(BPT) - From cooking an extravagant turkey dinner to readying the house for guests, hosting Thanksgiving is a lot of work. This annual day of thanks should be focused on connecting with family and enjoying each other's company, not worrying if the bird will be dry or the kids will be bored. These 10 smart ideas will streamline your Thanksgiving holiday so you can relax and enjoy it to the fullest.
Plan ahead. Start planning Thanksgiving up to a month in advance. Get solid RSVPs so you know how many people to expect. This makes planning meals, organizing activities and rearranging chairs/furniture much easier. Pick up the phone or send out a nicely crafted event email with a RSVP request.
Inspire gratitude. Don't let the reason for the season get lost in the holiday hubbub. Simply get blank stationary or gift tags at the store and hand them out upon your guests' arrival. Have each person write down one thing they are thankful for and add it to a bowl. After dinner, pull them out one by one, reading each out aloud and guessing who wrote it.
Visit a restaurant.Mix things up this year by eating your Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant. You won't be alone; an estimated 15 million people choose to eat at a restaurant for their turkey day feast. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, for example, is one option open on Thanksgiving. You can enjoy a traditional, homemade holiday meal featuring roasted turkey and homemade sides like sweet potato casserole - all without the stress of cooking and cleaning at home. Learn more at http://crackerbarrel.com/thanksgiving.
Sleep and exercise. Get a good night's rest the evening before the big day - it will help you stay focused and relaxed. Furthermore, don't interrupt your exercise routine. Workout in the morning to release healthy endorphins that reduce stress levels. (Plus, then you don't have to feel guilty about having a second slice of pie.)
Keep kids busy. Keep kids from bouncing off the walls by planning a few simple activities. Create 'busy bags' for each child with fun activities they can do on their own, such as counting cards, puzzles, dominos and memory games. These are great on-the-go or at home. Another idea is to create special kid spaces throughout the home, such as a table with crayons and paper or a corner with blankets, pillows and picture books. If the weather is nice, create a scavenger hunt list with things that are in the yard.
Order in.Forget slaving for hours in the kitchen when you can order in and eat in the comfort of your home. Feed six with Cracker Barrel's Homestyle Turkey n' Dressing Family Meal To-Go complete with gravy, a sampling of sugar cured ham, choice of three quart-sized country sides, cranberry relish, biscuits and corn muffins.
Create festive table decor. If you do grab a Thanksgiving meal-to-go from a restaurant or cook at home, it's simple to create a memorable tablescape that embraces the feeling of fall. Instead of place cards, write guests' names on miniature pumpkins. Skip tapered candles and instead scoop out the top section of a few apples and add tea lights. Cluster or line them up in a row to create eye-catching ambiance.
Prime the pumpkins. No need to buy extra bowls, just reach for your favorite gourds. Pumpkins add elegance to any setting when used as bowls. All you have to do is carve and line them with tin foil or place a smaller bowl inside. Now you have the perfect way to serve dip and chips or add ice to stylishly chill drinks.
Delegate duties.Trying to do it all makes for a stressful Thanksgiving and almost guarantees something will go wrong. If you're overwhelmed, take up offers to help. From asking Aunt Susy to watch the children and Uncle Joe to set the table, delegating can be the key to Thanksgiving happiness.
Schedule breaks. Make time to rest and enjoy your family on Thanksgiving. You don't need to slave away for hours in the kitchen only to eat and immediately clean up the entire mess. When you're done, everyone will be heading home! Enjoy the parade, read to little ones, and savor a cup of tea with Grandma.