Wednesday, October 6, 2010


You guys, maybe this is weird since I live in Denver where winter is cold and snowy? But I am really looking forward to winter. I did not like winter in New England, I will say that. It was too cold and gray and unrelenting. It was like, November hit, the first snowstorm came... and we all buckled in and prepared ourselves not to see the sun again for months. And sometimes the temperature would stay below 0 for weeks on end. It was... less than pleasant.

But Denver winter! I love Denver winter. I love snowstorms and I love the sun and mild weather that usually follows them. I love that it gets bitterly cold sometimes and gives us an excuse to hide in the house for days on end with a fire going constantly, cuddling with the dog, and I love that other times we get a snap of 70-degree days in February. I love walks in the snow and Uggs instead of flip-flops and watching the dog go crazy in the snow in the yard.

And I love the holidays. I love Thanksgiving, with its relaxed, family-focus feel, no presents, no real occasion, just a chance to take time off and be together (and eat a giant, delicious meal). I love lighting the menorah and singing the blessings. I love decorating the Christmas tree and putting out a wreath. I love Christmas day, and not just for the presents. I love New Year's Eve, even though we aren't the partying types and this year I won't even be able to drink champagne (sparkling apple cider, anyone?). I love the feelings that surround it and the decorations that are everywhere and the mood everyone's in. I love holiday cards too (though, we are thinking of not doing a holiday card this year and instead waiting and doing a birth announcement that doubles as a New Year's card... so if you got a card from us last year and don't get one this year, don't be offended... it's coming!). I am super excited about holidays with a kid in future years (and at some point I need to write about the whole multicultural Santa issue and how we're going to navigate it, but that's a separate post).

This year, the holidays will be a little different for us. I will be officially too pregnant to fly on Christmas, and since I will be more than 32 weeks along on Thanksgiving, I don't want to fly, or go too far away from my midwives, then either. So we will be celebrating both holidays at home. My sister and her family won't be able to join us--she herself will be pretty pregnant at that point, plus financially it's complicated for them, and made even more so by the shared custody arrangement of her stepkids. And my parents, though they theoretically could join us, are always busy at the holiday season because of my mom's toy store, and they've already booked a trip out here for a couple weeks after my due date, so it would be a bit much for them to fly out here twice in such a short timespan. Torsten's parents don't celebrate Thanksgiving, not being American, and are also planning to come visit shortly after Piglet is born, so they won't be here for Christmas either.

So, the upshot is, it's just going to be the two of us for both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Christmas I am totally fine with. We will exchange at least stocking-stuffer type gifts, and there will be a tree, and it will be cozy, and also I didn't grow up with any specific traditional Christmas Meal, so whatever we decide to cook will be just fine. Though I will definitely need my dad to instruct me on how to make Yorkshire pudding, because that is my favorite holiday dish, and he makes it every year so I have no idea how it's done.

It's Thanksgiving that throws me a bit more for a loop. I've never cooked a turkey before, and everyone swears it's not as hard as it seems, but then you always read horror stories of really dry turkeys, or underdone turkeys, or turkeys that unexpectedly take 72 hours to cook, and all these complicated solutions to these issues, like brining the turkey, and the point is, I'm a little intimidated by the idea of cooking my first ever turkey, and on Thanksgiving, when the pressure is higher to get it exactly right. And also, turkeys are big. Even the smallest turkey available will probably be too big for the two of us, even considering leftovers. Like, as in maybe we should cheat and do a chicken instead? I've never roasted a chicken either. And the side dishes? I could probably do mashed potatoes, but more complicated things like stuffing? I don't even know where to start.

But it's not just the food. Thanksgiving is just a crowd holiday to me. There are supposed to be some people in the kitchen wrangling the food, and others chatting and drinking eggnog and offering to help with the food, and still others setting the table and finding creative ways to fit all the required place settings, and a general holiday-season-kickoff feel to it, you know? It just seems WEIRD and WRONG to me to have Thanksgiving with just two people.

Obviously, it'll be fine, and you know, it's more like two and a half people, and maybe it'll turn out that Piglet kicks extra hard when I eat stuffing, or something, so that it will feel like he's participating. And I'm sure we'll figure out how to cook a manageable, but reasonably traditional, Thanksgiving meal, and it'll be cozy and pleasant in its own way, just the two of us. But it will certainly not feel like a regular, traditional Thanksgiving. And I'm a little apprehensive about that.

