Thanksgiving Ideas

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Take some inspiration from my Thanksgiving festivities last year. Because this year? It ain’t happening.

Harvest table in room surrounded by built in bookcases set for Thanksgiving dinner with blue and white plates and rustic dahlia flower arrangement in centre of table.

Last year I had weeks to plan and get ready for Thanksgiving dinner at my house. This year? This year there is no dinner. Coronavirus cases are rising faster than sourdough starter at a homesteading convention.

A week ago the Ontario government shut down any hopes of a big Thanksgiving dinner. You’re allowed to haveeee Thanksgiving, you just can’t have anyone into your house who doesn’t already live there.

Except maybe you can. But you shouldn’t. But maybe outside? But stay 6′ apart. Forget it. Our family is taking a holiday from the holiday. Our individual families are staying separate with some of us ordering in Thanksgiving dinner, some of us making a small dinner just for the family and some of us are smarter than everyone else and plan to eat the cases of mini chocolate bars we thought we might need but probably won’t for Halloween.

So this year it’s me, my cat Ernie and Halloween candy. Ernie is antisocial and an introvert and rarely leaves her room unless it’s to come downstairs for a glass of whiskey. So really it’s just me and the Snickers.

The photos throughout this post are from last Thanksgiving. I didn’t share them at the time because I took them on the day I had Thanksgiving dinner *just* before everyone showed up. And then promptly forgot all about them.

As it turns out, that was serendipitous because even though I’m not having Thanksgiving this year I still have lots of new photos to share.

Thanksgiving 2019

As soon as everyone entered my property they were greeted by these individual harvest baskets they got to take home. Only what they didn’t know is they were just there for a pretty picture and they weren’t actually allowed to take them.

Just kidding.

They got to take them.

Each basket had a mason jar of cut flowers from the garden and then a variety of things from the vegetable garden like squash, some carrots, peppers and potatoes.

A couple of urns with a pyramid of white pumpkins flanked the stairs to my back door.

Because I don’t have a ton of room leftover in the dining room once the extensions are in the table, and the kitchen becomes a gong show the minute the first person arrives, I set up a couple of cake stands in the front foyer to put the pies on, along with mismatched flow blue and transferware plates and cutlery.

Every year I host Thanksgiving dinner. Each family member has an assigned holiday dinner and Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve are mine. I try to make Thanksgiving feel … Thanksgivingy? In Canada, Thanksgiving really revolves around the end of the harvest so I went without putting down any tablecloth or even place mats so the actual harvest table could be seen.

Napkins were folded in half and set under everyone’s plates. None of the plates match, but they’re all either ironstone or flow blue and so are all the serving pieces. Nothing matches but it all goes together.

I like Thanksgiving to feel homey and comfortable, you know? Not overly fancy. At the same time I want it to look pretty and feel special.

So the butter is on a slightly chipped dish, but I took a toothpick and carved a little wheat field into it.

Carving butter like this is FUN. Just chill the butter and draw on it with a toothpick.

Obviously if you have butter out you’re going to need a big whack of freshly baked bread. THIS is the first loaf of bread I made with the wheat that I grew, threshed, winnowed and ground myself.

That was back in the olden days, a year ago, when baking your own bread was for fun, not a compulsive reaction to to the end of civilization.

The table setting was adorned with this a single casual jug of dahlias and amaranth.

This year the table is adorned with a couple of loads of laundry in need of folding. The wood underneath glows with the shine of a thousand tears.

Oh wait, no, I think that’s just whiskey.

Thanksgiving Ideas

100 Comments

  1. Chela says:

    I love your butter idea. Mine invariably has a paw print and a lick mark on it… I think a harvest drawing is more appealing! Your resilient sense of humor is really a boon!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Chela! One New Years Day we all watched my mother’s cat as it sat on the buffet licking all the icing off the cake, lol. Animals. 🙄 ~ karen!

  2. Gaye Baxter says:

    Hi Karen, I wish you could be my neighbor. Kinda like the fellow with a sweater. But much more chic and with a wonderful sense of humor. Thanks for spreading joy in this strange and stressful year. I really enjoy your escapecades and decor.

