When I was growing up, my dad had a Thanksgiving tradition–we were always to invite “special guests.” By that, he meant folks who might not have family nearby and might otherwise be lonely on the holiday. Today, it is more important than ever to open our homes and hearts to such special guests, whether they be school chums, work colleagues or new neighbors.
I like the formality of paper invitations, whether purchased or lovingly homemade. Include all the information guests will need. You can, of course, also email your invitations and/or send reminders closer to Thanksgiving Day.
Gathering In: Setting a Welcoming Mood
In a festive frame of mind, a harvest-style table is adorned with pumpkins large and small, herbs and leaves–with votive candles giving all a warm glow. In the years we spent in New York, Thanksgiving dinner was indeed a time to “gather in.” And there were several years when we found ourselves at the table of friends. An urban Thanksgiving is well served by Hooker Furniture’s Studio 7H Farm-to-Table Rectangle Leg Table. Its fresh simplicity and parson’s style design marries city and country beautifully.
Place cards are as simple as creating a leaf pattern from a template, inscribing a name, and tying the leaf to a piece of fruit or small pumpkin.
Sweet and simple, and inviting to be sure, as it sits atop a napkin at the table.
Last-minute guests–not a problem: just another piece of fruit, another card and a new name.
The Menu: From Farm to Table
Much of Thanksgiving dinner is traditional fare, but there might be room for a new recipe–or a fresh twist on a venerable one.
From the test kitchen at BonAppetit.com, this Thanksgiving menu relies on fresh ingredients–and has some innovations like cider gravy, onion marmalade and sourdough stuffing with sausage, apples and golden raisins. Making a dish of extra stuffing is a good measure–guests can take home “leftovers” of one of the dinner’s star ingredients.
Making Guests Feel at Home
With two 20-inch leaves, this ample Studio 7H Trestle Table will easily accommodate a goodly number of holiday guests–including youngsters who like being at “the big table.”
You are busy as a bee in the kitchen, the doorbell keeps ringing, and the oven just started buzzing. Your well meaning guest might ask, “What can I do?” You might be able to think of something right then–but maybe it would be a better idea to think ahead how to make guests feel like members of the family and assign “what they can do” just as you would in your own family.
Sharing your hospitality means more than helpings of mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie–it means sharing your home in every way. Having a few extra aprons around might be a good idea for the clean up crew!
Georgia’s classic pecan pie, and cranberry sauce with Oregon pinot noir, are two of 50 state-themed recipes from the NYTimes.com feature, “The United States of Thanksgiving.”
Pulling up a Chair
Among the ways guests can help: arranging chairs around the table or tables. The Studio 7H Collection has chairs designed to be usable with every table in the collection, rectangular or round. Here are chairs for the comfort of all as they enjoy dinner and then linger on, thankful for this day and all assembled–family, friends old and new.
Vibe bentwood is crafted in a style of dining chair that has endured for generations, now redesigned for a new generation–both arm chair and side chairs.
Stol upholstered chairs are hand-upholstered and finished with widely spaced nickel-headed trim. Available as arm and side chairs, pair with a rectangular or round table in the Studio 7H Collection.
The Jens Danish arm chair has a lovely pedigree of Scandinavian design with fine sculptured lines, scoop back and upholstered seat. Use as a dining chair or pull up to a desk, perhaps as you address invitations for Thanksgiving dinner.
There are so many ways to create memories of this special day. But here is a story to warm hearts, or perhaps inspire you to make memory in your own way.
Ciba Vaughan, my then-colleague at Better Homes and Gardens, came up with the idea of having all at the Thanksgiving table sign a simple white tablecloth in pencil. Later, one could embroider in the names–and names could be added year after year. Some families have taken Ciba’s suggestion to heart, as illustrated in a recent story of a family memory cloth in Country Living magazine, as well as several newspaper articles. Over the years, one never need try to remember just who was gathered at the table. Perhaps a napkin would be a less ambitious project to try–and of course there are indelible markers, if there is no embroiderer in the family.
The Happiness of Room at the Table
This year we are celebrating in the heartland, but we have such loving memories of holidays spent along the Hudson River.
Guests arrived from New York City at our vintage train station. Jorden is now a sophomore in college, and Tom has a family of his own. Baby Maddy is about to be a teenager. We will remember them all this year as emails and phone calls fly back and forth.
Open hearts and open homes make this American holiday so very special.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!