Plan For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving Like An Expert

Plan For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving Like An Expert

November 19, 2016

   After preparing Thanksgiving meals for over forty years, how to Plan For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving Like An Expert has evolved!   Of course, you can buy prepared dishes, but if you want to have homemade food, one of the keys is preparing side dishes that can be assembled a day or two before, to be baked, and or, served Thanksgiving Day.

                                   Thanksgiving Meal Plan Breakdown

►Three days before Thanksgiving

Place the turkey in the refrigerator to thaw, if you’re using a frozen bird.

►Two days before Thanksgiving

Prepare a Pumpkin Pie or Pumpkin Cheesecake.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Prepare the Mini Cheese Balls, (love these), or the Pumpkin-shaped Cheese Ball. Cover and refrigerate overnight.  (This year, I have found another way of shaping the cheese ball and it looks even better!  You wrap the ball in plastic wrap and use rubber bands to wrap around the ball to create the pumpkin-like indentations and refrigerate overnight. Genius!)

►The day before Thanksgiving

Prepare the Creole Green Beans. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the Sour Cream Potatoes.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the Cranberry Sauce.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

 Prepare the vegetables for the vegetable tray and store in Ziploc bags and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the Ranch Dip, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Thanksgiving Day

At least 3 – 3-1/2 hours before the meal for a 12-16 lb. turkey.  Depending on the size of the turkey, you may have to adjust the time.  

(Check here for cooking times and instructions using Reynolds Oven Bags.)

   Bake the turkey.  We don’t stuff the bird.  We also use the Reynolds turkey oven bags, which make a moist turkey.  It takes less time to bake it without the stuffing.


   Place the giblets from the turkey, (not the liver), into a saucepan with water.  Add a teaspoon of salt, 8 – 10 peppercorns, a bay leaf, a quartered onion, celery tops, and parsley.  Heat to a boil, turn down the heat, cover, and simmer until cooked through.  Use the liquid and chopped giblets to make your favorite dressing.

   The bread maker is usually started at this time and in two hours, dough is ready to make into buns and proof for a half hour before baking for 8-minutes in the oven.  To make it easy on yourself, you can make rolls the day before or simply buy them from the bakery.

One hour before the meal.

   Place the prepared Sour Cream Potatoes in the 350° oven.  

   Prepare the Kentucky Spoon Bread.  Place in the 350° oven after the potatoes have baked for 15 minutes.

   Place the Stuffing and the Creole Green Beans in the 350° oven after the spoon bread has baked for 5-10 minutes.

      While the potatoes, green beans, and spoon bread bake, assemble the cheese ball appetizer and the vegetable tray.  


      Remove the Sour Cream Potatoes, Creole Green Beans, the stuffing, and the Kentucky Spoon Bread from the oven.  If you stagger the times you put each into the oven correctly, all should be done at the same time.


   You can use these recipes or your own, but try to find side dishes that can be prepared the day ahead, refrigerated, and baked at the same temperature on Thanksgiving Day.

Need To Enlarge The Kitchen Or Dining Room Table?

 Dixie Carter, who played Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women, had so much class.  A magazine, I don’t remember which one, published an article on her and her home.  She revealed that underneath her beautiful tablecloth and all the beautiful dishes and decor was a sheet of plywood!

   She needed her table to be larger, so she placed the plywood on top of the table and no one was the wiser!

   That is where I got the idea to do that very thing.  As our family expands, we need more space at the table. A few years ago, my oldest son helped me buy a 4′  X  8′ sheet of plywood and bring it home in his pickup truck.  (It clearly would not fit in my Mustang.) 

   Wanting the corners rounded, I placed a bowl upside down in each of the corners and drew around the bowl from where it met one edge to the other.  Then, a jigsaw was used to cut the rounded corners. 

   Before placing the plywood on the table, four silicone pot holders are placed on each corner.  This helps protect the table and it also helps keep it from sliding.  Don’t you love the silicone pot holders?

   Now, cover the board with a big beautiful tablecloth or tablecloths and no one will be the wiser.  I have three banquet tablecloths.  Two are used to overlap slightly covering the board, and also drape down the ends and sides of the table.  The third is centered on the table over top of the first two.

   If possible, add your centerpiece to the tables and set the tables the night before.  Serving dishes are not added to the tables.  To make it easier for our big gathering, the food is served on the kitchen island.

