Thanksgiving Revisited

Thanksgiving 2020 Centerpiece – a gift from my daughter and her family

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a traditional American holiday, but – as one friend texted in response to my Happy Thanksgiving text…Hopefully last one like this....

My husband and I are celebrating on our own this year, as many others are. A smaller version of the feast we used to make years ago…(cooking less is a silver lining here)…we are still as thankful as ever. That part hasn’t changed.

And, no matter what, there will be pie. But just one. Pumpkin.

Do we miss sharing this day with friends like we did last year? Most definitely. And the special times with friends and family from many years back? Absolutely.

But I know we are not alone and my heart goes out to the thousands who don’t have a job or a home or enough food to feed their families…much less a Thanksgiving meal. The pandemic’s ongoing toll.

So my focus today is on gratitude for what I am blessed with…and also for looking back on memories made in years past.

Below is a post I published on November 22, 2018 – the 4th Thursday of November – and, in the United States, celebrated as Thanksgiving.

🥧 🥧 🥧 🥧 🥧 🥧

Thanksgiving

A day – if you’re fortunate – set aside for family.
For gratitude. For sharing a meal.

Usually a massive meal – in our house it was based around turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, some kind of vegetable. Rolls or banana bread. Every year the “fixins” changed somewhat.

The most important part: many pies. The dinner was basically a stop on the way to pumpkin…apple…cherry pies.

And my personal favorite…playing cards while eating dessert: aka pie.

Dinner was also all about the conversation and stories we shared. So much time and opportunity for prolonged discussion when you are passing endless bowls of food around. Pouring wine. Pouring water. Carving more turkey. I just never knew what subjects would come up; but many became classics.

Such as…

In 1990, my husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving.
I had never cooked a whole turkey before. An overwhelming task. I had heard horror stories about overcooked turkeys and dried out white meat. That would never happen to me…I’ll cover it! That should do it.

My parents and my in-laws were coming – to join me, my husband and our 2 kids.

I dusted off the big blue covered roaster pan my mother had passed down to me. Coated the fresh turkey with spices and some oil. Tied the legs together.

I put the cover on. It went into the oven. I set the timer. And let it cook. And cook. Many hours later – when, according to the recipe it would be done, I removed it from the oven. Look it’s ready! With great fanfare, I lifted the lid…Oh No!

It looked like a turkey snow angel! All the turkey meat had slid off the bones. We had turkey stew! There was nothing to carve. Legs askew. Wings fallen off. My mother was horrified. I laughed. And laughed.

It still tasted great…and…the white meat was NOT dry!

♥  ♣  ♠  ♦

The following year:

Twelve family members gathered at the dining room table to enjoy our Thanksgiving feast – including my parents, my husband’s parents, my grandmother, my sister and her family.

1991
1991

Upon noticing someone struggling to remove the meat from a turkey leg, my father-in-law shared a memory…a story that has become part of family lore.

He began describing his job at the First National grocery store in the 1930’s. When he helped get the turkeys ready to be sold for Thanksgiving. The turkey carcasses were brought to the store and his job was to pull the tendons out of the legs. Apparently, this made the turkey legs easier to eat. He went into graphic detail. Right in front of everyone. Who put their forks down and stared at him…as he explained this was probably not done anymore. Those pesky tendons still attached.

GROSS! we protested.

Shocked faces…especially those with turkey legs eaten or half eaten on their plates. There may have been some gagging. My big city brother-in-law’s face turned white. He got up and left the room…

♥  ♣  ♠  ♦

Empty nest Thanksgivings…

 left more time for documenting…

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But traditions remained the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: October 30

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: October 30

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of  your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

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The following post was published on October 30, 2018. This year brings such a different trick or treat night for all those costumed kids. It is still scheduled to happen tonight (and tomorrow night) in many towns in NH, including where I used to live. Between the first snowfall of the season and COVID-19, I wonder how the Pencil Lady would have handled it.

Happy Halloween!

🎃****🎃****🎃

Trick or Treat

The Pencil Lady!!!

The Pencil Lady!!!

