Thanksgiving Ends

Thanksgiving weekend ends much as it began, with a trip to the airport.  As nice as it was to have our eldest home for a few days, it was harder to drop her off today than it was when we took her to college in August.  The good news is that she successfully navigated the Metro, the airport express bus, and the airport both ways.  Even better, she’ll be home again in three weeks and we might actually be able to spend more than a few hours in each others’ company.

We actually got nearly all of our Christmas shopping done this weekend, made our usual trip to a local garden center for warm cider, cookies, and wreaths, and managed neither to spend all the money we had nor put ourselves any deeper in debt.  The exterior of the house is now as decorated as it gets – two wreaths on the front doors and one on the back porch, and a garland with white lights around the lamppost.  Inside we’ve begun to bring Christmas down from the attic, starting with the Advent wreath and candles.  We’ve gone by houses in the last few days (even a couple before Thanksgiving) that were completely decked out for Christmas.  I’m thinking you really need to pace yourself or you’ll end up in Christmas overload with at least a week to spare, let alone getting all the way to the end of the season on January 6th.

Thanksgiving week always messes me up.  Wednesday feels like Friday, Thursday feels like Sunday, Friday and Saturday both feel like Saturday, and on Sunday I realize that tomorrow is Monday and I have to get back to the real world.  Can’t imagine what a week or two of vacation at Christmastime might do.

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Black Friday 2009

First off, no new car this year.  The Jeep now has 20,587 miles on it, the rain gutters suck (he says on another ridiculously rainy day) and the 3.8-liter V6 is anemic below 1,800 rpm (which is more noticeable when you short shift at 1,500 to improve mileage), but the mileage is quite a bit better than I expected, as is the ride quality (though, make no mistake, it’s still a Jeep and bouncy and harsh over rough pavement) and, overall, I am quite happy with it.  Yes, there could be a little less hard plastic, and a little more padding here and there, but it’s even more civilized than I expected.

There are times when I still miss the Suburban for its automatic transmission, long wheelbase, and hangar-like cargo carrying capacity, but I do not miss the sub-15 mpg mileage, 42 gallon gas tank, and repair bills we surely would have incurred at 180,000 plus.  I try not to think about the “Cash for Clunkers” credit I might have gotten, or the additional discounts and rebates that I might have benefited from, though the Wrangler has been one of the least discounted models in the Chrysler-Jeep lineup.

So, Thanksgiving worked out well enough.  I only missed the target dinner time by about thirty minutes, yet still managed an almost complete traditional (well, for our family, anyway) Thanksgiving dinner almost single-handed.  A brined roast turkey with sage and onion bread stuffing, gravy (made with homemade turkey stock), mashed potatoes, butternut squash purée, thyme braised carrots, green bean casserole, and homemade whole berry cranberry sauce.  A bottle each of Chardonnay-Viognier and Pinot Noir, desserts from the grandmothers, a little football, and “A Charlie Brown Thanksiving” rounded out the day pretty well.

There was nothing really challenging in any of the elements of our Thanksgiving dinner, but having all of them ready more or lesss at the same time was a challenge with one oven and four burners. I had less of it done by Wednesday night than I wanted, but got up at 6:30 Thursday and had everything but the carrots and turkey done by 10:30. Anyway, like I said, it worked out well enough, and our eldest got to spend some time at home with us and her grandparents before going off to spend much of the rest of the weekend with her friends.

Our Black Friday got off to a later start than in recent years, though we have never been among those waiting for stores to open at 5 a.m., or earlier.  The stores we went to and the mall were all busy, but not nearly as busy as we have seen them in years past.  Some of this might be attributed to the weather which, for the second time in two weeks, is practically typhoon-like.  Even so, it’s probably not the sole reason we had no trouble finding parking spaces reasonably close, spent little or no time waiting in checkout lines, and actually had an arm’s length in any direction between us and other people in the mall.  We’ll be out again tomorrow and will see if better weather (and being Saturday) have any effect on the size of the crowds.

