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Getting Through the big Holiday Dinner...


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...with my sanity intact.

I'm a list person. I can't get stuff done without lists or something always gets forgotten. Since I've just recently moved back to my hometown and bought a house here I've taken over Christmas as it was getting far to crowded at my Aunt's house and her age isn't letting her do the big Christmas anymore with relative ease. So I've got a battleplan starting with the menu, then my grocery list, then my actual schedule to get crap done. Help me find the holes in this ship before it sinks. I don't think I could live the the loads of Italian guilt that will be heaped upon me if this fails. :D (For the record I am still getting guilt trips over a stunt I pulled back in 1990 when I was a freshman in college)

Christmas Menu

Deviled Eggs (Heather)

Shrimp Cocktail

Cheese & Meat Tray

Dill Dip in Pumpernickel Boat

Crudite

Stuffed Mushrooms (Dad)

Timpano

Antipasta (Aunt Pat)

Prime Rib

Green Beans (Grandma)

Potato Gratin

Buttered Peas

Sweet Potato Casserole

Spinach Orzo

Rolls (Grandma)

Cannoli

Cheescake

Pitzeles (Aunt Pat)

Cookies (Me & Chris)

Coconut Cream Pie (Liz)

Dessert from Ross

Apple Pie

Fruit

I'll spare you all the grocery list but I'll share the receipt later on the receipts thread.

Battleplan

TO DO LIST FROM HELL

Thursday

Grocery Shopping

Finish Christmas Shopping

Friday

Clean Office

Laundry

Iron Tablecloths & Napkins

Saturday & Sunday

Wrap Presents

Finish Polishing Silver!!!!

Basement Level

Dust Family Room

Dust Barroom

1st Floor

Clean Bathroom

Dust Living Room

Dust Dining Room

Dust Kitchen

Dust Sunroom & Get rid of dead plants

2nd Floor

Clean Guest Bath

Clean Master Bath

Clean Master Bedroom

Clean Spare Bedroom

Change Litter

Mop

Vacuum

Shampoo Carpets upstairs

Christmas Eve

Pick up Prime Rib Order

Frost Cookies

Cut Crudite

Make Dips

Make Cheesecake

Make Apple Pie

Make Fillings for Cannoli

Christmas Day

AM

Defrost Shrimp

Make Cocktail Sauce

Shell and blanch peas

Open Christmas Presents!!

Noon to 1PM

Prime Rib

Potato Gratin

Timpano

Sweet Potatoes

By 2PM

Fill Candy Dishes

Assemble Crudite

Dill Dip & Pumpernickel Boat

Shrimp Cocktail Platter

Meat & Cheese Tray

By 3PM

Gravy and Jus

Spinach Orzo

Finish Peas

DINNER

OPEN MORE PRESENTS!!

DESSERT

COMA

Also, feel free to use this thread to discuss all manner of holiday event planning.

Edited by Stefferdoos (log)
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"relative ease", i've never thought of it as an oxymoron till now....

are all the female family members coming over to celebrate?, or just to see how clean your house is...

big italian family, catholic too i'm sure, even more guilt.....

i grew up in a big german lutheran family in the midwest, it was the same thing, so i understand your stress level....

i've always felt kind of bad about the way women in my family nearly killed themselves during the holidays...the only thing worse would be their misery on a camping/hunting/fishing trip....

do the best you can, it's family....if they don't like it tell em to kiss your ass...

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"relative ease", i've never thought of it as an oxymoron till now....

are all the female family members coming over to celebrate?, or just to see how clean your house is...

big italian family, catholic too i'm sure, even more guilt.....

i grew up in a big german lutheran family in the midwest, it was the same thing, so i understand your stress level....

i've always felt kind of bad about the way women in my family nearly killed themselves during the holidays...the only thing worse would be their misery on a camping/hunting/fishing trip....

do the best you can, it's family....if they don't like it tell em to kiss your ass...

They came for an inspection luncheon back in July after I bought the house actually.

Yes we are Italians and they are all Catholic but my parents and my sister and I are Lutheran (dad was Cath mom was Methodist so they compromised at Lutheran - or "Half-Cath" as I call it).

I'm actually seeing the cooking part and the prep in the kitchen as all fun. Its the cleaning I'm not looking forward to. Especially my office.

