So first of all, I want to remind you all that I’m no Martha Stewart, Barefoot Contessa, or Giada De Laurentiis. I am just a mom with average cooking skills who just really likes hosting and holidays. Here are some things that I’ve learned about hosting along the way, more specifically about hosting Thanksgiving.
10. Don’t freak out. It’s just a turkey.
My first year hosting Thanksgiving, I really wanted to do everything on my own to prove that I could do it, but that darn bird gave me nightmares. I had a 30 pound turkey in my fridge that I ordered ahead of time from a local meat market, and I’m pretty sure it was mocking me. I called my dad who walked me through the recipe he always used (Alton Brown’s) and then I watched YouTube to see exactly how you washed a turkey and how to take out the neck and the gizzards. PSA: washing a slippery 30 pound turkey is not a pretty picture, I recommend doing this without an audience. Here’s the thing, whatever recipe you follow, you can do the turkey prep the day before and cross it off your list until you put it in the oven Thanksgiving morning. Just make sure you have a meat thermometer and a glass of wine handy.
9. Do make a plan
This is the holiday for lists and more lists and time management. I’m not the best in this area and I have found Pinterest to be very helpful. Save and print out a turkey timeline and a Thanksgiving checklist if you need help staying organized like me. I have a dry goods list that I get in the beginning of November, a list of what other people are bringing, grocery list, and a cleaning list. The most important things to clean are cupboards, drawers, and refrigerator, then you know what you have as far as bakeware and Tupperware, and you will have room for all your food.
8. Do get festive
This is my favorite part and you don’t need a big budget or a ton of time. Get the kids involved and make it fun. Depending on the ages of your kids you can have them make placemats with the classic “turkey handprint”, string cranberries, make paper chains, and definitely make a Thanksgiving playlist! We have songs on ours like “This land is your land” and the Peanuts “Thanksgiving Theme” song.
For other decorations, I use a lot of natural elements like cranberries and cut pieces from pine trees. This is an example of something simple and inexpensive. I’m a jar keeper so I already had mason jars on hand. I just added some water, submerged the pine clippings, and added real cranberries and a tea light! Done! I have also just filled large glass hurricanes with cranberries and added a pillar candle and it’s really pretty and simple.
7. Do enjoy your guests
This is my favorite part of hosting. My passion really is all about the hors d’oeuvres and drinks because most of the day you’re cooking and your guests are sitting around the kitchen. These are also things you can make ahead of time if you have the space, or this can be a great thing to delegate to the overeager helper in your family and keep them out of your hair. I like to have a festive non-alcoholic beverage as well as an alcoholic one. Get some sparkling cider, break out your fancy glasses, and plop some cranberries in or a cinnamon stick. Have fun and your guests will too.
6. Don’t get stressed
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” At least for a minute or two. My first hosted Thanksgiving required a few trips to my garage to have a quick meltdown. My stress was over trivial things that I have since learned to let go of. Know what triggers your stress ahead of time and just be as prepared as you can. And remember you can ask for help, I mean Martha Stewart probably did. Deep breaths, music, checklists, wine, snacks. You can do this.
5. Do stock up at Dollar Store
You guys. I don’t know what I’d do without the Dollar Store. People always ask me where I get my decorations and they can’t believe me when I tell them. Great place to get your glass hurricanes, tea lights, decorative stones, and don’t get me started on kitchen supplies. This is where you can buy extra Tupperware for your thanksgiving leftovers especially if you’re sending some with your guests. They also have large aluminum roasting pans, Ziplock bags, cute paper plates and napkins (I use those for dessert because I want to be done doing dishes at some point) and maybe you’ll find some cute stuff for the kids table while you’re in the craft aisle.
4. Do plan something for the kids
My kids are the only little ones we have at Thanksgiving (so far) and usually I haven’t really planned anything for them besides making their cousins watch them. Now that they are both old enough I am going to plan an area where they can craft and play independently as well as some games and holiday movies ready to go. The kitchen can be dangerous especially where there are more people and more cooking. They want to be involved which is why it is so important to include them in anything you can. My kids also love to play waitress and hopefully this year they can help pass out drinks or help with “taste testing”.
3. Do include everyone
Even though it’s a big inside joke now, my mother-in-law used to always ask me to bring the “relish” tray to any family dinner. I would always take it as a challenge to make the best relish tray anyone had ever seen! If you delegate dishes to other people, you will feel better and they will feel glad that they can help you and feel included in the planning. Everyone has their favorite Thanksgiving food too, so if there is a guest you want to get to know better, a great way to break the ice is talking about food they love!
2. Don’t forget to get dressed
We are all moms and have a few other priorities. Am I Right? I get dressed and put my face on right after that turkey goes in the oven. (My kids will hopefully still be in bed!) I have fooled myself a few times before, and then all of a sudden grandpa is ringing the doorbell and I’m in my pajamas cooking away and being a mom. Get an apron if you’re worried about your clothes, but you will feel better and more confident when you are ready from the get-go.
1. Don’t forget to enjoy the day
Thanksgiving can be compared to your wedding if you’re hosting. A lot of fuss and planning and stressing over one day. You spend all day in the kitchen and when you finally sit down to eat, it’s over in a blink and your food probably isn’t all hot. This is ok and pretty normal. This is also why I always make myself a special leftover plate for later when I can sit in peace. Try to be in the moment and enjoy the process, as well as the family and friends who are what this day is all about. If you’re having a good time, they will too!