Friday, November 30, 2012

Such A Good Day.

All of the sudden the holidays are upon us. Last night I had a mini-pre-Christmas anxiety attack and decided that if I didn't come up with the most amazing gifts and order them RIGHT NOW than Christmas would essentially be ruined. Alas, I was up until all hours of the night and made very little progress for all my effort.

Like everyone else, things are busy. I love the holidays so much. So much. But it is a little overwhelming if I think about it all at once. I want to make an advent calendar, bake perfect Christmas cookies, wrap all of my presents in beautiful burlap with perfect bows and then go hang a gorgeous homemade wreath on my front door for all to see.

None of that is going to happen. None of it.

I've accepted this.

What I can do, is take one day at a time and even find some time to enjoy myself. This would be the complete opposite of my usual rushing around like a mad woman. Between work and school and life, I seem to be running short of down time.

But today.

Today, I re-prioritized.

My wonderful mom called up a local salon and set up a pedicure for me. Please understand that pedicures are far and few between in these parts because they are only available at fancy salons. This was a glorious treat.

Since I was on that side of town, I even ventured over to our brand new Starbucks for a quick pick-me-up.

I didn't think the day could get better at this point. But then TC emailed me and asked if we could go out to dinner. He said that he needed something to look forward to since his day was dragging.

I wrote back and told him that I had salmon sitting in the refrigerator, so, no. However, we could eat on our fine china and sip wine from crystal stemware. We could even light candles and put on some jazz. Maybe, I said, if we squint hard enough our dining room will look like a fancy restaurant.

And you know what? It kind of did.

Who says you can't break out your fine china for no apparent reason on a random Thursday night while wearing your gym clothes?

Give it a try.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Saw Santa! Can I Get My Tree Now?

There are several things that I love about our town. Chief among them is our Santa Parade that always falls on the weekend of American Thanksgiving. It must be Canada's way of kicking off the holiday season.

I've never lived in a town that has it's very own Santa Parade. It's such a wonderful community event. People of all ages come out to see the almost 200 floats that parade down Main Street. The floats are mostly homemade. There are decorated antique cars, horses dressed as reindeer, rescue dogs from the shelter, local businesses build floats and all the schools participate too.

I've been to the parade every year so far and always enjoy it with a nice hot cup of hot chocolate. My first year, big huge white snowflakes fell from the sky for the entire parade. Annie and I trudged home, shin deep in snow that year while we laughed as all the cars slid around the roads.

This year, even though we did see approximately seven tiny snow flurries fall, I barely had to button my fall coat. Oh, I still drank hot chocolate, but not because the temperatures required it. Now it just seems to be part of the tradition.

TC and I met Carla, Tyler and their little one down on Main Street for the beginning of the parade. While they went home early to put the little one to bed, TC and I stayed on waiting to see my favorite guy in red.

I can't help it - the atmosphere turned me into a kid again and I was beside myself with excitement as the parade got closer to the end. I knew Santa was just around the corner.

I just love how the holiday season suddenly started this past weekend - just like that, we went from Thanksgiving one night to seeing Santa and his reindeer the next night.

Christmas party invitations are rolling in and I've really got to get started on my shopping list.

The best part? This weekend TC and I are going to a farm to cut down our own tree. Like, with a real saw!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Southern American Thanksgiving...In Canada.

It all started on Thursday afternoon when I got home from work. Here in Canada, Thursday was...well, Thursday. Not Thanksgiving. But it was Thanksgiving to me, so I started cooking in preparation for our 3rd Annual Southern American Thanksgiving feast on Friday evening. A little non-traditional, but that's okay.

TC was hard at work assembling extra tables to make room for the seventeen bodies that were going to be seated. He also went around to our friends houses and borrowed chairs and delivered casseroles that were to be popped in the oven right before everyone came over on Friday night. Bless his little heart, I don't know what I'd do without him. Surely there would not be a Thanksgiving dinner of this caliber.

Friday I woke up ready to take on the big day. I spent the morning finishing up the table, baking biscuits and cleaning up the house.

Then two Godsends walked in the door to prep the turkey and deliver dressing - my in-laws. There are no two better people on the planet. They came in like ninjas. They turned on the oven, cleaned the turkey, stuffed it and then vanished into thin air. If I didn't have photographic evidence I might have thought it was a dream. 

