Monday, November 28, 2016

thanksgiving table in pictures

I know we've all moved on to Christmas decor (myself included!)  however since I enjoy the process of creating a pretty table to entertain and celebrate with family, I wanted to share a few pictures I took of ours on Thanksgiving morning long before our guests arrived.  I also promised to share my Mum's stuffing recipe  (our favorite!) that I made for the first time this year.  In typical fashion though,  now that I've prepared it, I would like to make just a few adjustments to the recipe before I blog it, so you might have to wait until next November (sorry!) before I share it.  Why can't I just leave well enough alone?!  Ha.  Usually it is steps to simplify the recipe and that's the case this time too.

We had a nice Thanksgiving with my parents and my brother and his family.    There was a lot of cousin time over their stay too.  I made waaaaay too much food and we didn't even eat all our left overs. My favorite new recipe was one for pumpkin pie that was actually made by a friend.  It's another recipe I need to try make myself before I share - it was the best pumpkin pie I've ever eaten.  I believe the secret is in using homemade pumpkin puree!  And molasses!  :)  Here are a few pics of the adult (plus Andrew) table.  The flowers still look perfect today - 6 days after making the arrangement!  Hope each of you had much to be thankful for this year and were able to enjoy the holiday with people you love.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


One of my goals for 2016 was to get  current on our family photo books.  I'd fallen behind by a couple years and as you know, the further behind you get with these things, the more daunting the task becomes.

I have always been a book lover. We have stacks in every room of our home and our bookcases are over flowing.  Just like art, books are such an important part of what makes a home personal.  You could tell a lot about all of us just based on looking at our library.  But my very favorite books are those of our family, the ones chronically our life together and the memories we've shared.  A few years ago, I switched from printing 4x6 photos to fill albums to creating photobooks.  I really love the quality of the books and the variety of sizes, so you can feature favorite pictures with much more detail than in a traditional album.  The photo above was taken after celebrating Charlie's birthday, everyone wanted to look back through some past celebrations, which lead to bringing out all our photos and going year by year.  It was a moment I'm grateful my Dad captured on film, because it reminds me what a treasure these books are and will be for years to come.  It is the only way I know to travel back in time and they are worth every bit of effort it takes to create them,

I used Mpix again for my 2014 and 2015 books.  (This is not a sponsored post) I used the Panoramic Photobook, Premium Hardcover in Tundra 11 x 8.5.  I take more horizontal oriented photos than I do vertical, so this book lends itself better to those pictures.  You now have the flexibility to add many more pages than when I made them a couple years ago, so each book is just shy of 100 pages.  I'm just as happy with the quality this time as with the other books.  I've also heard great things about Blurb books.  I used that software once many years ago for a gift photobook and I really liked it as well.  Both have technology that is easy and user friendly once you get going, and each book you make will be a little better than the last.  Here are a few favorite pages from my new ones...

 ^^ Using singe page, pre-made templates for these layouts^^

 ^^I love the double page templates so much.  This is one HUGE benefit of a photobook over a traditional album, favorite photos really stand out.^^

 ^^Here I used what was a 9 square photo, single page, template and deleted some so I could make both portrait and landscape oriented pictures work together.^^

 ^^ Example of a double page, full bleed, template for a single photo.  The process to this in Mpix is much easier than in Blurb.^^

 ^^ Pre-made double page template without any adjustments.  See how some pictures cross the spine.  Love. ^^

 ^^Trying to show the print quality here - colors are perfect. And the pages are thick paper.^^

 ^^Example of a completely custom template to make these photos & caption work. ^^

 ^^Above and below.  I like these pages when introducing a new section where I will have a number of pages dedicated to that event, like holidays or vacations.^^

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

favorite thanksgiving tables & recipes

Each year I post lots of photos of Thanksgiving after it is all over, which is perfect for memory preserving, but not so much for providing all of you with ideas and inspiration for your own celebrations.  I thought it would be helpful to round up a post of my past favorite table settings and links to a few tried and true recipes, as every hostess is already starting to gather ideas for their own celebrations.  Please share your favorite dishes in the comments, I usually try one new thing each year just to keep the cooking fun and family holiday favorites are always good ones to share with each other!

Typically by Thanksgiving the stores are brimming with fresh Christmas greens and while it is our tradition to wait until Thanksgiving is over before we deck our halls, there are ways to combine the two a little.  Here I used a Trader Joe's boxwood wreath with a pretty vintage, copper ribbon on our front door to welcome family to dinner.  After Thanksgiving I swapped out the copper ribbon for a red satin bow.  Link to this post here.

One of my favorite ways to set a table is with a natural runner, especially for Thanksgiving.  Here I laid branches of magnolia leaves first and then weaved in eucalyptus, candles and fresh clementines.  I was able to set this the day before and everything still looked fresh.  I wouldn't start much sooner than that since the branches are not in water.  I love Ikea's white pillar candles, inexpensive and burn really well. Link to post here.

