One week to go.

And, the clock is ticking already on a fabulous food-centric holiday: Thanksgiving!

One week from today, 17 people will gather around the table at our house, give thanks, and enjoy a meal that everyone has contributed to. It’s been a wonderful tradition that we’ve enjoyed hosting for over a decade now.

As the years have passed, some things have become a tradition: the party mix and picked fish that my father-in-law makes; the rainbow jell-o my own father makes; the bottle of champagne I stash in the fridge just for the ladies in the family to enjoy at the end of the meal. And we try out new things all the time. This year, we’ve got a new centerpiece we’re slowly building in the days leading up to Thanksgiving (and will hopefully have enough leaves left over for our guests to add their own thanks to the tree).

If there’s one constant, it would be my own fretting and obsessing over the little details to make as much of the day memorable and enjoyable for everyone…even though I may be a wordless mess draped across the sectional with a half-drunk glass of champagne in my hand at the end of it all. Exhausting? Yes. Frustrating? Occasionally, but limited to an inanimate object’s refusal to cooperate more often than not. Rewarding? Always.

Even though it’s work to pull together, and I know I’ll be very tired at the end of the day, it doesn’t feel like a chore. Far from a burden. It’s what I enjoy doing, and what I know I’ll look back on with a certain bit of nostalgia even a few days later.

That said, how can I manage some of the chaos on the day-of? I’m no expert, but here’s the rough strategy I’ve put together:

Sooner rather than later

  • Revisit recipes and make sure I have the ingredients on-hand. Make it to the grocery store before the weekend, if possible, to avoid the usual crowds that stalk the aisles.

Weekend before Thanksgiving

  • Focus cleaning efforts on the second floor of the house. Not only does it need it pretty regularly, but I know that the first floor of the house won’t stay clean from Sunday to Thursday. So I’ll make sure the less-lived parts feel satisfactorily clean over the weekend and focus on the rest of the house later.

Monday before Thanksgiving

  • Make trip to the grocery store for any other food items needed for Thanksgiving Day, or for the weekend following Thanksgiving. Just so I don’t feel like I have to force myself out the door if I don’t feel like it.
  • Begin thawing turkey in the refrigerator

Tuesday before Thanksgiving

  • Go to the book club meeting as planned (a gal needs a night off every now and then!)
  • Kitchen detailing – if I’m going to spend the next couple of days in here cooking, I want to know I’m off to the cleanest start possible

Thanksgiving Eve

  • Mix brine for the turkey and start the bird’s salty bath
  • Bake pumpkin pie
  • Prepare cranberry sauce
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Clean living room and the front and rear foyers
  • Drop son off for overnight with grandparents (they’re bringing him back home when they arrive for dinner)
  • Pre-set tables and set out serving dishes
  • Final runs to the stores for anything we may have forgotten, like those fancy plastic champagne flutes that make drinking sparkling apple cider oh-so-much more elegant for the nieces.
  • Place the adult beverages in the refrigerator
  • Before going to bed, remove turkey from brine and set bird on a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, placing the whole thing back in the fridge. This will allow the skin to air-dry slightly and help the skin crisp while it cooks in the oven tomorrow.

Thanksgiving Day

  • Prepare and place turkey in the oven for roasting
  • While turkey is roasting, prepare potatoes for boiling and mashing, and dressing for baking while the turkey rests out of the oven (am still debating whether to do individual dressing servings, baking the mixture in cupcake pans rather than an oblong baking dish)
  • Make gravy
  • Get either husband or father to carve the turkey for serving, and finish setting up the buffet.
  • Sit down and eat
  • Clean up, prepare care packages to go home with guests or to travel to family members who couldn’t make it this year.

So there: a rough map of the steady pace I’ve set for the coming week that I hope will keep me centered and calmer. How will it actually work? Well, that remains to be seen. But I’ll tell all – or at least as much as I can…

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