It’s been a while. How are you? Me? I’m tired. I had such a great time that now I’m in recovery.

It was really great to have my sister here with us, and she was SUCH a great help for me during Thanksgiving. We had a blast together and now I’m so sad that she’s back in her own state. I tried convincing her to move but we’re just a little too country for her. You see, she’s a big-city girl. She thought I lived in a cabin – with no plumbing or electricity. She was quite glad when she saw we actually live in a normal neighborhood, even if we do have chickens.

wine tasting girls
Me, my sister Adi and our friend Jane.

This is how it all started. My sister arrived early on Tuesday, way before I got off work. Poor girl had to wait for hours at the airport, but thankfully she has an explorer’s spirit and now knows the Portland airport like the back of her hand. Meanwhile, at work, I was trying to put plans together for her to explore the city while I was finishing up my day at work before I could pick her up from the airport, but luckily one of my co-workers said she would cover for me so I could leave a little bit earlier to pick up Adi from the airport. Still, being that it was rush hour on a holiday week, it took forever to get to Portland and the poor girl had to wait for around 3 hours. Finally though, I arrived and found my little sister waiting for me. I was so excited to see her! In her excitement to put her luggage away and drive off, she almost whacked her head with the bike rack that was attached to the trunk of my car. But after a good scare and a good laugh we finally did drive off.

Once we got home and got settled, I introduced my sister to her new roomate, my cat and her litter box. Although a little apprehensive at first, it took her about 2 minutes to warm up to the kitty. This from a girl who doesn’t much like cats in the first place!
Adi loves the kitty.She quickly learned not to completely close her door at night because the very next day we found cat poop and pee in our living room. DH picked up the poop and was dry-heaving the whole way to the garbage. Adi thought that was hilarious! At this point Adi was in love with the kitty, so it wasn’t a problem to get her to keep her door open so the cat could poop and pee (in the closet) in her room. I am so glad my cat has other redeeming qualities that are so easily remembered especially when she transgresses like this right before our holiday party!

After menu planning, grocery shopping and cleaning on Wednesday, the little sister and I sat down to some Jane Austen movies. We watched Persuasion first, then Mansfield Park. The first one was not one that she easily understood, but she really loved Mansfield Park. I’m glad I am responsible for giving her a new favorite Jane Austen movie. Hopefully she’ll find time to read the books later as well. I think we actually watched a third movie that night as well, Ushpizin, a movie about Sukkoth.

Thursday morning was full of cooking and last-minute cleaning, but went really well. Except for the part where I cut my finger and almost fainted, but that was closer to the afternoon anyway. You see, I was carving a huge, about 15-pound hubbard squash, that dh wanted to be the main course at our dinner. I was carving out the flesh on the inside so that I could put the stuffing in there, but stupidly, I was carving towards me, instead of away from me and WHACK! My finger was open right at the knuckle, at an angle. I saw the inside of my finger. I told my sister I cut my finger, and she says I had a weird smile on my face. I’m pretty sure it was sheer shock. Once the blood gushed, I instinctively shut the wound, applied pressure and elevated it above my heart. I told my sis to run and get a piece of string or something from my craft room. We tied that around the base of my finger to limit the flow of blood, then rinsed, disinfected and tightly bandaged the wound. I was starting to feel woozy. I couldn’t faint, I had a dinner to cook! So, knowing the symptoms, I sat down and breathed. I quickly went to my craft room and recovered a scrap of cloth to wrap around the finger so I wouldn’t bend it, then returned to the kitchen to sit on a chair while I instructed my little sister how to finish cooking the dishes we were working on. After a couple minutes I had to take a break and lie on the carpet, with my knees up. My finger was up, too. I guess just the thought of what I’d seen in there was enough to make me want to faint. When did I get to be such a ninny about blood? Soon I returned to my place at the chair, bossing around my little sis. After a while, I got up and started helping her. We finished preparing almost everything right as our first guests started showing up.

Three dishes were still cooking in the oven and we were rushing around in the bedrooms and bathroom, getting ready. Dh was a good host in the meantime, and by the time we emerged we had a houseful of people and some very yummy-smelling dishes on our table. We pulled out the dishes from the oven and popped in some of the ones that needed to be reheated that were on our table. More guests showed up. We had around 20 people in our house.

