We hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner!

Fried turkey? Why not? A generous friend offered to fry a turkey for us and deliver it to our house. How kind is that!  And it was delicious.

I baked up a storm the previous day: I made an apple and cranberry crumble, a tangerine tart and cookies, as well as the cranberry sauce. On Thursday, we made mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing and roasted sweet potatoes. We didn’t follow the tradition to the letter because we don’t care for marshmallows with our sweet potatoes. We also had dinner rolls.

Cranberry sauce in the making
Cranberry sauce in the making

This was our first Thanksgiving as hosts and was a total success. The funny thing was that we were all foreigners, 4 Brits and me! But we had a great time. As custom dictates, the guys went upstairs to watch the Dallas Cowboys game, which was rather disappointing, and the girls stayed in the lounge and chatted away with a cup of tea in hand.

My table
My table

Back in the mists of time, a friend invited us to spend our first Thanksgiving ever at his aunt’s house in San Antonio. We weren’t sure what was going on but we had a fairly good time. We spent the next Thanksgiving with our friends from Salt Lake City, who used to live round the corner from the apartment in Buenos Aires. One more Thanksgiving in Boston and then we went abroad every year to visit whichever family we weren’t spending Christmas with. So hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time was a fun and pleasant experience.

My plate
My plate

 

What’s your favourite Thanksgiving dish?

If you do not celebrate Thanksgiving in your country, what’s your favourite holiday?

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Donating is easy in Dallas

Every so often I like to cull my wardrobe. The advantages are manifold: the closet looks tidy, there’s more space for new purchases and somebody else can benefit from it.

When I lived in Buenos Aires, I would put my old clothes and shoes in bags and take them to our local church, where there is a special receptacle for donations. Alternatively, I would simply put them outside the front door and they would be gone in no time. Or even give them to the cleaning lady.

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But when I moved to Dallas, I had no clue what to do, where to go, who to give things to. I did a little digging and found a charitable organization called Goodwill. In a nutshell, they receive donations and sell them in their own stores, benefitting people in dire straits by selling products at affordable prices and by providing jobs.

Goodwill has collection points all over the city but they sometimes change their location and it’s not always easy to find them.

The other day I got a flyer in the mail from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They asked for donations (clothes, shoes, books, toys and the like). I had a few things to give away so I called the number on the flyer.

makeawish0001

An automated phone menu guided me through the process. A voice asked me to punch the ID assigned on the flyer and to confirm my address. Once I did this, the voice asked me to leave everything outside my front door by 9.30 on the date printed on the piece of paper and to identify the bags clearly.

I left home Thursday morning and by the time I returned, everything was gone. They left a form for me to fill with the monetary value of my donations so I can deduct that from our taxes. The value is so low that in our case it’s not worth the trouble.

Donations ready

This may not come as a surprise to someone who lives in the US but to me, as a foreigner, it is a totally novel way of doing things. Very organized as well, which I like. Before, I would have never dreamed of deducting donation from taxes. It doesn’t feel very charitable. But it’s part of the local culture, so I embrace it.

Business and religion

One of the hot issues currently taking up pages in newspapers and air time in the United States is the impending Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case. In a nutshell, the Hobby Lobby case is about religious freedom.

According to this Washington Post’s article, “It all starts with the Affordable Care Act [popularly known as Obamacare]. The law stipulates that employers need to provide health care for their employees that covers all forms of contraception at no cost. However, some for-profit corporations have insisted they should not have to pay for all of these services — especially those that conflict with their beliefs.”

This is a very controversial issue whose outcome will have a huge impact on American society.

In-n-Out
In-n-Out

Religion plays a very important role in American society. People are outspoken about their beliefs and I find it surprising. Although my country is officially Catholic, religion is a private matter and Bible bashing is extremely rare. I’m still not used to discussing my beliefs or to people trying to ram theirs down my throat. I respect everybody’s opinions; all I ask is that they reciprocate.

The reason I mention this is because I’ve noticed that the packaging for some products contain biblical quotes. Some can say that I’m not very observant, having discovered this only a few years after moving to the United States and they will be right. Also, in connection with this, some stores are closed on Sundays, an uncommon occurrence in the land of consumerism.

