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November 01, 2017

10 Tips I learned from Hosting Last Year | Thanksgiving Essentials


I love Thanksgiving.  I think I'll start all of the Thanksgiving posts out that way : )  This week is going to be FULL of Thanksgiving.  I am not hosting this year, it is my Mom's turn.  So, I will have to relish in all of the prep and planning through my photos from last year (that I've never shared!).   I'm going to be walking you through my process from last year - tips, tables, flowers, menu, recipes, etc.  Today, I'm sharing some essentials and tips I learned from hosting last year.  Tomorrow I'm going to share my perfect Thanksgiving Menu.  Then we'll talk flowers and tables - the best part.

Above : Last year my helper Emma basting the turkey.  It is so important to let everyone pitch in where they can.  My Mom always brings the pies (my job this year!), Mike gets the yard ready and the fires going, Emma helps me cook and sets the table, and Mike's mom is always willing to bring and do anything I need.  Everyone LIKES to help with Thanksgiving, so let them.  It really feels more like a family affair when everyone is a part of the plan - which is hard for me to remember sometimes.  I guess that is the first tip : )


Being organized is key.  Doing everything before hand is so important.  


Get every spoon, fork, coffee cup, sprig of thyme, or bowl of sugar out, and ready for use.


Ok, here we go - the official tips and essentials for Thanksgiving.

#1: Plan Ahead



"The Plan" Tablet

This is a new tablet I designed especially for big, overwhelming parties or projects.  I find it so helpful to do a brain-dump and get everything out on paper.  It helps me to go on autopilot the week of, and helps me reduce stress because it is all here - I don't have to remember when to pick up the flowers, go get the napkins, order the turkey - it is all written down.


I designed it to be very flexible for any project.  For a holiday like Thanksgiving, as you can see here, you can write down the recipe or element in the first column, when you plan to prep, details (like what recipe, page #), cooking method & oven temp, time to begin and what serving platter to use.

You can also transform it into a chores chart for your family, or a to-do list for an event.

The Plan Tablet, $14


Weekly Planning Tablet

Last year I used my Weekly Planner to organize the timeline of preparation before Thanksgiving - when to go to the grocery store, when to hit the flower market, when to iron the linens, etc.  I use this every week to get organized, but it is especially helpful on crazy weeks like Thanksgiving.  It also helps me to spread out the duties so I don't wake up the day before and realize I forgot to pick up the turkey... or the roasting pan, see below : )  Nothing's foolproof.



Last year the day before Thanksgiving I had to make a last minute run to get a Turkey Baster and a Roasting Pan.  Not ideal!  They are those things that you only see once a year (or once every couple of years) and can be donated, misplaced or repurposed (our baster was being used outside with the mudpie toys).  Since I only use these items occasionally, I opted for inexpensive versions from Target.  Sometimes I splurge, sometimes I don't care!

This is Emma last year doing her duty!




Another item that is sometimes only used once a year is a gravy boat.  Make sure you have a pretty one.

#2 : An Easy Breakfast 


Ok, turkey is in the oven, table is set, pies are being baked... it is 8am and then you have hungry people walking into your kitchen ready for breakfast : )

Don't forget about breakfast - especially if you have house guests.  It can be easy to get wrapped up in getting the turkey in the oven, rolling out the pie dough and setting the table, and completely forget about the meal that is before the meal.



Baked Pumpkin Donuts will have the house smelling delicious and are perfect for parade watching.  Tip : Make the batter ahead of time and just pull it out of the fridge - see below!



You can make the batter ahead of time and just pull it out of the fridge the morning of.  I put it in this large disposable piping bag so it is easy piped into the Donut Pan, and then you just throw it away.  The donuts bake in 8-10 minutes.  They are a really quick and easy option.



Of course the easiest option is the bake a Pumpkin Bread loaf the week before and pull it out of the freezer the night before.  Warmed up and spread with softened butter...


#3: Wear An Apron!



An Apron

There is nothing worse than getting ready for a party and then sloshing the delicous basting butter and wine mixture down your blouse.  I don't always wear an apron, but I definitely do on Thanksgiving.

Indigo Stripe Apron











#4 : Easy Appetizer Platters



Speaking of splurges, anytime we are entertaining I put out an appetizer board on my Aged Bread Boards with all kinds of nibbles.  My set of boards can make any relish platter look deliciously rustic and bountiful - no matter how quickly thrown together.


Of course, I display them in my kitchen all of the time, but they really are so useful.  My favorite, useful and beautiful.


I made the Barefoot Contessa's Fig Preserves and kept them in the fridge the entire holiday season.  I was able to pull it out with goat cheese or cream cheese for a great last minute appetizer.

#5 : Get Everything Out & Organized


I set up a help yourself bar in an area that is out of my cooking zone.  This helps to keep guests out of the turkey basting area : )



I like to find creative containers for the bar area - like this urn for the bubbles.


I stacked all of the platters that will be used in my office that's adjacent to the kitchen.  That way they were out of the way, but ready for use when I needed them.

#6 : Favorite Platters for All of the Things


The Creamware Platters are so nice for Thanksgiving.  The set of 6 will be all you need for every single item on the menu.  If you have some leftover, you can hang them on your wall, or have two sets like me : )


Everything looks better on a pretty platter.



In additional to creamware, I like to use pewter finish pieces.  I love the rustic patina of them and the earthiness they add.


The Pumpkin centerpiece I made last year with the Service Tray underneath.

#7 : Table Linens


This is obvious.  We'll talk more about linens tomorrow, but you can find all of my collections, here >




#8 : Sheet Pans & Parchment Paper


Parchment Paper & Baking Sheets make so many things easier.  They are a breeze to bake on (non-stick!) and make clean-up so easy.  I used them last year when I made the Sweet Potato Empanadas as an appetizer from the Barefoot Contessa's book.



I always use them for scones, too, which would be another good idea for an easy breakfast.  Make them ahead and pull them out of the freezer to bake in the morning.

#9 : Clear Cups for Kiddos & To-Go Containers


Kids Cups with Lids - we never have enough of these!
To-Go Containers will help send leftovers home with everyone.

#10 : Thoughtful Thanksgiving Placecards


Four years ago, this "Thankful" card became a tradition for many of you.  The first year's read "I Am Thankful For" - but last year I changed it to "We Are Thankful" to really reinforce the Thanksgiving spirit.  It is such nice way to be greeted as you sit down to a feast that is all about bounty and thanksgiving.  Sometimes knowing (and seeing) that someone is grateful to have us in their lives is all we need to be fulfilled - feeling this love just might encourage them to spread that love to others.  I like that it brings the real point of the Thanksgiving holiday into focus.  Having it right there on the table helps everyone remember what the holiday is all about. 
These cards work great as Place Cards or as Gift Tags tied on a present or hostess gift.


My helper making place cards : )


I'll be back tomorrow with my ideal Thanksgiving Menu... yummmm : )

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