Do I Hear the Long Weekend Whispering?

Your Ultimate Thanksgiving Planning Guide for 2020

Even though this holiday season is anything but traditional, there are always tricks to keep things running smoothly — whether it’s just you or you’ve snuck a few close family members in for dinner. With new rules and regulations hovering around hosting Thanksgiving, being thankful might be a hard feeling to achieve when you just want things to go back to normal. Job losses, career changes, and a world-wide pandemic are not exactly reasons to smile, but in the grand scheme of things we have to remember the pros versus the cons as 2020 comes to a close in a few months (what?!).

It’s pretty much mid-October, the leaves are changing, and temps are cooling down. I’ll be transparent to say that I struggled with the decision about what to do with my kiddos for school this September.  At the end of the day, I was outvoted. They were really excited to get back to school and see their friends!  I know this decision was very difficult for some people to make, and maybe not even a choice for so many. It’s ultimately a circumstance of trial and error and as a parent, I keep telling myself we are all figuring this out together as we go. As much as things get crazy, the little moments are the ones I’m thankful for, and selfishly, I have loved being there to help answer questions and see my kids challenge themselves.

So, let’s get back to giving our families something to be grateful for; the small things that we may have taken for granted during past holidays. When I host, I like to put everyone else first and am usually exhausted by the end of the day. Even with the perfect plan, there can be unforeseen circumstances that arise (aka every corny holiday comedy we love). Here’s my list of foolproof planning that could save the day.


Make a Plan

This one seems obvious, so obviously it has to be number one! Making a plan in advance helps in a multitude of ways — timing, dividing and conquering, and planning for any problems that could arise. I like to write different lists. From guests, food, and of course, the newest addition on how to achieve social distancing. So, the guest list is easy — write down who you’re inviting and the people who might show up that didn’t rsvp (there’s always one or two). Next up is food, and by now you should know how much to cook based on your list. Any allergies or restrictions? Write. It. Down. Décor is usually last to the party unless we’ve pre-decorated; my main goal is to keep our family full of good food and better conversation. Oh, and timers help. Schedule small things like countdowns on dessert in the oven because we’re human and we can forget. Plus, wine.

Cook and Bake Anything You Can the Day+ Before

I mean, sure. You can get up at 4 am like generations before us… or, you can work smart, not hard. Pre-cooking anything possible the day or two before not only helps with clean up but helps with your stress levels. Things like cheesy mashed potatoes or cauliflower actually taste better the next day after dancing together all night. Just a tip: take out things from the fridge and get them close to room temp; cooking things cold gives you that hot on the outside, cool in the middle vibe that you can avoid with this easy step! Save your oven for things like the turkey and don’t be afraid to reheat a casserole on the BBQ. Pies and desserts can be prebaked or bought and heated while you finish your dinner. Who doesn’t love the smell of pie while you take that last bite? And that other last bite.

Set Boundaries

If you happen to break the rules a little and should there be more people in your home than recommended, first thing is to be clear on how things will run in your household. Tell your guests to respect distancing where possible, which unfortunately means no hugs from little ones or kisses from Grandma. If it means you can be together, this is one precaution that should be agreed upon in RSVP’ing. Wear masks on arrival and make sanitizer available at the front door. You don’t want your family feeling like strangers, but it’s in the name of good decision making. October weather is unpredictable, but if you can be outside with a hot cider watching the kids play, that’s a total bonus.

Distance in Small Spaces

Depending on the size of your home, I’d recommend not hosting if you’re in tight quarters. With table seating, you’ll want to make sure you’re at least an arm’s length or more apart so keep your space in mind. Ask your guests if they can bring a folding table, don’t be afraid to ask for help or think your table seating presentation is not up to par. This whole year is different, what’s one more thing that seems non-traditional? Use disposable or personalized cups to avoid any drink swapping. Set your guidelines in your invitation and if anyone has a problem with it, they know the rules ahead of time and there are no surprises.

Virtual Hosting

Avoiding the connection errors and hang-ups early can help save time, and your food getting cold. Make sure you preset your communication — where are you chatting and what time are you signing on? If you’re using Zoom, give a half-hour window for sign-ins and make sure the host doesn’t have to let your guests in. This will let people join on their own and if they get disconnected, they can usually come right back. Email your link ahead of time and make sure everyone has the proper programs downloaded. Keep in mind that timelines could change in different households so don’t be too hard on each other if you don’t eat at once. It’s about filling a void of family gatherings and being “together”, so make sure you have a few laughs along the way.

Say What You’re Grateful For

There are so many things we forget to celebrate as the News distracts us with this year’s unexpected stories and defeats. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to not sweat the small stuff. Family, friends, and living each day with an open mind are important to me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t grateful for my job and Zyia team, which has allowed me to spend more time with family and focusing on things I care about. Take time around the table (and tablets) to say what you are grateful for. The simple things make all the difference.

Be Comfortable

Whether you’re hosting a group of 8 at home or can keep it to the waist up on your screen, being comfortable is super important as you run around and get everything ready for the day. You can find me in my black metallic light n’ tights!  Who doesn’t want to look super sexy, sucked in, all the while wearing leggings? Stretchy pants for food-filled holidays are my go-to.

This year will be different and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If everyone can’t get together, it’s okay. Life is short and no one knew this would slap them in the face, but we are here and still standing.

I want to send love, light, and positive everything to you and your family this weekend. No one wants to turn people away or decline an invite, it’s the worst. Be grateful for who you have, not where you have them. Look back at what you’ve achieved versus what you might have lost; what you did right instead of punishing yourself for what is wrong, and likely out of your control! I’m ready to take on my future, but in the meantime — who’s ready for stuffing and pumpkin pie?

Yours in Zyia,

Deanna xo


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