Saturday, December 20, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 - At the Jersey Shore

For those of you who are recent additions to the Prieto Family reading contingent, welcome to our Thanksgiving edition!  Many years ago (7 precisely) when we moved to the East Coast, we decided to make Thanksgiving in New Jersey with my dad and Emili a tradition, and each year it is a highlight of our holiday season.  We started many years ago celebrating with my Dad, Emili and her extended family, and at the beginning we were a small enough group to break bread on Thanksgiving night in the small Greenhouse in the yard behind my Dad and Emili's home.  We put twinkle lights all around and decorated the cozy space for our family, and we have lovely memories from that enchanted space.  Now, our two children have joined us, and more of Emili's family has started coming, and my Dad's friend from high school and his family have been coming up from DC, and this year a Chinese exchange student named Lavendar...  and so this year found us at a rental beach house in Spring Lake, at the Jersey Shore.  Four years ago we rented this very same house for Thanksgiving, and here we were again!  This time our group had grown to 21 people, so even on slow afternoons there was always someone up for a game or a good conversation.

We were only a block away from the Spring Lake boardwalk, and on Wednesday most of us bundled up and braved the cold weather and the wind for a refreshing afternoon walk on the beach.  Some jumped on bikes and rode ahead, and some broke off into walking groups, and we brought up the rear with our short-legged friends.  The kids loved collecting treasures at the shore line - their pockets were filled with big shells, and crab legs, and strands of seaweed.

Here is our little walking group: Sandra (my deceased Grandpa Jack's widow) who flew in from Austin, TX, my Dad, Lavendar the Chinese exchange student, and Monique, Evelyn and Mike, who came up from DC.  Mike and my dad met in high school in Hong Kong and are still close friends.

I don't actually have a lot of photos from this trip, but I am so glad that I took my camera to the beach when we went walking.  I think some of these are such classics.  Especially these few that capture the bond between Marcos and the kids.  They are lucky ducks to have such an amazing father.

My mom and Gigi, just about frozen at the end of our walk, in front of the beach house.  

And here is our crew right before we ate Thanksgiving dinner!  The kids and I are out of the photo, but otherwise everyone is included.  For the first time in... I think ever, the meat eaters might have outnumbered the vegetarians at the feast.  We always have tofurkey and celebration roasts, but this year I actually made two turkey breast pairs to make sure that we had enough meat.  I'm usually assigned turkey duty, but grumble because in my mind turkey is so miss and miss.  Always dry and always tasteless.  But not this year.  I used this recipe for crockpot turkey breasts with gravy (thanks to my friend Courtney Lieng who suggested it), and it received rave reviews.  My mom's kale salad, Mike's New York Times skillet cornbread recipe, Carol's spanakopita and Nathan's new from-scratch cherry pie were also hot topics during this year's Thanksgiving feast.  I am so hungry just thinking about how delicious the food was...

Other fun highlights of the trip?  Walking at dusk around Spring Lake with all of its beautiful lit bridges and exploring the village, the night five of us drove a half hour to the nearest Y and Emili's sister Carol and I jumped into a boxing class, all of the comments about what wonderful children we have ("oh stop, stop...  okay don't stop!"), 11-year old Evelyn teaching Gigi ballet in the kitchen, Sandra's stories about Grandpa Jack and her travels around the world, a guys day out to see the movie Interstellar in the theater, sweet toasts offered at Thanksgiving Dinner, and all of the down time we spent talking, eating and playing games.  With such a loving bunch, being thankful comes very easily!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hand Work

This season I have had a chance to put my hands to work making things.  These things represent so much enjoyable connection time with friends, or with a good audiobook.  Having the space to create and connect and learn gives me so much more energy and emotional capacity for my day job.

I haven't knitted in a really long time (maybe since third grade...), but I was inspired by this fox cowl pattern to pick it up again.  My friend Kristy helped me to navigate the cryptic knitting pattern shorthand, and luckily Gigi loves to wear it on cold days.

Above are river rocks decorated with a sharpie and white craft pen.  Below is the needle felted fox I made last week.  This fall I have been attending a Monday crafting night with Emerson Waldorf mommies, and we have been making items to sell at the Holiday Faire that just happened last week.  Ildi is our Hungarian friend, and she is trained in handwork and has a crafting studio.  She has patiently instructed our band of friends for months in the arts of sanding and painting wooden toys, and needle felting.  This has been so tricky for me!  The dyed wool is literally a pile of fluff when you start the process, and then it must take on a shape and personality of some sort.  This fox has made me so proud, because this art medium has taken me a long time to get the hang of.  

And then there is this guy.  I made two little pinecone elves a few years ago to decorate for Christmas, and pinterest inspired me this year to make use of an apothecary jar I have had sitting on a shelf in the closet.  So with a little sled I found at the thrift store for 10 cents, Gigi's idea of putting one of our little miniature Christmas trees on the sled, and a dumped container of Morton's salt, we made our little winter scene for the living room sideboard.  It makes me happy every time I walk by.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!