There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays: Thanksgiving Problem Solving Ideas and Tips To Guarantee Holiday Crisis Avoided

As discussed in my last post, the holiday countdown to Thanksgiving is in full swing.  I’ve got three words for Thanksgiving.  Bring. It. On!  From roasting the bird to company’s coming impressive but easy recipes to cooking crisis avoided tips to holiday home decor suggestions to beat the holiday band, my There’s No Place Like Home For the Holidays 2015 series is updated, refreshed and ready with helpful Thanksgiving ideas, tips and problem solvers.


Hopefully these handy holiday ideas will keep the traditional or new traditional all things house that make a holiday home Thanksgiving express moving right along.


Angst and alarm over the holiday dinner is not on the menu.  This is the most wonderful time of the year, not the most dreaded.  I try to be as well planned and prepped for our holiday gatherings as I can.  I put the culinary drama on the back burner and let the cooking, baking, holiday decorating, online Black Friday shopping and there’s no place like home for the holidays good times roll.


Size does matter when it comes to all things Thanksgiving.  How much food is needed per person is the question on the mind of every holiday host and hostess. The good people at Pop Sugar  have got it down to a serving size science with their Thanksgiving cheat sheet.


Dressing? Stuffing?  What you call this quintessential Thanksgiving side dish seems to depend on both regional and cooking (in the bird or separately) location and tradition. Our Southern family is team dressing, and our Chicago and Canada family is team stuffing. The one thing we all agree on is that the base ingredient must be buttermilk cornbread.  A bread based dish can and will easily dry out when baked, and dry dressing or stuffing is a holiday side dish deal breaker.  Stock or broth, and the amount added to the crumble cornbread, is the key to moist dressing. You want the dressing consistency to be soupy but not soggy. The rule of you can add to but not take away from applies here.  Add  ½  cup of stock or broth at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

617UiWZPpwL._SL1500_Let the Stuffing Begin Serving Spoon

A frazzled host/hostess does not make a pretty holiday picture.  Don’t try to be a holiday hero, spread the holiday love and the holiday duties around.  Taking guests up on their gracious what can I do-what can I bring offers makes it a shared event and helps to eliminate holiday hosting burnout.  Believe me, you’ll be glad you did! 

HCH2NEY_azSpode Five-Piece Delamere Dinnerware Place Setting

Turkey and gravy are the peanut butter and jelly of holiday cuisine.  It’s a traditional pairing of flavor deliciousness that takes culinary center stage on the holiday dinner table.  Cooking the perfect gravy can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.  Adding a pinch of salt to the flour before adding any liquid will help to eliminate lumpy gravy.  Gravy too thin?  Mix together two (2) teaspoons cornstarch and two (2) teaspoons chicken broth or water.  Stir or whisk into the warm gravy and simmer until the gravy thickens.  If the gravy separates, add a pinch or two of baking soda to emulsify the fat. Oh no, the gravy has a burnt flavor!  Remember the peanut butter reference? Simply add a teaspoon of peanut butter to cover up the burnt flavor.

antique-silver-sentiment-gravy-boat-oPottery Barn

A good carving set is essential to proper and easy turkey carving.  If the dreaded happens on the big day and your carving knife is duller than first period math, I’ve got a helpful solution for you.  To sharpen your knife, use the unglazed porcelain on the bottom of a coffee mug.  Hold the knife at a 30 degree angle and run it across the area a few times on each side.

carving-setSimply Calphalon 2-piece Carving Set

Our Thanksgiving day cocktail hour leans more towards the slow sip rule of thumb.  Tipsy Turkey Times is almost a guaranteed oh, s*!%.  Look at drunkity drunk drunk add family member or friend’s name here.  My formula for a safe cocktail hour is simple-  one (1) cocktail per person for the pre-dinner cocktail hour.  The sippers don’t mind, the tea teetotalers really don’t mind, and the booze hounds will get over it.  A time and a place as they say.  I like to consult the Serious Eats Booze-o-Matic Party Time Drink Calculator as a reference for our holiday set ’em up, Joe cocktail parties. 

upside- down- paris- apartmentThe Paris Apartment

We consult our dear friend, our trusted expert wine aficionado go-to, for wine pairing guidance when serving turkey.   For white wine drinkers, he suggests dry Chardonnay, white Zinfandel or Riesling.  A good Pinot Noir will please the palette of the red wine drinker.

cube-ice-bucketCube Ice Bucket

I  always get a big chuckle out of the “Party, party” episode of Frasier.  Martin’s ice logic holds true.

Martin: Hey, great party huh? Just as long as we’ve got enough ice. You got four bags, right?

Daphne: No, I got two.

Martin: Two?!  I told you to get four bags!

Daphne: Oh, here we go.

Martin: You never under-budget on the ice.  You never know, you might get a lot more rocks drinkers than you expected.  Or ice chewers.

Ice can be a hot commodity at a holiday celebration.  Ice cubes measure about ten (10) cubes per pound and the rule of thumb is one (1) pound of ice cubes per person. Cheers!

