Thanksgiving 2014.
The Rustic table.

I understood Canadian Thanksgiving was coming up.  I really did.  There are pumpkins in the stores, turkeys in supermarket coolers and every time I look at a Pinterest board there’s something made out of straw and burlap staring back at me.

Also, it’s right there on the calendar.  The problem is I didn’t check the calendar. I just sort of based my knowledge of “thanksgiving is coming up” on the general idea that I feel stupid wearing shorts and flip flops into the grocery store, so it must be coming up soon.

What I didn’t realize was it was coming up this weekend.  I need to shove some bread crumbs up a turkey’s ass and QUICK.  I’m not really sure why we have turkey for Thanksgiving.  I’ve never met anyone who really loves turkey.  It’s almost always dry, doesn’t have a lot of flavour and takes all day to cook.  It’s like the fruitcake of the meat world.

But surround it with cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and an embarrassing amount of farting and waddling and there you have it. The annual Thanksgiving dinner.

Since I am the one who hosts my family’s Thanksgiving dinner every year I need to get going on it.  S.T.A.T.!  (Start Thanksgiving Activities Todayish.)

The table is set.  I have that much going for me. Well that and naturally curly hair. Huh. Now that I think of it, that’s actually Frieda, the least popular character from the Charlie Brown cartoons.

This year I went with a rustic,  dark, moody feeling.  Warm and cozy.  Like an autumn Thanksgiving should be.






The table has a rough burlap runner down the centre with a piece of hardwood on top of that.  When dinner is served, the arrangement will get removed and all the dishes of food can go right on the board.

There’s even more layering with cutting boards on top of the wood board.  This one is my favourite from Cattails.





One of the things I’m most excited about is the fact that all of the food served will have been harvested from my garden.  Everything.  (aside from the poor Turkey) I’m serving a classic Thanksgiving dinner with side dishes that are slightly elevated.  Just a little bit.  For fun.  Elevated as in “churched up”.  Not elevated as in levitating.

Ground cherries will be scattered on the table.




And there will be bowls and jars of my kosher dill pickles which turned out DELICIOUS.  I’ve eaten 3 jars already myself.  Which is all kinds of wrong but all kinds of right.




I’m expecting the black sea salt to be a hit.  Mainly because it looks so good on the table.  Weird little things like using black salt in a black dish are what bring the whole moody table together.

So if you’re wondering about how to do your Thanksgiving table (either this weekend or next month) pick some sort of theme.  It could be something as literal as classic American Thanksgiving, a crisp black and white theme, or something a bit more esoteric like a mood.  If you aren’t feeling all that imaginative, just open a magazine or look at a blog and copy it.  That’ll take all the guess work out and make it way easier.  Which leaves more time for making more stuffing.  You can never have enough stuffing.  Ever.





Of course, if there are those out there who are frightened of black salt, there will also be white.




The dishes are round matte black dinner plates that I found at my local thrift store. I got the whole set including lunch plates and bowls for $9.

The salt dishes were on clearance at The Keeping Room, I bought the vintage cutlery (that I’ve been LOOKING FOR for ages) from a local reader!  Thanks Cornelia!

Betty made the napkins, and half of the flowers in the arrangement are from my community garden plot.   I planted the Amaranths in the spring specifically to use in my Thanksgiving arrangement.  Normally I’d *think* about doing that and then promptly forget all about it.  For some reason, I didn’t. I suspect I forgot something much more important.

Well, like when Thanksgiving is, for instance.




This is one of two tables that will be set. The other one will be one room over, in my front hall, so the 12 or so people   (it’s up to 15 now) can fit comfortably.  Plus the foyer is the perfect spot to sit people I don’t really like.  I’ll tell them they’re in the foyer because it’s away from the mess of the kitchen and because they’re my favourites I wanted to seat them there.




For your table to have an actual harvest feel, put food on it! Don’t just put out pretty decorations and arrangements. And like I said, once the dinner is served the big arrangement in the centre will be moved away, and the food will make its way in on old, rustic stoneware and enamel platters.




