Whenever two or more Ketelsens get together, you can bet there is food involved! Especially at holiday time family gatherings revolve around meals. While we normally avoid the travel madness in November and December, we found ourselves at "Ketelsen East" at Thanksgiving, so naturally found ourselves travelling across the state to far western Illinois to Morrison, this year's central location where sister Linda hosted the family in their church. It was a great venue - lots of room for kids to run around, a huge kitchen to spread out for preparation, and a projection system and an array of couches for kids videos afterwards (Smurfs, anyone?). Even the adults enjoyed it, or else used the couches for snoozing...
Arriving at noon, food preparation was already in high gear! My minor contribution was chocolate cheesecake - I know, sort of anti-traditional Thanksgiving fare, but folks seem to enjoy it, and as long as I can make it for an event where there aren't leftovers (so I can't eat the whole thing!), it is easy to do. Shown at left is the cheesecake portrait... Linda's oldest daughter Marsha now supervises a local bakery and after I asked her about pumpernickel rye, she makes sure I now have a good supply, last summer making me some pumpernickel brat buns, and for this occasion - dinner rolls! Fantastic!
Taking a risk and entering the "work zone" in the kitchen, Linda's husband Lauren and son Mitchell were at work slicing the meat. Lauren has been a butcher or worked in the meat industry for as long as I've known him and great to have his expertise at our gatherings (every family should be so lucky!). Anyway, here Lauren was at work slicing turkey and Mitchell working on a ham. Rumor has it that Lauren wanted to be sure there was dark meat for those who wanted it (myself included) and added ham to the menu to distract so there would be enough to go around! His plan worked perfectly - even as I went back for seconds, there was still dark meat available!
Star of the show was baby Natalie, daughter of nephew Jeff and his wife Sandy, first documented here last June when we first met her. She was enjoying a pre-feast snack of various cereals. While she was pretty indifferent to me and the camera (unlike her dad and aunts who were always mugging for my camera as kids), her eyes are locked on her Granddad Rich who was right behind me coaxing smiles out of her.
Finally it was mealtime and the camera was put away after a couple documenting shots. As you can see at right, it was quite the buffet for the 24 of us. Everyone added a dish or two so besides the turkey and ham there were the other standards dressing, yams, mashed potatoes, veggie casseroles (broccoli and green bean), corn of course, cranberries, and an assortment of veggies - you get the idea... It was a pretty impressive spread - we did our parent's memory proud with the feast! My mom was the best cook ever and you could tell she taught my sisters well!
After seconds, and thirds for some, the meal wound down. I was embarrassed to follow the age-old prescribed standards of the family - the men wandered off to watch football, or in this case, the Smurf Movie with the kids, while the women folk retired to the kitchen to clean up, do dishes and divvy up the leftovers. I only felt a little guilty, though... Even before the movie ended, the party started to dissolve as some had to leave. I quickly organized a portrait of (my sister) Kathy and Rich with Jeff and Sandy and granddaughters Claire and Natalie, shown at left. I should have taken more photos earlier, but guess I got lazy... The only other great niece I got a photo of was of Mya shown at right, who hasn't appeared solo here in a while, though she appeared here with her uncle Dean just a year ago!
It was a great time - thanks to Linda for doing the heavy lifting! I makes me miss my family for those long months we spend without them so far away...