I've long loved the week before Thanksgiving. It's probably one of my favourite holidays of the year, and I love that we celebrate it in October here in Canada. However, Thanksgiving weekend in Nova Scotia is just perfect. The weather isn't too hot, or too cold yet. The colours are pretty much at their peak. It's harvest season, so all of the necessary ingredients seem to be in abundance locally, at market or in all the little farm stands from town to town. But it also means that there's more time to enjoy preparing for Christmas, which already seems to come way too quickly.
The only issue I seem to come across is that with so many I follow being American, everything seems to be Halloween inspiration! I mean by the time you're ready to do Thanksgiving, I'm still not quite ready to decorate for Christmas, so I enjoy a longer autumn, but it just means I need to dig a little deeper for my own inspiration.
Thankfully over the years, I've amassed quite a collection of favourites.
Out come my most favourite back issues of Martha Stewart Living (the early 2000's issues of which I've purchased double and triple copies). I pull old Williams Sonoma cookbooks and reread a couple favourite articles, like when Ina Garten used to have an entertaining column in MSL! Then I lay it all out on the table, put the kettle on and settle in to plan my week before, as well as my menu.
This year we had Ryan's family come visit, so extra planning ahead was required. I wanted to have meals and snacks made ahead and I wanted to spend as little time in the kitchen as I could. That meant I could spend more time enjoying our time visiting with them.
Anything that could be done ahead of time was. I ordered all the groceries online and popped into the market days before to pick up ingredients. I avoided long waits at the liquor store by picking up everything I'd need for the week ahead of time. I made cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and squash and stored them until the day of. If I was making a mess in the kitchen already, I would tried to make a pot of soup, something to freeze for a quick meal later, or prep a quick breakfast for the next morning.
Every little bit of prep meant less stress the day of. That being said, it's never perfect! Something always goes wrong. This year I burned the marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole not once, but twice! It was a first for me and broiling them at the last, most hectic moment required more attention than I could give them.
I even like to set aside what I need for the table. I purchase tapers, make sure my linens are clean (I should probably iron them but can never be bothered), and I usually plan my centerpiece. This year I intended to do an arrangement with flowers but didn't really find anything I loved. I ended up finding these two perfect little squash and the table went in a slightly different direction.
The day before Thanksgiving was absolutely stunning. We awoke to one of our first frosts of the year. Everything just looked completely idyllic.
I had prepped Pumpkin Brioche French Toast the night before, so I just had to pop it in the oven when we woke up, and then sit and enjoy my coffee - my extra special, holiday coffee.
This is a total indulgence, something I only make on Thanksgiving weekend.
We had our dinner on the Monday evening, as that's when his sister was arriving. I had all day to putter around - setting the table, getting the sides ready etc, and this year, packing for the road trip we'd be taking to the highlands the next morning!
At first, I set the table with some simple pumpkins down the middle and a simple arrangement of wheat. I planned to add some clipped sage in little antique pots near the ends, but while I was clipping them, I noticed the frost had started killing our grapevine.
Feeling very inspired by Jamie Beck, I clipped some vines and wove them throughout the pumpkins. I laughed because I loved the little curly tendrils and the clusters of grapes and (if you know her, you'll understand!) I started imaging adding a few insects and moisture droplets to really go for it. I didn't though, I just thought she'd appreciate the effort...
The clipped sage ended up making the perfect garnish for the turkey, along with a couple stolen pears from the neighbor's pear tree. Don't worry, I sent payment in the form of Pumpkin Whoopie Pies,
In the end, everything was delicious. But really, it was just such a blessing to sit and enjoy a meal with our family again. We could have been eating takeout and it would still have been lovely!
If you've already celebrated, I hope you had a memorable Thanksgiving day with those you love. And those of you who aren't even ready to think about Thanksgiving plans just yet, I look forward to seeing how you all celebrate soon!
Happy Thanksgiving, friends.