Thanksgiving 2023

I have a bunch of Thanksgiving recaps on my blog. It really is my favorite holiday, and Black Friday is one of my favorite days of the year. (Not for the shopping, but for the lazy togetherness while lounging around eating pie for breakfast…with zero pressure to cook anything at all.) This year, though, was an interesting year.

It was a really somber holiday. Last year I called 2022 maybe our best Thanksgiving ever. It just felt so full and right. Cara’s significant other, Sayed, spent the holiday with us. Even though he was new to the family, he fit right in from the very first day. The (already full and happy) family felt even fuller and happier with him there, and we all imagined dozens more holidays in the future with Sayed in them. And now he’s gone. It’s been 4 months since he was killed, and we all knew this was going to be a hard holiday to navigate without him in it. There was a lot of sadness this year.

It was also our first Thanksgiving with my niece Ellie as an official member of the family! Even though she was here with us last year, there was a lot of ambiguity over her future, legally (as anyone in the foster care and adoption world understands) and this year was a sigh of relief and a huge amount of joy just knowing that she’s here. She’s Courtney’s daughter and we all love her so, so much.

And, in a much more superficial way, this Thanksgiving was significant because it was my first holiday to host in my newly remodeled kitchen! Beautiful items and “things” are only as valuable as experiences they give and the memories they make…and so I give this kitchen high, high value because it has already brought us some wonderful experiences and memories! I was overflowing with gratitude this year for this new, beautiful kitchen.

Needless to say, there were a lot of juxtaposing emotions over the holiday. We all missed Sayed. We all ached seeing how hard it was for Cara to get through this first major holiday without the love of her life next to her. We all soaked up the playfulness with the three cousins. It was all a lot.

I had to crowdsource to get all these photos (thanks, fam!) because I guess I didn’t take many over Thanksgiving week! But here are a few memories from the holiday:

Geez. Friends, I’m starting with this picture so you can know who was front and center on all of our minds over Thanksgiving week. Veterans Day was about a week and a half before Thanksgiving, and so I shared this picture ^ to honor Sayed, who served for 15 years. I didn’t know him at the time, but over the course of his relationship with my sister Cara, I learned that he is one of the most giving, loving, generous humans.

We all miss him so much.

Cara had the entire week off of work and decided to drive down to Austin a bit early…so she was the very first one to arrive. Now, one thing to know about this particular Thanksgiving is that our kitchen remodel, which had been going on for the past 3 months, finished literally just in time. Like, our contractor was installing a light the Tuesday before Thanksgiving! ^ Cara volunteered to take the boys to Target to shop for some Christmas goodies while the work was being finished up in the kitchen.

I spy trouble. 😉

I asked Cara how the trip to Target went and she said, “great, only in part because I bought them pretty much anything they asked for!” Haha. Which is how Milo came home with this gingerbread house kit! He had to wait for Dayton to go down for his nap before he could start decorating, and I’m pretty sure the suspense just about  did him in.

Here’s that final light that was being installed before Thanksgiving! I’m so glad we had a light here instead of a big empty hole in the ceiling!

When Dayton woke up from his nap, he and Milo both started eating the house. It didn’t last very long as a decoration, ha.

Tuesday involved an airport pickup, making up a few extra guest beds (we used every nook and cranny of my house, including the air mattress ^ in the play room which you can see above! As soon as all three cousins were together, it was chaos as usual. All week. I loved it.

Kylee and her boyrfirned, Tyler, drove from Dallas on Tuesday evening. They arrived with gifts for all three cousins – matching Christmas PJs!

Time for bed and still eyeing that gingerbread house…

Milo is very proud of the fact that he’s 4 now. He was saying, “I’m 4 now, so I can stay up later than the babies.” He got to help Kyky cut the bread for the stuffing.

This was a week full of delicious food, gorgeous cocktails, and lots of late nights. Nate made us Manhattans as a pre-dinner cocktail.

