Tag Archives: Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving at the Beach

Ocean view condo for Thanksgiving 2005

In 2005, we spent Thanksgiving at the beach.  It was a first for the Odom family.  We had always spent the day at my husband’s mom and dad’s house in Jasper.  But my mother-in-law, Johnnie, had been wanting the family to spend the holiday at the beach and we finally all came together and got it planned.

I don’t remember the name of the place we stayed but I do remember that we all booked rooms close to each other so we could come and go easily.  When we arrived the first day, it was a sunny and windy day and we decided to head to the Pink Pony Pub for drinks and appetizers.  Besides me and Eddie and our three kids, we had Eddie’s brother Terry and his wife Rhonda and their twin daughters, Kate and TJ.  Eddie’s older brother Allen and his wife Rhonda were also there along with my mother-in-law’s sister, Joyce and her daughter, Debbie.  We had quite a large group, much to our delight!

Fun at the Pink Pony Pub!

My best memory is of the family gathering at Pink Pony Pub.  We sat outside and just enjoyed each other’s company.  Our family tradition of taking a Thanksgiving photo on my mother-in-law’s swing was transferred to the deck of the pub that particular year.  I remember the kids being adamant that we would take a picture to keep with tradition.  I loved that they wanted to do this and not skip tradition just because we weren’t in Jasper.  Then we took family group photos together.  The one of me, Eddie and the kids is probably one of my favorites.  We all huddled close together and hugged not just to keep warm but because we were all excited to be at the beach and together.  I took the photo of my brother-in-law, Terry and his wife Rhonda and their girls – TJ and Kate.  For the rest of the family, they posed around the table where we enjoyed food and drink.

There is another great memory from that Thanksgiving at the beach and it was watching the kids play on the beach from our balcony.  They had a kite they were flying and then they also did some writing in the sand.  It was just great watching them all enjoy the beach from afar.  I didn’t have the best digital camera at the time so the photos I took are a little grainy when I tried to zoom in, but it’s still nice to have them to bring back those memories.

We also enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving turkey and dinner that year at the condo thanks to the cooking of both of my sisters-in-law!  That was always a joke with the three of us since I didn’t do much cooking and they did…they used to just ask me to bring drinks, paper products and desserts!  That was fine by me!  They were both great cooks so why would I want to compete with that?!!!  I remember telling them one year that all the sisters-in-law named Rhonda did the cooking and the ones named Teresa brought the fun!  Ha!…and I still stand by that comment!

We’ve lost several family members since this Thanksgiving in 2005 so holidays tend to be bittersweet for us.  Still, we still do things to keep their memories alive when we gather.  Having these photos is so precious to us all and taking this trip in 2005 is still one of our great memories.  Now after 12 years, many of us have returned to the beach this Thanksgiving to make new memories.  And of course, I am taking the photos…

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours…

The Thankful Tree

Our Thankful Tree the first year...

Our Thankful Tree the first year…

When my kids were little, I was always looking for ways to bring the importance of thankfulness into their lives, especially at Thanksgiving.  We did the usual taking turns around the Thanksgiving table saying what we were thankful for and brought out little items they made at school as part of our dinner each year.  Pinterest wasn’t a “thing” at the time so going out and finding a multitude of ideas wasn’t readily available.  Hard to believe with the access we have on the internet these days.

One year I remember reading about creating a Thankful Tree using limbs from your yard and hanging leaves (cut out leaves or fake leaves) on a string to the limbs with why you were thankful.  I really liked that idea and it took on greater meaning to me in 2007.  That was the year that both my mother and her sister were diagnosed with cancer.  To me, for this to happen to two sisters in one year was an incredibly sad situation.  Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer that March and my Auntie Gail was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that September.  Getting them both through their chemo, radiation, hospital stays and doctor visits was tough that year.  But I’ll always remember how brave they both were and how difficult it was for them.  It was a privilege to be able to support them both that year and watch their courage as they fought this disease.

At Thanksgiving that year, I asked the kids to go out into our yard and find some limbs so we could make our first ever Thankful Tree.  We put them in a vase and cut pieces of brown yarn and added them to leaves.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t write on the leaves so we used sticky notes and stapled them to the leaves and hung them on the tree.  I remember watching my sweet Aunt write why she was thankful that year on a sticky note and then help two of her grandchildren with their own sticky notes.  I was so thankful that year that we were all able to celebrate Thanksgiving together because I know how difficult it was for both my aunt and Mother to get through their treatments.

