Welcome to the Holiday season. While often joyful, it can sometimes be overshadowed by the stress that accompanies it. Your worried about the gifts, the decorations, the food and often the money. It's a stressful time. While I can't solve all of your problems maybe I have a few hints that can help you out.
Let's start by talking about food:
1) Plan your meals early. Are you hosting the meal or are you supplying a dish for it? If you are hosting, think about how many people will be there and if you have any dietary concerns to think about. It may be difficult to plan the entire meal before you have a definite head count. But, there are always foods you know you are going to have, like potatoes or cranberry sauce. Make a list and check your weekly ad circulars and stock up on the things that you need a little at a time.
2) Cooking a big meal can be stressful. Write down what you are cooking, how it cooks (stove top, oven, etc) and the time it takes to be done. Use this to plan when things should go in the oven so that everything can be done at the same time.
3) Plan your breakfasts and lunches well in advance for crazy busy days. I have 4 kids. It doesn't matter what we are doing, they have to be fed. If I have a plan for what I am feeding them, especially if I can make something in advance and heat it up, the day goes much more smoothly. Hungry kids are grumpy and grumpy is hard to work around. Think about snacks too, for adults and kids.
4) Keep you appetizers and drinks simple. Plan on doing things that can be made in advance. A cheese ball and crackers, olives, small pickles, cheese slices, a hot artichoke dip with bread or ham and green onion pinwheels are all good choices. They can all be ready early in the day and take little prep time. Drinks should be just as simple. Stick to one or two soft drinks, water and maybe a sparkling juice. If you plan on serving alcohol, have a bottle of wine or two and make sure that the soft drinks are also ones you can use for mixers for hard alcohol if you are going to serve it as well.
5) Do NOT, and I can't stress this enough, do not make a new recipe for your meal without trying it out previously. Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is not the time to use your family as guinea pigs. They are expecting traditional, familiar food. You wouldn't want to try out triple layer sweet potatoes with goat cheese and cranberries only to have it turn out badly and no one eat it. That's wasted time and wasted money.
6) Dessert should be simple. You don't need 5 or 6 options to choose from. Pick 2 or 3 desserts, depending on the size of your crowd, and keep it pared down to that. There is nothing wrong with having your guests choose from pumpkin pie or pecan pie. They will be happy with what you make.
7) If you are hosting the meal, think about having others contribute. You could assign side dishes or ask what they want to bring and fill in what you need that way. Just be sure to keep a list so you don't have duplicate menu items and you can be sure to fill in any menu gaps (not having stuffing would be tragic).
8) If you are contributing to a meal somewhere else, think about the dish you are going to make. Does it need to be warmed? Cooked? Cool? Make sure you ask the hostess about oven space or refrigeration so that you are both on the same page. It would not be a good thing to take a hot appetizer somewhere and have no way to heat it up!
9) This may not be food exactly, but set your table the night before and get out all of the serving or bake ware pieces that you are going to use. Put a sticky note in each one and write what food will be going into it. That way, if you get swamped and need to have some help in the kitchen, things end up where you had wanted them. It also makes sure that you don't forget the potatoes in the pot in the kitchen because you will have an empty bowl with a sticky note sitting there to remind you.
10) Relax. Take a deep breath and have fun. Chances are, you aren't inviting strangers over. These are people who love and care about you and are going to still love you even if you burn the bread. Maybe they have done it too and you can swap horror stories over dinner. Oh, and one last thing. Always, ALWAYS remember to take the "extras" out of your turkey before you cook it. :)