Top Three Tips for Thanksgiving Entertaining the Easy Way (inspired by Julia Child)

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easy thanksgiving tips decorating entertaining

Like many of us, I became obsessed with Julia Child after seeing last year’s “Julie and Julia” in the theater. I loved how she relished food and life and friends. So inspiring! So beautiful! So warm and friendly! Never one to go halfway, immediately I procured “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and set about my own “Dani and Julia” journey.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid this journey was a short one. Have y’all read her cookbook? The woman takes three pages and 19 steps to poach an egg! I like to cook, but I also like to sit down with my masterpiece and enjoy it, not collapse on the floor after eight hours of slaving over a hot stove.

With Thanksgiving approaching, I decided I needed to find some ways to cut down on the workload, so that I can create a lovely Thanksgiving and still have time to enjoy myself and my family, no collapsing necessary. Here are three of my favorite things to make my home warm and bright – so that the cooking can be fun and the day special.

seasonal candles thankgiving entertaining1. Seasonal Scents – I heard Ina Garten, (the Barefoot Contessa) talking about how she always makes a lovely pumpkin dessert in the fall because it makes the house smell good. (I’m sure it doesn’t taste too shabby, either.) However, I will be roasting a turkey and mashing potatoes, and Costco sells a gigantic pumpkin pie for $7.99 that tastes delicious. So, I buy the amazing Autumn and Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin candles from Bath and Body Works, or the Snickerdoodle and Cranberry candles from Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, and my house smells like the Barefoot Contessa’s within minutes. Also, Mrs. Meyer’s carries fantastic seasonal cleaners. It’s November, and I don’t mind if I do clean my sink and dishes with Orange Clove scent, thanks very much.

If you have little ones in the house or another good reason to not light candles, first of all, I feel sorry for you. Second of all, never fear, because you have a great excuse to simmer Mulling Spices on your stove to a similarly delicious-smelling effect. Trader Joe’s sells an awesome blend of Mulling Spices that taste fantastic when simmered in apple juice for spiced cider, or can be simply set in water and allowed to simmer for a little while, filling the house with that cheery, spicey, just-baked aroma. (If your local Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry Mulling Spices, you can make your own. But, this is a “simplify your life” list, so I suggest you save yourself the trouble and just buy them elsewhere.)

2. Seasonal decor – Now, don’t get scared. I’m not suggesting that you go all out and buy a Thanksgiving tree or something. Just a clean house fall wreath thanksgiving decor(remember Mrs. Meyers seasonal scents?) and a simple fall wreath on the door is enough to make a welcoming home for your guests. Wreaths and simple decorations are available everywhere (I love this one from Home Depot, of all places,) and it can make a huge difference in setting the tone for a meaningful get-together. Also, get your guests and family involved in making Thanksgiving a special day. While you cook, invite them to write what they’re thankful for on a large poster board tacked on a wall – the kids will love getting to decorate it and the grown-ups will remember that the day is not about gourmet offerings but about gratitude and love – two things that your home is full of.

3. Seasonal tabletop – After cooking, cleaning and enjoying the food, who really wants to wash dishes? You’ll have enough serving platters and pans to worry about washing without adding tableware to the mix – but nobody really wants to eat off of a cheap paper plate from Big Lots either.  Smarty had a Party, an online special events store, has you covered (also, check high-end Party Stores in your area for a last-minute option). Banish the thought of cartoonish turkeys on wimpy paper plates and spend some time scrolling down their impressive disposable dinner selection. From tasteful ivory and chocolate brown china look-alikes to unique square chargers, no matter what your table style is, you can find something to match (that won’t cause an extra hour of clean-up and pruny fingers).

Also, since you’re getting out of washing dishes, it might be worth it to wash some unique tablecloths and napkins. Etsy is a treasure trove for fun, handmade Thanksgiving cloth napkins, napkin-holders and tablecloths, and for just a little extra cash you can have an inspired table-top and heirlooms for future Thanksgiving feasts.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a fun and heart-warming holiday – let’s remember Julia Child’s philosophy of good food and good times, but not kill ourselves over a list of do’s and don’ts. After all, she may have taken 19 steps to poach an egg, but she knew how to enjoy herself.

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