Saturday, November 08, 2014

Rally For Thanksgiving: Dream Home Thanksgiving Planner

By now, so many of you are thinking, 'Nance, your series is not so aptly named. It should be titled Rally For November since you have yet to bring us any valuable Tips For Thanksgiving or truly Thanksgiving-themed posts.' Probably there are some of you nervously wringing your hands and downing anxiety medications, wondering when I'm going to start helping you manage your Thanksgiving preparations. For those of you in the latter group, I sincerely hope that you have not, in your jangled state, stumbled upon this frightening article provided by PBS Food. Innocently headed Thanksgiving Planning Checklist, it instead sets an agenda that assumes all of us are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner which will not only be featured in Gracious Living magazine, but televised on the Martha Stewart Network and attended by Heads of State, The Royal Family, and quite possibly, The Cleavers.

According to this article, I am already too late by several days to help you with some preparations, for we should have already at three weeks out:
1. Invited guests
2. Ordered our organic turkey
3. Set our budget
4. Started checking our local grocery ads
5. Planned our menu
6. Pulled out our decorations
7. Purchased additional decorations

Allow me to make all of you feel better when I tell you that I have done Exactly Zero of these things. Furthermore, I can tell you that I will do Exactly Zero of these things. Not only is the menu the same every year, but so are the guest list and the decorations, the latter being nonexistent. Once all of the food is on the table, there is no room for decoration. Besides, the boys would probably try to eat it.

At two weeks out, we must:
1. Check our linens
2. Plan our centerpiece and table decor
3. Buy our frozen turkey (if we are doing so to save money)
4. Check our kitchen supplies and tools
5. Finalize what dishes our guests will bring
6. If deep frying a turkey, double-check the fire extinguisher

We are safely within Two Week Territory, so I'm sure we can all zip into our Linen Closets to do an inspection. I have not yet purchased a turkey, but I have thought about it several times. And my kitchen tools are in a constant state of inventory because I cook all year. Period. Number Five continues to make me chuckle because the day that Jared and Sam and Kait bring something to my home for dinner is going to be a fascinating day indeed. This year, it may well be Blue Buffalo dog food, and it won't be for the table.

At one week out, we rent Downton Abbey (the actual place, not the series), and proceed to:
1. Order flowers
2. Polish the silver
3. Buy wine
4. Plan activities for the children
5. Check our seating
6. Finalize our shopping plan

I think someone is on a whole different Plane Of Existence when she can advise this about polishing silver: "It's probably the least enjoyable task to prepare for any holiday. (Suggestion: Turn it into a game or competition for your kids.) We recommend doing it leisurely with a glass of wine over a night or two the week before Thanksgiving, as opposed to fitting it in to the stress of Thanksgiving week." (Italics are mine. I also had to add the apostrophe in It's.) By the way, I have a silver casserole dish that I got as a wedding present thirty-three years ago. It's still in its original wrapping. Free to a good home, except for shipping costs.

From there the checklist moves to chores that should be done on Saturday/Sunday, then on each day leading up to Thanksgiving. Most notable are three more shopping trips including one to a farmer's market to "swing by to pick up perishable items you need." Also interesting is the quite bossy and judgy observation that the weekend before Thanksgiving is the "perfect time to thoroughly clean your house for entertaining. If you take care of the deep cleaning now, you will only need to tidy up a bit next week. (Unless of course you have small children, in which case you probably basically clean the house every single day.)" And, one last Suzy Homemaker salvo: "Prep your pies on Monday, bake them on Wednesday and warm them on Thursday. Some prefer to bake an apple pie during dinner, but really you just need to warm it." Don't you love the implied wink wink, nudge nudge, only we girls will know?

This article is enough to make me stop donating money to PBS. Is everyone over there crazy, insanely wealthy, drunk, or somehow lost in another decade? Did some poor peon find an old scan of a page from Godey's Lady's Book and retype it?  Did Miss Piggy stage a coup?

What a fantastic lot of bullshit.  If I submitted to you My Thanksgiving Checklist, it would start at One Week Out.  Actually, it can start Right Now:
1.  I have two bags of cranberries.
2.  They are in my freezer from last year.

And how are your preparations going?



  1. Up here in Canada we are all done. And the last of the leftover turkey is in the freezer until I can stand to look at it again. I confess to,ordering an organic turkey but other than that, not sweating it. After over 50 years of putting on the same dinner, calm prevails. And my family brings food, too.
    Sushi. For starters. But they are girls.
    Loving the everyday posts. Me, I got one up for a month. But I wAs cooking.