In-n-Out fries container
In-n-Out fries container

I did a little digging into this. I began by going to these companies’ websites to find out why. The stores I know that close on Sunday are Chick-fil-A, Sam Moon, a Texas-based accessories company, and Hobby Lobby, a big craft store. According to the FAQ section on their website, Hobby Lobby closes on Sundays “… in order to allow our employees and customers more time for worship and family.” The same goes for Chick-fil-A, a restaurant chain specializing in fried chicken. I sent an email to Sam Moon’s Customer Service department asking why they close on Sundays. They kindly replied that “our company is Christian owned. Sundays are used for going to church and spending time with family.”

In-n-Out burger container
In-n-Out burger container

The packaging of the hamburger restaurant chain In-n-Out has Bible quotes discreetly printed. I also sent them an email asking about this but they never replied. It’s not difficult to imagine the answer, though. More surprisingly, if possible, the fashion retailer Forever XXI has a Bible quote at the base of their yellow bags. They did reply to my enquiry saying that “The Bible quotes on the bags reflect the founder’s beliefs.”

As far as I know, this happens only in the US, but I would love you to let me know if religion plays such a key role in business (and packaging!)

 

School zones

As an expat, I had to adapt to a new culture, to its rules and social mores. Actually, it was a conscious decision, I decided to adapt and adopt new customs in order to integrate. I know that some people prefer to stay in a close-knit group, speaking their mother tongue and not venturing much outside their comfort zone. This may work for them but is not enough for me.

school zone

One of the new –for me- aspects of living in Dallas is that of driving. One can’t practically exist without a car, especially living in the suburbs. I never owned a car in Buenos Aires because I felt it wasn’t necessary so this was a big lifestyle change.

I’ve been living and driving in Dallas for eight years now. Every so often I reflect on what is different from my hometown of Buenos Aires and school zones is one such thing.

There are signs that warn you you;’re about to enter a school zone and should reduce your speed to 20 mph only if the amber light is flashing. You can resume your speed when told to do so by another sign. Although cellphone use in the car is allowed, it is strictly prohibited in school zones. I you ask me, authorities should ban it completely. I see many idiots texting and driving at 70 mph on the highways.

Icemaggedon cometh to Dallas

This week was interesting for me weather wise here in Dallas.

We returned from Buenos Aires on Tuesday, where it was warm and sunny (it’s the beginning of summer.) It took us a day to acclimate to a Dallas, although it was mild. Wednesday was warm (27 C – 80 F) and sunny, a gorgeous day. However, the weathermen warned us about ice storms and freezing temps for the following days. Thursday was bleak: overcast, windy and cold, about 4 C (39 F). I had a tennis match which, to my chagrin, was not cancelled. To add insult to injury, I discovered I had a flat tire as I was backing out of the garage (Hubby came to the rescue.) And I lost (but it was good match, at least I enjoyed playing very much.)

This is what I woke up to on Friday
This is what I woke up to on Friday

On Thursday afternoon, we had sleet showers. Never a good sign. It rained the rest of the day and overnight. On Friday, I woke up to a white winterscape. What I thought was rain was in fact ice. We had an ice storm, the much anticipated “Icemaggedon.”

Stalactites hung from our front porch awning, street lamps, cars, tree branches. Plants, trees, and flowers were covered in a layer of ice. I felt sorry for the roses on my front patch of garden. Some neighbourhood kids went out on an adventure around the block and one of them started to trample on frozen plants for fun. My plants. I saw her, knocked on the window and shook my finger at her. She promptly left.

Frozen stiff Pampas grass
Frozen stiff Pampas grass

Today is the second day of Icemaggedon and temps are way below freezing. Most people I know are staying inside -and getting bored to tears. Unlike them, we went out to the mall. Driving on icy streets can be tricky but, luckily, my British husband has experience and drove us to the mall and back in one piece.

My street
My street

This is different from what I’m used to. Winters in Buenos Aires don’t get this cold. It snowed twice, as far as I know, in 1918 and 2007 (incidentally, my maternal grandfather witnessed both occasions) and we get “olas polares,” cold snaps from the South Pole but it hardly ever gets below zero. Weather in Texas is so unpredictable and so variable that I’m sure we’ll be wearing sunglasses and T-shirts in a few days.

I made this snowlady in my parents' backyard in July 2007. I named her Amalia.
I made this snowlady in my parents’ backyard in July 2007. I named her Amalia.

Actually, this is the second ice storm I’ve seen in Dallas. the first one was in February 2010, just in time for the XLV  Superbowl in the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington. Perfect timing, eh.

A neighbour's gas meter
A neighbour’s gas meter