We pulled off the ferry late (one somewhat recent) Thursday night after spending a memorable Thanksgiving on Bainbridge Island at the Gil-wards Holiday gathering. Tom and I are grateful for having secured two of the most-coveted seats on that Island for this year’s celebration between two households, shared with Family and Friends.
For those of you in the know, Tom and I have had a years-long tradition of spending Thanksgiving beachside in Hawaii, grilling our dinner mere feet from the ocean with our toes in the sand. It is easy to be thankful while romping in the clear water and warming in the sun all day before setting up a mini-kitchen on the beach, cocktails in hand. Grateful to be watching the enormous sun slowly disappear beyond the horizon while simultaneously leaving a magnificent glow of color in the sky for those who patiently stay around. Grateful for waves serenading us with their gentle rhythm as families, dressed in linens, pass by on their way to the nearby resorts for their turkey dinners. During those precious moments, we always feel amazingly grateful for our lives here on earth, especially on Island.
This year, as I mentioned, Thanksgiving was different. It was spent in the company of our Family, on an island that poured rain more dramatically than the ocean waves sang and was warmed not by the sun, but by the love (and heaters) in the home (and on the beautifully curated porch). This was not a tropical island, but I would not have traded that night for one in the tropics. Not this year!
I was reminded of how important it is to spend moments of meaning with Family (and with Friends that might as well be Family). As we all sat down to dinner, each of us had a name card at their plate, which I assumed was there to indicate where we were to sit. It was there to do that, yes, but there was more. After the meal, we were directed to pass our card to the person on the left and to write something for which we are grateful about the person on the card of that passed from the person on our right. This would go on until the cards with our names made it back to their original spot. At the end, we all had a card that was filled with things about us for which people were grateful. How fantastic is that?!
I am not one to write something so quickly, so I am sure to have stumbled on my words and on my pen. To all of you seated around the table that night, I hope you each know how much I love and adore you (well, I did just meet one of you but if you continue to make Katie happy, I will certainly love you too). I am thankful to be a part of your lives and that you are in our lives (Tom, Ginger, Buddy and my (life)). I am grateful for your guidance (Scott), all of your musical talents (not Scott) plus the enthusiasm to experience it all (known and unknown), including family at all important (or not so important) occasions (all of you)! Grateful for good food, accompanied always with strong drink as well as witty, entertaining conversation, and of course, love. Grateful that the kids have all grown up in loving and happy homes with the guidance, resources and community support needed to flourish, love and be their best selves! And they are all amazing, individualistic and loving souls.
As we are now full bloom into the Holiday Season, Tom and I send our official Aloha, having recently returned from the (Hawaiian) beach. We are warmed, well-fed and happy for the respite, as incredibly short as it was. We are most grateful to be back with our pups and in our cozy home. Just as we held up our glasses of prosecco spiked with pineapple last week, we now hold up our glasses filled with happy spirits and say, “Happy Holidays” and then clink our glasses with an a ‘Old Fashioned’ cheer.
HOLIDAY SPICED OLD FASHIONED (big batch)
If having a party, it is a good idea to make a large batch, set it out on the bar with garnishes, glasses and ice for guests to easily pour their own. I used Spanish orange bitters here, but it is also good with chestnut bitters, or you can use Angostura or Fee Brothers old fashioned aromatic bitters.
3 cups of your favorite bourbon or rye (I use Bulliet Rye)
3 TB spiced simple syrup (recipe to follow)
2 tsp bitters (see note above)
Peel of 1 orange (in long strips)
Add all ingredients into a glass pitcher and stir. Be sure to set out craft maraschino cherries and orange wedges for garnish. The best cherries are Italian, brandy-soaked cherries that can be found in specialty stores. I use Luxardo brand cherries. If you are able, use a big block ice cube tray to make ice for your guests so that the drink remains cold longer and does not get diluted straight away.
HOLIDAY SPICED OLD FASHIONED (made to order)
If you are making it to order, which I prefer, simply add a cherry and a slice of tangerine to a glass and mash it with a muddler. Add a large piece of ice to each glass. Fill a cocktail shaker 1/2 way up with ice and pour in a healthy pour of your favorite bourbon or rye. You can make two or three at a time this way; approximately 4 oz per drink. Add a few dashes of bitters, 1/2 teaspoon of the spiced simple syrup (recipe to follow) per drink (or more if you prefer your drink sweeter). Stir with a long spoon then strain into prepared glasses.
SPICED SIMPLE SYRUP
Simple syrup is great to use in drinks or sauces that are typically served cold because the sugar is already dissolved when you add it to the ingredients. The traditional syrup consists of one part water to one part sugar, brought to a simmer and left to cool. This is no different except that the sugar is slightly reduced (because I try to consume less sugar) and there are spices added to the simmer to infuse it with a little bit of the holiday spirit.
1 cup water
3/4 cups (or 1 cup if you prefer) pure, unrefined coconut sugar (or raw, natural sugar)
1 cinnamon stick
1 cardamon pod, slightly smashed and lightly toasted (in the oven or in a pan on the stove top)
3 pieces candied ginger
A few shavings of freshly-grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 1 minute, then turn off the heat, remove the pan from the stove top and allow to cool completely.
When cool, press on the ginger to help release some of the flavor and then strain.
You can reserve the cinnamon stick and candied ginger for another use, such as mulled cider or wine. You can also use the cinnamon sticks as a garnish for stirring.
Store in a small jar for up to 6 months (may or may not refrigerate, I don’t to keep it supple).
“…and that’s a wrap!”