Though at least this year there will BE a Thanksgiving. The year I spent studying abroad in France? It was a random Thursday in November and I didn't even realize it WAS Thanksgiving until my parents called when I got home from school to say happy Thanksgiving, and when they called I STILL didn't realize that it was Thanksgiving at first and was worried that something bad had happened since they weren't calling on our regularly scheduled day. And then after I talked with my parents, my host family and I ate gross leftover soup for dinner. It was the least Thanksgiving-y Thanksgiving EVER, is my point. So this one AT LEAST has to be better than that.

What about you? Do you have holiday plans in place yet? What are your traditions, and will you be following them this year or doing something different?


  1. cook a turkey breast! you can stuff it too and roll it up...much easier to cook and faster! It sounds hard but make it fun for you and your husband! Enjoy!

  2. Regarding the food: Take it as an opportunity to freeze some meals! You'll be thankful you did come Feburary when the moms are gone and you can't find the energy to pour your own glass of water, let alone cook a meal. :) I had about two months' worth of meals stashed in my freezer after my baby was born, and it was a life saver.

  3. I agree with both Ladies Dream Big & Becky above; if you like turkey, a turkey breast is a great option. If you want to go the whole way, freeze leftovers. The Pioneer Woman has recipes for make ahead mashed potatoes that I'm sure could be frozen, and I would check there for stuffing too (she just started posting her Thanksgiving recipes). Otherwise, contact your family for the traditional foods they make.

    We split holidays between Ryan's family and mine; this year, Thanksgiving is with his family, and Christmas with mine. Next year, it will be reversed. Some day, we'll have a house that's big enough to get our families together in Duluth for a holiday, instead of us always traveling!

  4. One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is the one I spent with my best friend, her little sister, and her boyfriend in her tiny shoebox apartment. She had to work the day before and the day after so her little sister and I drove a few hours so she wouldnt be quite so alone. We made stuffed turkey breast we bought at the grocery store, lipton noodles, and I think canned vegetables. It was anything but the traditional meal any of us were used too. Are there some friends in the area you can ask over for Thanksgiving. Everyone can pitch in and help, you can play games afterward or just hang out and watch movies.

  5. I was just thinking you could treat the holidays this year kind of like a babymoon ... even though you won't be able to travel anywhere, you can do something special with just the two of you. I say, try grilling a turkey (or whole chicken or cornish hens!) ... great flavor you won't find using other cooking means!

    Before I even knew I was pregnant, my whole family decided to converge on Chicago for Thanksgiving. And we'll be sticking close to home for Christmas ... might even have a baby by then ... who knows.

  6. We did Christmas with a turkey last year for just the two of us - stores here sell smaller sizes which was great - enough for the two of us AND leftovers. Yummy! :D

  7. Cook the turkey upside down... keeps the breast meat moist.

  8. Since we've moved to Texas, we've done it with several other families who are staying in town and have no other family around. We have SUCH a good time together, no one has to make everything, and there is no traveling. I LOVE it.

    And seriously, a turkey is easy :)

  9. Here, try this:

    I'm all for roast chicken, but I prefer it over turkey anyway. And stuffing I just use that boxed stuff. It's pretty delish and easy.

    Going home for Thanksgiving, staying here for Christmas. As usual.

  10. If you're feeling charitable, you could always host other people for Thanksgiving. Every year here in Montreal, some of my friends host a big Thanksgiving party for all of their friends who don't have families or can't go to their families. It's a good time. If you've got friends there without big families, they're probably moping about spending it alone, too. Also, you can have everyone bring a different dish, so then that takes a lot of the cooking burden off of you.

    Maybe Canadian Thanksgiving is a more social event, though. I don't know. Either way, it's fun. I'm actually disappointed that I'm going to be missing the party/dinner this year because I have to go to a wedding.

  11. I wonder if you like winter in Colorado better partly because now you don't have to commute. I would like winter so much more if I didn't have to drive in snow unless I chose to!

    My turkey suggestion: buy a roaster. The turkey always turns out perfect, and then you have the oven free for more pies!

    We don't know our holiday plans yet. I can't really take time off because I want to save my vacation time in order to get more pay during maternity leave. I think my mom is going to come here for Thanksgiving again, but Christmas is totally up in the air.

  12. Ohh, don't stress over the turkey. Stick it in the oven and slather it with butter every so often. Really, that's it. Cover it until the last, oh 30 minutes of cooking. Then uncover to let the skin crisp up.

    Then make turkey soup! It freezes great and is healthy.

