Our Thanksgiving Planning Conversation

I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year. For the FIRST TIME EVER.

I am thrilled. And grateful that so many of our friends would want to come over and share the holiday. It will also be our first holiday in our new house. We moved from a 1906 Victorian (“fixer house”) in San Francisco to a 1957 Ranch in the San Jose suburbs. Our whole old house could fit in the space of my new kitchen. No exaggeration there. So we will just fill every large new room of the house with holiday cheer and friends and family. There is enough room and counter surface in the kitchen to have lots of work stations and get lots of help.

I have been looking at holiday preparation web sites and finding check lists. The thing is, some of those check lists were written for people who have a staff. I didn’t find one that will exactly work for me.  Kathy and I were having a conversation about it and I thought we should ALL have a conversation about it.

Here are Kathy’s tips to me for a successful Holiday:

1. Don’t stress yourself out trying to give everyone their traditional Thanksgiving. You could lose you mind. You’ll get people who will say things like, “We always had sausage in our stuffing.” or, “It’s not Thanksgiving without green bean casserole.” Set your menu and stick to it. If someone wants to bring something special they can.

2. I find when cooking for a larger group like this it is best to keep it simple and classic, roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls and a green vegetable or salad. I might add a sweet potato dish. I do a rockin’ no cook cranberry sauce that I make ahead of time. Everyone seems to love the classics.

3. That said if someone offers to bring things let them! Let them bring the pies and the rolls.

4. If no one is bringing pies, buy them. I’m sorry, but Mrs Smith’s pumpkin pie is as good as anything I could bake. Add homemade whip cream and it is perfect.

5. Really think about timing of cooking and do as much as you can ahead of time. Think about the size of your oven and what can cook together. With me I usually couldn’t fit anything in with the turkey. So, I had to think about what could cook in the time the turkey was resting or what could be pre-cooked & reheated. Matt’s mom does a lot of things the night before and then reheats them in the crock pot, even the mashed potatoes. Plus you don’t want to be in the kitchen the whole time everyone is there.

6. Assign your guests jobs. Put someone in charge of making sure everyone has drinks. Tell someone else it is their job to mash the potatoes when it is that time.

Wanna know about the “rockin’ cranberry sauce” in #2?

In reading the list, I realize that it’s not all about the cooking and the menu. It’s all about managing my own personal self. (Such a smart friend I have, no?) And I think that is what is missing from the on-line check lists. They don’t have “set your boundaries” kind of tips. Thankfully we don’t have a ‘dynamic’ here. So we don’t need to talk about “keeping Uncle Lushface out of the booze” or anything. But keeping yourself happy and enjoying the day is a critical piece of the success of the day.

How far ahead would you set the table? If I do it 3 days ahead, will it get dusty? Should I throw a sheet over it? (Is this ridiculous?)

Who has tips for me? Bring it on.

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6 Comments to Our Thanksgiving Planning Conversation
    • Manisha
    • Make sure you have a personal plan for the wine. One Thanksgiving I didn’t get around to drinking wine until much later in the evening which was no fun. Another Thanksgiving I had nearly a whole bottle before the dinner was served, also no fun, for anyone. I guess what I’m saying is make sure you are thinking of ways to take care of yourself in the wine department or if you are not a boozer, be sure to stay hydrated. I also like to have two pitchers of water available, one with lemon, the other with cucumber.

    • Jenny K
    • Kathy’s tips are great. It is the way that I strategize it as well. One thing we have done to give more oven space it to cook the turkey on the grill. Ours have turned out great each time. The rush is the end with making gravy, mashing potatoes and cutting the turkey. Give jobs to folks so it is not all on you. And Manisha is right- don’t over do the wine but don’t forget to have a glass as well. Have your table set ahead of time, get all the stuffing ingredients prepared the night before. And Mrs. Smith makes an awesome pie! Cook that the day before. Good luck. We will be trying our hands at Thanksgiving with Kathy and Matt at altitude. Should be fun.

      • Susi
      • Jenny, We are not “grill ready” in the new house yet. But it is tempting. The end isles of Home Depot featured deep fat fryers for a Turkey. Man, how fun would THAT be?!
        Have a GREAT trip.

    • Marlene
    • For me the preparation starts several days before. Grocery shopping for items that can be prep and ziplock. I like to make a pumpkin soup and muffins as part of the meal on Turkey day. So everything should be prep ready to cook. I do a second grocery trip Wed. morning for the perishables and items forgotten. I always break down and purchase a floral. A few times for the front entry too. Gives me a festive feeling to see fall colors. As I put the last shopping trip items away, I turn on music. I am set to put it all in motion.

    • Susi
    • Marlene, Thank you for breaking that down like that. I was trying to figure out how early/late to shop. But you have just given me permission to shop twice. Ant that sounds MUCH more manageable. Thank you. I love the confession about floral and decorations. I have been wondering how I would handle that too.
      I am really excited.
      I wish you and your family a lovely holiday. !

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