  2. I haven't done a thing yet. Generally my MIL has called me by now to ask me to figure out who is bringing what, which is more an excuse to chat on the phone, as the same people tend to bring the same things year after year. I'll be interested to find out what's going to happen this year, as some people are going to be out of town, and other people are currently not speaking to each other. Could be fun.

  3. j@jj--Oh, dear. Family feuds. That's terribly unfortunate. Perhaps you'll have a more intimate feast this year as a result. Keep me posted.

    I cook the same things year after year. If I would attempt to change, there would be Hell to pay. Jared especially demands obedience to tradition and sameness. Any small deviance from it throws him terribly.

    Mary G--We've missed you, dear, but please don't feel so compelled to comment on every post. If you want to, that's terrific. But I won't feel slighted if you don't.

    I usually order/get a fresh turkey, but not organic, unless that's just a coincidence. The cost of a fresh one already irritates me no end when my beloved Marc's store has frozen ones already at 69 cents a pound. I am sorely tempted, trust me.

    We don't do any appetizers/starters at the Dept. I cook so darn much food that they need a big appetite for it all, AND PIE, and wines. Thank goodness for Kait, who can outeat us all and still stay slim, marathon runner that she is.

    I wish I liked sushi, I really do. It's lovely and healthy and quite popular. But I cannot abide the icky seaweed stuff nor any raw fish.

  4. Even though we have been invited to the house of an old friend for Thanksgiving, I think we will be heading to the beach this year.


    Our family feud is in full swing still, so I am looking forward to building some sandcastles with my daughter instead of pretending to enjoy myself at my sister's house.

  5. Oh, good heavens, I'm not doing anything on that ridiculously formidable list. Since it's Just Us this year, we may not go the traditional route at all, saving the pumpkin pie (my personal favorite.) as to polishing the silverware, I have a cleaning lady who seems to like to take care of that periodically.

    I feel bad about not responding to your previous post, but find myself intimidated by poetry. It all stems from a high school American Lit class some fifty years ago when I ventured a "wrong" interpretation of an Emily Dickinson poem. The teacher proceeded to publicly humiliate me at some length. When I finally got to college As a nontraditional student ten years later, I avoided poetry and steered toward prose and drama for my English classes.

    However, in the interval, I discovered Robert Frost entirely on my own, and memorized great swatches with enjoyment. Just don't ask me to analyze it๐Ÿ˜Š

  6. fauxprof--Oh, my, please don't ever feel bad about anything connected to my blog, ever. I want this space to be free from any sort of intimidation, obligation, or anything of that sort. If you don't show up in Comments, I just figure that you've been off doing something else or that you've not anything to say or simply don't feel like bothering with it all.

    I'm sorry that you had such a traumatic experience with poetry, especially Miss Emily's work. She in particular would have been quite annoyed that anyone would ruin a reader's enjoyment of her work by insisting upon ascribing his/her own concrete meaning to it. While there are, of course, some generally accepted interpretations to some poems, I was always excited to hear what my students came up with and why they came to their conclusions. Many times, I learned quite a bit.

    Having said all of THAT, I'm glad you found a poet you enjoy on your own. You might also like Carl Sandburg if you like Frost. And analysis isn't always necessary if you just love the sound and the overall impression.

    Obviously, I'm with you when it comes to the goofiness of these Tgiving preparations. I confess that the magic of pumpkin pie escapes me, but I make two for the family, one going home with the boys. This year, I may buy a personal pecan pie just for me!

    Gina--Turkey in the sand! I think a non-traditional Tgiving might be your tradition. And why not? Your kids might have the coolest holiday stories to tell, ever.

  7. Found out today that as the feud is still in full swing, Thanksgiving will be smaller and more intimate this year. I'm relieved. Also, the people who are not coming are generally a couple of hours late, making food cold and the rest of us grumpy. So I'm happy with the way things are, for now.

  8. We're going to NC for Thanksgiving, as we've tended to do ever since our mothers were ill (and continue to do because our extremely self-sufficient fathers don't understand why we wouldn't). We have a giant to-do with about 30 folks from my dad's side of the family - church fellowship hall... Oh wait, I've already talked about this & the fact that I'm expected to write a poem. Ha! Urgh - still not feeling inspired. I'm emailing my uncle Ken - he's a fabulous poet!

    Anyway, I am not expected to cook - yay! But Friday is Mike's birthday & I thought I would fix him a mini Thanksgiving meal because it's his favorite. I've already got a turkey breast in the freezer. We shall see.

