If someone had asked me at the start of the year what we were going to be doing for the holidays this year, I would have said: “We’re finally going to take Louise on the long trip to see James’ family in the Midwest for Thanksgiving, and we’ll be in Georgia with my family for Christmas before hopefully seeing James’ family again for New Years. In fact, Louise might even take her first flight to get to James’ family to avoid so many days in the car.”
With COVID running rampant, we, like many families across the country, made the difficult decision to stay home this year for Thanksgiving, including staying home from friends in the area and having dinner as our small family unit. I have been half-jokingly referring to it as our “sad, alone Thanksgiving,” but getting to spend some holiday time at home this week is turning out really well on the food front and in other ways.
I’ve seen a lot of ideas this week about taking the opportunity this Thanksgiving to entirely change up the menu and try something different, but we decided to go full out traditional menu, just on a smaller scale.
We did our grocery shopping late last week and were able to get a small turkey (just 13 pounds…). We menu-planned for the days following Thanksgiving to use the various leftovers. On Turkey day, we’ll have turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, brussels sprouts, rolls, and an apple pie (a la mode, of course). The next day, we’ll use leftover turkey to make my dad’s now-famous turkey and dumpling soup. Leftover mashed potatoes and green bean casserole will make star sides with bar-b-que chicken on Saturday. And leftover stuffing alongside a salad and some fish will make for a balanced meal on Sunday night. We’ll have plenty of turkey sandwiches for lunch and can freeze any turkey that doesn’t get used for an easy future weeknight meal.
Instead of the usual dozen potatoes for mashing, two loaves of bread for stuffing, three pounds of brussels sprouts, we’re cooking for the day-of plus 1 set of leftovers only for our small family of three (and Louise really doesn’t eat much). So that’ll be a handful of potatoes, one loaf of bread (erring on the side of more is better for our favorite once-a-year dish), and just one pound of brussels sprouts. The table will still be covered in good eats, but we won’t be drowning in leftovers when the reservation for three at our kitchen table is over.
Besides food, we’re taking the opportunity to make huge progress on home projects. James took off from work for most of this week. He had a little work to finish up, but it’s otherwise been a great time for us to enjoy being a family together. At the start of the week, we made a loooooong to-do list of projects we’d like to get done around the house. It’s a lot of work we’ve been meaning to do for a while, but just never prioritized highly enough to spend a weekend taking care of. James is refinishing some over-worn cabinets and fixing a few broken deck boards. I’m finally starting two T-shirt quilts with all our college fraternity and sorority shirts. Not to mention we’re starting to think about holiday gifts, ordering Christmas cards, and arranging some contractors to come work on the house in December.
We’re halfway through the week and while the big food day is still to come tomorrow, we’re steadily making our way through the checklist. A side note for the true optimist, the to-do list was divided into must-do’s and nice-to-do’s. Not surprisingly, starting a new craft project didn’t make the must-do list, but as those get done, we’re finding time to start some of the nice-to-do’s as well.
We’re also finding time to be together as a family. Through this whole year, in a lot of ways, it seems like we’ve had nothing but time to be together as a family, but it also changed some when I started “staying home” with Louise. Instead of me and James tag-teaming with the baby while both trying to work and feeling like we were all doing the same thing simultaneously, now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, our roles are much clearer and different. James “goes to work” in our master bedroom turned office by day. We see him at lunchtime and sometimes occasionally throughout the day, but now we’re finally doing different things most of the time.
This week, with James mostly off work, we’re spending more time going to the park and playground together each day. We’re finding outdoor venues away from home where we can be safe while exploring something different, like the zoo or the local botanical gardens. We really miss our extended families but are glad that they are all also staying safe this holiday. We can’t wait for 2021, aka 2020-do-over, but we’re making the most of this holiday and finding ways to make our Thanksgiving for three feel special.