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Places In The Home For The Holidays Thanksgiving Style

Making a list and checking it twice, Places In The Home for the Holidays Thanksgiving style.


Oops- wrong holiday song but right holiday action.

Thanksgiving-kitchen-graphicThere’s no time like now to get into the planning mode.  Buy now what is on seasonal sale, markdown or clearance. My cabinets runneth over with sale priced canned goods, spices and the Thanksgiving staple of all Thanksgiving staples, chicken broth. Holiday checklists come in so handy. Hey, the Places In The Home Holiday Helper Checklist pdf download is available for your Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner planning convenience.

thanksgiving-serving-guideThank you,  Whole Foods Market!

The world will not come to an end if the rolls don’t rise and the gravy is lumpy.  It may, however, if the turkey doesn’t defrost.  There’s a video from Taste of Home magazine to help with that!

Relax, turn up the tunes and let’s Thanksgiving.

Company’s Coming: Friends and Family

Now We’re Cooking!

food is memories

Placesetting-682x1024Absolutely love this place setting idea from A Place for Us

The ingredients list for a memorable Thanksgiving celebration works off the cornucopia concept.

la102862_1107_gold_vertMartha Stewart

The day should overflow with an abundance of love, food, family, friends and gratefulness.


It’s Places In The Home for the holidays Thanksgiving style season once again.  I’ll be posting new and updated all things Thanksgiving and Holidays posts over these home for the holidays weeks featuring home decor, side dishes, desserts, gift ideas, advice and fun facts for the it’s the most wonderful time of the year decoristas!

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Welcome Holiday Guests Not Holiday Stress

Stress is the enemy of a holiday good time, and that we just can’t have!  From the planned casual holiday soiree to the not so planned we saw your lights on holiday surprise drop-in, these stock items can cut the stress, welcome guests, ward off the holiday bah humflubug, and make things festive.

wreath on front doorvia

Let me share with you some of the staples I keep on hand and filed under tried-and-true stress free holiday entertaining ideas.

holiday liquid soapsvia

Mingle responsibly.  It’s not only the holidays, but the cold and flu season as well.

votive candlesvia

Votive candles instantly add that cozy and homey feel to the setting.  I don’t know if it’s the warmth they exude or the soft glow, but votive candles create a relaxing atmosphere.  Stock up on these home decor and entertaining staples.

stress free holiday entertaining ideasvia

Put out the welcome mat.  Head off mud, slush and dirt at the door.

alton brown hot cocoa recipevia

Festive need not be expensive.  The package sells the product, and a festive presentation impresses the harshest holiday critic.  My darling maternal grandmother taught me through her gracious example.  She loved Lady Borden Vanilla ice cream- her signature dessert offering.  She lived alone, and with single serving sizes not yet on the market, the large container ice cream would often fall victim to  freezer burn.  What the ice cream lacked in taste was more than made up in serving presentation.  She always served two scoops of Lady Borden Vanilla in a Fostoria American glass sherbet dish accompanied by a sterling silver ice cream spoon.

Christmas beverage

A simple white coffee or decorative holiday mug from the dollar store filled with hot cocoa and garnished with a peppermint stick and marshmallows or red hot apple cider garnished with a cinnamon stick is holiday comfort in a cup!  I recommend this recipe for homemade marshmallows from Thomas Keller’s  French Laundry Cookbook and a fitting Christmas video featuring Dean Martin’s version of A Marshmallow World.

Marshmallows (French Laundry)


3  envelopes of unflavored Knox gelatin

½  cup cold water

2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cups corn syrup

¼  cup water

¼  teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar for dredging


In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Soak for 10 minutes.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. Add vanilla and incorporate into mixture. Scrape into a 9 x 9-inch pan lined with oiled plastic wrap and spread evenly. (Note: Lightly oil hands and spatula or bowl scraper). After pouring marshmallow mixture into the pan, take another piece of plastic wrap and press mixture into the pan.

Let mixture sit for a few hours. Remove from pan, dredge the marshmallow slab with confectioners’ sugar and cut into 12 equal pieces with scissors (the best tool for the job) or a chef’s knife. Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners’ sugar.

Yield: 12 large marshmallows

holiday cookies

These tastes just like….  Homemade?  Girl Scout Thin Mints?  Like the ones my grandmother used to make?   That’s the idea!  These holiday cookies pack a powerful please and can be picked up at Dollar General, Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Target.

1, 2, 3, 4

Baby, it’s cold outside.  I pick up two or three at a time when they are on holiday special, usually for $1.99.  This little touch of  homey and cozy is a big hit with our guests as we celebrate the holiday moments of our lives. I remove the wrapper and replace it with raffia, attach a holiday gift tag, and place them in a basket.  The inexpensive fleece throws make a nice holiday “from our home to yours” parting gift.  Hand them out to your guests to ward off the chill while watching a classic holiday movie or hanging out  listening to holiday music.   Let’s not forget that a holiday playlist queued up and ready to shuffle is always a hit.   Holiday music video #2~ 

Holiday get-togethers as well as the unexpected drop in visit often turn out to be a stress free and fun time. Stock up, de-stress and enjoy!

