Having a Houseful on Turkey Day

Scents linger from the first holiday bash, Thanksgiving Day. Roasted and smoked turkeys. Mashed yukons blended with sweet potatoes. Stuffing and gravy, and fresh cranberries simmered with sweet orange marmalade. Sweet peas and a fresh green salad with jicama, avocado and mandarin oranges. Cheddar corn pudding and two different pies.

A feast!

Our Baja house was cooking — and not just with food.

Former Laguna residents Linda Wetzel and Mike Dorsey had joined us for the week from St. Helena, bringing special wines from the Napa Valley. Our son, Cooper Lee, and girlfriend Kerri Pike (daughter of my lifelong friend Merri) flew down from Oakland. Buster made the long drive down with Stephen and Mike, carrying the precious organic turkey treasure. Casa de Catalina was filled for the long weekend with laughter, music, beach dogs and neighbors.

As for the main meal, the female hands chopped, mixed and prepped, while the males tidied and made sure the coolers were filled with ice and refreshments. The dogs simply wagged their tales, anxiously waiting some tidbits of the savory fragrances wafting from the oven.

It’s fun and different to celebrate Thanksgiving in our home away from home. And lucky us, to mix up our family with new friends and acquaintances. From Seattle, the Garvett family, Don and Jamie, with their daughters, Ariela and Iliana, came to their own Baja home in Nopolo.

Friend and Realtor Alexander Ogilvie brought his girlfriend, Blanca, who was visiting from Cabo San Lucas. Brazilian eco-hosteller and divemaster Leon Fishbeck brought his 4-year-old son, Jose Leon.

Rounding out the crowd were our good local friends, Rigo, his wife, Leslie, and their 5-year-old daughter, Airam. A smattering of English mixed with Spanish and a few chosen French and Portugese phrases kept our language skills on point.

One of the gifts of both travel and of living in a foreign country is being exposed to alternative ideas.

Our conversations ranged from the hot topics — real estate and mortgage meltdowns — to the politics of oil, water and environmental protection. With contributions from a broad spectrum of ages and backgrounds, there were many opportunities to gain new information and expand closely held ideologies.

Just as dinner was about to be served, our part-time next-door neighbor, Paula Lawrence and our very own Laguna Beach City Planner, Monica Tuchscher, joined us for appetizers and a glass of white wine.

Magically, all the food was ready and appeared on the sideboard at the same time. Plates were piled high, and conversations softened as the task of filling tummies was taken on in earnest. “Ummm” and “yumm” and “can I have seconds?” were heard from room to room.

After dinner, the Garvett kids opened a game box, “Apples to Apples”, and a lively competition ensued.

“Apples to Apples” is a card game with two decks, Things and Descriptions.

A Thing card is laid down by one person who is the judge, and players select from the Description cards one they feel best fits the Thing. Lively politicking, family threats and cajoling come into play, as the judge picks the Description of his/her choice. The player with the most Thing cards at the end is the winner.

I found the game a hilarious way to better know my friends, as well as convince my son when he was judge, that he should grant me the Thing, even though my Description was way way stupid!

Stuffed and happy, the guests eventually drifted back to their own homes.

The dogs were rewarded for their good behavior (they aren’t beggars but know to wait their turn) with savory additives to their normal meals. Buster Junior had been happily integrated into the pack, and spent hours romping with his southern family.

If Thanksgiving is about blessings, then I certainly was gifted my fill. Memories of the afternoon and evening continue to sweeten the present.

Now, on to the rest of the holiday parties!

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