thanksgiving 1

Thanksgiving weekend can be a bit like dodgeball.  It can be stressful, competitive, exhausting and so on.  Feeling like your ten year old self annoyed with your parents and siblings? That’s real too. But if you take a deep breath and maybe a few of my suggestions below, it also can be a heck of a lot of fun. So here are my thoughts on how to make the most of and truly enjoy the holiday weekend.

Assign a gratitude list to your kids, spouse and self early in the week. We read it the night before Thanksgiving to set the tone and avoid jamming it in on a day already filled with so much going on.

Move. The Fine family is trying a turkey trot this year, rain or shine. You don’t have to be a runner, just walk the race. It’s not too late to sign up for most of these casual fun runs.  At the very least, grab the dogs and the kids and go for a long walk. If you are spending the whole weekend somewhere, plan ahead and sign everyone up for a spin class or yoga. Everyone feels better after.

Enjoy a late lazy breakfast and skip lunch. Brunch is a festive and healthy way to cut the calories and work of a meal in preparation for the double dinner we all will be having. Not eating just means you’ll be starving by the time the turkey and stuffing is done – or worse, gorging on the pre-dinner snacks! And in a house with kids, where skipping meals usually not an option, I find promises of pancakes can hold them quite a while!

Watch the parade for an hour with a blanket and a kid on the sofa… I even make an excuse for the “no TV during meals” rule and usually have this on during brunch. The bands are such great Americana and never cease to amaze me. Daytime cuddling is a holiday treat I really look forward to.

Play. Sitting around gabbing is great, but its fun to remind kids about old school games. Cards, backgammon, ping pong, chess, family twister, corn hole… It’s fun mixing up the ages as well –  who knew about some uncle’s random skills. Oh, and apparently kids can learn poker younger than one might guess. I am not completely sure this is a good thing, but it’s less dangerous than dodgeball.

Meditate. Obviously, this helps every day, but if you have lapsed this week is a wonderful time to recommit. Invite your kids or anyone around and then take that half hour and do it. I like using an app on my phone to simplify and drop in quickly. Lately I’ve been using Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s collaborative meditation app. Headspace is another simple, easy and useful meditation app. Rather than assuming you will be stressed and busy, center yourself and show up from a place of light and love.

Don’t talk politics, especially this year. There is someone who will disagree and need to make sure you know… and well, dodgeball might be safer.

Bring something delicious. My tradition is my mom’s Mississippi Mud Cake recipe. It’s  really easy to make and a showstopper. No one misses a piece of it, even the pie people. You can find the recipe below.

Say thank you a lot. Not just when sitting at the table but all week long. It’s amazing how easy it is to find things to say thank you for when you just shift your focus towards gratitude. I like to reach out to friends and thank them for being there for me over the year.

Turn up the music and dance. In the kitchen doing dishes, with the grandparents or just in the car getting there. Bring a portable speaker along to family gatherings in case there is a super complicated stereo no one knows how to connect an iPhone to. Have your teenagers make a playlist or just put on a Sonos 80’s station.

Hugs and foot rubs. No explanation needed.

So the dodgeball metaphor, while quite apt, actually emerged from a very literal family dodgeball style game over Thanksgiving a few years ago. My young kids were on the opposing team and one of them, who will remain nameless, kept bunting my pitches. Good mom that I was, I warned this child that eventually I was going to throw him out if it kept up, and as we both knew – I was at close range. He was not bothered at all. And honestly I don’t know what the heck I was thinking, but that next bunt I regressed into the kid who had been pegged with the ball my entire childhood and threw him out so hard he was knocked off his feet. Not my proudest holiday nor dodge editedparenting moment. So maybe keep the Thanksgiving dodgeball to a metaphor, and if you only have the bandwidth to focus on one thing this weekend, make it kindness. Kindness to yourself and your family. Don’t peg anyone with a ball.

Mississippi Mud Cake
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 lb. butter
1 3/4 cups freshly brewed coffee
1/4  cup Grand Marnier
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs

Butter a 9 x13 glass baking pan, set aside.
Sift together and place aside: 2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, pinch of salt.
Melt together: 5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, 2 sticks of butter (1 cup or 1/2 a lb.), 1 3/4 cups of coffee, 1/4 cup Grand Marnier.
Add 2 cups of sugar to the melted mixture in a stand mixer. Cool for 3 minutes. Add flour mixture to chocolate 1/2 a cup at a time. Beat on medium. Add 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract and beat.
Pour into buttered pan and bake at 275 degrees for 1 and 1/2 hours. Yes 275…and it almost always uses the whole time. I do not recommend using convection, but rather letting it take its time on a normal bake setting. Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. Serve with fresh whipped cream. Yum.

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