Thanksgiving split over two days is so much better and so much easier.

Brandon had to work Thanksgiving day, so my family opted to eat dinner Wednesday night instead. The two of us and our spouses headed over after work–late because of weird traffic on the interstate–and had a nice, calm dinner. Rather than drive home only to come back out Thursday, Paul and I just stayed overnight and spent the day catching up on shows I’d asked my mom to record for us, like American Gods, which is taking forever for us to finish. The good news, for us, anyway, is it’s also taking them forever to do the next season.

We did it all again Thursday afternoon at Paul’s parents’ house, and honestly, this is probably the ideal way to do Thanksgiving. It’s kind of how we do Christmas, and it’s less hectic and you’re not cramming in two meals. And we got sent home with a ton of leftovers.

I had to work Black Friday, as usual, but Paul was off, so he spent the day at home while I was holed up in my office and then headed out with a friend.

We’d decided to have people over Saturday night, and first of all, never doing Facebook invites again. Too many people ignore them now, and I absolutely don’t blame anyone for that, but what should be a super easy way to invite everyone you want over is just kind of a waste of time. Direct texts to everyone next time it is.

It was pretty small, a lot like Emily’s birthday party, only this time, Marissa came over. I knew she was back in the area, and for some reason, something in my brain just kinda went, “Text Marissa,” and so…I did. And I’m so, so glad I did, so much so that the next day, I said that out loud a couple of times and Paul was like, “Yep, I get it.” She didn’t stay super long–really, we’re all so used to going to bed by like 10 that everyone decides to go home pretty early–but we talked pretty much the whole time and I think it was really good for both of us.

And now we enter the hectic holiday season. We’re pretty much booked from here on out, with something going on every weekend in December. I’m debating hosting for New Year’s, but I can’t decide. Normally, we hang out at Terra’s, which might be good to stick with since her migraines mean driving to our place can be dicey, and I’d hate for her to be missing out if that were to happen. But I’ve always wanted to do something for New Year’s, and yet I also know if we’re gonna be busy for much of the month, I might not feel like putting the effort in, and so on and so on…

But the start of the fun is this weekend. We’re going to see Craig Ferguson Friday night, and then on Saturday, my brother and I are going to a local radio station’s Christmas concert featuring The Struts. My mom wants to make my grandma’s pheasant soup and asked us to pick a day to go over, so I suggested Sunday. And if that works for Brandon, there’s my whole weekend.

Saturday 9: Black Magic Woman

Saturday 9: Black Magic Woman (1970)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune: Hear it here.

Okay, first of all, we need to talk about the fact that Fleetwood Mac did this song originally–before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined, obviously–and I never knew that until they played it live earlier this month with Stevie singing.
1) Black is this week’s signature color because Friday, November 23, was “Black Friday,” when retailers cut their prices and consumers flock to the stores. Did you score any “Black Friday” bargains? I think the only thing I bought all holiday weekend was my sugar scrub I use, mostly because it was 25% off and it’s almost never on sale. Nothing else caught my eye or seemed worth it.
2) On busy shopping days, carts often litter parking lots. After loading your items into your car, are you careful to return your shopping cart to the store or the designated cart receptacle? Yes, because there are only a tiny handful of good reasons not to and none of them apply to me.

3) Who on your gift list is hardest to buy for? My in-laws, followed by my dad. I just never know what my in-laws would want or need, and I’ve exhausted the few ideas I’ve had over the years. My dad’s tough for similar reasons, mainly limited interests, but he’s also a foodie and I usually find something neat that appeals to that side of him. I’ve done various food kits the last few Christmases and birthdays, like kits for making cheese, infused olive oil, an herb garden, and I think I did a sauerkraut one once.
4) Feasting and football are also popular Thanksgiving weekend pastimes. Do your Thursday-Sunday plans include enjoying leftovers or watching a game? Leftovers always, football never.

5) Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is an annual event. It began in 1924 as a local event in New York. Today it’s nationally televised. Did you watch it? Parts of it. I’ve never really cared for it, especially the blatant lip syncing, even though I know it’s out of necessity. It annoys me.

