Friday, November 28, 2008

The Canuck Version!

As one of two token Canadians here at TNG, I'm a little out of step with the rest of you guys. We had our turkey day up here in the Great White (er - *sneaks a look out the window* - Brown and Gold) North way back in the middle of October!!

Weird, I know, but we Canucks are a contrary lot.

It seemes but a distant memory now, although I do remember that John whipped us up a yummy meal (somewhat non-traditional as I recall - there are only two of us so the big feast idea just doesn't play). I also remember that I got the traditional "So, are you cooking a turkey?" call from my mother in B.C. (you may recall she finds my lack of culinary proficiency an endless source of amusement). It was a lovely, relaxed, quiet occasion - and those are rare around these parts lately, it seems.

Growing up, Thanksgivings was not ever so.

Reading the other posts from this week actually takes me back - to those celebrations crammed with food, family, more food, and then there was the food. And then everybody would slip into a post-dinner coma and things would get real quiet for awhile.

Now, as my friends and neighbors down south are preparing for a weekend of cranberry-stuffing jolity and gravy-soaked bliss, I want to wish you all the best on this holiday.

And live vicariously through your talk of turkey. Save me a piece of pumpkin pie!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and not just because of all the great food and the four-day-weekend (though certainly, that doesn’t hurt), but also because it’s the holiday when I feel required to take a moment to reflect, to think about everything I am thankful for. So here are a few reflections on my Thanksgivings past.

My Thanksgivings as a child, (the entire 80s decade, really), my parents, sister, and I drove from our house in suburban Philadelphia to my grandparents’ house in Pittsburgh. Most of these Thanksgivings blur together, into this warm sort of happy glow –It was an exciting holiday for me, because it was one of the only times a year we got to take the six-hour drive to Pittsburgh to go stay at our grandparents’ house. I remember waking up in the middle of the freezing, sometimes snowy night to make the drive, and being too excited to sleep in the car. These Thanksgivings are some of the happiest memories I have of my grandparents: my grandmother pulling a turkey from the oven and serving everyone too much food, my grandfather watching football from his chair, and slipping me, my sister, and our cousins, 20 dollar bills as we ran by him.

In the 90s, my Thanksgivings were spent in Philadelphia. The Thanksgiving after I’d started dating my husband (then, my high school boyfriend) we ate dinner with our separate families, but we spent hours talking on the phone after dinner. I remember it was the night that he told me, for the first time, that he loved me. We have spent every single Thanksgiving together since then, something I am always thankful for.

One year, in the late 90s, just after my husband and I got engaged, we had two big Thanksgiving dinners: first, with his family, then with mine. I have never ever been so stuffed in my entire life, and we swore that we would never do the dual dinner again. Never.

In this past decade, my husband and I had our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and our first one living in Arizona. The first year, we made a turkey in our small apartment, and we also had to turn the air conditioning on because it was still so warm outside. This just seemed imminently wrong to me – an air conditioner and a Thanksgiving meal? (Though, I’ve grown used it in the past 8 years.) We realized that an entire Thanksgiving feast was way too much for two people and vowed never to do it again just for ourselves.

For the next few years, we went out to dinner for Thanksgiving, just my husband and I – which maybe seems unusual, but was actually incredibly fun and relaxing. Same great food, no cooking, no cleaning up, an excuse to get dressed up and go to a nice restaurant. And we were apparently not the only ones with this idea – the restaurants were always unbelievably crowded.

This year, as we’ve done for the past few years since my kids were born, my parents and sister have come out to Arizona, and my mom and I are cooking the Thanksgiving feast for all of us. (Good news, by the way, I’ve already successfully made two pumpkin pies, some pumpkin muffins, and some chocolate chip brownies, all without any baking disasters!).

These past few Thanksgivings have been some of my favorites, mainly because I’ve had so much to be thankful for. This year, I’m thankful that I get to spend the day, again, with my amazing husband, my beautiful children, and my terrific parents and sister. I’m unbelievably thankful that in the past year my writing career has finally started to blossom into an actual career, and I’m thankful for the awesome agent Jessica and editor Jill who made this happen.

So Happy Thanksgiving! May everyone’s day be filled with wonderful food, family, and lots to be thankful for.

