The Girl In The Black Dress

My 2 year “surgiversary” is coming up on the 14th, in a little more than a week.

My friends sometimes tell me they forget how I looked before my surgery. Whenever someone says that, I am instantly reminded of this photo, taken almost exactly 3 months before my surgery, because this photo very quickly sums up exactly how I looked and felt.

Now, I look like this.

I haven’t forgotten where I came from. And I know where I could wind up.

When I let my weight run away with me, I felt like my whole life sort of got derailed. It was a horrible death spiral of my weight draining me of my energy, the lack of energy kept me from exercising, the lack of exercise allowed my body to hurt over the littlest things (like walking 2 blocks!) and kept my energy levels low, and I just kept eating.

I tried every diet. I tried supplements. I tried high carb, low fat. I tried low carb, high protein. Weight Watchers. Not eating. Whatever. Everything worked…for about 6 weeks.

I admit that I live in terror that my surgery will not be a long term fix either. Every time I strap on my trainers and go hit the pavement for a few miles, I feel like I am being chased after by that fat girl in the photo above with a dozen hot Krispy Kreme donuts in her hands, yelling at me, “Hey, remember how good these were???” And I do remember how good they were. And I could probably have one and maybe only feel mildly ill. But…and here is the truth about me…I couldn’t stop at one. Not “wouldn’t.” I mean it when I say “couldn’t.”

She is always there behind me, reminding me of how good things “used to be” and suggesting that “just this one couldn’t hurt, right?”

She’s good motivation, that old me. I am running away from her as fast as I can. If she catches me, that girl outweighs me by 120 pounds and I figure she would have little trouble wrestling me down and winning. I just have to keep running.

The scars of being morbidly obese will never fully disappear from me and I understand that now. I didn’t get that way just because I was lazy, or just because of my genetics, or just because I was clueless about what did and did not count as food, or just because of an unhealthy mental state. It was a whole series of things working together in a perfect storm against me. That storm is still raging but I have more tools to help keep it under control. I have more knowledge than I did, I have a better grasp on why I eat and am smarter about what I eat. I have found a form of exercise I enjoy enough to do several times a week, which helps combat my inherently lazy nature. And I put in the hard work I know I need to to help combat the genetics.

I look on that girl in the black dress with pity and sorrow, but also keeping the same distance you would from a friend who is down with the flu. If I get too close to her, I feel like all the sadness, fear, and misery she carries in all that weight will rub off on me again.

That girl in the black dress was me, but is not who I am today.

And my task for the past 2 years, and will be going forward into untold years, is to simply keep out running her.

12 Goals for 2012

(I swear I didn’t specifically aim for 12 goals. When I counted them before making this post, I was pleasantly surprised by the symmetry though.)

– Knit 12 projects (1 per month) from yarn already in my stash and patterns in my queue or favorites list on Ravelry. I will get a post up about this soon.

– Run the Instant Classic Half Marathon on March 17th. The goal is 2:30, but being a trail race, I will accept any time between 2:30 and 2:45.

– Sew several new pieces of garb over the Spring and Summer, for all of the family. We all need new garb to get us through Pennsic, but especially Grace.

– Pre-plan monthly menus. That system works too well and takes nothing more than me applying some brain power to it. Saves us a ton of money and headaches when I keep it up.

– Find some way, some how, to find the funds to join a CSA (I want Victory Farms if they keep their system the same as the old owners). I will continue to fantasize about having the money to get a cow share from Faith Farms for milk.

– Run the 5 mile Dauber Dash on June 17th.

– Expand my cooking chops and learn new and amazing ways to eat unfamiliar vegetables. (See the CSA goal above).

– Work with Grace to continue to help her with her goal of learning to run along with Mommie.

– Run Warrior Dash on September 29th and earn a PR for that race (would like to do it in 50 minutes or less).

– Run the Richmond Half Marathon in 2:30 or less on November 10th.

Tighten up my nutrition to improve my performance in the races I have planned. I am shooting myself in the feet with my diet. I could do so much better if I was even more careful about what I put in my mouth.

– Present the family with beautiful handknit Christmas gifts that will keep them wrapped in warm wooly love.

I want to focus 2012 on food, fitness, and family, and improving the connections and relationships I have with each of those things.

The Neglected Blog Looks Back

I have had nothing to say. Nothing to show you. Nothing to share. Not that there hasn’t been an abundance of words, potential photos, or knitted projects, it’s just that it is the time of year where my brain is overwhelmed and I just don’t feel like talking. I have neglected the blog and I am sorry.