  3. Robin Carter says:

    Sorry to see you and some of your readers are dragging politics into what used to be a fun blog.
    C ya!

    • Karen says:

      Robin. From the point of view of the rest of the world, this isn’t American politics – it’s a humanitarian crisis. ~ karen

      • Laurie Goetzl says:

        Thanks Karen. This is a terrible year. So many of us in the U.S. have lost so many they love to this virus. Maybe it has to happen to people personally before they understand the magnitude.

        I love your dishware. Probably gonna start another collection!

        -Laurie from San Francisco

  4. Michelle says:

    Thanks, as always, for the beauty & the much needed laughs.

  5. Judith says:

    I have enjoyed your site for quite some time now. I will miss you and some of the other fine folks here. Must admit though, that the contempt, veiled and obvious for my country, is something I will not miss.

  6. attygreen13 says:

    You gotta watch this, Karen. I rolled, especially the yam part 😂

    https://twitter.com/brittlestar/status/1314930318797942787?s=21

  7. Patricia says:

    I bought two infrared chandelier-type patio heaters for the pergola on our deck. We have a month and a half yet, and harvest to finish, and it could be snowing where we live by that time…. but I’m still hoping!
    Thank you for the gorgeous ideas, the photos of your hard work, the laughs.

  8. Christine Hilton says:

    Thanks for being a good Canadian! We too are giving up Thanksgiving this year.lt’s the right thing to do.
    I have been cleaning out my basement and l have some old blue and white pieces l think you should have.l need them to go where l know they will be loved and it would be payback for all the laughs and great recipes you have given me.
    Let me know.

  9. Hannah says:

    Well, your photos from last year are beautiful! We’re having thanksgiving dinner with my folks, because they’re our ‘bubble family’ and I might go ’round the bend if Thankgiving is as depressing as Easter, which was sadly just our household and dropping leftovers in my folk’s driveway while they sadly waved from the window.
    We’ve got iPads ready to FaceTime the rest of the relatives and gloat about how much extra turkey/stuffing/pie we get when just 5 of us are eating!

  10. Laura Hernández says:

    Karen hace muy poco que te encontré en la red, a principios de año y te transformaste en mi inspiración y fuente de consulta en temas de huerta, cocina y decoración; amo tus fotos pero especialmente tu sentido del humor y energía positiva. Soy de Argentina, del Gran Buenos Aires y me gustaría que aquí tuvieran el mismo criterio que allí con respecto al coronavirus, pero ahora que aumentan los casos espantosamente quieren reabrir actividades luego de estar confinados desde el 19 de Marzo por cuestionamientos políticos internos. Pero en realidad comencé a escribirte no para hablarte de la pandemia sino para desearte un Día de Acción de Gracias lleno de luz a pesas de la falta de seres queridos a tu mesa, tus post son rayitos de luz llenos de positividad. Ahhhh, ¡ me encantó tu manteca decorada!!!!!

  11. Mary Edmondson says:

    I would love to know the names of the particular dahlias in your beautiful bouquet. I think it’s time for me to go out and buy a bunch of them – assorted. Thanks.

  12. Dougal says:

    //This year the table is adorned with a couple of loads of laundry in need of folding. The wood underneath glows with the shine of a thousand tears.

    //Oh wait, no, I think that’s just whiskey.

    Me. too. But bourbon sours beside the laundry hamper.At least it’s sunny!
    By posting these photos, I feel like you threw a party and invited me.
    “release the doves!”

  13. Monica says:

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  14. nancy says:

    You are so funny and have some fantastic posts. I really enjoy reading them and have found them very useful. Thanks so much!

  15. Vikki says:

    That was a beautiful Thanksgiving! Thanks for the memories to brighten our day. 🦃

  16. Leslie says:

    Believe me, many Americans are just a flummoxed by the White House as the rest o’ the world is!
    (meanwhile, what are Winkles? I live in the Midwest)
    Do your smaller dahlias stand up straight like that all by themselves? Or do you have to wire them somehow?
    Thanks! Beautiful table.

