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Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away!  Whether it’s for two people or 30, prepping for the big day in advance makes the entire hosting experience so much more fun.  So, with the biggest feast of the year just around the corner, I’m guessing you’re thinking about what stuffing you’ll be serving and how you’ll be cooking the Turkey, but have you thought about what music you’ll be playing?  I know, I know, it might be the last thing on your list but believe me when I say music is key to setting the right mood at any gathering.  We’ll get to tabletop décor and cooking later this week and next, but right now let’s concentrate on a major part of any Thanksgiving celebration…the tunes!

 

Let the music set the mood! From the time your guests walk through the door to the time they eat their last bite of apple pie, fill their ears with cheer...

I’ve been scrolling through my music library and have come up with 15 perfectly seasonal Thanksgiving songs that everyone – from the 6 yr old to the 16 yr old to the 76 yr old– in your life will enjoy.   Add these to your Thanksgiving playlist and remember: if the dog gets into the turkey or the guests show up late, you’ll still have a good soundtrack!

Turkey Day Tunes

  1. The Thanks I Get- Wilco
  2. Sweet Pea- Amos Lee
  3. Harvest- Neil Young
  4. America- Simon and Garfunkel
  5. November Blue- The Avett Brothers
  6. Wigwam- Bob Dylan
  7. Home- Michael Buble
  8. Follow Your Soul- Dan Bern
  9. Brandy Alexander- Feist
  10. Our House- Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
  11. I Am Part of a Large Family- Great Lake Swimmers
  12. You Give Me Something- James Morrison
  13. Pumpkin Soup- Kate Nash
  14. Eet- Regina Spektor
  15. All This Beauty- The Weepies

 

For me, Thanksgiving is a day of quiet reflection, quaint family traditions and perfect meals…uh hold on! Who can focus on all the good stuff when you’ve got a list of to-dos that stretches for miles?!

When things get hectic around Thanksgiving, I like to remind myself of a story that has become infamous in the Brown clan. It was the first time my husband William and I hosted the big dinner, with our new baby Prentiss and loads of guests. We had finally finished redoing our Brooklyn abode and I was giddy (and also a little anxious!) at the thought of all my loved ones sharing new holiday memories on my turf.

I planned out the day as well as I thought possible with a schedule of when to put in the mashed potatoes, yams and pies that was going to sync exactly right with a golden brown turkey.

Ahh the turkey…the big bird…the main event…I’m no shy cook when it comes to poultry. I’ve had tons of practice over the years on my show and with family—I’ve even perfected a salt and herb rub that makes the juiciest yummiest meat possible. Alas, the best laid plans…

So the table is set, the guests are seated, I had juggled the warming of the sides, and the turkey is…Oh my goodness, the turkey is red. Not even pink, it’s red and so not done. After my initial moment of panic, I peeked my head out to the dining room where all my lovely guests, lovely table décor and lovely veggies were.

“Oh, William, would you come here a moment?”

William saw the panic in my eyes, the raw turkey on the counter, and before I could even get a word out about how ruined everything was and how these darned appliances were the culprits, he assured me of the opposite. All that seemingly unattainable mush of reflection, tradition and family was, in fact, going on out there in the dining room…sans turkey.

After cranking up the oven, I took my seat at the table and let those loving vibes sink in. We ate our fill of sides and desserts, laughed about the mix-up, and went around the table sharing what we were thankful for…which, in the end, is what it’s all about.  And let me assure you, all my guests took home enough turkey leftovers to stock a buffet!

Mistakes happen and perfect never is, so just roll with the punches and have fun! Your holiday meals will be special because the special people in your life are there.


Thanksgiving is the start of the holidays, plain and simple. From November 25 on, there’s Christmas music mixes at Starbucks, early morning sales at department stores and…a steady stream of house guests!

