Thanksgiving 2016 (Part 1)

What better way to end November than with a Thanksgiving recap post? Or half of one, at least!

After flying to Florida on Tuesday, Wednesday was Thanksgiving prep day, but before that I got up early and ran 5 miles around the neighborhood. Being out of town was no excuse to let my marathon training slide. After I showered we ate some homemade egg sandwiches for breakfast and went to the mall for some pre-holiday shopping since we didn’t want to be anywhere near there on Black Friday. I was actually fairly successful. I found a pair of work pants at Loft and a blazer at Limited. On our way home we stopped at Supercuts so I could get a much-needed haircut, and also made a stop at Publix in the same shopping center for the last few required Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. Once we got home the cooking began. First I made some spaghetti for dinner so I could get my carb fix before the turkey trot the next morning. Then my mom and I assembled the ginger-coconut pumpkin pie and baked some sweet potatoes for a casserole recipe I found in Cooking Light. And while watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” I also made a batch of my favorite cranberry sauce recipe.

On Thanksgiving morning we all got up early to go to the Tallahassee Turkey Trot. I was running the 15K while my mom and her friends walked the 5K and my saintly dad waited for all of us at the finish line. It was a warm morning (the race didn’t start until 8:45 AM) and the 15K course was hillier than I expected so it wasn’t an easy run. My time was acceptable (for me), but it was challenging. I’m still glad I did it. Since it was week # 12 of my marathon training plan I was supposed to do an 8-mile mid-week run, so a 9.3 mile race fit very nicely. One the way home was stopped at the first open McDonald’s we could find and had Egg McMuffins for a late breakfast. The perfect post-race meal. Cooking started in earnest once we got home and got cleaned up. And of course we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while we prepped for the big meal. Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely delicious (see our complete menu here). We tried several new recipes this year and most of them were a success. Some could use a few tweaks, like the sweet potato casserole, so I’ll keep that in mind for next year. One recipe that is a definitely keeper (with no changes) was the ginger-coconut pumpkin pie. It was by far the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted, so I have a feeling that one will become a holiday tradition in my family.

Check back tomorrow for part 2!

One day failure

I didn’t update my webpage yesterday. I was doing so well leading up to Thanksgiving, but things started to unravel as the November holiday celebrations ramped up. The quality of my posts on Thursday and Friday were already questionable (I was hoping I wouldn’t have to resort to a wordless post during NaBloPoMo, but Thanksgiving and Black Friday crumbled my resolve), and then yesterday I had zero time or energy to put anything even second-rate together to keep my NaBloPoMo streak alive. I’m disappointed that I failed in my endeavor, but I sacrificed that success in order to spend time with my family before leaving town. In the end that was more important than my crazy annual writing challenge. And then today I intended to spend a lot of my travel time today composing a longer post about my Thanksgiving vacation, but that didn’t happen. My flight left Tallahassee this morning at 6:12 AM, and that was after getting home around midnight after the UF vs. FSU football game last night. Needless to say, I got very little sleep. (When my alarm went off at 4 AM this morning I was fast asleep and having a ridiculous dream about a made-for-TV Christmas movie that got terrible ratings and ruined the career of the lead actor. I guess I watch too many Hallmark Channel holiday movies.) I spent the entirety of my first flight dozing off and on, but I only felt slightly more rested when I arrived in Dallas. This meant that my brain wasn’t in any fit state to formulate a webpage post during my unfortunate four-hour layover at DFW. (Standby wasn’t an option on the Sunday after Thanksgiving when apparently everyone in the US was trying to get to Los Angeles.) What a waste of perfectly good down time. When I finally got home after my second flight and battling horrific traffic around LAX, I sat down on my comfortable couch, turned on the new episodes of “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix, and I’ve barely moved since then. I’m so tired and jet lagged that writing even this short explanatory post took a Herculean effort. There are only three days left in November, but I’ll do my best to finish up NaBloPoMo on a strong note. But right now I’m going to bed early and hopefully catch up on some sleep before I have to go to work tomorrow!

