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Helpful hints for Thanksgiving Day prep

Long before the appetizer is served, your table will make a first impression with these ideas for place cards, centerpieces, linens and more. Vases made from squashes and pumpkins are simple to make and decorate beautifully. Step 1 — To make one from a large squash such as the ‘Hubbard,’ cut a hole near the top with a miniature saw and insert a glass jar in the neck to hold water for bittersweet or other branches. Step 2 — You may also need to trim off some of the squash’s bottom to stand it upright; a bit of waxed paper underneath will protect your tabletop. For petite varieties, insert a small glass votive candle holder to hold water for cuttings of mum heads or other bulbs. (Special Photo: Martha Stewart Living)

Long before the appetizer is served, your table will make a first impression with these ideas for place cards, centerpieces, linens and more. Vases made from squashes and pumpkins are simple to make and decorate beautifully. Step 1 — To make one from a large squash such as the ‘Hubbard,’ cut a hole near the top with a miniature saw and insert a glass jar in the neck to hold water for bittersweet or other branches. Step 2 — You may also need to trim off some of the squash’s bottom to stand it upright; a bit of waxed paper underneath will protect your tabletop. For petite varieties, insert a small glass votive candle holder to hold water for cuttings of mum heads or other bulbs. (Special Photo: Martha Stewart Living)

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Name plates for guest can be easily created using natural objects found outside. (Special photo)

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A dried corn centerpiece and simple table runner are all it takes to add rustic glamour to a table. (Special photo)

According to the calendar, Thanksgiving is only about two weeks away. It’s never too early to start planning for the big day, no matter how many you plan to entertain.

For those who have relatives coming into town, with them also comes a variety of tastes and opinions. Everyone has their own favorite dishes and traditions. Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner can be hassle-free if you plan ahead. Many Thanksgiving side dishes, for example, such as cranberry sauce, turkey stuffing and corn bread can be prepared up to three or four weeks in advance and frozen.

Other tasks you can do in advance include drawing up a guest list, preparing a shopping list, cleaning and tidying, polishing the cutlery, cleaning the oven, checking your cooking equipment and utensils, as well as deciding on your table settings and decorations.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll give you some cooking and decorating ideas to help create a Thanksgiving feast to please everyone. In the meantime, here are a few inspirational ideas to get your own ideas flowing. Start now by making a checklist of everything that needs to be bought, mixed and cooked, and don’t be afraid to ask others for a little help. Is there a dish one relative feels they can’t have a proper Thanksgiving without? Instead of stressing, let them bring the dish — the more, the merrier.

Careful planning beforehand will result in less stress on Thanksgiving Day and allow more time to spend with family and friends. No matter if your gathering is big or small, take time to count your blessings, and be thankful.