Giving Thanks



I watched American Experience on PBS last night – The Pilgrims.  I must confess that it was pretty dry and I had a tough time staying awake through the whole thing but it was enlightening in a couple of ways.

When the pilgrims came to America on the Mayflower they did so as refugees really.  They had been persecuted by the English because they refused to give up their belief system and be members of the Anglican church.  At the time you risked fines, jail or death if you were not a member of the Church of England.  In order to be able to practice freely they made a number of attempts to leave England as a group.  They finally escaped to Holland and spent 10 years worshiping in their homes.  They didn’t speak Dutch and the only jobs they had were menial in the textile and clothing industry.  They had nothing really.

What they did have was their community.  While in Holland they realized the culture of that country was not in line with their strict beliefs and worried about their children growing up in a land of loose moral character.  They wanted to create a community where they could grow in their beliefs without the influence of outsiders.   Living in a bubble of their own making they were truly naive about the ways of the world around them and taken advantage of by people at every turn trying to make their way across the Atlantic.  They left England very late in the year and arrived in New England on November 11, 1620.  Think about that – it’s now November 23 and it is cold.  They had just spent 66 days on a cramped boat and landed in wilderness.  No shelter, no food, nothing.  They survived but in greatly diminished numbers.

I feel many immigration stories are the same.  There is always some extreme reason to leave your home.  People don’t want to leave where they have lived, worked and played their entire lives unless they feel they have no other choice.  I think they also have the conviction that where they plan to go will be better.  Bill’s family left Lebanon in 1908 to come to America to build a better life and I would assume to escape political and religious turmoil.  How scary is it to use every last penny you have to get to a place where you don’t speak the language, don’t have a job or a place to live and you know no one?  I will tell you that the hardships they endured were incredible and probably not at all what they expected.  They had each other and their children and did what they had to do to survive with the conviction that this would be better at some point.

I wonder how far into their journeys did they wake up and think “what was I thinking?” or begin to lose sight of the reason for leaving home and country to begin with.  I don’t think we can really know the hardships they were living but I wonder if they thought the hardships they came into it were worth it.  There was no going back for them.

What they all had when they came here was community.  They had their friends, families or at the very least like-minded people with a similar plan in mind.  Today I can look at all of their situations and wonder how bad would it have to get for me to leave?  I realize even in the chaos and idiocy that has embroiled the country I have been in for the past 60 years I live a good life.  I have a home, heat and food on the table.  I have wonderful family and friends.  I am able to talk about anything I want – race, religion, politics – without fear of imprisonment.  I can make my own choices, go where I want, do what I want to do.  This past year has been a rough one on many levels.  The news is always sensational and instills fear in the hearts of anyone who listens but if you step back you have to realize that how your life is today is no different from what it was a month ago.  Fear is something that can take over your life and prevent you from living at all.

We all need to count our blessings.  Seems trite but without reflection and gratitude we can end up living a miserable existence surrounded by the things that have come to us through the true misery of others.  Look at what you’ve got, think of the life that you have and work on making that little piece of your world better.  Being able to do so is something to truly be thankful for.




How Blessed We Are


As I made my first cup of morning coffee today I considered all that I have to be thankful for.  A Thanksgiving day ritual for so many.

I put a couple of pieces of wood on the coals from last nights fire to take the chill out of the kitchen.  Thought of all of the time and work put into getting that wood in.  Thank you.

I pulled a beautiful, local, 20 pound bird from the refrigerator to bring it up to temperature and considered that it was walking this earth until just a few days ago. Thank you.

I turned on the water and washed my hands in its wonderful warmth.  Such a convenience taken for granted.  Thank you.

I will walk out to the garden and pull up the very last vegetable there this morning.  My rutabagas.  Tiny seeds placed in the earth 5 months ago turned into amazing purple and yellow orbs by earth and water, amazing when you think about it.  Thank you.

Potatoes that were dug two months ago will be peeled and cooked.  Carrots that were pulled and pickled will be chilled will be served.  Thank you.

The big table, made by the hands of a favorite friend will be moved into the middle of the room and set.  Thank you.

Guests will arrive bearing food they have put time into. The conversations and reminiscing will begin along with the laughter that always ensues. Thank you.

Thanksgiving is about the food, family and friends for me.  It’s one of those warm, fuzzy holidays and always has been.  This year looked like it would only be three of us eating a 20 pound turkey but evolved last week into a party of 10.  One of my favorite things to do it to cook for others.  It’s a gift of the heart and hands.

I am a fortunate person.  I live most of my time in an extraordinary place and know it.  I have a loving family and the most amazing husband who works harder than anyone I know to make all of this happen.  The newest member of our tribe was born two weeks ago and he will grow up surrounded by the love of so many.  The shift in generations has occurred and I can take up my mantle as grandma to help him know how blessed he is and how blessed we all are to have what we have.

