Thanksgiving Greatest Hits


Slim Paley Photo



“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the Beautiful Stuff out” 

Ray Bradbury



The Big Day is rapidly approaching and life is wonderfully busy, so I hope you don’t mind if I take this opportunity to link to a few of my past Thanksgiving Season posts. I know many of you well-organized types are thinking about your tables already, but there might be an idea or two here to inspire you.  Some already know exactly what they’re doing, and possibly even have their tables set (don’t even speak to me if this is you)

I  encourage everyone to weigh in in my comment section with any fun, beautiful, unusual, or just “Duh, basic, but who thinks of it?” Thanksgiving suggestions.

 – having take-out boxes ready & labeled for friends & family to bring left-overs home in.  Genius!

-To brine, or not to brine?

-How do you make Thanksgiving Dinner feel completely different from Christmas Dinner?


The suggestion lines are open!

I’ll be back in a couple of days.



Slim Paley photo

Our table set for Thanksgiving in Sun Valley



Slim Paley photo





Ideas for Table settings…



And more table talk…







  1. You know…this year I’m “thinking about” covering the table with brown mailing wrap…kiddos can draw “hand turkeys”…lots of Autumn leaves “down, down yellow and brown…” gold chargers with brown transferware…gold trimmed cutlery and goblets. p.s. I just learned one should purchase a “kosher turkey”…already brined…if that’s your flavor…bon apetit! franki

    • Wow! That’s a great idea, about covering the table with brown paper for the kids!! Very creative and colorful, I love it.

  2. No brine. This year to make Christmas different from Thanksgiving, I am thinking of moving the table into the living room! We ahve a HUGE stone fireplace and actually did this one year when we had a BIG crowd and the ambiance was magical! I had lanterns lit, candles glowing, a fire in the fireplace and music softly playing. XO, Pinky PS, thanks for the images!!!!

    • Am really enjoying your blog! Just discovered it via Vignette Design. Re: Pinky’s idea of moving the dining room table into the living room… fun and clever!

  3. Love the tables above. I always assume the table will be beautiful–my focus has always been on great food & drink. Our Thanksgivings were dressy…and looking back most appreciate the novel traditions. For example. Both of my parents had beautiful trained voices and their anniversary (which they kept a private affair between the two of them) was around Thanksgiving. Each year with the guests all seated, the table set, the amazing food…they’d stop to sing ‘One Alone’ from Desert Song…kind of like something from a Woody Allen film. Totally transporting and entrancing. Loved it. Still do.

    • Dear Frenchheart,
      The image of your parents singing to each other at the Thanksgiving table is so touching it’s bringing tears to my eyes. Now that’s something to be thankful for – parents who love one another and show it! Thank you for sharing that.
      Best regards,

  4. Brine. We tried it 2 years ago and will never go back. We use Alton Brown’s recipe. We bought a big 5 gallon bucket with a lid from Home Depot. We labelled it: FOR BRINING ONLY.

  5. Since I am not much of a cook I order the best food possible i.e. a free range turkey from Harvest Ranch and hope for the best. But I always set a beautiful table and have plenty of adult beverages BEFORE the meal so no one notices if the potatoes are lumpy or the turkey is a bit overdone. This year I am going to use old scrabble tiles as place cards..think it will be cute…….

  6. I prefer a brined turkey…it’s always jucier and I roast it breast side down. Sure it leaves rack marks, but we want a very moist breast. Right?

  7. We are hosting for the first time here in SoCal close to the beach. Family chose to eat at noon so hopefully we’ll set the tables outdoors. I love my formal “stuff” but want to keep it a bit casual so: Silver flatware polished on the tines and spoon bowl only – for a “patinated” look; carmel and red linen napkins not ironed (hung dry); burlap cloth maybe with a runner; floral & citrus from the garden and produce section (pears, apples, artichokes, etc) for centerpiece. I need to come up with a fun cocktail to offer along with the butternut squash soup appetizer. Thanks for getting me closer to ready!

  8. I switched from brinning my turkey to salting it (food section of the L.A. Times a few years back). It sounds like it would make the bird salty, but unlike brine, it doesn’t. Love it. I fix turkey for T-day and filet of beef for Christmas…then I have to starve myself in January to return to “only slightly overweight”, from “pleasingly plump” by the end of the year!

  9. I wish I could have been at one of “frenchheart’s” Thanksgiving dinners just to hear her parents sing. How enchanting is that? Now that I live in SW Florida and my family is in the northeast, I spend Thanksgiving at a friend’s home. But when I did host Thanksgiving, the table was always set with the “good” china. Our meal was traditional for my family, even making the dreaded mashed sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows. Nobody really liked the marshmallows, but we loved the fun of repeating our classics year after year. I miss that, even the marshmallows.
    Have a happy Thanksgiving, Slim.

