Fans of the blog probably noticed that I didn’t post anything last week, or send out any of my usual emails. Last week was Thanksgiving, for those of you who celebrate the American holiday.
And I love Thanksgiving! Christmas is the favorite, but Thanksgiving is a close second.
When I was little, I have fond memories of Christmas and Thanksgiving being the only two times each year when I would get to see all of my extended family. My dad’s side of the family was full of aunts, uncles, and cousins who all lived too far away for us to see them often. But those two holidays would bring everyone back to my Grandma’s house. I remember the anticipation the day would bring, and how I couldn’t wait for the morning to pass in order for it to be time to head over and see everyone. Once we arrived, I would find my Uncle Pete in the kitchen working on the delicious pies. And he would always take the extra dough, roll it out flat, and bake it with a coating of cinnamon and sugar for us to snack on while waiting for the main meal. All the kids loved it! My Aunt Cathy would help me pass the time until the meal by either challenging me to a game of chess in the living room, or a game (with a geometry lesson!) down at the pool table in the basement. The food was always amazing – we have some great chefs in the family – and we would all eat way too much. Then there was a communal clean up time – Aunt Cathy would wash (my grandmother didn’t own a dishwasher), and everyone else would tromp back and forth drying dishes and taking them back to the china cabinet out in the dining room. My job each year? Since I was the youngest and shortest, I was designated to crawl under the table and put all the dishes back into the china cabinet as they made the trip from the sink. You see, once the table was fully extended in order to fit everyone around it, there was no way to get to the china cabinet other than by crawling under the table. So even though I couldn’t do much to help with the dinner when young, I still felt like I played an important part in the day. After everything was cleaned up and put away, we would all gather in the living room and either share stories, watch movies, or play a board game.
I loved it when my whole family came together like this. My parents are divorced (which for them is a good thing!), and therefore I don’t have a lot of happy memories of just my immediate family together – there would be good times with my dad, or good times with my mom, or good times with my sister, but everything was always disjointed. So when the holidays came around, I knew I had those two special days to look forward to. These were two days where my parents would put aside their differences, and I truly got to feel like I was a member of a family in the larger sense. These two days always gave me a sense of belonging, and allowed me to have that childhood joy and wonder around the holidays that we all wish for our children.
And I share all that not so that you feel sorry for me, but so that you understand how important these holidays are to me now that I’m adult. Yes, my situation has changed – I now have my own family, live in a completely different part of the country, and more often than not celebrate with my husband’s family instead of my extended family – but I still remember just how much those days meant to me, and how important it was for me to have everyone together.
Therefore I love to make the holiday’s special – and I love having ample time to prepare and plan so I can do just that!
Normally a different member of my husband’s family hosts Thanksgiving, and I generally take care of Christmas. However, this year, plans changed and I found out one week before Thanksgiving that I would be hosting this year!
Did I freak out? I’ll admit – I did – for about a day. Just the thought of hosting Thanksgiving can be overwhelming, much less knowing only a week in advance that you’ll be doing that.
But as I started to think through the process of Thanksgiving and what I would need to get done, I realized that my organized lifestyle and the systems I’ve put in place in my life really made hosting for Thanksgiving at the last minute something I could pull off easily – without much stress at all!
Here’s the breakdown:
- The turkey. Every year I order a turkey from our local natural foods market when they are offered during Thanksgiving. 95% of the time it just goes in my freezer and we eat it sometime mid-winter on a cold weekend home. Well, I already had a turkey ordered and it would be available (fresh) in just a few days. I simply had to put it in a brine a day or two beforehand. Easy enough.
- Cleaning the house. This is one area of my life where I splurge. I HATE house cleaning. I love being organized, but I hate the actual vacuuming, dusting, mopping, etc. that comes with a sparkly clean house. And with two small kids to keep up with, I would be spending all my time cleaning instead of being with them. That’s not what I want. So I have a cleaning service that comes in every 2-4 weeks depending on our mutual schedules. And I just happened to have them scheduled to come 2 days before Thanksgiving for the routine cleaning (I was thinking “just in case!”). Perfect!
- Place settings and decorations. I LOVE holiday decorating and have an abundance of decorations and place settings I’ve collected over the years. I don’t put up as many decorations when the kids are small just because of choking hazards and such, but I would need a couple of hours to pull things out of boxes and put them up. Matthew would enjoy helping me with this, so I can easily do this after work on the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving once dinner is done.
- Desserts. I grew up with Thanksgiving being all about the food – desserts especially. As such, I’m a proficient pie maker and can whip them up pretty quickly with good results. This needs to be done the day before, and luckily I’m only working a half day before Thanksgiving. I had a hair appointment that afternoon, but if I cancel that I’ll have enough time to get them ready. Easy fix!
- Side dishes. I’ve talked before on the blog about how my father-in-law does a huge garden each year and blesses us with his overflow of veggies. Our freezers and basement are packed with carrots, corn, broccoli, squash, potatoes, onion, garlic, tomatoes, etc. If it wasn’t for the stuffing and cranberry sauce, I probably wouldn’t even have to go to the store for supplies! Because of the garden, our food preservation, and keeping a well-stocked pantry (spices, broths, butters, flours, grains, veggies, meats, etc.), I can just pull things out of the freezer and off the shelves and have 90% of the Thanksgiving sides done in no time! (I’m lucky that my husband’s family prefers plain veggies over fancy veggie casserole dishes – much easier on me!).
- Final things. I did make a trip to the grocery store for cranberry sauce and I decided to take the easy way out and do a boxed stuffing. I also picked up some ciders, wine and beer for the celebration. But I didn’t have to do a crazy shopping expedition like I thought I might need to! I asked my in-laws to bring rolls (which they are fantastic at making from scratch!), and the menu was complete.
Thanksgiving went off perfectly – my husband and I both had half days the day prior, so he watched the kids while I made pies, prepped some of the veggies, and set out the table. We brined the turkey and chilled it overnight in the basement. The morning of, the turkey went on at 8:30 AM and I finished prep – made the stuffing and put all the veggies on the stove, ready to be warmed. All I had to do in the last hour before we ate was put the stuffing in the oven and turn on the burners on the stovetop!
I know that if it wasn’t for my organized lifestyle, this short notice to host Thanksgiving would have been much more stressful. But it all turned out great – with delicious food and great company – just like the Thanksgivings of my memories, and just the way that Thanksgiving should be!
Next week I’ll be returning to regular content on the blog. I’m hoping to bring you the next in my weight loss series – so stay tuned!
All the best,
P.S. I’m so thankful to all of you who read the blog and reach out with your comments either through email or social media. The whole purpose of this blog is to share my stories and experiences with you so that they can help you in your own life! Let me know what else I can be doing to make this most helpful to you – I be sure to read every message!
P.P.S. From Rob and I to you – have a wonderful holiday season!