Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Give Thanks. A Small, Yet Festive Thanksgiving Gathering.

Being a military family, it isn't often that Thansgiving gets to be shared with several family members. Last year was our last Thanksgiving (at least for a few years) that we were living in my hometown, surrounded by family. I wanted to make it special. Most importantly, I wanted to make it a time to make more memories with the people I care about the most. I put together a small, yet festive Thanksgiving gathering full of good food and good treats, but best of all, a whole lot of love. 

I have so many wonderful Thanksgiving memories and all of which include my grandma and grandpa. My grandpa passed away several years ago, but I still carry on some of the traditions that we all shared for many years. One in particular, and it may sound silly, was sitting at a long table so everyone was together. Every year we spent with my grandparents for Thanksgiving, I always requested a long table. For last years Thanksgiving, which was also the second time I have ever hosted a Thanksgiving gathering, I kept it simple, but had to have the long table! 

I put two 6 foot folding tables together with an extra long white table cloth and a burlap table runner (burlap and Thanksgiving were just meant to be, in my opinion). I placed little pumpkins, fall leaves and mini pinecones down the length of the table runner and placed some nuts and black olives in the middle of the table for snacking. My favorite part were the placemats. So simple, fun and interactive. I took several paper bags from the grocery store, cut them to the size of a normal placemat and hand wrote "I am thankful for" with several lines to write what you were thankful for that year. I used simple white plates with paper napkins and used silver, plastic utensils, tied together with brown ribbon. My "long table" looked so festive and most of all, reminded me of some of my fondest memories. 

For the dessert table, I used my burlap table cloth, decorated it with gourds, fall leaves, dried corn cobs and mini pinecones. For the backdrop, I used a roll of "weathered wood" paper from the teacher section at Michael's and cut it to the size I liked. I made a simple "Give Thanks" banner our of the same brown paper bags I used for the placemats and brown ribbon. To display the desserts, I had some amazing wooden cake stands I had purchased from Pick Your Plum (if you haven't checked them out, i highly suggest you do so - that went with the rest of the decor perfectly. As for the desserts, I made a banana cream pie (recipe below), apple pie, mini pumpkin pies, pumpkin bundt cake and sugar cookies (see the sugar cookie recipe in this previous post ) that looked like pumpkin pie slices. All of the desserts turned out perfectly and were a lovely variety after the big feast.

For the meal, we made the typical Thanksgiving foods. Along with the long table, a lot of memories I have of Thanksgiving come from my grandparents spending hours in the kitchen making sure the food was perfect (and it always was).  We made both a turkey and a ham, mashed potatoes, twice baked sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry salad. All of which were delicious. 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, not because of the good food, but because of the amazing memories made. My goal is to create moments that my daughter will carry with her, just as I have!  Happy Thanksgiving and I hope this little bit of inspiration will help you build memories with your loved ones as well. 

Banana Cream Pie


1 box of vanilla wafer cookies
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 small 3.4oz package of instant vanilla pudding 
2 cups cold milk
2-3 bananas, sliced
1 8oz tub of CoolWhip, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350*. To prepare the crust, crush 2 1/2 cups of vanilla wafer cookies, place them in a medium bowl. Melt 1/2 cup butter and mix with the crushed vanilla wafer cookies. Press mixture in standard pie pan and bake for 10 minutes. Let fully cool before filling. 

While pie crust is baking, prepare pudding by mixing instant pudding with cold milk in medium bowl. Whisk for 3 minutes, set aside. 

When crust is fully cooled, arrange half of the sliced bananas over the bottom of the crust. Then spread 1/3 of the pudding over the bananas, followed by a layer of vanilla wafer cookies. Next spread 1/3 more pudding then a layer of the remaining banana slices and one more layer of remaining pudding. Spread CoolWhip evenly on the top of the pie and decorate with more vanilla wafer cookies, if desired. (From the bottom up, layers should be: vanilla wafer cookie crust, bananas, pudding, vanilla wafer cookies, pudding, bananas, pudding, CoolWhip).

Refrigerate at least 4 hours, best if refrigerated over night.