Friday, November 7, 2008

Thanksgiving is coming

Now that Halloween is over, it seems like the rest of the holiday season comes at me full blast without even knowing what hit me. Thanksgiving for us always involves travel to see the MIL for a fast and furious feast. Gatherings have ranged from around 15 people to upwards of 40 at her home, but every year it is a joy to spend time with those we don't get to see on a routine basis. The menu rarely varies, the traditional foods we know and love-turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, veggie tray, a stray veggie tucked in for good measure. It becomes a family collaberation over the years with one SIL always bringing the turkey, the other handles either potatoes or a delectable ham smothered in honey mustard, her daughter handles the veggie tray, MIL does the gravy, etc. Some years ago I somehow became the designated desert gal, perhaps after a poorly timed comment about store bought pumpkin pie not quite up to par... Anyway, I started slowly at first with just 4 pumpkin pies as we travel the 600 miles usually the night before the big day often arriving in the wee hours of the am. That way I have time for a nap, whip out the pies, and retire to the couch until dinner time.
Somehow over the years, (ok, I know how it happened but I love the Prince in spite of his big, volunteer the wife mouth), the REQUIRED selections have grown. First it was apple pie, then came pecan, with a variety of others over the years. Now I don't mind the apple, heck I make that a couple weeks ahead, freeze it wrapped a million times, then after the journey there it is partly thawed and it can fly in the oven while the pumpkin mixing happens. Nice deal actually. Well, the pecan thru me for a loop as it just flat isn't the same if you make it ahead and reheat it. Not in my book anyway. So, selfish me has to give up another few moments on the couch to add another pie. Last year someone had the nerve to request a cream pie be included. Folks, while that is REALLY my own kind of pie, I have to draw the line somewhere. That requires fresh milk, heating ingredients on a stove, etc, etc, etc. NOT what I want to tackle on a holiday where the nearest grocery store is 90 miles one way on dirt roads. No siree, no way no how. See, we call before we head to the desert, and usually get the standard no we don't need anything. Yeah, right, the milk is usually gone by the time everyone does their things, you know how it goes.
So, this gal is sticking to the standards yet again. It will be 4 pumpkin, 2 apple, and 2 pecan this year. Unless the head count rises as it always does as the days grown near, in which case reality will be double those amounts. MIL's home is VERY small and was built by her father in the early 1920's. She has a rather large kitchen which the children added on to the home around 1970, really went high class in the 80's with the addition of an indoor bathroom. Yeah, you heard me right and the date isn't a misprint. The outhouse still remains and gets frequent use during family gatherings.
Anyway, given the size, we still manage to make it work to get the whole gang indoors for the meal at the same time. Floor space is fair game, chair/couch is a luxury, first come first serve. We rarely go all out to decorate, since no one sits still long enough to do much but eat. I manage to always find some way to spiff things up, usually the table where the food is served, until we run out of room with the variety of foods. I found the ideas below and thought they may spark your interest. I would do most of them if we ever manage a sit down affair for the holiday. Maybe someday...
I love this simple, crafty idea for place cards. How cute would this be? Simple flower pots, a bit of felt, glue and markers. I think the kids would have fun helping with this one.

One word-FABULOUS! Seriously, a napkin folded into a bow! How elegant would this be for any holiday? I am seeing sparkly napkin rings centered in this baby, or simple velvet strips.

I really like this simple centerpiece idea too. Recycle your pumpkin from halloween, a cheap flower bouquet from the grocery store, cut short, stick in the pumpkin. Big bang for little bucks, my favorite kind of deal!

I am always on the look out for new ways to do this. Again, simple, cheap, effective bang for your buck. But hey, don't stop here. Why not use a bird seed mix for variety, or sunflower seeds, or raw popcorn, even colored pasta may be another way? Check out the dried food isle, dried beans come in a million sizes and colors too, or rice, tuck in a few leaves, sky is the limit.