PS. Operation Pineapple Upside Down Cake was a success. . . sort of. My first attempt looked really nice, but it collapsed when I took it out of the oven. Then, with the help of Betty Crocker, I made an actual good tasting (but slightly scary looking) cake. So here’s the picture of the second one! (By the way, my son was responsible for the candle arrangement!!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Thanks

I think it’s the smells on Thanksgiving Day that really get me going. I love the way the fumes from the steam rising from the turkey permeate the kitchen when the top comes off the roaster. And the sweet smell of cornbread dressing makes my stomach growl just thinking about it. Then there’s the buttery aroma of the yams and the tart scent of the cranberry sauce that keeps me from wanting to eat one morsel of food until I sit down at the table with family and friends to thank God for what He’s provided me over the last year.

And I have so much to be thankful for in 2008. My youngest son, Will, received straight A’s for the first time since he was a young boy. He is at an art school in California for the first semester of his senior year, and it has challenged him to be the best he can be. Finally, he’s excited about going to college and the wonderful life he has ahead of him. My oldest son has a precious new girlfriend, and I couldn’t be more excited and thankful for her. She challenges Michael to reach for the stars! Thank you Erica.

Of course, I’m thankful for Katie at Thomas Dunne Books for making my biggest dream come true, and for my literary agent, Holly, for believing in me in the first place. It’s been a long time coming and I feel so fortunate to have been given the chance. Thank you ladies!

Finally, I’m thankful for friends. Friends who go the extra mile for me when I need them most. I don’t know what I’d have done this year without them because I’ve experienced some of my highest highs and lowest lows. My sons won’t be with me this year so I’ll be spending Thanksgiving Day with friends. Friends are my family and that’s another thing I’m grateful for. Even though I no longer have a lot of blood relatives, I’m thankful that I do have many friends who love me and treat me like I really am their sister. I thank each of you from the bottom of my heart!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chaos: It's Whats For Dinner

I spent the bulk of my childhood years running from house to house on Thanksgiving. My dad, mom, three siblings and I would eat a full turkey meal complete with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie for lunch and then do it all over again in the evening. Lunch with my mom's side of the family and dinner with my dad's.

So Thanksgiving for me always unequivocally meant lots of running around, shoveling food into my mouth and a blur of relatives. So you'll understand why I was so confused when I met my husband and he described Thanksgiving as "relaxing." His version of the holiday is to lay around on the couch for most of the day, watching football. Of course, he was occasionally asked to complete a task like peel the potatoes (which always end up the size of golf balls when he's done whittling them down), but it generally meant lots of sweatshirts, television and beer before sitting down to a lazy dinner.

You can imagine his dismay when we spent our first Thanksgiving together. I think it was when we were racing down the highway, freaking out because we were already late for my aunt's house when he asked me, "Aren't holidays supposed to be FUN?"

Thanks to him, I've learned to slow down a bit and take time to actually enjoy the holidays. And thanks to me, he's learned that holidays are a heck of a lot of work. But, in the past few years, we've managed to find a happy medium. And of course, when things get too nuts, we can always head down to Cancun for the week, like we did a couple of years ago. Because nothin' says Turkey Day like frozen margaritas and salsa!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Food, Football, and Family

Turkey. Cranberries. Mashed potatoes. Pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving is almost here and I can hardly wait…not only because of the incredible food, but because it’s a day spent with family doing family things. We’re all so busy all the time, that it seems holidays are the only absolute in togetherness. This is the main reason I love Thanksgiving (and Christmas too, but that’s for another post!)

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was always at our house. I loved this! My mother would wake up early in the morning to get the turkey cooking, so by the time the rest of us woke up, the house would already smell delicious. And then, family and friends would start pouring in…and old traditions were continued and new traditions were started.

My great-grandmother Verda always brought a huge chocolate cake covered in sprinkles. It was the only time of the year we’d see this particular cake, and I can remember exactly how it looked—a little lopsided, but covered in bright sprinkles, and way too much frosting. To this day, if I see a cake coated in sprinkles, I think of her.

Now, our family has spread itself over the country, so Thanksgiving isn’t as huge as it used to be. But it’s still special. From the food, to the family, to yes—even the football, it’s a day I look forward to every year. Of course, it's also the official start of the Christmas holiday--which is my absolute favorite time of year. Soon, we'll be shopping, wrapping, decorating, and singing Christmas carols. I can't wait!

I hope everyone has a joyous Thanksgiving!