Birds and Snow

141126 Birds (2)

You can always tell when the weather will be bad by the number of birds on the feeders.  The chickadees demanded I put them up about a week ago while I was doing a walk about.  I relented figuring it was cold enough so the bears might have entered into hibernation.

Yesterday the activity stepped up and we all knew it was because a storm was coming.  They are much better forecasters than any human being (that and the joints were screaming).  This morning the snow started in earnest at about 9:00 and it went from nothing to blizzard almost instantly.

The birds continue to come, all varieties now, loading up.  Their feast for the holiday.

We have people travelling from all over.  Some are beginning to arrive, some I’m hoping will wait until tomorrow with the snow coming down the way it is now.  They predict up to 12 inches and at the rate it’s falling now I wouldn’t be surprised.

Here’s hoping everyone stays safe this coming long weekend and enjoys time spent with friends and family.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Remains of the Day

131201 TurkeyThe Thanksgiving holiday ends when the soup is done.  That’s the way I look at it anyway.  Saturday afternoon, after guests had had their fill of all things turkey I removed the meat from the bones and made stock in a very large pot.  I strained the broth and put the pan in the shed to cool overnight. The temperature hadn’t been above 25 degrees so it’s as good as any refrigerator.

Sunday morning I skimmed the fat and heated the stock.  This is where we come to the rest of the ingredients.  Everything that was leftover from Thanksgiving went into the pot.  Mashed potatoes, squash, rutabaga, gravy, it all went in.  Using this as the base for your turkey soup gives it the most wonderful flavor and thickens it to the perfect consistency.  Last but not least comes the leftover bird – and this was one wonderful bird from Diemand Turkey Farm in Wendell, MA.  I didn’t add any starch because I wanted to keep my options open since it was such a huge amount.

The soup was simmered for about an hour and then the canner came out.  I had to can two rounds because the canner will only do 14 pints at a time.  All in all I canned 24 pints.  I do pints because many times it’s just one person (or two) opening a jar.  If there are more people open more jars.  It’s so satisfying to see the fruits of your labor sitting on the counter cooling.  Then dream about the soup’s possibilities – turkey barley, turkey rice and I’m thinking dumplings would be a great winter meal.

The biggest treat is tasting this when Thanksgiving Day is a distant memory because this is really Thanksgiving Dinner in a jar – yum!



671124 Thanksgiving (2)“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” William Arthur Ward

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It has always been about family for us.  My extended family is small and widespread but as a child the excitement would build over the weeks before the holiday arrived.  Family gathered at Fort Pelham Farm for food and all of the festivities of the season.  My aunts, uncles and grandparents on both sides would arrive one after another in the days before Thursday, our 3 cousins as well.  There was laughter, food, more laughter.  My mother loved this holiday and having her siblings with us.

We would rise early on Thanksgiving day to the smell of Bell’s Seasoning, onions and butter.  My mother had risen at her usual ungodly hour and had everything well in hand.  My aunt would always bring dates stuffed with walnuts and rolled in sugar.  I remember there being a lot of nuts consumed on that day (the only other time we had them was at Christmas or when visiting my mother’s father).  We would consume savory and sweet with the Macy’s parade in the background.

An hour or so before dinner was served everyone changed into their Sunday best.  It was the one meal a year when we “dressed for dinner”.  It seems a little odd to me now but I’m glad we did it.

It is all so long ago and far away now.  Most of those players are gone but having had those gatherings every year of my childhood really instilled in me the importance of giving thanks for family and friends.  I try to be thankful every day but this day focuses on it.

This year we are having the smallest gathering I can remember.  It will be my two daughters, one boyfriend, Bill and I.  It seems to be a pattern with many of our friends and family – I think for us it’s about being home.  We have given up the long distance travelling.  Not so much for getting there but the long ride home.

The bird is in the oven, I started my day with Bell’s Seasoning, onions and butter.  There are vegetables to be cooked, gravy to be made.  The sticky buns are ready to be warmed.  Our meals are always the same, they have been for me for well over 50 years.  I asked the girls what they absolutely had to have for dinner and am making everything we always have for 5 people.  It wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving without the same things we have every year.  There will just be a lot of leftovers – never a bad thing.

Today I am thankful that we have good, local food available to us – some grown right here.  I am thankful I will be spending the weekend with 2 of my children who I see less than I’d like to.  I’m thankful that we are in a huge old house with a cranking woodstove.  I’m thankful for the quiet, the snow and the birds that are gracing my feeder.

I am most thankful for the people in my life.  I’m thankful I have a new piece of my family returned.  I’m so thankful (and miss terribly) the people that are now gone – they made me who I am and made my life richer.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends that read this blog regularly.  Surround yourself with the people that are the most important to you, breathe it in, make it part of that collective memory that sustains you.