With fall in full force, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and will be here before we know it. While the holiday season is kicking off, it can be a great time of warmth, compassion, family memories, and reconnecting with loved ones. Unfortunately; however, it can also be a very stressful time full of last minute shopping, hectic travel, lost directions, awkward parties, and a lot of juggling to fit in all of those events and last minute appointments. As hectic as it can seem, with a little planning and these 10 simple tips you can sit back, relax, and keep your sanity during the Turkey Day chaos.
Confirm, Don’t Assume:
Be sure to double check on your plans and confirm everything instead of merely assuming that everyone else in on the same page as you. This is particularly important if your family is like so many who alternate locations every year for the big day. Do not just assume that everyone still remembers the plans that you had made last year, or even last month. If someone else is hosting the dinner and festivities this year, double check with them to make sure that you have the right time, address, etc. This is also a good time to get into the holiday spirit by asking if there is anything that you can bring or do to assist the host on the big day.
If you are the one hosting the event, send out an invitation to everyone on the guest list now to remind them of your location and what time they should arrive. This will help you by making sure that you do not have guests arriving too early and simply getting under foot while you are preparing your Thanksgiving dinner masterpiece, but it is also a nice way to set the mood for your dinner and to get people thinking ahead and remind those who may have forgotten about the location in time for them to make arrangements to travel if need be. And when in doubt about any of the plans, simply ask- it is better than worrying about being in the wrong place at the wrong time or dealing with the hassle of having to switch your plans at the last minute.
Make A List:
Whether you are traveling out of town or cooking dinner you need to plan ahead. Make a list of everything that you will need and keep it with you as you shop or pack. Doing this now before the hustle and bustle sets in will give you a chance to make a thorough list while you have the time to think about everything that you might need. Go back and revisit the list a few days before Thanksgiving to make sure that you have not forgotten anything.
Plan for Alternative Diets:
You may want to review your guest list for any obvious dietary concerns. For example, do you have family members who are diabetic, lactose intolerant, allergic to nuts, vegetarian, or who require a kosher diet? While you can not likely make a meal that entirely caters to every possible dietary conflict, you should be mindful of possible dietary concerns and try to make at least a few alternative dishes that will avoid any uncomfortable situations with guests who would otherwise arrive and be unable to eat anything during dinner.
Provide some vegetable dishes and perhaps one healthy alternative dessert that does not have any sugar added to it. This can be a great option for diabetics but also for any of your guests who are trying to count calories and watch what they eat which can be so difficult during the holidays, so this simple gesture of thinking ahead about other’s concerns can be a great way to help people feel welcomed in your home during the holiday season. Low fat and sodium dishes are also good ideas.
This should go without saying, but you do not want to get stuck with a house full of hungry people waiting for someone to run around town trying to find one store that, by chance, may still be open because you realized at the very last moment that you did not get something that you really needed. So be sure to get to the store a few days before hand and get all of the shopping out of the way.
Have a Trial Run:
If you are hosting the grand event, go through the motions a day or so before and pull out everything that you will need for one last check to make sure that you do not need another run to the store. Doing this a day or two before will not only help you make sure that you have everything that you need, but can also give you an idea of how you need to pace yourself timing wise to have everything running smoothly.
Get a Pop-Up Bird:
When it comes to Thanksgiving, the turkey is often the crown of feast. Many companies now include a self timing pop-up indicator that will, well..pop up when the turkey has cooked at the appropriate temperature for the appropriate amount of time. This is a simple and easy way to know when it is ready without having to drag the entire thing in and out of the oven and test the temperature every so often since you can simply peek in the oven and see if the timer is up or down.
Of course, you will still want to double check once you retrieve it from the oven to insure that everything is properly done; however, this simple little tip can end up saving you a lot of time and hassle.
Place the Butter Rub Under the Skin:
There is nothing worse than presenting a dry turkey to a house full of friends and relatives on a day when it is taking center stage, but how can you keep your turkey tender and moist in a simple and easy way? Many cooks will prepare a mixture of butter and herbs and rub the turkey down with it before baking. This is great for getting the turkey golden brown but often the butter simply runs off of the turkey in the pan. So, here is a great little trick that I use every year, place a good chunk of that butter rub under the skin of the turkey where it can be trapped by the outer layer of skin and really permeate the meat beneath for a sweet juicy taste.
Placing the turkey in a baking bag with 3-4 tablespoons of water or broth before putting it in the roasting pan is also a good idea, just keep in mind that you may need to tear the bag open and let the turkey brown for the last few minutes of cooking.
Have Assigned Seats:
This may not be an issue for small crowds or if there are no obvious conflicts among the family circle, but if you know that Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty tend to go at each other then arranging the seating before hand lets you separate problematic dinner mates and place them with those whom they might share more common interest,or at least with whom they may not be as inclined to get into a heated tiff with. Sometimes you have ex-spouses and new spouses or old feuds that can make for a tense evening, but a little careful planning may help you to keep things civil.
Take Along Some Non-Essential Work or a Good Book:
Have you ever found yourself at a holiday gathering where everyone was off doing their own thing and you were bored out of your mind or where you found the points of view so opposite from your own that you were trying to dodge the conversation at all costs? Hopefully this will not happen this holiday season and you will stay busy and interact among other holiday guests, but if you should find that you are sitting somewhere twiddling your thumbs and looking rather uncomfortable while doing so, or if the crowd is one that you find yourself at odds with, here is a simple little fix for it-be too busy to notice.
Bringing along a good book to read or some “work” to catch up on will occupy your time while making you look busy instead of antisocial. Of course, do not bring along any work with you that you actually have to get done on a deadline because you will end up only feeling frantic. This is a tip just to help you cover those uncomfortable situations with the in-laws or distant relatives that you may not know or get along with that well so you can say “I would love to engage in this conversation (in which I think you are all arrogant buffoons) but I simply have to get this work done”. Peace of mind is the best holiday accessory.
Have a Back-Up Plan:
Last but not least, have a back up plan. Whether it is packing a back up suit or buying that extra easy to make dessert, have a back up for the essentials that you will need just in case something goes wrong. You never know when something will tear, get spilled, or burn and end up leaving you in a tight spot if you do not have a back up.
Hopefully your holiday season will start off smoothly with all of the warmth and joy of this special time of year but you can rest easy knowing that with these 10 simple tips you will be prepared for a stress free Thanksgiving season, and that is something to truly be thankful for.