Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 1: The Write Stuff

Follow along with Patch Home & Gardens writer Megan Swoyer as she prepares for Thanksgiving, with daily tips to keep readers on track. Today: Get out a pen and start The List.

Thanksgiving 2011 – and once again my husband and I are hosting!

Things we work around to make the day special: health issues range from a teen with Crohn’s disease (sensitive to too many fat grams, digestive issues) to an adult who requires a gluten-free diet. With that, fat grams and wheat and gluten factors are top-of-mind (Example: there’s no way I can open a jar of, say, Spartan-brand gravy and call it a day … most mainstream canned and jarred gravy has wheat and gluten ingredients, not to mention fat grams aplenty).

Other challenges: Between family members attending or volunteering at America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit and Lions football fans (especially this year!) glued to the television, it’s not always easy to have an ETD (Estimated Time of Dining). Not to mention, the age of our dinner attendees ranges from 2 to 89. Ever notice that when it comes to dining, it seems the elderly are on as tight a schedule as toddlers?

All total, we welcome about 14 or so around our Thanksgiving table (or tv-dinner tables, as it were — our table only seats 10 comfortably). This year, we fully expect that there will be several family members tackling each other for a chance to dine on the couch with a little TV table, thanks to the Lions' decent record thus far. I suspect we’ll hear: “Oh, I’ll eat in the family room, no problem!”

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

This year, we're thankful for the chance to help make your Thanksgiving a great one. We'll share a tip or two per day for 12 days on how we’re getting ready for the big feast.

Our “12 Days of Thanksgiving” begins now and will cover everything from how to select wine (remember, Grandpa likes the sweet stuff — ugh! … he’s the only one) to where to pick up a complete meal already cooked (thanks, Kroger) to tricks on keeping everyone awake after the feast (no food coma in my house!).

My biggest goal this year? How to make my ugly circa 1993 blue card-table chairs blend with my dining room tablescape. (Note: for the past 18 years, I’ve tried to set a pretty Thanksgiving table complete with a warm palette — chunky and taper candles, special china, a striking centerpiece and more, only to see it take a big dive once I get out my extra seating  — cold, steel folding chairs.) How can one possibly mix Waterford salt and pepper shakers, Wedgwood china and antique cutlery with hideous chairs?

No doubt, Martha would give me a BIG FAT "F." I’ve been eying custom slipcovers in swanky home magazines for several years now and also find myself come November wandering aisles in search of already-made, folding-chair covers. I think it’s high time to “eat or get off the chair” this year and spring for a bit of luxe. We shall see. 

Day 1: Make 'The List'

On the 12th day of Thanksgiving, my tip for you…  Get a pen and dedicated notebook for creating THE LIST! of all lists.  

Make this organizational task fun with cool-looking office supplies. You'll be referring to this list over and over again during the next 12 days and crossing off tasks and duties along the way, so let's make it simple:

  1. Use a dedicated notebook or journal ( at Somerset Collection in Troy and area Staples stores both have great-looking notebooks and journals that make this organizational task appealing).
  2. Consider a journal with side pockets for recipes, tips, reminders, etc. You'll want to refer to this Thanksgiving “Bible” every year.
  3.   is selling some quirky old-school sticky notes that you can use throughout the process, too (stick one on the fridge to remind you about what time you’ll want to put the turkey in the oven ... that sort of thing).
  4. You can also be an e-planner and do all of this on your computer. Keep everything in one file labeled "Thanksgiving Dinner." 

By the way, if you’re not a veteran Thanksgiving host and the idea of roasting poultry on a huge scale and serving several hot and tasty sides scares the stuffing out of you, there’s plenty of time to sign up for a Thanksgiving cooking course.

“We have several classes specific for Thanksgiving at the Somerset Collection store in Troy,” said Razonia McClellan, a publicist for Sur La Table, a cooking shop that opened at last fall.

One that’s particularly  intriguing is Easiest Thanksgiving Ever from one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Ina Garten. Professional Chef Jill Tucker will show attendees how Ina pulls off a savory/sweet success in this hands-on tutorial. There’s also a holiday hors d’oeuvres class on Nov. 17,  and a Thanksgiving desserts class that look enticing. Here’s the online calendar where you can locate class information:

Back to THE LIST!

Your food duties: Jot down what you will be responsible for, food-wise (turkey, mashed potatoes, hors d’oeuvres, beverages, etc.) 

Delegation: Write down who's coming and make a note next to their name on what they can bring (just ideas at this point). Make a note of when to call them for notification and discussion of their duties (best done at night, after work hours). Also, make notes on how many attendees total, number of place settings and chairs you’ll need, etc.

Cleaning: Write down what needs cleaning ... Front door entryway, refrigerator, dusty curio cabinet, dining room windows (where everyone will be gathered), etc.

Timing: Include ideas on THE LIST! about when you’ll be serving dinner. I can’t botch dinnertime this year as EVERYONE will want to tune into or attend the Lions game, which begins at 12:30 p.m.

Speaking of that, will folks be coming early to your home to watch the game before dinner? If so, how’s the seating in the television area? Add to the list: snack foods, such as nuts, veggies and dip (nothing too heavy due to the feast that’s yet to come!), etc. At this point, my Estimated Time of Dining (ETD) is 4 p.m. Will the Lions still be playing at that time?

Day 1 is easy. It’s just about collecting your thoughts and ideas and keeping them together, all in one place. Come back tomorrow to discover how we shift  THE LIST! into the next gear.


Brendan McGaughey November 13, 2011 at 06:13 AM
Love it!
Pam Houghton November 13, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Megan - thank you for making me feel better about my green cardboard table chairs. Guess I can cancel that therapy appointment! :-)
Megan Swoyer November 13, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Pam: Card table chairs at the dining room table are my nemesis every holiday season! Forget therapy; i'm going to get some slip covers!
Cindi Lash November 14, 2011 at 10:34 PM
Go for the slip covers, Megan. I wrestled with this for years until I also bought turkey-themed china in a brown-and-cream palette. Then I broke down and bought cream damask slips for the chairs. They look so much nicer than those chipped metal chairs. When the cook is happy, everyone is happy.
Megan Swoyer November 14, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Thanks for the inspiration, Cindi. This just may be the year!


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