Hello everyone!  Yes, it has happened once again…the holiday season is officially upon us!  Wow, how did that happen?!  It seems that just yesterday we were all walking around in shorts and flip-flops trying to figure out which 4th of July fireworks show to go see!  (Well if you live where I do, you are probably still walking around in shorts and flip-flops but that’s beside the point!) 

Anyway, every year it seems the holiday season brings a mixture of joy and stress to all who partake in it.  This blog is just some “food for thought” (yes, pun intended!) to help make your Thanksgiving meal go smoothly and be an enjoyable event…even for you, the host.  So, without further ado…..here we go!

Tip 1 - Keep It Familiar: 
I know the temptation is always out there to try new recipes for this big meal.  If you are like me, you probably think to yourself, “man, I always cook the same thing year in and year out, maybe I should try something new this year”.  Well that is all well and good but if your family is like mine, the only time they get these “same old recipes” is once a year at Thanksgiving! 

Actually I said just that to my youngest daughter the other day and her reply was, “I love those dishes!  I look forward to them every year!” So, my guess is, your family and friends probably feel the same way.  Don’t add extra stress by trying new recipes on a day when just getting the familiar ones to all come out right and at the same time is hard enough.

Tip 2 - Keep It Casual: 
This one may mean different things to different people.  For me, it means beautiful disposable plates and napkins and a minimum of fuss and muss.  We dress casually and really try and focus on the important things, like being together as a family and really enjoying that time.  For us that usually includes a rousing game of Rock Band and who wants to karaoke in dressy clothes?! Maybe you are like my good friend’s family and enjoy a rousing game of family football in the backyard to help burn off all those extra calories.  So, again, dress clothes?  Nah, don’t think so! 

Paper plates (they have really beautiful ones to choose from) and anything else that can be tossed away when the big meal is over are one the best ways to avoid spending almost as much time cleaning up as you did preparing the meal in the first place and lets you get to the good stuff much quicker!  Remember being casual doesn’t mean your table can’t be beautiful…adding lovely placemats and a gorgeous fruit or flower arrangement will make any Thanksgiving table inviting!

Tip 3 - Keep It Simple: 
If you are hosting a big group, ask each family or couple to bring something.  A side dish, dessert, wine…whatever you would like.  Most folks love to contribute and the more they help out and bring something, the less you have to worry about.  This will allow you to focus on the big parts of the meal that you are responsible for.

Tip 4 - Keep it Affordable: 
Nothing adds extra stress to the holidays then the idea of spending more money than you have and running up debt.  Watch for sales at your local stores and even though it may be kind of a pain, don’t be afraid to go to more than one store to get the best prices for this big meal.  ( I went to three this year!) Almost every store in the country will have good sales on most things you will need so don’t throw away those grocery flyers and be sure and get the most for your money that you can! 

Also along these lines, try not to make a ton more food than you will need.  This one is hard for me…being half Italian and half Greek there was no such thing as too much food!  However, a little planning in this area will not only save you time and some money, it will keep your family from having to eat leftovers for the next week and a half so that you feel you got your money’s worth out of all that food you bought!

Tip 5:  Keep It Fun: 
This tip is the most important one in my book!  You can do everything perfectly and spend all kinds of time, money, and energy but if it leaves you feel too exhausted to enjoy the holiday yourself, you have taken on too much.  Try and simplify your life by having some folks come early to help with the prep work (you know peeling potatoes, getting side dishes ready to bake, setting the table, etc.)  Again, most people love to help and to be honest this time can be where some of the best memories come from! 

I for instance, love to have my girls help me and I also love wine…so if I combine the two, we always seem to have a great time!  I may get a little goofy from the wine but they keep me on-track so I don’t ruin anything and nobody can say I’m not fun! 

Also think of some fun things you can do as a group before or after the big meal.  I know the guys out there love the idea of sitting in the old recliner and falling asleep while watching football but maybe after their nap you can interest them in a game of some sort.  Whatever your family and friends love to play or YOU THINK they would love to play!  Just be careful, the one side effect of having a “fun Thanksgiving” is that people will always want to come to YOUR house for Thanksgiving every year!

I hope these tips can help you have a more relaxed and enjoyable holiday this year.  Remember all the best food, fancy tableware, and the most expensive wine can’t replace the memories and the time spent with great friends and family!  That my friends, is what this holiday should be all about!

Now, what will you do next to love where you live?______________________________________________________________________________

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