Thanksgiving Begins

Our eldest is home from college Wednesday night.  We’re hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, except for the time when we stayed home and had my wife’s sister over.  She was dealing with having her first Thanksgiving without the kids following her divorce.  This time it’ll be the five of us and our girls’ grandparents, my wife’s parents and my mother.

Today I bought the turkey and will decide whether to brine it in the next day or so.  With the two packages of turkey thighs and assorted aromatics I made turkey stock as a base for the gravy.  Tomorrow I’ll probably make the mashed potatoes and squash, and fresh cranberry sauce.  Sounds boring, I know, but of American holidays Thanksgiving is the one most about the food, and with the least room for variation lest one be branded a heretic (as I have observed before).  Goodness knows there are enough other reasons for my being hunted down with pitchforks; I don’t need to make messing with Thanksgiving one of them.

College Tour 2009: Vassar College

Our tour of Wellesley College wrapped up later in the afternoon than we expected and we still had a long drive to Poughkeepsie, New York ahead of us.  After filling up the Jeep we decided to fill up at the Bertucci’s across the street.  Again, while being thankful for the GPS and not having to deal with paper maps or printed directions, these things are not without fault.  After all, who in their right mind would choose to drive through Hartford and endure I-84 all the way to New York on a rainy Friday night if they didn’t have to?  Well, we did, probably still being of relatively sound mind and relying on the imperfect blessings of technology.  U.S. Route 9 from Fishkill to Poughkeepsie is no prize, either, with traffic lights every quarter mile, but we eventually made it to our hotel for the night.

Vassar College ChapelRainy weather was forecast for the day of our visit to Vassar College.  Very rainy weather.  Checking out of our hotel the skies were merely overcast but with rain heavy in the air.  A few minutes drive delivered us to one of the entrances to campus, coming in behind the chapel.  As an aside, it’s interesting to note that all of the colleges our middle daughter and I have visited have chapels, remnants of their past (often, but not always) as female seminaries.  The chapels remain as ecumenical worship spaces, assembly spaces, and performance spaces, but also as architectural landmarks on each campus.

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With Heart and Voice

Richard GladwellFor about thirty-five years Richard Gladwell hosted “With Heart and Voice” on public radio.  I was a regular listener for fewer than ten years until Maine Public Radio mucked around with the schedule.  During my years as a regular listener Richard was a welcome companion on Sunday nights, sharing his seemingly endless collection of choral and organ music while I listened and wrote in my journal.  Feeling somewhat adrift over the last few years I have been reaching out, and back, to those things that seemed to keep me most anchored, including “With Heart and Voice.”  It wasn’t until last week, looking around for one of those anchors, that I discovered that Richard had been diagnosed with brain cancer earlier in 2009 and died only a few weeks ago, on October 15.

While “With Heart and Voice” often followed the liturgical calendar it was not, and is not, a religious program.  Regardless, it would be impossible to deny the role of the church in the creation of what is, in my estimation at least, some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring music ever written.  Of course, this presupposes that you find choral and organ music appealing, but I am glad to have enjoyed the music – and the words – Richard Gladwell shared with his listeners for so long, and that I have come to hear so much more of that music.  Every time I listen to “Trumpet Tune in D” by David Johnson I will expect it to be followed by a familiar voice.  If you’re not familiar, you can hear WXXI‘s tribute here.

College Tour 2009: Wellesley College

Three of the original Seven Sisters colleges were on our middle daughter’s list of schools in her post-secondary search; Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley.  Of the three, only two fit into our schedule.  After leaving the morning tour and information session at Wheaton College in Norton, we made the forty minute drive back up to Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Aside from routing us through Boston on Route 1 (not a good idea), the GPS is only as good as the street addresses you give it.  I didn’t dig any deeper than the street address given on the Wellesley College home page, only to find that this was not the main entrance to campus.  There was a nice wrought iron gate and a small parking lot next to the child development center, but no indication where the rest of campus was.  We finally noticed another sign for the “Motor Entrance” and parked in the garage attached to the college police department.  Little did we know that the other main entrance was much closer to the admissions building where we would eventually arrive after a good ten to fifteen minutes’ brisk walk across (through?) campus.

Wellesley College, Galen Stone Tower

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