We have all been there -- hosting a holiday meal for friends, family (and maybe strangers). You're completely overwhelmed. You haven't had time to brush your hair let alone put on lipstick. You've spilled/broken dishes and/or set objects on fire. You forgot to buy certain ingredients, burned yourself, ruined a blouse, scrapped a side dish last minute, and been brought to the edge over your planned tablescape.
Hosting is a real responsibility that involves patience, planning and tact. One will never understand the art of hosting unless you've done so for a quintessential holiday such as Thanksgiving. Most guests have no idea the range of emotions you've been through in the 2 days prior to the event and the endless prepping involved in the upcoming weeks. There will always be some chaos, reason for tears/Neosporin, and the potential for feeling unappreciated. Despite that fact, I believe some of these feelings can be avoided or lessened by keeping the following tips in mind:
The only thing that will get you through a hosting event such as Thanksgiving is relentless and clever planning. It is never too soon to start browsing Etsy for table runners or researching pie crusts. Most importantly, you need to have a plan, or several. Make lists according to your menu/recipes, guests, table ideas, etc.
Try using "secret" boards on Pinterest to organize your thoughts, inspiration and ideas for props, recipes and decor. Need to test/research recipes? Make a list and get used to checking things off. It is never too early to start.
Set your schedule for the entire week of the event -- making sure each day you can do something to relieve your list and responsibilities. Do not underestimate making lists. Get as much done WAY before hand, so you're not scrounging up enough wine glasses the day before Thanksgiving. Amount of lists made is equal to your levels of happiness.
On the day of, get up extra early, get your head on straight and follow your own instructions. You got this.
TWO WORDS: MAKE. AHEAD.
As stupidly simple as this tip sounds, it is an underused secret weapon. Most dishes and responsibilities for a holiday dinner or Thanksgiving can be done before the day of the event (or way earlier). In fact, almost everything can.
This is one time you cannot leave things to the last minute. Do 90% of your grocery shopping the weekend before. Even your classic mashed potatoes can be made ahead of time and reheated (and you will feel so much better once this task is done).Make all of your side dishes ahead of time. Make your pies / crisps / cobblers two days before the event (they will even taste better this way).
The more you can prep ahead of time, the more you will actually enjoy yourself on the day of the event.
I've gone overboard plenty of times attempting to seriously impress guests. Unless your Thanksgiving is being featured in the New York Times, you do not need to go through the pageantry of being crowned "Most Impeccable Host Ever."
Try to keep in mind that your guests are not expecting a ground-breaking, spectacular affair. Your guests want to enjoy themselves which doesn't always involve a 10 ft. long buffet table full of desserts.. You do not need five pies or an array of seasonal cocktail specialities. Keep it simple.
Don't go for recipes that involve ingredients that are hard to find, expensive or ones you've never used before. People will remember a properly roasted turkey and great buttery mashed potatoes more than they will an obscure preparation for a beloved Thanksgiving dish. Instead, choose the dishes you know you will nail.
OUTSOURCE (You aren't perfect and either are your guests):
You do not have to make everything yourself. On the totem pole of Thanksgiving, baking your own bread is straight at the bottom. Do you have time to make spiced apple cider from freshly juiced northern spy apples? Maybe. Is it worth it ? -- probably not.
Instead, try to go by the mantra of "buy it instead." You will have enough responsiblities for Thanksgiving to justify buying apple cider from the farmer's market and hey -- it's probably as good as homemade.
Just because you are the one hosting doesn't mean you're the only one eating. Involve your guests! Do you need a few bottles of liquor? A dairy-free dessert? Wine? Beer? Tell your guests what you need, and I promise you and your guests will be happier this way.
This is the most important tip of all. Do not lose yourself into the dark hole of hosting. Make sure you are having fun and my guess is, others will be too.
Leave the dishes for the morning. Drink too much wine. Send someone else out for paper towels. Have a cocktail or drink choice where your guests can serve themselves. Make sure to take time for yourself and let others help you out.
Hosting can be incredibly exhausting but also REWARDING. Don't lose sight of that (I'm talking to myself here, too). Don't be the one alone in the kitchen cleaning up or running around filling wine glasses. Enjoy the holiday of gratitude and spending time with the ones you love. At the end of the day, you'll probably remember the company more than you will the food.
*Huge thanks to my very talented friend, Ryan Blomberg, for the amazing illustration above (Just for me!). He is an artist, illustrator jewelry-maker based in NYC. His blog, Yoplaydate, full of gaydogs and "single/working woman" brilliance. Please check out his work!