2011 has been a year for wild ups and downs. It will go down in my memory for several momentous occasions.

First, it was the year I found my feet. I started running in the Spring of 2010 a few months after gastric bypass, but it wasn’t until this year that I found the confidence to run races. It began in January when I learned that Warrior Dash was coming to Virginia and I signed up as a way to motivate myself. Then I discovered the SuperHero 5K; a perfect race given my ability, my fondness for superheros, and the charity appealed to me. In total, I ran 3 races this year, finishing the year with the Jingle Bell Run, and even before 2012, I have signed up for two more races, both 13.1 mile distances. I am already well into training for the half marathon I am running on March 17, 2012.

I will also remember it as the year I received my Pelican in the SCA and as a year in general where I gave most of my spare time to the SCA, at least up until about October. Between autocratting, gate keeping, and general event support staff, I put a lot of time, sweat, and work into the SCA. I have committed to making 2012 a lighter year for the SCA for myself. No jobs, no event staffing, no offices; nothing unless I am taken hold of by some bolt out of the blue and inspired to do something.

It was the year of car repairs and cash hemorrhaging in general. Things were looking up early in the year, but then the van needed work, then the washer gave up the ghost, then we bought a new t.v., then my truck needed $1000 in work, then the van again, then the truck broke down the day before Thanksgiving, and finally, the van needed a new radiator just last week. It has been brutal, but we have held on and received a lot of blessings too; just the fact that we aren’t deeply in credit card debt still puts us in a better place than we were 3 years ago. I hope things will improve in 2012.

Also in the hardship category has been the breakup of my parents’ marriage after 32 years. As I told my dad a couple of weeks ago, this has been a long time in coming, so long in fact that I just stopped believing it would actually happen. But at long last it has, and we are picking up the broken pieces of my family and trying to figure out how to make a new puzzle out of it all. Some pieces are missing. Some pieces don’t fit together anymore. For better or worse, I suspect it is only the glue that is Grace Elizabeth that is preventing total disintegration.

I confess that I always assumed that divorcing parents would be vastly easier to manage as an adult than as a child. In fact, I thought I would have no emotional fall out whatsoever. I was categorically wrong on that front. This is hard. It hurts. And there is not a quick end to the hurt in sight, but I will push on to do right by all of my family, even though that balancing act is difficult at best and leads to hurting others sometimes at worst.

2011 was the year I began to earn some culinary chops. I have enjoyed experimenting with food, flavors, cuts of meat, and preserving food. The surgery I underwent almost 2 years ago has totally transformed my interests in food. Gone are the days when fried chicken and French fries made a meal, and all for the better as far as I am concerned. Yes, almost everything I cook has to have some kind of sauce with it for my own benefit, but the great thing about sauces is you can cook the same type of meat 10 times (hello boneless, skinless chicken breast) and have a different take on it every time. I have truly begun to enjoy cooking to the point that I frequently prefer it to eating out at a restaurant a lot of times.

It is also the year where I began to really care about what is in my food and where it came from. Websites I follow like Well Preserved and Fooducate have opened my eyes to possibilities and problems with our food. Sites like Food Freedom and Farm to Consumer Legal Defense have opened my eyes to the incredible power wielded by the large food corporations and how they influence government policy to their own fiscal benefit, though frequently to the detriment of the general public (remember, this is the year that tomato paste made pizza qualify as a “vegetable” for the purpose of school lunches).

It was not a big year for knitting for me. My Corrie Vest was the only really impressive project I succeeded at. The well-intentioned Self Created Sock Club flopped in May when it was supposed to be a pair of socks for my dad; this was simultaneous with the discovery of the divorce. Between the insanity of getting ready for Sapphire and the tumult of the early days of the divorce proceedings, I just couldn’t bring myself to knit his socks. And once I was off a month, I never got my sock mojo back. I have a new plan for 2012 and for knitting that I will describe in a forthcoming post.

It has been an incredible year with my daughter. Watching Grace become a little kid who can write her name, her numbers up to 10, who can spell C A T, who can color in the lines, who can draw pictures, and can remember and sing entire songs back to us has been uplifting and amazing. She has been the light and joy in my year.

