Putting Together an Easy Thanksgiving Celebration

The final countdown to Thanksgiving has arrived; we’re down to just six days! This is our second Thanksgiving celebration this year as we enjoyed a feast of fine proportions last month when our Marine was home on leave. I’m very much looking forward to doing it all again and seeing my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews!

I don’t know how your plans are going, but there have been a flurry of text messages between my sisters, momma and myself as we finalize the menu and plans for Thursday. Momma has already decided we are using her Blue Willow on the table which is by far her favorite china.

We seem to stress too much over holiday celebrations, so today I thought it would be timely to share some ideas for a gathering that’s relaxed and lively as we celebrate the end of the autumn season from harvest fruits scattered across the table to organizing your time so you enjoy the relaxed feeling Thanksgiving Day should truly have!

Putting Together an Easy Thanksgiving Celebration / ohfiddledeedee.com

THE TABLETOP:

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest, so besides cooking with autumn’s bounty, decorate the table with it too! Lay a tablecloth or placemats out that coordinates with your dishes, then add pumpkins, leaves, dried Indian corn. Grocery store flowers really add to the festive atmosphere of the day and won’t cost you a lot of money. Round off your centerpiece with candles. Seriously, who doesn’t love candlelight?! Besides keeping the decor seasonal and simple, you can set the table (or tables) a couple of days in advance and have that knocked off your to-do list!

If you desire to use paper plates, by all means set them out! If you prefer china, use it! Here in our home I have a set of Thanksgiving china that adorns the table every year. They are mostly white and neutral in color which allows me to coordinate with my plain white dishes for serving the meal.

I plan out the dishes I need for serving in advance so I’m not rushing around Thanksgiving morning like a mad woman looking for everything. Things like gravy boats, deviled egg trays, and soup tureens aren’t everyday pieces so it helps to be organized.

GETTING READY:

Having a perfectly prepped dinner allows you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your family. Six days out should see your menu completed, grocery list made and a trip to the store imminent. If you don’t want to find yourself in a madhouse or unable to find ingredients, head to the market as soon as possible.

*Make a list. Seriously, sit down with a note pad to write your menu, who is bringing what, your grocery list, and what must be done around the house. It takes 30 minutes. Make the lists and put them where you see them.

{Then, use them.}

*Allow plenty of time for your turkey to safely thaw out. I have a 20 pound bird that will land in my refrigerator tonight to begin thawing.

*Most pies can be baked a couple of days in advance so take advantage of that; it takes a couple hours to prepare bourbon pecan and pumpkin pies. Having them out of the way is a huge help come Thanksgiving Day.

*If you are ordering any part of your dinner (Honeybaked Ham is my friend), order at least two weeks ahead of time and pick up early the day before so that you miss the heaviest of crowds.

*Have all of your ingredients measured, chopped and placed in prep bowls before you begin cooking. By taking care of as much as possible beforehand, you’ll leave plenty of time to visit with family and friends.

*Prepare a soup a day in advance or put together a fruit and cheese board for everyone to snack on while the turkey is in the oven.

*Offer a range of beverages to compliment the meal. Besides tea and soda, consider serving a spiced cider or flavored tea.

*On Thanksgiving Day plan to start cooking early – your turkey needs 3-4 hours (maybe more) in the oven, plus an additional half hour to rest before carving. If you are using stuffing in your bird, cook it before the turkey so that the bird has time to cook.

It doesn’t take much to put on a memorable Thanksgiving dinner. Just don’t let the little things stress you out. Taking a couple of evenings beforehand to knock out prep will make the day so much easier, and I hope I’ve given you some ideas to get you started!

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Holiday in the Park Presented by Six Flags Over Georgia

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas; everywhere you go…

and that includes Six Flags Over Georgia as the park now stays open select days from now until January 3 to celebrate with you and your family!  In its fourth season, Holiday in the Park is known as one of the Best Christmas Events in Georgia, and definitely something everyone in the family will enjoy.

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Just before Thanksgiving I was given the opportunity to visit Six Flags with my blogging gal pal, Tami, where we enjoyed a festive evening filled with sounds of the season, twinkling lights galore and live shows full of cheer and delight!

