The More Done Ahead, the Merrier (4 Days Away)

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setting the thanksgiving table

Less than a week to go to Turkey Day and it's time to hammer out the details. If your family vetoed your idea for an innovative reimagining of pumpkin pie, channel your creativity into designing a table centerpiece to set the mood. Also, consider four days ahead as a good time for a freezer exchange — frozen turkey (if you bought it that way) should come out, homemade pie crusts go in.

• Setting the Stage: While the food and the company always make Thanksgiving memorable, it doesn't hurt to have a beautifully set table to sit around. Consider mixing flowers in with some artful edibles or even scout your backyard for inspiration. We like gourds, mini pumpkins, acorns, pine-cones and Indian corn to give the table a real fall feel. Gather everything you'll need for the table (except the flowers), and stock up on candles for an extra-special touch.

• Everything in Its Place: Whether your Thanksgiving is a big family reunion or a get-together of disparate friends, making place cards relieves some of the "where-should-we-all-sit" tension as your guests approach the table. Don't be afraid to think outside the box: Some of our favorite place cards include leaves or crab apples slit on top to fit the card.

• From Freezer to Table: If you bought a frozen turkey, now may be the time to begin the thawing process. The best way to thaw the turkey is slowly, in the refrigerator, allowing for 24 hours per every 5 pounds of meat, with a maximum of five days lead time.

• The Upper Crust: Pie crusts are one of those easy do-aheads that will save you some serious time and stress closer to the holiday. If you're making your own crusts, make and freeze them days ahead. Then thaw them a few hours before making your pies the day before. Consider making extra while you're at it to save you some time for the winter holidays.

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