  9. Anonymous3:50 AM

    I remember once a few years back, my friend Adrian and I decided that we'd make a turducken for Thanksgiving. When did we make this decision? The evening before Thanksgiving.

    We woke up on Thanksgiving morning, drove to Whole Foods, and found that they still had fresh turkeys, ducks, and chickens. We watched a YouTube video to learn how to de-bone the chicken and duck, assembled the monstrosity, threw it in a baking bag in the oven, and had a delicious meal a few hours later.

    It was a fun experience, but to be honest, the best part was the duck. I think someday it would be fun to make a duck duck goose (which I'd imagine would be two smaller ducks, stuffed into a larger goose).

  10. Anonymous3:52 AM

    Ahh, just read through the comments and wanted to comment on one of the comments...

    If you want to like sushi but don't like the seaweed or the raw fish, I'd recommend you start with a shrimp tempura roll with a soy wrapper. The shrimp is cooked and the soy wrapper doesn't have the icky seaweed texture. It's a nice gateway sushi.

    - Mikey G.

  11. Mikey--I know there is also a California roll that I might like, and that American sushi breaks a lot of sushi rules by being very non-traditional and not really being true sushi. I'm sure I'd find something.

    The turducken's allure for me would likely be the duck as well. I adore duck. Why isn't there a restaurant called "Just Ducky" done up in all Art Deco style where they serve crisply roasted duck and I can just sit there and tear one to pieces? Doesn't that sound fantastic?

    Bug--Please make use of this Planner and get going for Mini-Thanksgiving by ordering the flowers, measuring your oven, chilling your wine, and polishing your silver right now. Friday is just around the corner, and I know you'll want to make everything special. Don't forget seating cards for the Big Event!

  12. infuriating to have dinner guests--and I don't care if they are family--who arrive both terribly late and in ill humour. That sounds like a feud that was simmering all along.

    It is still sad, nonetheless, as all family discord is at the core. It means there is general unhappiness, whether personal or in relationships. I used to be horrified at how my own family, while growing up, would put all our shit out there on the table and sort it immediately every single time there was a problem. Now I'm grateful for it because we all hang together and are honest with each other. And we've raised our kids that way.

    There was always a lot of hollering, but always a lot of love.

  13. Mmmm. Duck. I think we should have duck instead of turkey for Thanksgiving, but that would likely get me hung. Maybe for Christmas.

    I do like how your family handles disagreements. No, not fun, but so much better to get them out in the open. This current feud is unlikely to go away soon, as both parties believe they were wronged, and will not apologize until the other party comes forward. I have strong opinions on who should apologize, and it's not likely to happen any time soon. Oh well, as I said, likely we'll eat on time, and there will be less stress all around.

  14. A gazillion magazines are sold on the premise of the absolutely perfect Thanksgiving with the revered timeline that will make all one's dreams come true! So many buy into those fantasies and their holiday gets ruined because reality doesn't live up to their expectations. It's a shame because Thanksgiving is a wonderful celebration.

    One good thing about the excess at Thanksgiving is that when food baskets are assembled for those in need, they often feed a family for a week or more.


  15. gfe--Goodness, how very true! Did anyone ever, ever see a Perfect Thanksgiving with a drunken uncle at the table or a quarrelsome and bitter cousin? A feverish, queasy toddler who probably should have been kept at home? Or the inevitable spilled glass of wine, iced tea, or worse, the catapulted serving spoon of cranberry sauce?

    Like you, I get exasperated with and tired of commercial enterprises manufacturing these holidays and making them into something glib and glittering. Thank goodness the Dept. is far from both in its Thanksgiving although we probably could class it up just a little bit more than we do.

    Your other point about giving to those in need during this holiday is important. Here in NEO, we are urged to donate money instead, since foodbanks can buy goods at greatly reduced prices. Our dollar donation can go as far as ten dollars. And we can make a very easy donation at the checkout register at many grocery stores simply by tearing off a barcoded slip and adding it to our groceries or scanning it ourselves. I wish they would do this year-round, since hunger knows no season.

    j@jj--I have never cooked a duck! It seems intimidating, but perhaps it is high time to try.

  16. Dear God In Heaven. Who would do all of this, even if they had the time? I especially like the admonition to "buy our frozen turkey if we are doing so to save money." Is the implication that one would only ever buy a frozen turkey because they cannot afford a fresh one? I don't even know where to get a fresh turkey in this town, except maybe somewhere like Whole Foods or Central Market, and I avoid those stores except for what I cannot find anywhere else, or, as a rare treat since I always end up leaving there with 2-3 items that somehow end up costing over $50.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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