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I'm exhausted from just reading your list! :biggrin:

Don't stress about the cleaning. If they are that fussy/critical you'll NEVER meet their standards anyway. Dim the lights, close the doors, Tell them you've been robbed and the cops haven't made it over yet to dust for fingerprints. :laugh:

Concentrate on being a wonderful host, preparing a lovely meal and keeping everyone including yourself relaxed.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Dinner looks delicious, and your "day of" scheduling looks like it's gonna work out nice. Don't forget to feed yourself a little during all the pre-events, have a quick egg for breakfast, you'll need the energy.

I concur, as far as cleaning...they're family...I would slash that list in half, and do surface cleaning. No one's gonna go upstairs and stare at the unshampooed rug, not with all that awesome food, and festivities.

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you're gonna have to clean again after they all leave...

but it won't make any difference because you have to follow your mitochondrial dna....

it's telling you what to do at this point.....

treat yourself to something nice if you get too stressed, no, not a pedicure, more like a xanax and a few adult beverages.....

keep us posted and let us know how it turns out....probably fine...

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Dinner looks delicious, and your "day of" scheduling looks like it's gonna work out nice.  Don't forget to feed yourself a little during all the pre-events, have a quick egg for breakfast, you'll need the energy.

I concur, as far as cleaning...they're family...I would slash that list in half, and do surface cleaning.  No one's gonna go upstairs and stare at the unshampooed rug, not with all that awesome food, and festivities.

I really need to clean upstairs though. Its been ignored too long to the point of being embarrassing (like fraternity house levels in my office and bedroom mainly minus the beer cans). As far as remembering to feed myself. I figure there will be plenty of "tasting" happening during the cooking process. Also since we are doing the immediate family (me, my mom, dad, sis, brother in law and nephews) gift opening in the morning at my house there will be all sorts of breakfast goodies to nosh on (mostly I am looking forward to the Danish Kringle from that bakery in Racine, WI that my parents mail order every year).

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Thaw the shrimp in the fridge the night before, so you dont risk solid shrimps or sneak thieves, day of.

dont clean the office. Clean out the fridge instead. you need space to put work in progress.

Can you assemble the potatoes in advance or at least slice them and leave them in acidulated water in the fridge ? 1 hour to get all that done, WHILE THE FAMILY IS IN THE HOUSE, is risky. Even tho its probably totally doable when you are home alone.

Good luck.

Oh yeah, and one more thing: wake up in am, open a bottle of wine. Keep it in the kitchen. Its 'cooking wine'. Refill your glass as often as necessary to keep your sense of humor and wellbeing going strong. I figure I'll get thru one full bottle between calming my mom about the turkey at 7 am, to putting the last dishes away after the third meal, at 7 pm. That doesnt count what get serves with meals, of course.

One of my friends swears by pink lightbulbs. She replaces every bulb in the place just before parties. That way you cant see the dust, she says.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Cleaning tip from someone who would rather cook than clean: get some big plastic Rubbermaid "junk bunkers", throw all clutter into them, and stash them in closets, in the basement or in a room where noone's going to go....

And if this is a new house, and you have bottled propane gas running your stove, check the gauge sometime this week.

Edited to add: I second the "cooking wine" approach..... :smile:

Edited by wlg (log)
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Um.....noon to one p.m. Is that the time that all those things go in the oven? Please tell me you're not hoping to prep and make all four things in an hour. The potato slicing and cheesing and saucing alone will probably take half that.

And a Timpano? That's an all-day job, or at least a morning and well into the afternoon. Is any of this meal pre-prepped or store-bought or at least made and in your freezer, ready to thaw and bake or heat?

A five-day schedule like that will grind you down and make you fall asleep in your chair as soon as you sit down, let alone all the courses and presents and actual TALK to the guests you'll have to do.

To me, of the 18 hour days in my youthful catering days, it STILL seems a great mountain to climb. And now---no WAY can an old lady like me, despite those little parties for 200 which used to happen so effortlessly, ever attempt even half of that.

Skimp on cleaning, skimp on courses, but do not skimp on rest, which you don't seem to have scheduled. You will be too tired to REMEMBER the party, let alone enjoy it.

Says old rachel, who just jumped down the last three stairsteps with a heavy grocery bag in each hand; I stepped on my sock toe, and the only resort was to fly

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1. Have your tablecloth and napkins laundered and pressed at the cleaners.