6) What did you give thanks for on Thanksgiving 2018? We didn’t go around the table and say what we’re thankful for, probably because I’m a smartass about it every year, but my husband, my family, and my whole inner circle. And having a new house this year!

7) At the first Thanksgiving, there were no forks. Pilgrims ate with spoons and knives, and forks didn’t become popular until the 18th century. Think about your Thanksgiving place setting. Did you have both a salad and a dinner fork? Nah. We don’t get fancy.

8) Pies are a popular Thanksgiving dessert. What kind of pie did you enjoy? Or did you have ice cream? Or did you skip dessert? Since my brother had to work Thursday, my family did Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night. My dad made pumpkin creme brûlée, so I went for that, although it’s not too far off from pumpkin pie, really. The next day at my in-laws’, I had apple pie, and then we got sent home with a couple pieces of chocolate cake.

9) This week’s featured band, Santana, was named for its founder, Carlos Santana. He was born in Mexico. When at a Mexican restaurant, what do you usually order? Usually something simple and vegetarian, like a quesadilla. If I’m at local chain Mad Mex, though, their tofu tacos all the way. They’re so good. I’ve only ever ordered something different one time, and I liked it, but I was like, “Man, should’ve got the tofu tacos.” And I’ve never ordered anything else since.

Friday 5: The Game’s Afoot

  1. Where’s a nice place to take a walk? There’s one little fitness trail here in town that’s only about a mile looped and it’s really close to the interstate, but they somehow managed to make it feel like a nice, leisurely outdoorsy stroll for most of it. There’s a little pond and a ton of trees once you’re down away from the start of it. There’s also a bigger park closer to my job’s main office that has a paved trail that runs a long a creek.
  2. What do your everyday shoes look like nowadays? I work from home, so lately, it’s been rainbow fuzzy socks. When I do leave the house, this time of year, it’s boots. Lately, I’ve been wearing a new grey pair, but there’s a black pair I bought at the same time from the same company that I’d like to dig out.
  3. What separates a good pedicure from a bad one? I couldn’t tell you because I have a thing about nails. Like, someone losing a fingernail or torture scenes with people’s nails being ripped off really, really bug me, and I don’t like the idea of someone messing with my nails. So I refuse to have someone touch my hands or feet, although I’m sure I could use a good pedicure.
  4. When did you last go for a hike? It’s probably been a little while. While we have been to the mountains somewhat recently, we didn’t really hike. Over the summer, maybe?
  5. What’s a good song with the word “walk” in its title? You can’t go wrong with “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash, but the first one that popped into my head was “Walk Away” by Dropkick Murphys. I haven’t listened to it in ages, but it’s the first song of theirs I ever heard and still one of my favorites. Honorable mention: “Walking in Memphis,” especially Cher’s version and its use in one of the best X-Files episodes of all time.

As always, from Friday 5.

The only thing we really did over the weekend was go to Emily’s play at school this semester. A restaurant we like in town had a LivingSocial deal, so we got dinner plus some beers, ended up not spending enough money to cover the deal, and watched Emily do her best creepy vampire in Dracula.

I had the day off Friday and Paul called in sick, and the only thing we really did was some much-needed sleeping in. We ran errands on Sunday, and that was that.

Of course, the holidays are about to start, so that’s the last weekend we’ll have like that for a while. My family is doing Thanksgiving Wednesday night because Brandon has to work Thursday, so we’ll probably spend a good 24 hours back in our home county before I have to be home for work on Friday. I didn’t get tomorrow off, too, which I knew was a longshot anyway.

And now, a brief interlude to revisit mid-September, back when the whole family went for a very late Father’s Day brunch and I said there was a little more to the story.

Now that it’s Facebook official, I can reveal that my brother and his wife are expecting a baby in the spring, and they announced the news over that brunch.

