Getting Ready For Thanksgiving

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Once Halloween was over, my thoughts immediately turned to Thanksgiving. There’s so much to do, but I knew where to start.

I began by opening a large cardboard box, the word Thanksgiving scribbled with a black Sharpie on the top flap. As always, when I packed up last year I deliberately put Percy Pilgrim on top so that he would be the first item to greet me when I looked inside. I was actually looking forward to seeing him (it doesn’t take much for me).

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Years ago granddaughter Anna made him from a toilet paper spindle and black felt. A Thanksgiving without Percy would be like forgetting the cranberry sauce.

Seeing Percy reminded me of the pumpkin seeds…let me tell you about the pumpkin seeds. When grandson Trey was about five years old I asked him to save the seeds from his jack-o-lantern so that we could plant them and grow our own pumpkins. His mother helped him label the seeds. We never planted them because my heart just melted when I saw all the work he’d put into printing ‘pumpkin seeds’ (I knew he’d started over a dozen times. Okay, maybe I overreacted, but he was only five and had blonde curls all over his little head.) That jar of pumpkin seeds has been on a kitchen shelf wherever I’ve lived the last seventeen years. I get it out every fall and use it as part of my autumn décor.

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Back to the box of Thanksgiving decorations… I reached my hand past a red and gold silk-leaf garland and grabbed onto a turkey leg. Shaking it, I pulled hard and out came the turkey hat. Pop couldn’t wait to try it on. (Well, I was possibly a tad insistent, but he likes to get his picture taken, so it was a win-win for us both.) At a large gathering, a turkey hat is a fun icebreaker. One does, however, have to have the right mindset.

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I unwrapped the cornucopia I’d gotten years ago at a yard sale (the inscription on the bottom scratched in clay reads ‘to Sandra, Christmas ’74’). In years past I’ve filled it with rubber grapes. Since I’ve reached an age where I am perfectly comfortable flaunting self-indulgence, I’ve filled the cornucopia with candy and placed it near the door so I can get a piece every time I go in or out. Being a practical thinker, I’ve filled with sugarless gum sticks the little turkey planter that lives in the Thanksgiving box eleven months of every year.  I believe that if you stagger calories it all adds up to favorable results in the end.

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Next I gathered a few basic things. The turkey platter is used only once each year. For the remaining 364 days, it is hidden in a lower cabinet or sometimes it ends up on the back porch with a bunch of junk. Several times during the year I’ll spot it when I’m looking for something else and remark, “There’s the turkey platter. Don’t let me forget where it is when the time comes.” Usually none of us ever remembers where we last saw it, and the hunt is on. (This is just how we do things.)

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My mother gave me the gravy boat for Christmas one year, and it will be passed to my daughter and then her daughter. It holds a lot of gravy. The pressed-glass bowl is from Mother’s side of the family. Every time that the dish made its way from the china cabinet to the dining table, she would remind us that it was her mother’s cranberry bowl, so we always fill it with cranberry sauce. It would never in a hundred years cross my mind to use anything else to hold the cranberries.

And of course the roaster pan. I always cook a whole turkey as well as smoking a breast on the grill outside. We have a ham too. There are some big eaters in our family, and I want leftovers to last for days.

Remember green Tupperware Jell-O molds? I don’t always make a congealed salad, but I get the mold out just in case I get a whim to make lemon Jell-O with pineapple, pecans, and cottage cheese. I heard you say, “Yuk!” Most people are not big cottage cheese fans, but it is actually very good with lemon and pineapple. E-mail me if you want the recipe.

And lastly I plan a menu around who likes what and would be disappointed if his or her favorite weren’t on the table:

Smoked turkey and stuffed mushrooms for Eric.
Cornbread dressing for everybody.
Sweet potatoes for Lisa.
A drumstick for Pop.
A green bean casserole for Trey.
Pecan/bourbon pie for Geni.
Mashed potatoes for Charlotte.
Stuffed eggs for Anna.
Gravy for Lillie.
And confetti for Khara. Yes, confetti.

One Thanksgiving my niece Khara (now 25) was mystified as to why there was no confetti scattered on the dining table. She was eight at the time she voiced her concern that Aunt Sara didn’t have confetti at the Thanksgiving get-together (apparently she was the only person to notice or care that there was none). When her mother told me, I vowed that there would never be another holiday table at my house without confetti-like sprinklings of some kind. And there hasn’t been. It’s hard to find nice confetti for Thanksgiving. (Maybe we are the only people that like confetti in the tablescape.) Here’s what I have for this year, and I’m thrilled to tell you that Khara will be coming from Alabama to Florida on Thanksgiving Day.

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Let me share a couple of quick tips before I sign out. 

Spiff-up your pies with spiced whipped cream. Just add a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of orange zest, and half a teaspoon of cinnamon to a cup of whipped cream.

Try this quick topping for pumpkin pie. Whisk three eggs, a cup of chopped pecans, and a twelve-ounce jar of caramel ice-cream topping. Spread it on top of your pie and bake. If you want to get fancy, you can circle the pie with a row of whole pecans around the edge.

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Whether you are cooking a turkey, planning to dine with friends and family, or going to  Golden Corral or Applebee’s, I truly wish you a happy holiday.

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Share what you have with others and remember to keep your sunny side up.

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