2. Hire a cleaning service to come in and lay waste to the place (possibly while you're out shopping). It won't be perfect, but it will be a very good head start. Consider it a Christmas present to yourself. Do not pre-clean those rooms.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Agree with Therese; I have a cleaning crew coming on Friday (family get together is Sunday). At least the house will start out clean.

Best indulgence this time of year.

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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Um.....noon to one p.m.  Is that the time that all those things go in the oven?  Please tell me you're not hoping to prep and make all four things in an hour.  The potato slicing and cheesing and saucing alone will probably take half that.

And a Timpano?  That's an all-day job, or at least a morning and well into the afternoon.  Is any of this meal pre-prepped or store-bought or at least made and in your freezer, ready to thaw and bake or heat?

A five-day schedule like that will grind you down and make you fall asleep in your chair as soon as you sit down, let alone all the courses and presents and actual TALK to the guests you'll have to do.

To me, of the 18 hour days in my youthful catering days, it STILL seems a great mountain to climb.  And now---no WAY can an old lady like me, despite those little parties for 200 which used to happen so effortlessly, ever attempt even half of that.

Skimp on cleaning, skimp on courses, but do not skimp on rest, which you don't seem to have scheduled.  You will be too tired to REMEMBER the party, let alone enjoy it.

Says old rachel, who just jumped down the last three stairsteps with a heavy grocery bag in each hand; I stepped on my sock toe, and the only resort was to fly

yah, that's just the schedule to get them in the oven. I did a test run of the Timpano this weekend and froze a batch of sauce and meatballs (which reminds me I need to add the defrosting of that to the to-do list) afterwards so that portion wont need to be done. Contrary to how its portrayed in the movie, the actual assemblage and cooking of the sucker is pretty quick. It took me longer to make the sauce and meatballs.

Any of the items with someone else's name to them are being brought. Everything I'm making is a time tested recipe. Only 4 things in the oven and two are small and all vessels will fit and the temperature between them all is just fine. Only two stove top items. None of the appetizers need cooking. And I have warmers for anything being brought by someone else that needs to stay warm.

Thanks for the reminder to do my mis for the potato dishes well before hand. I have two refrigerators so leaving the presliced potatoes in one of them in a bowl of acidulated water won't be a problem. I could probably make the sweet potato dish the night before and just reheat. Its one of those ones that gets better with age on it.

I'll also likely have my dad and mom pitching in to help if I need it when it comes down to the wire but usually at that point I just want everyone out of my way when the pans start moving.

Talk to the guests? Its my family, we're Italian-American, we just yell across the house at each other. :laugh:

It will be loud, we will be full, there won't be tears except maybe the baby, and hopefully I can kick some butt at Guitar Hero after dinner.

As for the "cooking wine" suggestions from others... I've got two bottles of Vueve at the ready. If its too early and anyone comments, I'll throw in some OJ and tell them its just a Mimosa.

Certain cleaning really can't be avoided, like the mopping and polishing the silver. With all the snow we've had here I've got water spots all over the floor. Plus my 8 month old nephew "Crash" will be flying about on his little baby buggy thing. I could likely just clean my office by stacking things up in neat little piles and hiding some in the closet. I've just never finished unpacking all my stuff in there so its a disorganized mess with about 8 months of un-filed bills just sitting around with little "pd" notations on them. I usually find places to cut corners while I'm cleaning because after the first bathroom I'm ready to give up.

I keep telling myself I need to find a cleaning crew to take care of the house for me while I'm on the road all the time. This is why I fall so behind in cleaning, the two or three days a week I'm typically at home I'd rather not spend dusting and mopping. I'll clean it this time but I'll make a New Year's "resolution" to hire someone to do it from here on out.

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All of this talk of cleaning! Like the guests are going to be looking for the dust monsters behind the bookcases. Cleaning should involve the "swhoosh" method -- shove it all into a box in the laundry room.

I've entertained for years, and I've learned that the key is to not overextend in terms of meal or cleaning. To me, if the floors are presentable, and you have a beautifully set table (the latter items can be set out WAY in advance on a card table) and you seem relaxed, it doesn't matter how gourmet the meal. I guess somewhere along the way I learned it was less important to impress than that everyone feels welcome and has a great time. It's all about the memories, and no one is going to remember a forgotten appetizer, garnish, etc.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Well...I have a slightly different take on your situation. If the disorder in the house worries you enough that you feel you really have to do it, then do it. Half measures are only going to make you feel worse.

