My very own Thanksgiving Tablescape 2010

This was the "adult" table. I went with a sage and white look. It turned out to be so clean and formal, which was just what I was looking for!

Now, for the kids table. I went with a burnt orange and brown. I kept the candles to a minimum for safety reasons and the taller center piece was just the topping on the cake! :)

Christmas Tips

Holiday shopping on a limited budget

Budgets are tight and the holidays are just around the corner. Don't stress out over holiday gifts. Here are some tips to help you tackle "gift giving" with limited resources:
1) Keep your perspective. What are holidays really about? Are they about gift giving or spending time with loved ones?
2) Talk with your family about your current financial situation. Have an honest conversation to let them know that you are not able to buy gifts this year or that your gift giving needs to be scaled back. Other family members most likely are feeling the same way and will be relieved to reduce their holiday spending.
3) Ask family members to make a wish list, but to identify the most important gift that they would like. You may have to give them a price limit.
4) Plan out your gift purchases based on your budget. Examine your budget before you spend. Identify how much money you actually have for gifts. Do you actually have money in the bank for purchases? Use cash only for gift purchases to avoid getting into credit card debt.
5) If money is limited, make homemade gifts such as food items or create service coupons. Service coupons list things you might do for a person in the future. For example, babysit, clean the house, cook a meal etc.
6) Organize a family gift exchange whereby each person only purchases a gift for one person.
7) Joint gifts. Ask each family member to pick one special gift that they would like to have. Combine resources with other family members to purchase that gift.
8) Watch for sales. Use coupons.
9) If gifts are not possible this year, give the gift of time and love. Make cookies together, go for an outing that does not cost anything, or set aside time to watch a program together etc.
"If a person give you his time, he can give you no more precious gift" by Frank Tyger

Thanksgiving Tips

Everyone loves watching a parade on Thanksgiving. Check out the link to two great parades:
America's Thanksgiving Parade
Macy's Day Parade

                                                      Cooking a Turkey 101

Brine it. Roast it. Deep fry it. Grill it. Just follow our easy directions for your best Thanksgiving turkey ever.

Turkey: The Ins & Outs
Get answers to questions on preparation methods, cooking time and turkey alternatives.

Best Thanksgiving Menus
Get kitchen-tested, fail proof Thanksgiving day menus with new menu ideas and delicious Thanksgiving recipes to help make your day stress free!

How to Carve a Turkey
The experts in the Betty Crocker Kitchens show you how to carve your Thanksgiving turkey

Some of my Favorite Thanksgiving Tablescapes
Are you looking for a great way to spice up your table decor?
I love love love the use of Hurricane lamps then to add some flair to each! Woo hoo!
 Have I ever mentioned that I love the simplicity of black and white, oh so gorgeous!
 Speaking of fall colors... give it a try! I love the use of layered runners.
 Chocolate brown baby, you just can't go wrong! Ohhh Yeaaah with white to give it a very clean look.
Thanksgiving Checklist
Here’s an easy-to-use checklist of how to prepare for your Thanksgiving feast.

Make your guest list.
Make your menu.
Order your turkey–especially if you want a fresh one. (Plan on 1 1/4 pounds per person.)
Measure your oven to make sure your turkey will fit.
Invite your guests. (Before you get on the phone, have a list of guests and a list of dishes. Then, if someone offers to bring a dish, accept the offer. And if they don’t offer, ask them.)


Check your equipment:
Table (one large enough for all your guests)
Chairs for all of your guests

Dish Ware:
Dinner plates
Dessert plates
Coffee cups and saucers

Polished forks, knives and spoons

Water glasses
Clean wine glasses

Clean napkins
Tablecloth (large enough to fit your table)

Cooking and serving items:
Roasting pan: Is it the right size for your turkey? Will it fit into your oven? (Don’t laugh: It’s easier to buy the right pan today than it will be on Thanksgiving morning.)
Big-enough bowls, pots and serving platters
Bread basket
Sauce boat
Gravy pitcher
Well-sharpened knives
Coffeepot–Can yours make both regular and decaf for a crowd? Maybe you should get a thermos.
Sugar bowl
Cream pitcher

SUGGESTION: If you can afford it, having someone to do the dishes will make an immense difference in your enjoyment of the meal.

