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The Turkey Day Manifesto…

Count Your Blessings on Thanksgiving & Always

As part of my monthly guest blogger feature, I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on November’s contribution of a fab Thanksgiving Manifesto!

Per my initial discussion with our guest blogger, she would like for her post to be anonymous, she is so humble…you have no idea.  So let me introduce you to November’s guest blogger, ghost writer “Tellulah the Turkey”.  She chose it after the first turkey she ever roasted – too cute!  She’s a mom of 2 rocking the community with her ever faithful support, cherishing her friendships like gold and supporting her family with love and loyalty beyond words.

Without further ado, here it is….from “Tellulah the Turkey”

Thanksgiving is that time of year,

when we gather our family & friends so dear.

The little girl said, as she asked for more,

“But what is the turkey thankful for?”

My wonderful (yet mismatched) parents were divorced at a very young age, and I grew up being shuttled to & from every holiday celebration as my parents shared custody both with each other and an amazing support system we call our family.  One thing in common regardless of household on Thanksgiving Day?  There was always a ridiculous amount of food (usually as a result of chaos in the kitchen!), an abundance of love (served up with some inevitable form of family drama!), and fun & festive holiday traditions (albeit forced, at times, they are the BEST memories!).

Above all else, I {HEART} Thanksgiving!  This poor little holiday seems to get lost somewhere between choosing the perfect costume for Halloween and the hunt for the perfect gifts for Christmas.  But I beg to differ – it is an amazing holiday worthy of your time. Stealing a page from the Pilgrims and Indians (no history lessons today, I promise!), it is a time for reflecting on all your blessings from the past year, getting together with your family & friends (even if they are crazy!), and, of course, eating turkey until you feel stuffed yourself.  It is a time to BREATHE before the hectic holiday season kicks into full gear and we start it all over again in the New Year.November is the calm before the storm…and I urge you to take advantage of the reason for this holiday…to give thanks for all of these beautiful gifts from God.

Sounds blissful, right?  It can be with just a little bit of planning on your part…and a little gift I’m about to bestow upon you.

When my husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving in our new home, I vowed to pay homage to this holiday and all the family traditions that came along with it.  Admittedly, I was in complete nesting mode and went a bit over the top in my preparations.  I poured over the internet for Thanksgiving Day ideas, resurrected traditions that I haven’t experienced since childhood, and contacted family members to obtain favorite family recipes.  After all, I’m not one to mess with the traditional Thanksgiving Day feast – YUM!  I decorated our happy home with all things harvest (pumpkins, gourds, & leaves…oh my!), and found more than a few festivities to keep the family entertained (see below for details on a few of my favorite traditions).  The one thing I didn’t want to have to concern myself with the day of was endless hours in the kitchen preparing food.

The final outcome?  A deliciously wonderful day filled with family and friends gathered together to feast, reminisce, and count our blessings.  Oh, and 60+ page document my family now refers to as, “The Turkey Day Manifesto.”  This document contains all of our traditional Turkey Day recipes from appetizers to desserts and everything in between (complete with shopping list at end – simply compare against your pantry to ensure you have everything you need from the grocery store prior to cooking your first dish!), timeline for a stress-free Thanksgiving Day, tips & tricks for everything from choosing the right turkey to turkey roasting & carving 101 (Thanks, Martha!), ideas for turkey day festivities (more to come on that topic!), and a prayer prepared by my aunt that we continue to take turns reading before every Thanksgiving Day meal.  Did I mention my mom is a gourmet chef and dad is a caterer by trade?  These people know what they are talking about in the kitchen!

As my gift to you, I am including a soft copy of the original that you are welcome to beg, borrow, and steal from to your heart’s content.  It may not seem like much to you, but it is a treasure trove of tradition in one place for me.  I prepare most of the side dishes the day before (requiring me to simply bake or warm the day of) — saving the mission critical ones like roasted turkey and homemade stuffing for the day of — and don’t hesitate to ask guests to contribute appetizers &/or desserts. After all, who wants to spend the day in the kitchen when I could be enjoying festivities with family & friends???  My original copy is printed on pretty parchment paper, bound by ribbon, and filled with updated recipes and lessons learned from many a Thanksgiving Day since.  I cherish this document and use it every year to make my life just a little bit easier – and for me to truly enjoy the holiday and all of the traditions that come along with it.

Speaking of traditions, here are a few of my favorites…

Tree of Thanks

Years ago, I started a tradition called, “Tree of Thanks.”  Each person writes something they are thankful for on a leaf, then we hang all of the leaves on a single tree labeled with the year.  Even though they are made of light foam, it is so very sweet and insightful to see what makes the top of the gratitude list every year!

Make Your Own…[Fill in the Blank]

Oriental Trading Company is a Godsend!  Talk about something to be thankful for…the kids enjoy everything from Make Your Own Turkey Placemats, String Your Own Thanksgiving Necklaces & Bracelets, Build-A-Turkey Stickers…you name it!  Everything you could possibly need to keep your little Pilgrims and Indians busy as you play Hostess with the Mostess.

Gratitude Rolls:  Hidden Messages to Make Your Guests Smile

Whether you hide these little nuggets under a plate or in a napkin, or bake strips of paper tucked inside frozen crescent rolls, your guests will delight in finding these customized blessings, wishes, prayers, or notes of gratitude.  Spend a quiet moment reflecting on each guest to personalize the note for them or, better yet, get your kids involved with words & pictures that represent the season.

Thanksgiving Meal Prayers & Praise

Before you begin serving your meal, gather family & friend for a brief prayer and encourage them to name one thing they are thankful for.  Guests too shy or prayer too deep?  Hide conversation starters under each food dish and the first person to reach for it must answer the prompt (i.e. something light like name your favorite Thanksgiving dish, what’s on the top of your Christmas wish list, etc.).

Turkey Day Trivia and Other Games

By the time the Turkey Coma sets in, guests need to be stimulated physically and mentally or you risk an unexpected overnight guest as they fall asleep watching football on your couch.  Invite everyone to get involved in some post-meal games like our Annual Family Kickball Tournament, Pin the Hat on the Turkey, or test their knowledge on all things Thanksgiving with a Turkey Day Pop Quiz over dessert.

Finally, during this season of gratitude and blessings, I leave you with a few life lessons to live by and truly reflect upon this holiday season and always…

Live in the moment.

Laugh at the little things.

Love unconditionally.

Take time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

View the world through a child’s eyes.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Inspire others by sharing your Gifts from God.

Prioritize what matters most & the rest will fall into place.

Sometimes you need to go slow to go fast…breathe and surrender.

Be joyful in hope, grateful for health, and content with happiness.

Always remember that gratitude is the memory of the heart.

Count your blessings each & every day.

In the midst of the madness of meal preparation and the inevitable dinnertime drama, just remember to say “GobbleGobble” to great family, good friends, and delicious feasts.  Take a moment to count your blessings and give thanks for these beautiful gifts from God, on Thanksgiving Day and always!

With Love & Gratitude ~ Telllulah the Turkey

P.S. I realize this is geared toward those of you who host this annual feast, but I would encourage you to capture your own family recipes & traditions regardless.  It is a treasured moment in time that is often taken for granted, yet I bet each of you have a very specific dish or smell or tradition that evokes your childhood in ways that pictures or stories cannot.  Savor these moments and capture them now; if not for yourself, for you children and generations to come.