Hosting the Holidays after a Head Injury..Survival Tips

If you told me nine years ago that I’d be hosting Holidays fairly seamlessly, I would have laughed and wondered how I could possibly host Holidays when I don’t even cook dinner.  I was a workaholic and caught up in my career (not a bad thing), and wasn’t focused on hosting Holidays and making our house a home.  I actually took all of that for granted, and didn’t think twice about the memories I was creating with my family. My accident changed everything and gave me a new perspective, and every year when I am caught up in the chaos of the season,  I reflect on how I am just so very happy to be alive and living it!

This was the third year that we are hosted Thanksgiving and we had a group of 14 adults and seven children- and as I was sharing my tips with a friend of mine that is hosting for the first time, realized I should probably share my successes here, too!  So below are my Holiday hosting survival tips for life after a head injury, but really, these could apply to anyone that does not want to be frantic at the last minute.

First, I want to note that I didn’t start hosting until four or five years after my accident.  My recovery took every ounce of energy I had (still does some days) and I would’ve never been able to pull any of this off in the “early days” which to me, encompassed a few years worth of therapies.  So be kind to yourself, and if you normally host a Holiday or Holidays and can’t this year (or next) that’s okay.  Let someone else enjoy the reigns and you rest, you will hopefully get back at it with the proper recovery.  Another thing I want to note is a few years after my accident, I realized that I actually prefer hosting – when I start to get overwhelmed with the crowds in my own house, I simply kick them out of my kitchen and get the space I need!

A few weeks before …Plan your menu (& delegate)

About two weeks prior to my date, I finalize my menu and delegate out the dishes that I think will be too time consuming and/or too difficult for me to make.  I generate my ingredients lists (to make my shopping list much easier) and I make up a timeline of when I am going to prepare everything.  I also get a general idea if I have enough space to cook everything at the same time, to ensure all of the items stay hot.

A week before…Order your groceries (& confirm delegated dishes)

I NEVER step foot in the grocery store for my extra large shopping order right before the Holiday.  I simply can’t do it.  I rely on AmazonFresh, or place an order with my local Shop from Home service at ShopRite so I can avoid the parking lot and shopping at all costs.  It’s crowded, confusing and exhausting, so I simply don’t do it.  This allows me to save my spoons and gives me the flexibility of getting my groceries as closest to the event as I need to.  Before I finalize my shopping list, I always confirm the delegated dishes to make sure that I don’t need to add any additional items to my order and that everyone is still making their planned item.

After ordering your groceries…Schedule certain tasks for certain days

I simply cannot clean my house and cook everything in one or two days.  Prep for me takes at least four days (longer if you include the days spent doing the previously mentioned tasks) and I make sure I plan executing only 1-2 things per day.  That’s all I’m capable of and that’s what I need to do.  I make my schedule of what dishes I am prepping when (or when I am cleaning what) and stick to it.  If I happen to feel better than planned, I do more, if not, I am limited to only one or two things.

The weekend before…Clean (or if you can afford it, hire a cleaning person)

I am a clean freak and prefer to do all of my own cleaning. I typically do one or two rooms a day, and this year I totally didn’t clean my upstairs before the Holiday because I didn’t have time.  I always make sure the upstairs bathroom is clean in case someone needs to use it, but I never got around to the other rooms and it didn’t matter because all of our guests stayed in our living room, family room and dining room.  Doing this a few days prior allows me to get the deep cleaning I want and then I am able to do a “quick clean” the morning of to ensure everything is still up to par and we aren’t perceived as dirtballs.

A few days prior to hosting….Start prepping your dishes and executing your plan 

I typically start making most of my dishes for Thanksgiving two days before Thanksgiving.  I luckily only had about 5 things to make (my Mom is a ROCKSTAR and took on the stuffing and mashed potatoes which are VERY time consuming) and one of my items included my pies (apple & pumpkin, two of each), so I tackled them first to ensure I had time and left the easier things for later.  It was also helpful to do them earlier, because with the number of ingredients they have, I typically forget one (or two) and need time for someone to go to the store.  Luckily, this somehow wasn’t the case this year (#thirdtimesacharm?) And all I forgot was the cool whip, which was an easy trip for my husband! If I was trying any new menu items, I would’ve tried the recipes a few weeks prior to ensure I felt comfortable making it and would have paid attention to how long it took me so I could properly plan for it.


The day before…PREP & write out a schedule for the day

I prep everything and anything I can the night before a Holiday.  I set my table, pull out the glasses and utensils we will be using, get napkins and paper plates ready for appetizers, chill wine and write a timeline for myself so I can stay on track.  This year our schedule included when each of us would get dressed and what the kids would be doing while we were prepping for the guests in the morning.  This scheduled time is  especially important if you have young children- ENLIST HELP!  If you need someone to watch your kids when you are getting ready in the morning, plan for it.  Now that we have three kids, we seem to be more prepared for the unexpected. We were somehow able to manage our daughter getting rushed to the pediatrician at 1 pm on Thanksgiving, and we were still ready to go for our guests at 2.  She was fine (she had an ear infection) but had I not been prepped and on schedule, I would’ve been a lot more frantic!  Prep everything you can the day before, because you never know what is going to pop up the day of!

The day of hosting…

A quick clean of the bathrooms (quick because you cleaned them a day or two prior), straighten up and vacuum again.  Cook remaining recipes, and get dressed (this is always right before my guests come because the kids or the kitchen destroys my outfit!)

The days after…

The best thing I could’ve done for myself this year is building in recovery days.  I planned absolutely nothing for the weekend after Thanksgiving and it was glorious.  Our family got to spend some time together and do whatever we wanted to do, which was wonderful and something that we generally don’t get to enjoy.  After loving every second of this, I am going to start doing this every year.  We weren’t rushing to go somewhere, weren’t rushing to clean up and relaxed together.  This is going to be our new family tradition and I want to remember this!

For additional Holiday Hosting tips, check out this list provided by HGTV here.  I will definitely need to incorporate some of these into our next event.  I try not to take on more than I can handle, so if I don’t get to the “extras” (like decor and music) and I don’t sweat the small stuff.  In our family, the time together and the food are always of utmost importance.

Happy Holiday season friends!  Be merry & be well!

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