  Leaving the kids with my MIL, the rest of us bundled up and set up the hill.  It was a crisp cold!  Getting ourselves moving was just the thing to warm us up and move the turkey down a bit, creating just enough room for pie.

Scene IV

Friday morning we took the crew to a favorite breakfast place for the Mountain People, Kountry Road Cafe in Kitteredge.  Portions here are not normal.  Food is delish!  Gabriel ordered pancakes.  They were about 2 inches thick and as big as his plate!  Matt ordered something called Holy Cow.  Evidently it was named such because that's what one said when the dish is set before you.  It was sausage laced mashed potatoes, with a layer of scrambled eggs, layered by more sausage mashed potatoes, topped with gravy, crowned with chicken fried steak and bejeweled with four slices of french toast. 

Towards the end of our meal the waiter comes by and asked if he could take our plates.  When he saw how much Matt had put away of the Holy Cow he said that he had never seen anyone eat that much of it before and added that no one had ever finished it.

"Really?" Matt asked, "No one has finished it?  Oh...now I have to do it."

We tried to convince him that there was no need.  We were all impressed with how much he had eaten.

"This isn't about you, it's about me."  Matt said and forkful after painful forkful he chiseled away at the meager remainings of his breakfast.  The waiter came by again and Matt asked if he finished, would his picture be put up on the wall. 

"No.  But we should start doing that."

"Forget it."  Matt said and pushed the plate away.  No gut, no glory.  Or something like that. 

A hike was once again the remedy for our over indulgence.  I took Matt and Shay to Mt. Falcon.  The views were great!  I had to scold Shalah a little bit because she kept texting.

"Shay, if you don't look up from texting you could trip on a rock or something."  I tell her and then...trip!  She did.

"How do you do that?"

"Common sense."

We saw deer in the meadow and interesting, grizzly looking people and then a mouse scurried across the trail.  It has taken nothing less then a mouse to cause me to turn around on a hike before but not our Shalah.  Noooo.  She thought the little mountain mouse is adorable!  Ignoring my warnings of diseased bites she bent down and scooped up the little critter in her hand.  Cupped in her hand, he was so warm he darn near fell asleep.  Or he fainted.  Who knows.  Matt and Shalah proceeded to have a photo shoot of the mouse and named him Howard.  I stayed on my side of the trail waiting for her to get bit.  After the photo shoot, Shalah tucks the little rat into her coat pocket.

"That is not going in my car.  You are going to forget about it and accidentally crush it."  Shay poo-pooed all of my objections.

"You can't even take wild flowers from these places.  I'm pretty sure it is a no-no to take actual wild life."  This did not deter her either but she did have a thought that she could be taking him away from a family.  And so we all headed back to the very place where Howard was found and returned him there.

Act II Scene I

So, I know this is a terribly long blog but we are reviewing darn near a week instead of a day like most times.  Hopefully, you have found it entertaining enough to hang in there.  If only I could have added those other funny moments of....*sigh*  I may have to start having people sign consent forms for me to tell their tales.

Saturday was the Gingerbread House Snack Down!  Caren had once been apart of these and wanted to revive them this year.  She and I had spent two weeks shopping for decorations and scheming for our entries.  The theme was Christmas Storybooks.  I knew right away that my team would do The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  Who-ville is so colorful, whimsical and kooky!  Anything goes and so we would use that to our advantage.  If our homes are lopsided we can claim that it is just Who-ish.  It was fool proof!  I found a very Who-like apron and a spirally Santa hat.  Just looking the part could be all that is needed to intimidate the competition.

Poor Shalah.  I'm pretty sure she started to break out in hives as soon as I told her about the whole thing.  Not that Shay is not a fun girl but she is just not....festive.  Or creative.  She is not really anything that -ive follows.  I knew this would be hard for her but I was not backing down from the challenge and I needed her help.  Oh!  There is an -ive word that does describe Shalah and that is COMPETITIVE.  I knew it would kick in eventually and boy, how!

After I showed Shalah my Who-ville print outs and all of the supplies that I had bought she got to brainstorming.  I wanted a village surrounding the tree where they sing their song.  In the back ground I wanted Mt. Crumpit.  Everything had to be edible and everything had to be assembled on sight.  I did some preliminary runs on the Grinch and pre-made a gingerbread arch way, some roofs, and the Grinches sleigh.

I did ask Shalah that she not have wine until after the competition.

"Really?  I think you will find I work better that way."

"I can't have you getting sloppy and risking a house caving in or something."

