Thanksgiving Stress Free? Is it even possible?
Two days to go and lots to do! Of course there is! Thanksgiving is one of our country’s sacred holidays. We look forward to guests, family returning home and the delicious feast to be enjoyed by all. Well, maybe not all. The cook for the day might find it hard to be thankful amidst all the preparations, shopping, cooking and cleaning. I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 30 years and at the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, I want to tell you that I enjoy it immensely. Not that I love being in the kitchen, but I love that I get to do this for my family. Tradition is important to me. Building family memories is so important to all the generations that come together at our house this one day.
When stress gets in the way of enjoying time with our loved ones, that is not good. I hope the following ideas might help you find a less stressful way to put a gorgeous dinner on the table while remaining stress free.
How do we do Thanksgiving Stress Free?
1. My first tip is to remind you that you are your toughest critic. If anyone is more critical of you than you, they are not being gracious and should be treated with extra kindness and sweetness because they need it. I like to refer to these self proclaimed critics as EGR’s. Extra Grace Required. They need to be treated with even more grace and kindness as they attempt to criticize you and your food and table settings. My favorite response to Auntie who criticizes, is “Well bless your heart! thank you for pointing out the mismatched silver ware!” smile and continue stirring the gravy. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT throw pan of gravy at the critic. It is bad manners.
2.Do as much as possible before Thanksgiving guests arrive. Now I know you are reading this on Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving and there is not a lot of time to get things done. But you can still pile all the laundry in a basket, shove it in the upstairs back room and close the door. Run a swiffer around the house and do a quick vacuum job. Ok now on to the food. Shop as early in the week as you can. Go now if you haven’t already. Shopping on Wednesday night might work but the turkeys may be a little sad looking.
There are some dishes that you can easily make before Thursday or early in the day so the kitchen is not crowded with hungry guests while you are mashing potatoes and stirring gravy. If you have crockpots, use them to keep the gravy hot and even other foods such as the dressing, hot vegetables, baked mashed potatoes. (see recipe below for recipe)
Ask For Specific Help
3. ASK FOR SPECIFIC HELP. Lets face it. Husbands and kids are not mind readers and most of them have not put on a big holiday dinner. Now before my menfolk readers start getting upset, let me just say, this is not a firm rule. I am sure that many men know just what to do to prepare for a big holiday gathering. But changing the oil in the car and rotating tires is not helpful unless you have been banished from the house.
So, ask for specific help. Don’t say, I really wish you all would stop watching TV and help me. Try something like, can you please put ice in the water glasses or set out the plates and silverware at each spot. I need three more chairs, can you please find them is better than just saying you have no idea where everyone is going to sit. (this is not something I came to know easily!, There was a lot of room for growth for me in this area of communication with my menfolk.)
Have and Easy Breakfast and Lunch Plan
4. Take it easy on the other meals for the day. The feast is your responsibility. Send Dad out for donuts, make a breakfast casserole the day before that can be heated up, make healthy smoothies, put out fresh bread from the breadmaker and homemade jam and let them serve themselves. You have a date with a turkey.
What Can I Bring?
5. If someone offers to bring something, let them bring what you really don’t want to take care of. Appetizers is always a good idea if the person doesn’t usually run late. Or wine, sparkling cider for the young and non- drinkers. Maybe an additional dessert. Its ok to let someone help on your terms.
6. Some of the things I make ahead either early in the day or the day before. Pies, Baked mashed potatoes, Macaroni and Cheese, Rolls. Get the table cloths out a few days early and check if they need any pressing. Maybe just letting them hang for a day or two will release the wrinkles.
Crafts and Activities for the Young and Young at Heart
7. Ideas to keep the little ones happy. When our kids and our nieces and nephews were small, I tried to have a project that they could work on while they waited for dinner to be ready. Often the kids made the place cards and I let them place them on the table. Then my older kids would go and switch the cards so they were sitting where they wanted to sit. Then I would go and switch them where I wanted them. It was quite a game to see who got the last move. No one really cared where they sat so it wasn’t a big deal but it is a good memory.
The place cards don’t have to be elaborate or even perfect. It is just a way to include everyone from the youngest to the oldest. Grandmom or great grandmom may not be able to stand in the kitchen but may really enjoy helping the kids make the decorations and place cards. Here are some easy ones we have used on our table in the past.
All of the above craft ideas are easy. The materials are easily found at dollar stores, craft stores and maybe you have some of the things on hand already. The name card can easily be attached to the bottom of each figure. I don’t have written instructions for any of these as they are just things we made in the past from examples or our imaginations.
And check out this cute craft from Schneiderpeeps! The kids would love to work on this project.
Alternatives to crafts would be puzzles, family style board games, or maybe a walk !
Here’s my favorite way to make Mashed Potatoes for a crowd.
- 8 large potatoes peeled and boiled
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 Tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 Tablespoon Chives
- cook potatoes and drain completely
- preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Grease a two quart baking dish or the crock pot
- In a large bowl, beat the sour cream, cream cheese, until well blended. Add the hot potatoes a little at a time. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the chives and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the potato mixture to the baking dish or crock pot. Sprinkle the paprika on top and bake 45 minutes uncovered in the oven. In a crock pot, bake covered until heated through on high. Switch temperature to low or keep warm until ready to serve.
Homestead Wishing has a great roundup of posts on more ways to tackle Thanksgiving, even at the last minute! How to do Last Minute Thanksgiving
I realize some will disagree with my laid back approach to such a traditional holiday meal, but this is what works for us. We enjoy being together and I want everyone to feel very much at home in our home. What ever way works for your, your temperament/personality, and your family, please leave the stress out of it.
Want to read more on this topic?