A Rainy Saturday Before Thanksgiving

mantlepiece vignette

Fall table setting

Happy Weekend to you!

 It’s been pouring rain here the last couple of days and feeling utterly Autumnal. As I look out my window through the rain I can barely see the tops of the trees shrouded in deep fog. Santa Barbara is doing a great impression of the Pacific Northwest right now I must say.  Although Fall is not my favourite time (sorry but I’m a Summer Gal and get a tad sad cranky when we turn the clocks back) Autumn might be my favourite season in terms of appreciating the coziness of my home. Built well over a hundred years ago, it harkens back to a time when fireplaces were included in many more rooms than we would ever dream of indulging in now. Especially for Southern California.

So I’ve been enjoying the outdoorsy, I might even say ‘East Coast’ scent of burning wood inside and out. The giant oak we lost last year in the huge rain storm is giving us one more gift.

Mirrored wall

I’m all about Fall leaves at the moment, but more on that in an upcoming post.

I’ve already completed a dry run on my Thanksgiving table because I got excited about using deep garnet coloured depression glass plates instead of my usual green and amber theme. Roses didn’t seem appropriate, and though there were bountiful fruits and veggies at the Farmer’s Market this week, flowers are getting scarce. I chose long lasting gerbers in warm colours with a burgundy base and, yes, again with the leaves.

Thanksgiving table

Fresh walnuts from the market, leaves & the last of our apples for the season

Autumn floral displays

As much as I adore doing all the decorating and the table by myself, I’m not that revved up about cooking the entire turkey throw down on Thursday, only to have a repeat performance a scant few weeks hence-so… I asked for suggestions and inspiration over on my FB page and I’m happy to share a few of them here;

-Turkey for Thanksgiving and Prime rib for Christmas (though I’d flip this around as I have a larger group for Christmas than Thanksgiving)

-Chinese food on Christmas Day

-a pot luck dinner with an Indian Feast Theme for either holiday (love this idea)

-Turkey chilli on Thanksgiving which is so easy to make ahead and only improves with age (within reason of course)

-Go vegetarian. In fact, to quote; Go vegetarian every day.   Hmmmmm.

-Apparently Gelson’s does a delicious  full bells & whistles take-out Thanksgiving dinner. Who knew?

-Cornish game hens, red currant glaze, wild rice & mushrooms

-The secret is in the planning

-The secret is in the sharing– Make a timeline; each prep task is written out on a separate card marked with a start time & posted in order on the fridge. Everyone can grab a card and jump in to help. Frankly I can imagine this working much better in some households than others. Just saying.

-The secret is in the drinking. Serve enough fun libations and no one cares about the food.

and finally, this ingenious suggestion

-Go to someone else’s house!

Fall dinner table

Do you have any suggestions or inspiration you’d like to share??

After all, it is Thanksgiving 🙂



    • Hi Slim, Happy Thanksgiving! Your house looks beautiful, including your table! I must say though…A dry run? I just spent the last few minutes looking for the rack that is supposed to be with the turkey! You are truly amazing and I hope ALL of your boys know this! My Grandparent’s house had fireplaces in every room, and someone to stoke them before you got out of bed. Love a fire in the Fall and Winter. I have been too busy Pinning recipes to nail down and actually choose a real menu, hence no help at all.:)) Have fun, you are on the right track…It is the people, bar, music, laughter, and gorgeous table that matter the most. You have these down! Have a fabulous holiday and take care.

  1. Hi Slim. rainy here too so time for a reply to your beautiful post. I have a large family with lots of little ones and the best way to do thanksgiving is for everyone to participate. Each family brings dishes and its lots of fun seeing the flying emails going back and forth all month long with what everyone wants to make. Kids help cook too and this has all become a wonderful ritual. Next year i am going to start the emails early and lobby for a tofurky turkey. Think that would make a grand new tradition!

  2. Jambalaya for Christmas Eve. Beef Tenderloin Christmas Day on the grill. Turkey and ham for Thanksgiving ordered from Gelsons or wherever. We love leftovers, so we have to have both.

      • I do believe that a trip to New Orleans is in your future, Slim.

        In France, it is usually just my honey and I for Christmas so there are no “musts”–it is just a time to be creative and enjoy. As for Thanksgiving, I will be heading to the States for the first time in five years and honestly, I could care less what is on the table (as much as I love it all) just as long as we are all together.

