As I’m preparing for the upcoming Holiday’s and trying not to stress out about all the changes the house and our personal lives will endure over the next few months, I find that flexibility & organization are the key to my sanity at this time of the year. I have all of my Christmas gifts bought and mostly wrapped. Well, if you can call putting them all in Sally’s shopper bags, wrapped. I find it the easiest way for me to do our “Christmas Eve Eve Party.”

Our lives have undergone so many changes over the past few years, the kids marriages with families of their own but, I still want them all together for Christmas, preferably under my roof.  The only way to achieve this is to be flexible so we’ve created our own Holiday aka Christmas Eve Eve. It was originally met with great contention by my oldest son, but he too, has come around. Its hard to juggle the In-laws and Outlaws at the Holiday’s so less stress makes us much happier people.

It also makes me think of my mom, past Thanksgiving’s at Mom’s & Grandma Dorothy’s house(s.) I’m sure everyone remembers the story I’ve told many times, about our dinner table breaking in half on year, it almost hitting my oldest sisters, sister-in-laws 2 year old daughter that was sitting under our table. They used to use the table-leg to hold the back of a child’s dress or shirt down, that way they couldn’t move. Instant babysitter. Not to worry, they had toys or a coloring book to keep them busy. Rarely ever fussed, because they were in the same room as the grown-ups. Now they just use play pens.

I’ll drive by Grandma’s house now and again, and I have to laugh. It seems so tiny, but never did as a child. She always made room. Her house was always clean and freshly decorated for each impending Holiday. To this day, I still have no idea where she kept all of those decorations. Anyway, back to dinner. Her table was freshly set for each person to sit down, always her fine china, minimal food on the table, mostly sliced bread and butter, gravy, things like that, but the kitchen was covered. She’d (or our mom’s) would make your plate in the kitchen and then either you or she would walk it to the table.

Her house was small, but her heart was big, the dining room table was turned sideways in the room, to allow for 8 people or more comfortably, we couldn’t all eat at the same time, so she asked us to come in about an hour apart, that way when people got up, you could sit and talk while you ate & ate, no one was ever rushed. We also had no idea whom we’d be eating with. I always enjoyed eating with my Uncle Brock. He was so funny, he’d mock her as she was talking, making jokes and taking the food or dessert off our plates that he knew we weren’t going to eat(gooseberry pie – yuck), so we could get up from the table(as was the custom back then). Then he’d laugh as she fussed at him for wasting food. Later, he’d wink at us, letting us know that he was okay with taking the heat.

It was never too crowded. She always made room. Ladies sat in the kitchen, gossiping as usual. Grandpa would be in the living room watching TV, either Football or Horsing Racing aka taking a nap. Can’t remember what most of us kids did, we just filtered back and forth, watching Grandma cook and or hand-wash all of her dishes, she didn’t have a dishwasher.  This went on all day. I loved to watch her boil dumplings, she’d use a fresh chicken or turkey with its eggs still inside and they’d float to the top. She’d scoop them up and offer them to us kids as we yelled, “Gross!” But the truth is, I loved it, it was so good. Its the goofy things that you remember the most.

So as I’m trying to decide what to make or not to make this year, I try to remember its only about being together. Nothing else matters, if the gravies brown or who likes what kind of cake, every one will get fed. Spend time together and hopefully, when I’m gone they will carry on these traditions for as long as the Lord tarries. And, know that I did everything in my power to show them the same love that their Great-Grandparents showed me. That it the tradition.

So I’m going to share this years menu with you, and my mom’s recipe for Ambrosia Fruit Salad. To be honest, no one here likes it but me. I make it every year, just because my mom did; it was her favorite. Thank you Mom, for all of your inspiration and unwittingly all of the memories you’ve helped me make with my children, and grandchildren and hopefully, maybe even their grandchildren. I’ll try and keep your memory alive, as I share, all of the things that we talked about and did together while we cooked. I still think of the stories you told me about Grandma Elvie and how she decorated her deviled eggs, every time, I make them.

The “Small Things,” are truly the best memories.

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

~ appetizers ~
Meatballs
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
Relish Tray

~ beverages ~
Pop – Water – Sweet Tea
24 cans Coke

~ soup ~
Beef Barley Soup

~ main ~
Turkey & Dressing
Glazed Ham

~ sides ~
Mashed Potatoes
Turkey & Brown Gravies
Baked Beans
Sweet Potato Casserole
Green Bean Casserole
Corn Pudding
Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Deviled Eggs

~ bread/rolls ~
Dinner Rolls
Pull Apart Bread

~ desserts ~
Pumpkin Pie w/ Whip Cream
Blackberry Cobbler
Cherry Cheesecake
Chocolate & White Cupcakes
Mom’s Ambrosia Fruit Salad

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Ambrosia Fruit Salad

INGREDIENTS

2 cans or 1 lg can of fruit cocktail, well drained
1 sm can of mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup shredded coconut
8 oz tub whipped topping, thawed (save container to store leftovers or put half the dessert back in and pop into the fridge to send home with someone. Trust me, it never all gets eaten.)
*maraschino cherries, drained and halved as a garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS

In a medium size bowl , toss in the first three ingredients. Fold in the cool whip. Place a few sliced maraschino cherries on top as a garnish.
You can add pecans or walnuts if you like – I usually toss a few on top of mine, just because, but I never put them in my dessert. Some people add a few mini marshmallows if you like those in it, mom did on occasion, but not usually. The cherries were always my favorite. I’d pick them out and try to get the most. sh

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Ah! on Thanksgiving day….
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?
~John Greenleaf Whittier

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