It’s fall break!  Which means the kids and I (Jessica) am home all week.  Usually, I spend this week dicking around, avoiding homework, and then rushing around last minute getting ready for Thanksgiving almost entirely on the big day it’s self (to include cleaning), but that sucks so this year I vowed it would be different.  I’m going to be productive (which means there will be more on my plate than just Thanksgiving dinner) and I’m not going to spend the whole day on Thursday cooking my ass off so that my back is killing me and I just want to go to bed by the time everything is ready.

I set 4 cleaning goals for myself that I already (it’s Tuesday) know that I’m not going to accomplish.  Clean both the kids’ rooms, clean the fridge, clean the pantry.  We got Elijah’s room clean on Sunday, and Jeremy did a pass at the fridge that will probably satisfy me.  I’m hoping to do Freja’s room after Thanksgiving.  The pantry is not likely going to happen.  In addition to my cleaning goals, I wanted to get a bunch of blogs up and scheduled (it takes me a while), I have to work on a project for a landscaping client, we all have dentists appointments on Wednesday, the Climate March is Sunday, I’m supposed to be making calls for 350 Colorado, I applied for a scholarship, and I have to keep two kids entertained on top of all of that.

I almost titled this post Hell Week.

But despite all this, I actually am pretty optimistic about how this week is going so far.  Today I successfully accomplished a good amount of Thanksgiving prep that should make the actual day a lot easier.  Minimizing the amount of cooking I’ll do on Thursday not only means I’ll be able to relax more before the meal, but also that there will be less clean up after the meal, so if at all possible, I recommend that you do this.  Of course, this year my showing you what I accomplish all day isn’t going to help you much, because you won’t be able to plan this stuff ahead (not that I’ve planned ahead much, and I’m actually a day behind where I wanted to be), but next year you can follow my instructions for maximum success creating your Rocking Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Food Prep!

Today I made the crust for my pies!  I use Martha Stewart’s recipe for pie crust (she calls it pate brisee but it’s pie crust), which is super easy to make.  It’s easier with a food processor, but if you don’t have one, I’ve made it using a pastry blender before (which is like a mix between a fork and brass knuckles).  It would probably suck to make with a fork but you totally could.  I used frozen butter, just to keep it cold and hard.  It’s the little specks of butter randomly dispersed throughout the dough that make it light and flaky, you do not want that butter to melt and evenly incorporate into the dough!  You want tiny specks of it all throughout it.  Then they’ll melt, absorb into the dough, and leave little air pockets where they had been.  Mmmmmm ……

My biggest issue with pie crust has always been the edges.  Mine always look awful, and while looks aren’t the most important thing, it usually bugs the hell out of me.  This year I got the genius idea to google “how to make a pretty pie crust” and came to this page that helped.  Turns out it’s pretty easy, as long as you don’t trim off too much of the dough that hangs over the edge of your pie pan.

Rolling out my pie crust

Rolling out my pie crust

Success!! Best looking crust edges I've ever done!

Success!! Best looking crust edges I’ve ever done!

I also chopped up all the veggies I need for my stuffing, onions and celery.  I also put apples in my stuffing now, but to avoid browning I decided I’ll chop them when I make the stuffing tomorrow.  I chopped them very fine because I know that’s what Jeremy prefers, even though it’s likely that I’ll be the only one that eats the stuffing.  Not pictured is the whole chicken I put in the crock pot.  We use chicken as the protein in our family stuffing.

Chopped onions and celery for the mirepoix for my stuffing.

Chopped onions and celery for the mirepoix for my stuffing.

After that I peeled potatoes for our mashed potatoes.  You don’t need to peel potatoes for mashed potatoes, in fact, normally I don’t because I’m lazy, but the kids seem to prefer it so I did it this time.  To store peeled potatoes without them turning brown, you just have to submerge them in cold water and keep them cold.  I may regret having chosen to peel them today because everything I’ve read (I made the mistake of looking into it after peeling) says you can keep them this way up to 24 hours.  Whoops.

