Do yourself a favor: Do not let the holidays pass you by because you’re busy working.
As the leaves turn brown and the lattes turn to pumpkin spice, I know the temptation can be to keep all the focus on your business.
At the beginning of my career, I was constantly stressing about getting my next client and bringing in money, and there were two or three years in a row where it felt like the holidays came and went. Yes, I took the day off for Thanksgiving, but the truth is, I missed it. I didn’t get in the spirit, and moving into December I missed out on the “happiest time of the year.”
Then I realized it was time to start claiming the leadership and luxury of being my own boss. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again— to have it all, you cannot do it all. And when it comes to pulling off a major holiday dinner party in the midst of closing out Q4, the key is as always to work smarter not harder. Here’s how a girl boss tackles Thanksgiving.
The Thursday Before
Consider it Done
The Star of the Show
If you’ve yet to secure the turkey, it’s time! Have it delivered, and take it off your mind. Glenn and I love to get an Organic Heritage Turkey from D’Artagnan.com (which you’ll remember from last month’s Girl’s Guide, is the premier source for fresh, sustainably raised meat), it has a lot more flavor than your average supermarket bird, and it’s the ethical choice.
Eliminate the shlep-factor. Order your cases of still and sparkling water, and your wines, and have them brought right to your door. No heavy lifting included.
Doing your own flower arrangements is always fun, but I say when it comes to a big party, leave it to the pros and save yourself the stem chopping. Have your florist deliver on Tuesday evening, so that the flowers have time to open up and you don’t get the last-minute leftovers.
The Backup Plan
I know you probably have all these recipes saved on Pinterest for the most beautiful holiday treats you cannot wait to bake. While I encourage you to go for it, I also recommend you have a back-up. What often happens to me is that by the end of cooking dinner I’ll be so exhausted that my grand dessert plans are called off. And that’s totally okay! I always put in an order for at least a classic apple and pumpkin pie for pick-up on Wednesday and breathe easier knowing my bases are covered.
If you’ll be a guest at this Thanksgiving and want to bring flowers, make sure they come in a vase, in water. The last thing a hostess wants to do is go find a vase in the midst of finishing up 14 side dishes and a turkey.
Your Turkey Day Temps
If you’re anything like me, then you might see yourself hosting a glamorous Thanksgiving feast while underestimating just exactly what it’ll take to make it all happen. The holidays are a good time to keep our inner overachievers in-check, and get some help, because we don’t want to miss out due to exhaustion, either. If you have a personal assistant already, bump their hours up and let them know you’ll need extra support. If not, hire someone for at least two or three days to be available for chopping, organizing, errand running, etc. Believe me it’ll be one less wrinkle under your eye.
The Friday Before
Plan A Thanksgiving Feast
the Pilgrims Would Envy
Selecting all your recipes is a really fun, creative project. Do it the Friday before to give yourself plenty of time to strategize. If you don’t have time to flip through cookbooks and food blogs, click here for my Tuscan-Inspired Thanksgiving Menu and skip this step!
Side Dish Duty
When local friends and family are coming over, I’ll get in touch and see if they’d like to make and bring any side dishes—whatever they would enjoy making most. For the out-of-town guests, they’re put on wine duty.
Grocery List 2.0
Here’s how you avoid the dreaded grocery store zig-zag: organize your grocery list by section. You can download my list organizer here—it makes it easy to save time and never miss an item. Even better is to pre-order your groceries in advance, which you can do through Whole Foods if you have one locally.
Always Always Always Always Alllllwwwwayyyys buy pre-peeled, un-chopped garlic cloves for quick prep and cooking. Peeling garlic bulbs is messy and sticky, and you save yourself the headache definitely worth the few extra dollars.
Book Your Glam Squad
If you don’t normally go for in-home spa services, this is a good time to change that. Schedule your blowout and mani-pedi for the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving. You’ve probably spent the whole day prepping, and rather than hustle to the salon it will be much easier to unwind and get glam in the comfort of your own home while your cleaning squad is making your kitchen sparkle!
