November means the start of the hostess season. As chic lifestyle magazines begin to fill my mailbox and suggest I start making crepe paper pumpkin center pieces and piping tiny turkeys onto homemade petit fours, a sense of urgency to hit my local craft store kicks in. I’m a notorious list maker and quickly created in my mind a yard-long list of “things to do/get” to make my Turkey Day perfect.
But I want to do it different this year, avoid the anxiety attack, and actually have fun at my own celebration. Hmm, what a novel idea … I sat with a fresh new notebook and instead of dumping all my thoughts down onto paper, I reflected back to my childhood. What did I love about Thanksgiving as a child?
My mother was a natural at being domestic, and there was one area where she stole the culinary show in my young mind. That was the “Veggie Tray.” Usually commissioned to gather up an assortment of raw vegetables, my mother’s crudités spread was a secret delight for me as a child.
Standing in my grandmother’s dining room, dressed in a red plaid holiday dress, I wiggled the crooked seam of my baggy-kneed tights in between my toes which bunched uncomfortably in my black patent leather shoes. I marveled as the top of a cream colored Tupperwear to-go tray was removed and gazed at the colorful variety of perfectly sliced veggies through my thick Coke bottle glasses.
Red bell peppers, cucumbers with tiny, fanned edges, long slender carrots, crisp flower radishes, and my favorite – cauliflower. Dip after dip, I gorged myself on my favorite part of our Thanksgiving celebration.
Ceremoniously topping bite after bite with a sliver of potato chip, I smiled in youthful satisfaction as I gladly ruined my appetite.
The sight and smell of crudités bring me back to my childhood, and as I sat reminiscing, I could almost still feel the bunching seam of my baggy tights in between my toes.
Between the kids, the housekeeping, the spouse and the job, I have decided that I need to chill out. The 9-year-old me fawned over crudités for goodness sake, so I made a new list. A new mindset that will help me enjoy being a hostess for the first time in ages. Here are my seven steps to a saner Thanksgiving celebration:
1. Naturally increase your endorphins. Instead of upping your meds, hit a new pilates class or add yoga to your work out regimen.
2. Clear out the clutter. Start to prep your home for extra guests by not waiting until the last minute. Make a list of what you will need to unearth from the attic, what you will need to buy and start collecting these party essentials before the night of your event.
3. Let one thing go. Do you really have to make five homemade desserts? Order early from a great local bakery.
4. Forgive someone. Did your nephew smash your favorite tchotchke with a football last Thanksgiving? Did your husband’s Aunt Elsie call you by his ex-wife’s name? Take a deep breath and let it go.
5. Recruit some help. Start a new family tradition, where everyone brings an authentic dish to share – OR – Cater your Thanksgiving meal!
6. Spruce up your culinary wardrobe. Nothing makes me more confident than the right outfit for an event. You’ll take charge of your kitchen in a smashing new apron!
7. Pare down. After Pinterest sucked me in for three hours trying to find centerpiece ideas, I realized I had gone overboard in getting “inspired.” Divine intervention washed over me as I realized the small glass jars of Oui yogurt I love to consume were extremely cute and could easily be repurposed for tiny vases.
My new approach to this holiday has already soothed my nerves and given me an excitement to host this year. Reflecting on what I loved about the holiday as a child made my adult mind pause and see the simplicity of a gathering and what really matters: good food, pie and the people I love.
What fond memories do you have of Thanksgiving as a child?
This article originally appeared in the Kane County Chronicle on November 2, 2017.