  17. Mary W says:

    Wonderful inspiration for our imaginary Thanksgiving table! We usually have my son and family down to visit for 5 days and they provide labor to put up our Christmas lights outside. Family traditions end hard! No son, no grandsons, no DIL, and a small light display outside, but we will have sweet potato casserole! Martha can only wish she was like you – LOL. I was wondering how the bread turned out and it looks great.

  18. Shannon Ross Watson says:

    Lovely pics, love the idea for the baskets. Here in the west, we too have decided to simply stay home and stay safe. I am hoping one of my kids will drop off some turkey( because I am home alone) and perhaps a bit of gravy so I can have a sandwich later. When rubbing alcohol became one of the scarcer items during the early days of the pandemic I resorted to buying 90 vodka to make some wipes(because these also became scarce). I used a tiny bit of the vodka but the rest stay in my cupboard until this week and I decided to make limonchello . Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas!! Cheers

    • Mary W says:

      I love limonchello – how do you make it? I had some in bread pudding (I think instead of milk) and it was beyond delicious.

      • Shannon Ross Watson says:

        Check online, there are a variety of versions depending on how sweet you might like it. Most important is to have the 90 proof vodka, not the lighter stuff we mix in our drinks. Other than that, it is just lemon peel soaked in the vodka for a few weeks in cupboard, mixed with a simple syrup(sugar and water) put in storage again and then strained and bottled. I will keep mine in the freezer(it does not freeze) until Christmas…..ok I do admit I have had a couple of sips but of course that was for testing purposes only.

        • Theresa Clarkson-Farrell says:

          I use grain alcohol – well above the 90 proof lol – can’t imagine actually drinking as it literally smells and acts like rubbing alcohol – not what ye old moonshiners imagine it would be used for

    • Nan says:

      I have two Meyer lemon trees and have attempted to make limoncello 2 or 3 times. It certainly does not turn out as good as the store bought. I’ve decided not to waste the lemons this year and will freeze most of the lemons in slices, wedges, zest and juice to be used in cooking and cocktails till the next harvest. Another great use for limoncello is to add it to fruit salad…so yummy! Happy thanksgiving to our Canadian neighbors!

  19. Megan Campbell says:

    Well, darn this was a truly lovely tablescape and event. The harvest baskets for everyone are so thoughtful – plus you get to get rid of more of the inevitable surfeit of vegetables! Hang in there.

  20. Debbie says:

    You are so very talented – in so many ways. Love the table setting and your fabulous sense of humor. Today you gave me eye candy and a good chuckle. Thanks!

  21. Lynda says:

    I’m having my bubble for dinner, plus a social orphan who got dumped over a week ago and who’s family lives in another country. Lots of culinary spoiling will be happening. And quite a bit of showing off. But no garden flowers for the table. -3° heavy frost last night. Only what I brought indoors remains

  22. Librarian Nancy says:

    I love the decorated butter – I am SO stealing that idea! I used mismatched plates too, but mine don’t coordinate as well as yours. They are just pretty plates that I found at the thrift store or yard sales. Instead of a whole turkey since I may be celebrating the holiday alone, I ordered a stuffed rolled boneless turkey breast, ready to throw in the oven. Thanksgiving in the U.S. doesn’t happen until late November and I would really prefer we had our Thanksgiving when Canada has theirs. Love your blog! It always gives me a lift.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Nancy! Yes, I’m really happy we have it at the beginning of October when it’s still kind of nice out and all the coloured leaves are on the trees. ~ karen!

  23. Diana says:

    You are SO TALENTED!! Here in New York my table is always my late Mother-in-Law’s gold Carnival Ware on the table with the ‘company’ flatware, and appetizers and desserts go on another table in the push out. Same ol’, same ol’. I was raised on the West Coast where Thanksgiving Dinner was all the family (including cousins) come early, scarf appetizers, then gorge on the meal. A couple of hours later pig out on desserts – an all day fun affaid! Here, relatives arrive at the last second possible, tell me how stupid I am for making relish trays and fancy cheese platters, eat dinner while whining about how it’s too much food and isn’t like THEY would make it (you never see any of them offering to host the dinner). Then they ALWAYS want the type of pie I DIDN’T make for dessert and leave right after eating what I did make. No socializing, no fun stories. It is just the two of us this year (YAY), so trying some of your ideas. How big an area of wheat did you grow to get enough flour for a loaf of bread? We have room in our garden so I would like to try that. Oh, and last year my husband decided the world was ending so I got a jump start of the ‘end of civilization’. I noticed it involved ME doing all the work…

