Thanksgiving in Hawaii

You know I have about six other things I really should be doing, but nope, definitely sitting here blogging.  My reasoning is that I prefer to blog when J isn’t home, and I can do those other things when he is.  You need a good excuse to do one thing over another?  I’m your girl.

So much to talk about.  J was off for the last five days and it was really amazing.  We originally thought we might go hiking last Wednesday, but we ended up postponing it in favor of cooking.  And that was a really great choice.

I’ve cooked Thanksgiving meals for (just) us before but they’ve always consisted of mostly packaged products.  This year I really wanted to do something different.  I want to feel confident one day to host a big meal for our (extended) families and/or friends, and I decided the best way was to practice in a low-pressure situation.  I know some of you do this routinely, and I tip my hat to you.  I get anxiety over everything, so the idea of hosting lots of family members for a meal?  It just simply hasn’t been an option.

My main issue is that I get overwhelmed.  I’m such a novice that it’s hard for me to organize when to cook what, and what is able to be prepared in advance. You guys know I am a procrastination pro, and I’m pretty sure this factors into my anxiousness.

So J and I made a menu.

Turkey (regular baked)
Rolls (purchased!)
Macaroni & Cheese
Deviled Eggs
Dijon Green Beans
Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes (white ones just mashed with milk & butter)
Cranberry Jello (J’s parents’ recipe)
Pumpkin Pie (store bought crust!)

The mac & cheese and green beans are old favorites for us, so nothing difficult there.  I’ve only cooked a turkey twice, but this year it was J’s job.  He also handled the mashed potatoes.  Everything else was my job.  (He would have helped with everything but I made it my personal mission to handle this on my own!)

I talked to my gal B, and she said the mac & cheese could be made the day before to reduce my workload on Thanksgiving.  So my goal was to prep that, the deviled eggs, cranberry jello & pumpkin pie on Wednesday.  I wanted Thursday to be totally stress-free.

First, I made the deviled eggs.  Guacamole style.  I’ve only tried once before and it was a complete disaster.  I learned first hand that trying to peel fresh eggs is not a great idea.  So this time, I made sure to have older ones for the recipe.  They definitely aren’t normal deviled eggs, but they turned out pretty well!

Sis helped next with the cranberry jello.

I never said it was a healthy dish.  Also, I was totally supposed to grind up the cranberries first.  And I’m not actually sure if I was supposed to peel the orange before putting it in?  Whatever.  It turned out pretty well.

Then it was time for the pumpkin pie.  My friend Meghan sent this recipe to me, and I was really excited to try it.  I’ve never even attempted pumpkin pie (or any pie?), so I was a little skeered.

Okay, yeah, Audra did a lot of the work.  But that still counts as me because supervising an 8 year old is a job.  (Even though she is pretty fantastic at this stuff!)  And dammit, that child gets more beautiful by the day.  I’m so not looking forward to her teenage years…

Hopefully she’ll continue the trend of refusing to brush her hair.  That should keep the boys at bay, right?

Anyway, our pie looked and smelled gorgeous.  I was confused about the crust and whether it would burn or whatever.  We chose a graham cracker one because I’m not a huge fan of the other kind.  Next year, maybe I’ll actually try to make my own.  Maybe not.

You can see where I touched it, but the good news is my kids don’t care about flaws on the pie.

And then because I wasn’t trying to do a million things, I decided to make chicken & noodles for the first time.  It’s a comfort food that both my grandma and J’s mom make all the time for us.  J absolutely loves it.  Okay, I do too.  So when I talked to my grandma last week, she gave me the instructions.  We picked up skin-on chicken breasts and whole grain wide noodles at the store and then I actually boiled the breasts on Tuesday.

As always, I think I was confused by the instructions, and I put the entire thing in the fridge after the chicken was cooked.  The goal was to let the water get cold so the fat could be skimmed off.  But I think I was supposed to removed the chicken and shred it while still hot.  I’ll know better next time.

Anyway, on Wednesday, I had to cook the noodles.  That was an interesting experience.  I had no clue how much to use.  And my grandma’s instructions were based on frozen noodles (not sold at our store) so I was just going into this blindly.  J was all kinds of excited too so that added a bit to my stress.  In the end, I just removed some of the fat from the pan of liquid and then added a bunch of boxed chicken stock and some water.  Then I dumped all of the noodles in.  Then I just let it heat up.  Now, in hind sight, I think I should have boiled the water first?  So the noodles became mushy but still hard.  It was not good news.

