It’s my first Thanksgiving in Kauai. With those on the mainland already full from the feast or perhaps even going back for seconds, I thought I would share with you how I prepared for my first Thanksgiving in Kauai. I wanted to keep the festivities and menu tied to my roots and previous travels, yet embracing my new home, the Garden Isle.

Not unlike anywhere else in the States, the grocery stores and in particular Costco were a nightmare this week. I threw caution to the wind, going to Costco alone and the week of Thanksgiving. However, I made it out alive with a turkey breast, two roaster chickens, 3-yr aged cheddar (you can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but not the Wisconsin out of the girl), champagne, and a ten pound bag of potatoes. The rest of the goodies, I got at a local grocery store, which was also like warfare, racing for the last stuffing boxes, grabbing the best vanilla ice cream, snagging fresh cranberries, and vying for the last essential baking ingredients.

Last evening, I prepared for the big day by getting some of the baking out of the way as well as making the cranberry sauce. As I typically make cranberry sauce with orange juice and zest, this year I snagged a handful of little oranges growing in our backyard along with papaya, aloe, limes, and avocados. As I squeezed the oranges and added the juice to the cranberries, I remembered fondly my trips last year to Cuba, where they use this same orange for marinating pork. Que rico! As a little special aloha kick, I added some smashed ginger.

Today the jungle fowl of the island didn’t stop their morning routine of crowing at 4:30am. You would have thought that on a day when just about everyone is roasting fowl, they would play possum, but nope. However, I have to say it started the day off with a touch of gratefulness. A very wise man and my favorite Cuban artist, Jose Fuster, said that every day that you wake up to a roaster crowing is another day you are blessed to be on this earth. Those roosters and jungle fowl reminded me of that before I took a morning bike ride to Wailua Falls outside of Lihue.

Thanksgiving_Bouquet_in_KauaiBefore starting the remaining prep for the meal this evening, I cut a bouquet of ginger and birds of paradise to grace the table of our friendsgiving. Now it is time to pop open a bottle of that champagne and pull back the hair to roast three fowls, a batch of mashed potatoes, and stuffing with Hawaiian sweet rolls and apple pie on the way (You betcha, there will be cheddar cheese on my slice).

This year I’m grateful for my health as nearly five years ago I was recovering from a broken neck, which I share in my memoir When All Balls Drop. I’m also thankful for all of my clan (family/friends/ohana). Both my health and my relationships are my most precious possessions.

Where are you celebrating Thanksgiving? Any special twists to your Thanksgiving because of your roots, previous travels, or current location?

Here’s to more good times and good stories.