Countdown to Thanksgiving!

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We’re in the last few days running up to Thanksgiving!  We are hosting once again this year and are so excited that the Hubby’s godchildren Molly and Max will also be joining us.  I love this time of year, and although there is a ton of cooking to do, I adore it!  The photo above is our table the first year Hubby and I hosted.  I made that table runner myself, and may use it again one year!

One of my pet peeves about hosting dinners is that I don’t like to have paper plates, plastic cups or anything disposable.  So we do it up right, for the 10 grown ups and 2 young ones, we have real plates, wine glasses, water glasses and the finest in Viking cutlery from IKEA.  It makes the dinner look pretty and feel like a real family dinner.  It was the tradition in the Lambert-Hennessey household, and so it is in our.

Our menu is below, mainly it’s from  my husbands family’s traditions.  I have however inserted a few new dishes, and a favorite or two of my own!

Thanksgiving at the Hennessey-Suliman House

  • Turkey (spatchcocked)
  • Mashed potatoes (with lots of butter and cream)
  • Sweet potatoes with Maxine’s special sauce
  • Marinated cabbage salad
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts (new favorite)
  • Roasted cauliflower with cumin and salt (new favorite)
  • Stuffing (outside of the bird)
  • Sausage stuffing by Allison
  • Roasted corn nibblets
  • Lime Bavarian
  • Fruit salad
  • Green bean casserole (from scratch)
  • Turnips and butter
  • Bread rolls and butter
  • Cranberry sauce (made weeks ahead of time with fresh cranberries)
  • Pilgrim bread (a Katy tradition)
  • Pecan pie
  • Pumpkin pie (fresh pumpkin puree)
  • Tofurkey (for the Hubby)
  • Vegetarian gravy
  • Sangria (Keith’s delicious contribution)

It seems a lot, and it is, but it’s so fun cooking everything and prepping in the run up to the day!  This year we also have a tiny little table for the two small people joining us.  It’s just adorable!

How does your family do Thanksgiving?  Is there a dish I am missing here?  Share in the comments below!  And the very happiest of Thanksgivings to you and yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is the big day! I wish you all the happiness, food and family and friends  you can imagine. I hope, on this day when we are thankful for so much, you will indulge me a bit as I ask you to think also about those that are doing without.

Simply, look into your communities, I can give you examples in the community I live and work in, and then look into your hearts.

Most people that know me know that I work at United Way for Southeastern Michigan where our call to action is to “Give, Advocate, Volunteer.” What most people don’t understand about the United Way is that, after years of analysis, community interviews and research, we have focused our work to align on three critically important issues – education, family (financial) stability and basic needs like food and shelter.

There are many critical issues facing Detroit, but United Way believes, and truly, I believe that these three are at the core of the many ills facing our city right now.  If you look around you where you live, you’ll probably agree that it’s the same in many communities.

When looking at what is most critical in the education arena, we focus on Early Childhood Education (children from 0 – 5 years of age) and High School graduation rates. I’m particularly proud of our work in the High Schools! We work in 16 schools through Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties – many in the city proper – through the gracious support of the GM Foundation and the Skillman Foundation, among others.

In just four years the graduation rate in these schools, which once hovered around 40% is now upwards of 80% and in a few of the schools, it at 100%!  Isn’t that amazing, and wonderful?  Five hundred students graduated this last June that, statistically four years ago, would have dropped out.  And although five hundred doesn’t sound like a lot consider that each high school graduate represents the equivalent of $127,000 saved in extra tax revenues, reduced costs on public health and crime, and decreased welfare payments.  Do the math… that’s $63.5 million saved in just four years!  It truly boggles the mind!

The one thing that made the biggest difference in the schools was such a simple solution – we deliberately worked to create a family atmosphere by breaking large schools into small schools and assigning one teacher to one class for all four years. Teachers and Principals really got to know the students and understand the challenges they were facing at home, and on the streets. In too many instances, it was the first time anyone had cared about the student. School became much more than “just school” – it was a window into a different way of life where there was a possibility that they could work hard, be successful, and go one to, one day, create a better life for their future children. A literacy-rich life, healthy and living above the poverty line.  I was delighted to be a part of the celebration this past June for the  young men and young women that graduated through our programs.  I was so proud, I could have crowed!  They’re genuinely special people, with the right path ahead of them now.

