I have become such a grown up this year. Of course you are, you may say, you are married and have two children. Yeah, well so do some 18 year olds. What really turned me into a full fledged adult this year? I hosted my own Thanksgiving dinner.
Jon's parents, Bert and Charla, and his sister and brother in law, Jayda and Steve (kids, Skyler & Cole) made the trek to Las Vegas this year for the holiday. I was so intimidated by the whole idea I went into serious panic mode. I grocery shopped like a mad woman, filling every shelf of my pantry and refrigerator to capacity. I cleaned like I have never cleaned before, scrubbing walls and cabinets, rearranging my entire kitchen. I washed every single towel, sheet and pillowcase I own. And when that wasn't enough to calm my rising level of crazy, I pulled out the paintbrush and (with just a little help from Jon) finished renovating two rooms in our house. All in one week.
But even with all my extra prep, I couldn't help but wonder how a Thanksgiving at my house could even come close to being as great as one at Charla's house. My mother in law has the most amazing garden ever. When someone decides to throw together a salad for dinner, they step in the backyard and have everything they need in minutes. We spend half the time we are there eating tangerines and mandarin oranges right off the tree.
Thankfully, to make up for my lack of backyard produce, my in laws came loaded down with boxes of oranges, pomegranates, walnuts, boysenberries, and homemade raspberry jam. So fantastic.
My father in law took over all picture responsibilities and I haven't been able to secure them from him yet so hopefully someday I will update this post with pictures... but for now, our week.
They all arrived Saturday about noon. Well, all but Jayda who was working and joined us the next day. Skyler is 3 and Cole is 20 months so our kids are just about the same age. They spent the first few hours exploring our backyard and toys and seemed relatively impressed with their finds. We asked my teenage neighbor girls to come over and keep an eye on the kids while the adults had some serious Vegas fun.
First we headed to one of my favorite restaurants in town, Casa Di Amore. It is a tiny little place that could not look less impressive from the outside if it tried. The thing that catches your eye the most is the sign out front that says they are open every weekend until 5 a.m. What restaurant stays open that late?
Then you walk in the door and it feels like you stepped back into Las Vegas history. Pictures of old Vegas cover the walls and the plush seats are always full of loud, happy people drinking lots of wine. With a live crooner that sounds just like Frank Sinatra in the mic and delicious food, it is quite an experience.
We then headed straight to the strip where Charla, Bert, Jon & I got to see O, the water Cirque du Soliel show. It.......was.........I N S A N E
The stage transposed to anything from a flat surface to a pool deep enough for a 60 foot diver to land in in what seemed like seconds. The feats those people are able to do are just phenomenal. We had an amazing first evening. Sadly, since it was a holiday week, that was the only show we got to see that week. Oh, actually that isn't true. We took Steve and Jayda out to the Fremont street (the old strip) one night and took them to "superstars of magic". There is so much I could say about this show but I will contain myself to superstars they were not and magic was in small servings. It was definitely good for a laugh, and who doesn't need one of those?
The Nielsens are really active people. While my family was in Boise (quoting directly from my mom's blog) doing "some shopping and saw some movies and played some games and ate!" the Nielsens are rock climbing, hiking, playing tennis, swimming, and, thankfully, eating. On Earl vacations, I usually feel like I put on a few extra winter pounds. I eat almost as much with the Nielsens but feel like I have earned every bite after the rigor we are put through daily.
We were able to go rock climbing twice, once out at Red Rock. Ok, fine, by "we" I mean them. Even my mother in law made it to the top of the climb. But, I did full participate in our bouldering climb down to the Hoover dam and actually really enjoyed myself. Walking is totally my thing. Running, climbing, pretty much extra exertion of any kind, sorry. My mom always says, 'I am pretty sure I could walk a marathon.' Darn runners, making all of us dedicated walkers look lazy.
On Wednesday night, we took the family out to our favorite Thai restaurant and had another amazing meal. Then, it was pie time. It is one of my favorite Nielsen traditions. They make pie like it is going out of style. We only had six adults around. But I believe our final pie count was 8. We had two boysenberries, one apple berry, one dutch apple, two banana creams (Grandma Earl's recipe, the first recipe of hers I have actually been able to recreate to some success!) and an enormous pecan pie. Hmmm I'm missing one. I can't remember.
Then, it was Turkey day. Not surprisingly, I didn't actually own enough dishes to hold all of the food we were preparing. But we made do and scrounged up anything I had that could hold food and it somehow worked. We were able to pull together a really really good turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (topped with pecans and coconut, I want more now just thinking about them) broccoli & cauliflower, homemade stuffing, and homemade rolls.
While the food finished cooking, we headed over to the hotel my in laws were staying at to fit in some pool time. Comparatively, Vegas is very warm for November. But, it has also ruined us who live here. When you regularly go swimming in 110 degree weather, 70 feels really chilly. The pool had a beach area that went straight into the pool so the kids just had the time of their life but I most definitely preferred my hot tub time. But there is nothing like a good swim to work up an appetite. The meal was fantastic, the following nap was blissful and waking up to pie, well that is just about as good as life gets!
On Friday, we had a great surprise. Jon's sister and brother in law, Cara and Ben, (kids, Eden-9, Hawkins-7, and Olivia-5) came down from Utah to stay with us for the rest of the weekend. They are just some of my favorite people in the world. It was the perfect end to a really good week. We took everyone hiking and a second day of rock climbing. Bert, Charla, Jayda, and Steve headed back Saturday evening and we said goodbye to Ben and Cara and family Sunday afternoon.
Charla also found time Friday morning to hit up a few Black Friday specials. Turns out the best part about having a pathetically stocked kitchen for Thanksgiving when your family comes over means lots of kitchen accessories for Christmas! Charla bought me four sets of corelle dishes, a salad spinner, an apple slicer, a pastry brush, a new set of glass baking pans, new measuring cups and spoons, some new wash cloths, I think there was more too. But anyway, it was all so amazingly generous and very much needed! My kitchen looks like a whole new place!
I remember being afraid to have in laws when I was younger. And, now that most of my friends have them, I see my fears weren't without merit. But through some miracle I was blessed to have married into one of the greatest families ever. We missed Jon's brother, Swen, and sister Krista. Maybe next year!
Even pictureless, it feels good to be caught up! Soon to come, pictures of my updated housing projects and Scarlet gets funnier with each passing day. I'll leave you with this Scarletism tidbit.
Mom - Scarlet, can you turn on that light for me?
Scarlet - Yup!
Mom - Wow, I didn't know you could reach that. You are getting so tall!
Scarlet - It's the food mom. It growed me!
It's growed me too, Scarlet.