Giving More Than Thanks

Posted by Sara Carlson on

When you think about Thanksgiving, do images of warm hearths, hot meals, and smiling families around big tables fill your head? Gourds and autumn colors surrounding big dishes filled with green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and candied yams. I love cooking for friends and family, I love entertaining and having guests, but there is something about cooking on a big scale for a big day that puts me in a panic. The gravy will be lumpy, the turkey will be dry, the cranberry sauce will have chunks in it, the potatoes will be gummy, and the stuffing will give everyone salmonella.

For the last few years, avoidance has been the best tactic. We would pack up the whole family for a fabulous beach vacation, jump through the waves and dig in the sand until sand was in places it never should be on Thanksgiving. And we liked it so much, we did it again the next. Last year, my six year old and I spent the day volunteering at a local nursing home. The residents loved his boundless energy and sparkling blue eyes. He loved being a bus boy and waiter, helping people enjoy their Thanksgiving. I loved seeing him work so hard to help others, sharing his joy and time with people who would have been alone that day. Volunteering is such an ideal way of spending the day of thanks, that we’ll be doing it again and again.

This year, with the passing of my turkey-cooking Uncle Frank, avoidance is impossible. My bird is waiting in the freezer, I’ll have to brine and season. I’ll have to cook the turkey, whip the potatoes, whisk the gravy, and entertain a crowd. But I’m not ready and that’s where you come in. I know this audience has years of Thanksgiving experience that I’m ready to tap into. I’m going to need your best strategies for time and food management, crowd control and sanity maintenance. If you have a great recipe or a family tradition, I’d love to hear that, too.

So, weigh in by commenting below. How do you manage the holidays? The cooking? The crowds? What’s your most treasured tradition? Help a girl out!

Sara Spock Carlson is a mom of two amazing boys, wife, Penn State graduate, researcher, Realtor, and freelance writer. When she’s not avoiding turkey cooking, she can be found digging in the sand or buying adorable gifts at The Animal Kingdom.

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  • I have a tip for the girl whose body chemistry won’t let her make bread! Buy frozen loaves of bread dough. You can speed thaw it by turning on the oven to 200 degrees then shutting it off, then put the dough in a loaf pan and stick it in the oven with a dish of water (so it won’t dry out). It’s really just as good!

    For non-gummy potatoes, cut them into smaller pieces (about 1 inch chunks) and put them into a furious boil until the edges of the chunks start to look a teensy bit rounded. If you throw in some garlic as they’re boiling, all the better.

    But you are an amazing cook, so I know your Thanksgiving supper will be out of this world!


    Carole Oldroyd on

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