Now, the original plan for that weekend was an annual trip to Gettysburg, but the event we always go to was canceled because we’d had a lot of rain and the event is on a farm, which was basically a swamp. We never went out for Father’s Day, so I said, “Hey, Dad wanted to go to Grand Concourse some weekend and we’re all free, why not this weekend?” In the meantime, when the trip was still on, Brandon had already called my mom and told her the news since she doesn’t with us, and they were gonna tell the rest of us in Gettysburg. The plan they came up with would’ve been so great–we were gonna go screw around in the allegedly haunted battlefield, Brandon was gonna snap some pictures on his phone, do a, “Hey, guys, look at this!” and show us a picture of a positive pregnancy test. My dad’s reaction would’ve been priceless and I would’ve died laughing.

My mom knew about a week before the rest of us, and keeping her mouth shut was a struggle, by all accounts. She and Brandon used an inside joke of theirs to communicate via text that she wasn’t around us or my dad and that it was safe to talk about the pregnancy, and reading those exchanges afterwards was super entertaining. As for not saying anything to me, the toughest part of that was going to see Morris Day Saturday night and not being able to say a word.

And so Sunday, as everyone was sitting with their first plate from the brunch buffet, Brandon handed my dad a small gift bag and said, “I know we already got you something, but we picked up a little something else.” And it was a mug that said, “Grandfather,” and my dad stared at it and said, “Are you trying to tell me something?”

And then my father, a known foodie and former chef, the man who (like me) gets genuinely excited over trips to good restaurants, was so surprised that he lost his appetite. The ice cream with his bananas foster melted, and while the rest of us piled up more plates, he sat there drinking coffee, almost speechless.

I was certainly surprised, but his reaction, especially in our family, trumps them all. And Paul and I got little gifts, too–he got a mug similar to my dad’s and I got a bracelet.

My little brother having a baby is super, super weird, for sure, but it’s also super, super exciting. I’ve done a good job resisting buying a bunch of stuff for the baby, but I did grab a few things last month when we were in Virginia. My plan for the baby shower is a bunch of baby band tees and little baby Converse shoes, and you know that kid’s first concert with the family is not far away.


Saturday 9: Sentimental Journey

Saturday 9: Sentimental Journey (1945)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) Doris sings that she has her bag packed. Tell us about your luggage. Is your bag easy to spot on the luggage carousel? I haven’t traveled with it yet, but probably not. It’s a nice, deep red color, but I can’t imagine it’s very unique.

2) The release of this song coincided with VE Day, and so it meant a great deal to troops returning home from Europe. What song has sentimental value for you? Why? “Heroes” by David Bowie. I always loved it anyway, but it was also our first dance at our wedding.

3) As a young girl, Doris was passionate about dance. Concentrating in the studio and performing on stage helped distract her from heartache and embarrassment over her parents’ divorce. When you want to escape from what’s troubling you, what do you do? I don’t do much different from what I normally do, which I guess is kind of weird, but I think I find comfort in my routines. So I read, watch Netflix, screw around on the Internet, and write. Sometimes I write about what’s going on, but that’s not much of an escape, really. It helps get things out of my system, though, for sure.

4) Her dancing days came to an end when, at age 15, she was in a car accident and damaged her leg. During her recovery, she discovered how much she enjoyed singing with the radio, and was delighted to find others enjoyed hearing her. Tell us about a time you unexpectedly found happiness or success. Does my husband count? Because he was just kind of the older brother of one of my own brother’s friends and I expected this to go nowhere, but here we are.

5) She moved from singer to actress in the late 1940s and was a major movie star for 25 years. She was paired with the most popular leading men of her time — everyone from Clark Gable to Frank Sinatra to Rock Hudson. If you could share a kiss with any actor or actress, who would you choose? Man, I don’t know. There’s not, like, one in particular that stands above the rest. Although I guess I wouldn’t turn down Idris Elba, and my husband probably would be happy for me.

