Happy Thanksgiving

I have probably written about sixteen columns for Thanksgiving over the last sixteen years and after a while you just get real with the titles–Happy Thanksgiving may not be an original title–but is says it all. This is my weekly column for Thanksgiving 2014:

Esoteric though it may be, I love the Encarta Dictionary’s definition of Thanksgiving: “A Public acknowledgement of divine goodness.” It is important to note that it is not the first definition given in the dictionary, but it is so much more satisfying than the other two, which are serviceable but more mundane. The first is short and to the point: “a prayer that offers thanks to God.” The second is more secular and self-explanatory: “an expression or an act of giving thanks.”

I really like the third definition. Thanksgiving, the holiday, is a public acknowledgement, but adding “divine goodness” puts it on a higher plane. I love the whole idea of Thanksgiving—the excellent and abundant food, the gathering of friends and family, the gratefulness for the harvest. Chef Marcus Samuelsson agrees with me, or I with him—whatever the case may be.

He says:
“I love Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday that is centred around
food and family, two things that are of utmost importance to me.”

Though I am not a chef, food and family, with the addition of friends are of utmost importance to me too. Though I have professed in this column many a time my lack of love for preparing turkey, I have found a foolproof method of not having to handle the beast too much at the suggestion of a friend who I think was tired of my eternal complaints about handling and stuffing a big bird. At her recommendation I now buy a stuffed and butter basted bird from the freezer section of the local grocery store. You do not even have to thaw the little devil and there is very little work to it before it can be thrown in the oven. Sure, a frozen bird takes more time to cook, but that is little to ask in the stress it relieves. I would like to be the type of person who buys a fresh turkey or thaws out a frozen one, but I know my limits and work with them.

I must confess that I did try to get out of even cooking the frozen stuffed turkey this year and asked my family if they would be satisfied with a nice roast. My youngest, Tyler responded by saying, “Mom, you always try that. It is turkey day. When was the last time we had turkey—last Thanksgiving? It is tradition—we have to have turkey.” So, I went out and got my turkey, and it is nestled in the freezer among the frozen veggies and ground beef—just waiting for the grand day.

My Favourite “Gratitude” Quote

Authentic is a word that is bandied about a lot lately, but I think that Thanksgiving is an authentic holiday. It asks very little of us other than to enjoy and give thanks for good food. At its core, authenticity is genuine and real, and what could be more real than thankfulness in the guise of gratefulness.

This is one of my favourite quotes and it is by author Melody Beattie:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough,
and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to
clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger
into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

What are you thankful for?

I put this question on my Facebook page and of the responses I received no one said that they were thankful for turkey or the harvest or their Lamborghini. Almost everyone expressed the importance of friendship and health. One I felt particularly meaningful while still being funny was a woman who declared that her “drugs” (prescription may I add quickly here) were her saviours, and made every day worth living. Another had just survived a tricky eye surgery and even though she was in pain, she was glad that it was over and she was recovering. Several others expressed that our friendship was dear to them which of course brought a tear to my eye and warmed the cockles of my heart (though I have yet to discover exactly where the cockles are.)

So what am I thankful for? In a nutshell: my family, friends, food, and good health. If Thanksgiving is “a public acknowledge of divine goodness” then it is the people in my life who help bring that goodness to the fore.

Published in: on October 10, 2014 at 9:44 am  Comments (18)  
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English: A sand sculpture of the Dr. Seuss cha...

The Grinch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just to be contrary and to prove that it is not Thanksgiving here (Canada) tomorrow I thought I would write a post about all the things I am not thankful for. I am not often aggressively contrary –perhaps a little passive aggressive at times, but aren’t we all?


So it is just me—well, then—let me get on with my ungrateful list anyway:

1.  I washed one of my favourite sweaters with an errant Kleenex (actually it was a Scotties tissue) left in the pocket of my jeans. It is now covered in big white pills of tissue, strips of tissue, and especially wonderful—a million little itty bitty pieces of tissue. I try to forget that I really like this charcoal coloured V-neck and that it complemented about a million things in my wardrobe because I am really not up to harvesting all the bits, pieces and strips of tissue. I am very ungrateful for that stupid tissue.