I would hear their voices…while they walked up the driveway.  Waiting by the side door, I watched through the glass. Little witches, clowns, princesses, ghosts, pumpkins, monsters, ballerinas…about to ring the doorbell.

They remembered my house.
And they were excited about pencils.
It was October 30th. The night before Halloween.
Trick or treat night where we lived for 37 years.

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I wasn’t always the pencil lady.  I handed out fun size Snickers and M&M’s like everybody else that first Halloween in our new neighborhood. It was 1980. But my conscience won out a few years later.

I worked as a dietitian at the local hospital. Cautioning my patients to avoid sweets and eat a balanced diet. Somehow giving out those exact items to young children seemed…well hypocritical. And I was young and very idealistic at the time.

Hence the pencils…

…which I ordered from a catalogue. A box of 12 dozen Halloween Pencils.

In 1985 I started using the lid to record how many we gave out every year. Including how many went to school Halloween parties. I didn’t know it at the time, but 2015 would be my final year as the Pencil Lady. I had already refilled the box before we moved.

As Halloweens went by, I discovered that decorative pencils were not popular with every trick or treater. Especially the older ones. For example:

A group of large size, teenage-looking ghastly creatures came by one year. Fake blood. A few in their football uniforms. Rubber monster masks. Practiced nonchalance. All holding out pillowcases filling up with candy.

“Happy Halloween!!” I greeted them.
“Trick or Treat” they monotoned.
I held out the pencils, ready to drop one in each pillowcase.
One  creature looked at me with alarm: “Pencils?”
“Yes! Pencils! They are great for school. You don’t have to take one if you don’t want to!”

The next morning I looked for and usually found a few broken pencils in the front yard.

halloween pumpkin064
Kid Carved – lighting the way for trick or treaters 1997

When I was growing up, our dentist lived at the end of our street. As I trudged to his house dressed in my hippie/flower girl/hobo costume, I knew I could count on Trident sugarless gum. Which was fine with me. Another neighbor handed out homemade popcorn balls. Another one gave us apples.  My favorite: Mounds bars and peanut M&M’s.

The trading back at the house with my brother and sister was intense. Almost as fierce as swapping houses and hotels in Monopoly. My brother often had an unfair advantage as he would trick or treat twice – changing costumes in between. I personally wished I’d thought of it first, although he only got away with it once. That I know of.

When my children reached trick or treat age, we celebrated with costumes and pumpkin carving. Candy trading. Traditions evolved.
Chili became Trick or Treat night supper since it was a fast one pot meal. My son and daughter trick or treated together in our family friendly neighborhood until she left for college. Either my husband or I usually tagged along. Not because they needed us, but because it was fun.

After they were both grown and out on their own, it was trick or treat from my viewpoint as the Pencil Lady. Those little faces so bright and expectant. Carefully climbing the 3 stairs to our side door; the light left on to welcome them.

From 5 – 8 pm every Oct. 30th, the doorbell rang and rang.
Costumes of all shapes and sizes – from lions and tigers to Sesame Street and Disney movie characters to robots made out of cardboard boxes – they were so proud.
The littlest ones trying their best to say Trick or Treat.
And, as they turned to leave, say Thank You.

I wonder if they miss the Pencil Lady.
She misses them.

Trick or Treat does not happen here in our over-55 condo community.
Although I suppose I could still hand out pencils in the lobby.

Stay-at-Home Mother’s Day

 

TULIPS
Mother’s Day Tulips 2020

Mother’s Day in the age of coronavirus has taken on a different shade…

Even before this new 2020 reality hit us between the eyes, Mother’s Day was sometimes lonely. Empty nesters like me missed our adult children more than usual. Memories of sweet smiles and shouts of Happy Mother’s Day Mommy, followed by hugs, a homemade card and when older…perhaps breakfast in bed.

Who knew back then how fleeting those times really were? I just relished the moments as they happened.

