Wednesday, October 28, 2015

11:11, Make a List

I don't know who gets credit for saying Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a race first, but I agree with him or her wholeheartedly.  Did you know I've run 25 marathons?  I hope you didn't even believe that for a second.  Anyway, Thanksgiving is a long haul.  No singular component is that hard, but almost any Thanksgiving dish has many involved steps.  I realized a few years ago that I was losing the most time with tasks I thought of as quick and easy--peeling carrots, boiling the potatoes, arranging the buffet, rolling out the pie crust.  15-20 minute things that are negligible for a normal dinner.  What I never used to account for were how many of these 15-20 minute tasks Thanksgiving has stacked on top of one another.  As we've all learned the hard way, getting behind 20 minutes quickly turns into an hour turns into passive aggressive comments about how I'll just fill up on this delicious bread and not be able to eat any turkey! said with a forced smile and cold stare.  
Last year's table
I've had some variation in my Thanksgiving menu, but have repeated several years in a row now.  I'm so happy with it and think it's a very well-matched, traditional menu. I tend to ignore recipes and never remember how I make things.  That's part of the fun for me though.  While the menu may read the same, the seasonings and preparation will vary.  
Since I know my menu, the next step is list making.  Surprise, surprise, I'm kind of a compulsive list maker.  In my atrocious handwriting, I quickly begin drafting lists.  I'll say that I'm not trying to teach anything here.  I trust that you're all familiar with the concept of a list, so I hope it's not coming across as though I think I've invented the wheel by writing them.   
I wasn't drunk, but my handwriting apparently was.
I grew up in the safest, luckiest suburban court.  Thanks in huge part to my (still) best friend and her big, insane, open, accepting family.  Sometime I will need to go into detail about the cast of characters on that court. Across the street was one of the greatest, Michelle.  Michelle was my good friend L's mom.  Michelle is batshit crazy.  She has a laugh that is like a hyena on cocaine and she would wear recycled fiber knit tunics with crystal necklaces to events at the school, where she'd pull up blaring some new age flute jams out the windows.  She didn't give a single fuck what the Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers-clad mothers thought of her.  Though my mom looked the part, she wasn't like those women either.  They didn't look anything alike, but Michelle and my mom were quite similar.  They each were fierce advocates for creativity and neither cared if their children fit into boxes.  This wasn't particularly well-received by the neighboring women.  They didn't interact with Michelle and my mom wasn't exactly their favorite.  Mainly because she'd let her son (me) run around in heels and tutus and have a rose garden instead of playing with a sphere or whatever normal boys did.  Michelle was a great teacher to me.  She was always there to remind me that the world was so much bigger than our little court, while still working to make our little court a safe shelter.  The entire family did.  Walking into their house, full of weird art is that a boob?!, was a feeling of comfort, happiness, and just the right amount of WTF.  Michelle is an expert in all things sixth sense and magical.  She taught me about Reiki, Feng Shui, energy, chakras, karma, marching to the beat of your own djembe, and the joy of not being shackled to normal.  She was the perfect resource for a voraciously curious kid.  I've never seen a person more excited about anything than when she was doing my numerology chart and I told her I was born at 11:11.  She had to put me on pause and call like ten psychics to tell them. 
The 1s and 2s denote first or second grocery trip.
My elementary school teachers have PTSD
Can you read those three items above 'SAJ Bread"?
Anyway, I think of Michelle when I write my lists.  She also taught me the concept of intuitive writing.  Where you let thoughts flow to paper without damming them in the process.  For me, everything comes together when I begin to write my squiggly, messy lists.  I begin to visualize my platters and setting up the buffet.  I write the menu and then write each ingredient for each dish.  Then organize the ingredients into a shopping list.  Which is soon divided into non-perishable, perishable food, floral, wine, and specialty. 



Last Year, above and below




Once the shopping lists are made, it's time to write the schedule--It's all fun and games until I write the schedule.  Having an actual, written schedule is helpful beyond words.  The schedule is obviously mostly for cooking, but it's also a great way to ensure other nice outings and moments aren't choked out by cooking.  For me, this is grabbing lunch with a friend (even if I walk in the restaurant with flour in my hair), taking Barbie to the park, or even watching the Macy's Parade (which I kind of hate but also have to see at least five minutes of).  Last year, thanks to my master schedule, I enjoyed the parade at like 9AM with an early sampling of mashed potatoes and prosecco.  Clearly, it's all elegance around here. My favorite element to any holiday is the anticipatory energy, and making time to enjoy that is an important part.  Do you schedule yourself for the holidays? Or let them unfold organically?


