HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Holiday Stress Advice?

Hello! I know it's early to be thinking too much about the holidays but it is driving me crazy and I've been lurking on here and thought I'd vent a little :) I just got married and have been trying to set plans for our holidays this year. I grew up going to the most amazing family parties with tons of good food, games, drinks, conversation, etc. In high school we moved pretty far away from our extended family so they weren't as often but we still would go back every few years. I grew up with a love for food and entertaining and I'm even working on turning it into a business. My husband is not picky at all but oh my gosh his family is another story! His mom and grandma do not cook, when they eat out they all (his parents, two brothers, one of their wives) eat in silence and eat FAST, rolling their eyes if we are not done because they are ready to go. There is no enjoyment in company or conversation. For holidays it has been either eating out at a southern diner or a "homecooked" meal of everything in a box! It makes me almost cry! Last year I cooked Thanksgiving dinner the day after because they couldn't miss their reservation at said diner, which I'm positive was all the same boxed food they usually have. They liked my meal enough, but they said it was too "different" aka real :). My parents are visiting my sister at school this year and the rest of my side is all over the place, so it looks like we will be with his side this year again. Christmas might be a different story, but I am really stressed right now. I don't want to cook for people who don't share the same tastes, and are all ready to rush out the door when they're done, so I won't offer this year! But I do like to visit because I value family and their differences. I guess I'm just a little sad that they are not interested in food and I have this strong desire to host all the dinner parties I have in my mind as a new wife! As for friends we just moved somewhere new so that isn't an option. We're also still in a tiny apartment which doesn't exactly set the mood nor have the space. Does anyone relate or have a good story about a holiday cooking disaster like this to share? Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have some experience in that area.... honestly the best thing you can do is have dinner with them their way with no expectations and then have a dinner at home your way without them. People who don't get it will never get it and you'll waste your time and a lot of money on unappreciated food trying. Start your own traditions. :)

    (I've been thinking of excuses not to go to the inlaws for Thanksgiving and Christmas since at least January and I'm not kidding when I say that. What I would give to get to spend it with my fun, laid back and food loving family!!!)

    7 Replies
    1. re: weezieduzzit

      You're right about that! I guess I just want someone other than us to enjoy it and our options have been limited with that. I try to just let it go but I start to get all worked up whenever we have a meal and they all get chicken fingers! I would probably be happier if I just ignored it. I have been thinking about it a lot too, maybe we will just start seeing them the day after holidays or suck it up and have our separate one.

      1. re: justg25

        That sounds like the most prudent approach. I'm sorry to hear your two sides of families are so different in this regard. But if that's what it takes to maintain harmony in other areas, then do what needs to be done.

        One thing for sure, they (your husband's side of the family) can't take away all the fun and enjoyment you get from celebrations with your own relatives.

        1. re: justg25

          Weezie has given you the right advice. We can't change people, and there are plenty of things we don't have control over.

          So, make sure YOU enjoy your holidays. If stress over how your in-laws can't appreciate good, home-cooked meals gets in the way of that, just change your attitude and mind set about it and relax. And make your own meal afterwards and relish it.

          Have fun!

          1. re: justg25

            new town? there are usually co-workers in a similar situation, casting about with nothing much to do. those were some of the most fun my first few years in one city.

            they were usually part potluck, part cattle call.

          2. re: weezieduzzit

            i'm with weezle on this: we've tried it all to please THREE sets of relatives (divorce in there somewhere..) to just ignoring everyone completely and doing our own thing. In the end, we enjoy our own company the best, but have discovered that the relatives, over the years, have gotten very upset by our absence at holiday meals. (Some of which have been ghastly, let me tell you.) We have come to the conclusion that we split the holidays between relatives, call the 3rd (who now lives far away), and enjoy ourselves when we can in-between.

