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My dad passed away the weekend before Thanksgiving 25 years ago. For many, many years, Thanksgiving was a hard time for me. He left us way too early.071It would have been my dad’s birthday last week, so this time of year he is on my mind a lot. He would have been 83 this week.

It is a good time to take a walk down memory lane and think of the many things that he taught me and the things we did together. I remember playing catch in our yard in WI and also in MN. He had a worn, and very soft baseball mitt. It was way too big for me, but I remember the feel of it when I would slip my hand into it. I had my own glove and I remember how stiff it was when we bought it. I remember rubbing some sort of conditioner or sealer into it and them putting a softball in it and wrapping twine around it to help form it.

June 1967

June 1967

Frisbee was also something I did with dad. Back and forth. Learning to control the angle and speed and direction. We would throw it different ways to see what we could do. As I got better we would take a step back to increase the distance between us. Where ever we went, there was always a Frisbee in the trunk of the car, just in case we had time to play.

He also taught me how to shoot a gun, load ammunition and hunt. He taught me how to water ski and drive the boat. He watched Star Trek and M.A.S.H., so I did too.

It isn’t just this time of year I remember my dad, I think of him often. My brother and I talk about the different things we did with dad. We have some great memories.

Do you have special memories of your Dad?

Sincerely, Emily

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On Thursday, we’ll indulge in the great American celebration of excess that is Thanksgiving. It’s a strange week to be thinking about thrift and frugality.

On the other hand, we’re already well into the annual assault on our senses that is the holiday advertising season, when we learn how desperately we need a lot of shit that we don’t need, not to mention how buying it is the only way to prove to your family and friends that you love them. It’s particularly grating in my family, as my husband is a choral musician, and there’s nothing like a holiday ad for mangling great works of choral literature.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Although it celebrates consumption and indulgence, a big part of that indulgence is the immersion in family, in thankfulness, in tradition, in things made, and not just things consumed.

So many of the best family memories focus on Thanksgiving. My friend Terry’s amazement that I whipped my potatoes by hand. It never occurred to me to use a beater, and I still don’t like to. I think it makes the potatoes gluey. Watching the kids slowly turn their focus from childish to adult, as one by one, they stopped leaving the adult conversation after the meal. My annual fight with everyone else in the family over canned cranberry sauce which we never ever ever (ever) had until about 4 years ago, and which everyone now insists is a “tradition.” Did I mention that we NEVER had this before? Ever. I must have been having Thanksgiving in some alternate universe, because I’m pretty sure I was making this cranberry sauce every damn year for decades.

World’s Best Cranberry Chutney (From the old Sphere magazine)
1 lb cranberries (these used to come in 16 oz bags, now they’ve reduced bag size to 12 oz, so just deal)
1 cup white sugar*
1/2 c. packed brown sugar*
1/2 c. golden raisins
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup water
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped apple (Granny Smiths)
1/2 c. chopped celery

Simmer cranberries, sugar, raisins and spices in 1 cup water, uncovered, in a saucepan over medium heat, just until the cranberries release their juice (about 15 minutes). Keep heat low, and stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Can be served warm or cold. I think it’s best when made the day before and stored in the fridge, then served at room temperature for the actual meal.

* if you don’t want to use sugar, substitute 1 cup honey and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. You’ll need to simmer it a little longer due to the excess liquid.

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Indulgence can be a profane act of excess for the sake of excess, or it can be a sacred meal, shared with the ones you love most. You can consume for consumption’s sake, or in celebration of life’s sweetness.  Consumption can be extraction, leaving you sick and unhappy, or creation, which transports you.

How will you balance the profane and the holy this week?

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