I hate Thanksgiving. I used to hate because it was drama waiting to happen. Too many anxious family members shoved under one roof trying to squash down anger- it's a fireball on the verge of boom. Even if there aren't any major fights, little acid remarks leak out between sips of wine and somebody starts to stew. Then I became diabetic and Thanksgiving became a huge meal I couldn't eat. Despite my best efforts, my sugar shot up into the 300's last year.
I can't really avoid Thanksgiving. I don't think anyone can. Even if you insist on staying home alone, someone is going to show up with food. I have found the best thing to do is prepare. And I start on the first day of November.
I learned my Thanksgiving plan from AJ, The Greatest Kitchen Witch Who Ever Lived. She got started in September. You heard me correctly. She started buying spices, canned goods, and frozen veggies as soon as the calendar said autumn. I don't cook near as much as she did, so I have scaled her plan down a good bit.
1. Start deep cleaning the house. I start with closets because you will be needing lots of space- space to put away what you don't want seen, space for people to sit, space for their coats, space for the hostess gifts guests bring, and if you are a Black Friday shopper, space for the gifts you will buy. There is always something you can throw out. Work one closet at a time, one drawer at a time, and then one room at a time. If you intend to get rid of an item, GET RID OF IT. Do not put something in another place to throw out later. Deal with it now.
Following the closets, I clean behind furniture. I wash curtains. I vacuum the couch. This usually takes me several days. I don't want to be up all night cooking AND cleaning the day before Thanksgiving. I clean very well and then I maintain it throughout the month.
2. Repairs. Now is the time to change light bulbs and filters, fix a leaking sink, or find out why the lights flicker. If it is a potential hazard that could hurt someone, FIX it. This is not the time to remodel so don't go there.
3. Plan your menu and guest list. I always plan to cook for more guests than I will actually have because in my experience extra people always show up. If I know six people are coming, I cook for ten.
4. Clean out your kitchen cabinets. Get rid of outdated food. Get rid of broken or mismatched dishes. Organize everything so you find it. You do not want to be searching for a can of something you swear you brought. AJ kept a list of everything in kitchen that she would be using on Thanksgiving.
5. Start shopping. AJ stocked up as early as she could. When everyone else crowded the grocery store, she already had what she needed. Stores tend to raise prices at this time so shopping early gives you a better deal.
6. Think about what food can be frozen, ordered, or made by someone else. You don't have to cook everything and you don't have to cook it all at once. Sauces, soups, and stews can be made weeks ahead then frozen. Guests can bring dishes. And you don't have to cook a turkey if it scares you. Place your order early and pay when you order.
7. Think about what your guests will be doing. Will they watch tv? Are they watching your personal dvd's? Are they going through your photo albums? Are people sitting on the porch smoking? Do they have ashtrays? It bugs the hell out of me when people throw cigarette butts in my potted plants. Does everyone have a place to park? If someone got stuck in the yard, are you equipped to get their car out? I plan for a lot of things that never happen. But when something does go wrong, I know what to do.
8. About a week before the big day, think about comfort. Is there plenty of tissue in the bathroom? Are towels clean? If someone spends the night, do they have a warm place to sleep? Do you have heat- a full tank of propane or plenty of firewood? If a freak storm kept people at your home, do you have enough heat, water, and blankets?
9. Secure valuables. I'd like to tell you your family won't steal from you, but let's be honest, some things are just too tempting. Lock up the jewelry box, the guns, and the alcohol. If nothing is misplaced before guests arrive, no one will cry when they leave.
10. If you are a Witch, how much are you willing to explain? If you are still in the broom closet, walk through your house as if you have never seen it before. What stands out? How much can be packed away? If you have trouble, ask a Pagan friend to walk through. A few times I've had good friends bring Christans with them, a date, one of their relatives, etc. My friend might be fine with my beliefs but their friend isn't. The less I have to explain the better.
11. The day before- wash your door. This is the first thing people see when they enter your home. A dirty door gives the impression that the inside of the house is grimy. A clean door with shining brass and a welcome wreath looks cheery and inviting. Welcomed people are happy people and happy people cause less drama.
12. Set up everything before you cook. This means the extra leaf is in the table, you already found and dusted extra chairs, the good china is already washed and sitting on the table, the wine is chilled, and the flowers are already arranged. I cannot emphasize how important it is to do as much as you can ahead of time.
13. Two hours before guests are due to arrive, walk through the entire house. There is ALWAYS something overlooked. It could be realizing you forgot the ice, smelly shoes in the hallway, or pets begging under the table. Solve as many problems as you can before anyone comes over.
14. Roll with it. Despite all this planning, nothing ever goes as it was intended. Instead of stressing out over something that is less than ideal, I shrug it off and adjust. This is only one day and you can do anything for one day.
15. Delegate. Everyone should pitch in and do something. AJ always made guests rinse dishes and place them in the dishwasher before she served dessert. She also picked a few males to empty trash during half-time. And everyone took food home with them before leaving. If they wanted extra food, they had to complete a chore before they could get it.
The last thing on my list is my own realization:
16. KEEP IT SIMPLE. It is really easy to go overboard. Don't worry about having enough or needing more. You don't need a ham and a turkey or two different kinds of dressing or pie and cake. Do you know why people are really coming to your house? They don't want to do all this work. So don't try to wow them, they already took the easy way out.