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So what all can you do while at Holiday in the Park?

Let me share a little glimpse !

***Enjoy the lights!  From the moment you enter the park at the Main Street entrance you are met with the first of millions of colorful LED Christmas lights that form a canopy between the buildings, then wrap around the buildings, to draped between attractions.  The 25 Ft Christmas tree and gazebo in the front of the park makes a perfect location for family photos.  Don’t miss the lighting of the tree at 6:00 each evening.

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***Take whirl on your favorite roller coaster and enjoy the different themed areas as you walk through to find it.  My favorite was the Retro Christmas area… I’m such a traditional old soul. Tami and I rode the Goliath (It’s been years since I’ve been on a roller coaster!) and then took a ride through the Monster Plantation.

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Some things you never outgrow!

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***Catch a show!  From carolers in the front of the park to stages with entertainment, you’ll find something to fit everyone in the family, and I promise you’ll be singing along.

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***Visit with Santa and other Warner Bros. characters.  You’re never too old for Bugs and Daffy!

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For someone living in the Southeast, a weekend get-away would be fabulous during the holidays.  Atlanta is full of adventures to enjoy and an evening in the park under the holiday lights is a perfect way to cap it all off!

If you have been slow in finding your holiday cheer this season, take the family to Six Flags this year and enjoy the holiday mixed with rides and entertainment all in one place!  I’m sure it’ll become a holiday tradition for you all.

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Keeping the Thanks in Thanksgiving & Our Tablescape

It’s one of our favorite weeks of the year, but also one of the most chaotic as we make plans to visit with both sides of our family as well as time with extended family!  Holidays in general invite a lot of unwanted stress into our lives as we work hard to please everyone, but it’s totally up to us to decide how to handle it.  We can lose our minds and our ability to deal with stresses or we can go with the flow and just enjoy the day.

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It’s easy to let stress consume us  and ruin our holiday, but y’all, it doesn’t have to be that way!

Have you ever noticed when you sweat and stress over the small things, that our thankfulness slips away and we find ourselves unhappy and dreading the special times coming up?

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Over the years, I’ve worked really hard to learn to go with the flow and find gratitude even when little stresses are piling up.  While I am a perfectionist when entertaining, I have discovered perfection is pretty difficult to achieve. In learning to “let it be,” I’ve also learned to find the joy in the little things and savor those fleeting moments of quality family time.

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I know I’m not the only person to struggle with the little things that can suck the joy and thankfulness right out of our holiday time, so I asked the question on Facebook; “what issues are you often faced with over the holidays?”  I was surprised by the common theme throughout the comments… pleasing everyone else.

People pleasing and comparison are two of the worst things we can allow into our lives at anytime, but especially during the holidays.

This morning I’m going to attempt to offer a few solutions and ways to not detest or stress about the holidays ahead, just go with the flow and keep the thanks in Thanksgiving!

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**First and foremost, stay true to yourself.  I know it sounds like a weird thing to say, but whether you host at your home or travel anywhere for the holiday, unapologetically be yourself.  I wasted so many years worrying about what people would think of my way of doing things, that the holidays were not fun at all.

If it makes you happy to set a table with china and all the trimmings do it without wondering if someone thinks you are putting on “airs”.  I set the table all year-long, and dress it up pretty for just my family, so why would the holidays be any different?

Go all out if it makes you happy!

On the other hand, if you are a super casual person, who cares if you put out paper plates?  Guess what?!  You can eat on them just as well and don’t have near the mess to deal with!

Never, ever try to be someone or something that you are not.

And remember, there is always that one person who just enjoys being critical, judgemental and jealous, so let them be miserable by themselves, while you are in your element enjoying yourself!

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**The great hosting debate.  Every family at one time or another is faced with the question of when and where to have Thanksgiving.

 I’m up for celebrating the holidays as many days as possible if it means spending time with my loved ones.  It’s OK to be thankful on multiple days, not just on the 4th Thursday of November.   If the family is up to it, extend the holiday and celebrate two or even three days in a row!  It’s all about family time, not the “day”.  It’s the same thing with Christmas; Audley and I have traveled with our children and been gone nearly every Christmas in our 23 years together.  Santa has visited our house on the 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th over the years, whichever works best to be flexible for the family.

