Monday, November 17, 2008

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Fall is my favorite time of year. I just love when the weather turns colder, the leaves change to brilliant warm colors, and fires in the fireplace become a near necessity. Fall is such a wonderful time to enjoy your home and with Thanksgiving just over a week away, I thought I'd share some of my ideas for decorating and entertaining for one of my favorite holidays!

Table Centerpieces
1) Stack gourds - start with the largest one and stack with each successive gourd diminishing in size creating a "gourd snowman" of sorts. This is my centerpiece standby for Thanksgiving. Gourds come in so many interesting shapes and colors, you're bound to find one that works with with your table setting. I prefer canteen gourds and others with a flat, round shape because they're the best for stacking. Typically a stack of 2 or 3 works best.
2) Hollow out a pumpkin or gourd and fill it with flowers, branches of fall leaves, or even a potted plant such as a small mum. I, personally, love the look of a mix of dried hydrangea blossoms and tree branches with colorful leaves.
3) Make-shift cornucopia. A really simple, last-minute centerpiece can be as easy as a beautiful display of fruit. A decorative bowl piled high with apples, oranges, and sprinkled with leaves can give a cornucopia-like feel of bounty.
Table Settings
1) Use fall leaves as place cards. Collect leaves from your yard and use a permanent marker or metallic-ink marker pen to write the names of all your guests. It's simple and free and your guests will be so impressed by your creativity!
2) Mix and match. At Thanksgiving we often open our homes to family and friends - oftentimes more than the "service for 10" China can accommodate, so don't be afraid to mix and match. Choose pieces with fall colors, simple patterns, or neutral colors. The pieces don't have to "match" exactly, but they should coordinate and complement one another. Tip: lay them out on the table well ahead of time so you have time to play and rearrange to achieve the best look.
Making it Memorable
1) Cocktail concoctions. Last year for Thanksgiving, I created a recipe for a signature cocktail. It was a mix of apple cider, vodka, a twist of fresh orange, garnished with a cinnamon stick. Having a signature drink is a great way to impress your guests and really set the tone for a memorable Thanksgiving celebration. Tip: make sure you test the drink recipe before you serve it to your guests!
2) Keep it simple. Since the dinner menu often gets very complicated with everyone requesting their personal favorites, give yourself a break when it comes to appetizers and dessert. A bountiful cheese platter is a great way to greet guests - choose 2 to 5 of your favorite cheeses (depending on how many guests you're having) and fill the platter with crackers, crusty breads, olives, grapes and savory spreads. Your guests will love the variety, and you'll be done with all your appetizers in one fell-swoop. For dessert, why not pass the responsibility onto your guests. Guests always want to know what they can bring and suggesting a pie, plate of cookies, brownies, or even a personal family recipe is a great way to make them feel included and helpful. Or, turn to your favorite local bakery or farmer's market for assistance. If you really want to all the work yourself, keep in mind that pies and other desserts often freeze well and set aside time to make them in advance!
With these simple tips you can surely serve up a Thanksgiving celebration that everyone is bound to remember for years to come. And, keep in mind, the most important thing for creating a memorable occasion is to spend quality time with your guests, family, and friends. Happy Thanksgiving!
For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email me at

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