  10. Brine two nights before then let turkey sit uncovered in fridge the night before, dries skin so it crispy outside and juicy inside. Yum!!
    Turkey and goodies are Thanksgiving, Christmas is roast beef and yorkshire pudding and usually a triffle….I am salivating thinking of it.

  11. Its ALL about tablescaping!! Love the brown paper idea and scrabble tiles for placecards- and Kosher turkeys are the way to go!! Appetizer tray of veggies in the shape of a turkey- big hit

  12. Hi Slim! One of our favorite Turkey Day activities is “The Thanksgiving Box”. All through the day as friends and family arrive, the box-decorated with turkeys the kids made from their hand prints years ago, stands at the ready with little scraps of paper and pencil. Everyone writes anonymously what they are thankful for. No limit! At the end of the meal, we pass the box around and one by one, folks reach into the box and read the notes beginning with “I am thankful for…” we’ve done it for years and it’s always funny, always sweet!

    • Kathefraga…i love this idea!! I am going to implement this one! We have done a similar thing in the past just going around the table, but I think the box idea is lovely. My 7 and 4 year old will have fun decorating one. Merci!

  13. Always have fall leaves on the table at Thanksgiving to differentiate from Christmas. One of my fav turkey secrets (brined or not) is to puree cranberries or cranberry sause, add a bit of butter and stock, then soak a cheese cloth in it. Then wrap up my turkey, snug as a bug and roast. The juices are a wonderful dark color that makes the gravy a rich color. Yum, can’t wait. This year my sis and I are using all of my mom’s recipes. She passed away in May and no one enjoyed feasting on Thanksgiving more than Alice!

  14. For side dishes to take home – go to Michaels and get decorative Chinese food boxes. Or get plain ones and head over to the scrapbooking section and get alphabet stickers to label.

  15. Dear Slim
    In Australia, we don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving but this year I’ve decided to live on the edge and invite some friends round on the 24th for turkey. But this is the problem- fresh turkey is almost IMPOSSIBLE to source round these here parts. At Christmas you can get them, and I can find some frozen ones, but am the moment I am experiencing what can only be described as The Great Turkey Shortage of 2011. I know. I’m a bit worried too. At Christmas my aunt and I always make a turkey with 2 stuffings- one made of breadcrumbs and one made with rice. It’s so hot here that turning on an oven could prove challenging though. I wish we could have Christmas in winter. xxxx

  16. I don’t know how Americans pack in those two magnificent feasts so closely together, my waistline usually takes 3 weeks to go back to normal after Christmas dinner.
    I do love the Royal Stewart tartan tablecloth!

  17. Definitely brine! We are a small family, just us and our two young children, and we don’t usually travel for Christmas. Last year, we had a taco night, all fresh ingredients and it was fabulous — my husband wants to do that again this year. (It helps that we live in SoCal; easier to get away with the casual). Guac and tomatoes…red and green. It works!

  18. The secret to my annual Thanksgiving dinner success…….clay pot cooking for ANY foul, LOL is the ONLY way to get a juicy, succulent, moist, tender fall off the bone, melt in your mouth (you get the idea) special occassion turkey! I soak my HUGE clay pot, base and lid for 24 hours in H20 (you dont have to soak it that long, but I do)..of course I tenderly and lovingly wash and prep the damn turkey with fall seasonings (including the proverbial sea salt and cracked trio of peppercorns) inside and out and a massive bouquet garni of fresh picked organic herbs from my garden(parsley/sage/rosemary and thyme, please sing as you read that phrase) and then I massage organic, first press, local olive oil all over the bird (like a german masseuse, deep tissue)…..I place it in the pot put the lid on and put it into a COLD oven on a very low temp…yes!… absolute bird perfection every time! We will have a feast and eat like kings, every tastebud will be lifted to the highest of heights! Of course the week before, we serve others by filling boxes of food for those who are not fortunate to have this feast for themselves and we also select “angels”, Christmas angels, (children who will not have a Christmas because of misfortune), and we buy presents for them over the Thanksgiving holiday! This Thanksgiving will be extra special as my first born, most wonderful, most amazing, smart, pretty and obedient daughter, who is a freshman in college at Westmont will be coming home!! (and she is such a foodie-how the heck does she stay so thin?) I know she will absolutely adore and savor everything I bake and cook and we are going to do the happy dance and laugh and laugh….P.S. I relish Christmas Holiday music played before December 1, sorry, but that’s just me, I prefer to hear the bells jingled officially on the 1st of December. (killjoy, wet blanket, whatever you want to call it, I hate being rushed by retail, media, Macy’s.. Hallmark, I’m just saying…)…cooking for CHRISTMAS however, I love that traditional annual meal! standing prime rib roast, lobster tail, chilled champagne…as far as the table, over the past 18 years of having children, I let them decorate the table (even though I am a designer and at times have been faulted for searching perfection tablescape), I did a complete 360 and just “let it go” to my two daughters…whatever they could create…I must say now that they are 14 and 18 things are slightly more refined….o.k. that was so much to write, I think I will ease up on the french/italian roast..TTFN

