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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. All you have to do is show up in some elastic wasted pants, eat until you physically feel ill and enjoy the company of family and friends. That is, unless you are hosting.

This was the second year I “hosted” Thanksgiving. I’m using quotes here because this year we were at my Mom and Dad’s house, so I co-hosted with my mom this year. My primary responsibility was to take care of the meal essentials (turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing etc) and my mom took care of everything else. (My mom is pretty awesome like that.)

My favorite part of hosting is decorating the table. It’s the time of year you can really whip out all the things from your wedding registry and put them to good use!

Last year, I went a little crazy and carved out dozens of tiny pumpkins and turned them into candles. It made for very romantic lighting but was also a major fire hazard.

This year, my mom and I had a great time mixing and matching her place settings with some things from my house. We used two table cloths from Grandma Luker. We used my mom’s china and silver place settings with my chargers. The mix of new with old was a little different but somehow still worked.

I was extremely lucky last year and somehow, the timing of everything worked out perfectly so I naively thought, “wow, hosting Thanksgiving is such a cinch! I can definitely do that again!” This year, things didn’t go quite so smoothly. I over-roasted the garlic (see: burned) and dumped it into the mashed potatoes anyway. As they say, a little garlic goes a long way, but I forgot that little piece of advice so the potatoes were very-very-garlicky. As in, none of us need to worry about vampires for a few months. The stuffing turned out great- all four varieties! Once again, I went a little overboard on the stuffing… but everyone likes leftovers so no problems there. I drove 45 miles one way to pick up these rolls from my favorite place, Omar's CafĂ© in West Concord, MN. Totally, completely worth every mile.... mmmm....

Both years I’ve used the brine recipe from Pioneer Woman (basically bay leaves, rosemary, apple cider, garlic, brown sugar, pepper and orange rind).  After I pull the bird out of the brine, I lather it up with a mixture of soft butter, rosemary, sage and thyme. The real key is to lather the bird under the skin. Both years this has made for a very moist and delicious bird! I probably left it in for a bit too long this year, but it was still yummy. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great. Guests arrived but I wasn’t ready for about half an hour. The mashed potatoes had cooled a bit and the turkey didn’t have ample time to cool before we carved it. I guess the timing is one of those elusive things that sometimes you are able to nail and other years you totally botch.

All-in-all I just want to reflect on the new appreciation I have for the people in my life that have hosted countless holiday meals without a flaw. Candace Ryan and Jim Luker stand out where hosting is concerned. They somehow manage to make you feel completely at home the whole time they were slaving away in the kitchen without ever exhibiting even the slightest sign of stress. Of course my parents and grandparents have also pulled off parties for more than 40 guests year after year.  I think you cannot fully appreciate a good host until you’ve attempted to host yourself.  So thanks again for all those past parties people!

Here is a cool picture of the amazing apron my mom made me as a hostess gift! (Also my adorable nephew Lane and my sister Bonnie!)


Unfortunately, I do not have the same grace as the hosts listed above. It is safe to say that I definitely show signs of stress and anxiety throughout the entire process. This year, my dad and Bonnie helped me remove the turkey from the brine, lather it in butter, insert the stuffing and place in the roaster. My dad kept telling me to relax and at one point Bonnie told a story that I completely ignored and my dad suggested I work on my listening skills. “This is NOT the time to relax or to listen to stories, if anyone should be listening, you should be listening to my instructions!” I retorted! (See, I’m a hostzilla, a turkey monster!) I apologized and everyone forgave me because deep-down they sort of knew I was half-right. Later my grandma even took my side, saying that getting the turkey into the oven on time is not a good time to relax.

I am pretty pumped to be ‘into the fold’ or ‘in the big leagues’ or a quasi-real-adult- however you want to say it. I guess I’m a grown up now and I think it’s pretty awesome and fun.  Roasting turkeys, setting tables and getting jazzed up about things like a perfect pie crust. 

One last pic of my slightly burned turkey just for fun! Now... on to xmas!


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