Children, Family, Holidays, Parenting, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

A Thanksgiving Tradition

I didn’t know that we would have a white Thanksgiving when I wrote my recent post for Lucky & Me. It’s been snowing since noon and all the trees are covered with snow. The kids were outside building a snowman this afternoon, and they’ve come in to warm up with hot chocolate and marshmallows. The turkey’s in the fridge and the pies are in the oven, and despite losing a few guests to the weather, we are looking forward to a day full of delicious food and wonderful company.



Over the river and through the wood,

To Grandmother’s house we go.

The horse knows the way

To carry the sleigh

Through the white and drifted snow!

Over the river and through the wood,

Oh how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes and bites the nose

As over the ground we go.

These are verses of the song my mother would sing as we traveled the interstate highway in our green station wagon, on our way to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving. We certainly didn’t have horses or a sleigh, but when my mom was a little girl her family did. They had a barn full of horses, wagons, carts, and a sleigh. She and her brothers would bundle up in blankets as their father encouraged the horses to race across the snow with the promise of a steaming mug of hot chocolate at the end of the ride. Her grandparents lived nearby and they could ride “over the river and through the wood” to visit. She often talks about those idyllic days, when the entire family gathered at every holiday, and no one lived further than could be traveled by horse-power.

When I was a little girl we lived in the snow belt of upstate New York and I remember my father shoveling the snow into piles that reached way over my head on either side of the path to our front door. My brothers and I spent hours playing in the snow: sledding, building snowmen and snow forts, making snow angels. Winter in the northeastern United States meant snow and quite often we had snow before Thanksgiving.

Perhaps this is why I always associate Thanksgiving with the cold – and love the cozy feeling of sitting in front of the fire, cracking open walnuts, with the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven, and the pumpkin pies baking. I love Thanksgiving. There are no gifts to buy, and the focus is on family, friends, gratitude, and counting our blessings. Yes, there is a big meal to prepare, often for 10 or more people, but the Thanksgiving menu, while extensive, is quite simple due to tradition. In my family, and many others, there is little creativity needed to plan Thanksgiving dinner.thanksgiving-table-2_thumb sticky

Turkey is a definitely required – although, we tried Turducken one year. I’m not sure if it was due to the departure from expectations, or unappetizing visual presentation of a boneless hen inside a boneless duck inside a boneless turkey– all filled with a highly seasoned stuffing– but it was not a hit. This year for the first time, I have ordered a farm-fresh turkey. On Tuesday afternoon, I will stop at the farm stand and pick up a turkey which was running around the farm just that morning. I can’t wait to find out if there is an improvement in flavor, or if anyone even notices.

We have prepared stuffing the way my dad likes it for my entire life. Dad prefers his stuffing without any sage or seasoning of any kind other than salt and pepper. So I take two loaves of white bread, toast the slices lightly, and cut them into cubes. On Thanksgiving morning, I saute onions and diced apples in a lot of butter, add the cubes, lots of salt and pepper, enough chicken broth to moisten, and if I’m feeling daring I put some into the turkey and cook the rest separately. I have read all the warnings about how stuffing in the bird is unsafe because you can’t be sure it’s cooked properly and therefore could give all your guests food poisoning, but stuffing is infinitely better if it’s soaked up the turkey juices so we take our chances.

No garlic smashed potatoes for us! We have a minimalist approach to mashed potatoes. Boil them until soft, add butter and cream, salt and pepper, and mash to desired consistency. For us, that means there are still some lumps to give texture. We don’t want our mashed potatoes as smooth as baby food.

canned cranberry sauce |

Photo Credit:


You won’t find jellied cranberry sauce in the shape of the can on my table. My mom always makes the cranberry sauce– just a couple of bags of cranberries boiled in orange juice with lots of sugar and a bit of cinnamon. Delicious! She also brings a dish of squash– nothing fancy, just a bit of salt, pepper, and some butter.

We do like to have a bit of green on the table. This year I might get creative and do a dish of Brussels sprouts with Balsamic vinegar. Don’t know how the folks will react, and I probably will have a Green Bean Casserole as backup. You know the one, it’s found on the Campbell’s mushroom soup can and involves canned green beans and French’s French Fried Onions. The recipe was developed by the Campbell’s Soup Company in 1955 and has been a staple in our family as long as I can remember.

Dessert is the one area where I can inject some creativity. Although it’s always pie and each guest has a favorite. My dad loves mincemeat pie, which his mother made when he was young, and at that time the pies were truer to their British origins and actually contained meat and suet. These days, a mincemeat pie is made with dried fruit, sugar, molasses, lots of spices, and perhaps some rum or brandy, but no meat whatsoever. I buy them already made, or if I’m feeling adventurous I have put together a crust with a jar of mince meat, but one day I might feel ambitious enough to try this recipe from 1798. Pumpkin pie is probably the most traditional Thanksgiving dessert, and the top request of my mom and son, so I always make at least one. And I always make at least one pecan pie– my personal favorite.

I have hosted our family’s Thanksgiving dinner for the last decade or more. This is one of the times when I fervently wish I had a sister! This year, we’ll be 11 at the table, and we are the epitome of the American blended family. We’ll have an 81-year span from the youngest (our 10-year-old daughter) to the oldest (my dad, intrepid at 91). We’ll include friends, family, step-children, in-laws, grandparents, parents, and siblings.

