Home for the Thanks Giving

I’m not entirely sure I should be allowed to have time off. As soon as vacation begins, my brain drains out through my ears and I become incapable of doing anything productive. I woke up yesterday at the beginning of my six day respite from the office and did the following:

  • IMG_3855Watched Sesame Street, not ironically. (Still a great show).
  • Watched Live with Kelly and Michael. (Still a bad show).
  • Read an Jane Evanovich book in one sitting. For a fun drinking game in reading Love Overboard, drink every time you see the words kissing, pirate’s blood, and rip those panties to shreds.
  • Cried on a bus while listening to a This American Life episode.
  • Floss. (Teeth hygiene is very important).

I’m also sniffling. My head feels swollen and my nose won’t stop running. This fun bodily development began yesterday morning, probably as a common symptom of “leisure sickness.” My parents’ house envelops me with home cooked meals, free laundry services and soft couches. The energy I use daily to make trains and speed walk along crowded sidewalks has all but evaporated. All that remains is a sweatpants-wearing version of myself who uses all her physical effort just to pour a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. 

In the spirit of giving thanks, I’d like to raise a glass to every parent and family member who generously welcomes home their 20-something hapless children who eat their food and spread various belongings across every room, offering nothing in return except dirty laundry and a sheepish smile. If you’re lucky, they might even tell you about their life before hoping in the car and trying to rekindle old high school relationships.

Thank you.

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Hopeful Thankful Season

‘Tis the season– the season for seeing the first dusting of snow, filling shelves with bottles of Cab & Merlot, building fires in the wood stove, and casting stitches for knitted hats, mittens and scarves. The radio stations praise jingling bells and baby boys and Black Friday enthusiasts are setting their alarm clocks across America. Reserve a turkey and plan the menu. The holiday season is here.

This year my Thanksgiving, as many in the past, will be held at my parents’ house. The morning begins with fresh coffee, breakfast bread and the low hum of parade commentary drifting into the kitchen where preparations are in full swing. As cars arrive, hugs are delivered and tinfoil dishes are slid into the oven. Tradition is butternut squash soup served in hollowed turkey-shaped dishes and Grandpa’s pumpkin pie with a healthy dollop of whipped cream. The dining party is small–five wooden chairs arranged at the table–but the quality of the company far surpasses the quantity of faces and names.

I am thankful for these people around my table and seated elsewhere throughout the world. I saver their unyielding support and generosity as I do my braised carrots and mashed potatoes, thyme and time again. Behind everything in my life that I am thankful for–my job, my home, my travels, my future– there is a friend, family member or stranger who contributed to my thanks.

Who are you thankful for?

Giving thanks often begets feelings of guilt. The Philippines will not easily recover from their country’s devastation. Wars are being fought, children shot and voices left unheard. Who am I to sit in a warm house with a full stomach and fuller heart while others struggle for so much less? But guilt does not help the world. Guilt neither feeds the hungry nor protects future generations. It is hope, not guilt, that arises from thankfulness and paves the way forward. Hope is the kindling that fuels the fire of change. Hope pulls us from our beds each morning and tucks us in every night with the promise of a new dawn.

This year on November 28th, wherever you are and whoever you are with, give thanks for all the people and moments in your life that have made you who you are today. And with this thanks find hope in things to come.

photo (13)Want to have a sustainable Thanksgiving? Check out last years blog: Giving Thanks Sustainably.

Giving Thanks Sustainably

In just five days, families across the country and Americans around the world will be sitting down to a Thanksgiving feast. Grandma’s pumpkin pie, Mom’s mashed potatoes, and Dad’s creative turkey carving technique make their yearly debut. I myself have my own preparation:

  1. Develop creative yet plausible answers when asked by friends and family why I am still single.
  2. Pick an outfit that simultaneously implies “boyfriend worthy” while incorporating an elastic waistband.
  3. Spend 24-48 hours directly follow the Thanksgiving meal simultaneously impressed and mortified that my body consumed as many calories as it did. 

But I must consider another point on my list of Thanksgiving “to-do’s”– eating and celebrating sustainably. Here are 5 ways to be sustainable on November 22.

Buy local: Who doesn’t want that personal connection between farmer and consumer, smiling as loose bills and parsnips exchange hands? Participating in CSAs (Community supported agriculture), farm shares, or the occasional stop to the farmer’s market benefits the local economy and supports the agriculture in your geographic region. Or prepare now for next year and harvest carrots and potatoes from your own garden!

Eat seasonally: This is more difficult for us Northeastern folks who exhaust the ways root vegetables can be cooked, sautéed, broiled, boiled, roasted, blanched, and pureed. Increasing your awareness of growing seasons however, can make a huge impact on your carbon footprint. Brussel sprouts, served with caramelized butter and maple syrup, were picked 20 miles away and taste incredible. Compare them to store-bought berries or tomatoes and chances are they were flown to your table from Florida, picked before they were ripe in order to make the 1,150 mile journey.

Go to the Source: I am the biggest culprit when it comes to canned goods. Baking, cooking you name it. Last month, I made muffins with a can of Trader Joe’s Organic Canned Pumpkin. Organic yes, but the pumpkin I used came all the way from Willamette Valley in Oregon. Definitely NOT local. Recently my housemate Julie made a pumpkin pie with pumpkins from a nearby farm stand. She roasted them on a baking dish and scooped out the softened orange pulp. The finished product was lighter in color than traditional pumpkin pies but had the most amazing flavor. So try roasting your own pumpkin or making homemade cranberry sauce. And don’t forget to toast the leftover seeds for a delicious snack.

Mind the meat: It’s true. Raising animals for food takes an incredible amount of energy and puts a significant strain on the planet. And while I don’t expect every family to go vegetarian, consider decreasing the number of meat dishes on the table. Do you really need a turkey, ham and mini hot dog appetizer? Experiment with new, delicious veggie recipes that leave your guests feeling fully satisfied and less stuffed at the end of the meal. Still need your turkey fix? For the past two years, my mom has reserved a Thanksgiving turkey from a local organic, free-range farm near our house. The sticker price is steeper than a traditional Butterball, but the externalized impact from animal cruelty, mass production, and added preservatives makes our local bird a no-brainer. Plus, available websites like EatWild and Local Harvest now allow customers to type in their zip code and find sustainable farms locally.

Spread the love: Sustainability extends beyond our dining room table. Many food pantries and homeless shelters provide Thanksgiving meals served in-house or deliver meals to those who cannot afford the luxuries we take for granted. This season, consider purchasing produce or canned goods to donate to your local pantry. I remember in high school, my friends and I drove around the area dropping off baskets of stuffing, gravy, cans of beans, pie crush and turkeys. We gave thanks by extending our love and fortune to those who were struggling to make ends meet. 

So there you have it folks. Take a moment to consider the environment while preparing this Thanksgiving. Stuff your faces and be thankful for everything, every person, and every good thing in your life. Go forward with a loving heart, a reflective mind and full stomach.

Also check out: Vegetarian Thanksgiving, Other Thanksgiving Tips