The Saturday Before
READY, SET, GO!
Create Your Tablescape
The more you can do in advance, the better! Rather than scrambling to throw together a table-setting in between emails, take some time on Saturday to really get creative with it and enjoy the process. Pull your plates, utensils and serving dishes, iron any table cloths and napkins, do any additional decorating and create your place cards. Maybe even add in a Farmer’s Market trip and find some autumn gourds to complete the look. Voila!
Now that you know what you’ll be cooking, make sure you have a dish for making and serving everything. Put post-its on dishes and label what will go where to bypass the “where do I put this creamed corn?!?” moment.
The Sunday Before
Keep it Fresh!
It’s a good idea to clean out your fridge. We all have salad dressings and tapenades that we just didn’t get around to using and need to go. You’re about to get all of this beautiful fresh produce for your meal and you want to bring it into a high-vibrational environment! Get your assistant to do it if you don’t find cleaning “therapeutic.”
Spices do expire! Be sure to check expiration dates, get rid of any expired spices and grab new ones for the holidays.
I live for leftovers, so I’m always sure I have containers to keep everything fresh. You might also like to purchase some recyclable containers to send your guests home with a little something! Have ziplock bags and sharpies in all sizes so as you chop things up you can keep ingredients organized. And ask yourself: how many people are coming, and do you have everything you need? You might need a larger coffee maker, more platters, extra chairs and tables. If it’s something you probably won’t use again, you can always rent from classicpartyrental.com.
The Monday Before
Time To Shop
Glide Through the Grocery Store
Here’s your moment to exercise your entrepreneurial rights! The supermarket will be swamped on Monday night, but you have the luxury of being your own boss and setting your own schedule. So go in the daytime and skip the crowds, then have your PA help unload and organize the fridge.
The Tuesday Before
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Set the Bar
If you went grocery shopping on Monday, then Tuesday you’re probably working, but a fun thing to do at night is to have a little dinner, put on some music and set up the bar. Get the wines out, figure out where the ice bucket will go, and put everything in place. It’s one less thing to worry about on the big day!
Everyone always thinks of last minute items that need to be picked up. Send your personal assistant to help put the finishing touches on your fabulous festivities.
Put on Your Producer Hat
Cooking Thanksgiving really is a production, and it makes a world of difference to have a production schedule—at least for those of us who don’t have three ovens and four dishwashers. Lay out all your cooking times and oven temperatures and create a timeline so you know exactly how everything will come together.
The Day Before
PREPPED AND POLISHED
Prep Like a Pro
At this point you have your recipes, you have all your groceries, and you know exactly what you’re doing. What I love to do now is put on some music and just start chopping all of the carrots, onions, and anything else I can parse out. The next day my fridge is ready with labeled ziplock bags that say things like, “1/4 cup onions – stuffing.” It makes the cooking process super easy and organized. You’ll also want to take care of any brining and baking!
Wednesday evening you’ll have your glam squad and your housekeeping team working to help get everything ready. So just sit back, relax, and know that most of the work is behind you!
Save yourself some energy and go out for dinner Wednesday night—especially if you have company in. We always do Mexican for the holidays.
The 2nd Most Important Meal of the Day
You don’t want to be hungry while you’re cooking. I make sure to have a recipe ready for the morning, like a quiche or frittata, with the ingredients prepped so I can quickly put together a delicious breakfast for Glenn and I to enjoy before we get started. And if you’re eating dinner later in the day, definitely have snacks on hand.
The Calm Before the Storm
It might be tempting to keep working until the first guest arrives, but because you’ve done all this prep, you won’t have to! Instead, have a good friend come over and relieve you with a glass of wine about one-to-two hours before showtime. Allow yourself to go upstairs, relax and get ready in peace.
Lights, Candles, Action!
Thirty minutes before guests are to arrive, turn on the music, put the ice in the buckets, lay out the appetizers, light the candles and start enjoying the festivities!