42 comments:

  1. Sweet Lord, I can only dream of being so organized!...at anything!! I definitely hold you in a position of esteemed respect and unbelievable adoration because you are though. How in hell do you manage it!? I so want to come to your Thanksgiving feast - how fun it must be to sit at your table! I'd settle (maybe) to be a fly on the wall and watch the shenanigans...well, maybe not. Have fun and enjoy a perfect Lemon Drop Martini for me, kay? Barbie looks adorable!!

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    1. Haha thank you! It's only developed from many disasters! It's such a help to have a schedule! How is little Charlotte?

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  2. Sugar, oranges, nutmeg!

    So A.) I'm so glad there are people like you in the world so people like me can show up with a pie and mashed potatoes and we're all good, and B) I desperately want to hang with Michelle.

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    1. Damn I'm impressed! I remember that you're the mashed potato queen! Will this Thanksgiving be as large of an affair as last year? Michelle is the best!

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    2. I will absolutely NOT make that many mashed potatoes this year. The amount I made last year bordered on grotesque. I am, however, thinking about doing a potato-celeriac mix just to change it up a little.

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  3. I think you missed your true calling Stephen Andrew - your handwriting says you were born to be a Doctor. They too have indecipherable writing!
    I love a list, and with dinner parties will write out times for everything. It doesn't always stick to schedule, but it means that I don't forget a step somewhere, or an entire course (as I did once) and can enjoy the night. But I've never typed it, so you have a level of OCD that I do not.
    Your Mom sounds fabulous. So does Michelle. I have to say that the best bit about ageing is not worrying what others think of you or your choices - it sounds as if your Mom and Michelle had that down.

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    1. Haha oh I would make it about ten minutes in medical school. This is exactly why I have a schedule! I'm the worst about forgetting various sauces and garnishes and then get so mad at myself when I do! And it is so helpful to know when you've fallen behind where you've fallen behind. I have lots of catchup time built in. I'm sure you can see why I had to type it!

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  4. I love this post, eso the bit about M getting excited about your time of birth. I luff it that your Mum let you march to the Beat of Your Own Drum.

    Can someone give you a talk show? x

    PS Barbie in the back seat is v. cute x

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    1. Thank you! Oh I don't know how that talk show would be! Thanks FF

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  5. I got sugar and 2 oranges but not nutmeg, Erin is very good at deciphering your handwriting.
    I cannot believe you were born at 11:11! I don't know what it means exactly but it's something good. My youngest was born at 12:34 and I remember my little brother freaking out about that, he was going through some kind of numerology stage at the time.
    I am thrilled to bits over these lists. You my friend are going to help me SO MUCH in my life, because I'm taking it to the next level SAJ Holiday Style. I never would have thought to schedule the tasks into time increments but you're so right, it's the 20 minutes here and there that can be devastating to the on-time dinner.
    I agree with FF you need a talk show. XOX

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    1. If my math is correct, which it may not be, 1-2-3-4 is 10 which is 1. I don't remember all that much about numerology though. Reading 2/3 isn't bad at all! Oh I'm so glad this post was helpful! Will you do a big Christmas dinner? A schedule is a lifesaver! Thank you!

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    2. I'll do a big Christmas dinner and I might even host Christmas Eve for the extended family this year which is about 20 people, so that will be two big dinners in a row and then on the 26th we leave for the ski chalet which is a whole other thing. You can see that I need you and every single one of your tips. XO

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    3. Dani! That is too much! Two dinners in a row!!! No! Save yourself! Make one a cocktail party. I believe you can do it, but that's so much work. The turnaround on all the dishes is what would kill me.

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  6. Are you SURE you aren't related to me after all? Seriously! I do the same darn thing! List- relist- organize- print out- I even organize it by store aisles so I get everything in that aisle when I go through it. I set all my serving dishes out with sticky notes in them as to what goes in each dish. lol AND, Lord help me- as I cross things off my list- if I do something that ISN'T on the list- I write it in and then cross it off. I tell you- it is a real sickness!!!! lol

    I do wait until after Halloween to start my list though-although I admit I was patting the Butterballs fondly in the grocery store the other day.

