Thanksgiving in Michigan

So, it's the holidays again. Wow. November flew by in a blink!

I spent Thanksgiving in Michigan, like I always do, visiting my family and old friends. Lucky for me, this year I had an entire week to soak in the loveliness of the fall season in my home state.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it allows me to do something I address regularly on this site- reevaluate my habits and goals. For me, comparing and taking mental notes on what I would like to change, or goals I need to set is a critical practice. Going home allows me to really take in how much I've grown since I moved away and evaluate where I can move forward or take a step back. By the end of the week I inevitably flood my husband's phone with texts excitedly discussing what goals I want to set for the new year.

This time around was no different. I came back to New York yesterday feeling re-energized and a lot less overwhelmed by the prospect of finding a new job and checking off my to-do list. I'm starting tomorrow by decorating our apartment for the holidays and making a red pepper soup for the week. In the meantime, some photos from my trip home are below. Check them out and please share your favorite Thanksgiving traditions in the comments!

 Michigan apples and cider donuts at the Franklin Cider Mill. Always the first stop on my list.

Michigan apples and cider donuts at the Franklin Cider Mill. Always the first stop on my list.

 Leaves so pretty i successfully avoided raking them all week. not my best moment but... they look like confetti!

Leaves so pretty i successfully avoided raking them all week. not my best moment but... they look like confetti!

 We spent most of our time by the fireplace, reading and catching up with old friends. Also, drinking approximately 10 gallons of tea. Russians can't talk to each other without tea or wine. It just doesn't work.

We spent most of our time by the fireplace, reading and catching up with old friends. Also, drinking approximately 10 gallons of tea. Russians can't talk to each other without tea or wine. It just doesn't work.

I have a few traditions I always like to keep while at my parent's. It's a small list of items which help me appreciate my days off and soothe the homesickness between visits.

 Favorite reading nook. The lamp has a little tray for wine glasses or tea mugs!

Favorite reading nook. The lamp has a little tray for wine glasses or tea mugs!

  1. Sit and read in every warm and comfortable spot in the house.
  2. Drink my dad's coffee. He makes the best cup of coffee.
  3. Drink wine. Lots of wine. My parent's wine is better than my wine. Enough said.
  4. Eat my weight in my mom's cooking.
  5. Wear all my old baggy high school sweaters. Mostly to hide how much I'm eating and drinking. Also, because they are the ultimate in comfort and not fashion. That's what the holiday season is about!
  6. Take baths. Our tub in Brooklyn is too small!
  7. Eat a Greek Islands salad. (This is my death row salad. I love this salad. Ask me about this salad.)
  8. Visit Detroit and gape at how much the city has changed since I left in 2009.

Our Thanksgiving menu is always representative of the culture we came from as well as the country we've called home for over 25 years. We start with pickled side dishes followed by turkey and challah stuffing. Dinner is always punctuated by family and friends sharing that which they are grateful for. This year my mom proposed an update to our usual tradition. After we shared our individual toasts, names were drawn out of a hat and each person spoke to what the person on their card might be thankful for, without naming the name. Then everyone at the table had to guess who the toast had been about. Hearing what someone else thinks went well for you is great reminder to be thankful for the little things. Honestly, I get so wrapped up in my own world it was nice to hear what family and friends see and are happy for from the outside.

We wanted to make sure to have lots of different dessert options to accommodate various palates at the table. Without a doubt the baked pears filled with honey and walnuts, topped with melted chocolate and homemade whipped cream were the big hit of the night. (Recipe up soon!)

After dinner we sat around the fireplace, drank tea and cognac, and sang Russian folks songs. The night went well into the morning and culminated with everyone eating as second round of dinner around 2AM! Every year around the holidays this is what I look forward to the most. Slowing down, eating amazing food, and actually taking an entire evening to talk to people who are near and dear. It's a rare event and the best part of the season.

 For days I feel particularly insecure...

For days I feel particularly insecure...

After almost three straight days of eating and drinking everyone needed a break from the kitchen table. We rallied and went to explore the Detroit Institute of Arts. I hadn't been in years and it was nice to rediscover what a rich collection the museum houses. Old favorites like Modigliani and Soutine and fun new finds like the handsome woman to the right.

On Saturday night my mom got us tickets for a tour of the city. Usually I would scoff because tours where someone talks history at me for hours are boring, dry and the human equivalent of taking a Melatonin. Hanging out with Bailey, the owner Detroit History Tours was the total opposite. Her focus is on illuminating the 300 year old history of a city many wrote off for decades. She's knowledgeable and sharp, but also damn funny. I cannot recommend this tour company enough if you live or are visiting the area. Bailey brings to life the rich and fascinating history of Detroit and she also makes sure there are stops along the way to grab drinks at some of the city's oldest bars. You can find more information and schedule a tour here.

 The stunning front hall of the DIA.

The stunning front hall of the DIA.

 The Detroit Yacht Club, all decked out for Hanukkah. Obviously.

The Detroit Yacht Club, all decked out for Hanukkah. Obviously.

 Super cool in front of the tour bus.

Super cool in front of the tour bus.

I wrapped up my week by visiting old friends and eating my favorite salad. Of all the fancy food I've ever had no one dish has captured my heart quite like this one. Grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, onions, Kalamata olives, banana peppers, beets, and feta could come together to make the best $9 salad on the planet. I've tried recreating it time and time again but it's most satisfying when consumed in the fluorescent diner setting, with a good book and a Diet Coke. The secret is the dressing which I buy in bulk from the restaurant and cart back to NYC year after year. Sopping it up with the perfectly toasted pita bread is something I look forward to every single time I come home.

Happy Holidays, friends! I can't wait to share and hear how you're spending the season. Meal plans and decoration ideas coming up on the blog in the next few weeks.

 When you eat so much turkey and drink so much wine you just need your sister to lay down on top of you.

When you eat so much turkey and drink so much wine you just need your sister to lay down on top of you.