   Using the easy to make cardboard lifts and levels, the island is covered with a pretty tablecloth or two.  Use a variety of heights and sizes to display platters of food.  It adds interest and sometimes it makes serving more convenient!

    Pulling out the platters that the food will be displayed on and placing a little note with what each platter will hold help remind you of what needs to be served!  Have you ever forgotten something?  Yes, I have only to remember halfway through the meal!

   Maybe you don’t want to use the recipes my family has come to love and expect at Thanksgiving, but using this same idea, you can Plan For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving Like An Expert!


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Isn’t This Easy DIY Melted Snowman Tablescape Adorable?

Isn’t This Easy DIY Melted Snowman Tablescape Adorable?

September 26, 2016

Melted Snowman Tablescape

      Isn’t This Easy DIY Melted Snowman Decoration Adorable?  The plan for this Snowman Tablescape has been on my mind for several years.  I saw the idea for this in a magazine and sketched the idea in one of my ‘idea notebooks’.  

    The snowman hat I made in an earlier post was the beginning of this little project.  The hat ended up being about 4″ high and 7″ wide.  My first intent was to make a larger hat for this display to be used on the kitchen table.  Then, finding the corncob pipe was difficult.

   Dave remembered seeing some at the local liquor store and he picked one up for me.  Well, this little pipe is only 3-1/2″ long.  It seems to be the perfect size for this little hat!  So, the original idea was downsized a little. 

   Since we have no coal for his eyes, I found a couple of rocks and simply painted them with black spray paint.  I deliberately chose more angular rocks to look more like coal.  Coal is not smooth and round. 

   Like Frosty, he also has a button nose.  This button was one my grandmother had in her button box, which I inherited!  It coordinates perfectly with the plaid flannel fabric. 

   A couple of snowflakes were cut from white felt and added to the arrangement.  I just cut out a ‘simple’ snowflake and pinned it to the felt.  Then, cut around the snowflake pattern. 

   The scarf was made from a plaid flannel.  It was very simple to make.  You could also use a store bought one, but this is a perfect size.

 Scarf “How To”

   To make the scarf, cut a piece of fabric 8-1/2 inches wide across the width of the fabric.  The fabric is 45″ wide.  The finished scarf will be about 45″ long and 7-1/2″ wide.  This plaid fabric was woven with different colors of thread.  All I needed to do to make a straight line was to cut following one of the lines in the fabric. 

    Fold both long edges up 1/2″ and press with a steam iron.  Then fold the loose edge in half and press again.     Cut off the selvage edge on both ends of the fabric.

    Stitch 3/4″ from the end of the scarf, catching in the folded edges.  The fringe will be made by removing cross-threads.  (I waited to stitch the long hems on the side until the fringe was made.)



    After the fringe is made, edge stitch the folded and ironed 1/4″ hems on both long edges.   If you are using a regular sewing foot, here’s a trick to keep the hem flat and not puckered.  Every 3-4″, let the needle down penetrating all three layers of the fabric.  The needle holds the fabric in place.  Lift the presser foot, straighten, and re-position the fabric around the needle.  

   You should see that the bottom fabric was beginning to be pulled through the feed a little faster than the top fabric.   Using this trick will assure that both sides of the fabric will be even at the end of the stitching.

    There is a foot for your sewing machine called the ‘walking foot’, which has top feed dogs, too.  This eliminates that problem.   Have you ever had this problem?  I seriously need to buy one of those, but this trick has served me well for years!


   This display may be changed a little before Christmas Eve this year.  Thinking of adding some sticks for arms or maybe some mittens I’m planning to make from burlap.  But, seriously, isn’t This Easy DIY Melted Snowman Decoration Adorable?




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Fiesta Dinnerware A Nice Foundation For Place Settings

Fiesta Dinnerware A Nice Foundation For Place Settings

July 27, 2016

Place settings

    These beautiful square-shaped plates caught my attention at Homegoods! Imagining them set against our scarlet red Fiesta Dinnerware, I couldn’t resist!  A few years ago, I decided to buy Fiesta ware.  Of course, I started with the ‘scarlet’ Fiesta 5-piece place settings.  Each time the department store had a sale on Fiesta, I would purchase a couple of sets. 

