cook panics over overcooked thanksgiving turkey in oven

5 Things to Make Thanksgiving Manageable

No holiday is America is more centered around food than Thanksgiving. Traditional Thanksgiving dinners are elaborate affairs which take days, if not weeks, of planning. While everyone else is enjoying the company of family and friends, you should not feel trapped in the kitchen. Here are five ways of making it easier to survive hosting a Thanksgiving dinner.

Get a Headcount Early

Send out invitations early and emphasize the importance of replies. They are vital if you want to make sure everyone is well fed without generating enough leftovers to last until next year.

Be sure to consider how many people can actually be fit around the table and whether you’re willing to relocate some to card tables or even to the living room with TV trays. Remember that tables and countertops are going to be full of food, so squeezing extra people around the table will be a nightmare.

Shop Early

Thanksgiving meal staples often sell out before the actual holiday. Buy non-perishable items early, and make sure there’s room in your freezer for a frozen turkey, which disappear from grocery shelves particularly quickly.

Cook Early

Not everything should be done Thanksgiving day. Consider what foods can be prepped or cooked ahead of time and then frozen.

Also, have a plan as to what order food will be cooked. You only have so many ovens and stove burners. Some dishes may need to be prepared and then set aside earlier in the day.

roasted turkey garnished with cranberries on a rustic style table decoraded with pumpkins, gourds, asparagus, brussel sprouts, baked vegetables, pie, flowers, and candles.

Consider a Potluck

Potlucks are a common way of assembling Thanksgiving meals without placing all of the responsibility on the shoulders of the host. Make a list of needed items and have guests sign up for them. It’s important to know who is bringing what. Otherwise, basic things may go missing while you have more mashed potatoes than you know what to do with.

No matter how you’re assembling the meal, keep in mind what sort of table space is needed to hold it all. This is particularly important if some food is going to sit in crock pots, which require access to electrical outlets.

Consider Catering

If all of this sounds incredibly taxing, there’s no shame in having at least some of the dishes catered. Turkeys can be purchased fully cooked from a variety of sources. They’re the most taxing aspect of cooking a Thanksgiving meal: they need to be stored frozen, thawed, stuffed and then cooked for hours which can be hard to predict. Farming out that task to experts relieves a ton of holiday cooking strain.

Just remember to put your order in early. Plenty of other people have the same idea you do.

The key to making a Thanksgiving meal a success is early planning. Find out how many people you’ll be cooking for, then collect and prepare as many items as you can before the actual dinner, freezing what you can. Having an attack plan for Thanksgiving itself keeps things flowing in the kitchen. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s from your guests or from professionals.

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Group of laughing adults at a halloween party

5 Ways to Host a Safe Halloween Party

Halloween is one of the most fun holidays of the year, but that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down when it comes to safety. Keep these things in mind when planning a Halloween party.

Don’t Drive During Trick-or-Treat Hours

Ideally, host your party on a day other than Halloween. That allows parents to both take their kids trick-or-treating and attend your party. If they have to be on the same day, begin your party before trick-or-treaters come out in force, and have it end after all the kids have gone home.

Driving through a throng of kids is both dangerous and frustrating. Some kids get overly excited about the day and forget to stay out of the street even if they’re normally good about it. There’s also plenty of small kids who can be difficult to see. Finally, dark costumes can make children harder to spot as the sun goes down. Driving during this time is just a recipe for disaster.

Be Careful with Dry Ice

Dry ice creates a great spooky mist, but it’s also dangerous. Make sure it’s out of reach of children. If being used in a punch bowl, nest two bowls inside one another. The larger one holds the dry ice while the smaller holds the punch. Dry ice is not for ingestion or touching. It’s a chuck of frozen carbon dioxide, cooled to about 100 degrees below zero.

group of young people celebrating halloween party in costumes drinking beer

Keep Costumes Safe

Extravagant costumes can be gorgeous, but they also pose a lot of logistical problems. Urge people to avoid unwieldy costumes, including garments which can be tripped on, large costumes which can run into objects and break them, anything with a blade, billowing drapes of fabric which can catch on things or be ignited by candles, and so on.

If people are going to wear masks, ask for them to not put them on until they reach the party. Masks can significantly obscure vision, making it dangerous to drive and even to walk up to the porch.

Clear the Walkway of Obstructions

Lots of us decorate our lawns for Halloween, but make sure the walkway is given a wide berth. People will be negotiating it in costume and in the dark.

Use Artificial Candles

While real candles make a great touch at an elegant, non-costume party, they can be dangerous with a house full of people wearing awkward costumes. Not only might they ignite someone’s outfit, but a knocked over taper can burn carpet, curtains, furniture and more, leading to a potentially catastrophic fire.

Every party has its complications, and Halloween parties are no different. However, a bit of preparation and common sense can ensure you have a safe event on one of the most fun nights of the year.

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dark fine art grunge photo of a beautiful woman walking the halls of haunted horror in vintage vogue fashion

6 Ideas for a Classy Halloween Party

It’s pretty easy to throw together a traditional Halloween party: just stock up on plastic spiders, cotton cobwebs and plates with pumpkins on them. After all, the main draw of these parties is often to dress up. But it’s not the only way to celebrate Halloween. You can hold a very classy event that still embodies the spirit of Halloween.

Invest in Black

Halloween is a nighttime holiday, and the color black conveys a sense of real spookiness far more than plastic spiders. Black silk flowers, black painted pumpkins, black napkins, black candles and more can give a party a spooky yet sophisticated tone.

Of course, everything works best in moderation. Offsetting the black with some white provides contrast while keeping with the stark, barren motif.

Add Rich Autumn Color Flowers

Punctuate your black and white color scheme with colored accents: deep, dark reds; rich burnt oranges; and cool, dry browns bring the dying colors of autumn into your party. And these don’t have to be real flowers. Craft stores are selling plenty of these colors.

bronze antique candlestick with burning candles in darknessEmbrace the Past

Halloween is, in part, about what has come before (in the form of haunting spooks). Trade in electric lighting for candles. Ideally, set them in candlesticks which are either antiques or at least look antique. Other antique items also made great decorations.

Get Creative with Glassware

Is that vial full of poison or the host’s mystery cocktail? Prefill drinks in creative containers like stoppered vials and let guests serve themselves…if they dare.

Make Costumes Optional

Some people love making costumes. Some people hate even buying one from Party City. Let costumes be optional, but suggest non-costumed people come in black to keep the event both spooky and classy.

Or you can meet the two ideas halfway and ask for guests to wear masks with their black ensembles. Basic masks can be bought at craft stores for just a few dollars, and they can be painted and decorated if  desired. Fancier masks with paint, feathers, rhinestones and lace can be found online. You’ll probably want to keep a couple cheap ones on hand for guests who still show up without one.

Consider a Fire Pit

If you have access to a fire pit (either a literal pit or a portable one), a Halloween party is a great time to break it out. This is the time of year when being outside can still be pleasant yet a bit nippy without a heat source. Also, this again hearkens back to the days of old before electricity and modern furnaces.

Halloween is arguably the most playful holiday of the year. That does not mean, however, it has to be childish. Consider appealing Halloween motifs, and find ways of keeping them sophisticated: rich and dark autumn colors, emphasis on blacks, elegant costuming and more. The result will be a unique Halloween party guests are sure to remember.

Images copyright: jorgophotography / 123RF Stock Photo and anyka / 123RF Stock Photo.