Your Countdown to Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving this year is Thurs. November 28th, less than two weeks away! That’s close enough that many of us are stessing about the onslaught of holiday preparations. Especially if you're a nurse working crazy shifts and 12-hour days. Even if you're just preparing dinner for yourself, you have to plan ahead to get the most out of this holiday. And if you're hosting dinner at your house for friends and family, there are even more moving parts to coordinate.

Thanksgiving is an emotional time for many of us as it involves family – an explosive powder keg for all too many folks. On the hand, being without family can make for a lonely holiday, whether you’re far from home, recently divorced, or at the moment on the outs with your relatives. Remember to be gentle with yourself and kind to others.

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is that you can express your ethnic heritage and its unique food culture. For example, it’s twice as delicious for Jewish families this year; Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving. It’s been 125 years since they did, and they won't again anytime soon. That makes this a very special holiday indeed.

In many families there’s a blending of food cultures as one in five marriages are now “mixed” in terms of race, ethnicity, or religion. In my own family, there was a mashup of American and Arabic foods and guests every Thanksgiving. My mom roasted a turkey, cooked the traditional sides, and baked pumpkin pie. My father made grape leaf dolmas, a mezza tray of appetizers, and a layered baklava dessert. Dee-licous!

Here’s a Nearly Two Weeks Ahead checklist:

1. Finalize your guest list: call, e-invite, text, or Facebook to reach out to guests.

2. Check food requests (“I’m gluten-free this year” or “it isn’t Thanksgiving without Aunt Aggie’s oyster dressing”).

3. Order your turkey now if you’re buying an organic or fresh one. (One week ahead if frozen.)

4. Pencil out a budget and menu; start collecting recipes, grocery ads and coupons.

5. Make sure you have the necessary implements – everything from XL aluminum foil for the bird to sharp kitchen knives for paring potatoes.

6. Got enough tables, chairs, and china for the gang? You can rent these items, ask guests for bring extras, or improvise a casual buffet or picnic dining arrangement.

7. For a festive touch, order or make holiday decorations for the house and table. Floral centerpieces are an especailly nice touch for the table.

8. How will you entertain your guests? Consider games: table tennis or horse shoes for the active ones, and cards or boardgames to everyone else.

9. Music makes the party so load up your iPod or dig out your favorite albums for dancable tunes, sing-along favorites, and elegant "music-to-dine-by."

But that's not all! Next week we’ll post a 7-day, 4-day, 2-day, and Thanksgiving Day countdown checklist.

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