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Essential Thanksgiving Preparation & Entertaining Tips

By Lydia Quinn

It's that time of year, the leaves are falling and there's a little chill in the air as summer takes its last breath. Just around the corner, we'll gain an hour of sleep. Good thing too, we'll need that sleep to prepare for the onslaught of holiday guests we have coming over for Thanksgiving this year! To help you get through this Thanksgiving holiday, here are some essential tips for making sure things go smoothly and to make your holiday just a little less frantic.

The Setting

It's so easy to decorate for Thanksgiving. You can make a gorgeous centerpiece using items from around your house. Use a basket filled with gourds, fallen leaves, Indian corn, pinecones, corn husks, squash and mini pumpkins. You can also use these things to decorate your home. A few well placed mini pumpkins do wonders to set the mood for Thanksgiving.

The Table

Make sure you have clearly marked placecards for each person, so they know where to sit. Also, be sure to leave enough room on the table for all your serving dishes. It's a good idea to have extra chairs handy for any surprise guests who show up.

Meal Preparation Tips

Preparing a complete Thanksgiving meal can be quite a task, but with proper preparation ahead of time, you should be able to pull it off without a hitch. First, write down your menu and make a shopping list. Just in case, buy a little more of each item, so you won't be stuck with having too little of something on Thanksgiving day and all the stores are closed. Do your shopping a couple days ahead of time to beat the inevitable last minute rush of Thanksgiving Eve. Make sure you have plenty of room in your kitchen and refrigerator and freezer to hold all the food you'll buy. You'll want to begin preparation of your dishes on Thanksgiving Eve unless you want to get up very early. Make sure you pay special attention to what needs to be done to the turkey. Hopefully, it's not frozen, but if it is, you can put it in the kitchen sink with lukewarm water and just keep changing the water every hour or so to hasten the thawing. For other dishes, prepare as much as you can ahead of time. You can usually make many side dishes and desserts completely ahead of time.

Backup Meal Plans

Your turkey will probably turn out ok, or at least edible, but if it doesn't, make sure to have an alternate available. Some good choices would be a ham, pot roast, a salmon or other fish.

Choices

It's a good idea to call each of your guests well ahead of time to make sure you won't be getting any surprises, like your brother's 15 year old has just turned vegetarian and won't be able to eat the turkey. Make sure to have plenty of something that a vegetarian would not have a problem with. I've found vegetarians are often happy with some really tasty side dishes like mashed potatoes, green beans, bread and a salad. Though, a Tofurky would be a good choice to have if there are multiple vegetarians coming over. Don't forget others with special food requirements, such as allergies, diabetics, low sodium diets etc.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing isn't just for tech companies! To make your day easier, consider outsourcing a portion of the meal. Have a guest or two bring over a side dish or appetizer. Or consider buying the dessert. A few pumpkin pies from your local bakery topped with whipped cream would work just fine and I bet no one would know the difference!

Entertainment

After the meal, some guests may go home, while most others will opt to stay for a while. Football and basketball games will be plentiful on TV, but what about those not into watching sports? Have some board games on hand as well as party games that involve many players.

Conversation

One of the main points of the holiday season is to bring family and friends together to catch up and enjoy each other's company. Make it easy to have conversations in your home. Make sure you have some quiet areas and plenty of seating to make conversation easy.

The Kids

If you're going to be having multiple kids at your gathering, you need to be prepared for their needs. Make sure the kids have a separate table or are seated next to adults that will supervise them. After the meal, have games and activities especially for them, or have family games that can involve children.

Prepare For Emergencies

No, not a natural disaster or even a medical emergency, it's not nearly as bad as those but it certainly has the potential to ruin your holiday. I'm talking about the dreaded toilet back up. The last thing you want is to be stuck cleaning up that kind of mess when you're supposed to be preparing food. Make sure you have a plunger and some Drano or Liquid Plumber on hand in the bathroom that the guests will use. When and if it happens, you'll be very glad you prepared for it. Trust me! Follow these tips and you should be one step closer to a safer, happier Thanksgiving holiday.

Lydia Quinn writes for PaperTrails.com, offering fine, fun and funky papers and gifts including invitations, stationery, pads, tags, cubes, stickers and more for every occasion. Visit us at http://www.papertrails.com

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