Take the Final Step–But Plan Ahead First

man on ladder finishing ideaThere I was, driving to the church for the Cherry Creek Chorale’s Christmas Concert (that’s five C’s, folks) on Friday afternoon, kind of thinking that it had been really fun to work on all this great music, and couldn’t we just leave it at that? Did we really have to go ahead and do the performance?

Well, yes.

I’ve been struck before with the thought that you can go through almost the whole shebang, an entire series of steps, and yet fail in the end because you didn’t go ahead and do the

last thing. All that work and planning to put on a concert . . . requires that you put on the concert.

All this is crashingly obvious, I know. And yet the thought never gets old, for me at least. That first step, the one before you even get to the planning stage, is always so exciting: our first rehearsal, when we get our new music. Or the meal idea, when you have no idea how much time and effort the menu is going to take. Or the decorating project, well before you go to the store and pay out all that money for fabric that will then require all that work to get it into the finished item.

There’s often a time for me when I just want to stop before getting over that final hurdle. Have you ever had that feeling? Think of the last time you hosted Thanksgiving dinner, say. There’s always that last-minute rush when everything has to somehow get out on the table, all at once, and all hot. Every year I’ve done that meal I’ve been determined that the kitchen wouldn’t look like a war zone, and every year, even when I’ve been doing pretty well, there’s come that terrible half an hour when the turkey is resting and the gravy needs to be made and the side dishes all need to be re-heated and then taken out of the oven, and I’m already so tired that I just don’t want to deal with it, but all of these people are standing around waiting to be fed, so I have to press on.

I ran into these words of wisdom from the peerless Deb Perelman over at Smitten Kitchen (and if you don’t subscribe to this cooking blog you should, even if you don’t know one end of a fork from the other). She’s talking about Thanksgiving dinner, but her advice is applicable to any big project:

Everything that can be done in advance, should be, and as early as possible. You’re doing it for you. When we have a lot of people over, this often leads to me quite over-exhausting myself the night before getting everything prepped that can be, but then I wake up rested and we’re 80% there. It’s not actually a stressful day, which means we’re far more likely to enjoy the party. If I can’t finish prep the night before, I’ll do it in the morning. It’s essential to me that there’s a little window of vegging/non-cooking time between prepping stuff and cooking the stuff that must be done at the last-minute. It’s also a great time to change into something fresh.

Have I ever had that “little window”? Hmmm. I don’t think so. Certainly not for Thanksgiving, but probably not for anything else, either. Her advice would have been really good for me to follow this past week. You see, I had committed myself to making food for two big events in one weekend: the CCC after-concert reception on Friday night and our church’s Christmas party on Sunday. I sort of had this vague idea that I’d make enough desserts for both events and then I’d be all set. What was I smokin’? Every cranberry tart and biscotti that I made was devoured on Friday by the enormous crowd we had. (Didja miss out? Well, we have another concert coming up at the end of February.) After a very late night on Friday I wasn’t rolling too fast on Saturday. I got my shopping done and some prep, but then it was time for me to go back for our second concert. And I certainly wasn’t going to do any baking when I got home! So in the end I had to skip Sunday morning church in order to get everything done, and I hate to do that. All was well in the end, but honestly! When will I ever learn?

Oh well. There are all sorts of events coming up soon for which I can plan ahead. Watch for my new and improved recipe and procedure for making biscotti trees. (I included a recipe for these back on my old website, but I’m now using a very different set of ingredients and am hot on the trail of an adjustable pan that will allow me to produce lovely straight-edged pieces; I’ll include the link after I actually use the pan and make the tree.) I’ll also be planning and executing my sister-in-law’s birthday dinner. Actual Christmas dinner will be under the auspices of my mother-in-law, but I’ll be contributing some items, I’m sure. Plus I have this over-the-top idea for homemade items to give as gifts.

What events are coming up for you? Can you get started on the work early?

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