Last Sunday we took a walk through Tuppancy Links. If you remember, it was a crisp, clear, and warm day for November. There’s never a crowd there, mostly dog owners since it’s a dog-friendly place. Walking along the path that ends with a view of the water, reminds us why we live here. There are still open spaces, like Sanford Farm across the road and the Moors, the beaches at this time of year and so many more places to enjoy the beauty of the island. Once we get past summer, this place is returned to us, and it’s magical. No traces of resort, just community.

It’s almost Thanksgiving but I’m not ready to start planning the meal just yet. Right now I’m more interested in rustling up fifteen chairs, never mind figuring out how to fit them around a table meant for eight.

Over the years I’ve written half a dozen decorating tips books and during the holidays I find them useful. I keep a folder on my desktop for adding new ones as they reveal themselves. I’m big on setting a festive table. My kids always say, “Once the table’s set, mom’s done.” Fortunately everyone else pitches in with the cooking. So here are a few ideas for your table.

If you aren’t hosting Thanksgiving, they can be used for a dinner at any time in the coming months.

A celebration table should be overdone. Bring out all the things you cherish and find ways to use them on the table. This is a time when you congratulate yourself for not getting rid of stuff. Anything you may have inherited should be on the table to represent family members past and present. Everyone has something that reminds them of their childhood even if it’s just the mundane bowl your mother or grandmother used to serve vegetables for everyday dinners. We use Jon’s mother’s candy dish that she always had filled with M&M’s when she and her sisters played Scrabble.

It’s a time for playing, “remember when”. I can usually count on one of my daughters to remember the silver bowl that once graced grandma’s table and the soup tureen that was a wedding gift to my grandparents a hundred years ago. I love using as many of these kinds of things from my very chockfull china cabinet. This is an area of collecting that I can’t seem to give up and one of the reasons I can’t downsize the way I’d like to.

Begin with the centerpiece.

  1. The simplest is to make a bouquet from anything still alive in your garden. I use sprigs of mums from plants that are still blooming. Add sprigs of herbs like parsley, rosemary and mint.
  2. Another idea: place small bud vases down the center of the table with a twig of winterberries in each one. Sometimes you can find these along the roadsides.
  3. Use leaves under and protruding out from the containers to create a bed on which to place candles.
  4. Scoop out the tops of granny apples to hold small votive candles.
  5. Alternate different fall colored placemats and napkins tied with matching colorful ribbons.
  6. Using Magic Marker, write each person’s name on a small leaf and tuck it under the napkin ribbon.
  7. If your plates are white use colorful napkins placed on top.
  8. Three miniature topiary trees or pots of herbs on the table are refreshing. They usually have these in the supermarketr.
  9. Find something meaningful like a saved card sent from a child, a good report card, or a forgotten toy from each person’s childhood. Wrap it up and “serve” on each family member’s plate.
  10. In the end, this is one holiday that revolves around food. No matter how you set the table you can’t miss.

Go around the table allowing each person to tell what he or she is thankful for. The best “thanks” have always surprised us, when it’s come from the youngest member of the family or an unexpected grateful thank you from a stranger – the single woman eating alone one Thanksgiving at the Harbor House who we invited to join our very noisy and large gathering and who rewarded us with her eloquent response to what she was thankful for.