Send Out Thanksgiving Dinner Invitations
Calling everyone on your guest list only leads to headaches. Instead, send proper invitations at least three weeks in advance. Consider turning to Evite or Paperless Post. The two sites gently remind those who forget to RSVP, so you don't have to nag. Specify a dress code. If you're hosting a potluck, use SignUpGenius so folks can volunteer to bring a specific dish. (Ensure everyone won't need to reheat something upon arrival.)
Devise a Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
Include as many make-ahead meals as you can. Avoid any dish that requires preparation in individual portions (no crème brûlée!) or that needs constant supervision on the stove. Map out what needs to cook when (and for how long and at what temperature) to be sure you have enough burners and oven space. For instance, while the cooked turkey is resting, you can plan to bake your rolls and a casserole at once.
Front Load Your To-Do List
Baked treats, including pie crusts, can be made a month ahead of time. Just freeze the dough right in the pie pan. Better yet: Whip up a crumble that doesn't require a crust. Polish off prep work, such as peeling and dicing onions and chopping celery, a day or two before the feast.
Stock the Kitchen Cabinets with Necessities
Be sure you have enough place settings, serving dishes and kitchen essentials, including a baster, a meat thermometer and a carving set. Make note of any extra dining chairs you might need to rent or borrow. And consider getting a coat rack if you're expecting a crowd.
Draw Up a Thanksgiving Dinner Seating Chart
Position yourself near the kitchen so you can move back and forth discreetly, and put your partner at the opposite end. Tension between the relatives? Split them up. Do the same with long-married couples to keep things lively (but sit new couples together). Be sure to put lefties on corners.
Prep the House to Save Time
Line the trash can with two bags so you can take out a full one and have the second in place. Wipe down the bathroom and kitchen counters. Dust surfaces in the living room and dining areas, but don't go crazy—simply dim the lights come turkey time.
Choose The Right Outfit for Cooking
Try cropped pants and sparkly flats. Avoid tight clothes that make bending over the oven tricky, as well as high heels and anything that's difficult to clean.
Clean the Kitchen as You Go
Don't wait until you've served dinner to tackle the dishes or you'll be stuck in the kitchen all night. At the least, wash big items—the roasting pan, large pots—and scrape plates and place them in the sink or a large bin filled with soapy water. Don't forget to designate a few helpers (your teenage kids, say!) to assist with the cleanup.
Put Your Pets Away
Although your dog or cat might normally have the run of the house, keeping pets away from the action is a good idea. A lot of people are allergic, and even if your guests aren't, you certainly won't be able to keep an eye on Fido all evening to ensure he isn't grabbing turkey off the buffet or jumping in your cousin's lap.
Keep Kids Busy on Thanksgiving
Avoid the stress that comes when little ones jump on the couch or wash their dolls in the punch bowl by designating a room where they can watch a movie and munch on snacks. Other options: set up an easy craft, such as tracing their hands to make turkey-shaped place cards, or put out sugar cookies with sprinkles and tubes of icing and let them decorate their own treats.