            A few things we do to lessen our stress: 1. we volunteer at a community holiday dinner. This helps to make us feel like our cooking is appreciated AND we are helping someone during the holidays. Just find something in your area - guaranteed you will find like-minded foodies in the kitchen. 2. We schedule our own family meal - just us and the kids. It doesn't have to be the same day. That way, I get to cook something wonderful, and we all look forward to it! 3. When you find friends in your new place (and you will - just start ringing doorbells with mini pumpkin breads or fudge!) schedule cocktails/game night/white elephant gifts.. something cheery!

            You'll get through it! breathe!!!! and smile as you pass by that jello salad in the buffet line at golden corral.. Weezle's right: people that doen't get it will never get it... start your own traditions. And bring your pepto bismol for the other times.

            1. re: rmarisco

              Hahah that was hilarious! And all very good ideas!!!

              1. re: rmarisco

                I'd only add that community centers/kitchens, can use help year-round. I'd say you and spouse have a decadent blow-out for the 2 of you and whoever you might scrounge and go volunteer on some non-popular days.

                or call the local fire/EMT station and see if they'd like a pinch hitter. or a nursing home - there's always a few lost souls with 'too busy' families there.

              1. re: beevod

                I was going to say the same as John Belushi, my advice to you is to start drinking heavily '-)

                1. re: beevod

                  a half xanax has become my savior. a friend passes me a few every year and I HOARD every grain of that stuff.

                2. I have posted on numerous threads about my soon to be in-laws (two days!!!!). They sound similar to yours. I have found that making what they like from scratch instead of the ore made junk was ok. This year my fiancé said I can serve wine and have courses if I want. His family is done and cleaned up in 30 minutes. We have missed dinner twice because for traveling we couldn't make it to the super early eating hour. I don't need thanksgiving dinner at 5 pm but 11 am is very difficult to pull off. Especially since I want to watch as much of the Macy's parade as possible. Now that it is at my house I am able to get a little more in.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: melpy

                    Congrats!! The wedding menu was just as much of an issue for them haha! :)

                  2. Sounds like their family has a 'food is fuel' culture... there really isn't anything you can do to change it. Since you love to cook for others, and your husband's family isn't a good audience, is there any way you could host an 'orphans' Thanksgiving? There's no law that says all your guests have to be related to you, or even people you knew before the day. You don't need a ton of room to host a celebration.

                    DH's siblings are very much 'box and packet' people and I was raised on 'everything from scratch'. I just had to let it go... their house, their rules. I saved my 'real' cooking for an audience who'd appreciate it. I don't cook much any more because of my health, but I knew anything I made would have a receptive audience at church... and even if it was only mediocre (in my opinion) I'd still get compliments on it to stoke my ego. :)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Kajikit

                      That's a good idea! I willl look into doing something similar! I try to let it go but they are always complaining about how they just hate cooking! Then when I do offer they try to pitch in, for example his mom ran out to buy pillsbury crust when I was about to make pizza haha! And you're right I get more compliments outside the family anyway, might as well start some new traditions!

                      1. re: Kajikit

                        I so agree with this. Would you want to do Thanksgiving your way the weekend before with good friends? Good friends who like good cooking? Your in-laws will not change.

                      2. Holiday stress, you work retail? Ten weeks of hell.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: James Cristinian

                          I have before and it is! I only shop online now unless it's for food!

                        2. Threw all that stuff out the window years ago, Just me and the wife some good beef tamales and Arizona tangelos picked fresh off the tree. That's Christmas for us. So much better.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                            OOh that sounds good! I don't like Turkey so we've eaten out for years (high end resto though) so DH can have turkey and I can have steak or something. 17 year old varies back and forth.

                            1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                              I'd hate it if I didn't have turkey on Thanksgiving, but I've been storing up red & green tamales in the freezer from a coworker for when we have company at Gem Show time.

                              Is your wife of mexican heritage, or just another south AZ gal?

                              1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                Having grown up there, even if you do other food as well, it just isn't Christmas without tamales.

