Gratitude at the Dinner Table
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I make it a practice to be thankful each day for the gifts I receive, but there’s nothing like gathering with family and friends to celebrate the bountiful harvest that comes from our earth. The past few years we have met at my father-in-law’s farm in Upstate New York. All day the oven is on and the smells of roasting turkey and stuffing permeate the house.
Then, just as the sun is beginning to dim, the feast begins. I love the sweet potato casserole. My grandmother used to make it the best, with melted crispy marshmallows on top. I also love all the root vegetables that are in abundance during this time: parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, carrots. The pumpkin and pecan pies are my favorites of all the sweets.
While days of thanksgiving are a tradition around the world, the first American one is usually traced to the Pilgrims in Plymouth, MA in 1621 where they celebrated a good harvest. So many of us are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. I find it helpful to remember the hardships of those who came to new places for new beginnings and more freedom, the dream of creating a better life for us. Thanksgiving is a time to remember these blessings.
Holiday Entertaining Tips
With the holiday season fast approaching, I wanted to share some of my favorite tips for entertaining guests in your home.
I like to spice up my dinner table with personal details— from handwritten name cards to homemade centerpieces. These elements are fun and simple, and can take your decor from good to great.
Introduce a pop of color to the table with bright flowers such as Trix, Baubles and Calla Lilies. For a softer finish, the interior of a glass vase can be lined with a broad leaf.
Set the Mood
Make your guests feel comfortable by creating a casual, yet elegant environment. Engaging conversation flows when your guests feel at home.
Free yourself from the conventional and play with colors, textures, and prints. Mix and match your plates, table mats and napkins. This easily adds some zest to the table. When you are not constrained by sets of 8, 10, or 12, you can easily add last minute guests for dinner.
Get creative with your seating options. Benches and cushion accents make your table more welcoming, and you can easily squeeze in an extra person or two.
Set the ambiance by dimming the lights and burning a candle.
Master the Menu
You can’t go wrong with seasonal ingredients. This is the time of year for root vegetables— simple and of the earth. They are wonderful in any fall or winter dish. I prefer to let the ingredients speak for themselves and always recommend easy to follow recipes. Try this Roasted Root Vegetable dish from A Family Feast.
For drinks, I love the idea of a seasonally inspired cocktail. What could be better than a warm drink when you walk in from the chill? This Burnt Sugar Hot Buttered Rum Cocktail from Katie at the Kitchen Door looks too good to pass up! On the other hand, I also enjoy a full-bodied red wine, especially when the air is crisp outside.
Most importantly, make sure to enjoy your dinner company. There is something so magical about spending time with your loved ones over the holidays.
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Honoring Our Veterans
Each Veteran’s Day, I like to set aside time to reflect on the men and women who have served our country. Recently I joined Americans for the Arts in visiting the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), Walter Reed Military Medical Center, and Arlington Cemetery. I was both moved and encouraged by what I saw. For instance, at NICoE cutting edge research is being done with brain imaging and various therapies to help those coping with the invisible wounds of war, namely TBI (traumatic brain injury) and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Thanks to the remarkable vision of the Fisher Family, Dr. Kelly and arts therapists, soldiers’ stories are being heard and the process of healing more thoroughly understood and supported.
May we all take a moment to give thanks to those who have served our country and remember their sacrifices.
For more information on ways to support our troops please visit:
Trick or Treat: More Than Just Candy
Every year, children (and some adults!) across America dress up as their favorite superhero or antihero or animal or skeleton or witch. They knock on neighbors’ doors and ask if they would prefer a trick or a treat. Usually the neighbors hand them a treat. Before there was Halloween there was All Hallow’s Evening. And rather than collecting candy, participants were celebrating the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter with a feast. While its specific roots are unknown, it’s most likely connected with the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain whose participants believed that on this night a door was opened to the Otherworld. They set places at the table for the visiting souls.
I have many fond memories of trick or treating as a child. I not only did I come home with a pillowcase full of candy, but also a cardboard box full of change for UNICEF. My parents would have me pick out my favorite goodies and the rest was donated to charity as well.
I loved the idea of incorporating charity into the fun of creating costumes, running around in the dimming light with friends and family, and getting free candy! With the simple acts of collecting money for others and sharing my candy, my parents gently helped me to realize that not everyone was as lucky as I was. It’s a tradition I passed along to my children and I hope, in the years to come, they pass it along to theirs.