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Nowadays, Tony, Alex, Ari and I plan a trip back home to Cleveland (I was born there) to have Thanksgiving with the relatives and relive some of my childhood memories so I can share them with my kids. From the moment we arrive, there is hugging, kissing and pinching of the cheeks and storytelling. We go to take our "places at the table," my kids at their appointed place and Tony and I at ours. I look down the very long table and can't get over how it seemed like yesterday I was at the "kidlet" table and how the time has literally flown by. I look to the left of me and see a sea of people in order of birth, and I'm filled with emotion as I take great pride in our family. Then I turn to the right and totally freak out! I realize that Tony and I are in the grandparents' section of the table and literally two people away from death!

I have to laugh at this point and really stop to say "thank you." Thank you to my grandparents for their traditions and their undying loyalty to family. My mother came to this country as a war bride at 16 years old—not able to speak the language and away from her family—and became the reason that our family is so strong and together, united and always there for one another. Thanks to my father who fought in World War II and served his country with great pride. He passed earlier this year. This is the first Thanksgiving without him, and I am grateful and giving thanks for all the years we were together. I'm thankful every day of my life, for all of the blessings and never ever taking anything for granted.

I can't wait for Thanksgiving every year to get together and to be able to serve all the traditional recipes that we have been doing for so many years. I can't wait to watch the Macy's parade in HD, the football games on the big-screen TV and to eat what Oprah refers to as her favorite holiday turkey, sour dough stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, glazed yams, creamed spinach, French green beans with shallot dressing, cranberry sauce, sour dough stuffing and holiday salad. Oh, yes, and dessert!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sending "Big Bowls of Love,"
Cristina 

Get all of Cristina's recipes for a festive holiday feast

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