Sometimes where to have the family celebration is a source of contention. It’s been easy for us over the years as we have always let the senior most members of the family who want to host (my parents) do it!  I can cook in Momma’s kitchen as easily as my own. There will come a day when we can’t get together at their house, so I treasure every moment.

In families with brothers and sisters all wanting to host, there are a couple of solutions.  First, let whoever has the less stressful household (older children, more space, less stress in cleaning, etc…) take on the task and offer to help out.  Secondly, try alternating each year if everyone wants to host.  Talk it out and be flexible.  It’s not about one person, it’s about the family and the quality of time you have together. Third, if everyone in both families insists on doing it all on Thanksgiving Day, put on your stretchy pants, embrace the situations and go with the flow if you are able to attend both.  And finally, don’t be afraid to say “NO.”  Sometimes your sanity and the peace in your own home is more important than pleasing everyone else.

We teach our children to compromise, get along, and balance life so be the example and show them how to continue it as an adult!

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**The joys of children…. We love our children, but there are days we wish could just duck tape them to the wall and leave them while we do everything on our “to-do” list.

{I can neither confirm nor deny this ever taking place!}

Believe me, I know and have totally been there!

With four underfoot getting ready to host for the holidays presented enough stress on its own that I wanted to say forget it a million times, but I always managed because I wanted the kids to have memories to carry with them into adulthood.

Y’all, it goes by so fast.

There are days you want to hide in a corner, twirling you hair and sucking your own thumb, but one day they will be grown and your youngest child will enlist in the Marine Corps. and you’ll realize 2017 will be the last Thanksgiving you may have him home for the holiday.

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Here are a few ways to work with small children and still make hosting the holidays work:

*Ask a preteen or even teenage neighbor to entertain them while you do what needs to be handled.  The $15 or $20 you spend on that time will be well worth it!

*Give your kiddos one area in which to play, watch TV, etc… and prepare other spaces for your company.  FYI, bedroom doors shut.  Pull the door closed to the playroom or the bedroom when your guests arrive and just leave the mess in it.

*Find age appropriate “chores” your kiddos can help with.  Mine learned to set the table as early as four.  Give them a diagram, let them help, and even laugh when they put their own spin on a table-setting   You can also allow a smaller child place rolls on a pan, bring you things from the refrigerator, or put up smaller dishes when you are washing.  It’s a great time to use as a teaching moment as well as a time to bond.

*And finally, don’t be afraid to delegate and not take it all on yourself.  Spouses are usually glad to step up to help, whether entertaining kids or peeling potatoes!  Ask your guests to bring a dish: dessert, casserole, vegetables.  Don’t be afraid to ask, most understand the challenges of balancing life with small children.

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**Finally, keep in mind life is not a Hallmark channel movie.  Yes, we have expectations for the holidays, but leave yourself open for anything to happen. Wipe the tears and let it go.

There will be a time when your roast turkey worthy of a magazine cover hits the floor because you used a foil roasting pan instead of the heavy-duty pan to cut down on scrubbing dishes.

There will be a time when the rolls are burned to a crisp and the pumpkin pies are filled too much and flow over into the bottom of the oven setting off the smoke alarm.

There will come a time when not everyone in the family is on the same page for the holiday gathering and you have to make other plans.

There will be a time when you finally unpack the box of serving pieces from your last move and you realize your favorite platter that has been used for 15 of your 23 Thanksgivings broke during transition.

There will be a time when lunch is served at 3:00 pm instead of noon because you overslept and didn’t get the ham in the oven.

There will be a time when there are no more vacation days so everything is crammed into one day.

There will be a time that those large family gatherings become small.  Don’t let that change your attitude and excitement over the holidays, but make it special and memorable for all who do join you.

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Life happens (not always the way we pictured it) and it’s up to us to make sure we don’t let it steal our joy and be thankful for the little things that keep us on our toes during the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving week y’all!  I hope your celebrations are full of thankfulness and joy, and not so stressed.