                              2. I have been known to have "Friends are God's Apologies for Relations" Parties 2-3 days after a holiday.

                                But I also love the idea volunteering at community holiday meals

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: thinks too much

                                  We used to volunteer for holiday meals, but a couple of our local charities ended up with way too many volunteers, so some of us ended up doing busy work. So, we now volunteer pre-holiday prep.

                                  On the holiday (just the 2 of us, family is either 3,000 miles away or a half a world away), I do a traditional dinner, even 'tho it's too much food, then we spend the evening at the beach.

                                  You'll find your own traditions, so do what YOU need to do with his family (maybe compromise & use that store-bought crust) while not losing your own touches. Then create new memories/traditions for your twosome. Best wishes.

                                2. If you can find the year 2000 movie called What's Cooking? I suggest you watch it. Whatever you decide on later won't seem so bad...very good movie.

                                  1. My husband's family doesn't make much from scratch but always insists on hosting and cooking. My solution is to go, eat like 1 bite of everything, and then eat a real meal when I get home. I also try to make and bring one thing so there's at least something that I can have if I'm totally starving.

                                    We host our friends a week or two before Christmas. We get a free ham or turkey during our November grocery shopping and then cook it up along with whatever side dishes we want and serve with lots of cold beverages and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on the TV. We call it the Free Holiday Ham Dinner and it is tradition.

                                    1. Ive faced the same situation for the last 15 years. Spouse's family is in another state and we fly each year to be with them. On my first visit, full of culinary school knowledge and hubris, I was turned away from the kitchen and told my help was not needed. I ate the dry turkey, pre-cooked sides and supermarket pies from my paper plate with plastic cutlery and watched my hostess start cleaning up while the food was still warm. I knew things would never change, and they never did. Even though the guests (sometimes as many as 20) are younger these days, the food is the same. The only contribution they ever graciously accept from me is wine, and I assure you I don't go to the "top shelf" for it. I save my culinary skills and urges for Christmas dinner at home.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: Cheflambo

                                        Good post, I would imagine they are all eating on the couch and floor fooling with "devices" during the "meal". After the first time you don't go, it get's easier each year after not to. Paper plates and plastic forks for a holiday meal, Oh brother.......

                                        1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                          Well, in her defense, our hostess does not have enough plates and silverware for 20+ people (few do) and she does joke about her "fine Waterford plastic". We eat on the lanai (screened porch) and the thought of anything being dropped and broken on the tile would send her right over the edge (trust me, it would be a short trip). Re: electronic devices - her daughter and I are very good friends, but often get seated at opposite ends of the very long table. Last year we were "busted" for texting each other during the meal. Yes, we are that bad.

                                          1. re: Cheflambo

                                            Oh Cheflambo, your ILs and mine must be related. The last Thanksgiving we spent at the ILs was the best because it was so short.

                                            MIL had a flash of brilliance and ordered the entire Thanksgiving dinner from the grocery store. All the foil containers were set on the table when we walked in and FIL barked at all of us to hurry up and eat. As we were eating, MIL was standing over our shoulder with a trash bag to clear away the containers. We shoveled food into our mouths and were out the door in 30 minutes.

                                            1. re: cleobeach

                                              Wow and I thought 2 hours was fast. 15 minutes to eat, 30 to clean up, 15 to fight over leftovers and 60 to sit and stare at each other in the living room.

                                              1. re: melpy

                                                MIL was famous for setting mealtime at noon and then calling at 11am to scream at us that we weren't at their house yet. (to say there were power struggles and severe dysfunction at play is an understatement....)

                                                We (husband and I) laugh about it now but it was incredibly stressful back then.

                                                1. re: cleobeach

                                                  I hosted last year (and the year before) and I firmly said dinner is at noon, although I prefer 1 or 1:30. They won't eat appetizers and they want to sit right down to eat. They all showed up at 11 am and didn't know what to do with themselves and wouldn't eat or drink anything else and they can't help (although my MIL butt into the potatoes because my husband thought they weren't quite right, I didn't put in enough sugar) and they believe TV is evil.

