Monday, November 23, 2015

My First Thanksgiving

This year I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, and I'm having a mild nervous breakdown.  It's such an iconic meal, and there's a lot of pressure to get it right. Then, just to make sure I drive myself crazy, I asked extra people to join us, one of whom is a vegetarian.

But it's a family and friends kind of day, and I can't leave friends to celebrate alone. Besides, I see my family all the time, so the conversations will be more interesting if we add some new people to the mix. Possibly explosive if we let my liberal friend and my brother talk politics. Well, that's one way of making the holiday memorable.

On the plus side, the Thanksgiving menu is not terribly difficult, it's just large and dependent on good time management. (And mom is bringing the cranberries, so that's one less thing I have to make.) Since I'm having a vegetarian this year I've added my apple/leek casserole to the line up and I'm making the stuffing without chicken stock. Everybody should be happy with the food.

I've been thinking about serving dishes, what I have, what I can borrow. Will I bother with a center piece? (No.) Should I get some crystal to go with the china? (Probably, but this year the glasses are from IKEA.) How much food is enough? How much is too much?  I realize that I'm being ridiculous, that I will have eight (eight!) separate dishes (including pie) and that I've managed Christmas with half that. But I still find myself obsessing.

In addition to the meal, I'm looking at my house and wondering if there is some magic spell or something to keep pets from shedding, just for a couple of days. Why do I have such a ridiculously narrow table? (Seriously, I can't find tablecloths to fit it.) Why did I spend money on a vacation instead of window treatments for the living room?

Then there is animal management. My guest are bringing a dog, so the cats will have to be corralled and the house dog proofed. (Not that big a deal, I long ago put fragile things inside cabinets or up very high. Cats can be just as destructive to one's belongings.)  It's going to be chilly, should I put a blanket outside for the dog?

Deep breath. It's all going to be okay.

Do I have to make gravy?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Vacation Snaps

I spent the first two weeks of September in Vietnam. It was my first visit and I hope it will not be my last.
Morning on the Perfume River, Hue
I took a tour, 10 days travelling from Hanoi to Saigon, and it was wonderful.

I'd never been on a tour before, and while I didn't see as much of each individual site as I would have liked (simply not enough time) it was very relaxing to not have to deal with travel arrangements and hotels. All I had to do was show up. I can do that.
taken from the bus on our way to Hoi An
I tried my hand at landscape photography this time round. It's not my strength, but the countryside is beautiful, which helps a lot.

Destined to be dinner
The people are friendly, and the food is great. For those of you who are worried about food being too spicy, chilies tend to be on the side. And the beer is plentiful and good.

Roof detail
A gargoyle, I almost wish it had rained, so I could have seen it in action (Hue)
The tourism industry is in its infancy, so there are no pamphlets to pick up, no signs in English and very few maps. This can be great (less visual clutter and litter) and it can be disorienting (where am I?) They are fixing up the old palaces in Hue, but it's a constant fight against the climate.

And it's hot. There is no way around it, it's hot and humid and we blessed the men who invented air conditioning every time we got back to the hotel.
Saigon, the 70 was to celebrate Vietnam's 70th birthday as a modern nation 1945 - 2015
I arrived two days before national day, on the 70th anniversary of Vietnam becoming its own nation. So Hanoi, where we started, was packed, filled with people paying their respects at Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, all the government buildings had a fresh coat of paint and there were red flags everywhere.
Daoist temple - coils of incense, with prayers attached (Hoi An)
Ha Long Bay

If you ever get the chance to see Ha Long Bay, go. We felt so incredibly lucky to be there, it's an incredible spot. And I tried kayaking for the first time! I didn't turn the boat over, so I'm calling it a success.

Hoi An at night

Hoi An, in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known for its lanterns. These ladies are selling paper lanterns that you float in the river and make a wish. Its a big spot for engagement photos.

Temple offering - Buddha's Hand (Hanoi)
Fishing - Ha Long Bay

I would like to go back and spend more time, about a month, and really get to explore. But for an introduction, my 10 day whirlwind trip was fascinating.