Places In The Home For The Holidays: Dining Room Decorating Ideas

I like dining room decorating ideas that deliver year round, classic, and wow factor beauty. I believe these home decor accents and accessories will do exactly that.  The magnificent mix and match movement continues to gather decorative momentum, and why not?  It’s the sure cure for boring interiors. Ever wonder why a table setting set with mismatched flatware makes such a visual impression? Unique and unconventional styling, different styles and finishes paired together, and furniture placement never fails to catch the eye.


Lillian August Gatewick Host and Side Chair from Lillian August Gatewick Side Chair 


Hooker Furniture Sanctuary 4 Door Console from Wayfair

The ribbons, pears and pomegranates design of this early 19th Century Aubusson panel from art1 epitomize the grace of the French motif.

You can’t go wrong with gold-rimmed white dinner plates from Dollar Tree. Neutral, classic, elegant, and affordable- now that’s striking entertaining gold.

To keep the emphasis on elegant affordability, may I suggest the Hampton Forge Sophia 20 piece flatware set from Target (online only).


I view charger plates as the picture frame of the total place setting picture.



I like to use key decorative foundation pieces in neutral colors. It justifies the initial investment for quality pieces, and makes it easier to use those pieces from holiday to holiday.


 Beautifully shine a little light on your holiday celebration with the help of elegant and affordable table lamps in year round style.



Serving pieces are the jewelry of holiday dining tables, buffets, and sideboards. Add magnolia leaves and a fresh green garland and let the impressive holiday dining season begin.


One of the best parts of holiday decorating is decking out the dining room in the colors and decor of the season.

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Service With A Style: Serving Trays With Style

Serving trays have been on my mind over the past few weeks. One tends to give quite a bit of thought to food and drink presentation as she finds herself up to her spices during the season of cocktail parties, holiday open houses, and treat trays for neighbor and friends.  When it comes to entertaining and presentation, I take a mental inventory of the formal or informal aspect of the occasion. Pulling out all the stops with the bells and whistles on the frou-frou presentation express is more in line with the treat trays given for corporate gifts than with the cookies, candies, and hot coffee industrial sized goodie trays prepared for Dave the Builder and his engineering c0-w0rkers.  You’ve got to know your audience and the serving trays with style that corresponds to said audience.

Serving Trays With Stylevia

These serving trays with style fall somewhere between festive, fun and fabulous. That latter point is beautifully made by this gold gator tray.



An all occasion choice that can be dressed up or dressed down, acrylic trays are a clear and chic choice.

acrylic-traysWest Elm


 Triple treats! Thomas Paul Bazaar 3 Piece Giraffe Serving Tray Set




Food, friends, fun and games- the Arcade Spinner lazy susan tray from UncommonGoods is a winner.


This trough style tray serves two purposes in my opinion, one as tray and the other as centerpiece.

trough-trayDot & Bo

These designer inspired serving trays from Bellissimo are fabulous by design and designer.



A toast to casual formality fittingly describes this set of La Maison Du Chiarello Wood/ Metal Serving Trays fit for a late afternoon sip and style spread.


Going coastal is always in season!  It can be twenty below outside, but the mood and the vibe will warm right up when coastal themed decor accessories come to meet, greet and serve good eats!


Food presentation is indeed an expression of artistic talent.

artist-palette-cheese-trayArtist Palette Cheese Tray

Fresh fruits with a farmhouse twist anyone?


Stack and serve with these antique-finish wooden trays from H & M.


Outdoor entertaining tablescapes and cocktail carts are made for the casual and fun look of galvanized metal. These galvanized goodies from Pottery Barn keep the mood causally chic.


Unique serving trays with style add yet another element of visual flair to the art of food and beverage presentation.

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Home For The Holidays: Table Settings And Sideboards

Table settings and sideboard ideas are the topic of the final installment in the Places In The Home Home For The Holidays series. It’s holiday time, joy is in the air, and help is here.  If you have followed this series I hope you have gathered helpful hints, tips and decorative ideas.


Click to Enlarge Image thanksgiving-table-settting-guideThanksgiving Etiquette Table Setting Guide

 Mixing flatware patterns instantly puts a unique twist on old favorites.  Step away from conventional ideas of absolute matching and mix things up for the eye a bit.

Southern Living

Napkin folding arrangements are a tablescape work of art.


Tabletop space can become very limited when entertaining, especially at holiday time.  It need not be a problem if there is a sideboard or buffet available. Begin by editing the existing accessories in order to free up the space. I  am practicing what I preach, and now our sideboard is set and ready for our Thanksgiving desserts.

Additional china, drinkware and table linens can be conveniently housed as well as flatware.

House to Home

 Natural centerpieces of seasonal branches, nuts, or fruit dress the sideboard for the celebration.

Country Living

The always elegant sideboard bar serves as the perfect cocktail accessory for entertaining, especially festive holiday entertaining.  Eggnog anyone?

House Beautiful

It’s hard to argue the beauty of both this sideboard and gorgeous holiday decoration. Stunning!


I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing you the Places In The Home Home for the Holidays series.  I hope the information proves useful during the holidays.

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