Wednesday, November 08, 2006


With Thanksgiving just a couple of weeks away, I thought I'd do a really long Thanksgiving post!

I'll share some recipes, decorating ideas, just fun things as we get ready for Thanksgiving. And honestly....I just enjoy doing things this way on a special basis. I've just found shortcuts, ways to make it simpler, and I'm sharing those here. I am NO Martha Stewart. :) (although I enjoy sharing her last name!)

Around the House
The photo above is something I did last year for our Thanksgiving table. I saw it on Martha Stewart's show and loved them. (you can click the photo to see it larger)

Get several PIE pumpkins at the grocery store. You'll find these in the produce section, usually near the squash. They are small and uniform and work perfectly for this. (Make sure they sit flat.) Wash and dry them. For my work surface, I used a shallow cardboard box lined with newspaper. With a foam brush, cover a pumpkin with a thin coat of Diamond Glaze liquid adhesive or any adhesive that will dry CLEAR. While the glue is still wet, dust the entire pumpkin with VERY fine glitter. Shake off excess onto the newspaper and let the pumpkin dry. When the glue is dry, paint the stem of each pumpkin with dark brown acrylic paint. That's it! :) Oh...and the glitter I used came from Art Glitter and I ordered several of the same shades that Martha used. (pumpkin orange, rosey pink, dark brown, spruce green) However, you could use ANY fine glitter, but you'll probably have to go to a specialty craft store to find good colors. If nothing else, then gold will work just fine!

This year we are hosting Thanksgiving and we'll probably have about 24 people here. That might seem like a lot of work, but really when everyone brings something for the meal, it works out so well and isn't too much work for one person. :)

For cleaning the house, I have finally learned NOT to scrub the entire house before company comes over. Yes, I want the house to look and smell clean, but no one is doing a white glove test that day. It doesn't have to be perfect. (And the house is always messier after they leave anyway!)
These are the things I do the night before our gatherings:

1. Sweep and mop the kitchen and entry way.
2. Sweep the bathrooms that will be used and clean the toilets and countertops.
3. Vacuum the family room where everyone gathers.
4. Clean the kitchen countertops and sink.
5. Sweep the porch.

I like to use cleaning products with bleach or a citrus scent. That's it...takes about an hour. I light candles on the day of the party (high up so little ones can't reach them) so the house always smells good.

Speaking of the porch.... I like to have some type of cute display outside by the door so the front of the house is inviting to those coming over. I have a wrought iron plant stand with Fall flowers (yes, fake!) in it. I got some really beautiful ones for 1/2 price at Hobby Lobby (they are on sale this week, too...go get some!) and you really can't tell they aren't real. And it saves me from having to water or care for them. I also have a wooden scarecrow by the flowers and a Fall wreath hanging on the door. You don't have to do much. Just make sure your front porch is clean and welcoming. It's the first thing your guests see when they come over. :)

Miscellaneous Tips
Here are just some helpful things that help me each year:

1. Evite! I always send out an Evite to invite everyone to Thanksgiving. In their RSVP, guests can write what they will be bringing. That way, everyone can see what is still needed and we won't have 5 dishes of green bean casserole. :)

2. Paper Plates. Yes, PAPER plates. :) We have 24 people coming. I don't have enough china for that many people. There are some really big, beautiful, NICE paper dinner plates available for holidays and I use 'em! I bought some at Hobby Lobby this year and they are so nice. And wow, it is so nice not to have to wash that many formal place settings. :) For smaller affairs we do china, but not for 24.

3. Gladware! I tried this idea last year and it worked really well. I bought several sets of the Gladware disposable containers in different sizes. When it came time to clean up the kitchen after the big Thanksgiving meal, all of the Moms went down the food line and filled the Gladware containers with what leftovers they'd like to take home. Then each container is labeled with a Sharpie and goes into the refrigerator. No wasted food, no one taking home a huge dish full of food, and everyone gets what they want! You just grab your labeled containers on your way out.