I feel like I am ending 2011 a very different woman than I was when it started. I feel much older, more care-worn than I was 12 months ago. It has not been an easy or light year in any way, which doesn’t expressly mean it was a bad year overall, just a very intense year across the whole spectrum. I feel like I changed more in just this year than I have ever before, in some ways for the better, and in other ways, not so much.

I am closing out my third decade of existence very soon as well. My twenties were an awesome set of years, to be sure, but I am entering into my thirties in better health than I have ever had and with an amazing family I didn’t have at the beginning of my twenties. I don’t know where I will be at 40 in the same way I could never have predicted where I am today when I was 20, but I hope and pray that the coming decade will a decade of action and doing. I want to use these years to do rather than to hope to do. I will never be any younger than I am today, every day, and I learned very acutely this year that if you want to do something, you better hurry up and do it. Opportunities come far less frequently than excuses.

On that note, I will be closing out 2011 by running seven miles on Saturday morning. That is something I definitely could not have done on 12/31 a year ago. I can’t wait to see what I can do a year from this Saturday.

I wish you and yours an amazing 2012.

Jingle Bell Recap

I like reading race recaps and I can’t be the only one, so I do try and submit my own, partly for the amusement of others, but also partly so I can look back on these moments, good and bad, and remember where I have been.

I picked the Jingle Bell 5K because it was for a good charity (Arthritis Foundation) and because the price and date were compatible with my needs. Because it was themed, I had promised that if I met my fundraising goal, I would wear something themed for the day, thus with the jingle bell antler headband and the bells on my shoes.
Photobucket
There was no communication that I could find on where the race was starting at the mall, so we just followed a car that had euro stickers for half, full, and 50K races on it, figuring they probably had something like a clue.
Photobucket
One factor that had not occurred to me until Saturday morning was that the mall itself would not be open yet. I had been counting on there being warm stores for Byram and Grace to wander around in to stay warm. Fortunately, Panera Bread did open and they had warm drinks and a loveseat by the fire that was perfect for them.

The race itself did not feel especially organized. I know the Richmond Road Runners put out a desperate plea for volunteers last week, but there was not much communication on the website and the one email I sent with a question about packet pick up only was answered late on Friday. That is the downside of doing charity runs. It is all volunteer work and I can’t complain about that, really.

Byram had the camera and used it well.
Photobucket
I saw race numbers in the 600’s on people but it didn’t feel like there were that many attendees. I also chose to line up fairly close to the front this time, unlike the CASA run. I knew I wasn’t the speed bump this time and wanting that sub-30 PR, I needed to get out of traffic as quickly as possible.
Photobucket
Byram and Grace were able to be right next to me at the starting line. The race marshal yelled “Go!” and we were off.
Photobucket
I was pumped and being at the front with the faster runners, I broke out very fast at the start. I knew I was too hot but didn’t try and pull it back until we were about a quarter of a mile in. My MP3 player’s ear buds quit that morning, so I was running without my musical companions, just the raucous jingles of all the bells the runners were wearing. Those bells turned out to be a hazard because in almost no time, they were flying off shoes everywhere and were like little marbles all over the course. I lost my little bells on the Big Mama-Jama hill.

Oh, the hills. I suppose that whole commercial zone was built into a bowl around the James River. The steepest feeling hill was the Big Mama-Jama I mentioned above, but that one was relatively short and brutal and over, with a lovely fast downhill when we turned around in a cul-de-sac at the top. Then, up another hill, through an office park, and back down a gentler slope, until we got to the run-killing half mile hill. MapMyRun shaded the hill when I mapped the course for its elevation change. The course leveled out a bit, but still was slightly an uphill battle the rest of the way in.

There were cars in the course, as I suppose there had to be since we were running through a mall at Christmas time and an apartment complex is right next to the mall. The police were very friendly, but one driver was not. Sorry we ruined her day. The bells were a nuisance on the road as well, and fortunately I only stepped on one, and even though it was right in the middle of my instep, it wasn’t as painful as it could have been. My main complaint was that the Dog Walk took place in the last half mile of the race route, so after the hill from hell and being close to gassed, I had to contend with walkers, dogs, people pushing wheel chairs, and kids. I managed, but I wish that maybe they had marked off a separate route for the walkers and dogs, or timed it so they were in that section while the racers were off in the office parks and off the mall property.

