What an action-packed few days we had when my family arrived last Tuesday afternoon. However now we are getting the house back in order, caught up on our sleep and back in our routine. Sadly, reality set in when Bennett awoke from her nap Saturday afternoon and all of her cousins were gone. She asked when we were going to see them again, and I have had to explain more than a handful of times that it will be next summer at the beach.
This Thanksgiving was a special one since all of my mom's side of the family (that we typically vacation with in Avalon, NJ during the summer) came to Birmingham for several days. The trip was initiated because my aunt and uncle and cousins wanted to attend a SEC football game. So over a year ago when Alabama was rolling all over the competition, we made the plans for everyone to come into town for the 75th Iron Bowl and Thanksgiving.
One of my cousins, Lisa, and her family stayed with us, while my parents bunked up at my brother's and everyone else stayed at A Loft. Everyone arrived Tuesday afternoon, and we kicked off our weekend with dinner at one of my favorite places, Bottega Cafe. Since none of them had ever been to Alabama before, we wanted to make sure they didn't think this was some backwards state with nothing to offer. So we all enjoyed a delicious dinner by a nationally renown chef, Frank Stitt, and several signature martinis and wine. Afterward, everyone came back to our house for more cocktails and to hang out. Don't ask me why, but the final episode of "Dancing with the Stars" was on, so we watched that (again, don't ask me why...).
Wednesday, Steve organized a tour of the Bryant-Denny Stadium, starting with lunch at the ever-popular dive place of Dreamland BBQ in Tuscaloosa. Everyone chowed on some ribs before taking in sites of the locker room, the press room, the field and the walk of champions! It seemed like everything was a photo opportunity, and they got some great ones!
Then we all headed to Brian and Shannon's house for a delicious beef tenderloin dinner. We had some more beer and wine, and then the adults got into a big pool tournament, while the children entertained themselves with all of the toys. After my father and John whipped up on every person at the pool table, we decided to call it a night. We did have two more big days ahead of us, so it was welcomed by all.
Thursday, we (the Mizeranys and Hovans) got up early and got into the mimosas. Then Kimo and Ku and the Forreys came over and we finished off the breakfast casseroles. Once all of the Bantas got there, the day was half over and we were starting the rest of the Thanksgiving festivities. My mother and I made several appetizers for everyone to snack on during the day, since dinner wasn't going to be served until 5-5:30. While the kids played, the adults chatted and watched football. Then it was time to deep fry those chickens and turkey! Steve had it all planned out, and he did a phenomenal job! The meat couldn't have been better, and it was done right when he said it would be. Thankfully I had Debbie and Shannon helping me with sides, and between the three of us, we had everything timed perfectly too.
Steve did the blessing and then we all took our seats and cleaned our plates. A sign that the meal was really good was that my Aunt Sue had seconds, something I have never seen her do!! It was so nice to have everyone with us for a time of the year when we are to be thankful. And though I never said it out loud that day (because I would have cried like a baby), I am so thankful for my family. They have done nothing but offer me love and support throughout my life. I have spoken to my cousins during challenging times in my life, and they were there during one of my happiest moments (when Steve proposed). Aunt Sue and Uncle Jim are two of the most generous people I know, enough said. Of course, I couldn't have done so much in my life without my parents, and for them I am so blessed. But who would think that I could have such a close relationship with my brother after such a crazy childhood. Now don't get me wrong, we really did love each other down deep, but we beat each other up and were so mean to each other for so many years, so it is nice to have it normal now. And to top it off, he married a wonderful woman who I have grown so close to over the past five years. So THANK YOU everyone for making the trip to Alabama to visit us (even if it was all for a football game).
Speaking of football, we got up nice and early and piled into a few cars and caravanned to Tuscaloosa for some tailgating in the cold weather before the biggest game of the season! We knew it would be cold, and we knew there would be a chance of rain, but almost all of us forgot gloves. So after being there for a short bit, we set out searching for anything to trap the heat. Thankfully I found some stylish hounds tooth gloves and an Alabama stocking cap. And then after a few bloody marys, I was feeling MUCH warmer. Before the game, we walked down sorority row to the quad so we could check out the scene. We caught a glimpse of some sports show airing (Steve would know what it was), and then decided to head into the stadium. Of course, we all know how it started, and then how it ended...but it didn't change the experience for everyone else. After some major traffic (due to a gas leak), we FINALLY made it back home after more than 2 hrs!
The night ended with some tearful good-byes, and then some more good-byes the following morning before the Forreys and Blairs caught their flight. We had a few more hours with the Hovans so we took a tour of the Vulcan and had a quick lunch, and then it was off to the airport.
What a WONDERFUL way to spend 4 days! There is nothing better than family, and Steve and I are so lucky to have so many terrific members of our extended family. So if you are reading this, know that we love you!