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An Almost Happy Thanksgiving (A Baby Boomer’s Guide to Entertaining)

An Almost Happy Thanksgiving

I love to entertain and bring my family and friends together for all kinds of occasions; especially the holidays. I also think it’s important to celebrate milestones and other turning points in life that aren’t always recognized. When it comes right down to it, I’ll celebrate just because; except, please NO REDO’S from Thanksgiving 2018.

The Thanksgiving from Hellish

My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, was a super-colossal challenge that scrambled everything I ever knew about entertaining. It had nothing to do with bruised family dynamics, alcohol consumption or harrowing weather conditions.

It had everything to do with more fuss than I had imagined, and more expensive than I wanted, and the cap to my stress limits was blown away.

The Thanksgiving Story

Family, close friends and any neighbor who had nowhere to go were invited. The guest count kept growing, so we decided to rent the clubroom where we lived. It sounds like fun but it wasn’t. The mind-boggling details and things to do were unending. We had to rent dining chairs and tables and a coat rack. I shopped at The Dollar Store for extra hangers and dishes and barware that was surprisingly beautiful and I later sold them earning every penny back. 

Why choose to rent and buy? Because. I didn’t want to make ten or more trips to take all my fine china and home goods down to the clubroom. So, we only made 5 trips. It was bad enough having to haul napkins, tablecloths, serving pieces, utensils, flatware (some were lost) carving knives, food, etc, etc for our intimate gathering of 32 plus a few last-minute extras.

My daughter, the event planner, made the room look festive, but I still had a headache coordinating all the dishes and how I was going to heat them up in an oven that I had never used before.

An Almost Happy Thanksgiving

Someone offered to bring the turkey, but it was half cooked. The carving knives were in a mood, and my son had to sprint upstairs for extra ingredients for the turkey, plus anything else that somebody forgot to bring. If I was hosting at home, everything would have been right there. At my fingertips.

Thanksgiving fun for all but the host…

My guests had such a wonderful time and begged me to do it again this year. (Ha- I’m not.) My husband was a guest, I guess as he didn’t have a care in the world. He even kept inviting more people until the very end.) His best contribution was suggesting I use paper goods.

The only person that didn’t have a stupendous time was ME because I was running around the club room making sure everything was set up, coffee tables were cleared (notice I said coffee tables, there were 3), spills were cleaned up and napkins weren’t tossed like the flatware was.

It was a good thing I hired kitchen helpers because the dishwasher took the day off. Not me. I made sure my guests were happy, had enough to eat, glasses filled and flowing and by the end of the night, everyone knew everyone.

An Almost Happy Thanksgiving

2019 Thanksgiving Reality Check

This year I’m back to basics and hosting my traditional Thanksgiving that always worked… with a smaller group at home. I’m sticking to what I know. The only new(ish) element might be cauliflower au gratin. 

Who Has Time to Entertain?

You do. Here are 13 ways to have fun with friends and family with less work in less time.

Ask for Help

Divvy up who brings what so that the menu is evenly shared. Thanksgiving is an indulgence. I can easily count over eight dishes to prepare including hors d’oeuvres and dessert. A little help goes a long way.

Buy Instead of Cook

If you hate to cook, buy. Or, do a little of each. Re-platter catered or store-bought items on your own serving ware. Who will know and who cares? You’ve just given yourself the Gift of Time!

Shopping

Your assurance against forgetting the coveted ingredient is to gather all of your recipes and make your shopping list by grouping ingredients; dairy, fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. Since you’ve already done the calculating you can zip down the aisles when food shopping according to your supermarket’s layout.

Cook Ahead

Way ahead. Think through some of the dishes you’ll want – then cook and freeze. Consider preparing double and again, freezing for another night.

An Almost Happy Thanksgiving
Hire Help

Splurge on hiring someone to help out. Whether it’s to tend the bar or clean up the kitchen, a paid pair of extra hands can make a big difference in your enjoyment.

Evaluate Your Supplies

Do you have enough plates, napkins, and flatware? If not, decide whether to buy or rent or to use eco-friendly paper goods. (There are now new beautiful designs and stock that are more festive than ever before.) Don’t overlook powder room soap and towels. Will you need a coat rack and extra hangers? Does your tablecloth need a quick run to the dry cleaners?

Maximize Your Time

What can you stock up on and have delivered? I mean such things as ice, wine, and flowers. Take advantage of vendors and services that will bring it to you.

Divide and Conquer

Make two lists: a do-ahead list (buy paper goods, non-perishable’s, and other similar items), and, a day of list. A time table (really helpful!), cooking reminders, final house straightening, and so on.

SMART IDEA: Pre-wash and polish serving pieces and utensils. Take a few minutes to decide how you intend to use the serving pieces (cake knife with your homemade apple pie). Then add a post-it note with what you are serving right on the serving piece. This takes the thinking out of the serving time and helps your assistants in the kitchen. Discard the note before serving—of course!

An Almost Happy Thanksgiving
Run Your Dishwasher in Advance

Run your dishwasher earlier in the day so it’s empty and ready to fill. Have lots of dish and bar towels on hand for quick mop ups, drying, and kitchen use. (Be prepared for spills!)

