Kim Kirmmse Toth - Small Business Coach

Holiday Success: Starting Out with Family

By Kim Kirmmse Toth

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What is your tradition for family meals during the holidays? Do you have one?

I bring this up because, as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for 23 years in private practice, I’ve heard it all: from great times to grim times.

When you think of gathering everyone together, do you cringe? I am happy to say I actually love it. I love having as many people as possible.

I start planning at least a month in advance, gathering recipes, decorating the house and just getting excited to get everyone together.

This Thanksgiving we will have a full table. My daughter and her boyfriend, my step son and his wife, my step daughter and her partner, 2 little ones, sister and baby of my daughter-in-law and 2 dear friends. Oh, and my step brother’s son is coming here from Gunnison, Colorado where he attends college. He will only know me, Emily and my husband, who he has met twice and he couldn’t care less. Just feed him!

That’s 13 people (including little ones). I am not sure I can get that many around the table even with both leaves!

I know I am lucky that this and every other holiday is something I look so forward to.

But, what if you aren’t so fortunate?

For those whose family is from out of town and they are staying with you at your house, it can be a bit trickier.

Here are some tips I hope you’ll find helpful.

  • Plan ahead: meals, who sleeps where, who cooks what, who cleans what? (Getting help is a given, no excuses.)
  • Plan your meal so that it all flows together in a timely manner, keep a list and check things off as they are completed. (Even with this strategy, I still often leave rolls in the microwave.)
  • For me, getting up before everyone else, even really early, starts my day out right.
  • If you need a break: go for a walk, hop on your bike, take a drive, and close your bedroom door telling everyone to leave you alone. Thirty minutes of any of these ideas can bring your sanity and your patience back.
  • Turn off the phone, turn off the computer, and turn off the TV. I’d vote for all day, but at least turn them off during dinner.
  • Fully enjoy your meal with your family. You have spent lots of time and energy on this meal, now sit, relax and enjoy it.
  • People who didn’t cook must clean up.

Might I also add: plan for at least one thing to go wrong so you don’t flip out when it does!

And I am always the one trying out something new, which is probably silly but, oh well.

Last Thanksgiving, my youngest put on her apron and was in charge of mashed cauliflower. Sounded great, but in reality I don’t know what we missed but it was more like cauliflower soup. So my husband ran to the grocery store and bought a boat load of precooked mashed potatoes that only took a short time to microwave. Problem solved.

I think one of the keys is to be as relaxed and patient as possible, knowing at least one thing is not going to go as planned, but it’s just fine. You planned for that.

Then you can be pleasantly surprised if it all does go as planned!

Action Step: It’s really never too early to plan. How much have you done so far? Maybe you need to start now! Where will you put everyone? What will you serve? What can you expect might not be as perfect as you would like? Another tip: set the table a day or two before the meal. I learned this from my mom and it’s been a life saver. Enjoy!!







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  1. Suzanne Levy
    Nov 26, 2013

    Great tips, Kim. I especially like the suggestion to plan for at least one thing to go wrong so you can keep your cool when it does. If it doesn’t great, but if it does…….you’re covered!

  2. Kim
    Nov 27, 2013

    At LEAST 1 thing!

    Enjoy the day of thanks.

  3. Elizabeth Scala
    Dec 02, 2013

    Love the tips, Kim! I totally agree with you about enjoying the day while you are in it. So many people rush through all of the prep and move right on to clean up. Thanks for the suggestions on taking a break during the day to get away and on enjoying the meal that is in front of you! I hope you had a beautiful holiday.

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