My adult children weren’t always able to make the trip back to our family home for Mother’s Day – although they often tried and succeeded (probably because my birthday often overlapped!). This year – with all the unknowns and fears hanging over us – it seemed even harder to be apart. Perhaps also because there was no choice in the matter. FaceTime of course helped, but there’s nothing like an in-person hug.

During a long ago trip to San Diego, California, I bought a print made by Sally Huss, a local artist. It grabbed my heart at the time. My children were still teenagers. And I thought…yessss….

Today it has taken on a whole added perspective and an even bigger YESSSS…

sally huss049

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

Easter Time

Today is Easter Sunday.

In 2020, it almost seems like any other day. Being on the inside looking out.

In the interest – and satisfying the desire – of connecting to the familiar, I am re-posting an edited version of a 2018 blog post about Easter traditions and memories…

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When I was growing up, the Easter Bunny always left baskets for me – and my sisters and brothers – to hunt for on Easter morning. We each got straw baskets complete with the requisite Easter “grass” which ended up…everywhere.

Inside we’d find jelly beans, foil covered chocolate eggs, a chocolate bunny and those marshmallow peeps – which were just as bright neon colored then as they are now.

easter baskets

My younger sister and I often wore matching dresses and Easter hats. I actually got a kick out of the hat – I remember one had small red fake flowers around the brim. Patent leather shoes completed the look. It worked for my sister much more than me, as I’d just as soon run around the backyard and scoot up the jungle gym, Easter finery and all.

 

easter 1959040 copy

 

A few days before Easter we dyed hardboiled eggs different colors using the wire holders, still stained, from previous years. The kitchen table was covered in newspapers to limit the mess we’d make and the smell of vinegar permeated the air. When I was older I was allowed to drop a different color pellet into each cup and watch it dissolve.  Sometimes we used wax crayons to draw designs on the eggs before coloring them. We were each allowed about 6 eggs to decorate and we took our time.

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TV dinner containers…recycling in the ’60’s

My best childhood Easter memories were when my grandparents came for the day (or sometimes the night before and slept over). We’d play cards…Parcheesi…Sorry…checkers. We always saved the black jelly beans for Opa. Those were his favorite.

One last thing…

Easter is the subject of my most treasured book from childhood.

It has the sweetest illustrations and I love the comforting story. Nobody is perfect – not even the Easter Bunny. And sometimes things don’t go as planned…and it’s okay.

This book made the cut when we downsized. The paper jacket has long since disappeared and the binding is loose and fragile.

But precious all the same……

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To all who celebrate…Happy Easter!

Fandango’s Friday Flashback: February 14

Inspired by Fandango’s Friday Flashback: February 14

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of you earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? …Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

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This post is from February 14, 2019 in response to the photo a day challenge (which is the same this year: Hearts ) and Ragtag Daily Prompt: Intimate.

And, after all, it was Valentine’s Day.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Love and Hearts and Grandparents

 

If we have someone who loves us — I don’t mean who indulges us, but who loves us enough to be on our side — then it’s easier to grow resilience, to grow belief in self, to grow self-esteem. And it’s self-esteem that allows a person to stand up.

Maya Angelou

 

from Grammy 1966

valentine's card 1967038
from Great Grandma 1967

I have much to be grateful for in my life. The love of family is at the top of the list. As a child…and then as an adult…I was well loved by my grandparents. Held up. Cherished. Accepted.

All four of my grandparents – and my one living great grandparent – took the time to write to me. Personal letters. Postcards. Valentines. Birthday cards….
I heard from them on a regular basis…knowing I was important in their lives. And not forgotten, even though we lived miles apart.

Treasured pages of handwritten news, stories, questions about my life and plans for the future….
Offering encouragement and understanding
And unconditional love.

 

Photo a day challenge – Hearts

RDP – Intimate

 

Sunshine’s Macro Monday: A Cruciferous Christmas

Inspired by Sunshine’s Macro Monday #22
One of the many memorable parts of spending Christmas 2019 at my daughter’s home was her amazing cooking and baking.

The menu: extensive (even included a cheese course!).

The vegetables: fresh…and, in this case…the nutritional powerhouse cruciferous variety.

