Is Thanksgiving your favorite? Mine too. What is that about? Is it what Christmas used to be about? You know, family, friends, congenial gatherings, gratitude? Just a thought. It’s also one of my favorite times at our home, Rancho La Zaca. Here are a few highlights from last year and perhaps some inspiration for you this year.
Longtime readers have seen these turkeys before. I got them I know not where on the Internet, never to be heard from again. This is their fourth Thanksgiving, still standing praise be, in opposite corners of our entry hall. This is Horace.
And this is Henry across the hall. Henry is His Grace’s (my husband, for new readers) middle name. It’s a strong name, Henry. You don’t meet many Henrys these days, come to think of it. This post could change all that…
Last year on the mantels I combined dark, glossy green camellia foliage with our California pepper tree, olive, seeded eucalyptus, and bay. Pumpkins and pomegranates add color.
I do love how the sun comes into the room and highlights whatever’s on the mantel. The concrete artwork is by Ruben Ochoa.
Across the room under Hunt Slonem’s butterflies, persimmons have worked their way into the scheme. The large twig cornucopias came from Pottery Barn four years ago and, like the feather turkeys, haven’t been seen since in the ether of commerce. You see these things in catalogs and think they’ll be there forever, but they aren’t. So if you see something that works, go for it, because it may not be there next year.
Longtime family friend Julie “Junebug” Williamson, who is also a chef, gifted us with these gorgeous flatbreads. Ohhhhhhh my and they were as good as they looked. Also a nice way to call attention to the seating plan. I like to put it front and center so you don’t spend the entire cocktail hour unwittingly talking to your dinner partner, JIC you run out of chat. Which even yours truly does on occasion. Hard to believe, I know.
The dinner table with mis-matchy chairs but that’s okay. The centerpieces are birch bark with oak and olive foliage, roses, berries, apples, and pomegranates on a bed of moss. You can order the moss online. There are many sources. The birch bark and flowers come from a wholesaler down the road in Carpenteria (California).
Here’s a close-up. I made it up as I went along. It’s all in there higgeldy-piggeldy, which pretty much sums up my philosophy of entertaining.
We don’t always have a children’s table, preferring to jumble everyone together (see above: higgeldy-piggeldy), but last year it made sense. I had a larger top made for a small flea market round table, and it does the trick just fine. Now I leave it on all year and use it for a puzzle table.
As in past years, I painted a watercolor menu/place card/souvenir. We are a shooting bunch, so last year I keyed off of that. This is ol’ Henry holding a shotgun, with a shell bag around his waist. If turkeys have waists. I don’t have much of a waist myself by the end of the day. Though I don’t have much of one to start with, to tell you the truth.
For your very own printable place- or menu card, click here. Drag image to your photos and print on watercolor texture paper. Boom. You can do the vertical version above or a larger, foldable horizontal below. It does dress up your table, and people feel special when they have a specially designated place, don’t you think? Chef Stephanie Valentine’s beautiful grilled turkey, simply trimmed with rosemary. Sorry I don’t have a download-able version of a grilled turkey.
Friend and literary agent Tricia Davey’s jewel-like cranberry tart.
As we are a family of mixed faiths, and as 2013 coincided with the beginning of Hannukah, we also lit a menorah.
What we are especially thankful for this year is the life of Frances “Frannie” Dittmer, below at right. For new readers, Frannie was the mother of my husband’s children and a fabulous gal. “F-1” to my “F-2,” nicknames I believe we were both flattered by. Thanksgiving 2013 was our last with Frannie, who died in a plane crash in February. She was something, and you can read about her here. At left is darlin’ Junebug of the famous flatbreads.
In August, Frannie and HG’s daughter (mine too 🙂 ) and her husband adopted a baby girl. And thus grace is born again in the inscrutable circle of life. Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude not just for what we have, but for whom we have–in our lives and in our hearts. Amen.
Coming up: DIY for the Birch Bark Centerpiece. It’s easy!