With three small boys and marginal cleaning skills, I’ve discovered a few tricks to making Thanksgiving dinner at our house a little more bearable. I’m assuming, like me, everyone tosses clutter in the closet and Febrezes the bejesus out of the linens. So without further adieu, here are 10 lesser-known tips, tricks and timesavers for hosting the best Thanksgiving ever:
1. This first tip is the most important. Never ever, and I mean never, offer to host Thanksgiving at your house. If you already have, well, shame on you. Call me before making this mistake next year, so a proper intervention can be staged. Until then, here are a few more tips.
2. Schedule out the day to avoid meltdowns, tantrums and tears. Eat early. It’s not polite to ask an adult to come hang out for three hours before they get to enjoy dinner, so how in the world is your 4-year-old going to handle the wait? I’m not asking you to skip cocktail hour (if you thought that’s where this was headed, we’re clearly not spending enough time together).
First hour: children’s games outside, hosted by oldest kid whom you’ve generously slipped a twenty, cocktails and high-fiving inside for grown-ups. Second hour: meal together. Third hour: reminiscing about the good old days, dessert, laughter, football, merriment, and early plotting to get these lovely people you are so fortunate and thankful to be related to safely on their way before the kids absolutely lose their shit.
3. Follow the wine hierarchy. Have an actual bottle of wine to carry around as people arrive. If you want to get fancy, make it one that costs more than $10. Your family and friends are sure to think, “Wow, she’s a mom and pretty much a sommelier. How does she do it all?” After the decent wine is gone, refill the fancy glass bottle using the box of Franzia or gallon of Gallo you have cleverly stashed at the back of the bottom shelf of the fridge behind the Capri Sun.
4. Serve room-temperature rolls. Something happens to us when we become hostesses; we think warm rolls set the tone for a spectacular meal, so to make things easy on ourselves, we pick up frozen rolls that tell us all we have to do is stick them in a nice, warm oven and remember to take them out at the appointed time.
I have purchased these false promises no less than three times and burnt them every single time. My guests think my oven has one setting: hellfire. I’ve tried less heat, I’ve tried less time, and I’ve concluded Pillsbury is in cahoots with the wine company, to whom we turn after passing out our black-bottomed biscuits of disappointment. If your guests want warm rolls, offer to walk around with one in your armpit for five minutes, which is completely sanitary because I’ll be wearing long sleeves and the sweater is new from The Loft and their stores are impeccably clean, so just hand the roll to me. I really don’t mind. Oh, you like them room temperature now? Thought so.
5. Simply Potatoes from the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Do you like to peel sweet potatoes, mash them, and lovingly place equidistant miniature marshmallows on top in your best casserole dish for the whole family to enjoy? Ha! Me neither. Also, what does a casserole dish look like? Glass? Pottery?
Simply Potatoes are pretty hard, which means you can make them as unpleasantly lumpy as you’d like. Throw in a little sour cream, some chives, and then close your eyes and grab any spice from the rack and add a couple dashes of that, too. Nothing says made-from-scratch like a relative with a mouthful of your potatoes saying, “Wow! These are certainly interesting!”
6. Start the Thanksgiving ham tradition this year. Turkey is dumb anyway. I am a vegetarian who prepares meat for her family all the time, but I draw the line at removing the squishy bag of guts (giblets is not a gross enough word for this crime against humanity), and you can probably guess where I stand on the-shoving-breadcrumbs-in-the-rectal-cavity issue.
For holidays, I call the HoneyBaked Ham store a week ahead of time like a responsible oven-avoider, then stand in line for a half hour the day before Thanksgiving, bonding with folks nearby about how we’ll never go to a Black Friday sale on Thanksgiving night because retail workers deserve to be home with their families, and why have the Christmas decorations been up for a month already?! It’s the same conversation every year; you could set your turkey timer to it—if you needed one.
7. Take any article you can find with a title like “10 Tips For Stress-Free Hosting This Thanksgiving” and light it on fire. I know you like them, because you’re reading this one. Most of those psychopaths are just trying to tell you the fastest way to sew festive sequins on your apron or how to hot-glue pompoms to a pinecone for a darling turkey centerpiece. Nobody’s got time for that. Burn it and send it back to the fiery, crafty hell from which it came.
8. Remember, CPR! It’s getting late, the kids are cranky, and it looks like Cousin Earl is walking toward the Scotch with an empty glass, about to regale everyone with another story about his crazy road trip to Nebraska. Be sure to keep a list of fun conversation-starters on hand, revolving solely around CPR (controversy, politics and religion). Nothing makes a guest finish their dessert faster than a big old dollop of whipped cream, and “How about that Kim Davis?”
9. Long story short, you can make grocery store cupcakes look like your own. Scrape off the frosting, re-frost, eat leftover frosting for quality control, and if you want to get fancy, stick a candy corn in the center—but not the exact center (nobody likes a show-off).
10. You’re going to be on your feet from early morning until mealtime, and then again until the Kim Davis talk. Your feet will swell. Grab yourself an Amope foot filer on Wednesday night and whittle your feet down a quarter size. They’ll still swell, but your shoes won’t pinch, assuring your anger comes from something legit, like burned rolls and not uncomfortable shoes.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, friends! And if you don’t mind, set five extra places—we’re super hungry.
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