Monday, November 29, 2010

THANKSGIVING - Without Food Photos

I've seen about all the pictures of perfect turkeys and displays of food that I need for a while, so I thought I'd get past the tummy filling treats and party planning and cut to the really important aspects of our 2010 Thanksgiving celebration.
It started with cooling weather and falling leaves.
There was silliness and excitement as family came in from out of town
and the energy of children playing in the autumn air
and little ones gathering leaves into piles for play.
It included Aunts and Uncles and Mothers and Fathers and Grandparents taking pictures of memories in the making and ended with sweet goodbyes and a little help getting ready for the greatest celebration of the year - Christmas.
I learned something this Thanksgiving, proving that you're never too old to learn. I learned to let go. I learned that stress is actually a choice we make, and this year, I chose not to invite it. I actually took my cues from the children who were eager to simply enjoy.

By keeping decorations simple and asking some of the family to bring side dishes, I was able to concentrate on the birds and major items and the timing. Not one but two turkeys came out perfectly - tender and moist and as pretty as any picture you've ever seen. (I used the old standby, Reynolds Wrap "tenting" method which has never failed me.) By setting up a self-serve buffet, we managed to properly seat and feed 23 people comfortably and efficiently in my small space.

Ahhhh, by the way, I had a seating idea that might be worth passing along. With smaller children seated at by and girl tables and adults to be seated at a collection of card tables, I wanted to mix it up a bit to avoid teens isolating themselves and timid adults clinging quietly to their partners. So, the tables were numbered and place cards were handed out to each guest. Then the guests were asked to withdraw a numbered bean from a bowl. The beans were prepared with glue dots on the back so they could be attached to the place cards which the guests put on the appropriate tables. The combinations worked out wonderfully well. Some husbands and wives were separated. Teens found themselves seated with their elders and some of the less vocal guests found themselves at tables filled with lively conversation. It was a process that I will definitely use again.

The success of this Thanksgiving gathering has started me rethinking some things that have gone without thought for far too long. Christmas is one of them. I've dealt with somewhat austere holidays in the past. Perhaps that's the reason that I've gone overboard in one area or another for many years. One of my most stressful categories has been that of decorating. I've accumulated enough decorations to overdo every room in the house. Generally, I take my time and enjoy putting them up but always dread taking them down and packing them away. I spent some time reflecting on the Christmases of my childhood. There was simplicity coupled with absolute wonder and I wonder where all that magic has gone. It seems to me that as the piles of goodies under the tree grew larger and larger, the appreciation, joy and peace of the season grew smaller and smaller. This year, I'm going to try to reverse the situation and will share my success or failure with you throughout the month.