2. I am quite unthankful for fact that I am not supposed to drink with the new medication I am on. I am not a big drinker (a bottle of wine lasts a week and a half at my house) but on occasion I do enjoy a tipple. Must admit I cheat a little, but with the permission of a pharmacist who says I can have half a glass of wine.

3. I am not grateful for all those people who got out there while the weather was still fine and put up their outside Christmas decorations and lights. Don’t they know that the whole spirit of the thing depends on frozen digits and runny noses?

4. I do not give thanks for the bad things that happen to me for the wisdom that they are supposed to impart. I can learn just as well from the good things.

5. I do not give thanks for socks with holes in the toes. Or the heels. But most especially for holes in the toes.

6. I am waiting for the infernal fashion of bare legs to be over. Who started this? Whoever it was—I am ungrateful for them.

7. I am really unhappy that a lot of the styles I wore three and a half decades ago are back in fashion—but I can no longer partake.

 Okay that is enough complaining—where is that half glass of wine I am allowed?

What are you ungrateful for? (American friends—you do not have to answer this.)

Wise Words from an Unlikely Source

SpongeBob SquarePants (character)

SpongeBob SquarePants (character) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is my column for this week. Despite the fact that it is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, I still had my Monday morning deadline. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in Canada and Good Day to the rest of the world:


   “You never really know the true value of a moment, until it becomes a memory”. – SpongeBob


            Who knew that such wise words would come from a cartoon character—one that my youngest son, Tyler, tells me is “one of the most famous ever” and does his owners (Nickelodeon) proud in that it makes them millions. For those of you not familiar with SpongeBob Squarepants you obviously did not have kids of a certain age. He was popular at my house about twelve years ago—as he was my youngest son’s prelude to walking out the door to school.

            I know, I know, he probably should not have been watching television while having his breakfast, but that ship has sailed. I was once “one of those kind of moms”—the kind who would not let her kids play video games, the kind who made them healthy snacks, packed lunches that had no garbage so they could be part of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” crowd at school, made sure they watched non-violent TV (though I don’t think SpongeBob was particularly violent), and dressed them preppy-like. I fell off the “crazy mom” wagon eventually, but according to my 22 year old son, not soon enough.

            Anyway, back to the premise of this column which are the wise words of that colourful talking sea sponge. I know that his creator penned the words, but how bad can a cartoon be if these are the types of little gems that drop from the character’s mouth? Are these not the kind of things we want our kids to be exposed to? Here is another exchange that while funny is also heart-warming: Patrick Star (Spongebob’s starfish friend) says: “Knowledge can never replace friendship. I prefer to be an idiot”. And SpongeBob’s response: “You’re not just an idiot Patrick, you’re also my pal.” While kids would think this was comical, they would also be getting a lovely, if droll message about friendship: you accept your friends despite their flaws.

            “You never really know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory” is on the surface a seemingly charming sentiment, but delving shallowly below that surface it really means that we tend not to enjoy the moment we are in. We savour our memories but should realize that the moment is just as enchanting when it happens as when we look back on it. I tend to forget this and live through the moments rather than in them.

            As I write this I am fondly remembering the Thanksgiving meal we had yesterday—but in order to make it possible a lot of work went into the process. As I am by no means a domestic goddess (which after speaking to a few people who have read this column, comes through loud and clear) I tried to enjoy the preparation of the meal instead of just the end result. I convinced myself (and it took some convincing) that all the fuss and bother, cooking and cleaning were worth it, because I was doing it for the people I love. And magically, it worked. The turkey was particularly succulent, the roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes were perfection themselves, the gravy was silky, and the dessert–wonderful pies (which I cannot take the accolades for) were made more magnificent by the purchase of salted caramel ice cream which complemented them exquisitely—and was my contribution.

            Why did I enjoy the meal so much? Not because I created it—but because the people I made it for were highly appreciative. They raved a little bit (knowing their sister, wife, and mom was not a natural cook), and I basked in the moment. I appreciate the memory today, but I really did know “the true value of the moment” while it was being lived.


English: A slice of homemade Thanksgiving pump...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And when I got up this morning—I lived in the moment again—I had pumpkin pie for breakfast!

Side notes: SpongeBob was created in 1999 by marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg and voiced by Tom Kenney.