The total cost of the arrangement was $27 for the ornamental cabbages and miniature red snapdragons.  The lime green trailing flowers and the tall burgundy flowers are from my garden.




Every year I do this and every year it’s the same.  I think I can keep it together.  I think that things will go smoothly.  It will be a restful, warm and inviting Thanksgiving with my family close.  We’ll all enjoy the food, the kitchen will not become a disaster and the night will end with us crowding around the fireplace singing Frank Sinatra.

Instead, someone’s fingernails will catch on fire, one of the kids will barf, my mother will forget her camera,  everyone will get a stain on their shirt and the night will end not with song, but with us measuring the size of each others heads.




Happy Thanksgiving my fellow Canadians.   I have my fingers crossed that your Thanksgiving will NOT be like the pleasant, fancifully perfect, imaginary version of mine.

Because the real thing is way more fun.



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  1. Mary W says:

    What have you got against Rutabaga and apple pie? Everything else has elaborate names sounding so fancy and delish except those two – are they well known already so no intro needed? or you don’t like them? or so divine that nothing could do them justice? I do like rutabaga but also love brussel sprouts which I’m sure you wouldn’t honor with a fancy name so that is why I’ve assumed you don’t care for them. Oh, I know, maybe someone else is bringing those and you haven’t a clue. Sweet menu – we just gather in a line by the stove, load up, and find a chair to start shoveling it in. We laugh a lot and talk a lot but we’re all over the house. One year we moved the couch and had 3 folding tables set up for a LONGGGGG table that we all gathered around. All the food was actually in bowls on another table in the dining room. But we never repeated that -for no reason, just habit to line up in the kitchen. That is thanksgiving for us except the yodeling pickle makes it’s annual appearance at this time by the sink and yodels quite a bit. They just can’t keep their fingers off of it! Company – humpf! Happy TG!

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  3. Karen where did you get your black salt from? I have been wanting some for a year now.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Erin! The salt came with the dishes. A bag of black and a bag of pink Himalayan. I *think* The Horn of Plenty carries black salt sometimes but I’m not positive. ~ karen!

  4. peg says:

    Beautiful table,loved the floral arrangement.But really loved the black salt in the black dish.So of course I had to buy some.arrived today ~~~~lovely and tasty .

  5. Debbie says:

    I hope no one asked this already, but are you making the ice cream as well?

    For many years I’ve been using a friends turkey recipe and it is never dry. Under the skin stuff a wonderful mixture of fresh basil, onions and garlic. It is a messy job! I put it all through the food processor to a consistency that is easily slid under the skin. I drain it a bit and save that luscious liquid for something else. Stuff the turkey with onions or citrus fruit. Sew or skewer shut. Rub the skin with oil and cover with paprika. Oil and flour a turkey bag and cook according to the bag directions. (Don’t use the directions on the bag box, use the paper directions inside – we use Reynolds turkey bags (it is all we can find and works well). the turkey is always moist and delicious. Here is an idea I actually thought of myself – we make two smaller turkeys, thereby having four drumsticks and no fighting. The turkey also cooks in less time. Last year we had a “duh” moment and cooked the turkey the day before, carved and put it in serving dishes and then slowly heated it up (covered). It was still moist and yummy.

    Happy, happy Canadian Thanksgiving! We still have some time here!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie! I do make ice cream the odd time, but this wasn’t one of those times. :) Way too many other things to make. :) In fact now that I think of it we didn’t end up having ice cream at all! Just gobs and gobs of whipped cream. ~ karen!

      • Debbie says:

        Gobs and gobs of whipped cream sound wonderful! Maybe I should try that – it is vegetarian (for those who eat dairy) and gluten-free!

  6. Linda J Howes says:

    Particularly LOVE the napkin placement, among other things.

  7. Anita says:

    Happy Thanksgiving! Your table is beautiful and your menu sounds fantastic. I love that so much of it is homegrown. It seems weird to me that it isn’t still summer. Here in Houston, TX it was already 81 degrees (f) at 7:40 this morning when I sent my son off to school in shorts and a t-shirt. We’ll be heading north for US Thanksgiving in a month, so I’ll get some Autumn then. My 78 year old mother has decided that she is done cooking Thanksgiving, so I’ll drive two days with a bored 7 year-old and an i-pad obsessed husband to have Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant. Oh well, it should be all about family, not food. I just feel bad for all the folks who have to work that day.

