I made mushroom stock for the cream of mushroom soup the night before.

In the morning, Gavin took our little one out to the park so I could cook. I watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on my laptop while I was stirring and mixing and roasting.

This is the first year I cooked Thanksgiving dinner by myself. (Gavin coached me on the gravy, but I am the one who made it.) I am so pleased and proud of how it turned out!

After dinner decaf.

Our first Thanksgiving of the season

This year we decided to try having two Thanksgivings, and we’re having them far enough apart that it’s an enjoyable swell of turkey and cranberries without being stressful or overwhelming.

Gavin carving the turkey

We had Thanksgiving with the big boys on Saturday, and Gavin cooked his traditional recipes: a Butterball style turkey, homemade gravy, stuffing, green beans and his roasted walnuts with rosemary and butter.

I made the pumpkin pie, though.

Saturday afternoon was a lot of fun. We didn’t get a huge bird, so there are just enough leftovers to have a few turkey-cranberry-stuffing sandwiches without getting sick of them. Then, this coming Thursday, I’ll be the one to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve never done it before by myself, and I’m excited about it. I ordered a heritage turkey, and I’m still researching good recipes.

Thanksgiving picture books

It’s hard to find good Thanksgiving books! Halloween books and Christmas books are everywhere, but Thanksgiving books are a little thin on the ground. We did find enough to fill up our holiday book basket, though. Here are our favorites this year:

Thanksgiving Is Here! by Diane Goode

I love this book. Last year I went looking for Thanksgiving books about family and friends and food. I didn’t want stories about cartoon turkeys trying to escape being eaten, and I was reluctant to introduce the Pilgrims and Indians story because the truth about what happened is complicated and ultimately brutal. I didn’t want to tell my child nice lies about Thanksgiving; I just wanted to celebrate what it is today.

Fortunately, I found Thanksgiving Is Here! It’s a beautiful, repetitive, rhythmic story about relatives and friends arriving all day long, and cooking and cleaning up and visiting and eating and making music and going for walks together. This is my favorite book about modern Thanksgivings.

The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing is also a cute book about how we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s silly in some parts, and sometimes the rhythm and rhymes stretch a little, but it’s a fun book to read together.

Over the River and Through the Wood was a surprise favorite for me. First, I thought the poem in the book was about Christmas, but it turns out it was originally about Thanksgiving.Then, I wasn’t sure my toddler would like it, but he does–he asks for it over and over. He is fascinated by vehicles in general and seems interested in the sleigh and in the family’s puppy who follows them all the way to the grandparent’s house and who ends up snuggling with his mother (the grandparents’ dog) on the last page.

My First Thanksgiving by Tomie dePaola

As you can see from the cover of this book, it has Pilgrims in it. I was talking to Gavin about my discomfort with reading Pilgrim and Indian stories and he said he thought kids should know the common stories their culture tells, and that you can explain the truth as you go along, but that raising a kid who had never heard of Pilgrims didn’t seem like the right approach. That made sense to me. Tomie dePaola’s book starts out with what are probably realistic drawings the people we call the Pilgrims wearing brightly colored clothes (not the fictional black and white ones) and having a feast “to thank God for their being together in their new home.” On the next page “their friends” (Indians/Native Americans) bring food as well. Then the book moves on to how we celebrate Thanksgiving now. The illustrations are beautiful.

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson

Bear Says Thanks isn’t specifically about Thanksgiving, but it’s about friends who all contribute something for an autumn feast that they share and that they are all thankful for. Part of me is perturbed that a real life bear would probably feast on most of this fictional bear’s friends, but most of me likes this book. There is a lot of repetition, especially of the word, “Thanks!” and it is easy for our little one to chime in.

Thanksgiving Treat by Catherine Stock

In Thanksgiving Treat, a little boy goes from group to group looking for something he can help with as his extended family gets ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Everywhere he goes he’s gently told to move along and try somewhere else. He feels glum until his grandfather finds him and invites him to collect chestnuts. When they bring the chestnuts home, the family is surprised and delighted with their contribution. Since we started reading this book, my little one has been talking about chestnuts. I’ve never had them, either. Clearly we need to find some and roast them.

An Awesome Book of Thanks! by Dallas Clayton (Note: We got a copy of this for free at a book reading by the author.)

I tend to like more traditional children’s book illustrations the best, but this book has won me over. The text is quirky and the rhymes are funny. My son seems to really dig this book, especially the last page where there is a photo of the author holding a sign that says, “Awesome.” This is a book about thankfulness, not about the Thanksgiving holiday, but I have definitely enjoyed having it in our Thanksgiving book basket this year.

Mummy cupcakes

Carrot cake mummies with cream cheese frosting, inspired by this picture on Pinterest

To make the mummies’s bandages, I used a #103 cake decorating tip. I used a star tip for the whites of the eyes and a #3 cake decorating tip and melted semi-sweet chocolate for the pupils, but next time I want to try using this tutorial for making googly eyes.


Wanda’s Carrot Cake

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Sift together:

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix together:

  • 1-1/2 cups cooking oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups grated carrots — packed
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix together well.

For cupcakes, place cupcake liners into two cupcake pans, and fill with batter. Bake at 300 degrees for 45-50 minutes. (When they are done, a toothpick poked into the center of a cupcake will come out clean.) Yields 24 cupcakes.

For a larger cake, bake at 300 degrees in a greased pan for one hour.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Mix together:

  • 1 lb confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 8-oz. container of cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Frost cool cake.