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Tech solutions to holiday horrors

Need help this holiday season? Resort to your favorite devices and apps to make preparation easier.
Need help this holiday season? Resort to your favorite devices and apps to make preparation easier.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Erase your holiday fears with technological solutions that ease dreaded tasks
  • Web solutions such as group e-mails and online invites make preparations easier
  • iFeast is an iPhone app that helps make the perfect Thanksgiving feast

Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and book "Stuff Hipsters Hate." Got a question about etiquette in the digital world? Contact them at netiquette@cnn.com.

(CNN) -- Halloween's over, which means the vast swaths of tinsel and massive Christmas displays in local malls are at least slightly less offensive. That's right, it's time to start thinking about the holidays and all the social disasters they bring: travel, hostessing, being a houseguest, trying to engage in conversation with sulky teenagers and racist great-uncles, the whole nine yards.

As you get into the spirit and begin preparing yourself emotionally ... er ... making plans, allow us to help you pre-emptively circumvent some sticky holiday scenarios.

The problem

Your Rolodex has long gone MIA, and the season of card-sending nears. Yet you cannot muster the energy to call your 80 closest friends to ask them for their addresses, only to then write and send them holiday cards.

The Net fix

Request addresses, one by one, via e-mail. Don't BCC the list (too impersonal) or ask people to submit their information into a Google Docs form you've created (way too impersonal, though sort of genius: By creating a form, you can essentially whip up a questionnaire to share with others, and when they fill it in and hit submit, Google automatically populates a spreadsheet with their responses. File this information away for another time you need to quickly gather a bunch of info from contacts). You don't need to pick up the phone, though. That opens the door to idle catch-up and self-aggrandizing, which is the very purpose of holiday cards.

The problem

Every Thanksgiving, the turkey overcooks while the stuffing's barely in the oven, and your guests burn through all the holiday wine before any food makes it onto the table.

The Net fix

Download iFeast, an iPhone app that tells you exactly what to do to get dinner on the table when it's piping hot, not a hot mess.

The problem

Whenever you host a big meal, the morning-of is a big game of "Guess who's coming to dinner?"

The Net fix

Send out invitations a few weeks in advance (paper notes or personalized e-mails are fine), and set a date by which everyone needs to respond. Call those who fail to respond; follow-up e-mails or texts are too easy to ignore. Oh, and don't just send around an Evite or Paperless Post and expect guests to choose "attending" or "not attending" at the end. Now that we all get 6,000 Facebook event invites a week, many of which are for shindigs happening in other parts of the country (or are simply announcements that Jinny lost her phone again), a click on "attending" has lost all meaning.

The problem

You know who's attending, but you have no idea what they're bringing. You pray it won't be fruitcake.

The Net fix

Send a group e-mail to the whole gang, asking them to contribute different types of dishes. The group e-mail approach has the added benefit of alerting everyone to the guest list, a helpful thing lest your Uncle Joe spend half of dinner trying to figure out who that red-haired woman at the other end of the table is.

The problem

Your loved ones seem to have mistaken you for a busboy. Translation: No one's helping with the washing up.

The Net fix

Text anyone under the age of 20, asking them to help. Hey, they're glued to their iPhones anyway, and it saves you from having to use your nag voice.

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