Here’s what our table looked like and the main course, the hubbard squash, is in the middle.

What did we have on our table? Well, Adi and I made Oven-Roasted Hubbard (with maple and brown sugar – delicious!), Wild Rice and Cornbread Stuffing (served on the other half of the hubbard), Roasted Root Vegetables (to DIE for), Vegan Pumpkin Stew (cooked and served in two pumpkins), Broccoli Slaw, Whole Cranberry Sauce (with nuts and mandarin orange slices), and Zucchini Bread. Well the Zucchini Bread was made a week in advance, but it was still at our table. Also there was a spinach-phyllo-thing that was awesome, two kinds of mashed potatoes, green beans, bread, cheese, dips, brown rice, Awesome Tofu (seriously. Everyone was asking for the recipe), tons of wine and beer, curry, something else that I didn’t get to try in another pan on our stove, salads, pies, cooked carrots… oh man. Everything was soooooo good. Almost everyone got up for seconds and some even thirds. I could barely finish my second plate of food and I hadn’t even gotten to try everything at the table! We all felt truly blessed, and really enjoyed each other’s company.

Some of our guests. I’m pretty sure we had all generations represented that night.

Dh instituted a new annual tradition – The Chasing of the Chickens. He went to the back yard after he had finished eating and let the chickens out of their coop. Then he and the neighbor’s children began chasing them (without actually catching them) around the yard. It was a hoot! They all eventually ran back into their coop (where they feel safe) and dh caught one of them so everyone could pet her if they wanted to.

After I had eaten and my hostess duties were mostly fulfilled, and after many horror stories by some of my guests about how their fingers were forever ruined for not going to the doctor right away when they got hurt, Adi and I decided to go to the doctor and get my wound looked at. The ER doc (the only place open then and the cause of my original hesitation) opened and prodded and opened my wound again about 4 different times before he decided there was no significant damage but I ought to get the thing sutured and glued shut. He only put in one stitch, but since it was only one I basically got it done without anesthetic. He put on something topical that was supposed to take the pain away but never did. I simply shut my eyes and looked away while I got sewed shut. Here I am with Adi after getting poked. We had some time before the doc came around again to sew me shut so we fooled around with pictures to make the time pass. Don’t I have an awesome sister? She helped me take my mind off my finger and the forthcoming pain.

We had a great time. Everyone eventually went home and later our friends Doug and Jane stopped by. We quickly fed Doug, but could only persuade Jane to have dessert.
We made plans for the following morning’s annual open house of the wineries in the area. You see, we live in wine country and every year on Black Friday all the wineries have an open house with wine tastings, music and food. Since that is about a million times more fun than getting trampled by a shop-crazy mob at 5 a.m. and only happens once a year, we were very eager to go. We were so tired from our day, but we settled down for another last batch of movies with Jane while the boys watched an episode or two of Trailer Boys, some Canadian tv show. Meanwhile, we watched Pride and Prejudice.

We took off around noon the following morning, and made our first stop in wine country at around 1 p.m. It was a small winery and hadn’t had many visitors. In fact, I think we were the first. After tasting the three wines they had, we felt compelled to buy something, since no other visitors had showed up. Dh bought some pinot noir jelly and something that looked like peanut brittle. I don’t think anyone else bought anything. As we were leaving, we were relieved to see another car pulling in. It made us feel better that they would have other visitors.

This is at our first stop. Adi, me, Dan and Jane. The view was nice, too.

Our second stop was at a bigger, more “happening” winery. They had lots of people there, and even though the tasting fee was $10, we had quite a few wines to choose from and got some tasty cheese. The boys got to try some mole-tasting salami, too. They thought it was great.

Another gentleman was kind enough to take the first picture of all of us, but Doug forgot to look at the camera. Doug and the girls in the second picture. Doug and Jane, then Dan in the last row.

