Writer of Soul-Searching Snark

Lessons Learned

As a PMP (project management professional,) the 5 stages of a project have been pounded into my head:

  • Initiation
  • Planning and design
  • Execution and construction
  • Monitoring and controlling systems
  • Completion

No matter what I do, making a quilt, writing a book, hosting a Christmas party, I follow the steps for project management. Of course, my favorite stage is ‘completion.’  The satisfaction of completing a project on time and on (or under) budget is usually combined with shock when I review the lessons learned.  Most PMP gaze in wonder at their completed project and smile. I look back at my completed projects and think  WTF? How’d this damn thing get done without the insurance adjustor’s involvement?

The most important message of all. Relax and enjoy the moment. It's about the love and laughter. It's not about the perfect table and biggest present!

Yesterday, as I recovered from my family’s visit on Sunday night, I reviewed the week-long preparations and jotted down lessons learned to be reviewed before the 2012 Christmas fiasco. I thought I’d share a few with you:

  1. Check the prime rib before time to bake it and ascertain if it is boneless or not. It takes about an hour longer to cook a 13# boneless prime rib than it does one with the bones.  Fortunately, I discovered the roast was boneless in time to roast it and have it ready by 5, but if I’d waited 15 minutes longer, that wouldn’t have been the case.
  2. Check the rum supply! I thought I had a full bottle in the pantry. I didn’t.  I’m pretty sure Ma sneaked up here in the middle of the night and appropriated the extra bottle. Fortunately, I was able to use bourbon and brandy in place of the rum, but that’s not the point. A rum-free Christmas is a Christmas without….well, rum!
  3. Do NOT trust Ma with the baked goods. Since she has a chest freezer, she had room to store the cookie sheets filled with cookies, toffee, fudge, truffles, etc. To be fair, it wasn’t the storage that was the problem. It was the transport of said items back to my house. In all the hustle and bustle, she forgot she left a bag in the front yard. I went outside to discover a group of dogs growling over something on the ground. Turned out, they were gathered around the bag of toffee (by far the best I’ve ever made!) They ate all the toffee, all the fudge and every single one of the ginger snaps. I was not happy!!  (Short note to all my writer friends who are laughing. Let me put this into perspective for you. Consider losing 30,000 words of your current WIP. 30,000 words gone! No backup copy. No way to ever get them back. Ever! That’s how much work went into all those dog treats.  Still laughing?!)
  4. Have you ever seen plywood bow under the strain of holding up too much food?

    Count the number of guests who are attending, before buying groceries and setting up tables. We’re used to 18-20 guests.  This year we only had 12. Of course, I realized this after I’d thawed out 2 prime ribs and set up the table to accommodate 20 guests. Counting is very important.

  5. This is a doozie and should be applied to every day use, not just Christmas: don’t curl your hair in the nude. I was rushing around, trying to get ready before the guests arrived. I dropped my curling iron and grabbed it by the cord. It landed my stomach and got stuck. Peeling skin off with a hot iron is not the best way to celebrate Christmas.
  6. And the most important lesson: heed the messages. Songs sent by Pops, the cats plopping on my lap so I’d slow down and chill out, and virtual hugs for the Great White North.

After all was said and done, the Christmas dinner was a success. No one missed the food that the dogs ate. The prime rib turned out perfectly. The table was beautiful and we had room to spread out. There was plenty of brandy to soak the flaming desserts and most importantly, there was plenty of laughter.

God, I love that motley group of misfits. Love them.

All in all. The perfect Christmas.

Nothing classier than a plywood set up on saw horses for a table!

If you cover the table with high-quality wrapping paper, it becomes redneck-festive

Aren't these adorable? Ma made them out of velvet and satin. I have no idea what to call them: silverware cozy, perhaps?


Comments on: "Lessons Learned" (22)

  1. Ric Croxton said:

    The table sounds like something our grandparents had done when we were kids

  2. Never curl hair in the nude! Got it! And love redneck festive and the utensil cozy. Sorry about the lost goodies–well, lost to you, not to the dogs. Looks and sounds like a wonderful Christmas dinner.