But since I figured it was already a loss, I just let it keep going and hoped for the best.  I shredded (shred?) the cold chicken – ew – and set it aside.  If nothing else, I could use that later.  I have no idea how long the noodles were in there, but eventually they became soft and mushy.  I’m not sure that’s what I was going for, but I sprinkled some salt and pepper and decided to hell with it.  It doesn’t matter how awful, J eats everything I make.  I threw in the chicken and let it heat up.  Then I made us all bowls and called the kids down for an early dinner.

And you know what?  After adding another 64 tablespoons of salt and pepper, it actually tasted pretty good.  The consistency wasn’t bad at all.  I was really damn shocked.  Now, was it as good as J’s mom’s or my grandma’s?  Negative.  But I proved to myself that you can produce something pretty tasty even when you don’t have a clue what you are doing.  And that is super exciting.  (Even if that something requires a heart-stopping amount of salt.)

So after dinner had settled, J suggested we go out for a run.  If you recall, I pleaded with him in my last post to help me in the motivation department.  So he decided to take it seriously.  And I’m so thankful that he did!

We aimed for a mile, but halfway through, I received an important phone call and had to walk for a few minutes.  So when that ended, I picked up my speed once more and knocked out a full mile.  So even though it was a little separated, I jogged 1.5 miles total.  And my incision lines definitely bothered me at first, but then they went a bit numb after a few minutes.

My speed is nothing to get jealous over, but I’m perfectly fine with it.  I’ve always had the philosophy that I’d rather run a 12-13 minute mile and enjoy myself rather than kill myself to get under 10 minutes. I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m dying.  And so I’m okay to spend a few extra minutes out in the fresh air while jogging slowly.

When we got home, I tackled the mac & cheese.  This is a tricky dish because I crave creaminess and the last two times I made it had mixed results.  I decided to omit both the spinach and bread crumbs this time.  After I boiled the noodles and made the cheese sauce, I combined the two into my baking dish and threw it in the fridge.

And then I grabbed a glass of wine and called it good for the day!

Thursday, J got the bird in the oven and I decided I had plenty of time before I needed to be productive.  So I was lazy.  And then I got my butt in gear and put the mac & cheese in the oven.  Then I started on the stuffing.  J toasted the bread (we used 100% whole wheat) and then I chopped it into tiny cubes.  That’s harder than it looks.  It gave my hands quite the workout.

Get your mind out of the gutter.  (Or is mine the only one in it?)

Anyway, I cut up the rest of the ingredients and while they were cooking on the stove, I worked on the green beans.  That’s a super easy dish.  Just steam the veggies and then throw the rest of the stuff on them.  (I forgot to take a picture though.)

The stuffing turned out to be easy too, but I wish I had cooked the onions and celery longer.  The celery was too crunchy, but other than that, it was pure perfection.  And I’ve only ever made boxed stuffing so I was pretty damn impressed.

The last thing to finish was the mac & cheese.  Yummmm.

We set up the table and I made the kids pose for pictures.  They are SUCH fans.  First, we posed on the couch.  I made sure we were all in coordinating outfits because that’s my idea of a good time.

I am so in love with our table!  It was perfect for all of our dishes.  We put the leaf in when we first got it, and have just left it big since it fits perfectly in our space.  Yay.

So once we were done cheesing it up for the camera, we served the kids and went around the table saying for what we were grateful.  My number one?  That my family of five is together this year.  I’m so grateful J is home.  Sooooo so very grateful.

Then it was time to get our grub on!

J did a great job with the turkey and mashed potatoes.  We’re still eating on them days later.  Delish.  And then after dinner settled, we had some of that amazing pie.

With whipped cream.  So damn good.  I can almost taste it now.  But not really.  Boo.

So I have to say, I am really very proud of myself.  I didn’t really screw up anything and that’s a huge deal.  I thought for sure there would be one or two flops.  I’m thinking with another year or two of practice, I may be ready to host an actual holiday.  And by ready, I mean, not lose my mind in the process.  I’m fully capable of doing it now.  I just wouldn’t enjoy any part of it.

That was Thanksgiving.  Such a great day.

Friday was even better.  Despite some seriously nasty rain happening in our neighborhood, we decided to take a chance and head out for a hike.  Always my idea of a good time!

I had been planning this hike for two weeks, and the pictures I had seen had me super excited.  The trailhead was in a residential area, and the trail itself went through quite a few changes of scenery.  I love that.

We chose the Kuliouou Ridge Trail because I read the valley one was anti-climactic.  We’ll have to hit it at some point though.

