The Holiday Season is officially here! On this fine Monday morning I'd like to start a little T & A series, as in tips and advice. Through the unholy matrimony of my gift of hospitality and my curse of procrastination I have acquired a unique set of skills that I'd like to share with y'all as you head into your Thanksgiving preparations.
First of all, I'd like to explain that Thanksgiving is my husband's favorite holiday. And why not? With the oh so holy coupling of food and football, he also doesn't have to buy me, or anyone else, a present. Perfect! Years ago he decreed that all Thanksgivings must be spent at our home, giving him ultimate control of the remote and a belly full of food made by me. That old saying about the way to a man's heart is through his stomach is true. There's no story here of my husband being overcome by my beauty and grace upon first sight of me. No, we both attended a picnic at a park with a group and he loved my potato salad. After one bite he decided he was going to ask me on a date. All that time spent with Grandma in her kitchen paid off. I was 19 years old.
My first experience preparing a Thanksgiving Feast was at the ripe old age of 23 while newly pregnant with our second child. I need to explain my little phobia of bones... While I am a carnivore, I do not like bones or skin. I don't want to see them or touch them and definitely don't want to eat them. There is nothing that nauseates me more than watching someone eat ribs. I am a polite person and will eat what is served in other's homes but it can be difficult for me.
To illustrate my point, when my son was around 7 years old he was sick and we stopped at the grocery store on the way home from the doctor. While we were looking through the meats he saw a package of drumsticks and got very excited. I felt bad because he really liked them so I put them in the cart. He jumped up and down through the store yelling, "Yes! I get chicken with bones in it!" I don't think I need to tell you we received some rather odd looks from the others in the store.
The hardest part of that first Thanksgiving was preparing the turkey. My need for things to look a certain way superseded my fear of bones and skin. How could it be Thanksgiving without the image of a nicely browned turkey on the table? I knew that you pulled the neck out from inside the turkey. Well, first trimester + bone phobia + shoving my hand inside a cold turkey carcass to pull out the neck + visual of the neck = yeah. No bueno for me-oh. Total pukefest. Then there was the fact that I had no idea there was a little bag with giblets stuffed inside the neck hole. Why on earth would I lift that flap of rubbery skin to look in there? Well, that bag of giblets exploded out the front of the turkey near the end of the cooking time.
Those of us who regularly host Thanksgiving know well the amount of time that goes into making that day special. It goes beyond preparing a special meal... there's the planning, the shopping, the cleaning and the cooking. I've yet to pull off a Thanksgiving 100% to my satisfaction. There always comes that point, usually within hours of our guests arriving, that I realize I can't meet my own expectations. That's when The Beast begins to bubble up in my soul. My eyes dilate, my blood pressure and heart rate both increase, and I hand out lists of things I want help with. Then someone pushes my BIG RED BUTTON with, "The house is fine the way it is."
My wanting everything just so + days of thinking and preparing on my part + severe lack of sleep (I am usually up until 1 or 2 am and then get up at 5:30 am) + way too much coffee + feeling like no one cares about what I might want to make Thanksgiving special for me (clean house) = Wild haired, crazy eyed, psycho BEYOTCH from the very pit of hell that is badly in need of a shower... And I'm a church lady.
So why do it? Why not just make a reservation at a restaurant or finagle and invitation elsewhere? Because, except for those two hours before our guests arrive, I love it. I really do. I just wish I were better at it and each year I hope that I'll finally achieve pulling off a stress free event.
1. If you don't have one, make a plan of action. Write down what has to be done before Thursday and then go through the list and spread those things out over the next three days.
2. If you haven't done your shopping, write down your entire menu and then create your shopping list. Don't go shopping right away! Put the list and a pen in your pocket or take it with you from room to room as you do other things around the house. You will think of other things you need. Write them down immediately.
3. The best time to do your shopping will be right around 7 am. The shelves will all be stocked and the aisles will be clear. I've gone at 6:30 am before and had to work my way around the stockers and all their pallets. You want to be sure they are all gone but it is still early enough to not be crowded. This week the stores will get crowded earlier than usual.
4. If you are like me and going to be using your china that has been sitting in the china cabinet since Easter... pull it out and wash it. If you don't have the time... just wash the cups, wine glasses and the top plates and bowls to remove any dust that has accumulated. This is also a good time to dust the inside of the cabinet and clean the mirrors.
5. Today would be a good day to deep clean all of your bathrooms and to keep that washer and dryer humming along.
**Comment from Paul Mitchell: Oh man, you forgot the most important tip for Monday. Since Butterball underestimates the thawing time for an 18 lb turkey by about 30 times, put the danged turkey in the sink TODAY or you're going to be deep frying a frozen turkey Thursday morning. Thanks Paul!
You will not want to miss tomorrow's post on crisis cleaning!