6) 1968 was a terrible year for Doris. First, she suddenly became a widow. Then she discovered that her late husband and his business partner had squandered her money and she had to file for bankruptcy. Oh, wait! There’s more! She also found that, in his role as her manager, her late husband had, without her knowledge, committed her to a weekly TV series. Do you have a 1968? What year you can point to and say, “Wow, I’m glad that’s over”? I believe it was when I was 23. My friends were pretty shitty to me, my mother-in-law was pretty shitty to me either at the same time or very shortly afterwards, and I was 110% done with all of that. I removed myself from those equations as much as possible and benefitted from doing so, honestly.

7) After retiring from show business, she became an advocate for animal welfare. She has said we should be more sensitive to the loneliness, sadness and guilt people feel when they lose a pet. Think of a time you were grieving. What words or gestures helped you through? Conversely, what’s something no one should ever say to someone who is hurting? I prefer to be left alone but know that people are close by, especially if I need a moment to vent and blow off steam. As for what not to say, there’s nothing specific that I personally hate hearing, except maybe suggestions that it was God’s will or meant to be, but I think all the general advice on what not to say is good. There’s a lot that’s well-intentioned but can just be not at all what someone wants to hear then.

8) Doris’ only child was her son, record producer Terry Melcher. Terry had a successful, years-long collaboration with The Beach Boys. Do you have a favorite Beach Boys song? Ooh, I’m gonna give you two, both from Pet Sounds. First, “I’m Waiting for the Day” because I love the drums, and the whole thing just gets better as it goes, especially when the vocals start to get a little more angry and intense. The last like 30 seconds of the song are the best. The second is “Sloop John B,” originally a Bahamian folk song, because I love the melody. Pet Sounds is one of those very highly regarded albums with a lot of famous songs, and although I like some of the more well-known ones like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows,” it was these two that made me really get the hype around Pet Sounds and appreciate what The Beach Boys were doing with instrumentation and layering. They both have these little touches that enhance them.

9) Random question: What’s one thing you’ve never done, but have always wanted to try? I don’t know. I’m not very daring, so thrill-seeking things like skydiving are out, and I’ve done a lot of the small-scale things I’m interested in. I guess the only thing that comes close is just that I’d like to do more traveling.

Friday 5: Ice Is Forming on the Tips of My Wings

I love this title so much.

  1. How do you feel about passengers riding in front of you reclining their seats? On one hand, I’m kind of small and can deal with people doing it, but on the other hand, unless you need the room or or just reclining a tiny, tiny bit, I do think it’s rude to without asking first.
  2. What single aspect of airplane flight do you dislike the most? All the waiting. Standing in line through security, sitting waiting to board, sitting waiting for the plane to take off.
  3. What was your longest flight on an airplane? Only a few hours–I’ve never traveled far enough (yet) to have some long flight under my belt.
  4. What’s your favorite way to pass the time on a long flight? If I have Internet access, even if I have to pay for it, I’m gonna get it. I also read or watch something. Once on a short flight in high school, I did homework. I mean, really, as much as I’m able, I just do what I’d do if I were chilling out at home.
  5. What are the best and worst things you’ve eaten on a plane or in an airport? Nothing stands out either way. I’ve typically just eaten either fast food or eaten in some chain in an airport, so there’s been nothing that impressed or disgusted, fortunately.

As always, from Friday 5.

We had a very rare weekend with absolutely no set plans. Normally, that would be when we’d go to a movie, but we couldn’t agree on one–Paul initially agreed to go see the Suspiria remake, then changed his mind, then decided he’d go after all, then changed his mind again. But with recycling piling up and no pickup for it here, we were determined to at the very least grab dinner in Pittsburgh and drop off the recycling, and then I had the bright idea to check out the aviary.

It was a short trip, as the place isn’t very big, but they had a lot of neat and super pretty birds. It made for a nice, affordable, chill date. And then we figured we’d try something new for lunch, and I have a mental list of restaurants in the city I want to go to. At last, we tackled one with NOLA on the Square, a New Orleans-inspired place. The food was really good but a bit pricey for what it is, but I am glad we went.

On our walk from the car to the restaurant, I spotted a sign for macarons, and of course, I can’t resist those–I haven’t had any since the ones I bought for our wedding last year. So I loaded up a box of 20 of those, mostly one of each flavor. I think macarons might be my favorite cookie, and if we’re ever back in that part of the city, and we usually aren’t there. Bummer.

