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Thanksgiving Thinking: A Guide for Those Who Love to Entertain

Thanksgiving Thinking: A Guide for Those Who Love to Entertain

Whether it’s your first time hosting Thanksgiving, or your 20th, we have some ideas to inspire an extra special gathering of your loved ones. 


Thanksgiving is officially right around the corner. As one of the most important holidays of the year, for those of us that like to entertain, we are starting our planning now. The primary categories for our Thanksgiving prep list are Guests, Menu, Decor and Entertainment. We will share our traditions, new ideas, and recommendations broken down by those categories to guide and inspire you.

GUESTS

Though Thanksgiving is always the third Thursday of November, and many of your guests may already assume they will be attending your annual Thanksgiving dinner… directly inviting each of them will safeguard any awkward situations or hurt feelings. However, unlike bigger events with less intimate guests, it is completely appropriate to invite your family and close friends with a phone call or a simple evite. If you can only accommodate a fixed amount of guests, Alexandra Lim-Chua Wee and Zee Krstic recommend you “Invite Family First, Then Everybody Else.” Once all the family members have RSVP’d extend the invite to your friends. If chairs or plates are limited, be sure to only invite additional guests after earlier ones confirm they can’t attend. Patience is a virtue that will avoid some unfriendly situations. While you are collecting the RSPV’s don’t forget to double-check on allergies and diets. You never know if you might have missed that Aunt Kate developed a lactose intolerance or Cousin Mike became a vegetarian. 

Once you have your guest list confirmed you can plan your seating arrangements. Yes, even for a small Thanksgiving we recommend deciding in advance who sits beside who. Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette expert and author of Poised for Success explained in Reader’s Digest “There is a science and art to seating guests.” She recommended to keep hosts on both ends, next to any guests of honor, and seat a chatty person toward the middle and near shy guests to keep the conversation flowing.

MENU

We know Thanksgiving is a very tradition-heavy holiday and accordingly, the menu might not change much from year to year. Personally, we like to add one new dish to the table each year… because as you may know we just want to experience, visit and taste everything in this world.

So this year we are whipping up mashed potatoes with one of our favorite exotic spices, Saffron. FYI it is not hot spicey at all, think of it like a nutmeg. 

Now, even if you aren’t introducing any new dishes this year it is still key to prepare your menu for the day, take inventory of what ingredients you already have, and then prepare your shopping list well in advance. We usually make our list 3 weeks out and directly buy the turkey (if frozen) and the non-perishables - including the wine. Thanksgiving shopping can be absolutely exhausting so if we can split it in half we are able to save substantial peace of mind. The weekend before Thanksgiving we do the rest of the shopping and start to make some of the dishes in advance. Why put yourself through cooking all those dishes for all those people ALL IN ONE DAY?!? Pie crusts we usually make those Wednesday. Our world (or rather guest) renowned spinach casserole we make that Saturday and freeze it until the night before. Save yourself and get as far ahead as you can.

For those of you who are also seeking to add a little spice to your Thanksgiving, this is how we are making our Saffron Mashed Potatoes. We followed Laura from FamilySpice.com’s recipe. Her recipe serves 6, so if you are like us and your Thanksgiving table is normally set for 16 - then you may have some multiplying to do. The ingredients feature the usual suspects for mashed potatoes… Saffron is the only exception.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

3 lb russet potatoes
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed saffron
2 TBS hot water
2/3 cup whole milk
2 TBS unsalted butter

Let’s be honest we all make our mashed potatoes in slightly different ways but they are also all more or less the same. So you can follow how Laura made her’s or you can make them how you’ve always made them with these 2 additional steps.

“While potatoes are cooking, combine saffron and 2 TBS hot water in a small bowl. Let saffron steep and set aside.” Later when you are adding all the other ingredients to the potatoes, make sure you “stir until butter has melted, then pour in the reserved saffron water. Mix until combined.”

Voila! 2 simple additional steps to a completely new Thanksgiving Dish. When we tried this recipe it was wonderfully simple and we just couldn’t get enough of these potatoes. We did make one alteration to the recipe, we used salted butter and less salt - which is how we usually make our mashed potatoes.  If you try them, we’d love to hear what you thought about the Saffron taste. We recommend checking out Laura's post about this recipe as she also gives you great insight into selecting good quality saffron.

DECOR

This year we are using a color palette of deep rich colors with some focus on greens. We always start with deciding what dinnerware set we will be using, then move on to table cloth and napkins, and finally decorative accents like flowers, candles and place cards.

This year we've decided to use the Andalusia Dinnerware Set which is full of rich shades of green and embellished with gold accents.

Pictured: Andalusia Dinner Plate, Soup & Salad Plate, Bread & Dessert Plate, and Serving Bowl.

We love to blend elegance with coziness whenever we host. If you think about it, it is a great combination - allow your guests to feel perfectly comfortable while at the same time making them feel special. 

One of the ways we like to set a cozy tone is by using brown paper instead of a table cloth. Then in your most artistic handwriting, you can label each person's place with their name directly on the brown paper above their place setting and eliminate formal place cards. We will also write Thankful in large letters down the center of the table. 

We will use deep brown napkins to draped on top of the dinner plate and below the salad plate to tie the color schemes together.

Now we know all other items added to the tablescape should be green, gold or brown. If you want to use some autumn leaves or pumpkins their natural orange will still be complementary and work well. 

An important aspect to keep in mind as you add your other decorative elements is layers and textures. You want at least 3 different heights of decorative objects in the center and you want a mix of smooth and rougher textures to create an interesting centerpiece. 

 

Our primary tools for adding layers and textures will be assorted brass candlestick holders, hand-painted brown and gold candlesticks, small and varied in shape pumpkins that still have a good bit of green on them, and some nice gold sunflowers. We will put the sunflowers into the Andalusia Fragrance Diffuser, simply removing the top pieces of the diffuser so it can function as a vase. We love to recycle our red wine bottles (especially the screw top ones) as decorative water bottles for hosting... and you can bet those deep green glass bottles complement this table's aesthetic perfectly! Our green glass "water" bottles will be placed on the Andalusia Bottle Holders. To see more of our suggestions for Thanksgiving tableware and accessories you can visit our Thanksgiving Thinking Collection.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

It’s always a good idea to have a few activities on hand in case there is a lull in energy or to enliven the atmosphere while everyone digests their dinner before dessert. Our guests usually get riled up with a good game of Cards Against Humanity or  Heads Up! Which is a free app you can download on your phone. 

Tradition at our Thanksgiving is to have everyone write down one thing they are thankful for this year. Then we fold them up, drop them in a bowl and pass it around for everyone to read out someone else's. After we try to guess whose was whose. It’s a nice touch to bring everyone back in touch with the reason we are all together on that day. 

 

We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with beautiful decor, delicious food, and loving guests. Remember there is always so much to be thankful for! 

Share your Thanksgiving plans with us below in the comments! What are your go-to dishes and your decor theme for this year?