Hosting Thanksgiving For the First Time

Adventures, family, In the Kitchen

This Thanksgiving, J and I hosted his whole family at his house. We spent a couple of months planning it, and I’m so glad we did! It was a total blast! About 30 people came over, and the day was perfect. I rounded up some alcohol to get us started, and then also agreed to make a turkey, the stuffing and a garden salad. J signed up for the ham. He smoked his in his smoker and OMG it was amazing. To get set up, one of his cousins let us use a ton of linens and we transformed his shop into a Thanksgiving Feast Wonderland!

In order to keep the event organized, J started a Facebook event, and I created a google doc for a signup sheet. Is this something you guys would like to see? If so, I can make a public template!

Hosting Thanksgiving 2016

I brought over some of my empty serving dishes, since I knew J and his roommates wouldn’t have any. I was super stoked to be able to use the chip and dip platter that I got at Target for $4.98 a few months ago. The cake stand and white bowl were also super exciting finds. I bought the two-tiered stand and cake platter at Marshall’s a few weeks ago when I was starting to get ready for Thanksgiving.


Hosting Thanksgiving 2016

Then, the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I realized I didn’t have any serving platters to move the Turkey on. Thank God I remembered! I googled where to buy them, and the internet said TJ Maxx and Home Goods. I got there, and they had large and small serving platters, bowls, gravy boats, and on and on and on. And guess what?! They matched the cake stand I bought!!! I couldn’t believe my luck! I excitedly texted J to tell him about it. He didn’t seem to appreciate how amazing that was, but I wasn’t surprised. That cake stand was $12.99, the two-tier was $9.99, the bowl was $6.99, the large platters were $12.99 (seen with the turkey below), and then the smaller platters, which I didn’t get a photo of somehow, were $9.99.

I’m ready to host all of the dinner parties now!

I also hunted around online for a good group activity. I found an idea for a “Thankful Tree.” While at TJ Maxx I bought this gold frame for $5 and the tree branches for $7.49 I think it was. The plain white rectangle tags were from Fred Meyer for about $3, and the other two were $5 and $3 from Michael’s. The twine was from Target for about $4. J let me use his computer to make this sign. He also let me download a new font on his computer, because obviously the standard ones wouldn’t work. The font is (affiliate link) Scallions off of Creative Market.

The vase and the rocks inside the vase were $1 each from the dollar store. I would definitely suggest getting something heavy to go inside the vase. Until I put the rocks in, it kept falling over. And if you’re getting a sparkly tree, put it together wherever you don’t care about having glitter for the next 15 years. Also, maybe don’t leave it somewhere the cats can knock over a few days later… sorry about that…. Hosting Thanksgiving - Creating a Thankful Tree

I learned later that some people found the prompt a little intimidating. Next time, I’ll make it more specific. Like, “What are you thankful for in 2016?” Or even something like, “What’s your best memory from Thanksgiving.” Apparently the pressure of writing what you’re thankful for on a little tag was too much for some people!  Hosting Thanksgiving - Creating a Thankful Tree

But many really did write on it and I loved reading their responses! Some were really personal so I’m not going to post what they said, but the tree looked gorgeous with all of the “thanks” hanging from it. The kids in attendance told me that J wrote simply, “Brittany,” on one of the tags. I found it, and it really did say Brittany. I’m still deciding if they did it or he did, since overly sweet PDAs aren’t really his style. :) Either way, I loved it, of course!

Hosting Thanksgiving - Creating a Thankful Tree

We got the tables all set up the weekend before, and I added the decorations on Wednesday. The Pilgrim crackers were also from Marshall’s. I’d never seen anything like that before! Apparently they’re big in the UK??? Anyway, you pull them apart and there are prizes inside. These had finger puppets and paper crowns. I didn’t tell anyone they were crackers until after dinner. Once I did, 6 people were wearing crowns and talking through finger puppets.  Hosting Thanksgiving 2016

The tea lights are battery operated. I got them from Home Goods before my birthday in 2015. The tea light holders have been moved from apartment to apartment to house for years so I have no clue where they came from, but I pretty much only use them for events like this. They’re super clutch.

The flower-y items were from Joann’s. I spent a long time looking for a bag of decorative leaves after a coworker told me about hers and how beautiful they were. I couldn’t find them ANYWHERE, so finally at about 4:00 on Wednesday, I went to Joann’s and found these for $2.97-$3.97. There is a perk to last minute decor shopping! Hosting Thanksgiving 2016 Hosting Thanksgiving 2016

I’m obviously still learning my DSLR and haven’t figured out why some of my photos are slightly blurry. I imagine they will get better with practice.

The turkey went into the oven at 9:30 AM, all dolled up, put into a turkey bag, and ready to be roasted in the roasting pan of my grandpa’s. It’s one of the few things of his I have from after he passed away. It felt really special to be able to use it on such a great occasion. I started to get a little teary eyed about it, and then J’s mom showed up to help get things ready and I pulled myself together.

