Story and photos by Dawnye Appel
Being surrounded by loved ones at Thanksgiving brings on nostalgia, but for people who are military affiliated, the holidays are often spent far away from home and family.
If you’ve decided to take it upon yourself and gather new neighbors or soldiers around the table instead of leaving them alone, here are some ideas to help make the day feel a little more like home away from home.
Hosting new guests: How to get people there and mingling
- Be outgoing and affable. If you talk and mingle, it will encourage your guests to talk to one another.
- Hand out paper invites. If you have the money, handing out invites is a nice touch, and it’s more personal than an e-vite.
- Get people interacting. Think of topics that bring out common interests in your guests. Once people get going from a few topics, they will create their own chatter.
- Hunting and the outdoors
- Video games
- Children’s movies
- The best duty station they’ve lived.
- Keep the day simple and within your means. Guests will enjoy your hospitality; you don’t have to over do it.
- Delegate! If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask your guests to pitch in.
- Give away the extras. This will be appreciated, especially if any of your guests are single soldiers.
*Layering leftovers in a mason jar is a hip way to help food last a bit longer.
Kids craft: Thumbprint turkey
• paint or stamp pads in the colors of red, orange, yellow and brown
• googly eyes
• paper plates
• baby wipes
Lay out the colors for everyone to use; either pour out some paint onto the plates or open the stamp pads.
Starting with brown, take your thumb and make two prints, one for the head and one for the body. Wipe off thumb with baby wipe.
Next, start with red at the end of the turkey body to make a tail. Make a row of red, then orange, then yellow. Be sure to wipe thumb in between. Lastly, affix googly eye and let dry.
Preparing the meal: What to do and when
- 2 weeks before: Plan the menu and make two shopping lists for non-perishables and fresh foods. Breaking up shopping into two trips makes budgeting for the day easier, helps you remember necessary items and gives you a better chance of getting what you need before it’s cherry-picked and sparse.
- 1 week before:
- Prepare place settings and make seating cards if needed. Be sure dishes and china are clean as well as napkins and tablecloths.
- Decorate your home, if desired.
- Clean out the refrigerator and pantry to make room for groceries and any food that will be prepped.
- Plan how and when food will be prepared. Print or write out recipes, or for the tech savvy, use meal planning websites, such as Pepperplate. Download the app or visit the website.
- Go shopping for non perishables.
- If turkey is frozen, begin thawing in the refrigerator.
- Chill wine or alcohol, if providing.
- Go shopping for fresh food.
- Begin to cook dishes that can be made ahead of time.
- Prep veggies and potatoes. Store accordingly in the refrigerator.
- Print place cards.
- Thanksgiving Day:
- Take out the turkey in the morning to rest at room temperature.
- Make remaining side dishes.
- Reheat side dishes that were prepped.
Family craft: The thankful tree
This is a project that all attendees can do. It’s nice to remember what has made each person happy the past year, no matter what age.
• construction paper in brown, green, red, orange and yellow
• pens or markers
If desired, tape brown paper to wall to make the tree trunk.
Invite others to cut out leaves in the remaining colors and write something that they are thankful for and add it to the tree. Continue for however long it takes to make a full tree.