Well, yes, Thanksgiving was weeks ago, but I successfully hosted a group of 19 adults and one toddler. It wasn’t stress-free, but all in all it went smoothly. I thought I’d put down some notes here to make the next holiday (i.e. Christmas) go just as smoothly and avoid the couple of hiccups that did crop up.
- Set a Time & Let People Know. Ok, so, this one I didn’t do super well. There were still a couple text the day of asking what time dinner was being served. Be sure this included in the invite (more on that later) and encourage people to come on time. You’re always going to have the problem of people running late/hitting insane NYC traffic etc., but in order to have any sort of order for the day you need an estimated time for serving dinner. If needed, remember that hot plates are your friend.
- Facebook Groups. There was a time I rebelled against Facebook. There are a myriad of reasons, but really, my Mom, mother-in-law, husband and pretty much everyone else that uses a computer is on Facebook. So, yes, there are prettier evites, but for my family and friends, it’s easier to use the technology that people are actually using rather than trying to get them to convert.
- Text/Call & Confirm with the Non-Facebook People. In my family there are a handful of people that just don’t use email or social media. Sigh. So be sure to text or call these people well in advance, confirm that they’ll be attending and ask them what they would like to bring. This brings me to …
- Ask everyone to bring something. This actually worked really, really well. I decided that Thanksgiving should be more of a potluck, because I really just couldn’t handle cooking a Turkey, a bunch of sides, host and clean-up. I used the Facebook group to coordinate what everyone brought. About a week before the holiday, I posted the proposed menu and asked anyone to chime in with missing dishes etc. Also, remember there will be a lot of different foods, so huge servings aren’t necessarily needed.
- Order & Pick-up Turkey/Meat Early. As soon as I have a reasonably accurate head count, I order the turkey. It just feels good to have that item checked off my list. Likewise, picking up the turkey is a major to-do. When I can, I like to pick it up early. Since I used a dry brine this year, I picked up the turkey on Monday and did the dry brine that evening. That gave the bird three full days to soak in the flavors of the herbs.
- Set-Table & Do Any/All Prep the Day Before. To the extent anything can be done in advance, do it! I made the base for the gravy, set the table and got the side-tables set-up the day before. This made the morning go a lot smoother. This will be even more important for Christmas since we go out for Christmas Eve.
- Get a Toddler Wrangler. In the morning, before all the other guests arrived, I asked my sister to come early to play with Leah. My sister is one of Leah’s favorite people, so she only takes a couple minutes to warm-up and they can happily draw and read together for quite a while. Leah still didn’t go down for her nap, but that’s just kind of how she rolls with big events. Having the extra set of hands made it possible for us to focus on cooking.
- Tupperware & Clean-Up. Ugh. This was my one major fail. I should have bought those cheap tupperware containers to send leftovers with everyone. We didn’t have a lot of leftovers (next year 1.5 per person or two smaller turkeys), but it would have been so much better if I had the tupperware ready. Also, I need to come up with a plan to deal with clean-up, including an organized place for recycling and trash. Our regular bins don’t really work for parties.
Finally, I have an amazing husband that helped with all of this, from the brining (I read the instructions, he brined), carving the turkey and keeping an eye on it while I wrangled the toddler. Hosting is a major job, which goes so much better when two people can work together to get the cooking and cleaning done.