Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving 2014

October 14.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

In previous years, Thanksgiving was a time to anticipate a tabletop filled with a traditional feast: turkey as its centrepiece, mashed potato with cranberry sauce, roasted, buttered corn, thick lasagna, a creamy potato salad, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, a little wine, and rich coffee with dessert.

But, the price to pay? A day or two in the kitchen, a potentially aggravating sit-in dinner with a few abrasive, tactless family members who are always compelled to criticize either your job, your spouse, your children, your looks, or your lack of any, and a bloated gut or terrible hangover from a few hours of enjoyable gluttony.

Thankfully, that did not happen this year.

This year, my husband and I, and our two children, rented a car for a few days, packed our bags, and travelled to Kingston, Ontario, to spend our Thanksgiving weekend with my father-in-law and mother-in-law, who we haven’t seen in a long time with our last visit to them over four years ago.

On our way, we stopped at Fairview Mall for an emergency bathroom break and happily discovered a LEGO store for the first time. My eldest son, Michael, a 10-year-old boy passionately obsessed with LEGO had a spaz attack! We spent a good half hour in the store checking out the latest box sets, admiring the coloured LEGO wall at the back, and building our own customized  mini-figures.


Michael with LEGO block at LEGO store, Fairview Mall. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Michael with LEGO block at LEGO store, Fairview Mall. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Together, we built three customized mini-figures for purchase, one meant to be a replica of my son with his medicine pouch and a weapon of choice to battle the “zombies” of the future Zombie Apocalypse; a Fairy Pie Godmother who brings pie to all LEGO-loving children of the world; and Gardenia, an avid reader, writer, and gardener:

The LEGO mini-figurines we customized on our unexpected trip to the LEGO store: Michael, The Pie Fairy Godmother, and Gardenia. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The LEGO mini-figurines we customized on our unexpected trip to the LEGO store: Michael, The Pie Fairy Godmother, and Gardenia. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The car ride was loud and enjoyable except for the traffic we were unfortunate enough to get stuck in while on the 401. Still, we gladly took the opportunity to stop at a service station at Trenton to have lunch before arriving to Kingston.

The kids in the car on the way to Kingston. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The kids in the car on the way to Kingston. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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[caption id="attachment_8859" align="aligncenter" width="660"]The kids making faces in Trenton, at our On Route service station. We had Tim Horton sandwiches and soup for lunch. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved. The kids making faces in Trenton, at our On Route service station. We had Tim Horton sandwiches and soup for lunch. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Once there, it was not only a relief to finally arrive, but to see my in-laws after so many years. There were happy tears, hugs, and a thoughtful dinner waiting for us.

Mamá and Esly talking over dinner. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Mamá and Esly talking over dinner. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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While I was originally nervous about visiting them in respect to not seeing them in a number of years, but also because of the language barrier, once we arrived, their gracious hospitality and love made it so much easier to settle in—and stay.

We stayed for three days and two nights!

Each day was an opportunity for us to relax in our pyjamas, talk—really talk—and laugh, and ultimately spend quality time together as a family, which I found touching and rejuvenating.

Michael with his grandpa, Papá Ramiro—both in pyjamas. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Michael with his grandpa, Papá Ramiro—both in pyjamas. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Hugs for grandpa! Papá Ramiro and Xara after breakfast. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Hugs for grandpa! Papá Ramiro and Xara after breakfast. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The wonderful gift of my father-in-law and mother-in-law is not only their strong, personal faith, but how their faith is alive and active in their lives. Papá, who is a retired pastor, does more than spend his time preaching empty words without consequence or validation. His advice is not only usually faith-based, but sound because he is a living testament of what he believes in. Mamá, too, lives out her faith by action, not simply words. To have spent time with them even for a little while was to be a part of God’s loving grace.

Mamá. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Mamá. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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It is so refreshing to be a part of such an open and loving family.

On the one hand, Mamá and Papá, have very little financially. They don’t desire a large home, nor a luxury car of which to boast about to friends and family. They travel about once or twice a year to El Salvador, not for a vacation for themselves, but rather an opportunity to give to the poor and needy while there. And they feel no compulsion to own “bigger and better,” worldly things. They live quite simply and are always content with what they have. But, it isn’t because they can’t afford a lavish lifestyle—it’s because their mindset does not focus on the importance of materialism as one of their priorities.

