Holiday mistakes: What not to do

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They say past performance is indicative of future performance. I certainly hope not because my performance during the Thanksgiving holiday doesn’t need repeating.

But before the big guy comes bounding down the chimney with his big bag of gifts, we need to look at the holiday mistakes we’ve made so we don’t make them again. And by we, I really mean me.

Hopefully, listing my missteps will help you avoid making them. If they don’t, at least you can smile knowing you’re not the only one.

Food: Always an important part of a holiday feast. Without food, there’d be no feasting so getting food right should be top priority. Should be are the key words in that last sentence.

First, going shopping the night before Thanksgiving for a fresh turkey and/or ham is a really bad idea. Turkeys in the stores are all frozen, and the line at the specialty honey baked ham place will be out the door. Only good thing about a two-hour ham wait? While in line, the frozen turkey I was carrying thawed out a little.

Cooking: At 10 o’clock on Thanksgiving morning is not the time to realize there’s just too much prepping and cooking to do in order to finish dinner – unless you don’t mind it turning into your breakfast the next day.

And no, having folks ask why you didn’t start cooking sooner doesn’t help. Also, a frantic search in closets and storage room for those once-a-year special plates, paper napkins, and large serving tray all depicting turkeys and fall colors will eat up an hour better spent prepping and cooking the feast.

Pre-cooked and already peeled eggs save a tremendous amount of time and aggravation when making deviled eggs, providing one knows about their existence prior to boiling and trying to peel two dozen eggs.

The turkey: If you’ve successfully found a fresh turkey (or used a bathtub full of water to thaw a frozen one overnight) and you want to fry it, then there are a few important things to remember.

Check the day before to make sure you have a full tank of propane. Trying to find propane on Thanksgiving morning is almost impossible. Unlike sugar, you can’t borrow a cup of propane from the neighbors.

And don’t wait until an hour before dinner to start heating the pot of peanut oil. Forgetting to measure and then guessing about the amount oil needed can result in overflow when turkey is lowered into the pot. The ensuing spectacular oil fire will substantially delay dinner.

Time: On any holiday, time management is impossible to master if any or all of the preparations haven’t been completed. And at our house, they weren’t.

Announcing lunch will be ready at noon, but not having it actually ready until 2:30 doesn’t go over well. But having an ample supply of adult beverages ready for just such a mishap does. After the meal, it will take almost as much time to clean up and put away leftovers as it did to prep and cook the meal.

Shopping: If you are thinking about venturing out for those “after dinner specials” at the big box department and electronic stores — don’t. We did, or at least, we tried. After fighting horrific traffic, we arrived at the giant electronic store with the blue roof and were greeted with a full parking lot and lines out the door. We turned around, stopped for ice cream, and went back home. Later that night after a few clicks of a mouse, my new outdoor speakers were on their way.

Hair: Get your hair cut before the holiday. Or you’ll waste a lot of time explaining why you didn’t have time to do so.

Finally, it’s about family. Even with all the chaos, and ours has had more than most this year, it’s all about families both large and small getting together. Planning, shopping, cleaning, cooking, sharing events and stories from years past, being together during the holidays and being thankful.

Those Thanksgiving lessons help us better prepare for Christmas, but one important piece will be missing this year.

For 59 years my dad has been a part of Christmas. This will be the first without him. On the mantel there will be a void where his Christmas card was placed. In the card he always wished us the best and hoped the enclosed check would buy us a nice dinner out and some special time together.

In his memory, The Wife and I have made reservations for a special dinner out and some time together. After church services, his phone call will not come … sort of. I have last year’s voice recording of my dad still saved on my phone. He was wishing us a Merry Christmas.

When you’re knee deep in the chaos of the holiday and family, enjoy every moment. When it is gone, and they’re gone, those memories will be more precious than you can ever imagine. Spending time with family is never a holiday mistake.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]