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A Thanksgiving Timeline

The excitement of the holidays is upon us and I am relishing every moment!  This year not only will we travel to see my family, we will also be hosting my mother and father-in-law here for a Thanksgiving celebration!  There is so much to do, but I love the busyness of the season.  Sometimes it’s challenging not to let that busyness consume me and take me away from the things that really matter.

Whether you travel or host for Thanksgiving, the short weekend that comes along with it can often create for a little extra chaos in our already busy lives.  It’s a long weekend, but oftentimes not quite long enough accomplish all we want, plus enjoy the time with family or friends as well.

Why plan a holiday celebration if you can’t experience the joy that goes with it?

And, if there is no joy in what you are doing, your gratitude will often slip away as well!

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with Praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name!”~Psalm 100:4 

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Being the control freak planner and organizer that I am, my family knows when November begins I’m attached to my planner and lists so that I can do what needs to be dome as the wife and mom, but still have fun as well.

While we do not host a big meal every year, I have a lot of cooking on my agenda (I am totally the Queen of Turkey roasting in our family), and make some pretty good deserts as well!   I’ve learned over the years, that the key to stress-free entertaining (and traveling with food to prepare) is to plan ahead.

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Don’t let a lack of organization and unnecessary stress steal your joy and rob you of a memorable and fun day with family. As wives, mothers and even grandmothers our mood often sets the mood for the entire home whether we intend for it to or not.  The Enemy loves to attack us in the sneakiest of ways and I think a stressed out wife is the most horrible of attacks!

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice & be glad in it.”

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Besides living in the Word, preparing and planning ahead is a great way to help prevent that unwanted attack from happening! By doing much of the prep work in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the company of your family and friends on the day of the feast!

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Here’s my simple timeline for Thanksgiving (& other major holidays) planning:

1 to 2 Weeks before Thanksgiving (This would be now y’all):

*Confirm the number of guests you are planning to cook for, whether at home or away.  Then plan your menu.

*Make arrangements for your turkey.  If you want a fresh one, order ahead.  I won’t go   into detail, but trust me, order early so that it is ready when you want to put it in the  oven.  Go ahead and pick up your frozen turkey early as well so that you aren’t searching feverishly for one large enough to feed 15 people two days before.

*Plan your table settings, serving dishes and decorations. If you want china, use your china.  If you prefer paper plates by all means use them and don’t apologize!

*Read through your recipes to determine the food and items you will need for cooking.  This is perfect to accomplish while watching Hallmark Channel movies in the evening.

*Make your shopping and to-do lists.

*Shop for nonperishable food items, plus anything else you need for cooking and setting the table.

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A Few Days Before Thanksgiving:

*If you are planning to brine your turkey (which I am this year), prepare the brine, cover and refrigerate.  Do not add the turkey yet.

*Prepare any food that can be done ahead of time, such as pie crusts and cranberry sauce.

*If your turkey is frozen, place it in the refrigerator to thaw.

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The Day Before Thanksgiving:

*Complete any shopping for food that you have left.

*Make plans to pick up your turkey if your ordered one fresh.

*If you are brining your turkey, place it in the brine and refrigerate.

*Prepare any dishes that can be made in advance, such as cornbread for dressing, soup and pies.

*Chop vegetables for the side dishes (if you have preteens and teenagers, this is a perfect opportunity for bonding in the kitchen), then refrigerate in covered bowls or Ziploc bags.

*Set the table.  This is also a great project for kids; give them a diagram of how to set a table properly and you have a learning experience as well!

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Thanksgiving Day:

*Prepare and stuff (I use fresh fruit & veggies in mine) the turkey for roasting and put in the oven at the determined time. Remember most turkeys take several hours to cook.

*Peel and cut potatoes (if you are using them for a side dish); place in cold water and refrigerate.

*Prepare the dressing and other side dishes.

*While the turkey roasts, you can make mashed potatoes; while the bird rests, make your gravy and finish (or reheat) any side dishes.

*Carve the turkey and call your guests to the table!

*And most of all, enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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Besides being easy to follow, the best part about this timeline is that there are several opportunities to delegate.  Use those to your advantage.  When you start to feel overwhelmed, step back, take a deep breath and regain your focus.  This is a holiday about family and remember THAT is the most important part of the day, even if you drop the turkey!

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

Galations 5:22-23

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