Wednesday, 15 December 2010


            Happily, this year we were all pretty healthy so I was looking forward to sharing a very American holiday with some folks over here.  As  you probably know, or can guess, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here so it’s been really odd to have businesses carry on as usual and Robbie have to go off to work. Last year, Robbie and I just shared some turkey and stuffing as our usual dinner.  It can really make you miss your family and friends.

            Let me go back a bit to pick up the beginning of the story. Last month, as part of my treatment I told you about the circulation tests they did on my legs and the specialist nurse I met named Ruth.  She had prescribed pressure bandages for my legs and we set up an appointment for her to make a home visit to me here on November 25th.  At the time it never occurred to me that that day was Thanksgiving.  Later, when I thought about it and realized I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to not only thank some of the lovely ladies that have taken care of me but to bring some people into, what in the past had been just a rather lonely non-celebration.

Then, it all sort of snowballed. One of the things I’ve talked about is my addiction to my computer games that I play for recreation in my spare (ha! Sure!) time... Anyway, on one of the games, CafĂ© World, we were working toward completing a goal by baking pumpkin pies (yes, imaginary ones). A couple of Robbie’s nieces play the game too and I sent a message to one that if she wanted to taste real pumpkin pie to come over for Thanksgiving. Of course I couldn’t invite one niece without inviting the rest and the whole family so I set up an Event on Facebook and invited everyone in the area for Thanksgiving. I thought I’d just have it a sort of open house forum—show up when and if you can. I was already going to have the food for the nurses so anyone else that could come by was welcome.

There was a time in my life when I could cook meals, bake oodles and clean the house in a few days but those days are long gone.  I am older and, hopefully a bit wiser. The days of baking three kinds of cookies, full Christmas dinner and a cake are gone and rightly so. That kind of craziness only got me a lot of leftovers and a stressed out, exhausted hostess, making my family’s life a misery in the process. Now I’m better to myself and to those around me by cutting way down.  I knew we didn’t have sit-down facilities for a big dinner and since, as I already said, it was going to be an open-house, show up when you can type of thing, I could only do a buffet-style.

Besides the pumpkin pie I planned to make my grandmother’s apple salad (recipe to follow) and I had some leftover peanut butter cookies I had made for a meeting Robbie had. Rather than having a turkey and side dishes I just ordered a pre-stuffed turkey breast and baked it a day ahead. On the day I sliced it into lovely home-baked rolls for cold turkey sandwiches. A jar of cranberry relish was on the side for anyone who wanted it. I figured that menu pretty much “ticked all the boxes” as they say over here, or in other words, checked all the American boxes for Thanksgiving. I also frozen mashed potatoes and corn in case we wanted to have a more full-on dinner later in the evening.

Because Thanksgiving isn’t really a holiday over here I had to make do with some homemade decorations. I printed out some clip art pictures I had from an old book on CD and cut them out and just stuck them around the table. Robbie had gotten me a tablecloth to cover the old table and with the last minute decorations it didn’t look too bad. I had a bit of leftover candy corn too and that added a bit of autumn color. I ordered what are supposed to be Christmas napkins with pictures of mince pies on them but to me, they looked more “Thanksgiving-y” than for Christmas. All in all, with what I had to work with it wasn’t such a badly cobbled together Thanksgiving table. Oh, and of course we brought out the “good china” i.e. paper plates!

Thanksgiving day I convinced Robbie to take the day off. He didn’t want to, in fact the man won’t call off work for anything—he’s definitely more dependable than the post office (especially over here!). He actually was still having difficulty getting over his cold and had spent the night coughing so much so that in the morning he had nearly lost his voice. That was mainly what convinced him that he couldn’t really do his job properly; he couldn’t work if he couldn’t talk. I really needed him here anyway to make and help serve tea, etc. Which he’s really good at.

Around 11:30 Robbie’s niece Denise arrived with her little girl Abbie straight from nursery school. Abbie was shy at first but soon warmed up and enjoyed tasting and trying cookies, a blueberry muffin Uncle Robbie tried to foist on her and even drank her own cup of tea. Mr. Moosletoes, my soft furry moose friend even came down for a cuddle. 

It was so nice to sit and chat with Denise and get to know her a little better. Unfortunately she was on a diet and didn’t eat much. While Denise was with us, it began to snow, a little bit of a powdered sugar dusting on the road and ground. I wish I had taken some pictures of them but I forgot.

The nurses, Alison and Ruth were supposed to arrive around 2:00 but they were a bit delayed and just after they had arrived, Robbie’s cousin Robert Owen came too. Robbie took him out to the kitchen to make him a cup of coffee and talk while the nurses looked at and worked on my leg. Ruth, the specialist nurse had suggested, like Janice the nurse at the hospital, that since the pressure bandages didn’t work they might try a stocking, like a knee sock, that would hold it up. That’s still up in the air since they haven’t yet gotten back to me on it.

One of the first things they said, though, was something I love to hear: how nice the house smelled! I think they quite appreciated a chance to relax and have a cup of tea and pie and being a “holiday” gave me an excuse to treat them a bit without any awkwardness since I am so grateful for their care. These nurses are the best! Robert Owen, the family photographer, took pictures of us all but since I haven’t asked their permission, and it was, in a way, during working hours, I’m not going to publish the pictures here.  I can report, though, that pumpkin pie was enjoyed by all!

After the nurses left, Robert Owen stayed and had sandwiches with us and this was the first time I’d been able to grab something to eat myself. Robert snapped our pictures then too although he’s been having trouble with his camera and the colors and shadows are a little off. 

Later on in the evening, around dinner time, Robbie went up and picked up his Auntie and brought her down to have sandwiches and pie.  When she left I got to call Ben and talk to him and hear about his holiday activities.

On the whole, I must say, it was the best Thanksgiving I’ve had since I’ve been here. In some small way I was able to gather a few family and friends of a sort for a bit of a feast. Like I had said to Alison a few weeks back, one of the harder things to living far away from home is trying to hold on to old traditions and holidays as part of your identity. And that’s always a good thing to try to do—especially when it involves pie! 

Robbie took the rest of the pumpkin pie to a prayer meeting at Nancy Waddle's house the Saturday after and introduced more people to pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, since you can't get canned pumpkin puree here it really doesn't do any good to develop a taste for it. Unless maybe we can start a campaign to get Libby's to ship it to the UK. What do you think?

I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get this posted. I’m still experiencing a learning curve with my new phone camera and I’ve been having trouble loading some graphics on the blog site. Also a lot of time and attention has been taken with last week’s Big Freeze and snow. Our internet connection was sometimes erratic because of the weather.  Now that excuses are out of the way, hope everyone is able to take a breather now and then and not letting the holiday pressure get to you! Remember, life is too short and the best memories can’t be bought. 

As promised, here's my grandma's apple salad recipe:

 Grandma Carson's Apple Salad

Apples (Grandma usually used golden delicious)
Chopped Walnuts
Celery, chopped
Bananas (optional)

1 egg - 2 if small (Grandma used 2)
2 Tablespoons Flour (more if necessary)
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

Beat egg and stir into Flour;  Add Water and Sugar; Cook over Medium heat - Do not let boil;  Afterwards bring to an easy boil until mixture thickens.  Add Vanilla. Allow to cool and pour over apples. Stir to coat and chill before serving.
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1 comment:

  1. Now, that is a delightful story. Well worth sending to Libby's and maybe getting you some free pumpkin resupplies! They love this kind of stuff! What fun, Janet. You're spreading the wealth!