  24. Colleen D Cailes says:

    Hmmm, I bet you would like some of those mason jars now. I think I got the last case on southern Vancouver Island yesterday. Of course I thought I had enough to can some of my bumper crop apples but, NO! So I frantically searched online and found 2 cases of 1 quart wide mouth. I raced of to Canadian Tire and when I got there I got the last one. So today my day will be filled with apple peels and water bath canning. Happy Thanksgiving,

  25. CAROLYN m BUCK says:

    I so love your sense of humor. Beautiful photos. Happy Thanksgiving 🍁🍽🦃

  26. Tarso Infirma says:

    My plan this year is to cook the dinner on Saturday and then deliver plates of “leftovers” to the older relatives on Sunday so they can enjoy the dinner, alone and safe.
    Curbside leftovers !

    • Anne says:

      Beautiful pictures Karen. This Thanksgiving it will just be hubby and me and a 9lb Turkey but that means lots of leftovers to make your Turkey Pot Pie. We did get to see our kids last month a (we hadn’t seen them since March) as we realised there might be a shutdown of sorts coming and decided to visit them just in case as I needed to see them in person. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  27. Jody says:

    The decorated butter is THE BEST. You and Ernie, and all your family, have a wonderful and safe Th’giving.

  28. danni says:

    My son and daughter-in-law bought a house in the spring… a four hour flight away. He is devastated that we can’t come out to be with him Thanksgiving…. (and that I won’t be cooking the meal!)
    There will be much facetiming I’m sure to discuss the stuffing prep, etc…
    Good thing I’m not very sentimental, I’ll be fine, but I know we are now entering a really tough stretch to be without family…..

  29. Ellen Janik says:

    I used your pie crust recipe yesterday, best pie crust ever! Thanks for sharing it. Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend!

    • Karen says:

      That’s great Ellen! If you haven’t, and you get the chance please give it a starred review. It helps others know whether it’s a good recipe or not. ~ karen!

      • Brenda Ann McMillen says:

        I also used your pie crust recipe, best I’ve ever made. I do not use any other anymore. I am in Tn. we are not shutdown, so will be having just small family gathering for Thanksgiving. It is usually at least 30 people but this year only 8 of us. These are the ones, including myself that live close and have already had the corvid-19… This has been such a sad year but hoping for a better 2021…. I love your tablesettings, I have so many of the Blue Willow dishes, some match, some don’t but I mix and match. I have enjoyed your post for so long… you brighten my day… Thanks so much…

  30. Em D says:

    Holy crap, I will never host another holiday after reading this post.
    Take home baskets of home-harvested goods, wheat you threshed yourself, butter art…
    Most of the time I get to Thanksgiving only to discover that all of my forks are missing, and if it’s a presidential election year, I might hit the wine well before the divergent opinions arrive.
    Your holiday looks elegant and beautiful and warm and lovely …and your guests better darn well appreciate all the love you put into a memorable day.
    Next year, when I will be thankful for the ability to hug the people I love once again, I will absolutely take inspiration from all of your charming deets… But I have to say, I can’t wait to draw in my butter. Right now, that’s seems like it would be highly cathartic.
    Truly. Lovely. Post. You are the queen!

    • Karen says:

      :) Thanks Em. I love doing it all so don’t measure yourself against me. I’d also be completely happy going to someone’s house where everything was on paper plates and aluminum containers. As long as there’s a flower arrangement. ;) ~ karen!

  31. Deb says:

    Karen

    Thank you for all you do for us, testing products and ideas. BTW, I ordered your recommended strawberries this spring. Just picked my, probably last litre yesterday, heavy frost this morning, delicious. As for thanksgiving here, might be cooking a homegrown 30lb turkey and delivering the turkey, dressing and gravy to family. They can do the rest. Anyhow, enjoy your weekend, whatever you are doing, probably in the garden doing cleanup. D

    • Karen says:

      I’m redoing my entire garden! So it’s going to be a major clean up! And yeah, I actually would like the full weekend to do it, lol. ~ karen!