I’m pretty sure Milo is asking for another serving of Kylee’s homemade Chex mix in this picture…

This is exactly the moment I’ve been dreaming of/planning for/feeling grateful for in advance: sitting at my big, beautiful kitchen island, surrounded by all of my favorite people, sipping on a beautiful cocktail. Bliss.

Nate made red beans and rice for Tuesday night dinner. It was delish!

The whole crew!

After dinner, Milo went to bed and it was Tyler’s turn to make a batch of cocktails. He’s been perfecting his espresso martinis (one of Kylee’s favorite drinks) and so he brought ingredients to make them for all of us. It was delicious!

See all those empty glasses? A sign of a great cocktail. 😉 My dad and brother drove down late that evening and had some red beans and rice and sat around talking with us for a while. It was about midnight by the time I went to bed, which is very late in my lifestyle with young kids!

On Wednesday morning, the boys learned all about t-ball, thanks to this new gift from Tyler. It was so fun watching him run around outside with those two boys, and also so hard because I could imagine Sayed being out there, too. I have so many videos of Sayed playing with the boys last year…he loved sports and he would have LOVED playing t-ball with Dayton.

Nate, the MVP of hosting! In addition to cooking every night and making cocktails, he pulled espresso shots in the morning and made cappuccinos for anyone who wanted one.

Ellie and Tyler!

Milo, eating his #1 source of nutrition during Thanksgiving week: Kylee’s homemade Chex mix.

It was a clear, chilly morning, so I went outside by the fireplace to watch an episode of Barefoot Contessa (always a great feel-good show!) and this little guy came outside and sat next to me and asked to snuggle. Always!

50 degrees and clear blue skies!

I was in charge of the turkey and ham pickup at Dai Due

…while this was going on at home! The swing set in our backyard came with the house when we moved here, and it’s really wobbly and squeaky. My dad has been wanting to build a new one for the boys, so he brought down materials and decided to tackle that job. Everyone helped lift it into place!

On Wednesday afternoon, this surprise package showed up from Sayed’s sister.

It left us all in tears. Sayed 100% would have brought all sorts of goodies for those three cousins.

Briella and Dayton were ready to dive right in.

Testing out the (halfway completed) swing set…

Haha. I love this picture of Milo and my dad.

Wednesday involved lots of cooking…

…and lots of hanging out…

…and s’mores in the backyard to wrap up the day!

I’m so glad it was cold this year!

Kylee living that auntie life. 🙂

I love these sisters so very much.

I was pushing Briella on the new swing set and looked over to see this view, and it just made me so happy. I love these people.

Nate made an AMAZING curry on Wednesday night.

It was so cozy and comforting to eat it outside by the fire.

We put the littles to bed (and Milo requested that CC read to him!)

And then it was time for one of my favorite moments of the week: a dark beer tasting in honor of Sayed.

Cara said that she wanted to do something in Sayed’s honor this week (other than a generic toast to him). A few weeks before he died he had the idea to do a dark beer tasting, and Cara decided that would be a meaningful way to honor him while we were all together. So everyone brought a stout or porter to contribute (I think there was also one brown ale!) and we all got our beers out after the babies were in bed.

Nate put them in order and made it all make sense.

And then we tasted them in order. The person who brought the beer explained a bit about why they chose it (which was always hilarious, especially as the night went on…) and we laughed, cried, sipped, tasted, and thought of Sayed every minute of the evening.

To you, Sayed. I wish you were here in this picture sitting right next to Cara.

Our descriptions were hilarious…and based on the contributor’s beer knowledge, often involved reading the back of the bottle and faking authority on any given subject.

The final beer of the night was this one, which was a beer that Sayed brought back to us in June from his trip to California. You can actually see this beer on the counter in this picture:

That particular beer actually has a pretty crazy connection to Nate’s love of beer (which I won’t explain in full detail because I’ll get some of the details wrong!), but it was quite a coincidence that Sayed also loved that porter and wanted to bring it to us. So we all tasted it and felt an overwhelming outpour of both love and sadness.

