Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I’ve always celebrated a Thanksgiving week as opposed to a Thanksgiving Day.
This year, it started with an all-nighter of cooking in the kitchen of Unity House for the Friends-giving of Sherwood. The Resident Advisors held a Friendsgiving dinner in the lounge consisting of lumpy mashed potatoes (I couldn’t find a proper masher), Kraft mac and cheese, and sliced turkey meat from the deli counter at Giant. The food wasn’t amazing but, the company was.
Then the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I had another Friendsgiving with some old high school friends. We sat around for hours and ate an unreal amount of pie and talked about what we don’t miss about high school.
The main event of Thanksgiving dinner is always a huge production in my house. My Mom spends days prepping the house for company. In our house, “The door is always open”. (We’re like a less trusting version of the Tanner family from Full House – our door is only open figuratively and both of my parents are still alive). We usually have anywhere from 23-38 guests, in addition to my family of five, joining us for Thanksgiving dinner. We have first cousins, second cousins, third cousin, aunt and uncles, college friends, exchange students, exercise buddies, neighbors, coworkers, stray pets – if you can name it, we have more than likely had them over for Thanksgiving dinner.
This year our guest of honor was a foreign exchange student who was staying with my cousins in Colorado for six months. She’s visiting from Sydney, Australia. We grilled her on all things Australian then she grilled us on all things Thanksgiving. Introducing her to all of our family’s weird Thanksgiving traditions was probably my favorite part about this Thanksgiving.
My family is very competitive, so every year we have a Thanksgiving Day tournament. This year in addition to playing Pit and Apples to Apples, we added cup pong and bowling. As the reigning Thanksgiving champion from last year (it says so in my Instagram bio, so you know it’s true), I got to start the tournament off. My sister designed the brackets and we had guest judges for each game. After a tie in nearly every competition, I passed the crown to Jordan as reigning Thanksgiving Day champion.
After the tournament we squeezed into the dining room and living room (we can’t all fit in the dining room) and sat down to eat. Before we can get our food, we go around the entire table and everyone has to say what they’re thankful for. This year there was an extensive amount of people who were thankful for family, food, and Steve Irwin. I think for that we can thank our guest of honor.
After dinner we ate dessert and watched my two grandmothers yelling at each other from their seats across the family room because neither can hear what the other one is saying.
“I’m getting old.”
“You’re feeling cold? Get a quilt.”
“I’m Irish not Scottish. We don’t have kilts.”
Thanksgiving will forever be my favorite holiday
Last week was fall break. This year it happened to line up with my older sister’s fall break which has never happened before. My mother decided we should all meet up and do a girl’s trip for a few days. We decided that Asheville, NC was a good midpoint between Huntingdon, Annapolis and New Orleans.
We started out by going shopping in the adorably artsy town that is Asheville. My mother bought so much Tupelo honey that she actually had to check her bag on the flight home. We also tried on a million pairs of shoes, several were described by my mother as ‘feeling like a butter’. Yes, apparently shoes can feel like a single butter.
Our next stop after shopping was the Asheville Pinball Museum. I’ve never been a museum person but this one was incredible. We spent hours playing old-timey pinball games and classic Pac Man and Donkey Kong arcade games.
We visited Biltmore Mansion, I saw lots of fancy tapestries and wood carvings and Mr. Biltmore’s mesmerizing library. On our way out of the Biltmore gardens, we saw a black bear about 30 seconds into a Chinese Fire Drill. I didn’t realize it until after we left, but that was by far one of the scariest moments of my life. The bear was so incredible to see that I momentarily forget my intense fear of bears.
The main reason my mother had wanted us to visit Asheville was to see the changing fall foliage. Unfortunately, the leaves were behind schedule and hadn’t started changing yet because the weather has been so crazy lately. We had to drive until at least 5000 feet above sea level to see even the slightest bit of color.
Even though we had an extreme lack of color in the foliage, we went on a driving adventure on the Blue Ridge Parkway to find some waterfalls. My sister sang “Waterfalls” by TLC for the entire car ride but the view more than made up for it.
I never really appreciated the mountains until I came to Juniata. Growing up in Annapolis meant that I spent most of my days 39 feet above sea level, crabbing and boating on the Chesapeake Bay. My only real childhood memory of mountains is from the trip we took to the Grand Canyon when I was nine. The mountains in Asheville were incredible and lush and honestly one of the prettiest views I have ever seen.
The views from the Cliffs and the top of 1000 steps in Huntingdon are beautiful, but they are nothing compared to the Smokey Mountains. The mountains of Huntingdon and the mountains of Asheville are vastly different and not at all what I am used to, but they are both immensely fun to explore.
I can’t wait to embrace my newfound love of mountains and spend more time exploring in Huntingdon. In conclusion, Fall Break was amazing, we did go chasing waterfalls and we did not stick to the rivers and lakes that we were used to.
This year I had the honor of being an Inbound leader for the incoming first year students. I signed up to be a hiking leader – I don’t know why. I am not a hiker and I have no idea what was going through my brain when I filled out the application, but I was determined to make the most of it.
The Inbound leaders of my group last year were fabulous. They were relatable and basically the spirit guides of my first week at Juniata. I wanted to be like them for my group of Inboundees.
We hiked several different trails, and I went through like a bottle and a half of bug spray, but it was worth it. On one of our hikes, an Inboundee licked a slug against our recommendation. Turns out, when you lick certain slugs, the bottom of a slug it makes your tongue go numb. It was quite the week of learning.
My 19th birthday happened to be on the second day of Inbound, and we had a mini birthday celebration at the lake. We stuck candles in Rice Krispy treats and wore birthday hats and tiaras while we kayaked. It was the first-time kayaking for some of our Inboundees, and it was really cool to share this experience with them.
We hiked 1000 steps (the name is a lie by the way – it is more than 1000 steps), and I barely made it up. At every break in the stairs, the group would all take a break and turn around to watch me drag myself up the steps about 100 feet behind them. Around step 300 I waved them ahead with the other group leader and stopped for a break. I decided I couldn’t handle anymore hiking and told them I would meet them on their way down.
They sent me inspirational quotes and pictures of the view at the top to motivate me to keep going. I arrived about 20 minutes later than everyone else but I made it. They all applauded me when I arrived at the top of the lookout and immediately collapsed on the ground in a heap, gasping for breath. After I got over the fact that my legs were so tired it felt like they would never work again, I appreciated all of their motivation and support. I almost gave up, but I didn’t. It awoke a new determination within myself for the rest of our hiking adventures. I still always ended up bringing up the back of the group, but I wasn’t as far back as I was before.
The last day of Inbound got rained out, so we made tacos in one of the residence hall kitchens. I was low-key thankful to not be hiking another day, and eating tacos was a better bonding opportunity in my opinion.
We hiked, went kayaking, made tacos, played a lot of ice breakers, and made some pretty strong friendships. I’d say this Inbound was a success. I hope I was as good of an Inbound leader as mine were.