Thursday, December 1, 2011

Redefining Home: My First Thanksgiving in Minnesota

Hello everyone,

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would take a post to express some gratitude, talk a little about home, and share how I made my first ever Thanksgiving turkey.

Let me begin by saying how thankful I am for my husband. He is still my favorite person in the world, and he knows me better than anyone. Plus, we make an awesome team. He regularly does the dishes and laundry and sometimes even cleans exactly when I need it, but I don't have to tell him. He just knows, and he does it. He also gets up with me every morning at 6 am even though he doesn't need to wake up for another 2 1/2 hours. And he listens to me go on and on about work, sometimes for my entire 40-minute commute home. And yes, sometimes he drives me nuts and occasionally embarrasses me in public, but in our own way, we're perfect for each other, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The longer we're together, the deeper our love grows. Nothing is better than being able to spend every day with your best friend.

Another thing I am thankful for is my wonderful, ever-growing family. Just this past weekend, my brother-in-law got married to a sweet girl who will be a great addition to the family, and my sister-in-law started planning her wedding for next May. I am also super excited to be going home to visit my side of the family over Christmas. I got a little homesick for Nashville on Thanksgiving, and I wasn't able to be there for Christmas last year. It's time to come home.

This brings me to my last point of gratitude - my new home here in Minnesota. "Home" has taken on a new meaning for me since moving away from Nashville last September. I was born there and spent my entire existence in the same house (with the exception of college dorms/apartments) up until my wedding day. I remember how weird it felt that night before - knowing that as soon as I came back from my honeymoon, that room, that bed, and that house would no longer be mine. It would be my parents' home, and even though I would love coming to visit, I would never see it the same way again. Connecticut never felt like home. It was beautiful, and we made some wonderful memories there starting out our marriage, but it was also very lonely. I cried a lot in the beginning, not because I was homesick but because I felt homeless. When we came here to visit in January, I immediately felt what I had been waiting to feel for months in Connecticut - that sense of comfort and belonging. I knew this was where I wanted to live, that this is where my home would really be. Thankfully, God worked it out (in some amazing ways - see my very first post for details), and we were able to move here and finally start a home together. And you know what? I really do love it here (to the shock of my Southern friends and family). I love the snow, the evergreen trees, the outdoor hockey rinks, the corn fields, the Twin Cities, the sports teams (even though most of them suck) and the accents. And I love my little townhouse that I've been decorating with homemade crafts, thrift store finds and IKEA awesomeness. Now that we have our Christmas decorations up, I love it even more. I look forward to buying a nice house someday with Mr. G, but for now, this is perfect. I feel very blessed to call Minnesota my home.

And now for the food! Many thanks to my mother and Mr. G's mother for all the turkey tips. :) I struggled a little at first (my turkey was still frozen on the inside, so my fingers kept going numb trying to find the giblets), but once it was prepared, cooking it was super easy!

Here's my Thanksgiving turkey how-to:

1.  I started by washing and dry patting my turkey, including rinsing out the inside. 

2.  Take out the neck from the top (it's impossible to miss) and the bag of giblets from the bottom. Rinse again. Your turkey should be empty now, like the picture above shows.

3.  Cook for 4 hours at 325 for a 14-lb turkey. See the directions in the package for other sizes. I covered it with foil even though it said not to, because it keeps the turkey from drying out. Keep in mind that if you do this, it usually takes longer to cook than the directions say (mine said 3 - 3 1/2 hours). To make gravy, add a cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan (again, even though it says not to) and then boil it afterward with flour/corn starch and salt. It's seriously the best gravy I've ever tasted...
4.  To check if the turkey is done, stick a fork in the leg and see what comes out - if the juice is clear, the turkey's done; if the juice is pink, it's not done. Then carve and serve! Here's how mine came out - I would show you the whole turkey, but Mr. G decided to pull all the skin off of it first, so it turned out looking like something from a horror movie. It still tasted amazing, but if you want a more "picturesque" bird, leave the skin on for photos.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Feel free to share any family recipes as well as any Christmas crafts you've made. I have a few planned for the weekend... Inspired by Pinterest, of course. ;)

Also, I would love to hear your comments on what "home" means for you. Here's a blog entry that really resonated with me about celebrating the holidays and creating traditions, no matter where you are or who you're with. It makes me even more fuzzy inside that she has a child with special needs, something that has always been close to my heart.

Happy Holidays!

<3 Mrs. G

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