I am feeling a sense of relief that Thanksgiving is upon us this year. We have lots to be thankful for– our family has endured illness, surgeries, and even death in just the last couple of months– and now, everyone is mending well. The kids are all doing well at their various pursuits, and we even have a baby coming– due on Christmas Day. Thanksgiving Day is an annual reminder for us to slow down the pace and spend time with loved ones. And to remember that we are truly blessed!

What are you thankful for? |

Photo Credit:


Read more posts on…

Family, Halloween, Holidays, Parenting, Uncategorized

Halloween Decisions for Lucky & Me Blog

Halloween is coming! On, I recently wrote about the the time Phoenix dressed as Rapunzel for Halloween, and the decisions we face getting ready for Trick-or-Treating. Please check it out and let me know how you feel about Halloween in the comments below.



My husband says Halloween is the best holiday. You don’t have to buy any gifts and everyone has fun. But I find that Halloween is very complicated– at least with a child in the house. Other holidays fall into one of two categories: Either they are religious, and have rituals which define the day and its activities, or they are simple commemorations, like Columbus Day, with fewer decorations and customs. Religious holidays usually involve family and not friends, and are therefore less complex from a social standpoint. Commemorative days don’t carry the emotional weight of other holidays and the celebrations and activities are more simple.

Halloween, on the other hand, is celebrated with friends and neighbors and can be fraught with comparisons and even competitive. Every greeting at the bus stop, church, or grocery store includes, “What are you gonna be for Halloween?” Like many kids, our daughter has changed her mind several times since we started talking about Halloween– basically since the school year started. Some of the ideas are simply flights of fancy– first she wanted to be a piece of Candy Corn so we talked about how to make it– orange tights, an orange hat, and somehow we would devise the main part out of fabric. But then, someone told her she was like the Phoenix– having survived a fire as an infant she had literally risen from the ashes. I made the mistake of searching for Phoenix costumes online, and quickly learned that they are not for children and are more appropriate for Mardi Gras than trick-or-treating… (Read more on

About Liz, Parenting

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. ~ Lao Zi

This quote speaks to me because I took a single step six years ago to help a little girl receive medical treatment, and that single step started our family on an incredible and wonderful journey which is ongoing with no end in sight. In this blog, I will share some insights I am learning along the way.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka

I have a lot of mom categories covered: biological, step, foster, guardian, pseudo-adoptive (I’ll explain that one in a minute), and soon I’ll be a grandmother. I’ve been a mom for 22 years and I have two step-sons, 26 and 24, a son who is 22, and a 10-year-old daughter.  I think of myself as Dejavu-mom because I have so many experiences with my daughter where I think– I’ve done this already or I’ve seen this before– and yet with her, everything is a totally new experience in a fun, exhilarating, and yes, often exasperating way.

Our daughter came to us seven years ago when I met her in an orphanage in another country and convinced Shriners Hospital to treat her for injuries she received as an infant. For several years, she came back and forth with a guardian. We spent two years trying to adopt her – unsuccessfully. So in 2012, we made four trips overseas to apply for legal guardianship and miraculously we succeeded! Technically, we are her legal guardians but for all intents and purposes we are her parents; she calls us Mom and Dad. But it’s complicated because she is acutely aware that she has “real” parents: a father who is not allowed to care for her and a mother in heaven.

You won’t find a picture of her here and I won’t use her real name – I’ll call her Phoenix (her choice). And I weave her story into many of my posts about parenting. She is strong and confident in many ways and yet insecure about all the typical concerns of a pre-adolescent child. How do I look? Can we go to the store and buy some new clothes? Why can’t I watch TV before school?

She also has concerns which are specific to her situation and much scarier: How long will I be in the hospital? Will it hurt when the doctor does that? What will the kids at school say about me? We do our best to answer the questions and navigate an uncharted path to bring this child to adulthood with her confidence and spirit intact.

I also have lots of experience in the world of fashion and spent many years working with Victoria’s Secret, Justice (back when it was known as Limited Too), Lane Bryant. and other well-known apparel brands. I like to share that knowledge about fashion and apparel to increase awareness of issues affecting clothing quality, cost, comfort, and safety. I’ve been blogging for a year with a wonderful new kids’ underwear brand called Lucky & Me and you can find those posts at

I am also a partner of a fantastic new kids’ sock business, Little Grippers, which started in England and is now expanding into the US. Little Grippers socks for babies and children are made of a revolutionary Stay-On Technology incorporating 100%-natural, hypoallergenic silicone to keep kids’ socks up and on.

My focus in this blog is on the joys and challenges of parenting in a complicated world. I will write about a variety of topics, many of which are local, like how we manage the daily challenges of raising Phoenix to be a self-confident, capable, and socially adept girl in a nation which places undue emphasis on youth and beauty and still struggles with racial and gender prejudice.

I’ll also share my thoughts on global issues facing children around the world including:  health, nutrition, environment, violence and abuse, and lack of opportunity. These are difficult, complex, and intractable problems which must be addressed to make the world a better place for our children and all children.

These thoughts and opinions are all my own. I welcome any discussions and feedback.

Thank you for reading!

A Single Step