Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

No Space of Regret: A Review of A Covid Christmas Carol

Book cover for A Covid Christmas Carol by Evan Sykes. image on cover shows a Christmas tree wearing a mask and some googly eyes. Title: A Covid Christmas Carol

Author: Evan Sykes

Publisher: Junco Books (Self-Published)

Publication Date: December 19, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Holiday, Paranormal, Retelling, Contemporary

Length: 88 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

 

The 2020 Holiday Season might have been cancelled by this year’s super-villain, Covid-19, but fear not! Good cheer is at hand in this hilarious, satirical retelling of one of the season’s most loved stories: A Covid Christmas Carol.

Mr. Anatole Gasper and Dickens’ Scrooge have a lot in common: Both their business partners are dead; both are curmudgeonly, solitary and mean; and both get their wake-up call in a series of wild, haunted dreams on Christmas Eve. For Gasper—as the year is 2020—these dreams include a huge, orange, Covid-spreading turkey that tweets, a doddering phantom riding a decrepit blue donkey without direction, and Santa, of course, whose red-nosed reindeers for once shed an unwelcome light over the festivities.

There’s nothing more heartening than seeing a dyed-in-the-wool grouch change into a merry, old soul, and Gasper’s ghostly dreams promise to do just that.

So, while this Holiday Season might be like no other, spend an hour in the company of this modern Scrooge and let the festive cheer flow!

Review:

Content Warning: Heart attack and Covid-19.

Don’t let the cover of this book fool you. This is just as much a Thanksgiving tale as it is a Christmas one, and the lessons in it can be applied to many other winter holidays as well!

I appreciated the author’s light touch on the social messages he included in this tale. Mr. Dickens writing style worked well for the nineteenth century, but the modern approach to gently nudging readers in certain directions in this retelling was perfect for the twenty-first century. Mr. Sykes’ decision to write it this way was an excellent one. While this wasn’t my only reason for choosing a five-star rating, it certainly influenced it heavily.

It’s rare for me to come across speculative fiction stories that occur during Thanksgiving, so I was excited to read this one. Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that showed what Thanksgiving was like for Gasper when he was a child. They went a long way in explaining how and why he’d become such a greedy and socially isolated man as an adult. I simultaneously wanted to hug the person he was as a child and encourage his adult self to seek professional help for his often dysfunctional behaviour. The mixture of emotions he stirred up in me made me want to learn more about him, too. He was a complex and interesting character for sure.

I loved the way the author included Covid-19 in the storyline as well. While I can’t go into much detail about that without giving away spoilers, it felt perfectly natural. The foreshadowing for it was subtle and well done. It had a timeless feeling to it as well. This could have been set at nearly any time during the pandemic due to how carefully it was written, and I think it will also age nicely over the next few years at bare minimum, too.

The writing style was descriptive but never flowery. It gave me the exact right amount of details about the characters and settings. I could picture all of them clearly in my mind, but the formation of them never interrupted the fast-paced storyline. Once again, the author’s homage to Mr. Dickens style was undeniable, and his attempt to modernize such a familiar old tale couldn’t have been done any better. I was quite impressed by all of the work Mr. Sykes put into this and will be keeping an eye out for more of his stories in the future.

A Covid Christmas Carol was a thought-provoking read that is as relevant today as it was in 2020. I will end this review with a quote from both the original Christmas Carol as well as this retelling of it: “no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity missed.”

Thankful for What We Have: A Review of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Poster for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Image shows Charlie Brown and Snoopy standing next to table with a turkey and pie on it.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a 1973 animated Thanksgiving film about Charlie Brown, the famous animated character from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, throwing an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner for all of his friends.

The other films in this holiday trilogy in it include A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965 and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown from 1966.

They all work as standalone stories. There is no need to watch them in a specific order.

I decided to review A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving because it’s the least well known part of this trilogy. It wasn’t something I was aware of growing up even though I knew about and liked the other films.

This review won’t contain a list of characters for spoiler reasons. The run time was only 25 minutes for this film, so I don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to discussing the plot without giving away what happens in it.

My Review

The premise was one of the other reasons why I wanted to review this film. I can’t imagine throwing together a Thanksgiving dinner on the same day I discovered such a thing was expected of me. Ugh!

Charlie Brown (who is pictured in the film poster above) didn’t even have the advantage of knowing how to roast a turkey or make all of the traditional side dishes for this holiday. He was a child who was just beginning to learn to make simple dishes like toast and popcorn, so his predicament was even worse than I originally assumed it would be.

I was intrigued by what a Thanksgiving dinner cooked by a kid his age would be like and if he’d figure out how to get everything warm and on the table at the same time. Seeing what that process was like for him was a great deal of fun.

