Preparing For Thanksgiving

For years, Thanksgiving was a weird holiday for us.  Each year would be a juggling act of who was hosting, who was going to their in laws that year, etc.  (On one side, we would receive a call each year to remind us that we were not invited because there was too many of us. )  

So when we moved to the farm 10 years ago, I said enough.  Thanksgiving would be at 1pm on Thanksgiving day at the farm.  Come if you would like, do not feel bad if you cannot make it, it does not matter to me if there are 25 of us or just Dan & I and our 4 children.  Dinner will be at 1, at the farm, every year.  This year there will be around 25 here for dinner.  I try to set the adults in the dining room with china, and leave the teens & young adults to sit at tables in the kitchen, laundry room, tv trays in the living room, etc..  but this year I'm not even sure how we'll fit the adults in the dining room.  (I have an idea that I will turn the dining room table sideways and make room for a second table in this room  - we'll see.)

For our menu, I create a document in Google drive.  Add a table 3 wide, with the food listed down the middle, the prep needed /when to do it on the left, and how I will serve it/Keep it warm on the right.

Four Weeks Before Thanksgiving:

  • Order this years family photos, put the new ones in the frames in the dining room
  • Replace kitchen hand towels, pot holders, etc
  • check serving spoons - do I need to replace any?
  • Start thinking about any containers I can save to send leftovers home in.  Sour cream tubs, whipped topping bowls, etc
  • Go over the menu (it's always pretty much the same - I have a copy stored in google docs to refer to each year)  Make changes as needed, make a list of items to buy.
  • Buy juice 
  • Make (or buy) apple sauce  
  • Check wardrobes - do the kids need new jeans?  New socks?  What shirts will they be wearing?  What am I wearing?
  • practice skyping with our son stationed in WA, on the big screen. Make sure we do not need any extra cords or anything for that to work well.  (we hook my laptop into our 60 inch plasma tv.)  Ok, so this might just be an extra excuse to skype with my son..  but it's good to know we have all the cords for this to work properly, really.  :-)
The Dollar Tree is a great place to pick up cheap dish cloths, dish towels, & pot holders.  My pot holders always need replaced before Thanksgiving.

Three Weeks Before Thanksgiving:
  • replace the metal inserts (drip pans) in my stove top (I usually do this 2x a year - spring cleaning, and before Thanksgiving.  I scrub them with a brillo pad in between, but they start to disintegrate over time.  Dollar General and Big Lots both sell 2 packs for $5, so it costs me $10 twice a year to replace them.)
  • Go over my baking list - do a trial run on any new recipes
  • Buy paper products
  • Buy Turkey(s)  (some years we raise our own - but we did not this year)
  • Touch base with family, confirm who is bringing what.
  • Buy any items needed for baking.
  • Go over the menu again.  Keep it simple.

New drip pans for the stove.  This site claims that WD40 is excellent for cleaning them, if yours do not need replaced.  I usually clean mine with a brillo pad, but they rust away over time and get holes in them, I end up replacing mine about twice a year.

Two weeks Before Thanksgiving:
  • Check table cloths.  Bleach or iron as needed.  (I usually use upholstery material.  It can be bought cheaply at Surplus City on Lycoming Creek Road in Williamsport, and it's the perfect width for my dining room table)
  • Double check wardrobes - Did our youngest ruin or outgrow the jeans I just bought?  Do the boys want to wear shirts that need ironed? (they usually wear button down the front dress shirts and jeans)
  • Make hair appointments for my daughter and myself
  • Double check my guest list, and make a list of chairs available in our house.  Arrange to borrow extra folding chairs if necessary.
  • Check our decks of cards - do any need replaced?  Do we have dice and a notepad handy to play 30?  
  • Buy potatoes, and extra butter.  Make sure I have plenty of aluminum foil, zip lock bags, and salt.
  • Go over the menu again.  Buy any ingredients still needed.
  • Have Dan put up the outside Christmas lights.  (Dual purpose - it's pretty Thanksgiving night when everyone is leaving, and this way they are up before it gets too cold.  No need to turn them on this early - but when I decorate the day after Christmas, the outside lights will already be up)

One Week Before Thanksgiving:
  • Wash all the throw blankets and pillows in the living room
  • I vacuum under the furniture here each week, and wipe it down with a wet cloth to remove pet hair - but the week before Thanksgiving, do an extra good job.
  • Steam clean carpets
  • Clean the house extra well
  • Cut the boys hair.  
  • Set the DVR to record the Macy's Day parade & the Charlie Brown special.  (We watch the parade on Thanksgiving Morning, but like to watch it on a delay to skip annoying commercials)
  • Thaw the Turkey
  • Buy ice, or make ice in trays all week and stockpile it
  • Go over the menu and review how each item will be kept warm.  Bring the warming trays from the attic

I have something similar to this, but it's 3 individual trays each with their own lids, and only cost around $40, not the over $200 that this one costs at Sam's Club right now.
Stuffing is great kept warm in a crockpot, so it is warm all day.  Just be sure to have some extra broth on hand to add as needed, so it doesn't dry out.

THANKSGIVING WEEK:

Monday:
  • Bake bread for stuffing
  • Bake cookies
  • Get the fridge as empty as possible
  • Gel manicure (I do my own with an at home kit)  Regular nail polish will never hold up for me through all the cooking and cleaning of Thanksgiving.
  • Double check our son's schedule - what time is he available to Skype?
Tuesday:
  • Cube the bread for stuffing, set out on pans on top of the fridge to get stale
  • Get jam out of the freezer to thaw
  • make honey butter
  • Pull out the prayer, send a copy to Dan's phone.  (Each year Dan's grandfather read the same prayer before Thanksgiving dinner.  Now Dan reads the same prayer, continuing the tradition)
  • Make sure my camera battery is charged

Wednesday:
  • Arrange furniture, set the dining room table with china
  • Peel potatoes, put in my canning pots, covered in salt water
  • Bake pies
  • grate the vegetables for the stuffing - celery, carrots, and onion.  
  • Chill drinks
  • Clean the bathrooms extra well, make sure extra toilet paper and hand towels are accessible.
  • When we have a large crowd, I like to cook one Turkey the night before Thanksgiving, and the second one the day of.  The first one we debone and have ready, as soon as my crock pot roaster is empty we put the meat from that bird in, pouring some broth over top.  Then when the second bird is carved, we place the hot meat on top of the warmed up meat.






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  2. I want to be you when I grow up! You are always so organized, cook for an army, and still enjoy the holiday! Have another Happy Thanksgiving!!

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