Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving in Atlanta

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and I hope that you all had a great holiday yesterday!  It was my first Thanksgiving away from home and although I missed my family a lot, I did have a truly wonderful day.  But before I get in to the details of the day, let me just write about a few things that have been going on in the world that I haven't written about, however, that doesn't mean that they aren't on my mind.

Going back a few weeks, Veteran's Day.  I talked a lot about what I did on my random weekday off but I didn't talk at all about the day itself.  Veteran's Day and Memorial Day and any event centered around celebrating our armed forces means a lot to me.  I have the utmost respect for our military and all those who have served as a part of our nation's military - as well as the family members of those serving our country.  Especially those who have sacrificed their life for our country.  I feel compelled to tell those who I meet who are members of the military or who are veterans that I appreciate and thank them for their service.  Some many like it, some may not, but it is something that I feel the need to do.  In that sense, I never intended to treat Veteran's Day as just another day off from work on my blog and have been meaning to write a general - thank you for your service shout out on the blog.

Additionally, a topic that has been on my mind extremely heavily over the past couple of weeks have been the terror attacks that occurred on Paris exactly two weeks ago tonight.  I can't even begin to explain how much that has affected me.  I chose not to do the whole add-a-filter-to-your-Facebook-profile-picture approach or even comment on it here, but it has certainly been on my mind.

As you all know, Paris will be a city close to my heart given that it is the home of my first marathon.  Nothing will ever mean to me what the city of Paris and that race meant.  However, the attacks, although they were within the city itself, were not on the city of Paris.  The attacks were on the individuals.  The citizens.  The people like you and me who were living their lives going out to dinner, seeing a concert, or watching a soccer game.  The attacks were on a set of beliefs and a way of living and on our freedom.

The attacks also did not just take place in France.  Over the past few weeks there have been terror attacks in Nigeria. In Bali. In Lebanon. And many more cities where evil is digging in its fingernails and trying to scratch at the surface of our existence.  And I know citizens of cities and countries around the world are in fear. Frankly, I am in fear.

Following the attacks I spent the week in New York City and after that, there was threat on Atlanta that had me feeling panic and anxiety unlike I have felt in many many months.  Years even.

Often, I don't write about the things that upset me or cause me fear.  And these threats of terror and these attacks on every day life have certainly been scary to me.  To be honest, last weekend when we had our Movers + Pacers flagship 2-year anniversary run, I actually spent a few minutes before going up to run crying in the car and calling my mom.  I felt extreme anxiety thinking that something could happen in a place like Atlantic Station.  And I don't know why the anxiety struck at that moment, but the old beast crept back into me.

And I wonder, if part of what caused my anxiety to come back last weekend in that moment had to do with additional emotions I have been having.  As I started this post, it has been my first Thanksgiving away from home.  It's now been two months since I've been home.  Since then my niece and nephew have begun walking and talking.  My little brothers have run their first 5K (something that I am so excited for them for and wish like heck I could have been there to be a part of).  My grandmother has been in and out of the hospital.  And there have been a lot of MAJOR conversations and things going on that I have just not been a part of because I have been far away.

Especially being in New York and seeing so many close friends in such a short period of time, it's made me very homesick. Frankly, it just stinks sometimes.  And there isn't much I can do but be positive for the things that I have going on in my life, so that's what I do.  But I wanted to just sort of put out there... that I do have a bigger picture of the world and recognize life isn't always about running an extra mile or trying to lose another pound.  Veteran's Day, Paris, family, homesickness, challenges at work, dating, not dating, everything all over, it all weighs on me.

YET there is still much to be thankful for.

I went into Thanksgiving day very much needing a break.  Even though it was a short work week it was a busy one!  I have had 7:30 am meetings for the past two weeks, which has been challenging and been tough for morning workouts.  I have been hitting the gym in the evenings but only for very light workouts, it's been all I've been able to squeeze out of myself and my eating has been pretty terrible as well.  I weighed myself this week and almost was into "scary" zone of numbers, which for me, I am saying is in the 160s.  I have been bouncing around in the 150s, where ideally, I'd like to be under 150.  I got there for a little bit but was unable to maintain and even with that was just sort of dabbling at 149.  The lowest that I have been in my adult life was 148 for about 2 weeks in 2012 at the tail end of my year long stretch with Weight Watchers.

By no means do I look terrible, but I can tell the different with weight more when I am lower weights and I don't like how I look and feel often.

I was intending on a light week since I had the half marathon on Thursday so I did a 3 mile treadmill run on Monday followed by an upper body workout and on Tuesday I did a 1 mile treadmill run and then another upper body workout.  I don't know why I didn't end up running more on Tuesday, I should have. But I just let myself be lazy.  Which has been a trend lately. 