Do You Say Grace?

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...

English: Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is my family’s grace

For health and strength

And daily food

We give thee thanks O Lord



This was the grace I said when I was a little girl:

God is great, God is Good

Let us thank him for our food


Short and sweet and to the point and something even a little kid could remember.


Since this is Canadian Thanksgiving and saying grace seems to be the grateful thing to do—do you have a grace you can share?

Published in: on October 13, 2013 at 11:49 am  Comments (27)  
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Thanksgiving 2013: A Good-Hearted Holiday

Next Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada so this is my weekly column welcoming the holiday of food and family and blessings. I am going to count this as my first post on blessings:

Thanksgiving Day Greetings

Thanksgiving Day Greetings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



 “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”  ~ W. J. Cameron

            We all look forward to a long weekend, but a long weekend that includes Thanksgiving Day is just that little bit more special. There is a lovely nostalgia to the holiday and it is one that merely asks us to gather together, feast, and give thanks. In her book, “Family Traditions”, Elizabeth Berg says, “No one has been able to tamper with the essential good-heartedness of Thanksgiving Day, or to trivialize it; and probably no one ever will. For that alone, we can be grateful.”

            Thanksgiving does seem to be the one pure holiday left, unfettered by blatant and constant commercialization. We do not need special clothes to give thanks—our Sunday best or best jeans will do. We may send a card or two to special relatives far away, but there is no need for gifts. What is expected is that we gather together and feast on the harvest. And be thankful for family and friends and food. Back to the basics of life – camaraderie and feasting.

            I love the word feast—it has an old world feel to it that appropriately defines the groaning board that is our Thanksgiving. Most of us pull out all the stops for our Thanksgiving meal—almost in an attempt to be thankful for everything. Berg said her “grocery policy at Thanksgiving time is this: BUY EVERYTHING.” I guess her thinking is that if we are going to count our blessings, we should have lots to count.

            She also tells the story of the Thanksgiving when her father, somewhat of a gourmand, tampered with the menu. People politely “put a few crumbs of his oyster dressing on their plates, then relieved, stacked up high beside it the cornbread dressing we always have.” The two key words here are “always have”. We seem to have deep traditions when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal, and though cooking turkey is a bit more adventurous for me that I usually like to be, in the name of tradition and all things Thanksgiving, I serve turkey.

            Thanksgiving and tradition seem to go hand in hand. We all have our own special rituals and customs that it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without. But I still think we can mix it up a bit and add something new to our old repertoire without taking away from the celebration. Over the years we have always celebrated Thanksgiving with the traditional dinner, but one year we went to the Point and cooked breakfast on Thanksgiving morning; another year we went to an apple orchard and picked apples, all the while our youngest son was wishing everyone a “Happy Turkey Day” much to the embarrassment of his older brother; some years we share our feast with others and sometimes it is just our family.

            Every Thanksgiving is unique but always with familiar elements. The word Thanksgiving itself is as Cameron quoted above says “a word of action.” In our celebration of the event we give thanks for our blessings. The day makes us more mindful of what we are grateful for and in being mindful we are being attentive to the things we tend to take for granted.

            Recognizing and appreciating what we have is the gift of Thanksgiving. And, if like Berg, we “Buy Everything” at the grocery store this one time of year, we are doing so to celebrate the plenty that is available to us.

            I will end with the first verse of The Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter. The simple yet meaningful words encompass Thanksgiving for me:

            “Grateful for each hand we hold

            Gathered round this table

            From far and near we travel home

            Blessed that we are able.”

Published in: on October 7, 2013 at 5:47 pm  Comments (41)  
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A Timely Quote

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” ~ Cicero

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Broadway in ...

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Broadway  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends. Eat, drink and be merry, because the holiday season is upon us.

Published in: on November 22, 2012 at 10:52 am  Comments (18)  
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Very Interesting ~ But Stupid

“Multi-tasking: screwing everything up simultaneously.” – Anonymous


Buttons! (Photo credit: s.red)

Read something recently that explains everything. Especially for those of us who brag that we are “multi-taskers”. From the cofounders of Button Up, “a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized” come these words of surprising “time management truths”: multi-tasking “impairs intelligence and hurts efficiency.”

