How to Host a Beautiful (and Stress-Free) Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is just two days away, and that can spell panic if you're the one hosting the holiday. That's especially true if this is your first time in the hot seat, but no matter how experienced you are, big holidays are big deals that can lead to big stress. At the end of the night, murder should not be on your mind! Here are our tips for making your Thanksgiving easy, elegant, festive and fun. The goal? Being able to spend the morning watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade guilt-free!
Start today-Don't wait until Thanksgiving to get your home ready for guests. Take care of any little fix-it items such as replacing burned-out lightbulbs, removing dead flowers from outdoor pots, polishing silver. Don't knock yourself out cleaning every last surface. General tidiness is what guests will register, not the dust that may be hiding on top of a window valance. Besides, you'll have to clean all over again after Thanksgiving.
Decorate!-With the Christmas season growing ever longer and Santa appearing earlier each year, holding on to some semblance of the Thanksgiving spirit may be a losing battle. Nonetheless, creating a festive atmosphere is every bit as important as serving good food and will go a long way toward making the day memorable. Try a harvest theme -- tie corn husks around your entrance, plant ornamental cabbage in your outside pots, or fill them with gourds and pumpkins, which you can still buy this time of year. Even if you hate plastic flowers, they serve a purpose outside, where getting wet or eaten by squirrels can be an issue. Stick sprays of faux berries or bittersweet in planters or try sheaves of wheat tied with raffia.
Inside-Spice-scented candles in the living or family room will put guests in the mood, but never use scented in the dining room! You don't want them to compete with the food. Fresh flowers can be simple potted mums in baskets or burlap or cut flowers trimmed for shorter arrangements. Look for unusual containers that can be used for vases -- thrift shops are a great place to find old crockery or kitschy Thanksgiving items like ceramic turkeys and Pilgrims. Or go natural, with birch bark covers for glass vases (try Roxanne's in the Strip) or twigs.
Get ready to serve-Dig out the serving pieces and utensils. If you're doing a buffet, set it up now so you know where everything will go. Use your imagination. Bowls can be placed in baskets, baskets can be lined with colorful napkins, napkins can be wrapped around anything unsightly, especially if it's coming straight from the oven.
Stock your bar and make sure there's something for everyone. Instead of soft drinks try cranberry juice mixed with lemonade, cider or other seasonal drinks. Have plenty of dry white wine and some good pinot noir on hand, and whatever else your tradition dictates chilled and ready to go. Buy pretty paper holiday cocktail napkins for use with drinks and hors d'oeuvres.
Set your table early-Check your tablecloths and napkins for freshness and stains and make sure your glasses and dishes are spot-free. Decide what linens and accessories you want to use. No need to own special napkins. Roll and tie white ones with brown and orange ribbons or several pieces of raffia or tuck sprays of bittersweet into a fold.
Garlands of fall leaves from Michael's or other craft stores can look very real by candlelight. Snake them around hurricanes, circle them around a classic cornucopia filled with small gourds or punctuate them with votives. Corn husks can be stripped from the stalks and used as an informal runner, with miniature ears of Indian corn scattered on top or a selection of small heirloom pumpkins in unusual shades of green, silver and orange.
Don't be afraid to delegate-When guests and especially family members ask what they can do or bring, suggest wine, appetizers, after-dinner chocolates, maybe even the side dishes. The more things you don't have to do or buy, the better.
Keep it simple-This is not the time to experiment with a new recipe or to make anything with a zillion ingredients. Thanksgiving is all about family, friends and comfort food. And not all that much of it either. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes? Stuffing and rolls or bread? Four different kinds of pie? Yes, Thanksgiving dinner should be a feast, but in this age of obesity, make some courageous choices and edit the menu. No one will starve.
Buy ahead-Make sure you have purchased everything you need before Thanksgiving Day when you shouldn't have to leave the house. Do as much prep as you can in advance -- baking, mixing, chopping -- so Thanksgiving is more about assembling. Your kitchen will be cleaner, too. Ideally you should stuff the turkey on Thursday morning, put it in the oven and kick back with the Rockettes. Now that's a happy Thanksgiving!