Please take a few minutes to watch this video and see, first-hand, what that “simple” change looked like. It was profound! Much Love: The story of the Detroit school turnaround

Now I know that just because I mentioned the words “United Way” you are expecting me to drop the bomb any minute and ask for a donation and I’m not going to lie, “Give” is part of our call to action for a reason… this work is costly. But, relax… I’m not going to ask you for money. I just ask that today, while you and others all over the country are indulging in your well-deserved turduken, six desserts, gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and White Castle stuffing, take a moment to consider the contrast of what life is like for so many of the students in those high schools today.

·         In the city of Detroit,over 57% of children,  about 233,250, live in poverty.

·         By comparison, 1billion of the world’s 2.2 billion children live in poverty.

·         Statistically, children in Detroit live at a higher level of poverty than the world’s poverty rate.

Isn’t that stunning?  In the United States of America there is a population of children that is living below the statistical worldwide poverty level! It’s nothing short of a travesty.

So, what do these numbers have to do with everything else I just wrote about?  Children, and by extension their families, who are in poverty, generally, don’t eat well – or at all (1 in 6 of don’t know where our next meal is coming from). And it is scientifically proven that a lack of nutrition alters your ability to learn. So undernourished children statistically, under-perform in school.  Think about it this way, when you’re in a meeting, and you’re hungry, aren’t you distracted, and have trouble concentrating on the meeting?  Imagine a child who has that feeling chronically?

Lack of proper nutrition = lack of learning = learning disabilities = High School drop outs = increased poverty, increased crime, increased substance abuse, increased strain on the welfare system. Not always, but more often than not.

The most frustrating part of all of this is that it is easily solved!

So, in this season of so much giving and gratitude, please take a moment to funnel some of that energy back into your community and the greater good. Raise your hand and volunteer. Raise your voice and advocate for hungry kids (psst… the majority of food stamp recipients are children – so it is important that we don’t cut them because it only perpetuates a vicious circle!). And, if you are so inclined, raise your pocketbook and give to an institution like United Way that spends day in and day out doing everything they can to solve these issues.

Remember that every great societal change has started with small, incremental changes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is here (almost)!

Every year the Hubby and I host his family for Thanksgiving.  The attendance numbers fluctuate year to year, but it’s usually no less than 16 people.  In the old house, it was super easy to accommodate the number, but since we have only just moved, we opted out of hosting this year.  We just don’t know how many people we can fit into our little dining room, although I am SURE we will have no problem, once we get settled.

I find myself completely at odds with myself, not having any planning to do, other than making a cake for the gathering we will be attending.  So, I thought I would spend a few days of blogging going over a few of the tried and true recipe’s for what we normally do, and share a few photo’s of the beautiful tables we have set over the years.

Each year, I try to do a completely different table from the previous year, and we do everything real.  Real plates, silverware, glasses, all from a stock I have accumulated over the years.  It was the big tradition of Hubby’s Uncle Henry and Aunt Max to have huge family gatherings at their house for the holiday, and we try to keep that tradition alive.  Henry built basic folding tables, with a T at the top, that would seat over 20 people in their basement.  But they were easily stored for future use, and we did use them last year!

The race to decorate the tables is usually something I really think through carefully.  One year I made my own table runner and loved the material so much, it became the pattern for our wedding announcements and party invites.

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I loved that table, and it got rave reviews!  You can see how long the table was, it went from our dining room all the way into the living room, and I think we had 18 that year for dinner.

Here is a typical menu for our Thanksgiving:

Roasted turkey

Gravy

Mashed potatoes

Sweet potatoes (with Red Hot’s sauce)

Fried or creamed corn

Stuffed celery

Olive puffs

Pickle and olive plate

Roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts

Coleslaw

String bean casserole

Stuffed mushrooms

Dinner rolls

Tofurkey

Cranberry sauce

Pecan pie

Pumpkin pie

Lime Bavarian

Blackberry cobbler

It’s a lot to put on the table, but generally everyone makes one thing, or more, and brings it.  I do the turkey and mashed potatoes every year, along with the pies and the Tofurkey.  Can’t have Thanksgiving with out that for the Hubby!

So, I’ll miss making all that this year, but through you, dear blog readers, I will virtually make a great deal of it for you in this blog this week!

What are some of your family favorites?  Do you have the same group each year, or does it vary?  I used to do a lonely hearts Thanksgiving every year, for people that had no family locally, or just wanted to be somewhere other than with family (you wouldn’t believe how many peeps I had with that reason!) The Hubby’s Aunt Max used to call it her “Mystery Guest”, and I am thrilled that we do keep up with that tradition as well!