Let’s be honest; hosting Thanksgiving is super fun! We’ve been doing it for several 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 number of people. But memories are always made, and that’s the point of Thanksgiving.
Here are some (non-professional) pointers for a fantastic family Turkey Day.
Step 1: Get the bird.
No kidding. I 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 it 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, will they?
Step 3: Delegate.
The host should not have to make everything. Ask your visitors or family members 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 because 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 I could be at Whole Foods at 8 a.m.
Step 5: Prep work.
Cut and measure everything you possibly can the day before – mushrooms, onions, celery, green beans, stuffing bread, fresh herbs, etc. 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 do it. We have oven-roasted and smoked our turkey, but we always brine it the night before with delicious results. You are set if it comes in a big plastic bag; otherwise, buy a big one. To contain 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.
Step 7: Watch Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving as a family.
Because it makes everyone happy. Everyone! It reminds me of my childhood while making memories for my 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. There are some fun things you can do with a paper plate. If you don’t like to gather your 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 tape them down to the floor and leave some crayons and markers.
Step 9: Set your table.
Whether dressy or casual, make it a reflection of you. I use the wedding china every year because why 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!