Thanksgiving in Tulsa, 2014

Standard

27-Nov-14 through 30-Nov-14

 

I hadn’t seen Dave in ages. I hadn’t seen Jig in ages, until she made a surprise visit to Boston for work. I hadn’t even seen the new house that they bought together. What the heck. How is that acceptable?

The answer? It’s not. So instead of keeping with standard thanksgiving tradition, we broke and got a whole group of people to fly out to Oklahoma. The plan was to see the new house, party it up, and make an amazing dinner. Instead of having dinner on Thursday, we aimed to hit Friday; keep flights simpler, and ensure that we had enough time to chill and catch up before really diving into the whole cooking thing…

 

 

Thursday, 27-Nov-14

  • Awake @ 8:00, on the train by 8:30, getting a hamburger in Logan by 10:00. And a smoothie. Mmmm…. Mango
  • Flight to DFW is simple, and I sleep basically the whole time. Not super comfortable though, if we’re being honest.
  • Quick-ish layover in DFW, maybe an hour or so? I walk farther than necessary, as a bit of a “burn off excessive energy” tactic. I also eat a bagel, have a drink, and hang out on the laptop.
    Ohh, and I get called “Urban Jesus”. I like that line.
  • Flight to Tulsa is quick as well… this time I do some writing and plan out stages to excavating the money pit. I do not know why I am doing this.
  • Note that on neither of the flights did I have anyone interesting sitting next to me. The flight to Tulsa didn’t even have anyone next to me.
  • Meet Dave & Jig & Mike at the airport, and Chirag meets us all at the curb maybe 20min afterward. Much bro-ing was had.
  • Head to the Patel family house for dinner- delicious Vegetarian curry is eaten, as made my Momma Patel.
  • Gossip and catching up occurs. It’s excellent. We pack some cooking supplies into the car and head back to see the Siegfried house!
  • We get the whole tour, then start into prepping dinner for tomorrow. Which… yeah, it’s more than a bit of work. But we get it all done and head to the couches!
  • Hang out, catch up, start drinking… yeah. WOO!
  • Ohh how long did you think it would take? Obviously we start into rock band, guitar hero, all of that fun.
  • At some point their housemate joins us; a really cool guy named Nick. We continue rocking out.
  • Crash sometime around 03:00 or something.

 

Friday, 28-Nov-14

  • I’m waking up, to Chirag and Mike, and Jigs and Dave all moving around. I’m breathing in, the coffee smells. Whoa… (Ed Note: this is Ben referencing an Imagine Dragons song. I don’t know why he is doing this)
  • Good wake up, get showered and moving to the Patel house again – this time, Momma Patel is making us breakfast tea with biscuits and other delicious breakfast snacks.
  • More gossip, more catching up, hearing stories about Oklahoma and life on the old prairie.
  • Finish up breakfast, and move on the last-minute shopping. Hit the Super Wal-Mart (because that’s really the only major store in the area), and grab a few bits and bobs that we’ve realized that we’re missing. Quick trip… or should be. Somehow this stuff always takes a little longer than we’d expect…
  • Cooking begins. Dave and I start prepping the deep frier, Mike makes his famous meatballs, Chirag tosses his Chicken Shwarma in the oven, and Jigs pushes into making the casserole and potatoes and putting the final bits of spice onto the turkey.
  • Whoa, the oil is heating up pretty quick for the deep frier, putting the tin foil around it was a really good idea!
  • FIRE! AHH NO! THE TIN FOIL WAS A BAD IDEA!
  • What Ben saw: FIRE!
  • What was done about it:
    Ben: Runs toward fire extinguisher. Stops, runs toward house. Stops, runs toward fire extinguisher. Stops, runs to propane and shuts it off. Runs into house, yells “Shits on fire!” and runs back out.
    Dave, Mike, Jigs & Chirag: “What just happened?”
    Ben: Runs back in, after making sure the fire was 100% out. “Ok I put it out.”
    Dave, Mike, Jigs & Chirag: “Wait. Again. What just happened?”
  • What actually happened: The tin foil around the burner did increase the heat transfer… but increased it too much for the fuel line, which melted through. Causing propane to vent, which was lit by the burner. Which caused the fuel line to act like an opened garden hose, but with fire instead of water.
  • Final situation: Propane off, fuel line melted through, oil cooling off, house & lawn intact.
  • Thankfully, between the five of us we figured everything out, got the hose reconnected, and restarted the whole system. It was a bit concerning, but great success was had.
  • The oil bubbles away
  • Final cooking begins: Chicken Shwarma is eaten, along with shrimp & cheeses. Beer is drank (as it has been returning from the store), and wine is opened. Stuffing is made and put in the oven. Everything is ready for the turkey to be lowed into the oil…
  • To lower the turkey, I had woven a net out of some heavy twine we’d picked up. It wasn’t anything super fancy, but the rope skills that climbing’s taught me did come in handy to make a quite nice basket for the turkey to be cradled in, on it’s trip into the boiling oil.Dave and I had planned the whole enterance out, to minimize danger to people, and to minimize the chance of finding out just how quickly Tulsa’s fire department could respond to a house fire.
    The plan was to turn off the burner, move the oil off the burner (so that it 100% couldn’t spatter and ignite), and then lower the turkey into the oil. Then, after covering it, replace the pot of oil on the burner, restart the fire, and then congratulate each other over beers.
  • What actually happened though… was exactly what we planned to happen. To a Tee – chirag and I moved the oil (since we had heavy shoes), Dave and Mike trussed up the Turkey in my mesh, and then I lowered it into the oil with great reverence. Operation “Thanksgiving” was well under way.
  • While the turkey cooked, we made final preparations and gnoshed on the chicken / apps.
  • Then, carving, plating, and eating. The first three took maybe 15min. The last bit took maybe 3 hours.
  • After dinner, Chirag took the Apple Pie out of the oven… and we all cried because there was no way we could eat another ounce. We still tried, obviously, but it was rather painful.
  • Rock Band. Guitar Hero. Naps, movies, and chatting. Scotch and wine, apple cider and beer. An excellent evening.