If you need to clean until your fingers fall off and you get everybody to help cook, then fine. If you hire in a crew to clean, fine. Whatever.

My husband has OCD and it has resulted in occasionally needing to ride herd over what is appearing in my living room because he's had an itchy e bay trigger finger. If it's making you crazy, deal with it.

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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Pax, no need to worry about me possibly having OCD tendencies. I couldn't be further from the case. I saw that special on 20/20 years ago with Marc Somers and his OCD and I can't imagine the self torture a person goes through with that. I'm just a messy slacker that needs to clean up her crap before the relatives come over.

One Person + Big House + Lots of Time on the Road + Long Haired Cat = Lots of untended messes to clean up

The cat is the main reason for the carpet shampooing btw, it seems to be the only tool I can find that sufficiently gets his hair out of the carpet. Maybe I need a Dyson? And then locating all his barfballs before my 8 month old nephew finds them while he's crawling about and sticks one in his mouth. That's what concerns me more than anything. My family knows I'm a slob. But if a gathering can't get me to clean my house, what will?

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One Person + Big House + Lots of Time on the Road + Long Haired Cat = Lots of untended messes to clean up

The cat is the main reason for the carpet shampooing btw, it seems to be the only tool I can find that sufficiently gets his hair out of the carpet.  Maybe I need a Dyson?  And then locating all his barfballs before my 8 month old nephew finds them while he's crawling about and sticks one in his mouth.  That's what concerns me more than anything.  My family knows I'm a slob.  But if a gathering can't get me to clean my house, what will?

I am currently facing a similar mess consisting of my son taking everything out of his room and piling it in the living room while he cleans his room.....for 2 months.... It was making me crazy, I was going to hire a crew as soon as it was all picked up... Well now it is the 19th~! Also have a 120 pound labrador retriever that sheds 24/7- my son says the drift of white undercoat piled up on the baseboards looks like snow and is seasonal so "quit freakin out mom". I am currently just cleaning the areas that are "public"- that is workable. Also in terms of the nephew- the saying in my ethnic circle was that we all end up eating a kilo of dirt a year no matter what so don't sweat it. Plus the little tyke needs to build up his immunities and become an adventurous eater.

I agree with others that low lighting, clean floor and food are going to occupy the guest's attention most. Give 'em good food and laughter and take pictures and sing and reminisce.

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You had me at the cookies and then I swan dived off this cliff.

gallery_54483_5536_22753.jpg

Can I have some more, sir?

edited to say: but I understand the have to clean like there's no tomorrow thing. I can't decorate a cake if my house is messy. I'm sure there's a name for such a mental ailment. I just have an unrelenting sense of order. It's not over achiever or perfectionism because there's the reason why one needs to clean like there's gonna be a health inspection, ie things get out of order and messy and cluttered.

So anyway I love your celebration. It looks wonderful.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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You DID IT!!! Yer a bedda man than I am, Gunga Din. Wow. The timpano alone was worth the price of admission.

That was some marvelous spread, and I second K8's DIVE into the gratin. It's all you said and more. And the pies---gorgeous. Even the peas were little jewels.

If you get a moment between now and Easter, could you do a step-by-step sort of just written tutorial---there don't have to be pictures---of the Timpano? It's just fascinating. What kind of crust and cook time?

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You had me at the cookies and then I swan dived off this cliff.

gallery_54483_5536_22753.jpg

Can I have some more, sir?

edited to say: but I understand the have to clean like there's no tomorrow thing. I can't decorate a cake if my house is messy. I'm sure there's a name for such a mental ailment. I just have an unrelenting sense of order. It's not over achiever or perfectionism because there's the reason why one needs to clean like there's gonna be a health inspection, ie things get out of order and messy and cluttered.

So anyway I love your celebration. It looks wonderful.

Thanks K8. I have to really thank my mom though for giving me the best Christmas present ever. Unexpectedly she and my dad showed up the morning of Christmas Eve and pitched in with a lot of the cleanup. My office is clean and organized for the first time since I moved into the house. I did begin to lose it a few times during yesterday but I always tend to start to freak when people invade my kitchen space. Especially when people just started piling stuff in the kitchen as they walked in the door because it was the first room they hit if they came in through the garage rather than the front door.

Oh boy and do my feet and legs kill after having spent two days on them on a hardwood kitchen floor. I may have to surrender and get some Crocs for next year. I hate their looks and believe the whole plant that makes them should burn in flames but boy are they comfy.

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