Hosting Thanksgiving {Without Losing Your Mind!}

by Edie Wadsworth on November 21, 2014

how to host thanksgiving

I have a confession to make.  I haven’t totally recovered from book writing.  Otherwise known as, I’m not on my A game right now.  Otherwise known as, I’m tempted to order Thanksgiving from Popeye’s.

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I’ve lost a good portion of my mojo and it’s taking its sweet time coming back.

I haven’t even started to think about the hosting Thanksgiving, despite the fact that come next Thursday, my house will be full to brim with people I love.  I LOVE hosting Thanksgiving.

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I’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years and it’s one of my very favorite weekends of the year.  But I’m a little lost and a little scattered and emotionally spent.  Two of my dear friends invited me to lunch last week and within 60 seconds of entering the room, I was in tears.  I wish I could snap my fingers and snap out of it, but I can’t.  I have to be patient with myself and keep showing up, even if I’m a mess when I get there.

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I don’t want to cancel our Thanksgiving tradition though that wouldn’t be the worst thing.  And I don’t really want to order it from Popeye’s, although Melanie’s right about how good it is.  (You know, for fast food chicken and all.)  I just want to make it manageable and enjoyable for me and for my peeps.  So, I’m asking everybody to bring stuff.  And I’m buying a few things already made.  And I’m not apologizing.  At least not much.

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The first time I hosted Thanksgiving was the only year I was ever a single mom, the year after my Daddy died.  I stayed up all night the night before, working  like crazy woman, probably trying to prove to myself that I was resilient and capable and industrious.  I listened to Counting Crows cranked up high,  made everything homemade, followed Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving recipes to a T, down to the homemade cranberry/apple reduction sauce.  I even constructed  the Mayflower as a centerpiece for the kid’s table, with  indian headdresses for all the littles.  Y’all.  I made the Mayflower with my own two hands. I’m just sayin, I think I get extra points for that?

When my family showed up at the door, I started sobbing.  Because sometimes I’m not so resilient and I’m not so strong.  Sometimes I’m fragile and sad and so completely human.  Sometimes even a handmade Mayflower can’t cover up what I’m hiding.   I’m sure they were second guessing their decision to let me host Thanksgiving, but it’s been at my house ever since. This year feels raw for different reasons but one thing I know is this—I want my people to be here.  I need them to be here.  Not so I can cook the best food and set the best tables but because I know how desperately we all need each other.  I am so thankful for  their love, their support, the gift of their presence in my life.  They love me when I’ve lost my way and when my mashed potatoes are runny and even when I stand at the front door and sob.  This is what it means to take care of each other.  This is the way of hospitality.

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So this year will be a little different but here are my plans for the next few days so that when my people get here,  we can convalesce by the fire, enjoy each other, and maybe even drag out the karaoke machine.

5 things that will make  Thanksgiving weekend more enjoyable:

1.  Give thanks

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Don’t forget that this is the season of  gratefulness.  I sometimes have to stop myself in my busy tracks and say thank you. Cup your hands around the faces of your people, look them right in their eyes and say thank you. A little smooch wouldn’t hurt anything either.  We take SO much for granted. Stop and pay attention.  Notice the smell of the pumpkin pie, the way light glistens off your pretty wine glasses, the color of the landscape, as it makes ready for winter.

2.  Make a Menu

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Here’s mine, in case you want ideas.  I LOVE printing my menus out  and placing one at each table setting, but at least print one out for yourself and keep it in your planner/notebook.

  • Turkey with Sage Stuffing  (make myself)
  • Chive Mashed Potatoes  (make myself)
  • Giblet Gravy  (make myself)
  • Maple Glazed Brussel Sprouts  (make myself)
  • Broccoli Casserole
  • Baked Sweet Potato Bake
  • Creamed Corn  (make myself)
  • Bedeviled Eggs
  • Cranberry Apple Relish
  • Parker House Rolls  (make myself)
  • Tart Cherry Pie  (make myself)
  • Pumpkin Pie with Brandy Cream
  • Bourbon Pecan Chocolate Pie
  • Chocolate Fudge Pie
  • Red Velvet Cake
  • Salted Caramel Lattes

3.  Start NOW!

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Here’s my list for how I will (hopefully) get all my food made (for 35 people) and get my house ready for weekend company.  I realize not everyone hosts this many people, but this might help you see how I break down the large job into small doable pieces. And if there’s wine and fudge involved?  Well, that always helps.