    LOVE to hear about your neighbor and mom. I was always the "non-judgmental" mom that my kids could bring anyone home and they were on "fresh ground" and good kids at my house until they proved themselves otherwise. One kid came back years later and told me that it had "saved him" to come to my house and feel okay about himself just as he was. Made my day!

    Okay- off to make my "list" of to-do for Halloween. lol xo Diana

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    1. Haha maybe we are! I do the same thing where I add it on after it's in my cart and then cross it off! And then think "now why did I need to do that?!" I can't wait to see your Thanksgiving! I love your dining room. That is so wonderful you heard that from one of the kids' friends. I'm sure he'll never forget the good feelings of your house and you'll never forget that lovely compliment! I just don't care that much about Halloween so I skip right over it!

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  7. Now THOSE are some lists. Just in looking them over, I realized so many things I fail to take into account regarding time, like cranberry sauce, whipped cream, etc. I kind of schedule the big stuff, yet some of this small stuff can really get you behind the 8-ball if you don't take care of it on time. I think I'll make a more detailed list this year. Thanks for the tips and of course the gorgeous pics. I also think you missed your calling, you would be an incredible Event Planner.

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    1. Why thank you! I don't think I could do events because of the key variable: other people! I don't delegate well. I've found I can't be too specific with my lists.

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  8. we must write alike b/c sugar oranges and nutmeg.

    sphere omg.

    the lists.

    i don't know what i would have done w/o certain neighbors and the nuns. i guess it does take a village.

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    1. Thank you! It's amazing how important some satellite people end up being in your life, isn't it?

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    1. Haha yes! Lori we are not all natural multi taskers like you!

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  10. Those lists! And I thought I was organised. I say I can admin the shit out of anything but you take the cake.

    Keep up the good work!

    Susan x
    (long time reader/admirer of your comments on Faux Fuchsia, Have Some Decorum etc, but first time comment here)

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    1. Why thank you! And thanks for the comment! I'm so excited to see E's house in Provence I can't even take it.

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  11. Stephen, you've got everything down to a science. You won't notice 3 people sneaking in, will you?!

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    1. Thanks, Donna! Haha I would notice when I was three menus short, but I can make do! Great to see you the other day!

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  12. Sugar, oranges, nutmeg. And I got that before reading anyone else's comments :-)
    Unless my lists are typed, they are generally illegible to anyone but me. Sometimes that's a problem once at the grocery store, but great as far as keeping certain things private... Your description of a laugh like a hyena on cocaine perfectly suits someone I know - may I borrow it? E's house in Provence sounds amazing, I think we have to put CONTESSA in charge of arranging a group excursion, n'est-ce pas?

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    1. Of course you may use it! There are those laughs that have such a quality to them that they are stuck in your head forever (fondly, usually). Oh that has happened to me in the grocery! Wondering what the hell is this?! Oh I'm going to have to do something. At this point I'd rather swim to France than fly but we'll see.

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  13. Love your stories, love your schedule -- I'm still laughing over "remove all possible shit from refrigerators" and "begrudgingly make coffee at home" and especially over how you spelled out "f-e-t-c-h," which I presume you do when speaking so Barbie doesn't get overly excited too soon. (I have to spell "d-o-g p-a-r-k" around my dogs for that reason.) Your preparations are amazing, and your Thanksgiving guests are very lucky.

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    1. Thank you! Haha I make the WORST coffee at home and hate drinking it on holidays. I love Tim Horton's coffee and they are open on Thanksgiving, but I won't go. I don't think they should be so I boycott. And then in the annual reports they are scrambling to figure out what caused the huge $2.15 drop in sales. Oh well, at least I'm doing something! Albeit futile. Barbie cannot hear the words f-e-t-c-h, b-a-l-l, r-i-d-e, b-e-a-c-h, p-l-a-y, or t-r-a-s-h. She loves taking the trash out for some reason!

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  14. Love this, wrote a comment but must not have pressed Publish! I am a messy list maker ALL the time! Often cannot read the entire list when I get to the store though. Fun to hear about your mom and Michelle. Love women who follow their own path and not feel the need to blend in with the mainstream. Your family is so lucky to have you carrying on traditions with stylish and delicious food!