I was actually really surprised by how challenging this hike was.  It was all a steady incline and the last bit was just a ton of steep stairs.  We were definitely getting winded!  And everyone but Aidan fell at least once during the trail.  J grabbed my arm with his cat-like reflexes and kept me from rolling down the hill.  Audra got going a bit too fast coming down one of the hairpin turns (if that’s what they’re called) and barely caught herself on the edge.  Scared the shit out of all of us, but I was going down a different way and could only watch as it all happened in slow-mo.  Somehow she landed on her butt and her foot jammed into a tree branch which stopped her from going farther down.  Not much scares that girl, and I could even see the panic on her face.  Not cool.  (Of course now I’m suffering from some serious sleepless nights panicking about all that could go wrong on our adventures.)

Thankfully, that little scary incident occurred when we were almost done, so we didn’t have it on the mind the whole time.  And anyway, once it was over, we laughed it off and kept moving.  Because what else do you do?

And that was our hike.  Such a fun time!  And I have no idea how we got so lucky, but it didn’t rain a drop.  The other side of the island (where we live) was another story.  Just like it was when we left home, it was pouring when we returned.  And I keep saying it – I thought we lived on the dry side of the island?!

The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxed.  On Saturday, J and I decided to try another run.  We originally decided to go for two miles.  Half a mile in, J was way ahead and around the corner.  And my dumb ass thought it was the perfect time to trip over an uneven part of the sidewalk and fall to the ground.  I just totally laid myself out.  It was pretty fantastic.  Sadly, my phone doesn’t agree.  A few weeks back, my screen protector started peeling off and I never replaced it.  Big mistake.  My screen now looks as though I took a hammer to it.  All these years of owning phones and I’ve been so lucky.  Thankfully, I have insurance.  Only cost me $170 plus the $100 I’ve paid in premiums.  Quite the deal, eh?  Tomorrow I should have my shiny new phone in my hands. The cracks are seriously interfering with my Candy Crush playing abilities.

We also decorated the Christmas tree late Saturday night.  I gotta tell you – I am totally not in the holiday spirit.  I’m doing all of the obligatory shopping and decorating, but it’s way too tropical here to really feel it.  At least that’s reason I’m giving myself.  I figure as long as I’m doing my mom duties, it doesn’t really matter what I feel on the inside.

So like every year, we used our very fake tree.  I have absolutely no desire to use a real one either.  Such a party pooper.

I’m the lighting girl.

Gorgeous.

We have to go grab some more lighted garland, but I’m loving the staircase!  I obviously still haven’t finished my gallery wall.

I’m not quite done with the other decorations, but I’ll take pics when I am.  Two of the things I ordered from West Elm arrived today – weee!

On Sunday, we didn’t do a lot.  Audra FaceTimed with my mom and they baked simultaneously.

And a view from my mom’s house:

My mom was prepping her dough to freeze, so she didn’t get any immediate satisfaction.  But I can tell you that the brownies Audra made were deeeeeeelicious.  And already all gone.

And that brings me to today.  This blog post has taken me an insane amount of time and although I started it this morning, it’s now 8pm.  When J got home from work, we took a trip to the grocery store to pick up veggies for dinner.  Then I saw that they had a cheap deal on boxed wine, so he offered to carry it home.  And although we only needed a few potatoes, I realized that the 10 lb bag was a quarter of the price as the individuals per pound.  Crazy, huh???  So he grabbed the bag.  Poor guy is such a trooper.

Love the sight of a chivalrous man.  Mmhmm.  I carried a tiny little bag with carrots, butter and an onion.  Sooooo heavy. 😉

We had pork tenderloin tonight and man, was it good.  Now we’re watching some Dexter.  We’re nearing the end of what Netflix has online, and that makes me sad.  I have to wait until January for the rest!  Whatever will I do?

I’ll likely live.  And I’ll just find another show to latch onto.

Anyway, last week I hit the 3 month post-surgery mark, so I took some updated pics.

The only thing that seems to be different is my ever expanding hips and thighs.  I think it’s the wine?  Or the candy?  Or the second helpings?  Mother effing efferson.  I have gained 8 pounds in the last two weeks.  I’m not even sure how that’s physically possible unless my body is just retaining some serious water.  The surgeon said the swelling would last up to five months, but I just don’t know if that’s what’s going on here.  I have the greatest of intentions when I go to bed every night.  And then I wake up and over-indulge nearly from the get-go.  Regardless of any aesthetic reason, I have to get the weight gain under control.  I’m hoping that the recent uptick in activity will make a difference.  Fingers crossed.

And that’s pretty much all I have for ya.  I’ve been doing a lot of online Christmas shopping plus we are making kayaking plans for Austin’s birthday next weekend.  I’m just hoping the weather holds out.  As always, I have more crap to say, but I’ll save it for tomorrow’s blog post.  Hope you had an incredible holiday as well!  (That is, if you’re in the U.S. of course.)

Night!