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November 28th, 2009:

Thanksgiving Break

I’m by no means finished with my current thread on how necessary Windows is, but the Thanksgiving holiday weekend intervened, and Carol and I flew to Chicago earlier this week to spend time with family. I hadn’t seen our nieces Katie Beth and Julie since the beginning of August, and kids change quickly at this point in their lives. Julie is now making short but full sentences (at 18 months) and Katie, now 3, is chattering away as she discusses some pretty interesting issues. For example, last night at Gretchen’s house, Katie looked at me and asked her mother, “What is Uncle Jeff?” (A few of my early girlfriends probably wondered the same thing.) Gretchen tried to explain that Uncle Jeff is her brother, but Katie does not have a brother and may not quite grasp the concept yet.

No sweat on that one; she’ll get there. Carol and I visited with her mom on Wednesday, did some shopping, and helped her sister Kathy prepare the Thanksgiving feast. It was drippy from the moment we got off the plane on Tuesday, and the drips continued through the day Thursday, when the family finally gathered at three. The feast included all the traditional fare: Turkey, ham, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, both ceasar and Hawaiian salad, three kinds of home-made pies (with ice cream, as an option) and probably a few things that I missed, most likely green vegetables. As has become the tradition, I acted as sommelier, and brought both dry and sweet wines for the table. The dry red was Cosentino Winery’s Cigarzin 2004, a superb, fruit-forward Zinfandel without much oak but with explosive fruit flavors. Not subtle–but then, neither am I. On the sweet side I chose Bartenura’s Malvasia, an unusual sweet blush with just a little fizz. We also had a German Riesling Auslese from St. Christopher, with a bottle of White Heron in the fridge in case we needed it. As feasts go it was outstanding; much credit going to Kathy, her husband Bob, and Bob’s mother Betty for somehow making all the food appear at an appropriate time at the appropriate temperature.

I stayed out of the stores yesterday for obvious reasons, even though I’m shopping for a new subnotebook or (gasp) netbook. Instead I spent time at Gretchen’s making an old family recipe handed down from our Irish grandmother Sade. It’s called gumgash, which is essentially hamburger mixed with chopped onions, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, and shell macaroni. I dumped a little Campus Oaks Old Vine Zinfandel 2006 into the mix, which isn’t historical but adds significant flavor if you can let the whole thing simmer for 20 minutes. After we all feasted on gumgash, the girls demanded to hear their Phineas and Ferb music CD. This is a spinoff from a cartoon show on the Disney channel, about two 10-year-old nerds who invent things and drive their 15-year-old sister to distraction. The show is the girls’ current favorite (having recently upended the Madagascar Penguins; could there be stirrings of Linux culture here?) and I danced with both of them to a few of the brief but well-written cuts (some of which were hilarious) on the album. There aren’t many effective ways to dance with an 18-month-old, so I sat taylor-style on the kitchen floor and held Julie’s hands while we both swayed back and forth to the pounding rhythms of “I’m Lindana and I Wanna Have Fun!” which, while only 51 seconds long, is insanely catching, and echoed endlessly around in the back of my skull until I finally dozed off at 11 last night.

So here I am, taking a breather on Saturday afternoon before getting busy again. We’ll be home in a couple of days, when I’ll continue the current series, and then segue into some observations about writing fiction. I like lumps in my Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, and I like lumps in my exposition. The important part is what the lumps are made of. If they’re tasty enough, nobody will care…but I’ll get back to that.