Pre-Thanksgiving cooking

I’m in Tallahassee for Thanksgiving and, as you can tell from the picture above, we’ve had a busy day of important preparations for the holiday tomorrow. With the mediocre results of the Maple, Pumpkin, and Sweet Potato Pie from last Christmas last year, we decided to try something a little different this time. But I’m still determined to make a good pumpkin pie at least once so I wanted something in the same family. I was leafing through a Food Network magazine at the airport earlier this month when I saw a recipe for Ginger-Coconut Pumpkin Pie that looked amazing. And not too complicated either. After reviewing it with my mom we deemed it worth of a Thanksgiving dessert. So today when we got back from some day-before-Thanksgiving shopping and errands we started preparing the pie. And as you can see in the photo, it came out of the oven looking really beautiful (whipped cream topping not shown as we haven’t made it yet). And if it tastes half as good as it smells then we’re in for a real treat to end our Thanksgiving dinner. Since I haven’t actually had a slice yet I can’t tell you how it tastes, but I will report back tomorrow with the verdict. I’m excited!

It was supposed to be a quiet day

Today was supposed to be a quiet day. I had originally planned to get up early and go running before work to get some of my weekly miles out of the way, but it was still raining when my alarm went off this morning. A lovely and much-needed rain storm swept through Los Angeles overnight and it hadn’t quite cleared out by 5 AM. A pre-dawn run in the rain was definitely not going to happen so I went back to sleep for another glorious hour. I had my annual health screening at 7:30 AM, but I didn’t give myself quite enough time to find the right location (a conference room in a different building) after I arrived at work. I was a bit late and slightly sweaty when I got there. It was the wrong day to wear a fleece jacket! Luckily all of the numbers from my blood work turned out really well. Who’d have thought diet and exercise were good for your health? Ha ha! At least I got my screening done for the year. One less thing to worry about in 2016! It was my last day of work before the Thanksgiving holiday and I was expecting light attendance at the office. And it was indeed lighter than usual for a typical Monday, but that didn’t mean things didn’t go awry. On a whim I dialed into a meeting at 11 AM only to discover that our schedule for January and February was being completely reworked and one of my events was being moved up three weeks! No one had even invited me to the conversation (the meeting itinerary didn’t include this topic) and I’m getting three fewer weeks to prepare for an activity that I’m responsible for. What the heck? It doesn’t help that I essentially have four different high-profile events in the first two months of 2017. Doesn’t that sound like fun? It took the rest of the day, but by the time I left work at 5 PM we had settled on a new scope and lower expectations for the revised schedule that would be easier to meet. I’m still not happy about it, but I think it’s at least doable. After all that craziness I drove home and started packing for my trip to Tallahassee for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Nothing like waiting until the last minute! I also ran four miles tonight so that I don’t have to worry about getting no exercise tomorrow due to sitting in airports and on planes all day. Hopefully I’ll have time to write something more substantial that this short little post. Unfortunately I need to finish packing and go to bed right now because I have to drive to LAX way too early tomorrow morning. Happy Monday before Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving approaches!