Hopefully they make it until Thanksgiving.

Hopefully they make it until Thanksgiving.

Finally I made my cranberry sauce (another dish that likely I will be the only one to eat).  Jeremy prefers that gelatinous canned stuff, but I like the real deal.  Cranberry sauce is ridiculously easy to make, you just simmer fresh cranberries, orange juice, sugar, and water.  I usually do about one bag of cranberries, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup orange juice, and about 1 cup water.  Then I’ll throw in some cinnamon.  You have to simmer it on a low heat and keep an eye on it though, or you’ll burn it like I did shortly after this picture was taken.

Before the tragic mistake ...

Before the tragic mistake …

Now, besides food, a Rocking Thanksgiving has got to be a meaningful one, so we discuss a lot of important issues on Thanksgiving week.  I try to balance out the pilgrims and indians stories Elijah gets from school with a little bit of a more realistic picture, and we talk about not only gratitude, but also justice.  This year, of course, the hot topic everywhere is refugees.  I have thought about what we could do to help refugees right now, and at this point the most we are doing is donating clothes and other things we are purging as the gift giving season is upon us and we’re about to get an influx of new stuff.  Obviously, refugees need help year round, and not just during the holidays, and organizations that help them (as well as the homeless) can be innudated with more help than they can use during the holidays, and in desperate need of more help at other times, so my desire to help is probably more useful as an ongoing process anyhow.  However, I have seen some interesting discussion surrounding this on social media and I thought it worth discussing here.

People have been rightly pointing out how hypocritical it is for Christians to be turning away refugees right now (not that everyone in this country is Christian, but there are enough who claim to be that we can probably safely assume that the bulk of the people opposed to refugees entering the country probably identify as Christians), especially this time of year when we enter into a holiday season where we tell a lot of stories that are relevant to the topic of refugees.  One meme going around (and if you follow our page on Facebook you can see some of the discussion we had on this subject, it was lively to say the least) draws comparisons between the story of the birth of Jesus and Syrian refugees.  Obviously, I agree with the basic sentiment of it, but I feel compelled to point out that Mary and Joseph were not exactly refugees.  They were heading into Bethlehem to take part in a census, not because they were being persecuted in their home town, or because they were driven out by forces outside their control.  They were basically on a business trip.  Their trip was temporary and they would be returning home again afterwards (had it not been for the whole Herod killing all the baby boys in the region thing that forced them to flee after Jesus was born).  And they weren’t exactly turned away by the heartless either, the story goes that there were literally no rooms left for them to rent because so many other people were there for the exact same reason as them.  I’m sure that had there been an inn with room somewhere in town, they would have happily rented them a room.

However, there has been a few memes making a much more accurate point, in my opinion.

Thanksgiving irony

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Boom.  These memes nailed it!

There has, of course, been arguments in response to this, most of them centering on the idea that the pilgrims weren’t refugees (therefore it isn’t a relevant comparison).  That argument could be made with the Jesus comparison, I just did it, but it can’t be made here.  The pilgrims were refugees.  They left England because of religious oppression and (with a pit stop in the Netherlands) went to a new place that belonged to other people where they could practice their religion without fear of persecution by the English government.  They were not “pioneers”, or “settlers”.  This land had already been discovered and settled, and they weren’t coming there because they just felt like going somewhere new.  They were pushed out of England because their radical religious views were not tolerated there, and they were persecuted by the government.  Refugees.  See the definition for yourself if you have any doubts.

The story we have always told at Thanksgiving is only part of the story, obviously.  But if we are going to keep telling it, we should be living up to the values it espouses.  As much as we try to deny who the pilgrims were, we all know the truth in our hearts, and that truth is still what causes us to fear refugees today.  We tend to expect others to behave as we ourselves have done in the same situation.  Our history in that respect is not pretty.

We can not undo the shame of our past by denying others the same blessings the people of this land gave to us that first Thanksgiving so many generations before.  We cannot go back and undo what we have done, but we can do the right thing for humanity from here on out, and pay forward the gift that was given to us.

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