Category Archives: Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving Table

My Thanksgiving Table this year...

My Thanksgiving Table this year…

Tonight I’m looking at my Thanksgiving table and anticipating tomorrow when we will gather together and enjoy a wonderful meal and each other’s company.  This year will be a little different.

We’ve already had our “big” Thanksgiving family gathering in Jasper – this past Saturday.  Tomorrow, it will be me, Eddie and two of our children.  We’ll add my brother and sister-in-law too.  Hopefully a few of the nephews will be able to join us at some point.  It will be a small gathering, but it will be family and I’m so thankful we have one another.

My “married” daughter – Anna Marie – and her new hubby, Ryan, will join us for a Thanksgiving breakfast tomorrow morning, which is something new to us.  We’ll be having French toast!  So maybe this will be a new tradition?  I don’t know but whatever the case, I’m just thankful they are able to spend a little time with us tomorrow.

So tonight, I’m going over my menu for tomorrow and getting as much done ahead of time as I can.  I’ll be making a turkey without my mother this year.  My mother is enjoying the holiday with my sister Laurie in Chicago this year.  The eggs are boiling as I write this – so we’ll make some deviled eggs tonight.  We’ll also make the stuffing tonight too – sorry, but when you put it in the bird, it’s stuffing to me!  (I know…I know…in the south it’s called dressing…)

A portion of my Thanksgiving table centerpiece...I found a new wine to try tomorrow too - Cherry Tart Pinot Noir!

A portion of my Thanksgiving table centerpiece…I found a new wine to try tomorrow too – Cherry Tart Pinot Noir!

In the end, we will be together as a family – whoever can be here – and we’ll enjoy the time together.  We’ll add people to the table along with the food and it will be wonderful.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!  Enjoy your time together…and blessing to all.

Found these old timey cards at World Market a few years ago and have been using them as napkin rings...they add a certain something to the table, don't you think?

Found these old timey cards at World Market a few years ago and have been using them as napkin rings…they add a certain something to the table, don’t you think?

Family “Swing” Picture…Modified…

Odom Thanksgiving gathering 2015 in Jasper, AL...

Odom Thanksgiving gathering 2015 in Jasper, AL…

Our Odom Family Thanksgiving celebration is always the Sunday (or in this case, Saturday) before Thanksgiving.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the highlight for the cousins is taking the annual “swing” picture.  This is a swing that was in my  late mother-in-law’s backyard for so many years.  It’s now in my brother-in-law’s yard and the cousins look forward to it without fail every year.

This year, I decided on something a little different.  With all the loss we have experienced as a family over the past few years, I wanted to capture everyone who attended our gathering in a group photo.  I told one of the cousins that we talk about doing this every year and yet we don’t…   I remember telling my mother-in-law that I was going to bring my camera to the Odom Christmas gathering to take family photos the year she passed away, right before Christmas.  I was so saddened because she was so looking forward to this and then she wasn’t there to be a part of it.  But the best way to honor something like this is to just do it.

I made sure to have my tripod on hand this year.  After everyone had indulged in all the food we had for our annual celebration, we gathered everyone outside at the swing.  We did this before anyone could leave…

It didn’t take long either.  Usually when you try to gather this many people, it’s like herding cats!  But in this case, everyone got together quickly and waited patiently for me to set the timer on my camera and get the photo taken.  We took a few photos and I think the one in this post is the best one.  I love that everyone that attended, whether they were family or not, was in this picture.  Because in reality, everyone who was there was family.

Odom Cousin Swing Picture 2015. (Missing Anna Marie and Ryan)

Odom Cousin Swing Picture 2015.

 

 

Bring the Big Cookie Saturday

IMG_0286At every Odom gathering, there is never a shortage of food.  Even those years when we said we would keep it simple and not go all out, we did.  We just can’t help ourselves!

Eddie and I are generally in charge of bringing desserts and so we’d go by Costco and pick up their pumpkin pie, apple pie and assorted cookies.  Sometimes we’d mix it up and throw in a key lime pie.  Honestly, there was never a shortage of sweets either!

Then one year I decided to bring a cookie cake from Great American Cookies.  These cookies have always been a hit with our kids.  Heck, they’ve been a hit with me too!  So we took the cookie that year and you guessed it, it was hit with everybody there…not to mention the cute turkey design for the occasion!

This year, we were in the process of planning our Odom get-together at my brother-in-law’s house in Jasper via text message when he texted – “FYI y’all bring the big cookie Saturday.”  Our reply…”you got it!”

And so, I think it’s safe to say that a new Thanksgiving family tradition has been born…the Big Cookie!  Oh…and we sometimes have it at Christmas too!

 

We Ate Some Turkey and then a Football Game Broke Out!

Odom Family football game - Thanksgiving 2007 - Jasper, AL.

Odom Family football game – Thanksgiving 2007 – Jasper, AL.

