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Why Not Give Yourself a Break this Holiday Season?

November 17, 2017

Why Not Give Yourself a Break this Holiday Season?

Turkey Coma

Well, it is that time of year again, the beginning of the holiday season.

People are already starting to scramble. We seem to forget that the first holiday is Thanksgiving. There was a man on the radio the other day that just set his tent up outside of a big box store so he will be the first person in line on Thanksgiving evening. He will be in the tent for 15 days. Interesting.

I will be the first to admit, I used to get really crazed this time of year. I wanted everything to be perfect for the kids and Jim, and I wanted to make every last thing from scratch. Years and years of stressful holiday seasons have led me to give up a lot of the craft in exchange for more quality time and actual enjoyment. 

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, easy meal, just a lot of pieces. It used to be such a production, now I have some great time savers. Everyone coming brings something, I used to do it all and was CRAZY all day, not fun. I wet brine the turkey, I really think that it gives the bird a great flavor. Brine with a friend/helper. The first time I brined a 26lb turkey, it slipped, bag opened and I had turkey and gallons of brine all over the kitchen floor—for months.

I make the potatoes the day before, put them in a crockpot and warm them on low until dinner. Years ago I found stuffing/dressing cheesecloth bags. I still put stuffing in the bird, love the flavor, I clean the bird, salt + pepper the cavity and put the bag inside and put the stuffing in. When the bird is done, you just pull the bag out, cut it open and pour it into a bowl. Viola! I put the extra stuffing in a crockpot and warm it up about 4hours before dinner.

Gravy is not difficult but it takes a lot of time, just when you are putting the dinner out. (A great way to make you feel stressed and sick of everyone in the kitchen). While I can make dynamite gravy and Jim would sing my praises, I had a breakthrough about 10 years ago. I discovered homemade poultry pan gravy, homemade by Lunds/Byerlys. This is a local high-end grocer in the Twin Cities. I tested it and decided to serve it on Thanksgiving, without an announcement to the family. We were all enjoying dinner, when Jim made his statement “Colleen makes the best gravy, she is really a master at it. It is better than my mother’s”. I never made gravy again. I confessed when Jim was sick, I just couldn’t let him leave without clearing my conscience.

Thanksgiving circa 1990

I cook the turkey in an oven bag for turkeys. It keeps the meat so moist, the bird browns beautifully and there is no basting. It is foolproof, but it may cook a bit faster. This year one or possibly two of Tom’s daughters are coming over to bake the pies, pecan, pumpkin, and French silk. It should be really fun.

We always try to take a walk after dinner, so we can overcome the turkey coma that usually follows Thanksgiving dinner.

Christmas is also I wonderful holiday, that I never really enjoyed until I simplified. About 10 years into our marriage, we started going up north for Christmas. Everything was bought, wrapped and sent up north by the 15th of December, so there was nothing to do but relax and enjoy the family. As the years have progressed I have continued to keep it simple. Now I don’t buy presents if the grandkids have lessons or a sport they want to do, I will pitch in to pay for part of whatever it is. We really spend time just being together which is the reason we celebrate the holidays. This year, 2 of my boys, will not be with us for any part of the holiday, I will miss them but know they will be in a place with other people that love them too. There was a survey asking “if there were no presents, would you still get together with your family for Christmas?” 69% said yes. I am happy that over half of the people wanted to be together, it renews my faith in people.

Not necessarily taking it easy

Give yourself time to spend 6 hours hiking and hauling a Christmas tree out of the Northern Minnesota forest while your husband and children watch. 

Or don't. 

One last, but great, simplification came out of just being late one year. Often Christmas is the only time we are all together long enough to get a good picture, which would make getting Christmas cards in the mail really tricky. So, I just gave myself a break and stopped. I now send St. Patrick’s Day cards instead, much less hectic time of year.

Bullet Points

  • If you are the main Thanksgiving chef, hopefully, your staff is fun. It is truly just another meal.
  • Gobble, Gobble, Gobble, and HO HO HO

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