        Merci, Gwen for remembering what this holiday is all about. Now, go get that mountain!
        Have a wonderful holiday, Slim and thank you for the mucho grande joy you bring us all,

  3. Gorgeous table! Christmas is always whatever we feel like handling. Last year we did the Gealson’s thing with a bouche de noel from Chocolatine it was really good and eeeeasy. It gave us a day in pj’s indulging in books and movies.

  4. Hello there, your fireplace is gorge! I am a traditionalist, although in my “empty nest” years here, I do find my self wanting to do “somethings” different. However, when I do switch things up, people always ask, “Where is the green bean casserole?” It won’t be changing this year, the other people in my life aren’t ready, yet! And that’s okay with me! All I really want to do is love on them a little……..


    Cathy Chapman

  5. I’d like to say what I’m thankful for. I own a small cleaning service and don’t have any health insurance. Last May I blew out my left hip after a long day of vacuuming. The physician’s assistant came into the exam room with a grim look on her face. Both hips needed replacing. I’ll cut to the chase, a local charity, Anchorage Project Access got me a new hip on September 10, 2012. It’s two months later and I am happy to report that I can walk again without a walker or a cane. Walking on the grass seemed impossible this past summer, now I look out my window at a local landmark mountain called Flat Top. My goal is to climb that mountain next summer and it no longer seems out of reach for me. I love this blog and always look forward to reading it and looking at the pretty pictures and wanted to share my thankfulness with you. 🙂

  6. That last picture is so nice. I’m Canadian so we’re all done with Thanksgiving but I always get inspired by all the recipes and magazines that come out of your country in November. I have to say something though – is that you sticking your elbows out while shooting? Try dropping them along your sides. Much more stable and better for the shoulder joint too.

    • Hi Carol (another Canadian!)
      Yes, that’s me taking the photo-my husband bought me a new camera for my birthday. I really love it but it’s very heavy! I’m still taking baby steps learning how to use it so thank you for the tip. I already have a wonky shoulder joint, which is limiting my yoga practice,but it is NOT from the new camera.

      • Ditto, elbows in……helps steady the camera for a slow exposure, too. Squeeze you boobs while you do it and you even get some cleavage as an added benefit!
        Lovely and inspiring as always……so missing my favorite Holiday down here in OZ. Hard to find a turkey…..might need to toss a butterflied lamb on the barbie….

        A friend just told me they do a 5 kernels of corn ritual in which each person present tells 5 things he/she is grateful for.  The practice began with 3 kernels of corn; however, when her sons would say, “I’m grateful for family, friends and health,” she knew she had to increase the number of kernels of corn….Enjoy and gnaw on a turkey leg for me!

  7. I used to love to cook Thanksgiving dinner complete with all the trimmings…. but nowadays I am totally into potluck meals for every occasion… with so many finicky eaters (no animals, no gluten, nothing cooked, no this or that, etc etc etc) everybody gets to eat what they want! Including me!

  8. I still love the turkey for Thanksgiving…..only way to get the great sandwiches later….for Christmas i do the Cornish Game Hens……i baste with butter, herbs and cranberry juice. Everyone eats the hens with their fingers and it makes for a very relaxed, warm and friendly gathering. And a hen on each plate is so festive.
    I do get to go to friend’s this up coming feast day and am looking forward to the day “off”.
    Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

  9. Company is a comin!! Trying to get “some kind” of a menu set up – fourteen staying Wed,Thurs, Fri, and Sat…most will leave Sun morning for that ardous drive home. We’re rural so…better get busy. I, too, enjoy the decorating more than the dishing… 🙂 franki

  10. I would like to thank Gwen Truax for her entry. What a beautiful way to express what giving thanks is about! I support a local health clinic in East Palo Alto – The Ravenswood Family Health Care Center – that provides quality health care for those that can’t afford it. I am so thankful to have always been able to get health care for my self and my loved ones. I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t take care of each other. You go Gwen! I know you’ll make it to the top of the mountain! You are awesome!

