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Stray Cat Thanksgiving

Updated on August 11, 2012

Baking Bread and Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie made from a "REAL" pumpkin and a few other surprises!
Pumpkin pie made from a "REAL" pumpkin and a few other surprises! | Source
This bread, made with flour, yeast, sugar, water, oil and organic blue agave (for sweetness) came out GREAT!
This bread, made with flour, yeast, sugar, water, oil and organic blue agave (for sweetness) came out GREAT! | Source

Wonderful Friends and Festivities


At this time of year, my friend Al and I usually find ourselves alone. Our families, those who remain, are spread across the country. Time and distance has separated us from those ties, leaving us with no large holiday gatherings to look forward to.

When we lived in Napa, California; we had become a hub for our friends who found themselves in similar circumstances. Parents deceased and siblings far away, there were always a number of “stray cats;” those who found themselves alone during these festive days.

So, we began to host the “stray cat dinners.” What fun we had! All day long spent in preparation for the arrival of friends. Baking bread and pies from scratch, brewing hot, strong coffee and making sure the fire was stoked to the brim making the house warm and cozy.

One year, soon after finishing the refurbishing of a turn of the century home in Napa, we hosted a great group of neighbors and friends. There were over a dozen of us, all of whom would have spent the season alone. Everyone brought a warm dish and wine and other libation.

The house was dressed in period décor with Christmas music playing in the background and sparkling lights everywhere. Between the dining room and living room, through the wide opening which actually made the two areas feel as one huge space, were garlands of flowers laced with lights, and small, beautifully appointed Christmas trees positioned here and there. The kitchen, returned to exactly as it must have been when the home was constructed, donned wreaths made of natural, seasonal sprigs and fruits which were placed in the corners of the high, beaded ceiling. On the perfectly restored Wedgewood stove were cinnamon and orange peel potpourri pots steaming wafts of spicy scents which permeated the air.

Our Thanksgiving and Christmas times were spent like this, for years, as the welcoming place to go to be with good friends, enjoying good food, wine, warmth and comfort.

Since moving to SE Kansas, we have found ourselves in the position of being the stray cats. With no family nearby and too many responsibilities to allow our leaving for any length of time, we must stay home. Last year, we spent the Holidays with just the two of us and our extended family of furry babies. Though not a bad thing, there was a noticeable lacking of our former happy gatherings at my home in Napa.

Back to the present, and, once again, we were wondering what we’d do this year. Then, out of the blue, came a wonderful invitation from our friend Liz. She was now in the same “predicament,” having chosen not to fly out of state to spend this holiday with her sister and, instead, planned on staying home. She had several friends whom she knew were going to be alone, too. As she thought about it, Liz realized there were more friends who had no family nearby, either. So, she sent out email invitations to spend Thanksgiving at her house.

When I opened that email, I was so thrilled! I immediately replied with an enthusiastic “Yes! We’d LOVE to join you! What can I bring? I’d really like to make home made bread and a pumpkin pie and whatever else you want or need me to contribute!”

Liz responded quickly with a genuine “thank you” and the plans began.

The other invitees were Patsy and Derrill, Loren and Donna, John and then Al, me and our fabulous hostess, Liz. A dinner party of eight! Perfect!

Two days before Thursday, I started preparations for my contributions to our dinner. I went outside to the front yard where Al and I had constructed a very pretty ‘fall display’ which included pumpkins, mums, apples and pears, corn stalks, ‘pussy willows,‘ straw bales, holly berries and more. From this I chose a pumpkin perfect for baking. I took it inside, sliced down from top to bottom several times and separated those sections from the whole. After cleaning out seeds and pulp, I placed them in the oven and baked for several hours. After cooling these pieces, I peeled off the skin and sliced the “meat” of the squash into my blender. Blended to a puree, the main ingredient of a home made pumpkin pie was ready. I refrigerated this for the next day’s baking.

I spent the entire Wednesday, before the 'so much looked forward to event,' in my kitchen, baking the pie and bread and prepping sweet potatos for the familiar candied yams dish. To this day, I am not sure which is a sweet potato and which is a yam but, as far as I understand, they are interchangeable.  Having never made this dish before, my efforts were a mixture of "err on the side of caution," to "less is more," and other leary approaches to the unknown.  I decided on using fresh spuds rather than the canned ones but had chosen a recipe calling for the canned variety.  I had told Liz that making this would be "no problem, it takes 15 minutes to prepare and another 20 to bake."  Ha!  Little did I know.  Long story short; it took 2 hours to steam (slowly) the potatos so as not to overcook them, and another, experimental hour plus to create the glaze.  Stirring lots of rich, ingredients together resulted in a syrupy sweet topping with chopped pecans and lots of calories!!

