Where are you, Emily Post?

Someone asked me this week if we were inviting people to our Thanksgiving dinner who are from outside our family again this year. I had to chuckle. Maybe it was a snort. It was probably a low growling noise from my husband. It all started with the best of intentions. . . inviting friends who otherwise didn’t have a place to celebrate Thanksgiving to join our family festivities.

I should back up to add some necessary detail to the tale of the Turkey that almost Took us Down.

My parents were both the only child in their families. I therefore have no aunts, uncles, or cousins. We have a family reunion whenever eight or more of us gather together. My family is extremely generous with time, talent, and financial generosity until it comes to a holiday. I broke the tradition a few years ago by inviting a household of friends to join us.

What ensued still lives in infamy.

Without rehashing the entire story, I wanted to share a few thoughts on how to be a good hostess or guest.

Hostess tips:

  • Let your guests know what you are serving. If your family has three meat options alone, your vegan guest might want to know this. We have a family tradition of oyster dressing, which is how our Turmoiled Turkey Dinner began its demise. Are you aware of guests’ food allergies? I posted my menu on Pinterest this year. Then I invited everyone to choose their favorites.
  • Consider the Big Picture. This year we will have young children. We will have family with physical disabilities. My mother’s Alzheimer’s symptoms are heightened when there is a lot of activity around her. The list goes on. It may help to write out the name of every guest and any special needs they have.
  • When arranging the seating, a big question for us concerns the children’s table. My children loved this because they didn’t have to listen quietly to our boring adult conversations. I loved it because the food was generally kept at our table! Others feel left out or like they are second-hand guests. Ask instead of assume. For example, if things get crazy at our house I already have plans to eat in my bedroom in solitude. That is my dream plan, but you get the message.
  • If you have more than one cook in the kitchen, consider a schedule for who gets the kitchen at what time. It is no secret that my husband and I do not cook together for any reason whatsoever, at any time, at all. I have been shopping and baking for days while he is traveling. Thursday he owns the kitchen.
  • Do your tradition your way. I shared with a friend yesterday that I make a blueberry pie every year. I had the idea she thought I had Christmas and Thanksgiving confused. I explained that my grandmother would make a blueberry pie for nearly any occasion and I enjoyed carrying on her tradition. Plus, it is the one thing I can count on for a compliment! If no one in your family enjoys cranberries, why fix it? There is no need to have the appearance of Martha Stewart for one day out of the year.
  • Get involved in a local outreach to others during this season. I had a great time with a friend yesterday as we delivered meals to people with MS. It is a blessing to them as they struggle to make ends meet. Food pantries usually run very low on supplies at this time of year. They need donations more than ever.
  • Follow the KISS acronym – Keep It Simple, Stupid. I read websites and blogs that went so far as giving directions on how to display your toilet paper nicely. That is overkill for me, but I do make sure there is actually toilet paper in the bathroom. Some families use paper plates.
  • When we married, I discovered our great differences came out during holidays. I believe the timeline goes like this: Sleep in, grab a bowl of cereal, watch the parades, graze over food that is ready to serve, lunch at 1 p.m., watch the Dallas Cowboys game, graze some more, see a movie, clean up dinner. My husband’s family believes the morning starts early, followed by brunch, dinner at 3 p.m., and then everyone sleeps. Neither family does Black Friday, so we do agree on one thing. If you are the chef, let others know your timeline – and choose to not be offended when others deviate from it.
  • Accept help. I asked my 20-year old son if he wanted to make something for the meal. He surprised me by announcing he is making pumpkin cheesecake. I’m not a big fan of cheesecake, but I will be for one day. It is a challenge to have things for my mother to do at this point, but I am having her set the table. She is also the best asset for entertaining guests. I might even get her to play air hockey with the grandchildren.
  • On that note, have a plan for keeping everyone entertained. If you do serve dinner late in the day, a walk is a great way to spend time together if weather permits. Do you have someone in the family who wants to show off what they learned in piano lessons last week? The Wii saves us every year. It is okay to have Ipods, cellphones, and other electronic devices out if it is a timeout from the chaos.
  • Run the garbage disposal regularly! One famous Thanksgiving, we had my elderly grandmother, ailing father, and several other family members for the weekend. We didn’t know that our rental house had the world’s smallest garbage disposal ever. I’m certain of this fact. I also know that my mom believes in putting all the food in the disposal, then running it. Now I also know that Thanksgiving Day is the busiest day of the year for Roto Rooter. I learned this when lunch spilled out over the kitchen floor.
  • Do invite others to join your dinner, despite hints of some of my interesting guests included in this post. We had guests one year who devote a great deal of time towards ending human trafficking. Their stories were compelling, riveting, and opened my eyes to real suffering. The word Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning.

