Don’t Be Afraid to Tackle Turkey Day

Andy, Josh and Me with a pre-dinner photo. Thanksgiving 2020
Even though our crowd was just three in 2020, I still used my original timeline from 2013.


After a few years of spending more time in a vehicle than time with families at Thanksgiving, Andy and I decided to take the plunge and host.


It made sense. We were the halfway point to both sides of our families, and with our work schedules, traveling to everyone was just too much. With the exception of 2020, we have now hosted every year since 2013. Here are our takeaways.


There will be a mess.


I’m not just talking burnt croissants (two years in a row) and dishes for days (thankfully, the grandmas handle this catastrophe). I’m talking BIG mess.  An example would be what we affectionately call “Andy’s Splash Down Turkey.”

Burned Croissants
While no photos exist of the disaster caused with the “Splash Down Turkey” there is evidence of the burnt croissants.


My husband’s main responsibility for our first Thanksgiving was the turkey. He had a plan – brine it for 24 hours, cook it in the roaster set up in the garage, let turkey rest, then carve and serve. Simple enough.


On Tuesday night, he poured all of the ingredients for the brine into a five-gallon sideline cooler (he’s an athletic trainer, so we have these handy). Then he unwrapped the turkey, removed the bag of parts, and prepared it for its soak. 


All I heard from the other room was “SPALOOOSH – THUD” and cursing.


What I witnessed next was brine all over the kitchen – the ceiling, the walls, the counters, the fridge, and Andy too. I found spots of brine and herbs in random places for YEARS. But according to our family, it was some of the best turkey they’ve ever eaten.


Timelines are key.


I like lists and schedules. I worked backward from when we wanted the meal served (noon) and plotted out everything from initial prep to a break to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Our Turkey Day Master Timeline
This is the timeline I created for our first attempt at hosting Thanksgiving. Luckily I realized early that I may need it for future events. It has been used every year since.


What to consider developing the timeline:


  1. What is the real estate in your ovens like? What sides can be made at the same temperature or have the time adjusted to make at the same temperature as something else? We are lucky that we have a double oven which gives us a lot of flexibility.
  2. What can you do the night before? Can you make dishes in advance? For the dishes you can’t make in advance, set out the serving dish for each menu item and place the non-refrigerated ingredients in or near the dish along with any utensils you’ll need for stirring, mashing, and measuring.
  3. Set priorities – if something just doesn’t get made, it won’t be the end of the world. Also, watching the parade is a must-do for me.


Not everything (or anything) has to be made from scratch.


For our first year, I really wanted to do something to make the meal ours. I did some research and found that the pilgrims actually served lobster on the first Thanksgiving. Now we couldn’t serve everyone lobster tails, BUT I could make lobster bisque. 


Hand Cut Owl and Turkey Silverware Holders
Before Cricuts and Cameos were all the rage, I cut out 12 individual owls and turkeys and made my own silverware roll holders. Remember, not everything has to be made by you.


The night before T-day, I got all my ingredients and made a monster pot of bisque from scratch. I treated myself to the first bowl, and it was perfect— a little spice, some good lobster, and lots of warm fuzzy feelings. The bisque was a hit – with my dad and me. Since I don’t eat turkey, it stayed on the menu going forward. 


Two Thanksgivings later, I went store-bought. I had tried it before, and it was tasty – so in an effort to save time, I went this route. As my dad ate his bowl, he looked up and said, “This is better than last year’s; what’d you do differently?” I simply gave him the container from the store and walked away. Lesson learned.


It’s about the memories.


We cram up to 13 people in our tiny house with just one full bathroom, and I’m exhausted at the end – but at least we don’t have to do any more traveling.


Sharing our holiday with neighbor Pat became one of my favorite parts.
Sharing our holiday with neighbor Pat became one of my favorite parts.

For many years we had our neighbor, Pat, over. Her daughter worked, and we didn’t want to see her eat alone. In her memory, we now toast with wine glasses she gave us.


We announced our son Josh’s pending arrival at Thanksgiving 2015 with announcements that would make any DIY person proud.


So yes – take the plunge and tackle turkey day – even if it doesn’t convince you to do it every year. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to know you can do it if you need to.

Previous articleI Had Anxiety About Leaving the House with a Baby
Next articleLiving in the Lou: Maplewood
Marlena is mom to 5-year-old Joshua and has been married to her husband, Andy, for 10 years. They reside in Alton, Il where he is the head athletic trainer for Alton High School. Her parents both grew up in Kirkwood, and even though she spent most of her childhood in Montgomery City, MO, she had a feeling she would end up in St. Louis someday. She worked in minor league baseball after college, eventually landing for a season with the River City Rascals. She worked for the St. Louis Blues, Stifel Theatre, and Enterprise Center for 13 years before the pandemic stopped so many things. Today she is the email specialist for St. Louis Community College, which allows her to maintain the work/life balance she thought was an enigma. 


  1. As a guest at the first Thanksgiving, I do remember – it was the best turkey ever! I also had to laugh again about the Bisque episode! And I still remember the day we learned about Josh on the way! The funny part is, we almost closed the box without looking at the lid! But we did look and you heard the screams in the next county! Looking forward to seeing everyone again.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here