  13. canadian thanksgiving is this weekend. it isn't the same as the american one as we don't really consider it the kick off to the christmas season. a little too early.

    freezing future meals is a fantastic idea. i did it before the jellybean arrived and was very greatful that i did.

    roasting a chicken is ridiculously easy. a turkey is a little more work, but not as scary as it seems. i did my first a couple of years ago and it turned out great. i used my friends method of rubbing the breast with a whole stick of butter and basting lots. yumho!

    good luck!

  14. Dude - turkeys really aren't hard. You can totally do this. (maybe try a practice run this month, just to shore up your confidence.)
    Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday too. :)

  15. i know what you mean about thanksgiving! but making lots & freezing leftovers DOES sound like a good idea, and i promise you stuffing is totally easy / manageable (and obvs SUPER WORTH IT - my fave part of thanksgiving dinner i think!)

    also: OMG i had a thanksgiving in france during my year abroad too, and HAAAAAAAAhahahahaaa. our whole group went out to dinner at a restaurant where they tried to make a thanksgiving meal specially for us, and GOOD GODS. it would have been better to just sit at home and eat soup, i think, rather than have such ALMOST-Thanksgiving food that was SO VERY NOT RIGHT.

  16. My suggestions: Just cook a turkey breast. And brining is an excellent way to keep from having a dry turkey. I use Alton Brown's turkey recipe, and I use one of those big ziploc bags that you can store clothes in (found at Target rather than the grocery store), stick all the brine and turkey in there, and just flip it over. He suggests using a bucket or a cooler. Trust me, the ziploc bag is easier. Other than that, cooking a turkey is a piece of cake. Thaw, remove innards, brine, cook, serve.

    I've hosted Thanksgiving for the past couple of years and have made the turkey for several years before then. But I have a very small family - me and my mom, and we invite a friend or two. This year there will probably be 3 of us. My mom makes the dressing, but I do the mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, some green vegetable (usually roasted asparagus), and usually a crumb kind of dessert, since I'm the only pumpkin pie lover. Our friend also brings a dish - a salad or another veggie, etc. I don't do sweet potatoes becasue I can't stand them. Even though we're a small group, it's a great meal, and relaxing because we're not all jockeying for space at the table.

  17. We did thanksgiving on our own one year- it was FABULOUS. We did a chicken instead of turkey- way easier!

  18. Hi Jess,
    My mom is from Scotland and like you, I love yorkshire puddings! The tip she gave me is to make sure your pan and oil/butter are extremely hot before you pour your batter in and place it in the oven.

    Good luck!!

  19. We started our own traditions when we moved into our house. We host Thanksgiving and Christmas is different each year but we promise to be home on Christmas Day each year. Christmas morning has the tradition of cinnamon rolls before anything else. My mom did this and I love continuing the tradition. We eat steak and bp for dinner because it is what we want. Usually the days before the holiday are spent running around like crazy spending time at each and every house but we make sure to get home Christmas eve for our own traditions.

    As for Thanksgiving, we took over hosting it because my husband grew up going to four houses due to divorce. It was a lot of eating and he never really enjoyed the holiday. This way it is ours and the work is worth the enjoyment of having everyone gorge themselves and then crash at our house.

    My sister hosts a dinner for our immediate family two nites before Christmas so that we can sit and relax and open presents. This is better than sharing presents with every aunt, uncle and cousin in the room. It is always something simple for dinner like lasagna too.

    I think all of these things have become our tradition in the past couple of years.

    This will likely be our last year to travel anywhere for the holidays since I will likely be pregnant next year at Christmas. AHHHHHHHH!

  20. Oh cooking a turkey is easy! As long as you remember to take all the junk inside out, which I forgot the first 3 times I made my own turkey. But, tradition-wise since Hub and I moved in together, I cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner the day after Thanksgiving and we always had his mother over. Last year was the first year without MIL, and my mother was recovering from pneumonia, so I made the full meal for my whole family right on Thanksgiving. I roasted one turkey and Hub deep fried a second one. We had the standard sides, but my masterpiece has become my cornbread dressing. I can’t live without it!

    You can do a lot with your holiday leftovers. I always make double mashed potatoes and turn them in to potato pancakes. Last year I used our leftover dark meat turkey to make turkey tortilla soup. Thanksgiving food is hearty, and it all freezes beautifully.

  21. OOOH, do I have opinions on the subject of thanksgiving!!

    First, I love Thanksgiving for all the reasons you stated. It's the togetherness without the pressure of presents.

