Cranberry mimosa. Appoint one of the guests to be bartender (photo courtesy Ocean Spray).
 Cheese wreath. One of your creative guests may want to do something special with the cheese plate (photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese).
 Ask someone in advance to carve the turkey or ham (photo courtesy iGourmet).
 Ask someone to put on the coffee when the main course is over (photo courtesy Coffee Brewing Gear | Pinterest).
 Desserts: When someone asks if they can bring something, the answer is yes! (photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese).
If you’re hosting Christmas or any big dinner, here’s how you can make the event less stressful.
If you’re guesting, call the host in advance and offer your help (perhaps forward this email, if needed).
1. MAKE A LIST & CHECK IT TWICE
Before the big day, review the ingredients of everything you need, from nutmeg to fresh parsley to tea bags for the tea drinkers.
Candles? Check. Matches? Check. Whatever? Check. One year we actually ran out of salt!
2. CREATE A FLOW CHART
At least a day in advance, make a chart by time slot, of every task that has to be done. This should include everything from making recipes through setting the table through brewing the coffee.
Our list, which runs to two typed pages, specifies not just timing, but what pots, dishes and serving utensils will be used.
Who can help you with any task, large or small? Ask them in advance of the day. They’ll be glad to pitch in.
Don’t try to cook it all. In fact, most people will ask if they can bring something. Don’t hesitate to make your day easier and accept. Ask any good cook to make cranberry sauce, vegetables, a pie (even if you likersd to make your own pie, spare yourself!).
People who can’t cook can come a bit earlier to help set the table. Our friend Elizabeth, who loves to clean and tidy, arrives early to vacuum and add her touch to the room.
If you don’t have a help-yourself bar, ask someone to be the cocktail master, getting each person a beverage. This is a good job to make easy contact with all the other guests.
Ask someone to be the wine steward at dinner: uncorking bottles, pouring, seeing who wants a refill.
No task is too small. Even someone who doesn’t cook can dress the salad.
Arrange with the best carver to carve the ham/roast/turkey. One of our regular guests brings her own, just-sharpened, knives.
Assign a different person “table clearing duty” for each course. Some of our guests actually love to do this—it lets them get up and walk a bit. One person may offer to do it all! Tape instructions next to the sink, e.g.: (1) Rinse and put dishes in the dishwasher. (2) Place silver in the plastic bucket [our silver gets hand washed the next day]. (3) Fill pots with soap and water and leave on stove to soak.
Select a “barista” to put the coffee on to brew, as soon as the main course is cleared from the table.
How about a wrap-up crew: literally, to wrap up the leftovers and stick them in the fridge. They may not do it the same way you’d do it, but it’s good enough for the night.
Put light eaters on “dessert detail”: They won’t be lolling in their chairs, overstuffed and undesirous of moving. The right person will be more than happy to slice, plate and bring plates to the table.
We’d like to take a moment to thank all of our helpers from Christmases past and future: Bingo, Charles, Claudio, Eitan, Elizabeth, Laura, Vivian: You rock!
Revisit your menu. Some of us are guilty of overkill: wanting to please everyone with everything—like serving roast potatoes and mashed potatoes.
Do you really need two different salads? Cranberry relish and cranberry sauce? Steamed vegetables for the dieters and a separate vegetable dish tossed in butter? And creamed onions?
For our mother, the answer was yes. She made at least two of every menu item, and three desserts. She was also on her feet in the kitchen the entire time.
We always commented about Mom, that if there wasn’t enough left over to serve another entire dinner, she hadn’t done her job. It was time to retire the tradition.
After killing ourselves for years to be our mother’s daughter, we realized: We’re not Mom. And no one but us will notice that there is only a turkey, and not a turkey, a ham and a roast.
Just make one of everything: Everyone will have plenty to eat. If dessert is just store-bought ice cream in holiday flavors, great.
And everyone, including the host[s], will have a great time!