  32. Dorothy McCaleb says:

    Is Your mom going to be able to come at least???!!!

  33. Gail Dedrick says:

    No one should have large Thanksgiving if they live anywhere, not just Toronto. I give thanks for you not being a crank who denies science and believes in our social contract to keep each other safe.

    And I give thanks for everything you do. Seriously. I. Have. Learned. So. Much.

    • Karen says:

      That’s where all the confusion is though. I think people would have preferred a steady government hand saying an absolute NOPE. NO celebrations. Period. And yes I’m a big old believer in science, lol. :) ~ karen!

  34. Sharon Dore says:

    Sharon Wasaga Beach ON
    We are blessed with a few days of warm and sunny weather -possibly still shorts weather – before the onset of the chill. Staying with in house family is great and relaxing -there is always Zoom or Facetime – love the flowers Karen – stay well

  35. Beth L Bilous says:

    I just love reading your posts. Everything here is SO lovely. I would be so comfortable at this table. I really really would. That is saying something.

  36. Karen says:

    Here in Maine we, too, are past prime for foliage as the drought took its toll on color. Thanks to COVID-19 our Canadian friends cannot cross the border, nor can we cross either. While our Thanksgiving is over a month away, Karen, I look at your pics and envision the wonderful Thanksgivings past as well. What I wouldn’t give for all the noise and mess that comes with preparing for a family gathering that includes more than my husband and Sheltie (who prefers my coffee over whiskey!). I have been enjoying your blog for about a year and have to say I have laughed lots and have been inspired to try new things around the house. Oh, and if they ever open the border, again? We have Wickles ;^) Thank you so much for The Art of Doing Stuff! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

    • Karen says:

      Just last week my niece asked me if I could please ask one of my readers in the US to mail me a case of Wickles 😂 ~ karen!

      • Karen says:

        Done! We can trade – there is a teacher’s day planner refill that my husband can’t get here because a Canadian company bought out that part of a much larger US company. When he finally reached the new owners, they told him they couldn’t sell it to him in the States! The day planner itself has sentimental value and given how stupidly awful this year has been, I am bound and determined to do something really special for him. Truly, if interested in a trade of Wickles for this day planner, let me know!

  37. Heather says:

    Love that butter! And those baskets! And your energy and enthusiasm and sense of humour! I’ve been following your blog for years, and I love pretty much everything you share with us. Truly thankful for it, Karen. Happy Thanksgiving!

  38. Jenny W says:

    I bought a huge turkey in hopes that the weather here in Atlantic Canada would play nice for ThanksGiving and I could carry on as usual will a dinner in the backyard for 15. No such luck.
    So that turkey is in the freezer and I picked up a smaller one. It looks like this year instead of buffet style, I get to set a pretty table for 3. Could be worse, could be better, but I will definitely be drinking wine, lots of wine!

    • Karen says:

      Just yesterday I bought a turkey thinking .. well … maybe it’ll be O.K., maybe we can all have it outside. But I will certainly be eating an entire turkey myself. ` karen!

  39. Lillian Sarnosky says:

    Your decorations are beautiful. Grow and grind your own wheat? Wow…I am so impressed. God for you. I LOVE your home. I know what you mean about this darn virus. Stay safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

  40. Vicki says:

    This year is one of the few in recent memory when we will actually be at home and not being feted in someone else’s home. We ARE having the feast with mostly family and a couple of friends. The meal will be served on rented tables with rented chairs out on the porch. I have plenty of time to get ready but I will undoubtedly be scurrying around up to the moment the guests arrive. When it’s all over but the leftovers, I will be exhausted but happy1/

  41. Katie Webb says:

    We don’t do Thanksgiving here in the UK. Instead, a couple of elderly people attend a church service and school children bring past-their-sell-by-date tins of baked beans or peaches up to the front and then someone leads a donkey in and it poops on the ancient ledgerstones. Or that might be Christmas.

