This is the second year that I took the day before as well as the day after Thanksgiving off from work. I always take the day before off to get a jump start on cooking and baking for the feast that would follow...it's not that Lisa can't do it, it's that I LOVE to do it! We had a houseful with our 8, my sister and her family (3) and Lisa's mom and step-father, it gets a little hectic (especially around serving time) with that many people moving in and through the kitchen, but I made it and only had one somewhat mild stressor! As I stated earlier, I love to cook and for me it's ALL about flavors and freshness. I planned a fairly typical menu (Turkey, mashed potato's and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole (in Minnesota, they call it Hot Dish...I was born in Iowa and we call it casserole!), squash, rolls and of course...pies. Pretty straight up, but here's what I did to switch it up: With the Turkey, I made a garlic & herb butter which I softened, then used to coat the bird between the skin and the bird itself. This cooked the flavors right into the meat and was VERY good if I may say so myself! Next, I converted green bean casserole from a quick 5 min job into a slightly more labor intensive (30 min prep) one by making my own french-fried onion pieces the night before, cutting and blanching fresh green beans instead of canned and making my own mushroom sauce instead of using canned cream of mushroom soup. I had never done this before, so I was a little nervous with how people would like it...all I can say is WOW! This is one recipe that I will use on a permanent basis! Again, fresh ingredients provide AMAZING results! The other thing I did was stayed away from pumpkin pie mixes. Instead, I used 100% pumpkin puree, ground my own nutmeg and used cream instead of milk...OH and I made a hand-whipped brandied whip-cream and homemade caramel sauce for toppings.
My sister and her family stayed through the weekend and on Friday, we took them to Lark Toys. Where my sister bought a game called BeanBoozled...All I can say is PRAY you never...EVER get the Centipede flavored jelly bean! We had a great time with Donna, Dave and Rose, we laughed, played games, ate a lot of food and were truly blessed by their visit and the time we had together.
Today, after they went home, we started the transformation of our home into our little Christmas wonderland! I LOVE this time of year and I LOVE decorating for it. As we were putting up one of the trees and listening to Mannheim Steamroller over the stereo, I became a little nostalgic...My mom loved the Christmas season as well and all of the decorating, baking and celebrating that went with it and although she's been gone for 10 years now, those memories are as fresh as yesterday! I miss her...and I wish mom could have met Lisa...they would have loved each other and Lisa would have fit right in with the quirky family that we were back then.
We kind of have this little family tradition where we go around the table and tell each other something we are most thankful for from this past year. Sometimes they're silly, sometimes the older ones feel it's corny and don't really want to participate...but in the end they do. This year I'm thankful for a mother who loved her children until her heart broke...wasn't afraid to discipline her kids...who shed tears over their losses and smiled with pride in their triumphs and who was staunchly resolute in bringing her children up in the way of our Lord, Jesus Christ. She was much braver and stronger than I'll ever be...Thank you Mom.