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Tips For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving
Relax and make this holiday season one of the best yet with these simple, helpful tips.

The holidays can be stressful, especially if you're in charge of doing everything. Delegating will help relieve your stress.

Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with family and friends, for sharing meals and good company; and of course a time for stress. Are your holiday festivities stressful? They aren't supposed to be. They are supposed to be relaxing, peaceful and fun. I'd like to share a few things I've learned about Thanksgiving and help you give your family a fun stress-free holiday.

My business partner, Sikky Rogers, always had a formal holiday gathering. She sets out her silver and finest china, prepared the turkey and all the trimmings and received her extended family all dressed in formal attire. This sounds great to me, especially if you are a guest. The problem was, her family wasn't really having all that much fun. They were stressed because mom was stressed. So Sikky sat down with her family and they came to an agreement that would satisfy Sikky's need to host them in the way that she wanted, but would reduce the work and stress level for all. Now she prepares the turkey and decorates and sets the table. Her family brings the rest. They still dress up in formal attire, they enjoy themselves and they get to show off some of their own wonderful dishes.

I am a big fan of what Sikky and her family have done to make their Thanksgiving holiday memorable. There are other reasons this would work well, one being cost. It can get expensive to provide the entire dinner for everyone, so if you are looking to cut back this is a great way to accomplish two goals.

Other sources of holiday stress include the need to create the perfect holiday feast and setting, and the obligation to visit with multiple family members. You must simplify to reduce stress. One way is to alternate years with different family members that you must see or alternate holidays. See one set of parents on Thanksgiving and one on Christmas. Continue this tradition so that each knows what to expect or alternate them the next year. You can't be everywhere at once and you can't do it all, at least not if you want to still enjoy yourself and those around you. Lastly, just toss out the idea of perfection, this really stresses you and your loved ones much more than you know.

Other cost-saving and stress-reducing ideas:

* Set your table the night before.

* Purchase your turkey, ham or both in as far advance as you can without sacrificing quality. If you need to buy frozen to save yourself the hassle of holiday crowds then by all means do so.

* Decide right now what you are going to prepare and what time your gathering will be. Be sure to consult your family members as to what works for them and try to pick the best time for everyone.

* Make a list of who is bringing which dishes and send it to everyone if you have a big family. They'll be grateful for the reminder.

* Make a grocery list now. Pay attention to the details of a recipe if you are making something new and try to work in advance as much as possible with quality and freshness as your guide--some items can be frozen for a couple of days and will still taste fresh if they are wrapped properly and defrosted properly. One note on defrosting; it may seem obvious, but putting a frozen item on high in the microwave will partially cook it instead of defrost it. This won't make for a good finished product.

* Determine what you can do in advance for the items you are going to prepare. By the time the day comes you should be finishing dishes and roasting a turkey. Most everything else should be complete. Some recipes will have a point at which the recipe can be prepared a few days in advance and then finished on the day you intend to serve it.

Relax and enjoy. If something doesn't come out right remember that you are there to enjoy your family and friends and that the gathering is meant to be fun. If you are not relaxed, your guests will not be either.

Angela Gala is principal with Rogers & Gala Creative Partners, a firm that plans parties, weddings, and special events nationwide. She can be reached through her website www.rogersandgala.com.

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