So You Say You Want To Host Thanksgiving?

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Let’s be honest, hosting Thanksgiving is super fun! We’ve been doing it for a number of years now. It’s not always elegant and refined…okay it’s never been refined. We always make far too much food and the table is always far too small for the amount of people. But memories are always made, and that’s the point of Thanksgiving, right?

Here are my (non-professional) pointers for a fantastic family Turkey Day….

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Step 1: Get the bird. No kidding. I actually have a nightmare every year that it’s Thanksgiving morning and I haven’t gotten the bird. Many local Fairfield County stores let you order your preferred size of raw or cooked turkey ahead and pick up in the store! Do that.  

Step 2: Pick your menu. Make some old favorites or try something new. Go with traditional dishes or think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Your family won’t judge you, with they? Yeah, they probably will….

Step 3: Delegate. The host should not have to make everything. Ask your visitors or people in your family to make something to help out. If you have older kids, have them make something!

Step 4: Shopping. If you can avoid it, don’t be in the grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving…everyone has that crazy look in their eyes and it stresses you out for no reason. Shop on Monday or Tuesday morning. Yes, morning. Last year, I hired a babysitter to drive my kids to school on Tuesday so that I could be at Whole Foods at 8am…I don’t make this stuff up.  

Step 5: Prep work.  Cut and measure everything you possibly can the day before – mushrooms, onions, celery, green beans, stuffing bread, fresh herbs…I have everything washed, cut, measured and labeled in the fridge on Wednesday afternoon so that Thursday afternoon assembly is quick and painless. You’ll thank me. 

Step 6: Brine the bird. Alton Brown tells me to do it, so I just do it. We have oven roasted as well as smoked our turkey, but we always brine it the night before with delicious results. If it comes in a big plastic bag, you are set; otherwise buy a big plastic bag. For containing the brine, we have used a Home Depot bucket, a cooler and a huge pot meant for canning….my favorite is the canning pot because it has a lid – I duct tape it shut and leave it outside on the back porch overnight.

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Step 7: Watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving as a family. Because it makes everyone happy. Everyone! It reminds me of my childhood while making memories for my own kids. Winner! 

Step 8: Crafts for the kids. Parades and football games will lose their magic for the little people, so have some crafts for the kids to do while food is cooking – apparently there are some fun things you can do with a paper plate. If you don’t like to gather your own materials, Michaels is a hotbed of cheap holiday crafts. Also, grocery stores will have Thanksgiving-themed paper tablecloths for the kids to draw on – I just tape them down to the floor and leave some crayons and markers.

Step 9: Set your table. Whether you make it dressy or casual, just make it a reflection of you. I use the wedding china every year, because why the heck else would I have registered for it?

Step 10: Don’t forget to give thanks. Kids are pretty concrete thinkers, so it’s tough for them to understand the abstract concept of “being thankful.” But they learn from your example! This year I found an inexpensive little Gratitude Tree at Target that I plan to do as a family the night before Thanksgiving. My good friend did her Gratitude Tree with her kids two weeks ago…we all have our own timeline!  

What are your tips for hosting Thanksgiving dinner?

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