Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Report

Usually, the thing I am most thankful for during Thanksgiving is that it's over and everyone else had their "event."

I don't know who planned holidays and traditions, but it certainly wasn't a mom.

Kids see holidays as fun fun fun, food food food, presents, decorations, parties, trips, feasts, etc.

But somebody has to make all that stuff happen. And guess what? It's me.

Like I said, who planned this? And who voted me in? Where was I when all that happened?

As one of the princesses in my book said before that section was excised from the manuscript, "The better question is, since I'm stuck with this, what am I going to do about it?"

What I do about it is only as much as I have to. We don't do things in holidays that I don't like, that I don't agree with, or that just take too much work. We don't stick with tradition at the expense of sanity and health. But we do the key things that make the kids feel like they've had a celebration and that help them understand the good things (the family bonding, the yearly routine, and the "specialness") of holidays. For example, we do a Christmas tree, and lights, and presents, and stockings. We don't do a Christmas dinner (if I recall right, we mostly do the same thing we do on Sunday--tomato soup and cheese sandwiches--plus everyone eats the cereal they got). Christmas dinner is just too much. That amount of work crosses the line from "holiday" to "insanity."

We do have our own peculiar traditions. One, born of poor planning, is shopping for presents for each other that cost $1 or less on Christmas Eve, usually at a drug store because nothing else is open. (Right when most families are trying to put Christ back in Christmas by watching the nativity. Go figure).

Anyway, this year for Thanksgiving I was trying, as usual, to take the hit out of the holiday, and I thought of something I hadn't before.

Why not make everything possible for the feast the day before so that I can enjoy the holiday, too? That takes the pressure off, gives me time to fix mistakes and modify the menu, and lets me enjoy the cooking. I even got out the serving dishes the day before and put the unopened cans and boxes into the right bowls--with spoons--so that we'd have everything ready to go in that key half hour after the turkey comes out but before you can carve it when you have to make gravy, vegetables, potatoes, stuffing, set the table, deal with hungry (grumpy) kids, etc.

Just so nobody is confused, the practical (and "why is it done this way? no reason anyone can think of?") in me still was in control--we had flake potatoes instead of real ones (my kids don't care), we didn't bother with rolls at all (much less fresh-cooked ones), or a green salad, or multiple varieties of vegetables. Anything that's traditional but my family wouldn't eat, we took off the menu.

Then I went to work while the Turkey thawed instead of while it cooked. I made pumpkin and apple pies from scratch (you serve these cold anyway), starting with a whole pumkin and a bag of apples and my Dad's pie crust recipe (which beats the cold butter and ice water traditional recipe hands down--people actually eat this crust on purpose, not just because it happens to hold pie filling). I made cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries. I made Georgian Sweet Potatoes from a recipe I found in a ladies' coalition cookbook published in 1920 (no marshmallows and the only sugar is the brown sugar glaze--and it's better than any other sweet potato recipe ever)--I put the assembled recipe into the fridge to bake the next day. I made this from scratch, too. I made pear-lime creamy jello from a recipe I learned from Tim's grandmother (it has cream cheese and cool whip in it, and it was the only dish we actually ate all of at the table). I went to bed tired, but ready for Thanksgiving with all kinds of fancy, home made from scratch dishes.

The turkey came out perfect (Thanks to my dad informing me that the internal temperature of the bird rises after you take it out of the oven, so take it out 5 degrees before it's "done"). And we had a fabulous feast, which the kids didn't really eat much of but enjoyed (especially the jello). And you know, from scratch does make a difference. I have always hated cranberry sauce--but the real stuff, made from real cranberries, is "so easy it's embarrassing," as my mother said, and it's good.

The pies were really good. It was the best pumpkin pie I've ever tasted. I'll never eat canned pumpkin again. The kids hated it. They liked the concept, but hated the result. In fact, the only dessert they loved was the crustless chocolate mousse "pie" (I ran out of energy and just made the filling--chocolate pudding with cool whip stirred in). Mostly they just loved the cool whip. Next year I believe I'll serve a cool whip pie. Maybe fresh berries with cool whip on top and call it pie. It's healthier anyway. Maybe I'll serve the jello as a dessert.

I am now confident enough with my Thanksgiving Dinner abilities that I would be willing to let people join us, if they could stand eating at 5:00 pm or later, not having matching dishes or even a tablecloth on the table, everyone showing up in whatever they're wearing with uncombed hair, etc. The food was good. The kids had fun. The mommy and daddy were happy.

And we had enough energy left over that we rearranged the living room furniture (Now we have a toy/schoolroom with places for three desktops, two laptops, and three printers. Now everyone can do school and I can literally see the screens of four computers at once so I know what the kids are working on.--I never have been good at "this is how it's done" including living room decor).

So that's one holiday down, and it was less work and more fun for me.

Now if I can just figure out shortcuts for Christmas and birthdays...

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