I was supposed to meet friends out on Monday evening but ended up spending the night on the couch looking like this.

Wednesday I did no workouts but kept that hot look of a sweatshirt and vest going as I worked all day and did some errands like pick up my race bib, last minute grocery store items, and of course my turkey for the big day!

Thursday morning started with the half marathon, which felt like a normal race day almost, except for that it was in the middle of the week and that it was a holiday!  It is fun to see familiar faces all along the race course and before/after races now that I have been involved in the running community here for a about a year.  Last December was when I ran my first local 5K in Atlanta and this running community feels so much like a family it is hard to believe it was that long ago that I went out by myself and ran a rinky dinky 5K at Chastain Park.

Anyways, the half marathon was awesome and I will write a whole post recapping the race.  I finished in 2:02:25, which I was very happy with given what this race was intended to be for me - just a training fun run - and a way to earn my calories for the day!!!

I loved starting the day with a race because it served the purpose tha tmy Gobble Wobble races have in past years - it allows me to see all my friends bright and early on a holiday!  I was in such a good mood after the run due to all those endorphins swirling through my body and had a blast laughing and being with my friends at the end of the run as we cheered everyone else on.

Then following the finish of the race, some members of the Atlanta running community were hosting a tailgate at Turner Field (where the Atlanta Braves play and where the race as held.)  It was the same group of people who put on the New York City sendoff party a few weeks back right after I ran Chicago, and man, do they know how to throw a party!

There was a full buffet line of rice, potatoes, chicken, turkey, ribs, mac and cheese, stuffing, greens, bread, baked goods, chips, dips, brownies, and anything you could imagine Thanksgiving related.  As well as a fully fully fully stocked bar.  People were turning up in the parking lot as if it weren't 11:00 a.m. and I absolutely loved it.  I ended up sticking around for the post race Thanksgiving tailgate longer than expected.

It was fun because the group wasn't just from any particular running group in Atlanta but there was representation from all of them:  RunningNerds, Black Girls Run, Black Men Run, Movers and Pacers, 20/20 Club, etc.  I called it a Thanksgiving "Run Fam" party and it truly was.

When I finally managed to pull myself away from their delicious food spread, I head home to prepare my own food!  I showered and got dressed and although I would have loved to collapse on the couch, I drank my coffee and water as I started to prepare things for my friends to come over.

To be honest, I did a really good job of planning out the menu and doing what I call "semi home-made" food prep.  Okay, well, maybe it is Sandra Lee that calls it that, but whatever!

I had made my "mashed potatoes" which were really smashed cauliflower the night before (and they came out DELICIOUS) so that just needed to be heat up.

And most everything else was almost ready to go!  I did all of my last minute food prep, heating up and cooking while wearing my race medal from the day.  It is my rule that you wear your race medal the full day of the race!!

Why don't I explain my menu a little bit and share what/how I planned out my menu:


  • Carrot sticks
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Cheese
  • Mimosas
Main Menu:
  • Turkey -- Purchased breast in advance already cooked and glazed, needed warming.
  • Stuffing -- Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix made with chicken stock and added my own mix of mushrooms, carrots, onion, and green onions to give it some life.
  • Cranberry sauce -- From a can.
  • Gravy -- From a packaged mix.
  • Smashed Cauliflower -- Made from steamed cauliflower, milk, parmesan cheese, butter and sauteed garlic all thrown into the food processor the night before and only needed reheating.
  • Sweet potatoes and potatoes -- I like sweet potatoes more so I took 3 sweet potatoes and one regular potato (for color and variety) as well as half an onion I had leftover and cubed and roasted it with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Mac and Cheese -- Cooked macaroni tossed with a cheese sauce from butter, flour, milk and cheddar cheese then baked with some breadcrumbs on top.
  • Green beans -- Cleaned and cut them the night before, sauteed with a little butter and tossed with toasted almond slivers.
  • Rolls -- Pillsbury rolls from one of those pop open cans that just needed to be baked
  • Beer & Wine
  • Caramel and chocolate covered apples -- From Kilwins
  • Beer & wine

My friend Shayla brought over and cooked some asparagus.  Janet brought corn bread.  And Brick brought a pecan pie as well.  I really didn't feel stressed at all getting ready and I prepared all the food as it was ready.  I think the one thing I could have been better at was timing things so that they were all hot at the same time.  I have no idea how people do that and I definitely did not manage to get a piping hot meal on the table all at the same time, but people did not seem to mind having to microwave their plates.

