On Thanksgiving morning we bundled up against freezing temperatures set out on a long walk. Even with a bitter wind slowing our progress, everyone laughed and joked and Stefan even carried Mary for a stretch. As we rounded the corner the sky opened up to a brilliant blue, the wind was finally at our backs and the kids spontaneously linked arms and started skipping down the hill.

My sister, Lizzy, and I held back a little bit, just watching, savoring the scene, until my sister voiced what we were all thinking, “You have a lot to be grateful for this year.”

I do.

I don’t take my blessings lightly, but I don’t think anyone does these days. Everywhere I turn I see thankful lists and posters and books and memes. Gratitude may be the defining trend of the 20-teens and I can’t think of a better one. All month, I’ve loved watching my friends make gratitude lists and offer lunch to strangers (I’m especially touched by Mary and Derek Staples @marydstaples @derekostaples, and what could be a better start to the Christmas season than an entire weekend focused on counting, and enjoying, our blessings.

For us, Thanksgiving truly starts with an all-day pie marathon on Wednesday. Everyone takes part in choosing pies, shopping, mixing and baking.

With just a few reading breaks on the couch, a couple duets…

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To start off the holiday in style, Ben was broadsided by someone who just didn’t see the STOP sign. No one was hurt and the car was still driveable until it suffered an emotional breakdown and the engine and brakes went out.

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And then the Kitchen Aid broke.

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And while Xander was fixing it, he knocked my phone off the counter and of course the screen shattered.

Here’s the irony: Ruth felt terrible about the mixer breaking– even though it had been in it’s death throes for months– because she happened to be using it at the time. And Xander didn’t feel one bit sorry about breaking my phone even though it was completely his fault. Let’s all remind Xander how lucky he is to have a mom that doesn’t yell at him. But he’s too cute, how could I yell? Besides, I have a theory that screens only have a three year life and this one was past due.

We called icracked and they came to the house and fixed my phone for $129 (trust me, they aren’t paying me to promote them, but they are AWESOME), called Grandpa Fritz for help with the car and seriously considered borrowing our out-of-town neighbor’s mixer just to get us through pie day. But I decided we were too accident prone to be borrowing things (aren’t you glad Leslie?).

Darling Xander got the mixer going again (see, that’s why I don’t yell at him) and Ruth got back to making pie crusts.

How many pies? Well, after much negotiation, we narrowed the list down to twenty-three.

Stefan always makes two banana cream pies, and they’re always among the first to go.

The little girls made lemon and apple and cherry and pumpkin…

Stefan hurried to finish his pies before heading off to work at the MTC. It’s hard to know whether Xander provides help or simply entertainment.

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In a stroke of pure genius, Ben stopped by the Dodo to pick up a piece of Chocolate Almond Mousse pie so we could divine the recipe. Our little mindtrust replicated it PERFECTLY. And I mean perfectly. This pie deserved it’s own blogpost, but until then, here’s the recipe:


1 and 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

pinch salt

1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts

mix together, press into pie pan and bake at 325 ° for 12 minutes. Allow to cool completely before adding filling.


4 packages (2 lbs.) cream cheese

2 1/3 cups Nestle Semisweet chips melted

1 cup sugar

mix the cream cheese and chocolate

whip 2 cups heavy cream and fold into chocolate mixture

add 8 oz toasted slivered almonds (the Trader Joe’s ones work perfectly)

pour mixture into cookie crust and refrigerate overnight. Prepare to be AMAZED.

Next year, we’ll work out another recipe. Any requests?

The White’s dropped by to spread cheer and wash dishes. Oh the dishes. We washed every bowl, every measuring cup at least a dozen times during the day. One of the huge benefits of having someone live with you for several months? You can ask her to unload the dishwasher and she knows where everything belongs.

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You’ll be disappointed to hear we only made it to nineteen pies. We just wore out.

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And then we remembered we needed to make the cranberry ice for the next day. A slightly sweet, ever-so-tangy sorbet served at the beginning of the meal, cranberry ice remains our oldest Thanksgiving tradition. And of course, our ice cream freezer broke so we had to borrow Ruth’s handcranked freezer.

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But Ben and Erik made short work of it,

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While Sammie supervised games. Have I mentioned how much we love Sammie? We LOVE Sammie.

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The next day, walks and duets and the real cooking– which always seems so easy after pie day.

Pie for breakfast.

And a farewell to the newlyweds while they spend the day at Sammie’s. Sharing holidays is new to us, but Ben and Sammie are so pleasant they make it easy.

Poor Gabe. The first casualty of potato peeling.

We were lucky enough to talk my brother Mike into joining us (and he even put up with the kitty eating his hand).

And Fritz and Maria.

Stefan and Heather came straight from her family dinner to ours. We didn’t expect them to eat much, so they just laughed

while Xander played with fire

and laughed some more.

If there is any typical Lehnardt behavior (besides lighting things on fire) it’s piling up on each other. You should see them at church. It’s a good thing I can’t take photos in the chapel.

Here come the Mitchells, out comes the pie!

How much do I love this photo? So much. Tehnically flawed, but absolutely perfect.

Heather’s family joined us for pie (and why don’t I have photos of them? Too much chaos) and then games. We played Mafia, the name game, psychiatrist and, as featured above “four men on a couch.’ If you haven’t played that game, you really should. It was, a perfect evening, a perfect holiday.

Too many blessings to count.

November 21, 2015
December 10, 2015



  1. Tasha Evans

    December 4, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your fantastic family and holiday with us!

  2. Nancy Nielsen

    December 4, 2015

    oh how i love every post you post!!!! 🙂 the words and the


  3. Anne Marie

    December 17, 2015

    So much love!! So much goodness! I just love all the family togetherness and magic you have created. Nineteen pies?!! Yes! Just our style. We have an unwritten rule that there should be at least one pie for every person in attendance at Thanksgiving dinner. We don’t always quite get there, but pie making is the very best part of Thanksgiving. xox

  4. Cecily

    October 30, 2017

    I love the idea of cranberry ice to start the dinner. Is there any chance you are willing to share the recipe?


      November 29, 2017

      I’m so sorry! I’m just seeing this comment. I’ll do a tutorial on Cranberry Ice and get it up before Christmas. xoxo

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