The kitchen was filled with the smell of Thanksgiving…the all too familiar spices of pumpkin pies, cooking yams and the warm aroma of baking bread. YUMMY!!!

I wanted everything to come out perfectly as my part of our dinner.

Patsy made the most delicious cranberry relish, beautiful tossed salad with yellow and red bell peppers, black olives, green onions, romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes and marinated artichokes with the always scrumptious Paul Newman’s Own dressing. Donna brought a delicious apple pie and ice cream, Liz made baked/braised Brussels sprouts, green beans with cashews, a delightful cherry pie and, of course, the main course!

While preparations were underway, people wandered in and out of the center of activity…the KITCHEN! Friendly conversations were flowing, drinks were being poured and we all did our part to make this a great get together. We’ve all heard of that old saying, “too many cooks spoil the pot.” Well, in this case, it just wasn’t so! We worked together smoothly and with ease.

Everyone’s offering was fantastic! A bountiful dinner set before us…and it all was ‘ready’ at the same time.

Smiles were on all our faces! Happiness and friendship was the rule of the day. Delight and joy! Much “ohhhh’s” and “ahhhhh’s” were heard from satisfied diners.

Liz had made what could have been a somewhat lonely, forlorn day a very very wonderful one! As main course was removed - and again, we worked together to clean up quickly so that she didn’t have it all to do by herself - and desserts were served, the conversation continued and laughter filled the room.

What a great day and evening. What fun to prepare delights to be shared with friends.

I hope everyone who is reading this had as wonderful a Thanksgiving as I did!

(I didn't take pictures at Liz's home and the party as I didn't think it proper but, suffice it to say, her home is gorgeous, beautifully appointed; the table was set in such a pleasing way, her home is warm and welcoming and every one looked fabulous!) 


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    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi Erthfrend and JY and Pinkydoo....boy, I just got a comment on this one by Victoria Lynn and realized I NEVER replied to any of your comments....Thank you so muchg for the visit and great comments...haha fooled you guys! Mostly, my T'givings ARE stray cat affairs...specially when my Tuxedo Cats are all dressed up for the party. LOL. I LOVE hosting these things; I have always had a number of stray cat friends and, being the vagabond that I am...I understand being uprooted and wondering where and w/whom to spend the holidays so...yes, these parties are great fun and I will alwayss have Stray Cat Thanksgivings

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I, like your other fans here, thought you were going to write about making a Thanksgiving dinner for your feline friends. :-) Delightful story. I love your description of the old house in Napa, as well as the scrumptious descriptions of the food! Beautiful hub, voted up. I think these "stray cat" Thanksgivings have a lot of meaning for people. I have friends who have done this but haven't on my own. May have to try one day if and when I'm stranded from my family.

    • pinkydoo profile image

      pinkydoo 7 years ago from New York

      I thought you were hosting Thanksgiving for stray cats, too! But seriously, this sounds perfect - better than my Thanksgiving with real family (none of that "disfunctional family stuff" to deal with)! Makes me hungry reading it, too!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      .......yes I must repeat what ERTHFREND just said - and I also took the lead of what JY3502 just said too - lol lol ....... this wonderful episode sounds like a story out of Martha Stewart's living (and how to do it well)

      ...Our Canadian Thanksgiving is about a month earlier than the American one so I can relate to this story a bit because I was invited to a home (much like this one) with nice people and great food. Thanksgiving is not so great on your own when you have no family.

      And in closing Thanksgiving is every day for our cats who are treated so well and .... loved!!!!

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I actually thought you were hosting thanksgiving for real stray cats at first! Because ya love cats.

    • erthfrend profile image

      erthfrend 7 years ago from Florida

      I really enjoyed reading this hub! Everything sounded absolutely perfect and all of your wonderful details made me practically smell and taste all the yummy treats and aromas! Im so glad you had such a wonderful time!!! Thanks for sharing the excitement with us!


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