{65 Years of Memories…}

This year, for my dad’s 65th birthday, I wanted to do something special. His birthday was in late October, but I wanted to give him a handmade gift from everyone on Thanksgiving since I knew our whole family would be together. In mid-October, shortly after seeing this post on Pinterest, I was inspired to reach out to friends and family from his past and present. My mom helped me gather email and mailing addresses (for those without computers) of people who might be interested in participating. I sent out a massive email, as well as a handful of snail mail letters, and waited. I had only received one or two responses within the first week, but I crossed my fingers for the best. Within the next few weeks, our mailman had his hands full.

Piles of emails, handwritten letters, and nostalgic photos came streaming in. I found myself laughing out loud while reading stories about my father’s antics, whether he was dressing up as Santa to entertain decades of little kids, or helping his work buddies learn the in’s and out’s of deer hunting. I found out a lot of things I didn’t know about my dad, like how my mom and grandma won’t let him live down the fact that he totally denied them when they first asked him to go out for pizza (my mom’s parents and my dad’s parents were friends growing up, so that’s how my parents met).

After dinner on Thanksgiving, my dad did something very “dad”-like and handed out some early Christmas gifts he had wrapped with chocolate foil coins taped to the outside (and real money tucked behind them). This is typical dad behavior, he is always anxious to share gifts with loved ones on holidays, whether he’s giving us reindeer Pez dispensers or decorations for our mantle. Once everyone had unwrapped their presents, I told him we had a gift for him to open as well. He looked both confused and surprised by the pile of 65 envelopes, each one filled with a different memory from his past.

He started opening the hand-stamped envelopes one-by-one (thanks to Pete for tackling a majority of the stamping duties) and revealed memories from life-long friends, co-workers from his federal marshall days, old neighbors, new neighbors, some of my childhood pals, and last but not least, our family.

I listened as my dad, brother, and mom took turns reading the longer letters.

I laughed at the story about how my dad accidentally swallowed a giant-sized moth that flew in the car window when he was out driving with my mom and friends. It came as no surprise to me since I’m well aware that his mouth is open 99% of the time (he’s a rambler, in case you couldn’t tell).

I learned that he was a Coca Cola aficionado, which surprised me–I don’t recall much soda being in the house when I was growing up. He was also well remembered for his Halloween decorations and how he would swap out a life-size Jason dummy that had been on display and stand quietly in his Jason costume on trick or treat night to then terrify the neighborhood teens (and adults) by slowly chasing them. It’s no why I’m such a horror movie fanatic. As a side note, I love how bored my parents’ dog Whiskey looks in this photo.

My dad didn’t quite understand the concept until after opening the first dozen or so envelopes…he kept asking, “Wait, I have to open all of these!?” My grandma even made a funny comment about how she was in her late 80s and she understood the concept (it was funny because it involved much more expletives, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination). Once we took a break for pie, my dad was finally in the mood to start making headway.

He breezed through almost all of the letters without shedding a tear, but once he got to the end with memories from my brother, sister-in-law, mom, grandma, Pete and I, he had to take frequent breaks to go blow his nose in the bathroom. It was pretty darn precious.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed memories to help make this happen. My hopes are that if my dad is ever having a downer of a day, he can open up some of the envelopes again and remember that he is loved by many. Thankfully I still have a few more years until my mom turns 65 45 (see what I did there, mom?), so I can take a bit of a breather until then.

Happy belated 65th birthday, dad. I look forward to many more memories with our fabulous (albeit slightly dysfunctional) family.

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Our First Year Hosting Thanksgiving: A Recap

Thanksgiving has come and gone since my last post, but I wanted to share a recap of our festivities, since it was our first year hosting Thanksgiving with my family. As you might recall, my family of seven requested a 24 lb turkey, so my sister-in-law, Pete, and I woke up early and prepped the turkey while watching the Macy’s parade. My sis-in-law and Pete did most of the dirty work (aka rubbing herb butter under the skin) since I was on a hunt for sage in the supermarkets (we just used rubbed sage since I wasn’t able to find any fresh sage all week long). I included this gross photo so you could see the unfortunate “before.” Sorry if I’ve scarred you for life!

Thank goodness for Pete, who did all of the heavy lifting. He was a total godsend when it came time to basting, flipping, and cutting the bird.

