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Happy Thanksgiving from Lake Tahoe!

11/26/11 - Northstar-at-Tahoe, CA

Celebrating all we have to be thankful for with good friends in a snowy, winter wonderland (well, sort of)

This Thanksgiving, we had the pleasure of returning to Lake Tahoe to spend yet another holiday weekend at friends Jen and Tod's home in the mountains, along with Christine and Mark and their kids as well.  This was to be our fourth Thanksgiving celebration with this particular group of friends (more than we've jointly celebrated this particular holiday with either of our families!) and we arrived on Wednesday morning full of eager anticipation for the celebratory meal and fun-filled weekend that lay ahead.  Once again, Christine and Scott had planned to work from 'home' for a bit and Scott settled right in as Caroline unpacked in the kitchen the myriad bags and boxes of food and supplies we'd brought with us.  When we arrived, Jen and Tod were waiting in the driveway for the shuttle to take their girls skiing and Caroline was barely out of her coat before 10-year-old Evan enthusiastically invited her to play a game of Monopoly, the first invitation of many over the course of the weekend.  But it was nice to see the kids feeling more familiar with us even if Caroline didn't really want to play Monopoly at 10-o-clock in the morning! 

After a low-key Wednesday of work, a pizza lunch in the village where we watched the ice skaters for a bit and dinner of experimental barbeque chicken sandwiches involving a can of Guinness, compliments of Christine, it was an early night for all and one by one we trundled off to our cozy beds.  After all, we were just getting started and needed to rest up for the big day tomorrow! 

Thanksgiving Day was a traditional day of football on TV (starting at 9:30 am out here on the west coast!), cooking, drinking and finally...eating!  During a break in the morning football action,  Evan helped Scott make the pumpkin pie, starting a domino effect of food preparation for our late-afternoon Thanksgiving meal.  The kitchen quickly became the most bustling room in the house, followed closely by the dining room with it's 'traditional' Thanksgiving game of Monopoly (we sincerely hope this will not become a long-lasting tradition).  To tide us over before dinner, we enjoyed a bountiful selection of gourmet cheeses (too bad we forgot our serving cornucopia at home!), accompanied by a baguette, various crackers, our homemade spiced pecans, a shrimp cocktail tray and a delicious portion of duck liver pate with cognac, which was devoured almost entirely by Scott and Caroline...ah bon!  Tod took a break from tending his turkey out on the deck and we kicked off the alcoholic portion of our holiday with a champagne cocktail toast, which everyone continued to enjoy until the two bottles were completely drained.

At around four-o-clock, the crisp, golden-brown turkey as well as all the tantalizing sides were cooked to perfection and we eagerly sat down to a divine meal of turkey, gravy, bourbon cranberry sauce, cornbread-sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, Brussels sprouts with pancetta and crescent roles.  It was an all-hands-on joint effort of a meal that was truly greater than the sum of its parts!  Christine tried to get everyone to say what they were thankful for but it petered out quickly in favor of eating immediately following Jen's heartfelt pronouncement that she was thankful for good friends.  She echoed Caroline's sentiments exactly.  We just hope she meant us!  Too full from the delicious meal for even a small slice of Scott and Evan's pie, we concluded an already-perfect Thanksgiving celebration with  some after-dinner ice skating at the charming outdoor rink in Northstar Village.  Since it wasn't too crowded, we were able to find an empty cabana at the edge of the the evergreen-ringed rink, where we kicked back on the outdoor lounge furniture in the evening chill and enjoyed Starbucks hot chocolate, deliciously enhanced with the Maker's Mark Tod had brought along.   All the kids did great on their skates and it was heartwarming to see them enjoying this wintertime activity as much as Scott and Caroline did as children in Michigan.  Indeed, six-year-old Nola took the prize, doing especially well for her first time on skates and she will undoubtedly be out-skating us all before long (although four-year-old Isha will likely give her a run for the money).  Aside from Christine, Caroline and Scott were the only adults in our group on skates and we enjoyed towing all four of the kids around the ice almost as much as they enjoyed being towed!

Friday got off to a lazy start, with lots of relaxing around the house and a brief, early-morning game of Rummikub, which Caroline declined despite her love of the game (and her two consecutive wins the evening before).  While the parents in the group (i.e, everyone but Scott and Caroline) prepared to serve lunch to their offspring, Caroline and Scott slipped away for a short stroll on the serene, partially snow-covered golf course path just outside the house.  It was a beautiful, mild day and was quite warm in the sun - perfect for a light hike. 

Since ice skating the evening before was such a success, everyone (except Mark, who stayed home where it was warm) wanted a repeat visit so after our lunch of leftovers we all headed over to the rink and laced up our skates.  It was a lot busier this time, probably due at least partially to the poor snow conditions for skiing, but still lots of fun and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing the improvement from yesterday in novice ice skaters, Nola and Evan's skills.

Later that evening, the heralded babysitter arrived and the adults were off for a fun night out over the border in Nevada, first at Bite, a delicious tapas restaurant in Incline Village and then at Crystal Bay casino for some gambling and drinking.  Despite it being Scott's birthday weekend, luck was not with the Brookses that evening, unless you count the cheap bottle of Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon that Scott won.  Christine and Tod proved slightly luckier, but several Irish Car Bombs later, the losses were forgotten, much silliness ensued and a fun time was had by all (well, except maybe Jen, who left her ID at home and got shut out of the old-school casino bar where the rest of us old folks were living it up)!

After three satisfying days of holiday merriment, Saturday arrived and it was time to wrap things up.  While the non-leftover eaters (everyone but the Brookses) all went out for a Mexican-food lunch, Caroline and Scott took one last walk on the golf course and into the lovely Martis Valley in the pleasant sunshine.  Returning to the house, we ate our own lunch of leftovers, yet again, and after lots of hugs and sad goodbyes, we packed everything up, including all of the remaining leftovers and headed for home ourselves.  It was a rewarding weekend to add to our memory book of traditions and we look forward to doing it again next year - thanks, Jen, Tod, Giana, Isha, Christine, Mark, Evan and Nola for a wonderful celebration that we'll definitely remember for years to come!


Thanksgiving Day Hot-Pilgrim-Hat Action


Tod, Scott & Mark 'Tebow' the turkey


Tod's beautiful turkey is ready for carving


Caroline & Scott prepare to enjoy the meal


The snowy golf course out behind the house makes for a perfect stroll


Our deluxe digs for the weekend


Tahoe Friends!


Caroline & her pal Nola pause for a photo


Nola's turn!


Babysitter night out at Bite tapas restaurant in Incline Village



Christine and Scott exhibit amazing focus, working just feet away from the beckoning hot tub


Scott, the Avaricious Pilgrim laughs with glee over his Monopoly winnings


Cooking and drinking...drinking and cooking...Thanksgiving is underway!


Cheers! Scott, Christine & Tod toast the holiday with festive champagne cocktails


"Hmmm, maybe I should get a bigger pan for the stuffing next year..."


In case you were wondering where Mark has been...


 "Mmmm, the steam from these boiling potatoes smells delicious! But I don't remember a thing after that..."


Dig in!


There's a lot to be thankful for on this plate alone!


"Check out my giant cones!"


Caroline & Scott enjoy a post-Thanksgiving Day lunch of delicious leftovers


Giana & Scott take a spin around the ice


The picturesque skating rink at Northstar Village


The Ladies of Northstar


Christine & Jen enjoy the specialty cocktails at Bite