 

Saturday, 29-Nov-14

  • How do I not have a hangover? I do not know. But somehow, we have been saved the indignity of having a completely split-in-half head.
  • Instead of a hangover, we have: hunger! So now that everyone is slowly awakening, I start the time-honored tradition of reheating a small portion of the ridiculous amounts of leftovers that we’ve accumulated from the previous days cooking. Specifically – Apple Pie!
  • Slow morning, no real rush for anything. Dave, Mike and I head out for a short adventure to see one of Dave’s friends who we’d met at the wedding, but for one reason or another it didn’t work out, and we ended up back at the house before too long…
  • And since we were at the house… More food! More Rock Band! More awesome fun stories and chatting and hanging out!
  • But wait… Today is our day after Thanksgiving. Which clearly means that we should… Put up Christmas lights! This finds me trying to climb up onto the roof, failing at replacing fuses in the string of lights that won’t work for some stupid reason, and generally all of us having a great time messing around and sort of getting some stuff done.
  • After everything is up (not including that one string that won’t light up… there’s always one string that won’t light up, right?) we head back in for some more left overs and more hanging out; Seriously, over the course of the weekend we probably worked through 12lbs of turkey, 3 lbs of sausage, 3lbs of beans, 5 of potatoes, 4 of ground beef, three of Chicken, and who knows how much other food.
    What does that mean? That I love Thanksgiving. I do very much enjoy cooking, and this is basically an entire holiday dedicated to cooking and eating with friends and family. Nice.
    Ed Note: Of course, all of the recipes (those that I can publish) are printed out below
  • Instead of spending the whole night indoors playing rock band, like we did the previous two nights, we all put on some semblance of normal on-the-town clothes, and head out to the bar that Nick bartends at: a place called Cosmos.
  • The bar was pretty awesome – a low-key place that was busy, but light enough that Nick could come and hang out with us every so often. We even found some cool foam blocks that Chirag, Mike and I turned into variously impressive bridges and neat little houses.
  • Of note of this evening – Star wars, Lightsabers, and the various kinds of Dragons (and which universes they come from) were discussed rather in depth. It was horribly nerdy, and completely amazing. For example – Imperial Turbolasers, the kind used on Star Destroyers, do not actually fire “lasers”. Instead, from what Mike informed us, they fire bolts of plasma energy; similar to what hand held blasters would fire, or what makes up the blade of a lightsaber.
  • As the night went on, we worked through some drinks there, then hit Wal-Mart again quick for a new remote for the Wii at the house, and then headed back home for more leftovers and rocking out. Some of which was on Rock Band. Much of which was just everyone chatting and chilling.
  • The night went excellently – lots of games, lots of difficult songs, and tons of generally hanging out and having a good time. Scotch was drank, laughs were had, and people were made fun of. An excellent evening.

