Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday of all time, and before we start with the question-asking and finger-pointing, let’s go through my cultural history.

I am not a United States of American.

I am not so into the random, colonial slaughter of native peoples.

I really do not like candy corn.

I believe that pumpkin and sweet potatoes are some of the most wonderful veggies around, and their versatility in the dessert department only makes them that much more wonderful.

I think that if sage stuffing were involved in more matters of international relations – pork-free stuffing, people – we would be well on our way to world peace.

I spent a few Thanksgivings in the U.S. and enjoyed it, but it has only been in the last few years that I grew to love and appreciate this holiday. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a naturally thankful person, I guess you could say I err toward the melancholy and moody way of looking at things. People don’t come to me to look for pep and cheer, but when it comes to intensity, there’s no shortage here.

Thankfulness only survives because it is a discipline I choose to make a part of my life. It is the daily choice to see my circumstances differently, and it is the daily choice to hunt, to investigate, to aggressively search for the gifts God is giving me.

We invest daily in lifestyles and attitudes, and when we see something “big” in our lives, it is probably the thing that received our greatest investment of time and energy. I hope that one day a lifestyle of thankfulness will be so dominant in all areas in my life because I spent the years planting the seed, cultivating the soil, watering the plant and weeding the garden.

These are the years for this work because these are the years that are not easy. There is nothing easy about pregnancy, post-pregnancy, baby and growing baby on top of marriage, moving, learning languages and a host of other things. But cultivating an outlook of thankfulness when life is not easy gives me fuel to keep me going because joy is the cleanest, greenest, purest fuel of all. The best thing to keep my life going. The best gift I can give myself. The best gift I can give the people around me.

So for this November and every November to follow in our family’s lives, we celebrate Thanksgiving, reminding ourselves that today we can choose to be thankful and culminating in a Thanksgiving feast. Yes, we are a German-Sri Lankan/Filipino/American/Australian family. Yes, we live in Switzerland. Yes, we celebrate a wonderful, unique United States of American tradition even though we are not from the U.S. ourselves.

It is good to take a month of the year to remember that there is always a reason for which to be thankful

The centre piece on our dining table for the month, the Thanksgiving Tree, an idea from a very creative and clever friend. We write what we’re thankful for on the leaves and hang them on the tree. A daily reminder that all is well. 

When I look back on my life, I see pages of history littered with vows I made. I will never… I hope to… No one will… This will not….

The words that we speak and the vows that we make are powerful things. Yes I have often used it for harm in my life, but today how about I do something good? Would you like to join me?

I’m closing this month of looking at comparison by making these vows.

I am thankful for myself, for the unique way that God created me, formed me and gave me a purpose.

Today I will choose joy by being finding the reasons to be thankful in all my circumstances and relationships.

I will choose peace by accepting who I am and the stage of life I find myself in. There is no need to look at anyone else.

I will choose my future by dreaming my dreams, not the false ones created by comparing my life to other people’s.

I will choose the relationships I have, not the ones I wish I had with the people I wish they were. I will choose to see the good in the relationships I have, the unique ways these people bring joy to my life and I to theirs.

I will choose freedom, I will excel in my skin because I don’t need to live my life according to an artificial standard.

I will not make my child the collateral damage in the comparison game with other parents. I will accept him as he is, and I will give myself the freedom to parent him in the way that is uniquely suited for him.

Today I will choose not to compare myself to other people. I will choose to embrace who I am, who you are and the life we have been given, for it is good. 

Thanks for joining me as I wrote almost daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics.

The Scenario

The building dryer breaks, leaving you with four big loads of laundry that need to dry and only two drying racks. Not to mention your son doesn’t have enough warm clothes to wear for these wintry October days.

The Solution

You pull out the two drying racks, leave baby’s clothes in the dryer while you run it multiple times in the hopes that by evening after at least seven hours in there it will be marginally dry. You hang the remaining laundry on the racks in the living room.

The Attitude

And here is where you have choices.

Choice 1 – Complain

I can’t believe the dryer broke, God only knows we pay enough rent for this apartment, and they can’t even keep a dryer running. 

Choice 2 – Compare

I’m sure no one else’s dryer breaks. Most of my friends own dryers, what’s wrong with us. I can’t think when there’s no space in my living room this is driving me crazy. 

Choice 3 – Thankfulness

For a way to dry our wet laundry

For the joy on Small One’s face when he first saw the racks with laundry on it, like he thought I was surprising him with a game. 

For the endless rounds of hide and seek we played in, around and through the drying clothes.

For those giant eyes lit up in wonder as he walked through the drying rack, under the sheet, like he was enjoying his own tiny cave.

For the way he couldn’t stop wandering in and out of the drying laundry because the game never got old.

For an idea of how to build him a fort in the future. 

For how he scurried under the drying racks to be sneaky and get away from me even though I knew the whole time where he was going. 

For the squeals, for the giggles, for the laughter that came from his heart. 

For the freedom it gave me to play, to just play with my son. 

Thankfulness works. It is the only thing that can change our attitudes, our outlook and our character without changing our circumstances. 

I’m writing daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics.

Or the post where I channel Ann Voskamp.

We bought a new-to-us dining table in May. It is perfect, old, wooden and rustic, smaller than the one we have and not too high. Best of all, we’ll be able to attach a baby seat to it, so that small one can sit with us at the table and not at a separate high chair. But we haven’t been able to use the table because it has taken this long (and counting) to sell our old dining table.

