Let the Prep Begin!

Hello everyone!  Today is a bit of a reprieve from the cold snap we’ve been having here in Texas.  I want to continue with the Thanksgiving series that we’ve been discussing and show y’all a couple of my inspiration ideas for my guest room/office project that I’m working on finishing before my family visits at Christmas.

Prepping the dinnerware and decor

One of the biggest time consumers that I’ve run into every year is locating and washing all of the dinnerware and all of those beverage dispensers, table linens, glasses, holiday plates, serving pieces and holiday decor pieces that make an appearance this time of year.  Since I moved recently, most of my items are still in boxes and definitely in need of a good wash! This year isn’t going to be a big event as it has been, but I still want to use my favorite pieces to set a classy table.  I pulled out many of my pieces today and plan to wash everything so that it’s all ready to go and I don’t need to waste time on Thanksgiving doing so.  I also pulled out a few more decor items so that I can create a lovely centerpiece.  This year, I’m planning to use what I have on hand so that I can save money and reduce the accumulation of clutter.  I have been on a kick lately using eBay to sell items that aren’t my style anymore, but that’s for a different post.

By now, you should have your holiday plan, menu, grocery list, clean fridge and pantry, and dinnerware and decor that is clean and ready to go. With about a week left before Thanksgiving, you should be feeling pretty dang organized and ready this year!

Guest Room / Office Inspiration

Changing gears…since I’m not having guests this year until Christmas, I have been actively budgeting and coming up with inspiration ideas.  I’m really into the feminine/modern rooms with pink and gold accents. I’m renting the house I’m in now and downsized a bit from my Virginia house so that I could live in the city, so I need my guest room to serve several functions.  I need some clothing/jewelry storage, craft storage and an office/guest room space.  Here are a few of the spaces that I’ve taken some inspiration from:

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Turkey Tom & All the Fixin’s

We’ve all been there before when we haven’t planned well and are pulling our hair out trying to figure out what to make for company that is coming for dinner.  Thanksgiving is a little easier to plan for since the usual suspects are to be expected on the menu, but if you’re like me and like to cook then it can be overwhelming to figure out exactly what to make.  Fortunately, I’ve spent this holiday with friends in Virginia over the past several years and we all shared the cooking responsibility and perfected our system.  Everyone made what they loved and it worked out great! This year since I’ll be on my own, I’m going to use it as an excuse to experiment with some more adventurous Thanksgiving recipes.

Planning for Turkey Day

My best tip for Thanksgiving dinner planning is to do what I used to in Virginia…get your friends to make their favorites and share!  But if you’re handling the whole meal then I’d start with your favorite dishes and family traditions that you’d like to share with your guests!  I tend to stick to a rather traditional non-fussy menu, but this year in honor of being in Texas, I’m going to aim for a more Southern menu.  Get your notebooks out and favorite cookbooks and magazines and start there.  Some of my favorites are Rachel Ray, Bon Appetit, Southern Living and Better Homes & Garden magazines. Write down each dish and then evaluate whether you need/want all of those dishes. I typically plan to make the following dishes every holiday:

Turkey (I make an apple cider brined Rachel Ray recipe)

Mashed Potatoes

Sweet Potato Casserole (Cooking Light recipe)

Stuffing (chorizo cornbread stuffing)

Deviled eggs (family recipe)

Cranberry Sauce (my fav!)

Pumpkin Pie

Usually we split up appetizers for different people to make, but generally there is a cheese appetizer or my new favorite, dates stuffed with goat cheese and crumbled pecans then broiled.  YUM!!  There have also been mac n’ cheese, spicy crab dip, green bean casserole and honey baked ham appearances.  Depending on the number of dishes, I plan for 1-3 appetizers and 2-4 bottles of wine for 4-5 people.   Some years I even have a specialty cocktail on hand such as a fall sangria.  Then in addition to the dishes I know I’m making for sure, I always try to include a veggie side and bread (although the bread is optional to me).  As for dessert, I’ve found that most of my friends only want pumpkin pie and are generally too stuffed for anything else, but again, make your traditional sweet dish! And if you’re running low on time, don’t beat yourself up if you pick up a pie from the store!!

Last but not least, make sure you have appetizer picks, any necessary condiments, plates/napkins, plenty of water, guest hand towels and a scented candle in the powder room, aluminum foil, Tupperware, plastic storage bags, takeout containers and the football and TV movie times on hand!

Since I have a pet, I also make Muddy “Thank Your Dog Casserole,” which is from Rachel Ray’s magazine a couple years ago.  He sure loves it year after year!

The final step after you decide on your menu is to organize any recipes you’ll need and make a grocery list that includes EVERY item you need.  If needed, I even type and color code my grocery list to include items I have on hand, items I’m low on and items I need.  This way you can cross items off as you purchase them since many of you do so over several days.  Doing this will save you so much time and make shopping a breeze!!

I hope this helps you prep!!  Now….what to make this year??…..

Holiday Season is Upon Us

Well I don’t know about you all, but I cannot believe that it’s already November!!  This is the busiest time of year for most people, so I decided that this month I’m going to focus on a series of topics and tips that I use to get prepared for the chaos.  I also decided that I’m going to use the next few weeks before Thanksgiving and again between Thanksgiving and Christmas to focus on being healthier and eating better.

My weekend was busy in Dallas, so I didn’t get a chance to prepare for my week as much as normal, but I’ve used tonight to try to do just that.  I got back into my healthy mindset with a short 30 minute run/walk with Muddy.  The weather has just been fabulous here in Houston!  I’ve also been cleaning out the garage since it became a dumping ground after my move.  I promised myself that I’d spend at least 30 minutes  each night cleaning out all my junk, so I did my time in there tonight too.

Holiday Preparedness

Make a Plan

I think it’s so important to get your ducks in a row, so the first step that I’m going to talk about is making a plan.  The holidays are a time of joy but they can also be quite stressful if you don’t get organized and don’t have a plan.  What I do at the beginning of November is sit down with a big pot of coffee and just write down ideas, important dates/events that I’m already aware of and a list of things that I need to accomplish or purchase.  I update my calendar with any dates that I need to save and any self-imposed deadlines.  This is also the time of year when I schedule the last of my health appointments and my holiday haircut since dates quickly fill up and many people take leave.

This year the holidays are very exciting for me because it is my first Texas holiday season.  I can’t wait to check out all the things going on in the city during this time!  Since I’ll have family visiting this year, my plan includes designing and finishing the guest room’s decor and organization.  As of now, it’s a disaster!  Don’t worry…I plan to have lots of before and after photos once I finish it all!  Since it hasn’t been that long since I moved in, my plan also consists of finishing my living room gallery wall, styling up the deck for the mild winter evenings (love it) and finishing cleaning out the garage.  This winter, I’ll be focusing on organization but more on that after the holidays!  I listed out a few items that I need to purchase for the guest room such as holiday bedding and new pillows.  As I organize everything, I’m also setting aside a donation box and eBay sale box. This is a great time to add in a reminder for any charitable donations you may want to make.

Once you have your overall plan in place, you can tweak it as necessary, but it’ll make for a great basis to keep you sane!  Good luck on those plans!  You’ll feel so much more organized once you have it done…trust me!

Keep reading this week for my next tip on how to plan for Thanksgiving dinner.