Use technology to ease the holiday panic

Krystal Peak · November 23, 2011 · Short URL:

Tools Donna Reed would be using this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving overwhelms even the most seasoned hostess because of the sheer pressure put on people attempting to please everyone in attendance.

Between the decorating and the cooking and trying to keep people's glasses full without starting a familial World War III, the hosts often need to seek assistance anywhere they can get it.

Thankfully, we live in a world were blogs, apps and whole online communities are devoted to event planning, cooking and mixology -- Donna Reed would have had so many more options.

Even under the stress and time constraints of trying to get a dinner prepared in a few hours and a single trip to the store, the connected world of technology can help get your Thanksgiving off of life support.

Filling glasses

A great young online startup,, is chock-full of cocktail suggestion, techniques and articles about the methods and presentation of creating the perfect drink. From gifting bourbon suggestions to warming digestifs that can be served, post-stuff.

I recommend this site for the those looking to wow the palate of their guests with complex spirits.

Or if its just a quick list of recipes and guides you are in the market for -- the free Mixology Drink Recipes by Digital Outcrop has gotten me out of a jam or two when I needed to look up the proper proportions for a Manhattan or Daiquiri and it has a great feature that can map all the nearest liquor stores to you for quick runs to sustain the festivities.

Presentation, presentation, presentation

While most people come for grandma's epic stuffing recipe, in order to really steal the night, a hostess should create a visual cornucopia out of more than just gluttonous options.

For this there are several blogs and online communities to help create ambiance for any event. While Martha is the undisputed queen of all things personalized, some sites for average families are blogs like The Hostess with the Mostess.

This community helping entertainers create the best party themes has Thanksgiving options for getting the kids involved and making very festive doggie bags to help rid your house of absurd quantities of food in style.

And another event community, The Party Dress, tastefully categorizes themes, recipes and favors for any event -- including a pumpkin filled Thanksgiving extravaganza.

The whole bird

There are a great many blogs filled with recipes for any occasion but one of the most extensive and helpful is called Foodgawker.

From restaurant favorites to vegan options, Foodgawker is made up of a communities of foodies that upload detailed recipes and photos of each creation -- sometimes upwards of 200 new treats a day.

Another site with great visuals and step-by-step cooking processes is called Tastespotting. Much like Foodgawker, Tastespotting has food and drink options across the gamut, but the uploads on this site are three to four times more frequent.

This site, founded in 2007, considers itself a potluck of sorts that depends highly on the community to contribute high-quality photos and recipes for people to try.

The site is easy to navigate by ingredient or topic and helps send traffic to the food bloggers that contribute to the site.

In the world of apps, one of the best to check out is 'How to Cook Everything.' This application for the iPhone is $4.99, and much like the name states, has just about all the recipes you could ever want to know how to make -- all right on your mobile phone. The app includes grocery check lists, step by step illustrations, and handy guides for different techniques.

But if all else fails, I might suggest loading OpenTable on your browser or mobile device and find a restaurant near you that will be serving all your favorite dishes for the most challenging of holidays to cook for.

Keeping the conversation going

And whether you are at your boss's house for a holiday meal, the family table or you just want to make your kid's friends join the conversation, ice breakers may be the way to go.

There is an iPhone app called Converation Starters by iTopics that is organized by categories such as entertainment, food or animals that make it easy to scroll through and choose topics relevant or appropriate to your group at the table.

My usual default question is: "Who would you choose to cover your back in a zombie apocalypse?" But I realize that the question does't always translate well for grandparents and bosses.

And since it is the day to share what you are thankful for, a game of 'Would you rather' seems appropriate in my book.

Family and friends can have fun debating the options and getting a glimpse at the rationale their loved ones use when determining if they would rather be rich and hate their job or love their job that pays a terrible wage. There are some good suggestion at this conversation starting website but usually people at the party become inspired after a few rounds and create their own questions.

Most importantly, don't stress

More than anything else, remember that it is just a holiday meal. As long as there are loved ones and some type of edible substance, everyone will be just fine.

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