Thanksgiving Checklist – Do it all and have fun at the same time!

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Well, here it is, less than two weeks until Thanksgiving. I’m already starting to feel a bit of nervousness – as always I want everything to be “perfect” but I also want to enjoy the day along with everyone else. I remember one of the first times I cooked Thanksgiving for everyone in our families – and I decided to cook everything from scratch. I was trying out a bunch of new recipes, cooking a lot of new foods, and pretty much overdid it all. The thing I remember the most was being so busy that I forgot to eat anything all day. Then when the guests arrived and we had a glass of wine, I was instantly tipsy! Not exactly the condition you want to be in when you’re pulling together a dinner for your inlaws and outlaws!

Luckily, I did manage to feed everyone – and no one complained (to my face anyway!) But I also remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen while everyone else was around the table laughing and talking. I’ve learned several things since that early Thanksgiving – mainly, don’t forget to eat breakfast!

I also learned not to do everything myself if I can help it! For me I love being in the kitchen with my mother in law and mom and daughter and husband all working on something different, laughing and catching up. I learn a lot from working with other people, and it sure beats working in the kitchen alone – so if anyone volunteers to help out, I take them up on it! I’ll even put kids to work peeling potatoes or cleaning vegetables or drying dishes – whatever their skill level is. If they’re too young to help out in the kitchen, you can give them some craft projects. One year I had the younger kids make Pilgrim hats and feathered headbands for everyone to wear.

I also use my planner. I make sure I have a menu written out with a grocery list so I can avoid any last minute runs to the grocery store – you know it’s nuts to try to go shopping on Wednesday before Thanksgiving! Don’t forget to pick up these items either: Butter (enough for the table and for all the cooking and baking you’ll be doing!), Whipped cream or cool whip for desserts, extra ice, extra drinks, wine, some snack foods for those who are watching the football games, and some items for sandwich making – mustard, mayo, lettuce – you know, so everyone can make sandwiches with the leftover turkey! And lastly, don’t forget to have plenty of aluminum foil and containers to store and send leftovers home with guests!

I try to cook as much as possible the week before Thanksgiving – whatever is on your menu, see if you could make it ahead of time and either finish cooking it, or just warm it up in time for your guests to eat. I also clean out the fridge as much as possible, because I know I’m going to have a ton of stuff to store in there!  I also make a chore list and have everyone in my family help me clean the house from top to bottom the weekend before Thanksgiving. This helps me not freak out and try to do it all at midnight on Wednesday night.

What I do on Wednesday night though, is set the table. This gives me plenty of time to fold the napkins just so if I want, and to make sure I have enough wine glasses, and all those little things that I don’t want to be thinking about at the last minute while guests are waiting to eat turkey. I can also sort of go over my “game plan” the night before and make sure I’ve got everything pretty much lined up and ready to go. There’s nothing more aggravating than realizing after everyone has left that I forgot to serve the special side-dish that got left in the back of the fridge.

On Thanksgiving I make sure that I’m dressed, have my makeup on, hair styled, first thing. I just feel better – more prepared that way, and if guests show up early I don’t feel caught off guard.

Most importantly, I remember to feel thankful – for everything that I’m seeing, feeling, and experiencing that day – it’s a memory in the making. I remind myself that no guests are coming to my house because my candles match the tablecloth, or because my place cards are handmade, they are coming to share time with each other, to laugh and talk and fellowship. When I keep that in perspective, I can relax and enjoy myself, and if something burns or breaks it’s not the end of the world – it’s just a funny story for a later Thanksgiving!