First let me say, 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.
Second, if you haven’t watched my video on bullet journaling, it will make planning events like this SO MUCH EASIER!! You can get the video here!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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)
- Stock up on candles (my favorite fall/winter candle but I love this one and this one, too) diffusers, Mrs. Meyer clove countertop spray,
- Bake pumpkin muffins and put in freezer (to serve for breakfast next week)
- Wash sheets on the guest room beds.
- Brainstorm on Pinterest for table top and guest room ideas
- Make Grannie’s fudge and freeze
- Bake a quiche lorraine for next weekend and freeze
- Finish the guest room beds and bathrooms
- Bake cherry pie and freeze
- Stock up on wine and champagne, spritzer, teas, coffees
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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