Visiting my mom’s side of the family for Thanksgiving is always one of the best weeks of the year for me. I have no commitments, and my parents do all the driving. So I can literally just relax, read, eat, and be merry. Thanksgiving Eve we did a crap-ton of shopping since our household was in charge of the sides. My mom and aunt were kind enough to make a stop at Earth Fare for me so that I could get a veg stuffing (most apparently have meat broths or fats in them) and cranberries, though I found a can of organic whole cranberry sauce and called it a day. If you live near an Earth Fare, definitely make sure you check it out. The prices are pretty reasonable, and there’s coffee, juices, and a hot bar too!
Three grocery stores later, we picked up dinner to settle in for the night. The family wanted Kystals, which we always get since my immediate family and I do not live near one. Since I couldn’t partake, my mom bought me dinner of my choice. Before the trip, I’d discovered Happy Cow, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant and store finder, so I used that and found a place called Mellow Mushroom which has a Daiya vegan cheese option. I’m not vegan, but I love trying new things that I can share with my vegan friends or friends with food allergies. Plus I already knew I liked Daiya after trying their supreme and their veggie lovers frozen pizzas on Halloween (though there were a few ciders involved beforehand). The servers were very nice and made sure to double check that I wanted the crust to be vegan. I ordered mine with tomato sauce, Daiya cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and fresh basil. I think when I order in the future, I’ll say light on the cheese or heavier on the sauce, but over all the pizza was incredible. Even my dad and little sister liked it.
Thanksgiving morning we all woke up early to get our Turkey Trot on. We have done this for the past three years because when I was brand new to Tone It Up (shout out to any #tiugirls out there!), I got super obsessed and I told my mom that I wanted to do a Turkey Trot. The rest of the family decided to join me, and now it’s a tradition. My dad and I run/jog, and my sister, mother, and aunt walk it. Normally I do not like working out in the elements, but something about a huge crowd all running together gets my adrenaline pumping.
My meat-free Thanksgiving, I felt, was pretty successful. I only had to make three things separately. The Gardein Holiday Roast exceeded my expectations. I can’t say it tasted just like Turkey but more like “oven-fried” chicken breast, which was more than fine by me. And the gravy it came with was the bomb. My sister, who does not like actual turkey, really liked it and wants me to get one for Christmas. Stouffer’s really let me down by not having a stuffing without beef, chicken, or turkey broth, so I had to venture out. A little part of me thought I could make my own, but laziness won and I tried Arrowhead Mills instead. True to its packaging, making it was quick and easy, and the herbs really shined through. And I made the green beans with the balsalmic vinegar and toasted almonds because I have never really liked greens like traditional Thanksgiving style greens, and my family’s in particular has some form of ham in it.
I know this will make people mad, but my family and I always go out for Black Friday. How early we go out depends on the sales, but it has just always been a fun thing that we do. Nothing good was on sale this year, though, so we slept in and went out in the afternoon. The only thing I bought at the mall was a cheese-free pesto and peanut butter covered pretzels at William-Sonoma, but my mom had spotted a Fair Trade shop next to the mall I insisted we go into.
The store is called Trade Fair Marketplace, and it is adorable. It is attached to a salon and not big at all, but it packs a lot of stuff from jewelry to bags to tapestries to Christmas decorations. And everything, of course, is ethical.
I didn’t actually need to buy anything, so I got coffee and a sampler of Divine chocolates.
When we came home, we made leftovers and waited for my baby cousins to arrive to make a gingerbread house together.
Moments like these make me feel like I do not give teachers, daycare workers, or anyone who works with children en masse enough credit. Have you ever tried making a gingerbread house with a seven year old, a four year old, and a three year old? That was exhausting. We lucked out that the two year old was asleep. But no lies, it was a blast in all of its hecticness. So we took everything out, and the three year old just repeated “gingerbread house” while trying to climb the table to examine the contents, while the older two kept trying to eat candy when we were not looking. A word of advice, set up the house itself before getting the children involved. My cousin (father of baby cousins), and I thought the house would just kind of stick together and then we would decorate. Not so much. Thirty minutes, two trade offs, and half a packet of frosting later (and my aunt called my grandmother to bring more frosting when she came), we could finally start building. When he was not sneaking candy into his mouth, the four year old wanted the house to look just like the box. The seven year old did not want us to put frosting on each piece of candy for her (totally fair). And we had to repeat “Gently! Be soft!” to the three year old as he excitedly wanted to slam the candies on the house. It was all simultaneously madness and cuteness, and I’ve never been more proud of a gingerbread house in my life.
We concluded our evening with a festival of trees, which was completely free and absolutely gorgeous, and a drive-thu lights show in which we only had to pay per car. Most towns or counties have their own versions of these types of events, and I highly recommend you go to one near you. Local tourism is always good for your local economy, and how fun is it to do something so pretty and festive less than half an hour away? The kids were just bursting with excitement, yelling over the trees with Marvel characters, Storm Troopers, and Trolls. And when we drove through the lights show, we saw them try to peak their little beanie covered heads out of the windows to take it all in.
And, of course, I found a musical theatre tree. You can’t see it, but I’m beveling for Jesus in this pic.
This trip was a blast full of old traditions and new activities and enjoying the company of my family. I hope you all had just as wonderful of a Thanksgiving as I did.