Dec 8, 2014

A Tale of Thanksgiving Abroad

So initially, the plan was to get a turkey breast, throw it in the crock pot, and maybe try to track down some cranberry sauce for a lonely Thanksgiving dinner with my little family of three.  But a few days beforehand, the winds of changed determined that no, I wanted it big, and I wanted every single dish we would normally have on Turkey day.  We have four sets of full-time missionaries in our ward (so 8 missionaries total), so we invited them to meet us at the church for a Thanksgiving lunch.  I regretted it right away...I mean, I have never even thought about roasting a turkey in my life, and certainly have never cooked for more than six people before, but we were committed and had the building reserved. We had also asked around, and some of our American friends agreed to join us for the feast (thank heavens, because Becki brought a ton of food and was a huge help).

We shopped on Tuesday, prepped on Wednesday and woke up bright and early to follow the strict oven schedule on Thursday.  The grueling labor of chopping, seasoning and baking became enjoyable as we listened to the fascinating and addictive podcast Serial while we worked...six hours of Serial to be exact.  That's a lot of prep, peeps.  And a lot of Serial.

The problem with my oven is: the temperatures on the dial have either worn off or were never there in the first place.  So my landlord, bless her heart, just wrote in sharpie "min" and "max" without any hint of what the temps are.  So for the last three months I've just been guessing where I should set the dial. They also use Celsius here. When you're just heating up a casserole it's not a big deal, but baking only happens when I'm feeling exceptionally brave.  So I was a little terrified to cook my turkey.  I watched an obscene amount of YouTube videos days in advance on basting and brining and dressing and roasting, and the more I watched the more stressed out I became.  Martha Stewart's voice may seem deceptively calm and soothing, but I honestly wanted to cry after watching her demo.  Actually, I think I did cry.

 In the end, Becki hooked me up with a meat thermometer and I just babysat that turkey like it was my firstborn child (I love you Eleanor).  And it turned out great! It was done just in time.  The zone leaders have a car (so envious) so they picked up all the food from Becki and I's, we walked to the church, Neal carved the bird, all sixteen of us partook of the wonderful meal (Becki made cranberry salsa.  I'm still thinking about that cranberry salsa!), and then we cleaned up the church.  It was fun, so much fun. Definitely worth the work.  But we were exhausted.  I told Neal that I felt like preparing a Thanksgiving meal was more physically and emotionally draining than giving birth (you think I'm joking).  We walked home, crawled into bed just after 7 PM, and caught ourselves all the way up on Serial.  It was glorious.

The only pic we took, the rest of the day was just too darn busy.  Thankful we have such lovely friends when we can't be with family for holidays.

Visitors in Edinburgh: The Colorado Lutzes

Well, we had our first visitors!  The first week of November, Neal's eldest brother Scott and his wife Connie flew in from Colorado Springs for a ten-day vacay.  Neal has three brothers and five sisters, so the Lutz men and their families are distinguished by their locale.  I guess we are now the Edinburgh Lutzes, though I still think of us as the Kansas Lutzes.  Also: after two point five years of marriage, I still can't figure out the plural use of Lutz...Lutzes? Lutz's? Lutzs? Lutz'? Someone help me.

 We showed them around Edinburgh, the free parts (the only parts we know, obv).  They did buy a Historic Scotland pass, which allows free or discounted entry to hundreds of historic sites across the country.  We already have an annual membership, so we used them to tour a few castles, including one Neal and I hadn't visited yet, Craigmillar Castle.  It was totally different than Edinburgh or Stirling Castle in that it was just more...raw.  Most of the rooms were missing roofs and it wasn't all refurbished.  It was a little easier for me to accept that this is an actually castle from centuries ago.

We took a rental car to England for a couple days, and were able to attend the Preston Temple.  We stayed at a beautiful Marriott, thanks to Jeff, Scott/Connie's son, who hooked us up with a lovely room at this joint:

The Brits know how to do hotels. We're getting gypped back home.
 We also visited several quaint and adorable English towns where Connie had some family history sites to visit.  We walked through numerous old churches and cemeteries where her ancestors had been christened and buried.  Honestly amazing stuff.

Absolutely massive cathedral in Durham. My phone died immediately after this pic. But the inside was amazing, trust me.
Our drive through the English countryside was one of the most beautiful I think I've ever taken.  Endless rolling green hills, roaming sheep, old and beautiful bridges.  We had the lovely accompanying background music of Eleanor Arden Lutz crying her lungs out for the majority of the drive (first time in carseat in three months + cutting two teeth = nightmare. Girl was not having it.) My ears burn at the memory. Baby Einstein was used and abused.  I know, we're awful. But desperate times call for desperate measures, I mean, poor Scott and Connie were having to yell their commentary on the scenery over Elle's dramatic screams.   Thankfully, they are well-seasoned parents/grandparents and were totally cool about it. 

After we returned to Edinburgh, Scott and Connie took a few days to visit other cities and towns in Scotland.  They made it up to Inverness, which is very close to Loch Ness.  It was so fun having them stay with us for part of their trip.  Because Neal's family is so huge, it's difficult for me to get to know everyone very well on an individual family reunions and weddings and stuff, it's hard enough to just say 'hello' and 'goodbye' to everyone.  His family is really good about writing each other regularly, so we do know what's going on in each other's lives, but it was nice to sit down and visit so much with the Colorado Lutzes. They're wonderful people and great examples to both of us.  I totally married Neal for his family ;).

Snail Mail

Happy (very) Belated Halloween, from the fastest snail you'll ever meet:

you know, for posterity