This will be my second year hosting thanksgiving, and I’m excited to do it!
Last year, due to some unfortunate scheduling by the military, Dan got sent to Wainwright, AB immediately following my birthday/marriage proposal, and two days before Thanksgiving. We hadn’t planned on this, but with the little lead-time we had been given we decided to proceed as if nothing had changed would be the best course of action. And proceed I did!
Here’s the thing about army bases, in case this wasn’t painfully obvious, they’re full of lonely young service members during the holidays. For some, travelling home is a 1000$+ commitment for only a couple of days or even hours. Military members get once-a-year paid travel to where the address of their “next of kin” is, however they usually use that at Christmas (insert other religious holiday). This means that unless your friends have SOs, or family nearby, or are feeling particularly rich in time and money, they will be around and looking for family and love on the holidays.
Some guys/girls use it as an excuse to go on benders with their like-minded friends, however we decided early-on that we wanted to re-create the feeling of home at the holidays, for ourselves and our friends! What better way to celebrate thanksgiving or easter, or the christmas holiday season, than hosting a party with all the fixings of home?!
If you knew the aforementioned facts, then you also know how much it costs to a) put on a traditional holiday spread, b) how much these guys/girls can eat in a sitting! The second you add some scotch, a good board game, and have an open bed for them, it becomes a dangerous game of one-upmanship between them and their stomach/plate. I’ve seen that one end several ways.
Make a budget, stick to it, and don’t be afraid to ask your guests to pitch-in! They have a vested interest in its success too!
For those looking to “take-in” a rag-tag group of lost souls on base around the holidays, here are some tips for planning a succesfull/cost effective weekend:
ORDER YOUR TURKEY(s) TWO WEEKS BEFOREHAND! either at the butcher, the market, or your grocery store. Give them enough time to get the bird you want for the price you want! I had asked for a rather large bird to feed the 14 guests we had planned, however the store messed-up and gave me two butterballs for a total of 20$ ( a bargain). I won at thanksgiving last year. Won’t be doing it again this year though, as we were eating turkey well into Christmas.
– TIP no#1 Plan early: Make a facebook event, have your SO make it known to his friends, let your friends know! The sooner you get the word out, the sooner people can plan around it themselves and start making the necessary arrangements!
*last year we had a friend fly up from RMC for the weekend because it was less expensive than flying across the country to go home.*
– TIP no#2 Set the menu early: Pot luck is almost the only way to do this cost/time-effectively. If you provide the turkey/ham/meat substitute, it allows others who might not have a kitchen or the time to prepare, to purchase a side, or make arrangements to make one themselves.
It will also ensure menu coherance!!! I CAN’T STRESS THAT LAST ONE ENOUGH! The last thing you want is 4 potato side-dishes and turkey, no vegges or desert. I find that making a facebook event and placing the menu front and centre is the best way to go. Invite people to tell you/post which side they’d like to bring. (update the menue as you go ex. Mike will bring brussel sprout casserole, Steve is brining a case of beer, Sarah has got the pies covered.)
-TIP no#3 make your event BYOB: just like with the food, it can be outrageously expensive to serve a full meal and a full-bar, at least at this point in our lives. As such, we invite everyone to bring their own booze, or give someone the option to bring two cases of beer/a bottle of whiskey/scotch, instead of a side. Some people aren’t inclined to cook, but by god can they pick out a good scotch.
– TIP no#4 offer a bed/floor/couch or set-up a ride-share program: There’s nothing worse than having to deal with someone who drank too much and can’t get home/doesn’t have a place to stay.
We’ve always had a guest room, and we made damn sure our couch would be big enough for a person to sleep on it. Our next option is to outfit the living room floor with a sleeping bag and a cot. We’re also offering a free meal and good time to anyone who wants to be a DD and drive people to-and-from dinner.
You’ll usually get one brave soul willing to go without a drink or two. Because this isn’t thanksgiving with the in-laws, you don’t need quite as much alcohol to survive.