  8. Pam'a says:

    Absolutely gorgeous, no surprise, and I’m sure it’ll be delicious as well. My big, heartfelt wish after it’s all over is for you to have a long, luxurious NAP.

    Happy Thanksgivuing, Karen (That’s the Canadian spelling with that “u” in there)

    • Karen says:

      LOL!! That comment got a genuine laugh out loud from me. Firstly … I went to go to bed and my cat had thrown up ALL over my sheets. In the exact spot that I lay, and right up by my head so I couldn’t pretend I didn’t see it. Plus of course the “u” in Thanksgivuing. :) ~ karen

  9. Stephanie Hobson says:

    When I saw the title of this post I thought OMG, she’s getting ready for Thanksgiving already?!!! Then I remembered where you live. So yes, you’re not over a month early, you’re late.

    Every time I see a picture of your dining room I lust after that painting. And my husband is a painter – I should get him to paint something like that for me! He’s more than capable of it.

    I got my first newsletter today and really enjoyed it. The only problem is that there are no comments, which are (almost) as entertaining as your posts are.

  10. If some one needs to be updated with newest technologies then he must be visit this web site and be up to date everyday.

  11. Edith says:

    Hi Karen,

    You’ve become such a good photographer!!!!!! The lighting and the colors ……..soooo soooothing!

  12. Connie S. says:

    Absolutely GORGEOUS , absolutely everything!!!
    Your table- your decorating , the black dishes , the photography , the menu …EVERYTHING… and esp. the silverware ;)
    Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving Karen :)
    PS would you come decorate my place -please , plz, plzzz?

  13. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Karen your home is lovely. Happy thanksgiving!

  14. Gwen H. says:

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  15. Linda Weber says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to a most entertaining yet kind and thoughtful person who happens to be a blogger! With all the nasty cyber tolls out there you have managed to garner a following of kind and thoughtful people. Not only do I enjoy your postings, but also the unselfish and caring comments of your followers. No one really wants to see you go from posting 5 days a week to 3 yet everyone supports and respects your decision. Stay ‘true’ Karen Bertelsen

    • Tracey says:

      Very well said Linda!! I agree

      Just had the best Turkey dinner …..mmmmm.
      I cannot imagine the time that goes into your dinner and presentation. So lovely!!

  16. Lis says:

    Love all these! Thanks for the menu, and these moody colors def work for the season. Happy Thanksgiving, Karen and family!

  17. Theresa says:

    Please oh please share more of your recipes! The pumpkin pie from scratch, the sugar cookies, the swiss chard…oh heck, a list with links to all of them would be mighty helpful.Thanks in advance. Your decor is beautiful, btw – happy thanksgiving!

  18. Leslie says:

    It’s all very beautiful. I love that you grew all the food. I bet the bread & rolls are amazing.

  19. Toni says:

    This is warm and colorful and all kinds of fabulous. Well done Karen.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Toni! I plan to take a few pictures during the actual dinner to show the flip side. The debauchery. :) ~ karen!

      • Jasper says:

        Karen, I hate to pester you about this so persistently, but… I think my friends might kill me if I don’t shut up about my theories on why your family (and some of the commentor’s families) measure heads for the holidays! Seriously! Is it a Canadian tradition? Google has been terribly unhelpful in my hours of searching. It’s driving me insane. PLEASE. Pretty please? I’m begging you!

        Hahahahahaha… Ehahaha. Heh. (That’s me, laughing maniacally, because I can’t figure this out and I’m seriously going insane from it.)

