Greetings and welcome to Dinosaur Bear!
Another year, another opportunity to give thanks. This is SB and I’s first Thanksgiving since returning to the U.S., though we still celebrated it while abroad so it doesn’t feel especially different. What does feel different this year is the weather. If you’re new to Dinosaur Bear or have a short memory (Taco understands) then you may not know that SB and I recently(ish) moved to warmer environs. As such, rather than the weather we were used to in say, Iceland or Boston, we now have this.
Indeed, the transition over to deep Fall has not been something that was made immediately obvious by the weather itself. For example, on the day I write this the high for tomorrow is 70 degrees. As a result we’ve lost a good deal (but not all) of the visual cues we were previously used to as Fall creeps onward. So, without much change in weather, the decorations started to shift from pumpkins (Thomases):
In case you were curious, neither of those are our decorations. We lack the motivation to do much decorating – and besides our doorman (Lawrence) has very strict standards for the entryway.
Now, that is not to say that we’ve been entirely devoid of cooler, more Fall/Winter-like weather. Most nights are cold here, being a desert and all, and I know it’s gotten down into the 20s a couple of times at night. During the day we even had some snow – though I thoroughly stress the word some in that statement. Yeah, compared to our previous years, I don’t think we’re in for much if this is what it is going to look like on “snow days.”
You can see the tree featured in this post to the left.
Naturally that didn’t stop a certain polar bear from embracing the snow during the short period it was falling and before it nearly instantaneously melted.
Still, given SB and I’s tendency to break weather records when we move I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up having to put my foot in my mouth over those last few statements.
But aside from the changing seasons (if not weather) life was flowing pretty much as usual in the lead up to Thanksgiving 2018. We’re pretty settled in at this point, and have gotten used to our new acquisitions – namely Phil, who we can “cast” things to without having cable, as seen below during the primaries.
We’ve also continued to explore more of our new city with Felicia, with the Boys vying for the coveted shotgun seat during each outing.
Those big funny looking things are “jackfruit” and we recently tried it for the first time. It was interesting.
We’ve even revisited an old favorite, Papa Murphy’s, which we hadn’t had in probably 5 or 6 years after being obsessed with the place circa 2009/2010.
Needless to say exploration has extended to new beer, and while we initially stuck to the bigger stores we have recently added a local liquor store to our shopping list.
Interestingly enough, beer hasn’t been my major “adult beverage” focal point lately. Instead I’ve been doing more research into Scotch as it’s something I’d like to learn more about after some positive experience with it in Scotland. Sadly, even “newbie” Scotches tend to be above our price range, so for now I look and read and wait for SB to get me some for Christmas. 😛
A “less adult beverage” that I have recently returned to drinking is V8, particularly low-sodium V8 these days as the regular stuff might as well be a cylindrical piece of salt in a can. My Dad drank a lot of it when I was younger and so I have lots of memories of drinking it between my Budweiser-stealing escapades of yesteryear. What’s nice about V8 is that you can (literally) spice it up in a lot of different ways. A recent favorite of mine has been to combine some jalapeno sauce and garlic powder into the V8.
Beyond V8 we’ve continued to embrace actually being able to afford things again, with some Ben & Jerry‘s “pint slices” (i.e. sandwiches) and seasonal cereal offerings, such as Gingerbread Spice.
Lest you think everything we eat comes prepackaged, we can’t afford quite that much, so we also make roughly 6/7 of our meals. For instance, homemade seitan and mushroom tortilla pizza rather than Papa Murphy’s.
The 7th non-home meal is generally our Friday nights, which while we’ve drastically downgraded them over the past few years to nearly universal “stay-in” evenings, they still include something special we get from the store, etc. Another tradition that has cropped up several times over the years and which returned full swing in Iceland and now here is our “pancake/waffle” Sundays.
These involve yours truly making pancakes or waffles (depending on the mood) for the family – though recently I have been forced at claw-point to use nothing other than Kodiak Cake mix. 🙂 Seeing the cold brew coffee next to the waffle reminded me of something neat that happened with my coffee that day. When I poured the cold brew into the almond creamer it formed a really cool pattern that looked like a snow-covered patch of woods against the sky.
With the compression and my failure to adequately capture it (and I tried, many times – arguably more to do with me than the camera) you’ll likely have to just use your imagination and trust me. However, if you want to try to see it then look to the middle part of the class (where the coffee and cream are mixing) and imagine that as leafless trees in winter which are covered by snow. Then progress downward until you get to the snow covered ground (bottom of the glass). It was cool in person, no idea how it will translate to a compressed and size-reduced photo.
That same day we were also playing around with our phones a bit as they had recently received a camera update. I was quick to return to playing with my hamburger bro friend:
The biggest aspect of the camera update was the release of the “Night Sight” mode for the phone. This was something I was pretty excited about, especially since even without a night mode my new phone was still scores better than my old one. Now that I’ve had a chance to play around with Night Sight mode, I have to say that I’m both impressed and ignorant all at once. I’m ignorant in that the focus mechanisms of Night Sight are still foreign to me.