Thankfully, Carla stopped by in the afternoon to check on me and see how things were going. I was in that awkward stage of the day where I've done all that I can do before the final stages of getting the meal together. 

With a little time on our hands, we decided to get a little crafty and make place cards for everyone (thanks for the inspiration, Dagni!). Instead of writing names, we thought it would be more entertaining to put 'labels' about each person so they would have to really figure out where they were seated. For example, Wine On My Wedding Dress. Ahem, Christina. Or The Firefighter's Fire for our friend Aly, who is dating a fireman. Funny, no? 

As expected, Cookie Monster went to TC. How fitting.

The best part of the place cards was that everyone managed to somehow wear their name for the night. 

I sense the beginning of a new tradition...

Eventually, Christina showed up. It's our tradition to don our aprons and make the sweet tea cocktail. This is where the fun really begins. You see, sweet tea cocktail is made in small batches and each one must be taste-tested to ensure the correct proportion of sweet tea, lemonade and vodka. We don't bother writing down the recipe because that would ruin all of our fun. It's much more exciting to take shots of the concoction as we tweak it. Plus, it helps calm us down and make me stop sweating over whether the turkey is going to come out as a big pile of saw dust.

Can we take a second and discuss how truly grateful I am for Carla and Christina? These two ladies welcomed we with open arms the minute I set foot on Canadian soil. They were my first friends here and are amazing. Not only that, but Thanksgiving would definitely not happen without them. 

Anyway, around six o'clock the crowd started rolling in and the pace picked up.

TC got the turkey out of the oven and carved it like a champ.

Christina and I did work on the gravy and enjoyed every second of it, thanks to our happy hour of taste-testing the sweet tea cocktail.

Of course, everyone was handed a glass of sweet tea deliciousness when they walked through the door. And of course, it was served in chalkboard glasses and mason jars for a little extra Southern hospitality.

As the final prep came to a close, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was all good.

And it was time to eat.

Dinner was delicious. I actually took the time this year to sit and eat and enjoy it. 

I took it all in and looked around the table, I silently said thank you for all of these wonderful friends and slowly enjoyed my meal while chatting with Cookie Monster, The Captain and Soon To Be Employed.

After dinner was over I took a break from conversation and turned around to see no less that six of my wonderful friends in the kitchen forming an impressive assembly line to get all the dishes done. Then they served all five pies I made for dessert like they were a bunch of seasoned waiters. When that was over, the boys dismantled all the extra tables and moved the couches back in the living room in no time flat. Yes, we have a small apartment and our 17 foot Thanksgiving table extends all the way through the dining room and living room. Yes, I know that's ridiculous.

It was amazing.

In true Maritime style, the party carried on in the very clean kitchen. Then, someone, some glorious person did what I've always wanted to do at Thanksgiving - they said we should all go around and say what we're thankful for. 

I was so happy at that moment I could have burst. 

Here I am in Canada, far away from my usual Thanksgiving traditions and yet lucky enough to be able to get seventeen wonderful Canadian friends together to give thanks and embrace an American holiday that's important to me. Pretty awesome...

Oh, and I have to tell you how the night ended...many hours later...

TC has a huge bike collection in the basement. He always says that if we have enough bikes then we can go for late night bike rides with all of our friends or people could just bike home instead of calling a cab. Up until this Thanksgiving it had never happened - but it did that night. It was the perfect end to our evening. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Swear We're Adults.

It's a big week, folks. The numbers are in and I now know that fifteen of our closest friends will officially be descending upon my dining room on Friday night. Including me and TC, that's seventeen bellies to fill with delicious Southern Thanksgiving fare. Yes, I know that it is a day late, but it's Canada - this is just a regular week for them and we all have to work on Thursday.

I went to the grocery store to do all my grocery shopping today. Except for the self-rising flour. I somehow looked at it, checked it off my list and didn't actually put it in my buggy.

I spent hours last night updating last year's Thanksgiving spreadsheet that carefully outlines each item on the menu with its ingredients, when it will be made, and what dish it will be cooked in and served on. You laugh, but I need five pie dishes and seven Pyrex dishes and only own a few of each - these things need to be coordinated in order to avoid mass meltdown.