  11. My first reaction to seeing the photo of the table was “Oh! Slim has curated a photo from DOWNTON ABBEY for her Thanksgiving post.” Really! Just so gorgeous. And your room with the fireplace is cozy perfection. As for switching it up, we are a Southern family through and through ~ traditional Thanksgiving dinner, BUT Christmas is always different {turkey four weeks prior ~ and its leftovers for too many days ~ and we are ready for something different.} Maybe our favorite “theme” for the Christmas get-together has been doing a New Orleans-styled buffet. And the best part, it just so happens that there is a fabulous, authentic Cajun place here and we do a major take away – gumbo, etouffee, boiled shrimp, etc.. We add french bread, a salad or two and a dessert or nine, and…oh so good on a chilly Christmas. Gosh, I’m hungry now! Have a very happy Thanksgiving! You bring such grace and fun to the “table of life” {corny Thanksgiving humor}, and I am thankful for you. : )

  12. Italian Americans have been serving Lasagna for Christmas dinner since coming over from the Boot. I know this because I saw it on ‘The Sopranos’. Your Thanksgiving Table is set, and I just got back from slugging it out at heavily congested supermarket. I’m not worthy to read your blog, Slim–not worthy at all. (psst–if you do go the Gelson’s route, ask for Julie–she runs the deli, and is a peach).

  13. My solution? Escape to the Caribbean. Preferably some remote, far-flung island like Harbour Island. Or St John in the USVI. Take the immediately family but no more. (Okay, invite ’em all, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!) Have Christmas in a rented beach house on the beach, followed by a swim in the sea and a siesta under a palm tree somewhere. No preparation (other than buying a new sarong.) No dishes. No family politics… Christmas bliss!

  14. Slim, your fireplace and your tabletop for Thanksgiving are so lovely. And to Gwen, thank you for reminding me that our good health is precious. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

  15. Your table is smashing – love the candlesticks and Autumn touches. The burgundy candles strike just the right note! We are sticking to the basics. But I am laughing at the idea of a tofurky – one of my very favorite sitcoms is Marie changing up Thanksgiving by serving the health conscious tofurkey on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond.” It is sad and sweet and funny, and the moral is, I think, just be grateful to have family and friends together and the food is always secondary as long as it is edible!

  16. Love your table, just wondering, you have already set it up???!!!! Wow. Anyhoo, Christmas Eve thoughts from Latin America: we do dinner (ham and pineapple/dulce canela sweet sauce) around 9pm and fireworks all nite with the climax at midnite when baby Jesus was born…the whole city is doing this and its really loud and fun! At midnight we start out going to houses of relatives and close friends and probably get home around 4 am or so…its hard if the kids are excited about santa…not much sleep but we all have maids so that helps….

  17. Slim, Your living room is stunning & your diningroom table looks so inviting (you look great in that mirror reflection too!).
    As for the big holiday meals, if you’re interested in co-ordinating a pot luck, you can set up an interactive site at google that allows you to map out your basic desires for the meal & then invite others to come onto the site to say what they will bring & maybe suggest alternatives. It saves sending lots of emails because everyone can see what everyone else is saying about the meal. It works well for my family & we always come up with an amazing meal by doing this.
    And Gwen, thank you for sharing your wonderful story which reminds us to include some gratitude into our lives. It’s so important and this is a good week for an extra measure of it.
    Thanks to you, Slim for being a bright spot in our days. Can’t wait to see photos of the meal you come up with.
    All the best, Ruth

  18. My first choice would be the take out, it sounds fabulous, and just add a couple of your favorite dishes to add your own personal touch. It wouldn’t seem like Christmas to me eating chinese food. Second choice would be the cornish hens, that menu sounds yummy. I really enjoyed reading Gwen’s entry, that’s what we should all be doing at Thanksgiving (even though technically I already had mine, being Canadian) counting our blessings, whatever they may be.

  19. Dear Slim

    Your table and fireplace look so cozy and inviting. Your family must love it. But all that work (twice) does take its toll so I’m not surprised you’re looking for other options. Perhaps we’re lucky here in Australia as we don’t traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving. Largely I guess because our seasons are the inverse of yours. Though I fully understand the importance of giving thanks for whatever we are fortunate enough to have – our loved ones, our home, our health, our way of life.

    In recent years we tend to take it turn about with our son and his family to host Christmas. When they come here I do the full English Christmas production, including the turkey and trimmings and Christmas pud and trimmings, even to the lemon sorbet in between. One Christmas a long time ago our older son on the spur of the moment invited an Afghan refugee he felt sorry for to spend the day with us. Our unexpected guest was a young Muslim and I was concerned about the fact that we were also having ham with the turkey and that there was a little pork in the stuffing. He assured me he wouldn’t eat those but could have everything else. He was so nice and so overjoyed to spend the day with a family (his family was still in Kabul). He later wrote to thank us saying that it had been the happiest day of his life.

