Thanksgiving Decorating… and Puzzle Winner Announced

I love decorating for Thanksgiving. You may recall that last year I put out an APB–All Pumpkins Bulletin–to where my husband allowed there was not a pumpkin left in the Santa Ynez Valley. (See that post here.) I also likened decorating our so-called great room to decorating the Temple of Dendur, which the house somewhat resembles. But I am getting used to it.

These funny feathered turkeys came from a website I cannot recall for the life of me. The turkeys and I are now celebrating  our fourth holiday together. They may be holding up better than I.

Thanksgiving at RLZ – Turkey, pumpkins, persimmons and cornstalks

These are in the entrance.

Thanksgiving at RLZ – Turkey, pumpkins, persimmons and cornstalks

The good thing about pumpkins is they take up a lot of room and are relatively easy to decorate around. Washing them, then rubbing them with a little oil or Vaseline makes them pretty and shiny. I did not know that last year, but I will do it this year. I should have a PhD in pumpkins by now.

Camellia and eucalyptus foliage last forever and make a nice contrast. The euc smells great, too.

Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca – Arrangement on center table

My best decorating rule: Get as much (flowers, foliage, branches, pumpkins, whatever) as you think you need, and then get some more.

Thanksgiving at RLZ – Mantle and Slonem Butterfly Painting

These cornucopia baskets came from Pottery Barn, four years ago if memory serves. (I tried to find a source for you but didn’t have great luck–a few listed at the bottom of this post.) You think when you buy from a mass-market place like Pottery Barn that you will see it everywhere, but you don’t. Chances are they carry it that year and that’s it. So if you see a seasonal item you like, go for it.

Thanksgiving at RLZ – Cornucopia on Mantle vignette

Meanwhile, back at the you know what, cowboy meets grill.

Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca – Wyatt mans the grill. Cowboy hat required.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are things of beauty.

Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca – Turkeys on the Grill

The table is coming together. I used a large shallow basket as my container and placed  drinking glasses filled with flowers among the pumpkins, persimmons, pomegranates and grapes. It looks harder than it was.

Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca – The dinner table and mantle

Chef Stephanie Valentine is whipping herself into a frenzy in the kitchen. And yet she is never frenzied. I need to ask her about that.

Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca – Chef Stephanie Valentine

Living in a house that is virtually 99% windows has its drawbacks, but when the light comes in just so on the mantle, it is beautiful.

Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca – Cornucopia on mantle in shadow

Look, she still is not one bit frenzied. At this point in the preparations I have broken out in a rash.

Stephanie and her pies

Little did I know last year that the Museum of Modern Art in New York was organizing a Magritte show. They are always copying me. So annoying. I should use these place cards again this year in homage to the exhibit, but that would be entirely too sensible and easy, which might interfere with the rash.

In preparation for the painting, I researched authentic period pilgrim clothing.

It did not look a thing like this.

Thanksgiving place cards at Rancho La Zaca – Pumpkin-head Pilgrim in the style of Magritte’s ”Man in the Bowler Hat,” by moi.

Btw, if you would like to use these yourself, let me know and I’ll email you a jpeg that you can print out on watercolor textured paper. In Iphoto, you can re-touch out the writing on the left, or you can just use half the image. Write the names on the collar. 

Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca – Place setting with Pumpkin-head Pilgrim in the style of Magritte
Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca – The dinner table


 Peonies, pumpkins and berries

Here’s what I came up with for cornucopia baskets:

12-inch cornucopia basket from Consumer Crafts for under $5.
Amazon had a few as well.
Williams Sonoma had one already arranged with dried flowers and pods and things
Pier 1 has one, too, also arranged. 
Pottery Barn also has pretty things this year, but no cornucopia. See, I told you.

As for the Great Thanksgiving Puzzle Giveaway, first may I say how much I enjoyed your comments, your stories and your sentiments. I read every single word you write and so very much appreciate your kindness and your spirit. You are the greatest group of readers, and I am thankful thankful for each and every one of you. Okay, so, the puzzle winner is… Pixie Reiss from New Orleans. Let’s give it up for Pixie! Pixie, you may like to know, also celebrated her birthday this weekend. Congratulations Miss Pixie, and many happy returns on your birthday.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all!


