Thursday, November 23, 2017

Remembering Thanksgivings Past

The fourth Thursday in November is the perfect time to reflect on our many reasons to be thankful. Of course, family, friends, and good health are always at the top of my list. I am also grateful for the ability to travel and explore the world. But, instead of making a list of everything I am thankful for, I thought it would be fun to recap a decade of Thanksgivings, including this year's.

2008: Nashville, TN
After moving to New York City in the spring of 1999, I could no longer guarantee I would be home for the holidays. My family was (and still is) spread out over Tennessee, with my birth city of Nashville often serving as the meeting point for my extended family. One decades-old annual tradition is the Thanksgiving day gathering of the Layne family at my paternal grandmother's niece's home in Inglewood. In previous years, any time I was in town I would accompany my grandmother to this potluck feast which often includes over 30 people crowding into a 1,000 square foot house. If the weather is good, we go outside and play football in the front yard. On this particular year I was able to catch a flight down from NYC at the last minute and surprise my grandmother.
Me and my grandmother Betty Layne Smartt on Thanksgiving Day 2008

2009: Honolulu, HI
Greg and I started long distance dating in February 2009. I was still living in New York City; he lived in Nashville. By July, I had shipped all of my remaining belongings to my grandmother's house so Greg and I could experiment with living together in various parts of the U.S. We started in Seattle, WA for one month, then took a two-week vacation to central Europe, then settled in the Waikiki area of Oahu for two months, which overlapped the holiday. On Thanksgiving Day we had reservations at the Oceanarium Restaurant for their afternoon buffet, then we walked off the meal at the Honolulu Zoo followed by a sunset stroll on Waikiki Beach.
View of the sunset from Waikiki Beach on Thanksgiving Day 2009

2010: Mount Kenya National Park
Greg and I departed the U.S. on the last day of July 2010 to start our around-the-world trip. After traveling through nine countries on four continents, it was time for a two-week safari in Kenya and Tanzania. On Thanksgiving Day, we awoke before dawn at Samburu Sopa Lodge and ate breakfast while watching a family of warthogs gather at the watering hole near the open air dining room. As our driver and guide navigated us out of the park, we spotted a Somali ostrich family grazing in the brush. Before noon we had crossed the Equator at Nanyuki. An hour later, we arrived at Serena Mountain Lodge on the lower slopes of Mt Kenya but still 7,200 ft above sea level. There we settled into our room overlooking the watering hole and immediately saw a herd of waterbuck and Cape buffalo. By the time we sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, we had also seen Sykes monkeys, bushbucks, a genet, a bee-eater, Egyptian geese, and a mongoose. A highlight of the evening was when the clouds cleared and we had a fantastic view of the mountain summit.
Somali ostriches in Samburu National Reserve
Standing on the Equator in Nanyuki, Kenya

2011: Miami, FL
Our around-the-world adventure ended in May 2011 after being on the road for 278 days and visiting 22 countries on four continents. Greg proposed to me in Nashville on Memorial Day so we spent the summer planning and celebrating our wedding with four parties in three states. We departed for our honeymoon in early September and spent 92 days traveling to 23 countries. We returned to the U.S. via a two-week-long transatlantic cruise from Rome, Italy to Fort Lauderdale, FL. We stayed with my friend Adena in Miami for a couple of nights then spent a few more nights, including Thanksgiving, at a hotel while waiting to board a week-long Caribbean cruise, the finale of our trip.
Sailing away from Miami on November 27, 2011

2012: Portland, OR
Greg and I moved to Portland in January 2012 after falling in love with the city during our "living experiment" in 2010. We rented a fully furnished apartment in a 100+-year-old converted home just off SE Hawthorne in Sunnyside. I spent Thanksgiving morning preparing our meal. We ate mid-afternoon and then went for a walk around our neighborhood. Later, I put a big batch of 15-bean soup in the Crock-Pot.
Thanksgiving dinner 2012

2013: Portland, OR
Greg and I moved to Irvington House in August 2013. I was the live-in caretaker at this 100+-year-old home turned vacation rental. There were guests staying in both rental apartments over the holiday so we stayed home to be able to assist them if needed. I also washed windows that day before cooking our Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving dinner 2013

2014: Portland, OR
A relaxing day at home in Irvington. I swept leaves and sent some work-related emails, then cooked a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as I had the previous two years. Greg flew to Nashville early the next morning to spend a couple of weeks visiting his family.
Thanksgiving dinner 2014

2015: Portland, OR
In July 2015, we moved to a duplex apartment on the north slope of Mt Tabor. For Thanksgiving, we were invited to Friendsgiving at Culmination Brewing, which had opened in January. I met the owner, Tomas Sluiter, at a Pink Boots Society event the previous year and we eventually ended up working together on several business projects. I also helped out in the Culmination taproom during special events. Our friends Henrik Bowadt and family were visiting from California so they joined us for the potluck meal. It was a great afternoon and evening!
Enjoying Thanksgiving with our friends the Bowadt's at Culmination Brewing

2016: Cartagena, Colombia
Greg and I had booked a full Panama Canal transit on Holland America Line's ms Veendam. The 14-night cruise departed from Fort Lauderdale, FL on November 20 and ended in San Diego, CA on December 5. We were joined by family members on both sides: Greg's mom and dad, his mom's sister and her husband, my mom and stepdad, and my mom's sister and her husband. Early on Thanksgiving morning we docked in Cartagena, where I had arranged a personalized city tour for the entire family. Unfortunately, Greg's aunt and uncle were unable to join us because Ellen had fallen on the first day of the cruise and had to go to the hospital to confirm the shipboard diagnosis of a broken wrist. The rest of us proceeded with our tour and had a wonderful day exploring the city. We sailed away in the early afternoon and then we all enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner together in the formal dining room that evening.
View of Cartagena from La Popa Monastery
Thanksgiving dining room decorations aboard ms Veendam

2017: Portland, OR
This year we are relaxing at home in North Tabor. Even though it's just the two of us, I am cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner all from scratch, including a 4.5 lb turkey breast, giblet stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and cranberry sauce. I also have some shrimp cocktail in case we need an afternoon snack, and will make blue cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates as an appetizer. Needless to say we will have plenty of leftovers! I'm not a big dessert-eater, so I'm saving the holiday baking for closer to Christmas and instead bought Greg an Edwards Reese's Creme pie that he can enjoy for the next few days.
Ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner 2017

I hope all of you reading this have a very Happy Thanksgiving!