Tuesday, September 16, 2014


It's only September, but is it too early to think about planning for Thanksgiving?!?
No, it's not too early!  

Actually, September the perfect time to get started and I can give you 3 reasons why:

1.  It's September...the calm before the busiest month of the year ...October (at least for our family it is).  I really do love October and all of the Halloween-goodness it offers in the form of campfires, apple orchards and school parties.  However, our weekends fill up quickly and before I know it, I am passing out candy on beggars night!!  Now, is a great time to at least start thinking about your Thanksgiving holiday plans.  This way you won't have to think about planning Thanksgiving during the haunted hay rides, trips to the pumpkin patch., or while sewing very labor intensive Halloween costumes.

2.  Selection is great right now. Whether you are using pumpkins, gourds, cloth napkins or paper plates, the fall items are available now; and they are not picked over yet!  You can easily collect whatever it is you are planning to use for your tables, place cards and centerpieces while they are available and easy to find.

3. A great holiday starts with a relaxed host/hostess.  The holidays can be stressful, we all know that. Taking care of some of the little details ahead of time can help make Thanksgiving a snap.  A little planning now will go a long way in making sure your Thanksgiving is a happy one, from the first holiday welcome until the last slice of pumpkin pie is served.

I hope this list will help you have a happy and stress-free Thanksgiving... even if it's only September!

1.  Guest List  Think about who you are inviting.  Knowing how many guests you'll have will help with food purchasing, seating, and making sure no one accidentally forgets to invite Aunt Myrtle.

2.  The Menu  This seems too simple... but it can be trickier than it looks.  Turkey is at the top of the list for most, but some families like other main courses or even multiple main courses! Whatever you are serving, remember to place your order with the butcher, or local turkey farm.  It's not too early to make those reservations.

I usually roast two small turkey breasts in addition to the actual whole bird, so we are sure to have plenty of leftovers to send home with guests.  Turkey breasts are less expensive than a whole turkey and I can roast two at one time.  Our family loves a turkey club sandwich served with Thanksgiving leftovers, it's fantastic!

To help lighten the load, our guests bring a dish to share.  By planning the menu ahead you can make sure you have enough of everything and not too much of anything.

Lastly, be aware of possible food allergies.  Be mindful of any menu options that might pose a health problem for a guest.  In our family, we make sure that everything that is offered is safe for all.   Once your menu is set, print menu cards (if you use them).  Anything you can do now, saves you time in November!
3.  Pantry  Now, is the perfect time to go through your pantry, and see what is in there!  I make a list of what staples I will need in the coming weeks and then I pick them up a little at time.  It's a great way to save on that large grocery bill just before Thanksgiving.  Things like flour, sugar, and canned goods are non perishable, so buying ahead is perfect.  My pantry is always in need of a good makeover. Getting rid of expired items and organizing it, helps me to be more efficient when I'm in the midst of holiday cooking.  No hostess has time to search her pantry for mini marshmallows that are hidden behind cereal boxes...take advantage of September and clean out the pantry.  Remember your beverage pantry too. Replenish liquor that's running low and buy wine when it's on sale in the next few weeks.  Cheers!
4.  Tablecloths and Napkins  Did Aunt Myrtle spill gravy on your best linens last year?  Take time to make sure all your linens and napkins are in tip-top shape.  Taking a look at your tablecloth in the sunlight is a great tip...sometimes a dimly lit basement doesn't show stains well.  If table linens need a trip to the cleaners or you need to invest in a new set, guess what?  Now, is a great time to get that done. 
5.  Place cards  I love using place cards.  It's an easy do-ahead project that adds warmth and charm to any table.  I'm plan on using these darling turkey silhouettes this year.  There are so many beautiful and also very inexpensive ways to add place cards to holiday tables.  I picked out a few of my favorites from Pinterest:
These chalkboard turkey place cards (above) were purchased from JoAnn's.

Another kind of helpful "place card" is used for setting the buffet.  Use sticky notes to identify where items should go.  This is a great way to visually keep things organized. Guests can easily help in the kitchen because they will know right where to put things.
6.  Table decor and centerpieces  It's a great time to think about centerpieces for the holiday table.  Gathering things from your own backyard can help pull it all together.  Pine cones, bittersweet, dried hydrangeas or flowers are all great ways to bring the outdoors in.  Last year, I wanted to use gold pumpkins... (I was using metallic as a pop of color for the table).  Since I couldn't find what I wanted, so I made some.  Using gold paint, I made the golden pumpkins I was looking for.

7.  Chairs Most of us don't have enough seating for 15, with all matching chairs.  It's more than OK to mix chairs.  It actually creates a comfortable and collected look for your Thanksgiving table.  If there isn't enough room at one table for everyone, consider doing multiple tables.  Having an outdoor Thanksgiving celebrations isn't out of the question either!  

8.  Kids table  Not everyone likes a kids table or wants to do a kids table; but if you do one, make it special.  I love having a little something special at each place setting for the children.  A quiet activity for them to do is a nice touch.  I love the idea of a craft paper covered table for the littlest guests to color or write what it is they are thankful for.  The accents and crafts for the kids table are items that you can begin stocking up on.

9.  Gravy  Good gravy can make or break the whole meal.  Nothing could be worse than dousing your delicious mashed potatoes and turkey with a bad gravy.  Make your gravy ahead of time, before Thanksgiving Day... Yes, make it ahead!

Purchase turkey giblets or drumsticks (available in the meat department and packaged separately, bonus: costs only a few dollars)   Make a stock by simmering the turkey in water or turkey broth.  Strain and, reserve the stock.  Add your seasonings and thickeners as you would normally do on Thanksgiving Day... Store the homemade (delicious) gravy in the fridge (only make 3 days ahead max).

On Thanksgiving... you know those frantic moments when everyone is ready to eat, the wine has been poured and you are still working on the gravy??  This year, just before the turkey comes out of the oven, warm  your already perfect gravy on the stove top, feel free to add the pan drippings from the turkey...  Easy.  That is no-stress gravy!

Click here for a make ahead Southern Living Turkey Gravy recipe.

10.  Desserts  Pumpkin pie is a traditional and wonderful ending to a well planned Thanksgiving meal.  If you have any plans of adding new desserts to your holiday line-up, be sure to give them a test run.  In the weeks leading up the Thanksgiving, give your new recipes a try.  You don't want to wait until the night before to find out the "Pinterest Pumpkin Surprise" was not the dessert you were dreaming it would be... If you are looking for a new dessert to try, look no further.  Below I share my award winning, first place and best of show pumpkin cake with creamy cream cheese frosting.  It is a great make-ahead dessert, easy, and it tastes amazing.
Click here for the pumpkin cake recipe.
Happy Thanksgiving Planning!

No comments:

Post a Comment