Putting Together an Easy Thanksgiving Celebration

The final countdown to Thanksgiving has arrived; we’re down to just six days! This is our second Thanksgiving celebration this year as we enjoyed a feast of fine proportions last month when our Marine was home on leave. I’m very much looking forward to doing it all again and seeing my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews!

I don’t know how your plans are going, but there have been a flurry of text messages between my sisters, momma and myself as we finalize the menu and plans for Thursday. Momma has already decided we are using her Blue Willow on the table which is by far her favorite china.

We seem to stress too much over holiday celebrations, so today I thought it would be timely to share some ideas for a gathering that’s relaxed and lively as we celebrate the end of the autumn season from harvest fruits scattered across the table to organizing your time so you enjoy the relaxed feeling Thanksgiving Day should truly have!

Putting Together an Easy Thanksgiving Celebration / ohfiddledeedee.com


Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest, so besides cooking with autumn’s bounty, decorate the table with it too! Lay a tablecloth or placemats out that coordinates with your dishes, then add pumpkins, leaves, dried Indian corn. Grocery store flowers really add to the festive atmosphere of the day and won’t cost you a lot of money. Round off your centerpiece with candles. Seriously, who doesn’t love candlelight?! Besides keeping the decor seasonal and simple, you can set the table (or tables) a couple of days in advance and have that knocked off your to-do list!

If you desire to use paper plates, by all means set them out! If you prefer china, use it! Here in our home I have a set of Thanksgiving china that adorns the table every year. They are mostly white and neutral in color which allows me to coordinate with my plain white dishes for serving the meal.

I plan out the dishes I need for serving in advance so I’m not rushing around Thanksgiving morning like a mad woman looking for everything. Things like gravy boats, deviled egg trays, and soup tureens aren’t everyday pieces so it helps to be organized.


Having a perfectly prepped dinner allows you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your family. Six days out should see your menu completed, grocery list made and a trip to the store imminent. If you don’t want to find yourself in a madhouse or unable to find ingredients, head to the market as soon as possible.

*Make a list. Seriously, sit down with a note pad to write your menu, who is bringing what, your grocery list, and what must be done around the house. It takes 30 minutes. Make the lists and put them where you see them.

{Then, use them.}

*Allow plenty of time for your turkey to safely thaw out. I have a 20 pound bird that will land in my refrigerator tonight to begin thawing.

*Most pies can be baked a couple of days in advance so take advantage of that; it takes a couple hours to prepare bourbon pecan and pumpkin pies. Having them out of the way is a huge help come Thanksgiving Day.

*If you are ordering any part of your dinner (Honeybaked Ham is my friend), order at least two weeks ahead of time and pick up early the day before so that you miss the heaviest of crowds.

*Have all of your ingredients measured, chopped and placed in prep bowls before you begin cooking. By taking care of as much as possible beforehand, you’ll leave plenty of time to visit with family and friends.

*Prepare a soup a day in advance or put together a fruit and cheese board for everyone to snack on while the turkey is in the oven.

*Offer a range of beverages to compliment the meal. Besides tea and soda, consider serving a spiced cider or flavored tea.

*On Thanksgiving Day plan to start cooking early – your turkey needs 3-4 hours (maybe more) in the oven, plus an additional half hour to rest before carving. If you are using stuffing in your bird, cook it before the turkey so that the bird has time to cook.

It doesn’t take much to put on a memorable Thanksgiving dinner. Just don’t let the little things stress you out. Taking a couple of evenings beforehand to knock out prep will make the day so much easier, and I hope I’ve given you some ideas to get you started!


Easy Buffet Party Planning

Last weekend I had the privilege of catering a wedding for a sweet friend of mine.  While I am not a pro, occasionally catering has become a fun hobby for me.  For this particular wedding I made the cake, and set a buffet with heavy hors d’oeuvres.  It was simple yet fairly elegant which is something most of us strive for when doing any type of entertaining.


We all like to have friends and family over in our homes, but often it can be stressful, especially when everyone is coming over to your house for dinner and you want it to be “just so perfect.”  Nothing is perfect, so the easiest thing to do is let that notion leave your head.  Your goal as a hostess is to create a memorable evening without stressing yourself out through the budget, decorating and menu!

