Thanksgiving 2018:

Nothing says tradition like Palm Springs, turkey hats, exploding thermometers… and The Alexander Group’s annual Thanksgiving blog

In 2012, The Alexander Group (TAG) started a Thanksgiving tradition: a collection of memories, traditions and the occasional disaster story contributed by TAG colleagues. This year, we proudly carry on the tradition with stories of Friendsgivings, exploding thermometers and turkey hats.

I’ll kick it off… 

Chef’s year off

While Thanksgiving is all about family, this year in an effort to change it up, our kids got the last laugh by saying: no thank you! Each of them will be in different corners of the country while we will have a “Friendsgiving” in Palm Springs.

Instead of our typical Napa outdoor cooking extravaganza, we’ll be hiking and lounging by the pool. Who knows, we might even trade the turkey in for a mid-century modern takeout. Let’s just call it, chef’s year off.

— John Lamar

Exploding thermometers

Years and years ago, when I was at the tender age of seven, my father volunteered to roast the turkey. Why my mother allowed him to do this I have no clue. While a master of the grill, my father isn't very domestic when it comes to the kitchen. He ended up using a medical oral thermometer rather than a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the bird. A fever thermometer only goes to about 110º F. The turkey was probably around 180º F. Mercury + glass thermometer + turkey = negative fun.

We pulled "A Christmas Story" that Thanksgiving and ordered Chinese instead. To this day, I associate ginger prawns with Thanksgiving.

— Mike Fulton

A Hawaiian Honeymoon

My most memorable Thanksgiving was 2005. My husband and I spend each Thanksgiving in Hawaii where we honeymooned 38 years ago. On Thanksgiving eve in 2005, my husband surprised me with a native Hawaiian minister who stood ready in a heart-shaped array of leis on the beach as the sun set, ready to renew our vows (with a new ring to boot). As the sun turned a bright red and a new moon rose in the sky and the waves rolled in, I thought how grateful I was to have such a wonderful husband.

Afterwards, when we went to dinner, a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon arrived at the table—a gift from my business partner, John Lamar—and I thought how grateful I was to have such a wonderful partner.

— Jane Howze

What it’s all about

I'm really looking forward to this Thanksgiving, as it will be the first turkey day since my parents relocated to Texas, and the first Thanksgiving we have been together in several years. My parents finally realized their children's feet are firmly planted in the Lone Star State, so they relented and moved here as well. This year, they will be surrounded by their children and grandchildren, and we will all really appreciate what the holiday is all about.

— Kyle Robinson

23 and me

It hasn't happened yet but I expect this year to be quite special and memorable. After moving to Denver this summer, it was decided that this Thanksgiving the family would come to us...all 23 of them, spanning in age from two to, well, much older. We can't wait to share our new home and city with all of our loved ones.

— James W. Irvine

A turkey hat and tree pose

I only have one that sticks out... a few years back I got roped into filling in for another yoga teacher on Thanksgiving morning... so I taught the entire power flow class while wearing a stuffed turkey hat.

— Abby Buchold

The first (gluten-free) Thanksgiving

I guess an interesting Thanksgiving story for my family is the first year I was diagnosed with a severe intolerance to gluten and dairy.

My mom is an incredible cook, and part of what makes her food so delicious is her use of butter. So the first year we had Thanksgiving following my food intolerance diagnoses, it was a real struggle for her. She explored all of the possible recipes for a gluten-free stuffing, dairy-free mashed potatoes, gluten-free pumpkin pie, etc. To be fair, she did a great job making use of additional spices and seasonings to keep the flavor intact. But halfway through the meal, I saw both my parents constantly grabbing for the salt and slab of butter they conspicuously placed at the opposite end of the table from where I was sitting. I couldn't help but laugh at their effort to try and be there for me by eating this drastically modified Thanksgiving meal, all the while hiding the fact that they were adding plenty of butter and salt to everything on their plate.

When it was time for dessert, we all took a bite of the flavorless pumpkin pie. They started nodding their heads as if to say they approved, and that's when the laughter couldn't be held back any longer by the three of us. We were all almost in tears laughing over how awful and dry the "healthy" pie was. My family has always been there for me when I needed them most, but nothing made me happier than seeing them finally enjoying themselves digging into the NON-gluten-free apple pie my mom had picked up as a back-up plan. “A” for effort mom and dad.

