Thanksgiving is “my holiday.” It was a great holiday for me to claim because typically there isn’t snow yet to make the trip more stressful for my parents and siblings who live in Chicago. With the seven-hour drive to Minnesota, they usually arrive a day or two before Thanksgiving and stay through the weekend, so planning for this wonderful occasion also means planning for a houseful of guests for four days.
Each year I reflect on what has and hasn’t worked in the past and try to improve upon previous years’ plans. The goal for me is to have my house clean, all food and beverages purchased, Wednesday’s dinner in the freezer, some bars and sweets baked for the kids and some type of special game or discussion prompter for Thanksgiving dinner — all ready to go before the first guest arrives on Tuesday evening.
This year I decided to devise a calendar for the week preceding Thanksgiving. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to clean a few days before so I don’t get too tired; nor do I get as uptight as the house unravels. I start by breaking down the chores to spread them out from Friday – Tuesday:
- Friday: I start with the areas of the house where the kids will spend most of the time – like the basement – so it doesn’t have to look perfect when everyone gets here — just no cobwebs! I then move to smaller tasks like dusting my entryway chandelier, wiping down the wood steps of the staircase, washing 1st floor windows and cleaning out my refrigerator.
- Saturday: I get all my grocery and miscellaneous shopping done, which gives the turkey five days to thaw. I check my pantry for basic items and make sure to purchase extra butter sticks, a jar or two of gravy (just in case), mayo, bread and chips for turkey sandwiches the next day and bags of ice, in addition to milk, cereal, bagels, fruit, veggies and pop for easy to make breakfasts and snacks for the kids. While I’m stocking up on the basics, my husband purchases the wine and beer.
- Sunday: I clean the upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Monday: I clean the 1st floor.
- Tuesday: I cook Wednesday’s dinner and bake pumpkin bars and cookies.
- Wednesday: I set the table with my Mom and sisters. It’s a special time for us and it puts everyone in a festive mood! I use the same tablecloth every year and it’s always ready to go since I clean it immediately after Thanksgiving and hang it in my front closet. Mom helps me clean the turkey and peel the potatoes and rutabaga. When dinner comes around I pull my pre-made dinner from the freezer, make a salad and bake some garlic bread.
- Thanksgiving: We stick to the same menu each year: turkey, potatoes, rutabaga, squash, green bean casserole and cranberries, plus pumpkin pie. I prep the turkey with the stuffing and get it in the oven by 9 a.m, in addition to preparing two simple appetizers for the football game. My mother-in-law brings the squash in a crock pot so all I have left to cook are the potatoes and rutabaga and assemble the green bean casserole – pretty easy. The hardest part of this wonderful day is looking at the piles of dishes and pans that need to be cleaned, so I’m going to try to use the nicest disposable plates and utensils I can find. I have 22 for dinner because we have my husband’s family coming too!
- Friday: The ladies and kids get out for a fun excursion and the men watch football games. We meet up for an “adults only” dinner at our favorite steakhouse in town and end the night sitting around the kitchen table talking, laughing, and singing! Ahhh, the holidays!!