      1. Love the pilgrim placecard. Please send me the jpeg when you have a chance.
        Thank you.

  1. OK. Here’s the thing. One year, living in a rental apartment in between houses, with most cookware in storage, I made the command decision to go to “The Club” for Thanksgiving. Yep, thought it would be a big downer with 2 young daughters in tow. Got dressed up, and motored down to the 1pm seating. Filled with angst, entered the ballroom turned dining room of the club. Guess what. Was immediately greeted by some darling waiter with a tray offering me a choice of champagne, bloody mary or champagne cocktail. Hmmm…things were looking up. Speaking of looking up, as I took my first gulp, I looked out on a sun-streaked room with a buffet centerpiece of a giant sheaf of wheat with hundreds of bright yellow roses bursting forth from its center. Corn stalks encircled the base. WOW. One more glance around the room and I noticed a smiling woman seated at every table, be it a table for 2 or 20. After nomadic visits to friends at other tables, feasting, and our 5 and 7 year olds having had 4 desserts apiece, I decided. Yes. It was okay. I was damned thankful!

    1. What a wonderful story, Valerie, thank you for sharing it. Letting ourselves off the hook but letting someone else take over – whether it’s “the club” or Shorty’s Bar and Grill – can be a huge relief and let us focus on what’s important, and be thankful.

  2. I love your decorations and wish you were in Sea Island to help with my table. Having 45 for dinner yikes!!!!!

    Happy Thanksgiving and Beth tells me her sister Tricia will be with you.

    Have a wonderful day with your family and friends.

  3. Love the pumpkin man! Put me on the list for the jpeg. Thanks. Enjoy your feast. Cary and I are going to be in Richmond with John’s family and going to the service at St. Stephen’s.

  4. Frances,
    Please do send the jpeg. Sallie is bringing her visiting French friends on Friday. Those would be a nice touch of Americana.
    Your writings always bring a bright spot and giggles. Thank you for the joy!
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. Oh baby, we are on our way to the Ranch!!! Thank you for your wonderful kind spirit in sharing these marvelous tips with your friends. You so inspire me and I do hope to see you and Tom quite soon. We can do a wooden puzzle together and sit by the fire with something warm and cheery.

  6. Love your table especially,knew yours would be the best,I am already trying to copy for us here at PV.Miss you and Happy Turkey to you and Tom.xoxoMW

  7. You ARE the cutest thing! How lovely of you to offer to send the Pilgrim painting jpeg to us, an offer I would love to take advantage of:

    BUT you do not have to be in any hurry, as it will be next year before I use it, so you just have a wonderful Thanksgiving, enjoy yourself through the holiday season, and I will look forward to receiving your gift sometime after Christmas! It is always a joy and inspiration to see and read your lovely blog. xoxoxo Happy

  8. Perfect timing as I am planning to get the decorating out of the way today and can always use your inspiration. It would be such fun to use your place cards, too. The jpeg is a wonderful gift. Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. You are such fun inspiration. I would love to have to have the jpeg for those fun place cards. Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. You’re my favorite expatriate Carolina girl! I loved the peonies in with the Thanksgiving decorations. Gorgeous! Would you please send the JPEG of your drawing? I try to add something new each year, and I can hear the comments now! So clever! Thanks for your blog. I really look forward to your posts.

  11. Frances,I am wild over the table arrangement and the ones on the mantle too! Love the green of the camellia leaves which I never think to use because mine grow so slow… Heck, just love it all!
    So thankful for you and your blog. xo Becky

  12. Frances,
    I love your blog and I love love your sense of humor. Do you still have time to send me the pumpkin head place card. I would love them at my table.
    thanks so much

  13. Dear Frances…your blog is such a bright spot in the lives of many! That is the cutest pilgrim that I ever did see. I would love the jpeg if you have time. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving… Diane

  14. Frances, Fabulous all around – you, the mantle, the table (Love the peonies!), and the pilgrim place cards!! I too would love to have a jpeg of the pilgrim, for next year, no need for you to rush around at this late date! So thankful for you and your blog, Happy Thanksgiving! Ellen

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