Today, Linda and her niece, Caroline, (and Courtney, who is like family) began the preparations for Thanksgiving tomorrow. They prepped casseroles and made pies, .....
and Linda even printed a menu.
Caroline made name cards for all the dishes and pumpkin name cards for seating.
It's a whole production. :)
Linda and the girls got started early.
Caroline soaked the turkey in a brine overnight, and they made a stuffing today. And then, before it went in the oven, they layered it with bacon.
The dinner for eight people had the following menu:
- Relish Tray
- Deviled Eggs
- Sausage Balls
- Bananas rolled in chopped peanuts (that's an old recipe from my mother's family)
- Turkey with bacon
- Ham with pineapple glaze
- Cranberry Sauce
- Mashed Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Casserole (Ruth's Chris recipe)
- Broccoli-Rice Casserole
- Green Bean Casserole
- Corn Casserole
- Macaroni & Cheese
- Pistachio-Waldorf Salad
- Turkey-shaped Croissants
Jay & Karen returned from their holiday cruise in time to participate in getting the food ready, eating appetizers, and watching football.
Around 6:00, the food was set out buffet style.
Here are our lovely chefs.
Linda with her sister, Karen, and the beautiful table decorated by Caroline.
Everything was delicious, and there was way too much food for the four couples. We'll be enjoying leftovers for several days.
We did the traditional recitations of what we are thankful for, and then settled in for the post-feast stupor. It was indeed a wonderful Thanksgiving, and we hope yours was as well.
Since the day after we arrived here in Jacksonville, I've felt better and better and I've been doing my three-mile run every day. After yesterday's feast, I may need to do it twice a day. :)
Linda and Karen walked and did some yard work while I ran a couple of errands. Our Health Savings Account has been held at Merrill Lynch since we opened it, but we got a letter telling us they were getting out of the HSA business and we needed to transfer the funds somewhere else. Of course, they steered us toward their parent company, Bank of America, but I decided to use our secondary bank, Fifth Third, instead.
Fifth Third is headquartered in Cincinnati, but has a strong presence in Louisville and in Florida. And there is a branch about a mile from Jay & Karen's house, so I went there and got some paperwork done.
I also took the Jeep to get a thorough cleaning. Wow, it looks pretty good for a 2005 (except for the minor body damage from hail and an unfortunate collision with a small deer last year).
When I got back, we inflated our Sea Eagle FastTrack .....
so Linda and Karen could take it for a spin around the lake behind their house.
Karen & Jay moved in April and this was the first time Karen had been out on the lake. She loved it. :)
They saw an alligator and all kinds of birds - Osprey, Cormorants, Anhingas, herons, ducks, hawks, pelicans, kingfishers, and more.
When they returned, Jay and I went for a quick tour and saw some turtles and a Pileated Woodpecker in addition to the other large birds.
It was a beautiful day.
We got up early so I could get my run in and so Linda and Karen could walk before we made the 120-mile trip down to The Villages to visit Linda's Mom for the weekend.
Linda & I arrived before noon to be sure we got there in time for the Kentucky vs. Louisville football game (and the Michigan vs. Ohio State game). For the second game in a row, Louisville's performance was disappointing and they lost to the underdog Wildcats who clearly wanted it more. Oh well.
Linda helped her Mom with some outside Christmas decorations while I watched football all day and most of the night with Adam, taking a break only to partake in the wonderful pork rib dinner Adam prepared.
It was a nice, relaxing first day of our visit.
After a hearty breakfast, I went for my run. Linda and her Mom went shopping. Linda was in search of clothing items for our upcoming trip to the Galapagos Islands, although we ordered most of what we needed through Amazon. Gotta love that Amazon Prime two-day shipping. :)
In the afternoon, Adam and I played a round of golf at the Cane Garden Country Club, one of twelve championship golf courses in The Villages. I was back to my usual inconsistent self and shot a 92. As little as I play, I'm pretty happy with anything in the 80s, but today I had a few too many of those dreaded double and triple bogies. But it was another beautiful day.
Linda's shopping was successful, but a couple of stores were closed, so they are going back out tomorrow. We had another nice dinner at home and called it an early night.
Linda has become somewhat obsessed with Panera Bread's Cinnamon Crunch Bagels, so I was assigned bagel duty this morning.
Then the shopping began while Adam and I stayed behind and took it easy at the house. I took time to get in a run, but I also delved into some of the details of our trip which begins later this week.
We fly out of Jacksonville on Friday and arrive in Quito, Ecuador late Friday night. We gave ourselves a one-day cushion in Quito just in case there are any issues with travel documents or luggage. So, we'll have a free day in Quito on Saturday.
On Sunday, we fly the 600 miles to Baltra Island in the Galapagos, board the Sea Star Journey and begin our trip. The 138-foot, 16-passenger Sea Star has three itineraries which we have combined into a 15-day, 14-night excursion. We may have different shipmates coming and going as I'm sure most will be on the shorter itineraries, but the beauty of this particular combination is that we never hit the same visitor site twice. By the way, for those that may go looking at the prices on this trip, just know that we didn't pay anywhere near the eye-popping "rack rate", and I'll be happy to discuss the particulars by email if you are curious. :)
The Galapagos archipelago is made up of 13 major islands and 7 minor islands according to the Galapagos Conservancy. There are also smaller islets around those 20 islands. We will be visiting 13 of the 20 islands plus four islets.
Ninety-five percent of the Galapagos land is protected, and visitors are only allowed to visit the 60-plus designated "Visitor Sites" and must be accompanied by a park-certified naturalist guide.
We will visit one site the afternoon of our arrival and one site the morning of our departure, but on all the other days in between, we will visit two sites per day. That's a total of 28 visitor sites. I put together a map of our route, although the numbered stops overlapped as I zoomed out to get all the islands in.
We'll do a lot of short hikes, some snorkeling, some kayaking, and we'll be dropped off on the islands (both "dry" and "wet" landings) by inflatable Zodiacs, one of which has a glass bottom for undersea viewing. Sometimes, there is no landing site, and we'll just explore the coastline by Zodiac or kayak.
We're getting really excited. :)
When the ladies got back, Adam made us a wonderful soup for lunch, and then we made our departure back to Jacksonville on this 83-degree afternoon.
So, we had a great Thanksgiving week with family, and though I miss my parents, there are memories of them everywhere - in our rig, in Karen & Jay's house, in Linda's Mom's house, in my sister's house (and in her kids' houses), in so many other relatives houses, and in my folks' neighbors houses - and I smile knowing that their simple legacy lives on.
Our thankfulness for this life we lead and for the love we feel from all around is beyond words. I'll just turn the phrase - Thanksgiving Happy! :)