And if you are the guest:

  • Be flexible with the food. If you are vegan, this is a great time to bring your favorite meal. No surprises here ~ let them know if you substituted tofu for the chicken. (I love tofu, for the record!)
  • Compliment the chef. Be gracious. Let me take it a step further. If you perchance do not like the stuffing, this is not the time to write that on your Facebook wall and Twitter account for several hundred mutual friends to see. Not that I know anything about that!
  • Take home as much as you brought unless the hostess offers leftovers. They may have spent their monthly budget on this meal, with plans to make the leftovers last for weeks. You should bring more than a fork and a cooler for the food you intend to cart back home. I can’t make this stuff up!
  • Help with the cleanup. Are you the one who mysteriously needs a 30-minute potty break after every meal?
  • This should not be necessary to add, but don’t steal food out of the refrigerator while the host is away from the kitchen.

  • Don’t bring your pet unless you have permission. I have heard that dogs particularly enjoy leftover turkey that is sitting out unattended.This is followed by the admonition to leave the boyfriend at home who hacked into your mom’s Facebook account at your Fourth of July picnic.
  • Leave the political conversations back at home. Can I get an Amen? In general, don’t hijack the table conversation with stories intended solely for shock value.
  • This isn’t the time to impress people with how well you think you can hold your liquor. I think that sentence stands very well on its own.
  • Show up when you are expected. If I have to give you a time to arrive, I’m probably not comfortable with you seeing my in my p.j.’s. Otherwise you have been forewarned.
  • Follow up the next day with a thank-you note.

Above all, be thankful. And don’t be a turkey on Turkey Day!

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38 thoughts on “Where are you, Emily Post?

  1. travelgardeneat November 21, 2012 at 9:21 am Reply

    Oh my, this post is so perfect on soooo many fronts! I enjoyed it immensely! Enjoy your holiday! ~ Kat


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 21, 2012 at 9:55 am Reply

      I was laughing through most of it as I kept remembering more details. I hope you have a great holiday also!!


  2. travelgardeneat November 21, 2012 at 9:25 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Travel. Garden. Eat. and commented:
    I don’t often reblog, but Overwhelmed By Joy posted a reflection on the season (and with such humor relayed the dysfunction that often goes with the holidays), I just had to share! And, if you have not had an opportunity to check out Overwhelmed By Joy before now, I encourage you to spend some time exploring her many other enjoyable posts.
    Ciao! ~ Kat


  3. wisdomfromafather November 21, 2012 at 10:44 am Reply

    Great post … even for us receivers rather than doers. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!


  4. The Verdant Home November 21, 2012 at 10:47 am Reply

    What a great post! I hope you don’t mind, but I’m posting a link to this on my FB page! Great stuff! And I hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful!


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 21, 2012 at 11:10 am Reply

      I always appreciate when you post a link. Thanks so much! I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!