And it really can be done!

Entertaining has nothing to do with using a lot of money to impress people, it’s about making memories for all (including yourself) to cherish and creating moments that build close and lasting relationships.  After all, the main reason we have friends and family over is to spend time with them, and they accept your invitation because they want to spend time with you!
If you are a stressed out host/hostess, you will have stressed out guests!  If you set the mood, relax, and have fun, your guests will as well.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays right around the corner (which means many of us will be opening our homes), I thought it might be a good time to share a few of my basics for hosting a little soiree in our homes. The easiest way I have found to entertain is through a buffet. Set up correctly, buffets are a classy and practical way to serve large numbers (and work well for small groups as well) at one time as well as remove any pressure from setting that perfect table!

Here are just a few ways I plan out my buffet before entertaining:

**Choose your theme.  Your imagination is your greatest gift, use it!  Host a tea, an open house, a bowl party, an Oscar night dinner, a caroling party, costume party, murder mystery dinner, or a dessert buffet.

**Determine your menu.  If you are having friends over to watch football on New Years Day, you probably don’t want a menu filled with “high maintenance” foods such as a crown roast or salmon.  A hamburger or BBQ buffet would be perfect as would heavy appetizers such as chicken wings, chips and dips.  How are you going to enjoy the games if you are constantly in the kitchen cooking food, so keep that menu simple!

A few other easy appetizer ideas are stuffed mushroom caps, lamb meatballs w/ a dip,  shrimp ceviche, Buffalo wings w/ blue cheese dip, or chicken salad.

BBQ Chicken buffet for a Roarin’ 20’s party

**Your guests really don’t care if you made all of the food, or if some (or all) of it is take-out!  If you know that you can purchase a dish that tastes better than you can make it, then do so.  Just remember to throw out the take-out containers and serve it as you are serving everything else.  And don’t forget to delegate dishes as well!  A themed “pot-luck” is really easy and a lot of fun!

**Plan your serving pieces ahead of time.  Set out and label the platters you will use a couple of days a head of time so that you aren’t racing last minute trying to find that certain platter!

**Your buffet should look full!  If your table is large, group your food together instead of spreading it out.  At the end set a cold drink or coffee bar.  Everything in one place!  Serve your food on matching or at least coordinating dishes and let it play a role in your decorating.  Mixed with candles and a few accessories, you have a decorated table.


**Keep your buffet balanced.  Don’t serve just a bevy of proteins; throw in some fruit, a vegetable (a crudite is perfect for this) and even dessert.

**Set your plates at the beginning of the buffet, leaving silverware and napkins at the end.  It keeps everyone from performing a juggling act while trying to fix their plate.  Also decide if you want a line down both sides of your buffet, or does it work better in your space to have guest make a loop.  No matter which way you set it up, make it easy to access all of the food.

Here are a few ideas for arranging your buffet:



For this last buffet I set up, I did a line down both sides. For hors d’oeuvres  I prefer to have my dishes set in a specific order:  cold items, followed by any hot entrees, salad, and then setting dessert up on a separate table.  I used my cheese platter as the centerpiece of the table.

For a dinner buffet I would set it up a little differently:

*Appetizer or soup
*Fish or soup
*Main Course(s)
*Side dishes
*Cheese and/or fruit
*Dessert (which I still to prefer in a separate location if the space is available

**If you are hosting a “come and go” event, set up different “stations” for serving foods as people mingle.  Set out appetizers in the living room, cocktails in the dining room, dessert by the fireplace …. this allows your guests to mix it up and not feel confined by the space.

**Keep your decor seasonal or simple. Top your table with a pretty tablecloth add, your food, and a few accessories.  You can’t go wrong with candles.  Scatter votives down your table, or create a display of pillar candles (both unscented of course) on a mirror.  I used my autumn pumpkins for decorating last weekend, but I have even let a cake serve as a centerpiece in the past (since it was the only dessert). 

