Monday, December 08, 2008

How to have stress-free holidays

I had a festive, elegant, sit-down, 5 course dinner for 18. Oh, plus 2 dogs, one of whom showed up out of the blue. Luckily my cats were quite gracious.

My dining room table seats 6. Period. Therefore, this involved

- putting the living room furniture (or most of it) in the dining area
- putting the dining room table, the kitchen table and a patio table in the living room
- taking the kitchen door off its hinges to move the kitchen table into the living room, and of course replacing it
- getting some plates, glasses & sliver from my mother, who lives 45 minutes away — because who has service for 18?
- setting up 3 buffets, along with the 3 eating tables
- sewing chair covers onto the patio chairs that I have to use to seat that many
- putting up seasonal decorations
- and of course, the cooking, all in a 2 butt kitchen (the functional part is a galley, about 12 feet long) and the cleaning

And not only did everyone have a great time, but that also included me!

Here’s what I know that makes this possible:

* Plan ahead
  • I get the stuff from Mom a couple of weeks early, when I happen to be near her house,
  • shopping is Saturday before Thanksgiving
  • usually, I start moving furniture and cooking Sunday before Thanksgiving (this year on Monday, though I screwed up the guest count and had to do it all over again on Wednesday, after the tables were set)
  • do a little cooking and/or moving every day, with the bulk on Wednesday afternoon
* Stay organized
  • I work to a written plan, and can therefore delegate
  • I have a box that has all the linens
  • I have those Teflon furniture moving pads, and I know where they are, too
* Get help!
  • the kitchen door was courtesy of my brother-in-law, who is in construction
  • while I do the bulk of the cooking, a sister-in-law helps on Wednesday, each woman brings a dish we agree upon in advance, and Kosta monitors the turkey
* Keep notes

I keep notes each year on what worked and what didn’t, and because I know where those notes are, along with all the recipes, which are kept with the notes, the event gets better each year.

THIS is the reason for ritual — you repeat what works, and discard what doesn’t. Plus when at least some of the guests know what to expect (like gong around the table, saying what we are thankful for before the meal), everyone will relax.

Remember, no one notices, or cares, that anything is perfect — or even that the house is clean. They care that the food is decent, and the company fun. No one will ever look at your floor.

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