Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

7:10 It is early Thanksgiving morning. I am the only one awake. The house is still quiet and dark. The apartments across the yard are dark except for the kitchen windows which glow with light and activity. More Americans working heard to make the perfect feast.

It is odd to be in a foreign country for this particular holiday. It is a holiday that only Americans celebrate. Well Canadians celebrate it too, but last I checked Canada was part of North America and they think Thanksgiving is in October. The last three years the kids went to school on Thanksgiving day, but this morning they are still sleeping upstairs as I make the pie dough for pumpkin pie. I decided to let them skip school today because this is Cody's last Thanksgiving at home. I want a true family holiday. David thinks I have lost my mind.

9:45 Everyone except the teenager is up. I personally think he is awake and hiding in his room because I don't see how anyone could possibly sleep through this. Good lord. Next year they all go to school in Thanksgiving. It is much nicer to cook without kids screaming, yelling, and fighting. What was I thinking? Dave just keeps looking at me and grinning. He is too smart to actually say out loud that he told me so, but that grin says it all.

It Lives! As I was typing Cody emerged long enough to announce he was going to take a shower and disappear into the bathroom. Colin is playing piano, Grayson is talking to himself, and Alonzo is playing an annoying percussion instrument in my ear while singing Moon Moon Moon shining bright. David is vacuuming and in the background the TV is running on BBC morning news. I am going back to the kitchen to check on the pies.

11:01 the pies are finally done. Someone, probably Grayson, turned the oven down to 280 while they were cooing so instead of taking 45 minutes they took well over an hour. I can only hope they are cooked all the way through. I am starting to understand why we were usually thrown out of the house on Thanksgiving. At least we lived in South Texas where the the weather is usually nice this time of year. Turkey is going in now and I am going to take a shower. Kids are being thrown out of the house since the weather is nice today.

1:48 Boys came back from outside with a fish for the snake's Thanksgiving dinner. Guess they went to the duck pond with Cody. Dinner seems to be on schedule, kinda scary. Usually I am not this organized, something must be wrong. Kids are quiet now. Dave put on Monsters vs. Aliens. TV as a babysitter is a lifesaver some days. Even the teens (the girlfriend showed up) are quiet. Nice.

3:03 Almost everything is ready the last few things are heating in the oven. kids are playing wii. I am glad they stayed home after all even if the morning a little rough.

8:32 The dishes are washed, the guests are gone, and the kids are in bed. All is quiet and I am still so full I can hardly move. We went the traditional route with roast turkey, green beans, cornbread casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, mashed potatoes, stovetop stuffing, cranberry sauce from a can (yuck) and fresh cranberry chutney, homemade bread plus one of our guests brought Jamaican chicken soup and ribs YUM! Then there were the desserts: cheesecake, pumpkin pie, pineapple upside down cake, and apple brown betty. I ate some of everything, so did everyone else and still there are leftovers. Tons of leftovers.

We had eleven people for dinner this year. I really prefer Thanksgivings when we have a full house. To me Thanksgiving is a holiday to share with others. I am glad I let the kids stay home. They enjoyed playing Wii with our guests while waiting for dinner. Then after dinner we all flopped down in the living room and watch Scooby Doo the Mystery Begins. Not the best movie ever but the kids liked it so it was a good way to end the day.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hope your day was as good as ours!

Wordless Wednesday- Moose, Maybe

Monday, November 16, 2009

LOL! Wait my kids would do that.

My Malawi guide book is here! I have been flipping through it tonight and some of it is funny reading, unless you have a kid like Colin. Some important gems of safari safety advice:
  • Don't sleep with your head sticking out of a tent or you risk being decapitated by a curious predator.
  • Don't stand between a hippos and the water. Hippos will panic and mow down any person standing between them and the safety of the water, usually with fatal consequences.
  • Don't bathe in any potential crocodile habitat.
I thought these all seemed pretty obvious until I thought about Colin the kid who with in hours of landing in Texas last home leave managed to get bit by a snake (not a rattler thank goodness) and stung by a scorpion. I can totally see him with his head hanging out of a tent so he can see all the animals walk by.

Heavy On My Mind

Today is Monday. I am doing the same thing I do most Mondays, that is I am cleaning house. After a weekend of the boys being penned up in the house by the soggy cold weather the house looks as if a tornado swept through. This week though, I notice I am being a little more ruthless than normal about throwing things out. Generally I am a bit of a pack-rat. So what has changed? Well as Dave announced we are going to Malawi this summer. The catch is the State Department imposes a weight limit on our house hold goods, 7200 pounds to be exact. Everywhere I look I see something else that needs to be thrown away or given away.

