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Last updated: August 25. 2013 4:28AM - 144 Views

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You’d like to celebrate your first house, or a new marriage, or a new life by hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, you’ve hosted a few game nights and a dinner party here and there. But a major holiday party is a special undertaking.



Don’t fret — just be the boss.



“Your family and friends are going to look for you to take the lead, so you have to be in charge,” says Josie Littlepage, an event planner with Cosmopolitan Events in St. Louis. “You’re going to be the one making the decisions, from what’s on the menu to where people are going to sit.”



That means you can really make Thanksgiving your own — and be thankful for those around you.



START WITH A PLAN



Write down everything that you and your family members will need to get done.



1. Shop smart



• Stock up on paper goods, zipper bags, bottled water and aluminum baking pans.



2. Determine the menu



• Bookmark recipes.



• Call your aunt for secret ingredients.



• Prepare only the dishes you love, but consider your guests' dietary needs.



GET AHEAD



Complete some tasks — shredding cheese, pitting olives — early.



3. A few days before:



• Roll out pie crusts, place them in baking dishes and freeze.



• Get a final headcount, but expect a few last-minute guests.



4. Three days before:



• Go shopping



• Clear off counter tops and refrigerator shelves. Toss unnecessary items from the freezer.



• Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. You'll need 1 to 1½ pounds of turkey per guest.



5. Two days before:



• Sharpen knives



• Grind coffee beans



• Crush nuts



• Buy flowers



• Set the table



6. Day before:



• Bake pies



• Cut up and boil sweet potatoes



• Season turkey



• Empty dishwasher



ORGANIZE YOUR EFFORTS



Seek expertise. And delegate. Accept offers of help. Your aunt can make the gravy. Your uncle can give a toast.



Stock up. Check your inventory of dishes, glasses and flatware, and clean or polish. Buy extras at a thrift store.



Games and parades. While you're in the kitchen, have the TV tuned to the holiday favorites, like the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and NFL football games.



Terrific turkey. For a large crowd, consider two smaller birds. Cook one the traditional way and try a new recipe with the other. Make sure you have a meat thermometer. Turkeys need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees at the thigh. Your bird will be in the oven for about ½ hour per pound. Cook your bird at about 375 degrees, so the side dishes can be baked at the same time.



Make more room. Set up a card table if you need extra seating. Or use the cocktail table and cushions.



Let the little ones help … form dinner rolls, set the kids' table, prepare cake pans.



Start a new tradition. Take photos. Shop for a Christmas tree. Go to a movie. Skate at the local ice rink. Walk around the block. Perform a skit. Play songs on the piano.



Help yourself. Move the serving table from the wall for a two-line buffet.



Decorating. You can bring out your silver candelabras or stay simple with white dishes and colored napkins. Pick colors that will complement your food. Golds, reds and oranges look great with butternut squash soup, pumpkin pie and corn bread. Leaves, miniature pumpkins, gourds, twigs or fruit work well. Raffia can be tied to napkins. Hollow loaves of bread and fill with tea candles. Try two smaller floral arrangements on opposite ends of the table, leaving room for your turkey platter. Simmer water with a cinnamon stick, a teaspoon of allspice and a few cloves for a holiday scent.



Handling mishaps. Whatever happens, laugh about it and move on.



Misc. Get your pets groomed.



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