  5. ideflex November 21, 2012 at 11:17 am Reply

    Oh yes, bought the t-shirt for so many of those situations! Looks like you have found the true definition of “compromise” for the holiday season – your “hostess tips” (where’s my good apron?) should be a checklist for all occasions where there are more than 2 mouths waiting to be fed…


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 21, 2012 at 11:56 am Reply

      Very true! I should be wearing one right now. I’m afraid that you can look at my t-shirt and tell almost everything I am serving. 🙂


  6. alesiablogs November 21, 2012 at 11:26 am Reply

    Great write up! Your mother sounds wonderful! Living with a son with severe autism- I get it! Alesia


  7. ApplePieAndNapalm November 21, 2012 at 11:57 am Reply

    THAT should be Freshly Pressed! Genius post, as always, you did an outstanding job, one of my favorite reads.


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 21, 2012 at 11:59 am Reply

      Thank you so much! It may be another interesting Thanksgiving. I can’t find a kennel for a dog who just announced they intend to visit tomorrow. 🙂


      • ApplePieAndNapalm November 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm

        We always have a guest dog of honor or two that join us. We buy turkey or chicken wet food and serve them right beside the dining room table, so they can be included, too. I’d rather have the dogs there than most of the people!


      • Overwhelmed By Joy November 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm

        Haha! I welcome all house-broken pets into my home. Forgot that little detail. 🙂


  8. on thehomefrontandbeyond November 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm Reply

    where were you for Canadian Thanksgiving? great post


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm Reply

      I didn’t even think to acknowledge Canadian Thanksgiving, yet I had several friends mention it. Thanks for the comment!


  9. writerwannabe763 November 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm Reply

    Sounds like you have your plans all ready for Thanksgiving…It’s more complicated when you have other than just your own family..that’s for sure..Diane


    • Overwhelmed By Joy December 10, 2012 at 11:32 am Reply

      I would choose having everyone here instead of driving any day. If I haven’t mentioned it before, my ‘entire family’ consists of my brother & his family, my twin sister & her family, and my mother. Both of my parents were only children, so I don’t have any aunts, uncles, or cousins. It is a family reunion when we get together. I hope you are enjoying this Christmas season!


  10. sagescenery November 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm Reply

    I haven’t seen a new post from you pop into my e-mail for awhile…and I was just going to check on you! No wonder…you’ve been getting ready for this elaborate Thanksgiving Dinner!!
    Thanks so much for detailing your effort and for the great tips!! Great post!! Very funny!
    We’re spending Thanksgiving with friends this year, because last year, my husband bought a large “turkey roll” instead of a large turkey! At the last minute, he had to rush to our Golf Clubhouse, and buy a cooked turkey from them!! All was well, but we haven;t recouped yet!! And we don’t work well in the kitchen together either!! Ha!


    • Overwhelmed By Joy December 10, 2012 at 11:30 am Reply

      That is funny! I wanted to do a turkey roll and was voted down. I am guessing it isn’t as large as I thought? Our club served a Thanksgiving dinner, but I never thought about having them prepare it so we could serve it here. Great suggestion. I hope you had a great time with friends this year!


      • sagescenery December 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        Forget the turkey roll…forever! Yes, our day was great! Gearing up for Christmas now!! God Bless!! Merry Christmas!


      • Overwhelmed By Joy December 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm

        Merry Christmas to you as well!!


  11. wayfinder November 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm Reply

    Not having Thanksgiving as a tradition in NZ it was lovely to read your post and learn all the ins and outs. Really fascinating and heartfelt, which is I expect the whole point. I do think we could benefit from a celebration which allows us to be with those we love and express gratitude, maybe it will catch on… I do celebrate Harvest which has a similar intention, so will keep open to the possibility. Thanks for your sharing.


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 26, 2012 at 9:17 am Reply

      It is always interesting to hear of the customs and holidays of other countries. I would love to hear more about Harvest. Thanks for stopping by my blog!


