I thrive on chaos. Well no, I just like to think I thrive on chaos. It feeds my ego to think I can juggle a million jillion balls everyday no matter what. It’s a challenge to see if I can do more this year than last year, to try to make a good thing better each time I have a shot at it.And as we’ve reached that season where we vault from holiday to holiday, the trick for me is to do it all and make it look easy. That was actually a legitimate thought before my kids grew up. Now they are here to remind me, and they do constantly, of all the things I have forgotten, or am late on, or will probably forget.
Do I really need all that, when all I do is work?
So here we are with halloween barely an after thought and Thanksgiving just 2-1/2 weeks away. I should be part way through my timeline right now. It would help if I didn’t have to reinvent that thing every year. Why don’t I think to put that on my computer, so I can pull it up each year.
Oh yeah, I did put it on my computer. Just not sure which is harder…finding it in there or reinventing it to fit this year’s scenerio.
Thank goodness for tradition, right? You do things a couple of times, it works out well and you kind of get in the habit.
Years ago I was hosting a cookie & ornament exchange (which some professional organizers will tell you is a time saving device). You make thousands of one cookie, plate them up, exchange them and voila, you have a feast of variety! Course if you’re doing the hosting, it can be a workload as I found out years & years & years ago when all the kids were babies.
We lived in our new house, we’d bought a fresh tree, I had it halfway decorated with lights, the ornaments were all over the house, I was desperately trying to make my cookies look beautiful all wrapped up, there were appetizers and desserts to fix and put out, forget cleaning anything, I desperately stuffed all the kids in my husbands arms and shoved them out the door. The stress was insane and all for a little cookie get-together.
That was the moment I decided this was no longer an area in which I wanted to excel in procrastination. It was time in my life to get my holiday planning act together. It was a time of year I wanted to do it all, have it all and enjoy it all. And the only way I could think to do that with small kids was to start early.
I cast the real tree idea out the window and bought a perfect fake! Each year, the day after halloween we drug in the tree and I started weaving in the lights. I learned to go bonkers on those and that took me a good two weeks of constant effort. Each year we added to the Christmas decorations inside and out. When my husband and the kids took to decorating outside, I took to cookie baking and hot chocolate making inside. It was a perfect blend. By Thanksgiving day all our decorating was finished. All I had to worry about was food.
As the years went by and the turkey and accompaniments got bigger & better, a Wednesday and Thursday of cooking was not enough. Guests arrived and all I did was cook. Sometimes I was too busy to even set things out. I felt like I was always pushing people over to get to something in the pantry. So I solved that problem by getting started earlier. It worked well.
So now we still start by putting up the Christmas decorations as soon after halloween as we can get to it. We put up the big things as fast as we can. Then I find I have a little bit of time to putz around with placing the smaller decorations before we move on to the bigger tasks.
For me the place to start is by cleaning out the fridge and the pantry. If I take the time for that and organize some things, I know better what I have and I have room to make and store things. Even doing this as early as October is a benefit. I haven’t gotten to it yet this year, but know that by taking the time, it’ll give me back some time in the hurry up and cook stages.
The next thing is a shopping list. I usually do an initial long list and add to it as I add on cookies, appetizers, desserts, side dishes, etc. I put together a separate list for grocery, Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, BevMo or any other specific store I would need certain things from. I usually start stocking up on some baking items in October, just to get a little jump on expenses.
I start by cooking all the things I can freeze about 2 or so weeks in advance. The week before Thanksgiving, I work on Christmas cookies. The week of Thanksgiving I cook constantly getting everything I can ready to go. I keep toppings separate from the dish they belong to so they don’t get soggy. I do everything I possibly can in advance. Including the mashed potatoes! It’s a messy task and a lot of space taking steps to make those potatoes. I have found I can do it in advance, load it into a 9X13 glass dish and either freeze or refrigerate it. Makes a big difference, so much less Thanksgiving mess!
Before I go to bed the night before Thanksgiving, everything is done or in the works. The idea is to just be able to pull things from the fridge and transfer to the oven.
And truly, when we have a big crowd, that is enough to keep me busy. I always seem to forget how much work it is simply to arrange everything onto serving plates. Don’t under estimate that job.
We cook our turkey on the Weber grill. We use a bag of coals, prepare the turkey as we would normally do, put it in a disposable pan and on the grill. It cooks a little faster on the grill, but for the last 18 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve always had a perfect bird, moist and beautiful. The other tip I have is to cook the stuffing in a crock pot. That way you can get it going early, set it and forget it. By doing this, I found I have a lot more oven space to use for all the other fabulous side dishes.
I’m not a real good table setter. I remember my mom being good at that…putting the extensions on the dining room table, washing, ironing and gently arranging the tablecloth, setting each place setting with a place card, polishing the silver & washing the special china. I don’t own fine china and my dining room table is squashed into the dining room which in our house houses several offices & computers. So I’m not so fussy. When we have a big crowd, the boys move the table into the family room, we put the extensions on and the washed but un-ironed tablecloth. I don’t set the table, I let everybody grab their own plates & utensils as they choose their spot. If I got any fancier than that, it would be too shocking!
So when you come to Thanksgiving at my house, we are decorated to the max with all the Christmas gaiety laid out. We have multiple TV’s playing the parades and football games. We serve you two meals and a never ending spread in between. And if you stay long enough, you could probably end the day with a fresh bowl of turkey soup. It is the biggest party of the year at my house and we work for nearly a month full out to get ready for it.
The kicker is, none of the other tasks in our lives go away, there’s still work and laundry and chauffeuring and meals to provide and everything else we deal with in our regular daily lives. And that’s why we need to be organized. That’s why we’ve given up on procrastination and found a way to get it all together.
Am I on schedule this year? Nah, I’m still slightly behind, but I live in the hope that I’ll make up the time somewhere. Maybe I’ll get some help. Or maybe I’ll drop a few cookies, but either way and no matter what I do, Thanksgiving is coming whether I’m ready or not.
I’d rather be ready!