                                                  But the food was on the table at 12.
                                                  I will not back down!

                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                    I keep getting deja vu flashbacks reading everyone's posts here!

                                                    My inlaws are also so stringent in dining times, menu items, pie flavors, etc.

                                                    At my parents' house, we start with a glass of wine, catching up while enjoying some olives, mixed nuts, veggies and dip. Nothing that is going to kill our appetite but something to curb the urge to eat the turkey right out of the oven before it rests!

                                                    The year I got to my inlaws and there was no turkey scent when we walked in the door? I was beside myself. My FIL was doing some work at a local club and decided to cook the turkey in the commercial oven to make it easier. Isn't half the enjoyment of turkey day smelling the turkey cook? We could have just had deli turkey that day as far as I'm concerned.

                                                    This thread made me realize there is no way in heck I'm going to my inlaws this year. :)

                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                      Ha. Reminds me of my first Thanksgiving with my then boyfriend (now husband). I told him we usually eat around 4 or 5 so we'd show up about noonish. His response: "but...what do you do???" His family sits, eats, has a calm discussion, and calls it a day. My family? We do weird redneck stuff like having a gourd throwing contest (he won and was very smug), a little target shooting/showing off of guns, football, tons of appetizers, and just generally carrying on. I think he likes us now :)

                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                        Potatoes? Not enough sugar? I think I'm missing something here...

                                                2. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                                  My table seats 6, and I have dishes for 10 people. There will likely be about 20 people at my house this year, so I'm sure we will be utilizing the couch and paper plates.

                                                  I'm not sure that's really a good way to judge the quality of the meal or the company.

                                              2. You may have addressed this elsewhere in this thread, but do they like wine? If so, bring several bottles as your contribution and pour it quite liberally before and during the meal. They may slow down a bit and enjoy the food a little more.

                                                It also helps to lower your expectations as far as the food goes. Just think of their T-day dinner as a work function and have your own Thanksgiving another day.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                  Adding alcohol is a step to be taken with extreme caution, its definitely a YMMV kinda thing. I tried that route and it made my MIL even more of a handful. And of course I didn't know her sister is a boozehound... the two of them ended up in a fight over Dunkin Donuts coffee. It was ridiculous.

                                                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                    Head about to explode, what is wmmv? You took the time to type out your reply, go the extra mile and enlighten me, and or us, por favor.

                                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                                      Your Mileage May Vary, it's a very common internet abbreviation.

                                                      1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                        Thanks. Now the alcohol thing, I had a girlfriend with bad PMS and I tried the alcohol thing with her until I found out that is the worst thing to do. For the doubters out there, PMS is real.

                                                  2. re: Isolda

                                                    Yeah I agree! I have it for me and my husband but no one else really will have any. The grandma takes a big offense to drinking because someone in their family was an alcoholic, but a long time ago. So the parents and brothers in law put on this facade that they don't drink! Nice of them, but I would never go through the trouble to hide it and I wouldn't give it up!

                                                    1. re: justg25

                                                      We have hosted a dry Thanksgiving for the past two years because my husband's family doesn't drink for religious reasons. My family just drinks later ;)

                                                      However, since we are FINALLY married this year, my husband, who does drink, says that there will be wine at dinner. Typically my father always served beajolais nouveau since it comes out the week before. Not sure of the logistics of that one yet.

                                                  3. I really like the suggestions about volunteering/donating and I think that's a great way to beat the holiday blues. But I just want to mention that food banks are really inundated with food and people this time of year, and I think it might be a great time to set up a system that might allow you to give later. Like, do you have a spot for a big box? Then maybe you could set up kind of a food fund, adding as much as you can now and thing each time you shop, and then take it down in June. Or do the same with a little bit of money. I say this only because I've volunteered at food banks on and off for most of my adult life, and they're often really hurting in the summer. There are just as many hungry people, but no one is giving the way they do during the holidays.