For the past almost-six months, I swung from content to angry to frustrated to just-deal-with-it to content to angry to frustrated to why-is-this-happening-to-me and on and on it went. The list of reasons of why I was allowed to be unhappy was long. Compared to other people’s beautiful dining rooms – and Pinterest’s! – ours was bizarre with two large tables.

What do we do in these situations when what we want isn’t happening? When we compare ourselves to others and we lose? How do we get out of this?

Be thankful. Write down the reasons to be thankful. In everything there is always something for which we can say, Thank you. 

This dining table holds a crucial part of Husband and my story. He fed me at this table for the first time in February 2009, plates and wine glasses sitting on the IKEA table runners, both of us thinking we would never see each other again. We sat at this table again as each other’s fiancee. It was our table as a married couple. Husband cooked our first meal together as man and wife at this table. Baked fish with a tomato and basil salsa on the bachelor IKEA plates.

We ate most of our meals here before Small One was born. This table held our tears, laughter, stony silences, encouraging words, difficult conversations and impassioned discussions. We welcomed many visitors around it, all of us gathering, eating simple food, opening our lives, sharing.

The truth is that my heart hurts when I think about letting go of this table because it represents a treasured time of life.

Small One also loves this table. The glass table top sits on two thick wooden pillars, which make for fabulous hiding places for him. He has a little obstacle course between the chairs and pillars, and we have both mastered our hide-and-seek game around this table. No other part of our apartment captivates him in this way. We jump out from behind chairs and scream at each other, he doubles over in laughter. He runs between the pillars, waits, peeks out from one side then the other to see if he can spot me. It is hands down one of my favourite things to do with him during the day, and when this table is sold, it will be gone, the moment finished. 

This is what I need to think about to keep my attitude in check. When I focus on my goal – a “decorated” dining room, all the patience with my now and all the joy I could have in my now are sucked out of me by frustration. But in the very thing that brings me frustration, there are also many things that bring me pure, unadulterated joy. There is always something for which I can be thankful. 

What situations in your life are bringing frustration, anger and disappointment to your life today?What can you find in each situation that you can be thankful for? Write it down, let your mind dwell on it and see your attitude transformed. 

I’m writing daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics.

…. because sometimes comparison has its benefits.

Is there anyone out there who thinks bought baked goodies are better than homemade? Didn’t think so. I could write every day about the way the books I read as a girl shape the life I have today. Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, and Enid Blyton books, how I loved them all. The descriptions of pies in the oven, blackberry tarts and clotted cream made my little heart swoon. Almost none of these things were available to us in the Philippines. Every now and then my mother would bake an apple pie, and it was a Very Special Event when it happened. She is a great baker, my mother, and her banana bread, cinnamon rolls, bars, crumbles and other oven-related-things all made us feel warm inside and happy.

Baking, cooking, preparing food with love says to children (and if we’re honest, to adults as well), You are special, I took the time for you today, I’m not just cooking the basics, I went the extra mile for you because I love you.

I have taken my time with the oven, but with every step I’ve made in the baking world this year, I have been shocked at how easy it has been. Two loaves of bread baked (goat’s cheese, olive and potato bread and a wholewheat roasted fig and garlic loaf), a baby birthday cake (the Very Hungry Caterpillar cake), crumbles galore and more muffins than I realized. Not bad for someone who can’t be bothered with sifting flour and figuring out the difference between salted and unsalted butter. Ok, I know the difference between salted and unsalted butter, but I rarely buy the correct one for a recipe.

Cheesecakes are new territory for me, but it’s Husband’s birthday, and he’s responsible for the baked goods for his team’s Cake Friday today. This cheesecake was perfect because it needed to sit in the fridge overnight, which means I didn’t need to wake up early to slave away in the kitchen. I think we can all agree that 5am is a little too early to be measuring anything.

Technically I don’t know how this one turned out because they will be eating it in a few minutes, but I think this one is going to be a win. Please remember, I have a very strict equation that I follow almost 90% of the time when it comes to cooking: little effort + little time = spectacular results.

Meaning, when I look at a recipe, I try to judge if it will yield something wonderful for little effort and time. There have been exceptions to this rule where I spent lots of time and effort, and it was worth it, but for the most part, this plan works for me.

I think it took me 15 minutes all up to make this cheesecake, and then it spent a long time in the oven. I thought it would never finish cooking or that I had done something wrong because the middle took forever to eventually bake. But it got there, and after a night in the fridge, it looked perfect this morning.

  • Mascarpone and Blueberry Cheesecake    (from delicious.) I followed the recipe in detail with two exceptions – I couldn’t find stem ginger biscuits so I used 200 grams of crushed digestive biscuits. Hopefully it tasted fine. Husband will give me the report tonight. Suggested baking time here is 45 to 60 minutes. I think mine was closer to one-and-a-half hours at the low heat, with a slightly higher heat for the last 30 minutes, 200C/ gas mark 5 instead of 200C/ gas mark 4 that it was at for the first hour. I set my timer for 45 minutes, and when I checked it the outside was set, but most of the inside was still very wobbly. So I put it back, set the timer for 15 minutes, and checked again. Still wobbly in the center. That’s when I turned the heat up slightly and set the time for 10 minutes, and just started checking on it every 10 minutes or so. When it was only a tiny bit wobbly in the middle, I turned the oven off and let it cool off completely in there. Eventually I took it out and let it cool even more before putting it in the fridge for the night.

I’m writing daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics.