Category Archives: Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving: A Turkey Cheese Ball

turkey-cheese-ballI think this is pretty darn cute. It’s a standard cheese ball — nothing fancy in the way of ingredients — cheddar, chives, cream cheese, a little pepper and Dijon Mustard — but, ah, it’s the way you decorate this cheese ball that takes it into sublime territory.

My only worry is that people will not want to mess it up. But it sounds delicious! Put this out with your crudites this Thanksgiving!

From your friends at Hallmark. Download the recipe and decorating instructions.

Your Thanksgiving Self-Care Plan

Be present in all things, and thankful for all things — Maya Angelou

718-6IH9jXLDid you know that 1 in 5 people cope with a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety? And that 1 in 10 people are in recovery from addiction? If you have one of these challenges, you are not alone.  Thanksgiving can be an especially stressful time, and that stress can make these conditions worse.

Even if you do not have one of these conditions, Thanksgiving may stress you out.

That’s why you need a self-care plan for Thanksgiving Day. Your self-care plan should remind yourself that you have value, adhere to your healthy boundaries and provide for resources in case you need them.

Consider reviewing your plan with a therapist, sponsor, relative or friend.

Here’s an example of a self care plan for Thanksgiving.

  • Stay on schedule with medications, meals and sleep.
  • Set aside time to rest and relax. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
  • Choose safe driving times. Consider not driving between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., when most DUI accidents occur.
  • Enjoy a special meal that is right for your dietary needs.
  • Abstain from alcohol or reduce what you imbibe.
  • Set aside time for exercise. Movement helps reduce anxiety and depression. Stretch, walk outisde, run, bike or do yoga.
  • Practice mindfulness. You can choose to meditate, say affirmations, do a craft or color. Practice deep breathing and other relaxation techniques.
  • Express your gratitude. Be thankful in a way that is meaningful to you. Gratitude helps relieve depression and anxiety, and has many health benefits.
  • Connect with people and avoid isolating. If you can, spend Thanksgiving with family or friends. If you can’t, arrange time to call them on Thanksgiving Day. If these aren’t options, spend a part of the day around people.
  • Do something nice for yourself. Ideas: a bubble path, pedicure, or hair cut/style.
  • Plan something fun to do that you really enjoy. Check out the Cool Yule November calendar for ideas.
  • Laugh! Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Friends Thanksgiving TV episodes or listen to old time radio Thanksgiving episodes of The Jack Benny Show or Our Miss Brooks (you can find them on YouTube).
  • Arrange for help, in case you need it. Put the phone number of your emergency contact person (sponsor, therapist, doctor, etc.) in your phone, to be used in case a crisis develops. The Merrifield CSB in Fairfax County also has a 24-hour mental health crisis number (703) 559-3000.
  • Enjoy a Thanksgiving Day meal with other people in recovery. The Unity Club in Falls Church offers 12-step meetings and a free Thanksgiving meal from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. with fellowship and great food. You can sign up in advance to bring a dish to share, if you like. Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia is offering a free Thanksgiving meal on November 21 at the Merrifield Peer Resource Center at 12 Noon and on other dates at four other locations in Northern Virginia for people who are living with mental illness and/or addiction..

What other ideas do you have for a Thanksgiving self-care plan?

Gratitude inventory for Thanksgiving

“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” — Aesop

The Health Benefits of Gratitude

It’s amazing that the active practice of gratitude has more positive impact on some aspects of our health than prescription medication (with zero side effects!). Gratitude journaling or thoughts have been found to reduce blood pressure, alleviate depression, improve sleep, boost energy, reduce pain and motivate physical activity.

Expressing Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Some families create a Thanksgiving tree, or use a gratitude jar to remind themselves and their loved ones of their blessings in a concrete way that is easy to share.

Gratitude Jar Activity

I think this is a wonderful idea. I bought a gratitude jar from Target from $3. Everyone draws out a chip and says why they are grateful for things like a favorite teacher, a special time of day, and lots of other things I hadn’t considered being thankful for.

Counting our Blessings

It would be easy to make your own with any kind of container and slips of paper. There are plenty of similar projects online.

Here are some ideas for things to express gratitude for on Thanksgiving.

  • The love and support of our family.
  • The company of our friends.
  • The comfort and security of our home and community.
  • The efforts of our teachers.
  • Our jobs.
  • Our volunteer work or causes that give us purpose.
  • Our faith in God or a higher power.
  • Our good health.
  • The companionship of our pets.
  • The bounty of our Thanksgiving meal.
  • Our good memories of people who have passed.
  • Our challenges that help us grow.
  • The dedication of our police officers, fire fighters and first responders.
  • The courage of our military.
  • The expertise of our doctors and people who help keep us healthy.
  • The beauty of nature and the blessing of our environment.
  • The luxury of time to do the things we love to do.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?


Do something FUN on Thanksgiving Day

“Be thankful for what you have. You’ll end up having more.” — Oprah Winfrey

How long, really, does it take you to eat Thanksgiving dinner? An hour, tops? That leaves plenty of time left over. Fortunately, there are plenty of fun options for Thanksgiving Day.