While grainy and having the appearance of an early 2000s internet creepypasta, this photo was taken in our bathroom with no light. As in, I closed the door and there were no lights on. If I were to have posted this photo from my old phone (which I can’t do since I sold it) it would have just been a giant black rectangle on your screen. I realize that might seem like malarky, but there was truly no light in that photo – ok you got me, there’s almost always light, but I mean “no light” in the normal usage of the term. It was friggin’ dark and the camera still captured something. I was impressed, especially since this is a tiny camera in a phone.
Now, on a completely unrelated note our shower cleaner in that last photo made me thing of an oh so lovely experience I had before Thanksgiving: cleaning our dishwasher. Here I have to say that me and our dishwasher are quite familiar with each other. When we first moved in that thing was nasty. I’m talking food clogged in the vents, black stuff in the bottom, hairs (yes hairs) clinging to the inside of the door, you name it, it probably featured it. Honestly it looked like the thing had never been cleaned. It was weirdly in contrast to the other appliances which seemed very clean. The oven, for example, was probably the cleanest oven I’ve ever seen in an apartment. But this dishwasher, whew, it was filthy.
So I went about cleaning it with specific dishwasher cleaning agents, inspecific cleaning agents, cleaning agents that probably assured my eventual mutation into something nonhuman, and physical tools like a screwdriver. Yep, when you are taking a screwdriver to the crap inside your dishwasher you know you are leading the good life. Now, to its credit, I will say that despite being disgusting the dishwasher at least worked – unlike our refrigerator which died within two weeks (though to the landlord’s credit they replaced it with a new one the same day). Or, perhaps “work” is too strong of a word, the dishwasher “functioned” – I think that’s more accurate. It left loads of black stuff (more on that in a moment) and also it leaked. A lot. While I wasn’t about to ask the landlord to come clean the dishwasher (though it was filthy enough I probably should have) I was more than willing to make them come fix the leak.
Fortunately for them I generally try to repair/fix anything in my apartment up until the point it costs money. Sometimes SB’s gets a bit exasperated by my endeavors to fix things when we pay someone to do that for us, but I generally view such repairs as a learning opportunity for when I own my own things (as an example I haven’t paid anyone to fix anything electronic for me in 12 years). So, when the dishwasher started leaking and the refrigerator started to die, I did my own research and disassembly to try to at least figure out what the problem was, if not fix it. While I have a pretty good idea what the problem was with the fridge, I’ll never know as they took it and gave us a new one. The dishwasher, however, I figured out exactly what the issue was and thankfully the maintenance guy followed my suggestions (unlike the asshat at our place in Boston who was continuously ass-blasted about a mistake he made and took it out on me) and fixed it in less than 10 minutes. I’m not saying he needed me, I’m saying that I gave him info that took out the entire troubleshooting process and expedited things – and in the meantime I learned how to fix it myself if I ever own a dishwasher that breaks in the same manner. Further, when poking around under the dishwasher I learned that the entire thing was woefully off balance and probably had been since the day it was installed. So I fixed that with some basic tools and elbow-grease and now our dishwasher no longer sets lopsided in the cabinet (which was causing its own issues).
Anyways, way off track there. Though the dishwasher had been repetitively cleaned, had its leak fixed, and had been balanced, it was still leaving small bits of black stuff which looked suspiciously like mold or mildew. Having cleaned underneath the thing and having had it apart for various stages of deep cleaning, I knew that there was one more place left to clean – the drain. Now you’re probably wondering why I waited so long to clean the drain when it’s generally one of the first things recommended. Honestly I was hoping to avoid it because the drain cover used non-standard screws and I knew it would be a pain in the ass to get off, and, sure enough, it was. And…
..sweet merciful God almighty the drain was one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen.
Not only did it smell rancid, some of that.. “waste” was so old it had turned into freaking titanium and chemically forged itself into the plastic cover. This, coupled with the food from the 1920s stuck in the upper vent, all but confirmed by presumption that the dishwasher had simply never been cleaned. It took me 45 minutes to clean that. I used Lime Away, vinegar, toilet cleaner (yes I know how bad that stuff is, but when your dishwasher looks like the aftermath of Passchendaele then you’ll understand), and things like good ole’ soap and hot water and a knife. Yes, a freaking knife, because some of that stuff you could not scrub off: you had to engage it in mortal combat because it was alive.
Anyways, after nearly an hour of struggle and near-death experiences I was finally able to start a cleaning cycle on the dishwasher. We only use it about 1 or 2 times per week, but when new strains of typhus are growing in there and plague doctors are gathering outside your house you need to deal with it.
