The past several years I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner. I really enjoy spending time with those I love most and taking some time to reflect on what I am most grateful. This year I will again host our Thanksgiving dinner and what I have learned over the past few years and through a fair amount of trial and error is that planning is key to a successful day.
Planning is important for anyone hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but when you have arthritis you really need to plan well in advance. If you don’t allow enough time to get things like cleaning and shopping you run the risk of overdoing it and ending up out of commission for the big day. I try to start preparing 2 weeks ahead.
During the first week of preparation I try to make sure that all the dishes, glassware and silverware are all clean and polished. I also iron the table linen and work on a centerpiece for the table. Some of the housecleaning that can be done during the first week of preparation include cleaning out any cobwebs and washing windows. I plan the menu and start grocery shopping. I try to split the grocery shopping for Thanksgiving between 2 weeks so that I am not overwhelmed on either week and it also spreads out the cost over two weeks.I get the non-perishables in week one and the fresh veggies and meat the second week. If something is forgotten in week one, there is always week two to pick it up. I put the leaf into the dining table during this week as well. If you have a separate dining room I would recommend setting the table for Thanksgiving during this week. We use our dining room daily so that isn’t an option for us so I have to wait until the night before to set the table.
The weekend before Thanksgiving I get my husband and kids together and everyone gets assigned cleaning tasks. This includes cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming and dusting and polishing the furniture. Because everyone gets a chore I am not overwhelmed and the tasks get done fairly quickly. I know that this sounds a little early to clean but I leave the day before to do the touch up cleaning. A quick dusting and a once over with the vacuum the night before is all we will need.
When it comes to the cooking, I used to cook everything and our guests just showed up and enjoyed the meal and our company. After overdoing it the first Thanksgiving after my diagnosis, I have changed the way dinner is done. Since then, I have asked that our guests prepare one of their favorite side dishes and dessert. Everyone has happily brought their special recipes and it leaves me with less work to do. Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving I do any baking that is my responsibility. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I do any prep work for the next day such as cutting celery and onions for the stuffing and peeling in cutting the squash. I just keep the prepared items in zip tight bags and it makes the few things I have left to do on Thanksgiving go a lot faster.
On Thanksgiving morning I prepare the stuffing and stuff the turkey before putting it in the oven. There have been years that I was completely unable to lift the turkey in and out of the oven. I found that using my wrist guards helped support my wrists while lifting the turkey. There was one year that even with the wrist guards on I could not trust the strength in my hands to get the turkey in the oven. That year I had to ask for help, there was no other option. The only vegetable that I don’t prepare ahead of time is the potatoes. So all I have to do Thanksgiving is the turkey and peel and cut up the potatoes for mashing. If my hands are bothering me I am not shy about asking for some help from my family. The rest of the meal has been prepped so all I need to do is put it on the stove or pop it into the oven.
The first few years after my arthritis got bad, when I tried to prepare for Thanksgiving in just the days before or even the week of, I found that I was too sore and tired to enjoy the day. In giving myself an extra week to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner I am not feeling stressed which will make my symptoms worse and I because I haven’t overdone it, I can concentrate on my family and friends and showing my gratitude for them.
I am very grateful for my readers and hope that everyone celebrating Thanksgiving has a wonderful day with their friends and family!