Make a seating chart.
Work on your shopping lists–don’t forget tonic, seltzer and apple cider for the kids.
Begin cooking–relish will keep in the fridge for a week; gravy freezes well.)
Select a wine–Caterers recommend providing a half bottle for each guest–not counting children, of course.


Tidy up the house.
Put clean towels in the bathroom.
Make a final shopping list–Remember ice, cream for the coffee and nuts for nibbling in the living room.


Defrost your turkey (if it’s frozen).
Remember that you have to allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds if you’re going to defrost a turkey in the refrigerator. That means a 15-pound turkey will take three full days, so get started on Monday.

SUGGESTION: If you miss that deadline, you can defrost the bird faster in a sink full of cold water, allowing about half an hour for each pound of turkey and changing the water occasionally. (It will still take 7 1/2 hours for that 15-pounder, so do it after work on Wednesday, then refrigerate it.)

Do your final food shopping.
Make a cooking schedule for Thanksgiving Day.
If guests are invited for 5 P.M., count backward from a 6 P.M. dinner, writing down the time everything goes into the oven or the microwave. Don’t forget the dishes that will have to be reheated.


Set the table.
Clear out the coat closet for guest coats.
Clean the guest bathroom. If possible, make it off-limits to the family.
Take the gravy out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator so it can defrost.


You’ll be so caught up that you’ll be looking around for things to do. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Cooking the Turkey 
You want to start this about 3-4 hrs before dinnertime, depending on the size of your turkey. (see guide at bottom)
What I recommend for 4-6 people is a 15-19lb turkey. Hopefully by now it is completely thawed- if not, don’t panic! Just place it in a large pot in the sink, and periodically run warm (not hot) water over it- keep changing it when the water gets cold.

Mom's Roast Turkey Recipe

Preparation time: About 5 hours.


  • 1 turkey, approx. 15 lbs.*
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • Tops and bottoms of a bunch of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • Parsley
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme
* Need help figuring out how big a turkey to get? Butterball has a turkey calculator that helps you figure out just how many pounds you need. In general, plan for:

12-15 lb turkey for 10-12 people
15-18 lb turkey for 14-16 people
18-22 lb turkey for 20-22 people