Elevate a few platters on concealed boxes to create height and drama to your table.

See how easy it is?  Just let your imagination go and enjoy hosting a party in your home!
 Will you host friends or family in your home this holiday season?  It’s not too late to plan something, and definitely not to early to plan details of your event.  


Creative Entertaining with Eddie Ross

A couple of weeks ago my daughter, MacKenzie, and I enjoyed a girls night out while attending a fabulous spring entertaining demo hosted by Travadavi in Atlanta.  Travadavi is a wonderful gift boutique located near the Buckhead community, owned by Ann Davis.

While books and magazines offer much inspiration for your home, live demonstrations really spark my creative mind!  The evening proved to be quite informative; even MacKenzie was fascinated by all of the color and drama of a beautiful table, and the cheese platters.

Eddie Ross is one of my favorite sources of inspiration when it comes to entertaining.  Using what you have with the addition of color and unique accessories, he can set one beautiful table!
The whole evening was quite informative with so many wonderful ideas that will be easy to incorporate into any home.  I thought I’d share some of Eddie’s ideas to inspire you as well.
First, anyone can set a table.  It’s not an art, but about having fun.  Know the rules for setting a table, but know when to break those rules as well!  A good example of this would be in the use of silverware; if you don’t need a spoon, don’t set one out!  Set out what you need.  Besides who wants to wash extra silverware that wasn’t even used?
Secondly, your table shouldn’t look like a bridal registry.  Be fun, be creative.  Your table can be “formal” and have a personality!
So how can we achieve this with our own table?
**Start with a focal point; something you love.  It may be your grandmother’s china or the pink and brown dessert plates that you love.  Once you have your inspiration, build from there.
Sharing another creative idea … combining modern & vintage with a combo of salt cellars and salt shakers containing white & black pepper and kosher salt.
**Mix antique dishes with modern wares for a fresh look.  A modern dinner plate mixed with grandmother’s salad plate or vice versa could make for a lovely setting.
**Let your salad plate be a focal point that is framed by the dinner plate on a colorful tablecloth.
**Update your china through the use of table linens.  Tablecloths, placemats, table runners all make great backgrounds for your dishes.  Use color consistently throughout a setting.
**Mix your silverware up.  It doesn’t have to be match-matchy.  Patterns can be different as can metals;  mix vintage with modern for a unique look.
A mixture of glassware creates interest and the butterfly placard adds whimsy to this tabletop.
**Get creative with your place cards.  Copy an image from the internet onto card stock and go from there.
**Add little touches of flavor and color through the use of candy in your decorating or use sugar-rimmed glasses for serving cocktails.
{Such simple ideas that make a big impact!}
 Eddie mentions using color a lot for creating beautiful tables.  I am slowly learning not to be afraid of color, but it’s a slow process as I feel so safe with white.
Eddie’s suggestions for adding color?
**Use colorful tapers and candles on the table.  Pick a color from your dishes and use it as an accent for your candles.
**No white napkins!  Use colored napkins.  Try dyeing some of your white ones if you discover you have too many.  Easy and inexpensive fix!
**Keeping in mind that centerpieces should be kept low to allow for easy conversation, go with something colorful and fun to brighten your table.  I never call a florist to make arrangements for our table, instead I check out the flowers available at my local grocery.  Fresh Market, Publix, and Costco (just to name a few) all have seasonal and gorgeous choices available year around!
Eddie purchased all of the flowers for this arrangement at Fresh Market!
While I am on the subject of setting tables, Eddie threw out a startling fact during his presentation; only 4% of children know how to properly set a table!
Four percent!
MacKenzie looked over at me and said, “I’m one of those!”  Definitely a proud mom moment.
I really enjoyed the evening out with my daughter and so surprised at how MacKenzie enjoyed herself.  She was taking pictures with her iPod to save for her own albums of inspiration.
MacKenzie and me with Eddie & Jaithan
It was also a great evening for catching up with a few other people I have met through social media over the last couple of years: Miss Rhoda of Southern Hospitality dropped by with her sister, my friend Tammi Reed of Talking with TamiKerry Howard ( a fabulous interior designer from Atlanta) fresh off of his premiere on HGTV’s Design Wars, and Arlynn Wilbanks who works with Larson-Juhl framers.   It’s fun to meet up with people you have met through social media!
Right to Left …. Jen (Me) with Kerry, Tammi and friends
As spring is well underway I am looking forward to having some of our new friends over for dinner and cards.  After this little entertaining demo, I am so excited to let my creative side take control!