I have yet to meet another expat (other than FS) that ships by weight. Everyone else seems to ships by container size. If you think of those pictures of the big ships with all those big containers that look like a box car minus the wheels, those are the containers I am speaking of. In fact I know of at least one woman who was excited about her husbands promotion not due to any monetary increase but because now they were alloted a larger shipping container and she would be able to ship some antique Javanese furniture.

So far today I have thrown away several Burger King kids meal toys, a couple of t-shirts with small holes, a couple of blue kitchen towels that had gone all frayed on the end, a kids book with some torn pages and a ripped batik cicak. Nothing big or heavy but if I can manage to throw away a couple of items every time I clean house it will (hopefully) all add up to quite a lot of weight by the time we pack out in June. Maybe I should start weighing what I throw out each day and keep a running tally to see how much I weight I eliminate from our shipment.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Forgotten Sun

Late fall/winter weather has settled in here in Frankfurt. It overcast, drizzly, cold, and gray all day everyday. This morning as we were driving to school the clouds thinned just enough to allow dim outline of the sun to barely break through through for just a moment. Alonzo noticed it and blurted out, "Look the sun! I forgot what it looked like. I thought it was a lot brighter."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It’s Official

We will be going to Lilongwe Malawi for our next assignment.

I have received my assignment notification, so we can start planning our departure from post. There is a lot involved with planning a departure, like when we will leave our current post and arrive at our new post and what we will do in-between. At a minimum I have to do a mandatory 20 work days of home leave. Then I have to figure out what training I will need to take before I arrive at our next post and see if I can fit it into our travel plans. It is important to remember that we have no home in the states so when we go on home leave we typically stay with family. If there is no family to stay with we would have to fork out an awful lot of money in hotel bills for the home leave.

If all works out we should be in Texas to start our home leave around July 2. It will be good to be home and see family that we have not seen in two to three years. The kids are really excited about seeing their friends back in Mainland Square as is Shannon.

Until then, keep visiting our blog and keep some dates available for the month of July!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Soup For Dinner--Baked Potato Soup

This is a family favorite. It is true comfort food. There is not much healthy about this soup but it sure does taste good on a cold winter afternoon. Just to be clear, there are no baked potatoes in this it simply tastes like a baked potato with all the toppings. My sister-in-law Teri made this for us when visiting one year. I have been messing with the recipe every since. Since I didn't write it down and can't quite resist tweaking the recipe it has probably changed a bit since she made it but here is the recipe as I make it.

Baked Potato Soup
  • 2 pounds potatoes (I don't care what kind, in fact I often mix types)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 box chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you are going veggie)
  • water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • bacon I use half a package but you can use less or more depending on how much you like bacon. Can even omit if you are doing vegetarian
  • cheddar cheese
  • sour cream
  • Green onions or chives

Dice bacon and fry it until crispy in a big soup pan. Remove bacon and let drain on a paper towel and pour out most of the bacon grease leaving only a tablespoon or so, if you are going veggie skip the bacon and just use olive oil instead. Finely chop celery and onion and cook over low heat in the bacon grease until tender and transparent. Add in diced garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add in peeled, diced potatoes, bay leaf, stock and enough water to cover the potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked. If you like it rustic just stir it a bit to to make the potatoes fall apart some. If you like it smooth, fish out the bay leaf and run the soup through a blender or use an immersion blender, remember fish out the bay leaf BEFORE running it through a blender. Add the milk and cook about 15 minutes or until thick. When serving top each bowl with cheddar, sour cream, bacon, and chives.

We had this on the last day of fall break except I stirred in a bunch of cheddar right at the end to make Potato Cheddar Soup. Everyone but Alonzo was happy. Alonzo hates potatoes (unless they are french fries) and this soup is loaded with potatoes. I served it with fresh corn muffins. Alonzo was somewhat pacified by the hot corn muffins with butter and honey.

Disclaimer: I am very much a cook that doesn't measure so these are approximations. I also sometimes change things like half and half instead of milk or more milk if I think it is too thick. If you are the kind that measures everything there are loads of good potato soup recipes out there on the internet. If you aren't sure which one to choose go with a site that allows reviews of the recipe and comments then pick a recipe with good reviews and make sure to read over the comments. Happy cooking.