    When we go to our son in Sydney he does the idyllic Australian Christmas. We sit outdoors in his resort style tropical garden near the pool, sipping white wine or champagne, while he has a beer and cooks prawns and fish on the barbecue and our DIL dishes up wonderful salads. But we still have the Christmas pud which I bring up from Sydney.

    it’s good to break with traditions occasionally. It adds spice to life and also can help us appreciate the good things we have.

    With best wishes, Pamela

  20. Such a beautiful table and flowers. So SLIIM!! I took your advice and am going to someone’s house for Thanksgiving. I will be making Praline Yams and a pie of some sort. SO much easier. Then watching a movie afterwards. I love Thanksgiving so much more than Christmas. Less stressful and more about family than gifts. Now that you are an American, do you not celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving?

  21. Your home is lovely, and that fireplace is most inviting. How about Personal Chefs to solve your holiday cooking dilemma? Santa Barbara must have some good talent for hire. Pull your favorite family recipes and put a chef or two to work. They can make all the side dishes the day prior, and prep the main for you to finish the day of. There, problem solved. Happy Holidays!

  22. I say make it easy on yourself. Sit at the pretty table and eat the apples and nuts. Screw cooking! Make the family do yoga for thanksgiving! 🙂

  23. Well.. I live in Seattle .. so I know all about the rain and gloom. You just get used to it and don’t allow it to stop you from your regular activities. Homes are cozy because we are inside more . Nothing says welcome more than a roaring fire in the fire place and yours looks no less than perfect.

    Santa Barbara is a gorgeous place. I grew up in the Westlake area .. lived there for almost 40 years.

    Your table is very festive and I like all those suggestions!


  24. my choice would be Roast beef, roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding for Thanksgiving, and Roast chicken (less dry than turkey) on Christmas Eve. Christmas day would be roast chicken,stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches on white bread with lots of mayo and butter….totally allowed at Christmas

  25. Slim,
    That room is beautiful! Love the colors, fire, the mirrored walls. It’s all so cozy too.

    I am like you. I have to host Thanksgiving every year and I sometimes wish we could run off to the beach with turkey sandwiches like a friend did one year.. What makes it bearable is I only have to host, do the table and all the sides. my parents help by bringing the turkey and stuffing, my grandmother the pies. The sides are not bad and I can get creative.

    I always need to get inspired before I do my table. I love the colors and all the natural leaves, nuts and apples you used. As far as Christmas, our only tradition is home made cinnamon rolls with pecans. Sometimes we do a dinner of frittata or quiche and salad, and champagne. Sort of French and easy on Christmas night if it’s just our family.

    Slim, thanks for the inspiration. And Gwen you inspire also and I hope you reach your goal!


  26. We do the traditional turkey on Thanksgiving but then alternate each year at Christmas with either Italian or Mexican. The kids love it and to be honest, so do I!

  27. Beautiful living room with the mirrored wall around your fireplace! Love your autumnal dining table as well. Can’t wait to see what inspires me at this weeks Tuesday farmer’s market. I love cooking the meal but decorating the table is the most fun of all!

  28. I’m doing American Thanksgiving up at my Vancouver Island home this year so my daughter, who lives in Vancouver, won’t feel left out. It will be organic, free range, ( hopefully euthanized first) Turkey and all the trimmings.
    Gorgeous living room photos. Really gorgeous!! I adore the smell of woodsmoke, no matter how socially incorrect it is for the environment. I do the same and ignore the guilt! Nothing smells as cozy as a wood burning fire. We’ve even been burning in our San Franciso home for the last two weeks since the weather there has finally shifted to fall.
    I always repeat the exact same process in a month for Christmas, but this year we escape to Mauii and I’m thinking Fish Tacos and tropical drinks!!
    Very beautiful table scape as well.

  29. Your living room mirror is something ! is it French?

    As long as there is Christmas pudding Im happy for anything at Christmas though it is generally cold ..prawns , salads etc.

    I have just discovered an Australian Territory , Norfolk Island celebrates Thanksgiving. , the idea came from American whalers who visited the island.

    Always learn something visiting your blog Slim, even about my own country!!

  30. We used to have shrimp creole for Christmas(kind of similar in style if not exact ingredients to jambalaya). Beef tenderloin is also a favorite for Christmas, and it’s easy, and I get them at costco.

