My favorite holiday

Thanksgiving is in less than a week!  I have some big plans, people.

But first I want to tell you about the Thanksgiving meal I am the most proud of.

When I was in Moldova, two of my best friends and I made Thanksgiving dinner for about 200 people, including all the Peace Corps volunteers, Peace Corps staff and their families, and the entire embassy community (including the ambassador).  Every year Peace Corps would have the all-volunteer conference over Thanksgiving, and each PCV would chip in about $10 to help cover the cost of the meal.  Traditionally Peace Corps would extend the invitation to the embassy community as a courtesy, and then the embassy would decline because why make the poor (literally) PCVs pay for dinner for the comparatively-rich diplomats and their families. But that year everyone that we invited showed up!

Over the span of 3 days, in a hotel kitchen, we prepped and cooked 14 turkeys, countless pecan and pumpkin pies, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, mac and cheese, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, gravy, biscuits, and other things that I’m probably forgetting.  Other volunteers helped out in the kitchen, but it was the three of us directing the show.  We were so proud at the end when no one got sick!

After that Thanksgiving, no meal will ever be too overwhelming.

Our next Thanksgiving in the U.S. will most likely be in 2017, so I am taking full advantage of the fact that this year I can easily buy pretty much all the ingredients I want.  Also, my little sister is coming to visit and nothing says “I love you” like “Look at all the food I made!”

Here’s the planned menu:

Turkey (spatch-cocked, brined and grilled)
Pork belly (brined and smoked)
Cornbread, chorizo, cherry and pecan stuffing
Whole grain bread, sausage and apple stuffing
Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows
Rosemary-scented dinner rolls
Cranberry sauce with dried cherries
Bacon and shallot gravy
Pumpkin pie
Cinnamon ice cream

Guests are bringing antipasti platters, mashed potatoes, vegetable sides and pecan pie.  We have loads of wine left over from our Halloween party, and I think that about covers it!

The fun starts this weekend with picking up the turkey and pork belly from the butcher, grocery shopping (not so fun), etc.  I have a spreadsheet of what to make when, and with my sister and Nate helping out in the kitchen, I am really excited!


Some restaurant recommendations and other things

Time sure is flying by.  We leave for Dhaka in less than 6 months!

I remember on Flag Day (I initially typed “Flay Day;” I think that’s what it would have felt like if we’d gotten a “low”) thinking that we won’t leave for another 9 months, time will go by so slowly, this will be torture, etc.  Well, now we are 1/3 through those 9 months!

Things have been crazy busy around here.  Nate and I just got back from running the Richmond Marathon on Saturday, which was one of the most exhilarating and exhausting things I’ve ever done.  If you’d told me eight months ago that I’d run a marathon this year, I would have told you you were bat-shit insane and then asked for some of whatever you were taking because it had to be good.

I am a photo thief!

I am a photo thief!

If you ever find yourself in Richmond looking for a restaurant, we love Comfort and Saison.  Both have amazing cocktails and super-yummy food.  We went to Comfort several years ago, and as soon as we signed up to run Richmond, I knew that was where I wanted to have dinner after the marathon.  They have happy hour every night from 5-7, so we sat at the bar and gorged ourselves.  It surpassed my expectations.  We went to Saison the night before the race and had cocktails and dinner at the bar.  We loved it so much, we went back the next night for more cocktails and dessert after dinner.

Earlier in November, I was in New Orleans for the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. It was a good time, although I definitely saved less of my per diem than I could have.  But hey, when you’re in the land of beignets, shrimp and grits, po’ boys, etc, these things demand to be eaten.


Shrimp po' boy from Killer Po' Boys

Shrimp po’ boy from Killer Po’ Boys

Beignets from Cafe Beignet (better than Cafe du Monde)

Beignets from Cafe Beignet (better than Cafe du Monde)

Killer Po’Boy was in the back of the Erin Rose Bar in the French Quarter.  One thing about bars in New Orleans: people smoke in them.  I think I’d forgotten that that used to be a thing.

Anyways, 15 minutes in that bar and I scratchy throat for five days.  The po’boy was good, but a little over-priced.

And because no one ever writes about New Orleans without a photo of Jackson Square, here:

photo 3 (1)

Jackson Square, as seen on my morning run

Let’s see, what else has been happening?  Oh, we had a ridiculously large Halloween party.  I mean, ridiculous.  I got agoraphobia in my own house.  Nate took care of most of the preparations and all the cleaning, so it was nice to be able to just mingle, have fun, and not worry about the mess people were making in our house. Nate’s birthday was in the end of October, so I made him a birthday cake that is just about the best thing ever, and then everyone brought loads of food and drinks.  And candy.  Holy crap, was there a lot of candy.  At one point people were putting mini snickers bars on sticks and “roasting” them over the bonfire.  Just in case you’re thinking about giving that a try, it doesn’t work.

Yes, we do know how to throw a good party.

I mentioned that it was Nate’s birthday in October; we went to dinner at Le Diplomate in DC and that place is amazing.  Seriously.

Now we are getting ready for Thanksgiving next week, for which we are grilling the turkey and smoking a pork belly. I already have a spreadsheet of recipes, time-lines, shopping lists, and prep work.  I love Thanksgiving, and we are determined to make what will probably be our last Thanksgiving in our lovely Alexandria home the best yet!