    We are often alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas, because we are hermits and no one likes us. Just kidding, but I spent my whole childhood on a highway on every holiday and I'm just tired of it. I do family thanksgiving on the saturday, so it's easier for people to come. And I cook on Thursday.

    The holiday can be special with just the two of you. Personally, I'd opt for a chicken over a turkey breast, because I find that the breast gets so dry. And there's something so enjoyable about carving a bird. That said, get a small (12lb is about the smallest you'll find) turkey and make turkey soup. I'll email you the recipe.

    Cooking a whole chicken or a whole turkey for that matter is Easy Peasy. Coat it with some olive oil and throw it in the oven, basically. If I can do it, so can you!

    I've done thanksgiving out of the can and package before, canned veggies and cranberry sauce, stove top stuffing, mashed potatoes, jarred gravy, etc and it was fine. I've also made fancy recipes, too. I have a wild mushroom and sausage stuffing recipe that is TO DIE FOR. Either way, we all loved it.

    Or, you could just order the whole shebang from Whole Foods. Or get invited over to a friend's house. Especially if they are making a deep fried turkey. Sounds gross, but it is oh so delicious.

  22. Turkey isn't hard, promise. Butter, seasonings, voila. If you don't want a ton of leftovers (though I second the commenters above about making LOTS and freezing for after Piglet's debut!) make a turkey breast. You can even cook that in a Crock-Pot, easy-peasy.

    I think it would be sort of nice to have a quiet little holidays, just the two of you, before the baby arrives. It will be chaotic for many years afterward, so may as well have one last peaceful hurrah. :)

  23. I second the turkey breast suggestion. We celebrated Thanksgiving on our own last year, too, because I had just had Lucy the week before and wasn't feeling up to a 1.5 hr drive. I made my family's traditional meal but, as you said, it was weird with just two of us (ok, three with Lucy) rather than a huge crowd. It was nice, though. Very low key.

  24. You can always go volunteer at a homeless shelter or work with a charitable organization. There will certainly be a crowd.

  25. My parents live in Florida and since we usually see them for/around Christmas, Tony and I always have Thanksgiving by ourselves. It's my favorite holiday and I always make a whole turkey. My advice on nabbing a smaller size: either order one through your butcher or shop for a frozen one in advance. Also, buy a meat thermometer. I had one, it busted, I dried the ever loving heck out of my turkey. But last year's turned out delicious...and you know what, even on a dry turkey the thigh meat is deliciously tender and the breast can always come alive again in a pot pie!

    I've had Thanksgiving at my sister's and since her husband is allergic to turkey they roast the biggest chicken they can find, and you know what: no one misses the turkey that much. You still get to carve a bird, and it's still delicious.

    Enjoy either way!

  26. OH also, and I don't know how Denver's poor compares to the Philly poor, but if you're feeling like you "need to do something" on Thanksgiving last year we did food delivery for an organization called MANNA which feeds the sick, elderly and people with dietetic needs and not much money. It was both happy (yay! fed a family with kids who danced in door over food!) and very depressing (wait did the kid just dance because food was here.), but we felt like we did something nice.

  27. Cooking a turkey really isn't that difficult. Just make sure to take out the bag of giblets before you cook it (*ahem* not that I'm speaking from experience here or anything). And make sure you baste it frequently so it doesn't dry out. Also, most grocery stores sell just the breast of the turkey, if you don't want to cook a whole one.

    You can make the side dishes ahead of time if you don't want to spend the whole day cooking.

    YORKSHIRE PUDDING! It's one of my favorites, too :-)

    I think you'll really enjoy these holidays with just the two (and Piglet) of you. After this year, it'll never be just the two of you again!

  28. I'm going with Mr. Darcy to New Jersey for Thanksgiving and he's staying in Seattle to celebrate Christmas with my family. THEN! we're going away for 5 days to the Oregon coast to celebrate a year together and's our anniversary/holiday gift to each other.

  29. Cooking a turkey IS easy. I made my first turkey on my first married Thanksgiving for thirty people. The turkey was the easy part. I know everyone will give you advice, but I use the turkey bags (made by Glad or Ziploc or someone.) No basting, and it comes out super moist.

  30. I'd really love to know how you'll figure out your holiday traditions with your little one. My husband is Scottish, I am German = different traditions. This year will be the first year where our little girl will be fully aware of what's happening and how it's happening - she is 2 years and 5 months old now. I am not 100% sure how we'll deal with it all, but we definitely want to include both of our traditions.