Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving- How I am trying to manage what can surely be a hectic holiday...

If you follow our blog, you know that Maggie and I are work at home moms. I personally have 3 boys- ages 2, 5 and 12. I own an eBay store, an Etsy shop and a website. I make jewelry, assorted craft items from sea life and sell seashells. I also do all the typical homemaker stuff- clean the house, do the errands, cook the meals etc. Needless to say I live on coffee and steam- most nights going to bed between the hours of 2 and 3 in the morning.

So why would someone with as much going on as me (in a tiny house with no dining room and barely an eat-in kitchen) offer to host Thanksgiving dinner for 12? Well part of it is really because -ironically- even with all I have going on, I am the only one in the position to do it. The other part of it is because tradition is big for me.

My mom is getting older and lives in a tiny, crowded little house, my sister works until 3 in the afternoon so has no time to cook, my bachelor brother is, well, my bachelor brother and all of the other guests who join us for food and conversation have their own back stories that find them at my house as opposed to being home alone.

So that answers the "Why?" of it. Now the "How?" of it. I am sure there are tons of people who are as busy as me (or busier!) and the idea of making a giant meal for people is super stressful, yet they find themselves in the position of having to do just that. I thought in the spirit of giving and sharing I would do a bit of a "my tips for making things easier" blog post.

(How's that for a long winded intro?!)

1. Prep a night (or two) before. This is probably one of the best things I've learned to do- things like mashed potatoes, butternut squash, even your stuffing can all be made the night before and put into oven-safe casserole dishes. Pop them in the fridge overnight and warm them in the oven or microwave when you're ready. This also frees up stove top space and keeps your sink less cluttered with dirty pots and pans.

2. Keep it casual. You can still set a pretty table and use your nice dishes, but let go of the feeling that everyone must be in their "Sunday Best". My kids inevitably get covered in markers and various foods throughout the day anyway- why make it more stressful on myself wanting to run around with a damp cloth scrubbing them clean all day long? It will also set the mood for a more relaxed atmosphere- your guests will see that you are laid back and that allows them to relax more.

3. Share the duties. Just because my mom can't host a dinner at her house doesn't mean she can't help out. She is my official butternut squash maker. Other people contribute by bringing a pie or something to drink, etc. (This also helps alleviate the financial burden that feeding several people can present.)

4. Start a tradition. In my house I buy two rolls of Pillsbury cinnamon buns and pop them in the oven as soon as we wake up. We turn on the TV and watch the Macy's parade and have coffee and chill out. Clean up is simple and it keeps the kids happy and out of my hair while I start the cooking- they also know what to expect, we do it every year, so the nagging is kept to a dull roar.

The other main tradition we have is to give the kids "jobs". Even the littest one can carry toys up to a bedroom or color a festive picture to decorate. My two youngest boys love it when I print out pictures of turkeys for them to color. Then my older son can supervise (a job he loves!) and they cut them out and we stick them on every window, door and wall with a free space.

5. Serve appetizers. (And put them in another room besides the kitchen if space is tight!) Even with the best laid plans, dinner never get served on time at my house. Appetizers keep the wolves at bay. ;)

6. Take time to enjoy the day. The thing I love probably the most about hosting holidays is that I don't have to feel rushed to load all the kids into the car and hop from one family member's house to the next "making the rounds". I am at home, with no shoes on and I can move at my own pace. Who cares if the dishes are still dirty? You can clean them after your guests go home. (You can also leave them until the next morning if you really want to!)

Thanksgiving (and all holidays) should be about family, traditions and creating good memories. Don't let the tasks at hand become larger than the day itself.

Happy Thanksgiving!


John Wright Art said...

Well, all I can say is best of luck Tara. I am sure the day will go just as perfectly as in the Rockwell painting.

The Shell Sellers said...

Perfect is what you make it and if everyone gets through the day with fully bellies, a feeling of love and all their limbs intact, it is a success!

Have a great holiday!

Lexi said...

Good luck! Gosh, I'm having 7 and feel the panic already! It sounds like you have a great strategy though!
Hey, just a few more weeks, and we can maybe get together!
Have a great Thanksgiving!