You’ll see our menu on the left, which consisted of the following:

While our table might have been a bit mismatched, everything was delicious and that’s all that counts.

My mom wore sunglasses like a domestic rockstar while helping Pete serve the turkey since our bay windows let in a ton of light and we don’t have curtains. Thanks to everyone for your help, we had a blast hosting for our first time ever and hope to do it again! Special thanks to the best sister-in-law ever for helping Pete and I out all day long and easing my stress while I burned walnuts and caught bread cubes on fire (not sure if anyone saw that).

Hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving with lots of leftovers!

{Happy Thanksgiving} Things I’m Grateful For

Just a few things I’m grateful for on this Thanksgiving day…

My pre-hubs for being the sweetest:

Our first home together:

Betty White, my most favoritest pooch:

My new job! (No photo included to leave you in suspense)

I hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving! I’m looking forward to spending time with family and consuming as much garlic mashed potatoes as possible.

They don’t make bags big enough for this bird.

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Just to warn you guys, I am going to be a bit quiet over here during these next few days. If you’re wondering why, it’s because my future is going to look a lot like the woman’s above. My insane family of 7 requested a 24 lb. turkey, so I have my work cut out for me. Up until this week, I had no idea what a giblet was (and I was pronouncing it wrong to boot), so hopefully by the end of the week I’ll be a full blown mini-Martha. I’ll be posting all about our “menu” with recipes and photos after the fact, so cross your fingers that I don’t catch everything on fire.

Countdown to Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is officially just ten days away, which means my entire family will be in the same place for the first time since last Christmas. It also means I am gathering inspiration for recipes for the turkey-filled day. Unfortunately, my family has made it clear that they want a big bottle of ketchup on the table, which will likely tarnish my hopes for a Martha Stewart-esque tablescape, but oh well. I have been gathering some recipes, but wanted to see if any readers have favorite sides they’d like to share before I do a recipe round-up. I’m talking to you, Kerry!

Also, the more advice for cooking a 24 lb. turkey (assuming it fits in our oven), the better! Thanks again to everyone for the congrats on Friday, you guys made us feel all sorts of special.

Autumn Decor: Yes, Please.

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October is just around the corner, which means mustache madness, candy corn and impending holiday music 24/7. I’m especially excited this year because Pete and I are hosting our very first Thanksgiving together, which means this will be the first time when the majority of guests will have no desire to watch football. Ever since Hurricane Irene rained on our parade, we had to cancel our BBQ, so my family will be making the trek from NYC and Delaware to indulge in turkey goodness. Luckily for me, Pete has experience cooking a turkey, but the most I’ve ever helped with Thanksgiving meals in the past has been microwaving mashed potatoes. So, needless to say, I am ready to solicit some advice from pumpkin pie-baking veterans.

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The idea of mini white pumpkins scattered on a mantle makes me anxious to go pumpkin picking—I always like cutting out the centers to make them votive candleholders to bring a warm glow to the room.

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Anywho, I’ve been browsing Foodgawker and Pinterest to collect autumn decor and festive recipe inspiration, but I was wondering what some of your favorites are?

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve never been so grateful before, so it’s only fitting that this Thanksgiving I celebrate the change and happiness the past year has brought. I am thankful for living in an apartment in the wilderness, even if I’m surrounded by flying squirrels, bats and snakes. I’m thankful for living with my boyfriend who has given me a second chance that I never thought was possible. I’m thankful for my neurotic dog who has finally stopped pooping and peeing on my bed at 2am. I’m thankful for chocolate milk and Cheez-its. I’m thankful for tights and ugly dresses. I’m thankful for toothpaste, because God only knows I brush my teeth more than any other person on the planet apart from my mother. I’m thankful for traveling on a plane for the first time in my life this year. I’m thankful for my family and how supportive they have been (Mom, don’t take offense to being listed after the toothpaste…I really love toothpaste!). I’m thankful for my friends for being my friends when there are so many other sane-ish people out there to choose from. I’m also thankful for lucking out with the best second fam on the planet and being so welcomed within Pete’s family (I’m also thankful for Mr. Schuster’s epic potato salad, now that I think about it). I’m thankful for being employed and having co-workers who accept me despite my random vulgar remarks. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.

*CliffsNotes version: I’m super thankful. Thanks for stopping by my blog and taking the time to read it. Now go eat some stuffing and socialize with your family (and by socialize with your family I mean watch football)!