It starts with a tradition. A family tradition spanning several decades. Thanksgiving morning always begins with the Gardner breakfast casserole. It's as important as snuggling up on the couch in PJ's watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
It's delicious. Mr. G prepares the breakfast casserole the evening of Thanksgiving Eve. Bacon, sausage, cheese, eggs, a loaf of bread. There's not an exact recipe - he wings it every time and gets it perfectly crisp and fluffy each time. I've never asked for him to write down how he puts it together, although I'm sure one of you will
A new Gardner tradition started two years ago. Smoked Turkey. We literally cook our turkey in a barrel - but call it a trash can and you're in trouble. It's a smoker. A steel drum converted to a BBQ. There's nothing like it. The juiciest turkey you will ever eat.
It makes me happy. But not as happy as seeing the two men in my life spending uninterrupted time together. I'm crazy about these guys.
And my little princess who adores her grandpa. It's so fun watching my daddy play with his grandkids. Love bursts from his smile. See it?
My mom and sister are always on their feet. Big celebration or not. These two are amazing. Whipping up food like there's no tomorrow and cleaning up so fast you would never know a feast took place just moments before. They are both nurses, nurturing is in their blood.
The secret to a holiday with kids is gifts. In this case, coloring books and stickers. It kept them busy long enough for grandpa to watch some football in peace.
Along with smoked turkey, we fry a turkey and bake a turkey. Three turkeys, three ways. We don't mess around.
And it wouldn't be complete without green bean casserole, mac & cheese, two types of stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, ham, my brother-in-law's mother's sweet potato casserole and the rest of the fixin's.
Then we gather around the table (picture sans my sister and I). We talk about how much food we've prepared and compliment each dish. We thank God for each other, our children, our health and we pray for our troops, those home and those keeping watch at that very moment.
It was Noah's first Thanksgiving. One that he won't remember, but mommy always will.
I'll remember how he tried to keep up with his cousins, how his eyes lit up every time grandma walked in the room, how he cuddled with his daddy, how he was ran over by Evan and was given the nickname "speed bump," and how he fell asleep in his car seat in the living room during our loud laughter and chatter.
And how he loved his Thanksgiving dinner. Scarfing down the turkey and corn, and delicately pinching the mashed potatoes until finally grabbing a hand full and shoving it in his mouth.
After our feast we relax and stay several hours past our intended departure time. The turkey is mostly to blame. That darn tryptophan.
At the end of the night we say our goodbyes, although we know we'll all be together at the end of December to celebrate our Savior's birth. And we can't wait.