    • Ruby, I was kind of hoping all the chocolate would’ve killed off the dogs. No such luck! My friend laughed about the dogs chewing for hours to get the toffee off their teeth. That eased my annoyance ever so slightly.

  3. And a good time was had by all.

    • I’m sorry you missed it. I believe some of the photos in your Redneck Goddess book trailer are from my family’s 2010 Christmas. Tons of redneck material at one of my family gatherings.

  4. Claire, I love that about you – the way you make us laugh at your disasters. And you always manage to appreciate the sunshine after the storm. 🙂 Now. The real challenge would be to take my Christmas and do the same. 🙂

  5. Ric Croxton said:

    I’m flashing back to when we were kids and everyone was at our grandparents house for Christmas and my Dad was dressed as Santa passing out presents. I bet seeing my Dad dressed up as Santa gave you and our cousins some good nightmares. Maybe your Mom, our Aunt and our Grandma convinced him to do it. I know one thing for sure, i could never see our Granddad dressing as Santa. 😉

    • I remember that, Ric. Margie swore Santa was my dad dressed in the suit. When Daddy walked into the room, she about died. I think my mom talked your dad into dressing up because he was the last person we would’ve suspected of doing it.

      On Christmas, we were going around the table telling our favorite Christmas memories and Christmas at Grandma’s came up several times. Fun times!

      • Ric Croxton said:

        You have to remember, it didn’t take much to fool my sister Margie. Aren’t you and Margie the same age? Was this after Granddad died in 1972 that my Dad dressed as Santa?

  6. mgmillerbooks said:

    No wonder you’re so snarky. Your life is a screwball comedy.

  7. Claire,

    Thank you for sharing your holiday! But…What! You mean everyone doesn’t use the sawhorse and plywood table? I mean, come on now, all those elegant magzines with long tables decked out for the holidays in white table linens…doesn’t anyone look underneath? They’re doing exactly as you do! (Did you teach them that and didn’t tell anyone?)
    As for the burning…ah…when the marshmellows topping the candied sweet potatoes are on fire – DO NOT grab the wire rack with bare fingers unless you want a trip to the emergency room. Amazingly, I use White Angelica oil and the fingers didn’t even blister! Holiday Divine Intervention for me I believe. Now, I need your PMP skills for the plotting of my next novel.
    Linda Joyce

    • Oh Linda Joyce, do I ever hear you about the burning. My right hand, wrist and forearm are scarred from toffee burns. Every year. Never fails. You’d think I’d learn!! I’m glad you didn’t get blisters from your bun.

      The most important and longest phase of any project is step 2: Planning. So, I figure if I walk around with the idea in my head for a novel, then I’m getting a lot of work done. It’s the execution stage that gets me every time!


  8. Ric, it had to be after Granddad died because I really don’t remember him very much at all. Surprisingly, your dad was a convincing Santa.

  9. Madison Woods said:

    Claire, the redneck festive table looked beautiful, I’m sure. It reminds me of my redneck bookshelves and end tables, except yours was actually functional AND pretty.

    I wanted to kill my goat once for eating the first tomato of the season – it was beautiful, perfect and just waiting to be eaten. And I thought it safe sitting on the hood of the car while I ran inside to get the salt shaker. Not nearly as much work went into that tomato as I’m sure went into your toffee.

    • Madison! That’s horrible. The first tomato of the season? Roasted goat would be a featured item on my menu pretty quickly after that happened. I thought the table turned out pretty well, even if it was redneck. 🙂

  10. Ric Croxton said:

    Is that your mom in the background putting paper on the table? I couldn’t enlarge the picture to make out any details.

  11. Oh Claire, I confess I was laughing about the dogs. Sorry. But I could just picture it. And I think the table wrapped in gift wrap for a table cloth is damn smart. Pretty and smart. I’ve been known to do it.
    So if you and me do it, then it HAS to be pretty and smart. Right?
    Sounds like a great Christmas. If I’d been there I’d been rolling on the floor in laugher.

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