A few years later, I found some paper leaves we could write on and we used those for the tree.  We had a few transitions over the next few years, celebrating Thanksgiving with the family in Jasper so we didn’t make the tree for a while.  But then my sweet Sister-in-Law, Rhonda, passed away suddenly in July 2014 and finding a way to be “thankful” was something I felt we needed as a family that Thanksgiving in Jasper.  I wanted to create something more permanent that year so I had this idea about using a bulletin board and using felt to create a tree on the board.  I enlisted my daughters to create this tree and they did a fantastic job drawing it out, cutting it out and then gluing it to the bulletin board.  They also cut out different fall color leaves from construction paper so we could write on them.

When I introduced it at the family gathering that year, it was just what we all needed. Don’t get me wrong, in no way did it replace those that we have lost over the years but it did give us time to reflect, all gathered as family, about what we still have and what we need to maintain our family ties.  I think it helped us reflect on our love for one another through whatever comes our way.  It was a blessing to watch the “kids” – almost all adults now – take to this “new” tradition and write something special to themselves on a leaf.

We have now used the bulletin board Thankful Tree for 3 years and I love reading what everyone writes.  Whether it’s something funny in the laughter of the gathering or if there is something special on someone’s heart, it captures that person at that moment in time.  I really do hope we continue to do this for years to come.

I have a larger project in mind after a few years of collecting these “thankful leaves’ and hope that by next year I can get it underway.  Meanwhile, each year I take the leaves that are put on the tree, write the year they were written on the backs of the leaves, and store them with my Thanksgiving decorations.  I am so very thankful that I found this idea so many years ago and I’m thankful for the creativity of my daughters in creating this on a bulletin board so we can keep it going.

Turkey Day 2015

My first Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing - all by myself!

My first Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing – all by myself!

I have a confession to make…this is the first year that I’ve prepared an entire Thanksgiving meal by myself.  Yep…that’s right!  I’ve never in all my life done this…but this year I decided it was time.

We had already celebrated Thanksgiving with the extended Odom family last Saturday.  My brother-in-law, Terry, did the honors where the cooking was concerned.  We brought the “big” cookie and some great wine.  Before my sister-in-law passed away, she and my other sister-in-law typically did all the cooking.  We had quite a banter going back and forth about the food.  They would tease me because I didn’t cook and so I was always given the task of bringing the drinks and desserts.  This usually consisted of pies from Costco.  (FYI – This was before the big cookie made it’s appearance in recent years.)  I joked that my culinary expertise was so great that I had sold my pie recipe to Costco so why should I make them when I could buy them!  In reality, I told them one year not too long ago, that it didn’t make sense for me to cook since they were both so good at it!  It was the truth too, not just a line to get out of doing the work.  Their Thanksgiving menu was always fabulous!

Over the past few years, I’ve wanted to learn more about how to make our Zuniga traditional Thanksgiving meal – in particular the turkey and stuffing – so I asked my mother to teach me and my daughters what to do.  I took pictures of the process and also wrote the directions down – which I can’t seem to find now.  She loved doing this with us and we a blast learning her method of cooking.  Anyway, my mother went to Chicago this year to be with my sister and her family and since Eddie and I were going to be home with two of our three kids this Thanksgiving, we decided to get a turkey and make a traditional meal.  Rather, he bought the turkey and “I” made the traditional meal!

Deviled eggs...a little mayo, mustard and sweet pickle relish.  Delish!

Deviled eggs…a little mayo, mustard and sweet pickle relish. Delish!

I made the stuffing (or dressing) and stuffed the bird close to midnight last night.  I had enough for a casserole dish of dressing on the side.  I also made deviled eggs because these are a staple at every Thanksgiving meal!  The heavenly aroma of turkey woke me up early and my husband nudged me out of bed so I could check on the bird and turn the oven off.  We got up to make breakfast for the family – my daughter Anna Marie and her new hubby Ryan came by for French toast before heading out-of-town this afternoon.  While they were here, I made the other preparations… peeled potatoes, got the mac and cheese ready, green beans and almonds in a pan and finally, took a shot at making giblet gravy.  It was a little thick (I think I used too much flour), but it did the trick and everyone seemed to enjoy it on their food.

Enough food for an army!

Enough food for an army!

My brother-in-law and sister-law, Allen and Rhonda came over to join us for our Thanksgiving meal.  It was a small group but it was really nice and relaxing once we got our plates fixed and sat at the dining room table to eat, talk, laugh and share stories.

Pumpkin pie and apple/cranberry pie were the dessert choices.  I’ll have one of each please with a little whipped cream!  It was a great day and I’m tired now but it’s a good tired.  I feel great about being able to make this wonderful meal for my family and we have plenty of leftovers for tomorrow and the weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!  I hope you and your family had a wonderful day together too!

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