Additionally, I was pretty proud of my macaroni and cheese as it was a SUPER last minute add to the menu.  While at the tailgate, I learned that this is a staple side dish in the south.  I was even confirmed this by a map sent to me by my friend AJ.

I aim to please and although I knew that I did not have to do it, I was finished preparing my dinner early and I had all the ingredients available to make mac and cheese from scratch.  IF I took the cheese from the cheese and crackers... which I did... and whipped up a made from scratch batch of mac and cheese.  It was super easy and I am so excited that I now know how to make this!

We ate at random times since people were all coming over at different points, plus my foods were all ready at random times as well.  However, I was super happy to see people taking seconds of all the meals and everyone seemed very happy with the food on their plates. I was really, really happy with how everything turned out.

Throughout the day I FaceTimed with all my family and definitely missed being a part of the shenanigans at my grandparents, getting to see my niece and nephew, my cousins and aunts and uncles, eating some of the amazing desserts I saw people had baked at my grandparents, and being with all my family.  However, this was a pretty close second.

As grown ups, your family and where you consider "home" I think can evolve.  I lived in Albany, New York for six years and will always consider that place to be a home and to be a special place in my heart.  I will always consider Rhode Island to be a home and New England in general.  As I have lived in Atlanta and been here longer, built more relationships, and established new routines, this is beginning to feel like a home as well.

Spending Thanksgiving with friends, friends who I have made organically and naturally through shared interests and hobbies (running...) it makes it even easier to feel like home.  I spent Thanksgiving with people of various ancestral backgrounds.  From different parts of the country.  And with different family traditions and norms.  This 2015 was the time a girl from Rhode Island and her friends from Los Angeles, Wisconsin, Florida, and New York City got together to eat together.  I loved the fact that I last minute made mac and cheese because that was a new to me tradition and side dish staple.  It made me happy to make it and I love learning about different parts of the country and what is unique to them.

As I was preparing foods, Brick and I were talking about how we normally cook and prepare meals.  She said that for her family and in the south, cooking meals is all done from scratch and it is hours upon hours ordeals.  Stuffing, for her, would be something that would start with baking corn bread, and then taking that and turning it into the moist side dish.  As I whipped up my dried bag stuffing, I felt a teensy bit bad, but not really at all.

I loved that it became a day of sharing about family and traditions, eating, running, laughing, and enjoying one another's company.  I truly enjoy hosting and having people over, so it was great to use my big apartment for what I got it for once again.  The times I have hosted people this past year have been a blast so I definitely want to try and do more of it.  Thanksgiving was a great opportunity and I had so much fun with my guests.

In addition, I was honestly, not to brag, impressed and happy with the meal that I served!  Especially on a day where I had run a half marathon in the morning!!

I knew that moving to the south was going to be a different experience for me and I love learning about different norms for parts of the country and different cultures.  From Mac & Cheese, to bottled water vs. tap, to corn bread types, to whether or not you call 911 when you get in a car accident.  It was a great night with great food, friends and conversation.

I miss my family dearly every day.  I've said it before but I'll say it again - not being able to go home with ease has been hands down the hardest part of moving.  I don't like missing things.  I don't like not being able to be a part of moments in the lives of people I love.  I don't like hearing about important things that happen over the phone rather than being with them in person.

Yet, I feel so lucky that I still have my friends and family to text with and FaceTime with.  That I get Thanksgiving photo messages from Heidi and Dave of their cutie pie little babe.  That my cousins make me laugh even via the phone.  And that my brother maintains family traditions of putting us in the "spotlight" position at my grandparents even when I am not there.

All in all, it was a fabulous Thanksgiving and I absolutely loved hosting my first dinner and the fact everyone ate seconds.  I can't wait to host another Thanksgiving someday and am really proud of my half marathon the morning of the holiday.

I hope you had a day as equally full of family, friends, laughter, food, health, and happiness.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone and let's bring on Christmas in full force!  Can't wait to see my family in one month!


  1. You did SUCH a darn good job on T-Day!!!! Holy crap! I ran my VERY FIRST Half (Beat the Blerch) a couple of weeks ago, and I totally concur, doing a semi-homemade meal afterwards is totalllllly okay. lol I'm super proud of you! (And anybody that can do this!) I did do a Friendsgiving yesterday and hosted and cheated on the turkey breast too- but I think it's more the experience of being with people, right?!

  2. You're officially a Southerner since you've learned the importance of Mac n cheese! Welcome! Also, I'm thrilled to know Atlanta has a Kilwins!!! I will definitely be hitting that up when I come next month!