4. Foil pans. Any side dishes or food that I make, I use the disposable foil pans. Just one less thing to have to wash that way.

5. Post it Notes or Placecards. I usually have the kitchen set up in stations when we have a big get together. All of the drinks in one place with the cups and ice, all of the desserts in another place, etc. I use post it notes to write down things for the guests to know so that I don't have to answer the same question 20 times. For example, at the coffee pot, I have all of the cups out with 2 spoons, the sugar, cream, packaged sweeteners, and a post it note that says, "don't unscrew the lid...just pour." Our coffee pot is a carafe and is a little confusing, so this way no one is confused, lol. You can also use the post it notes to write things down for yourself not to forget at the end of the gathering. (blow out candle in the bathroom, turn off coffee, etc.)

6. Are you rolling your eyes and SICK of me yet? ha

7. Baby Wipes. I always keep these behind the toilet in each bathroom. With 6 grandkids, 5 of them being boys, someone is going to miss. This way they can clean up themselves and I don't have to find it later, lol.

8. Thanksgiving Program. This is my Mom's department, but she always plans a short (10 minutes?) program. She gives each person a regular school folder in which she has put Thanksgiving poems, songs, stories, etc. We take turns reading them aloud or singing the songs together. It's always a lot of fun and something we always have to "warn" the new people about! ha They usually love it!

9. Thankful. If you saw the Nov/Dec. issue of Scrapbooks, Etc. (p.92) then you probably saw my "Thanksgiving 2004" layout. That year I forgot to take pictures, but was hosting, so I had everyone there write something that he/she was thankful for. I made a layout just with those little cardstock squares and it's one of my favorite layouts now. :) You can do the same thing! I just punched out cardstock squares and had them out on the counter with my scrapbooking pens. If you print their names on the squares ahead of time then you can tell who hasn't completed a card yet. Here is a photo of the layout, which you can click to see larger:

10. Music. Don't forget the background music! If you have digital cable, there is a huge selection of channels that are just music. In our house we'll have it on the Sounds of the Season channel so Christmas music is softly playing that day. :) (hey, the season STARTS that night!) There are so many stations available. We have our TV hooked into our stereo, so I tune to the channel, then turn off the TV. The sound still comes thru the stereo but we don't have to look at the TV station all day. Another option is to burn a CD on Itunes of your favorite style of music. I personally love Sinatra and the old standards for parties.

Below are just some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. I don't always make all of these, but they are just ones that I've made and we love. I'll probably make a few of them.

My Mom always makes the roasted turkey and cornbread dressing. They are the best and I can't top them, so she brings those! :)

(Note: I found all of these recipes online, most of them after I saw them being made on TV, so I just linked them here)

Sugar and Nut Glazed Brie (Paula Deen)
- This is great to have out as an appetizer when everyone arrives. Don't eat too much,'s so rich and addicting!

Gourmet Sweet Potato Classic
- Not your ordinary sweet potatoes! These have a yummy crunchy topping of brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. As Rachael Ray would say...YUM-MO.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts (Barefoot Contessa)
- Ok, so you may not like brussel sprouts, but if you do, they are so good this way! And it's a great way to get a unique green veggie into your starchy meal. (fresh, frozen!)

Cranberry Fruit Conserve (Barefoot Contessa)
- An AWESOME alternative to regular cranberry sauce. And you can make this a few days ahead of time, too. I could sit and eat this entire bowl, lol.

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart (Martha Stewart)
- This was one of the first desserts I ever made as a host for Thanksgiving (1998?) and oh is heavenly! I think I'll make it again this year. Very RICH. :)

And with that...I need to get started on my own shopping list.
Oh yeah, last your grocery shopping NEXT WEEK (the week before Thanksgiving). Don't wait. It's too crowded and you can't always get everything you need. Then you can make a few things ahead of time and freeze them.