    • Kathryn Mary Vezerian says:

      Love this! Can just picture it.

    • Grammy says:

      Thanks for the giggle, Katie. It adds to the smile I got from reading Karen’s post.

      This is a year of trials for all of us everywhere, and the fact that anybody is able to find something nice to think about is wonderful. My personal silver lining is not to have to sit through an entire day of listening to some blowhard relatives’ political views on Thanksgiving Day. The folks who don’t make me sick will be contacted by phone and video chats and we’ll all be better for it. And I’m hoping that here in the ‘States we’ll all have something to really, really be thankful for when our Thanksgiving comes in late November. You know what I mean.

      Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here. Be kind to one another. And, for goodness sake — draw something on your butter! I’m going to go experiment with that right now.

  42. Susan in Florida says:

    Ah, y’all Canadians. There’s a surge of Covid cases locally so your government issues an edict that you should not have big family gatherings at Thanksgiving so y’all are like, “ok, cool, I’ve got my Snickers bars, that’ll do.” Meanwhile here in the US, the seat of government is overrun with Covid and the president, newly discharged from the hospital and coughing heartily on Fox News, declares he’s going to do a live superspreader rally on Saturday (in Florida, oh joy) because he’s cured. I think I want to be Canadian. Thank you for being civilized. I truly admire y’all. And I love your blog. Your library / dining room is just amazing. And I adore your flow blue collection. Keep up the good work because you are a delight in these dark times.

    • Karen says:

      I have American friends and they all say the same thing. It’s odd as a Canadian to watch the American news and see the difference in how the situations are handled by both the governments and the public. Good luck, wear your mask! ~ karen

  43. This is completely wonderful. It brings tears to my eyes. Thank you, Karen.

    • Jeez I’d be so depressed if it weren’t for the last of the dahlias (the rainstorm coming is going to turn the rest to mush) and the 20 lbs of apples I’m peeling, processing and dehydrating. Hubby’s happy, though, cuz he got an apple pie out of the deal today. Thank you for your recipe BTW. It’s the right one.
      Daughter and family can’t come because they couldn’t get a ferry reservation and besides it’s a big hassle travelling. Normally we’d be dining with neighbours as well but since we’re all ‘ gray hairs’, an abundance of caution makes us abstain.
      Nothin’ to look forward to but Zoom visits, flu vaccine clinics and a stupid provincial election. Just a second…reading some of the comments preceeding…I oughta be extremely thankful to be here. Safe, warm, and too well-fed.
      And I do love your blog.

  44. Jacque says:

    Love the mismatching but matching plates. Thanks for the post and beautiful pictures!

  45. Darcy says:

    Oh, Karen! I am thankful for you and your posts.

  46. Bev, Vancouver Island says:

    Isolating out on the west coast, by choice. Nice favours for your guests in 2019! I might pinch the idea, roam my garden to fill a favour basket for one.
    Happy Thanksgiving anyway, Karen!

  47. Patti says:

    Oh those baskets are adorable! And so thoughtful! Better than the hacked off turkey legs and pumpkin pie I usually send home with my family! As a fellow Canadian I feel your nostalgia for Thanksgivings gone by. Who would have thought that we wouldn’t be able to celebrate the harvest with extended family around the big table? I’m in Muskoka and the leaves have already turned brown and falling off the trees and it’s only October 9th! Here’s to 2021 – let it be like the olden days!

  48. Vicky Radley says:

    Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading “The Art of Doing Stuff”. I get this on the west coast near Maple Bay in the Cowichan Valley just before going to bed around 9 PM ish. I love your sense of humour and your brilliant ideas and it gives me a smile. I also
    know where to look if something needs done around the house or yard. We sailed for a lot of years so gardening was really only a dream. Now I mostly enjoy yours – and your beautiful house.

  49. Vanessa says:

    What kind of whiskey?

    • Sandi Remedios says:

      Good Comment!!!LOL

      • Eileen says:

        Priorities, right?!?
        My dad just gave me another bottle (the previous somehow evaporated or something over the last few weeks) and I’m wondering if this one is big enough to get me through the beginning of November.
        Depending on what happens then, all bets are off….

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