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Yes, holidays can be stressful, but you can minimize the stress if you do a little planning ahead. Assuming that you’ve already nailed down the time you want people to come over, bought the food you need to prepare and have enough tables and chairs to contain everyone, here’s a few extra tips to make the meal a little more enjoyable.

Make a Big Impression with Mini Pies

Give yourself a break by preparing these little guys the day before. You can use mini pie plates or Flan Pans. Purchase a canned pumpkin pie mix (which includes all the ingredients you need except for evaporated milk and eggs) and rolls of refrigerated pie crusts. (This recipe makes six pies, so double the recipe as needed.)

Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Turn one of the pie plates upside down to use as a guide. Cut the dough about a half inch wider than the pan. Place the dough in the pan and flute the top. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees while you mix the filling ingredients. Fill each pie plate with the filling (we used about ¾ cup of filling) and bake for 5 minutes. Then, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes more. Then cool on cooling racks.

With the scraps of dough leftover, cut out leaf shapes with a cookie cutter and score with knife. Brush each with a light layer of egg wash and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degree. Store the leaves in a sealed bag until serving time and use as a garnish with whipped cream.

Set the Table

Don’t make the mistake of setting the table just before your company comes over. Believe it or not, you should plan this out ahead of time too. Do you have enough plates, flatware and cloth napkins to go around? If not, don’t go out and buy a whole new set (unless you can afford it). Instead, just pick up a few more plates or silverware that compliments what you already have and mix and match your table settings. Your guests will think you’re a genius. Don’t forget to iron your tablecloth!

You can dress up your table in a big way spending little at Anko. We decided to stick with a more rustic look and dressed up our table with just a few extra additions. Our settings include Jute Woven Placemats and flatware wrapped up in a linen napkin and tied with Jute Rope. The centerpiece was created using three Brown Glass Bottles tied with more Jute Rope and accented with Battery Operated String Lights and some Artificial Plant Leaves.

Okay, truth be told, we learned a thing or when Taryn Whiteaker visited Anko a couple of months ago and we used some of her ideas. You can get a bunch more by visiting her website.

Staying Sane in the Kitchen

Don’t do the entire meal yourself! People want to help. Let them. It’s okay. Really. But within reason.

Write out a menu ahead of time and ask friends and relatives to bring something to add to the meal. However, be sure to ask that they only bring food that has been prepared at THEIR home, not yours. Is there a person in your group who is always late? Don’t ask them to bring appetizers.

On the day of the big event, prepare your mashed potatoes early on and keep them warm in a Crock Pot for as long as you need! Natasha’s Kitchen has an easy recipe that requires only four ingredients and gets big raves.

Cut vegetables, salad and fruit items ahead in the morning and store in bowls in the fridge until needed.

When the early birds come, be ready for them. Ask them to wash their hands and then hand them a bowl of chopped fruit and a bunch of skewers to prepare fruit kabobs.

Prepare a beverage station with sodas, beer, juices chilling in a large bucket of ice or set aside some mugs and fill a Crock Pot with warm apple cider.

Keep the Kids Busy

Not every child will find that it is an honor to sit at the “kids’ table,” but you can help change that. First, let them create their own placemats. Nothing fancy here. Just provide them with a sheet of Drawing Paper and a stack of crayons or colored pencils. We prefer the Jumbo Size that offer a stronger pencil with a thicker line. You can start them out by having them draw a turkey by first tracing their hand or just let their imagination take them where they want to go.

Being an older kid means bigger responsibilities. In this case, we’re talking about letting them create place cards for each setting at the table. Again, just simple tools is all you need in the form of blank index cards or Place Cards, self-inking letter stamps, colored pencils, Stencils or Colored Stamping Markers.

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Jeffrey Totey

Jeff is a local freelancer who writes about local arts and entertainment options to be found in the greater Seattle area. You can read more of his work at