Following up on yesterday’s Thanksgiving event planning ground rules, we’ve moving on to Advanced Party Hosting with more amazing tips from Jennifer Milam of Reveal Event Style.
And for those less experienced in the world of hosting, fear not- Jenn’s tips will turn timid novices into seasoned pros.
If you will be a guest attending someone else’s Turkey Day soiree, remember: this is the biggest cooking day of the year, so it is no time to fall down on your guest-ly duties. Here’s how to contribute, making sure you’re a part of the solution, not the problem. …And, more importantly, ensuring you get invited back next year!
- If you are assigned a dish, bring that dish. Meaning, the hostess said she would like you to bring a vegetable side, bring a vegetable-based side dish. She has a master plan for this meal, and doesn’t need it all going to hell because you chose to show off your Chocolate Chip Dixie Pecan Pie (one of my specialties, thank you very much) instead. If you have a dish near and dear to you, bring it along with whatever she’s said she needed.
- To that end, there will also probably be leeway in what is asked (vegetable side dish allows for a lot of artistic interpretation), so feel free to personalize and have fun with it. Jenn suggests bringing a dish that reflects your heritage. And for a Tennessee native like Jennifer, that means Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Jack Daniels (and hold the mini-marshmallows). Which brings us to the next Guest To-Do…
- Ask if there will be an oven available for cooking, or just a microwave or heating pad for warming. Plan accordingly.
- Do away with the dish. Figure out how to use aluminum foil, a Ziploc bag or Saran wrap or adapt your dish into the easiest form for transportation, preparation and serving. (*See last bullet point.)
- …Meaning Jenn’s Whipped Sweet Potatoes would normally be served in a casserole dish, but instead of bringing another serving dish that will over-crowd the kitchen, she will modify it into Roasted Sweet Potato Skewers, with the Jack Daniels brushed on to the sweet potatoes, then drizzled with molasses, and rolled in brown sugar, nutmeg, crushed cloves and cinnamon; ingredients that would normally be whipped into the casserole-version of the dish. (On an aesthetic note: Jenn suggests alternating pieces of sweet potato with chunks of butternut squash to vary the color of the skewers for a prettier presentation. …She never stops thinking of ways to turn just anything into ‘really something’!)
- At this point, her Roasted Sweet Potato Skewers can become an appetizer, if that suits the hostess’s menu better.
- And she will have already asked if there is a grill or oven to roast or grill her skewers, but likely will have cooked them at home, and they will only need a quick buzz in the mircrowave to warm them up.
- *Another way to avoid burdening the hostess with extra dishes (beacuse at the very least she, or someone, will have to rinse or clean by the end of the evening): hollow out a pumpin or acorn squash and use that as the serving vessel.
In this case, I don’t mean the college football games that will be playing that day (though, be sure to factor those into your T-Giving plans, if you’ve invited sports fans).
I’m sure some of you out there feel that Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving and– especially if you’re with family- it’s going to be the same old, same old. But it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some activity ideas:
FOR THE KIDS
- With supervision, have kids make the rolls…in Thankgsgiving-themed shapes! Cornucopia, Pilgrim’s hat, fall leaves… Use Pillsbury croissant rolls and see what they come up with. (Dibs on the extra large turkey-shaped piece of flakey goodness.)
- Turn them loose with the place cards, a box of crayons, stamps, a glue stick and some fall flair (sequins in autumnal tones, small feathers) and give thanks that they stay occupied for at least 20 minutes!
- Who doesn’t love a good ole turkey-hand piece of art? (Tracing one’s hand onto construction paper, drawing a face, glueing on the aforementioned flair….) Especially when it could keep the wee ones occupied and out from underfoot? Now, that’s a true masterpiece. Showcase them at the dinner table and let the kids know that they contributed to the day.
- And if they just need to get outside- have potato sacks at the ready and an elder to sibling supervise, and host a Thanksgiving potato sack race.
- And for the more ambitious- set out more art supplies (balloons, popsicle sticks, crates, twine, what have you) and let the kids create mini floats that they can march down the street with, for their own version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
- Assign teams: Pilgrims vs. Indians
- Have fun, appropriate headdresses for each- feathered bands and Puritan hats.
- Teams can compete in a flag football game in the yard…
- …or take it up a notch to a turkey cook-off! Which team wins the taste test? The one with the roasted turkey, maple-glazed turkey or fried turkey? Or will it be the rogue outliers with the Turducken? (Where I come from, yes, we have all of the above at the same meal.)
- Did Granny used to make the best squash casserole? Have everyone make their own interpretation of it for a group taste test.
Or forego the competion and focus on coming together:
- Have guests from different backgrounds bring culturally relevant dishes, and tell a story about their heritage.
- And depending on the maturity level and marital status of the group, don’t discount a good old game of Spin the Gourd. (!)
Oh, By the Way: We want to know- Do you have a side that you crave every Thanksgiving? And what’s your favorite turkey? Smoked? Old-fashion roasted? Fried? Let us know in the comments section below.
Let’s Be Honest: Spin the Gourd? ….Hey, don’t knock it ’till you try it.
Accessorize: Let the games begin!
Pilgrim Hat, available from Village Hat Shop
…And Indian Headdress available on Amazon.
About Jennifer Edwards Milam & Reveal Event Style: Based in Nashville, TN, Jennifer and her associate, Catherine Rector, travel the country designing the perfect setting for weddings and formal events. Prior to starting her own event design company, Jennifer worked for event design heavyweight Colin Cowie, as well as a floral designer for television and film in Los Angeles where her work was featured on Friends, West Wing, Rush Hour 2, and many others. Jennifer’s designs have also been featured in many national magazines.