Grab little pumpkins now if you can still find them, by Thanksgiving week they are all sold out.  I love them as place card holders because they look pretty with the centerpiece when they are removed from the plate.  I typically set up a buffet in the kitchen so everyone grabs their plate and then helps themselves to dinner.  With a table setting like this you can't serve the food family style at the table.  The pretty Indian block print napkins were bought at a local shop and perfect if you are free of pattern elsewhere at the table.  Link to post here.

A lighter alternative to pumpkin pie.  I especially love these if you are serving multiple desserts and people want a little bite of each.  Mini deconstructed pumpkin pie recipe here.  I love the pecan acorns so much, they would make a great treat for guests to take home and they can be made several days in advance.

Last year I choose this beautiful blue bowl (from Wisteria) for the centerpiece and loaded it up with mums and eucalyptus.  Be cautious to keep arrangements low enough to see over when people are sitting across from each other.   I always place the arrangement on the table and then sit down to make sure it is low enough.  I also layered runners for this table setting.  Seen better below.  Link to this setting here

While being mindful not to add too much height to the centerpiece, I do love adding height either at the end of the table or somewhere else in the room, see here the tall bundle of eucalyptus branches on the window sill and the pitcher of red berry branches.  I like to use lots of votives because at night the room takes on a magical candle glow.  I keep a couple of bottles of wine right at the table so people don't have to get up for refills.  I will pull out the coffee cups later when we serve dessert.

Each year we have lots of repeat favorites.  I will promise this year to blog my Mum's stuffing recipe because it is absolutely the BEST.  I've never made it, since my Mum usually brings a couple dishes to help with the meal and this is one of them.  This year I will make it and blog the recipe for you after Thanksgiving (would be perfect for Christmas dinner too!).  I make it a point never to blog a recipe I haven't tried myself, so I will just have to keep you in suspense.  A couple times over the years my Mum has tried new stuffing recipes and we all vehemently protested, so this one is a family tradition now.

my favorite whole turkey recipe is at the end of this post

Here I used Ikea check fabric folded to make a large table runner.  I love pewter and berries, especially at Thanksgiving and have lots of different little pewter vessels tucked away here and there throughout the downstairs and among the serving dishes of our buffet. 

My FAVORITE Roast Turkey Recipe
20 pound turkey
6 tablespoon butter, softened, room temperature
2 bundles of fresh poultry herbs
1 lemon
1 yellow onion
celery stalk
carrot stalk
1 cup dry white wine
(supplies: large roasting pan with removable rack, kitchen twine, baster)

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Rinse turkey inside and out and pat dry (make sure you've removed neck and giblet for gravy making).  Chop one bundle of poultry herbs and mash with butter to form an herbed butter, add in salt and pepper.  Gently loosen the skin of the turkey and rub the softened butter mixture underneath the skin on the breast and all over the turkey.  It helps if your turkey isn't too cold so that butter spreads easily.  I usually let mine sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before prepping.  Fill the cavity with the remaining bundle of fresh herbs, tied with kitchen twine), a lemon cut in half, an onion cut in half and the celery and carrot, roughly cut to fit into the cavity.  Tie legs together with twine, and tuck tips of wings underneath. Place turkey on a baking rack and into a roasting pan.  Pour wine into roasting pan.  Roast turkey for one hour before basting.  Continue to roast for 3.5-4 hours, basting every 45 minutes or so, until breast registers 170 and legs 180.  Cover breast with foil if it starts to get too brown while roasting.  This will result is a picture perfect roast turkey that tastes amazing!!  It's the recipe I grew up with and the only one I make for my family.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Happy November

Mark Sikes and Nora Murphy make such glorious collage boards each season, that I was inspired to create one of my own, pictured above, with all the warm neutrals, copper tones and wonderful textures of Autumn.   Just looking at it makes me want to start planning our Thanksgiving menu and table setting, plus it motivates me to finish up a few decorating projects in time for the holidays.  While all the shops have turned on their Christmas music and started to fill the aisles with everything red and green, I'm still hanging on to all that I love about my favorite season till after the Thanksgiving dishes are cleaned up and put away.  We had a very mild October, causing the tree colors to peak late this year.  The photo left was taken just yesterday.  It made for the MOST picture perfect treat or treating last night.   It's one of my favorite days of the year, starting with the school Halloween parade (all grades from kindergarten to seniors in high school march - either as an elementary student or in the marching band) through the village in the afternoon and ending with hundreds of dressed up children zipping through the streets with their candy pails in the evening. We ran out of candy this year, there were so many kids!  It makes me very thankful to live where we do and to watch my children experience this sort of storybook Halloween.  I just wish it hadn't gotten dark so quickly, so I could have taken more photos.  Here are a few...

^^ Black Panther ^^

^^ Andrew set up an awesome Haunted Trail on our backyard, with lots of help from my Mum who stayed to help out.  ^^