Without music, I focused intensely on a visual I had in my head of the race clock at the finish. I kept imagining it with random numbers like 28:50 or 29:10 or even 31:52 (though I kept banishing that one). The hills were so painfully slow and I felt time slipping away from me. I began to make myself accept that I had not accounted for such a hilly race, and maybe this wasn’t the race for a PR. As I turned back into the mall parking lot for the end, I spotted Byram and Grace pretty easily and tried to smile at them, but just as I saw them, I realized I could actually see the clock.
Photobucket
It had something in the upper 28 minute on it and I lost any focus or control on my pace and breathing. I WAS going to make a sub-30 minute 5K if I would hurry the hell up! I pushed hard and tried to sprint for the finish but I really was gassed. I am sure I looked like I was running through mud, but it felt like I was flying. As I passed the clock, it read 29:30 as I hit the line and went into the longest chute ever, and they were yelling “Don’t slow down! Keep going!”

Ugh. It took me a minute to regain composure and controlled breathing but by the time I hooked back up with the family, I was beaming. I saw 29:30 as I passed the clock. I made my goal.
Photobucket
I don’t know if I will run this race again. I disliked the course, and it had minor annoyances like the water station had its trashcans so close you only had time to grab a cup and splash water in your mouth before passing your only opportunity to toss the cup. I would encourage them to place the can a good 40 or 50 feet beyond the station in the future (I know how minor such a nit is to pick). It would have been nice if there had been water at the end of the race too. It was halfway across the parking lot and not in the direction of where we were parked. The dogs and walkers were a bigger annoyance, but not unbearably so.

It was inexpensive, very local to me, and I liked the DJ and the fact that Panera opened their doors, making life nicer for my family. I certainly appreciate the cause as well.

I learned my lesson about the end of the race though. Losing my focus and control left me feeling completely blown up after the race and I am not sure I gained any benefit in my speed. I also learned that gloves would be a lovely thing for all these Saturday morning training runs I am about to embark on. I hate when my hands are so cold they are stinging. Yeah, they were warm by the end, but it took a long time. I love my ear warmer sweatband! Yes, I might look ridiculous, but see the picture of me and Grace walking above and realize…I already DO look ridiculous and that is okay. Other than my hands, I was well prepared for the cold and also for the inevitable sensation of TOO WARM later on. I love that my pull over hoodie has a zipper for venting purposes and I had it all the way down at the end, and it came off after the race.

It was a hard race but a wonderful feeling to achieve what I set out to do and run the race in under 30 minutes. I am thankful for my family and their love and support. After the race, Grace told me she wants to learn to run with me. I could not be more proud.
Photobucket

***CROSS POST*** Getting Ready To Run

***I am cross-posting from my Muddaubber training blog since so many of you contributed to my fundraising efforts, you might be interested in my race efforts. I promise some knitting-centric posting soon.***

Jitters. I has them.

I wonder if pre-race jitters ever go away? This is really only my third start in a race, and being such a newb, jitters are understandable, I suppose.

What do I have to be nervous about? I have trained well. I have pushed my distance much further than the 3.1 miles I am running on Saturday morning. I am not worried about winning or not finishing. But the thought of standing in the chill air in a big crowd on Saturday morning still gives my stomach little flutters. Maybe it is 1 part excitement and 1 part anxiety. I don’t really know.

I feel very unprepared for this race. Not over my training or ability, but there has been no pre-race communication so far about where the race will begin, if there are packets, or anything. Writing this made me go check and packet pickup is tomorrow and Friday at a location on West Broad Street. My wonderful and incredibly supportive better half has volunteered to go and pick up my packet for me. Hopefully the packet will have more details in it, and I think just knowing the basic details will improve my jitters.

I really wanted to run a sub-30 minute 5K. That would mean a race pace of 9:30 or so a mile but I have not successfully achieved that pace for any real distance in my training runs. If the course is fairly flat and I am in optimal shape that morning, I might be able to dig deep and go all out to meet that goal. We will see.

I am going to run at lunch today, an easy 2 miles, and then rest tomorrow and Friday. I am watching my hydration and figuring out nutrition and all. My biggest challenge is eating Saturday morning. If the race goes off at 8:30, I probably need to eat no later than 6:30.

I realize this is just a fun run for a charity, but can you tell I really, really want a PR? And I want it to be a significant PR. Not, you know, 5 seconds better. I guess I really want to cut 3 or 4 minutes off my standing record.

Now I know the source of my nerves.

My brain is trying to prepare myself for disappointment and my heart is telling my brain to go bugger off.