Thanksgiving is on Thursday and I’m behind on my preparations! I was so proud of myself for getting my Halloween decorations up early in October, but the Thanksgiving decor is still languishing in boxes on November 18th. Oops. Not that I have much, but I bought something new for this year that I’m excited about. I don’t have much free time this weekend (running and Florida football tomorrow, and then Disneyland with a friend on Sunday), but I’ll have to make sure to carve out an hour somewhere to make my house appropriately festive for Thanksgiving. I’ll share a picture when I’m done. I’m leaving for Florida on Tuesday so there aren’t too many days left for me to enjoy the Turkey Day items here in California. It’s going to be time to put up my Christmas tree as soon as I get home next weekend. I actually bought a new tree this year because while my old one was really nice, it just took up too much floor space. My downstairs area is oddly situated so there isn’t really a natural space for the old tree where it wasn’t taking up too much premium real estate. So in order to save space and still have enough branches for all my ornaments I bought a taller pencil-style tree. I can’t wait to see what it looks like. I realize that I should have purchased some additional garland when I was at Target yesterday. That’s one more thing I should do before I leave for Florida. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Before I worry any more about Christmas I need to get ready for Thanksgiving. This weekend I need to decide what recipes I want to make for Thanksgiving dinner so that I can assemble a grocery list. I’m planning to go to the store immediately after arriving in Tallahassee on Tuesday night. Hopefully I’ll avoid the Wednesday rush that way (although I expect I’ll still need to shop on Wednesday because I inevitably forget something on the first trip). But right now I need to get ready for bed, though, because I am running 16 miles in the morning with my running buddies. Yikes!

All holidays, all the time

The weekend after Thanksgiving I put up my Christmas tree. On its own this is nothing out of the ordinary, but this year I did something a little different. Since I had neglected to decorate my house for either Halloween in October or Thanksgiving in November, I decided to make December a celebration of three holidays instead of just one. So while I trimmed my little Christmas tree and decorated my living room with all the traditional Yuletide ornamentation, I also decked the halls with pumpkins, ghosts, pilgrims, and turkeys. Every surface was covered with festive d├ęcor. I loved it! Yoda dressed as Santa Claus is flanked by Lucy and Snoopy bobbing for apples at a Halloween party on one side, and Donald Duck holding a cornucopia and wearing a pilgrim hat on the other side. It’s a mash up of the very best kind. All of my favorite things mingled together for the whole of December. What better way to celebrate the holidays? Unfortunately now it’s time to put everything away again. Usually I take down my Christmas tree on New Year’s Day, but I’ve been procrastinating this year. I’ll take care of it before I have to go back to work on Monday. A few more days of enjoying the decorations is all I want.

Black Friday 2015

I’ve never been all that interested in shopping on Black Friday (especially not in a metropolis like Los Angeles), so I was intrigued when REI suggested the #OptOutside campaign. As an alternative to bowing to the altar of consumerism, REI proposed spending the day after Thanksgiving in the great outdoors instead. I certainly liked the idea. However, I already had plans for the day and they didn’t exactly involve hiking trails through national parks. But after careful consideration I decided that Disneyland still counts as outside! I knew I’d be spending money on food, and probably purchasing a pin or two to commemorate Thanksgiving, but I wouldn’t be participating in the pre-dawn rush of the Black Friday machine. That’s what counts, right?

I wanted to get to Disneyland before 8 AM so I got up early, checked out of my hotel, and walked over to the parks. A lot of new Star Wars attractions have opened there recently and I knew I’d need to be waiting at the gates before they opened to either get in line for or get Fast Passes for the most popular rides. My first stop was the new Hyperspace Mountain (Star Wars themed Space Mountain) for a Fast Pass. Before the Fast Pass became valid I hopped on a few other rides, including Small World Holiday, which had very short lines. I was meeting some friends later in the morning, but I was able to ride Hyperspace Mountain before they got there. It was awesome! The new Star Wars aspects of the ride are really cool. I caught up with my friends in Path of the Jedi, which is basically a really long trailer for “The Force Awakens” that’s preceded by a bunch of scenes from the previous six Star Wars movies. Of course it made me want to see the new movie immediately! I had a lot of fun hanging out with my friends and their kids the rest of the day. I rode Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters with the 3 year-old, and was fortunately enough to get on Hyperspace Mountain for a second time with the 5 year-old. We also got great seats for the Christmas Fantasy Parade. I may have enjoyed that more than the kids! It was the perfect way to kick off my 2015 holiday season. I was supposed to stay at Disneyland for the Fantasmic! show at 9 PM, but by about 6:30 PM I knew I was just too exhausted to last that long. After dinner at River Belle Terrace I was struggling to stay awake while waiting in line for Haunted Mansion Holiday! It was time to go home. It was a great Black Friday. I got to go to Disneyland with some good friends and their adorable kids, and I got to experience a lot of great things. It might not have been as rustic as REI intended, but I feel like my day still honored the spirit of #OptOutside. Either way, it was the perfect day after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving 2015