— Katelyn Griffith

Missing mom

My most memorable Thanksgivings were when my parents were still alive. Here's a photo of my sister Andrea, my mother and me in 1977, preparing the Thanksgiving meal.

—Alison Finlay

An African Thanksgiving

For six years, I lived as an expat in Lagos, Nigeria. We came home twice a year—Christmas and summer break—which means Thanksgiving was spent in Lagos. While we were homesick for friends, family and traditions back home, our overseas friends were also part of our family. Every year, we hosted Thanksgiving at our home with close friends and any stray Americans who happened to be traveling through town that week. My prep would begin in the summer months, dutifully packing canned cranberries, boxed stuffing and packets of powdered gravy for our trip back to Lagos—smuggling in frozen turkey breasts and a beef tenderloin.

While no one year stands out as most memorable, I collectively loved having my expat family around me and sharing our American traditions with friends from all over the world. And at the end of the night, when all the guests were gone, we would exhaustedly Skype family back home and wave hello to nieces and nephews and sisters and brothers and moms and dads. And then, finally, fall into a well-earned turkey coma.

— Susan Hunt

A Creole kitchen

My family’s heritage is Creole—a culture that mixes French and Spanish influences with African and Caribbean traditions. My 95-year-old grandmother helps keep our heritage alive by preparing traditional Creole recipes each Thanksgiving. Every year, without fail, she drives from Opelousas, Louisiana to Houston, Texas to help prepare the meal. Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without her sweet potato pie.

— Jessica Chavis

It’s good to be alive… and to study meteorology

A few years after I moved to the coast of Alabama, we made it through one of the worst hurricanes the gulf coast had seen in years. Hurricane Ivan made landfall on September 2 as a Category 5 storm, only a few miles from our home. I was studying meteorology at the time and knew what the pressure changes, temperature drop, and outside sounds meant—the hurricane had spawned a tornado. I told my family, but was dismissed as being overdramatic. No one believes the baby in the family!

The next day I was vindicated though: As the sun came up, we found that a tornado had barely missed our house. It mangled the fence, downed power lines, uprooted trees and destroyed the buildings around us. That Thanksgiving—just a few weeks later—we sat around expressing how grateful we were to simply be alive. (And, my family now fully supports my passion for atmospheric study which has since morphed into the aerospace field.)

— Sarah Silva

A Harvey holiday

Last year we hosted several friends and neighbors whose houses were destroyed or badly damaged by the Hurricane Harvey floods for Thanksgiving. We cooked two large turkeys and many brought their favorite sides and bottles of wine. The kids and adults all had a great time and the day went well into the night! I'm thankful to be surrounded by great friends who make me laugh and enjoy the day, no matter their circumstance. 

— John Mann

First snow

This Thanksgiving will be a memorable one, as we’re headed to Massachusetts to visit family, where up to eight inches of snow are predicted. It will be the first time my five-year-old daughter has seen snow in person (having grown up in San Diego), and the first time for her mom and dad to brave 30-degree weather in a long, long, time.  

— William Lepiesza

On the road to recovery... and Machu Pichu!

My son Jack and I had both had life-changing health challenges this year and are giving our all on the long road to recovery. For all of us to be able to reunite with his brother William in Peru and experience together one of the seven wonders of the world climbing Machu Picchu makes for quite a special Thanksgiving!

I am also so grateful for the wonderful support and encouragement from a top medical team, friends, and my extended family at TAG. It truly makes a huge difference!

Have a great holiday!

— Beth Ehrgott

A new lease on life

I believe this Thanksgiving will be the most special for my family. Successfully making it through living donor kidney transplantation with and for my kid brother tops the list of our family's reasons to give thanks—with gratitude for our health, brilliant surgeons, and generous family, friends, and colleagues who helped shoulder the load. A father of two young children, he now has a new lease on life. The transplant allows him to provide for his family and continue serving his community as a detective with the Smith County Sheriff's Department and as a U.S. Marshall.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

— Miriam McHenry


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