From thawing to seasoning to carving and serving, we’ve got you covered on how to make the perfect turkey for your Thanksgiving feast!
The first Thanksgiving away from family is the hardest, especially in a year when staying apart doesn’t feel like a choice.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends not traveling this holiday season, just one more way COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives.
So you may be feeling down about this Thanksgiving: Perhaps you’ll be alone, or with your significant other or immediate family. If you’re accustomed to spending Turkey Day with extended family, friends or hopping from party to party, that will feel disappointing.
But I’m here to tell you, heading into my fourth Thanksgiving away from family: A low-key Thanksgiving is relaxing, liberating and memorable.
Yeah, you can’t go home. Yeah, you can’t host your party. It sucks. But there are so many ways to make the most of your small, quarantined Thanksgiving. Here’s how.
Knox News business reporter Brenna McDermott (Photo: Calvin Mattheis)
Make it an event
Knoxville is about eight hours from home for me and my husband. There are no direct flights and I am a whiny road tripper. So instead of driving home for Thanksgiving only to turn around and do it a month later for Christmas, we stay in Knoxville for Thanksgiving.
We agree Thanksgiving is now our favorite holiday. Why? We have made it our own weird little event.
First, change your mindset about the upheaval. Instead of looking at an isolated Thanksgiving as a negative, consider instead that it’s an opportunity to create the event of the season, full of new and unexpected traditions.
Take some time to really think about what you could do throughout the day that would make it most enjoyable, would make you feel relaxed and stress-free.
Throw out all the stereotypical Thanksgiving “musts” and make a list of new “wants.” Want to eat steak for Thanksgiving? Put it on the list. Want to sleep in? Want to curl up with a good book and eat soup? Everything is on the table! There are no opinionated aunts around to drop comments about your choices.
Then take your list and turn it into a rough itinerary for the day.
For us, that means getting outside first thing. Before any cooking begins, we take a 2-3 mile walk to start the day in nature. Last year we bundled up and enjoyed the woodsy trail at Holston River Park. Getting some fresh air and sunshine starts the day off positively, and it makes me feel less guilty about eating two pieces of pie, which is a hallmark of our Thanksgiving tradition.
Create a theme
Another way to make the day feel more festive is to create a theme, even if it’s just a party for one.
We visited Scotland a few years ago, so we’re known to don our hand woven wool scarves, drink Earl Grey and play traditional Scottish music.
Perhaps your theme is lounging, so everyone wears their favorite pajamas, the food is simple and quick, and you each pick a movie that makes you feel cozy. Maybe there’s hot chocolate to cap the night off. Maybe there’s some Bailey’s in the adult hot chocolate.
Even though you’re at home, don’t be afraid to make your holiday a little extra. If you are craving a formal meal, do it! Get dressed up, put down a fancy tablecloth and light some candles.
Take some time to think about how you can include the theme in your food, drink and ambiance. It really helps to build anticipation for the day.
Even if you’re not one for decorations, you don’t have to spend money. I borrow decorations from my friend Ruth, who has everything you could imagine and loves to get festive. Arrange for a contactless pickup of some decorations from a friend to really get in the spirit.
Create a signature
Our most beloved Thanksgiving tradition is enjoying mimosas with a late Thanksgiving lunch. Does it necessarily go with a turkey dinner? No. But we look forward to it every year and it’s now a must-do part of our tradition.
Sometimes we’ll bring different juices into the mix. If you want to feel more festive, try a poinsettia, made with sparkling wine and cranberry juice.
Discover a new signature cocktail, mocktail, coffee or other beverage and pour it in your best glasses. Bake a new pie that your traditional family members would have snubbed.
Bust out the nice dishes, put some flowers on the table. Get fancy if it feels good!
Take time to reflect
Don’t feel like cooking this Thanksgiving? Try a prepared holiday feast from local grocery stores and restaurants. (Photo: Getty Images)
If you’re out on a walk or sitting on your porch reading your Thanksgiving Knox News or doing family yoga, take some time to talk about what you’re most thankful for in a challenging year.
Write your answers down or talk about them over dinner. We enjoy asking each other questions that reflect on the year: What was the best meal you ate in 2020? What was the most surprising moment of 2020? What did you learn about yourself this year? What are your goals for 2021? What was your favorite holiday tradition as a child?
Make a list of questions ahead of time. If you’re alone, video chat with a friend and discuss the questions over cocoa.
Great board games to play
After lunch, we enjoy playing games before turning to the TV. There are so many fun games for small groups.
For one, the Knox News Thanksgiving crossword puzzle is always a fun challenge. Light a cranberry candle, play some holiday music and settle in with your best pencil. If you have the table space for it, kicking off a puzzle on Thanksgiving is a great way to entertain yourself throughout the holiday season.
For two, I recommend backgammon for a more traditional game. It’s easy to learn but challenging to master and is available at most stores. For the nerdier gamers, Morels is a strategic card game in which you hunt through the forest to collect mushrooms. It’s quick and easy to learn.
For three to four people, Ticket to Ride is a less time consuming and more fun cousin to Risk. No time to order a game? Celebrity, the person-guessing game, is always a crowd pleaser and just requires paper, pen and a bowl.
Go with the flow
I look forward to all our Thanksgiving traditions, but my favorite part of the day is that there is no traveling, no timelines and no expectations. We eat whenever the food is done, we play games as long as we want to and we usually finish the evening with a second dessert and a holiday movie.
Anyone who lives far from home knows there’s some amount of stress when you’re visiting during the holidays. And we all know the pressures of traveling from house to house and party to party, shopping and prepping for the holiday season. It can be exhausting.
For my family of two, Thanksgiving has become a no-stress zone. There are no presents to buy, no timeline, no cleaning the house for guests. When you strip away all those to-dos, you get time to rest and actually feel thankful for the things in your life that bring happiness and contentment.
This might be the only Thanksgiving you spend away from family: Take photos to document the day and send them to your loved ones far and wide. Whether you enjoy the day, Thanksgiving 2020 will likely be one to remember.
Business reporter Brenna McDermott can be reached at email@example.com. Follow along with her work on Twitter @_BrennaMcD. Support our local news efforts by becoming a Knox News subscriber.
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