Simply Giving Thanks
We celebrated American Thanksgiving on Thursday with a quiet dinner at our place with our family, Peggy, and some friends that help us out with mission projects as needed. It was a really relaxed and fun afternoon and evening. I think maybe one of my favorite Thanksgivings to date. In years past we’ve gotten together with our larger missionary fellowship group, and that’s always been fun, but this year we were just kind of craving something smaller. I think, for me personally, it was that last year Thanksgiving started the ball rolling for what ended up being a very busy 6 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, it was all fun stuff, but we came out of our Christmas holidays feeling less than rested.
We didn’t have turkey. Turkey is about $2.50/lb here. We’ll have one for Christmas, but decided to go with chicken for both Thanksgivings (we’re a mixed bag of Americans and Canadians so we get two celebrations). Our friends here love to contribute when we have a get together, and I’ve been learning to let go of the feeling of having to do it all. I think coming from a home where my Mom loved to do big meals for holidays, and from a Ukrainian background on her side of the family where food was such a central part of any family get together, it’s been hard to step back, but I’m learning. I committed to doing the chicken, stuffing and gravy and let others do the rest. It was a nice relaxed day and I’m happy that I didn’t feel the need to do it all. Peggy loves to cook, and was so excited to be able to help out, and I’m glad to have given her that. Her and I get each other in that way :)
I like to have some decor up for the season and try to do what I can with what we have, but also think that sometimes simple is best. Our house is only about 900 square feet total, so there’s only so much room. I like to use what I have. Back in October before Canadian Thanksgiving I was craving something that looked kind of fallish, while recognizing that the leaves weren’t exactly changing color outside. I rummaged around my craft supplies and found some jute twine and some fabric fat quarters that I’d stashed away. I decided to make a quick, but fun garland for the kitchen window, and matching ones for the two main living room windows. I love how they turned out!
I literally cut two pieces of twine for each window, and a bunch of imperfect, not measured strips of fabric and ribbons, then just started tying things onto the separate pieces of twine. That’s the trick here! I tied both pieces of twine together with one strip of fabric or ribbon at each end as my “end points” but every other piece was tied on to only one or the other piece of twine. It gave the garland a staggered, imperfect look that I love. I think it would have looked too “finished” if I’d tied on to both pieces of twine each time.
The garlands got hung from the command hooks that I always have up in our windows where I like to decorate for Christmas. It’s just easier to keep them up and they blend in for the most part. I have white LED lights (we can only use LED because of our power system here) up on the shelf in our kitchen year round so it just kind of added a little somethin’ somethin’ there.
I like to set a nice table. I think being here makes even the simplest effort feel special. Again, I try to just use what I have. Our dishes are mix and match and I love that. The fun thing is that the fabric that I had for the garland actually tied everything together without me trying to be intentional about it. I use our green table cloth for most of the nicer meals we have because it actually carries through a lot of seasons. Aaaand, it’s the only one that I have that fits our table (barely) when the extensions are all in. Tricky, I know. I had jars, so I put beans and corn in them – again, what I had on hand. It was harvest-ish…
What I didn’t have was new batteries for my fake candles. We have a ceiling fan right over our table and have it on whenever we’re in the kitchen (hello 95*, nice to see you again…) so real candles don’t work so well. We just all pretended that the candles were flickering when really the middle guy was the one carrying the load.
I really had to scrounge for those leaves in the yard. Our trees don’t lose leaves seasonally. One will drop leaves, then another one a month later, and so it goes. No rhyme or reason. The baby pine cones are from these pine trees that live here in the Caribbean. They drop the little pine cones on the beach in front of the mission property, and let me tell you, if you step on one – ouch! The kids and I gathered a whole big jar of them one day, and I saved them because our new land doesn’t have any of these trees. I keep wondering if I could shimmy up one of the trees to cut some of the greenery for Christmas but think that might be more comical than anything, especially if Fan Fan is watching. He can climb a coconut tree barefoot in about 2 seconds and makes it look effortless. Trust me, it’s not effortless.
I love the afternoon light that comes into the house – as long as I’m not sitting on the sunny side of the couch! I whipped up the yellow and red cushion covers one afternoon recently with fabric that I bought for that very purpose – about 3 years ago. Yep, don’t want to rush these things. And no, our living room doesn’t typically look this clean. It was clean for a nano second while I took the picture, then the kids came in and it was all over.
I put the coffee table tray together in about 5 minutes, again using what I had. More scrounged leaves and pine cones. I got the big candle sticks in a “stuff exchange” our Bible study group did earlier this year. You know what they say about one mans junk… The beans and corn ended up not in the candle holders by the end of the evening thanks to little hands, but I was pretty sure that was going to be the outcome right from the get go and was secretly happy about it. Okay, produce quiz – anyone know what that is in the middle of the tray? Anyone? It’s a West Indies pumpkin. It’s just a little baby that Chris found out at the new land. They’re usually much bigger and can come in a variety of colors. They’re actually part of the squash family, which is great because they’re so flexible. I’ll make pumpkin puree to keep in the freezer for cooking. I use them to make pumpkin soup. I cut them open, seed them and cook them with brown sugar and butter like I would an acorn squash back home. Chunk them up and add some savory seasonings and olive oil and roast them. Sooooo good!
It was a fun afternoon and evening. Didn’t get any pictures of the meal or our friends, mostly because I was having too much fun with them to even think about getting my camera out. That, and I grew up with that family where people whipped out their cameras right after you’d taken your first mouthful of food. Like we needed proof that our plates were loaded, and that we weren’t just looking at the food.
Hope your Thanksgiving, no matter which month you celebrated it in, was great!