Things to do right now:
Order Your Turkey (or Ham) - If you plan to cook your own, order what you like now so there is no last minute settling. Whole Foods, Central Market, Wheatsville Co-op or your favorite local grocer will have a variety available. Salt & Time has Red Wattle ham from Legend Meats (whole or half available). Noble Sandwich Co. also has holiday hams. If you want someone else handle the turkey, Micklewaith Craft Meats is taking pre-orders for smoked turkeys now. $65 plus tax. Email email@example.com to reserve. Dai Due will offer brined turkeys as well as brined and smoked turkeys for pre-order from their Butcher Shop. They will also have pies for pre-order. Fresa's has turkeys, sides and complete meals available. Order by November 21.
Review the Linen Closet - Take a look at the tablecloths, napkins and tea towels to make sure they are not damaged or stained. If your supply is good, then start the ironing process, or better yet, send it out for cleaning (Parkside Cleaners handles fine linens--go there on Wednesdays when they offer 20% off your order). If you need to replace what you have, start shopping the local home stores. Many items for the holiday table are on sale now. Breed & Co. and Mockingbird Domestics are good places to start.
Sharpen Your Knives - There is nothing more difficult than carving a turkey with a dull knife. Knife Sharpest is down the street from me, so that's where I go for knife sharpening. Assured Sharp is often at the Mueller Farmers' Market on Sundays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Breed & Co. on 29th St. has a knife sharpening service available on certain Mondays twice a month.
Line Up Your Vendors - If you are the primary person responsible for the majority of the food, it is okay (say it with me) to purchase a few items to make your life easier. I tend to focus my energies on the turkey and side dishes, therefore, I have no qualms about outsourcing my rolls and desserts. This year I plan to order rolls from Upper Crust Bakery and pies from Tiny's Pies, both conveniently located in my neighborhood. Also consider Sugar Mama's Bakeshop, Sweetish Hill Bakery, Elaine's Pork & Pie, Royer's Pie Haven, Quack's 43rd St. Bakery, Cutie Pies, La Pâtisserie and Texas French Bread depending on your location.
Create the Guest List/Secure Seating - Once you confirm exactly who is coming to dinner and have a head count, make sure you have enough seats. Beg, borrow, steal (no, don't steal), rent or purchase what you need so you are not scrambling at the last minute.
Things to do soon:
Establish Your Menu - Sometimes half the battle is deciding what to include on the menu. Let's face it, we all have our favorites. Maybe this is the year to start a new tradition and throw in one new recipe. Once you have the menu lined up, it makes it that much easier to make your grocery list (start working on it and add as you go). Keep the appetizers simple (again, store bought is acceptable); you don't want them overloading and getting too full to eat the main meal. Consider Antonelli's for a cheese board or Salt & Time for a salumi board.
Choose Your Wine - There are so many great wine shops in Austin now--The Austin Wine Merchant, East End Wines, épicerie, Henri's, Whip In, and Wiggy's to name a few. Pop into one that is close to you, tell them your basic menu, and ask for the wine expert's best ideas, then stock up. Too overwhelmed? The Austin Winery ships wine free within the state during the holiday season.
Review the China Cabinet - Do a head count to make sure you have enough forks, spoons, etc. If you plan to break out the silver, polish it about 5-7 days before the big feast. Check your china and crystal (if you are going that route) to be sure there are no serious chips. If so, consider replacing, or make it a rustic affair with casual dishware.
Think About the Floral Arrangement - Whether you plan to DIY or use your favorite florist, start thinking about scale and color. Try Blackbird Floral for a table arrangement. Or pick up some flowers at Austin Flower Co. and make your own.
Enlist Help - You do not have to do everything yourself. Most people want to help. Come up with a list of tasks (bartender, photographer, DJ, clean-up crew) and ask friends and family what role they feel most comfortable taking on.