Once it was in the oven, I set alarms to check on the turkey about an hour before it would be done, and then 30 minutes, then right on time.

Then I took a nap, and leisurely took a shower, got ready, put on makeup and watched football.

What I didn’t realize, is that J and his roommates don’t have a meat thermometer. A meat thermometer!!! How could I forget?! At the four hour mark, I realized I’d have to go to the store. It was also 3 minutes before the Cowboys game started! Now I was stressed.

I hurried to Safeway, literally ran through the parking lot, speed walked through the store, bought a meat thermometer, and then rushed back to J’s house. After a few seconds, the thermometer showed the appropriate temp for both the bird and the stuffing. Whew!

Hosting Thanksgiving 2016 - cooked turkey

Here are the recipes I used for the Turkey and the Stuffing.

The food was incredible. The tables slowly began to fill up as more and more people arrived. I got to peek around as the turkey cooled, and finally say hi to the people who arrived while I was frantically looking for a meat thermometer.

Hosting Thanksgiving 2016 - food table

And the dessert crew did NOT disappoint. Everyone who signed up to make a dish took their choices very seriously. Alisha had even practiced her apple pie in advance!

Check out her gorgeous pie, and then follow her on Instagram. Her page is GORGEOUS!

Perfecting my apple pie recipe in time for thanksgiving 🍏🍎

A photo posted by Alisha Christine (@alisha.christine) on

Hosting Thanksgiving 2016 - dessert table

Then, when the turkey had cooled the appropriate 30 minutes, I went inside to get it onto a platter. But I realized, I don’t know how to move a 20 pound turkey from a roasting pan to a platter without dropping it. And what do I do with the stuffing? Then where’s the turkey carving knife? How do you even use a turkey carving knife?!

(Empty the stuffing into a separate bowl. Get your strong boyfriend to come into the kitchen and use some big forks to transfer the bird by the now-empty cavities (gross). The turkey carving knife was forgotten. Use a big, sharp knife. Cut just like every other piece of meat you’ve ever eaten. Give up on the idea of a gorgeous Sandra Lee platter or evenly sliced pieces. People are hungry. Just get that bird deconstructed and let people eat!).

At this point, people started getting kicked out of the kitchen and we enlisted the help of Joey’s cousin who often hosts thanksgiving to show us what to do. He walked us through cutting the turkey. I laid things out on a platter. J suffered through what was still a REALLY hot Turkey. And I took a couple more blurry photos because it was stressful and I didn’t realize my photos weren’t clear.  Hosting Thanksgiving 2016 - carving the turkey

J’s family turned out in a big way and created the most amazing dishes! Just looking at those deviled eggs makes me want to make some of my own (obviously, deviled eggs too delicious to ever be left over). That’s an OK meal for breakfast, right? Hosting Thanksgiving 2016 - so much food

After I ate a plate and a half of food standing up due to nervousness about the Cowboys game, I finally felt relaxed enough to fully appreciate what an amazing day it was. The morning was super relaxing, then the hectic turkey time came, and then it was super relaxing again. Now I know in the future to just let the turkey risk being cold so that it will be done by the time people show up. Then I can really appreciate their arrival, and I’ll have a buffer if I realize there isn’t a meat thermometer anywhere in the house. SMH.

In the end, we had to take a victory photo. We did it! We survived! It was a ton of fun, even including the stressful part trying to figure out how to carve the turkey and missing almost the entire first half of the football game. And let me tell you, I’m not mad about having so many leftovers to eat. Yum!! My only regret is not having better self control and finishing off the left over ham within 48 hours! Hosting Thanksgiving 2016 - post feast photo How was your Thanksgiving? Have you recovered yet? Are you getting enough rest this holiday season?

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  • Reply
    LaVonne Long
    December 2, 2016 at 8:19 am

    I love the Thankful Tree idea! I think your first time hosting went very well! Good job ;)
    LaVonne Long recently posted…Easily Monitor Mental Health with Technology!

  • Reply
    Julie Hood
    December 2, 2016 at 8:45 am

    MMM smoked ham sounds so good! And hosting 30 ppl is a huge deal–way to go!

    • Reply
      December 2, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      Thanks! It was definitely a bigger job than I anticipated, but so fun!! And that ham… soooo good, and so simple!

  • Reply
    Heather with WELLFITandFED
    December 2, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    The turkey and the pie. OMG!!!!!! Amazing.
    Heather with WELLFITandFED recently posted…The Seven “Healthy” Foods That Are Not Actually That Healthy

    • Reply
      December 2, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      Right?! I can’t wait to try to perfect the recipe next year! And Alisha’s pie was PERFECT!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Great job Brittany, seems like such a fun time! that apple pie looks amazing,
    xx, Kusum |
    Kusum recently posted…Spaghetti Squash Bowl | Heart Healthy Recipe

  • Reply
    December 5, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    Aww.. you guys are such cuties! You did an excellent job– that would be so overwhelming to me!
    Rachael recently posted…Escape Room: The Game

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