A Rather Scathing Post So Prepare To Be Offended

I had been under the impression, given what I was seeing on the web and the protests in the streets, that an anti-consumerism movement was building in our country. I was seeing petitions sent around to encourage Target to rethink its Thanksgiving night opening. I was seeing backlash against the box store race to see who could open the earliest on Thanksgiving. I was reading commitments everywhere to shop locally and avoid the stores on Black Friday.

I think we are a county of Big Talk and No Action.

We can talk ourselves blue in the face about the horrible commercials (Crazy Target Lady, anyone?), the insane opening hours, the burden put on employees forced to work overnight (meaning they have to be sleeping during the holiday so they can be up all night), and the fact that stores are having to hire off-duty police officers to work as security, but our actions speak far louder than our words.

Given that Black Friday set a sales record this year, and the fact that 14 million MORE people participated than in 2010, I would say all of that anti-consumerism rhetoric was worthless.

I know it is the tradition of some families to shop together the day after Thanksgiving. But what was once a quaint and friendly experience has spiraled into some sort of macabre race to the bottom of civilization.

I withheld my dollars on Friday. I didn’t spend a dime. According to one Salon.com columnist, that makes me “nutty” as I was willfully damaging our economy (while out of the other side of his mouth, he bashes the same consumerism, but that is the advantage of being a hypocrite, I suppose), but even though I was antsy and a little cabin-fevered, I was not going out to engage in ANY commercial enterprises. It was a protest of my own.

Saturday was Shop Small Business day (coined a couple of years ago by American Express so consider that for a moment!). The sentiment is better, but it is still a celebration of crushing consumerism. My family did venture out on Saturday and we engaged in the most local activities we could think of. We visited Maymont Park in the heart of Richmond, and gave a tiny bit of money to the foundation there, while engaging in a very family friendly and physically active activity. From there, we ate lunch at a local non-profit restaurant called Positive Vibe Café. The restaurant works to train people with disabilities in the food service industry to help them find meaningful employment. The rest of the afternoon was spent with friends, celebrating the 4th birthday of one cute little guy named Noah.

Don’t get the idea that I am opposed to spending money or giving generous gifts at Christmas. I am opposed to indebting myself at a 15% interest rate to create a mirage of wealth and prosperity when that is not the case. I am not opposed to getting gifts from a big box store, I am opposed to huddling in the cold dark, waiting for the magic moment the doors open and rushing in for a smash and grab style of shopping, hoping not to get injured in the press of bodies. I am especially violently opposed to the one-upsmanship you see among some families over who can give the most expensive gifts.

I recently saw an article that said giving handmade gifts for Christmas is a tremendous faux pas and a horrible embarrassment to both the giver and receiver. I was so disgusted with the article that I didn’t go beyond the opening paragraph to see what gifts the writer felt were not embarrassing, but I would bet they recommend things like fancy jewelry or electronic gadgets.

Here’s my feeling on the matter. If I give a handmade gift to a family member who is too embarrassed by it to be gracious about it, then maybe we have a fundamental problem in the foundation of our relationship. I can spend $10 on a ball of sock yarn and make a unique and beautiful pair of warm and comfortable socks, or I can spend $10 on some random, plastic tchotchke. Which one is really more valuable? What has been hard on my pride is the deluge of gifts we have received from our families while in turn, we hand over a pair of socks, or a pillow, or a shawl, and a gift card, and while opening a bag with an $80 comforter or $40 curtains in return. So yes, I can understand the embarrassment factor in that.

For me, though, it has become an embarrassment I have to accept because I am unwilling to swipe a credit card so we can do a little better at Christmas by our families. When we committed a couple of years ago to get out from under our credit card debt and not live on credit anymore, it put quite a crimp in our Christmas gifting style, unsurprisingly. We turned to handmade gifts and smaller things like gift cards to restaurants to give our families, all of which have been well-received, and I believe they understand our effort to be self-sufficient and not debt-burdened, even at the expense of nicer Christmas gifts.

The comment made at the Salon.com article I cited above by Mr. Leonard about not shopping really set me off this morning (as you can probably tell from this rant).

The full quote is as follows:
Let me be clear. I am not opposed to vigorous sprees of retail spending. For the sake of the U.S. economy, I would love to see a robust Christmas shopping season and I plan to do my part. I find the notion that we should “occupy Black Friday” and withhold our consumer dollars as a way of hitting back at the 1 percent just nutty. Voluntarily subtracting demand from the economy hurts us. A general consumer strike would result in more layoffs and pay cuts and bankruptcies and foreclosures. Sure, Wal-Mart would take a hit, but so would Wal-Mart employees.
(First, I am so over the tired little phrase “Let me be clear.” Thanks a lot for that one, President Obama!)

