by Maria Schulz
Thanksgiving is a time when we are all supposed to think about the many things we are absolutely, without a doubt, grateful to have in our lives. Believe me, I have many things to put on my “What I’m Grateful for this Thanksgiving” list. But there are some other things I feel compelled to consider as Thanksgiving barrels down upon us. So here are my:
8 Ways to Avoid Stress This Thanksgiving
1. Thanksgiving shoppers: out of the pool. Grocery shopping is already a pain, but add in Thanksgiving and suddenly it becomes the 7th ring of hell. On a normal day, you can run into the store and get a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread in under 5 minutes. But in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, you have to run through the store with your head lowered and your elbows out just to get to the dairy aisle.
Now that everyone is out buying turkey and all the fixin’s, it takes forever to get out of the store, let alone the parking lot. I say there should be a “non-Thanksgiving shoppers” time slot every hour, sort of like adult swim–when anyone under 18 gets tossed out of the pool, only in this instance, it’s anyone who is buying 1200 Thanksgiving ingredients. That way, I can get my everyday staples AND buy about 7 gallons of milk and 7 loaves of bread right now and forget about going to the market until after the holiday passes.
Or, I could make believe I’m Heidi and bake bread and adopt a goat to get my milk and cheese until this week is over. Luckily, I have lots of tin cans and old newspapers the goat can eat, and a lawn that needs mowing. I hope the goat likes leaves. I’ve got lots of them.
Sound good? Maybe you should get a goat too.
2. Eat, turkey, eat! Did you hear that one of the giant poultry manufacturers announced a possible turkey shortage due to the fact that their poultry is seriously underweight this year? Now, I have some questions for them: Why are your turkeys so skinny? Do they follow a no-carb diet? Do they run marathons? Are they supermodels?
Also, if you know that Thanksgiving is coming and you count on “Turkey Day” to make tons of money, why didn’t you start fattening your birds up over the summer? I think that manufacturer should immediately send those turkeys to my house. They will probably gain 5 pounds just by sitting on the couch next to me while watching the Knicks play really bad basketball. Also, they can keep my goat company.
If worse comes to worst, I will just fire up the old popcorn maker and create a Thanksgiving feast ala Snoopy and the Peanuts gang in “Happy Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.”
When I first heard about the possible turkey shortage, I started to panic…but then I realized I am not even making a turkey this year. But even if I was, another poultry manufacturer announced that they have plenty of turkeys and they expect to fully meet customer demand.
Whew. I feel better already.
3. Fully enjoy this holiday before you get caught up in the insanity that comes with the next one. Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet, and I heard Christmas music on my radio the other day. That’s right: songs that demand I start rocking around the Christmas tree and building snowmen SHOULD NOT BE ON YET.
I had barely enough time to put away my grim reaper and skull decorations, finish my two baskets of Halloween candy, and scream at Sally not to wait with Linus in the Pumpkin Patch because there is no Great Pumpkin before I started seeing ads for Christmas movies and Black Friday shopping specials.
I can’t even buy a couple of gallons of milk and some bread ahead of time. What makes the world think I’m ready for Christmas when I haven’t even had my (too skinny) turkey dinner?
4. Inventory your pantry and cupboards so you have all the ingredients you need for Thanksgiving. And then, map out the route to the nearest open store on Thanksgiving morning, because dollars to donuts, you will have forgotten something that someone on your invitation list will feel they cannot live without at your holiday dinner.
This has happened to me many times. It’s caused me to wake up in the middle of the night in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, crying out I FORGOT THE CRANBERRIES! Or “I DON’T HAVE ANY DECAF AND MY MOTHER-IN-LAW ONLY DRINKS DECAF!”
This may be a good time to consider making reservations instead. Or possibly, getting yourself into therapy. And when I say you, I mean me.
5. Remember that your family members are your team: don’t feel afraid to ask for their help. That’s right, folks. Invite your kids into the kitchen to help you prep the giant, skinny turkey at 5 am, eat pumpkin bread fresh and hot from the oven, and laugh together while you sing Kumbaya.
No, wait…that was a commercial I saw last year for pumpkin bread. What will really happen is that the members of your team will refuse to get out of bed before noon, at which point you will already be up for 7 hours because the last skinny turkey you found on the shelf had to go into the oven at the crack of dawn.