I decided to document.

brussels sprout

The roasted Brussels sprouts (along with cousin cauliflower) were seasoned to perfection and enjoyed by all.

 

Holiday Highlights

Inspired by Frank at Dutch goes the Photo: Holidays

The challenge for this week is to bring out the magic that you find in the season and share it with one another!

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A good friend of mine has a saying: Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a season.

I would further elaborate.

It can bring out the goodness in people. The willingness to share with those less fortunate. The willingness to share an extra smile. Doing what they can to brighten someone’s day. Bringing real meaning to the greeting Happy Holidays.

I spent the week of Christmas in Washington, DC at my daughter and son-in-law’s home. Surrounded by love-infused holiday festivities…marked by delicious meals, cookie decorating, present opening, cooking and baking side by side. Playing pretend with my grandson. Reading stories. Building Lego cities. Singing Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

One night we all went for an early evening walk…parents, grandparents, 3 year old and two dogs.

A holiday season highlight…a once a year magical moment.

house lights
Let’s go look at the lights!

house lights 3

house-lights-one.jpg

 

light night

 

 

 

Photo a Week: Christmas Memories

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week Challenge: Christmas Memories

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE ONE OR TWO OR MORE PHOTOS OF YOUR CHRISTMAS AND/OR HOLIDAY MEMORIES.

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Christmas memories fill up my photo albums. All the best ones involve my family…when our children lived at home and we celebrated together.

Choosing just a few was indeed difficult…

One of my favorite memories was the year my son was a fast moving – very curious – toddler. At the tender age of 13 months, he was able to dash from one end of the living room to the other, quicker than we could catch him.

The Christmas tree presented a special challenge that year…as he was fascinated by those shiny things hanging from the branches. As well as the colored lightbulbs strung on green wire. Which he could unscrew, shouting HOT! HOT!

Barricades were in order…until we removed them on Christmas morning.

christmas barricades
1988

Which presented the perfect opportunity for ornament inspection and removal…while daddy and big sister were opening their stockings and getting their pictures taken.

christmas 1988
1988

However, nine years later….he was the expert at hanging the ornaments up ON the tree.

decorating 1997
1997

One more special memory.

 

 

 

 

Nostalgic Cookie Sing-Along

Inspired by:

Lens-Artists Challenge #75: Nostalgic

…I look forward to seeing the nostalgic moments that are most special to you. Past holidays, times with family and friends, travel moments, or just something that reminds you  fondly of days gone by – it’s your call. Give us a small peek into the things you’re nostalgic about.

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #76: Music

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Get out the red and green sprinkles!
And the tiny chocolate chips!
Cookie sheets!
Cookie cutters!
Start the music!

It’s Time!

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When I was raising my children – and by the time each was around 2 years old – we made Christmas cookies together as a family. Simple cream cheese sugar cookies.

We used the same aluminum cookie cutters I used when I was a child.

Our tradition? I made the dough the day before so it was easier to roll out.
My daughter – and then my son – learned how to use a rolling pin and press a tree or bell shape into the flattened dough.

1992 t
Let the decorating begin!

Creativity was serious business.

The teenage years sparked unique decorating ideas such as the occasional anatomically correct gingerbread man. Ahem. All in good fun though…

Every year we were accompanied by the Sesame Street Christmas Sing-Along album pumping through the speakers (yes, we had speakers in the kitchen!)…and the clicking of the Canon camera.

My husband, I and the “kids” continued this annual family tradition for over 25 years…always accompanied by Big Bird, Cookie Monster (of course!) and the rest of the gang.

Cookies in the making. Oven warming. Four voices singing – the muppets’ lines memorized to perfection…

It’s that time of the year
When we all want to hear
A Christmas sing-along…

Or

Count, count, count — counting the days,
Count, count, count — counting the day…
I’m counting the days, ’til Christmas day is due…

(just a sample taste of this fabulous album – released in 1984 – just in time for our family).

A bit of nostalgia I never tire of revisiting.

1995 k t cookies
Cookies!
Decorated or about to frosted!

Both in pictures and in song.