  31. For us, Slim my dear, Thansgiving is all about roasted Turkey — couldn’t imagine not serving it (that is, if we host it; this year we’re going to friends’) along with old-fashioned chestnut stuffiing, sweet potatos, roasted (or creamed) onions, and mounds of freshly-made crenberry dressing. If we go wild, we might augment the meal with something out of the ordinary, such as asian style wok-made beans, for a little pizzaz. In other words, Thanksgiving is done by the book and with all the American traditional trimmings. Christmas, on the other hand is Jolly Olde Englande all the way — a magnificent standing prime rib roast, yorkshire pudding (made in the roast’s drippings with extra butter swirled in), brussels sprouts (but roasted instead of boiled to death like the English do for a nod to one’s taste buds), followed by a flaming, booze-soaked Christmas pudding for the sweet and — of course — a huge, linen napkin swathed Stilton cheese so I can use my great aunt’s silver cheese scoop (which is heavy enough to stop an intruder in his tracks) to dig out mounds of its yummy gloriousness. Our Christmas Eve tradition is a simple New England oyster stew — fresh oysters gently simmered until done in a broth of the liquor from the shells (strained through cheescloth), lots of cream and butter, with a dash of cayenne pepper. Served with toasted lusty bread (and more butter, and perhaps some of that Stilton, too), one is in heaven (made more divine by the prospect of Christmas Day’s bounty to follow). PS, love the amethyst glass on your table — we often decorate ours with amethyst glass, too, So handsome! Reggie

  32. Ok I have a confession….I discovered a few years ago Costco’s garlic mashed potatoes, they come in a two pack..I put them on the stove with a bit of butter and voila…nobody had a clue (actually I think they were better than mine) and so *not* time consuming…they also have gravy which I’ve never been good at….I have to say this makes dinner so much easier for me now….your so lucky to have everyone home this year..blessings!

  33. Slim
    This is the first year in a very long time we’re not hosting…shhhh, but hooray! I have always depended on “make ahead mashed potatoes” and Gelson’s gravy so hey, may as well buy the turkey while you’re there. I think everything they do is pretty remarkable so why not?!
    Hope you have a lovely holiday. I am thankful for your blog site, among and whole host of other more important things! 🙂

  34. We do turkey for Thanksgiving(this year I am going to a friends home) Standing rib on Christmas! I will cook a Turkey + trimmings before we leave for friends home, gotta have those leftovers. Your table is beautiful! xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  35. Love the gerbera daisies in fall colors! We do the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving but alternate between rack of lamb or a pork crown roast for Christmas. I love preparing the feast but have no qualms about asking guests to bring a favorite side dish or dessert. They are only too happy to oblige since I’m cleaning the house, polishing the silver and serving the entree and fixings. This year a wild turkey hen and her four “daughters” have been hanging around our yard. They probably know I always order my bird from Whole Foods!

  36. your table looks lovely…such pretty colors..–this time of year we have beautiful leaves that will combined with pecans and perhaps a tad of evergreen something…all of our dinnerware is ALWAYS white, so color has to come in from other sources! Turkey is a must for everyone but me…I compensate by making a fabulous brandy soaked cranberry chutney/sauce for me! I love everything pumpkin/sweet potato, so I make sweet potato biscuits (for me) to serve along with the boring dinner roll…I eat sweet potato simply cooked AND i make either pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake to be presented next to the pecan pie made with pecans from our trees…Christmas is a heart attack on a plate: beef tenderloin, buttery potatoes and cheese, something green swimming in butter, and a decadent chocolate dessert. I have done the order and pick up meal in past years…in the end…it makes no matter where the food comes from..it is all about who you are sharing the food with! And of course the declaration of being thankful.

  37. That warm welcoming fireplace looks sooooo inviting! Will definitely try the redcurrant jelly recipe thanks for that and those tiny twig spoons are just exquisite:-)

  38. It’s all about the seafood, smoked salmon, oysters, cold meats and salad here in outback Australia! One day i will get a white christmas in your country! when I was a child my mother always did the roast dinner, it almost killed us to do it in the heat.

  39. Your display looked fantastico. I displayed walnuts that fell from my walnut tree, fallen leaves from that tree with amber lights on my foyeur display for halloween, after Halloween was over, I replaced with a Turkey candle. My display was rustic, compared to your refined settings, which was gorgeous, and surprisingly coincidental.

    I left out the apples, I gave them to my horses and ate them all.

Would love to hear from you!