My First Thanksgiving

When playing host for the first time, the mission is simple—look fabulous, cook fabulous.

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Martha Stewart terrifies me, and Rachael Ray makes my teeth hurt. I don't ever plan on attempting Stewart's cranberry ginger jelly or shouting "Yum-o!" like Ray. I am a Turkey Day first-timer. And at 28, I thought it was time to bite the drummette and finally do a grown-up Thanksgiving. Something that goes beyond the makeshift menus we cobbled together in college (Hamburger Helper plus ground turkey equals delicious) but well within the boundaries of what Bree would do.

My mother is coming to town, and the mission is to impress.

I used Gmail to put together my guest list, scrolling through 628 names to find the perfect group of six. The invite is "read-only"—no gobbling graphics. "We'll be cooking a turkey and etc. next Thursday, so feel free to stop by if you don't have plans or if you do with folks less awesome than the Andrews girls."

For years, Thanksgiving has been about missing the family I didn't have the plane ticket to see. It was the place-holder holiday, keeping my heart warm until Christmas rolled around. But now, like so many other late-20-somethings, I've decided to live up to my tax-filing status—"single, head of household."

The game plan is simple enough—look fabulous, cook fabulous.

The former is sort of my thing, so stealing a page from future first lady Michelle Obama's look book I head to J. Crew to search for dresses. They're having a massive fall sale and the Georgia sheath in persimmon (read: orange) is only $39.99, down from $118.00. Dress? Check.

I'm thinking my apartment should look the part, too. Instead of buying an environmentally irresponsible amount of red cups and Styrofoam plates, which are neither grown-up nor sexy, I navigate over to Target. The value superstore has classic white plate options that are under $20 for 10. At Crate and Barrel, the Leo collection is the iPhone of glassware; it's one part champagne flute, one part cocktail glass and one part tumbler, all for $1.95 each.

When it comes to decorations, the word festive makes me anxious. I refuse to purchase anything I have to hang on the ceiling or tack to the front door. Two of these fake pumpkins from Target placed on opposite ends of my table screams: "I'm thankful, but not tacky." West Elm, where modern meets affordable, has these "organic shaped" serving dishes on sale for $19.99 each. The leaf motif is autumnal and adult.

Since folks will have to actually eat and since I have to actually cook, there will be no kitchen appliances involved—save the oven—and no recipe will have more than five ingredients—save salt and pepper. After an hour of searching, I find rookie recipes for green beans with pearl onions, glazed sweet potatoes, cornbread and canned cranberries. I'll ask someone to bring dessert.

Now on to the main event. A while ago, I read an article in GQ that made the process of brining a turkey seem ridiculously easy. Basically, you give the bird a kosher salt water bath for a day; jam it into the oven and voilà. I figure if the recipe was in a men's magazine, then it can't be difficult. What is hard is finding the magazine from two years ago with the recipe in it.