        • Karen says:

          Hi Jasper! Sorry for the delayed response. Measuring heads is not a Canadian Thanksgiving thing, lol. It’s just something that happened here one Thanksgiving for some reason. I have NO idea why. :) ~ karen

  20. Elen Grey says:

    Everything looks gorgeous. I love the dark look and feel. I’m in Thanksgiving denial, so we are foregoing the extravaganza this year and wandering the land. Leaving it for Christmas. Or… I might do it for American Thanksgiving. Mebbe. :-D

  21. Auntiepatch says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian cousins!

  22. Feral Turtle says:

    Hope you have a great family holiday!

  23. Laurinda says:

    I hate to disagree, but I really love turkey. The key to moist, enjoyable turkey is to brine it. Honestly, it’s the easiest way to to juicy turkey, & I don’t even baste them anymore. Except for last year’s 45 pounder (20 kg) – I thought I should hedge my bets on that monster!

  24. Sally A says:

    Karen, the table is beautiful! You . Are . Awesome!!! Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

    Also love the salt dishes. So glad you said where to get them!

  25. Dana says:

    The table is gorgeous! Now that I’ve used the pumpkins from my centrepiece to make real pumpkin purée, I need to come up with a new plan!

  26. Janice says:

    I dont want to be rude and try to invite myself for Thanksgiving dinner….also I am going the the Mother-In_Laws to eat boiled chicken breasts….no joke….she boils her chicken. Do you feel even the slightest bit sorry for me?? Enough to maybe invite me over for leftover Thanksgiving pizza in that wonderful oven??? Pizza with cranberries, stuffing and of course turkey…God I am hungry….maybe hangry….boiled chicken…eugh

  27. Jasper says:

    Can someone please explain this whole head measuring thing to me? I read the post she linked to and all of the comments. Is it some sort of Canadian tradition? Or a Thanksgiving tradition I’ve never heard of? Why is it done? I’m SO confused.

  28. Kathy Hartzell says:

    I can never be your BFF from West Marin, California…..I like turkey and I like deep dark gooey fruitcake.

    Man, I was so hoping……

  29. Happy thanksgiving and I am positive Cuddles and the others are happy they are small versions of the turkey! Your table is beautiful. I always loved white dinner plates so you really see the food, but I might have to look for some black pieces, it really does look “moody” yet very inviting. Perfect offset to flip flops…hey I wear black nail polish too, so at least there is a tie in there. By the way, Christmas is around the corner, go circle the date on your calendar!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Janet. I always thought I liked white plates the best because of that too Janet, but once I went black … well … you get the idea. Food looks extraordinary on a back plate. ~ karen!

  30. Julie says:

    This is perfection! Have a lovely Thanksgiving, Karen!

  31. Karen says:

    …oh yes, and about the tree…’s beautiful. I love the attached root stem. I have killed more than one ficus tree and they look something like this when fully dead. I’ve always thought they were sculptural and like them as much like that as with their leaves…but never thought about mounting one on the wall…….it’s groovy.

  32. Karen says:

    Your table is exquisite….such a great balance with your wacky stories….the best of both worlds really.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  33. Jasmine says:

    Happy Thanksgiving! I am hosting…again! (Somehow the trading that was supposed to go on in my family is out the window. Maybe I should adopt your tradition and just KNOW that I will be cooking.) Anyway, we all love the turkey, I find that if I do the whole brining thing, it tastes a lot better and stays quite moist. You have inspired me to dress up my table though, so thanks for that. I have to use my china, it’s one of the only times it gets used. But it was left to me from a dear friend, so I don’t mind. It makes ‘rustic’ a bit harder though since it is all swirly navy and gold. The plates are tiny too. I will have to put my thinking cap on….or hit Pinterest. Cheers!

  34. AmyKate says:

    I’m a bit late to the party…but for Christmas or your next turkey, use a turkey size Oven bag. Easy. Easy.Easy..moist turkey.No basting..I have been using them for years! I promise a good turkey that is Not dry. I promise. Or you can come to NC next month and have some of our turkey!

  35. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Hey Lady..Do You Know There’s A Tree On Your Wall??? figure if you’re not gonna talk about it we will find out should have know we would all spot it and ask questions..Gorgeous table as always..I still envy your family togetherness..Have a great day as in stuff your tummy until they find you rolling around on the floor in agony..Hugs

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