    Because of the patriotic holidays, the cobalt blue was considered, too.   That was nixed because, with the red and white, I could just add a blue napkin.  What’s better than red, white, and blue? 


   With good intentions,  I would head to the store and that scarlet red would scream, “Buy me!”  And I did.  You know my affinity for red… We now have fourteen five-piece place settings!     


    Even though we have these red place settings, that doesn’t mean they have to be boring!   Red is actually a good neutral color!   Stacked plates look amazing!  Don’t you love the combination of the floral plates with the medium blue background against the red of the plate and the napkin?  

    Or, how about the red plate with this cute little black and white floral patterned plate?  Just imagine a coordinating plaid or polka dot plate.  I seem to be drawn to red and bold colors that go with red.  What colors speak to you?


   By mixing these basic dishes with other more colorful, and, or, patterned plates, you can create an amazing magazine-worthy table setting!   Not everyone has Fiesta dinnerware, but these same ideas can be used with whatever dishes you have!  (Yet, as you can see, you are not limited if you have colorful Fiesta ware either.)


   An easy no-fail way for choosing patterns to go with your plates is to make sure that the color of your plate is also found in the pattern you choose., Notice the square plate at the top of the post.  The red color of the Fiesta plate is actually in the pattern of the square plate.


   In the second picture, the bold black and white pattern looks amazing in contrast to the red.  Choosing a contrasting color in the same color depth is another winner.  The bold black and white against a pale soft pink or lavender plate might be too much, but a softer black or gray patterned plate would be beautiful.

    Changing the dinner plate to a bright blue chintz, adding the Fiesta scarlet salad plate, a silver charger, and a blue napkin changes the look completely!  (The red rose is from the garden!)

    Add a green lined glass plate and a ‘Fitz and Floyd’ apple plate.  You have an entirely different look!

    This fruit patterned salad plate is from the first set of dishes Dave and I bought!  I still love this set, and it looks pretty with the red plate and gold charger!  The red and gold colors are echoed in the napkin and holder.

    Here’s another completely different look using a green, gold, and black dinner plate and salad plate.  The autumn colors in the napkin coordinate nicely, but by changing out the napkin, a completely different look can be attained.


   When I spot a set of napkins marked down, I am often tempted.  If they are the right colors and the right price, I can’t say no.  Lots of the cloth napkins we have were homemade.  The fabric designs are endless and it is so easy to sew up a set of one-of-a-kind napkins in no time!  


   Isn’t it amazing how many different looks you can achieve by just adding another plate or napkin?   Even if you don’t have Fiesta Dinnerware, maybe you will look at your own dinnerware in a new light and find some of your own beautiful options!





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Our Humble Easter Celebration

Our Humble Easter Celebration

March 29, 2016

   On the table in the foyer, an understated Easter display welcomed family and friends this Easter.  There is just something so sweet about that little bunny!


   This was definitely an unconventional Easter at our home.  The weather was beautiful and we wanted to enjoy the day outside.  We opted to have Dave grill the best burgers ever and make a vegetable tray.  I roasted baby potatoes and made the Ranch dip.   Tiffany brought the ‘Shrimp Scampi Dip’ she has been bragging about for awhile now.  (She brought tortilla chips for the dip.   Aidan and I agreed we should have made homemade tortilla chips! ) She made a double batch and yes, folks, she was right.  It is addictive and the dish was pretty much licked clean.

I didn’t snap a picture of it, but will do that because we will be making this again very soon!  


    Savory and delicious, these little cheesy carrot bites were a perfect appetizer for Easter. Shredded carrots and cheddar cheese combined with cream cheese to create a pale orange-colored mixture.  The cheese mixture piped onto Town House Crackers to look like carrots and topped with a sprig of parsley look adorable.


     Aidan made the cheese mixture for these on Saturday with me.

Then we refrigerated it overnight.  It needed to be taken from the fridge and allowed to come up to room temperature before piping.


   Sophia, Aidan, and I taste tested the cheese mixture and Aidan said that this recipe was perfect.   Apparently, he was right.  As soon as the little carrots were piped onto the crackers, the parsley was added, and the platter was passed around, they were gone.

   The red pepper gives them a little heat and the Town House crackers were the perfect addition.  The kids asked if they were supposed to eat the parsley.  I told them to eat the parsley end first.  They were surprised how good they tasted.