Martha Stewart
My kids have fought over wishbones since they were old enough to know what the heck they were. To avoid the fight in the middle of carving, making gravy, etc., I resorted to sticking the darn things on the knob of my cupboard over the stove. They couldn't go near it, and I didn't have the time to ref a wrestling match. One year in a moment of genious, I said that the wish bone only works the next year. Fast forward to the next year, the silly kids remembered and low and behold the darn thing was still hanging on the cupboard door. So, after they ate, they got to do the wishbone, and we saved the new one for the next year.
Greedy kids they are, this "tradition" grew to include chicken, cornish game hens, any feathered friend that graced the table got added to the mix. The collection grew to two cupboard knobs and often threatened to overtake the kitchen. Yeah, I know, not exactly sanitary hanging poulty bones in the house like a idiot, but hey, saved my sanity! Period. Go figure why now both kids have moved out and I still have wishbones hanging on the cupboard door? I had a fleeting cleaning frenzy once and thru them out, kids didn't speak to me for a month and refused to eat the chicken I cooked unless they could break the wishbone in the middle of my attempt to cook dinner. So, the bones are still there and likely always will. Isn't it crazy how this stuff starts and you keep doing it anyway?
But really, ONLY Martha can come up with an idea like this! See, hoarding chicken bones all these years wasn't such a dumb idea after all now was it? Ok, don't answer that but you gotta admit this is a cute idea. Clean the bones and paint them whatever the color of the day is, wrap some thread or ribbon on the ends to make a loop and slide in the napkin. Now if that isn't a thrifty option folks I don't know what is. Suppose the kids will notice if the wishbones suddenly change colors? Nah, regardless of the age they are in it for the fight, I mean wish! HA! (PS, my ex taught them how to cheat at this so it really is quite a sight to see them both cheating, cracks me up when the center literally falls on the floor and poof, Mom's wish is granted).

Martha Stewart

Another "why didn't I think of that" idea from Martha. Plus, I don't have to ruin my favorite table cloth or the table "pretties" such as leaves. Put down your cloth, lay on the pressed leaves (ya, right, like I have time for that, can you say fake ones from the craft store please) and overlay the table with a sheer cloth or fabric. Great effect with half the mess.

See, holiday meals at MY home are more like a battle ground at times. I did teach table manners, but hey, gotta pick your battles in this world. Even on the best day, a spoon falls out of the gravy, a lump of potatoes is "misplaced" on the table, the dreaded cranberry sauce dives off the fork, crusty bread pieces run amuck. Sounds like we are the Beverly Hill Billies doesn't it? Seriously, I prefer people in my home feel relaxed, welcome, and can eat whatever, however they please. It means I have NO pristine linens to worry about, no anxiety over the dreaded gravy spills, no sweat.

The last two years the drug store Longs had these neat organza table cloths, brownish-bronze shimmery deals. they wanted 20 bucks or some crazy things, but thrifty me snagged them two years running in the clearance isle near Christmas for 99 cents a piece. So yeah, this idea will sneak into my home this fall season. But it could be even more fun for a birthday if you laid the table with some photo copies of the birthday boy/girl and overlay with some sheer fabric. I found some great ones at Joanne's while shopping for the didn't-happen-wedding-event. Use the coupons, shop the clearance racks, I got some seriously cheap deals that would have been over 20 dollars a yard for a mere fraction of that. Or throw in that lovely table confetti with words, shapes etc. New Years will rock with streamers, confetti etc. When dinner is done, just shake off the bits into a bag (if you reuse them) or the trash, or the compost pile with leaves.

So, I hope some of these simple things will inspire you for not only Thanksgiving, but any other event you may need some fast, easy ideas to add a little special touch. May all your days be filled with joy, love, and beautiful things!


Judy said...

What wonderful ideas! I put spices like cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, etc. in glass cylinders with candles. Your ideas are a wonderful way to expand that idea. I got the spice idea from the Barefoot Contessa several years ago. I really like the bow tied napkins. I may have to try that.

Anonymous said...

Ralph is a WONDERFUL name for a poodle.
Pie trouble? Two words:
Marie Callender
Sooz in Dayton