Now, having shared that lovely bit of imagery, that seems like the perfect time to segue into Thanksgiving and food! 😀
SB and I had decided to do Thanksgiving with just us and the Boys this year, so we had complete control over the menu – or so we thought! While were musing what to do for the main course, SB found out that her work gave out turkeys for Thanksgiving! She had been able to start just in time to sign up for one, so she did (not that Tristen would have accepted any other outcome). Turns out that this was a full 15lb turkey… for two people. 😛
For reference that’s 3-3.5x the size of our usual birds. However, not a group to waste much of anything, we quickly began formulating our plan of attack on Turkey (while Tristen and Valentino gnawed on the frozen carcass). I decided that we’d go with slow cooking it in some beer!
Oddly enough the beer we had on hand was from the two breweries we visited in Ireland!
Since we had 4 big cans of Guinness that was the logical choice to cook with.. and drink. 🙂
To Tristen’s credit, he did join his brothers in assisting us, but mostly only when he thought he could sneak a bite of the “ricken” (turkey).
Tristen also kept SB company while we cast the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast (long after it was over, we were in no rush to wake up that day, lol) to Phil. The highlight of the parade for us is always Sinclair, (no not that Sinclair.. well, sort of that Sinclair, more like that Sinclair’s older sibling) and this year was no exception!
The turkey ended up taking about 45 minutes longer to cook than I had anticipated, which I think is excusable considering my lack of experience cooking anything more than 5lbs in the past. More importantly, it turned out really good.
Our dishes this year included: the aforementioned seasoned Guinness turkey, homemade cranberry-plumb-ginger sauce, sweet potato pecan puree, southwest style green beans (with, interestingly enough, vegan bacon and also some local green chile!), and sweet potato rolls.
For desert we had a pumpkin-pecan-cranberry pie. Yes, pumpkins, pecans, and cranberries – all in one pie (and the second of such amazing pumpkin pie variations in just one month).
Our Thanksgiving evening also included a mini Adventure Time marathon – and with us any Adventure Time day is a good day. 🙂
But, as is usual for Thanksgiving, the pompousness was only just beginning. With only the tiniest of dents in our turkey, we went on to have leftovers for several days – and the turkey lasted even longer (it’s only like half gone as I type this). The first thing the turkey got turned into was a cheesy green chile turkey tortilla soup.
It was, in SB’s words “amazing” – which is saying something since it was also quite spicy and SB’s heat tolerance is much lower than mine. We turned the turkey skeleton/corpse and fatty-bits into a yummy broth which we will use for various other recipes, mostly recently maple-chile turkey chili. But yeah, the moral of story is that a 15lb turkey lasts us a long while.
In the days after Thanksgiving (Black Friday off, woo!) we largely just spent time together. SB did go out a bit on Black Friday, and then I went out for a bit when SB locked her keys in the car and I had to walk all the way to Target to bring her the spare keys. If you’re wondering why I didn’t take a Taxi/Uber/Lyft, well it was quitting time on Black Friday, that’s why – so there was a triple surge going on. On my walk (which was 15 miles) I was attacked by rattlesnakes, coyotes, and rabid roadrunners. When I finally arrived, haggard and near death, SB berated me for taking so long.
The plus side of SB’s outing is that she found some local sodas to try, so we tried two of those over the weekend.
But, aside from a massive (for us turkey), beer, wine, yummy food, Adventure Time, and 150 mile forced marches (for me, not SB – she got to just sit) our Thanksgiving and the following weekend was pretty uneventful, which is exactly how I like it!
So, with the story of our 2018 Thanksgiving told, I’d like to share a few things I am thankful for.
I am thankful for SB, Tristen, Valentino, Pig, Clifford, Pigsten, and Broli – as well as all the other buddies. I am thankful for all our plant friends – speaking of which the barley bros are doing very well.
I am thankful for Phil, for my Playstation, for my computer headset, my 12 year old iPod, my 13 year old slippers, and wool socks. I am thankful that I am no longer a law student. I am thankful I have people looking out for me in the legal profession (even if we don’t always see eye to eye). I am thankful for all my “Secondary Cast of Characters” family. I am thankful that I will soon have (non-terrible, though still not great, freedoms) insurance again. I am thankful for earplugs. I am thankful for the developers who made Red Dead Redemption 2. I am thankful that I did not go hungry on Thanksgiving or any other day. I am thankful we had a second key I could carry for 1500 miles across the desert to SB. I am thankful for Dr. Doom. I am thankful for reusable water bottles and for the fact that I have water easily accessible to me.
I am also incredibly thankful for all the animal friends in the world. To say that they are often the highlight of my day is no exaggeration.
Except chiggers. Chiggers can die in fire. Also poison ivy plants, those too.
I am thankful for many things, far more than I can list here – but as a closing note I’d like to once again, say thanks to Meem for helping me start this blog (over 6 years ago) in the first place. Without her you’d all never be able to listen to me whine about things – and what a sad, sad world that would be. 😛
Until next time,