 

Sunday, 30-Nov-14

  • All good things must come to an end, and this was no exception.
  • I guess the ending started when Dave and Jig had to wake up sometime around 6:00 in the morning, so that she could catch her flight back into Boston. For me, it started to end when I woke up and helped send Mike off for his flight; driving with Dave while Chirag and I cleaned up the kitchen and put the remaining leftovers into the fridge. It was long work, thanks to the sheer amount of dishes we’d accumulated over the course of the weekend, but between the two of us, and some amazing tunes from Pandora, we got almost all of it done before Dave even got back.
  • Once Dave did get back, the real challenge was faced: what to do with the large quantity of cooking oil that we’d used for the turkey. We’d left it outside in the pot in the hopes that it would congeal over the course of the two days, but upon review of the oil… that was not at all the case. It was as liquidy and delicious-smelling as when we first took the turkey out.
  • So what to do… well, with some quick thinking by Dave, we were able to rig up a box, with some spare plastic bags, that would hold just enough to drain the cooking pot. Then, we’d put it into the freezer to speed the congealing process, before Dave would take it to the dump as a solid block.
  • Everything worked as planned, except for one bit – the waiting part. Chirag decided to be smart, and look up on google how to dispose of cooking oil… and it turns out there’s a specific day where the city of Tulsa collects cooking oil.
  • What day was that? Why, the afternoon of the Sunday after Thanksgiving, of course. Right after we were planning on heading to the Airport so I could catch my flight. Huh. It’s kind of nice when things work absolutely perfectly like that.
  • So I finished packing, we jumped in the car with the oil, and headed to the Airport. A slightly-long goodbye found Dave and Chirag driving off from the curb, and me walking into the terminal and away from Thanksgiving.
  • My flights home? They were pretty simple. The leg back to Boston got delayed, and the gate changed, and was generally frustrating… but the extra time let me hike myself all over Dallas Airport; a nice excuse to have dinner where I wanted (Chilis, it was actually not very good) and get a little bit of activity in from a weekend full of chilling and overeating.

 

 

 

Selected recipes from the weekend:

 

Ben’s internationally famous Stuffing

 

Mike’s magical meatballs

<Recipe redacted>

 

Chirag’s stupendous Shwarma

 

Green Bean Casserole of Greatness

 

Possibly the best Potatoes

 

Terrifically deep-fried Turkey

A weekend visit to Connecticut

Standard

15 & 16 November, 2014

 

I love visiting my Aunt.

I don’t get the chance to swing by her house nearly often enough, but every time I do, it’s an amazing combination of relaxing, energetic, and calming.  She’s a gardener by trade, so everything seems to grow a little bit better around her.

The drive from Boston to Connecticut is a pretty clean one – most of it is on the highway no matter what you do, but near the end there’s a bit of a side path that one can take, dodging the highway in favor of more country roads.

My Aunt’s house is nestled in the Connecticut backwoods… not that far from civilization, but it somehow perfectly harkens back to a time when the town general store was actually a general store, and that was the only place that people would congregate… partially because it had a little bit of everything, and partially because it’s the only store for a dozen miles.

I don’t personally remember that time, of course… but somehow her town makes me think that I remember it.

Combine that feeling with a perfectly rustic house, and you’ve got an idea of how it feels to park the car and walk into the front door.

 

 

Saturday, 15-Nov 2014

I drove up on a Saturday.  Earlier that day I’d done my usual “relaxing Saturday” routine, starting out with breakfast and working my way through some time at the climbing gym and a few random errands.  I even found some early presents for people; not that I was specifically looking, but around this time of year things start to just pop out at me.

Once I hit the road, the drive went quickly – I rocked out to music, but it couldn’t distract me from the fact that I’d left the top on the car up. It’s sad to have a convertible non-converted, but I have a new rule for this year: no top down when it’s below 45 Deg.F out. Last year I put it down as low as 20, but that started to crack the canvas… and I really don’t want to replace that soft-top anytime soon. I looked into it… not particularly cheap.

