A couple weeks ago my husband and I went for a walk in one of our favorite spots. It had just snowed a couple inches and the world had that wonderful stillness and quiet that can only be after a new snow.
I think the best part about walks like this are that we take our time, looking at all the minutia of the natural world while our ears are listening for the tell-tale sounds of life.
We see frost on tassels of the tall grasses…
And we see spent milkweed pods, silk knotted in ice. And eventually, like this day, we hear and then spot a flock of American Tree Sparrows, a Snipe, and an American Pipit all under the watchful eye of two Bald Eagles. We hear coyotes in the distance and even though we weren’t far off the road, nary a car passed. These are the moments that ground me, that get my out of my own head, and that bring me a peace that I don’t know any other way to find. These are the moments that allow me to be brave enough to take on the world. They give me the strength to take on huge things, important things. Things so far beyond my comfort zone that I can’t even see my comfort zone. Things like cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
Some of you will laugh. I mean, I am — as my dear husband would say — “nearly four decades old” (he thinks rounding up from 37 to 40 is endearing) and really it is ridiculous that I’ve never cooked properly for Thanksgiving. I’ve helped Mr Knitting Sarah cook big meals, I’ve helped my mom, and I’ve ordered and heated pre-made heat & eat Thanksgiving meals from the grocery store with a mastery that is rarely surpassed, but I’ve never been the one behind the plan for cooking. Even though it shouldn’t have been, it was a big deal to me, especially because I’m not generally super confidant in my cooking skills. Baking, sure, I can follow any recipe, but cooking… that’s another story.
It was a challenge I wanted to take on though because I’ve been working on expanding my cooking repertoire and — let’s be real — it was time. Nervously, compulsively, I made my plans. First I made a list of dishes I wanted to make. Then I made two columns — one for Wednesday and one for Thursday — in order make sure that I had enough space in the oven and various cooking devices to get everything prepared on time. Then I set not one, but two alarms on my phone reminding me to pull the turkey out so it would thaw on time.
And then Wednesday rolled around. Game on.
It started with a crack of dawn trip to the grocery store. At this point, I’d already been grocery shopping for this meal for a solid week and a half at least and I’d been to the store no fewer than 6 times, but I had a list of last minute additions that Mr Knitting Sarah requested and other odds and ends. I was also grabbing baking items that happened to be on sale in preparation for upcoming holiday cookie baking because, really, why not just add that on top of everything else?
When we got home, I started by setting the kids up to wash and cut fresh veggies and then I started mixing up my first cheesecake, a classic plain one to be served with a choice of cherries or blueberries. It’s an item that is easily in my wheelhouse, so it was a good place for me to start. I whipped it up and popped it in the oven and then got to prepping and boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes. Potatoes rolling, I moved on to cheesecake #2, because let’s be real, how can one cheesecake be enough for 6 adults and two kids? We don’t need to discuss the fact that I also had bought a pumpkin pie.
It was somewhere around the start of cheesecake #2 that my mister texted to say he’d like to invite 2-3 of his co-workers to come to our meal. “Of course,” I said as I worked very hard to not panic. The more the merrier. In the back of my mind, I was hyperventilating at the idea of cooking that turkey while at the same time thinking how thankful I was I’d just thrown an extra load of potatoes in to boil for mashing and mentally upped the ante on the green bean casserole from one batch, to a double.
Even with the additions, I managed my Wednesday list with ease and even got a home-cooked meal for our family and my parents that evening. Sure, the dishwasher was working overtime…
And there was that moment cooking dinner when there was a lot of smoke and then — as it turned out — a fire engulfing the bottom of the oven, but I got the fire out and everything (and everyone) survived. I even had enough energy to work a bit on my latest spinning project…
Nothing, just nothing relaxes me like spinning.
Thursday morning we awoke early and the kids, my mom, and I did a 2mile walk to benefit the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club. I was anxious about getting home to get the bird in the roaster, so I walked like I have rarely walked before. I am by nature more of a stroller than a walker, but I hoofed it to that finish line for the sake of that turkey. And then, we went back to the grocery store. I just went in for paper plates and disposable flatware, but wound up with a full cart. I think that’s what happens when you have 4 people “helping” you shop. But I digress.
Thanks to the obsessive planning and work ahead, Thursday was a breeze. The turkey was in in plenty of time and even though I was the only one interested in the squash, it was done just the way I like it. There was plenty of room to heat everything up and it all came together right on time. We shared a good meal, a lot of laughs and all in all, it was one of the most memorable, feast-like Thanksgivings we’ve had. I made way too much food…
So we will be eating iterations of it for the next week or two, but I don’t mind. It was pretty good and it’s a meal I’m pretty proud to enjoy… even if I’m enjoying it multiple times!
The downside of making too much food, of course, is that few had room for cheesecake…
They weren’t super pretty, but turns out cheesecakes don’t have to be pretty to taste good. Yum.
I fell asleep Thursday night too exhausted to really consider that I’d actually survived and had fun doing it, but I did go to sleep happy.
I awoke to this view from my window…
Another beautiful, still, quiet moment before the family and the trees and the world woke up. It was just me and the waking sky and a bit of time to reflect on this lovely event that I was fortunate enough to host. And while it’s true that I am mindful of and thankful for this charmed life I lead every single day, this Thanksgiving was a wonderful reminder that even the challenges that feel insurmountable are a gift for which to be thankful. These opportunities change us, reminding us that we are capable of more than we realize. Even at nearly four decades old, you can indeed learn to cook a turkey, make a multi-day meal prep plan, hoof it 2miles in record (for you) time, find time to spin a little yarn out of wool, and make not one, but two delicious cheesecakes – to look ahead and see the little minutia in big (at least to me!) event. Indeed, it’s never too late to quiet your mind and see all those details and remind yourself that you are more capable of putting it all together than you may think. Along with everything else, I’m thankful for that, too.