We’ve recently moved to the area and aren’t near family for holiday celebrations. A new friend has mentioned that she would love to have us join her family for Thanksgiving, although she hasn’t actually invited us yet. Assuming she does, how do I ask what I can do to help?

Thanksgiving is one of those very special days where guests do expect to contribute to the meal, so asking her what you can bring is a good first step. If you have something special you make, offer it. “What may we bring? We’re open to bring anything, but I do make a sweet potato casserole and a pecan pie that everyone seems to enjoy, if you like either of those ideas?” Your hostess may say she has those categories covered and suggest something else that would be enjoyed and helpful, and you have given her the entrée to respond honestly. A second step is to take a small gift, as well. Something your hosts can enjoy for breakfast the next day, or a seasonal decoration, are creative presents.

The husband of an acquaintance, whom I see often, has just been arrested for fraud. It was in the newspaper, so it’s not a secret. Do I say anything when I see her, or pretend I don’t know?

By all means be supportive. “Sue, I read about John and know this must be a difficult time for you all. What can I do to help?” Don’t ask her for details or offer an opinion. Offer assistance. Ask if you can be a go-to person for her children, picking them up from school or taking them to activities, or if you can run errands for her, or be a safe haven when she just needs some quiet time. Invite her for lunch, or treat her to a manicure. Knowing that you care and won’t grill her but will just be a friend will mean the world.

We’ve been invited to some friends’ home for Thanksgiving. We would love to share the day with them, but I am on a specific, health-related diet and usually just take my own food. I also want to take something to contribute to the meal. How do I communicate this, or don’t I?

Yes, you do, absolutely. As to your dietary needs, be clear that you are restricted in what you can eat so plan to bring your own meal; that there is nothing your hostess needs to do especially for you. Then ask what you can contribute to the meal, offering to bring anything but sharing some ideas. Just don’t show up with something unexpected that requires oven time. Balancing oven time for a Thanksgiving dinner is usually a magic trick to begin with. If you are taking something to be eaten hot, whether your own meal or your contribution to the dinner, heat it first, or put it is a serving dish or container that can go in the microwave briefly, to be rewarmed.

Questions for Catherine? Send them to Catherine.Michaels@gmail.com