I really do think it’s fun having visitors, but I always seem to get that creeping feeling of inadequacy when I’m getting together clean sheets and towels—even for friends and family. How did this torn and faded towel last this long in the bunch? Are there any sheets that match these pillowcases?!

You really don’t need tons of money or time to add fresh style to a  room. Check out the bedding and bath product lines I developed with the regional retailer Meijer— it’s all super bright, luxurious, and totally affordable.

Mix and match old and new decorative pillows to add just the splash of color any room needs. Toss a soft and snuggly throw over the end of the bed or sofa to make the whole room look casual and inviting. It’s easy to make a homey relaxed space for your guests. Use what you have, freshen up your staples, mix in a few statement pieces and you’ll be on your way to hostess with the mostess!


 

Let me take a minute to gush about ornamental cabbage and kale.  I mean, I love a good stuffed cabbage, and I’m certainly not one to turn my back on any type of sauerkraut, but every fall I catch myself literally ogling these purple and green jewels of a plant in a new way, disregarding all the tasty health benefits.  Pure, visual lust.  I love when multiple varieties are planted next to each other in a sea of purple and hot fuchsia, and I also love when they are used to counteract all the orange and brown everywhere this season.  You know what else is awesome?  Their color gets even more vibrant after a few cold, hard frosts.  Gorgeous, nutritious, and hearty?  My kind of vegetable.

My favorite way to show off these beautiful, delicious plants is to simply pot them in galvanized buckets and then line the steps of my porch with them.  Even if you just throw one or two by your front door, your family, neighbors, and mail carrier will thank you – nobody can deny this eye candy.

Since my childhood in northern Michigan I’ve bounced back and forth from West Coast to East, passing right over my home state and missing it all the while. I try to visit at least four times a year, but sometimes nothing can quell the homesickness, especially around the holidays.  Between Prentiss’  after school activities and Meredith’s play groups a spontaneous trip to the heartland isn’t so doable right now.  So I’ve decided to bring a little of my hometown to me!  In Petoskey, Michigan, where I grew up, there’s a place called American Spoon that makes “spoon preserves,” so thick with real fruit that they’re easier to spread with a spoon than a knife. This week I’m going to make some simple rolls dressed up with their delicious pumpkin butter, which will — partially, anyway — satisfy my hunger for home.

So that’s my prescription if you’re feeling nostalgic and far away from home this time of year: Whip up some childhood flavors for your table, whether it’s a Georgia peach pie or pastry flavored with Vermont maple.

Isn’t food always the best way to fight homesickness? What are some of your hometown faves?

Parker House Rolls

With American Spoon Pumpkin Butter

INGREDIENTS:

2 cans            pre-prepared dinner roll dough

1/2 cup American Spoon pumpkin butter (www.americanspoon.com)

GET COOKIN’:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees or as directed on the package.
  2. Unfold the dinner rolls and line them up on a cookie sheet.
  3. Make a crisscross mark on the tops of the rolls with a knife about 1/4 inch deep into the dough.
  4. Use a kitchen thermometer or other pointed device to make a hole in the side of the dough on each roll.
  5. Cut off the corner of a plastic sandwich bag. (You have just created a pastry bag.)
  6. Fill the bag with the pumpkin butter and place the tip inside the hole you made in the roll.
  7. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon into the center of each roll.
  8. Cook as directed on package or until rolls start to brown.

image source

Growing up, my mom was the queen of decorating our front door for every occasion.  On Christmas and Thanksgiving, of course, our door was decked out.  But that was just the tip of the iceberg – she found a reason to celebrate the festive elements of any occasion (“Oh, it must be tax day!”), and she did it with gusto.  While as teenagers my siblings and I might have done our fair share of eye rolling, as it turns out, I’m just like her when it comes to festive décor (Thanks mom!).  For a little inspiration on how to transition our front stoops from Halloween to Thanksgiving, here are some images from around the web of people rocking out with dried corn and corn husks.  Go ahead, do your mom proud.