  19. We have a home in Beaufort, SC that has a large, deep water dock, which is where I set my Thanksgiving table, and yes, we deep fry our turkey ( agree with Ruth, it’s crazy good!). As our guests come in, they write on parchment paper something that they are thankful for that they don’t already have( that’s the key!), and sign it. After dinner, my very talented husband makes each piece of parchment into a boat, and we place a tea candle in it and send it off on the water. Last year, one of my close friends had a very acrimonious divorce. Her 7 yr. old daughter’s note of thanks was “I am thankful that my mom and dad are friends again.” I will never forget her delight in lighting the candle and sending her boat off. Happy thanksgiving everyone!

  20. We are totally relaxed at the moment here in Oz – no Thanksgiving to prepare for 🙁 and Christmas still seems far in the distance. Having immigrated from the US when I was a baby – I could never understand why my parents never continued on with the Thanksgiving tradition here in Australia.

  21. Last year we had Thanksgiving with my sister in NY, she cooked her turkey in a clay pot and I agree with beryl, it was so moist and delicious. It also created a wonderful broth. As a hostess gift, I brought a “kit” of herbs and citrus, so I could garnish all of her platters for her. One less thing for the chef to have to worry about. Here is a link if you want to learn more:

  22. so fun to see your tables from past years. All are beautiful and very inviting. I especially loved the tartan plaid next to the fireplace I can just see people sitting there enjoying a wonderful meal together. I love to do an over the top centerpiece for Tday!! I usually use fresh produce to make my arrangements. This year I have chosen a dark umber and dark lime color scheme mixed with cream dishes and pumpkins, artichokes and limes. Shoud be fun. Hubby is making me a 4’6″ box to put my goodies in. I think it will be fun!! Thank you so much for sharing your talents with us,

  23. I LOVE all these wonderful ideas!
    Thanks so much to all of you for sharing your talents and suggestions
    Much awesomeness here 🙂

  24. The tables are so beautiful! We’ve already had our Thanksgiving up here in the north! But I am craving some good old fashioned thanksgiving movies- American style. I haven’t seen any programmed yet and I’m disappointed. Who doesn’t love Trains, Planes & Automobiles? Or Scent of a Woman? (Best Thanksgiving dinner scene), or Family Jewel, Home for the Holidays? with Holly Hunter, Pieces of April? Okay, that’s all I can think of…more suggestions please?

    thanks Slim

    • The Family Stone w/Sarah Jessica Parker et.all. The pressure of making the brunch egg casserole…and her character sloshes it to the floor! And the beautiful settings – funny – sad.

      And to everyone else – these ideas are each so wonderful. S.P. you have a talented and prideful following! We are all having a great time together. 😉

      • Thanks Linda, that’s right “Family Stone”. That was the funniest scene in the movie, the brunch all over the kitchen floor! Also, Luke Wilson stole a few scenes. And yes, some sad moments.

  25. Thanksgiving table is very Earthy – browns, golds and oranges of Autumn, but our table goes glam for CHristmas – sparkle! CHeating on Thanksgiving this year – letting my favorite florist do the centerpiece and I’ll tablescape around what they do – just one less thing to fret about since I am working the two days before Thanksgiving!

  26. Dear Slim,
    We don’t have Thanksgiving in Australia, but seeing those gorgeous images makes me wish that we did. Although I don’t know how you all cope having Thanksgiving and then Christmas (for those who celebrate the latter) within a few weeks of each other? You must be exhausted by New Year’s Eve…?
    Our family decided to simplify Christmas after it started getting too elaborate and complicated. Now we all just bring lots of seafood and Champagne, with chocolate pudding for dessert. In the height of an Australian summer, it’s the perfect Christmas feast.
    Love the exquisite theatricality of these images. Love your blog, full stop! Look forward to reading more in 2012.
    Warmest regards, Janelle McCulloch

  27. What a great forum of ideas. I am going to link to this on my next post. I found the greatest articles for getting prepared for hosting dinner, as well as some refreshing side dishes and beverages in the NY Times Dining section the other day. Stop by the market for highlights and links!

Would love to hear from you!