Friday (today!) (the week before)

Saturday

Sunday

  • Big grocery shopping day (lots of baking supplies are on sale, so stock up!)
  • Work on menus and place cards (I love the fox cards Emily made and you can print them for free!)
  • Print out the Thanksgiving Litany (10 copies) (I’m still working on the link!)
  • Outdoor scavenger hunt to find pinecones, acorns, driftwood, pretty branches, berries, etc

Monday

  • Get out all the linens and sort out how the tables will be set up (all mine will be mix-match)
  • Make blueberry muffins and freeze
  • Make jam thumbprints and freeze
  • Clean living room to good enough
  • Work on name cards
  • Wash all the glassware and plates (the ones not used very often)

Tuesday

  • Bake pecan bourbon chocolate pie 
  • Brew a batch of iced coffee
  • Make olive salsa and my favorite cheese ball of all time (company arrives today)
  • Check on votive candles (Are there enough for each place setting?  Enough tea lights?
  • Clean kitchen and bedroom
  • Cook potatoes and refrigerate.  Finish them on Thursday
  • Add greenery/finishing touches to the guest spaces
  • Take out pumpkin muffins from freezer for breakfast tomorrow
  • Buy 2 13-15 pound turkeys and one turkey breast  (We smoke one, roast one, and then cook the breast in the crock pot)
  • Refill the small salt/pepper shakers for the tables

Wednesday

  • Make the Parker House Rolls.  They’re SO good and well worth all the butter and effort.
  •  If turkeys aren’t completely thawed, put in salt water brine
  • Remove the broccoli casserole from freezer to frig.
  • Roast the brussel sprouts and then refrigerate until tomorrow.  Finish cooking with bacon fat and then drizzle with maple syrup and cook another min or two
  • Set the tables after dinner (I like to set my tables earlier, but we’ll have company and need to use them)
  • Make the sage stuffing, so that it’s ready to be stuffed in the bird early in the morning
  • Put turkey breast in the crockpot overnight (This is my favorite way to have some extra turkey and a LOT of turkey stock.  You don’t need to do ANYTHING to it, just remove the giblets and cook on low overnight, until it falls apart, which is usually about lunch time!)
  • Take out all the pies to thaw

Thursday

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  •  Stuff the turkey, brush with butter  and put in a covered roaster.  Start at 300 degrees and cook for 3 hours, then decrease to 250.  For a 14 pound bird, at that low temp, I usually cook it for 10 hours, until it’s tender and falling off the bone.  (Stevie also smokes a turkey, but I leave that all up to him!)
  •  Finish the potatoes
  • About lunch time, take out the appetizers and champagne spritzers as a treat for all the helpers (we don’t eat until evening)
  • Delegate the drink stations and salted caramel latte prep to the young adults
  • Start the Thanksgiving music (I make a playlist from my favorites—the Avett Brothers, Mumford, Sturgill Simpson,  the Decemberists, Noah Gundersen,  etc)
  • Finish the brussel sprouts
  • Don’t forget the cranberry relish
  • Pray that everyone  brings their dishes!
  • Make the gravy from the turkey drippings
  • Set out plenty of butter to soften/put on each table
  • Double check the tables, fill the water glasses and light the candles
  • Read the Litany aloud, pray, try not to cry, and FEAST!!

4.  Enjoy the day

Things will go wrong.  You’ll forget to take the pumpkin pie out of the freezer, the mash potatoes will be runny (happened to me last year), the bread will burn, and a million other things will threaten to steal your joy.  DON’T let  it.  This is a celebration of the people that you love.  Enjoy them!  Make eye contact and hug and laugh.  The food, the decorations, the tables are all secondary and must take a back seat.  Take a deep breath, have a glass of wine, relax, and love on your people.  Or let them love on you. Or both.  Preferably both!

Also? Make your siblings wash the dishes. Amen.

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5.  Enjoy the day after

The day after may be my favorite day.  Eating leftovers, sitting by the fireplace enjoying my family, beating twenty-somethings in Scrabble.  I think we should reclaim Black Friday and call it I’m Staying in My Jammies and Eating Leftovers and Knitting Dishcloths Friday.

Happy Feasting!