                                                    My only other suggestion, which it sounds like you may have under control, is wine. Lots.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. My in-laws are THE most boring holiday people EVER. It's the same exact menu for Thanksgiving (turkey) every year, another same exact menu for Christmas (prime rib), another same exact menu for Easter (ham). All dishes have mashed potatoes, squash, can of corn and Italian bread. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's all good (except the canned corn but what can I say...) but it's just so BORING! If I ever suggested bringing another dish not on the menu, I'd get the hairy eyeball. They aren't my favorite people in the first place but after 20 years, I'm over it. My family is another story. Lots of good food but too much drama and booze!

                                                      We live too far away to have everyone at our house without them all staying over (that got real old real quick...) so now me and my husband do our own menu and make excuses to stay home. I know it's not all about the food but with boring people, the food is all we have to look forward to!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: thedryer

                                                        Agreed, they don't like to talk or socialize. Never get a hi or bye when they all get together! My side actually sounds the same, drama and booze! Too bad we can't combine the two, as we just had our wedding and that was extremely awkward!!

                                                      2. As you stand there looking at the pile of lackluster food, surrounded by vapid relations, suffering from a near interminable trip to get there (even if it was only down the staircase) - reach into your very core and give hearty thanks that it it only a couple of times a year.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                          +14 on that KaimukiMan! I've gotten knots in my stomach at the mere thought of going to my expected visits and then I've thought - You will survive! I've got one coming up very soon, and the bottom line is - It's out of my hands and yes, I will show up.

                                                          1. re: JerryMe

                                                            Can you go slightly *medicated*? (Substance of choice). Truly, took the edge off for the over 1 month when the in-laws stayed with us.

                                                            1. re: pine time

                                                              My hydrocodone script took the edge off the anger of working at 6 pm-2am Thanksgiving for my retail giant employer. More of the same for the Black Friday 2pm-11pm shift. It makes me not give a damn and keeps me from biting or punching pushy customers. Oh yeah, mas drugs Saturday 8 am.

                                                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                In the in-laws were here, my choice was a coffee mug, with 1/8 coffee and the rest various boozes. Worked well.

                                                        2. I learned a very useful solution to stress many years ago. Doesn't matter if it's holiday stress or just stress in general this method will help you deal with all forms of stress all year long.


                                                          10 Replies
                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                            I dislike Christmas, so one year I drank a whole bottle of wine while cooking dinner. I passed out in bed before it was served.

                                                            1. re: salsailsa

                                                              For the first time in many years i tried this method, it was at a friend's birthday party. While it may help avoid (avoid, not resolve) the immediate issue I am not at all convinced it is a worthwhile method in the long run. I reached that conclusion the next morning. Apparently my powers of recovery are not what they were when I was in college.

                                                              Perhaps one could run out to get creamer for the coffee or extra lemon for the non-existent tea, and get lost on the way back. Yeah, ok . . . they are going to make you go to the doctor to be tested for alzheimers, but hey, its a good excuse to get the annual physical out of the way right after new years.

                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                I always wondered, does alcohol tolerance exist in some sort of bell curve? Im 25 now and cant drink nearly as much as I used to. But it seems like my parents and other older couples over indulge but never get hungover!

                                                                1. re: justg25

                                                                  I can tell you this, I'm 43 and to be perfectly honest, I'm a life long alcoholic so I am speaking from vast experience. By alcoholic I'm still drinking, I'm not reformed, I'm not a quitter!!

                                                                  For whatever reason God has enabled me to consume massive amounts of alcohol and not really show the traditional signs of being intoxicated. I had to stop drinking beer and wine all together because I couldn't physically drink enough to get a good buzz. After 10-12 beers I just become bloated and gassy but not really buzzed, I can drink multiple bottles of wine without feeling a thing.

