My apologies, I can’t seem to write a post without including a picture of Will…
We spent yesterday in a blissful state of baby-watching and food-preparation and then food-eating and good-times-having. I have a problem when it comes to the holidays. I thought that with Will this year I would take it easy, I’d make a dessert for our compound potluck Thanksgiving and be done with it.
I wish I had photographic evidence but I made sweet potatoes, a fancy green beans recipe, roasted potatoes, roasted onions, pumpkin whoopie pies, chocolate cake and butterscotch sauce to serve 30 people. Oops.
None of it could have happened without our ayi helping me wash everything and Chris helping with the cooking and baby-watching and of course I picked recipes that could all be prepped or finished the day before, but guys! It was just so much fun to cook like that again.
And while I’ll admit that I make green beans into a (healthy!) dish that you actually want to eat and I turn sweet potatoes into fluffy, streusel-topped clouds of goodness (butter! cream! cloves! oh my!), there was just so much good food made by everyone, I could hardly decide what to fill my plate with, it was all delicious.
And the company? Fabulous. 7 families, 15 kids. Babies, teenagers, grandparents. Colleagues relaxing and talking everything but shop. Charlie Brown playing in the background. Kids circling the dessert table in anticipation then, later, running in giddy, sugar-fueled circles around on the rug.
Growing up we never had big, extended family Thanksgivings and, maybe as a result, I actually really like celebrating with friends and soon-to-be-friends.
There is something beautiful, something very Thanksgiving-y about a celebration of gratitude with a somewhat random group of people, slowing down to enjoy conversations you might have never had otherwise, sharing the recipes and the stories behind them, watching the kids play, and of course eating too much.
It was actually painful to carry Will afterwards, Chris and I had to keep handing him off to one another to relieve the pressure on our ginormous tummies. The hazards of parenting on Thanksgiving. Who knew?
But, in any case, it all made me feel very thankful.
Not just for the big things, like the fact that I have a wonderful husband, baby, a roof over my head, food to eat, health, etc. I’m thankful for those things everyday.
But its also fun to think of the little things too sometimes. So here goes my, non-exhaustive, 2011 list of little things I’m thankful for:
1. Probably a little weird but: I’m thankful for living on the west side of our building. On the east side there is now a gigantic building that blocks the sky. On the west side, we have a smaller building next door. We don’t get much sun in Chengdu, but when we do, it floods our apartment in the late afternoon and I’m just so grateful for that. I miss the sun so much so its nice to actually be able to enjoy it even if we are stuck inside when it shines.
2. Coffee. I missed the awake juice so much for that year or so I quit drinking it.
3. My slippers. I have perennially-cold extremities and so, a few weeks ago, Chris surprised me with new, fluffy, Minnetonka house shoes. I’m seriously grateful every single morning I slip my feet into them.
4. My baby’s laugh. He laughs for us everyday now. It’s like crack.
5. Our ayi. Without her, this whole new-mother thing would look a lot different.
6. My favorite da-shou mian place. I don’t get there often but when I do, it’s always worth way more than the 6 kuai (1 dollar) I pay for the pleasure of those hand-cut noodles in spicy broth.
7. Baby hats with bear ears on top. Whoever decided to blur the line between baby clothes and baby costume is a genius.
8. My 50mm 1.8 lens. So many pictures of Will we wouldn’t have without it. I never take it off my camera anymore.
9. My husband’s sense of humor. Will is an amazingly easy baby in most respects but he’s still got his quirks and Chris keeps us laughing even when we’re pacing the living room at 11pm for the tenth night in a row.
10. Chengdu as a first post. I’ve learned so much here, how to separate employment from personal self-worth, how to speak a little Chinese, how to cook pretty much everything from scratch, how to take photos in really really low light, how to stay upbeat without sunshine for months on end (truly a feat you can’t understand until you’ve lived it I think) and more. I think this place is a good mix of hard and easy for a foreigner. The people here are soo nice and the city is easy to get around and the Sichuanese food is so good. Its easy to take those things for granted but they are important.
11. Good internet access. What would I do if I couldn’t look up recipes, read the news, find new project ideas, and skype with my parents to show them Will? I honestly have no idea…
12. Will’s new noises, he “talks” so much and he gets so happy when people “talk” back to him
13. Our community. So many nice people both with the Consulate and outside of it.
14. Knowing our Christmas trip to Thailand is only 30 days away
15. Knowing our friends in Bangkok are ok
16. Hot water. Its getting to be that time of year where I don’t know what I’d do without it
17. Our oven, we are lucky to have one, not many people do here
18. Our neighbors, there is something so cozy about literally being able to walk across the hall to borrow a cup of sugar.
19. Christmas cups at Starbucks. Having a Starbucks here in Chengdu. I can’t help it, Starbucks helped put me through college, both through employment and beverages. The red cups remind me of those fun (and tiring!) days of balancing work and school, the snow falling outside our warm bustling store, and trudging over to the 24-hour library after a closing shift to study for finals, caffeinated-beverage firmly in hand.
20. Mail days. Its hard to describe how awesome mail from home is while living overseas.
21. My husband’s great office and colleagues, Chinese and American. It’s wonderful to have a spouse who comes home from work happy most days.