5 Tips to Hosting a Successful Thanksgiving

I set my Thanksgiving table this morning. I always do this...set it a couple of days early. So I can see my Thanksgiving theme for the year come to life, enjoy the short-lived beauty and graciousness of a well-set table... and think back upon the year and all of its gifts in the process.

Last year's tableau of succulents and pumpkins

I have a different Thanksgiving table inspiration each year.  Usually a garden based design that expresses itself in china selection, linens, centerpiece (obviously), place cards and other small embellishments. It does not escape me how fortunate I am to be able to dwell on such genteel.niceties....without the desperation and want and fear and grief that plagues so many in our human family. To have the gift of time and treasure and health to express my love for my family and my friends in this way.

I will share with you my finished table setting tomorrow, but I thought you might enjoy some images that served as my inspiration for Thanksgiving 2015. Interspersed with these photos are some Thanksgiving tips and tricks I have learned over the years. Now I know magazines, cooking shows and blogs will regale you with every in and out regarding turkey preparation, pumpkin pie, timing and scheduling your menu, and endless versions of classic recipes with a twist...

I however, just want to share some less well known holiday hints from hosting countless Thanksgiving feasts, that you may have not already read/heard/seen anywhere else. Little amendments really...to your major Thanksgiving list of menu to-do's and when to DO them.

#1  Designate specific areas for depositing anything and everything as soon as guests and family walk in the door.  If possible, designate a traffic cop to show attendees where these stations are...otherwise everything (purses, reading glasses, bottles of wine, phone chargers...) will end up in the valuable square footage right next to the refrigerator which, as we all know, is the busiest, most crowded space in the house right now. In our house, the drink and dessert stations are AWAY FROM THE KITCHEN to help prevent congestion, tripping over pets, and dropping babies on their heads in front of the oven. (Yes, I did that one year....)

#2  If you want everyone to LOVE the food and wax rapturously about the culinary spread, don't serve appetizers that will spoil every one's Thanksgiving appetite. Nothing makes food taste better than actually being hungry... even ravenous. Hopefully, Mr Turkey and all the fixings will be worth the wait. (I do realize this is a controversial issue.... but I stand by my philosophy...)

#3  It is my firm belief that everyone who eats at your table should contribute in some way. Son can't cook? Let him provide the Wonder White Bread, iceberg lettuce and Miracle Whip for the inevitable turkey sandwiches later. No time to cook? How about bringing the Cool Whip for the pumpkin pie, the can of jellied cranberry sauce (you know you love it...), the bag of ice you will invariably need...and forget....or take-home containers for the left-overs and doggie bags?  Little ones can draw picture of turkeys and pumpkins and pilgrims on the place cards, or take pie orders.

#4  Our Thanksgiving is truly a collective endeavor. I provide the venue and table settings and various sides and desserts, (I am also the gravy gal). But other guests actually cook and bring the turkey, casseroles, pies, and traditional sides and desserts, wine and bread, etc.) My kitchen is not large, so I ask everyone to leave as much mess at home as possible. Carve your turkey, but leave the carcass at home, thank you very much (I know, I know, this is blasphemous...but who REALLY carves the big bird at the table...)?

And please don't bring your mashed potatoes in a bowl painted with daisies, or your cranberries in a Santa plate. Thanksgiving appropriate, (or disposable/recyclable) serving pieces are mandatory.

#5  Only essential personnel (i.e., those cooking) should be in the kitchen. (See "I have a small kitchen", above). Designate someone to fill the water glasses with ice, remember to take the butter out of the fridge to soften before hand, make the pot of coffee in advance (requiring only a flip of the switch after dinner...), put someone in charge of the music, put someone in charge of not burning the rolls, put someone in charge of keeping track of every one's wine glass, put someone in charge of not burning the rolls, put someone in charge of getting everyone to the table finally, put someone in charge of not burning the rolls...

without micro-managing, of course.

and remember, to pause, to breathe, to soak up the love of family... and friends who ARE family. 
To immerse yourself  in thankfulness and gratitude.

Tableau from Thanksgiving 2013

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