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We have so much for which to be thankful! Thanksgiving is upon us, and I believe in giving the Lord His due by making a big deal of this holiday, too (and not forcing Christmas into its 4 day space).  What could be more fitting than to count our blessings (large and small) and to thank Him? Sometimes when troubles and struggles arrive and bring with them emotional and physical stress, we become anxious and look at all that is going wrong, or could go wrong, or maybe will go wrong.  Focusing on the negative weakens us and our ability to meet the challenges before us.

Golden Reflections

I don’t suggest being a Pollyanna or an ostrich with your head in the sand.  But, I do believe we can all gain strength and live a better life if we keep refocusing on the positive, while dealing calmly and methodically to resolve our challenges. Are the members of your family still employed? If so, give thanks. If someone has lost his/her job, can your family still keep a roof over their heads and food on the table? If so, give thanks. How about everyone’s health? If your loved ones are still around, can you talk with them, or visit with them, or give them a hug? Give thanks. Do you have friends to talk with, people who make you laugh, confidants to share your pain? Give thanks. Can you still afford a small luxury, like a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store, or a specialty grooming product, or a manicure? Give thanks.  Our lives have become so full that sometimes we can barely recognize all the blessing we have.

A handmade pitcher

Take some time to stop and notice them.  See if you can find all of them. Here are some  that spring to my mind as I sit and write. The hand crocheted doily passed down from my great aunt sitting under a crystal vase of deep pink roses in our bedroom. The thick  oversized tortoise shell hair pins holding up my curls.

Tortoise Shell Pins

The wicked good slippers from LL Bean lined with real shearling, currently snuggling my feet. (I have made sure my husband and our daughter each had their own pair for relaxing around the house.)

Snuggly Slippers

The wood to make a crackling fire later tonight. Homemade marshmellows to toast. The sunlight slanting through our lace curtains. The kiss and snuggling that awakened me this morning. The easy laughter in our home. A partner to pray with.

Creamy, silky body lotion made with goat’s milk to soften my skin. The heady, romantic, rich French perfume on my dresser.  Fluffy throws over the backs of our chairs and couch to wrap ourselves in when watching a good program on TV. Our DVR to watch whatever we want, whenever we want. Strong, dark, deeply flavored English tea and Italian coffee in the cupboard.

The Queen's Blend of Tea from London

Love, imperfect and sometimes complicated, but always there from family and friends.

So, the Christmas ads have started on television once more, cheerily hyping new washing machines at Home Depot, toys at Kmart, and new platters at J.C. Penny.  But this year, we decided not to focus on material gifts.  The recession has made us leery of spending more money than we have, and so many around us are in need or struggling. Nestling in with gratitude feels appropriate this year. That and feasting!

I began preparations for our Thanksgiving feast 2 weeks ago when I made my first batch ever of Parker House Rolls.  My husband has a childhood yearning for homemade rolls, so I decided to try my hand at them when I found a recipe in this month’s Everyday Food magazine that could be made and frozen a month in advance.  I won’t know how they turn out until Thanksgiving Day, but here’s a similar recipe.  Real Simple magazine inspired me with a headline on the cover for a “Make Ahead Feast”.  I bought the issue and read it, but thought I’d apply their time table to different recipes which better suit my family’s palate and dietary restrictions. So, I made the rolls a month in advance. This week I made and froze a casserole of bright yellow summer squash coddled in heavy cream, fresh thyme, and sharp, cheddar cheese.

Summer Squash with Fresh Thyme

I also shopped for the dry goods and canned goods. Our pantry is overflowing!  The good folks at Williams Sonoma convinced me to try their artisanal stuffing. It comes with dried cranberries and pecans, but I plan to add chopped apples as well.  While there, I stocked up on the turkey gravy base and their brining mix. [I have made my own solution, but it seemed simpler and nearly as cheap to use theirs.]  I ordered a fresh turkey, our first ever, from the local poultry farm and requested a rustic looking bouquet to include sunflowers, roses, and other flowers in autumnal colors to use as our centerpiece. Over the next few days, I plan to make sure the table linens are clean (and free of stains) and to iron them.  Also, I’ll decide on serving dishes and polish any silver that needs it. I hate the rush of trying to do that the day of the feast.

Table linens

I’ll make the pumpkin pie and the stuffing the day before and set the turkey in the brine. Then on Thanksgiving morning I can stuff the turkey and throw it in the oven.  I plan to toss in some yams to bake alongside the turkey later on, then I’ll mash them as a side dish, which will only leave me with the kale to prepare on the stovetop Thanksgiving Day.  For breakfast, we will set out a fancy continental breakfast of bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon, pecan pumpkin bread, grapefruit, orange juice, coffee and tea.  And surprisingly enough, Nigella Lawson’s avocado breakfast bruchetta.

Feasts honor holidays.  They bring people together, and fill us both physically and spiritually. So go ahead and indulge! Plan, prepare, and anticipate! Enjoy the hustle bustle as the loving energy you are expending to gather your loved ones and to give thanks for all the joys of your life.

May God bless you abundantly, and keep you, and all those you love.