One of the other unexpected twists in this film had to do with what happens when Thanksgiving doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. That message is just as relevant now as it was nearly fifty years ago. Honestly, it’s even more relevant now in some ways than it was when it first came out!

I loved the way the filmmakers approached the concept of feeling disappointment about the holiday festivities you’d planned and how to handle that emotion.

There are so many more things I want to say about the expectation of having a “perfect” Thanksgiving…but they’ll quickly wander into spoiler territory if I’m not careful.

It was also interesting to note how the culture of Thanksgiving has evolved since 1973. The ways the characters talked about the first Thanksgiving and this holiday in general weren’t exactly the same as they’re often discussed these days, although they did remind me of how these topics were handled when I was a kid.

I wonder what kids today would think of this tale?

Do note that the preview I included below for this short film is an original one from 1973 and does include some spoilers.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is available on Apple TV.

Thanksgiving Dishes I Can’t Cook

American Thanksgiving is only a few days away, so I thought I’d go a little off-topic and share something that wouldn’t normally fit into the scope of this blog.

I’m a perfectly serviceable baker and cook. The food I whip up isn’t fancy and it won’t appear on the cover of any magazine, but it tastes good and gets the job done 99% of the time.

As far as that other 1% goes, keep reading.

 The Pie Mystery

close-up photo of a fruit pie with a lattice crustI grew up in a family filled with people who made amazing pies.

Sometimes I’d help them work the dough or put the filling into the pie before baking.

Shortly after I got married, I decided to start making pies on my own. They’re such a delicious end to Thanksgiving dinner.

Unfortunately, the crust on my first pie burned. This trend has continued with every pie I’ve attempted to make since then no matter which tips and tricks I use to protect the crust while the filling firms up.

It’s gotten to the point where I will buy a nice pie for Thanksgiving without an ounce of remorse for not serving something homemade for dessert.

The Revenge of the Cornish Game Hens

close-up shot of roasted birdI live in a small household, so roasting a full turkey would create far more leftovers than our stomachs or our freezer could hope to handle.

One year I thought I might roast some Cornish game hens for Thanksgiving instead of a too-large turkey.

I followed the instructions of the recipe I found online perfectly. I even set timers to baste the birds so they’d be nice and juicy.

When the buzzer sounded on our oven, I opened it and checked the internal temperature of one of them. It was a little lower than the recipe said it should be, so I left it in a while longer.

When I took them out, they seemed to be hot enough to safely consume according to our meat thermometer.

It only took a few bites for my spouse and I to realize they weren’t fully cooked. We weren’t sure what the rules were about reheating half-cooked birds and so didn’t eat any more of them.

We were lucky not to get sick from that experience! Ever since then, I’ve shied away from roasting full birds of any size. It feels safer to only roast pieces of them instead.

Now that you know my two deepest Thanksgiving secrets, which Thanksgiving foods do you have trouble making?

A Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake Recipe for Halloween and Thanksgiving

A slice of pumpkin chocolate chip cake on a black and white side plate

I’m veering a little off-topic today and sharing one of my favourite autumn recipes.This is something I found on a vegan blog many years ago. If that site still existed, I’d link to it and give credit.

Not only is this cake dairy-free, it can be soy, egg, and nut-free as well as long as you select allergen-safe chocolate chips for it.

This means that it can be shared with many different types of people who are often otherwise left out of the dessert festivities during Thanksgiving, Halloween, and other holidays.

And who doesn’t love inclusive desserts?

 

Ingredients

Cupcakes (double these measurements for a cake)

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour (all purpose)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cinnamon Icing (Optional)

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp melted vegan margarine (or similar oil/fat substitute)
1 Tbsp non dairy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

A pumpkin chocolate chip cupcake on a decorative side plate

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, stir the first 5 ingredients. Then sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a second bowl. Stir with a fork as using a hand mixer will make the batter gummy. Once combined, fold in chocolate chips.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full (if making cupcakes) and bake for 22-24 minutes or until a toothpick pushed into the middle of one of them comes out clean.

If you’re making a cake, lightly grease an 11×7 baking pan, pour it in, and bake it while using the same toothpick trick to see when it’s done. This takes about 30-35 minutes in my oven.

Cool completely before icing them.

To make the icing, stir all of those ingredients together gently. The icing will naturally be a bit runny, so you really don’t want to be using it on a warm cake that will only make it runnier.

Like I said before, double this recipe for a cake.

Yes, you can use any sort of oil you have on hand. I recommend using white flour for it, but do let me know how it is with whole wheat pastry flour if you decide to go that route.