Watch the Macy’s Day parade or other parade on TV.

Go walking, jogging or running. Register for the Reston Turkey 5K (a 1K and kids’ race is also available), the Fairfax Turkey Trot or the Alexandria Turkey Trot.

Play Thanksgiving games. This is the best article: it lists 17 really fun-looking Thanksgiving games, including Mad Libs, an Escape Room, pumpkin races, guessing games and more. Some of these would be good for classrooms, too. Check it out!

Soak up some culture. All the Smithsonian Museums, the National Zoo and the U.S. Botanic Gardens are open on Thanksgiving Day. Mount Vernon and Luray Caverns are also open to visitors. Tickets are available for the 7:30 p.m. performance of The Nutcracker by the Atlanta Ballet at the Kennedy Center. The Kennedy Center also presents a free Millenium Stage concert at 6:30 p.m.

Have a laugh. Watch the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends. Listen to old radio show Thanksgiving programs — Jack Benny and Our Miss Brooks are funny ones. You can find them on YouTube.

Read the kids a story. I like The First Thanksgiving by Linda Hayward and One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B.G. Hennessy.

Play Turkey Day Trivia. You can play in teams and take turns drawing questions, or play with just two people. Here is the Word file so  you can download and print it, or customize it with your own questions: Thanksgiving Trivia.

Shop for early Black Friday bargains. Dulles Town Center, Tysons Corner and Fair Oaks will be open for shopping on Thanksgiving Day at 6 p.m.

Go to the movies. Recent releases on Thanksgiving Day will include Past Christmas, Frozen II, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Knives Out, a “whodunnit” starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, among others. Be sure to order your tickets in advance (e.g., on Fandango) so you aren’t disappointed.

Take a trip. Williamsburg is a great destination for Thanksgiving. Hotel prices are low, attractions are open (including Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown) and there are wonderful places to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal, not to mention Christmas Town at Busch Gardens. Richmond is also a close-by option. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open and you can even make reservations to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at the Amuse restaurant in the museum. Luray Caverns is also open on Thanksgiving Day.

Volunteer. The Reston Community Center needs volunteers on Thanksgiving Day. Other places to volunteer: animal shelters, food banks, etc.

Thanksgiving Plated Meals with a Tablecloth for about $30 – $40

There’s a lot to be said for a traditional, home-cooked family dinner. But there are also plenty of reasons to choose a nice restaurant for your Thanksgiving meal.

  • Sometimes, a restaurant meal tastes better than your own cooking! Plus, you don’t have to shop, cook or clean up (we’re talking many hours of work).
  • You’re part of a couple or small family, and cooking a whole turkey isn’t practical.
  • There is usually plenty of parking and people tend to show up on time when they know you have a set reservation.
  • Everybody dresses up and you get to take great family photos!
  • It gives you more time to relax, have fun and spend quality time with family and friends.
  • People tend to be on their best behavior in public — fewer family squabbles, less drinking.
  • It’s virtually impossible for people to slip off and watch football before spending an hour together.
  • Nobody has to sit on a folding chair or at the card table!

Here are some options to consider. Keep in mind that most restaurants recommend or require reservations on Thanksgiving Day.

  • Clyde’s about $30 – $40, offers a plated dinner of turkey and sides of decent quality. Desserts usually run about $6 or $8. Lovely atmosphere at their multiple locations; I am partial to Reston and Mark Center-Alexandria restaurants.
  • Ruth Chris Steakhouse (Vienna location in Tysons Corner), $41.95, three-course, prix-fixe meal served between 11:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., by reservation only. The meal takes out the guess work because there are only a few tasty choices. The first course is your choice of Caesar salad, Louisiana gumbo or steakhouse salad, followed by an entree of roast turkey with sausage stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce and your choice of one side only — garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, green beans or sweet potato casserole. Maybe your party can all choose different sides and share. The dessert is pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream. It sounds delicious! Beverage is not included. Ruth Chris has a dress code.
  • The Fireside Chophouse in Williamsburg is a nice option if you are visiting Williamsburg for the weekend. I seem to remember their 3-course meal was about $30 and it started with a delicious mushroom soup. The food is average but the price is good for a tablecloth restaurant. It was better than my cooking and I was happy with it. Check out the Christmas Mouse after dinner, which is open Thanksgiving evening.

Don’t cook! choose a value-priced Thanksgiving meal this year

“I can’t cook a Thanksgiving dinner. All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast.” – Charlie Brown

A delicious, all-inclusive meal at Cracker Barrell for just $12!

A delicious, all-inclusive meal at Cracker Barrel for just $12!

Thanksgiving is a harvest festival and enjoying a bountiful meal is part of it. I have made Thanksgiving dinner a couple of times. And it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t great either, and it was quite the project.

There are plenty of good reasons you might be thankful for choosing an affordable restaurant for your Thanksgiving meal.