I was making creamed brandy cordials for the party though and since neither of us had ever had brandy we did decide to try a bit.  We gave our sifters a swirl, clinked them together and took a sip.

*Hoo-ah! Ack!  Doi-oi-oing!* 

We both winced and wheezed in unison.

"Whew,"  Shay said.  "Ready for the next sip?"  The next was the same as the first.

Luckily we were spared any more of it by a call from Caren.  Time was running short and she needed help with decorating and making bowls and bowls of icing.  Shalah and I packed four bags of supplies and headed over the hill.  We both let out a little whimper when we still saw evidence of my cornbread from what had now been 4 days.  Not a rat, bird, fox or otherwise had come to eat it. *sigh*

We entered the house to a vision of red and white clothed tables that were full of candies and food.  As I took it all in The Nutcrackers "Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairies" began and then in swirled Caren looking gorgeous in a red sweater, black embroidered skirt and tall black boots.  There were quick but warm introductions as she handed me a bag of decorations (my forte) and recruited Shalah to making icing in the kitchen (her forte.)

Caren and I had a vision of candy decorations all over the house and so I had painted designs on Styrofoam circles that her daughters then wrapped in colorful cellophane.  I "pinned" them to corners of the tables and hung candy canes from windows and chandeliers.

Then I set to work on the creamed brandy.  They were to be topped with candied almond slivers.  These, of course, I burned.  Caren came behind me to smooth things out (as always) and I opted to just throw them in the trash this time, since the word of my fine cooking had apparently spread to the mountain critters.  I decided instead of giving it another go that we could just sprinkle them with cinnamon.  The recipe called for 2 T of brandy so I did 4.  My plan was to throw the rest of my competitors off balance.

The competition began with the pop of a champagne bottle.  My friend Robbie was also on my team.  She was also instructed to stay clear of the booze but somehow she and Shay both managed to bootleg some.  We had our game faces on though and executed the whole thing beautifully.  Shalah was in charge of Mt. Crumpit.  I showed her many picture with Crumpit's distinguishing curved tip.  The curved tip was the tricky part but Shay pulled it off perfectly!  Robbie layed down the frosting snow and piped green frosting over inverted ice cream cones to make the village tree.  I  made a few houses, the Grinch himself and then, at the last minute, a tootsie roll Max topped with a broken pretzel for his antler.  It was a good call because he turned out to be the biggest hit!

Everyone finished and the judging began.  The judges were nearly as serious as the competitors (i.e. me.)  There was long discussions and notes made over each creation.  I walked about to see how everyone else did.  There were several that had me nervous.  The Mountain People are creative.

The winners were finally announced.  There were several honorable mentions and even one "Dig Deeper Next Year" award. 

"It was tough to choose the winner and we even argued a bit about a few..."  I nervously gripped Drew's hand and then got embarrassed because Caren caught me, "...but we finally decided that if you are going to go big, then you should go Texas big!" 

With that a bottle of wine and a gingerbread man trophy was passed to us.  Just under our cheering I heard Drew ask, "Did we win a trip back to Texas?"

This brought me down a little.  Poor bug!

Final Scene

The next morning I took Shalah to my beloved Red Rocks.  I knew if anyone would appreciate it she would.  I've raved enough about them in previous blogs so I won't beat that horse.  We went into Morrison for lunch and shopping.

There is a small antique store that I had always wanted to check out and so Shalah and I started there.  The place was so packed full  of "treasures" that we could hardly maneuver through.  The floor boards creaked beneath our feet.  It smelled just like my Grandma's house, may she rest in peace.  A very old woman asked to assist us with anything we needed.  We turned a corner into a kitchen-like area.  There was a silverware tray with old pieces of stainless steel and even some plastic flatware.  It was like an episode of hoarders!  The elderly woman encouraged us to shop down stairs as well.  It was just as crowded and creepy.  Behind a curtain of sheets we saw a small living area with a bowl of cat food set out.  We climbed back up the groaning, creaking stairs and made as polite of a rushed exit as possible.  There were some really cool ski's in there though....poop.

After a few more over priced stores we walked over to a B&B place that I had always wanted to peek in on.  As we walked though I noticed the air was colder and the clouds looked different.  Snow clouds.

Shalah teased me that if I was able to predict snow by looking at the clouds it was time to return to Texas.  I laughed too because I was pretty sure I could not predict snow.  I did hope (really hard) that it would though.  What a perfect way to end our visit together!  So we headed home and sat on the couch under blankets and our hands wrapped around hot mugs of tea.

*Cue snow...black out and....curtain*

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