Wow, Was I Ever Right...

You guys DO know stuff.

Did you read all of your suggestions below? So many good ideas for must-have holiday music! I had a handful of them among my collection already, but was pleased to add a bunch more.

(One thing I forgot to mention -- if you haven't heard them already, Diana Krall does a bunch of the Vince Guaraldi holiday songs and they're amazing. If you like that kind of thing. But then, I LOVE the heartbreaking rendition of Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," so there you go.)

Thing that REALLY surprised me, though, is how many of you are familiar with the dulcimer. How is that possible? How did you learn of it?

Once when my family and my friend Emily's family were in Disney World on vacation together, Emily and I (and our moms) ended up at the American Pavilion in Epcot Center. There, one of the outdoor stands featured and sold dulcimers. The young dulcimer salesman, dressed in a turn-of-the-century costume, demonstrated how the instrument was played. He was the one who told us that the dulcimer was the only instrument genuinely native to America (I do not know that this is true, Liz - I am repeating what a costume-clad Epcot-based salesman told me) and that it was designed to be a stringed version of bagpipes. Then Emily and I, having such rich musical backgrounds, tried to play them ourselves, and managed to plunk out a duet of (I think) "Amazing Grace" in full harmony. We attracted a small crowd. Which meant, of COURSE we HAD to HAVE the dulcimers, of COURSE we would continue to play them, we're practically NATURALS at them, of COURSE this was a smart, if not cheap, purchase. And yes, of COURSE the dulcimers went from "musical instruments" to "wall ornaments" about three minutes after we arrived home.

In other news, I hope you (Americans) have had a lovely holiday weekend.

Following a long and complex series of "plans" (We are going to Phoenix! No, Ish's family is coming here! No, just his parents! No, not until Friday!), at the last minute we ended up hosting three people on Thanksgiving itself, not including ourselves. While not exactly raucous, this turned out to be wonderful, because it gave me a chance to see if I could actually produce a meal of several components for five adults -- including a turkey which I've never prepared before -- without burning down my kitchen or giving anyone food poisoning.

And there was no pressure at all, because my friends would be happy if I served them cold cereal as long as it came with enough wine. (This is why, in fact, they are my friends.)

But then I'm not sure why -- maybe because all the pressure was off? -- I kind of went a little crazy. I did all of my holiday decorating early. I got fancy candles and some silly decorations and thought long and hard about the table setting and centerpieces.

You can't tell, but those are white trees up on the black shelves on the right,
and we hung lights from wall to wall (where the regular lights usually hang).

You can kind of make out the white trees now.
They were only $3.99 at Michael's!

A close-up of nothing in particular.

Those are sparkly red candles on top of the piano you can't see.

I determined I would brine the turkey before roasting it and spent days searching for the right recipes.

So now, since I NEVER ever blog about food I prepare (mostly because I don't ever do it) OR wines we drink, I will now regale you with details of our Thanksgiving dinner. With photos. (For those of you who haven't already seen them on Facebook, that is.)

I should begin by pointing out that at no point did I set anything on fire, and the closest thing we had to a mishap was the cat puking up bites of the autumn leaves that adorned the table.

I picked up real leaves from trees in Redwood City.

And because I thought the table was pretty,
I took about 40 million pictures of it.

You can sort of see that the houseplant (whose name is Victor)
has lights on him. That was no easy task.

The menu was basic but wonderful. We had the turkey, of course. Between Williams-Sonoma and Alton Brown, Tom turned out pretty darn well!

Ish poses with the turkey.

We had a million sides. I made a wonderfully light and fluffy sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top (the secret to "light and fluffy"? I added two beaten eggs and mixed it well with a hand-mixer. Who knew? I've been making heavy casserole for years...). I made an apple-pecan-cornbread stuffing/dressing. Ish rocked out with his family's corn risotto (yellow and white corn sauteed with some cream and jalepenos), and also made pumpkin and pecan pies from scratch. Be still my heart. Bemily pulled up the rear with some smashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and Ben's family's traditional "cheese spaghetti" -- some noodle, egg, cheese concoction that involves bacon. We started with a baby spinach salad. (This all followed the fancy-pants hors d'oeuvres that Tony brought.)

From left to right: Salad and turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole,
cheese spaghetti, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, corn risotto.
Note: nothing is on fire.

As for cocktails...

I mulled cider, and kept it going all day in a crock pot -- smells so good! Everyone has their own mulled cider recipes, but I prefer to use the Williams-Sonoma mulling spices, and lots of 'em. I bring the cider to a rolling boil with the spices in, and then reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Delicious! Then I put a bottle of bourbon out next to it, so guests can spike the cider if they see fit.

Bemily brought some drink they'd made called the Apple Pie. It was a deadly and delicious concoction of cider and scary booze. Everyone had a taste of it to start the afternoon, and then avoided it so as to remain standing by the end of the evening. I avoided it altogether, fretting as I was about sticking to the dinner-oven-menu schedule. It is a bit unclear how much Ben may have ingested, and that is probably for the best.

We did, however, break out some of the best wines in our collection. (I say "our collection" as though I've had anything to do with obtaining any of these wines. Note: I have not.)

A gratuitous photo of "our" wine collection, which lives in this new
wine fridge that Ish's parents got "us" for Ish's birthday.

