my roommate's gone! to hawaii! for 2 weeks! that was the realization slowly creeping into my head this morning when i woke to an empty house. in fact, the whole neighborhood seems empty, with about half the cars gone. thanksgiving day. temperature outside read 28°. first thing i did was to move my roommate's bicycle to the basement. with him out of the lower 48 for the time being, his bike would only take up valuable bike parking real estate.

i left for belmont via motorcycle. i wore a pair of black north face denali thermal mittens i found last winter. they actually worked, keeping my hands toasty warm. i just wasn't used to riding the bike without the use of my fingers, it felt clumsy. fortunately there was hardly any traffic; even normally busy mass ave was empty of cars. the only part of my body that was cold was the sides of my face and around my neck.

the first thing i heard when i got to belmont was that hailey the dog might be sick again. she'd been sleeping all morning but greeted me with her usual enthusiasm. she was in a hurry to go outside so i let her into the backyard where she went to the bathroom. once came back inside it was time to do some last minute cleaning. i vacuumed the living room for the 3rd time this week and then vacuumed the rest of the house. my mother and sister were busy making food preparations while my father was still at the cafe, making lunch for my great uncle and cutting some beef with the meat slicer.

the 19 lbs. turkey finally went into the oven around 1:00. i read that the normal baking temperature is 325° but my mother and sister wanted to speed things up so my mother set the oven to 350°. in any case, the turkey should be ready by 5-6:00, just when the other guests will arrive (5:00).

when my father came back in the mid-afternoon, he brought back my 2nd aunt and my uncle, who weren't supposed to arrive until 5:00. my 2nd aunt helped with the food preparation. my uncle, who basically had nothing to do, sat by the dining room table and read a stack of old national geographic magazines my father had prepared for him. we also expanded the leaves on the table to its maximum size.

my father returned to the cafe around 4:00, to pick up my great uncle and our relative binbin. he left early because he said it takes time to get my great uncle ready.

throughout the day we received a few well-wishing from distant relatives. my grandmother actually called in the afternoon from fremont (california). i asked my mother what they ate for thanksgiving, and she said they just get the pre-prepared thanksgiving combo meal from their local supermarket. they don't do it up big like us since none of my relatives there are in the food service industry. later in the evening my 2nd cousin called from los angeles to wish us a happy thanksgiving.

close to 5:00 my mother noticed that the oven was smoking. my sister said it was just a natural part of turkey cooking but when i opened up the oven, the juices at the bottom of the pan were smoldering. so much for cooking the bird at 350°! the turkey was ready. my mother removed it from the oven and i moved it to the dining room area.

by then my father came home with my great uncle and binbin. hailey barked at them at first (like she did with my 2nd aunt and uncle) but stopped once she realized they were friendly. binbin handed out greeting cards to everyone; maybe she thought it was a christmas dinner. she also handed gifts to my parents, a leather kindle case for my father and a large photo-insert snow globe.

when my aunt lili and uncle matthew finally showed up close to 5:30, everyone pretty much started eating, even though my parents and myself were still busy in the kitchen. my mother was finishing the last of the fried spring rolls and my father was cooking the mussels. normally we do a bag at a time, but he wanted to save time and cook them all at once, which turned out to be a mistake since the mussels open up when cooked and could barely fit inside the large frying pan.

for me, thanksgiving is as much about eating as it is about food photography. lessons learned every year i seem to forget, so i'm writing down some observations, in the hopes that next year i'll take some better photos. macro with flash is the way to go for most foods (60mm f/8 1/125sec IS0400). the other lens to use is the wide angle, to get those food landscape shoots and to get as many people into the photos. i used second curtain slow sync flash (at aperture priority f/8 or f/4.5) to get some fill so the background won't be black. the only problem with that is if i'm moving or if the subject is moving, i can still get some blurriness, despite the flash (if i just used regular flashing, there wouldn't be this problem). next year i'm hoping to get a 50mm f/1.8 lens so i can try a few table portraits without using the flash.

i think it was the first thanksgiving for my 2nd uncle, or at least since the first one in a long time. it was definitely the first thanksgiving for binbin, who couldn't believe how much food there was. for a young woman trying to keep thin, it probably was overwhelming. as always, there was so much food, there were dishes on the table i didn't even get a chance to try.

as much food there was for thanksgiving dinner, there was just as much dessert. first came the strawberries, another dish my sister came up with. next the tiramisu that my aunt lili made on my request (which i relayed to my mother). that was followed by my flan pudding. and to top it off, a box of clementine oranges. i'm kind of sick of the flan. i think next year i may try making some chocolate lava cake.

my father brought home my great uncle just prior to dessert (he did have some flan before he left). after dessert, lili and matthew left, followed my 2nd aunt and uncle and binbin (my father took them home). binbin was making plans to meet up with friends in copley square to do some midnight black friday shopping.

i left close to 11:00. my mother said it was too cold and suggested i borrow one of the cars. with the temperature in the 40's, it was actually warmer than this morning. besides, i had my mittens. i also wanted to get home soon in order to avoid the rain that was heading our way, just in time for all those people waiting outside stores for post-thanksgiving bargains.