After meeting my Aunt for dinner at our usual pizza haunt, her and I spent the night chatting and catching up. I’ve been at my job for nearly two years now, so I’d accumulated more than a few stories for her. And her newest book had just went out to the final editors, so I got to hear a few stories about that whole process… a stressful one, from the sounds of it. Before we knew it, midnight had rolled around and it was finally time to crash.

My Aunt’s facebook page

10553914_803147846393119_1675791924992564904_o

Sunday, 16-Nov 2014

 

My Aunt wakes up early… I have no idea how she does it, but somehow 4-6 hours of sleep are more than enough for her to be more productive that I could ever hope to be. So I wasn’t particularly surprised when I woke up at my usual “sleep in” time of 8:30 to hear her finishing up her morning chores.

See, when you’re a gardener like her, there’s always a ton of little things to do… by the time time I was dressed and downstairs, she had watered the whole greenhouse, and probably done a dozen other little things too.

But we sat down for an excellent breakfast of yogurt and granola, and then made our way out back to feed the goats and let them out into their yard to play. They’ve got a whole slew of cool things to run and jump on, so the four of us played around in the yard for a while before tucking into the days work.

As I mentioned, gardeners always have a ton of things to get done: Today, our goals were to clean up some of the leaves, uncover the front garden beds, and put together a few potted plants for me to take home to my office. (Ed note: Ben’s moved to a new office that doesn’t have windows. He thinks that having a few plants around will help him actually focus and not go crazy over the winter. We’ll let you know how that goes.)

The raking went quickly, though it was a little sad how excited I got over one of her rakes. See… most rakes just have their tines, and you rake leaves with them. You hold, make raking motions, and that’s it. There’s no settings or dials to adjust. Well. Not with this rake: instead, it had adjustable-length tines, that allowed me to swap between large-area raking, and small-detail raking. I know, I know, it’s silly. But you know what? It’s neat. It’s a simple solution to the problem of a single rake not really being usable in multiple parts of a garden. I like simple solutions.

So we raked up, finished up, dumped leaves, and got to hang out for a while.

Then; lunch.  Asparagus and cheese and the leftovers from breakfast… Honestly, I never really noticed it before, but I think I got a lot of my cooking style from my Mom, Grandma, and Aunt.  Not the specific recipes (though I did get a lot of them as well), but the simplicity.  A few ingredients, interestingly combined.  I don’t make extremely complex meals; they usually just involve stuff thrown together.  and I like it :)

From the lunch table we headed out to the nursery to pick me up a fern for my office.  My Aunt already had an agave and another fern, but I was planning on three office plants: that way, I could have two in the office and one at home, and rotate them out.  Keep them getting some semblance of natural light, instead of the demonic fluorescent lighting of my cube.

The shopping trip was pretty simple and clean: we picked out a Birds Nest fern (seen below), and my Aunt got celebritied when a fellow gardener stopped my aunt to thank her for hosting a workshop that had helped this woman get her garden back on track.  It’s always cool when I get a reminder that my Aunt is totally a famous person, even though I always see her as that cool family member who’s always playing in the garden :)

81vWFpHqibL._SY355_

And then, after re-potting the plants, it was quickly time to pack up and head back onto the drive home.  We stayed and chatted for a while first, of course, but it didn’t last nearly long enough.  These visits never do, somehow.  They always find me sad when I’m driving home… wishing that I could already be heading back toward the peace of the greenhouse.

A Fiery photoshoot

Standard

Friday, 22-Nov-14

 

I had the chance to pretend to be a producer on a bitingly cold weekend in November.  In reality, the whole role started a few weeks earlier though… as I’m sure any real producer will tell you, 90% of the work goes into getting everything together.  Once it’s together, you get to sort of sit back and watch the fireworks.

Literally, in this case.

My Stepdad has a work friend named Joe who’s a rather accomplished photographer.  We were all having lunch a few weeks previous, when Joe mentioned a few projects that he was working on.  Most of these personal projects revolved around long-exposure shots, usually with LEDs but sometimes with fire as well.

Fire… like fire spinning?  Like all those friends who I have who love spinning fire?  Hmm…

So, we talked, I made introductions, and a whole group of us figured out a time that we could meet up to make some good art.

 

Link to the Facebook album: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152843083640225&set=a.10152843082505225.1073741931.609845224&type=1

Link to Joe’s page: http://www.makarski.com/