Our third winery was huge. I mean, huge. And beautiful, too. We were excited to check it out once we arrived in the parking lot and saw how big the building was. Once inside, we were directed to the level below, where we could see huge barrels. There was a guy playing the piano somewhere above us and the music filled the room. On one side was a station where you could pick up some kind of rice and sausage dish or lamb and bread. Nearby was a table with tons of cheese and more bread. Next to that was another station which had five different bottles of wine to taste, and near that was another station with three more wines from a different label available to taste. Also, the owner of the winery took us further down below among the wine barrels where we got to taste some really expensive wine. Two more tastes down there. Dh was a little sneak, though, and got a few extras from different servers. I got one extra. We also made fun of the snobby wine drinkers that took one drink of their wine and dumped the extra out onto tubs. Jane and Doug couldn’t believe people actually did that.

I was being silly as usual.

Being the ever-friendly extrovert that my little sister is, during our fourth winery stop she quickly made friends with a young Israeli man from Colorado, here visiting his friends for the holiday. We had a few more tastings there and met all his friends and their baby. We even talked about the Jewish Holidays. Adi kept introducing me as her Jewish sister! Silly girl. I told them all I was very proud of being goy (gentile), but I was very glad to meet some real Israelis. They were all very, very nice. Dh and I got a chance to sneak out and take a few more pictures before the sunlight faded.

I’ll have you know I had a camera and tissue in my front pockets there, that’s not all my belly!

Once we had tasted and eaten our fill, we went back into town and after Doug and Jane dropped us off at our house, we quickly got dressed for a bike ride back into the downtown area. There was a parade about to happen and we wanted to get there before it started. Adi and I rode the tandem, while dh rode his recumbant. Doug met us there, but said Jane was done for the day, poor girl. We really did have a full day. The parade got really lame so Dh decided he would try to get in the parade on his bike. Well, next thing I knew he was riding past us waving his hand to the crowd, who waved back. Then he rode back in the other direction and tried to get us to join him. Heehee. We almost did, too, except Doug and I chickened out at the very last moment, just as Dan began his second round through the parade on his bike. We sent out Adi to go look for him because we wanted to do something else instead. After Dh came back on his bike and there was still no sign of Adi, I went looking for the woman. Turns out she had found our Israeli friends and was talking to them again. I had to call her over because we were leaving, but she told them we would be at Fireworks after the parade and they should join us.

Since Adi was behind me on the tandem, she got to wear the red blinking light which we attached to her collar! Whose eyes are bigger? We couldn’t decide, although I think Adi takes the cake here. “Cuantas veces te he dicho?!”

After riding through downtown and the river-front, we split up. Adi and I went to Fireworks, while the boys stayed behind to ride around some more. Before she left, I had to have her try a Pink Cadillac, a margarita/martini thing served straight up that I have only seen available at Fireworks. We both had just one, considering how much we’d had to drink on our winery tour. We were getting pretty hungry again though, so we decided to head home after our one drink. Just as we were about to pay we got a call from dh saying they were in the parking lot and we should all head home together, so we did. Once home and tired as we were, we settled in for one last movie. We watched Because I Said So, which I knew Adi would like. After that though, we went to get her packed and ready to head back home the following morning. We had to leave early, so we really tried to get to bed before midnight.

We got up early the next day because not only was Adi’s flight before 11 a.m., but she had also made tentative plans to have breakfast with a friend from college, currently living in Portland. I didn’t just want to drop her off and since her friend hadn’t called yet and I too was getting hungry, I asked if I could join her in breakfast at the airport. She readily agreed. It’s a good thing, too, because her friend did not call her (probably didn’t see her facebook profile on time) and Adi didn’t have her phone number either. After breakfast I walked her over to the security checkpoint and just stood there as she got further and further away until I couldn’t see her anymore. Then I cried because I didn’t know how long it would be until I would see my little punk sister again. And I cried because she called me to ask why I was still watching her and then she cried too.

And I left the airport very sad. So I took about a million pictures of Portland, the freeway and silly cars with team flags and sports fans waving flags on the freeway. It made me feel a little better.

What I think of all that sports fanaticism:

What I think of my weekend:

And that, dear family and friends, was my holiday weekend. How was yours?