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Hey y’all! I hope you’ve all survived the Thanksgiving break with only minimal emotional trauma.

I know for many it can be a stressful time, filled with veiled disappointments and too much drinking. Sometimes, I feel guilty that it’s pretty much my favorite day of the whole year. I love that the whole day is about spending time with family — considering all the things for which I have to be thankful — and eating. I happen to have a freaking awesome family and often find myself wishing I could slow time on Thanksgiving, to hold onto every moment and to keep everyone there just a little longer. So it’s not without some level of surprise that I found this Thanksgiving was the best ever. I mean, we’ve had some pretty epic holidays. It’s no easy feat to pick the best. In the spirit of the holidays and in this time of giving, I thought I would share three ways I made preparations to have the most fabulous of days.

1. Optimize travel plans.

I’ve hosted many a holiday meal. I am a woman who thrives on a hardy “to-do” list so planning a sit-down, multi-layered, meal for a dozen or 20 of my most-loved ones is a challenge I relish. My lists get to have sublists — it’s like early Christmas. However, times change. People move, life moves, and we adapt. We are now the guests at the table and that means we have to get there. And so, it seems, does everyone else on the face of the earth. Therefore, I refuse to travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I mean, we all know it’s going to be wretched. Even though it’s the worst — every year — we still do it. You know that’s the definition of insanity, right?

Since I already hate people, I decided that traveling with every one of them in existence is a bad idea. I make bizarre and mildy uncomfortable travel plans, which are still better than I-will-kill-every-last-one-of-you-if-you-don’t-get-out-of-the-left-lane travel plans. Even though it means a 4:17 a.m. alarm, I much prefer that to the alternative. I’m not sure my children feel the same, but they’ve never had to drive the day before Thanksgiving, so they can just shut their pie-holes and get in the damn car. Now that we’ve been doing it a while, there is a certain tradition that has come out of watching the sun rise on Thanksgiving morning. When I say things like, “See? Wasn’t it worth it to get up so early? Look at that beautiful sky,” I so enjoy the patronizing, if not dismayed, stock responses from the back seat. These are the memories they’ll hold on to!

2. Don’t do the diet that day.

I spend all year optimizing our food choices to enjoy good health. We (and by we I mean me) consider the effects of our diet on heart health, a healthy weight, and our overall longevity. Our refrigerator is full of fresh fruits and vegetables (which we actually eat). We incorporate whole grains and lean proteins. We watch our sugar intake. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

But on Thanksgiving, it’s hells bells. It takes multiple days of prepping and cooking to set forth the tremendous feast. I literally spend up to eight hours a day in the kitchen. By the time the dishes are set out on Thanksgiving, I’m ready to eat all the things. So if it turns out that country cornbread stuffing causes dementia, I’m willing to forget my husband’s birthday. We all need to make sacrifices.

3. Stay away from soul-sucking idiots.

This may be the hardest one to finagle. I happen to have the best family on the face of the earth, but I’ve heard that not everyone enjoys this same level of genetic perfection. I have, on occasion, come upon situations where the company is less than desirable. In these uncomfortable moments, I find that getting away from them is key. Since I’m not about having an assault-and-battery charge on my record, even just moving across the room (and out of striking-range) can be helpful.

There are multiple ways to accomplish this. The best one is the excuse yourself to the bathroom, particularly if there’s one in a far away part of the house. Make sure to bring your phone. Feel free to use the time to check your bank balance, do some online shopping, or even post to social media while you’re in there. Because even the biggest jackass will likely at least pause before asking you why you took so long in the bathroom. If they do have the gall to be so forward, just blame the food they served. Really, it’s a win-win.

Other options are available, they just don’t give you the same chunk of time. You can tell them you have to walk your dog (or cat or bird — whatever you have around). Additional choices include drinking to blackout (but I feel like society as a whole has relied on this one a bit too long and we really need to be more creative) and feigning amnesia. If all else fails, you can always use the good old, “What’s that??” and point at something behind them, then run when they turn away to look. It’s all about survival.

I will actually be dreaming about the country cornbread stuffing. It was that good. I would make it everyday, but there is a certain perverse pleasure in denying myself that joy all year long, only to eat like a starved goldfish on Thanksgiving. I can’t take any credit whatsoever for the recipe, but you should make it. You’ll be glad you did. Food and Wine are two of my favorite words, so it’s no surprise the magazine usually has the best recipes.

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