You will have made about 50 different side dishes and 3 pies by this time. You also have pumpkin bread, but your family hates pumpkin bread. Worst of all, none of your kids even rolled over when you burst into their rooms, screaming, “SANTA IS ABOUT TO RIDE HIS SLEIGH INTO HERALD SQUARE! GET UP! GET UP!”
You just might have to wave at Santa Claus by yourself this year.
6. Don’t buy the regular pumpkin in the big orange can; buy the pumpkin pie mix in the identical big orange can. This is an easy mistake to make, but it will lead to dire consequences. Your pumpkin pie may come out really, really bad because you thought you had the can with all the ingredients in it. Of course, this will lead the earth to spin off its axis and we will all die a horrible death as a result.
No, wait. None of that will actually happen. You’ll just have a pie that requires a little more work to make it taste good, which may be just as horrific, since who has time for that?
We never ate pumpkin pie in my parents’ house. I realize now that when my mother said, “You don’t like pumpkin pie” she meant, “I don’t like pumpkin pie.” Anything my mother didn’t like DID NOT get made.
I can’t say I blame her. She had to cook for up to 20 people (and that was a small crowd) and make alternate dishes for my grandmother and great uncle (who hated cheese), plus make a pasta dish, the turkey, side dishes, desserts, plus breakfast and dinner for that same grandmother and great uncle, who came at dawn and left at midnight.
My husband and his family DO like pumpkin pie, so I’ve been making it for decades. I even like it now. Although when my kids ask me why there’s no pecan pie, I say: “You don’t like pecan pie.”
7. Priorities, priorities, priorities. Wash every piece of fine china you own and then polish your silver. Hand-wash your fine crystal until it gleams. Then iron your finest tablecloth and all of the matching napkins. Run outside to gather some leaves, pinecones, and twigs, and use your glue gun to create a masterful centerpiece.
Spend days dusting, vacuuming, moving furniture to clean behind and spray everything with cleaner until it’s so sparkly, it hurts your eyes to look at it. Then, when you’re just about on the verge of a total nervous breakdown, start cooking your 12-course Thanksgiving meal while shooting your wife or husband dirty looks because they never do anything.
If this is the only way you can enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday, by all means–go for it.
Or, better yet, remember that you are not Martha Stewart, and stop by the party goods store. Buy plates, cups, silverware, vinyl tablecloths, a festive paper tablecloth to go over the vinyl one, and a paper turkey centerpiece (make sure he’s not too skinny). Decorate the table like you are five and aren’t responsible enough to use the good china or crystal.
Clean your home just well enough that it doesn’t look like a deranged vagrant lives there. Cook a meal that hits all the holiday favorites, but doesn’t go completely overboard.
When everyone is done eating your basic turkey, vegetables, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping diner and pumpkin pie dessert feast, and you’ve cleared away the leftovers, you and your spouse can make the clean-up part of your celebration fast and easy.
How? First, you and your spouse should grab the two corners of the tablecloth on opposite ends of the table. Next: run towards each other. After that: clasp hands and tablecloth corners. And finally: bundle the whole thing up and throw it in the garbage.
See? I just saved you a whole week’s worth of backbreaking work, angry words, and hurt feelings when one or both spouses think the other one never does anything.
8. Actually call the people on your invitation list. Yes, Aunt Sally may have been coming to your house since the days when animals got on Noah’s Ark in pairs, but that doesn’t mean she will come this year. Why? Perhaps it’s because she made other plans since you never invited her.
I know it’s almost unfathomable to think of Aunt Sally as someone with a social life and options beyond your house on Thanksgiving, but stranger things happen. Maybe the other 364 days of the year, Aunt Sally passes her days by running with the bulls in Spain, teaching chimpanzees how to handle a pistol, or bowling for dollars.
Or maybe she does nothing but sit in her tiny house and watch Revenge, Homeland, Breaking Bad and Murder She Wrote re-runs. It’s hard to say.
In any event, you should go ahead and call people. Extend the invitation, even if you figure they’ll be coming over anyway. You’ll get to have a quick chat and let the other person know that you really want them at your house this Thanksgiving.
Just make sure to ask if they’re allergic to goats.
Best Ever Pumpkin Pie
Even though my mother didn’t like pumpkin pie, I sure do. So here’s a recipe for the Best Ever Pumpkin Pie. This one got lots of good reviews—and it looks pretty easy too.
So, Hungry Lifers: what’s your least favorite part about prepping for Thanksgiving? Did you get your turkey yet? Is Aunt Sally coming over this Thanksgiving? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!