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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Thanksgiving at our House edited by Fran Joyce with contributions from Karen Ketchem, Cindy Stockdale,AnneMarie Kopach, Linda Cahill, Priscilla Goodwin-Serra, Amanda Erny Joyce and Carole Munne

Thanksgiving traditions are among the most cherished memories of most families. I asked our readers from all over the country about their traditions and how they celebrate Thanksgiving. Here are their responses.

Karen Ketchem:

Karen and her sister Cindy were born and raised in New Jersey. Her husband Rick is from Virginia. After several career moves, they settled in Georgia.

My dad's parents emigrated from Sicily and mom's dad came here from outside of Naples in the early 1900's. We have an Italian flair with our traditions. Dad was in the Army stationed at the Panama Canal for two years. Chickens were in plentiful supply, so the mess hall frequently served chicken. After that, my dad never wanted to see another “bird” on his plate. Mom would serve chicken Cacciatore or Marsala to "cover up” the poultry taste, because he never liked roasted chicken or turkey. 

We spent our Thanksgivings at my mom's parent’s home. My grandmother, who was an excellent Italian cook, was born in NY to Ukrainian immigrant parents. She always made her homemade manicotti as a course on Thanksgiving Day because my dad didn't like turkey.

Now, I’ve started to make my homemade manicotti for the table at Lindsay and Sebastian's home (my daughter and son-in-law) the past few Thanksgivings.

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In our family, my dad always prepared his famous antipasto which was our first course, followed by the manicotti and meatballs and sausage. Then, we served the turkey and all the typical trimmings. Afterward, we roasted chestnuts in the oven, served fruits, and various desserts.

Mom and dad loved the sardines on the celery, as do Sebastian and I. After he passed away, there were only five or six of us at the dinner table, and some were watching their calories. They didn't want to eat cured meats, so now I prepare a smaller antipasto.

Sebastian's Mom always makes his favorite, Mac and Cheese. Sometimes, I prepare deviled eggs, a "southern" appetizer, which is part of Rick's family tradition.

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We always marveled at how many hours we were at the table. Grandma didn't have enough dishes for all of the courses, so we hand washed the antipasto dish to use for the manicotti course. Later, we washed the manicotti dish for dessert.  NEVER Paper plates or cups....still my tradition!!  You can see Lindsay's china in these recent photos.

We ALWAYS watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade while dinner was being prepared as I still do as well.

Cindy Stockdale (Karen's sister):

We start off with antipasto which includes ham, salami, provolone, roasted peppers, anchovies, carrots, celery and tuna fish all served on a bed of lettuce. Next course is homemade manicotti with meatballs and sausage. Next course is the turkey served with potatoes, string bean casserole, my mother in law's stuffing, my aunt's jello mold, turnips, corn and gravy. Next we serve fruit- anise, clementines, grapes, apples and pears. We end with Italian pastries, homemade chocolate pudding pie, apple pie, pumpkin pie and chestnuts, walnuts and almonds.  The entire event lasts 5-7 hours.  We take a 30 minute break in between courses.  Everything is homemade except the pastry’s.

For 28 years when living  in NJ we would have 23-27 family members at our table. Yep... a lot of cooking, eating and great times. 

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

AnneMarie Kopach:

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AnneMarie and Jerry Kopach live in the Pittsburgh area. 

Our big thanksgiving tradition is our annual family turkey bowl. Everyone tries to play, some much better than others!

                                           Happy Thanksgiving from The Kopach family!   

 Happy Thanksgiving from The Kopach family!

Linda Cahill:

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Linda and Joe Cahill live in the Pittsburgh area. Linda is an independent consultant for the Pampered Chef and a regular contributor to This Awful-Awesome Life. Joe is a retired firefighter for the city of Pittsburgh. 

This year will be our first Vegan and traditional Thanksgiving. Our daughter is a Vegan and we always included foods for her at family dinners and celebrations. Recently, she convinced us to give Veganism a try. It was much easier than I imagined. Joe is off all medications for blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, and we feel terrific. I'm over the top excited to live the holidays the vegan way! There is a substitute for everything except wine... I love a good glass of wine, but I have switched from white wines to the more healthy red wines. Joe and I will be preparing the main dishes which will include stuffed soy turkey with gravy, butternut squash & cranberry salad, and we'll be making sweet potato biscuits. The family will be bringing appetizers, desserts, beer, and wine. Dinner is always casual. We never use paper plates - but we use dishwasher safe dishes not my fine china.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Cahills!