{Shopping} Scott’s Antique Market

With temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s with gorgeous days to accompany it, everyone is getting out and about shopping yard sales and flea markets.

A couple of weekends ago I spent the day at Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta on a shopping trip led by designer blogger, and friend; Eddie Ross.  Open the second weekend of every month, Scott’s has something for everyone; from interior designers to DIYer’s the market is quite busy with everyone looking to score that perfect find!

I set out on my antique market adventure not only to look for a few things for our home, but to enjoy  smart, practical and creative ideas from Eddie.

From adding to collections to just finding a great bargain, there are several reasons people venture out and shop the antique markets or yard sales.  Me?  I love the thrill of finding that perfect piece of furniture to restore!

Shopping with Eddie is always an informative event.  He is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to antiques and not afraid to step outside the box when it comes to creativity.  This is the third time over the last couple of years I have gone on one of his excursions and each time  I have come away learning something new.

As you venture out this spring and summer looking for your must-have item or just window shopping, here are some wonderful ideas and suggestions from Eddie for decorating and entertaining with those second-hand finds.

**Look to turn the vintage into something modern.  Turn a vase into a lamp; rewire or paint a vintage lamp.  It’s an easy job that may cost you about $25.

**Mix and Match metals throughout the house:  brass & silver, silver & iron (my favorite combo) for an eclectic mix of modern and traditional.  Don’t take it to the extreme and keep the look cohesive.

**When looking to set a table, it doesn’t have to be matchy- matchy.  Use a solid color charger with a plain white plate and a vintage salad plate.  Take the same color of china but different patterns to set your table.  I love the look of Blue and Brown transfer-ware alternating seats at the table.  A red/black or black/blue combo would also look lovely.

**Take vintage postcards photocopy on card stock and glitter the edges to use for place cards during the holidays.

**When looking for serving pieces let your imagination run wild with ways you can use odd pieces.  A 2-tiered marble topped side table would be lovely lined with large hosta or magnolia leaves topped with fresh vegetables and dip or other assorted hors d’oeuvres.

**Collect pieces that can go from formal to casual like milk glass or ironstone.  Use different styles for creating interest on a buffet from flat bowls to pedestal.  Elevate your pieces for effect.

**Use vintage tablecloths to brighten your outdoor picnic.

**When decorating a room don’t start with paint and work around it; choose a rug, a picture, a piece of furniture, or even china and draw your color from it.

**The quickest and easiest way to update a room is through pillows.

**Looking for easy artwork?  Try botanical pictures from an antique book.  Decorating a child’s room?  Take pictures from vintage storybooks; mat and frame for one of a kind pieces on the wall.  Matting and Framing does cost, but the end result is so worth it.

**Another great idea for wall art is to make a shadowbox showcasing old broaches or antique buttons.

**Don’t be afraid to give an antique gift at your next baby or wedding shower.  Anyone can go into Babies-R-Us and purchase a gift, but think how treasured a one-of-a-kind gift would be?  From silverware to ivory handled knives, think unique.  I know one of my favorite wedding gifts was a piece of my grandparents silver.  Not new, but loaded with personality!

Don’t you just adore this set of baby silverware?

**Need hostess gifts?  Think of a silver olive fork tied to a jar of gourmet olives, a set of salt cellars, or a gorgeous monogrammed tea towel or set of pillowcases.  Laundered and pressed these are unique and memorable gifts.

If you ever have the opportunity to shop with Eddie, I highly recommend that you try and attend.  He usually keeps events posted on his blog or Facebook page.  I promise you will have a really good time!

Next time you are out and about scouring the market or yard sale I hope you can find something ordinary that gets your creativity flowing!