This year was a very special Thanksgiving, for several reasons.  For about 10 or 11 years, we have celebrated Thanksgiving with our core San Jose ‘Thanksgiving Families,’ the Farley’s and the Hauge’s, and the Kim’s.  But this is the last year we’ll do this in San Jose because the Farley’s, founder’s of this tradition, will be moving to South Carolina and starting a new adventure; and we Droz’s are not entirely sure at this point where we will be next year at this time…new adventures in store for us, too.

Most of the time, we host the party.  We have a great house for this – not that big, but with a layout that has let the kids run from room to room when they were younger, a living-room-turned-game-room (who uses a living room?) for video games, playing pool, watching movies, games – just a kid hangout – and a dining room small enough to make it VERY cozy – in fact, when we include extra guests, we spill out into the foyer, moving  in the kitchen table to provide a dining room extension.

We all look forward to this day.   Getting ready is a labor of anticipation and love for all of us.  For my part, I clean the house (thank goodness for company coming because it actually motivates me), prepare and cook my portion of the food (including turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, etc) – then decorate and setup.   The other Thanksgiving families bring  wines, breads,  pies, green bean casserole, soups, appetizers, cranberry sauce, and on, and on.  ABUNDANCE GALORE!  There is much sharing and taking home of food at the end of the day, as you can imagine.

I had two goals this year… maximum down time to spend with our son who was home for the weekend (we decided to go to the new Harry Potter movie on Thanksgiving morning), and I wanted to be P.R.E.S.E.N.T…really present…with my dear friends for this probable last San-Jose-Thanksgiving-Families gathering in our home.  I didn’t even want any help with dishes, pots, pans (because, really, the kitchen is too small to have that many people in it cleaning up – and this has nothing to do with any control issues I may have, by the way 😉 ).

This is where my secret comes in… I did not decorate…I did not make my apple pie…and though I served up plenty of food myself, I did not serve as much…AND (GASP!, HORROR!, BLASPHEMY!) I did not prepare and cook it from scratch!   I have never done that before on Thanksgiving.

Who did the cooking?  My new Thanksgiving BFF’s,  Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods Market!

All I did was shop (one of my favorite things to do in this life is grocery shop)… ingredients for the pumpkin pies (my guys make the pumpkin pies every year – no work for me – and I decided NOT to make my ‘famous’ traditional apple pie!), TJ’s pre-brined turkey, TJ’s frozen mashed potato balls (so good, there weren’t even any left by the time I made it to the food), TJ’s sweet potatoes w/cranberries, TJ’s scalloped potatoes, Wholefoods pre-chopped onions and celery (this is was the epitome of cooking laziness, in my opinion – really, I couldn’t even chop?) for TJ’s boxed cornbread stuffing mix, and BOXED GRAVY!  That was it!  I opened everything up, put it into my serving dishes, threw together the stuffing the night before, and my husband rotisserie’d the pre-brined turkey.

Guess what?  Not ONE person noticed that I hadn’t prepared those side dishes.  The rotisserie turkey was moist and delicious.   An apple pie showed up…AND in addition to all the other food, each family brought a surprise decoration – lovely candles and a beautiful Poinsettia – so even that was taken care of with no effort or planning on my part!)  We all enjoyed laughter, love, and hours…the party went on ‘til almost midnight, and I wasn’t at all tired from 2 days of non-stop cooking!

I didn’t feel like a failure for not cooking from scratch…I just love that I have evolved to this point – in fact, I welcome it with enthusiasm!

So, here’s to Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods for providing me with a way to serve a fabulous turkey and tasty side dishes with little effort on my part.

…and a huge thanks to the star of cleanup duty this year – my dishwasher – leaving us all more face-to-face, story-telling, blissful sit-at-the-table time together.  But mostly, here’s to the last decade of wonderful holiday memories with friends and family, a toast to the bright and adventurous future for all of us, and also to ignoring the holiday ‘shoulds’ and just embracing what really matters.