Thanksgiving Blessings! :)
- Jennifer

"The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!" --Henry Ward Beecher


Anonymous said...

Thanksgiving holiday like this... I think I'll just have to live vicariously through you. You listed some really great ideas, especially the paper plates, Gladware, and foil pans. The glittery little pumpkin is an adorable idea too. You are such a crafty girl!

Thank you for an awesome entry! :-)

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, you're blog entries are always so wonderful... thank you for such fun filled informative content. You have no idea how much I wish I could plan for a big ol' Thanksgiving holiday like this... I think I'll just have to live vicariously through you. You listed some really great ideas, especially the paper plates, Gladware, and foil pans. The glittery little pumpkin is an adorable idea too. You are such a crafty girl!

Thank you for an awesome entry! :-)

Lynda said...

Hey thanks for all the tips....are you related to Martha? I'm just a wantabee Martha. BTW...tell me the Starbucks cup on the x-mas tree was from last year and that you don't just have a tree up in a quest bedroom awaiting Thanksgiving to pass and Santa to arrive.

Josie said...

I absolutely adore your blog and all the holiday ideas! I posted on my blog about trying the martha pumpkins. They did not come out as good as yours...I think I am going to special order the gliter.

Carla said...

Sounds delightful, Jen!

Jenn said...

Your table is beautiful!! I like your tips too. They make a lot of sense. I'm SURE it makes the holiday a little less stressed:)

chris jenkins said...

i am printing out your post for reference - lots of great stuff shared! your table is beautiful!

thanks Jen!

Shirley said...

YUMMY! from the decorations to the recipes!

Shell said...

Great post, Jen... I feel all nice and homey now! I know you guys will have a GREAT Thanksgiving!

Julie Ann said...

Excellent post. I am bookmarking it!

Dawn said...

great post!!!!!

Jen said...

I love this whol post and will definitely be referring back to it before the holiday!
P.S. I love paper plates and gladware too!!! What did we do without them?

Benita said...

Love the pumpkins & your table! Thanks for posting all the tips & recipes, too. You're better than Martha Stewart in my book ;)


Janet O. said...

HAve I told you lately that I love you? THANK YOU from the person who is hosting her FIRST Thanksgiving this year, and nervous about it!

Lorrie said...

Holy Cow what a wonderful post! I love all your tips... great idea on the cleaning tips. and the recipe for the brie will be used here! I love baked brie!!
Anyway, Happy Holidays - enjoy the season, looks like you plan too!

Deanna- yep Dee-na said...

everyone else said it all... but i know i'm going to have to hit the big print button on this entry and read the details when the kids aren't needing their beds. ha!
Grey's Anatomy calls! but i can't wait to read this again. u are Martha jr. i don't care what you say! ha!

Shannon Schafer said...

Beautiful photo of your table! LOVE the pumpkin idea...gonna have to try that out this year!

Thanks for all of the ideas!

Crabby Girl said...

Great blog Jennifer. I don't know how I missed it until today. Glad I found the link on Kelly E's blog.
I'll keep checking in.

Angie ~ Cupcake

Jana said...

You're my hero!

Scrappersher said...

What a great idea with the glitter on the pumpkins!! It looks great.

............Aimeslee said...

Oh My Gosh, woman! Amazing! Thank you. If you don't mind, I am adding the permalink of this post to my blog's "Help for the Holidays" Links section. What a collection!

hugs to you,

Meghan said...

Ya know, I have been lurking on your blog for months & I must say...from this post...chica! You are my idol! I dream of having big gatherings like this & doing all the ideas you have mentioned. Since I live in a very small townhouse my family usually goes to my mom's & then my fiance's mom's. It's ok but this year I would have liked everyone to come to our house, especially with a new baby.

Well enough babble....girly, you so rock! You got your Thanksgiving groove going on!

Miss Carrie said...

I *almost* forgot how awesome your house looks at the holidays. okay, not that i've ever been to your house, but i remember your pics. :)