Unemployment is still very high, incomes are much lower than they were several years ago, and the economy IS teetering right now, leaving many people to wonder if they will still have jobs in 2012, so for many people, the only way to have a “vigorous spree[] of retail spending” would be to do so with a credit card. One of the many things (and there ARE many things) that got us into the Great Recession in the first place was people spending more than they could really afford, and kicking their debt can down the road in hopes that their incomes would rise over time. (See subprime mortgages for more detail.)

When I say Occupy Christmas, I don’t have any specific demands or a legislative action plan or anything. What I mean is I want people to spend within their means, don’t allow pressure from marketers, media, and peers to force you into a “Keeping Up With The Joneses” situation. I don’t want to tell anyone what or how to give Christmas gifts. What I want is to see all of us take a deep breath and step back from the insanity we saw across America last Friday. Think. Don’t let commercials and marketing whip you into a frenzy.

Christmas shopping should not require bringing along a homemade pepper spray neutralizer or wearing a Kevlar vest.

I guess we can at least say no one died this Black Friday, right?

Our Local Thanksgiving

Well, my challenge to myself was to source as much of our Thanksgiving Day feast foods as locally as possible. I am annoyed at myself because every year, we always take a picture of our spread and this was the first year I failed in that, and this is the first year it really mattered to me what our spread looked like.

So, starting with the blatantly unlocal stuff. I did not extend my challenge as far as the goods other family members were bringing. Anna Jean was bringing deviled eggs and Dottie was bringing the beloved dish affectionately known as “green glop” (lime jello, pineapple, and marshmallow salad) and pumpkin pie. Because cranberries don’t seem to grow in Virginia and I really do like cranberry jelly, I got a plain old can of cranberry jelly. Next year, I am going to make my own. The white potatoes came from the store because I couldn’t find decent white potatoes at the farmers market except for tasty small new potatoes that would not make good mashed potatoes. And of course there was the Savory Toasted Cheese.

Other than those items, pretty much everything on the table, down to the fresh herbs for seasoning, were local.

Of course the star of the show was the turkey. At $6.50 a pound, it was really hard on our budget. One would hope that for $95, it would be the most amazing turkey you have ever tasted.

Fortunately, it was. Yes, I will spend $100 on a turkey again. I brined it in a fairly unscientific brine of a cup of sea salt, a half cup of brown sugar, a variety of herbs and garlic, in enough water to cover the bird for about 18 hours in a 5 gallon lined drink cooler out on the back porch overnight.

I worked very hard this year to smooth out timing issues that have been plaguing me over the past several years. I spent most of Wednesday afternoon doing a lot of pre-cooking. I made my mushroom stuffing and melted the STC together, I sliced and boiled the sweet potatoes for my sweet potato casserole. I mandolined all the veggies for my “root vegetable salad” and got them coated in their olive oil and herb coating to sit in the fridge overnight. I really need a nicer name for that dish since “roasted root vegetable salad” sounds shockingly unappetizing, but the end result is a delicious, sweet and savory dish of perfectly cooked squash, purple onions, carrots, garlic, parsnips, and garlic cloves.

All this prep work made Thursday morning the most relaxed Thanksgiving morning I have ever had. I still had to be up at 6am to get Tommy in the oven, but that didn’t bother me. If the pan goes in the oven length-wise, it leaves enough room on the side to put a smallish dish in next to it, which meant things like the dressing (I do actual stuffing in the bird and dressing in a dish for those who are concerned about contamination, even though I also check the internal temperatures of the stuffing) and the sweet potato casserole could be baking simultaneously with the bird. I was religious this year about checking on Tommy and checking his internal temps as the morning went on. There was NO way I would risk over- or under-cooking him. At exactly 11am, as my plan had been and thankfully worked out to be, he had reached the appropriate temps I was looking for and out he came for a good long rest. That allowed the root veggies plenty of time for their one-hour roast.

At 1pm, everything was ready to serve. Byram had a very hard time carving up Tommy because the physiology of the bird was unlike any regular turkey we have ever had. He had more muscle, fascia and sinew, tougher skin, and was more boat-shaped than flat and round like an ordinary turkey, so he would not lay flat on the cutting board (or the roasting pan for that matter).

