I have now successfully cleared a major cooking hurdle. The turkey turned out beautifully! We will definitely use the brining method again. We also made the Pioneer Woman's butternut squash puree - just as heavenly as she makes it sound! We forgot to prepare it the day before, so I microwaved the squash wrapped in paper towels for 30 minutes instead of cooking it in the oven, and that worked just fine. The only minor disaster (and what would Thanksgiving dinner be without at least one mishap?) happened in the gravy preparation. I had poured off the turkey drippings from the roasting pan into a small glass measuring container. I had set the container in the sink, so as not to make a mess all over the counter tops if I spilled. In the time it took me to turn the stove on and set the roasting pan on the burners, other people started using the sink to (A) dump out coffee grounds and (B) fill a pot with water. The addition of water and coffee grounds rendered our turkey drippings unusable for gravy-making (although I suppose we could have discovered a new gourmet treat - mocha gravy!). I ended up using butter instead of the turkey fat, and chicken broth in place of the drippings. Not quite as flavorful, but it turned out okay. And now I know that I can improvise a gravy!
I'm off now to join Aaron's family for pumpkin pancakes; yum!