On the day that I am writing this, I just told my class that there are one hundred more days until Christmas. That means there are sixty-nine days until Thanksgiving.
The holidays are probably my most favorite time of the year. I start celebrating on September 4th which is my husband's birthday and continue celebrating for what seems like forever continuing the holiday feeling until Mardi Gras begins on the twelfth day of Christmas.
Yet, I know that some people get stressed out when they think about the holidays because there is so much to do. The best thing that I have found to help is to be thoroughly prepared. Here are some ways to do this:
Preparing a Great Thanksgiving Feast Starts Now
1. Prepare as Much Food as Possible in Advance
I love how she prepares the cake and the cake toppings. I do leafs on my pumpkin pie and this tutorial shows me how to get the pinched look without having a pie pan that does that.
The only thing I would change is that I prefer my pie crust to be made with lard. I love the flakiness and feel that it is more authentic this way. So I would follow her directions but use my recipe and you can do the same.
Some say that pie crust can be frozen indefinitely but I freeze mine in September in order to make sure that I have them for Thanksgiving.
As a matter of fact, my students are doing that this year. We are selling pies at Thanksgiving to make money for our culinary program and they will start making pie crusts in two weeks.
Cranberry sauce is one of my favorites and as soon as we get a day when the high dips below eighty degrees, I pull out all the stops and make a big meal for my family which will consist of three sides – one of them being cranberry sauce and a meat of course.
My mother has a cranberry jello mold that I eat every year but I make a recipe similar to this for those who do not want her specialty.
I can my recipe when I can get whole cranberries for cheap (January) and it will last all year in the fridge. The recipe featured here works well too and it can be frozen for up to two months.
This recipe looks delicious from the picture that she posted with the vegetables and meat in it. It looks good enough to eat, though she notes that the meat is a little bit tough. Wonder if maybe you could add it to an instant pot after you were done to tenderize it? Even if the meat is not edible though, the vegetables are and that makes me think you could turn them into a soup.
Either way, this recipe looks delicious so the gravy will be equally as good I am sure.
She wrote the recipe on the eighteenth of November and recommended saving it for freezing but you can do this up to four months in advance.
Did you know you could make mashed potatoes and freeze them? I did not until today but guess what? I plan to do this tomorrow! Growing up I could always tell the difference between real and dehydrated mashed potatoes. I would not eat the latter.
I understand now why my mother didn't make real potatoes very often (though she did not make the prepackaged stuff either). What a great way to be able to provide a hearty, homestyle side and not have to spend as much time on it – no matter if it is Thanksgiving or not!
Special thanks to a Modern Homestead for showing us how!
This one has a funny story behind it. When our daughter was sixteen months old, I made applesauce muffins with a dollop of raspberry jelly in the middle, for Thanksgiving morning.
I chose to make that recipe instead of having a side dish because I knew my grandmother-in-law was going to be busy preparing the Thanksgiving feast that she wouldn't be as worried about breakfast.
The problem was that our daughter decided she didn't want to eat anything else besides those muffins the entire day. So we had a feast and she had – muffins.
Given that, I still make the muffins (adding a dollop of raspberry jelly) a few weeks before and set them out to defrost the day before Thanksgiving.
And our daughter eats a big meal in addition to her breakfast treat.
2. Think About Thanksgiving Decorating
People who are not into crafting don't understand why Hobby Lobby and other craft stores start getting Christmas decorations out around the middle of July. The reason for this is because us crafty people have to get our shopping done throughout the year because it takes us a while to do our crafts. Besides, if you're anything like me – I get so excited when I see the first hint that my favorite season is approaching!
If you want your house to really shine with decorations, now is the time to get started. Here are some of my favorite ideas.
I first saw this outside a family home in a nearby town, they had made or bought a garland with lights in it and used it as if it was the door frame. It was beautiful and reminded me that one holiday quickly trails another, giving me the next feeling of excitement.
Wallflower Kitchen does a great job of showing others how to make their own, if that is what you choose to do. My only suggestion would be to add more leaves in between but that, I understand, is a matter of taste.
Turkey Place Settings
My daughters and I did this one several times when they were little and we had so much fun with it. In addition, the guests thought they were cute as well. Cozy Cake's Cottage does not go into how her adorable turkeys are made but I feel they are pretty self-explanatory.