We’ve also been wanting to go to a brunch by Dom and Tina’s Black Market Catering, but the timing keeps on not working out–I think twice in a row now it’s been right in the middle of my appointment for my hair dye. But with them doing lunch at a brewery in Mt. Lebanon, we had a decent compromise. Guaranteed good food at a brewery we’ve never been to? Sure. We both ended up really liking it. I had some local cider, which is like my thing now, and Paul downed a couple of their beers. It’s one we’ll have to keep an eye on, especially when we know Dom and Tina are gonna be there to feed us.

Of course, I had to make a pit stop at the mall for Lush bath bombs. I mean, when you’re in town…

Saturday 9: The Middle

Saturday 9: The Middle (2018)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) This song is about compromise. When did you recently give in a little and meet someone halfway? I choose to believe that sharing my macarons with my husband instead of eating them all myself counts here.

2) She sings that the floors are wet. Are there any floors in your home that could use a good scrub today? If you answered “yes,” will those floors get cleaned this weekend? Pretty much all of them need cleaned, with the exception of my office, which got vacuumed last night. But yes, they’re all on the agenda for the weekend, as usual.

3) She also sings that the cabinets are bare. What’s currently on your shopping list? Our weekly grocery staples–yogurt, some produce, some snacks, some things I can make for lunch.

4) You may be familiar with this song from Target’s TV commercials. Do you often shop at Target? Not often, but I love it when I do.

5) The lead vocal is handled by Maren Morris, a Grammy winner for “My Church,” which is all about singing with the car radio. What’s the last song you sang along with? I was very, very quietly singing along to “American Pie” in a restaurant this evening, plus a few other songs before and after.

6) This past April, Maren married singer-songwriter Ryan Hurd and they have performed onstage together. Who is the last person you sang along with? Probably my husband in the car.

7) This song was composed by brothers Kyle and Michael Trewartha. With their bleached hair and sunglasses, they look like a pair of surfer dudes — which they are, having grown up in Huntington Beach, CA. Is there a body of water near your hometown? There are some small ones near my actual house, but the general area has plenty of rivers. I’m close to Pittsburgh, with its three–the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio–and the town where I grew up is close to the Youghiogheny.

8) January 2018, when this song debuted, we had a total lunar eclipse. When things like that happen in the sky, do you go out of your way to watch? I never used to because I lived in an apartment, and the way the building was situated, there was no good view of the sky, plus a good bit of light pollution. But now at my house, yeah, I absolutely will next time we have one. We have a much better view of the sky here, in a slightly more rural area with much less light pollution. Plus a deck and yard to watch from!

9) Random question — They say we’re all young at heart. In what way can you be childlike? My husband teases me about my favorite foods because they’re very childlike.  I eat macaroni and cheese somewhat regularly. That’s not to say I don’t branch out or that I’m a picky eater, it’s just that I have certain go-tos, and they’re very simple.

Friday 5: Excuses

  1. What was your excuse the last time you had to miss a social gathering? We missed a fall party for a wedding.
  2. What was your excuse the last time you arrived late to something? I mean, at this point, it’s just who I am as a person, but when I can blame something else, it’s usually traffic or my husband. When I worked in an office and not from home, it was just straight up I couldn’t get myself out of bed on time, and I was consistently a couple minutes late every day. For the record, I now clock in precisely on time.
  3. What was someone else’s excuse for recently inconveniencing you? I’m not sure that anyone has, honestly. Not recently enough to remember, clearly.
  4. What’s a true explanation you wish you could have given (but didn’t) when you unintentionally inconvenienced someone else? I can’t think of one of these, either, but my husband and I have joked about doing the, “Sorry we’re late, Bob had diarrhea” line from Bob’s Burgers.
  5. What’s something you wish you could be excused from right now? I’d say work, but I took the day off to use up my vacation days I have left before I lose them at the end of the year.

From Friday 5.