A Stress Free Holiday In 10 Easy Steps

One of my favorite, easy-to-make appetizers.

What is it about certain holidays that makes you crazy? Is it the turkey you can barely lift? Lip-puckering cranberry sauce? The expectation that everything needs to be Martha Stewart perfect? Perhaps the pressure that this is your one-turkey-a-year chance to prove to family and friends that you are, indeed, perfect, is just overwhelming. A little planning can give you enough time to catch some of the football game and still enjoy the meal.

I have opted for a cruise this year, so I won’t be fussing over a turkey. If you are hosting the holiday this year, here are some tips for a stress free holiday in 10 easy steps:

A perfect bird for the holiday.

1. Reflect. You may be hosting this holiday for the first time or the fortieth time. Either way, think about what you have done in the past that has been really great (sweet potato brulee, perhaps), as well as those things that may have not been such a big hit (Cousin Sylvia’s now-infamous pilgrim reenactment, for example). Think about what new traditions or foods you would like to try (maybe this is the year a BBQ Thanksgiving catches on).

2.Decide on a menu and make a list. Now is the time to factor in (or rule out) those creative recipes.

3. Delegate. If Aunt Mary is always bragging about how great her stuffing is (and how “not your strength” yours is), let her bring it. Likewise, assign dishes to various friends and family according to their strengths and desires. This way, the food is good, you have less work and you just saved several sweat-filled hours and a few dollars.

4. Recycle. OK, so you have been meaning to get rid of those pumpkins from Halloween, but they are still in your house. Don’t fret. Instead use them for centerpieces and to decorate the buffet table. (You just saved 2 hours and some cash by not ordering flowers). Be sure to get rid of the pumpkins after Thanksgiving to make way for Christmas or Hanukkah decorations.

Everyone loves a good apple tart.

5. Assess the current situation. (Grab a notepad and pen for this one.) How many people are coming? What has each person or family committed to bringing? Do you have enough dishes (or paper goods) for everyone that is coming? This includes wine glasses, if needed, as well as items like soup bowls, silverware and napkins. Don’t forget to make sure you have enough seating for everyone.

6. Create your shopping list. Now that you have narrowed down the items you are making, you can create your shopping list. Don’t forget to add to the list those items you may need to borrow (like chairs, if you don’t have enough). Sort your list into different sections (grocery store, items to borrow, specialty store or party supply store) so that it is easy to find the items you need in one trip.

7. Eat, Drink and Be Merry. You have already assigned the food items to others, now it is time to ensure the Drink and Be Merry parts of the holiday come together. Pick a variety of beverages suited to your crowd. If it is a wine drinking group and you don’t know merlot from Malbec, just stop in to your local wine store (yet another section on your shopping list) and let them know what you will be serving.

OK, so you now feel prepared for the big day, right? There are still a few things left to do before your guests arrive.

8. Concentrate your efforts to get the house ready. Assign duties to the whole family – the kids can help set the table, one person can make the turkey, one can be in charge of beverages. Make sure that your table is set and serving dishes are out and cleaned early in the day. When your guests arrive, you can simply take their dish and put it in the proper serving piece, and offer them a beverage.

9. Relax. If you have a well-organized plan, there is no reason for you not to have a few hours to spend relaxing with your family before the guests arrive.

10. Enjoy the time with friends and family. When your favorite cousin laments never getting to see you and suggests getting together in the next few weeks, get out your calendar right then and there and make a plan. Don’t put it off, or it may be next Thanksgiving before you see them again.

With a little preparation, a bit of organization and a dash or creativity, this Thanksgiving is a recipe for success.