Thanksgiving ‘Round the World

Posted By: DanaDiRenzo
Posted On: November 25th, 2019
Attending: Letterkenny Institute of Technology

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we thought it would be a nice idea to have a little Shalom House Family dinner last night. We’re all going to be busy the next few weeks and before we know it, it’s going to be Christmas break! So, last night was perfect for us all to get together and have one more fam dinner before we go our separate ways for a little bit.

This year will mark the 5th year that I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving. I was always away each year playing basketball with SFBKWBB in some pretty cool places! BTW, the featured image of this post is the annual Thanksgiving Snapchat of the talented Lorraine Hickman (feat. Kat Phipps and Maria Palarino). As a team, we played tournaments in Vermont, Colorado, and Florida, and celebrated Thanksgiving with families who so kindly offered to invite us into their homes and make us dinner (shout out to the Derda’s in Vermont and Coach T’s daughter and family in Colorado!) And of course, I can’t go without giving a HUGE shout out to the Hickman family for inviting us over every year to their house in Long Island for a huge feast! Mr. and Mrs. Hickman were amazing hosts and always made sure we had MORE than enough to eat. They even had to-go boxes for us so we could take leftovers back to the dorms, which would last us for days! We always loved going to their house as a team and seeing their two dogs, Murph and Seamus (pictured below). I also dedicate this part of the blog to Murph, who recently passed away. RIP Murph, you made us all smile every time we walked into your house!

Although I had some nice experiences the past few years away from home, I think it’s safe to say that I am really excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with my own family next year and with my Mom’s amazing cooking!

So, no one really understands or celebrates Thanksgiving here in Ireland, but our dinner last night kind of felt like our own take on the American holiday! We decided that we’d all contribute something different to the table: Kaylee made her signature salad, Léonie and Anna made a cheesy sweet potato dish (I think they called it some kind of gratin? Not exactly sure but it was really good!), Dom bought some nice garlic bread, and I decided to attempt my Dad’s famous lasagna recipe (and bake a dessert, of course). Anyone who comes to our house on Christmas Eve and has tasted my Dad’s lasagna knows it’s AMAZING. So, I knew trying to replicate it would be a challenge, but I did my best! Although Ireland doesn’t have the exact ingredients we’d use at home (Sorry, I can’t give away his secrets), I worked with what I had and actually made a pretty darn good lasagna if I do say so myself! (See before and after pictures below)

I felt a bit of nostalgia as I was preparing the lasagna and assembling it in the baking pan. Kaylee had also put on some Christmas music while we were cooking, which made things even more nostalgic! Each year before Thanksgiving, we’d pick a day to make our lasagna. We’d make one for Thanksgiving and freeze another one for Christmas Eve. I always looked forward to this day because JD, Leah, and I had so much fun helping my parents in the kitchen with our lasagnas. Plus, I knew it was getting closer to Christmas time (my favorite holiday) and my birthday, so it was always a great memory for me!

Fun Fact: My parents surprised me and JD one year on Thanksgiving and told us that we were going to have a new little sister. When they told us, my brother ran downstairs all excited and brought up one of my dolls from the basement. He said we were going to call the new baby Jessica. I guess that name wasn’t a fan-favorite, so she was named Leah instead. Maybe next time, JD! Pictured below: Leah and I goofing around on our lasagna-making day one year😝

Back to our dinner last night, we all gathered around the table once everything was ready and said a few words of thanks before digging in! The meal was delicious and we all had a good time just sitting around and talking. Then for dessert, I made chocolate chip oatmeal raisin cookies. Now let me tell you, it has been a bit of a challenge trying to bake here. Since baking requires precision and measurements, I’ve found myself having to Google a lot of translations between cups, milliliters, grams, etc. And if that isn’t annoying enough, we have a fan-assisted oven (aka a convection oven) in degrees Celsius! So, I also had to figure out how to adjust the heat and baking time for this kind of oven AND change the temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius. THE STRUGGLE! However, I can proudly say that I have conquered the measuring/temperature differences here and can resume my baking talents. I have to say, I was feeling pretty proud of myself when Léonie said that the cookie I made was one of the TOP THREE cookies she’s ever had! Not too shabby😉

So, our dinner was definitely a success, but I do have another one to look forward to this week on the actual day of Thanksgiving (Thursday, the 28th) with my Sport Changes Life Family in Belfast! I’m so excited to catch up with all of the other scholars and have some great craic😊

Traveler Tip #17

The other night, my teammate Ash bought something from a shop that she thought was “too dear.” This means it was expensive! Apparently, it’s a pretty common phrase here that we should have known by now (thanks Shannon and Ash!)

Until next time👋🏼

-Dana D.

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