Sunday, November 10, 2013

LNO - Thanksgiving Countdown

Thanksgiving Dinner Countdown
(and other large dinner parties)

3 Weeks Before:

  • Deep clean house: windows, carpets, oven, baseboards, etc.
  • Make guest list and call or send out invitations.
  • Decide on a theme or the "atmosphere" you want for your party. Casual or formal? 
  • Buffet or sit down? Entertainment or music?

2 Weeks Before:

  • Confirm guest list.
  • Plan menu:
  • If guest have offered to help, let them! Having someone else bring pies or rolls will free up your oven...and your time. Don't be afraid to specifically delegate: 
    • "Yes, Aunt Martha, I'd love for you to bring pies! We will have 10 people at the dinner, so could you make one pumpkin pie and one fruit or pecan pie? I'll provide vanilla ice cream and whipped cream."
    • In planning the menu, keep in mind food allergies and/or dietary restrictions (it's not that difficult to include a sugar-free dessert or gluten-free side dish, etc.)
    • Don't make some fancy schmancy recipe you've never tried before. Most people prefer good old comfort foods they are familiar with. You can keep the menu from being boring by making familiar foods, but with a little twist. For example; adding slivered almonds and chopped bacon to the green beans, or instead of plain cold sliced beets in a dish, cook beet sauce over heat and add a little O.J. concentrate and cornstarch to make a tangy sauce and serve them warm.
    • Remember the limitations of oven space you might have the day of the dinner: plan on serving mashed potatoes prepared on the stove top rather than baked potatoes, etc. And seriously, it's OK to have a few store-bought dishes. Bottled gravy, Redi-Whip, Costco pies...are all a girl's best friend! You want to enjoy your dinner party, not be exhausted.
  • Make sure you have all the tools, gadgets, and serving dishes you'll need for the food preparation and service.
  • Buy candles, pretty soap for the powder room, etc.
  • Decide on a playlist or CD for the background music during the dinner.

1 Week Before:

  • Buy all non-perishable food items.
  • Make a "Time Chart" of when each dish must be started. This will save you a lot of worry and stress!
  • Create an activity that will entertain the young kids when they arrive. Ex.: a holiday craft, or have them make the name cards for the dinner table, etc.
  • Wash good china and goblets. Polish silver. Wash and fill little salt and pepper shakers. (These are so inexpensive to purchase, have one set for every 3 people.) 
  • Wash and iron table cloth and napkins. (Make sure you use heavy starch on napkins so you can fold them in a beautiful way.)
  • If you are having a "kiddie table", buy fun themed paper plates, napkins, and cups. Put butcher paper on their table and supply crayons and Thanksgiving-themed stickers. I like having the kiddie table separate from the adult table. Put them in the kitchen. You're dining room will be a lot less noisy, and you won't have to worry about spilled drinks on your great-grandmother's Irish linens! I've also done a "teenager table." I used all the good china on them, so they didn't feel like "babies" but, I set them at the breakfast bar. They loved not having to be with all the little kids....or their parents!

2-3 Days Before:

  • Clean the house (vacuum, dust, clean bathrooms-especially the powder room.)Also, sweep the front porch, clean the front door.
  • Buy perishable foods. You do NOT want to be at the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving!
  • Make any dishes that can be prepared in advance. Check your Time Chart!
  • Buy and arrange fresh flowers. 
  • Delegate any yard work that needs to be done to your husband and/or kids.
  • A little bud vase on the sink counter of the powder room is a nice touch. Also, wash the "pretty towels" know you have some! And if you don't, go to TJ Maxx and buy some! 
  • Wipe down any folding chairs/extra tables that might be used.

The Day Before:

  • Brine the turkey. If you haven't ever done that, go to and learn how.
    • Once you've tasted a brined turkey you will NEVER go back! 
  • Also, gone are the days of putting stuffing inside the bird. Turkey's are now baked for half the time than what your Mother did! Watch a video on on how to properly bake a turkey. 
  • You can still make your Grandma's Dressing Recipe, but you put it in a 9x13 pan to bake, or the crockpot...not inside the bird.
  • Make the roll dough and refrigerate over night. 
  • Make the relish trays (there's a cute one online using veggies to look like a turkey.) 
  • Make the jello, pies, or any other side dishes you can do in advance. 
  • Chill your drink. 
  • Check your Time Chart!
  • Even simple things like putting relish and jam in their pretty little serving bowls (and cover with Saran Wrap and refrigerate,) will help calm your nerves that you won't be forgetting anything.

The Evening Before:

  • Set the table/s. Including putting the butter on the butter plates (one stick of butter for every 4 guests.) Nobody likes cold, hard butter on their nice warm rolls!
  • Be sure to clean up all the mess made in the kitchen that day. Load and start the'll need all those measuring cups and pots and pans tomorrow!

The Morning of Event:

  • Windex the bathroom/powder room counters and mirrors
  • Put out guest towels and pretty soap, 
  • Empty waste basket, put out full roll of toilet paper.
  • Put turkey in the oven and finish all cooking/baking, rising of yeast rolls, etc. This is where your Time Chart will really keep you from stressing out.
  • Do another load of dishes and clean off kitchen counters, sweep kitchen floor.
  • Take a shower, do your hair and make-up.
  • Empty dishwasher, empty kitchen garbage.

Time for the Dinner Party!

  • The turkey is plated and "resting", the side dishes are finished and covered and in the warming oven.The drinks are poured in the goblets. By this time, all that is happening in the kitchen is the baking of rolls, or perhaps a side dish or two are on the stove.
  • Have appetizers or vegetable trays out for guests. 
  • Have the pre-planned activities out for the little ones.
  • Light the candles, play the music.
  • Welcome guests graciously! Don't play the "martyred slave in the kitchen!" A happy and calm Hostess makes the guests feel like they are not an imposition...but rather, a welcomed and cherished friend.
  • Smile! You've pulled it off and you are Wonder Woman!

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