The pumpkin puree makes this cake quite moist and dense. The sugar and chocolate chips create a pretty sweet treat, so I generally skip the icing altogether.

This cake freezes well. Let it thaw gently at room temperature for a few hours or until it’s soft all the way through.

My local grocery store sells chocolate chips that are free of the top eight allergens, including milk, soy, eggs, and nuts. If you can’t find something similar at your local grocery store, check any health food stores that might be nearby. You could also order them online in many areas if you plan ahead a little.

Enjoy!

Take a Walk This Thanksgiving

Close-up shot of a leaf-littered autumn path. Both sides of the path are surrounded by trees and bushes that are still half-full with their autumn leaves and colour. This post will meander much like my Thanksgiving strolls do.

One of my favourite things to do on Thanksgiving or any other holiday that has decent weather is to take a walk.

If the big meal of the day is scheduled for the evening or if the weather is expected to turn chilly later on, I’ll wander off in the afternoon when the temperature is as its warmest.

Ideally, someone will join me, but there’s also something to be said for walking quietly with your thoughts on a day like this one.

Thanksgiving is one of those big holidays that temporarily shuts down the usual rhythms of life here in Ontario. This is even more true this year due to our government asking us to celebrate it with other members of our households only and avoid all unnecessary in-person interactions with other people now that the second wave of Covid-19 is surging.

Yes, there are advantages to gathering with kind relatives during the holidays. I miss my parents, siblings, sister-in-law, and nephews and dream of the day when my spouse and I can be together with them again.

But there are also advantages to quiet holidays at home, and a walk at the nicest part of the day is one of them.

Our slice of the world is a fairly still place on Thanksgiving even during ordinary times. If they’re lucky enough not to be working, most folks stay home and rest on that day or go visit relatives.

The streets are nearly as empty as they’ll be a few months from now at Christmas. Very few restaurants and other places of business are open today, and I tend to avoid the ones that are to encourage them to give their employees a break.

A walk doesn’t require anyone to put on a uniform, miss out on time with their loved ones, or clean up after you. At most, you might need to find something delicious to nibble on in the kitchen when you return back home.

Walks are meditative. There’s nothing like looking at the beautiful world around you, whether it is a forest painted with all of the colours of autumn, a suburban park filled with curious wildlife, or a quiet urban road that somehow feels like a poem that’s about to begin whenever you unexpectedly see a car drive by.

Parent and child taking a walk on an autumn-leaf-strewn path. Taking a walk is a gentle form of exercise that most people are capable of doing. A pet, small child, senior family member, or loved one who might have a disability that makes more strenuous forms of exercise difficult may be able to join you.

If the pets in your life are anything like the dogs my family had back in the day, they will insist on joining you and might just keep you out of the house much longer than you were expecting to be gone!

Good conversations can happen on walks. Yes, this can include conversations with yourself if you’re walking alone. I am not ashamed to admit that I occasionally talk to myself on walks to sort out a problem or figure out what to do with my stories next.

Walking is non-competitive…unless you’re my siblings who genuinely find joy in making everything a competition between them. Ha! For the rest of us, it’s a form of exercise that doesn’t require any scorekeeping or picking a winner.

It’s tempting to overindulge during the holidays. I find it helpful to go take a walk before I decide whether my stomach truly needs another slice of pie or serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. Whether the answer to that question is yes or no, there’s definitely something to be said for giving your body some time to start digesting what you’ve already eaten before digging into another plate. I’d rather be stopped at the point of satiation than cross that line and end up uncomfortably full.

Have I convinced you to go take a walk yet? I hope you enjoy it if I have.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Canadians!

Satirical Thanksgiving: A Review of Addams Family Values

Content warning: Childbirth and dark humour. I will go into detail about the latter in this review.  Addams Family Values is a 1993 fantasy comedy film about a macabre but loving family who is trying to rescue their uncle from his new girlfriend who has a dark past and may have ulterior motives for dating… Read More

Top Ten Tuesday: Native American Reads

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl This week’s prompt was a Thanksgiving freebie. Since I’ve already written a few different posts about the Canadian and American Thanksgivings over the last month, I decided to use this prompt to share books written by Native American and First Nations authors that I’ve already read or am I’m… Read More

Characters I’d Never Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian readers! Last year I wrote about the characters I’d want to invite over for a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. Since then, I’ve gotten some hits on my site from people who are wondering which characters shouldn’t be included on a Thanksgiving dinner guest list. Honestly, I could happily make small… Read More

Science Fiction and Fantasy Shows I’m Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! I hope you all have a table full of delicious things to eat and plenty of kindred spirits to share this meal with. Today’s post will be something short and sweet. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how happy I am to see the science fiction and fantasy… Read More