Anyway, the pressure is on, yes. But I'm getting really excited now. Of course, the next few days will be busy but also so festive. I love the holidays and this weekend officially kicks everything off. Saturday night is the Santa parade, I'm making Christmas cookies next weekend and then the Christmas parties start the following weekend. I'm going to blink and Santa will be sliding down the chimney.

TC and I used to go out to dinner fairly regularly. In the past year my cooking has improved just enough that we are no longer forced to waste our money as often any more. In fact, it's been a while since we went out to dinner. But tonight we needed it. He needed a little pick-me-up and I needed some time completely away from my computer and my Thanksgiving spreadsheet.

Off we went to a local steak house with our gift certificates in hand. Like the mature adults we are, we both immediately dove for the cup of crayons that were sitting on the butcher paper table cloth. We spent the first few minutes sitting there quietly, both doodling away. Over drinks, we talked about our day, while we doodled some more. We talked about the upcoming festivities. Then, we talked about important things like our finances, our career paths and most importantly, our retirement. All while coloring like a couple of five year olds.

While this time of year is so much fun, it can get a little overwhelming. Our coloring date tonight was just what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thankful November: Days 12-19

Seriously, I can't believe they've all been putting up with my for so long.

See above comment.

First Thanksgiving, then decorating the tree, then off to Christmas in Atlanta!

I would like to point out that this is her self portrait. 

Gosh, I love him. Also, please refer again to the first comment.

Really, as much as I was enjoying driving him to work at 6:30am every morning...

I can't tell you how nice it is to not be pulled over at customs every time I cross the border now.

And, bonus, I've almost learned all the words to O Canada.

Dear University of Maine, I never thought I'd get a degree from a non-SEC school, but I have a feeling your degree is going to come in handy.

Dear University of Tennessee, I will always bleed orange and you'll always be my favorite.

Love, Kate

Happy American Thanksgiving Week!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Chairs.

First of all, does anyone want to volunteer to rake my yard? 

No? I didn't think so. Neither do I.

Thanksgiving is one short week away. When I first moved to Canada is was just a month before American Thanksgiving. I was a little heart broken that for the first time ever I wasn't going to be at home with my family. See, I believe in big Thanksgivings. Somewhere along the line something happened and a few years passed with just my family, the four of us, having Thanksgiving. I remember telling my mom that while her cooking was delicious, our Thanksgiving table needed some help in the social department. We had always had my grandparents or cousins and if we couldn't have them, could we at least invite another family over? And so our table expanded and we started giving thanks with wonderful family friends every year. 

In an effort to make Canada feel a bit more like home, I decided to have all of our friends over for a good ole American Thanksgiving that first year. My plan was to replicate my mom's traditional Thanksgiving feast and show these Canadians exactly how we do it in the South. I was hell bent on them discovering the glory of sweet potato casserole and pecan pie. 

So I began planning and sent out invites. We have some pretty great friends and they all graciously said yes. Yes, we'll be there. Yes, we'll risk our lives and try sweet potato casserole. Yes, we'll support you crazy Southerners and drink a sweet tea cocktail. Yes, we're coming - all 19 of us. 

This suddenly was a cause for concern because at that point I had never actually cooked a real meal in my life. Let alone a turkey. Let alone for 19 of our closest friends.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

But then the Facebook updates started popping up. There were all my American friends, announcing their plans for travel, turkey trot runs, football and shopping. I didn't have any of that on my agenda - but I did have a big feast planned, come hell or high water. I had to do it. I needed to be a part of it. It was going to be good and delicious and fun. It was going to be as good as Thanksgiving can be without your family.

I spent weeks frantically figuring out how on Earth I was going to seat 19 people around one table. I borrowed chairs and pulled a bunch from the basement.  I had to get creative making a table cloth long enough to cover three dinner tables pushed together. I put out mismatched wine glasses, I alternated normal dinner plates and China on the table. I made center pieces and even infused vodka with tea when I couldn't find sweet tea vodka on the shelves of the liquor store. TC's parents came over and cleaned the turkey for me. I vacuumed no less than ten times that week. I carefully printed out my mom's recipes. I made multiple casseroles the day before and delivered them all over town for my friends to pop in the oven right before they came over for the big night. I even sent along beach towels for them to lay the hot casserole dish in so it wouldn't burn their laps on their way over. 

