Disclaimer: I have no evidence stating these hacks have disappointed my own grandparents, and therefore have no reason to say they would disappoint yours. Quite the contrary, one of my grandparents would think the whole thing is funny, and the other is probably incredibly jealous. But if this were a holiday movie, the actors portraying my fictional grandparents would be very, very disappointed.
This is my first apartment with any sense of permanence. There are nails in the walls — nails — and I bought a TV this week. Dining table came in last week. I even decorated for Christmas. Working on four months and I finally almost live here.
I’ve had exactly one guest and she was here for 15 minutes before we left to do what we had planned, which was basically anything but stay in my apartment. My cat, the socialite of the house (competition is slim), has long since felt the lack of attention, having never been left alone in our four-person set up in Denver. But, at long last, I’ve had my first hosting experience this Thanksgiving when my mother came to visit.
Hosting your mother is almost like being a guest in your own home. She knows more than me on everything and my carpet has never been so spotless (she probably vacuumed 3 times since walking through the door). My mom is also a sucker for simplicity (a trait she passed to me) so she was the perfect guinea pig for my small apartment Thanksgiving feast for two.
There were two issues with food choice: 1. My kitchen is tiny, even for an apartment, leaving little room for both prep and leftover storage; 2. My mother doesn’t like pumpkin pie, which I was content to serve on loop for three days instead of cooking anything. With both of these issues in mind, here’s what we ended up with.
Assess oven size to determine which turkey to buy. Realize there’s no hope and get a cooked rotisserie chicken from the Walmart deli.
I’ve never heard of turkey stuffing from a box — I didn’t even know it existed until last week. We made it on a stovetop in my Target pans, and butter sauteed onions and celery with Dollar Tree spatulas. Loosely follow instructions on box. Serve warm.
Walk up and down the entire grocery store frozen section looking for a vegetable medley more creative than corn, peas, and carrots. We settled on frozen brussels sprouts and grabbed two sweet potatoes from the produce section. Skin and dice potatoes, saute in vegetable oil on other Target pans with the same Dollar Tree spatulas. Add frozen brussels sprouts. Salt to taste. Pepper if you’re not boring.
Buy day-old bread for $0.70 and heat in oven. This is the only thing we put in the oven all week, it’s that small.
You have room to splurge on this. We got a pumpkin roll and I’m still eating it days later after my mother went home.
Yellow Tail wine, any color. We chose Bold Red. It won over our favorite Barefoot color because it doesn’t have a cork and I broke every corkscrew I’ve owned. I’ve never had a wine stopper either and buy a lot of boxed wine. Our bottle cost $6.99. Open, let breathe, serve in Dollar Tree stemless wine glasses, the only glasses I own.
What will make this officially a Thanksgiving dinner and not just a budget grocery store spread is the decorations, many of which were harvested the day of.
I love natural trees, not only because they’re gorgeous and fragrant, but because the artificial ones are a bitch to store. But if you’re like me and allergic to cedar and fir, wait for a storm to knock over a tree in the parking lot, let it sit for a week while the wood dries and insurance assesses the fence and vehicle damage (it’s ok, probably not your car), and go out one afternoon to find a branch the right size to fit over your couch with just enough character to look better than a large dowel rod. Fasten to wall with Command hooks and twine. Decorate with string lights. Add ornaments if you have them (I have one).
As a craft store and homemade preserves enthusiast (never my own, but I enthuse over the work of others), I had several wide mouth mason jars on hand. Go for a pre-dinner nature walk wherever you can find evergreens. Bring a bag to fill with pinecones. If no one has done this before you, you may not have to go deeper than the parking lot. Be the lookout while your mother cuts from the blue spruce on state property. At home, fill mason jars with pinecones and greenery. Tie extra pinecones to you Christmas tree branch. Put more pinecones in an empty planter and any other container you can find. You’re still left with way too many pinecones.
All grocery stores have tiny $1 scented candles. Buy $12 worth.
We went to a bar Wednesday night (learned it’s the busiest time of the year — who knew families pushed everyone to drink?), watched Amazon Prime movies on Thursday, and went to antique stores on Black Friday. If you’re “go hard” kind of people, you should’ve learned by now this post isn’t for you.
These are all tried and true hacks that can be easily translated to your Christmas celebrations since most Western holidays within these 35 days are all basically done the same way. Tell me your simplest and fuss-free holiday ideas that will keep me festive without the mess and tears.
Happy late Thanksgiving!