The “Button Up” girls,  Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore wrote an article called the “Nine never changing laws of managing your time”. Number five dealt with multitasking. They said that researchers at the University of Michigan “have shown that multi-taskers actually take longer to finish work than those who did each task sequentially.”

What really piqued my interest though was their provocative statement that “top-tier institutions like UCLA have shown that switching between tasks impairs our ability to learn and even impairs our IQ more than smoking marijuana.”

Admittedly, some things by their very nature fall into the category of  multi-tasking. Take cooking–it is multi-tasking at its most elevated level. Seriously–when you are fixing Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the fixings—if you follow the theory of the “Button Up” girls, and do everything sequentially, then you would have dinner ready by Christmas.

Modern technology also lends itself very neatly to multitasking. We can do laundry, run a load of dishes through, talk on the phone, all while making scrambled eggs. The only danger here is that you will run out of hot water, or start stirring the eggs with the phone, which could get a bit messy.

Apparently a study was done with high multi-taskers and low multi-taskers, and the former underperformed, had trouble filtering out distractions and in the end had a poorer memory.

As the holidays approach, we are getting into the ultimate multi-tasking time of year. Unless Santa’s elves come to our rescue, most of us are going to underperform, be distracted, and not remember things. But what is the alternative? Unfilled stockings? A one course Christmas dinner? No presents wrapped? So many times we are given a problem, and the solution may not be the best, but it is the only one. I don’t know about you, but I will not be giving up multi-tasking anytime soon.

So are you a high multi-tasker or low multi-tasker? Can you get everything done for the holidays without multi-tasking?

Not Just For Holidays Anymore ~ Sweet Potatoes and Apple Casserole

Sweet potatoes with apple, bacon & maple syrup

Sweet potatoes with apple & maple syrup (Photo credit: SaucyGlo)

By popular demand (okay only livingsimplyfree  asked for it, but I am sure thousands of you out there were too shy to ask) I am going to break with the tradition of offering fine literature (lol) and give you my recipe for Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole.

You can thank my friend, Debbie for it. She sort of guides my cooking along on a simple path—which is the only path I can follow.  I made it without the ginger (because I did not have any) and the cinnamon (because I forgot to put it in) and with Aunt Jemima butter syrup (as I had no real maple syrup) and it was still delicious. Both my husband and brother loved it for Thanksgiving. My husband though was the one to convince—my brother is pretty easy to please.

This is a nice fall recipe—not only is it delicious, but it smells good. So without further ado:

Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole

4 large sweet potatoes (I used 2 humongous ones)

1 ½ lbs. apples (don’t really know how much this is, so used 5)

3 tbsp. butter (I guessed at this)

1/3 cup apple juice (again guessed at this as the increments on my measuring cup are faded)

3 tbsp. maple syrup (Aunt Jemima filled in here)

1 tbsp. lemon juice (I just squeezed some lemon into it)

1 tsp. or a little more of cinnamon (forgot it)

½ tsp. ginger (didn’t have it)

1) Peel potatoes and cut ¼ inch crosswise or in even chunks. Boil until almost fork tender but still a little firm. (I microwaved mine until almost tender, let them cool, and then peeled them—no ¼ inch crosswise stuff for me!)

2) Peel apples and slice (I did this exactly as instructed) Set aside for a moment.

3) Mix remaining ingredients together and boil in a small saucepan. Cook slowly for 10 minutes (this was hard for me, cause I always cook everything on high to get it done sooner—I am such a gourmet cook).

4) Grease a 2 quart shallow dish. Alternately fill with apples and sweet potatoes. Pour sauce over and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 – 30 minutes (apples will get softer- well duh!)

5) Baste with sauce before serving.

As you can see this is a very forgiving recipe and with all the changes I made, it still turned out delicious! So there you have it. Don’t ever say I never shared anything with you.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Comments (39)  
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~The Aftermath of Thanksgiving Dinner~

Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is from my weekly newspaper column, coincidentally called On The Homefront. I speak to my readers as if they are my friends (actually many of them are, and even more are relatives–I am related to almost everyone in my corner of the world, and I may be mistaken, but I think some of their cats are related to mine.)

