Childhood memories are made of holidays. I remember Thanksgiving as a time of family silliness- snowball fights, marshmallows roasting in the fireplace and more food than is natural for 20 people to even want to eat. Fully decked out tables with china plates and Turkey and the works. Now, as an adult, most of my family is spread out, and the meals have become smaller, with different groupings of family and friends, but the memories remain.
I think for me, it will always be about the cranberry sauce. Sweet, tangy, gelatinous and fruity. And messy. My grandmother (baker of those amazing pinwheel cookies) made a cranberry sauce mold. Yes, in a fancy jello mold thingy. But she didn’t always get the liquid to solid ratio quite right, especially when she added fruit. Yes- the fruity jello molds of TV jokes were a common sight at my family Thanksgiving dinners. God bless my aunt for bringing her recipe to the table – no molds, no canned fruit.
OK, so let’s discuss my grandmother’s cranberry sauce. It was the first year I was married, and we had a small celebration at my grandparent’s Florida home. My mom, new hubby, a cousin or two and my grandparent’s dear friends Dottie and Charlie. Funniest and sweetest people in the world, may they both rest in peace. The meal was happening. We were all sitting around the table, cross conversations and a lot of laughter. Then, my grandmother remembered that she forgot the jello mold. She brought it out and asked my grandfather to let her put it on his still clean plate. He very clearly said “Edith, I don’t want any cranberry sauce – get a plate from the kitchen.” Somehow, for a few minutes, everything stood still as my grandmother stood there, oven mitts on, holding a cold Jell-O mold. In a flash, she moved over the plate and put the jello mold onto my grandfather’s plate. BUT, she misjudged her liquid measurements. Burgundy, lumpy goo spilled out all over the plate, the table, my husband (he was sitting next to my grandfather) and of course, my grandfather’s lap. Needless to say there were screams and words I can’t even write, but in two heartbeats, my new husband had made light of the situation, started to clean it up and had everyone at the table laughing. Except of course my very insulted and agitated grandmother. We didn’t have any cranberry sauce that year, but we all had a little lesson about gratitude.
Thanksgiving. It’s all about family, a big meal and telling each other what we are thankful for. But why do we have to mark this as a holiday? Shouldn’t we all be practicing gratitude all the time? Shouldn’t family come together, especially now that there is Skype and Facetime more than for one weekend in the autumn? I think Thanksgiving is a mindset, and we can hold onto that view all year long, if we wanted to practice a little bit.
So it turns out, that gratitude is also a healthy attitude – literally. Paul Mills, Ph.D., a professor and researcher at the UCal San Diego published a study last year with the American Psychology Association. He and his team studied 186 men and women with Stage B heart failure to see how a sense of thankfulness and gratitude affected their overall health. When they looked at overall psychological health, the researchers found that patients who expressed higher levels of gratitude had less depression, less anxiety and slept better. Now there’s some food for thought. AND, when they looked at the heart, they used blood tests to discover that patients with more gratitude had lower levels of inflammation and better heart health. I am passing this on, as the wife of a 3x heart attack survivor. Be happy with what you have, thankful for each moment, and never forget to live mindfully.
How do we define gratitude? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received; thankfulness.” But “thankfulness” is when we feel thankful for specific things, like a roof over our heads or that yummy meal. Gratitude isn’t so specific. I think it’s more of a state of soul, of just being grateful for our existence. It’s a way of coping, an attitude if you will, that allows us to affirm the good stuff in our lives. It lets us see that some of this goodness comes from outside of ourselves, and therefore, we are grateful.
It’s tough to practice gratefulness, even if we think it. I am starting a gratitude journal. Why don’t you join me peeps? If something good happens, even if it’s random – write it down. You can treat yourself to some fancy papers or just a plain old spiral notebook. If you’re not so old school – evernote? Word? Something more techno friendly. Gratitude journaling leads to a transformation in the mind and overall psyche. It’s a mindfulness change that affects how you view the moment-to-moment and the world in general.
So go ahead, make some family memories. Give your cranberry sauce the respect it deserves. Figgy, boiled in wine, or citrus infused – it does have a purpose. It makes you grateful. Grateful for the turkey, the laughter and the love. But most of all, the cranberry sauce and the memories.
Stay motivated and caffeinated!
Aunt Sarah’s Superb and Easy Cranberry Relish
You will need:
- 2 packets Raspberry Jello
- 2 Cans Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
- 1 Can crushed Pineapple Tidbits
- 1 Can Mandarin Oranges
- Frozen raspberries or strawberries
- Optional: add nuts or coconut
Step 1: Dissolve Jello in 1 cup water per packet.
Step 2: Mix in cranberries.
Step 3: Add pineapple, oranges and frozen fruit.
Step 4: Chill and Serve.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!