My first Thanksgiving back on US soil in a couple of years was just what the doctor ordered! It began on Wednesday when Katie and I hopped in the car to begin the seven-hour drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Having watched the first six Harry Potter movies over the past several weeks, we listened to the audio book of the last in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on our way up. It was great driving weather and we found ourselves at my aunt's house in Hot Springs before we even realized it.
Truth be told, my aunt's house isn't actually in Hot Springs. Each year more and more of my relatives move further out to the peaceful countryside. The aunt with whom we stayed owns a house way out in the woods, far from the hustle and bustle of city life. When I was a child we used to come out there for bonfires and s'mores. Now the accommodations are much nicer but the stars are still bright and unobstructed by ambient light.
Even though I haven't seen my aunt and uncle for almost a year, we were welcomed with open arms as if we had just been there yesterday. We spent a relaxing night there then began Thanksgiving day with a run along dirt roads, passing by several neighboring farms. The weather was in the 30s and cold air and the smell of fires in fire places filled the nostrils as we ran. Harry Potter 7, clear starry skies, running in cold weather, the smell of fires . . . I could have been back in Lausanne!
Running was fun. Each residence along our road had one or more dogs who came out to see who the runners were and then followed us as we ran. I felt like the pied piper with dogs coming out of each farm to trot along beside us, nipping at our hands and heels.
And it's a good thing we got some exercise in because Thanksgiving Dinner (which begins at noon and lasts all afternoon) didn't help my fitness goals. Neither did sitting around watching football all afternoon! But it was great just to kick back, eat great food, and enjoy the benefits of being back so close to the family I love.
Dinner was at another aunt's house, also out in the country. She has a farm there with dogs, chickens, cattle, horses, and lots and lots of pasture land. Not everyone was able to make it but we were thankful for those who could. Plus it was fun playing around with my aunt's livestock.
On Friday Katie and I continued our Thanksgiving weekend movie tradition and saw The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Houston's own Wes Anderson. It was very enjoyable and, of course, featured a great soundtrack. We then spent the evening with my aunt on my mom's side going out to dinner at Brauhaus, a German restaurant downtown. I didn't expect to be dining on Bavarian cuisine so quickly after having left that part of the world--and I especially didn't expect to do it in Arkansas--but the schnitzel was very good! Here again, though, the primary benefit was spending time with family.
Saturday Katie and I made our way back, still listening to Harry Potter. It's a good thing we missed most of the day's schedule of college football, because most of the games I cared about were very forgettable. However, the Rice volleyball team has been dominating. After winning the Conference USA tournament, they beat #17 LSU in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I've spent almost as much time supporting Rice volleyball as I have football, so I'm thrilled for the Owls and hope they can keep it up.
Pics are in my facebook album.