Friday, November 23, 2012

A Frugal Thanksgiving Feast, and a Really Appreciated Present

PhotobucketMy husband isn't American. He's a native English speaker, though, so I tend to forget that he isn't American, that he grew up in a different culture than I did, most of the time. I even don't notice his lovely accent most of the time anymore, after being married to him for 6 years, even though other people comment all the time on his "strong South African accent."
But there are certain times that I am reminded that no, my husband isn't American, and it boggles me how something that was such a large part of my childhood is completely foreign to him.

Thanksgiving is one of them.
Growing up, we would have big get togethers on Thanksgiving, with all our local family and the same exact friends every year. It's a great tradition, a little gratitude never hurt anyone, and a get together dedicated to that purpose is always a good idea.

But my husband didn't have that frame of reference, and living out of the US, getting a whole turkey and other Thanksgiving dinner standards aren't easy, so we haven't had a Thanksgiving dinner since we were married, other than the one time I was invited to a friend's house for one.

This year though, I did make a Thanksgiving dinner, but not just any Thanksgiving dinner.

I wanted to do something nice to honor my mother. She is a very wonderful woman with so many fine qualities, and we love her so very much.
But we blew it, and missed her birthday, an especially big one, and she was hurt that no one remembered it...

I decided that I wanted to make it up to her, by throwing her a meaningful party to say thank you... And what better time than on Thanksgiving, the day dedicated to giving thanks?

I called up my mom and invited her to a family Thanksgiving dinner at my house, and she expressed that she loved celebrating Thanksgiving, and she missed celebrating it. (She also is married to a non American, a non English speaker even, so they definitely don't celebrate Thanksgiving there.)

But meanwhile, I had other plans.

My siblings and I planned a Mom Appreciation dinner, and came prepared with nice things to say about my mother, what exactly we appreciated her for.

But since its not always easy, spur of the moment, to come up with something meaningful to say, and because I wanted to get Mom a gift she'd really appreciate, I came up with another plan.

A box of thanks.


I found this box, perfect for what it was to be used for, in a cosmetics shop, on sale very cheap.

My siblings and I wrote a whole bunch of things we appreciated about my mother, lots of compliments and appreciation for everything that she did for us.
By the time the list was finished being made, it was 10 pages long, typed.

We printed the Thank You notes, cut them out so that each compliment and note of appreciation was on a different strip of paper, and filled the box with it.


A box overflowing with tangible reminders of our appreciation for her.

I threw in a nice fancy lotion for her in there, because I know she has a tendency for dry skin. Lee also drew a picture for grandma and stuck it in there.

We wrapped it up with cellophane and ribbons.

My mother came with her husband, my two brothers, my little sister, my big sister with her husband and two kids, my grandmother, etc... As well as my husband and my 3 kids.

We were a large party! Our table opened up to hold 10, which we stretched out in the living room/dining room, and added a small table to hold whoever didn't fit on the table.

Then dinner was served.

Sweet potato, butternut squash, and carrot soup that my sister made was the first course.

Next course was cornbread stuffing/southern dressing, made with cornbread from this recipe, with some changes- coconut sugar instead of white sugar, and ground flax instead of egg. I'll try to get the stuffing/dressing recipe up over the weekend.

Sorry, I didn't take a picture, because I'll be honest that while it tastes great, it doesn't look overly appetizing.

This was the star of the show. I didn't have a whole turkey, and by the time I planned this dinner, I didn't have a chance to go to the store where I could buy turkey parts, so I decided to instead use ground turkey.
A blog reader gave me the idea to make a turkey roll up, and I'll share a recipe for that next time I make it- this time it was an experiment, because the recipe she showed me had eggs and gluten in it, as well as spinach...

My turkey roll up was ground turkey with instant mashed potato flakes, ground flax seed, and spices, rolled up with a layer of wild greens- milk thistle, sow thistle, and mallow in a spiral in the middle.
It tasted delicious and was a HUGE hit. I'll definitely be making it again; it was festive and looked great and was pretty easy as well.

It was served with potatoes and sweet potatoes.


... And topped either with mushroom gravy...


Or homemade cranberry sauce.


The store I went to didn't have cranberry sauce; the other store my mom went to was out... so I took craisins, rehydrated them with water, mixed them with canned pineapple and their juice... and when the cranberries were nice and plump, I mixed the liquid in it with gelatin, mixed it all together, and set it in the fridge to set. It was terrific!

Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes were also on the menu...


...As was a wild rice pilaf.


Throughout the course of the meal, people would grab a note from the box and read it aloud to my mother and everyone else. 

It took a long time to read all the notes, and as we read them, we could see mom appreciated the party more and more.

But we weren't done yet.

There still was a surprise to come.

I had called up a few of my mom's closest friends, some that live halfway around the world, and recorded messages from them telling my mom what they appreciate and admire most about her.

She was so touched by all the outpouring of love.


Pmpkin/sweet potato pie for dessert. Gluten free, egg free, dairy free, and refined sugar free, not to mention chemical free and hydrogenated fat free! And it tasted absolutely delicious!

The food was absolutely devoured, and we all had a really great time. The environment was such a warm, loving, appreciative one.

Was the party appreciated? Absolutely!

Mom said it was one of the best days in her life, if not the best.

Isn't it great when you're able to do something so special for someone, without needing to spend a lot of money?
I mean, an expensive present would have been appreciated, sure, but this was an emotional present, not a monetary one, and it was appreciated even more.

What did you do to celebrate Thanksgiving? Or do you not celebrate it? When you want to show appreciation for someone, what do you do to show it? Buy a present? Make a party? Something else?

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