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    1. Hey Cindy! Will you go to HHI again for Thanksgiving? Dana called me a few months ago and I can't remember if she said you'll be there or not. If this gives you any idea of how insane I'm feeling about the holidays this year, I was thinking about driving down to get some good southern cuttings of greenery and berries and then driving back right away! If you'll be there, you'll have to go cut from my not so secret holly in Palmetto Dunes. I so wish I had that here! I loved using it for my floral arrangements over Thanksgiving. And there is an empty lot on Night Harbour with a magnolia and long needle pine saplings that are lime green. You might just run into me. Typing this I'm not sure I can stand to not have them! Haha

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  15. Oh, I love a good list. Your list making is truly impressive, preparation is key to a successful dinner party. I think Thankgiving must be one of the loveliest holidays, just a time to be still and thankful. One can never plan too far in advance. Good luck, Nina

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    1. Thank you! I agree with you. Thanksgiving is a lovey holiday--I think no gift giving has a lot to do with it!

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  16. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No pressure in gift giving, just surrounded by good food, family and friends. I love your organized lists. I always forget one key item.

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    1. Absolutely! Thank you! I'm the worst about that!

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  17. CONTESSA HERE...........YES, I make lists BUT NOT like yours.Everything YOU do is BEAUTIFUL even the TRUNK loaded with cabbages!!!Did you put that wood in the TRUNK???I know that answer.
    I did not GET your email announcing THIS POST!DRIVES me MAD!I will try try again to SUBSCRIBE!Found you on COULDA WOULDA sideboard!!!
    Off topic I think WE must plan a trip.........SPRING time?Did you see my TIPS for getting through the flight?IT works for me and SHOULD WORK for YOU TOO.You have a shorter distance to GO then me!!I will stay in touch and keep AT YOU!Have a BEAUTIFUL DAY..........and a WONDERFUL TURKEY DAY!!!

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    1. The wood in my trunk? Is that a euphemism?! Haha one never knows. I did see your tips but am not too sure how that'll work! Maybe I can get some good tranquilizers from the Columbus Zoo! And what about Barbie and Banksy?! We can't leave them while we're abroad!

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    2. One is safer in the AIR then on the GROUND!
      As for the PETS........it is HARD but I think IT would be GOOD for ALL!!!
      You have a new Post up must go read..........as I WORK TODAY might have to read later!
      YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!!!

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  18. Well, because you asked . . . My grandmother is still very much in charge of hosting Thanksgiving and has no interest in passing the torch. I'm not sure what her system is, but I am sure it's worked for her since the Nixon administration and that she has it completely memorized. She preps, assembles, and times the cooking of side dishes with militaristic precision (and having 4 ovens certainly doesn't hurt). She can roast a turkey in her sleep and not miss a single basting. She manages to keep bread warm, salad crisp, and everyone's wineglass full (although she does advise the occasional cup of coffee interspersed "so that you can stay up for dessert"). I always wonder how she has the freshest vegetables I've ever had in my life until I remember, oh, of course. She grew them from seeds and harvested them herself just last week.

    All this at a young, sprightly 92.

    My father adores his mother, of course, but he, too, would like to host Thanksgiving at some point in his life. He and Prince Charles would have much to talk about, I'm sure.

    And that leaves me as dear old William in this scenario, I suppose. Because I love cooking, hostessing, and having something to plan down to the moment, my husband and I host a mini Thanksgiving two weekends before the big day. The menu stays pretty simple (in my opinion--no one has ever agreed with me, oddly enough). I do have printed copies of the recipes I use, but I mainly use them as a loose guide of how much to make because I have the uncanny ability to attempt to cook for 4-6 people and end up with enough food for 4-6 small armies. I have a color-coded highlighting system, one color for each day leading up to the event so that I can look at all of the recipes and see what needs to be done when. I keep the decor simple and handmade, sort of rustic-looking, you know, and usually assemble those items on Halloween weekend so that I have enough time to gaze at them lovingly before someone inevitably spills iced tea on a namecard and uses a cloth napkin as a handkerchief.

    Your system is the stuff dreams are made of.

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    1. Lauren, your grandmother sounds absolutely incredible. Love your note about your dad being Prince Charles. Haha that is so funny. It would be so hard for me to not host after all that time! But it sounds like your grandma is a force of nature and competing with her is not an option.

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    2. "Stay up for dessert.." Love it! I love this whole post and all the replies!

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