                                                                  I drink straight vodka, not because I like it, just because it's what get's the job done. It still takes about a half a bottle for me to start taking note that it's having the affect I desire. From there depending on how much I have eaten combined with what my general mood is will determine if I finish the bottle for that night.

                                                                  I drink like this about 3-5 nights a week. It wasn't until a few years ago, right around 40 that I started to experience hang overs. I could drink a bottle a night, sleep a few hours, and get up and go to work. Tired yes, hung over no. But in recent years I have the headaches, dulled judgment and over all shitty feeling. I have learned though balancing my straight vodka intake glass for glass with a glass of ice water helps tremendously. So I've learned the balance of a glass 1 glass of water for every glass of vodka keeps me hydrated enough that the hangover's are kept to a minimum.

                                                                  I'm not trying to brag in anyway, I go on the wagon for a couple of months each year just to make sure I still can, but for whatever reason drinking has been my coping mechanism in life but I'm sure sooner or later this lifestyle is going to catch up to me.

                                                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                    Not to be preachy but - it will catch up to you. I recently lost an old and dear friend, in his 40s, to alcohol. A year ago his doctor told him he had a choice to make. He chose to keep drinking. Liver failure is not a pretty way to go, but it was his choice and he didn't regret it, drank up to the very end.

                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                      There ARE ways to monitor your liver, luckily, and catch it before you get too far. Or so my doctor tells me.

                                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                        KM, your not being preachy at all, your words are sincere and appreciated. I'm fully aware of the risks of my health style and as I admitted in the post luckily in recent years I've started to actually start feeling the affects which has slowed me down, a little. Still a way to go my friend.

                                                                      2. re: jrvedivici

                                                                        Good luck. We'd like to keep you around.

                                                                        1. re: JonParker

                                                                          Thanks Jon, that is sincerely appreciated.

                                                                          I know this will hit home with you, but most of my adult life I've been a "raging" alcoholic and excessive recreational drug user. How I have been able to sustain my business and family still amazes me. But around 30 years old (13 years ago) I came to the realization that my alcohol and drug use was all to mask my depression. Somewhere deep inside me was a black hole, a pit, and all the booze and drugs in the world weren't going to fill it. I came to the realization that I pretty much hated my entire life, lol, even though I had everything most people could ever want. I also realized that from a very young age, my rage, my violence, my everything stemmed from a long and deep rooted depression.

                                                                          Realizing this, but being too proud to talk to someone about it and not a big fan of psych drugs, I went on a very personal journey to learn about how we as people, as human beings, how we work, how we process information and how we can try to control our feelings and moods. I'm proud to say it helped me tremendously and I was able to really get a hold of my depression and start to change the way I look at things thus changing my overall disposition and mood(s).

                                                                          While I've made HUGE strides and came a long way, obviously I still drink to excess. Not particularly because I physically need to, I can go days without a drink, just because I truly enjoy the buzz, now I'm 99% a very happy drunk, but it takes such volume to get me that buzz.

                                                                          In a perfect world I will find that natural buzz and not have to seek it through a bottle of vodka, but then again, is there ever such a thing as a perfect world?

                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                            I've mentioned in other threads that I also suffer from depression, although I do go the medication route (I've also gone other medical routes that I don't want to go into here, but you're welcome to email me about).

                                                                            My depression started getting really bad a few years ago when my grandmother died. At that point the holidays really became stressful, because she was kind of the glue that held the extended family together. I went through some other stuff too shortly after that, but that began it.

                                                                            I enjoy drinking too, but it's something I need to be careful about because I do have the temptation to self-medicate. That's not really a good thing.

                                                                            I wish you the best of luck. Everyone's experiences are different, but they're all human, and all depression weighs us down in the same way.