My in-laws used to live in Jasper, AL and had a rather large piece of property behind their house. I remember there was always a sign inside the back porch that said “Odom’s Farm.” It always felt like the perfect place for kids to run around and play and make up games and just get outside instead of sitting in front of the television set.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2007 was a cool crisp afternoon. We had just finished eating turkey and all the extras when one of the kids (the cousins) pulled out a football. Before you knew it, all the cousins – young and old – were outside in the huge backyard and tossing the ball around. First it was just the guys tossing and running after each other. But the Odom girls are pretty darn competitive and quickly joined in! It was one of those spontaneous times in families…we couldn’t have planned it if we had tried and it was the perfect Thanksgiving afternoon. Even Bentley, the dog, got into the act!

Bentley decides football is fun!

Bentley decides football is fun!

Here are a few of the photos I took that day in a slideshow…when I see these, I feel like it’s happening all over again!  Oh, and another thing you’ll notice…there is only one cell phone in the picture….those were the days!

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Family Traditions

Odom cousins - Thanksgiving 2014 - on Mimi's swing in Jasper, AL.

Odom cousins – Thanksgiving 2014 – on Mimi’s swing in Jasper, AL.

Family…like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.  I love this quote…

This time of year, I start thinking a lot about family traditions.  I’ve often thought that some day I would write them all down from what I remember doing as a child and add all things we did when my own children were little.  The one constant though all this is family.  Whether the tradition remains today or has morphed into something different…we do these things because we want to connect as a family and make it a part of our story.

Family traditions can bring you comfort and strengthen the bond you have with your family.  They teach you the value of immediate and extended family and how to take the time to be together.  Creating and maintaining traditions is easier when your children are young.  It becomes a little more challenging when they get older and get married or move away.  It definitely becomes a juggling act at that point!  Some traditions run their course…like breakfast with Santa and going to the annual lighting ceremony at the local mall.  These traditions are driven by age.  Others change because the dynamics of your family change.

For my Zuniga family, Thanksgiving has always been the major holiday to celebrate.  Before my parents moved to Alabama, I would make the  trip to Chicago every Thanksgiving to spend the week with my sisters and parents and do so many of the things we always did together over the 10 years that I lived there.  Traditional activities ranged from shopping at Oak Brook Mall and hoping there would be a little snow, getting up to watch the Macy’s Day Parade while the turkey was still cooking, then fighting to get the first taste of stuffing from the turkey.  This was always a battle with my youngest sister.  I would sneak into the oven with a spoon and sample the dressing when no one was looking – beating my sister to the punch – although I’m sure my mother knew!  At some point during the visit, we would watch WGN’s family classic movies.  Those movies were the staple of every Sunday afternoon in the Zuniga household when I was in high school.  Certain sounds and smells bring it all back.  Certain music does too as we would gather around the piano and play and sing along.  All the Zuniga sisters were in choir and we all knew the same music.  My grandmother used to say we could have been the Lennon Sisters – she and my grandfather loved Lawrence Welk!

My husband (Eddie) has always been adamant about attending the traditional Odom family Christmas lunch each year.  It was the one time of the year we got to see his father’s extended family all at once.  The lunch was originally pulled together for his grandmother (Mama Odom), and when she passed away, the Aunts decided to continue the tradition.  Eddie made sure we were represented each year.  If one of the kids had a conflict due to sports or scouting activities, he would take the kids available and make the trip to the lunch and see everyone.  Now so many of the children are married with children of their own – a whole new generation of Odoms are enjoying the gathering.  I do hope it continues…

My sister Kanista with my girls, Emily and Anna Marie – Thanksgiving 2004 in Birmingham, AL – having a girls lunch at Cantina at Pepper Place.

On the Zuniga side, when all my sisters used to travel to Alabama for Thanksgiving with their young children, we would spend Wednesday before Thanksgiving having lunch and shopping and then come home to get things ready for our big dinner.  The husbands would take the kids to a movie and spend the day with them and give he moms a break.  As the nieces and nephews got older my sisters began staying home – they all live out-of-state.  Soon it was just me, my mother and my aunt (mom’s sis) and my girls having lunch and doing a little shopping.  When my Aunt passed away, we just stopped going.  It just didn’t feel the same.  In recent years, my mother has mentioned missing the “old days” when we all used to spend that day together.  I understand her longing for something that held such great memories.  It’s hard to move on sometimes, especially when something was so enjoyable.  We resurrected the tradition a bit these past few years with mom and my girls and added something new.  We’d come back to my house and get turkey preparing lessons from mom.  It’s been fun for my girls and I know my mother has been thrilled to pass along her turkey making expertise to all of us!

Making Thanksgiving turkey with Nana! My girls learn how to make stuffing!

Making Thanksgiving turkey with Nana! My girls learn how to make stuffing!