And yet, they have so much of themselves to give emotionally. They are open and direct, but without the need to be condescending, critical, or controlling. While they want what’s best for their son, me, and their grandchildren, they always speak and act with love, kindness, and understanding.

Papá and Esly spending time together talking on the balcony. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Papá and Esly spending time together talking on the balcony. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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We did not have a giant turkey for Thanksgiving or a lavish feast of any kind. Instead, we ate homemade soup with beef and vegetables, pupusas (a Salvadorean dish made of masa flour and mozzarella cheese with cortido, a cabbage, carrot, vinaigrette topping), mashed red bean, Salvadorean cheese, fried plantain with cream, and coffee and tea biscuits for dessert.

I spent some of my time braiding Mamá’s hair while the kids enjoyed running around the small apartment, and my husband helped Papá with the installation of Spanish accent shortcuts onto his computer/keyboard.

We also had the opportunity to see my brother-in-law, Eli, and visit his new home in Kingston. The kids took such a liking to his jokes and playfulness that they want to sleep over at his house next time we visit!

My brother-in-law, Eli, with Esly discussing politics at the dinner table. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My brother-in-law, Eli, with Esly discussing politics at the dinner table. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Aside from family time, I was also able to visit the artsy core of downtown Kingston. I discovered a nice, little bookstore called, A Novel Idea, where I picked up a Montreal Book Review publication, some Kingston Writers’ promotional cards, a few bookmarks, Kingston Art buttons, and some postcards.

All in all, it was a much-needed getaway from the city, an opportunity to enjoy a long car ride and the autumn sights, to spend some quality time with my husband’s family, and to also get some stationery shopping done, as well as some letter writing to a number of my penpals.

The view overlooking the conservation site from my in-laws’ balcony. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The view overlooking the conservation site from my in-laws’ balcony. Kingston, Ontario. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The kids enjoying their long weekend trip to see their grandparents in Kingston. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The kids enjoying their long weekend trip to see their grandparents in Kingston. October 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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This year, Thanksgiving was so much more than about eating turkey. It was as it’s meant to be, a time for thoughtful reflection and a time for giving sincere thanks for family, friends, good food, great company, and the love and grace of God and His many blessings.

Whatever faith you may have or however differently you may celebrate, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration this past weekend! While I need not worry about a turkey gut, I’ve had my fill of other delicious foods and time well spent.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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How do you usually spend Thanksgiving?

What was most memorable about your Thanksgiving celebration this year?

If you could so something differently for next year, what would you like to do?

What are you most thankful for?

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Thanksgiving 2013

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Thanksgiving 2013

10.15.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Like many special occasion holidays that prompt family gatherings, it can be a stressful, if not lonely time for those who either don’t have family or friends with whom to celebrate, nor a healthy financial income to support such festivities. For many, this is the case on Thanksgiving.

While my family and I were never actively traditional in celebrating Thanksgiving with a turkey and its trimmings, we did on occasion, gather together with a large group of family and friends.

This year, however, my parents were away on a two-week cruise visiting 10 countries, while my father-in-law and mother-in-law were a distance away at Kingston with plans already made with other relatives. My sister had plans to celebrate with her in-laws and my brother was away on an acting tour in upper Canada, which will keep him away until Christmas.

Which ultimately meant, this year, my family and I were on our own.

So, I took the opportunity to take my children apple picking for the very first time!

Based on a great recommendation, we visited Carl Laidlaw Orchards  on a Saturday morning, which not only opened itself to our entire family including our dog, but was also relatively close to where we live, which meant a short travel time, and an opportunity to pick apples all day.

Carl Laidlaw Orchard Farm. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Carl Laidlaw Orchard Farm. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The kids getting ready to pick apples for the day at Carl Laidlaw Orchards. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The kids getting ready to pick apples for the day at Carl Laidlaw Orchards. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Me and Max enjoying our wagon ride around the apple orchard. (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Me and Max enjoying our wagon ride around the apple orchard. (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Michael reaching for an apple, (which was a big deal for him since he's extremely scared of heights and climbed up a ladder anyway). (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Michael reaching for an apple, (which was a big deal for him since he’s extremely scared of heights and climbed up a ladder anyway). (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Xara picking the apples she could reach! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara picking the apples she could reach! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Carl Laidlaw Apple Orchard. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Carl Laidlaw Apple Orchard. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The kids proud of their work. They picked half-a-bushel! Say, "Apple!" (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The kids proud of their work. They picked half-a-bushel! Say, “Apple!” (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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For a nominal fee for a family of four (including our dog), we were able to pick a half-a-bushel of any apple variety in the orchard, which ranged from Ada, Gala, Matsu, Smoothie, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious on that day. The price included a taste-testing of the varieties available, wagon rides to each plot, a free stroll on the grounds, a recycling bag for your apples, and a half-a-bushel of apples you get to pick yourself.

