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Nov 16, 2007

Ways to get ready for Thanksgiving

With just six days until we slice our turkey, watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and cheer on our favorite football teams, now is the time to start planning ways to make your Thanksgiving celebration go as smoothly as possible. Here are some ways you can do right now to start preparing for your holiday festivities.
1. Create an autumnal home
Autumn is such a warm time of year. No, I'm not talking temperature wise, but rather feeling wise. Make your guests feel that warm autumn feeling the minute they arrive at your home. Fill the air with some seasonal scents by purchasing a few candles — maybe in pumpkin spice or harvest apple. Just don't mix too many scents together or your guest may lose that warm feeling and instead just end up with a headache. Also, place a few pumpkins outside. Hang an autumn wreath on the door. Fill a bowl with beautiful red apples or miniature pumpkins and gourds and place it on your coffee table. You can find many decorating ideas at your local craft store. Just don't be afraid to use your imagination to create the feel of fall.
2. Plan a menu
Whether you are playing the role of host or guest, typically you will be making a dish or two, or even the whole meal. Sit down now and figure out what you are planning to make for the dinner and plan your list of items you will need from the grocery. By organizing your dishes, you can pace your time in the kitchen better and ultimately feel a little less overwhelmed. (And if you don't want to cook this year, see our suggestions for dine in and carry out in Thursday's Life section.)
3. Clean your fridge
Now is the time to start cleaning out your refrigerator. We all have had that moment where our fridge is jam-packed and we have to spend precious time rearranging things to figure out how to put in the other three dishes we created. By clearing out or eating the food in your refrigerator a week or so in advance, you can leave your fridge fairly open for all the casseroles, gelatin molds, pies — and of course turkey — that you will have.
4. Precook
There are some items — pies, casseroles, stuffing — that can be made before Thanksgiving Day. After figuring out what your menu will be, go through your dishes and decide what can be done ahead of time. Even if it is just making the pie crust or stuffing, it will cut down on things you have to do on the actual day.
5. Thaw the turkey
Nothing is worse than having a turkey frozen solid on the day of Thanksgiving. To properly thaw a turkey — depending on the size — it takes about three to four days in the refrigerator to be ready for Thanksgiving Day. Be sure to plan for this by placing your bird into the fridge with plenty of time to thaw before the big day. Remember, the larger the turkey the longer it takes to thaw. Ask your butcher how long you should allow for the size bird you are purchasing.
6. Set the table
If you are the one hosting Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead and set your table before the big day. Get all your dinnerware set out, napkins folded and glasses in place. By doing this you will be able to focus more on the meal and less on the atmosphere on the big day.
7. Make a centerpiece
Nothing is better than a breathtaking centerpiece for your Thanksgiving Day table. And what's even better is that you can create an easy centerpiece that will look like you spent hours and hours designing it. A day or two before Thanksgiving, go to your local flower store and find your favorite autumn flowers — preferably in a pot and not just a bouquet. I recommend mums, which you can find in many beautiful colors and sizes. Now, find a pumpkin that is tall enough to hide the pot that your flowers are in. Hollow out the pumpkin and make a hole at the top large enough to fit the flower pot directly into the pumpkin. Scatter a few leaves around the table to bring together all the autumn colors. You also can add some miniature pumpkins and gourds around the larger one to give a little more character to your creation. If that doesn't work, go to your local craft store and purchase a cornucopia basket. Fill it with pine cones, flowers, greenery, fruits and vegetables. Depending on your table size, you can even stretch your design out by adding more things to make it appear that the bountiful basket has spilled down the entire length of the table. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that your centerpiece is not so tall that your guests are unable to see one another across the table.
8. Keep guests entertained
Whether you have a bunch of football fans coming over or a bunch of children, you don't want your guests to be bored out of their minds the whole day. Be sure to plan activities or have things on hand to keep everyone comfortable and entertained throughout the day. Have a few child-friendly board games on hand or have a deck or two of cards ready for an impromptu game of euchre. Also, make sure you have plenty of seating, especially around the TV if people are planning to watch football games.
9. Prepare speech or prayer
Are you the person who always is called upon to say a speech or prayer before the Thanksgiving Day meal? If so, this year come prepared. Start thinking now about what you are going to say. If you need a little holiday inspiration, many Web sites offer ideas for both speeches and prayers for Thanksgiving. Whatever you choose to say, make sure that it is from the heart and meaningful. Nothing is worse than a speech or prayer that looks too practiced or memorized. It is OK to get inspiration from different sources, but ultimately have the speech come from your heart.
10. Pack up leftovers
There is only so much you can do with turkey and stuffing. Let's face it, there are always leftovers. Why not give some food to your guests to take home with them so that the food doesn't end up going bad in your refrigerator? Go to your local dollar store or grocery store and pick up some inexpensive, disposable containers. Before your guests leave, you can plate them up a leftovers care package to enjoy once they return home. And since you bought some disposable containers, you don't have to worry about never getting your "good" containers back.
Happy Thanks Giving!!!