A Kitchen to-do List

Keep a to-do list in the kitchen during any party. That way when you are refilling the hors d’oeuvres plate and talking to someone, you can still grab a quick look at what else needs to be done.

A Solution to Spills

Don’t whine over spilled red wine. Instead, try this: SALT – who knew?

If it’s a shirt or table cloth blot up as much of the wine as possible. Then, pour salt directly on the spill to keep the wine from setting until you figure out which method of clean up you would like to do. Preferably, rinse with water as soon as possible and pop in the laundry. Check that the stains have disappeared before drying (which will set the stain).

Entertaining File

Start an entertaining file. Maintain an invitation list, vendors, contact info, menus, and post-party notes on what worked well and what you would change for next time.

A gift from my high school friend, Joan Muss of New York City, gorgeous flowers!!

A Thanksgiving Gift

Thanksgiving is a holiday of gratitude and a time for sharing. As a Thanksgiving gift to you, my readers, I’d love to share one of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Please know that I appreciate you and am thankful for the chance to share my stories and knowledge with you each week. Save it, make it, share it and spread the joy with your family and friends this holiday season.

My Very Favorite, Absolutely Delicious Every-time Apple Pie Recipe:

Follow the recipe below to make my favorite dish for your family…

Apple Pie

1 cup of sugar

½ cup of flour (not self-raising)

4 lbs apples (sliced thin)

3 tablespoons of butter

1 teaspoon of cinnamon & nutmeg

1 dash of salt (or self-rising)

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Topping

1 ½ cup of flour

¾ of firm butter

¾ cup of brown sugar

Instructions

Combine the sugar, flour, spices, and salt.

Peel, core and slice the apples thinly.

Sprinkle the apple slices with lemon juice.

Pour the dry mixture over the apples and then stir thoroughly.

Place the mixture in a deep dish. Combine all the ingredients for the topping.

Then, crumble the topping over the apples in the deep dish. *Tip: Cup your hand over the edge of the deep dish, slowly turning it as you crumble the topping over the apples. This will prevent the mixture from spilling over the top.

Bake for 50 minutes °425.

Cover the dish and then bake for another 30 minutes.

Take out, serve and enjoy!

An Attitude of Gratitude

Giving thanks is on everyone’s mind at this time of year and I want to encourage you to adopt this attitude of gratitude. The holiday season causes us to think about all that creates meaning in our lives and asks us to express gratitude for them. It is so easy to forget how blessed we are, especially during the chaotic festive season. So, create a mood of thankfulness for it all; even when things go wrong, as they tend to do. Thanksgiving 2018 may have been challenging for me, but I was still grateful for the opportunity to share the day with family and friends. Besides, I’m thankful for the experience. Now I know exactly what I want for Thanksgiving 2019; an intimate and traditional gathering at home!

Have a Happy and Heavenly Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Comments 4

  1. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. My husband and I have been hosting our families here for many years now. At one time, his parents and/or my folks would host. We received an excellent education (and awesome role models) about how to cook for and entertain 30 people. And while each of the moms had their own particular way of making and accomplishing their to-do lists, the one thing they had in common was their reason for doing it and how they worked with the dads to create a special day. They knew how important it was to gather the family. And they were masters at doing that- at making us all feel welcomed, loved, and of course, well-feed.

    I love entertaining. And my husband and I have become a great tag-team. Steve has his lists, and I have mine. We help each other. And just like our moms, while our lists are different, we stay less focused on the number of things we need to do to get ready and more focused on WHY we’re doing it. We love having our family here, knowing that the time together becomes rarer with each year. So we treasure the time, enjoy the preparations, the feast, the laughter, sometimes tears, and the conversation.

    1. Hi Linda!
      Your Thanksgivings celebrations sound wonderful just as they should be.
      I’ve always hosted Thanksgiving at home. It has always been my favorite holiday and I love everything about it.
      Throughout all the years, I had anywhere from 10 to 25 guests at home. The reason to celebrate never escaped me, It was a time for all of our loved ones to come together and be together.
      I was certainly out of my element last year, hosting Thanksgiving at the clubhouse where nothing was at my fingertips and everything had to be hauled in. Yep, the list of to-do‘s became extremely important. Especially If my guests we’re going to be able to eat, drink and have a place to sit.
      I think you may have missed my point all together in the article.
      I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. As I had said, I’m sticking to what I know and so it becomes seamless.

      Enjoy the festivities as I know you will!

  2. Wow, that does sound like a pretty exhausting Thanksgiving. I would have thought the clubhouse was the perfect solution, and like you, wouldn’t have considered the work of transferring everything over there. That was a true labor of love, and a gift you gave to all who attended. I’ve taken your advice and hired help for the “big” parties. Also good to remember that you don’t have to make everything from scratch. For example, make the turkey and buy the pies (or vice versa!) Your guests want to spend time with you, not just be served by you, right?

    1. Hi Seana,
      Thank you for saying what you did. Thanksgiving last year will certainly go down in history as one to remember. The stories are rather comical but what I do remember are the smiles on everyone’s faces that day. That’s the gift!
      I do hope you have a fantastic celebration with your loved ones!

      Warm regards,
      Ronni

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