Like many of you, we had Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Sunday, and now the remnants of a fairly decent meal sit in my fridge. The remnants are the best kind of leftovers there are, just waiting to be made into  soups and casseroles (in other households not mine) and the piece de resistance—the turkey sandwich. There are many ways to build a turkey sandwich and we all have our favourites, mine being white meat on buttered white bread (I know, I know, it should be a whole grain bread, but it is not) with a little mayo, lettuce, a tiny bit of salt on the lettuce, and then the sandwich cut into four dainty pieces. To make the meal complete it should be served with a side of cranberry sauce, green onions, and potato chips (if ever there was a politically incorrect meal, this is it.)

But let us go back to before the leftovers. Back to yesterday, when I was fixing the grand meal for Thanksgiving. I always have lots of food for Thanksgiving, as if I am expecting to feed an army. I guess I think the bounty of the harvest season should be on my table. The good thing about my “over cooking” is that we have lots of leftovers, which at Thanksgiving is a good thing (here I am, channelling Martha again). Speaking of channelling………

As many of you know I am not a domestic diva or gourmet goddess. I cook because we need to eat, which makes me a very practical (read: fast as I can) cook. I enjoy reading gourmet; I do not particularly enjoy cooking gourmet. So yesterday while I was making a couple of new recipes (yes, actual recipes—I was not just cooking by rote) I channelled a couple of my favourite Food Network personalities: Michael Smith, most recently star of Chef  Michael’s Kitchen and Chef at Home, and the Barefoot Contessa or “how easy is that” Ina Garten.

Michael Smith, a bona fide chef, and Ina Garten, a former caterer and now famous cook, are both somewhat laid back but at the same time enthusiastic about cooking. And that is exactly what I need in the kitchen–a little enthusiasm as I peel, and chop, and cut. And follow a recipe. Most of the time when I cook, it is tried and true stuff I have made hundreds of times, thus need no instructions (take frozen lasagna out of freezer, take off plastic covering, insert into oven, set timer).

Yesterday was very similar to every holiday when I cook a turkey, as it is never as easy as you think it is going to be. In an effort not to wrestle with a thawed out turkey I got one of those already stuffed birds that you do not have to thaw before cooking. But you do have to run it under warm water for a couple of minutes. I found out why when I took off the plastic wrapping. It is to make it possible to remove a plastic package of innards (ugh) and the neck (double ugh) that is tucked beneath an immovable wing. It took a bit of a tug of war, and my youngest son pulling the stupid plastic bag from under the frozen wing with all his might (and he is no little guy at 6’1” and over 180 pounds) which led me to declare the statement I make every holiday without fail: “Hope you enjoy this bird today, because it is the last one I make” and restate my vow to celebrate all future holidays with a pot of chili.

Once we had the plastic bag and neck loose and deposited promptly in the garbage (look away those of you who find this blasphemy and boil this stuff to make gravy) I proceeded to pour some melted butter over the turkey and shove it in the oven (covering parts of it with foil as instructed). Then I just basically forgot about it—which is the way I like to cook.

Cranberries popping

Cranberries popping (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came close to enjoying the prep of the rest of the meal: the apple and sweet potato casserole with a yummy syrup was pretty darn good (even though I forgot the cinnamon); the green stuff with marshmallows was a hit; the roasted potatoes a can’t miss; and the made from scratch cranberry sauce (which I am so proud of ) was good too. If nothing else, I am a gravy aficionado—so the gravy was delicious. The meal was crowned by pumpkin pie (with my cheat of Cool Whip on top) and spice cake with cream cheese icing. All in all, it was a decent meal—with Michael and his enthusiasm and Ina and her “how easy is that?” attitude keeping me company (plus a little calming piano music in the background, and a glass of wine that helped take the edge off.)

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and better yet, that you are still enjoying a few leftovers.

~Thanksgiving Trilogy~

1. Thanksgiving Sunday:

Fall colours

Fall colours (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We eat the first meal today

Leftovers tomorrow.

2. Can never decide

Which meal is better ~ today

Or turkey sandwiches?

3. Love the leftovers on

Thanksgiving Day when the mess

And cooking are done!

Published in: on October 7, 2012 at 6:01 am  Comments (39)  
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