Cheesy Carrot Spread

2/3 cup shredded carrots

8-ounce package of softened cream cheese

1 cup of shredded Mild Cheddar cheese

2 Tblsp. sliced green onions

1 Tblsp. chopped celery

1 Tblsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 garlic powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/8 tsp. ground red pepper

Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

   Place carrots, cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, onion, celery, Worcestershire, garlic powder, paprika, and ground red pepper into a food processor.  Process until the ingredients are well blended together.


   Transfer the cream cheese mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.  


   Pipe the mixture to resemble carrots, onto Town House crackers.  On the large end of the piped carrot, place a sprig of Italian flat-leaf parsley.


   After the past couple of weeks and the chaos of the window installation, I decided to roast potatoes instead of making potato salad.  Glad that decision was made.  The baby roasted potatoes went over really well.  These were prepared a little early and 45 minutes before the burgers were ready, they were placed in the hot oven.


We made five pounds of these and there were just a few left.


You can find the recipe for those here ►Roasted Baby Potatoes.


Of course, we had desserts, too.  The white velvet cake was frosted with white chocolate frosting.  When it was cut and served, the raspberry puree between the layers was revealed.   Fresh red raspberries garnished the slices.  


Fudge brownies were served, too.

   When everyone had arrived, the Easter egg hunt began.  Afterward, everyone played card games or corn hole in the front yard.  Hillbilly golf was setup in the back yard.  Yes, this year was a pretty unconventional Easter.


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Entertaining Inspirations – Reception Ideas

Entertaining Inspirations – Reception Ideas

February 9, 2016


    I love entertaining inspirations!  A few years ago, I planned decorations for a wedding for a friend of mine.  There was a limited budget.  Limited budgets seem to inspire more creativity, don’t they?



    My friend wanted the Chinese lanterns to decorate the space over the head table. We first checked with the venue to be sure exactly what we were allowed to do and what not.  We were told we could use tacks and, or, tie the strings on the metal grids supporting the ceiling tiles.


    Knowing that different sizes in combination would make things more interesting, we ordered a variety of sizes.   We tried to find the Chinese lanterns in her colors, navy, and fuschia.  


   Then I had an idea.  I had seen an Asian reception where flower petals were strung on a line and hung from a pergola.  It was gorgeous.  I thought the combination of the different sized lanterns in white with contrasting flower petals in fuschia would be very striking.   My thought was to string the petals and hang them down around the lanterns.


   These silk flower petals can be found at Hobby Lobby.  Hobby Lobby has wedding supplies on sale 50% off frequently.  A box of these are normally ten dollars, so we bought them for five bucks!   Matching 1/8″ ribbon was purchased at the same time.  


   Calculating the height of the ceiling in the ballroom and how far we wanted them to hang down from the ceiling, I measured and cut the ribbons.  Then on one end of the ribbon, an overhand knot was made.  The other end was threaded onto a large- eyed blunt needle.  The needle was pushed through the petals and the ribbon was easily threaded through them.  Using the ribbon, kept the petals in place and there was no need for glue.

    The spacing for these was about every 3″.  Each of the boxes of petals had a variety of sheer and opaque silk petals in it.  Each of the stringers contained a variety of petals strung at different positions.


  After stringing all the petals on the ribbons, to make sure they didn’t get tangled on the way to the venue, the petals were all shoved to the end of the ribbon with the know.  

    Then the ribbons were gathered together and braided, keeping them untangled and orderly, until we were at the venue ready to hang them.


      For your information, the regular thumb tacks, which I had bought to hang these ribbons would not hold.  A friend of mine and her husband helped put the decorations up and her husband saved me!  


   He installs heating and air conditioning and happened to have some ‘Zip tacks‘, which are made in Germany.  They are stainless steel and have tiny threads on them.   They held perfectly!  


   These pictures really do not do the display justice.  It was quite striking when you first entered the room.  Uplights bounced light on them and created quite a focus.


   This summer we are planning an Alice in Wonderland birthday party for little Memphis.  Considering how to decorate the arbor, I was thinking of using these petals on ribbons again.  Everyone would have to glide through the petals to the backyard.   I’m thinking of a big arch of multi-colored balloons, too.  Wouldn’t that be a grand entrance?   Entertaining inspirations, don’t you love them?

 Entertaining Inspirations on

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