On Thanksgiving morning I woke up at 4 AM to get ready for the Oceanside Turkey Trot. What a way to start a holiday! When I was selecting a Thanksgiving race I figured why go to the closest one in Long Beach when I could drive halfway to San Diego instead? Even before the crack of dawn it was going to take about an hour to get to Oceanside from my hotel in Anaheim and I had to pick up my bib before the first race started at 6:45 AM. It was a chilly morning and even drizzling a little bit, but it was perfect for running. I was so anxious when the 10K started. My friend who was running with me did everything she could to keep my spirits up, but I was a nervous wreck. My time goal was a little ambitious and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to meet it. And at about mile 5 on the course I even said so. I was miserable and really discouraged at that point. Luckily with a lot of encouragement from my friend, and a little effort of my own, I achieved my 10K personal record! (1:09:20 which is more than 2 minutes faster than my previous PR.) I actually crossed the finish line 40 seconds under my goal which felt amazing! I definitely couldn’t have done it on my own so I was incredibly grateful to have a friend to push me to finish what I started. We got our 10K medals, crammed them in our pockets, and walked back to the start line for the 5K that was starting at 8:30 AM. I’m not sure why I thought a 5K right after running my fastest 10K ever was a good idea, but it turned out to be a nice relaxing cool down after a rough 6.2 miles. I walked about half of it, but I figured I’d earned it! The home stretch of the races was on the Strand, which is right along the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Due to the unusually high tides we were dodging waves that crashed on to the Strand during both the 10K and the 5K. It was a little surreal. Fortunately I was able to avoid the worst of it and keep my running shoes dry. After the 5K I collected my second medal, posed for the above photo, and got ready to drive an hour back to Anaheim. The Oceanside Turkey Trot had been very successful and I enjoyed both courses. I’d consider doing those races again in the future.

On my way back to Anaheim I stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast. I’d earned an Egg McMuffin after running 9.3 miles! I’d also earned a hot shower and a nap at my hotel. While I was recovering from the races I watched the annual Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon online. I love MST 3K, but there just aren’t enough opportunities to watch it anymore. The Thanksgiving marathon is always a treat. (And with the already highly successful Kickstarter to bring back MST 3K, I’ve got new episodes to look forward to next year!) When the evening rolled around I walked to Downtown Disney ahead of my Thanksgiving dinner reservation. I did a little shopping before wandering over to Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel for dinner. I’ve heard good things about the restaurant, but unfortunately the service was terrible on this particular night. I don’t know if they were overbooked or understaffed, but I was seated late and there was way too much time between courses. I ordered the Thanksgiving tasting menu which included butternut squash soup, turkey wellington, and a trio of holiday desserts. It was surprisingly affordable, but the food was just mediocre. The soup and turkey (which was more of a pot pie) were ok, bordering on good, but the dessert was really disappointing. I should have just ordered a steak from their regular menu. Oh well! I’ll make sure to eat somewhere else next year (and try Steakhouse 55 again on a day other than a major holiday). After dinner I briefly walked through both Disneyland and California Adventure. The parks weren’t that crowded, but I was too tired to spend a lot of time there. I did buy a Frozen holiday pin to add to my collection so the night wasn’t a total waste! After walking back to my hotel I wrapped up Thanksgiving 2015 with more of the MST 3K marathon and an early bedtime. I needed to be ready to meeting some friends first thing the next morning at Disneyland so we could get Fast Passes for the new Hyperspace Mountain. More on that in my next holiday wrap-up post!