With Thanksgiving in just a few days, I thought I'd make a post giving some tips to make the holiday a little less stressful for the wife. Hopefully you'll find something new here, and if not maybe it will at least be motivational. I'd also love to hear some tips from you guys as I'm always looking to learn how to keep peace and avoid stress.
Thanksgiving is a day where we remember what we are grateful for, but it can be real hard if you had a bad year financially, or in your marriage. Try to love your family in spite of criticisms, arguing, and a messy house. Try to remember what you do have, instead of thinking, "How are we going to do Christmas this year?" I know it can be hard, but try to have a good time this holiday, not thinking of negative things. All you have to do is be joyful this week, even in spite of everyone else being cranky. Maybe after a day or two their crankiness with wear off, if not, at least your mind is free from negativity. Don't worry about Christmas or the next argument. Just do this holiday for now.
If you are broke, try to do as many family traditions as you can anyway. If you have none, start new ones. For us, we decorate our home on Thanksgiving weekend. This year, I'm going to do away with the silver and blue, and go with red ribbons and homemade cinnamon ornaments. I want more of a homemade look this year with ribbons and strung popcorn. Also, we typically start watching our Christmas movies Thanksgiving weekend. (My absolute favorite is, It's a Wonderful Life!) We watch a Christmas movie every weekend.
If you're having Thanksgiving dinner at your house, then you have a lot of extra blessing to do! Most women know to start preparing days in advance. One of my favorite commenters here, Tricia, started cleaning last week. I've heard it said, "There's nothing for guests to do in the bathroom but judge what kind of housekeeper you are". Poor Tricia homeschools and needs to work on dazzling her guests (or at least fill their bellies) on Thanksgiving. When you homeschool and are a housewife, you have two jobs to fill, so little things tend to get let go. (For instance, we made mud bricks one day when we studied the Mesopotamian civilization. All the things we used to do this were left out in the yard for about a month or so. Okay. Six months.) You might find you need to tackle a room a day to get ready. If you know you are having Thanksgiving at your house in October, start assessing and planning right away.
It's good to have a loose schedule for dinner and have what caterers call a prep list. Gather your recipes, make notes of ingredients you are lacking, cooking times, and cooking temperatures. Write it down and have a plan of action for when foods will be baked, boiled, and warmed up. I think the turkey or ham is the simplest thing on the menu. The other things may need to share oven space. If you can, anything that needs baked, bake it the day before. The turkey will have to set out for a few minutes anyway before you can carve it, (so it soaks up the juices), and during this time you can warm up your baked foods. Speaking of time in the kitchen, allot extra time for each dish and dinner itself. If you think dinner will be done at 3:00, it's a good idea to think it won't be done til 4:00 even if it's just in your own mind. This alleviates some stress.
Keep it simple. You can have a lot of different foods; just make most of it the day before. Choose recipes that do well or better warmed up, such as soup. You'll be able to fill around your main dish with relative ease if most of the cooking is done the day before.
If there's never enough white meat, make your regular bird + a turkey breast. Once the bird is carved, just slice that extra breast and put it around the whole bird or on a separate plate. (LoL, guys...I can't spell separate. I was spelling it seperate and getting frustrated at spell check for not knowing how to spell!) My mom doesn't use a gravy boat. She uses a coffee carafe which works out really well. Don't leave the gravy in there for hours though. It will congeal on you. Also, she keeps the lid off.
Something my mom did this year, is buffet-style. It worked really, really well. Foods were displayed with care and so much more food was able to be put out at once, meaning we weren't eating on a table laden with so much food we couldn't fit our plates.
Have you noticed women always seem to congregate in the kitchen? "Can I help with something?" It's good to always have something for guests to do, particularly wives. They want to decrease your burden and it's nice to be in the same kitchen with other women doing work, isn't it? They will get a good feeling inside, just from being able to help. You want everyone to love coming to your home, so cultivate that good feeling by giving them something to do. Plan in advance. They can make vegetable platters and dip for instance. Just set out the vegetables and everything they will need in a corner of the kitchen so they can just come in and get to work. They can peel and boil potatoes. They can pour coffee. Just have everything set up and ready to go for when they come in to ask what they can do to help. This will give them a feeling of being able to participate in the making of the feast, as well as letting them bless you.
Sometimes in my family we will all play a game or something, but for the most part people are left to their own devices. People watch football, or go out to see the livestock, or just sit and talk. If your family has a hard time with conversation, put all the hors d'oeuvres on a central table in another room altogether so they have to get up to get those pepperoni pinwheels they like so much. This makes people get up and at least talk about the food they are seeing and eating.
What Can I Do the Night Before To Make Tomorrow Less Stressful?
Pies and homemade cranberry sauce can be made a couple of days ahead of time.
If you're doing a homemade stuffing, the bread cubes or what-have-you can sit out the day before. I put mine in one layer on a pan in the oven with the oven turned off. I actually fry mine the whole way through, and it's really good warmed up. Flavors have a chance to really blend sitting there in the fridge waiting to get re-fried in some butter.
Vegetables can be chopped and cheese can be grated the day before. Store in plastic tubs so they're ready to go when you need them. Most hors d'oeuvres can be made ahead of time as well.
You can prep your turkey. Slide butter under the skin of the breast and rub seasonings on. Less you'll have to do later when you throw it in the oven.
For our household, we eat a lot of turkey and ham throughout the year because it is cheaper by the pound. This means, we eat quite a bit of stuffing and typical Thanksgiving fare. So, I'm thinking of putting Daniel to work on the grill for some steaks! They'll be good with mashed potatoes and gravy and salad. Of course we'll need pie. I might do something else altogether. I probably won't know for sure til I hit the grocery store here in a couple of days to see what they have there, but I know I want to do something special. Special for us entails eating beef!