Thanksgiving is Almost Here…Don’t Panic…Just Have a Plan!

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday. It’s not about the gifts, the busy malls, the credit card debt, the office politics, or even the eggnog (although eggnog can be quite good). Thanksgiving is actually about giving thanks…about gratitude and I have so very much to be thankful for. I am blessed with a wonderful family; my husband, children and extended relatives, devoted friends, health, a thriving business and much more. I love to cook and to entertain…in fact, it’s my passion, and so the holiday season is my time to shine. However, even though celebrating with friends and family brings me great joy, it’s certainly not without the usual holiday stress.

This year I am preparing to host 21 people at my home for Thanksgiving while simultaneously balancing career, kids, homework, laundry…the basic everyday “working mom” duties. So, you can well imagine that I’m becoming a master juggler. Is it stressful? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes! Are there ways to make it all less stressful? Absolutely!

Thankfully I’ve had years of “Holiday Hosting” experience and I’ve learned a lot over the years. So, if you’re currently experiencing, or close to having, a Thanksgiving meltdown…don’t panic! Take a few deep breaths and continue reading. I’m offering you a lifeline; I call these “Leslie’s Lifesaving Holiday Hosting Tips.” These simple tips will ensure that both you and your guests can eat, drink and be merry…you can thank me later! J

Table & Place Settings
1.Always set the table in advance! Decide if you will be using your good silverware and china, just good quality disposables OR a combination of both? You can use your own china for the base plates/charger and then supplement the other dishes and utensils with the good quality, heavyweight, patterned paper or plastic options.
2.Decorating the table! At Thanksgiving this part is easy, fun and inexpensive. You can either make centerpieces or just have a few well-placed items scattered around the place settings. For centerpieces fill baskets with fragrant lemons, cornhusks, pinecones, cedar chips, mini pumpkins, or simply place some large unscented candles in the center of the table but whichever option you choose, remember to leave room for the platters of food.
3.Decide if you will be serving a buffet or sit down style meal.
4.Either way, create homemade place cards with pinecones, simply glue the guests name to the pinecone and place it in the center of the salad plate. Assigned seating is typically easier than just having a free for all when it’s time for everyone to find a seat. Also, decide ahead of time if you’re going to have a separate “children’s table.” If so, follow the same as above, except line the table with paper and sprinkle the table with little trinkets from the dollar store (i.e. bracelets, stickers, yo, yo’s, pencils & crayons, playing cards, lollipop rings etc…).

The Meal –
1.PLAN AHEAD!! Settle on your menu and choose wisely…you don’t have to make life harder than it needs to be, so select items that can be safely made ahead of time.
2.If you are looking for menu and recipe suggestions my favorites resources are: The Food Network, Martha Stewart Living and Bon Appetit Magazine online. These sites are full of great recipes, online menu planners, recipe box features, interactive grocery lists and great entertaining tips. I always look for the five star recipes…remember easier doesn’t mean better.
3.Next make a detailed shopping list and double check it against your menu before heading out the door.
4.Clear out your fridge, freezer and pantry to make room for all the items you will be bringing in.
5.Do not wait until the last minute to go to the grocery store. Instead, get everything you need (plus a little extra just in case…better to have too much than too little) a few days prior to the big day.
6.Consider how long each menu item will take to prep and to cook, then make a “cooking schedule” of what has to be done when. You should begin your prep the night before Thanksgiving…prepare as much as you can ahead of time. If you’ve made wise selections this will include most appetizers, dips, side dishes, soups, salads and desserts. This will allow you to focus most of your attention on the “main event,” the turkey.
7.Follow thawing and cooking instructions thoroughly. You should also offer another protein option for those who don’t enjoy turkey…and also as a 911 backup should you have a turkey disaster (which you won’t!), like ham and/or fish (i.e. Salmon, Mahi Mahi, Halibut).

The Party- Finally, the big day has arrived! Only one tip: The hard work is done…Enjoy just being with all your family and friends. Don’t worry about perfection (hint: it doesn’t actually exists) just focus on being grateful for all the many blessings in your life. I know that’s what I will be doing…giving thanks…and probably planning for next year.

~ Leslie  |  digg it!  |  reddit reddit!  |  Google!

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