Ah, Thanksgiving. A time of peace, serenity and gratitude, right? Well let's see...
There's the peace of debating about which relatives to spend it with. The serenity of packing, driving, cleaning and cooking. And the gratitude of knowing you can go back to the office on Tuesday.
I hope this isn't the kind of Thanksgiving weekend you anticipate. I admit to having had these feelings in the past. Much as I love my family, and feel blessed to be celebrating Thanksgiving in a group, I know that I sometimes forget what it's all about.
I remember the Thanksgiving that I worked on the computer until just before heading onto the highway for the weekend. Tired and stressed, I packed my family into the car for a five-hour drive to Windsor. Both kids threw up on the way, and my husband and I ended up in an argument.
When we arrived at our destination, I felt pressure to be relaxed and smiling with my in-laws. But all I wanted to do was find an orchard somewhere, and spend the evening alone!
Putting on the brakes
In all the bustle of "celebrating Thanksgiving," it's easy to forget everything we have to be thankful for. Not the least of these are the bounty of food, and wonderful people to share it with.
A couple of years ago, I discovered the key to gleaning the most from Thanksgiving weekend and in turn, bringing more joy to the table to offer those around me. Here are the five suggestions:
- Start early. Are there a few things you can bang off the preparations list today? Buy yourself the time for a walk in the sunshine during the weekend, clearing space to enjoy some down time with your loved ones.
- Focus your heart. Take a few minutes today to scribble a list of the things and people you're thankful for. Sometimes this triggers the idea of reaching out to someone you haven't seen for months. A coffee or call early in the week might help take the edge off a busy week.
- Do it differently. One year, I took a cheap train to Windsor and met my family there. I packed them off in the car with a smile, and stepped off the train with another smile. On my journey, I enjoyed all the fall colours while listening to music. I've never felt so thankful. Just saying.
- Celebrate now! Why not celebrate before the weekend, with people you normally wouldn't get to see on Thanksgiving? Throughout October, World Vision is celebrating food, asking people to host a Meaningful Meal to help provide children around the world with the food they love.
You could cook dinner for some of your favourite people. Or eat out at at a restaurant you enjoy. Then use your grocery or restaurant bill as a guide for a donation you could make together, as a token of your gratitude for all that we have here in Canada.
- Take time at the end. Plan now for a few minutes for yourself Sunday or Monday evening with a glass of wine or cup of tea, before returning to the rat race. Scribble that "thanks list" again focusing on what you were grateful for this week.
There's no sure-fire recipe for feeling the thankfulness this weekend was created for. But thinking it through now, before the week gets away from you, is a great place to start.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Also on HuffPost:
The Disaster: After serving beautiful cocktails and small appetizers, we realized the turkey wouldn't be ready for another three hours. My guests got really drunk in the meantime with nothing in their stomachs except a few crackers and loads of wine. By the time I served the turkey, my guests were, shall we say, a little less aware of the quality of the turkey ;) Tip: Now, I make sure that the turkey is in the oven early enough in the morning, in order to fill bellies by 4 p.m. --Trish Bentley, The Purple Fig
Tip: Put your bossy pants on. Don’t be afraid to tell people what kind of help you need in the kitchen when they ask. Or better yet, get them to contribute a side dish or a dessert, so you're not stuck in the kitchen all day long. Tip: Mind puzzles are great for the table. I keep a set of small metal mind puzzles for large family gatherings. I spread them out on the table for kids and adults to attempt. It's a great conversation starter and helps the kids stay seated and calm before and during the meal. --Tiffany, My Dirt
Tip: Do yourself a favour and pick at least one part of your meal that you buy pre-made. For me, this is usually dessert. I bought a pumpkin pie this year. I did whip the whipping cream myself after dinner, but that was the extent of my efforts. Here are some more of my tips for stress-free holiday meals. --Megan, Food & Whine
Tip: For mashed potatoes, peel and slice the potatoes. Fully cover the potatoes with water in a large pot with a lid. Place the pot in the fridge until you're ready to cook them. This can be done the night before! Tip Write out cooking times, so you know when to have everything ready to go. Tip Set the table and have all your serving bowls and spoons chosen the night before. --Angie, Friday Is Cake Night
The Disaster: Last year I decided I'd try to make the apple rose tart that was all over Pinterest. I thought everything was going swimmingly until my custard didn't set properly. I decided to carry on anyway and try to form some apple roses, but they just ended up floating in the custard soup. Rather than showing up empty-handed, I brought my sad, sad tart along with me to which my cousin asked, "Who brought the dessert that looks like cat food?" Tip: To avoid anything like this in the future, I'll do a test run prior to the big day or read the reviews or comments on the recipe before I assume I'll be able to create a complete replica! --Emily, What Emily Said
The Disaster: One Thanksgiving, my family and I had to cut up partly cooked turkey and microwave it in batches! It wasn't fully cooked when we went to carve it and everything else was already ready on the table. Tip: Make sure you use a meat thermometer to check when your turkey is done, and test multiple areas of the bird. This will ensure you have a fully cooked, but not overcooked, turkey. Also, note that if you cook your stuffing in the bird, it actually can cause you to have to overcook the turkey to make sure the stuffing gets up to the right temperature (165 F), especially if it is tightly packed. --Melissa, Upbeet
The Disaster: A few years ago, we set our Thanksgiving table with a hand-embroidered tablecloth that had been in the family for generations. We assumed that having transferred the turkey to a serving plate, we wouldn't need a trivet. Big mistake! Our hot turkey platter burnt a hole in the tablecloth and scorched the table, too! Luckily, I was able to save and frame the embroidered pieces of cloth. Tip: Now we use trivets with everything, even the cold plates! And, at Thanksgiving, we play it casual, sitting everyone at a "kiddie table" lined with brown butcher paper and cups of markers. We draw picture frames, silhouettes or cartoon panels on the paper and let each guest decorate their place settings to their hearts' content! Check out our most recent post, Thanksgiving Unplugged for a few more tips. --Roseanne, The Lunchbox Season & Summer of Funner
Tip: Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time so that you do not have an undercooked turkey! They take a long time to cook, and it is often the key part of the Thanksgiving feast -- you don't want your bird or stuffing to be ruined! --Taylor & Nathalie, The Girls On Bloor
The Disaster: Growing up in an Italian household, we always had large, loud holiday meals. On a couple of memorable occasions, my parents wanted us to have an "authentic" Canadian Thanksgiving experience, complete with turkey and all of the trimmings. Once, my mother apparently heard that serving hot turkey on a cold platter would make the turkey cold, so she "warmed" the platter in the oven. She put the turkey on the platter and asked me to put it on the table. Not knowing that the platter was hot, I grabbed it with my bare hands, only to immediately drop it on the floor. The pizza we ordered was a less traditional Thanksgiving dish and is still a favourite family story. Tip: Kitchen disasters can happen when you are hosting a large gathering, but don't panic if something goes wrong. The important part is to gather together (and maybe have the pizza place phone number handy -- just in case). --Angela, Ciao Down