                                                              2. Go with the flow and have a good laugh. I remember the year, many many years ago when I lived in NYC and decided to make a genuine Smithfield Ham. I had NO idea the ham was extremely salty and you had to soak it. It was a disaster--then there was the "Turducken" year--it was so awful, only my two sons ate it--and they claim to have really liked it! Then there was the year I decided to have a turkey cooked at Wegman's only to find out I STILL had to cook it for about three hours. Looking back, they are all extremely funny episodes. Also, the space in NYC was an apartment and much smaller than my homes..and you know what? It was always more fun in the smaller apartment.
                                                                OHHH..and back to the ham...we were leaving for a vacation the next day (after Christmas). one of my brothers was staying at our apartment for a week as he was on leave from the military and he and some buddies were using the place to crash. So my brother-in-law, who is Jewish STEALS the Hambone so my sister could make soup. Now the ham was awful, but I swore to save the bone for soup. So I get home from vacation and find my bone gone. When I found out where the bone was, I drove out to Long Island to get my bone back..THAT episode is brought up every year. and not just during the holidays!!! Relax. Have fun..and journal everything!

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: jarona

                                                                  This is totally my philosophy too. Norman Rockwell, we're not. Things like the ham bone make the best stories for future holidays, and that's priceless.

                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                    Right???? ...and every year when my brother-in-law celebrates the high holidays, I ALWAYS ask him "Are ya having split pea soup with HAM????". Not food related, but a GREAT christmas story in our home is when my middle guy was a toddler and knocked the Christmas tree over. It was massive. My ex-husband was away on a business trip and I had to have my older son run to another apartment to get his friend's older brother to help me get the tree back up. In the meantime, I muttered "Ohhh..I'm gonna kill your brother" to my older son, who was in Kindergarden in Catholic School at the time. The next day I get a phone call from his teacher who started the conversation with..
                                                                    "..it's a good thing I know you"..She had asked the kids during morning prayers if they had any "special intentions". my son raised his hand and asked that they pray for his younger brother because "he knocked the Christmas tree over and my mom said she would kill him". He asked to pray that I would not kill my younger son!!!I almost died of embarrassment and learned a lesson on what not to say in front of the kids. Every year the story gets told and every year we laugh even harder!

                                                                    1. re: jarona

                                                                      Your family sounds so much like mine, we just love to laugh at life's slings of misfortunes; the worse it is, the better the story. And they do get funnier every year, for some reason.

                                                                  2. re: jarona

                                                                    I would totally drive to Long Island for a ham bone too!

                                                                  3. Not sure if this is an option for you, but can you get an additional guest to join? They are always people who need a Thanksgiving meal, and it would be pretty heartless for the family to say they couldn't come... Anyways, that way there would be someone who might appreciate your food and stick around, and perhaps their behavior might have a positive influence on the in-laws.

                                                                    1. My very close friend had a similar situation. She had always done volunteer work sporatically and realized that no one could get upset with her if she spent thanksgiving cooking for the more needy.
                                                                      Win-win situation.
                                                                      Every thanksgiving she and her husband volunteer all day, and meet his side of the family for coffee and pie in the evening

                                                                      1. Another rant... I was actually hopeful. A little bit. We decided to go to DH's parents house and do the volunteering during xmas because I will have to work part of the day. Anyway I tell DH to tell his mom I would just bring along a dessert or something. She said no because she was actually making something this year from scratch. She then asks what I want to bring, and she'd prefer if I brough something green. I was really excited. I wasn't going to tell her what it was but hus decided he had to tell her.. sigh. I was decing between green beans with bacon, bleu cheese and nuts, brussels sprouts with pomegranate, bacon wrapped asparagus, or spanakopita. She proceeds to shoot down everything because one or two people won't eat it. And they won't eat any vegetables for that matter. So we come to an agreement of the green beans with "bleu cheese on the side" and I agree. Bought my ingredients today and she tells us she is going to go with campbells green bean casserole instead so "some people don't freak out". Interesting, no one offered to make veggies so WE don't freak out, and someone's bringing sweet potato casserole even though "I" won't eat it, she isn't stopping them? Whew. Okay, I have decided to just let it go. Thanks for listening :)

