MY THANKSGIVING SURVIVAL GUIDE
Are you getting ready to host Thanksgiving at your house this year? Could you use a few tips to help you execute a smooth and successful Thanksgiving? Well, I’m here to help! I have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house all of my adult life. I actually can’t remember the last time I spent Thanksgiving at someone else’s home. I LOVE hosting the holidays and, therefore, have lots of practice doing it. It does become easier over time, when experience and past failures result in future success. So, today I thought I’d share with you My Thanksgiving Survival Guide
You may be saying “well dah, that’s obvious” right now. But I have been amazed by how many people I know who make themselves crazy by leaving things to the last minute. So, what are the things you can do in advance?
Decorate Your Home
It is so easy to just load up on pumpkins of all sizes and shapes at your local grocery store. Trader Joes has wonderful pumpkins too. I set them around my home, using urns and baskets as vessels for them. Scrunch up table cloths or scraps of fabric under your pumpkins. I also use a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables as inexpensive decorations that have the added benefit of being edible. You can use gourds and miniature pumpkins on your mantle as well.
Make Your Own Cloth Pumpkins
You may not be able to do it this year, but plan ahead now for next year by saving the stems from all those display pumpkins. Then you can follow my tutorial here on how to sew your own cloth pumpkins. Next year you’ll be glad you planned ahead and did this now.
Decorate With Flowers and Cuttings
I scour the neighborhood for trees I can trim and wild things I can forage for my flower arrangements. What I don’t pick from the forest I buy at Trader Joes or Costco, where flowers are sold in abundance and are inexpensive. I also have a wicker cornucopia basket that I fill with flowers every year. You can buy one like mine here.
Decorate with Potted Flowers and Candles
It’s so easy to simply line an urn or pot with fabric and pop in some potted flowers. After Thanksgiving, plant them in your yard for year-round enjoyment. Candles add so much to the ambiance of any celebration, but scented candles should never be used around food. Because I hate candle wax drippings on my tablecloths, I use flameless candles available in multi packs at Costco. I place them in iron lanterns and votive holders that I manufacture at my company The Hill Ironworks.
Make Place Cards & Party Favors & Plan Your Seating
For special events like Thanksgiving, I always use place cards and give thought to where I seat my guests. Sometimes my place card holders do double duty as party favors. My homemade cloth pumpkins were favors one year. Another year I made hand-forged wrought iron candle/place card holders and asked guests to take theirs home. Yet another year I used alphabet pasta on my place cards.
Set the Table
Plan the Menu
My menu always includes family favorites, but each year I mix it up a bit by adding something new and different. I type my menu and display it in a large frame. After Thanksgiving, I file the typed menu as a record of every Thanksgiving past. Sometimes I also write the menu on my chalkboard, while other times I use it to send a message.
Make a Recipe Binder
I keep a special binder for every holiday. Inside are the recipes I use repeatedly year after year for each particular holiday. Then, every year I add new recipes and edit out old ones. Each recipe is placed in a plastic sheet protector. This binder becomes an invaluable tool for my son and me, as together we do most of the cooking.
Plan Your Serving Dishes & Serving Utinsils
There is nothing worse than having to scrounge for serving dishes and utensils at the last minute as you are trying to get dinner on the table. I stage my serving dishes in the Butler’s Pantry and label each item with a sticky note indicating what menu item the dish will be used for. It makes dinner service so much easier! I don’t have a buffet table in the dining room, so I always set up a small table in one corner where I can place platters of food and the bread basket after they are passed around the table. This also makes it handy for serving seconds.
Cook Ahead of Time
Many, in fact most traditional Thanksgiving dishes, can be made in advance. I try to prepare as many things as I can a day or two ahead. Here you see my Parsnip, Carrot & Leek Gratin, my Streusel Topped Sweet Potatoes, my Rustic Bread Stuffing and Brussell Sprouts all prepared in advance and ready to be put in the oven. I also prepare the Cranberry Relish Appetizer, Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Sorbet and Soup well in advance. Then, all I need to worry about on Thanksgiving day is the turkey, gravy and perhaps a vegetable. Pies are also perfect for a make-ahead menu.
So there you have it: MY THANKSGIVING SURVIVAL GUIDE
I hope I have provided you with some advice and inspiration to make your Thanksgiving just a little bit better!
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