One of the things that really startled Bryam and I as we worked with the bird (though in different ways) was just how physically different it was. The giblets were HUGE compared to a regular bird, as would be necessary since he lived outdoors, moved very freely, and could even fly (a regular bird cannot fly, even if it had access to space to do so). It would of course need a larger heart to move more blood. Its internal cavity was huge as well to accommodate all those larger organs. The breast was smaller (but not by a whole lot) but the thighs, legs, and wings were much bigger, and the dark meat was absolutely delicious.

For all the expense and worry and work of getting it right, that was the most amazing turkey we have ever had. Interestingly enough, the skin was not especially tasty, though I didn’t add a ton of seasoning directly to the skin, just smeared it with butter and a little salt before roasting. I usually find the skin on a regular bird to be yummy. It didn’t matter that the skin wasn’t tasty though. The meat itself was so good that you didn’t need the skin for extra flavor.

As for the rest of the table, the food was generally really good too. The mashed potatoes flopped, but they were the last dish I put any effort into and I don’t know if it was the choice of potato (russet) or the much larger quantity I made than usual, but I couldn’t get any flavor into them no matter how much half and half, milk, butter, and salt and pepper I added, and I could not beat the lumps out of them. Ah well. Of all the things to flop, mashed potatoes were the least important.

The roasted vegetables turned out to be a big hit when in the past they have been less popular. And shock of shocks, even though there was “bird-free” dressing on the table, everyone kept going for the stuffing we had taken out of the bird, even all those who are generally fearful of it. That blew my mind. And they all loved it too.

All in all, I would call the Local Thanksgiving Challenge a big success.

Now the big question. So how about the budget? Excluding things I always have in the house like flour, salt, eggs, milk, chicken broth, and butter, which of course do add to the total, but were not bought specific to this meal, the total for my part of dinner came out to be about $120.

That is a lot of money, but then I broke it down further. I fed 8 people one meal. That works out to $15 a head. So that makes my Thanksgiving dinner about the price of a decent sit down dinner in a restaurant (excluding drinks). But then, I sent leftovers home with 2 people who didn’t have to make dinner that night. So that is 10 meals.

Friday morning, we ate leftovers for breakfast. Call that 2 more meals (since Grace didn’t eat as much and I don’t eat a huge portion), so we are up to 12 meals served, bringing the cost down to $10 a meal. We continued to eat leftovers for lunch and also dinner on Friday. Add 4 more meals to our overall Thanksgiving meals. Now we have served 16 meals from that dinner.

Saturday was a Thanksgiving-free day, and we splurged on things like homemade steak, eggs, and bacon for breakfast, lunch at a local, charitable restaurant, and dinner with friends.

Byram was 100 % done with turkey but we still had a bunch leftover, so since he was gone all day on Sunday, I made a sort of Mexican Turkey chili thing. Grace wouldn’t eat anything so spicy, so I made her steamed broccoli leftover from the head I bought at the farmers market for Thanksgiving, and served her rewarmed turkey pieces and rice. I had the Mexican chili on rice for lunch and dinner, which my mom ate as well. I would call that one real serving since it was just turkey even though it fed 3 of us for last night’s dinner. That makes 17 meals, and there is still enough turkey left that I intend to make into turkey salad to eat for lunch, which I would call one last small meal, bringing the tally up to about 18 meals served out of the $120 I spent on Thanksgiving.

That brings my total to about $6.67 per meal served. Yes, $120 is not playing around money, especially when our budget is squeezed to the limit right now, but getting that many meals out of it makes it surprisingly economical when you consider the grand scheme of things.

So, my conclusion is that I loved the local challenge and even with the insanely expensive turkey, it was no so expensive as to prevent me from doing it again. What a wonderful experiment this turned out to be.

If I do Thanksgiving at my house next year, I would do this again, and I would tweak only a couple of things like maybe I will serve roasted local new potatoes instead of plain old mashed potatoes and I will get green beans while they are in season and blanch and freeze them or can them while they are fresh to serve in November. I will make my own cranberry jelly from non-local cranberries, but without all the HFCF in the Ocean Spray stuff. But that is about all the changes I would make.

Thanks for following along if you are still with me, 1700 words into my wrap up. I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Next challenge: Occupy Christmas and make it Local! I will come up with details and ideas and post soon.