I was going to talk about Chinese toys, today, or last night’s experience of trying not to distract people from leprosy and demons while going through an entire packet of Kleenex, but I had to get up at 4:30 again this morning, so I have gotten distracted from those topics by Jell-O.

Jell-O is part of the holidays. Real foods rarely color-coordinate as well with your table as Jell-O. So I make some for every feast day, and throw it away the next day.

Here is what the American Chemical Society has to say about Jell-O. Here is its star turn in the Gallery of Regrettable Foods. Here is a science experiment from the Exploratorium, which requires a laser as well as a box of Jell-O, so I will have to pass on it.

Actually, I have already stirred up a box of cranberry Jell-O. I encountered it in my pantry while still mostly asleep, forgot that I had decided to make it into Sangria Jell-O Salad, and mixed it up in the normal way, figuring that by the time I woke up sufficiently to remember what I had intended to put into it, it would be ready. (In case you do not make Jell-O yourself, you should know that the stuff has to cool a bit before it will hold ingredients suspended prettily in its depths.) I have now put water into it, where I was supposed to have put in juices and wine.

I had also thought of making Ambrosia Jell-O Salad, though, and the mold I plan on using is too large for just one package of Jell-O. This is why the scary thought has entered my head: stripes. I can put cranberries and orange peel into the cranberry Jell-O, then add a stripe of Ambrosia Jell-O, and then finish it off with a stripe of Sangria Jell-O. I am making it in a ring, and have fruit to put into the middle. This will be all autumnal-looking, and will startle anyone who actually eats it with its daring combination of flavors. I will agree that striped food seems wrong on the face of it, but Jell-O is an exception.

Startling food may not really be what we want, though.

I have been dared to make baked cucumbers. That may be startling enough.

Today is for getting ready. I try to make as many things ahead as possible, and my children try to keep me from doing so, on the grounds that it will all be more fresh if I do it all tomorrow morning. I think it is okay to get the breads ready on Wednesday and bake them on Thursday. I think you can bake pies the night before,  leaving cake and vegetables for Thursday. My kids think that everything should come out of the oven just moments before we eat it.

Jell-O is once again an exception.

Here is the big tip for Thanksgiving, though. Set your table today, including serving dishes, and put a little note in each one saying what it is for. If you do this, you will not be looking for the gravy boat as your guests get ready to sit down, nor will you have a panful of hot succotash  and no dish to put it in.

I am hoping that I will be able to persuade my family to help me a little with preparations today and tomorrow. #2 daughter will arrive this evening, and she has already said that she will do the potatoes. She admitted last year that she always chose that as her job because it took a long time, and she could get out of all kinds of other work by doing that one thing. The result, though, is that her mashed potatoes are very good.

However, it is the case that there are many things I think should be done which no one else in the family cares about. I think the dogs should be bathed, and the coat closet tidied, and the gardens cleaned up, in addition to the cooking and normal cleaning. I put a list of all the tasks on the refrigerator, and chivvy anyone who appears to be resting into choosing one of them. From their point of view, I am going into holiday preparation frenzy, and spoiling their enjoyment of their day off. From my point of view, there is a lot to be done, and if everyone would pitch in and help, I could enjoy my day off, too. I think that they sort of feel that I should not plan more preparations than I personally am willing to do.

I will try to respect that point of view, without actually bathing the dogs myself. If you are coming to my house, you may have to encounter smelly dogs.

And startling Jell-O.