Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Aftermath & What I Learned

1. I am in awe of bloggers/tweeters who managed to blog/tweet in the days leading up to Thanksgiving as well as on the actual day and the days after Thanksgiving. I guess I am a scattered mess because for the past week my phone was rarely within reach and I checked social media sites only once a day. The camera was rarely next to my hand, and that didn't really matter since my hands were frequently food covered anyway. After all, it was some food-gunked up hands at Thanksgiving 2009 that dropped on the floor & busted a camera (Hi SP! Remember that fun time?!).

What I learned: it's a giant pain to read 12 hours of tweets or a day's worth of blog posts at one time. But I'm not going to be glued to my smartphone/tablet/computer because hanging out with my family is way more important and way more fun.
2. My brother and his family safely arrived Tuesday afternoon. Nephew was a ball of energy so he and his dad shoveled our driveway and then he rolled around in the snow and threw snowballs at everything possible. Kids who live in mostly snow-free areas are nuts when they discover snow!

What I learned: he needs to visit more often when it snows because my driveway gets shoveled while SP & I watch out the window and sip hot tea. It's lovely.

3. My niece is turning into a lovely young woman and baker. She helped me make the Raspberry Shortbread Bars and Triple Ginger Cookies. By help I mean we told her how to use the stand mixer, where to find the ingredients and bowls/measuring cups, etc., and then sat back and watched/offered advice and minimal help as she did it all. It was quite a treat to have homemade cookies served to me in my own house with minimal effort on my part!

Nephew also enjoys helping out in the kitchen. For the Triple Ginger Cookies, Niece scooped out dough balls, Nephew rolled them into a smooth ball and cannonball shot them into a bowl of sugar, complete with sound effects, and I rolled them in the sugar and placed them on the cookie sheet.

What I learned: kids are messy, my kitchen got messy, and it's OK because helping them learn to bake and chatting about The Hobbit and boys and Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga and soccer and everything else while we cook is so much fun.

Plus, I have a husband who really gets that happy wife = happy life, so he did lots of clean up while I relaxed!

4. SP is indeed a very patient man. He was always on hand to set up the Netflix viewing for the kids (they are hooked on Arrow) and he played lots of video games with the nephews.

What I learned: Hobbits do not actually have machine guns; SP introduced Nephew to Halo instead of sticking with the Hobbit game (I got a little confused when I heard gunfire but thought they were playing the Hobbit game). Also, my niece will watch a TV show simply because a cute guy is in it.

5. The Big Day! Thanksgiving dinner for 16 people! Here's what was on our menu:
Appetizers
Cheese & crackers (smoked gouda, gruyere, cheddar, pepper jack)
Veggie tray (celery, carrots, cucumber, red pepper) with Beau Monde Dip
Shrimp Cocktail
Dinner
22.9 lb turkey seasoned with butter & poultry seasoning
Gravy
Stuffing with sausage
Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Squash Puree
Cranberry Sauce (2 kinds)
Dinner Rolls
Corn
Steamed Broccoli
Green Beans & Portabella Saute
Roasted Asparagus
Dessert
3 Pumpkin Pies
Apple Pie
Assorted Cookies
Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Dried Fruit Platter

What I Learned:

1. Texas BIL is an amazing dishwasher loader and dish washer. He had everything loaded and washed before I could turn around!

2. Texas SIL is a huge help - she made the stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and helped keep everything on track plus she washed and dried dishes. 

People who clean up are awesome.

3. SP's mom is really helpful and generous with last minute shopping (like when I opened the asparagus and discovered it was gross and spoiled and couldn't be used).

4. Georgia brother & SIL are great at being on beverage duty. My brother was in charge of getting ice and loading the cooler in the morning and then I designated SIL the 'wine chick' and she got to keep the wine glasses filled!

5. Googer is an amazing turkey rip-apart-er. He cleaned off the carcass for us in no time.

6. The 3 nephews really were OK at their kids table. I think that's the first time I have ever hosted or been at a Thanksgiving with a kids table.

7. Cookies and chocolate covered pretzels do not last long when there are kids around.

8. It will all turn out OK even if the sweet potatoes are giant, mutant sized potatoes and even if the asparagus goes bad and even if the green beans aren't super crisp. It's also OK if the turkey cooks faster than expected because that is better than taking too long and it gets a nice long rest to stay moist & juicy.

9. It's OK to not make everything from scratch - we thawed frozen, cooked shrimp and used jarred cocktail sauce. They were still devoured. We bought dinner rolls from a bakery and they vanished. It is also OK to use paper plates for appetizers and desserts. I think it's OK for dinner, too, but we used real plates for dinner. 

10. Even if people mocked my list of what to do and what time to do it, it helped keep us on track and dinner was even on the table a few minutes early. They also mocked my diagram of the table, but knowing in advance where trivets were needed and where everything could fit made getting it on the tables easy.

11. Washing and chopping all the vegetables the night before is key because it saves so much time on the big day. We were able to take a break from about 1:30~2 pm until 3~3:30 pm and just sit with family, relax, socialize, eat & drink, and enjoy the day instead of being in the kitchen the entire time. Making the pie the night before is important. So is making the dip the night before. Also helpful, and tasty: making an appetizer the weekend before and keeping it in the freezer (mushroom turnovers).

12. It is also immensely helpful to set the table in the morning and to get out all the serving dishes and spoons in advance. I cleared off a counter in the kitchen and we lined up all the serving stuff there so it was super easy to get food in bowls and on the table. I also pulled out mugs for after dinner tea/coffee in the morning and set aside the dessert forks and spoons.

13. It's OK to keep it simple. It doesn't get more simple than seasoning the turkey with butter and poultry seasoning and stuffing the cavity with some onion and lemon. No need for a fancy brine or glaze. But use a meat thermometer. And baste every half hour or so.

14. It really is nice to say grace before a meal - thanks to Georgia brother for handling that.

15. It's OK to not photograph every single dish. It's OK to not blog/tweet/Facebook/Pinterest/whatever your meal in real time. Thanksgiving is about family and spending time with them and we are so happy and thankful that our Georgia and Texas families were able to come into town and be with us. I'm thankful all the nephews got along. 
Hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as ours was!

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