Decorating From the Heart

Front Porch Ideas and More

Grandin Road

The HomeSlice

The Gardener’s Rake

I’m not a coffee or tea drinker, really, but I do like an excuse to have something different and warm to drink, especially in the fall.  To me, there is something so special about the simple ritual of drinking something warm and fancy out of a pretty cup.  Growing up in Michigan, a festive tradition that we never skipped was having mulled cider around the holidays (and my mother always made sure we used pretty dishes).  This tradition became so important to us that when my sister got married, I gathered several beautiful, mismatched teacups from various thrift stores as a wedding present.  I wanted her to remember what we learned from mom:  Make something warm.  Pour it into something beautiful.  Sit down.  You deserve it.

From Katie Brown’s Weekends and Katie Brown’s Outdoor Entertaining:
Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider

Ingredients

7 cups apple cider

5 cups cranberry juice

2 oranges, zested and juiced

1 bay leaf

3 cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

1 lemon, sliced

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1 inch peeled ginger root, sliced

Pinch of salt

1 ½ cups brandy

½ cup Triple Sec, or other orange-flavored liqueur

Get Cookin’

1. Combine all of the ingredients except the brandy and the Triple Sec in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Lower the heat to low to just keep the cider warm. Add the brandy and the Triple Sec and strain into mugs.

Serves 12

 

Toffee and Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

4 cups milk

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 bar toffee candy and peppermint candies, crushed

Get Cookin’

1.     In a saucepan, combine milk, water, and sugar.  Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from heat.

2.     Stir in chocolate.  Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is frothy.  Pour into thermos.

3.     To serve, pour hot chocolate into cup and top with crushed candy.

Serves 4

 

Butterscotch Hot Chocolate


Ingredients

 

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder3. Serve to warm and happy faces. 

1 ½ cup butterscotch morsels
Get Cookin’

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk.
2. When milk is hot, whisk in the cocoa powder and the butterscotch morsels.

It’s Wednesday!  I love planning a fun activity to do mid-week, when the previous weekend is fading a bit and Friday still seems like a distant dream.  One of my favorite activities for a casual weeknight get-together is a potluck.  Nobody has to think about more than one dish, and after dinner we can throw all our kids in a room to play together while we steal a few moments of adult conversation (hopefully).  If you invite really good friends, they won’t even notice your sweatpants and your messy kitchen.

Even though the theme of this get-together is CASUAL, I can’t resist sending my friends home with a little something.  Check out these Recipe Take-Away Bouquets for a quick party favor.


Recipe Take-away Bouquets

Materials

Chinese take-out containers
Oasis
Moss
flowers of your choice
Note cards for recipes (have your guests bring these)

Getting Started

1. Soak your oasis overnight.
2. Place a little piece of oasis in the bottom of each take-out container, and arrange moss and flowers to your liking.
3. Have your guests bring recipes to the dishes they brought so you can attach them to your bouquets, and each guest can pick which recipe and flower arrangement they’ll go home with!

We went to Italy for lunch this week, and were back in the Brooklyn workshop by 2 o’clock.  Oh, did I say Italy?  I meant to say Eataly (“EEEEEEE – taly”), the newest delicious amazement Manhattan has to offer.  Part marketplace and part restaurant destination, what strikes me about Eataly is how beautiful and intimate this 50,000 square foot extravaganza manages to be.  I mean, here I am at the grocery store trying to buy some potatoes, and out of the corner of my eye I see a beautiful young couple canoodling over fancy wine and cheese, oblivious to the hubbub of shoppers surrounding them.  This collision of the every day with the intimate and special is so fresh and exciting.  The fact that we can have it all – gorgeous food and design products to buy, exquisite restaurant choices, and delicious, juicy people watching, all under one roof – What an experience!  I can’t wait to go back (But next time, I want to be the one on the wine and cheese date).

Enough talk! Feast your eyes on these pictures:

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