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       Volume I - November 19, 2010

BIG Dinner Tips
by Alice Osborne

That is, the dinner is big, not necessarily the tips. Think Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.

These ideas are by April from Missouri, who wrote an article for the website and won a prize for her suggestions.

She does a nice job of simplifying what can become so overwhelming that the fun that we’re supposed to have, is lost. See what you think:

First, be realistic. If you don’t have enough entertaining space, or you don't have the proper equipment or enough parking space, then see about renting a facility to house your dinner, or let someone else host it. With that being said...

A week before my dinner, I start my baking. Cookies, pies and cakes can be made ahead of time and frozen. The day before your dinner, remove them from the freezer. I also contact guests and ask them to bring a covered dish (especially if they are close or local family). If we are inviting a special guest, or someone from out of town, I don't ask them to bring a dish. I do ask everyone to let me know what they are bringing, however so we don't have 7 green bean casseroles.

The day before your dinner, set up your tables and chairs. Set your place settings. Make your tea; make sure you have enough ice on hand. It's perfectly fine to use good quality foam or paper plates, if not for the entire dinner, than for at least dessert. This minimizes cleanup time, and provides more time to visit and focus on other activities of the day. You can simplify your dinner even more, by setting up your dinner as a buffet. Ping-pong and pool tables are great for holding the food!

I cover my "kids table" with blank newspaper and set a cup on crayons on that table, along with some coloring books. It helps keep little ones entertained while their plates are being prepared.

Some foods you can start the day before, such as peeling potatoes for mashed potatoes (store in salted water in the fridge), fixing relish, fruit and veggie trays, bake your turkey or ham and pre-slice it. Two years ago our local deli was running a special on turkey. It was actually cheaper to have them bake our turkey and slice it than it was for me to buy a turkey. So, check them out for specials! (And don’t forget to delegate as much of the work as you can!)

The day of your dinner, use crock-pots where you can. Crock-pots work great for gravy, noodles, yams, and keeping mashed potatoes warm. Check a day or two beforehand to make sure you have proper extension cords.

I also set out some board games, a cheese tray and snack tray. If we end up waiting on a last minute guest or have a kitchen emergency, I don't have to worry about people being hungry, especially in my family where we have several diabetics and lots of kids.

After our blessing, I ask the parents of young children and those over 60 to go through the line first, if it is a buffet. If it is not a buffet, I ask the moms if they want to fill their children's plates before the blessing is said. Then, as soon as the prayer is over, they are handed their plates.

As our family grows each year, I find it fun to ask those who brought a special dish to also bring the recipe. I make sure to have plenty of index cards and pens on hand so others can copy them. This way everyone has a chance to get a copy of Aunt Deloris' pecan pie and Grandma Edna's cherry cobbler recipes.

Also, I try to be prepared for bad weather. In my part of the country, ice and snow can sometimes hit quickly. So, I make sure the flashlights, candles, lanterns and extra blankets are on hand. Several times we have had guests stay over due to the weather, or need to borrow a blanket for the trip home in case they ran into car trouble. The day of your dinner, keep your phone line open so any lost guest can call for directions.

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