While we originally wanted to pick some Red Delicious apples, there weren’t too many to pick from the trees, so we opted for the next best thing, Golden Delicious apples, just a patch away.

 The kids were excited to ride the wagon (which we rode twice) and pick apples of their own choosing. While my son braved his fear of heights by climbing a wooden ladder to reach apples from the top of the trees, my daughter was more than happy to pick those apples she could reach at the bottom. And our dog, Max? She enjoyed the wagon rides the most.

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And rather than have a huge Thanksgiving dinner, we opted instead to have a quiet Thanksgiving lunch picnic at one of our favourite parks. It was a gorgeous, cool, and clear fall day, perfect for enjoying some time together outdoors. (It also meant, Mommy didn’t have to sweat it out in the kitchen trying to make a huge turkey!)

On the way to Gage Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
On the way to Gage Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Gage Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Gage Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Xara looking for more popcorn chicken at our Thanksgiving picnic at the park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara looking for more popcorn chicken at our Thanksgiving picnic at the park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Me, enjoying the sights and the beautiful, fall weather. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Me, enjoying the sights and the beautiful, fall weather. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Big oak tree. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Big oak tree. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Gorgeous, clear day at the park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Gorgeous, clear day at the park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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While the children enjoyed playing in the playground at the park, my husband and I enjoyed some down time having a picnic while our dog resisted from chasing every squirrel that she saw.

Instead of having a gluttonous Thanksgiving meal, we focused instead on the significance of the holiday itself, which was to purposefully be grateful for all we have—and at the very least, we were able to spare the life of one lucky turkey!

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How did you celebrate Thanksgiving this year?

What are you most thankful for?

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Thanksgiving Day: What Are You Thankful For?

Thanksgiving Day: What Are You Thankful For?

10.09.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The origin of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to the explorer Martin Frobisher who had searched for a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean and gave thanks for surviving the long journey from England. In 1578, he held a formal ceremony in Frobisher Bay in Baffin Island (now Nunavut) to give thanks to God.  This tradition of a feast continued as more settlers arrived to the Canadian colonies.

For me, almost the entirety of my family, the Garcia Clan, celebrated Thanksgiving together for the first time under the same roof. And as we said grace before our meal and then salivated at the abundance of food (which was made entirely by my cousin, Myra Tira, who is studying to be a culinary chef), the significance of Thanksgiving was made real in our time spent together.

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Chef Myra

Parties take a lot of work: the planning, the cleaning, the cooking—even the mingling. And sometimes there’s the ever dreaded politic of upholding your etiquette, your appetite, and your end of the conversation.

But yesterday was wonderful in that we simply enjoyed one another’s company—authentically. There’s enough history, personality, and chemistry in my family to keep the conversation perpetual, loud, and even raunchy! And though we can at times be irreverent both in volume, crass, and punchline, we are all trusting and open enough to laugh with one another—and at ourselves. Which was clearly evident between the second and third helpings of turkey, ham, vegetables, stuffing, mashed potatoes, apple crumble, and pumpkin pie with maple whipped cream.

What were you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

For me, it was the freedom from cooking my portion of the usual potluck thanks to my culinary-chef-cousin, the enjoyment of delicious food that reflects the abundance in our lives, and the relationships that I was born into and didn’t necessarily choose, but commit to out of bloodline, tolerance, forgiveness, and respect—those people whom you choose to love even more—simply because they’re yours.

The food, drink, and dessert always tastes better if you have someone to share it with: the right kind of company that will savour the jokes, the revealing family secrets, and the chizmizing stories as much, if not more, than the cranberry sauce or accompanying gravy. The food will always taste better when it’s made, eaten, and shared with proper cutlery, proportioned funds and—love.

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And while I’m usually not a sucker for sentimentality or tear-jerking, emotional flamboyance; this Thanksgiving I had my fill.

Lots of turkey, happiness, and laughs—more than enough in my opinion—to be thankful for.

Gobble! Gobble! Hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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What were you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?

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