 

MY BLOG SPONSOR:

This post is generously sponsored by my YL. I am into natural choices for my family, and this is the main way I help boost our immune systems and alleviate lots of minor aches, pains, and injuries.  Read more about how we are using them everyday! My Young Living essential oils are also my newest business venture, and the oils are so well loved that they sponsor my blog!!! Thank you, friends!  Enroll by clicking here.

 

 

{ 17 comments }

The Place Where You Are Cared For

by Edie Wadsworth on November 17, 2014

susanshouse

Every memory I have of her house is nearly the same—the morning’s bacon fat is hardening in the iron skillet, her handwritten list is on a spiral  steno pad topped with her reading glasses, the breakfast dishes are littering the sink and the smell of supper is already floating from the oven, her Bible is splayed out on the dining room table, its margins full of her heart’s murmuring.  I tear up every time I think of her and as much as I’ve always loved decor, I can’t recall any details from her kitchen save those.

What I remember is how I’ve never felt more cared for in anybody’s home.

I was working 70 hours a week as a resident and she often picked my kids up from school until I could pick them up.  I would drag in, exhausted and often tearful, wishing that I had dinner waiting for my family on the stove and sad that life was so busy and overwhelming. She didn’t make me feel less than.  She reassured me that my kids knew how much they were loved and she’d read a little scripture to me and then send me home with enough food to feed my family and make me feel like life wouldn’t always be this way. That was nearly 18 years ago and it’s as clear to me as if it were yesterday.

I’ve spent the last 18 years trying to be Susan to the people in my life.

She changed everything about everything for me.  She inspired me without condemning me.  She loved me with food and words and childcare and with an indescribable hope that this way of life—this way of love—was possible for me too.

So, if you’re in a season where nothing looks like what you planned, hold on to grace.  Hold on to hope.  Thank God for your Susan, who has been Christ’s hands and feet to you and then get ready, because your day is coming—your day to make a place where people feel cared for.

And just a little warning, Susan’s life is harder than you think because loving people always is.  Making a safe place for another human heart will require that you bear burdens that no one else sees.

I’m so thankful for her love to me, for making a place where I knew I was loved. I will never be able to repay her.

This is the Jesus way of hospitality.  What a blessing to have been the recipient of so sacred a gift.

 ************************

Tell me the story of your Susan.  We all have one!

MY NEWEST BLOG SPONSOR:

 

This post is generously sponsored by my YL. I am into natural choices for my family, and this is the main way I help boost our immune systems and alleviate lots of minor aches, pains, and injuries.  Read more about how we are using them everyday! My Young Living essential oils are also my newest business venture, and the oils are so well loved that they sponsor my blog!!! Thank you, friends!  Enroll by clicking here.

 

{ 27 comments }

Swedish Meatball Soup

by Edie Wadsworth on November 14, 2014

swedishmeatballsoup

Here’s what you need to know about this soup—Stevie said it’s the best soup he’s ever had.  And the man has had a plethora of soups in his day. He’s married to the woman who will make a soup out of ANYTHING.  Also of note? His family is a mixture of German and Scandinavian and his mother is a great cook so he’s had the best swedish meatballs in the free world.  I only say that to say that he’s kinda hard to impress.  He looked at me with love in eyes when I made this soup so I’m telling you, you gotta try it.  This could well be my magnum opus.  This is makeup food right here so if you’re in the need of a quick way to say I’m sorry, this is your culinary fix.  I only beg you not to buy premade meatballs (for the love of IKEA) because then you’re probably gonna tell me that is in fact not my magnum opus and I need to keep trying.  #myworkhereisdone [read more]

{ 20 comments }

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Loaded Potato Soup

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September 29, 2014
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My Best Trick to Getting Dinner on the Table

September 26, 2014
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“If we were taught to cook as we are taught to walk, encouraged first to feel for pebbles with our toes, then to wobble forward and fall, then had our hands firmly tugged on so we would try again, we would learn that being good at it relies on something deeply rooted, akin to walking, […]

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Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread (and my midlife crisis hair)

September 24, 2014
chocolatechippumpbread

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and […]

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“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.  Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.  Show them how to cry when pets and people die.  Show them the infinite pleasure in […]

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Chewy Chocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookies {& a brand new blogging course}

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If I can be known for two things in life, let it be soup and cookies.  Okay, and maybe bread and buttercream. I don’t know if there is any sight more dear to me than just out of the oven, ever so slightly undercooked chocolate chip cookies.  And these will make you go weak in the […]

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