  • You might have to work on Thanksgiving so you need flexibility and convenience.
  • You might be spending Thanksgiving by yourself (yup, that’s me) and you want to celebrate but you don’t want to spend a fortune on a fancy restaurant.
  • You like straightforward, traditional Thanksgiving food, not new or fancy iterations.
  • You don’t especially feel like dressing up to go out.
  • You’ve got young kids or other responsibilities that take up a lot of your energy so cooking would just be too much this year.
  • Portion control. You don’t have a great quantity of food that may tempt you to take additional helpings or eat high-calorie leftovers (pecan pie, I’m looking at you!)
  • It’s less stressful. You don’t have to manage multiple dishes and cooking times. You don’t have to strive to please the palates and dietary needs of your family and friends.

Here are some options to consider. I just can’t choose! They all sound good. I like that they all include pie!

  • $12 – Cracker Barrel (Sterling and Manassas) offers a Thanksgiving meal on Thanksgiving Day only for $11.99 between 11 a.m. and closing. (570 calories — not sure I believe this) I’ve had the Thanksgiving meal and it is delicious but it comes with this caveat: Thanksgiving Day is Cracker Barrel’s busiest day of the year. They will serve 1.4 million slices of pie! I recommend eating as early as possible, tipping your server well 🙂 and moving outside to enjoy the rocking chairs instead of lingering at your table at the end of your meal, since there will be a huge amount of people waiting for a table, because that is just good karma. This is what you get for $12: turkey with dressing, gravy, a sampling of sugar cured ham, sweet potato casserole with pecans, a choice of country side, biscuits or corn muffins, iced tea or coffee, and a slice of pumpkin pie. That is a phenomenal deal and an especially great option for people dining alone on Thanksgiving. I like that you get a bit of ham with your turkey. The only downside I see here would be the potential wait and the crowds.
  • $13 – Boston Market (Fairfax and McLean) offers a traditional Thanksgiving meal for $13 between 11 a.m, and closing (I believe they close early on Thanksgiving). (700 – 1000 calories) I’ve had it and it is a convenient option if you are working and don’t have a lot of time on Thanksgiving. It’s counter service, so you won’t have to wait at all for your meal. Most of the people coming in are picking up orders, so there’s room to sit. You get sliced, roasted turkey (or you can choose a roasted half chicken), your choice of two sides (mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable stuffing, sweet potato casserole, corn and macaroni and cheese), a dinner roll and a slice of apple pie or pumpkin pie. The beverage is extra. Tip: I’m not wild about the cranberry sauce. I’m sure it’s good but I’m allergic to walnuts, and anyway, it counts as a side. I’ve brought some canned cranberry sauce for my meal-for-one and been perfectly happy.
  • $15 – Bob Evans (Fairfax, Chantilly, Springfield, Manassas and Leesburg) offers an exceptionally hearty meal with lots of choices for a good value between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day for $14.99. (780-3510 calories) The beverage is extra. The meal (dine-in only) includes roast turkey and dressing PLUS three additional sides (mashed potatoes, corn, green beans with ham, carrots, macaroni and cheese and coleslaw) AND unlimited bread (biscuits, rolls, pumpkin bread or banana nut bread) AND a slice of pumpkin pie or apple pie. Wow! You sure won’t leave hungry! If you don’t care for turkey, you can pick ham or country-fried steak, instead. And the kid’s meal is only $6.99 and includes a beverage. That makes this restaurant an especially appealing choice for families with children.

These restaurants also offer family-sized carryout meals, ordered in advance.

Ways to express gratitude at Thanksgiving

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” — Willie Nelson

I recall two times when I was so grateful for people went out of their way to make sure I had a nice Thanksgiving when I was going through a tough time.

The first time was when my baby was in intensive care. My husband and I stayed with him all day. His prognosis was still uncertain. That day, the baby in the room next to his died after a terrible illness. We saw the young parents cradle their baby in their arms to say goodbye. My husband and I were so sad and we hadn’t eaten. When we returned home that evening, we found that our neighbors had left generous portions of their home-made Thanksgiving dinners, all wrapped up on our doorstep.

Another time, I was in bed with the flu at Thanksgiving. One of my young coworkers from Hallmark dropped by with her sister to check on me. She brought a plate of food from their family Thanksgiving dinner and I was so touched by her thoughtfulness.

If you know someone who is having difficulties, you’d be surprised how little it takes to brighten their day, and it will make you that more grateful for your blessings.

FTD “Shades of Autumn” arrangement, starting at $35.

Here are some ideas for getting in touch with gratitude and the impact of kindness and abundance in your life.

  • Compose a list of people and things you are thankful for.
  • Write a thank you letter.
  • Send Thanksgiving cards to loved ones. Dollar Tree has nice ones, two for a dollar.
  • Complete a guided meditation on gratitude.
  • Bring or send flowers to thank someone.
  • Attend a Thanksgiving Day worship service.
  • Say a prayer of thanks before your Thanksgiving meal.
  • Pass around a “Gratitude Jar” and share your thoughts.
  • Take a walk and reflect on your blessings.
  • Make something creative: a collage, some photographs, a drawing or poem.
  • Attend a 12-step meeting.
  • Volunteer or make a charitable contribution.
  • Reach out to someone who is going through a hard time. Even a phone call can help.

Have you found creative or meaningful ways to experience and express gratitude? What do you teach your children, if you have them?