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Happy Thanksgiving to one an all! It's a wonderful time to gather with family and friends, eat good food, and be thankful for everything we have surrounding us.

I was feeling a little melancholy last night as I stirred my 5 minute fudge. It has been our family tradition for as long as I can remember - that I bring the fudge. I always made two batches - one with nuts - and one plain. The trick is to actually cook it less than 5 minutes. Somewhere between 4 minutes and 4 1/2 minutes. Then the fudge comes out smooth and you can just pour it into a pan. Other times it comes out thick and you have to scoop it into the pan. In either case, it still tastes delicious. I don't know where this recipe originated from, but I know we've been making it in our family for years and years. One year I brought it up to Minnesota with us for the holidays. I told my sister-in-law about the fudge. She said, "Get real, Pat! It's on the back of the Marshmallow Fluff jar!" I was heart broken! But then I compared the recipes and I saw that there were slight variations so I didn't feel so bad.

So I made the fudge, because it is tradition, but I won't be spending the holiday with my family. Usually Jim and I are on the road for Thanksgiving, making our way down to AZ for the winter. So it would be just the two of us for the holiday. I'd cook a couple of Cornish hens for dinner, or roast a chicken. But this year we came to AZ early, and there is a large group of us (almost 30) celebrating the holiday together. They aren't my family by blood, but they are a good group of friends and that's the next best thing.

Another tradition we had at home was S-O-S cookies. That's what we called them. My mom made them in shapes of S's and O's. They are an Italian cookie with icing on them. Out of us six kids, three liked the O's, and three liked the S's. Then it was 4-2 in favor of the O's. Why such a big deal when they are the same cookie? The secret is in the center of the "O" - it's nice and soft because it doesn't get exposed to the heat like all the sides of the "S's". The year before my mother died, my sister's and I gathered at my other sister's house. I call her Linda Martha Stewart. She knows everything from cooking to fixing things - and she can do it all. Anyway, we were all going to make the SOS cookies. My mom was rolling the dough flipping the O's into the air and putting them on the cookie sheet like an expert. My twin sister and I felt like we were in kindergarten. Our O's were large and misshapen. It took us so long to fill one cookie sheet TOGETHER; meanwhile my mom was starting her second sheet in no time! We had such a great time, and made over 200 cookies! Although Mom is gone, Linda carries on the tradition and makes the SOS cookies, albeit only the O's, for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This traveling life that Jim and I are living is great, but there are some things that are sorely missed. I don't have any Christmas decorations with us because a) there is absolutely NO room to store them and b) we always fly home for Christmas. But I miss my Christmas decorations. Does that sound crazy? I have wooden mittens and a Santa sleigh that my Dad made for me (he died in 1995). Dad also cut out little pieces of wood and wrapped each piece up with Christmas wrap so they look like little presents and filled the sleigh. He did this for all six kids. Yeah. He loved Christmas. Every year he took a picture of his Christmas tree and nativity set. Every year it looked the same (the tree was artificial), but he did it just the same.

I bought ornaments for my kids each year that would represent something of that year, like if they played a sport, or when my daughter was in girl scouts, etc. Each year when I decorated the tree, I'd bawl my eyes out when I'd hang the ornaments. "Oh look, baby's first Christmas!" Sob! When we decided to hit the road, I separated the ornaments - wrapped up all of my daughter's and put them in a box, then wrapped up all my son's and put his in a box. It broke my heart but I handed them over to each of them. I figured they should have them on THEIR tree now, instead of being in storage. Besides, they are all grown up. The first year my daughter got the ornaments, she called me up and said, "Okay, Mom, I'm hanging the "Baby's First Christmas" ornament right now," so I could cry!

During my first marriage we had a flood in our basement and it ruined a lot of our Christmas decorations. I had to throw so many of them out. My mom gave me some old ornaments that they had - they were those really large red glass balls, still in the original cardboard box, with a sticker on the side with the price of .19! Every year I'd hang these large balls on the tree with love, thinking in my head how my parents hung these on their first Christmas tree, had these in their first house, had these before they even had kids. For YEARS I played these images over in my mind. Then one year I mentioned to my mother, "So, Mom, remember those big, red, ball ornaments you gave to me when my basement flooded and I didn't have much money to buy anything new?"

She vaguely remembered.

"So, you had these in your first house? These were from your first Christmas tree?" I asked, all excited.

"Are you kidding? Those were from Aunt Sue! I HATED those things! I thought they were too gaudy. We never used them!"

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