Election day has come and gone, meaning that we are now firmly in the month of November. Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching—so don’t let the festivities catch you off guard! With these five simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to a more fun and less frenzied fall celebration.
Begin the planning process now.
The best way to reduce day-of holiday stress is to sit down and think through the details well ahead of the big day itself. Write out the guest list, the menu, and a schedule of the day’s activities. It may also be helpful to create a minute-by-minute schedule for food preparation so that you don’t sit down to dinner only to realize that the green bean casserole needs another 20 minutes to bake. Good Housekeeping has another brilliant idea: start collecting clean, lidded plastic containers that once held store-bought foods and takeout meals in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. That way, you can easily distribute the leftovers to guests without having to worry about your Tupperware disappearing for good.
Introduce a new dish among the old favorites.
Yes, turkey and mashed potatoes will naturally be expected, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t mix up the sides with a fresh recipe. If your family loves classic pumpkin pie, consider making Food & Wine’s recipe for Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Brownie Crust. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Try Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Maple Hickory Nuts from Epicurious in place of a more standard green salad. If your guests are contributing to the feast, give them a little more leeway by suggesting that they bring a unique dish to the Thanksgiving table.
Set the table ahead of time.
I can’t remember where I first head this bit of sage advice—but it’s definitely worth sharing. Assembling the table ahead of time (either the morning of or the night before) is a great way to maintain your calm as you prepare for the big meal. You’ll have one more item checked off your to-do list, and your guests will admire the artful arrangement of the table before the feasting begins.
Make your table meaningful.
My sister has a great fondness for creating table name cards for special family get-togethers. If such a person is included in your Thanksgiving guest list, ask if they would be willing to contribute in this way. Another good way to create a memorable table-scape is to include old family photos. Guests will be able to reminisce as younger family members learn about the lives of their parents and grandparents. Want to add anther special touch to each place setting? Head over to the Bumblebee Linens website for a list of napkin-folding tutorials.
Think about how your guests can help, and offer simple tasks.
Being a great host or hostess often means juggling the last minute tasks with a smile as your friends and family members gather in the kitchen. You will probably encounter several offers to help from your guests, and if you’re like me, you might find it more difficult to think of tasks for them than to simply forge ahead unaided. However, with a little planning, you’ll be able to graciously accept help while keeping your thoughts in order. Set aside a few simple tasks that can wait until the guests arrive—like putting the desserts out on the sideboard and buttering the garlic bread just before it goes into the oven. Your guests will be able to help, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of some stress-reducing kitchen camaraderie. (I first encountered this tip in the Real Simple magazine, which also has a website full of helpful hosting advice.)