November 20, 2017

Balancing the Blond, Gratitude and Tasty Tuesday


Peeking into my Thanksgiving weekend looks something like this: a heart jam packed with gratitude for the blessings of a generational legacy filled with strong family ties, solidified with unconditional love, and knotted with fun traditions that span 17 years.

It’s a blessing I don’t take for granted, nor do I minimize how rare of a gift it is.

Yet as I rode that hay wagon (minus the hay they had already cleaned out for the day) up the side of the mountain,

I kept thinking, “How am I here in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains amidst a forest of Christmas trees when one week ago I was smack dab in the middle of a South American desert area in Peru visiting with women who have nothing?”

The timing of my Compassion Trip has been a bit surreal. I never realized just how difficult the re-entry would be personally, and never calculated the fact that Thanksgiving fell one week earlier this year. I landed back in the US, only to dive back into one of the busiest weeks of the year with meal planning, recipe creating,  family organizing, schedules, basketball, holiday decorating, phone calls returning and the list goes on.

I wasn’t prepared for the “Mom, what’s for dinner?” question literally hours after my plan landed on US soil (sad, but true.) Life continued on back at home, but a bit of my heart was left on the dirt floor of Bridget’s home, and I’ve had to just kind of compartmentalize the emotions, as I found myself tearing up over things like flour and laundry.

Our December schedules may be packed, but I encourage all of us to step back and savor these moments. Breathe!!

Our Thanksgiving looks quite different from most. Our extended family heads to a hotel in the mountains for two days and we actually have our Thanksgiving day meal at a restaurant. Then we come home late Friday night, cook all day Saturday, and culminate the weekend with our homemade family feast that evening. (Trust me, finding Fresh Organic Turkeys for pennies on the dollar the day AFTER Thanksgiving is a GREAT benefit of being in charge of the Saturday Thanksgiving turkey.)

After much urging from my daughters, I put aside just a bit of our 20 pounds of gourmet mashed potatoes. With my family, if I bring 20 pounds, we’ll eat 20 pounds, and after all the peeling our girls did, they deserved just a little yumminess heated up the next day. Well, after a finishing a great round of Catch Phrase, (we’re a highly competitive bunch,) the midnight bell rang and we went on home, which is just next door on our homestead.

Peering into the fridge, I realized it was much too packed for the left over turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes, so brilliance struck at nearly 1:00 am. I already had a cooler on the back deck that I used to put some soda in earlier, so why not just put my left overs in there for the night? It was plenty cold. Yes, a perfect solution.

No worries that our yellow lab, known for its keen nose and hunting abilities, slumbered only a few feet away from that cooler, the lid was closed.

I slept well that evening, rose early for church and ran errands afterwards, including our visit to Sam’s Club where I passed up on that noted “Hotdog Combo special” my children love.

“NO thanks, I am saving my tummy room for some left overs. I can’t wait to dive in.”

It’s been 36 hours since that blond moment occurred, and I am still mourning the loss of an entire cooler full of Thanksgiving goodies. Do you know how many meals that would have fed my darlings?


Yellow labs + Turkey Dinner in easy, accessible access = dogs singing the Halleluiah chorus.

Yes, my family has re-instated my blond status, and I whole heartedly concur. I’m wearing that badge for awhile.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to cook since then. I need a few days to regroup, so I’m going for easy meals before I slip into high meal making gear again for the Christmas season. I’ve been on the go since my plane landed and we’ve had more meals in the car and in basketball gyms and standing around our island than I care to admit.

Traditional Black Friday photo: I’ve taken this same exact picture, on these same Mass General Store steps for 17 years.

I hope you take some moments to breathe, enjoy and regroup after Thanksgiving, just like I am. 😉 This time of year, I’m savoring every opportunity.

How was your Thanksgiving? Are your activities  keeping you on the go just like me?

So what are you cooking up for Tasty Tuesday? I can’t wait to see.
(Don’t forget to link back so everyone can join in on the fun.)

From soccer practice to PTA meetings, feeding an active and busy family can be hard. Tyson® Mini Bread Bowls help you get a little goodness on the go. These new Bread Bowls make it look like you spent hours on dinner and your family will thank you!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Tyson. The opinions and text are all mine. 


  1. Your family is so beautiful Jen. I always love listening in on the amazing traditions and legacy you have left for them. What a gift.


  2. Oh, no! Disappointing but one of those stories you’ll be able to laugh about for years to come. Great picture of your beautiful family.


  3. Oh, that is so funny! Well, maybe not funny yet. lol But it sounds like something I would do (I’m a redhead, but often accused of “blonde roots”). I have been thinking of your trip in my holiday preparations and trying to simplify and encourage true giving in my children.


  4. What lovely photographs! Thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving. And that was one lucky labrador!! I’m a Canadian living in the UK so we celebrate Thanksgiving in October, but I always try to have a mini celebration on the third Thursday in November as well 🙂 Thank you for hosting.


  5. LOL! That is something I would do. Even though I have really dark brown hair (well, now it’s salt and pepperish) my husband says I have blond roots.

    I’m glad you’re taking some time to regroup. Over the last 18 months we’ve developed a friendship with a family from Kenya. We’ve learned so much from them. I’m trying to find that balance between not getting caught up in the busyness and consumerism of our culture and yet still enjoy the blessings God gives us – including some material blessings. It’s a journey.


  6. Where was this location? We are planning a trip to the mountains to get our tree next week and would like to give them some business! AND I can just see your doggie singing the Hallelujah chorus 🙂


  7. Thanks for that great story, appreciated the lasugh this morning! My family read and discussed each of your posting from your trip and it was a real eye-opener for our children. My youngest even wants to mail one of her favorite dolls!


  8. Angela Watson Newsom This is in Boone. The tree farm is Triple R (there are a few though with that name). You have to take lots of windy roads from boone to get there, but it’s worth it. Just beautiful up there and the sweetest people ever. We’ve been going for 17 years.


  9. Enjoyed reading about your big Family Thanksgiving, and also your homemade one back home – and your “blonde” moment! Thanks for sharing, and thanks for this linkup!


  10. “Bumpusses!” (Name that movie) Oh, gosh, wiping the tears out of my eyes….

    How precious to have so much time with your family. A difficult weekend for us here in CA — Father in Law had a heart attack on Friday, followed by a stroke the next day. Miraculously, after a massive stroke, he is actually in pretty good shape, sharp, moderate paralysis of one side. He’s not out of the woods, and he’s kind of pissed off (which I see as a good sign), but we are actually regarding the outcome as a holiday blessing. Got to count them as you see them, or they will pass you by. Good to see you’re paying attention, yourself.


    Jen Reply:

    Oh Kristina – I am SO sorry to hear about your father in law. I will be definitely lifting him up in prayer this week. And you? How are you and your hubby holding up? I know the emotions are probably overwhelming.


  11. You have such a lovely family!


  12. What a beautiful Thanksgiving celebration! These are memories that your children will cherish forever. Thanks so much for hosting. I shared a favorite dish that my mom makes every year for Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes and apples. Many blessings, Lisa



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