Just before dinner, we opened a Zonin Prosecco that Tony brought and a Gloria Ferrer blanc de noirs. For whites (which were sipped througout the day), we had a Bighorn Chardonnay and a Jonata Sauvingnon Blanc. I hate Chardonnays that taste buttery and oaky, which most California chards do, and I avoided the Bighorn for this reason. Everyone else enjoyed it. The Jonata sauv is the fanciest white we own -- Jonata is hard to come by -- and it was tasty, but also not my favorite. When we moved on to reds, we served a Copain Pinot Noir and a Donum Pinot Noir. At the end of the evening, we served a Jonata dessert wine that is the best dessert wine I have ever tasted, bar none.

All in all, it was lovely.

Ish. Full.

The boys get amorous. Did I mention that
the "Apple Pie" drink had EVERCLEAR in it?

The following day, we got up early(ish) to revisit the grocery store and to get a Christmas tree. That afternoon, we re-hosted a Thanksgiving re-meal -- again, no pressure! -- with leftovers galore. Ish's parents came over, along with my Cousin Nate and his fiancee, Liz.

Sidebar: I have mentioned this before, but I don't know if this is the sort of thing people who aren't related to me care about. But here is a brief series of fun facts, Sammis family-style, in case you happen to be interested: In college, my dad became good friends with a man named Roger. Roger has many ties to Maine and to Cliff Island. Through my dad and Roger's friendship, my entire family has been traveling to or living in Maine since. In fact, my Aunt Kathy (my dad's sister) and her husband actually lived on Cliff Island for a few years...with their sons, my cousins, Matt and Nate. Liz is Roger's daughter. This means that Liz and Nate have known each other for their whole lives (Maine can be a little small, but Cliff Island is VERY small), but they never even considered dating each other until a few years ago. And now they live in San Francisco together and are getting married. Crazy and awesome.

So Nate and Liz and Liz's brother came over on Friday, along with Liz's mom, Maura -- who I have always thought of as an aunt -- and Nate's mom, Kathy, who actually IS my aunt. And us, and Ish's parents (who got to meet members of my family, hurrah!), and a few friends thrown in for good measure.

I don't know why I'm telling you all this.

But now you know what all I've been up to. (Erm, for the most part.)

And for what it's worth, I'm feeling very festive lately. I suspect it has to do with the fact that Ish and I are getting married. And not for silly-dumb reasons related to getting married, either -- good, solid reasons. I don't feel as groundless and rootless as I've felt these last seven years in San Francisco. I have LOVED every second of living here, yes, but I have also been without much of a plan. And while I don't -- erm, WE don't -- have any idea where we're headed, either, we at least know we'll be together.

That's a whole lot more certainty than I've had in a long time. And it feels good, and sweet, and special, and like I should indulge while I can.

It's like emotional eggnog.

Putting up the tree.

Hanging lights.


This photo was taken with flash.
The tree really loses something with flash.

Just, you know, trust me, it's pretty.


  1. Good grief, girl you went all out on the meal and the whole holiday thing. Have to start callin' you Ms. Martha

  2. wow - your loft looks really nice! Doesn't it bug you to wastes so much $ on rent?

  3. It sounds perfectly lovely. All of it! And your home looks so cozy and beautiful.

  4. I love your apartment! You deserve it all! I hope that one day I have a home as cozy.

  5. Last I heard you couldn't ship everclear over the california border!! Apple pie sounds dangerous. And um, I'm pretty sure I'm going to need the recipe for sweet potato casserole. YUM.

  6. Your place is so chic and gorgeous. Good job!

  7. Your place is gorgeous, and anonymous is incredibly rude.

  8. OMG your home is BEAUTIFUL!! Move - over - now. I'm coming for Christmas.

  9. My father worked in a dulcimer factory when he was a young man! I am a big fan of fiddle music and dulcimers & fiddle go really well together. So I probably would have encountered them even if my dad had not told me about them.

    Anyway I am glad your thanksgiving was so festive and sweet! Beautiful pictures, everything looks so cozy. Sincerely, random internet person.

  10. Thank you for the lovely comments. In part, I posted the pictures because the photos of the loft on Flickr are those I snagged from the realtor back when we were looking to move -- they feature none of our own furniture or anything. And since so many of my friends and relatives don't live anywhere near SF, I thought it would be nice to post photos for them.

    The rent absolutely bugs me, but it's always a trade-off. We are not saving money for a downpayment on a home as quickly as we'd like. But we do have lots of living space, smack-dab in the middle of a city we love, and look forward to coming home to our place each night.

  11. You know I am feeling particularly holiday festive and so on this season too and before now I couldn't really peg down WHY this holiday I'm slightly less bah-humbuggy than usual except that this is my first Christmas as a married lady and I had this sneaking suspicion that might have something to do with it but couldn't get it straight in my head. Thank you for sharing. :D

  12. I can't stand anonymous posters. Ugh. I'm very impressed by the spread of food, AND by your recount of the wine you served. Now I'm hungry.

  13. i will admit, when people sometimes talk about things that have nothing to do with me, or interest me, i tend to skim.
    not today.
    i am truly happy for you having found ish and having the family and friends (your chosen family) that you have and feeling this peace and contentment.

    it gives me hope. :)

    congratulations on not burning anything too!! very exciting!

    (hee hee)

  14. You and Ish have a BEAUTIFUL home! Enjoy, and be happy - - you both deserve it! :-)

  15. I was so excited when you guys moved into the loft and LOVED seeing pictures of it. It's beautiful. Looks like a place from a tv show...very chic and yet homey.

  16. This is a compliment, really, trust me on this one, but I finally figured out who Ish reminds me of. It's Charlotte's husband on Sex and the City. He's my favorite guy (well, and Aidan)- solid, sweet, and such a keeper!
    (They kinda have the same hair cut.)

  17. Your loft is gorgeous! I am very proud of you for not burning it down or poisoning anyone ; )


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