Priscilla Goodwin-Serra

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Priscilla and Carlos Serra recently moved from the West Coast of Florida to the Huntsville Alabama area. Priscilla teaches at a local high school, and Carlos is in management.

I'm a Florida girl, born and raised. Carlos was born in Puerto Rico, but moved to Ohio as a small child. Until our move to Alabama, we lived near my family in Florida. Thanksgivings growing up were usually spent with my dad's family. We went to my grandmother's house. As I got older, I helped my grandmother prepare the meal, and we used the special china and silverware my grandfather, Glen bought for her. He passed away before I was born, so that china has always been a special link to my family.

After she remarried, Bill became my grandfather and we spent many Thanksgivings at his daughter Kitty's house. My dad, Len loves her coconut cake.  After Carlos and I married, we occasionally hosted dinner. This will be the first Thanksgiving away from my family. Carlos and I are still settling in. After the move, we bought some new furniture and a few furniture pieces to restore for the Dining room. We're in a race to finish before Thanksgiving, so we can eat our first solo Thanksgiving meal in our new Dining Room. Recently, I've become obsessed with making bread, so wherever we end up eating, there will be bread!

Before I left Florida, my grandmother gave me her china and the silverware. I cried when she told me the special story of when grandpa Glen bought it for her and the family dinners they shared together. 

Happy Thanksgiving from Carlos and Priscilla!

Amanda Erny Joyce

Amanda and Ian Joyce live in the Pittsburgh area. They are expecting their first child.

Ian and I are blessed to live near both our families. We are so fortunate that everyone gets along.  It can be hectic sharing the holidays, but we make time to do something special with both of our families at Thanksgiving.

I was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. Ian was born in Detroit and he moved several times before his family settled in Pittsburgh. His mom and two brothers live here. I have a large extended family. My grandparents, Gary and Virginia Rockenstein, have seven children - my mom Lynn, and my aunts and uncles, Beth, Ruth, Craig, Carol, Amy, and Andy. They have more than 20 grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The Rockenstein families make it a priority to get together to celebrate birthdays, weddings, holidays, graduations, and all things Steeler. Thanksgiving is a big deal. This year there will be 30-40 of us. At noon, we have our Turkey Bowl, and everyone plays. The youngest players are usually the team captains. It's fun to watch the toddlers grab the ball and run. We never know where they will go or who they will try to tackle! The winning team receives the coveted Golden Gobbler which is actually a plunger. This tradition has been going on for at least 20 years. Baby and I will be sitting out this Turkey Bowl. It's the first year since I started walking that I won't be out there running and jumping around. Ian will have to play twice as hard!

We eat a fairly traditional Thanksgiving meal, and every family brings something to share. I'm usually the designated "green bean casserole girl." Even though it's a casual day, we use the good china. Afterward we take turns sleeping or playing board games.

Ian will probably be working Friday and Saturday, so we will see his family on Sunday for brunch and watch some hockey or football together.

Happy Turkey Day from Amanda, Ian & Baby J!

Carole Munne

Carole and Vicente Munne live in the Pittsburgh area.

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In the Dominican Republic where Vicente and I are originally from, Thanksgiving is not celebrated.  After moving to the US, we adopted the American tradition.  Our family of four usually hosts and we invite  our extended family who live in Pittsburgh and any friends who may be by themselves and not have anywhere to celebrate. We usually have 12 people.

I prepare a traditional Turkey with a Cuban seasoning recipe, a ham with pineapple and prunes, Cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, corn pie, Dominican green peas, rice, salad and roasted vegetables.  We share bread that has been blessed at the mass at St. Bens. Among the desserts, Dominican Flan is a classic for us.  We also serve pumpkin pie and carrot cake. 

We say a special blessing prior to eating and play board games after the meal.  No football! 

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

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