Happy Thanksgiving! Our Thanksgiving week around the Dillard house is always full of traditions. Does your family have holiday traditions? If not, I would highly suggest starting some. They are special moments and things you look forward to every year. Here are some of ours:

Family pictures. Robert Miller has been taking our family pictures since Fancy got married in 2007. We pick a location and a color combo to dress in and meet up the Monday of Thanksgiving week and get our pictures made. They never disappoint. Family pictures are worth the investment! If your family is like ours, the times all 13 of us are together are few and far between, so we love looking back on photos, seeing how the kids have grown, etc.

Decorating the family Christmas tree. When I say I decorate for Christmas, that would be like saying the Titanic was a boat. Every nook and cranny is filled with Christmas décor and I love it. I have a formal Southern Living-type pink tree in the living room, but I love my family tree. It is filled with decorations that our kids made growing up, ornaments from our vacations, from friends and family, etc. It’s wonderful every year to unpack those ornaments and hold each one in my hand before one of our kids or grandkids puts it on the tree. For that brief moment, my heart flashes back to wonderful memories. We’ve lost some of our sweet friends over the years, and to still have ornaments or Christmas reminders of them makes me think of them and smile. I do still miss them but love and cherish the memories of them.

Food. Our family loves good food and if your Thanksgiving is like ours, we start eating on Tuesday before and it lasts until the weekend after. We always have turkey and ham. Mom always make dressing (cornbread dressing, of course). We have giblet gravy, English peas, hashbrown potato casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, pink salad (cool whip, Eagle brand milk and cherry pie filling), rolls, deviled eggs, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pie. Then, we have our “goodies” we always love: peanut brittle, fudge, homemade heath bars, peanut butter balls, chocolate chip cheese ball, Oreo balls and ambrosia cookies.

After our big lunch, the afternoon is filled with football games and visiting. Back in the “good ol’ days” when the shopping deals actually happened on “Good Friday,” mom and I would sit at the dining room table with the newspaper ads and make our hit list for shopping. Now, we either sit and visit or nap. My holiday shopping is now

The main thing about Thanksgiving is taking time to be thankful. I know that sounds very simple and something lots of us take for granted. Life moves so fast these days, it’s easy to gripe and complain about the things that don’t go our way instead of taking time to realize all that we have and what we should be thankful for.

What am I thankful for? First and foremost, I’m thankful for Jesus and the ultimate sacrifice He paid for me. My family is my life. I am truly “greatly blessed and highly favored.” I’m thankful for good health, friends, my job, my home. The list could go on and on. I’m thankful to have the means to buy groceries for all the wonderful food we will be consuming this week.

So, as you enjoy Thanksgiving this year, however you celebrate and whomever you celebrate with, take time to think about all that you have to be thankful for. And then, grab a leftover roll, put a piece of ham inside it and enjoy! There’s nothing better!

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— Dawn Dillard is a proud East Texas gal who loves all things southern especially cooking, music and family. She can be reached via email at