All you have to do is start with a thumbprint for the body, then add fingerprints around the thumbprint. It seems as if she started with the lighter shade and went down to the darker red shade by the end. Once it is all dry, use a marker and draw the eyes, beak, and legs.
Larissa Another Day took the same idea and kicked it up a notch. This is probably what I will do this year because the first placemat says, “children live here” and the second seems a bit more sophisticated. She has great details on how to create the card as well!
Garland LightBox Holder
I really am in love with the garland/string light idea. Put it in a cute box and as far as I'm concerned, it's the cutest thing ever! Jen from The Suburban mom points out that this centerpiece box can also be transitioned into other holidays. Maybe add baby pumpkins and dark creatures for Halloween or Evergreen boughs for Christmas.
Think About the Here and Now: Insert Picture Backdrop
Project Nursery posted this one when she was focusing on creating a tablescape that pleased both children and adults alike but when I first saw it, I thought of something else.
Being a high school teacher I have a firsthand account of what our younger generation considers popular and typically they are not wrong. Indeed, Snapchat is the number one social media outlet these days.
Given that information, I thought why not create a backdrop to wow your guests of every age. Snapchat is not just for the young, it's for the young at heart as well.
Using the idea that Project Nursery created here, I would blow this backdrop up and keep the banner and the stuffed turkey but forgo the food unless I chose to use fake food and place it off to the side.
I love the idea of having the tree up before Thanksgiving but no matter what I do, I cannot bring myself to do it. This would be one way to get around that.
When I was little, we would have a Thanksgiving dinner with my stepdad's parents. After we ate, we would sit around for a while, watch Home Alone on the television, and then put the Christmas tree up. That was our tradition.
This would allow that tradition to continue but take it one step further by not having to put the tree up after we just ate. Instead, just take one set of decorations down and put the next set up. This is something similar to what my family does now when transitioning from Christmas to Mardi Gras season.
Country Traditions by Denise did a great job on this tree and definitely inspired me!
Sarah from the Holy Mess came up with this idea but I have been doing it for over a year now as well. Last year was my first year teaching and I had my students write down what they were thankful for. The game plan at the time was for them to see how much their lives change over the course of a year. Somebody had other plans though and now my current students get that they are not alone in their feelings of being thankful for family, friends, their religion or whatever – other teens are going through the same thing.
Doing this at your home will hopefully provide the same kind of smiles from year to year with your family and friends.
3. Other Things to Consider
Cleaning the House
This is a big one. If you are like me, making sure your house accommodates guests means making sure your house is clean. Melissa from the Happier Homemaker does a great job of giving a list of things that need done but it is up to us to put a timeline to it. I would say clean early and just wipe up during the month of November because the closer the time comes, the more stressed and/ or excited we tend to get.
If You're the Guest: A Nice Gift
I absolutely adore being the host of Thanksgiving dinner. The stress of it is all worth it when I see the smiling faces of my family when both their bellies and their hearts are full.
Sometimes, though, we don't get to be the hostess and that is okay too. Our bellies and hearts will be full as well. In addition to asking if we can help do the dishes, bringing a small thank you gift is a good idea. This one, polished up by Redefined Mom, is a beautiful and yummy idea. Beautiful and yummy are two of my favorite things!
Start thinking about a Family Tradition
I am a huge fan of traditions. For example, when we put our tree up the Monday after Thanksgiving, we always get pizza from a pizza restuarant. Likewise, our traditions for Thanksgiving Day include eating applesauce muffins and turning on the NBC as soon as I wake up because – the Today Show and then the Macy's Parade. Even better we are able to do this without having cable – our HDTV box works well enough! Also, for more information, be sure to check out Ashley Perez's Buzfeed Post about things you didn't know.
We have also continued the tradition of watching Home Alone later in the evening during which time we will go back for our first set of seconds.
Maybe your family loves to play game, start a monopoly tradition after you eat and the dishes are done. Maybe you love football, Thanksgiving could mean gathering together and rooting for your favorite team that's playing. Let your themes cater to you and your family.
Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy a good meal with your family and friends. It's a time to remember everything we have to be grateful for, to remember those who helped found this great nation.
It is also a time to not be as stressed in order to fully soak in the beauty of the season. I hope that these ideas helped you to better prepare for the season in order to give you the comforting feeling you need.
I'm thankful for you.