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: justg25

                                                                          "Some people" are not worth your life energy. Especially if they enjoy canned green beans more than the real ones. Keep your delicious ingredients and make yourself a lovely midnight snack since odds are you're going to come home hungry :)

                                                                          1. re: justg25

                                                                            Give that option, I would have just shown up with what I wanted to bring. Really. She asks for "something green" and then tells you "one or two people wont eat it". Good, More for the rest of you. Indeed ... just let it go. My Thanksgiving hostess (the same one for 15 years, that I travel on a plane to visit) shot down my offer of a big green salad a few years ago because "there was not room on the table" for it. However, there WAS room for someone's nasty jello salad with unidentified items in it, which no one ever touches. Sigh. I feel your pain.

                                                                            1. re: justg25

                                                                              "have decided to just let it go" good for you. that's healthy.

                                                                              repeat as needed "water and a duck's back, water and a duck's back"

                                                                              I have to be suspicious that her dessert 'from scratch' just means a boxed mix and not simply straight off the prepared bakery shelf (I am an awful person)

                                                                              ehh my niece finds my roasted brussel sprouts and apples with either hazelnuts or pistachios 'bizarre' but as many R+B singers have declared: "one monkey don't stop no show"

                                                                              1. re: justg25

                                                                                That is indeed annoying.

                                                                                I've realized that there are people out there who just don't generally "like" food, or have such strict dietary requirements/preferences that nothing is going to turn them on. Though I will attempt to accomodate these individuals to a point, I would not, for instance, go as far as replace one of the great dishes you suggested with Campbell's soup-based green bean casserole. Just let 'em starve.

                                                                              2. My mom and I decided years ago that my Aunt and her family wouldn't be invited to holidays anymore. They were always late and didn't change their ways (leave earlier, follow directions, call for directions, etc). The final straw for both of us was my storming out of the house one Xmas w/out dinner to drive 4 hours to my BF's house (the original plan was for me to leave after dinner). No animosity or grudges held, and it works out well for all of us.

                                                                                I've also found that it helps to have an ally. My BF's family drives me crazy. They love me and I love them, but they are so different from my family. So the BF and his sister help me deal with their mother so I don't accidentally hurt her feelings and so she doesn't intrude too much. They will run interference when I'm uncomfortable, smooth my bluntness when their mom appears upset, tell her when she is being unreasonable, remind her that she isn't my mother, and remind me that she thinks that she is. Works out well.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: viperlush

                                                                                  So many people don't change when it comes to lateness.

                                                                                  We have good friends who insist on going for a run right before they have to go somewhere. We will literally be getting dressed and ready to put the finishing touched on something and they are just leaving the house.

                                                                                  One good friend always thinks she has more time than she does or that things take less time. She has been several hours late because of this.

                                                                                  Last year she missed all the vegetarian food I made of apps because she tried to clean the bathroom. I felt less bad once she took the bread pudding dish off the buffet sat it in her lap and proceeded to eat bits of it WITH HER FINGERS while we were playing celebrity.

                                                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                                                    Look, lateness is just part of some people's nature. And in some cases its cultural. My husband has both of those excuses for being chronically late, and I have learned to deal with "Jerry time." Mainly I do so by lying about when we have to be somewhere. If its 7, I say 6:30. Unfortunately, he's a bit on to me, but he has also learned to deal by humoring me. Yesterday we were going to a free concert, and when he asked me when it started I said "7" with a totally straight face. (It was 7:30). Well, we arrived at 6:30 and the good seats were just about all taken. We sat down and he turned to me and said "I'm glad you lied about when it starts; this is going to end up being SRO by 7" :-)

                                                                                    1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                      Sounds familiar! Years and years ago, we instituted an ironclad "are you lying?" rule. Absolutely must 'fess up, in which case, we laugh and move on, no matter what the original reason for the fib.