– TIP no#5 Chinette vs. good china : the perpetual debate between paper plates and your good china! Last year I was on a martha stewart trip, and decided to use our good plates. It was a great option because we could just wash them between courses, but it was a terrible idea because we had to wash everything by hand. We didn’t have a dishwasher !!! ! ! ! ! We all mustered and got everything clean, but I would have much more enjoyed loading a dish-washer or tossing out the plates.
Some other things to consider with that decision, are whether or not you have enough place settings in your set to accommodate the total guest count. ex you have 8 place settings, but 10 guests. I say use your china and buy two settings at Walmart that are complementary.
ex. you have 8 place settings, but 16 guests. You could still use your china and buy a second set that is complementary for cheap, but you could also buy a 20 pack of dixie and call it a day.
Chances are, there will be so much food and so many decorations on the table, that you won’t be able to see the place settings anyways.
At the end of the day, whatever is most convenient will be your best choice. If it requires more than a 5mins clean-up, will you really want to spend that time away from the table and good conversation?
– TIP no#6 Offer someone the chance to clean-up instead of bringing/making anything: this option works-out really well if you have visiting guests. It’s usually a chance for them to redeem themselves for all the midnight farts wafting down the hall, and the clogged toilet, or the fact that they ate half your pie before the guests got here. We have two regular guests at our home, and I make them clean because it’s like dealing with severe versions of my husband.
– TIP no#7 Have an after dinner option: Board games? card games? a TV-show? Good music in the background to sustain conversation? Go for a walk with the dog while some people clean-up? Watch a movie? Call it a night? The options are endless. We usually take the dog for a walk with those wanting to get the blood moving below they satiated bellies, while some clean-up, some visit the john, some go home! Point is, we give everyone a bit of time to move around before we embark on our next event.
We take games every seriously in this house, and our board game collection is an extensive as our card games. I’ve posted about our love of board games on my other blog, see the post here. Point being, there’s nothing quite like laughing endlessly or launching an in-depth campaign to take over asia while nursing a scotch and letting the smell of warm pie waft past your nose.
If you give your guests options, it allows the night to wind-down at your own pace instead of kicking them out. It also allows some people to sober up, some to flirt, and others to get the family feel they came over to get.
– TIP no#8 Make sure the house is stocked beforehand!!!: Toilet paper is the first that comes to mind, alongside alcazeltzer/antacids, and coffee. This, in addition to your shopping list. Keep in mind people may just wander into your kitchen or bar and help themselves, so don’t make anything you would miss, readily available.
ex. I make sure I have enough milk/cream for dinner coffee, breakfast coffee and cereal or anyone who thinks they might want some creme with their potatoes (it happened…)
ex. You can actually never have enough beer, as this crew tends to find a place to put it all! I’ve found that the tone of the evening is quite different when there’s only two 24s, as opposed to 62 beers and a bottle of jamieson. Mix and match according to the crowd size though!
– TIP no#9 Plan the evening, but allow for the plan to change: These people are used to structure. They cling to it! They will not appreciate you having regimented the evening down to the minute though. If you announce what you’d like to get done, before dinner is served ex “We’ll have dinner, take our time, take the pooch for a walk while some of us clean up, and maybe play a board game?” it will allow guest to get a good feel for the evening, and pace themselves accordingly.
Our usual guests know how we roll, but some of the newer ones may not be expecting board games and will get hammered before the cheese course.
– TIP no#10 if you’re having guests stay over, plan breakfast! and make it easy: Last year I pre-made cinnamon rolls and had them in the fridge until the next day.
– TIP no#11 Remember that everything you do this year will serve as a lesson for next year 🙂 Enjoy yourself! After all, if the hostess looks like someone pissed in her gravy, it will put everyone else ill at ease. Thankfully Dan is an adept social entertainer, and we make hosting an art. We enjoy making people feel good, and providing a great experience.
I’ve already got my menu and guest-list up, now I’m waiting to go place an order for my turkey.
I’ll have more posts as the day grows nearer!