And it was perfect. We ate and we drank and then we ate some more. We laughed and talked until all hours of the night. I didn't burn the turkey and Maple didn't die after she snuck off and ate the entire turkey carcass. 

The second time around, last year, we did it again and it was just as wonderful. All of our friends were here and they all completely embraced celebrating an American holiday with their crazy American friend. I even managed to prepare and cook the turkey all on my own - well, with only a few panicked phone calls to my mom.  Who knew that it was so difficult to differentiate between the top and bottom of a turkey?

My Thanksgiving table is not like all the beautifully decorated tables you see on Pinterest and Pottery Barn. There are no cute banners, gorgeous centerpieces or adorable place cards. I don't have a dining room table, just several hand-me-down dinner tables. I certainly don't have 19 matching chairs. There is always an array of oak chairs, borrowed white chairs, a few painted black chairs, a red chair, a blue and a really random green chair that I picked up at an auction for seven dollars. 

I painted the red, blue and green chair today for no other reason than I wanted to. I wanted to get a little deeper into the Thanksgiving spirit. Not because I thought it needed to be done in order for Thanksgiving to happen. I love that my first two Thanksgiving tables were made up of an array of colors because that is what we had and it wasn't what really mattered. Last year I made some progress and cooked the turkey alone. This year, I'm making a little more progress and will have black chairs. They're not elegant and they're not all that pretty, but it's still a small bit of change and evolution. 

Here's my point. I don't think I'll always have these same chairs around my Thanksgiving table. Maybe one day the black chairs will be left in the basement because fancy new dining room chairs have replaced them. But if that day never happens, than so be it. Because it doesn't really matter what the table looks like or whether or not I burn the turkey to a crisp. What I really care about is having our friends over for a good time and bringing a little bit of home here to Canada. 

Really, no one even notices the chair they sit in anyway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Deep Thoughts About the Weekend.

I'm done early.

Early, being 10:30pm. After a challenging day of work, followed by errands in the rain and then several hours of studying, I'm done. It's now 11pm and I have at least two hours of free time before I climb into bed. This is a change. Lately, I'm not done with everything until well after midnight.

This is exciting.

It's amazing how busy life really is sometimes. There are days when I feel like I'm organized and have it all under control. Plans are made, lists are ready, dinner is thawing and my outfits are ironed. Then there are days when I fly by the seat of my pants all day - I do my best - but really, I'm just along for the ride. Nothing to do but keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Last night marked a small turning point in the year. A big project I've been working on for school was finally signed, sealed and delivered to my professor. I celebrated with a glorious night of stress free sleep but woke this morning only to have another big project show up on my computer screen. So, I'll start again. But, this time I'm going to do it better. This time I'm doing it with my priorities in line.

As much as an impending thing can seem like a life or death matter, the truth is, it just isn't. My sanity - now that's important. So now the question becomes, how do I stay sane?

Well, for one, I stop and take time to do nothing. Sitting on the couch with TC to watch a silly re-run. Blabbing about nothing to my mom for an hour. Reading my favorite blog. Going for a run. Picking up a pack of holiday pencils for my kids at school. Buying a new book that I can obsess over until it's finished. These things matter to me. I need these things in my life.

As crazy as the past few days were, it was wonderful. For the first time in weeks I was good busy. The kind of busy that is filled with things that make you happy. Things that you choose to do.

My schedule was full of the good stuff. Yes, there were some stressful school projects.

But there was a beautiful baby shower.

Followed by a photo session for a wonderful family.

And a birthday party for one of my favorite people.

Plus, the transmission in TC's car was rebuilt. (Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!) (Please ignore the rope tying it to a tree and the lawn mower parked under the front (you can see the handle))

I even took a little solo road trip down to Maine and watched the sun rise in my rear view mirror along the way.

I know that the week is almost half way over, but nonetheless - it's going to be a good week.

I'm going to make the time and enjoy the little things and do nothing for a bit everyday. If you don't usually, I hope you find the time to do the same.