Jen’s Friday Night Insights: Home for the Holidays

Ah, the holidays. The time of year when families join together to give thanks, exchange gifts and go completely insane. Yes, the last one. Go. Completely. Insane. 

We’ve all seen the late October, running into January commercials. Happy families sitting around the dinner table, kids breaking the wishbone of the devoured turkey, Christmas trees with zillions of presents, couples exchanging brand new Range Rovers and grown adults wearing matching pajamas. If only that were reality. 

My husband and I have been together for 14 years. I have three siblings who all have significant others. We have cousins, aunts and uncles, in-laws and extended family friends. This is a recipe for disaster when it comes to the holidays. 

Let’s look at Thanksgiving first. For years, we would eat at least two Thanksgiving meals on the last Thursday in November. First up, typically my parents’ house around 1 p.m. My whole family would be there. Mom, Dad, my sister, her boyfriend (soon-to-be husband), my brother, his wife and their two sons, my other brother, my aunt, my uncle and two cousins. There were 14 of us in total. We would all help in the kitchen and bask in the glory of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce and gross peas. Arguably, the best meal of the year. Football was on in the background, and the meal was complete after finishing off a piece of pumpkin pie. 

The tryptophan coma would kick in, and we would all sit around chatting, watching football or falling asleep on the couch. The meal took hours to cook and 15 minutes to eat. The resting period didn’t last long. By 3:30 p.m., we were out the door and on our way to my in-laws’ house. 

The evening scene was different. It was a smaller affair with parents, my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law. The six of us would put the finishing touches on the meal, pour the wine and devour our second meal in three hours. Then we would sink into our second tryptophan coma. After playing games on the Wii and drinking too much, we’d sober up and go home. 

We would end the day exhausted and full. We had survived the chaos of the day and would spend the entirety of the next day in recovery while eating leftovers from two family Thanksgiving feasts. 

We performed this ritual for nine stressful years until we started to dread the holiday. My sister and her husband moved to Napa, California, my brother got divorced and only had my nephews every other year. My cousins were getting ready to go to college and it was becoming increasingly more difficult to coordinate families. We decided we would host a joint Thanksgiving with my family and my in-laws. 

Looking back, the first year went pretty well. 

We prepared two turkeys one fried and one smoked on my dad’s yellow charcoal Weber kettle grill that’s easily 50 years old corn casserole, green bean casserole, two types of mashed potatoes, two types of stuffing, gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce, candied yams, gross peas and two pumpkin pies. 

We spent hundreds of dollars on decorations, glassware, food and serving platters. But it was totally worth it because we’ve hosted every year since. Obviously, this year will be a little different, but we’re not skimping on any of our dishes. But it’ll just be us and my parents. 

Christmas is a completely different beast. My sister and her husband come to town and stay at our house. We have to coordinate our family’s festivities with my sister’s husband’s family’s festivities, my brother’s family festivities and my in-laws’ family festivities. Jiggling and shifting times to accommodate 40-plus people is a masterful feat, but we manage to pull it off every year. 

Christmas Eve was reserved for my in-laws. Dinner, presents, games and drinks filled the night, and we always included uncles, aunts and cousins, alternating between houses every year. We would race home afterward and immediately turn the television to TBS to watch 24 hours of “A Christmas Story,” waiting for my sister and brother-in-law to return from his family festivities. My sister and I would laugh, watch the movie and wrap any last-minute presents we had. Those are some of my favorite memories. 

Christmas morning started at 9 a.m. at my parents’ house. Coffee with my mom’s special version of her homemade Baileys Irish Cream is immediately offered as we walk in the door, along with a variety of sweet bread. The artificial tree has taken different forms over the years, from a tall fir tree to a small tabletop fir. Now, it’s a plastic, shimmery, red tabletop tree that ornaments can’t adorn because of its material makeup. Presents spill from the living room into the dining room, and the 11 of us take turns opening them. 

We take a break in the middle of tearing our presents open to eat eggs Benedict and drink champagne. I must eat eggs Benedict twice each year once on Easter and once on Christmas. It’s tradition. We go back to presents and stockings after our Christmas brunch, and finally, end the morning with piles of gifts in front of each person. We neatly organize them and pile them into our cars. 

My sister and brother-in-law race to their next festivity, and the same for my brothers. It’s back to the in-laws’ for us where we enjoy Christmas prime rib, imbibe on a variety of drinks, play games and eventually go home. 

It’s exhausting. It’s filled with new and old memories. It’s spending time with family. It’s crazy, and it’s the holidays. Yes, this year will likely look different for all of us, so hold on to the old memories, and look forward to making new ones.

Now for some football. 

Jen’s Week 11 Friday Night Insights

Week 11 brings us some big news. News that everyone seems to be freaking out about. Drew Brees is suffering from several cracked ribs and a collapsed lung. Everyone assumed the Saints would lean on their backup QB, Jameis Winston, but head coach Sean Payton had different plans. Enter Taysom Hill

Taysom Hill (QB, New Orleans Saints) 

Taysom Hill has never thrown a passing touchdown in the NFL.

Taysom Hill signed a two-year, $21 million extension in the off-season with the Saints. He is a utility player, mirroring only the likes of Kordell Stewart. Hill serves as a quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver, full back and assists with special teams. It would seem that the only role he hasn’t filled is that of a punter. The guy can do it all. And it’s time for him to earn his $21 million, filling in while Brees heals. 

Hill has to prove his value in the next two weeks as the Saints face off against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 11 and the Denver Broncos in Week 12. He has yet to throw a touchdown since signing with the Saints in 2017. 

His other stats in the QB position include 205 yards and one interception. Yikes. Payton is putting his money where his mouth is and is taking a gamble on starting Taysom Hill this week. My advice? Leave Hill on the waiver wire and look at trading if you need a quarterback this week. 

Derek Carr (QB, Las Vegas Raiders)

Another quarterback to consider is Derek Carr. Alright, so he had a rough outing last week when they faced the Denver Broncos. He had 154 passing yards and 10 rushing yards against their divisional rivals in Week 10. However, going up against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11, we could see a turnaround for Carr. In the last three weeks, he’s been unable to reach the 200-yard passing mark and hasn’t had more than 25 attempts in any of those contests. 

He’s due for a big game as Kansas City comes for a visit in Week 11. Leaning on Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow in the end zone will certainly help. In a Week 5 win against Kansas City, Carr was 22 of 31 for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Could we see a repeat performance? That’s yet to be determined, but if history is any indicator of future success, Carr should have a pleasant run-in with the Chiefs this weekend. 

I always end my columns with a game day drink, and this week is no different. 

I’m here to join the conversation, drink in hand and watch this crazy COVID-19 year unfold. Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving! 


Game Day Drink Recipe for the Week:

Thanksgiving Apple Cider Moscow Mule 

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 4 oz hard apple cider
  • 4 oz ginger beer
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Dash of cinnamon 
  • Combine vodka, cider, ginger beer and lime juice with ice in a copper mug and stir for about 30 seconds. 
  • Sprinkle cinnamon on top, and enjoy! 

Thanks for reading and follow me on Twitter for more motherly and fantasy sports advice @JenPolvogt.