1 To start, if the turkey has been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before cooking. Keep it in its plastic wrapping until you are ready to cook it. While in the refrigerator, and or while you are bringing it to room temp, have the bird resting in a pan, so that if the plastic covering leaks for any reason, you are confining the juices to the pan. If you get a frozen turkey, you will need to defrost it in the refrigerator for several days first. Allow approximately 5 hours of defrosting for every pound. So, if you have a 15 pound turkey, it will take about 75 hours to defrost it in the refrigerator, or around 3 days.
Handle a raw turkey with the same amount of caution as when you handle raw chicken - use a separate cutting board and utensils to avoid contaminating other foods. Wash you hands with soap before touching anything else in the kitchen. Use paper towels to clean up.
Remove the neck and giblets (heart, gizzard, liver). Use the heart and gizzard for making stock for thestuffing. The neck can be cooked along side the turkey or saved for turkey soup.
Note that if your turkey comes with a plastic piece holding the legs together, check the instructions on the turkey's package. Most likely you do not need to remove those plastic ties for cooking (unless you plan to cook your turkey at a very high temperature). If you remove the plastic ties, you will need to use kitchen string to tie the legs together.
2 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3 Wash out the turkey with water. Pull out any remaining feather stubs in the turkey skin. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Lather the inside of the cavity with the juice of half a lemon. Take a small handful of salt and rub all over the inside of the turkey.
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4 In this method of cooking a turkey, we don't make the stuffing in the turkey because doing so adds too much to the cooking time. For flavor, put in inside the turkey a half a yellow onion, peeled and quartered, a bunch of parsley, a couple of carrots, and some tops and bottoms of celery. You may need to cap the body cavity with some aluminum foil so that the stuffing doesn't easily fall out. Close up the turkey cavity with either string (not nylon string!) or metal skewers. Make sure that the turkey's legs are tied together, held close to the body, and tie a string around the turkey body to hold the wings in close.
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The neck cavity can be stuffed with parsley and tied closed with thin skewers and string.
5 Rub either melted butter or olive oil all over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle salt generously all over the outside of the turkey (or have had it soaking in salt-water brine before starting this process). Sprinkle pepper over the turkey.
6 Place turkey BREAST DOWN on the bottom of a rack over a sturdy roasting pan big enough to catch all the drippings. This is the main difference between the way mom makes turkey and everyone else. Cooking the turkey breast down means the skin over the breast will not get so brown. However, all of the juices from the cooking turkey will fall down into the breast while cooking. And the resulting bird will have the most succulent turkey breast imaginable.
Add several sprigs of fresh (if possible) thyme and rosemary to the outside of the turkey.
7 Chop up the turkey giblets (gizzard, heart). Put into a small saucepan, cover with water, add salt. Bring to simmer for an hour or so to help make stock for the stuffing (see stuffing recipe).
8 Put the turkey in the oven. Check the cooking directions on the turkey packaging. Gourmet turkeys often don't take as long to cook. With the turkeys mom gets, she recommends cooking time of about 15 minutes for every pound. For the 15 lb turkey, start the cooking at 400 F for the first 1/2 hour. Then reduce the heat to 350 F for the next 2 hours. Then reduce the heat further to 225 F for the next hour to hour and a half.
If you want the breast to be browned as well, you can turn the bird over so that the breast is on top, and put it in a 500°F oven or under the broiler for 4-5 minutes, just enough to brown the breast. Note that if you do this, you will have a higher risk of overcooking the turkey breast.
Start taking temperature readings with a meat thermometer, inserted deep into the thickest part of the turkey breast and thigh, an hour before the turkey should be done. You want a resulting temperature of 175°F for the dark meat (thighs and legs) and 165°F for the white meat (breast). The temperature of the bird will continue to rise once you take it out of the oven, so take it out when the temperature reading for the thigh is 170°F, and for the breast 160°F. If you don't have a meat thermometer, spear the breast with a knife. The turkey juices should be clear, not pink.
sliced roasted turkey
9 Once you remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Turn the turkey breast side up to carve it. (See Epicurious video on carving a turkey or Alton Brown video on how to carve a turkey.)

Making Turkey Gravy

Scrape all the drippings off of the bottom of the roasting pan. Pour drippings into a smaller skillet. Ladle off excess fat with a gravy spoon and save for possible use later. In a separate small bowl take a quarter cup of corn starch and add just enough water to dissolve the corn starch. Beat cornstarch with a spoon to remove lumps. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the drippings, stirring constantly. You may not end up using all of the cornstarch mixture. Only add as much as you need to get the desired thickness. Allow time for the cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Add salt, pepper, sage, thyme, or other seasonings to taste. (See gravy recipe for step-by-step photos.)

Save Bones for Stock

When you are finished with your turkey, save the bones from the carcass to make a delicious turkey soup.

Turkey Cook times:
# Use this roasting schedule as a guideline; start checking for doneness 1/2 hour before recommended end times:
Net Weight (in pounds) (in hours)
10 to 18 lbs.: 3 to 3-1/2 hours, unstuffed; 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours, stuffed
18 to 22 lbs.: 3-1/2 to 4 4-1/2 hours, unstuffed; to 4-1/2 to 5 hours, stuffed
22 to 24 lbs.: 4 to 4-1/2 hours, unstuffed; 5 to 5-1/2 hours, stuffed
24 to 30 lbs.: 4-1/2 to 5 hours, unstuffed; 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours, stuffed
# Turkey is done when the meat thermometer reaches the following temperatures:
* 180 to 185°F deep in the thigh; also, juices should be clear, not pink when thigh muscle is pierced deeply.
* 170 to 175°F in the thickest part of the breast, just above the rib bones.
* 160 to 165°F in the center of the stuffing, if turkey is stuffed.
# Let turkey stand for 15-20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set.