      • wayfinder November 26, 2012 at 7:16 pm

        We celebrate Harvest at the Autumn equinox; usually with a gathering of family & friends. Everyone brings food that expresses the harvest, lots of autumn fruits especially feijoa, persimmon & apples, pumpkin pie is a favourite. Also seafood which is plentiful & easy to harvest like mussels, oysters & fish plus venison or wild pork. We live in a very rural enviroment close to the coast & forest. Some people make a main, some a dessert. We have a bonfire & I decorate the house with hawthorn berries autumn foliage & red candles. This idea harks back to celtic times in the UK and is one of the eight seasonal rituals of the celtic calendar. We always say Grace to express our thanks for nature’s bounty & the love of family & friends even though many are not in the least bit spiritually oriented. We toast the proceedings with locally vinted wine & everyone reconnects, sometimes it’s the only time people get to see each other so it’s important to keep the bonds strong. This isn’t a practise that has much of a following here which is why I think your Thanksgiving day is such a lovely celebration. Appreciate the chance to share, cheers, Imago


      • Overwhelmed By Joy December 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

        I love hearing how others celebrate holidays and customs in their own country. That sounds absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing that.


    • Overwhelmed By Joy December 10, 2012 at 11:28 am Reply

      I would love to hear more about your Harvest celebration. Thank you for your comments.


  12. Ti November 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm Reply

    Great post. I once had a family member bring a frozen ham to dinner. Yes. Frozen. I wasn’t specific enough I guess. It helps to make it crystal clear when asking for help. That way, everyone is happy. I also have a food allergy (gluten) so I always, always bring gluten-free alternatives if I visit someone for dinner. I learned that early on.


    • Overwhelmed By Joy December 10, 2012 at 11:27 am Reply

      I’ve heard a lot of holiday stories, but I’ve never heard of bringing a frozen ham. I’m afraid I might say ‘thank you for the gift’ and put it in the deep freezer! That is a great idea to bring some gluten-free alternatives. I would love to hear more about that. I have been having a really difficult time with wheat products since my gallbladder was removed in October.


  13. mysticcooking November 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm Reply

    Great post! Love the advice, especially for guests to not steal food – so funny that it has to be mentioned! 🙂 This year I hosted it at my house, so the only badly behaved pet there was my own…he managed to help himself to some pumpkin pie while our backs were turned. Sneaky dog!

    Hope you had a good holiday!


    • Overwhelmed By Joy December 10, 2012 at 11:24 am Reply

      Oh no! We had a pet party in our enclosed garage. They didn’t need a children’s table, they had it all to themselves. 🙂


  14. fayeforever21 November 28, 2012 at 11:02 pm Reply

    Hi, I have nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger Award and Very Inspiring Blogger Award …because I think you deserve a little something for all the blessings and inspiration your blog brings to many that read it! To share this little bit of blogging kindness: 1. Display the award image on your blog. 2. Link back to the person who nominated you. 3. State 7 things about yourself. 4. Nominate other bloggers (you are supposed to nominate 15, however I don’t have 15 so nominate however many you want to) and link to their sites. 5. Notify the bloggers that they have been nominated and link to the post. Thank you for all your great posts and congratulations!


  15. rachelmeeks November 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm Reply

    I love love LOVE this post. I may have missed reading it before the holiday, but it gave me a good chuckle now.


  16. Melissmor December 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm Reply

    Gosh, I just LOVE love love your writing, I enjoy every single word oozed onto the screen to relate your stories. I love reading them. Your sense of humour – AMAZING. This year I had the opportunity of experiencing Thanksgiving in the US, I’m a Caribbean chick. Lol. Amazing. Great weather also, I spent it in NY, was my bdy too. Lol. Thank you for sharing your AWESOME words of inspiration. Please, do not ever stop, you are an absolute joy to read and far more an absolute sweet heart.

    Thank you.


    • Overwhelmed By Joy December 18, 2012 at 10:44 am Reply

      Thank you so much! What an encouragement you are. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!!


      • Melissmor January 2, 2013 at 8:02 pm

        Hi Overwhelmedbyjoy, thank you so much for your greeting, may God bless you and your family with a strengthening, prosperous, enjoyable and totally blessed 2013. He’s got some Beautiful things coming your way!


      • Overwhelmed By Joy January 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

        Thank you, yes He does! May God richly bless you in this new year as well!


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