One of the first Mimi Swing Photos I took of the Odom cousins...

One of the first Mimi Swing Photos I took of the Odom cousins…

When my youngest child Emily was just a year old,  a major tradition emerged with the Odom children.  I began taking pictures of my three children (Charlie, Anna Marie and Emily) and my twin nieces (Kate and TJ) on their grandmother’s outside swing.  We would take “the Mimi’s swing” picture at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas – any holiday when we’d all get together.  But for some reason, Thanksgiving was the one holiday that really stuck.  Over the years, we’ve added the older Odom grandchildren, great-grandchildren and significant others to the photos.  This year at Easter, we even added my niece TJ via iPad when she couldn’t make it home.  It was that important for the kids to have everyone present and accounted for on the swing no matter what the holiday.  I love this swing tradition so much and especially at Thanksgiving!  Seeing the way the family has changed and grown over the past 21 years is priceless to me and I know it is to my brothers-in-law too, as we all get older and look back.

The Odom cousins in Mimi's swing - Thanksgiving 2014 - TJ, Kate, Anna Marie and Emily - Charlie always standing in the back!

The Odom cousins in Mimi’s swing – Thanksgiving 2014 – TJ, Kate, Anna Marie and Emily – Charlie always standing in the back!

One thing is for sure, family traditions evolve and change, that is a given.  But I have a feeling we will always be taking a swing picture of the Odom kids at Thanksgiving.  And for that, I will always be thankful…

Ten years of swing photos - I had this framed for my mother-in-law (Mimi) and it hung into her house until she passed away in 2011.

Ten years of swing photos – I had this framed for my mother-in-law (Mimi) and it hung into her house until she passed away in 2011.

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Leaning how to make mom’s Thanksgiving turkey with my girls in 2013. Mom and I had just finished stuffing the turkey!

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Thanksgiving turkey making shenanigans with Nana…although I don’t think my mom knew what they were doing in the background!

Getting Organized…

My to-do list this weekend was rather long.  My main goal was to get my daughter’s room organized.  Since she got married in April, I’ve been slowly moving things it her room so I can use it for a photography room.  Unfortunately, I didn’t even step into the room this weekend!

Our Thanksgiving table is set!

Our Thanksgiving table is set!

Instead, I worked downstairs in the family room, kitchen and dining room.  It’s been awhile since I’ve pulled everything out of the cabinets and closets and reorganized!  In the process, I packed 5 boxes of “stuff” to drop off at The Salvation Army.  It just felt so good to reorganize so I kept going this afternoon.  I got all my Day of the Dead items returned to their storage spot in the basement and decided to pull all the Thanksgiving décor out.  I always love going through my decorations every year.  For Thanksgiving, I have a few special items I like to use every year.  In particular, there is a candle that my son Charlie made in Kindergarten that we put on the buffet every year.  There is also a prayer “cut-out” that my daughter Anna Marie put together one year.  There is a pilgrim couple and an Indian couple that my mother used to use every year when we lived in Chicago.  I’ve added those to my décor each year.  I still need to add the Thanksgiving tree.  It’s something we started several years ago where family members write what they are thankful for and put it on the tree.  I’ll explain more about this in a separate post.

Anna Marie's made this cut out craft prayer one year in grade school.

Anna Marie’s made this cut out craft prayer one year in grade school.

So, now the dining room table is set and decorated for Thanksgiving, although I’m not sure if we will be enjoying the table this year.  We are heading to my brother-in-law’s house in Jasper this coming weekend for the Odom family Thanksgiving celebration.  It’s a big transition year for our family with my daughter Anna Marie getting married in April and my niece Kate getting married in May.  My niece TJ also moved to Florida for a job opportunity.  So much transition in one year.  It’s exciting for these young people but also means we need to adjust our traditions to accommodate the newlyweds and everyone who has moved away.  Bittersweet is the word that keeps coming to mind…

Charlie made this Thanksgiving candle in kindergarten.

Charlie made this Thanksgiving candle in kindergarten.

On the bright side of reorganizing, I took our former computer cabinet and turned it into a bourbon bar for my husband!  I remember when we bought this piece of furniture…it’s a large and heavy piece and I loved the dark wood and storage it provided.  When we got rid of our desktop computer, it became a dumping ground for odds and ends.  It was driving me crazy so cleaning it out this weekend was liberating.  My husband sent a photo of it to a consignment store to see if we could sell it but meanwhile, I thought – wouldn’t this be a cool bar for his bourbon collection?!  I mentioned it and he loved the idea…so voila!  It’s now a bourbon bar!

Eddie's new bourbon bar created from our old compute cabinet!

Eddie’s new bourbon bar created from our old compute cabinet!

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving week when I’ll be off work and can really get some organizing done.  And Christmas decorating for me begins the weekend following turkey day!  Just in time for my annual Cookie Exchange party…more on that later!

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