Games, more cocktails, and bed!

Happy Thanksgiving morning! My superstar of a mother couldn’t get to Austin until noon on Thanksgiving, so she pre-made breakfast and sent it down with one of the other cars that was arriving earlier. I baked the biscuits that she had prepared, heated the sausage gravy and blueberry coffee cake, and we enjoyed a beautiful breakfast!


This little rascal woke up and watched the parade.

And Milo watched the parade while working on the puzzle. It was so cute that he wanted to help out with the 1,000-piece puzzle this year!

My mom’s blueberry coffee cake is delicious. She’s been making the same recipe since I was a little girl, and I’m so happy Dayton loves it as much as I do!

Just a normal amount of chaos on Thanksgiving morning!

Kylee and Tyler went outside to have a moment of quiet and watch the parade on the outdoor tv, and within about 2.5 minutes both of these boys were outside and wanted to join them. Haha.

We typically do the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, but this year, with all the many people and 3 little ones, it just felt like a good year to stay in. And I loved being able to watch the parade in full this year!

Nate the barista, at it again!

We spent the morning cooking…

…and puzzling…

…and together-ing…

…until it was time to eat!

It was an *excellent* meal. The turkey from Dai Due was a major winner. My mother-in-law’s yeast rolls and corn pudding were SO good! Kylee and Tyler made a yummy kale salad and the classic stuffing, and Tyler also contribute a bacon/brie wreath that we snacked on before the meal. That pillowy whipped thing in the front is my dad’s fruit salad, which he makes every year about 10 minutes before we’re all ready to sit down. I did the mashed potatoes this year, and my mom contributed sweet potatoes. And Courtney made this cozy winter veggie crumble that was creamy and so, so delicious.

And we had lots of good wine with the meal!

My kitchen is complete but the dining room clearly needs some work…haha. It’s still half play room (which is what we used it for previously) and has a hodge-lodge of stuff in it. But we found a bunch of chairs, added a card table, and managed to fit everyone around the table.

Aww! Milo and his Ama!

Post-dinner corn hole. Sisters against sisters. 🙂

Kaila and Briella looking so cute!

Thanksgiving sky. It was pink and beautiful.

My mom gets us matching Christmas PJs every year, and this year she got them early so we can wear them all season! She also got a set of matching jammies for the three cousins. OH MY SOUL so cute.

My cutest baby girl in all the land!!!!

Milo is aaaaalways up for a classic photo bomb!!

^ Our very best photo of all the Christmas PJs together.

And then its was time for a bedtime… DANCE PARTY!!!

These two are so beautiful.

Haha, brothers.

Another really sweet pic of my dad and his grandsons! They love their grandpa so much!

Wow, I’m so thankful my dad is so healthy and sturdy! These boys are crazy.

Always stealing someone’s shoes. (It’s Dayton’s signature move.)

I’m not sure what she’s eating here, but I can only assume it’s a bowl of whipped cream before bed. As one does.

Friday involved lots of swinging on the new swingset!

Ellie wins for Most Hours Logged in the swing. She *never* wanted to get out of this thing.

We lounged. We ate. Nate and I escaped the crazy for a bit for a trip to the gym to add a bit of moment into our day. And then later in the afternoon we went to Live Oak Brewery to let the kids run around and enjoy a few pints. I texted my next-door neighbor and asked if her family wanted to join (I think everyone gets a bit stir crazy the day after a holiday!), so we had a big ol’ group at this picnic table.

And I’ll leave it at this picture: delicious beer, a beautiful cold sunset, a bunch of my favorite people in the world, and, as always, missing Sayed terribly. I hope your Thanksgiving was full of food and people you love. Don’t forget to tell them (often!) how much you love them.


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